Hiatus

26 May 2009

I am taking a short break and will resume posting after the 10th of June.


Short Updates 5

20 May 2009

Fazdlee has revealed the cover design for my math books that’s going to come out next month:

http://fazdleeisa.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/front-cover-designs-for-bals-math-olympiad-books/

Thanks for the great design, Fazdlee!

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I am currently working hard to finish the first two volumes of the series. I plan to have the soft launch on 20 June 2009, during the Olimpiad Matematik Kebangsaan competition in UM. Volumes 3 and 4 will hopefully come out in September. After Volumes 1-4 are complete, I plan to publish a compilation text of all four volumes. I also plan to have another title coming out in August. All these titles will be published by ArdentEdu.

So, goal for 2009: to write and publish six books!

This is long overdue — Shien Jin first floated the idea in 2002, when we were undergrads at MIT. At the time, Math and Science were still taught in BM, so SJ suggested I write a BM text on mathematical problem solving. I was just starting to write the first chapter on LaTeX when I realized that writing in BM is not as easy as I thought. After I graduated but before I started working, I wrote a first draft of a manuscript which was about 300 pages in length. This manuscript would later become the current four-volume series. I started work soon after I finished the draft, so I did not have the time to edit or to add in the peripherals (exercises, diagrams and examples). So by and large my manuscript lay dormant for a few years.

When I was called on to train the International Mathematical Olympiad team in 2006, the other trainers urged me to publish my manuscript, mainly because teachers and students often complained that the national math olympiad is “too difficult” and the problems are out of the syllabus (duh!). My retort is simple, if you want to test your knowledge on the syllabus, sit for SPM. However, I realized the opportunity, especially since there are more than 7,000 students who take part in the national math olympiad every year and there is no comprehensive, problem-based math text published for them. And so finally I got around to editing my manuscript. After adding the exercises, diagrams and examples, I found out that the manuscript size is becoming too big, so I divided the manuscript into four parts, and expanded each part (Number Theory, Algebra, Combinatorics and Geometry) into a book.

After much delay, finally my first book will be out soon.


Sleep Early

19 May 2009

Throughout my life, I always have this bad habit of sleeping late. I have always been a night owl. From now on, I plan to go to bed and put off the light at 10.30pm, sharp.

Why is it good to sleep early?

  1. You will wake up early the next day without feeling groggy. Sleeping after subuh is a great productivity killer.
  2. The air is fresher in the morning. It gets very hot in KL by 9am.
  3. Whatever work you could have done at late night, can be done early morning, when you feel fresher and more energized.
  4. Not feeling sleepy at work the next day. I used to have this problem of always feeling sleepy during daytime. My former boss used to chastise me for sleeping during seminars and talks. This is due to my unhealthy late night Internet surfing / reading habits.

I usually leave home for office at 10am, but now I go out at 8am.

Being a night person is overrated. From now on, I will join the other side, the more productive group of morning persons.


Favorite Ad #3

18 May 2009

This is the third ad in the series, after the Volkswagen and Wendy’s ads.

Behold, the GTA Coca-Cola ad:

For those who do not play video games, GTA is one of the top-selling video game franchises of all time. The first part of the ad makes reference to trademark GTA gameplay — driving like maniac, robbing stores, and executing GTA (grand theft auto) by stopping drivers on their tracks.

I like this ad because:

It panders to people who play GTA (like, all teenage boys). Example of spot-on targeted marketing.

I have seen the film “Bugsy Malone”. The “give a little love” song is from the final scene of this gangster musical.

Attention to details. GTA-like driving map in the beginning, the interior of Heung’s Mini Market, small inside jokes like keeping fire extinguisher in his jacket (playable characters in GTA “carry” huge weapons like chainsaws, samurai sword and rocket launcher, and can rotate between these at will.)


