Thursday, September 27, 2007

Moral Support for Myanmar's Anti-Junta March

Picture taken from Ko Htike's Prosaic Collection.

Made in China

“Brand China” suffered one setback after another in the recent months as goods made in the Middle Kingdom, from toys to tires to pet food, were found to be unsafe to use. Chinese officers denied that goods made in their country had poor quality, and instead blamed protectionism for the product recalls.

(Update: Mattel has admitted that its product recalls were mostly due to flawed design rather than shoddy manufacturing.)

I was browsing the Hong Kong’s photography forum, the other day and happened to come across some interesting posts.


nokia2110 wrote:

我有個同事係上海買到40D 8250!行貨連帶發票!香港又無貨又貴,最平都要8800!什麼天堂講笑!

Is it really cheaper to buy thing in Hong Kong than in China today?

A co-worker of mine bought a (Canon) 40D for 8250 Yuan in Shanghai! White market good plus receipt! Hong Kong is out of stock and it costs more here. The cheapest costs $8800! What haven, kidding!

me_domchan wrote:


But our fellows in Mainland prefer to shop in Hong Kong.

edwardwong wrote:

不如你問下點解咁多自由行人士係 HK 買奶粉化妝品??唔通內地無??再平 D 都有,爭在你敢唔敢用之嘛

The fact that thing is slightly more expensive in Hong Kong may not be a problem.

Why do so many independent travelers buy milk powder and cosmetics in Hong Kong?? Not sold in Mainland?? You can get them at lower price. The question is whether you have the gut to use them.

MikeLau wrote:

No problem! You go back to China to buy a camera.
It's free market and one should have the right to spend his money wherever he wants.
I will do that too if I happen to be in China with something of good price!
1. I will not consider buying food (eg. mooncakes, milkpowder) in China (guess the reason);
2. I will not consider buying electronic gadgets in China (eg. cameras) at this moment; probably will do so when there is more complete and fair laws enforcing customers' rights when some arguments arise.


It has been more than 10 years since Hong Kong was reverted to China. One would expect the Hong Kongers to be patriotic to the Middle Kingdom. Yet, from the posts we have just read, it is clear that they haven't got confidence in things made in China. Brand China still has a long way to go before it can be trusted worldwide.

Related post:

Made in Japan

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Management Lite & Ezy 45 – Economics 103

At a particular price-point, demand for a product is affected by many factors. For example, if the price of crude oil increases from US$40 to US$60 per barrel, Toyota Prius, the fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle is likely to sell better, as shown below:

Factors affecting demand:

Income effect Demand for normal good increases as income of consumers rise. Conversely, demand for inferior good decline as consumers have more disposable income.

Prices of substitutes E.g. palm oil is the substitute of soybean oil. If the price of palm oil increases, its demand will drop, but the demand for soybean will rise.

Prices of complements E.g. computer software is the complement of PC. Drop in PC price increases demand for software.

Advertising and consumer tastes Effective advertising could increase the demand of one product at the expense of its competitions.

Population Demand increases inline with population.

Expectation (future) changes in price Consumers are more likely to stock up (durable) goods if they anticipate price hike in the near future.

Related posts:

Economics 101

Economics 102

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Chinese Women Love Cosmetics

The other day I browsed the Web and happened to come across a Chinese site which organized Bloggers’ Beauty Contest:

How thing has changed! During Chairman Mao’s era, makeup was considered decadent and anti-revolutionary. The Great Helmsman once proudly claimed that Chinese women “don’t love cosmetics, but love armors.” (不爱红妆 爱武装) Today, the Communist state is the eighth largest cosmetics consumer in the world, and the beauty and cosmetics industry is the fourth largest consumption area in the country – after real estate, cars and tourism.

Plastic surgery is also gaining popularity, and the country has even held a pageant for “man-made beauties” (人造美女)!

Participants of Miss Plastic Surgery

Jiang Qing, Chairman Mao's wife and a former actress, must be jealous of the Chinese women of the 21st century.

Madam Mao in her uniform


Chinese Women Go 'Crazy' for Cosmetics

China awaits crowning of Miss Plastic Surgery

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Art and Science of Photography

I always thought I was a left-brain person - good in logical analysis but poor in arts. When I was a secondary student, I liked mathematics and sciences. In the university, I studied engineering. After graduation, I worked as an engineer.

At the mean time, I picked up photography…

The two important aspects of photography are composition and exposure.

Composition – how to position subjects and background in a photo – is an art.

Exposure – in technical sense – refers to amount light received by the film or sensor (CCD/CMOS). A picture is underexposed if it is too dark, or overexposed if it is too bright. Exposure is determined by 3 factors: exposure time (also called shutter speed), aperture of the lens, and sensitivity of the film or sensor.

Exposure is usually a science but it can also be an art. For example, in the two pictures shown below, I altered the exposure time. Can you spot the difference?

If you look carefully, you will notice that the water in second picture (exposure time = 1/2 sec) has a 'silky' appearance.

