Friday, December 31, 2010

The Hong Kong - Shenzhen Travel, Part 2

We wake up fairly early (Christine is a bit reluctant to wake up the lazy pigs, haha), being greeted by her lovely egg and toast breakfast. We are running late for our hiking session in Dai Yu San, taking almost an hour of bus ride.

We meet up with 2 of Christine’s good friends, Iris Chan Po San and Marco Yu Ka Wai. It’s funny they always call others by their full name, like what we used to do during our primary school years. It was a not so sunny day, and we could see the cable car towards Dai Yu San. The trekking path is mostly like a village path, with very good path condition and some people do cycle around there. We will track from Tung Chung (東涌) to Tai O (大澳).

The highlight of the trekking is probably revolve around our chit chatting, as we have more than a few hours to kill and to know about each other’s culture and background. Though we Malaysia might have learned our Cantonese from Hong Kong TV series, but unknowingly we already mixed some local language into our Cantonese, such as Lui (钱), Mata (警察), Long Kai (走街), Hou Xian (好闷), etc. We say raining is Lok Sui (下水), to them it sounds like going into the water. The funny thing is playing badminton is Da Yu Kau (打羽球), to them it sound like hitting the breast (打乳球). Malaysia translate out Chinese Name based on local dialect, for example 陈 could be Chan in Cantonese, Chen in Mandarin, or Tan in Teochew; and we spell our name based on Malay Language pronunciation, not English. For Hong Kong it is mostly Cantonese translation and English pronunciation. We found that when a country gotten more advance and develop, they have less tolerance for corruption and unequal treatment, which is something our country have a lot of catch up to do.

We pass through a bay area to have our lunch, and it was drizzling and gotten quite windy with strong waves. We have some local flavored Maggi Mee (一丁面), where we can choose any two of Luncheon Meat, Sausage, Ham, Egg and Five Spice Meat. The journey proceeds further where we can see a wide horizon ocean from the hills, and it’s getting windy and cold. Finally we reach the Tai O village with high-leg kampong-like house made of wood and covered by zinc. We manage to sample some delicacies in Tai O, but the place is crowded with weekend tourist. I can’t really remember the name of the food, but there are some sorts of Taiwanese Pancake, Fried Little Crabs, Nor Mai Chi, Curry Fishball, Grill Dry Squid and Fish, Dau Fu Fa, etc (too bad we couldn't get the famous cheap and nice little pancake - 鸡蛋仔). We took a small boat ride form HKD 10 per person, but we could go out to the open sea for white dolphin watching due to the weather. Po San passed up some warm pack which could generate heat to warm up our body, which is something new to us.

We took a ferry to Tuen Mun (屯門), took about an hour and almost everyone fallen asleep, and the journey is very cold (luckily the have plastic cover on the open air deck). We meet up with Joanne, Zhu Jai and their lovely son, Pak Cheng (looking at him, it would make you feel it’s nice to have a kid). The seafood dinner is great, with crispy cheese crust lobster, abalone (1st time we have this in a seafood dinner), zhuk sun, crab, fish, etc. We have no idea how much is the dinner (probably quite expensive), and thank you for the treat from everyone. The cold air from outside is sipping in, and the toilet is far into the outside. We did Christmas gift exchange, where we pass them the Facebook slipper for Facebook fanatics, and Kung Fu bible of 癸花宝典 - (前)诺要成功,必须自宫; (后)就算自宫,未必成功。The place is 南记, 东菇厅, 三聖村. On our way back, we take a discounted taxi (it seems like taxi could offer a 10-20% discount at certain time and place).

Another fulfilling day of nature, food and cultural exchange, with new and renewed friendship. I do admire Christine’s ability to keep such a close relationship with her friend despite their busy schedule, maybe it’s due to the religion and Sunday sermon, or it’s the way of life of Hong Kong people, or perhaps it’s the special ability of Christine.

Did I sell my time, soul and life for money? 为了金钱,我出卖了灵魂,成为奴隶。

Sometimes we spent so much time working, and serving people we didn’t like or working towards ideal which we didn’t believe in, is it worth it?

Of time, soul, life and money, which one is more important? It is worth it to exchange the time, soul and life for money, where we believe more money would get us more time, soul and life in return? Ironic, isn’t it.

Did we work for survival (cloth, food, house, transport), for comfort and luxury, or to escape the rat race towards freedom (so that we no longer have to work in the end).

Perhaps work is indeed a part of life, which work get out of control most of the time and disrupt the balance of our life. Though we can’t fully love our work (there will always be unreasonable deadline, difficult customers and other problems), at least we could work in something we believe in, something which get us some sort of enjoyment and satisfaction; and pay very hard that it doesn’t get out of control. Sadly, most of us work in something we neither like nor believe in, yet have to deal with shitty elements like problematic clients and lousy bosses.

I believe I work for freedom (thus sacrificing my current time, soul and life). It’s like a rocket leaving earth gravity, you need a certain speed and momentum to leave the rat race. I am a “perfectionist” in the sense that I believe work could be so much better than the norm belief: I can have a business without direct clients to deal with, without the need for office or direct employee, can work from anywhere, do very little work or no work at all, be interesting and engaging (though still suffer from problems to be solved) and still earn an above average income. Sound like Utopian? I plan to achieve it within 3 to 5 years to come :) Logically it sounds crazy, but in my mind it seems like something natural and possible.

1st I need to believe, secondly I need to constantly think and observe about it, and if I still cannot shake off the idea, then I need to implement the idea without looking back.

I did sell my time, soul and life for money, and it already lasted for almost a decade, and hopefully not for another decade. Do I still work after I gain freedom? Perhaps, but not slaving for money anymore.

The Hong Kong - Shenzhen Travel

We have to work through the night before departure, as if there won’t be a vacation if we didn’t force ourselves to have a vacation. And this is one of time we felt less like a tourist, while trying to go with the flow and experience life in foreign land through our friend: Christine. It’s one of those things we should do in our life: to experience Christmas in foreign land though the air ticket is more expensive, and to visit a friend in foreign land.

We land in Shenzhen, because it’s about 40% cheaper than Hong Kong, though we need to get a double entry visa for China (RM 50, takes 3 days to process). Shenzhen is quite a vast city, with many landed property and high-rise buildings arranged in a systematic ways, though it was covered by smog. I think Shenzhen is “safer” than it used to be, with no touts in sight as well. We took a bus for RMB 20 to Luo Hu - 罗湖 (border gate to enter Hong Kong with MTR) which takes between 30-45 minutes. The border is a bit confusing as it was crowded with commercial centers and shops, and it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to cross the custom of Shenzhen and Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, we pick up our Octopus Card (minimum is HKD 150 with HKD 50 as deposit) and ride MTR to Tai Wo (太和) to meet our good2 friend.

