Thursday, January 31, 2008

Good for thought.

Is something good because everyone practices the same thing, or is it good that's why everyon does so?

Book: Rich Dad Poor Dad

Title: Rich Dad Poor DadRich Dad Poor Dad - Robert T. Kiyosaki
Author: Robert T. Kiyosaki

Robert tells his story of how it was like growing up with two fathers, his biological father (Poor Dad) and his best friend's father (Rich Dad). Poor dad teaches the same things as most parents do - "Work hard, get good results, get a good job", while Rich dad tells him to "not work for money, let money work for you". Torn between the advice of both adults, Robert tries to look deeper into what both are teaching him, the main ideas and logic behind them, and finally finds an answer of his own.

The book places a strong emphasis on the need for everyone to be 'Financially Literate', that is, to understand how to manage your wealth and finances such that you keep yourself in a decent level of financial security. The cncepts in the book are easy to grasp, and are definiely easy to follow, as long as you learn the difference between 'asset' and 'liability' as covered in the book.

This book would serve you well if you are looking for advice on how to improve your financial standing, especially if you find yourself barly coping with your finances. Also, Robert introduces his educaitonal board game, 'Cashflow 101', and explains how it has helped a number of people understand the tips behind building a strong financial foundation for the later part of your life.

However, this is not a get-quick-rich book that teaches you 101 ways to get a million dollars in the fastest possible means. This book is about improving your concepts about finance, about managing your wealth so that your assets can one day grow by itself without you having to worry - the stage which many people term as 'financial fredom'.

You woulnd not require a strong background knowledge in any topic as the book is written in a way such that there are almost no technical terms - and if so, are explained clearly. A short and simple book for almost anyone to read. Defintitely worth your time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Working to impress.

I abhor working for the sake of impressing. Worse, we are forced to do so, only so that one person gains the credit he needs. How absurd.

I'm really relieved that it's ending soon.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The art of being a victim.

I have always been amazed at how people can victimize themselves while ranting incessantly, praying that a miracle will come solve every problem of theirs. Put down your textbooks, children, because the number one lesson you all should have learnt - but never did, was about how to not shove a problem in your own face and wait for it to disappear by itself. If I were a problem, I'd gladly sit still and screw around with your life, and watch you squirm with that pitiful face on - it really brings pleasure, I promise.

It is YOUR problem.

How many times do I need to remind people that the problem is theirs. There isn't much the world can do for you if you have an unreasonable colleague or partner. You don't expect Kofi Annan to come with a proposal for conflict resolution, do you? And neither should you expect your best friend to solve your problem, simply because it's your problem, not his.

Sitting on the fence only gives you a sore butt.

No, it's not purely about opinion, but not havin any opinion on what is happening to you is only going to make things more difficult for you - and the few listening ears. Do not approach anyone for help without any idea in mind because seriously, if you are too lazy to even think of a solution, what makes you think others should offer their minds to your problem.

Sitting on the fence waiting for an answer only gets you ****ed.

If you called for help while sitting still, I'd gladly help you down. Downwards that is. Stop thinking that everyone in the world is as nice as the kid who helped you up when you fell off the swing at the playground when you were 3. The world might not be an absolutely evil place, but from what I have seen, it isn't very much helpful. How many times have you seen a crowd around a bloodied cyclist? Recall that it usually takes awhile before one idiot yells "Someone call the ambulance!" We humans are downright curious, but downright unhelpful at that.

Why me?

Why you? Because someone from above saw you leaving the toilet without flushing and decided to punish you. Please, stop thinking that you are the only one who doesn't flush. Everyone gets their shares of ups and downs, and it's just that you had a problem on hand while your friends are happy at home watching Desperate Housewives. No one decides that it's you who quarrels with your spouse on Valentines Day, no one plans to crash your computer the night before your presentation - it just happens. And oh, if you think it isn't fair, remember that you might be complaining to a friend over the phone while little kids in Africa are too hungry to even mutter a word. Now, who's the lucky bas***d?

So, Mister-Wise-Guy, what should I do?

Sit down, have a cup of tea, and think things through. Look at your problem again at hand. See what is it you are unhappy about. Then look at the possible causes - that's one hell of a problem actually, the diagnostic portion - and see what you can do to solve the problem or minimise it's impact. There is always a way out. Even losing a game is a way out of it. It is just how you want to exit your current situation that matters to you. You can leave a happy/sad, winner/loser, either way. You can be a happy loser for all I care, and the world would still be like it is today.

Off you go.

Okay, enough of my crap. You still have your problem at hand. So go do what you need to do. Remember, do not call for help unless necessary. Go on, get your butt off the fence.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A new toy.

Adrian has gotten himself yet another toy. This time, it's a Vaio laptop. Okay, he didn't quite get it himself - his dad did.

Went down to Funan today to take a look. There was this display at the ground floor and we decided to head there first. I ended up buying the very first model I laid my eyes on. Thin enough, light enough (1.76kg with battery). I opted for a 14" so that it would not be too bulky. Definitely satisfied - who wouldn't when your dad was offering his credit card for use, right?

Hopefully it will last long enough to make it worth it.

Another white lie.