Taik Lembu: Bahagian 1

18 May 2009

(From Aidan Directors Blog, 14 May 2009)

(Nota: Ini adalah artikel Bahasa Melayu pertama oleh saya di blog ini. Tujuan saya menulis dalam BM bukan kerana saya ingin bertukar angin, tetapi kerana artikel kali ini mengandungi banyak dialog BM. Bagi mengelakkan penggunaan bahasa bercampur aduk antara BM dan English yang akan menyebabkan artikel saya menjadi caca marba, maka saya pun menulis dalam BM sepenuhnya.)

Apa itu taik lembu?

Ada dua maksud taik lembu.

Definisi pertama ialah hasil perkumuhan lembu. Apabila lembu memakan rumput, makanan tersebut akan dihadamkan oleh perut lembu. Lembu mempunyai empat bahagian perut yang dipanggil rumen, reticulum, omasum, dan abomasum. Sebahagian daripada makanan tersebut akan disimpan di dalam badan lembu, dan bakinya dilucut keluar daripada badan lembu melalui saluran khas. Yang disimpan di dalam badan lembu itu akan menjadi burger, serunding, kebab, sup, dan sebagainya. Yang keluar dipanggil taik lembu.

Taik lembu mempunyai bau yang kurang menyenangkan. Walau bagaimanapun, baunya hanya busuk pada awal-awal sahaja. Setelah beberapa jam, taik lembu akan berubah menjadi pejal dan berketul, dan baunya tidak terlalu busuk. Walaupun ia pejal, tetapi ia tidak keras. Justeru siapa yang berjalan di kawasan luar bandar dan tidak berhati-hati, mungkin terpijak taik lembu. Ini kerana rupa taik lembu kering adalah seperti ketulan tanah.

Taik lembu mempunyai pelbagai kegunaan. Ada orang kata taik lembu boleh digunakan sebagai baja. Saya lahir dan membesar di bandar, jadi saya tak pernah lihat taik lembu digunakan dalam bidang pertanian. Mungkin betul agaknya. Ada orang kata taik lembu boleh dijadikan bahan bakar. Yang ini saya pernah baca di National Geographic, jadi BETULLAH KUT.

Walau bagaimanapun, ini bukanlah taik lembu yang akan kita bincangkan.

Definisi kedua taik lembu ialah bullshit. Bullshit ini semua orang tahu dan tidak perlu dihuraikan dengan panjang lebar.

Saya ingin berbicara mengenai bullshit. Tapi saya akan mulakan di Bahagian 2.

Sementara menunggu saya menulis Bahagian 2, sila tonton klip video berikut. Klip ini petikan dari rancangan Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. P&T:B! ialah satu rancangan yang mendedahkan mengenai pelbagai jenis bullshit yang berleluasa di kalangan umum. Dalam episod ini, Penn dan Teller mendedahkan mengenai air botol (bottled water):

THE TRUTH ABOUT BOTTLED WATER

Jika anda suka klip tersebut, anda boleh dapati banyak lagi dengan menaip penn teller bullshit di ruang carian Youtube.

(Bersambung…)


10 Greatest Money-Wasters For Small Businesses

13 May 2009

(From Aidan Directors Blog, 7 May 2009)

Running a small business is all about making cash.

Accounts receivable is not cash. Investment in mutual fund is not cash. Letter of intent is not cash. Promise from your high school friend to talk to his rich uncle to invest in your new venture is not cash.

What is cash? Cash is what you can buy stuff from 7-Eleven with.

There are only two ways to make cash. First, make cash sales. Second, cut costs (as Ben Franklin once said, a penny saved is a penny earned). The first one is obvious and thus need not any elaboration. The second one is not so obvious, judging from many small businesses I’ve seen. Unnecessary expenditures cause small businesses to unnecessarily burn cash and eventually go the way of Pets.com.

Here are top ten ways new businesses waste money:

1. Office look

You don’t need that RM5,000 workchair because it’s “ergonomic”. You don’t have to paint your wall Chartreuse Yellow because it gives solace to your soul. You don’t need mahogany door because it may give good impression to your clients.

On the other hand, get your office furniture cheap at a second hand furniture store. There are many companies that went bankrupt during the recession, so you can buy perfectly good furniture at budget price.