Christine waited for us “impatiently” in front of Watson dress in jeans and boots (one of the nice things in Hong Kong is the nice Winter Clothing and Boots), as Mei Ru called her way too early before we cross the Hong Kong custom. It’s nice to see her again, as beautiful and energetic as ever. Tai Wo is like one of those HBD residential areas in Singapore, with lots of apartments and commercial centers to support the local neighborhood as well, with kindergartens and basketball court. Then we have the typical Hong Kong apartment, with nice metal gate and postboxes, watch by a guard. The apartment probably has 30 floors, with a total of 6 lifts, and 2 lifts servicing each alternate floor. It is a nice apartment, not too old and clean. Christine stays at the 28th floor, a nice cozy space of about 300++ square feet with a pretty nice view outside the window. We meet the famous white cats, Ah Fei (Fatty) and Ah B (it’s easy to get confuse as Ah B is the Fat one, while Ah Fei is the shy one, even Christine herself get confused). It’s quite a new and renovated unit, quite comfy for 2 people with 2 rooms, but probably less space for storage (or requires better space management setup). This is the space you would appreciate those Ikea double decker (where your bed is on top of your work desk), extendable dining table and wall made up of wardrobe (to save 3 inches of wall space). We did a bit of Christmas gift exchange, where Mei Ru gave her a hand-made clay of Ah Fei and Ah B (which she actually found time to make), and Christine gave us a Green Crystal Planting kit and a Green USB Boy. We like our gift, though we express it differently :p

We have lunch at nearby neighborhood shopping complex, where she bought us our first meal in Hong Kong (洗尘). It’s Christmas Eve, so we visit Tsim Sha Tsui (尖沙咀) area to have a “feel” of the Christmas mood in Hong Kong. Surprisingly, we did have one of the best meals with very good dishes in a Vietnamese restaurant (老赵). The salty Vietnamese Put Zai Gou (砵仔糕) is nice, together with the very delicious beef noodle, the soft shell crab is not bad (maybe a bit salty), the nice curry fish pot with garlic bread, sweet and spicy big head prawn (almost HKD 400 for 3 person). I think I shall remember this meal as one of the best in years to come. A few streets are closed for traffic, with presence of policeman and probably a few hundred thousand people walking around. The lighting on the street a bit of a letdown (seems like Singapore Orchard road win this time), but the cold weather is priceless. They do have some nice decorations at certain places, like an 1881 classic carousel with large blue Christmas tree, and “ice” sculpture near the seaside. We didn’t go for the lighting show at Area of Stars, because we saw it during our last visit. The bay area is really too crowded with “bumper to bumper” traffic. We grad a cool mango jelly coconut drink at Hui Lau Shan and try to escape before the countdowns happens.

Superstar Aaron Kwok is performing on the street that night, and we are too far to get a glimpse of him. They spray paper snow, which does have a small moment of Christmas feel. The side of the performance area is covered by black cloth to make sure the walkway is flowing without people stopping to peak at the performance, but we did get a glimpse of his back when one of the cloths was blown away for a moment. We reach the MTR station at 12 midnight, and heard the countdown started. An uncle complaint why there is a countdown for Christmas as it was not New Year, or are they counting stars? Haha.

It had been a tiring day, as we have barely any sleep before we depart due to work and packing. Christine was worry we might get felt cold at night, but it was alright with the closed window, mini heater and cozy blanket. I felt asleep on the s 2 seater while Mei Ru went for a bath, and I was surprise I could find place to stretch my long legs.

Another 2 and a half day with her, and more experience of Hong Kong culture and her friends. Hopefully I have the energy to finish it :p

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Review: Blink

The ability to make a spontaneous simple and accurate decision based on less information (so called “Thin Slicing”) is better? Or complex decision making based on analysis using more time and information (Thick Slicing) is more reliable?

  • In an attempt to determine if an art piece is a fraud or genuine, after scientific test and historical documentation analysis had cleared it, yet some expert still felt something is “wrong” when looking at it for the 1st time, but couldn’t tell what is wrong.
  • An experiment on how to tell whether a couple’s relationship would last or not, just by observing a conversation video between them for 3 minutes. How much do need to know about them in order to make an accurate decision, or how many factors or behaviors should be taken into account? Based on a Love Lab experiment, we only need to observe the 4 horseman: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism and most importantly, contempt (trying to put the other person lower than you) to determine which relationship would not last.
  • How to determine which doctor are most likely to get sued? Based on their qualifications, skills and history? Doctors who spent slightly more time talking to their patients are less likely to get sued.
  • Can you learn to invest like George Soros by listening to his methods, or he had a “feeling” attached to each of his decision which could not be explained, no matter it was backed by how many analytical facts. Can you be as good as Andrea Agassi by watching him play in slow motion?
  • Priming: subconscious exposure to certain words before an even can affect our performance. Student are asked to take a word quiz with words like “patient”, “slow”, “polite”, “courteous” are found to be more patient when there ask asked to wait in the line after the word quiz compared to those exposed to negative words.
  • Speed dating: would you have more success in selecting your soul mate in 6 minutes of conversation as compared to someone which you already know for years? What qualities do you look for? Does you current partner have the same qualities? Does the qualities you are looking for are affected by your partner instead?
  • Thin Slicing Error: CEO tends to be someone taller (statistically proven), Jews are smatter, White are more superior, Teacher are women, Doctor are man, People who dress sluggish are not potential customer, it’s easier to cheat women by charging higher prices (spot the sucker) even though they are professional and etc. We might make an error in “think slicing” based on our knowledge, experience, biasness or prejudice (consciously or subconsciously).
  • War Game: If we have more information and intelligence, together with various comprehensive analytical methods with takes in various factors, we should win right? Or we need the ability to make spontaneous decisions based on tight scenario?
  • How to determine if a chest pain in serious? By reading the ECG, taking into account past history, diabetic, smoking habit, high blood pressure and a dozen more factors. Would taking into account 20 factors is more accurate than taking into just 4 factors (like the 4 horseman, to be determined based on experiment)? Is less more?
We can actually make simple and accurate decision by taking into account a few correct factors (given that we know what factors to look for), and we might not be able to make a judgment if we have more information (confusion and which factor are important, or not). Sometimes we have a “feeling” which we cannot explain, a spontaneous action which happens naturally, and we tends to be affected subconsciously by exposure to words and emotions around us. Does our brain have a natural way of digesting information better than our logic mind could explain? Do you believe in your "gut" feeling?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Black Knight

Recently, my trusty Dell Inspiron 6400 (I named it "mostwanted" as in my web app) had gone into semi-retirement after faithful service of almost 5 years (quite remarkable for a notebook's lifespan). I bought it for RM 2000++, with 2GB RAM and the budget Pentium Dual Core Processor (not even Core 2 Duo); and it had brought me much profit and fun. Recently the system is getting pretty unstable and I am afraid the Hard disk might got off without prior warning, thus I had bought in the replacement.

I choose DELL again, as the system is reliable, I can buy it online (save the hassle of driving to the shop) and it's home-service warranty is amazing (again, don't have to send it to the factory for repair, and collection). This time I up the budget slightly as faster performance equal more productivity, getting a Dell Inspiron N5010 with i5 Processor (with noticeable hot air blowing out from the left) and 4GB RAM, and throwing in a 1GB ATI Radeon 3D as well (so that it won't used up my RAM, and better performance for future apps) - for only RM 2699, plus few hundred extra for 3 years warranty. The outlook and design of this new generation is much better than the older model, with shiny one-piece metal casing which look solid and classy (the only flimsy component is the keyboard), even the charger have a nice circle LED light. The only drawback is the Seagate Hard disk, where I have better confidence with Western Digital one. I named this baby "optimus", as in Optimus Prime.

I do have a thing with gadget, with my Camelot PC and Garmin eTrex Vista HCx GPS. And it's almost time to get a Android Phone, probably LG Optimus One (only RM 899).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Review: Turning Points, the UMW Story

It’s not everyday we have a local enterprise success story to read about. From a small business which started from 1960 to an enterprise with 11,000 strong workforce with more than 90 companies in 12 countries. There are bound to be something interesting and something to learn from.

It all started from a small bicycle shop in Singapore by Chia Yee Soh at the age of 14, then upgrading to an automotive (motorbike) repair shop named United Motor Works. On the Malaysia side, the hero is Eric Chia who works to expand UMW business in Kuala Lumpur, by focusing on industrial equipment by distributing Mitsubishi, Kamatsu (Tractor) and eventually the most successful Toyota Forklift.

Eric Chia is a true entrepreneur who would stop at nothing to expand the business, venture into the unknown and could excel within chaos. He setup multiple branches, multiple related businesses (such as construction, recon, credit, etc), and multiple joint ventures with foreign company and multiple distributorship. He is dynamic, extremely hardworking (means working until late night and weekend for his employees) and very generous (take care of his employee like family), and forward looking by employing graduates and training up local talents.

During the 1980s, Eric Chia lost control of the company due to aggressive expansion and little risk management (the thread of early entrepreneur: this thread brings the company its early success, also causing the problem it faced at later stage), and faced with heavy financial crunch when the economy is bad. His business comrade Shiew Wan Shing was nominated by shareholders (and PNB) to take over the management and turn the company into a more professionally run (and less chaotic). 4 years later Shiew died in robbery.

I felt sad for Eric Chia when he lost his company which his is so passionate about. I admire his spirit and entrepreneurship, but his ad-hoc and common practice of working long hours isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite. No matter what, he is still a man to be admired, and I truly believe the man of his caliber and success, he wouldn’t go so low in the incident of Perwaja Steel (unless the author had misled me).

UMW continue to prosper over time, starting with industrial equipment, then to Toyota franchise and Peroduo second national car, and finally into oil and gas and beyond. There is an evolution and major shift of business focus every 10 years, while the core business still maintains a healthy operation.

Book Review: Fast Boat to China

What I learned for the first two chapters of “Fast Boat to China”?

What do we know about China? We know
  • China is growing strong with great potential
  • China is the World’s Factory
  • China is consuming a lot world’s resources, and driving up raw material prices such as steel and oil.
Do we know what the Impact of China’s Growth is? We suffer job lost due to outsourcing to China
  • Low-end blue-collared job such as factory worker for Textile, Furniture, Apparels are outsourced to China, causing Factory in other parts to shut down and many low-income group lost their job
  • Low-end white-collared job such as Call Center, Accounting, Back Office Paperwork are shipped to China (and other cheaper part of the world), causing many low-income group lost their job.
  • Middle-class engineers and technicians loose their jobs as well as most High-Tech Electronics and Automobile factories are setup in China.
  • High-end programmer, engineer, scientist and research loose some of their job as more company setup R&D centers in China (including HP, Microsoft, IBM, etc)
  • Expatriate who demands high salary working for multinational in China are slowing being replace with local talent with a fraction of their cost and benefit.
What kinds of job are safe from outsourcing? Lawyers, Doctors, Policeman, Postman, Rubbish Collector, Plumber, Waiter, Maids and etc. That’s given the influx of immigrants doesn’t take away our job as well.

In return, we get cheaper goods from China in exchange for our unemployment and dying economy. And we get cheaper maids and cheaper restaurant food thanks to immigrants.

Why business move to China? Initially china is cheap with abundance of cheap materials and labors, thus it’s cheaper to produce things in China to sell to the rest of the world. Then China grown bigger with a large domestic market and middle class citizens, with more business moving in to sell to the China market. The cost is growing, the labor will “shrink” as the growth of foreign investment outgrown the growth of local labors and talents. Too many companies are fighting to employ the workers and professionals, where not every one of them are qualified with the right skills and correct mentalities. Slowly, it is no longer cheap with abundance of workforce, but the domestic market is growing. Eventually, China will be like United States. Will China still be attractive by then? Probably yes, but in another way.

Most Multinational Corporation spread their operation all over the world, but how many of their workforce is actually in their home country? How much taxes the pay to their home country? Is it a national pride, or there are issue of patriotisms and loyalty in question here? Or it is supposed to be purely business with economic consideration? If the company loose out in competitiveness because they didn’t outsource, it wouldn’t do good to the home country as well.

China will probably grow into an economy superpower, but it might not take away our jobs for long. Then again, other country like India, Vietnam and Indonesia will probably follow China’s footstep. Will our job ever return to our shores?

My Conclusion
Again, we can’t stop the change (impose trade restriction or abolish free trade, which are not a popular policy by today's expectation), but to change oneself (what used to work before might not work now) and adapt with a newer model (we move from agriculture to industrial to high-tech, and continue to evolve). The transition period is unpredictable and tough, but it presence a good opportunity, and things will eventually stabilize (until the next wave of change).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Review: Man and Boy

Somehow, I was quite hooked to Man and Boy, about a married man (Harry) who screwed up his life after he slept with other women: his wife (Gina) taking his son away and he lost his job. I am curious on how he manage to “restore” his life. I pick up the first chapter of this book in Nepal many years back, and I am fated to finish it now after I found it in my house few weeks back.

It’s funny that how such an unfortunate event can actually be good for someone, fulfilling the prophecy that there is always a silver lining no matter how hopeless something might seems like. I guess we always hated when things turned upside down (or not within our grasp), but it is these incidents which actually elevate us to be a better person. I know, “exam” is hard, and no one actually likes “exam” although it is supposing good for us. I guess we like the serenity and predictability in our life.

Anyway, the Gina felt that she had sacrifice a lot (especially her career) to build the family, and now she felt betrayed and regretted all her sacrifices for him and the family. She takes the son away from Harry, put the son with her father who actually abandoned her when she is young, and flew off to Japan to a job opportunity that she had always wanted. Harry pick up his son again and eventually learned to become a real father (a role he had conveniently neglected all this time). Gina promise to come back for the child, once she had settled in Japan. I guess the role switching is quite an irony here.

Anyway, the focus is on Harry: he gets a chance to “restart” his life. He learned to become a father, learn to put his son before his career, learn to get closer with his parents, and perhaps learn to really “love” someone. Love is not just about having a good time together, enjoying each other company and sleeping together. Love is having to accept something inconvenient, and having the heart to accept it for the rest of our life. Having said that, it also made us with wiser and more logical as we grow older; thus harder to fall in love based on emotional feelings alone. We get to think about many things with consideration into the far future, and we are not just thinking about ourselves anymore. Selflessness is something we have to learn eventually; and it is a requirement when we build a family with children. It’s no longer about what we like or what we wanted. Will we loose ourselves? It’s a bad thing? I am not there yet.

I like the style of writing, when the writer never dwells on the same issue more than 2 pages. Each chapter is separated into a few sections, where it switches focus on different events and perspectives. Without one realizing, he is back with the story I am interested again.

I seldom read fiction, because I think it’s a waste of time; perhaps Alchemist changed my mind. Not sure since when I started with Business & Marketing book; perhaps I was never quite a reader, as I can’t recall reading anything else besides the Chinese Kung Fu Novel of Jing Yong (金庸) – that was also for the purpose of improving my Chinese.

Life is full with surprises, doing something I never quite expect: hiking, dancing, karaoke. I still wonder why life is like a box of chocolate? With many flavors?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: The Long Tail

Sometimes it is easy to forget about some important detail of a book, if we don’t make notes (which we are usually lazy to do so while reading).

The Long Tail is quite an eye opener, another brilliant theory and observation in the same category like Crossing the Chasm. Basically most business focus on the top best seller, as 20% of the goods contributes towards 80% of the sales. If I only have 1000 shelf space, I better put in the top 1000 best seller in my store to maximize profit (assuming best seller can sell an average of 1000 copies per year, it would be 1000 x 1000 = 1000000 sales per year). What if I have unlimited store space? If I can put 100000 items in my store, within 99% of them selling an average sale of 10 per year, I would still have extra of 99000 x 10 = 999000 sale per year, which is very significant. What if I have 1 million items?

The Long Tail is all about having more products and more variety as possible (extend your sales volume beyond the best seller), given that the cost of holding stocks is almost ZERO (think Amazon, iTunes, Pandora, Netflix, etc). Even if non-best sellers only sell an average of few items per year, their large number of product do make up the sales volume.

For Example, Google AdWord’s flexibility and low entry barrier allow any business owner in the world to put up advertisement as low as USD 0.01 per click. Rather than depending on a few thousand large corporations to put up advertisement, AdWord allow millions of business owner around the world to put up advertisement based on their own budget.

The local books store chain could probably carry ten of thousands of product, while Amazon offer millions of items yet at a lower price. The local music store is dying, while Netflix and iTunes are flourishing with millions of offering, yet cheaper again and allowing more flexibility (you can buy just one song rather than the whole album).