While most people hold camera in horizontal or vertical position, I sometimes tilt it at an angle – say 45º. While ordinary camera users usually take photos at ‘eye level’, I often squat down or stand on chair to get a different perspective.

I come to realize that my right brain isn’t so bad after all. I can be creative too!


I took this picture from the top of a table. These guys thought I was crazy. I used to think artists were weird people. Today I understand them (^_^) .

Monday, September 17, 2007

Management Lite & Ezy 44 – Economics 102

(101 is here.)

Demand of a product or service can be either elastic or inelastic. If it is inelastic, quantity demanded varies little even when the price changes significantly. The graph below shows the curves for elastic and inelastic demand:

One “classic” example of inelastic demand is that of cigarette. Smokers do not quit smoking simply because the government slaps a “sin tax” on cigarettes.

Price elasticity of demand is affected by a few factors, such as:

Availability of substitutes For example, demand for Chevrolets is likely to be very price elastic because of competition from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, Hyundai etc. Demand for Microsoft Windows, on the other hand, is more inelastic. While Linux and Mac OS are the potential substitutes, switching barrier is often too high.

Durable goods Demand for durable goods tends to be more price elastic than the demand for non-durables. Consumers of durable goods are often in a position to wait for a more favorable price, a sale, or a special deal when buying these items. This accounts for some of the volatility in the demand for durable goods.

Percentage of budget Demand for relatively high-priced goods tends to be more price elastic. This is because expensive items account for a greater proportion of a person’s income and potential expenditures than do low-priced items.

Time frame of analysis Over time, demand for many products tends to become more elastic because of the increase in the number of effective substitutes. For example, in the short run, demand for gasoline may be relatively price inelastic because the only available alternatives are not taking a trip or using public transport. Over time, as consumers replace their cars, they may opt for vehicles which are more fuel-efficient such as the Toyota Prius which runs on hybrid engine.


James McGuigan, Charles Moyer & Frederick deB Harris, Managerial Economics: Applications, Strategy, and Tactics, 9th edition

Friday, September 14, 2007

Immigrants and Entrepreneurship

The Kauffman Foundation is an organization in Kansas City, Missouri, that promotes entrepreneurship. Its Index of Entrepreneurial Activity measures business startup activity for the entire U.S. adult population at the individual owner level.

According to its study, the rate of entrepreneurial activity for native-born Americans was 0.28% in 2005. The rate for immigrants was somewhat higher, at 0.35%.

Why are immigrants more likely to start up their own businesses? Michael Mandel, chief economist of BusinessWeek, provides an explanation:

The conventional explanation is that immigrants, by nature, are greater risk-takers and more energetic – or else they would have stayed in their home countries. And because they are not integrated into existing social networks, it’s easier for them to try something new.

(Source: What It Means to Hit 300 Million)

Some of the most famous immigrant entrepreneurs are Jerry Yang of Yahoo!, Sergey Brin of Google and Steve Chen of YouTube. Andy Grove was the third employee of Intel.

Closer to home, immigrants might have shaped the economy of Malaysia. Chinese migrated to Malaysia in the 19th century and first half of 20th century, with the single purpose of making money. Many of them worked as coolies in tin mines, but went on to start up their businesses. Though being minority in their host country, ethnic Chinese dominated business sector until 1970s.

Of course, Malaysian government will never acknowledge the Immigrant Factor, and instead blame the former colonizer, Britain, for the income disparity across ethnic groups. Ethnic Chinese, on the other hand, are already well into third or fourth generation. A big question is: have they inherited the entrepreneurial spirit of their forefathers???

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Memory Lane of Ubud

A blogger, kai, wrote on the sand when she visited a beach recently. Her picture reminds me of a lane in Ubud, Bali, where visitors had left their marks.

Unfortunately, I only went to Ubud in 2005, and there was no more space for me to leave my name

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Canon vs. Nikon – update

In my old post, When to Announce New Products, I described the different marketing strategies adopted by Canon and Nikon, the two leading makers of Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras.

On Aug 20, 2007, Canon announced a new camera – EOS 40D. It hit the shelves in Hong Kong immediately. Three days later, Nikon announced the contender – D300. As noted in my earlier post, I suspect Nikon is telling the shutterbugs, “Don’t buy Canon. Wait for us. We have some nice stuff in the pipeline.” Nikon D300 is, indeed, better than Canon EOS 40D (on paper), even though it is also more pricey.

Has Nikon succeeded? To find out, I browsed the forum for Hong Kong’s photographers, Here are some interesting posts…

lmfu wrote:

都話左預先公佈呢招係險招黎啦, D200個銷售情況跌得好犀利, 係估唔到40D冇乜受N既策略影響。

It has been said that pre-announcing [the products] is a risky move. Sale of D200 drops terribly, but we didn’t expect that 40D is hardly affected by Nikon's strategy.

samuelhu wrote:

D200 銷售情況跌得好犀利, 我諗未必關40d,好可能d人想等D300

Sale of D200 drops terribly, but I think this may not be related to 40D. Perhaps the people are waiting for D300.

