Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Trust China to do just that

I've always had my reservations about doing business with China. Maybe its the work ethics, or the mentality, or maybe just too many people have been rapidly seduced and conned by the promises and coverage of doing business in China.

The latest victim would be the French food and beverage company Danone with its Chinese joint venture partner Wahaha, which is seeking 10 million yuan in damages. Of course if you really look into it the accusations are really groundless.

So the real question is not, 'Is doing business with China profitable on the long run?'

The real question is, 'How can anyone have a serious discussion with a company that's called Wahaha?'

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This is in my head all day

Spider Pig, Spider Pig
Does whatever a Spider Pig does
Can he swing, from a web?
No he can't, he's a pig
Look out, he is a Spider Pig!

The Simpsons Movie, now out on DVD.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Economics for simple people

You'd notice them if you just happened to walk down the city on an average working day. Like a cheap Xeroxed copy that walked out of GQ, in a shirt that looks more expensive than it really is, in matching pants and a bold power tie, they strut down looking like the air around them breathes fresh when they are choking down on the same smog that we are killing ourselves with.

Well, to each his own, and to be a participant in this rat race one becomes a rat. I don't fancy the whole pretentiousness of it all, hell, I don't even fancy the word fancy, but what're you gonna do, right? I'm not saying its wrong, either, or bad, or incorrect. There's no incorrect choice in life because these are the choices you make, and you live with it. You probably sense some anti-conformity messages brewing within but you are probably wrong, this is not about people and what they do with their lives, its about what people do with their lives and why they go in that direction. Its what I call economics for simple people.

If you're like me, well, at least 47% of me, you probably don't know or couldn't care less about economics, which, I would in turn stand up and applaud your carefree mentality to worldly issues. But for the rest of us economics matters, and I'm not saying you should enroll in Economics 101, or get one of those bright yellow for Dummies books (are they still in fashion?), since you're going to fall asleep reading it anyway. I don't consider myself a very good sample for simple people either. So if you are reading this far you know one of three things, I'm not a simple person, I don't know anything about economics, and yet I'm writing an article on economics.

Back to our cheap Mr.Xerox. Just look around, there's Xerox1 to 20 all around you, some are wearing a 10k Tag Carrera because they think it gives them more character, while the others are spending a quarter of their salaries at Starbucks trying to look like very important emails have to be sent sipping on their lattes. Is this a sign of a good economy? Neither they, nor I provide a very good sample size.

Try the average guy with a family to support, and multiple loan repayments. These are the master jugglers trying to raise your kids right, keep everyone happy and deal with the ever changing economy. Look at them, and you have a good idea if we're doing well, or we're merely scraping by. Essentials are getting pricier by the day, and if you're the type that deals with stuff that's affected by the exchange rate you'd know what I'm talking about.

Sure, the Dollar is down to its lowest point in years but our share market isn't the best performing amongst other asian countries, which has seen a sharp rise because their currency became stronger due to the weaker Dollar. We're supposed to be able to do better than this, but we aren't, things continue to get more expensive, but yet our basic salaries remain at a flatline. This is the same sentiment shared by a lot of people.

I suppose for most of us we are thankful that we aren't really suffering from this. We are scraping by, yes, but we aren't suffering from scurvy. But if you're doing business, being thankful has its limits, and when you are nearing that limit, being thankful just doesn't quite cut it. You become less competitive, your exports drop because your prices are higher. You have probably heard that its cheaper to set up a factory in Vietnam with less red tape than it is to set up one here and hire local workers. People here want a higher pay for less work, and we are right to ask for what we deserve. But at the cost of your competitive edge, are you willing to sacrifice your ten thousand dollar lifestyle for long term business?

The real question is why do we even have to choose? There is a breakdown in the system, consumers won't know it yet. Consumers like Mr.Xerox because their multinational workplace buffers them from the real economics that affect simple people, and the fact that simple people drive the real economics that directly affects them in return. Nobody wants to really work long and hard to get what they want anymore simply because there is no reward factor attached to it.

But imagine one day if nobody wants you to work long and hard anymore, simply because someone somewhere else can do what you don't want to do at one third the cost, then you will understand the economics of simple people.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Has it been a month?

I know its been a while, but a month just zipped by like scurrying squirrels. I had been travelling quite a bit, travelling to Lumut, then to Raub, and flew to Miri, drove to Sarikei, took a boat to Tanjung Manis (nice fish), drove to Bintulu, and I just got back from Tawau, where I was stuck in the airport from a much delayed flight. Luckily the absolutely dreary airport restaurant had a fridge stocked with beers.

