Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fat Cats

The Australian Government is mulling over a plan to increase the tax rates for high net worth indivs to 50% of every dollar that make once their income passes the 1 mil threshold.

Now, waddaya think of that? Fancy, the Aussies coming up with a workable tax system! What a load of crap.

The reason for that is because they reckon that being the creme de la creme, we can rake a litle bit more off of them. Yup, agreed. But the 50% rate is going to deliver v marginal returns to society. Why? Because if a guy earning 2m can be paying the same tax rate as the guy earning 40k, then something is obviously not right. Obviously, someone is taking advantage of tax loopholes. So unless you scrutinize their returns and close those holes, they can still get away with it, even if you increase the tax rate to 80%. And if you issued a blanket tax that way, no one would have the incentive to try to get very rich, or to be as successful an entrepreneur as they might be inclined to be. If I am already pulling 900k, why should I strive to expand my business and increase my income to 1.2m, when the result of all that labour is that the Govt will take 50% of my marginal increase anyway?

In that case, the economy loses out on its potential, along with all the potential consumers and employees who might otherwise benefit.

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If you look at the way Westerners, and Australians, manage their finances, you start to feel really good about yourself, and pat yourself on the back for the genetic advantage that you have; after all, it is a known fact that Asians are more prudent with their cash. Luckily for us, the Asian financial crisis and its subsequent reforms have buffetted us from the fallout this round. I reckon the West is in for a really hard landing, inc. in Australia. Their constant self delusions that they are insulated by being so far away is an illusion, a very dangerous fallacy. The only silver lining in this cloud is that it's a good time to invest in the Aus dollar.

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I've always maintained that the best jobs are jobs where you actually perform a real exchange or either a product or a service. In the financial sector however, its an exchange and trading of a lot of hot air and virtual money. Thats not for me. It never could be. Really, when they run through their investment software and models, what are the assumptions, the business information, the data, they feed into such systems? There is an interesting article on precisely this. I reckon its a good wake up call. Its not just over optimistic; it is feeding a system an entirely wrong set of data and assumptions. My friend Rand has been hyping up his own simulation model that has supposedly been outperforming the market consistently for the last one year. Well, lets see how he fares these last and next few months. If it really works, I reckon he is a genius.
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Wanna buy a home?

I don’t suppose anyone is really looking into the phenomenon of “30 being the new 20”. This basically means that people live with their parents well into their 20s and 30s in today’s era, compared to our parents’, where children move out in their 20s. A big part of the reason is the affordability of a new home now compared to our parents’ generation.

If one looks at the cost of a home now, a reasonable dream house is really priced out of the average consumer and the average Joe plumber wage earner’s means. When one pulls a couple k a month, and the cost of an entry level property is a couple hundred grand, ranging from 350 to 500k, the prospect of owning that home is so unreal that there is little real incentive for our yuppies to seriously cobble together a financial plan to try to reach for that home. Hence they choose to indulge in lavish short term lifestyles, figuring that a few hundred dollars splashed on a Kontiki trip or a luxurious spa treatment does not really dent their chances of owning that dream home down by the beach.

This post will not be debating on the virtues and the general spending habits of the 20 something age group, and definitely will not criticize the debt laden culture that so commonly inflicts those of this generation. As an aside, did you know that the average American carries 13 credit cards? What is the implication of that?

At any rate, I’ve been looking at homes here in KL, and it is still affordable to a certain extent, but definitely not for those who are earning an average salary. Over in Australia, where house prices have been fluctuating wildly, it seems that for an
average couple starting out, trying to find a reasonable property in Melbourne and Sydney is quite an impossible task, unless one is prepared to stay at Werribee. Werribee! That’s a couple hours train ride from the CBD! What next? Will we be taking planes to work next on a daily basis, sometime in 50 years? Seems like there are no more affordable and reasonable housing left on the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney – and KL.

Imagine the social costs of housing affordability. We are seeing it already – fathers renting rooms closer to their workplaces to save the hour long drive to work and the hour long drive back home, in their bid to provide a bigger home for their children to play in. Heavy traffic jams, productivity being affected, time spent on the road instead of enhancing family welfare or contributing to the economy via their work, and people being more stressed out, having to sleep earlier and wake later…etc.

We really should address this issue. If I was in Government…

Perverts are everywhere

When one walks down the street here in KL, or in many other Asian or Middle Eastern countries, for that matter, he or she will be acutely and hyper aware of the many lustful, sinful and other less than pure glances and outright ogles from the men in such places at females who wear clothes that show a bit of skin.

Such females usually can be divided into 2 camps. Those who are ignorant and unaware of themselves being disrespectfully looked at, mentally undressed and whatnot and those who are aware/have been told etc but who insist upon it as it is their right and hence they should not curb their own wants since they do not suffer real harm or indignity. Aside from this fact, which I shall not debate, there is also a subtopic of whether or not the cultural, religious and societal norm of a place breeds the sexual health and nature of its men.

One would be tempted to think that in such places, where women are usually required to cover up, a bit of skin could well create some excitement due to the fact that these men are a bit backwards and the sight of something which they rarely get to see gets them to lose all sense of being civilized. However, this argument is sorely tested when one comes into contact with news reports and
incidences of peeping toms and other perverts in Western countries, where it is the norm for the females to prance around in very revealing clothes, partly because of the safety and security they feel in wearing such things there, as the men are a bit more refined and refrain from outright ogling at bits of exposed female flesh.

Cutting costs with human lives

I was watching the movie The Towering Inferno the other day. It exposed me a side of construction and architecture that I was never really aware of up until then – how cost cutting, shoddy workmanship and ‘creative get-around’ methods are employed by builders when building properties, which are in essence, death traps.