D200 mentioned above is Nikon’s existing offering and D300’s predecessor. It appears that the strategy of pre-announcing a product before it is available is a double-edged sword. It dents Nikon’s own sales more than that of Canon.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Why we should go home on time

I have got a forwarded email which purportedly contains the words of Narayana Murthy, founder of Infosys Technologies. While I can't confirm its authenticity, I pretty much agree with the message conveyed. I now re-produce it here…


Mr. Narayana Murthy is undoubtedly one of the most famous persons from Karnataka. He is known not just for building the biggest IT Empire in India but also for his simplicity. Almost every important dignitary visits InfoSys campus. He delivered an interesting speech during an employee session with another IT company in India . He is incidentally, one of the top 50 influential people of Asia according to an Asiaweek publication and also the new IT Adviser to the Thailand Prime Minister.

Extract of Mr. Narayana Murthy's Speech during Mentor Session:

I know people who work 12 hours a day, six days a week, or more. Some people do so because of a work emergency where the long hours are only temporary. Other people I know have put in these hours for years. I do not know if they are working all these hours, but I do know they are in the office this long. Others put in long office hours because they are addicted to the workplace.

Whatever the reason for putting in overtime, working long hours over the long term is harmful to the person and to the organization. There are things managers can do to change this for everyone's benefit. Being in the office long hours, over long periods of time, makes way for potential errors.

My colleagues who are in the office long hours frequently make mistakes caused by fatigue. Correcting these mistakes requires their time as well as the time and energy of others. I have seen people work Tuesday through Friday to correct mistakes made after 5 PM on Monday.

Another problem is that people who are in the office long hours are not pleasant company. They often complain about other people (who are not working as hard); they are irritable, or cranky, or even angry. Other people avoid them. Such behavior poses problems, where work goes much better when people work together instead of avoiding one another.

As Managers, there are things we can do to help people leave the office. First and foremost is to set the example and go home ourselves. I work with a manager who chides people for working long hours. His words quickly lose their meaning when he sends these chiding group e-mails with a time-stamp of 2 AM, Sunday.

Second is to encourage people to put some balance in their lives. For instance, here is a guideline I find helpful:

  1. Wake up, eat a good breakfast, and go to work.
  2. Work hard and smart for eight or nine hours.
  3. Go home.
  4. Read the books/comics, watch a funny movie, dig in the dirt, play with your kids, etc.
  5. Eat well and sleep well.

This is called recreating. Doing steps 1, 3, 4, and 5 enable step 2. Working regular hours and recreating daily are simple concepts. They are hard for some of us because that requires 'personal change'. They are possible since we all have the power to choose to do them.

In considering the issue of overtime, I am reminded of my oldest son. When he was a toddler, if people were visiting the apartment, he would not fall asleep no matter how long the visit was, and no matter what time of day it was. He would fight off sleep until the visitors left. It was as if he was afraid that he would miss some thing. Once our visitors' left, he would go to sleep. By this time, however, he was over tired and would scream through half the night with nightmares. He, my wife, and I, all paid the price for his fear of missing out.

Perhaps some people put in such long hours because they do not want to miss anything when they leave the office. The trouble with this is that events will never stop happening. That is life! Things happen 24 hours a day. Allowing for little rest is not ultimately practical. So, take a nap. Things will happen while you are asleep, but you will have the energy to catch up when you wake. Hence,


- Narayana Murthy -

My personal experience tells me that what Narayana Murthy said was right to certain extent. A few years ago, I worked as an engineer for Ericsson in Southern California. One of Ericsson’s clients was Pacific Bell Wireless (later Cingular Wireless and now AT&T). Engineering Division of Pac Bell Wireless was allocated a budget for that year to upgrade its mobile network. Since the budget would not be carried over to the following year, the Engineering Division decided to get as many projects done as possible. In November and December of the year, Ericsson’s engineers worked days and nights to meet the demand. Finally, an outage happened and temporarily disrupted the service of Pac Bell Wireless.

Pac Bell Wireless and Ericsson held a teleconference to discuss the outage. I was at the client’s site the night before the incident, and was therefore told to take part. There were lots of finger-pointing going on. Just as I was feeling the heat, an enlightened manager from the client uttered these words:

“Do not overwork. If you are tired, you make mistake.”

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

KL Bird Park - II

[Part I is here.]

All photos in Part II were taken with a prime lens, i.e. lens that cannot zoom. (Sounds very backward, huh?)

English Budgerigar...


Bird of Paradise...

I believe many people have experienced difficulty when taking pictures of animals inside a cage. Very often the camera focuses on the cage rather than on the animals. For the pictures of Bird of Paradise, I had to resort to the old way - manual focus.


The Chinese translation, which reads "parrots of the world", is incorrect.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Management Lite & Ezy 43 – Economics 101

The analysis of supply and demand is the basic of economics.

Demand is a function of price. Generally, quantity of a product or service a buyer willing to buy drops when its price increases. This is illustrated by the market demand curve, as shown below:

Supply, as a function of price, is just the opposite. As price increases, the amount of a good or service that will be produced also increases. This is illustrated by the market supply curve: