Wednesday, November 28, 2007

English is still King

In my post English vs Chinese, written in 2006, I voiced my doubt over the prediction that Chinese would become the most important language in the world by 2020. Newsweek article English for Everyone (August 20, 2007 issue) seems to confirm that I was right.

Excerpt from the article…

Beijing guesses that more than 40 million non-native speakers now study Mandarin worldwide. But that pales next to the number of those learning English. In China alone, some 175 million people are now studying English in the formal education system. And an estimated 2 billion people will be studying it by 2010, according to a British Council report last year.

Why do more and more people study English despite the rise of China? The same article provides one reason:

China’s rise has actually increased the desire to learn English among the country’s neighbors, as they seek to maintain a competitive edge.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

It ain't wrong to be different

I have mentioned Mark Penn, the American polling analyst, plenty of times on my blog. His book which I am reading is Microtrends. Microtrends are to be differentiated from Megatrends, because they are not mainstream culture (yet). America has a population of 300 million, so even 1 percent is equivalent to 3 million people. And in many cases, their numbers are rising.

In the first chapter, Penn writes about single women. According to Penn, there are more women than men in the States, and there are more gay men than lesbians. As a result, many women simply can’t find the Mr. Right. (Heck, how come there are more men than women in Malaysia )

In another chapter, we learn of American vegetarians. The United States is not a Hindu/Buddhist country. The vegetarians refrain from eating meat mainly for health reason or out of love for animals.

Then there are the New Luddites – people who say no to technology. They have been on the Internet before, but are now offline. Don’t laugh. I absolutely wish that I don’t get calls from my co-workers during weekend.

One of the most shocking lifestyles is LAT – Living Apart Together. It refers to committed, long-term couples who don’t live together for various reasons. Some of them are young and new homeowners who don’t want to give up their newfound independence. Others have children from a prior marriage, and avoid introducing a new spouse to the family.

Note that Penn didn’t judge these people. He didn't say being single is bad, or all of us should eat meat. He was merely bringing them to the attention of policy-makers and marketers. Americans generally respect liberty of others.

Not so in Asia. Our societies value conformance. If we live a lifestyle different from that of mainstream culture, we must be terribly wrong. Or we are freaks.

In our society, marriage is seen as a duty. It is sacred. Being single is unacceptable. I know of several bloggers who are troubled when their relatives and friends question them, “When are you getting married ar?”

I have backpacked several times in South-east Asiaall by myself. Many people asked me, “Why do you travel alone? Don’t you find it boring?” They are, of course, Malaysians. Along my solo trips, I have come across countless of Westerners and Japanese who did exactly the same thing. (See my answer here.)

Be yourself . Respect choice of others. It ain’t wrong to be different.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Office Romance

I never thought office romance was a big issue. I personally have seen a few people dating their co-workers. In one case, the guy who over-protected his girlfriend was somewhat disturbing, though.

Americans are less tolerant of office romance, possibly for fear of nepotism and favoritism. What’s more, if a worker misplaces his/her affection, he/she could invite sexual harassment suit.

(Incidentally, I didn’t notice Americans’ attitude towards office romance when I worked in California.)

Take, for example, Wal-Mart. The retail giant fired a marketing executive in 2006 because she received gifts from vendors, and because she had an affair with her subordinate. Wal-Mart even exports its policies to its subsidiaries in other countries. However, a German court struck down Wal-Mart’s ban on office romance, citing incompatibility with the country’s labor law.

But even in America, office romance is on the rise, and is gaining acceptance. A survey by the Society of Human Resource Management yielded the following findings:

  • In 2001, 70% of employees thought that office romance was inappropriate. In 2005, only 60% of them thought so.
  • In 2001, 37% of employees had experienced an office romance. In 2005, as much as 70% of the employees had such experience.

Mark Penn, the American polling analyst whom I had mentioned many times in my blog, explains:

"[Office romance] has to do with the rise of working singles. There are more of them than ever in the workforce (up 22 percent since 1995), and singles aged 25-34 are working more hours per week than they used to – up 8 percent since 1970. (So really, where else could they find romance?)"

It should be noted that there are different kinds of office romance. A superior/subordinate relationship may be viewed more negatively than one which involves peers.

So, is office romance okay? Is it ethical for companies to ban it? What say you?


Kiser, S. B., Coley, T., Ford, M., & Moore, E. (2006). Coffee, tea, or me? Romance and sexual harassment in the workplace. Southern Business Review, 31(2), 35-49.

Penn, M. (2007). Office romancers, Microtrends (pp. 11-15). London, UK: Penguin Books Ltd.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Gold Coast - II

[Part I is here.]

These photos, I suppose, were taken in Warner Brothers Movie World.

Jovann and Sebastian with Tweety and Bugs Bunny...

Wow... so many Scooby...

Naught Sebastian and angry Jovann...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are you a Slob?

American polling analyst Mark Penn writes about slobs in his book, Microtrends. Here is the excerpt:


The Slobs are not, as you might have thought, overwhelmingly male. Men do outnumber women, but only by 55 to 45 percent. And neither are the Slobs slothful or unsuccessful. More than 2 in 3 are employed full-time, and of those that have kids, most of them have kids under 5. They are significantly more likely than Non-Slobs to have finished college and/or graduate school. They are twice as likely as Non-Slobs to make over $100,000 a year. And Slobs identify at liberal at nearly twice the rate of Non-Slobs (37 versus 19 percent), with a remarkable 47 percent of Slobs saying they are Democrats.

Fewer than 1 in 4 make their beds as part of a daily routine. More than 1 in 3 will leave dirty dishes in the sink more than a day. About 15 percent will even leave dirty dishes in their den, living room or bedroom longer than a day. When they get undressed at night, almost 4 in 10 drop their clothes on the floor. One in 3 lets kitchen countertop clutter go uncleaned for more than a week, if not indefinitely.


Reason for sloppiness: too much stuff, not enough time and not enough storage. A small percentage of the respondents believed that messiness made them more creative.

I am certainly not surprised that women don't fare better than men when it comes to cleanliness and tidiness. I knew of a girl in early 20s who left the droppings of her pet dog uncleaned for hours!

In this country, some concerned people have called on Malaysians to not over-reliant on foreign maids. However, I suspect their calls will fall on deaf ears given that many Malaysians can’t tidy up their home.

Personally, I don’t make my bed every day, and don’t clean the kitchen countertop clutter for weeks. I do not, however, leave unwashed dishes in the sink for more than a few hours or drop my clothes on the floor. As a worker who studies part-time, I certainly feel that I have little time, and my study materials fill up a newly-bought cabinet in just a few months.

Perhaps I should be more sloppy. Then, I could become more creative, and perhaps even richer

Saturday, November 10, 2007

AirAsia X Flies to Gold Coast

AirAsia X, the long-haul budget airline and a sister company of the original AirAsia, has launched its inaugural flight from KL to Gold Coast.

With just one aircraft – a leased Airbus A330-300, the AirAsia X offers four flights a week to Gold Coast. When interviewed by the The Star’s reporter, chief Azran Osman Rani said,
“It’s going to be great. With one plane, I won’t have to worry about planes sitting idle on the runway.”
(The Star, BW13, Nov 3, 2007)

Just ONE aircraft
What will happen if it breaks down

My parents, sister, brother-in-law and two nephews visited Gold Coast recently. (They flew from Singapore.) The Qantas plane which they were in was unable to take off. Qantas put the passengers in a later flight and arranged for the accommodation of that night in Traders Hotel. On top of that, the airline also compensated the passengers.

I am not sure what AirAsia X will do if similar thing happens to them. Chances are, passengers will need to postpone their flights until the only aircraft of the budget airline is fully repaired. That may take more than one day. Or AirAsiaX may refund, but that won't save our vacation plan
. And if the airline offers to pay for accommodation, it will be in Tony Fernandes’s Tune Hotel.

But there is a bigger concern. If AirAsia X can’t send its only plane to hangar for maintenance and service, will the risk of air tragedy increase

Mr Datuk Fernandes, please do not compromise on air safety.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Extreme Commuting

How much time do you spend traveling to your work place every day?

I personally drive 35 minutes – one way – to my office. My MBA course mate, upon hearing my commuting time, exclaimed, “That’s far!” Her office was just 10-minute drive from her house.

But a 35-minute drive, or 70-minute round trip, was nothing compared to my experience in California a few years ago. There, I lived in Garden Grove, Orange County. My office was also in Orange Country, but most of I time I went to client’s place. The nearest site, at Anaheim, was just a few blocks away. (Anaheim was famous for Disneyland.) City of Commerce, my favorite place, was about 45 minutes away, depending on traffic. I always worked nights in Commerce. If I had to travel during the day, it would have taken more than an hour.

Once there was a project in San Diego. The round trip from Garden Grove to San Diego and back took about 4 hours! (For some reasons, return trip from Sand Diego to Garden Grove in the afternoon was longer.) Fortunately, the project lasted just a few weeks. In another occasion, I was sent to Santa Barbara, which was 3 hours away, or 6 hours round trip! I traveled with my co-worker, and we took turn to drive. The project was completed in one week.

Americans spend too much time on the road. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, this is a vast country. Secondly, gridlock is unbelievable. Thirdly, properties are cheaper the further away they are from cities, and Americans want big houses.

They may have bigger houses and bigger cars, but have they sacrificed too much???

Gridlock is unbelievable in some parts of America, despite the abundance of freeways...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Girls Love Gadgets

I mentioned in my previous posts a book I was reading – Microtrends by Mark Penn. Here is another interesting topic from the book:


According to the Consumer Electronics Association, girls are more likely than boys to use mobile phones (88 to 83 percent), digital cameras (54 to 50 percent), satellite radios (24 to 18 percent), and DVD recorders (21 to 19 percent). Girls and boys use TVs, VCRs, DVD players, and PCs about the same. The only gadgets on which girls lag are portable MP3 players and videogame consoles – although even there, Nintendo made big strides in 2006 with the Wii, designed with girls (as well as boys) in mind and selling well beyond analysts’ expectations.

… But girls have become heavy users of technology. After all, the principal use of much of the technology today is communications, and it is girls – not boys – who love to communicate all the time.


Elsewhere, young Japanese women are also driving the market of kawaii (cute) gadgets. So the fact that girls like technology is not limited to the U.S.

But as I read about Wii, I remember the post I wrote – Nintendo Wii and the 80/20 Rule. Girls may be heavy users of technology, but do they spend more?

Take, for example, digital camera. (This is the area I know well.) Girls often prefer stylish pocket cameras, while guys are more likely to purchase the huge, expensive digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR). Not just DSLR, but accessories like lenses, filters and tripods. (OK, I know of some female bloggers who own DSLR, but I believe they mostly shoot portrait, and therefore require fewer accessories.)

Not to mention that women are more penny-wise - read "calculative". (Don't knock my head )

So, who spend more on gadgets? I have no data to draw conclusion. In any case, marketers for gadgets can no longer ignore the “girl power”.

Some gadgets designed with girls in mind:

Pink Motorola cell phone...

Red Sony digital camera...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Have You Got A Tattoo?

I don’t have tattoo, and doubt I will ever have one. However, I try to be more open-minded with the art which is often viewed negatively among the conservatives.

According to a Harris Poll, 16% of adult Americans have a tattoo, and more than 1 in 3 Americans aged 25-29 have them. Many think that having a tattoo makes them feel sexier (34%), more rebellious (29%) and more attractive (26%).

What are the impacts of increased popularity in tattooing? According to Mark Penn, author of Microtrends, organizations with tattoo bans may have to review their policies, or they risk excluding young talents.

Here, in Malaysia, I also see many youths with tattoos, but I am not sure whether they are permanent or temporary.

I have seen one girl – a very pretty girl – who tattooed the name of her boyfriend on her arm. Now, assuming that this tattoo was a permanent one, what would happen if she breaks up with him? She would have to laser it off. Angelina Jolie did just that when she split with Billy Bob. In fact, according to the Harris Poll just mentioned, the top reason for regretting getting a tattoo was "because of the person's name in the tattoo".

Many youngsters believe that their relationships with their lovers would last forever. Love is blind, huh?

Which pattern(s) do you like?