Friday, October 31, 2008

User-Generated Contents

Oon Yeoh is a columnist for Malaysian newspaper The Star. In his article dated October 16, 2008, he quoted the words of Nicholas Carr, a critic of user-generated contents (UGC):

“Forced to choose between reading blogs and subscribing to, say the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Atlantic, and The Economist, I will choose the latter. I will take the professionals over the amateurs,” [Carr] said.

I couldn’t help but laughed when I read the quotes. To say that bloggers are amateurs is like saying that secondary students are amateurs. Do we tell them (the students) not to write???

A very small numbers of bloggers, amateur photographers and amateur videographers who post their works to the Web eventually ‘graduate’ to become professionals. The Web serves as their training ground, much like what the school does.

For the rest of us, the Web gives us a space to express ourselves, or share our photos and video clips. Despite the hype, vast majority of the bloggers have no intention of challenging the mainstream media.

In a sense, UGC helps to instill the spirit of freedom of speech. I have been criticized by a few other bloggers, but I don’t censor their comments. My guiding principle is “we agree to disagree”.

By the way, if you think mainstream media is free from user-generated contents, you are wrong. Are you not aware that many newspapers and magazines have “Letters to Editor” columns?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween - Malaysian Style

Halloween is not widely celebrated in Malaysia. However, One Utama, a shopping mall, has some Halloween decoration. Here you go...

Nothing so special here. Now we wait for Kikey Loo to report from the United States.

Related posts (Chinese):
盂兰节 vs. Halloween

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Financial Turmoil – Factor Analysis

Wall Street has been hit by financial storm in the last few months. Out of the top 5 investment banks of the US, only two still survive. AIG, the insurance giant, has also sought help from the government.

Many analysts, politicians, investors and angry tax payers point to greed as the root cause for the financial storm. The top executives of the financial institutions were greedy. So were some of the speculators.

But greed alone does not explain the whole story. After all, there are greedy fellows all over the world. The problem with Americans is that they have been living on credit for years. I spent some time in the U.S. and certainly know well that Americans are big spenders. In fact, it has been reported that there are more cars than drivers in the States. A typical family with two drivers – husband and wife – may have up to three or four vehicles.

America is a land of immigrants, and immigrants are often risk takers. This is, of course, not to say that native-born Americans are risk-aversive, as they have inherited the traits of their forefathers or have been influenced by the newly-arrives. You see, Americans like to take risk, including in investment. This is yet another factor which contributes to the financial turmoil.

Greed is bad, but some level of risk taking is actually a good thing. In his book, Microtrends, American pollster Mark Penn wrote (before the subprime crisis):
While the U.S. frets about personal debt, some in Europe and Japan are pressing for more bankruptcy options in order to generate more risk and entrepreneurship. Failure is a product of trying, of taking risk. If we never tried to go to the moon, we would never have had the Columbia space shuttle accident. Or, as the CEO of the now bankrupt Eastern Air Lines reportedly said, “Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell.”

P/S Factor Analysis is actually a quantitative method which I learned in my MBA study.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sony Ericsson K810i (II)

[Part I]

Camera functions

According to the specifications published by Sony Ericsson, the K810i’s camera has the following features:

Auto focus, BestPicTM, 3.2 megapixel, 16x digital zoom, image stabilizer, photo fix, picture blogging, red-eye reduction, video record, video stabilizer, xenon flash.

Well, not quite. My unit does not have image stabilizer. Have I been cheated

I haven’t got enough time to play with the camera yet, but here are a few pictures...

This picture is decent, but not great...

I find the color to be a bit dull, though we can increase saturation in photo editing software.

Here is a picture of Korean food (bibimbap). The K810i’s xenon flash fired, giving a well-exposed image. Not bad, but I find the noise level too high...

By the way, if you do not know what digital noise is, the next image, cropped from the top right corner of the bibimbap picture, can give you some clues...

Sony Ericsson K810i has auto focus, but I haven’t found its images to be sharp. Perhaps the tiny lens of the camera phone is the limiting factor. Furthermore, you can see that the corners of the following image is dark - this is called vignetting - indicating the limitation of the xenon flash...