And now I'm home again, and with a new project, I'm building the biggest ever structure yet, a 4 metre high gardening superstructure I call Hydrocomplex. I've not built anything on this scale but I think if this goes through I can actually build a real house! Imagine that.

Which leads me to the next topic, tools. I just recently got myself a proper toolbox. The old plastic one I had had trouble closing because I was trying to jam in all the stuff I needed so I got a newer, bigger one. So one fine day I had the absolute pleasure of not having anything to do so I stopped by Ace Hardware to actually shop. I hardly ever have that luxury of just taking my time looking at stuff. So I got a nice large-ish 22" box.

Then I looked at their multi-tools. They had the regular Swiss Army knives. Now these things are great if you're a Boy Scout or if you're one of em wannabe DIYers. But they can't really do much. The construction of these tools are, I'd say pretty flimsy, and I've got a couple of blades breaking on me before, so its not something I'd recommend...and corkscrews! What's up with corkscrews on all these tools? I don't see myself trying to fix my machinery and at the same time thinking, ah yes, a 98 Shiraz would be nice right about now.

So with very little effort I ended up with where I first started looking, at Leatherman. Leatherman tools are built tough, they're heavy, they can withstand abuse, and are generally full sized tools that can do real work. I wanted one back in 2003, but at that time, and even now, they don't ship here, so I just left that on my list. Now, I know how to import these things back here, and so it was time to do some shopping.

Once you head over to the Leatherman site you're swamped with options. There are a lot of models to choose from, and each differs slightly in configuration and construction. I had a hard time picking one out, since they are each catered to a semi-specific application. In the end I chose a Charge TTI. This is their flagship model with almost everything, enclosed in Titanium.

And then I got the Crunch, Hybrid, Surge, and thought the smaller ones might be more convenient too, so I got the Juice CS4, an S4, and 2 Micras since they make such good gifts.

It seems that I make, and spend money sitting in the same chair. How's that for retail therapy?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I couldn't buy jerky, so...

I had a sudden craving for some jerky the other day. I remembered having it when I was schooling, little packs of goodness. Of course the mummified meats weren't great looking, and they still aren't, try googling 'jerky' to get a feel of how uninteresting and unappetizing dehydrated meats look like.

So I decided to go out to the store nearby that sells specialty stuff, they have all kinds of imported stuff from pastas to canned seafood, to pate and wagyu beef, but there wasn't any jerky. Perhaps they misplaced it? But the dog food section didn't have it either. So I got me a can of black olives and ironically some doggie chewable leathers. It seems like they couldn't import jerky since a few years back because of our import restrictions, which reminded me how difficult it is to bring these things back. The cow had to be halal, etc, etc, so I think a lot of people can't be bothered, which is why we're stuck with Aussie and New Zealander beef. There are some US imports but talking to my restaurateur friend the other day, it is extremely difficult.

But of course in this country difficult means more money involved.

So I checked out some US sites that sold bulk beef jerky. I was so tempted to import a few packs back but then I calculated the risk, and the shipping charges and decided to put it on hold. Then I wondered, what if I could make my own jerky? An oven wouldn't do, because I tried that before and no matter how low you put the heat on it won't dry evenly and end up charring the jerky to a point you can use it for charcoal drawings, which now seems like a rather neat idea. Meat drawings. My dogs will have a field day tearing that up, they seem to have developed a recent trait that is best described as 'persistent chewers'.

Have you ever asked yourself how they dried those stuff in instant noodles, or my latest addiction: instant miso soup. They dried all the soupy goodness of chives, tofu, seaweed and fish essences in a little 2" square foil pack, just add water and it all comes alive. How do they do it? One thing comes to mind: freeze drying. A huge machine that instantly freezes your food and then leeches the moisture from it somehow.

Then I stumbled upon something they call a dehydrator. Perfect! It works much like a kiln dry machine where we suck moisture out of timber to stabilize it. Except this one looks like an oversized microwave oven, and you stick trays of whatever you want to dry in it, and in a couple of hours, its perfectly dried, locking in all the natural goodness of meats and vegetables or whatever you want to put in it. But of course my goal was to make jerky, such is my simple one track mind. Portable meats. Mmm.

I received it yesterday after furiously emailing the representative here who could arrange to import this magical machine, and set out to get some beef, brought it back and gave it my secret spice mix, topped it off with a couple of shots of Jim Beam, and let it sit in the fridge for a good couple hours. I expect tomorrow to get really rocking since I'm expecting a big-ish dinner crowd after our general office meeting, and what better way to start it off than some home-made jerky, 15 year old scotch and cigars?

