Personal Projects

31 March 2009

Google is famous for the “20% time”, where each engineering staff is expected to allot 20% of their work time to personal projects, which may or may not contribute to Google’s bottomline. The idea is simple: to foster a creative atmosphere where smart, intelligent people can thrive without the artificial shackles that come from being a public listed company. The effort is so far successful — many of Google’s coolest apps came from the ideas borne during the 20% time.

That’s why I believe you should spend a few hours a week on projects completely unrelated to your daily job. These projects should not be pursued only for monetary reason. Instead, you should do projects you enjoy, projects for which you can see yourself working for many years. Having side projects will add meaning to your life, and achieving your goal in the end will give you a sense of achievement you might never earn in your workplace.

Some of my friends opt for side businesses: selling cupcakes, doing design work, running a tuition center. I found that they are more interesting to talk to, compared to people whose life is just work, TV and sleep.

Me? I am already running a full time business, so the last thing I need is another side business to add to my headache. I prefer more intellectual activities to do in my spare time. Currently, I am working on:

1. Editing a volume of a series on mathematics.

Currently, I am working on Volume 1 in this series, and I am the sole author and editor. I was asked by my colleagues in Persatuan Sains Matematik Malaysia to write a math text since 2007, but I have been dragging my feet (I have a short attention span and cannot write long chapters in one sitting). I hope to get my first volume published in August 2009, and then I’m going to work on the next Volume which should come out early 2010.

Level of Activity: High, I am spending my nights doing typesetting work on LaTeX and drawing geometric diagrams on WinGCLC. Currently at 150 pages.

Pace: Fast, I wrote and edited the first 50 pages in one weekend.

2. Writing a book on the history of economic systems.

I am planning to write a readable account of history from the perspective of an economist, spanning the prehistoric era to the modern era. In particular, I plan to write about how economic systems evolve, and how capitalism has been the best economic system to create wealth and prosperity.

Level of Activity: Low. I am not an expert in this field, so I need to do a lot of reading and research. I have to keep up with daily news and analyses by real experts. Also, since this is agenda-driven, there is a possibility that I might change my mind in the future and discontinue this work (hopefully not). Nowadays people blame capitalism for the economic problem, so the thesis a tough sell, especially in a quasi-socialist country like Malaysia.

Pace: Snaillike. I am lucky if I can finish this in 10 years.

3. Writing a booklet on entrepreneurship.

This is a project currently in the backburner. The idea is to write a booklet and put it up online for free as public service. But it takes way too much time than I can afford to spend right now.

Level of Activity: Low to nonexisting.

Pace: One chapter per month, should be done by end of this year.

4. Writing a series of children math books

Last year, Pn. Ainon Mohd. @ Sifu, President of PTS Publications & Distributors SB, suggested that I write a series of fun expository books on mathematics, targeted for (in her own words) “budak-budak Melayu yang bodoh matematik disebabkan oleh faktor2 sekitaran yang tidak mendukung.” It’s a very nice project and I hope to get starting soon.

Level of Activity/Pace: Zero. Might be nonzero after August (maybe).

5. Recording an oral history of early Malaysia.

This is just an idea I floated around a few friends. So far responses have been positive. No activity yet.

Please share your personal projects in the comment below.

Rendering unto Caesar

31 March 2009

Tax time is coming.

When I worked desk jobs, I never really cared about taxes. I only had to copy the numbers from Borang AE into the tax form, write a check for a puny amount, mail it out and that’s it.

Now things are not so simple. I own a few partnership companies and private limited (Sdn. Bhd.) companies. First of all, as owner, I have to make sure the books are in order for the auditors. I don’t have a staff to do that, I have to dig the files myself.

Then, there are more than one kind of taxes. For the partnership companies, I have to pay personal income tax, while for the Sdn. Bhd. companies, I have to pay corporate taxes. On top of that, I earned salary from my company and for some other jobs I did with other companies. That means complicated tax codes to decipher and coming up with even more complicated schemes to reduce the amount I have to pay.