As an owner of Canon DSLR, I haven’t found the image quality of Sony Ericsson K810i to be satisfying. It may have one of the best cameras among mobile phones, but it is no replacement for dedicated camera. Nonetheless, the great thing about it is that the phone is always with me. The first picture shown above was actually taken without prior planning, when I left the Canon at home.

I remember a saying, “Your best camera is the one that is with you.” In future, I am sure I will take a lot more pictures with Sony Ericsson K810i, despite its flaws.

Kyh is right. Image stabilizer is available in Twilight Landscape mode. However, I expect it to be available for other modes too.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tell Me Your Saving Tips

The economy is going downhill. It’s time to tighten our belts.

Personally, I haven’t changed my lifestyle much, yet. As a working adult who study on a part-time basis, I already have near-zero entertainment. Perhaps the only effort I have had in saving money is that I have stopped going to Starbucks for a while. (I believe I am not the only one who does so. Shareholders of Starbucks should be very scared now.)

I still plan to have a vacation in the next 6 months. I want to travel before I am too old to carry a backpack. As some people cancel their trips, hopefully I’ll get better deals

Tell me how you save money. I want to listen to you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

盂兰节 vs. Halloween


- 陶傑 《萬聖節之樂》

香港作家陶杰在这里犯了两个错。第一:他把 Halloween 错误说成是万圣节。(请看我的旧贴 Halloween。)第二:在马来西亚和新加坡,庙会和乡团往往以舞台表演的方式庆祝盂兰节,甚至请性感美女助阵,一点都不凄惨。

不过,这种现代的盂兰节庆,仍然不属于小孩子,性感美女的演出,只怕也是小孩不宜。或许我们可以在每年的十月三十一日,也举办 Halloween 盛会,让我们的小孩欢乐度过。


Related post:


Monday, October 20, 2008

Misadventure in America

After reading Kikey Loo’s Life in the United States, I feel the urge to share my own experience. (I am now back in Malaysia.)

The United States in different from the rest of the world. There, distance is measured in miles, not kilometers; temperature in Fahrenheit, not Celsius, and car engine capacity in house power, not liter. One thing which bothered me most was the central locking of vehicles.

In Malaysia, we activate central locking with our car key. In the US, it is activated by pressing a button on the inside of the car door.

A few weeks after I arrived at California, I drove to have my lunch in restaurant. After parking my car, I pressed the central locking button and slapped the door. Only then I realized: the key was still inside the car, and the engine was still running

Frantically, I contacted Hertz, the car rental company. The agent who answered my call was not helpful at all. I then called Patrick, my soft-spoken American colleague. He advised me to seek help from a locksmith, which I did.

Half an hour later, the locksmith arrived. Within 5 minutes he unlocked the car. The damage: seventy bucks!!! I had only been in America for a few weeks, and hadn’t made enough money yet. My heart ached when I handed over the greenbacks to the locksmith. I did not even tip him.

Incidentally, I wasn’t the only one who locked the key inside the car. Wilson, the Chinese guy who traveled to the Grand Canyon with me, called me one evening. He told me, “I made the same mistake as you…”

He was, nonetheless, luckier than me. He happened to have a friend who was the member of Automobile Association of America (AAA). The AAA mechanics helped to unlock his car.

I have a conspiracy theory: The Detroit Three must have purposely designed their cars in this way so that the locksmiths can make extra money!

You may also want to read these posts:
Candlewood Suites
Life as a Migrant Worker

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Halloween, 中文一般上译为“万圣节”,其实并不正确。

Halloween 落在每一年的十月三十一日。欧洲人在信仰基督教前,就已经庆祝 Halloween。基本上,它是异教 (Pagan) 的节庆。欧洲人改信基督后,仍然保留传统节庆。教会初期势力有限,知道不能要求老百姓完全放弃传统习俗,就刻意选择在十一月一日庆祝万圣节 – All Saints Day。万圣节的庆祝仪式是在前一天傍晚开始,这就和 Halloween 撞在一起了。

现在,我们在每一年的十月三十一日扮鬼、制做南瓜灯笼和玩 trick-or-treat,我们庆祝的是 Halloween,不是万圣节。


圣诞节的起源,也和 Pagan 教有关,我将于十二月再写。

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sony Ericsson K810i (I)

After using a Nokia phone with very basic functionality for six years, I finally bought a Sony Ericsson K810i. I am still learning to use it, but will give my first impression of it here.


