Get a Job!

29 April 2009

In my previous entry, There Is No Alternative To Working Hard (No, Not Even Working “Smart”, Whatever That Means), I professed my disgust with people who treat honest work with disdain, and people who seek fast money.

Some would say: What about the people who got laid off? Surely they can’t be blamed for wanting to get easy money to pay their bills? In this bad economic condition, it’s hard to get a job, and the government is not doing enough to alleviate the suffering of people who got laid off and find it difficult to land a new job. Surely they deserve some sympathy?

Whine whine whine…

Blah blah blah, government do this, government do that. Why don’t YOU, for a change, do something for yourself?

This is what I say to the people who got laid off: stop whining, and get a job. Any job.

I can say all this with a straight face is because I never beg for jobs. I have never been on a job hunt. I have attended a grand total of ONE job interview in my whole life. I don’t go around sending my CV to companies and checking JobStreet every morning.

Why? Because rather than seeking jobs, I create jobs. I have made a decision a few years ago, that I will not be at the mercy of “the management”. I wanted to be the master of my own destiny. And so I decided to be an entrepreneur.

I didn’t whine, I didn’t complain, I didn’t bang tables at coffeeshops, I didn’t write blog entries expressing my anger to the world, I didn’t cry in my mother’s arms, I didn’t go around asking my uncles during Hari Raya about jobs at their firms.

I just took whatever money I have in the bank (almost all of it) and invested in a startup. In my first year of operation, I paid salary to five full-time employees and a few part-timers. Until today, I never failed to meet a payroll.

I am not a rich person. I do not come from a rich family. I never asked a single cent from a family member to use on my business. I took out my own meager savings, calculated my risks, and learned how to run a business from other successful people. I worked hard, and now I enjoy a moderate success. I am not rich, but I don’t go to work everyday in constant fear of whether I will still have my job the next month, or whether my pay will be cut because the company is doing a “cost-cutting exercise”.

I have a low tolerance for people who whine. You, as an adult, have to be responsible for all your actions and decisions. Putting blame on others (the government, the management, the “capitalists”, Wall Street, etc) is lazy and childish.

If you are risk-averse and think that the entrepreneurial life is not for you, then the alternative is to shut up, swallow your ego, get your ass moving and go get a job.

I am sorry to be harsh, but whiners piss me off big time.


Short Updates 4

28 April 2009

Persatuan Sains Matematik Malaysia (PERSAMA) have shortlisted six students to represent Malaysia in the annual International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), which will be held this July in Bremen, Germany.

The students are:

  • Joshua Lim Kai Tsen, Form 4, St. David High School, Melaka
  • Loke Zhi Kin, INTI University College, Nilai
  • Mohammad Fakhrul Farhan b. Mohd, Kolej MARA Kuala Nerang
  • Muhammad Aqil b. Kamarudin, Kolej Islam Sultan Alam Shah, Klang
  • Muhammad Syafiq b. Johar, Kolej MARA Banting
  • Tham Ying Hong, Form 3, Catholic High School, PJ

Congratulations to all six students, and we wish you all the best in the IMO. Make Malaysia proud!

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I made up this riddle about a month ago:

I am made of metal.

I vibrate when my switch is turned on.

Sometimes, women put me in between their legs and switch me on, just for fun.

Sometimes a man joins her.

What am I?


Favorite Ad #2

22 April 2009

This is a classic ad for Wendy’s, called “Where’s the Beef?” (1984).

(Wendy’s is a fast food joint.)

I like this ad because:

It sells burgers. Wendy’s sales skyrocketed after this ad came out.

It is catchy. When this ad started playing in 1984, it was just a matter of time before everyone was saying “where’s the beef?”. Walter Mondale famously used the line during a Democratic primary debate, implying that his opponent’s ideas were all hot air. I am sure porn directors also got ideas from this ad.

It is straight to the point. People want only one thing on their burgers. Beef.

Full transcript of the ad:

[Three elderly women are looking at a burger, at a place called “Home of the Big Bun”. The “burger” has a big bun and a very small patty.]

Old Woman 1: It’s certainly is a big bun.

Old Woman 2: It’s a very big bun.

Old Woman 1: Big, fluffy bun.

Old Woman 2: It’s a very big, fluffy…bun.

Old Woman 3: Where’s the beef?

[Announcer: Some hamburger places give you a lot less beef on a lot of bun.]

Old Woman 3: Where’s the beef?

[Announcer: At Wendy’s, we serve a hamburger we modestly call a Single, and Wendy’s Single has more beef than a Whopper or Big Mac. At Wendy’s, you get more beef and less bun.]

Old Woman 3: Hey, where’s the beef? I don’t think there’s anybody back there.

[Announcer: You want something better, you’re Wendy’s kind of people.]


Make Money First

22 April 2009

(From Aidan Directors Blog, 20 April 2009)

If your business doesn’t make money, you fail in business.