Then I read about the
fire at Bourke St. (Myers), which is the 2nd time in 2 months. It just makes me think that in their greed and quest for profits, all these developers putting people’s lives at risk just makes me sick. I feel almost sure that they employ vastly different standards of qualifying in building their own homes. My family being in the construction business as well, I am privy to some info on the safety of some of our homes today as well.

It is a common occurrence to replace high grade materials with lousier materials, or even different specs that were originally drawn up by architects. Architects also are under pressure to reduce costs while maintaining certain expensive features, such as attractive looks, hence safer but more expensive materials will surely be sacrificed. An example is our tarmac: although we are supposed to use high grade, high concentration tar with a certain pebble density, we are using something much cheaper. That’s why a section of road on our North South highway en route back from Penang to KL is especially slippery during heavy rains. It just makes you wonder 100 years from now, what will be the condition of some of our landmark properties.

Bike rage - the new rage

Cycling is one of the best and most enjoyable sports around. I love it. It’s fun, it is healthy exercise, it is environment friendly, it is not noisy, it is much cheaper than driving, and there are lots of instances of bonding with fellow riders, and you can talk to each other as you cycle. In short, it is really one of the best activities that we can engage in. Back when I was in Melbourne, I used to take the bike everywhere, if it was within a 20-30 min ride. Since returning to KL, I’ve been mostly transporting myself via my car. However, now that I have bought my bike, I do intend to make more use of it, and cycle to places within a 20 min bike ride radius, such as supper, breakfasts on weekends, The Curve, etc. It is very heartening and encouraging that The Curve has bike racks for people to lock their bikes to. Hence I can cycle 20-25 min there, have a workout, and cycle back again, which would give me both cardio and resistance. What a great idea!

However, we have to co-exist with other road users, namely cars and motorcyclists. In my opinion, the more dangerous ones are the motorcyclists. Long being the ones intimidated/bullied/picked on by cars, they are now no longer the last item on the road food chain, and hence have decided to take their frustration and newfound sense of superiority over the latest additions to the road chain – cyclists.

Other road users have to realize and understand and accept that cyclists are here to stay – and we are only growing to increase in numbers. The Malaysian government has to make our roads more bike-friendly, have more cycling lanes to accommodate cyclists, in our bid to be a world class city. Being world class does not merely mean having high concrete towers.

There is a new term coined for road rage against cyclists:
bike-ism. And as this article shows, it can have dire and possibly fatal consequences too. There is a new an alarming trend of backlash against cyclists. Knowing how our drivers are here, the Government needs to do something to educate and ensure our drivers do not behave in dangerous ways towards cyclists. This is an opportunity to Malaysia to really take a lead in Asia and make a name for ourselves as being a pioneer here in being cyclist- friendly, and showing the path to an environmentally conscious nation.

Monday, October 20, 2008


It is my conjecture that kids don't leave parents. It is, on the contrary, parents who drive away kids.

Which kid emerges into the world doggedly determined to get the hell as far away from the parent as possible?

The thing is this. Kids actually want to be good kids. We want to be good sons and daughters. And we DO understand that when they restrict what we do, it is out of what they perceive as 'for our own good' and towards our betterment, and that it is out of love. That is why, when we want to do something they oppose, we are open to the idea of neogtiation and discussions. We don't mind sitting down and hearing their side of the story, and then trying to compromise or find a middle ground. But we must talk logically and calmly, we must be rational and make a case for what we are trying to do and why.

Likewise, they have to do the same. They don't want us running ahead yelling and hollering that we are going to do it we are going to go ahead with it so fuck you. They likewise must not do that. All I am asking for is that you rein in and control your emotions. Let us sit down and talk properly, like 2 mature adults. You state your case, I state my case, lets understand each other, compromise and find a middle ground. You don't want me emotionally yelling and bulldozing my way through, so why do you then go and do that? So if you want to do that, does that mean I can do likewise? All I am asking for is that you rein in your emotions, control your goddamn outrageous emotional outbursts, and talk rationally, calmly, composedly. I really hate it when women react emotionally and just lose it, and start blabbering. Some colleagues are like that as well, and it makes me want to slap them to shut them up and bring them back to their senses. There is absolutely zero point in getting carried away, crying and wailing and all that. I mean, can't you build your case? Must you resort to just issueing blanket emotional demands?

We mean well and want to be well. What you need to do is to sit down calmly and we can talk about this rationally. If you insist on approaching conflicts in that manner, then you will definitely have to deal with the consequences and ineffectiveness of such a solution. It is as if making a rational case is beyond them, and they just have to resort to some sort of emotional hysteria and psychosis to threaten the other person into submission.

And I just won't have it. I am not curbing my life and its freedoms for some silly unfounded emotional hysteria. Just because an accident on the road on a motorbike happened to someone close to you 30 years ago, does that mean that forever I am banned from being on the road on anything 2 wheeled? Do I really have to curb my life to that extent? Well, people die from all sorts of things everyday; should I then also refrain from exposing myself to all that? Get a grip, get a life, get some perspective, before you chase everyone else away.

Why are some kids so hell bent on migration or getting away from their country? It's to get away from their parent/s. Oftentimes, a parent is so tunnel visioned in using whatever means to manipulate their children into behaving in accordance to their wishes, that they totally lose sight of the fact that their children are indivs with their own opinions too, and by doing this, they are flatly forcing the child into a situation where they have to lie, or they just have to get away from the overbearing, dominant, controlling parent, who insists on having almost blanket access into every part of the child's life.

Sometimes, parents just have to learn to let go. By doing so, they are in effect, pulling their kids closer.

An exciting weekend

This last weekend was very exciting. I always crave to be out, in the outdoors, as much as possible. I really hate being cooped up in my office, stuck at my office job, chained to my desk, everyday playing with SAP. Everytime I'm at my desk, I look out the only window there is in the office, a small square slab of glass 10 feet high, where I can only see blue sky and bright sunshine. And everytime I see that, I gaze out wistfully, longing to be out there, amidst the woods, forests, rivers, streams. Well, last weekend, I got a major dose of that!