Among the Sony Ericsson phone users, am I the one who has largest hands?

My first gripe about Sony Ericsson K810 is its cluttered keypad. K810 has a much larger LCD screen than my old Nokia – nearly twice as large – yet the whole phone is shorter by a few mm. Can’t Sony Ericsson make the phone longer by a few mm, and give the extra space to the keypad?

There are a grand total of 21 keys on the front side of the phone. They are: left and right Photo keys, Internet key, left and right Selection keys, Navigation key, Activity Menu key, Back key, Clear key, 0-9, *, #.

Selection key is a concept which I dislike. Nokia probably pioneered the use of selection keys, which it calls multi-functional keys. The Selection keys of K810 change their functions as we navigate through the menu. For example, on default screen, the left Selection key is “Calls” and the right Selection key is “Menu”. When we are writing text message, the left Selection key becomes “Continue”, while the right one becomes “More”.

When you are using the QWERTY keyboard, do you look at the keys before you type? The problem with Selection keys is that we have to look at the LCD screen before we now how to use them. This is cumbersome and counter-intuitive.

I also believe that, with a little bit of ingenuity, Back and Clear keys can be combined. Now, if Sony Ericsson also replaces the two Selection keys with a single key, the keypad would be less cluttered.

The old Ericsson phones

Before forming joint-venture with Sony, Ericsson made mobile phones under its own brand. Even until today, I still think that the now-discontinued Ericsson phones have the most intuitive interface.

The old Ericsson phones have just 16 keys – 0-9, *, #, two arrow keys, Call key and Clear key. Pressing either one of the arrow keys automatically brings you into the menu. Of course, this outdated interface no longer can handle the added functionalities of modern mobile phone, but its concept of simplicity remains useful.


I have one more gripe with the keypad of K810i. When I type a text message, I insert a space by pressing the # button, on the bottom right of the phone. This is a bit awkward, given that I hold the phone in my right hand.

In my old Nokia, I insert space by pressing the 0 button.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Life as a Migrant Worker

In my post, Sightseeing, I mentioned that I traveled to the Grand Canyon, but spent less than two hours there. You may think that I was such a stupid guy. Well, among Malaysian contract engineers who worked in the US, I was actually one who knew how to enjoy life.

America is a land of automobiles. With the exception of a few cities such as New York and Portland, Oregon, one basically cannot go anywhere without a private vehicle. (By the way, SUV, pickup trunk and minivan are not considered cars.) I rented a car from Hertz. Ng, another Malaysian, wanted to save money and never bothered to rent one. He always asked an English guy to give him a lift. Two other Malaysians did rent a car, and they drove to the Universal Studio near Los Angeles. However, they were reluctant to pay the entrance ticket.

As for myself, I had been to San Diego Sea World and San Diego Zoo, aside from Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. As mentioned in my earlier post, I went to the Sin City and the nature’s wonder with Wilson, my co-worker from China. I didn’t pay a visit to Disneyland in Anaheim, though, despite the fact that it was merely a few blocks from my hotel in Garden Grove. I wasn’t stingy, but I couldn’t get anyone to go with me. Everybody was thinking, “Disneyland is for kids.”

I was sent to the Northwest for five weeks with Rogelio, a Filipino. In Seattle, we booked a tour to see killer whales off San Juan Island. Prior to that, I had already watched killer whale show in San Diego Sea World, but watching them in open sea would be a new experience to me. Unfortunately, the tour was canceled due to engine breakdown of the boat. The following week we traveled to Portland, Oregon, and then to Spokane in Eastern Washington. By the time we returned to Seattle, the whale-spotting season was over. What a missed opportunity

Singh, an Indian engineer, brought me to Ecstasy! (No, this was not a drug.) I was kind of sinful there. At the other extreme, I also strived to be a holy man in Wat Metta, a Buddhist monastery in the forest of San Diego County.