And about impressing people: clients are impressed by high profit margin and healthy balance sheet. Mahogany door will not get you a bank loan.

2. Courses

Rather than attend courses, buy books and look things up online. Everything you need to know about doing business is available on the Internet.

Professional courses are usually expensive, since they are held in starred hotels complete with 3 to 4 meals a day. This is suitable for executives in large corporations, but not small business owners. Most of the time, people go to courses to escape from work, and to eat buffet lunches paid for by their company.

Government agencies usually organize cheap or free courses to help small business owners. These are the ones you should go to.

3. Shiny business cards

I have collected hundreds of business card belonging to small business owners. Most of the business cards are glossy and high-quality. Predictably, many of these businesses are not profitable, because their owners are too busy spending money on glossy business cards.

Let me ask you this: why make business cards at all? There is only one correct answer to this question. Please think about it before reading on.

You make business card to give out your phone number and email address to other people.

Make a lot of cheap business card and drop them everywhere. Iznan went to Canton Fair (the largest trade fair in China) last October and dropped hundreds of business cards. Until today, we still receive calls, emails and solicitations from companies in China. What is the use of glossy business cards if nobody ever call your business?

While we’re at this topic, please do away with that cutesy small font. It’s damn annoying to comb through tons of business card to find yours, only to find that I need a laser microscope to read your fax number. Write your phone number and email in LARGE FONT.

4. Stationeries

Yes, everybody like to see his company logo all over the company documents, from invoices to memos. But custom stationeries are expensive to print; better use your cash for more productive pursuits.

What you should do: Photocopy the forms. For invoices etc., embed the logo in Microsoft Words and print it with the documents (in B&W, to save money on color). We only use custom company letterhead for outgoing letters. Custom envelope is stupid. The prettiest envelope will be chucked into the wastebasket after it is opened. Just stamp your company address on the envelopes for outgoing mail.

5. Website

Nobody gives a shit about corporate websites; the only thing worth reading is what you are selling and at what price.

Unless you have an in-house designer, do not hire professionals to do your website. It is expensive. Nobody cares how your website looks like as long at it is easy to retrieve information. Anybody with a brain cell can create a nice website from the various portal management systems available. For fancy designs, use skins instead.

If you want to write a company blog, like this one, do it on WordPress.

Don’t forget to put your company address, phone and fax number ON THE FRONT PAGE OF YOUR WEBSITE. I have been to government websites with million-dollar budgets having the contact info buried so deep inside you have to click four times just to get a phone number. What do they have on the front page? Visi dan Misi. People are morons.

6. Computers and accessories

A couple of years after we started the company, we have not spent a single cent to buy a computer. Everybody uses his personal laptop, which is more convenient. We only have one desktop in the office, my personal desktop which I bought in 2004. Using networking, everyone can access shared folders on the desktop to keep important company files.

Jot down the dates of the next PC Fair to buy all your computing needs. Do not buy more than you need. If your business doesn’t require you to print hundreds of pages a day, you don’t have to buy expensive 4-in-1 “printing solutions”. Just get a cheap printer that can print fast. Nine out of ten times it is cheaper to walk to the photocopy shop, rather than leasing a photocopy machine for your office.

7. Office supplies

Many office supplies are unnecessary. The fact that other offices have them doesn’t mean you need them too. New businesses probably don’t need highlighter pens, multi-colored papers and seventeen sizes of paper clips. Office supplies don’t cost much, but the cost will accumulate.

This is practically all you need to start a business: pens, pencils, staplers, paper clips and files. Anything more is luxury.

Unless you’re dealing with lots of proposals, binding machine is not needed. And a new business doesn’t have many confidential documents to shred, so put off buying that shredding machine for another five years when your business really needs it.

Use supplies from home. I use only one cheap pen (Faber Castell Ball Pen 1423 0.7mm) for all my writing. It goes with me wherever I go. We do not have a budget for personal stationeries, except work related (staplers, paper clips and files). Staff have to buy their own pens and notebooks.