We do not have an accountant in the company; I have to do the accounts myself. I never studied finance or accounting in college, so in this area I am one of the Dummies for whom “XXX for Dummies” books are written. My personal favorite is “Accounting and Finance for Non-Specialists” by Atrill and MacLaney. I learnt all my accounting from this book, and also from Wikipedia (of course).

I met our auditor yesterday, he estimated that I have to pay a total of RM 40K in taxes. Look, I am young and poor. I am not a rich person. RM 40K is TOO MUCH to give back to the government.

It’s like working hard for ten months in a year, and then working another two months for free while the government take all the money. We all work very hard here; the profits we made are not the effort of 100 people, it’s the job of a few people in the company who busted their asses (thanks Iznan, Fazdlee and Luqman).

Malaysia has a progressive tax code: people earning more will pay a higher percentage of taxes. That’s why business owners and rich people are more passionate about the tax issue. And that’s why I am a libertarian when it comes to the economy. I believe in small government and lower taxes.

I will write more about libertarianism, after I’m done with the paperwork that I have to finish for the audit.

Anybody with suggestions how to reduce taxes?

Ten Simple Rules of Writing

27 March 2009

(From Aidan Directors Blog, 27 March 2009)

I cannot call myself a writer, since I have not published anything of note. But reading what passes as “writing” on the Internet: blog entries, websites, editorials, ad copies, even newspaper columns, sometimes make me cringe.

These are ten simple rules to make your writing not suck. Nothing new here, just old wisdom repackaged for the Facebook generation.

Rule One: Omit unnecessary words.

This is the cardinal rule of Will Strunk, the greatest writing teacher of the past century. He would cross out extraneous words with relish in front of his students, and would often repeat the mantra: Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!

If Will Strunk is alive now, his Delete button would wear out very quickly.

There are many clumsy phrases, commonly used by lazy writers who put word count above readability. The result is clunky prose, like a camel with a misplaced hump.

Some examples are (to borrow George Orwell): “cannot be left out of account”, “a development to be expected in the near future”, “deserving of serious consideration”, “brought to a satisfactory conclusion”. Unnecessary words strung together are still unnecessary. Use single words instead – “essential”, “prospective”, “important”, “successful” – and your writing will be tighter in no time.

Will Strunk has more:

Five words are guilty of overuse: extremely, basically, very, quite, really. Get rid of these, and see the quality of your writing go up.

Rule Two: Use short sentences.

Long sentences are exactly that: long. They do not make you sound more intelligent. The only place where a long sentence is called for is when you want to break the monotony of your prose. Even then, long sentences can be annoying, if not constructed properly according to rhythm.

The cure is simple: write short sentences. Like this one. If the sentence you just wrote is too long, cut it in half and put a conjunction in between.

Rule Three: Concentrate on the content, not on the style.

Write down what you want to say. Give minimal thoughts to style. A good argument will stand on its own, even if written on a template.

Style is a crutch for people with nothing much to say. Even then, appealing to style usually ends awkwardly, as is bound to happen to people who try too hard. Only experienced writers can play their style comfortably. Overdoing style leads to annoying writing (see Annie Proulx.)

Bring the reader’s attention to what is being written, not to you.

Rule Four: Do not be overly clever or “snarky”.

I repeat: write down what you want to say. “Snark” (snide remark) is no substitute for substance.

People who try to be overly clever always come across as underachievers who need to validate themselves at each turn.

Avoid clichés. Nothing spells “bad writer” like using a cliché to make your point.

Rule Five: Use precise words.

This is harder than it sounds. A decent writer must not only know words, but the ways words are used and misused. A misused word can diminish your credibility.

Do not use an uncommon word if you are not sure what it means. An uncommon word is rarely precise. More often than not, the precise word in a given context is a common word.