How can we make long tail work?
  1. We need a large volume of products or contents, and the cost of making these items available must be almost ZERO
  2. We need to reach a large audience, most by utilizing the Internet (with the help of online marketing through Ads and Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Viral Video, Blogs, Social Media like Facebook and Twitter, etc)
  3. We need a powerful search engine, so that people can find the needle among the haystack (and recommend similar products, like Amazon)
  4. We need a good review system, so that people know what’s good and what’s not. Even a niche item could be a potential best seller.
  5. By learning the customer shopping pattern, we could recommend niche product which could be of their interest.
  6. Sampling is possible by allowing downloading one chapter of a book, or preview 30 seconds of a video or music.
The Long Tail is not for every business, but it’s something to look into besides focusing on the blockbuster.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Money in Life

In life, we need a constant reminder of what are we actually doing day in day out. Sometimes we easily had forgotten about our objective, determination and what we passionately set out to do in the beginning. The passion is no longer burning, the urgency is lost, the determination is weaken, and we live day in day out without remembering what we set out to do in the beginning. We slacked. We need to be reminded. Perhaps we still know what we need to do, but we forgotten the feeling and emotion which prompt us to do it in the first place. We lost the emotional part of it, leaving us with logic which might not be very inspiring.

There are probably 2 groups of poor people: 1 group which are very determined to make a better living, and another which accepted the fact that they shall remain poor forever.

For middle class, most will subconsciously choose to remain a middle class due to comfortable living with less motivation to strive for a better livelihood. Middle class don’t face hunger or living without the roof; we might have overspend in shopping, with less money for travel, or cursing about money lost in stock market, theft, accident or pure stupidity. We get a bit troubled by minor financial stress at times, but still worry about some major catastrophe which might strike us or our family member. Generally, we are still living pretty comfortable most of the time, though our financial security might not be guaranteed (but only a small group of paranoid will worry about this).

What is our reaction when we lost our money? We can accept it as fate or luck, and just forget about it. Or do we become more determined and motivated to make tons of it so that it doesn't bother us anymore (I am the latter).

I am one of the paranoid, which worry about major catastrophe which might happens, and get upset by minor financial lost a long the way. The thing is, I don’t want to get upset due to minor financial lost, and I don’t want to spend my entire life making money. I get worry about the health risk of my parents, and my wife’s parents, and probably my children if I have one or two. I get upset due to money lost from theft and accident, having to spend countless hours just to get a better bargain, and not be able to do things spontaneously due to financial consideration.

Most people would accept these as the norm, the norm of middle class where everyone faces the same problem. If the middle class is to make a change, how? It’s too risky to quit the job, and it is either too stressful to start something part-time or there is no time to spare. The solution seems too complicated that most of us don’t bother to give much thought to it. We accepted the fact that we are normal and its okay since most people around us live in the same condition as us (except a few rich or poor dude which we don’t know really well). In fact, we felt that we are much better off than most people. It’s too difficult to have a breakthrough, to up one notch; why bother. Can all of us to rich? Why not. But not all us are determined to be rich, and most of us are satisfied with the current.

In comparison, there are always many more who are worse than us, and many more who are better than us. Each of us has a different kind of worry, and a different objective. Perhaps deep down I hope that people will be like me or have the same kind of thoughts with me. Just like not everyone like hiking, perhaps it’s unrealistic and futile to expect others to understand or agree with my way of life. Rather than worrying too much about others, perhaps I should focus on the things which I have control of, which is myself. I guess we all subconsciously hope to have more comrades and more people of the same kind, where we hope to assimilate others into our world. Everyone chooses their own way of life, either we agree with them or not. Not everyone wants to get married, and not everyone wanted to start a business.

It’s true that there are more meanings in life besides money, but we can’t deny that money affect a large part of our life as well (we do live in a material world). If I can solve 50% person of life’s problem, why not. Perhaps this is the easiest part to solve, while others are either too subjective or out of our grasp.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Inception the Mind Game

I found that the Mind (or more precisely, the thought of an idea) had a very deep and powerful impact on me. Once I thought of doing something for several times, I found it very hard to shake it off my mind by not doing it. Once I found something better or more comfortable, I found that it’s very hard to go back to the old ways. I guess it’s good in a certain ways that I am always improving and “evolving”, rather than repeating the same old thing over and over again.

I have the idea of being an entrepreneur planted in me by my brothers during my secondary school years; and after numerous tries, I am self-employed and a semi-entrepreneur with still very motivated to move forward. I couldn’t shake the idea off even though I fail for a few times; and opportunities shall creep in again and again for me to do what my mind set to do. I am dissatisfied with the ex-bosses and ex-companies, and felt that I could do a better job on my own. Though I couldn’t be exceptional in every things, but I could find a formula which work for me eventually. I continue to find ways to do it; I couldn't give it up. Now, I couldn't go back to the old ways.

After I gain some success being a freelance software developer, I have an idea to move up one notch. Along the way I kind of ditch the idea of starting a software house to develop business application or do consulting; I wanted to something I like, something fun. Software Development for Business is frustrating at times, due to clients who aren’t quite sure what they want, business process which are either too complex or uncertain, and requirements which forever changes. Basically, I am just doing it for money, where my client pays for my services and patient. The only consolation is that I like programming, which keeps me going for a few years, until I found something better.

Still programming, but programming for something I like, something which I found interesting. I develop web application for people to find great places to eat, a way to compare and analyze property prices, and hopefully a few more fun projects like travelling guide (which I had been trying to do for the past 2 years), product price comparison or developing the most comprehensive archive of every places in Malaysia. Once I started on these idea, I couldn’t stop thinking about them and gotten very motivated on work on these idea. On the other end, my productivity on developing business application had gotten lower due to the lack of interest.

This dilemma is killing me slowly, where I end up procrastinating a lot while developing business application for others. I end up wasting even more time and doing less, with even less time to do what I wanted to do, and satisfaction level is at all time low.

My mind had taken control of me, and perhaps I had found something which I really like to work on (which is really great!)? It’s time to make a firm stand and stop “lying” to myself and not doing the right thing. I need to dedicate more time to do what I wanted to do, and make it work. To have peace and satisfaction.

OMG! How am I going to say NO the next time customers come knocking on my door? Say NO?!!! It's tough.

I get to know Edison better lately, because Mei Ru and I got him to be our wedding photographer, and he started sharing a bit of himself to us. He doesn’t want to turn his hobby (which is photography and editing) into a profession, thus he just does it on a “part-time” basis and he picks his clients (usually friends who are less demanding). At the same time, he don’t mind doing boring Graphic Design and Publication Work as his main job; as he treated that as work, not a hobby. So he got a very clear separation of work and hobby, and he doesn’t mix them. Just like Si Theng (another friend of mine), just treat baking and card making as hobby and don’t intend to turn them into business (just doing it for friends), while working on her maybe “boring” day job while she get to go home on time to play with her hobbies.

My problem is like I mix work with pleasure. I wanted to build a sustainable business which I would be happy to nurture it everyday; something I would like to work on for long term in the future. I still have my hobbies like Hiking, Dancing and Travelling. Another thing is there is limited time, as I can’t segregate 50-50 for work and hobby; thus I want my work to be something I have passion for, and something I would spend a lot of time to build upon. I have big plans for myself, where I refuse to walk the conventional path, something most people are willing to compromise because it’s a norm. I wanted a satisfactory change, I wanted something better, and I am trying to build something better while I can.

I am trying to build something better, while I can. I do need to remind myself that constantly before I loose track of it. I wanted something "perfect" for me.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Be True to Life

Suddenly, I felt that it is the utmost important for me to do what I wanted to do with my life. No more excuses of being busy or have no money. I need to accomplish what I wanted to accomplish, sooner or later (and hopefully not too late).