First of all, we went white water rafting, then we went climbing through some caves which opened out into the highway, then we showered at a natural mountain side spring, then we did a flying fox from 100 feet up out of the cave, and finished off with ghost stories around a campfire. The next day, I did several ropes based obstacle courses, which was carried out 20 metres up in the air, and involved a real leap of faith in the middle of the air. Then on the very next day, the 3 of us went offroads and again did a 6 hour cycling trek through the forests of Kiara, ending up at the BK Equestrian Club.

Thats how life should be lived!

Cycling again!

Ever since my very first BMX as a tiny tot of a boy, I have been an avid cyclist. After about 2 hours of cycling with the stabilizing wheels, I dismantled them, hopped on the bike, fell off maybe once or twice, dusted myself off, and resumed cycling, and have never looked back since. That led to a second and a third BMX bike, and then one day, I was gloriously presented with my very first MTB, a green 24” Montana with real Shimano shifters (18x) and V brakes. It came with real road-ready tyres, with threads that extended all the way to the sides of the tyres, making it possible to do daredevil turns at high speeds.

Well, with the BMX bikes, my repertoire was limited mainly to tricks and ‘joy’ cycling. Once I had the road-ready MTB though, I took to the roads. That led to my second bike, a 26” Blue MTB, with alloy wheels, and a slanted frame that allowed me to do climbs and attempt crazy slopes and hills, no longer afraid of bumping my nuts on the horizontal bar of my previous MTB. The alloy wheels proved lighter, did not rust, and the bike overall was lighter. Armed with such a machine, I began to (hey, why not make use of it right?) mix with the neighbourhood boys and we cycled in light forests, over gentle streams, carried our bikes over logs and pipes, and went on neighbourhood terror rides, and formed our own bicycle gang. I won’t elaborate on what we did as that outfit, coz some of it isn’t legal!

After a multi-year cycling hiatus, due to distractions, I popped over to Australia to further my studies. In first year, I bought myself a blue 26” MTB, a solid bike that was sturdy, strong but heavy, meant for light road cycling. Hence on, I engaged in only a very few cycling expeditions, some uni-organized, some with friends.

Since returning back here, it’s been one dreary working day after another. I look longingly out the window at work all the time, wanting to be out in the outdoors. So, instead of merely wishful longing, I actually bought myself another MTB, this time, a BH Diamond frame, with Shimano Deore 27 speed shifters, V brakes (disc ones are slightly unnecessary and costly at this point). He is called Bumblebee, because of his colours, after the Transformers character. I’ve been hitting the trails recently with my buddies, at Kiara Hills, and it has been really fun, addictive and wonderful. First of all, the experience is wonderful, there is thrill, spill, adrenaline, adventure, physical challenges and toughness galore, equal parts grit, mud, endurance, strength mental strength, sweat and blood. Second of all, it is good exercise, a healthy getaway from urban life, just me, my friends, my bike. And every inch you go, you have to earn it. There definitely ain’t no free ride. And the thing is, even if the first hour is very hard, we just have to be mentally strong, and fight on, and eventually, we’ll overcome it, and be glad we didn’t succumb. You’ll prolly encounter more cycling posts later.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wasteful Society

I reckon society and mankind is really heading towards self destruction mode. Back when resources were plentiful, I can understand why the world evolved that way, but now when resources aren't plentiful, I reckon mankind is on a Ferrari speeding down a slippery slope, and the brakes aren't working.

For one, they should make non-essential to human survival/quality of life jobs like finance/investment/banking (which only serve Greed) become very unlucrative, and jobs like cleaning of roads, developing of clean energy sources, cleaning up the rivers and oceans, unclogging of drains, recycling of plastic wastes, things like that, more lucrative. These are the services essential to mankind. We pay a road sweeper like 5 bucks an hour, but if he doesnt sweep the roads, the drains become clogged with leaves, the drainage becomes clotted, and the roads become flooded.

But we pay the banker millions, and all he does is...help others lose money.

I'll elaborate on this later; for now, it's time to go.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Which subclass of man are you?

In society’s never-ending bid to categorize and classify people into neat little squares, and in the evolution of the moden man, we have in recent years been introduced to the fancy concepts of heterosexual, homosexual, metrosexual, ubersexual, SNAG, bi-sexual etc. You know, in the days of my dad, you were either a fag or you weren’t. You were black or you were white. There was definitely no 5 shades of grey to make excuses for insufficient blackness, if you get my drift.

Part of the problem here is that men are allowing society and women especially to paint them in a certain light, to classify them into neat little square boxes, and worst of all, then going out and living in such a way that these phrases become self fulfilling.

What happened to the quintessential bloke? Now I don’t mean one who regresses to drinking beer, belching every 5 seconds, whose main reason for being alive is pizza and football and the monthly issue of Playboy. A guy who is tough, strong, not afraid to get down and dirty, but also is capable of showing emotion.

As a digression, my understanding of heterosexual is: a guy who only wants women. Homosexual is a guy who only wants guys. A metrosexual is some guy who knows his toners, color coordination of clothes, knows his moisturiser, 5 step face maintenance routine or what have you, knows his perfumes, dresses in fitting expensive shirts and trousers, nice belts with shiny buckles and pointy leather shoes, ubersexual is the backlash movement by men in response to the increasing feminization and stripping away of their masculinity by being very stereotypical male, to the point of being homo averse and threatening. SNAG is a soppy wimpy type who is ultra sensitive, thoughtful, caring, cries easily, soft, but that does not mean he likes men. A bi is basically a slut who will shag whatever moves.

Why can’t we just drill them down to just 1 definition. MAN. Simple, easy. I mean, after all, that’s what we are. We all got 1 cannon, and 2 cannonballs. I reckon we shud just call ourselves a MAN. Mature. Able. Noble. Tada!