Patrick, my soft-spoken American colleague, invited me to the Mexican border town of Tijuana. He was joined by a few other guys. One guy showed off a photo of a Mexican lady and told me, “For $50, you can own her.” Unfortunately, my visa was of single-entry type. If I followed them to Tijuana, I would not be able to return to the United States.

Before I left America, I paid a visit to Hollywood.

Unlike other Malaysian contract engineers, I didn’t go to America just to make money. I had lived a meaning life during my stay there.

Killer whales off San Juan Island - a missed opportunity!

(Picture by

P/S Are you aware that my co-workers formed a mini United Nations? This is the magic of globalization.

You may also be interested in these posts:
Candlewood Suites

Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Books

I am a bookworm. Over the years, the books I bought have filled up a few bookshelves plus several boxes. Here are some of my books:

Lonely Planet guides for Thailand, old and new. Older edition was written by the famous author, Joe Cummings. Newer edition was “updated” by several authors…

Lonely Planet guidebooks are the Bible for independent travelers. However, I find the newer edition to be somewhat boring. It is full of latest information on accommodation and restaurants, but the background information of the kingdom, originally written by Joe Cummings, has been cut short.

Joe Cummings is said to have married a Thai wife and taken up Thai citizenship. He lives in Chiang Mai.

This is my favorite book, Thailand Handbook by Carl Parkes…

There is so much fun to read Thailand Handbook. It not only served as my guide when I traveled in the Land of Smile, but also helped me kill time when I retreated to the guesthouse in the evening. Sadly, it is no longer updated.

This is Lonely Planet guide for Bali, which I used when I traveled in the Island of Gods

I am a shutterbug. This is a book that guides us in using Canon’s photo editing software, Digital Photo Professional. It was written by several Japanese photographers and translated into Chinese by two Taiwanese…

Here are two books written by Hong Kong author 陶杰. I quoted his works plenty of times in my posts

Warning: Do not read if you are pro-China!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Malaysia Airlines’ Hot Meal in Boxes

In July 2008, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) introduced hot meal in disposable boxes in selected flights. Prior to that, meal was served in plastic trays.

Initially, there were doubts with regard to the move. Malaysia Airlines has long been noted for its excellent service. It was feared that disposable meal boxes could hurt the image of MAS as a prestigious airlines. However, in my recent trip to Kota Kinabalu with MAS, I found that disposable meal boxes weren’t a bad idea.

First of all, the boxes were nicely designed. Some passengers actually took them home as souvenirs. Second, I flew to Kota Kinabalu in Ramadan – Muslims’ fasting month. Muslim passengers could not eat during the flight but they could bring home the meal.

On the operation side, the airlines’ CEO reviewed that the use of disposable meal boxes had improved the aircraft turnaround time by five minutes.

Environmentalists are likely to be unhappy, though. Now I hope MAS could use recyclable materials for the box.

A side note:

After flying with Air Asia – the budget airlines – a couple of times, I found the seats in MAS aircraft to be very spacious ^^.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008





香港是一个国际商港,英国人在香港推行的英文教育,推行到语文层次即可,或在语文层次上,只达“商用英语” (Business English) 的程度即可,英国文学从来没有受太大重视。



我个人在华校念书,中学时读文言文 之乎者也那些。但却要上了大学才有商用英语的程度,英文文学就更加谈不上了,连读区区一本 The Da Vinci Code 也要翻查字典无数次。华裔中学生,尤其是住在小镇和乡区的,也都是中文比英文强。董教总里的老头子,还有什么发牢骚的理由?


P/S I write this post in Chinese so that I won’t be condemned as a banana man.

Related post: How good is good enough

Monday, October 06, 2008


Several years ago, I worked briefly in Southern California as a contract engineer. During the July 4 holidays, I went to Las Vegas and the Great Canyon with Wilson, my co-worker from Dalian, China.