A lot of time, we hear words like “I wish I could do this and that, but it’s too late or I have no time or money …” Perhaps the obstacle isn’t that great, and we probably could make it if we really wanted to. Perhaps we do not have enough determination or desire to achieve what we wanted. Perhaps we are confused about what’s important, and what’s not. I have to admit, human are weak and confused at times.

Be True to my life: to accomplish what I wanted to do with my life, so that there are less regret and more satisfaction (and memory). We all live a busy life in a fast-paced world; yet time passes through and we have no idea what we had accomplished for ourselves. We are drowning into the void of business for unknown reasons. Perhaps we had loose track of what’s important in our life (or our mind)?

What is the real life? Is the Matrix the real thing, or Zion is the real thing? Can making a living co-exist with living our dream? Or we always have to sacrifice our life in the name of survival?

I plan to become a Millionaire by 25, then 30 (and it hasn’t work out yet). I wanted to travel around for 1 year before I reach 30, that didn’t work out as well (and I forgotten about it). I guess there shall be many misses and delay, but I still believe I shall make it one day (maybe 35 or 55?). Now I wanted to be eligible for retirement (don’t have to work anymore).

I manage to trek Kota Kinabalu, Tahan, Mount Semeru volcano mountain, Annapurna Circuit and hopefully India soon, and I do really feel great about them. I have friend who tour Europe for a month, or stay in Spain for a year, or heard of others taking working holiday in UK or Australia. I already spent 10 years in a office desk (though I change it to a home desk), and probably will continue to do so for the next 10-20 years (which I hope to cut short). I should explore the world outside my desk more often. I am glad that I tried dancing, went diving and rafting; but haven't tried bungee jumping and sky diving yet.

I believe I can live the life I wanted to live, thus I shall. Without believe and hope, there is nothing much to live for anymore. I wanted to be true with my life. I don’t want to sacrifice or get busy for nothing; I wanted to do something meaningful.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Of Judgment and Ruler

I think it’s of our nature to judge someone and something. The flower is pretty, he is smart or she is a quiet person. We judge things based on the “ruler (for measurement) in our heart”. What is beauty? What is reasonable or norm? What is right and wrong? Should we continue to judge, or not?

When I told someone that I am going off a few days for a short holiday, some people will react by asking why I am always on holiday and not working. In fact, I am just exercising my annual leave of 10 plus days; so our “ruler is different”. When I go off for a month of vacation, that might be something that is deemed “impossible” for most people; and there are still people who travel away for months or years. So again, we have a different kind of measurement. Some people believe in work, some believe in casual vacation, some believe in soul searching travelling.

What if our judgment is of conflict with others, or even hurt someone else’s feelings? It’s rude to say someone is ugly or stupid, so we can sort of avoid it most of the time. What about laziness? What if we have a lazy worker or colleagues, which their laziness would affect us since we have to work together; should we tell them that they are lazy and ask them to bulk up? And will they really bulk up if we tell them that they are lazy? Will judging and criticizing really work? If someone is “lazy” by our standard, what should we do? We can allow them to be lazy, or find ways to motivate them to be less-lazy. Most of them, we just go on with the criticizing or just “ignore” them to get the idea off our mind. To “change” one person is a difficult job, and there is the moral question of should we change them or not.

While on the Tahan trip, a new friend reminded me of the idea of “there is a ruler in every man’s heart”. We have our own believe, principle, scale, judgment of what’s right or wrong. If we imposed our own judgment too strongly, could we end up as too self-centered? If we don't reflect our own believe, could we loose ourselves with no identity? Sometimes I do believe silence is golden; where we have our own believe in our mind and heart, and only speak when necessary. But most of them, we might talk too much. After all, talking is a necessary part of human sociality.

There is no straight answer or conclusion. Last time I used to ask myself that should me tell someone if they dressed wrongly, or do something we deemed wrong. Now I have a slight change of mind. I think we shouldn’t criticize (or at least try to restrain it), or totally stop someone to do something. We could give some opinion and let them decide what to do. Sometimes it is more difficult when the things they do have a more direct effect on us, and that requires a high level of tolerance and acceptance which I have yet to master. Perhaps our heart is not “pure” enough, as we are still bothered by many things and people around us. Like my sis’s Tao teaching said, human must strive to practice 八德 (Eight Virtue): 孝 (filial piety)、悌 (brotherly love)、忠 (loyalty/honesty)、信 (truthfulness/trustfulness)、礼 (propriety)、义 (righteousness)、廉 (integrity/purity)、耻(shamefulness). Perhaps sometimes science and logical thinking are limited in a certain ways, we would need to refer to the old teaching to seek the “truth”.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Gunung Tahan

On 16 July 2010, Mei Ru & I, Chim, Cynthia, Soo Min, and Teacher Tham & Son joined Thong’s expedition to climb the Merapoh-Tahan-Merapoh trail. It’s 4D3N, and the experience is really very enjoyable.

Chim arranged most of the things, including Hassan’s van to drive us there. Merapoh is in Kelantan (near Kuala Lipis). We depart at night and reach there sometime after midnight, where we have to “self-service” at the dorm.

Before we start our journey in the morning, one of the officer will have to take not of how many containers, plastic bags, batteries, etc that we have with us, to make sure we take them down with us as well. This exercise is quite time consuming, and we doubt its effectiveness as well (it’s impossible to keep track of everything, perhaps it’s just meant to sent a message). We took a 4WD to go through to sloppy road (and we pretend it to be a roller coaster ride) to reach Kem Kuala Jeram, a river where they keep the fishes.

The journey on the first day is quite slow and tiring, perhaps we over carry too many food (afraid will die of hunger). We cross 4 rivers and camp at Kem Kor after 7 hours of journey. Nothing spectacular about the route or the camp. Gotten about 10 sand fly (“agas” in Malay) bite mark (nothing as compared to my record of 50 in Liang). Thong cook us a good dinner with Thong Sui, satisfying. It rains on the 1st night, and out tent leaks, so Chim the handy man solve it by covering it with an extra layer of rubbish bag.

2nd day is the main challenge, expected to walk a minimum of 10 hours so we have to depart around 7.30am. Thong packs us some black soy fish with rice as lunch, very appetizing. We ascend quite a lot (I notice it even more when we come down), walk, walk and more walking. The “prize” of the mountain is after Bonzai, where the view is spectacular. We can see more than 180 degrees of clear mountain range, and the area is rocky with sand, marble, short bushes and plenty of small monkey pitches. We spent quite a lot of time here with a lot of pictures taken. It’s really spectacular. We collect water at Kem Botak and proceed to the top.

The peak had quite a wide space, but it did flood when it rains. We have no choice but to “move house” from the more sandy ground to some rockier surface, else we would have a sleepless night. The night is really very very cold, and my glove and thick socks (covered by sleeping back) seems to provide very little insulation. It’s windy and definitely one of the coldest night ever. The peak is full with wild orchid, and there is an amazing “ocean of cloud” in the morning in multiple directions. The view is definitely one of the very best, as good as Jelawang (or better). We get some casual wedding photo taken here :) We we have peninsular's highest toilet here as well.

The journey down is really very painful, because the ground is hard most of the time with lots of roots, and I am wearing Kampung Addidas. Perhaps boots are more suitable for Gunung Tahan, as the path is quite wide. After 9 hours of excruciating pain and “bubbles” popping up beneath my feet, we finally arrive at Kem Kor and had a good dip in the water. The worst part is over, and everything else is just a piece of cake.

Most of the time, we travel with Siong Har because it’s comfortable, thus we seldom have chance to mingle with a new gang. Our last trip with Jian Hwa and Ali Baba to Gunung Kuning is quite refreshing as well, as we are more involved in the cooking for the 1st time (we always depends on Siong Har and Ah Fong most of the time). For the Tahan trip, we did meet many people with interesting personality and story.