People who just started a business often get sidetracked early on. The first thing they do is making their business looks good. They print custom envelopes, custom letterheads, custom forms, custom business cards, custom store signs, custom this and that. All of these unnecessary and a waste of money.

I saw this error committed enough times among my friends who had just started their businesses. They focus on making their businesses look good, not making their businesses profitable. Please, it doesn’t matter if it looks good or not if nobody is looking. Don’t buy the hype about “building brands”. Worry about it when you have money to pay rent and meet payroll.

For company letterhead, you can embed your company header in Microsoft Words, so it’ll appear when you print out documents. This way is cheaper than printing company stationeries you rarely use. You don’t need custom envelopes. The prettiest envelope in the world gets thrown into the wastebasket after it is opened. As for forms and stuff, you can download templates for all kinds of documents (invoice, form, receipt, quotation) online.

The only things you need to establish your business identity are 1) a rubber stamp and 2) a stack of business cards. A cheap one will do; wait until you make your first hundred thousand before you get glossy business cards. Using glossy business cards when you’re not making money is like putting lipstick on a pig. The cost of buying a self-inking rubber stamp is RM40 and the cost of printing a business card is about RM30 per 100 cards. And you can get cheaper if you shop around a little. That’s all the “brand identity” you need, if you’re just opening shop.

They (people who have yet to make a single dollar from their “business”) hire graphic designers to create a smorgasbord of “corporate identities”: company logos, company fonts, brochures, website designs. Might as well throw the money down the rubbish chute.

They also insist on top-of-the-line business machines. They buy new desktop computers, full color laser printers and photocopy machines. Unless you are opening a photocopy store or a law firm, it’s cheaper not to have a photocopy machine in your office. The extra time you saved by doing photocopies in the office rather than taking a walk to the nearby photocopy store, is not worth the money you spend to lease or buy a photocopy machine.

Let’s not get started with the furniture. With expensive full sofa set in the reception area (why they even need a reception area is another mystery) to serve a grand total of two guests per month. With expensive ergonomic leather chairs and brand new business desks. With teak wood cabinets to store business supplies and files (but not invoices, because there are none). Waste of good money that should go into product development and hiring cheap labor to get it done.

You don’t need accounting software if you make fifteen transactions a month. Learn to use Excel. You only need accounting software if you run a business with large inventory and frequent sales (for example, if you run a pharmacy). Other than that, managing books by hand is more efficient and reliable.

Rent cheap office. Don’t rent an expensive office just because you think the address will impress people. They won’t. Choose your office based on practical considerations: is it easy to find by my customers, are there parking spaces nearby, is it close to a restaurant / masjid / photocopy store, is it accessible by public transport.

The main reason why people go out of business a short time after they started out is because a huge sum is thrown away to buy things for the office which are not essential to the business of making money.

Go cheap, people. Make money first.


Films I Like #1: Paper Moon (1973)

22 April 2009

Paper Moon (1973)

Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

Starring: Ryan O’Neal & Tatum O’Neal

paper-moon

The Story
The film is set in Midwestern US during the Great Depression. A 9-year old tomboyish girl, Addie Loggins, was attending his mother’s funeral. The mother was killed in an auto accident. During the funeral, she met a man, Moses Prey, who was a close friend of her mother (Moses is implied throughout the film to be Addie’s father, though he denied this). Moses took Addie to the train station to send her to her relatives. On the way, Moses stopped by to see the person who was involved in the accident that killed Addie’s mother, and managed to blackmail some money out from him. Moses did not realize that Addie eavesdropped on their conversation.

While waiting for the train, Moses took her to a restaurant to get some “Nehi and a Coney Island” (Nehi is a brand of cola, and Coney Island is a hot dog dish like the one in A&W).  In the restaurant, Addie asked whether Moses is her father, which Moses denied vehemently. She then told him that she listened to the conversation about his mother’s accident, and that she deserved a share of $200. I love this scene:

Moses had already spent the money on a new car, so he took Addie to travel with him, with the promise that he would pay back the money once he got it. He was a professional conmen, and made his living conning gullible people out of money. He made Addie his sidekick because people are more trusting when a cute child is involved. She adopted the name Addie Prey.

One of their tricks was to check the newspaper obituary section for the name of a recently departed person, and then go and see his widow, and tell her that the deceased husband had ordered a “deluxe Bible” as a gift to her before his death. As a proof, he would show the widow a Bible stamped with the widow’s name (which he had also gotten from the obit) on gold lettering. The widow would then feel obliged to pay an inflated price for the Bible.