One of my pet peeves is when people use “myriad” wrongly. “Myriad” is a noun with a specific meaning, i.e., the number ten thousand (pl. “myriads”, tens of thousands). However, modern usage allows it to be used as an adjective, to mean a great quantity, e.g., “Myriad of villagers…”. However, it should be used only when dealing with quantities of that order of magnitude. It is incorrect to say “a myriad of reasons”. You do not have ten thousand reasons.

Rule Six: The soul of wit is brevity.

A bad joke is a sign of weak writing skills. There are two common mistakes when writing a joke: setting up the joke too much, and explaining the joke to the reader. Both mistakes will cause the joke to fall flat, and in the process insult the intelligence of your readers. Jokes should be brisk and sharp.

There is an analogue in real life: the funniest jokes are those told in a deadpan manner, with no change in emotion or facial expression.

Rule Seven: Proofread.

Check your spelling. American and British English are both acceptable, so do not sweat about choosing between British or American spelling. Nobody take that distinction seriously anymore.

It is common to make errors in subject-verb agreements, especially among non-native English speakers. One or two slips are fine; you can guarantee such errors will happen even in respectable publications like Newsweek (which, by the way, has sloppy editing.) Try not to make too many errors, or risk irritating your readers.

Rule Eight: Use the active voice.

Active voice adds energy to your verbs, while passive voice makes your verbs lean on the wall for support.

Rule Nine: Handle idioms carefully.

You have just read a cool expression in some hip publication and now you want to use it in your blog. Take it easy. Make sure you really know what the expression means.

Even commonplace idioms have to be applied with care. Using idioms incorrectly screams “amateur”. There are alternatives to every idiom: by using commonplace phrases, you can guard against error.

Rule Ten: The more you write, the more rules you can break, but not earlier.

Experienced writers and celebrity authors can get away with anything. You are neither. Go back to your grammar rules and stick to it.


For further reading, I recommend these classics:

The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (1918)

Politics and the English Language by George Orwell (1946)

I Love Frank Zappa

19 March 2009

I first saw this video in 2003, and yesterday I had the urge to look for this video again. I found it on Youtube. This video is quite long (more than 20 minutes), but I strongly recommend you watch the whole thing.

Zappa is golden in this video. The flubber guy on his left is talking nonsense the whole time. And Bob Novak looked OLD even twenty years ago. hehe.


My Undergraduate Days

19 March 2009

(From Aidan Directors Blog, 16 March 2009)

ANNOUNCEMENT: MIT Club of Malaysia will organize the annual Undergraduate Admissions Talk on the 21st of March (Saturday) at the Royal Selangor Golf Club. I will be on the panel to talk about the MIT admission process. Newly admitted students will address the audience to share their experience in the admission process.

Details at .

Congratulations to my student Saw Yihui for her acceptance to MIT Class of 2013. She received the decision yesterday and informed me on the phone earlier this morning. I’m sure she will do well at MIT.

Also, congratulations to my other student, Loke Zhi Kin. Zhi Kin got admitted to Caltech. I wish him all the best.

Let me reminisce a little about my undergraduate days.

I attended high school at MRSM Jasin, where I met Khairul, Alif and Akmal. After that, I did a prep course at UiTM Section 17 Campus, known as the International Education Centre (INTEC), where I met Iznan. After a year at INTEC, I went abroad to do my undergraduate studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

MIT is the place where math nerds and hacker kids go to school, or so the stereotype goes. The reality is more complicated; MIT is famous for its engineering and science departments (the most popular major is computer science) but MIT also have decent humanities and arts departments. But stereotypes exist for a reason, and MIT is awash with nerds who can solve triple integrals in their head, and dweebs who think that staying up all-night coding in assembly language is more fun than frat parties. MIT students and administrators try too hard to suppress their nerdy side, giving out shiny, colorful pamphlets to potential students showcasing our “diverse”, “lively”, and “vibrant” student body. Yes, MIT have its share of archetypical college types, the Euro-Asian girl with a Ukranian father and a Korean mother, who lived in Senegal and Paraguay, who shaves her head for charity and wears goth fashion, who double-majors in Nuclear Engineering and Anthropology, who spends her summer break trekking Himalaya, who listens to emo rock and plays intramural curling (you get the idea). All those pretensions aside, MIT is a big place for big nerds.