It takes maturity to know what to do in any given circumstance. It takes the ability to do it as well. But the clinching factor is, is the guy noble enough to do it?

At any rate I reckon men are just becoming confused. Society, and women in particular, love shoving em around, in and out of boxes, and create new stereotypical labels. But the fact is, life ain’t that easy. Those obviously gay types on Sex and the City are obviously TV characters, dramatized and sensationalized for effect. Those like that platypus mouthed Carsson from the 5 gay me makeover (and wtf is that show about anyway, Give ME that budget and I bet I could do better, and come on, I don’t appreciate you coming in trashing my room and ridiculing my collection of soppy sentimental junk even though they mean something to me). So this carsson guy, probably has some playacting in there to boost his image.

In real life, most people don’t fit the stereotype, and there are several shades of grey. Some gay men behave straighter than straight men. You cant tell. Men are being confused. I have these elements. So am I a uber? But I also have A B C elements. So am I a SNAG? And so on it goes.

Come on guys. Where are your testicles. Stand up and be what you really are. show what you are made of. Stop bending back stop fitting into society's stereotype of you. So what if you are neither here nor there? So what if you are soppy? So what if you are unable to articulate your emotions? If thats you, thats you. And people who care for you and love you will accept you are, and the rest, just ignore em.

So I reckon we should just cut the crap and make life easier on the 21st century male.


Have you noticed that the release of good songs comes in cycles?

You might have a dry period for a few months where you don't hear any nice new songs released, and then you'd have a few months where you hear a lot of them.

Currently HOOKED on Coldplay's Viva La Vida, The Script's The Man Who Can't Be Moved, Pink's So What and Jason Mraz's Lucky, Paramour - That's What You Get

Coldplay - Must be played loud. The ending bit, with the Ohhh in the background...is the best!
The Script - The beginning, the lyrics and the chorus ... is the best!
So What - The MTV Video Awards live show...the best!
Mraz - Lucky...unique tune.
Paramour - Blast it loud on a roadtrip!

*Resorted to this to cheer myself up in light of tonight's cancelled Beyond concert.

Mega Disappointment

I am utterly disappointed and sad.

Everyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Beyond fan, and have been so since Pri school.

For 16 years I have been their staunch fan. And when I heard that they were coming to do a concert in M'sia the last time around, I was still in Melb. So 2 months ago, when I heard that they were coming down for a concert, I snapped up the tickets, the most expensive ones, and went downtown to see them in their press conference. Among the handful of fans there, I did not have to jostle with too many people and was absolutely overjoyed when I got to stand right at the front of the stage, just a few feet from the band themselves. It was a nice moment. I also got to shake hands with them, exchange some words, and get them to sign on my poster.

I'm still high over that.

But I've been sent cruelly crashing down to earth by the announcement that tonight's concert is cancelled!!!


How much is your time worth?

So you think yo uare brilliant. You have aced your high school exams, you went to a good college, easily procured a spot for urself with a top uni, worked hard and graduated with good grades, secured yourself a job with a top MNC, and now rake in relatively big bucks, as much as it took your parents 10 years to make when they were your age.

Great. You've achieved what you've always wanted.

Now, if you were in a hugely satisfying job, and got immense satisfaction from teaching little kids, thats GREAT. The problem is, what if you are not quite sure why you are in your current job, and you cannot say with conviction that you love this job, and there are days where you just tell urself it isnt worth it. What if you are getting tired by all the deadlines, quotas, stress, pressures, targets, KPIs, meetings, projects, deliverables, presentations, business cases, explanations, reports, politics, being cooped up in an office while gazing wistfully at the sun outside? Did you really go through the last 20 years of education for...this?

You spend hours and hours a day at work. You work from 8, 9 til 8, 9. Not much time for much else. Can't dictate working hours. Have to put up with other people's moods and attitudes.

On the other hand, you could quit, and set up your own business. Open a restaurant! Sell something simple, even if it is just chicken rice or bak kut teh. In M'sia, you can keep your overheads low by not emphasizing the packaging, because we just care for the taste. You can be your own boss. You dictate your working hours. Don't feel like working today? Feel like starting later? Go ahead! Hire someone else to run your shop for you, to collect the money. So, while your shop and hence you are raking in the cash, you're out there enjoying the sun and a good book.

That operates on the concept of passive income. For us in our 9-5, we have to work to pull in the cash. Once we stop, we dont make anything. We are trading our time, our youth, our passion, our adventure-time, for some money, a shitload of stress. Thats active income. Passive income is like when artistes sing 1 song or writers write 1 book, and sit back, and keep reaping the revenue generated by that few hours/months of work. So if we had our own stall, we could operate on that concept. The stall will run and generate profits while we are in the cinema.

Isn't that great?

What else...we could skip the whole run of the mill degree-uni thing, and just go to tradeschool. Or become an apprentice. Did you know in Australia senior bricklayers get paid 1 buck per brick laid? Plumbers, mechanics, air cond repairmen, these guys make shovelloads, and they have a union. These guys rake in more dough than the typical accountant, professional, exec, white collared paper pusher doing the dirty down in the city.

Or, you could get yourself an education until you finish high school, then go into an apprenticeship or tradeschool, from 17 til 30. And all the money that would have been spent on your education post high school would go into a fund since you were 17 and earn compound interest. By the time you are 30, you'd have more than 10 years of trade experience, and 1 million in the bank, easy, to start your business with.

I wish I had done that! With my good character, smirk, I'm sure my customers would love me and keep returning.

So, you wanna travel?

You do, huh?

In this day and age, everybody wants to travel. There are, generally, a few distinct types of travellers. Let's not talk about the groups of travelling families, middle aged people. This post is about the 17 to 35 year olds.

Most people in that age group, either:

- want to travel solo to some place, or around the world, to experience different cultures, and coz they need to get out of their current routine, or coz they just want to constantly be on holiday. or they want to see someplace, which has previously only existed in their dreams and imaginations.