Is it me, or is it that all high-tech stuff I lay my hands on tend to disintegrate within a year or so? Thinking of it, besides my mouse, my earphones have already made a trip to the factory. Yes, the Creative Aurvana In-Ear Earphones I bought somewhere in 2006.

I just collected them from the outlet in Plaza Singapura after sending them for 'repairs'. What happened was that the connecting wires at the base were loose, and I could hear no bass in my earphones. Just in case you were wondering, listening to any music with no bass is like eating prawn noodles without prawns and noodles. The song sounds more like a minus-one, or worse, all you hear is a faint echo of the vocals.

So I decided to make a trip down to the care centre despite knowing that my warranty was supposed to have expired. I thought they could do a repair for me at a decent price. I thought.

"Sir, we do not do repairs. What will happen is we will give you a replacement. And since you do not have a proof of purchase, we will have to levy a charge."

"Wow!" I thought, glad that I would get a brand-new set. That was until he explained that the total cost of replacement and whatever else would add up to the cost of buying a brand-new one - a whole hundred plus bucks.

And my one-year-long warranty expired for less than 5 months. I already sent it for replacement once back in early 2007, and that set broke down this year - less than 12 months since I got hold of that set.

It was stupid to argue with him and so I lied. (Gosh, I really lie a lot.) I claimed that it was a birthday gift from a friend last year - you don't expect a gift to come attached with a receipt, do you? Seeing how desperate I was to get the 'oomph' back for my ear-phones, he relented and decided to let me have it my way.

I admit that I feel bad for lying to them, but look at it this way: I paid a $139 for a set of wired magnets, and you promise me it won't disintegrate within 12 months. It did, just around 6 months into using it. So I got a replacement, and now, less than 12 months into getting that new set, it breaks down again. I really would not bother to pay another $139 just to get another pair that would probably go kaput while I'm studying overseas, would I?

I'm not complaining that their products are lousy - in fact, I'm totally pleased with the sound quality. But fact is, if they insisted I pay another hundred plus bucks to get a set, I'm gladly walk out and pay $200 for a higher-end pair from another brand.

Anyways, I got my Aurvanas back, and I'm happy with it now. Just to keep it in it's optimal shape, I have decided to use the carrying case provided, less the wires get damaged again. Troublesome, yes, but it really beats having to cook up a story on how I do not have a receipt as proof for warranty.

Back to my iPod to test my new Aurvanas.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The mouse that wouldn't click.

I can vividly recall the excitement and ecstasy within me as I carried my new toy home. It was a year and a half ago, and I just blew a hundred bucks ($99 to be exact) on this new little gadget (I was still on an allowance of $300). I've heard plenty of good reviews on it, and it was as if buying one of them gave you a passport to the exclusive club of "Pro Gamers".

Sure, it was a whole third of my monthly budget, but I just couldn't resist the on-sale offer and the temptation of owning one. The Razor Diamondback's body's sleek, with a nice transparent back for it's deep-blue light to shine through. Thinking of how my computer looks like in the night with no lights on, I could see the blue light shining right through the mouse, giving the desk an eerie but cool feel. That's it, I whipped out the NETS card and made my purchase.

When I got home after a train ride that felt like forever, I was greeted by a seemingly harmless question from my mom.

"Hi son, what did you buy?"

I had to lie, I swear. Admitting that I threw a sizable chunk of my monthly dough on a stupid mouse would only draw a reaction that I wouldn't in my life dare to imagine. They weren't total tech-dummies and it was rather obvious from the packaging that I was holding on to a mouse. So okay, opt for the truth - a partial one at least.

"Hi mom. Oh, I got a new mouse 'cos the current one's a little old and faulty."

I then quickly strode into my room, in an attempt to avoid further questioning. Fortunately, she didn't ask of the price. Unfortunately, my dad did.

I quoted a price that anyone would offer to buy my brand-new new-age high-tech pro-gamer mouse for - a slightly under-priced $59. That already drew the attention of 4 wide-opened eyes, staring curiously at my brand-new new-age high-tech pro-gamer mouse, hoping to find value in what seems to be just another mouse.

Thankfully, they took it rather well. My dad was no tech-dummy, neither was he a tech-guru (thankfully so). I guess he believed that $59 was considerably reasonable. At the same time, I witnessed first-hand how the psychology of product-pricing worked.

As for my friends, some questioned the value of the mouse, some questioned the need to spend a third of my pay, and some just asked if they could my brand-new new-age high-tech pro-gamer mouse - smart. My explanation to those who ask of the cost was that if I used it for an entire year, the cost per month wouldn't even be sufficient to buy me a "Portobello Mushroom Burger, switch to Chilli Cheese Fries, please." And if I used it for two years, it would be well worth the money.


But but but. Today, this very day, I realised something: After 18 months, my brand-new new-age high-tech pro-gamer mouse is not clicking it it used to. Can you bloody imagine? The nice crispy clicking is GONE. Kaput. Snafued (I just learnt this yesterday - Situation Normal: All Fouled [****ed] Up.). The once-orgasmic clicking sound is now nothing more than a dull thud.