I am one of the math nerds, so I majored in (surprise!) mathematics. At MIT, math majors like to think that people in engineering look up to us. We, symbol-jugglers who think up deep theorems that could never find any use in the real world, did our part by thumbing our collective noses at people who applies knowledge to solve real-life problems. This is just harmless snobbery. The same goes to people in theoretical physics. They pooh-pooh the lower rung of scientists who actually do experiments in a lab. And let’s not talk about them engineers, with their three significant digits and real life approximations. Leave us physicists alone with our spherical cow.

Sometimes math majors are actually useful. This is because every undergraduate has to take freshman calculus and freshman physics, and if you belong to the rare breed who gets admitted to MIT but is no good in math, you can always rely on the math majors to differentiate your inverse trigonometric functions for you.

What struck me when I first arrived there, was how MIT people always put function over form. MIT have shabby buildings compared to the lush, sprawling suburban campuses in Malaysia. The campus is located on the ugly, industrial side of Boston, and there is no place on campus worth taking pictures at. That does not stop tourists from clicking away with MIT buildings as background, to let other people know they have been to MIT.

The hacker culture at MIT is legendary. The is a student group on campus called the Student Information Processing Board (SIPB, pronounced “sip-bee”). According to their official website, SIPB is “MIT’s volunteer student group dedicated to computing”, but really, these are some of the best hackers in the world. The is a (perhaps apocryphal) story about SIPB people hacking government computers at a top secret facility. Truly believable story, if you ask me. I still remember a SIPB guy who is blind, and used a special Braille computer. I can’t even write a single line of code in any programming language, but this guy can *hack* using Braille. “Dedicated to computing”, indeed.

At MIT, there is this really long corridor connecting the east and west sides of campus, and being nerds that we are, the corridor is named the Infinite Corridor. When I first arrived on campus, I stayed temporarily at the west side, and I learned that I have to cross the whole length of Infinite Corridor to get to the math department. I felt that the trip is too long, so to save time on daily commute, I applied for an east campus dorm before semester started. It turned out that the Infinite Corridor is not that long, after you crossed it about four thousand times. Wikipedia told me the Infinite Corridor is 251 meters long.

In terms of politics, the conventional wisdom on campus is left of center, thanks to the East Coast location and the liberal, educated population of the Greater Boston area. Noam Chomsky, famous left wing thinker, is professor emeritus at MIT.

Due to MIT’s proximity to that other school (I can’t remember the name, it starts with an H and rhymes with Barvard), often comparisons are made and good-natured rivalry between the two schools are fostered. However, the rivalry is somewhat mild. MIT can’t match Harvard in sports, so the rivalry is about who has the bigger brains.

MIT student body are constituted somewhat differently from that of Harvard. Because Harvard have the Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Law School, Harvard tend to attract a higher percentage of “leaderly” types compared to MIT. MIT breed technocrats: people know their technical stuff well. There is a saying (I’m paraphrasing), that MIT people can be very smart, but they’ll end up working with some idiot with a Harvard MBA. People who go from Boston to Washington are usually from Harvard, not MIT. Although MIT have a faculty member who served as the director of CIA.

MIT truly sucks at sport (surprise!). I pity the football team. They don’t have cheerleaders, and nobody goes to see their games. MIT students are not willing to sacrifice precious coding time to watch our proud football team, the Engineers (heh) getting trampled by some hick college team from rural Massachusetts.

One thing I enjoyed at MIT is the view. MIT is situated along the Charles River. The MIT president at the time was Charles Vest. People call him Chuck Vest. Naturally some people call the river Chuck River. During winter time, the river is frozen so people can walk on it. It is said that in the old days, many MIT students fell into the Charles and drowned. That’s why MIT put a requirement that all undergraduates must pass a swim test in order to graduate. During nonwinter months, there are many activities you can do on Charles: yacht, kayak, crew. I tried crew once, and it ended up with my shoulders aching for a few days. Better stick to doing math.