Soo Min is a very funny and special girl, who somehow hooked on Marathon and now trying hiking and camping. She is someone who like things clean (imagine she use wet tissue to clean her feet before having lunch), yet able to bear the messiness of hiking. She can’t sleep together with stranger, thus she take sleeping pills and put on ear plug; she is willing to explore and adapting. Teacher Tham come to Tahan to fulfill his dream of hiking Tahan 20 years ago, and he met his colleagues in the mountain. He “retires” early to become an editor for student comic and magazine, made quite a big change. He did this trip with his son, which I think is a very precious adventure between a father and son (we don’t get any father and son team so far). He is a funny person in a funny way, and he categorizes himself as a “violent” teacher; perhaps the job of teaching really put people on a lot of stress. Chim is as caring and friendly as ever, and Cynthia is a person hard to imagine being involved in hiking. Perhaps like what Teacher Tham said, I am also “too gentle” for hiking. There are more interesting things about this group of friends, just that I don’t know how to describe further. Min Yi is supposed to join us, but she had to take some Chinese exam to qualify for something in China. She is also another interesting character, having travelled Europe in backpack and perhaps planning to move to China for a while.

The experience is really fun and good; perhaps it had been a while since my last hiking and camping trip. I always find peace and fun, and good company; not to mention a whole lot of dirt to clean up when I get home (and thanks mom and dad for the help).

Perhaps I might come back to Tahan again for the Merapoh-Tahan-K.Tahan 7D6N trip. I was told the K.Tahan trail is more spectacular. Who knows :) Life is full of surprises ...

Photos: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who am I, again

A man plays many roles, as a son, a husband, an entrepreneur, and a citizen of earth and my country. The question on my mind is what I had become and what I want to become.

When I was young, most of it is about study and school life. Then came the moment to decide what discipline to study at college. Somehow I was influenced by In-Tech and Computimes, and is choosing between Engineering (Lego influence) and Computer Science; and I choose computer science because it requires less money to startup my own company (rather than the millions requires to setup my own factory). Why I wanted to start my own company? Perhaps it’s because I wanted to be like Bill Gates, or perhaps it’s the words of my brother that we need to be an entrepreneur in order to succeed (he didn’t became an entrepreneur as of this moment). That’s how I tie my fate with software.

College years are an eye opener for me, as I finally feels that the thing I learned are useful as in applicable in real life (I have no idea what the science and mathematics subjects are for during my secondary school years). It’s fun, and it’s quite easy. I am actually quite motivated to work on projects, and exam are a piece of cake (as compared to STPM, maybe the scope is smaller or other students are less competitive).

Though programming is fun and all that (at one point, I do find programming troublesome and wanted to become a system administrator because it’s easier), but I am still a techie but not entrepreneur-ing yet. I work on R&D projects (I learned that I am not good enough for scientific research, just pure programming skill) and C++ patterns which is really fun, inspired by people like Mun Wai and Andrew Keith. I am good, perhaps not really talented, but I found my own space and my own world, and I am happy and comfortable with it.

My entrepreneur-ing started when Kwang Yee asked me to join him to develop some insurance software for Pocket PC. Somehow I really like the idea and jump ship without giving much thought into it, as I am just too excited. Soon reality kicks in as I am thrown into deep sea and expected to do sales (I thought I just need to handle programming), and I realized we didn’t ironed out a lot of partnership detail and I am in for a lot of shock due to different expectations. Perhaps both of us are immature in a certain sense, as he is street smart while I am just a techie good with programming; I can’t be him.

Anyway, this failed entrepreneurial spark the opportunity for me to do freelance programming for a while, and I landed another job developing business application (out of my R&D forte). I learned the business part of software development and project management, while still continue with part-time freelancing. A few years down the road as the company is not doing well with little challenges left for me, I came out with the idea churning property statistic out of classified advertising. It took me almost a year to develop the website to cover new property launches (not my original idea, but this will serve as the platform to attract visitor who are interested in property) while I continue freelancing to cover the bills.

Somehow my Endeavour is not very fruitful, and Mun Wai asked me to partner up with a few guys to start a software company. At first it’s quite promising (with a few problems), but we still have to part our ways due to different expectations and commitments after a year. We did have revenue of about RM 100K, an office, MSC-status and a staff, superb! I did learn a few things about software startup here, which changed my mind of wanting to do a startup. I decided I wanted something mobile and lightweight, as a conventional software house is too heavy with the physical office maintenance with staffing issues, running cost and the continuous need to seek business, and also issues between partners.

My last software startup serve as a wakeup call and made me realize what I wanted to do, that I am running out of time as well. My freelance business pickup up, and my web application on food and property is doing really well. I found that I can create a business which does not require high capital, does not require permanent on-site staff with high maintenance, does not require an office with running cost, does not need to seek for more clients and offers me great mobility with recurring income. It’s almost a perfect paradise, and I had the correct skill set and experience to make it workable, and I am comfortable with the profit level. It just requires some hard work and innovation for a few years to build the platform; and it could set me free to retire by yachting into the Caribbean seas. Perhaps not so perfect, but it’s the best plan for me so far.

For the past few years, I received a few invitations for partnership from other entrepreneurs, to work together on some new idea, or to contribute to their business, or to create a software startup (to move beyond freelancing). Somehow I no longer feel excited, due to a few reasons.
  • Developing software for the sake of money is boring. Software Development need to be fun in order to last (perhaps I am too pampered with choices)
  • Partnership is like marriage, and it’s not easy to find someone compatible. At this stage, I would prefer a “best friend” or “girlfriend” in business, not a “wife”. Partnership is a sticky business; it’s not something I am willing to jump straight into it. I prefer natural progression, step by step; we need to work together for a while before we talk about marriage.
  • I had extra baggage with me, which are my freelance business and web applications. I am not willing to stop them or bring them into the new venture; because it’s extremely tricky when we have to split.
Perhaps I had been a lone ranger for too long, or perhaps I had mastered the way to survived as a lone ranger; or perhaps I had found my ideal business. I no longer dreams of making millions per annum in a software company with 100 strong staff, where I need to exchange money with lots of hard work and loss of freedom. Perhaps I really know what I wanted to do, for now. Can I withstand the temptation of money? Or am I too lazy to work too hard? Or I am afraid of commitment into a business partnership without courtship? Perhaps it’s a bit of everything :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why do I like Hiking?

As a casual hiker, I came along this question quite often. Why do we endure all the dirt and pain, and what joy could be possibly get from hiking?

Some would say it’s because of the good food, or the food could actually taste better because we are tired and hungry, and with the company of our comrades. Some say it’s the beauty of the nature, the wonderful ocean of cloud and the charming mystical forest. Perhaps it’s because of the swim in the icy cold water and drinking from the sweet river stream. It’s possible that the feeling of conquering the mountain and standing on top of the world for just one day.

After putting some thought into it, I do it partly because it helps me to escape from the city life. When I am in the mountain, I cut of all communication so that I am no longer disturbed by any phone call. I am very focus with only one objective, which is to reach my destination. I don’t have to multitask, and there is nothing else to distract me except the beauty of nature. I walk, I rest, I drink, I eat and I sleep. All is very calm and simple, and I can put all the worries and extra baggage of city life behind me, don’t have to worry about work or people asking me to do this and that. It’s just so serene and simple, like the Zen of life. It might be tough, tiring or even painful, but it’s nothing as compared to the silence torture of the city life. I finally found a peace sanctuary within these few days.

Too bad that it’s just a temporary escape, that my phone start ringing again the moment I step back into the city, with work and responsibility start flowing back again.