I couldn't buy jerky, so I bought a machine that made jerky. Talk about determination huh?

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Work, late nights, physical labor, building schematics, carpentry drawings, joinery, hot blazing sun, constant phone ringing, chasing for payments, financial reports, Forex hedging, managing shipments, managing life. Its tough, yes...

Then it all gets better.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Good stuff quick

I want good food and I want it quick. So I whipped this up for dinner yesterday. Extremely satisfying, light, and easy to eat with a spoon (like if you were in front of the TV), makes this the ultimate TV dinner.

Small shells with french ham in a light cream sauce

-Small shells or spirals (but not macaroni, I'm allergic) 250g
-Ham of choice, sliced or cubed, (pork please) 5mm thick, 2 slices
- Diced onions (2)
- Low fat UHT whipping cream (500ml)
- Mascarpone (50g)
- Butter or olive oil

I like this simply because you can keep all this ingredients in the fridge, and you can make this anytime. Start off by pan frying the ham a little to bring out some flavor, then slice or dice them as you like. Remove the fat and skin.

Place the diced onions in the blender. Once its done, start boiling the pasta, you will have about 13 minutes till it cooks. Put the onion mash into a little pot/pan over high heat and toss frequently, then add a little butter or olive oil.

Add the whipping cream into the mix and let it boil at medium heat. Once bubbly, add the mascarpone. Most people will ask me, isn't that what they use for tiramisu? Yes it is, and its the best thing for a light pasta. You don't want to feel sick halfway eating your dinner (that happens if you use mozzarella or parmesan or anything else, gorgonzola has a milky taste I don't like). Once the cream melts the sauce is good to go.

By then the pasta is done, drain, top with sauce, and meat, add some spices of your choice, I like cayenne, and you have a simple, delicious meal.

Serves 4~6

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Justice pending

9 year-old Choong Woon Yi is my new heroine.

Perhaps its shocking that this country is getting sued by a 9 year old, but its the first step to balancing out all the unaccounted rapes and murders that has become commonplace. Perhaps this will be commonplace as well, with more people stepping forward and practising their rights. Then, perhaps people will wake up from their slumber and find out that there are real problems that need fixing.

The carpet's getting too small to sweep trash underneath anymore. Justice is pending, but I hope justice will be served.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Life's certainties

They say the only thing certain in life are death and taxes. That doesn't become apparently clear to you until they happen almost simultaneously, and at that moment you wonder, all those things, those insignificant things I've thought about, actually are somewhat insignificant.

A couple of days ago my grandma called me in the office, this was one of those routine 'How are you doing' calls that happen monthly. Except this time I spoken to her a little longer since I had time, its one of those moments in the office when things are working out and I'm not overwhelmed with work. So she asked me about work, life, and what she'll be doing over the next two weeks, and perhaps after that she'd come visit.

She'd never make that visit.

At the funeral a few things happened, I met with relatives I hadn't seen in years, the guy leading the wake seemed like he was recruiting all of us into Christianity, and the first day I brought KFC but wasn't in an eating mood. There was water, nuts and boredom. It felt wrong, but I felt bored sitting outside having nuts and water 2 days in a row. Then I decided that next time, I will prepare my own posthumous speech. I don't understand why a daft punk can pretend to know who she was, and that she would want us all to be Christians? That is wrong, but then again he was just working, I guess.

My own speech would probably be 'Dear family and friends, thank you all for coming today. I hope you are dressed up because I don't die everyday. If you are in a t-shirt and/or shorts, please go home and change, have some respect, eh? Also please turn off your mobile for the entire duration of my wake/burial service because that's just rude.'

I did my taxes today as well, finally. The e-filing system is surprisingly easy to use, and I don't have to drive all the way to the tax offices to submit it, so that's perfect. With e-filing, I was done in a jiffy. A jiffy was like 20 minutes. Which is the time it'd take to just drive to Pandan Indah before lunchtime.

Also I renewed my passport the other day as well, and the people are surprisingly courteous. Dare I say professional? Yes they were, considering we're at least RM300 a pop, I think they're making pretty good money, its the least they can do. I was done in about an hour and a half, and at a pleasantville scale of 9. 10 if they spruced up the deco a little. The whole teal-greenish government building theme with the assorted longkang-fish in the aquarium doesn't quite cut it.

But I guess that'll be fixed once they have a online system for that. I do love it when you merge government offices with zero interaction, everything's suddenly so pleasant.

Friday, March 30, 2007

State of niceness

Its no surprise that recently the headlines in the papers noted that the state of racial integration among 'youngsters' apparently was low. This had been going on for a while now and of course the dailies have toned the whole thing down yet again.

Which worries me somewhat. Disintegration is a dangerous thing in a multi-cultural community, but what if disintegration draws the line between nice people and the rude, dangerous drivers? Perhaps then we would have to resort to getting more people to be nice, because these are the kind of people that wouldn't incite anger, or road rage, which triggers larger, unwanted events.

I've recently switched my MP3 disc in my car to a CD I simply call, Jazz Greats. Its got Coltrane and Davis and Monk, things like that. It makes you a nice person, I think.

I was at the Autopay kiosk today and this girl had no spare change. So she was talking to this elderly couple and they couldn't understand her I think because she spoke in English (shame on them), so they eventually walked away as I finished paying my ticket. Then she turned my way and asked if I had change for 50.
'I only have 1s and 100s, though.'
'Oh really? I only have...50, and 1.50 in coins...that's so annoying'
'How much do you need?' I said as I looked at her kiosk that read 'RM2.00'
'I need another 2'
I took out RM2 and gave it to her, 'Here you go.'
She paused for a while and said, 'No...I can't take your money.'
'You sure?'
'Um...yeah. I think I'll go break it upstairs'
'Okay then,' I said as I walked off.
I wasn't particularly in a hurry or anything, but I decided to leave it at that. Why?

Because I want people to know that there are nice people around here. Nice people that don't want anything from you, not your time, your money, your phone number, your attention. Things that people always want from other people. Everyone wants something. But what if you changed all that by making selfless decisions. Could that change someone's day? Or life?

I think that was worth 2 Ringgit right there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


My last coffee table I made was back in 2004. I didn't realize that until I saw the tag on the piece of glass that I ordered then, and had been keeping in stock until now. Years of accidents and experience later, I somehow, quite peacefully without much calamity, made this.

I'm still not quite satisfied with it, so I plan to make another, better one. Same design, different construction.

What better way to enjoy your coffee than a custom-made coffee table?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Something terribly wrong

Its some sort of imbalance, I think. People who don't know what they're doing. People trying to make your life difficult. Church elders embezzling funds, rapists getting away with a fine, unsolved murders, unsolved murders with political connections, highway robberies, brittle interracial relationships, the economy in general, and global warming are among other things that would come up over a few drinks at the bar.

What most of us can do is just shrug it off, hope for the best and get on with life. That's how we are trained to accept things as they are. Witnessing a robbery nowadays means you walk away and get to a safe place quick. You don't want to be walking into a parang wielding attacker. Don't invite trouble. Of course that course is logical for our survival, but what I'm talking about is not being a hero and save the day. I'm not suggesting executing some kung-fu moves you just saw in a movie. But more of, what can you do to prevent this from happening?

Police have recently been boarding busses this festive season to curb drivers from speeding and what not, and that proved to be effective. They should've done that ages ago. Speeding lorries and busses still ranks as one of the most fatal of accidents simply because of their massiveness when you're talking about impact with a regular passenger vehicle. You read about accidents where people slam into a trailer. Why? You see the way some people drive without looking ahead. A trailer doesn't have a third brake light, but then again neither do a lot of cars around here. Sometimes cars have only one working brake light. Whose fault is that if they get hit from behind and somebody gets killed?

Don't be paranoid. Someone once told me that I think too much. These things don't always happen, you just take it easy okay? Now, I ask you to tell me that again. You're talking about break-ins, snatch thefts, murders, robberies, rapes. I am talking about people you talk to everyday who can tell you that his/her friend, or a friend of a friend just got robbed. To achieve this kind of statistic, either the coincidences are aligned with the stars and it just so happens that everyone knows someone who knows someone who went through that, or that the frequency and volume has increased to an extent that this statistic becomes so real, and common that you can actually hear real stories from real people, and its not even six degrees, its 2 or 3 degrees of separation. To read in the papers of these things happening, people getting away, and to feel indifferent to this kind of news is to know that something isn't right. Something in the system is failing miserably, and yet nothing is being done about it.

We know something should be done. But really, what? The nation is more consumed with news of fast food being unhealthy, among other seriously irrelevant things. Our emphasis on global issues only last an article or two. Try a search on global warming for instance, and only a few results come up, one was that we tried signing an agreement to go green or something like that years ago. Either that didn't work out, or that somewhere along the line we just failed to follow up on that. We don't have the initiative to even think of recycling.

Oh really, there is a recycling drive in our country? The people who set up these recycling centres are just out to make a quick buck. Besides the fact they're unfriendly, which really doesn't matter, they can't give two cents about the environment. They're in it for the money. The rule is anything can be recycled, and everything especially dangerous waste should be disposed of properly. Try giving them a pane of glass. They'll ask you to take that away because they can't accept it. Why? Simple. They like bottles better. Its clean, its neat, and it sells for more money.

You want to talk about emissions? We practise open burning here. Irregardless of what laws there is currently in place to ban open burning, people still do it 'because it clears the mosquitos'. There is a ban on fireworks and yet kids on the streets burn these things as if they could buy these along with their ice cream, and when they throw it into *my* house I take serious offense to that. I once chased a bunch of kids with a stick and yelled at them in unimaginable rage. I think I've established myself as the new crazy man who lives here. What's great is that never happened again.

Talking about emissions. We don't have any incentive for adopting standards. Some articles back I talked about conflicting standards of the Air Pollutant Index with other developed countries, and I think that's what's happening here as well. Buying a EURO4 certified Smart car means nothing to a lot of people. Its just a tiny 2 door car, as they go about fitting their Kancils with 3" mufflers because 'its cool'.

At this rate, we'll never be a modern, dynamic, and developed country in time. We may have the infrastructure, the income generating companies, the foreign investments, or even the latest most advanced subsurface tunnel in place, but the if the people, and the way we think can't keep up with the pace, we'll be left behind in our little 'que sera sera' world.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Sunstream completed

Its quite difficult to tell you what I've been doing the last 4 weeks. So I took some photos instead, which I think would be easier, and 80% more fun!

Click on the link above or go here

Thursday, January 18, 2007

That old familiar feeling

I created this.
Its not everyday that you can say something like that. This is Project Sunstream. I had to make an outdoor space and turn it into a pleasant, comfortable oasis tucked into a corner. The drawing had been done almost a year ago and the construction would've taken about a month, but this had to be done in a week, so after a night of drinking (mostly beers), I changed a couple of things so that it could be done in 3 days.
And in 3 days it was done. Now of course we are talking about expansion, tables, chairs. The table, Project Crawler was supposed to be done last week but then at the last minute the table top was not acceptable, so I'm looking for a replacement, but the frame made mostly out of joints, an engineering-perfected beauty is complete. You may ask, how do I come up with these interesting project names? Beers, lots of beers. The chairs are made out of tree logs (not shown) that arrived a couple of days ago, so I have to build a kiln dry plant to process them. That's what happens when I don't have a workshop, I just have to build makeshift stuff as I go along. It should all be completed in time for Chinese New Year.

So yesterday, after a simple, early dinner I decided to take a break. No working in the office, no slogging out in the yard. I just wanted to take a walk, do some shopping.

It was a strange, familiar feeling, the air was different. I felt liberated somehow. I looked at interesting things. Interesting things that I want. I talked to people who were selling interesting things that I wanted.

Interesting things like this Baume & Mercier watch.

I've only been quite recently intrigued by the whole horology business, how these little mechanically miniaturized pieces of art can keep time and keep going without batteries. Its the search for perfection. They say that a watch reflects the person you are. I found that a bit odd in a nonsensical sense years ago when I only had, and needed one watch to tell time. That was way before I did carpentry, way before when details mattered little to me. Now, I am compelled to observe.

There is still much to learn, the art of perfecting something is a long and tiresome task requiring time, sacrifice and dedication. Observation, education, and acknowledgement of these sacrifices will help you stay on course in search of your own perfection.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

new year new best friend

Working through the new year was tough. Trying to stay awake at 11pm after working 16 hours straight isn't funny, but at the same time somewhat satisfying. Tons to do, and nobody really gets it. I guess for the past few years I'm in a party mood right about now. This year is different for many reasons. There's new targets to meet, and all that corporate mumbo-jumbo I can't be bothered reiterating. But one thing's for certain: someone's gotta pay the bills.
So since my life is going to be spent here I figured its a damn fine idea to make it better. Rearranged the furniture a little, restructured the company a little, made things more efficient, pleasant. Inviting. Heck, the office is a home anyway, and vice versa - might as well make the best of it.
So it came as a really good addition to the crew when the Krups XP5080 came along. Works hard, smells great. Whats not to like? It arrived today and after a bit of tinkering I was producing the best espressos money can get, and all this at the touch of a lit green button. So long, instant coffees, I've just discovered my new best friend to get me through the long hours.
Very nice indeed. Its looking like a good year already.