Both of us were paid on hourly rates. We decided to not take additional leaves, but to make full use of the three days we had. On the first day, we drove from our hotel in Garden Grove, Orange Country to the Sin City. It was a 5-hour drive. Believe it or not, we saw a mini tornado measuring just a few feet tall. The cars stopped at the freeway to wait for the mini tornado cross.

On Day 2 we drove from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and returned on the same day, spending less than 2 hours there. We returned to Orange County on the third day.

We were doing a sightseeing tour at the Grand Canyon. Wilson described the Grand Canyon as a natural wonder which we “see once and go” (看一眼). That was exactly what we did.

Today, I regret for not spending more time there. There were more to do at the Grand Canyon than mere sightseeing. We could have stayed overnight in the park, and immerse in the unusual atmosphere. Both Wilson and I had been working very hard. Why didn't we just relax and recharge beside one of the greatest wonder of the world???

P/S Kikey Loo has traveled to numerous national parks in the US. She is definitely smarter than me. You can read her interesting stories here.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Democracy – USA vs. Malaysia

On September 29, 2008, US lawmakers rejected a US$700bil bailout plan for the financial industry in a shock vote that sent the world market tumbling. By a vote of 228-to-205, the House of Representatives rejected the plan that would have allowed the Treasury Department to buy up toxic dept from struggling banks.

Ironically, out of the 228 Representatives who voted against the plan, 133 were Republicans. You are reminded that President Bush was himself was a Republican. The remaining 65 Representatives from the party supported the plan. Among the Democrats, 140 voted for the bailout plan, while 95 were against it.

In America, Representatives do NOT always toe the party line! Analysts believed that “public opinion” was the force that defeated the plan. Americans were unhappy with the White House’s intention to save the Wall Street using taxpayers’ money.

In Malaysia, Members of Parliament are expected to toe the party line, even if this is against the interests of the voters who elected them. If they fail to comply, they will be sacked from all positions they hold and dropped from future general election.

In theory, MPs are the agents of the voters. The voters are their bosses. In practice, the party is above everything else. This is Malaysian democracy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Getting High in the Sky

Malaysia-based Air Asia is a no-frills airline. In an Air Asia flight, food and drinks are not served for free. A bottle of 500ml mineral water can easily set you back about RM4, or more than a US dollar.

By comparison, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is a conventional, full service airline which includes the food and beverage charges in the ticket price. In long-haul flights, MAS even serves beer, wine, vodka and other alcoholic drinks. Since they are complementary, many passengers just drink as much as they could.

I believe full service airlines should consider to stop serving alcoholic drinks, or at least not without additional charge. There are a few reasons for doing so:

First, it helps airlines to cut cost, and the savings can be, and should be, passed on to the passengers.

Second, beer and wine, together with trolleys used to transport them, are heavy. Offloading them from the aircraft reduces its weight and thereby cuts fuel consumption.

Third, a drunken passenger can be a trouble-maker, even ground the plane. (Try google for “plane emergency landing drunk” and you’ll know what I mean.)

Fourth, as a teetotaler, I don’t like to “indirectly” foot the alcohol bills of other passengers.

There are many non-drinkers in the world. For a start, Muslims are prohibited to drink. Buddhists are Sikhs are also discouraged to do so, even though the rule, or precept, is never enforced. Even in the West, there are a growing number of teetotalers. U.S. President George W. Bush and his Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson are two examples. Finally, many people drink occasionally, but don’t see it as a must.

Travel writer Shann K (许彩平) is a former stewardess with MAS. In her book (飞同凡想), she writes:

[Translation from Chinese]

Prior to landing, the passenger drank a lot of beer. As soon as the plane touched down, he unfastened his seat belt and wanted to go to the lavatory. The plane was still taxiing. For safety reason [co-worker] Owen stopped him from using the lavatory. Perhaps he no longer could wait, or perhaps he was too drunk, this guy leaned against a window and urinated there! Everyone else was stunned looking at him.