I was wondering is there a way to escape the unpleasant disturbance of life, which are more long lived? With my choice of life and career, I found that I am moving into a direction which I could permanently move into my peace sanctuary. Why didn’t I go back to employment since it’s comfortable and simple? Because I know there is no escape, as I would need to suffer a slow pain. I am trying to achieve Nirvana or Zen of Life in a shallow level, where I no longer need to do something deemed unnecessary. Again, I longed for FREEDOM.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Does motivation by money works?

Basically, monetary reward based on performance work best for simple and straight forward task, such as for factory worker or call center personnel.

When a task gets more complicated (which requires some conceptual and creative thinking), the magic on monetary reward based on performance only works half the way. After the worker gets enough money to satisfy their needs, giving them more money isn’t going to improve their performance much. If you are paid $300,000 per year, are you going to work twice as hard (or inspired to improve efficiency better) to earn another $150,000 worth of bonus? Since your basic and security needs are satisfied, you probably will be looking into esteem and self-actualization needs (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs), and money can’t buy these needs.

3 factors lead to better performance & personal satisfaction:
  1. Autonomy – The desire to be self directed (I know what’s best to do to make my own destiny). Rather than always telling the employees what to do, why not allow some levy for them to decide how to make the company or product better (example of Google’s 20% time)
  2. Mastery – The urge to get better at stuff (it’s fun and satisfying, and feel good for self esteem). Example? People using their free time working on open-source projects, and give it for free.
  3. Purpose – if the profit motive gets unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happens. We all want to believe that we are working towards a greater good, and we are purpose maximiser (we care about purpose)
A few years back, all I wanted to do is to make enough money so that I have less to worry. Once I made enough money to satisfy my basic needs, I wanted to work of something more fun, challenging or something more meaningful (even though it means making less money). If one day I could afford to make money not an issue, that would be the day of pure real living (living exactly the way we wanted, working on what we really wanted). Money is just the means, never meant to be the end.

Monday, May 31, 2010

China and the Chinese Market is gaining 25% web presence rapidly

Of the Top 100 websites released by DoubleClick (Google) AdPlanner 1000, there are 25 websites with Chinese-language content, followed by Japanese, Russian and Korean. Though English is still the dominant language on the Internet, the Chinese Language or the China Market is a force not to be ignored. If we didn’t use it or don’t know about it, it doesn’t mean it is not there. They have their own Chinese version of Google, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Messenger, PayPal and etc, and all had made it to the top 100 websites.

8 - (Web Portals)
9 - (Email & Messaging)
11 - (Web Portals)
15 - (Web Portals)
16 - (Shopping)
17 - (Entertainment)
19 - (Video Clips & Movie Downloads)
21 - (Web Portals)
28 - (Photo & Video Sharing)
33 - (Online Communities)
36 - (Online Directories)
38 - (TV Programs)
46 - (Web Portals)
47 - (Multimedia Content)
52 - (Multimedia Content)
55 - (News & Current Events)
62 - (Management & Corporate Operations)
68 - (Web Services)
70 - (Social Networks)
82 - (Banking & Personal Finance)
88 - (News & Current Events)
90 - (Mobile Phones)
92 - (Online Games)
97 - (Hardware)
98 - (Roleplaying Games)

The Edge just published an article about Hong Leong Asia's (listed in Singapore) business in China producing refrigerator, diesel engine, plastic bottle and etc. Though the profit margin for each refrigerator is about RMB100 (RM 48), but it could sell between 30-35 million units per year, equivalent to RMB 3,000,000,000 (RM 1.44 Billion).

We all know China is growing fast (already the 3rd largest economy) and have the potential to be world biggest economy by GDP in times to come. Though we might have heard a lot, but we have not quite felt the impact (for those outside of china or not in touch with the Chinese language).

But we all know, the Chinese or China market is something that we couldn't and shouldn’t ignore. For Software Marker and Web Company out there either big or small, maybe it’s about time we look beyond English language.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Never be to busy for life

Most of the time, we are so busy until we are not quite sure what are we doing, or why are we doing it. For example, we might have a very busy and demanding job until we have no time to think why work there in the first place. Is the job fun or satisfying, or we are in just for the desperate need of money? Is it inline with our life objective, or do we know what we wanted to do?

Let’s say there is a hard labor who earns RM 600 by doing odd jobs at the construction site. Does he think of ways to improve his life, or he is just too busy working and coping with a difficult life. Will he consider taking night classes to move on to a white collar job, or would he think about starting a small business such as Nasi Lemak stall. Let’s say he succeeded in making his life better and now able to earn RM 1500 per month, will he be satisfied or try to be better? Maybe he could try to get a part-time diploma or degree in hope on landing on a better job, or expand his Nasi Lemak stall into a restaurant. If he manage to double or triple is income, will he try harder again to improve his quality of life again?

In real life, most of the hard labors will probably remain a hard labor for the rest of their life, as they don’t know what else they can do or they have no time or money to venture further. We can come up with a thousand reasons not to do something, but we just need one reason to do something. So there will always be hard labors who manage to improve their life, and fewer who succeed into greater heights which impress most of us.

Sometimes we tell other that we have 10 years experience in doing something. Do we think about did we gain 10 years of experience learning new things, or did we repeat the first year 10 times? Most of the time, we learn something new when there are changes, such as when we switch team, project, department or job. If we are afraid of change, then it’s less likely that we would learn something new.

Why is this important? Rather trapping ourselves in the infinite loop of being busy forever, I think we need to take a step bank to rethink about the things we are doing. Is this capable of bringing me to where I want to be in the future, or I need to change?

In my work in educating children, I found it to be cruel to tell a child that they can’t read, write, count, sing, play music instrument, draw or use a computer. Even though I know some of them really sucks or hopeless in doing certain things, we as educator should not deny their rights or kill their dream in doing something. We can only try and encourage them, and let things take place; we don’t have to add a stab to the already cruel and realistic world. A child always say he wanted to be Datuk, Prime Minister or Town Council (too many political news for the children). I just tell him what he need to do in order to become one.

As such, I don’t think we like people telling us that we can’t do something, such as being we can’t be a singer or a millionaire. Though many dreams are fallen every time, but we do need to hang on a certain dream (or hope) to move forward. The property prices in Malaysia is growing like no body business, and few years down the road middle class white collar worker could only afford some cheap apartment (no luxury condominium or terrace link house). Anything which looks nice today easily cost RM 500,000 to a few millions, which are beyond my reach at the moment. If I wanted to own one of these babies, I would need to rethink about my work and my life. If I wanted to change my life, I need to change. If I tell myself that I could not own this forever, it would just be too depressing to bear.

Take a step back, and rethink what you had thought of before. It's like a new year resolution which we had forgotten about.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kathy Sierra: To Create Awesome Users

Basically is about a paradigm shift from creating a awesome product to actually help your user to become awesome. It's a bit lengthy, but it's good:
  • Rather than trying to be awesome in terms of your product, service or company, the real secret is helping your user to be awesome
  • Help your user to be better at their passion
  • We gave colourful and user friendly sales brochure when we try them sell them something; yet we gave them not so useful black and white manual when we actually sold them something
  • Rather than trying to sell them a camera lense, teach them how to capture cool waterfall motion effects which require a special lens.
  • If I teach them that, people who buy from Nikon would buy from Canon too. People tend to have a stronger emotional attachment to those actually trying to help them to be better
  • Don't make a better [X], make a better [user of X]
  • Blog, Tweet, Teach your users to be better
  • What the brain care about? Nice things, Cute things, Funny things. Talk to the brain, not the mind.
  • Focus on what the user does, not what you do
  • Write document which focus on 80/20 rules. Show them the 10 cool things which the user can do.
  • Make the right thing easy to do, wrong think hard to do
  • Element of Fun Learning: Thrill, Discovery, Challenge, Self-expression, Social, Novelty, Sensory
  • Shift away from "I Suck" to "Okay, it's nice" to "I'm really good at this"
  • Add the "WTF?" button to measure how frustrated your user are
  • Upgrade: make sure you upgrade does not make your user feel dumb again
  • Upgrade: make sure it can still do the one thing it's suppose to do easily

Monday, May 03, 2010

Ice Kacang Puppy Love (初恋红豆冰)

I thought this would be a simple and happy love story, but it turns out to be fairly complicated; which is true in a certain sense, as sometimes love is not as simple or comical as shown on movie.