- want to travel solo to some place, or around the world, and also to live for a short period of time in 1 place. In order to do this, they work part time, or do a travel-work thingie, or embark on a vocational course. This is to experience the culture, get away from what they have been used to, and because they want to live life in that place as how they imagine life in that place is lived, in their dreams.

- want to travel solo to some place, or around the world, experience new things cultures people etc, meet people. Perhaps, to meet someone special and enjoy that feeling of amour. To meet the type of people they dream about, that cannot be found where they currently are.

Whatever it is you want, there is no wrong in that. If thats your dream, if thats what makes you happy, well, go for it, if you find that it is worth leaving behind whatever you are leaving behind. If you feel that that helps you recapture your youth, or gives you a sense of romance, or a sense of freedom, or a sense of empowerment, then, go ahead. But if you are travelling alone, especially for girls, you have got to grow up, be sensible, be realistic, and not be naive. Many a time a girl has gotten in trouble in their search for fun, excitement, and that bit of adrenaline. They think that as long as they are in control, then they can get as deep in as they want.

The problem is, they are NEVER in control. The fact is this: you can rave all you want about feminism and all that, but the fact is, you are vulnerable. The trick is to seem non threatening, to let the girl feel like she is in control, to let her feel like she is calling the shots, that she is dictating how deep in she is going. Let her feel like she wants the drink, and make her think that she is still sober, and can call it off anytime. And that you will be willing to roll with it. Once she thinks she is in control, she will let her guard down. When the timing is right, you go for the kill. And by that time, she will realize that the control is just an illusion. And by then, it is too late.

Many a girl-just-wanna-have-fun moment has resulted in horrible consequences. And when that happens, besides rape, besides being drugged with devastating effects on the body later including affecting her ability to reproduce, you also get deaths. And these are the reported ones.

This article about the recent disappearance of Britt Lapthorne in Europe, the Australian girl, just drives home that fact. She was just out to have fun. To her, she was just being friendly. But in the minds of the guys there, although not conveyed to her, she was viewed as easy, promiscuous, etc, and her body has just been found. Such dumb, naive, stupid and selfish acts basically have led to her family being the ones who are the real victims, who are left to pick up the crumbling pieces of their life, forever wonder and regret, to deal with the insinuations and whispers about their loved one's moral decisions. As the author herself recalls and admits, when a young girl travels solo, more often that not, it is with God's good grace that she returns completely unscathed.

People can be horribly naive. Just because something is not in their horizon of consciousness, it doesn't mean that others will not act upon it. There are still many parts of this world, even in civilized areas, where people disappear. They don't realize, 6 girls are no match for 1 guy. A guy can take several hits from several grls. But one punch from a guy, can knock a girl out cold. You can rave and rant against this unfairness and whatnot, but thats reality.

So, the point is, if you are a girl intending to travel solo, go for it if thats what you dream. But whatever you do, it is not excess prudence to let your imagination run a bit, take extra precautions, be very careful, and not be naive, do not take risks, alwiz think of your family, and most of all, are you REALLY in control?

Money Smarts

Well, in line with my latest attempts to start acquiring some financial smarts and being more fiscally responsible and prudent, let me attach the below link. It's written by Scott Pape, the author of the Barefoot Investor.
Caught my attention several years ago in uni, and writes very handy, practical and down to earth advice, instead of the typical run of the mill rich-dad poor dad crap that spouts rhetorical nonsense without providing real world tips.


It does contain some really good tips, some basic fundamental stuff we all should know. If you are between 25-30, have had barely any savings, try to read through some of his previous articles as well.

I've got a very basic plan to get back into financial health.

- Settle all my credit card debts, keep one just for petrol and other expenses, and the other for non essential items, e.g. dinner, entertainment. Thats it. Carry just 2 cards.

- Submit my claims to the company. That comes to a few k.

- Collect debts from friends.

- Hence forth, keep a running balance of about 3k in my savings account, which generates negligible interest anyway, for use as petty cash and to pay off expenses. Keep another account, an FD, and stick everything else in there, and when I get my salary each month, stick the balance in after topping up the expense account. Although the FD account only generates 3.7% interest per annum (compared against the real inflation rate of 4 to 5 %), it is still better than other packages out there. This is because other funds require (a) a certain minimum deposit amount (b) insurance packages which I don't need and am already covered for (c) are either very risky or long term (d) tie me down, which is not a good idea at this point until I have a more stable cashflow (e) are essentially gambles, like in shares or unit trusts or other managed funds, which I do not have time to monitor yet or to figure out my investing strategy. Once I have a stable cashflow, and excess cash leftover after a 6 month buffer at current salary, then I'll use that to invest.

- When the Aussie dollar looks to have fallen as low as it can fall, quickly deposit as much as I can afford into my Aus account, so that I can benefit from the inevitable rise back to the 6 plus percent interest rates it was although this might take 1 year.

- Have my eyes on a few local and Aus shares. When the drop seems to be levelling off, not anytime soon I'm sure, I will snap up some.

- Right now is not a good time to purchase property. Perhaps in a year or so, when prices bottom out. When prices bottom out in a year or 2, I'd be in a stronger position to purchase something as significant as property. Although changing a car is a freat and attractive idea, at this point, again, it is definitely not something I want to do, given that interest rates on cars just increased, the economic situation is dubious at best, and that I might not be around in M'sia after next year.

At this point, this is the best plan I can think of, unless better ideas are encountered.

What's your plan? Time to start drafting one!

Friday, October 10, 2008

So you think you want a credit card?

If you want to get a credit card, you must be

- disciplined
- organized
- careful.

