26 June 2009

Stray Thoughts

24 June 2009

Since I have not written here for almost a month, let me make up for it by posting multiple entries today. I am currently in office, waiting for the heavy rain (hurricane?) outside to subside so I can go home.

Please have a look at Fazdlee’s video blog (it’s about 10 minutes long):

If you don’t want to spend 10 minutes listening to Fazdlee’s bitching, or if you are on dialup, let me summarize the video: an officer from MARA called Fazdlee to remind him that he already missed 3 months of student loan payment. Fazdlee then dropped by her office. She then proceeded to talk down to Fazdlee, that he made the wrong choice getting involved in business, because he will not make enough money to pay back his loans. And she criticized him for allegedly spending too much on grooming products and fashionable wardrobe (Fazdlee is not, but the officer was just being a judgmental asshole).

My response to that video: Malaysians have to learn how to mind their own business. At the age of 20, one should realize that he or she is not a child or a teenager anymore — being an adult entails having to respect other people, especially their personal rights which are none of your business. Anyone above the age of 20 who insists on infringing other people’s business should be sent to Afghanistan or to Swat Valley in Pakistan, where they are free to poke their nose in other people’s business and dictate moralities and judge people as much as they want.

I would blow my fuse if I encounter a government officer like that. Who the hell does she think she is, looking down on other people. Dear lady, we are not your nephews and nieces, we do not ask for your advice, and we sure as hell don’t APPRECIATE it if you look down on people. And don’t give us that crap about being older means you are wiser and thus can talk down to us. Go home and play with your grandchildren. And go suck egg.

Government dunces, who work their whole life pushing papers in air-cond offices, attending bullshit meetings and bullshit functions, being fed bullshit by their politician superiors, and being a dick to Malaysian citizens who pay their salary, HAVE NO BUSINESS looking down on us businesspeople who worked our asses off creating wealth in the private sector, putting employees on payroll, and benefiting the people without receiving on a single cent of aid from the government.

Isn’t MARA tagline, which appears on their official letters, KEUSAHAWANAN KERJAYA PILIHAN? Which part of KEUSAHAWANAN don’t you understand? Or do you find the phrase KERJAYA PILIHAN cryptic, and in need of an ancient muse to translate for you? KEUSAHAWANAN is my KERJAYA PILIHAN, and MARA should applaud our choice, since we are contributing to the economy of the country, or for that matter the economy of the Bumiputeras (isn’t that what your bigshots are always harping on?)

Yes, we are a small company, but we started from practically zero, no MARA money, no bank loan, no trust fund, no Datuks and Tan Sris to sign recommendation letters for us, no seed money from rich parents or uncles or aunties or grandparents. And yet we are still surviving. We never missed a single payroll — we paid all our employees, all our vendors, all our debtors, and we delivered every single promise we gave to our clients. We might not be millionaires, but we have not pocketed a single cent which is not ours.

If you are working in a large corporation, you might not appreciate this. But in our first year, we cleared more than RM400,000. That might not be a lot to you; maybe it’s the price of your parent’s house, or car. Or that is what your company spend in payroll every month. Or that is what your department spend on the annual Family Day. But for a small company which started with practically nothing, to make almost half a million in one year, is SATISFYING.

You might give Powerpoint presentations to a roomful of executives about financial strategies, with figures totaling hundreds of millions, but that’s just numbers. I can proudly look back, and say that we have made half a million of cash with our hard work. And that is in our first year of business. If I can do this in a couple more years, I’m on track to be a millionaire by age 30 (which I don’t care much about — every Tom Dick and Harry is a millionaire nowadays). I don’t take home much because I am thrifty and do not spend much on things. Whatever we made we invested back into the company rather than dividing the profits among ourselves. Thrift, savings, reinvestment, and moderate living: that’s the key to building wealth.

I am not saying that Fazdlee is guilt-free; he himself admitted his fault in missing a few installments. That is a non-issue: people missed out on payments all the time, and for a variety of reasons. I pay my bills every two months, sometimes every three, if I missed the notices. But that does not give the MARA officer any right to demean Fazdlee’s choice of career, let alone his grooming habit (the second part is just stupid. Dear MARA, did you hire your employees from the College of Judgemental Assholes?)