The downside of MIT (and Boston in general) is the winter season. To give you an idea of how bad it is, it snows in *April*. I don’t mind the snow but I hate the windchill which feels just slightly better than locking yourself in a fridge. And I can do without the slippery sidewalks. After some time, I would fall on the sidewalk so many times, that I can take a walk with a girl and fall many times without feeling embarassed at all.

I didn’t drive in Boston because I did not have a license, so I took the subway (known as the “T”) everywhere. The T is not much better than the subway system in KL. In fact some of the stations are dirty and dangerous, and you would find there beggars and creepy old men in trenchcoats. My female friend told me she was flashed at a subway station once. Although Boston is safer compared to, say, Detroit or Chicago, I didn’t go out alone after midnight.

Bostonians are proud of their sports teams, and deservedly so. Boston Red Sox won the World Series 2004, after last winning it in 1918. Some people believe the long winless streak is caused by the “Curse of the Bambino”. As expected, the resulting celebration quickly turned into a riot. If I remember correctly, one student got shot during the riot. The football team is New England Patriots (but really a Boston team), which won the Superbowl in 2001, 2003 and 2004.

Another thing MIT is famous for is the Hacks. Basically, a hack is a cool engineering feat done by anonymous “hackers”, often in the middle of the night, for the public to see and enjoy during daylight. Sometimes hacks require an incredible amount of engineering ingenuity, but the result is worth every effort. Hacks are thought-provoking, funny, and most importantly, do not cause damage to property. You can read more about MIT Hacks at

I spent four years at MIT, and graduated in 2005 with a degree in mathematics and writing (although I’m not very good at both). I still keep in touch with my college friends, especially those from the Senior Haus and the math department.

Now I miss my MIT. Who wants to go to Boston with me? 🙂

There Is No Alternative To Working Hard (No, Not Even Working “Smart”, Whatever That Means)

19 March 2009

(From Aidan Directors Blog, 12 March 2009)

To achieve anything worthwhile, you have to work hard. Try to think about a single achievement that you can achieve without any hard work. I can come up with only one: winning the lottery. Since the odds of winning a lottery is miniscule, not to mention playing the lottery is haram, we can discard this one out. Every achievement, however small, requires hard work.

There is no substitute to hard work. You may have gotten a degree from a top university (that itself require hard work), but if you slack off in real life, you will not achieve anything great. Maybe you’ll become a corporate drone or a career bureaucrat; respectable, but not great. You may have inherited millions from your parents, and enjoy all the money, without working a single day in your life. In ten years, you would have used up all the trust fund money and you would be forced to work for a living. That’s why rich spoiled brats always end up in mediocrity, unlike their parents. You may be a talented person – in music, in sports, in arts – but without hard work, you will never end up like Nicol David, but rather like the national football team.

Working hard is the sign of growing up. Children and teenagers don’t like to work hard because it is not considered cool to study all the time. Even top students try their best to hide the fact that they study a lot, so they would be considered a “slacker genius” by their friends. Being a “slacker genius” is a social asset among schoolkids, while being a “nerd” is so not cool. That is the work ethics for children and teenagers, and that’s why they are not in charge of anything important.

Unfortunately, some people bring that kind of work ethic to their workplace. They want to appear to be competent, without actually working hard. So, the only alternative is to bullshit their way around the office. When the paperwork is not done on time, it’s because “we’re still enumerating all the possible plans of actions, and until we have weighed all the relevant considerations, we will not commit in black and white our deliverables for your further review”. This kind of bullshit talk is prevalent in corporate setting by stupid people who can’t get a simple job done without feeling like doing hard labor in Soviet gulag. Business jargons are often used to mask incompetence and laziness. It amuses me that some people who never worked at a corporate office are fond of business jargons. People who know better understand that business jargons are bullshit.

Try the Bullshit Bingo!:

Some people, in lieu of hard work, use their political skills to get ahead in the workplace. I do not have a problem with this group because 1) politics is hard work in itself; 2) compared to the bullshitters, political animals are actually competent people. I love when I see political animals in action. They can be very skillful and manipulative – talking to people softly, building alliance, creating drama, dishing dirt on their enemies, stabbing people at the back, and flirting with the boss. Short of fucking your boss to get a promotion, I think office politics are fair game.

But I digress.

I am pissed off by people with mediocre work ethics. There is a difference between not doing your job well because you hated it, and not doing your job well because you are lazy. The first group made a bad choice and have to live with the consequences. The second group is simply irredeemable. Lazy people pisses me off to no end. Incidentally, these are the people who complain the loudest about the “economy”, about how “the government is doing nothing”, and about how the boss is an asshole. No, you are the problem. Your work is shit and you are a liability to your employer. Mark my word, you will not get anywhere in life with that attitude. I will not be surprised to see you at the same desk after ten years, still bitter about being yelled at by the Boss who makes more in a month than you make in a year.

Stupid people who don’t like to work are leeches of society. Fortunately, there are no unemployment welfare system in Malaysia, unlike in the US. During the last general election, some political parties wanted to make Malaysia a welfare state. I’m glad they lost. Yes, by all means help the poor and the downtrodden, but do not give money to people who don’t want to work. Cradle-to-grave social security will bankrupt the country.

The same stupid people are those who swallow totally the promise of quick riches so they don’t have to work anymore. Pamphlets for “skim cepat kaya” often include testimonials like this:

Dulu saya kerja dispatch sahaja. Gaji sebulan tak sampai RM700. Hidup saya sengsara, duit cukup-cukup je untuk bayar makan dan sewa. Semenjak saya mengikuti program Cepat Kaya ini, saya mendapat RM1000 setiap hari. Kalau tak percaya, tengok penyata bank saya di bawah ni. Sekarang saya goyang kaki sahaja di rumah, tak perlu penat-penat bekerja, pun duit masuk. Umpama duit datang dari langit.

I will not comment on the get-rich-quick scheme and how destructive it is, because many people have written about it. I just want to point out is that this man, who started off with an honest job as a dispatch, actually thinks that “goyang kaki di rumah” while waiting for “duit datang dari langit” is something to aspire to. How screwed up is our society when people think that not working while waiting for illegal money is something to strive for? Doesn’t work ethic means anything to people anymore? And they think that waiting at home and “goyang kaki” is better than earning a honest living? People are morons.

Making Money is Not Wrong

19 March 2009

(From Aidan Directors Blog, 24 February 2009)

When people ask me why I get into business, without hesitation I tell them, “because I want to make more money”.

I do not apologize for believing in such. Some of my friends look at me funny when I told them so. These are the same people who always complain and ramble on and on about how the economy is getting worse, how prices are going up and how hard it is to make ends meet these days. These people are contradicting themselves when they even insinuate that making more money is not good.

Am I greedy? If I am greedy, then by the same logic, the women selling nasi lemak at the roadside stall is greedy. She should sell nasi lemak for 50 sen per packet because that is how much the cost of rice, coconut milk, chilli, egg, onion, anchovies, peanut, cucumber, banana leaf, cooking oil, gas, and labor to make one packet of nasi lemak. She should not sell one packet for RM1.50. She should not charge higher than what she spent, because what’s her business making money all for herself when other people need that money to buy something else other than nasi lemak. So greedy of her.

Making money is not greedy. Making more money is not greedy. Making a lot of money is not greedy. Making money is why we go to work. We go to work not because we want to make this world a better place, but to make money. Sorry to sound harsh, but I am being realistic. This is what you believe as well, but you are afraid to say it.

Money is the modern currency. If you look down on people making money, let’s see how much you like to labor all day and get paid by grains and livestock.