You have to be disciplined in sticking to the original objectives of the card, and not simply use it and end up incurring huge debts. You have to be disciplined in ensuring you settle your obligations on time, and meeting your mothly repayments. The trick that they always leave in the very fine print is that not only is there a minimum monthly repayment charge (and the associated late payment charge, suspension if this is not paid, and fee to reactivate it) but on top of that, you are charged a % of whatever your balance is. You have to spend and use your card in a disciplined manner, and make sure you pay off ur obligations. Once you get in debt, these banks, which are similar to legalized loan sharks, will charge a hefty interest on you and you will end up paying through your nose. A credit card can give you great convenience, but is also the fastest way to financial disaster.

You must be organized and keep your records. Any statement/PIN sent to you, must be filed away. Reason being, it is not uncommon for fraudulent transactions to take place on your card, or for mistakes by the bank. You should keep all your statements to and check them and do reconciliation to ensure the totals tally and that no one is shaving a couple of bucks off you every month. If you ever suspect there is something amiss, and mind you, there are lots of seemingly suspicious signs in this day and age where it is part of life to make credit card transactions via the Internet, and you want to refer back to your statements, it costs money to print out each sheet of paper, so you could be paying up to RM100 for a whole year's worth of backdated statements. If you believe you paid off your balance but yet it is not reflected, you at least have your receipts and statements to back it up.

You must be careful of fraud. Do not simply use unprotected websites and internet facilities and disreputable websites. Also, websites without the Verisign securelock feature are to be avoided. Just carry some common sense, dno't leave your card lying around, don't even let others take ur card away and return it to you for signature as restaurant-goers often do, because the waiters could use your card for fraudulent purposes too. And just y'day I received an SMS by one of my credit card supplying banks telling me to call them back for some purpose related to my cc. When I did call them back, a lady answered the phone and kept giggling, in the most unprofessional manner, and straightaway asked for my IC number. After reading about 3 or 4 digits, I became suspicious of her and asked her how for some verification. She instantly hung up.

When I was in uni, and was studying Telecommunications (which by the way is one of my all time favourite and coooolest subjects), which dealt with cyber crime, hacking, etc, we learnt a lot about how the Mafia and organized European, Russian, etc syndicates have got computer security specialists planting trojans and other spyware and keystroke recording software into other people's computers and steal their passwords. Cybercrime today is a v serious business, taking on a very organized and sophisticated face.

So guys and girls...be careful, be very careful.

So you think your job is bad?

Well check this out. This email was written by 1 of my best friends to the rest of our gang. Names and details changed to protect privacy of those implicated.

- - -

for the last one month i have been chained to a wall and fed sh*t and ask to do work on an impossible time line! Everyday in [Insert Name of his client] untill no time go check mail man...
Wah i've been reading all your emails from two months ago slowly la! wtf is happening man! i can slowly see the descend in to despair and madness!
First everyone very happy very good, some of you say going to UK for holiday, some still asking me to sign up credit card, some looking to go holiday, then slowly come from back UK not happy, wan to quit job, job very sien, then descend to job very sh*t kena frame, wan to change job, girl problems, then fu-k-ing go down untill wan to OPEN BAK KUT TEH SHOP?
damn funny...
anyway in line with the latest email who is idiot i bet i'm the biggest idiot! [insert name of his employer] got firm approved leave last friday cause earlier in the year we didn't get a public holiday so they replace with last friday so can get wednesday to sunday long weekend!
Starting from Wednesday i was working trying my best to finish, each day more and more crap keep coming up, by thursday i was still working till 3am everday, i tot can faster finish by friday so i can at least enjoy the weekend... BY MONDAY 3am this morning I"M STILL WORKING MAN!!!
From wednesday to Sunday suppose to be MY HOLIDAy! MYYYYYYY HOLIDAy! MINE OK! MY FREE TIME! i had to do this stupid [insert client name] job! with no OVERTIME! or extra pay! So looking forward for this free time and i hadwork every god damn day!
Remember how i used to complain to u guys i have to work untill 3am? 4am? What happens when u get more work? Extend dateline? Get more staff to help you? NOPEE. The answer is DON"T SLEEP! Thats right fellas i've hit a NEW LOW.
Now a days its so damn crap that we don't sleep for 2 days in a row. Work two days in the a row. Sleep one day. Work two days in a row, sleep on day!., I woke up during Sunday 11am. I have not slep untill today nonstop working. But i don't care la i took about 2 hours off to play game yesterday... hahaha 2 hours of my time! take that !
my hands are shaking man... i can't stop them shaking... eat so damn alot of sugar.. coffeee + sugar... sweets ... choclates arghh... my head hurts too man
there is really so damnm alot of work. now a days not only do we have to be [insert his profession], we munst be industry specialists man. Basically i have spent the last 4 days analsying the whole f-earking [stock markets in a certain region comprising several countries] write analysis on what went upa nd down and WHY! WHy did this counter drop by 2 dollars [insert his name]? tell me why! .... HOW I KNOW WHY! BECUZ SOME IDOIT WAN TO SELL LA! sigh...i have to go research the guy's annoucements, balance sheets, ratios, news and market forces and write why.... call becuz we wan to make sure my client,... the [an establishment] gains on disposal of shares is correct...
GHEY! just check the selling contract against the purcahse contract the difference in price enough la! CHeck already! but nooo not enough.. .the partner wan me to do research to see if qualitatively it is correct also....

ahhh ok ... i feel better sorry guys just needed a place to rant... so damn frustrated with my job. i think i'm going back early to sleep today la dont' care man... going to crash my car if i continue like this. i'm just so damn angry becuz i was so looking forward to my holiday! and turned our i didn't even enjoy one day man! i couldn't go out and watch a movie.. or just go out and grab somethign nic eto eat! its like u try to rush ur work and suddenly its SUNDAY NIGHT and u're so pissed off...
- - -

2 days later, we received this email:

- - -

anyway i think to top it all up, i finally succumbed to my work man, yesterday (Tuesday) i was checked into the hospital for exhaustion man.