I still like Ice Kacang because its “depth” do interest me. Ice Kacang is about the “love” engagement between Botak (Ah Niu) and Fighting Fish. It had a few interesting characters around such as the comical bully Ma Ling Fan (by Gary Chow), the weirdo girl Bali Peng who like Botak, the White Knight singer who keep delaying his singing career (by Victor Wong), Botak brother who couldn’t make up his mind to open a new coffee shop in the city and Botak sister who dares to go for the one she love (unlike her brother). It is complex as the love interest of all these people somehow cross path (physically at a cross road). Then again, there is a lot of story and characters which we could relate to.

Ah Niu is a very shy boy, who fails to tell his love interest his real feelings, until the very end. Somehow, he retreated again when he had his last chance when Fighting Fish is going away for study; he was knock down twice when he tries to give chase, and still didn’t do it when he finally caught up with her. He loves her in his subtle and introverts ways, drawing her portraits, listening to her and protecting her whenever he can. Then again, it’s so difficult for his feelings to leave his mouth. Sometimes we guys just need to boost up the courage for 1 second to make the eternal change in our life. The feelings might be true, but it does not translate into a lifetime relationship without words.

Botak’s brother is good at making coffee, but he did not dare to venture out because he felt less confident about the defect on his leg (also influenced by his father). One day Fighting Fish told him, “Making coffee is about using your hand, not your leg.” A lot of time our dream is stopped by something totally irrelevant, we just have to see through it. The White Knight is a singer who keep on delaying his dream, as he sees no urgency in it until he witness the death of an uncle who waited to win lottery in order bring his wife to here from China (he win lottery in the end, but died immediately).

There is something about human relationship which bothers me. We can be very close with someone where they are the sky and earth to us at that point of time; yet we “forgotten” about them years down the road. Though we didn’t really forgotten about them, but we didn’t keep in touch with them anymore and we could not be as close as we used to be (gone are the good old days). Something or someone will fill the gap, and we have to move on and serving them only in our memories. Perhaps this is how things meant to be, but I still feel sadden by this.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Echoes of The Rainbow (歲月神偷)

We live in a “comfortable” time, where there isn’t much war and turbulence around us (except natural and financial disaster). And if we are lucky, we will be educated with a comfortable job, and parents who could take care of themselves physically and financially. Thus, we would have no dependent (unless we have children or a spouse who is not working).

The good thing is we don’t through much hardship or difficulty in our life based on our surrounding, unless we come from really poor or problematic family, or we have a streak of bad luck and misfortunes (such as sickness, unnatural death, etc). Thus, we are not tested in our ability to face despair in our life.

I was watching Echoes of The Rainbow (歲月神偷) and felt that it’s a really “touchy” story. First we have a poor family trying their best to save the roof of their house, including pulling the roof together with their bare hands. Then they are heart broken when knowing their elder suffered from leukemia, which is very deadly at that point of time. They did all they can to keep their son alive, trying their best to go through the hard times (to believe or not to give up), but it just didn’t work out pleasant in the end. They face quite a lot of financial challenges (corruption, bad business, medical for their son, poverty), but that is nothing as compared to the lost of their child.

What’s the reason for us to work hard everyday? So that we can live a better life, or to protect and care for the people we love (our parents, spouse and children)? I was told happiness comes when we help others to achieve their happiness. No matter how selfish we think humanity might be, I think we do want to protect the people around us, even though it might incur great lost to ourselves. We live and work hard for the happiness of the people we love. We wanted a better future for our children, we wanted to make sure our parents enjoy a comfortable retirement and we wanted our spouse to be satisfied and happy.

Since we live in more “comfortable” time, we should be able to achieve more and do better than the previous generation. We should be able to give back more to our parents, and provide a better life to our children. If I only need to fend for myself, I don’t really have to work very hard and I can have a very enjoyable lifestyle. Perhaps I do feel the responsibility to protect and provide a better life for the people around me, to shield us from hardship and despair as much as I could. Then again, we could only do what we could, and the rest is up to fate.

Monday, April 05, 2010

A bigger dream

A few weeks back I visited Seri Pilmoor, a semi-d / bungalow property in Ara Damansara (strategic location surrounded by PJ, Shah Alam and Subang Jaya) out of curiosity.

It’s a pretty nice house, and what I like most is its open-air rooftop garden. I could imagine myself working or relaxing at the rooftop, enjoying my Jacuzzi or reading on the sofa. It’s a nice idea and nice place.

Basically the bungalow cost about RM 4 million, something which my entire family combined also could not afford. The semi-d cost RM 2 million and all the 20 plus unit had already been snapped up at the blink of an eye.

So, I have to conclude that there are really quite a lot of rich people in Malaysia which could afford million ringgit houses (including all those houses in Mont Kiara, Damansara Heights and Bangsar). Secondly, I could not afford these houses at the moment and I didn’t even plan to make so much money 10 years down the road. To own one of these babies, I should be making at least RM 200,000 per year minimum. I always planned my life in a simple way, living in a simple house (costing between RM 100K – 400K) and driving a simple car (RM 50K). If I aim for something bigger and higher, I would need to make bigger sacrifices today (which I could live without such luxury, and still feeling comfortable financially and freedom wise).

The problem is sometimes I have dreams which are quite expensive, such as a garden rooftop bungalow. Secondly, knowing so many people in Malaysia are making so much more than me. Thirdly, knowing something I couldn’t possibly afford now and possible in the future doesn’t really feel good.

In order to get what I wanted (which is to earn possibly 300K per year), I need to be the CEO of a sizable company, setup my own company with its stream of clients and workers or hit jackpot.

If I continue with freelance (or 1 person business), this is something I would likely not be able to achieve. At the same time, I am not quite willing to expand into something bigger, though I have a feeling I might have to do it eventually.

Perhaps there is not such thing as being small and satisfied when the bigger opportunity arises.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I always get something from trying

I went to TEDx Kuala Lumpur last weekend with the intention of learning something, and also trying to pickup some networking skill (I thought I needed some improvement due to the nature of my work).

After a few networking attempts, I do manage to get 3 business cards which doesn’t quite relate to my line of work. It’s proven again I suck at networking or socializing with stranger; I thought I had improved, but not quite. I spent hours of free time eating, drinking, looking around and wondering what to do next. It’s just uncomfortable and proven not quite my thing, again.

I observe people who are just like my, standing or walking alone with no friends around (it’s not a pleasant sight, and I happens to fall into this category). There will be people who always stick with their friends; and the voice of networking-pro and socialites fill the room as usual; as always, with one or two geeky person who really blend well with others.

Though I fail at my networking, but I don’t think I felt TEDx empty handed. Besides the quite alright speakers and topics, I do realize something: no matter how good I think I am, I am not visible within the local scene (not as good yet). MMW Food could be the top restaurant website in Malaysia, but still many didn’t realize its existence (a handful could have stumble upon it, but its presence or brand name is not felt). Meaning I haven’t made a strong impact as one of the more prominent Malaysia websites.

I tried to compiled is list of prominent websites about Malaysia, and probably ranked at the 24th place, and the top ten spot have at least 500,000 visitors per month. If I wanted to make an impact, I would need to be at least 5 times better than current state before people would recognize

I am a believer most of the things are worth trying, as we always get something in return though we would probably fail trying (I mean my networking attempt). Thus, I need to keep exploring new things, be brave, never give up (in fact, all of us should try more often than escape) and try to pick up a few things in between. Life just need a bit more perseverance.