And guess what, I don't recall having any guarantee on this brand-new new-age high-tech pro-gamer mouse. So there goes my "If I used it for an entire year, the cost per month..." mouse. It's not totally wrecked, but the texture's different. The body's a little scratched (probably from my (mis-)handling), and it feels just like any other mouse now - one that most computer-sellers gladly package into their package deals to cheat you of your money. The only saving grace is that it's movement is still as fluid as ever, and it's sensitivity is still more than I could ask for. Admittedly, I never used more than 3 buttons even though the mouse boasts of 7 programmable buttons. Then again, I'm not much of a pro-gamer.

Having said all these, I still believe that once you've used a Razor, it's almost impossible to revert to a non-descript mouse. The grip, the weight, the entire feel of it, all different. I'm not trying to sound like a computer gamer who draws inspiration from Chinese martial arts masters who teach you the importance of 'being one' with your sword, but I swear that holding a Razor really gives a whole new experience. Even if my brand-new new-age high-tech pro-gamer mouse only lasted 18-months before becoming an old out-dated mid-ranged gaming mouse, I'm glad I made the initial choice to even try it out.

Now, all I can do is wait for reply from technical support to see if my poor pet can get it's nice crispy voice back. Poor thing sounds really as if it's gone dumb, only producing desperate whimpers now. Perhaps they can provide the Viagra my old friend needs to get back to shape.

In the meantime, my poor friend will carry on running around his mat, hoping that someone from tech-support can save him.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Loving perfect love.

You can love perfection, but you can never find perfection in love.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Victim once more.

It came back to me.

"I'd rather be a victim of love and lose all rationality then be one of loneliness and lose all sanity." - Previous post.
It now seems like I'm fast going insane; running out of time to decide.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

De-privatizing to increase competition?

Singapore's bus industry is about to go through a huge change, with the announcement by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to take charge of all planning of bus routes and bus frequency. Commuters can also expect a change in the fares system, which will allow them to swap buses without having to pay extra charges.

Good news for frequent bus travellers? Probably so. Commuters now pay fares based on distance rather then by number of buses changed, ie. you pay lesser when switching buses to travel alternative routes than before. This would benefit those who currently have to switch between 2 or 3 bus routes to get to work/home/etc.

The LTA further claims that there would be more competition than before, since bus operators would now be invited to bid for bus routes planned by the LTA, and no longer have the right to plan and run routes they think are profitable. It is likely that routes planned by the LTA would provide a wide enough coverage with a higher bus-frequency to serve it's users. Singapore Bus Services (SBS) and SMRT Buses currently run a duopoly with a total of about 3700 buses (2800+ from SBS, 860+ from SMRT).

Transport Minister Raymond Lim said in this speech, "There are limited economies of scale for bus operations above a fleet size of 500 buses. Hence, our current bus industry of about 3,700 buses could potentially support more than the current two operators."

So is this a right move for Singapore's bus industry? Perhaps so, but is it what we would really want? If the LTA had to plan routes all over, does this also mean that many bus routes will change, and some current routes may have to be cancelled? Hopefully the LTA keeps most bus routes that SBS currently runs - I rely a little too much on them myself.

Also, would SBS be willing to give up a portion of it's current fleet just so to accommodate a competitor? SBS currently runs about 75% of buses in Singapore. How many more bus routes can we add to this already comprehensive bus network to support a third operator to run efficiently on the projected 500 buses? Does this mean that the LTA will control the number of buses each operator can run? Perhaps SBS could look at selling some of it's current buses to a new operator if such a scenario happens.

This move would lead to massive changes in current system, and many are eager to see how things would change. This might seem as a de-privatization of the public transport market, but I believe that this is perhaps the best way to introduce competition into the already regulated market - current barriers to entry is simply too high for a third operator to bear.

If there are plans for a decent-sized third operator, my hunch is that it would have to be government linked (again). I doubt a new-comer can afford to run a few hundred buses and fight with SBS/SMRT for the more profitable routes. Otherwise, the new operator would have to settle for a couple of routes with a smaller fleet - like how the newly regulated taxi market sees 4 new operators running a mere 4000 of the 23000 taxis in Singapore.

I guess everyone's waiting to see how this would work out in the future. One thing's for sure, with the new bidding system, you can definitely expect less cries for higher fares for 'unprofitable' routes.

Competition is good only if its existence isn't orchestrated.

Friday, January 18, 2008


Been rather caught up with other stuff lately.

Well, Ben's off to Berlin for his film festival and that's really good for him. I'm sure he's having fun over there now with his... himself. Too bad we couldn't follow him. I would if I could.

And oh, Call Of Duty 4's really quite fun. At least it seems so for now. I shall go back to my game. I'll be back again soon.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Movie: American Gangster

American Gangster (2007)

"They hate what you represent... You represent progress." - Warning to Frank Lucas, black gangster titan.
American Gangster starts off with a short scene where Frank Lucas unloads a gun in his victim after setting him ablaze with a healthy doze of fuel. You would definitely expect more brutal action from this movie, but you might be a little bit disappointed if that's what you really want. This movie isn't your typical gang movie filled with street brawls, gun fights and such, but more of the telling of a story. Denzel Washington, playing as Frank Lucas, and Russell Crowe, casted as Detective Richie Roberts, star in this 157-minute movie that shows the rise and fall of one of the greatest black triad kingpins of all time.

The first section of the movie criss-crosses between the lives of Frank and Richie, whose lives seem to run parallel to each other, perhaps in an attempt to juxtapose (it can get a little dizzying) both their lives - one of an honest law-enforcer, one of a brutal triad leader. Frank takes over his previous boss's position as a black gangleader (from being his driver) and ropes in his family to run his drug business, while Richie goes about his work as a non-corrupt officer, struggling with his family and bar examinations. As the story develops, we see how their paths finally cross, and how Richie learns of Frank's existence as a kingpin, and seeks to put an end of the rampant drug-abuse in America, as well as to do away with corruption within the ranks of the police force.

The movie plays around with the stereotype of black people in America in the past, and how that discrimination found its way into the underground world of the triads as well. Unsuprisingly, this stereotype seems to haunt us even till today. It seems that many black rappers are playing the 'gangster' in today's entertainment scene - a seemingly sure-fire method in America at least. Perhaps, this movie is a gentle reminder on how far behind we are lagging socially, even as we (superficially) preach to do away with racism.

As mentioned, forget about the action, you are better off watching Rambo - coming soon as well - if you want action. Acting is of nothing to boast of, considering the lack of room to really shine in this storyline. Perhaps the plot development was done rather nicely, a great job with the way the story was told. Plenty of details to reflect the personalities of the characters, and the script was well-paced to ensure that the story did not become too choppy. Having said all these, I absolutely enjoyed the movie, and I'm sure most others would, too.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

A whole new meaning to belated greetings.

Sitting at the computer table waiting for my computer to boot up this morning, I found myself holding an envelope. I was clearing the table and happened to find it under some magazines. I had a funny feeling about it, especially after I found it beside one I recieved some time ago. I opened it, and as I expected, it was a Christmas greeting.

"Happy Christmas!"
So. It's been 2 plus weeks since Christmas, the card was lying somewhere on the table all these while, and I found it only today, even though I have been using the computer everyday. What a joke.

So I thanked my friend (he must be wondering what's wrong with me), and asked my mom if she knew of my letter. She shrugged. I shrugged in disbelief. So it must be my dad who left it somewhere. And throughout the entire period, no one told me I had a letter hidden on the table. And it was for X'mas, like 2 weeks overdue. Seriously, it wouldn't sound so bad if it were still within the 12 days of X'mas.

Coincidentally, the back of the envolope wrote:
"Apologies for the late Christmas greeting!"
A whole new meaning to belated greetings.

Questions to the self (Quetts).

I have decided that it is within my responsibility to clarify things before I do anything here. The following should serve as a brief introduction and disclaimer to what I offer in the future.

In some of my blog posts, I will attempt to seek answers to questions I pose to myself or come across in my daily life. There will be no refining process before I write, and the only thought-process involved beforehand would be a brief one to see if the question at hand is of any writing value. As such, all records here would be of raw ideas and thoughts I might think of (or in some cases, recall off-hand from other sources). This may lead to a lack of organisation in writing, or worse, incoherence in some cases. However, I would still invite the reader to join me in my thoughts, and see if he/she may agree with some notions I might put across.

I apologise if any of the ideas or thoughts might be too offensive or outrageous to some readers, and I hope that you do not take them to heart. As for those who agree, I must warn you that there may be inaccuracies due to my lack of knowledge in certain fields. Therefore, I seek your understanding in this, and hope that everything you see in the following questions are taken with a grain (pinch, if you will) of salt.

The ideas only reflect my thoughts as of the time of writing, and are not time-bound. I may not hold the same ideas over time, and they are to be taken only as thought-processes that may develop or change, and should not be quoted as concrete information. If there is a need to quote any of my ideas, please further refine my ideas, and I would love to be informed of any such cases of extended thinking. I would gladly accept criticisms for my writings and ideas you find in the questions.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blog renovations.

I think it's time I changed the layout and entire style of the blog. I used to like the simple black, but I think it's getting a tad boring. Perhaps a white layout would be slightly more pleasing to the eyes, along with some other colours. Really, black's pretty hard to match sometimes. Makes your images look a little out of place.

And I ought to stop relying on blogger for it's drag-around layout. It's convenient, yes, but at the same time restrictive - it doesn't work with 3 columns. I still believe having 2 sidebars would make things look a little better, and a whole lot easier to organize.

Perhaps a new background would do good too, not just a simple one-color one, but maybe a nice decent picture somewhere. I'm starting to sound like my parents when they were discussing about the home renovations.

Anyways, I need to find a wee bit more time to get down to that. In the mean time, I'll stick to this minimalistic layout.


I just finished lunch and I'm about to leave for my medical checkup. Well, lunch was quite satisfying, went down to try out a relatively new stall behind my place. A little expensive (S#14), but it was okay.

Shall go take a quick shower and run off for my checkup.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's almost time.

If my application goes through, I'll be leaving mid Feb. Probably around 18th. Not too long left here, not very comforting. This morning, I tried imagining how life would be like away from my family. Horrible. Same without my friends, I guess. Twice horrible.