8. Pantry

You don’t need a rerigerator or a microwave. Eat lunch outside. If you need a pantry, only stock it with basic foodstuff, like 3-in-1 mix and biscuits.

Make it a policy that company will not buy supplies for the pantry, although staff are welcome to bring food and drinks in. Remember, you are not Google.

9. Software

I do not condone piracy. Make sure your Microsoft Office and Adobe softwares are original. If you can’t afford it, use open source softwares.

Do not spend on software you don’t need. Small business don’t need accounting and inventory management software. Existing software might come with 3 functions you need and 997 functions you don’t need. Just do everything by hand so you have a hands-on experience keeping books (Excel is great for accounting).

Manage payroll by hand. If you have a small number of staff, print your payslip manually, and write checks by hand. It is easier to keep track of your finances if every cent going in and out is under your pen. After you employ 50 people, then you can ask the bank to do your payroll.

10. Entertainment

This costs more than the other nine things put together, so please pay attention. Many entrepreneurs, when starting out, are too generous with their money to buy favors. This includes buying meals for potential clients, paying for trips and gifts for Datuks and Tan Sris. There is nothing wrong with buying legal favors, but choose your battle wisely.

Government officers (corrupt ones) are fond of ripping off new business owners while promising you about contracts and “opportunities”.

A rule of thumb: only entertain people who are decision makers (or their proxies). Do not entertain desk jockeys and middle managers. It will be a waste of time and a waste of good cash. These people may promise you millions but they can’t even sign a voucher for RM500. Don’t believe him when he says he will forward your proposal to his boss. 99 out of 100 times, it doesn’t lead to anything. Trust me on this.


This Will Destroy Your Childhood Memories

7 May 2009

What is “The Aristocrats”?

The Aristocrats (also known as The Debonaires or The Sophisticates in some tellings) is an exceptionally transgressive dirty joke that has been told by numerous stand-up comedians since the vaudeville era. Steven Wright has likened it to a secret handshake among comedians, and it is seen as something of a game in which those who tell it try to top each other in terms of shock value. It is rarely told the same way twice, often improvised, and was the subject of a 2005 documentary film of the same name. It is thought of as a badge of honor among expert comedians and is notoriously hard to perform successfully. (Wikipedia)

What is the format of “The Aristocrats” joke?

This joke almost always has these elements—alternative versions may change this form, but such versions tend to assume that the audience is already familiar with the joke:

1. The setup: The joke always begins with a family act going in to see a talent agent.

  • Those who meet the agent can include the whole family, or just one family member (usually the father).
  • The agent asks (sometimes after saying that he is not interested, and a plea from the father) what they do.
  • If the whole family is present, the act may be performed for the agent, rather than described.
  • There is also the possibility of a neutral observer telling the tale of seeing the performance to the talent agent.

2. The act: It is described in as much detail as the teller prefers.

  • While most tellings follow one of a few basic forms, the description of the act is meant to be an ad lib.
  • Traditionally, the description is crude, tasteless, and ribald. The goal is to cross social boundaries, and acts such as incest, rape, pedophilia, coprophilia, bestiality, and murder are common themes.

3. The punch line: The shocked (or intrigued) agent asks what the act is called, and the proud answer (sometimes delivered with a flourish) is “The Aristocrats!”

  • The punchline may be modified in some variants, but generally such variants are told only in a context where the original joke is known.
  • Because the sense of what an aristocrat is has faded in many countries, the final line may simply be seen as the end of a rather bawdy joke rather than a punchline. In some regions the name of the act is “The Sophisticates” or “The Debonaires”.

(Wikipedia)

I watched the documentary The Aristocrats last year. It was good. But that’s not what I want to show you. I want to show you Bob Saget tells a disgusting Aristocrats joke. Many of us remember Bob Saget as the caring, loving dad on the sitcom Full House, which we all grew up watching. Now say goodbye to your cherished memory of Danny Tanner:

Watch the whole clip. I found it to be really tasteless, dirty, sick, disgusting, and offensive. Which means only one thing: GO BOB!


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