I woke up during 3am on Tuesday with very high fever, headache and joint pains man. Very dizzy cannot breathe properly and my lower back damn pain. So my dad drov eme to the hospital near my house and my fever damn high man around 39 degrees, basically just exhaustion my body couldn't take it just broke down man. So ordered by the doctor to just sit there on the hospital bed do nothing for one whole day man... ask for one book to read also kena scolded man... just got one intern nurse fresh from nurse school can hear the experience nurse outside the door telling her "so this ur first time giving injection in a public environment don't do it wrong ah, im giving u chance to experience".. chan hai cham man.. then see her very shy ask me pull my pants abit down to poke my ass but she [insert race] so cannto pull to far so she f-e-arking poke damn high up there man near the hip! damn pain man! keep asking me pain or not DIE LA U!
The funny thing is i thougth finally i got chance to make my boss feel guilty la treat me like a slave so i call her/him (two of them) and told them the news. So they wer elike "er.... like this ah... dateline is on wednesday wor.. nvm u take ur rest first". so i tot wah ok , then my colleague call me later and told me she heard about me and ask if i was ok then she said "wah i heard your boss talking about you then u know what they say they said they think [insert friend name] cannot handle late nights le not strong enough for this job"
chan hai man! my plan backfired now i look bad infront of my boss alreayd man! instead of them feeling like maybe i work this guys tooo hard give them some slack let them at least sleep everday for 3 hours, instead they think i can't handle this man! haih....
so still haven't ok yet but i'm back at work today man... now i got more work to do

- - -

He has been sending us these sorts of mails for the past 2 years. And mind you, he doesn't make great coin, but above average, to be sure. So, you still think your job is bad?

Have > Want + Need = Happiness

Take a good look at the formula above.

Have > Want + Need = Happiness.

Hence the only way to be happy is either to increase your have, or decrease your want+need. Increasing your have will mean working really hard and being really stressed out at some high paying job. You will end up trading time and health and investing in relationships and activities you like doing. Hence, alternately, you can reduce your wants and needs. Some will depict that as lowering your standards. Some will say why do I have to tone it down. If I can go for a spa massage that charges RM300, or a Chinese traditional practitioner who charges RM35, why should I settle for the Chinese one if the spa one is more relaxing and enjoyable?

Well they really have no choice, rant argue rave rail all they want, thats the reality of the situation. Either you push yourself to the limit and earn a lot, or, you want less.

If you think about it for a second..we were happy in uni. We spent much less. We were happy in high school. We spent even less. So why must our spending increase proportionately as we increase our earning capacity? The trick to good financial sense, is to earn/have more than what we want + need. Bills, petrol, necessities aside, we just need to keep our spending low. Eat well but not too well, but give ourselves weekly treats, don't need to buy new material items regularly, and just be prudent and sensible. I think thats the trick to financial health.

We really got to think about our finances, I reckon. If we retire at 55, and want a modst RM2.5k a month income, and live til 80, that is 2.5 X 12 X 25 = 750k. That excludes sudden expenditure increases such as medical bills and travel, and given inflation today, 750k is really cutting it close.

I guess just have to make a disciplined and concerted effort to live within our means.

Of cats and dogs

I am not an animal hater.

I love dogs.

So I am getting quite upset that I recently saw 2 dogs, at different locations, lying beside the road, with what looked like faint red markings on the ground next to their heads, something that I take to be blood.

Rigor mortis had already set in.

It made me really sad. And then quite angry.

Can't something be done? Why must we have so many strays all over the road, and then have them knocking each other up, leading to a whole litter of puppies born, innocent, and then either left to starve or grow up and continue this vicious cycle, and then the DBKL comes along, and shoots the dogs, or they eventually rot and die and their carcasses feed the friggin crow population, and they get knocked down by cars, fall dead roadside, some with their innards spilling out, and then we see rigor mortis set in, and then we see maggots appearing. It's like watching Discovery Channel live.

Once upon a time, that dog was also a cute fat puppy, just born into the world, warm ,soft fat cute, squishy, innocent, pure hearted, loving, just waiting for an owner to pick it up and love him so it can also love the owner back with all its longing puppy heart.

Maybe we should stop importing and selling dogs until every single stray is off the street. Then we need to take care to register each dog and its births etc to monitor n control the stray population.

Which begs another question. What happens to dogs left unsold in pet shops? I mean, at a certain age it surely becomes unprofitable to keep the dog. You can't keep em forever, esp if it isn't bought and it is almost an adult. So what happens? Where do they go? The dog pound? The RSPCA? WHAT is actually happening? Is it really the cruel harsh reality that at the dog pound they are put down, and then their remains mashed and grounded and turned into dog food?

Which by the way is exactly how cows got Mad Cow Disease. Apparently, what they are fed is made of mashed up pieces of dead cow remains. How much of this is true is unknown, but thats just food for thought.


What is gymergy?

Simply put, it is energy generated from gyms. If you look at all the work (in the Physics sense of the word) done in the gym, the amount of energy generated has high potential (there, another Physics term). Look at how many people run on the treadmills, attend the cyclic studio, do the stair workout, and various other forms of weightlifting. I am pretty sure there is energy there to harness, clean energy (in the environmental sense of the term) that puts to good use what is generated, instead of letting it dissipate into thin air and being wasted. The energy could be used to operate the various electrical facilities at each gym facility, and if there is excess, sold back to the national grid.

Otherwise, what a waste of all that running and cycling.

- - -

A friend is going into business providing en mass those solar grids to put on houses to capture solar energy and utilize this energy to power the house, and if there is excess, again, sell it back to the national grid.

I think it's a fantastic idea.

You know, something else to think about...during in x-rated activities, sports games, I'm pretty sure a lot of energy is generated as well. If we could but harness this for recycling, we'd go some way towards saving the Earth..

And give people excuses to have indulge in more x-rated activities!