Anyways, I tried the bottle of wine I found open in my fridge. The only thought that ran through my mind after the first sip: rotten-grape juice. With the smell of wet, half-rotting wood, and an acidity level that resembles the bottle of red vinegar in the cupboard. I'm convinced that it's just spoilt.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Nuffnang makes its move.

In a move to gain a stronger foothold in the regional blog-advertising arena, Nuffnang announced its new loyalty programme, the Nuffnang Glitterati. Now that name might make it sound chim, but it really isn't at all, with a simple requirement of not placing other advertisements that originate from ad networks within South-East Asia (SEA).

Nuffnang Glitterati is simply a loyalty programme of sorts that encourages Nuffnangers to "pledge loyalty" to a single ad-serving company (within SEA), so as to improve advertising value to advertisers by reducing the number of competing ads on a site. And as a form of reward for their loyalty, Nuffnangers are given other benefits that include higher payouts, priority to ads and events, and more.

What a timely move after the recent Advertlets saga which saw the rise in number of disgruntled Advertlets members. The current low payout and buggy system Advertlets run on is only going to make things worse now, with the better incentives for Nuffnangers to do a complete switch.

Good move on Nuffnang's part to gain a larger control over ad-serving companies in the region. Now, the only question is whether or not site owners would be convinced that 'going Glitterati' would be beneficial to them. Yes, if you consistently serve Nuffnang ads or if you're interested in their community activities. However, I expect that those who already happen to earn a decent income from Advertlets (or other ad networks like Blog2u.sg) might decide to stick to having both for the time being, until it is proven that Nuffnang can serve their needs better.

As for me, considering the low payout at Advertlets, I shall simply stick to Nuffnang. I guess this would also help make the blog less commercialized, something that has been on my mind for some time. Why call it my personal blog if I end up serving ads from a hundred companies. Perhaps it's time I settled down with Nuffnang and stayed with the community. Afterall, they haven't given me any problems.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Dreams to wishes, then to dust.

We start with ambitions and aspirations. Then we have dreams and hopes, coupled with a fast-growing passion. Next? We end up with wishes. And before you know it, you only have time left to regret.

It is a common complaint that as we move along in life's journey, we find our hands filled with things we do not wish to do. Things that do not interest us, but are required of by us. And we move through life trying to find an objective (irony: recall that you have aspirations?) while juggling all the extra unwanted materials that land in our palms, hoping that we can one day free our hands for the piano, baking tray, or the cocktail beside your hammock.

So what happened in the process of going through life? Did we loose sight of our childhood dreams, or did we simply out-grow them. A lost in interest? Or is it that we simply become blinded by the practicality of it all that drives us all down another path towards "financial stability"?

It might just be a mix of both, but I tend to believe that the blinding abilities of over-emphasized capitalism plays a larger role in this. And because of that, we often find ourselves turning our passions into motivation to making money - "I want to be rich so I can spend time writing music", et cetra. What happens is that our aspirations take a back seat, becoming a secondary objective. And do try to recall what happens to secondary objectives. "What? I had one?"

It is understandable that people exposed to the world today - one where job security is no more than a thing of the past - one cannot help but fear for their survivability. We no longer fear the lions or tigers that lurks outside the caves, but of the bulls and bears that stalks you down Wall Street. It is under these circumstances that we realise that being rich lets you pursue your dreams, but pursuing your dreams brings no guaranteed riches - and once again, our primeval instincts kick-in, forcing us up the "corporate ladder" towards a "higher income bracket" so that we may enjoy "financial abundance" and be "debt free". Look at how our lives have been decorated with all these terms - how unsightly.

I cannot emphasize more on how our outlook on life has been warped by the green shades we put on. Everything you see, you see in a tint of green. Greed now manifests itself in a million other forms, from pleasant-sounding terms like "financial security" to empowering terms like "financial abundance". Granted, a little bit of greed is healthy, but we ought to take caution that we do not get disillusioned and become slaves of money, for money.

If you don't quite get what I have been saying, let me try to make things a little clearer. I'm just telling you that if you could take a step back and worry less about starving - there are hundreds of thousands of others in Africa who deserve to worry about it more than you do (and that's another story altogether) - you give yourself room to take a step towards your childhood dreams, your dreams, your passions. So stop wishing you had money to do this and that, because you know that chances are, it won't happen overnight. Also, by the time your account balance looks healthy enough, you probably won't be yourself.

You must be an ass to tell an old, dying man what good he could have achieved in his life by pursuing of his dreams and passions, but you would be a total ass to NOT tell a youthful, energetic person to pursue his greatest passion.

Welcome back, Advertlets.

Welcome back, Advertlets. And thank you Josh for the emails and all the explanation. And also, congrats to the other Advertlets users out there who can finally check their account balance and find their money still intact.

Just a short post here, nothing much to shout about. Hope everything goes on smoothly from now on.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Book: Globalization And Its Discontents

Title: Globalization And Its DiscontentsGlobalization And Its Discontents - Joseph Stiglitz
Author: Joseph Stiglitz

Yes, it's another book on globalisation. This time, Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics (2001), offers a critical view on why there is so much unhappiness in the globalised world today. Having served as Chief Economist at the World Bank and as Chairman of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors, Joseph Stiglitz offers a clear insight into the problems global institutions - specifically the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - have created during it's quest for global economic stability.