Of course, some people act all high and mighty and ascetic when I talk about making money (they are actually jealous).
“Cukup lah apa yang ada”
“Bersyukurlah rezeki yang ada ni, buat apa nak cari duit banyak-banyak lagi”
“Duit banyak-banyak ni tak bawak kemana pun”
When these people get cancer and stuck with a RM 20,000 hospital bill with RM 4,000 in their bank account, let’s see how much they “feel grateful” because “they already have enough”.

People say money is not the solution. This is true in an abstract, metaphysical, moral, ethical dimension. In real life, money solves problems. Almost all of it. For any one example you can give of how money makes things worse (e.g., spoiled brats), I can counter with one hundred examples of how money makes things better.

Anything that needs fixing – potholes or the economy – can only be fixed when one has money. The condition of having no money, or owing other people more money than you can possibly earn, is called bankrupt. Lehman Brothers is bankrupt. Bernie Madoff is bankrupt, but still lives in a huge mansion. Donald Trump’s casino group is going bankrupt. The state of California is almost bankrupt (the Terminator, indeed). Bankruptcy is a bad thing; we call bad people morally bankrupt, not morally liquid. Without money, you are impotent and useless and you have to file petition with the courts to protect you from your debtors. You can’t travel abroad, and you can’t own any asset under your name. Having no money sucks.

Making money is not dirty, and should not be frowned upon.

It is human to like money. Sugary Hollywood films teach you that “money can’t buy love.” This gives hope to slackers everywhere, who thinks that their girlfriends will stay true to them and not run away with other guys with a steady job. This is typical Hollywood pablum, which happens as often in the real world as the occurrence of a slum kid becoming a millionaire. We human love when our needs are fulfilled. Other than a few exceptions (sexual and emotional needs, for instance), most needs are fulfilled by money. This is not buying love. This is about expressing gratitude to the person who brings the dough. And good feeling (gratitude) begets another good feeling (love).

I am not apologetic when I tell people that I want to make money. I am getting into business to make money. I work hard, sleep late, and go to office on weekends to make money. Making money is good. Those who disagree are full of shit.


While we are talking about money, let’s talk about charity.

Money is a force of good. While I’m not a big fan of billionaire type charities, I do commend anyone who gives to charity. In this department, rich people can do more good than poor people. It is heart-warming to see poor people give what little they have, but in reality, rich people do more good by giving what they have.

To illustrate this point, let me give you a hypothetical situation: on one hand, we have William Gates III, of Seattle, Washington, with net worth of US$40 billion. On the other hand, Prakesh, of Mumbai slum, net worth US$2. Both person want to donate to a local charity. Bill gives US$1,000 and Prakesh gives US$1 (in the local currency). Who had done more good?

It is the morally correct position to say that Prakesh had done more good since he had sacrificed half of his belongings. Bill had given not even one millionth of what he owns. So Prakesh is an angel, while Mr. Gates is a stingy rich asshole. Right?

Wrong. Imagine you are dying in the slum area of Mumbai and the only chance to save you is an emergency operation in a hospital. You have no money. Will you take Prakash’s dollar, or Bill’s one thousand dollar? You bet your ass you’ll jump at Bill’s grand faster than Internet Explorer picks up spyware. Suddenly, Bill is not a rich asshole anymore, eh? And Prakash can take his dollar and buy pratha for all you care.

This is supply side charity. Even if Bill gave US$2, he had done twice as much good as Prakash. I am not saying that Bill is the better person, but in this particular instance, he had surely done more good. What matters in giving money is not how good you feel about yourself, or how much you sacrificed, but rather how much money goes to the recipient and how much good it does to her. Charity is for the recipient to benefit, not the other way round. If it does not benefit the recipient much, not much good is done, although the giver feels warm and fuzzy inside.

So stop feeling like a saint when you give 50 sen to a roadside beggar. Call it what it is: a meaningless act that keeps you from guilt.

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