The financial collapse

People are saying that this is the biggest downturn and crashlanding faced in the global financial markets since the Great Depression. Apparently house prices are dropping, interest rates are being slashed, share markets are crashing, currency values are tumbling, people and companies and now even national economies going bankrupt etc. There's been all sorts of hyperbole, reports, blah blah, which I will not go on about.

I haven't felt anything. So far, there's only the petrol price increase, and the associated costs of living that goes with the territory. I don't dabble in the share market, I haven't bought a house recently. In fact, it is good news in a way because when house prices have fallen enough, and if there really will be a recession as predicted, in the next 2 years I can afford a better place. Similarly, share prices are cheaper to pick up, and since they will then keep going up, I guess it's a good bet for some gains.

What keeps me laughing though, are the news reports of all those Wall Street types who have lost their jobs, those banks and bankers who are eating dirt now. And all these investment bankers and so called bankers and richie rich people having to eat humble pie.

What makes me bitter?

Well, what I do for work, is we are involved in producing something, an actual physical product, and we have to sell it, and the consumer is able to touch/taste/see/feel/hold it, and then they pay us for it. So we are making something first, and then selling it. It is hard work, but it is honest money.

In the case of all these people, a couple of bad experiences have forever made me think a certain way of them. #1, most of these people are cocky, arrogant, and think that they are better than the rest of the world because they make more money. Well, it is not honest money. Selling financial products is like hot air; when the crap surfaces, the product is not even worth the paper it is signed on. Selling virtual numbers, dealing with virtual numbers, where fortunes are made and lost with a key stroke, not dealing in something SOLID. When I was in uni, and taking commerce subjects, you should see the arrogance and disdain the commerce/finance people had for engineers. Sneers and stifled giggles were not uncommon. I was asked a fellow basketball player what he worked as. He looked at me slowly, gave me the once over, and cockily said, 'I'm a banker'. And proceeded to ignore me. Well, in the interest of being friendly, because everyone in the group was chatting about our work, and I did not want him to feel left out, I asked "So what do you do for the bank?". I mean, you could be a cleaner, or teller right?

And he paused tying his laces. Turned his head slowly to look at me. And repeated, like I was a dumbo, "I'm a banker. You know what that is?". I was so incensed I proceeded to give him a couple of hard forearm shivers and kicked his ass. You meet a lot of guys like that while playing basketball in PJ. Cocky, arrogant, educated, thinking they are God's gift to women just because they can speak good English, were educated in the UK, and work as an investment banker. Oh puh-lease!

Then there were those uni-mates who graduated, worked in banks, and now everyone talks of them in such wide eyed respectful gushing tones, about how much money they are making...doing what? Being high class salesmen who flaunt pieces of paper at rich men with disposable incomes, in return having a smoke and a drink. No dignity, if you ask me. Everyone is just doing the paper chase. Everyone wanting to get money with minimal work but not by using their brains. Just pushing whatever product their boss tells them is the flavor of the money, with scant regard to what happens once the deal is done. Thats exactly how my mum lost about 20k Sing dollars. And these are the same type of products that banks are trying to sell to me.

Basically, buy this unit trust. It's good. But we don't monitor for you, so if you don't monitor it, there is a possibility the value might drop to zero and you lose your capital. WTF? If we were so free to monitor it, we neednt buy it from you - stupid. It's not that I am venomous towards bankers. Far from it. Those guys who actually do the qualitative and quantitative work, I have respect for them. The back end guys, the operational guys. But please don't try to tell me how respectful and wonderful and intelligent investment bankers/currency traders are. I will never be able to respect guys who sell pieces of virtual paper. If you are going to sell something, do it the old fashioned way, mate - make em, then sell em.

I just hate people who think that they can jump queue and one up the rest of us and are better than us, purely by participating in what I see as not much more than a get rich quick scheme by the greedy, for the greedy.

The only tragedy here is that while the top echelon of these types, the head honchos at Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, etc are walking away with literally hundreds of millions either in savings/payouts, the life savings, the tears+blood money of all the Ma and Pa investors who were merely trying to procure some insurance for their kids' college education funds, are now left in the lurch.

It was absolutely disgraceful and disgusting that Hank Paulson wanted that 700bil bailout fund. Ultimately, the big guys at Wall Street are now insulated, and used that money to fund some private champagne celebratory parties, instead of using those funds to guarantee or at least liquidize and pay back some of the funds to the Ma and Pa investors. And, these are taxpyer monies. The next step, mark my words, will involve wholesale guarantees of bank savings by governments.

Sharks...the whole lot of em.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Random droppings..

Everyone who knows me knows that I'm the biggest KFC fan. I can wolf through 5 or 6 pieces easily in a single sitting, and if I have just come off a sports game, I can take even more. But here I have met my match. Just take a look at this article, 2 ridiculous women eating 5000 calories and over 10 pieces between them. I concede defeat in this one, but goodness, someone needs to tell her to cut down her food intake.

On a side note, I reckon I should cut down on my chicken intake. I am a bit worried that they might lead to me developing breasts. A VERY scary thought.

KFC really is a great meal. It is a male favourite. Tastes good. Filling. Simple and easy to eat. Affordable. Lots of meat. Quick. Can be eaten anywhere. Nothing beats that...so never get between a man and his KFC.

I remember the days when it was called Kentucky Fried Chicken, when the OR tasted better, and it wasn't all painted bright red (the signs, not the chicken).

Just read a most entertaining interview with Noel Gallagher. Been an Oasis fan since early high school, and really enjoy their songs. Have always wondered how 2 brothers who purportedly can't stand each other can work together to produ ce so many great songs. Most people are not like that; they would not put aside petty personal differences to make something good that others can enjoy.

And just to spoil my day, here is yet another example of those dumb tourists encroaching on wild animals' habitat, and securing a swift and utterly undeserved death sentence on the animal. Makes me sick, it does.

OK, off to the Eye Specialist now.