Stiglitz remains very critical on the actions taken by the IMF throughout the book, citing examples on how the IMF's judgements and actions have led to problems far more severe than before they stepped in. He explains how the IMF applied policies that did not take into account the full economic and political background of the nations, and how these policies caused deeper recessions, especially during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis (AFC).

Besides from the ineffective (and more often than not, destructive) policies employed by the IMF, 'Globalization And Its Discontents' also looks into double standards in trade laws imposed by the IMF. All these serve as a warning to readers on the dangers of an uncontrolled global institution.

A fantastic book that digs out things you might not know about how the world works, and how we might be wrong in many things we assume to be right. Stiglitz gives detailed explanations and cites more than sufficient examples to show how we might be headed towards disaster if we are too careless with policies we implement (or impose upon others).

Click here if you want a copy from Amazon.com

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Live, and let live.

After submitting the article that a disgruntled me wrote this afternoon, I realised that the top 8 posts of today were Advertlets-related. Okay, I was slow - both in submitting my article and in realising that others would have done so within the first hour.

Looking at the 8 posts - unfortunately after I submitted my article - made me sit back and think. What is it in us Nuffnangers that made up react so violently. Granted that site traffic was disrupted and that it caused quite a lot of inconvenience to bloggers, but did it warrant such a huge uproar and strong hatred. Remember that we ourselves made the decision to put the ads on our blogs.

Perhaps it is just another defense mechanism to 'save face', or to make yourself feel less - if I may use the word with no offense - stupid. Or maybe just an outlet to the anger from within.

[Let me clarify that I am aware that I am one of those who have also dedicated an entire blog post to this incident, and I am not trying to act noble, just putting forth a notion.]

Back to topic. I believe that many of those who submitted their articles on Nuffnang's Innit have consistently run both ads on their blogs, and probably have some money in their Advertlets account. But like I mentioned above, we made the choice to put the ads. No one forced us, and we did so because Advertlets offered a system that paid bloggers by page impressions - a seemingly easier way to earn money on a blog, as compared to having visitors click on ads to register a payout. We all wanted a share of the easy way out. And despite the many problems pointed out by other users, we still stuck to the belief that 'a few cents (or dollars for some more successful bloggers) a day will eventually add up'.

I personally believe that the anger (I'd rather use despair, but the reactions prompted me to use an alternative word) comes not from the collapse of advertlets itself, but from the sudden realisation that the option to take the 'easy way out' is no longer available to us, and some bloggers have to revert back to the days where they wait for advertisements to come through Nuffnang. (No offense to Nuffnang, I totally understand that not all advertisers are overly generous with their marketing campaigns.)

I do not wish to sound overly-cynical, but I am using this to remind myself that good deals are often bad ones in disguise. Perhaps the various, heavily repeated cliches on how easy methods often fail contain some truth. Of course, a huge dose of cynicism also ensures that hidden good deals will slip past you without you realising till it's too late.

I have made an attempt to edit my previous post to remove any strong language that I might have used. I mean, come on, it's not as if I lost the entire blog or something. All that happened was some visitors ended up knocking on the wrong door.

So, Nuffnangers, give the people at Advertlets a break, and spare them from your fury. No point pursuing the matter unless you have substantial amounts of money with them. Even if you did, what are the chances you can take action that makes financial sense?

"Live, and let live." - Anonymous


Advertlets - the problem.

This post came a little late, but heck, I figured I still need to post it anyway.

I tried loading my page yesterday and lo and behold, I was directed to 'www.advertlets.com', featuring an option to buy that domain name. At first I thought I clicked on an anvertising site, so I refreshed my page, retyped the url, entered via an external link, all to no avail. Took me a couple of minutes to figure out what happened.

You see, I happen to run advertisments by a Advertlets, a Malaysian company, that uses 'Advertlets.com' as their home page. I stuck to it despite a few complaints over it's bugged payout system (that also paid me 0.001 cents for a hundred impressions a day - no, they are not CPC, so 0.001 is indeed buggy), and thought that they might be able to sort things out soon. But no, before they could sort it out, their domain page EXPIRED! And because of that, all codes that refer to Advertlets.com were redirected to the main page, thus turning my blog into a 'cheapskate-advert-redirecting-site'.

Let me first apologise to those who happen to drop by yesterday. I have already removed all Advertlet ads, so no more unwanted redirection to other sites.

Now, to those who happen to own blogs with Advertlets ads, please remove ad placings so that you would not have your blog visitors redirected to some empty site. Keep it that way at least until you hear news from Advertlets - which, I have a gut feeling, will never happen. I really hope it's just a technical glitch - I'm sure a few of you out there are still waiting for your money from them. Keep clam, stay cool, and hope for the best.

So this is it. Until I get a satisfactory answer from those people, there is no way I will risk my site being redirected again. Even if it's up by tonight, I would expect an email of sorts to at least explain what went wrong. Okay, I guess it's just a dream on my part; I doubt they'd even fix it.

Damn bug. Damn people.