Moses and Addie traveled all over the country, and bonded together. There were adventures and misadventures in their trip, often involving some kind of tricks played by slick Moses on unsuspecting victims, and Addie learning the tricks and performed it on other suckers:

Despite their close relationship, the duo argue all the time (the banter between Addie and Moses makes some of the best film scenes). Moses became increasingly protective towards Addie. During their trip, Moses met Trixie, a strip dancer, and became her lover. Moses started caring less for Addie when Trixie started joining Moses and Addie in their cross-country adventure. Addie did not like Trixie, and made life hell for the couple. I can’t remember what happens next (I think Moses found out that Trixie was cheating on him), but the relationship ended.

Moses and Addie then went to Kansas where they tried to con a guy who manufactures illegal whiskey (I think the term is moonshine). It turned out that the con victim is the sheriff’s brother, who chased Moses and Addie all the way to Missouri. Since the sheriff couldn’t arrest him in Missouri, he beat him up and took all his money. Moses blamed all this on Addie, and resolved to send Addie back to her relatives.

Moses send Addie to her aunt’s house, who welcomed her warmly. The house was quiet and orderly, a marked change of pace from the adventurous road life with Moses. However, she felt the change unsettling, and she felt that she like being with Moses better. Outside the house, Moses looked at the photo of Addie sitting on a “paper moon” (she had the photo taken at a carnival booth, with the “paper moon” as the backdrop). Moses then drove away. Before he could go far, Addie ran out with her luggage.

The film ends with a shot of Addie running towards Moses car.

Why is it good?

Chemistry. Addie was played by Tatum O’Neal and Moses by her real life father, Ryan O’Neal. You can’t get better chemistry than real father and daughter.

Acting. Tatum O’Neal is until today the youngest Oscar winner ever for her portrayal of Addie Prey. She won the best supporting actress award in 1974 (although rightfully she plays the leading role) when she was 9.

Father and daughter scenes. I love all scenes with Addie and Moses in it. Addie is simply adorable in her role as sassy, street smart kid. Moses is so slick as a grifter, you can feel the grease on his palm.

Cinematography. Paper Moon is shot in B&W. I love modern B&W films (e.g. Schindler’s List, Raging Bull).

I recommend you see this film. Youtube has the full movie, although I suggest you buy the DVD. Paper Moon is one of my all-time favorite film.


Films I Like

22 April 2009

This is a new feature where I write about films I like.

First of all, I am not a film buff. I’m just a regular guy who like to watch films. I am not interested in postmodern hocus-pocus about symbolism and deeper meaning in films.

Watching films used to be my hobby during my undergraduate days, and I was a member of my college film club. I don’t watch as many films nowadays. It’s an expensive hobby here in Malaysia – buying original DVDs of classics is too expensive (not worth it if I’m going to watch a film just once) and there is no online rental service like Netflix.

I try not to be too pretentious in my choice of films. There will be no foreign films that nobody ever watched. I also try to avoid films that belongs to every list of “all-time best films” like The Godfather and Casablanca; too many people have said too many things about them already.

I will write about films that connects to me personally. The only judge is me. It doesn’t matter if it’s good, if it’s bad, if it’s corny, if it’s deep, if it sucks, if it received good or bad reviews from critics, if it has won Oscars, if it has big stars in it, or if it’s in “best films” lists – if I like it, it’s in. I might like a film because of an unforgettable scene, or an unforgettable line, or because my favorite actor / actress is in it, or simply because it made me smile when the credits roll.

This is not a film review. Do not expect any new angle on the story or me “getting” obscure references. I don’t have the DVDs of the films now so I will pretty much write from memory. It’s been some time since I’ve seen some of the films so I’ll probably mix up some of the scenes. If you’re looking for accuracy, look elsewhere.

I will start with the series with my favorite road movie, Paper Moon (1973).


Short Updates 3

20 April 2009

I am currently co-authoring with Shahabudeen Jalil a how-to book on entrepreneurship. The book will be in a simple, easy-to-read, 10 lessons format.

Stay tuned for updates on this project.

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Last weekend, PERSAMA organized the final selection test for the Malaysian team to the International Mathematical Olympiad 2009 (IMO 2009). Eleven students took the test, which lasted for two days. The names of the selected six students will be announced this Wednesday by Dr. Arsmah, Chairwoman of the Malaysia IMO 2009 Committee. All the best to the final six; to the rest; keep on mathematickin’.

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I have a few ideas on what to write in upcoming entries.

The first topic I have in mind is about the importance of writing out a debt contract (the longest verse in Al-Quran deals with debt contracts).

The second topic I’m thinking of is the “book-smart vs street-smart” debate. I’ll probably post the article at the Aidan Directors blog first (more readers there).

The third topic I’m planning to write in the near future is about rhetorical devices in writing. I just read “Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase” by Arthur Quinn. It is the best book I’ve read in months. At 95 pages, this book is comparable to Strunk & White in size, but the lessons contained in the two books couldn’t be more different from each other. In fact, “Figures of Speech” can be accurately described as the anti-Strunk & White.


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