Let me make it clear: I love MARA. I am an “anak MARA”. I went to MRSM, and then to UiTM, with MARA scholarship. Then I went to study at MIT, again with MARA scholarship. And to top it off, MARA cleared me of any student debt upon graduation. I have utmost respect for MARA leadership (although I think they should’ve managed their finances better — I heard rumors MARA is not lending to businesses anymore because their funds are depleted). And I try to pay back in any way I can. When UiTM or MRSM invited me to give talks, I asked for a fraction of what I demanded from other institutions. And every year, I attend the Karnival Matematik MRSM, just to share my love of mathematics with the younger generation of MARA students. I love it when MARA opened MRSM to all races — they also should benefit from the generosity and experience of MRSM teachers, who are the country’s finest. I don’t mind getting my loan applications rejected by MARA (as had happened several times) because after paying my whole college education, MARA do not owe me anything anymore. I owe a lot to MARA.

But I think that MARA officer who talked down to Fazdlee, should be disciplined. It is unbecoming of a senior government officer (and she is really senior, the way Fazdlee explained it) to act like that. It is petty and childish to comment on someone’s looks just because one made a minor mistake like missing three months of installment (don’t you guys have better things to do instead?). And I’m not saying this just because Fazdlee is an old friend who happens to work with me, I am sick of government officers who behaved in an incompetent and unprofessional manner. And judgmental too. If Fadzlee can give me her address, I would send her a big mirror.

Heh, now the rain has stopped and I just realized I talked too much. So I’ll stop here. Take care all.

Short Updates 6

24 June 2009

Hello all,

Sorry for the long break; it’s not a “hiatus” at all.


1. My first book is out! The title is Basics of Math Olympiad: Problem Solving Guide for High School Students; Vol 1: Number Theory. The publisher is ArdentEdu and the cover design is by Fazdlee (thanks!). We had a soft launch during the Olimpiad Matematik Kebangsaan 2009, which was held on 20 June at several venues around the country. We managed to sell some copies on that day, but the order forms are coming in daily!

The best thing about publishing this book on my own (i.e. getting ArdentEdu to publish it rather than some well-known publisher) is that I have complete editorial, creative, and cost control over the book. Also, we do not have to spend a lot on distribution since we are not planning to sell the books in bookstores but rather directly to schools.

Currently I am working on Volume 2, 3, and 4 of the series. For inquiries and orders, write to

(Note: It would be much better to support my writing effort by buying a copy rather than asking me for a free copy 🙂 Even my sister insisted on paying when I gave her a complimentary copy.)

2. I am extremely anxious about our International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) team, which is supposed to participate in IMO 2009 in Bremen, Germany this July. As many of you probably know, I was appointed by the Ministry of Education as the Malaysian team leader to this year’s IMO, and I have been preparing the team since last year. We heard some rumors that the Ministry is freezing overseas travel and is not sending any contingents to international conferences/competitions, due to the Influenza A(H1N1) scare. The physics olympiad team, for instance, is not going to the International Physics Olympiad 2009 in Mexico

I will be deeply disappointed if the IMO 2009 team is not going. First, there’s the effort made. I (and the other trainers) had spent many hours and given much effort training the team, and it would mostly be for nothing, since 3 of the team members will pass the age requirement for IMO 2010 and this is their last chance to represent the country. Second, I believe this is the strongest team we’ve ever had in years, and to be honest, I do not think we could line up a stronger team in the next few years. Third, it would be heartbreaking for the students, who had spent the last one year competing for a place and preparing for the big competition, only to be denied the opportunity just because of an irrational panic.

I understand the risks. I canceled a trip to Melbourne earlier this month, when I read about Victoria being the “flu capital” and about people traveling from Melbourne bringing the virus back home. But Bremen, Germany is not Melbourne, Australia. I think for the country the size of Germany to have fewer reported cases than Malaysia, means that our trip there will be at most a minor risk.

Let’s hope for the best.

3. Went to Terengganu after an absence of more than 6 months. One thing I have to commend the state government for, is that they did pay us every single cent as stipulated in the contract, for the goods sold and services rendered by our company (although with a bit of delay). I heard a few nightmare stories about contractors who did work in a state which changed government from BN to PR, who were not being paid even after projects have commenced. Reason given is that federal money is not coming in anymore.

Terengganu is a BN to BN state, but it was not a smooth transition between Tok Derih and Tok Mat Said, so it might as well be a change of government. Kudos to the government agencies for putting politics aside and paying the contractors as stipulated. (lambat sikit pun, tapi paid in full, dah kira bersyukur lah…). Sanctity of contract should be held paramount to attract foreign investments — in case of Terengganu, to pull in investments from other states as well.

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