Off to lunch now.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Book: The World Is Flat

Author: Thomas L. FriedmanThe World Is Flat [Updated and Expanded] - Thomas L. Friedman
Title: The World Is Flat

Here's another book by Thomas Friedman, author of 'The Lexus And The Olive Tree', which I blogged about a few days back. And very much like 'The Lexus And The Olive Tree', 'The World Is Flat' discusses about globalisation, but with a different focus.

In this book, Friedman explores the different phenomenons that have helped shape (or in this words, flatten) the vastly-connected world today. He lists ten different forces that have helped made the world a smaller, faster-paced world, and explores in great depth how these ten processes come together to create the globalised world we see today (The Triple Convergenge), with large fibre-optic networks and low barriers to trade, etc.

Included in the front section of the book are many examples, and Friedman investigates how these different factors contribute to the flattening process. He looks at self-regulating communities like Wikipedia, where people freely contribute, edit, and refine their contributions to build a massive online database without pay. The effects of blogging and other web activities are also discussed in rather great detail.

Friedman then zooms into America, looking at how the flattened world has affected the American job industry, as well as how they might protect certain industries from being 'outsourced, digitized, or automated'. He cites examples of how air-ticketing has evolved into a Do-It-Yourself process - a process that reduces the need for ticketing counters - and how housewives are able to work from home for call-centres who redirect phonecalls from all over the world to.. well, all over the world - don't be suprised the person answering your call might be from the other side of the globe.

Friedman then ends off the book with refrence to 9/11, and how an efficient world for the capitalist also means a more effecient world the terrorism. He might sound a little too alarmist at times, but fact is Osama relied on the Internet to plan his attack.

'The World Is Flat' is essentially an extension of 'The Lexus And The Olive Tree'. I personally found the book a little repetitive, with alot of ideas from his previous book. It can get a tad boring when you see the same phrases over and over again, but it still is quite a good read.

Click here if you want a copy from Amazon.com

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Things bloggers don't tell other bloggers.

The blogosphere is growing at an incredible speed these days. Blogging communities and the likes are sprouting all over the Internet; it almost seems as if there isn't going to be an end to this phenomenon anywhere in the near future. In fact, it looks like the only way to stop this is to ban the public from the Internet.

So, great. Everyone's rushing to register for a blog on a multitude of blog-hosting sites, keeping both the people and servers at Blogger/Blogspot, Wordpress, etc. really busy. I bet even my parents would start a blog one of these days.

The question many bloggers ask themselves (I mean, hopefully so - we don't want a bunch of mindless and aimless bloggers wandering around here) is "Why am I blogging?" or likewise, "What can I get out of blogging?" Problem is, this question usually comes a period of time after the blog has been set up and the entire euphoria over owning a blog settles down. The kick's gone, the excitement put out, the fun's no longer fun, and the draggy, boring, uninteresting part sets in. That brings us to our first point.

Warning #1: Blogs are set up with a few clicks, but not maintained with a few clicks.

It is true that anyone can own a blog, and equally true that not everyone can maintain a blog. Constant effort needs to be put into your blog to keep it active and to keep it neat and tidy. It's just like a home, really. You move in, you buy furniture, live in it, and you spend some time everyday putting aside your old newspaper, clearing the trash, adding more furniture you require, and even an planning for an occasional large-scale renovation - which of course, would cost you a lot of time and energy in this case.

Warning #2: Do not expect readers to come pouring into your blog on Day 2, 3, 15, 56, or even 103.

Blogging not only requires time, but patience as well - a lot of it, trust me. You cannot expect all the Internet traffic in the world to direct itself into your blog just because you clicked 'Create Blog' yesterday. I know, I know, you are dedicated and motivated and all hyped-up, but sorry, it does not quite work this way. It takes a lot of time to build up a decent-sized audience, and it takes a lot more effort to keep them on your blog. As with creating a blog, getting attention is easy, holding it is quite the opposite. So, unless you can continuously churn out pieces after pieces of really interesting and attention-grabbing articles or blog posts... You know what I'm driving at, right?

Warning #3: There is a difference between Blogging and Copying.

It's the same old story again. Blogger A sees something interesting in Blog B, and conveniently does the Ctrl-C,V combo, (Copy and Paste for those who aren't familiar with shortcuts) and (conveniently) forgets to leave an acknowledgement in his/her blog post. Yes, we all know that it's really a one-in-a-billion chance that a blog owner would chance upon your blog and find your blatant plagiarism, but let's just recall that there are millions of people out there, and it just takes one to uncover your little trick to destroy any reputation you and your blog has. If you want to share, go ahead! Just leave a link back to the blog/website of the content owner, and I'm sure he/she would be glad that you decided to cite his/her site as a source of information.

My point here so far is simple. Setting up a blog for fun is indeed easy. But if you are serious about keeping a blog, you sure must have some form of motivation (or an addiction, as some would rather put it). Site traffic can be a boost to morale, but it MUST NOT be the sole motivation or driving force behind the creation of the blog, since site traffic usually takes plenty of time to build up - and that usually takes longer that your patience can last. Do not forget that you also need decent content that can entice readers to return to your blog. And last but not least, share with others, not copy, information you like and find interesting for your own readers. Do not take shortcuts in blogging because they usually end up doing more harm to you.

Having said all these, there are probably a hundred other things bloggers don't know about blogging, myself included. Blogging can be for anyone, provided you do not expect too much out of it. But if you expect some form of 'reward' from blogging - be it readership, fame, money, etc., blogging can be quite a pain at times, and you need a whole new attitude towards what you are doing.

If you are really interested in building a decent blog, go read up on how other bloggers do so. Try looking for books, searching websites, or even asking friends who have their own blogs. You can also email other bloggers to exchange pointers and share experiences.

Last thing to remember: It's not how to go about it that matters, it's what you want out of it that matters.

Piling up.

I happened to look through the list of books I've read recently and realised that my 'quest' to do a review each has failed rather miserably. I got antoher 7 books to look into again. What a pain.

Then again, I can always take my time, as like I did with 'The Lexus And The Olive Tree'. Maybe a book every 2 or 3 days would do fine. I'm becoming lazier by the day.

Okay, maybe start on my next book later this evening. Meanwhile, I shall go back to my room to rest.

Book: The Lexus And The Olive Tree

Author: Thomas L. Friedman
Title: The Lexus And The Olive Tree

Award-winning journalist Thomas Friedman embarks on a journey around the world to work on this book. The book looks into the effects of rapid globalisation on traditional culture. The interaction between globalisation and culture is covered in deep detail by Friedman, as he looks into how they work together and against each other.

The first two chapters focus on the current trend on globalisation and how nations can 'plug into the system' and benefit from it. The next chapter focuses on how globalisation has failed, and how it leads to the discontent and unhappiness we see today. In the last chapter, Friedman warns us against letting the system manage us if we fail to manage it ourselves.

"A healthy global society is one which can balance the Lexus and the olive tree all the time., and there is no better model for this on earth today than America. And that's why I believe so strongly that for globalization to be sustainable America must be at its best -- today, tomorrow, all the time. It not only can be, it must be, a beacon for the whole world. Let us not squander this precious legacy."

Friedman has done a great job with this book, but this book isn't just for any casual reader. The book gets dry at times, albeit being very informative. Also, Friedman's reference to Enron has to be taken with a pinch of salt since the book was written before the entire Enron saga. Also, some of the information in the book may already be slightly outdated due to recent changes in the financial world. Some readers may find his pro-American style a little overbearing; some of the terms he use on those who fail to 'plug into the system' are indeed a little harsh.

If you manage to drag yourself through this book and happen to like his style of writing, do take a look at his later book titled 'The World Is Flat'. And of course, do check out Joseph Stieglitz's 'Globalization And Its Discontents' for another view on globalization.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Physics in everyday lives.

A friend of mine happened to mention that, "If you do nothing, nothing will change." I guess that's just how things work. Or also why things don't work. Perhaps Newton's laws weren't meant to be applied only in the fields of physics.

Really, the more I think about it, the more it makes sense, the more I realise that I have to really get down to taking action if I want things to work my way - not just sit around and wait for things to happen my way.

"God does not play dice." - Albert Einstein
How true. Anyways, off to bed now. Goodnight!

CPDRC inmates dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller.

Been awhile since I last blog-hopped. Came across this video someone posted on a blog.

Performed by the inmates of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (Philippines). Made the news sometime back, but I did not get a chance to really watch it till today. Here it is.

More videos available on YouTube.

Welcome, 2008.

It's the start of a new year, with alot more to look forward to.

Let me just remind myself that I have about another 2 months left here before I fly off for studies. And yes, it's really a pain to know that I have yet to settle alot of issues with regards to my overseas study. Not forgetting the friends and family I will be 'leaving behind', as well as alot of other smaller issues.

I don't mean to say I am regretting my decision to move overseas for a little rather long while, but yes, I really do (and will) miss everything and everyone back here.

As for something nearer, Chinese New Year's about a month away, and it should be totally fun. I bet I'll miss all the New Years back here when I'm over there. And this would be the last time the family's celebrating the Lunar New Year in the current house, since my dad's decided to get an apartment in some condominium nearby for my aunt and grandma. Smaller but cosier, and alot safer - that's probably the most important factor.

Nothing much else to look forward to in the coming weeks.

And oh, must I remind myself that work starts tomorrow? Shucks. Well, of course, that's just a 'by right' thing. Like my dad said to my mom when she asked if I was working tomorrow, "maybe disaster would strike and everyone would be required to stay home". No need for that I believe, just a bout of flu would do perfectly fine. Hey! My running nose and sore throat seems to be returning, I think?

And oh, before I forget, Happy New Year to all you folks out there. No big wishes to all of you, just a simple one, hoping that you guys can stick to all your resolutions for this coming year. I know, chances are you'd probably just
(conveniently) forget about your promises to yourselves. So yes, if you want to save a decent (read: decently huge) 20% of your income, or lose a decent (read: decently huge) 20% of your (probably decently huge) weight , or learn to be more punctual, I wish you all the luck you'd ever need to get those done.

As for me, I shall get back to my issues on hand. Let me first start with packing my (decently messy) room. Cheers!