Friday, August 29, 2008

Offshore Outsourcing Has Grown Up

Research firm Gartner estimated the size of the market for offshore IT and business process outsourcing at nearly US$35 billion in 2006 and forecasts a market of US$70 billion to US$100 billion by 2011. Companies have expanded their views on which functions can be offshored, from traditional call centre to legal research. They have learned how to better manage the outsourcing process. In short, the industry has grown up!

According to the survey, outsourcing of IT functions leads the pack (57%), followed by finance and manufacturing. Once the companies are comfortable with the offshore partners, they begin to offshore complete end to end processes. For example, in healthcare, the entire claims management process is outsourced.

The vendors too have learned a lot. They are expanding their service offerings. As this industry has matured, the vendors are facing problems like high turnover, double digit annual wages increment, weaker US$ and intense competition. For example, Indian vendors are operating from lower cost locations in Africa!

Malaysia is definitely in the mix due to our abilities to speak multiple languages. Hello, Salam, Ni Hao Ma, Vanakam, Sawadeekap, Nia Mak (ooph!) Happy Merdeka!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Counter Attack Counterfeits

The International Anti Counterfeiting Coalition estimates that counterfeiting has grown more than 10,000% over the past 2 decades. According to World Customs Organisation, fakes account for 7% or US$600 billion of all goods sold globally. The US Customs blame counterfeits for the loss of more than 750,000 American jobs. (Back home this trade probably created 5 figure job openings and earned a few pirates Datukship)Last year, the agency seized counterfeits valued at US$196.7 million, up from US$155.3 million in 2006. (Back home, confiscated items valued at very minimal amounts but the unreported 'close one eye' payment could be valued in seven digits!)

Footwear leads the list of merchandise seized, with apparel in 2nd place. Other common goods include consumer electronics, luxury handbags and watches, pharmaceuticals, computer hardware,designer sunglasses, golf clubs, automotive components and aerospace parts and music/movie DVD.

China is widely acknowledged to be ground zero for the production of fakes, accounting for 80% of all confiscated items by US Customs last year. The Internet is the Wild West for pirates because of the anonymity. Even established auction sites fell foul.Luxury jeweler, Tiffany filed a suit in 2004 against eBay for selling fakes.

As the biggest asset of a company is the brand, the companies are going all out to protect the brands. New Balance says it spends US$1 million to US$2 million a year on anti counterfeiting activities. A broad based efforts entails managing the supply chain to avoid misappropriation of information and materials, pursuing counterfeiters through civil or criminal suits, leveraging technology to make it harder to copy and educating about risks of piracy. Those risks range from lost revenues and jobs to sub standard products especially food that could cause ill health and death, and worse case scenario to fund the terrorists' activities!

So are you going to start buying originals or insist on fakes? By buying fakes, is it 'stealing'? Interesting to see some comments!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Life Uncertainty - Any Financial Compensation?

Death is certain. Life is uncertain. Everyone in agreement? If yes, isn't it a sure bet to hedge our money on insurance protection? A sure win proposition? But why is this market still consider untapped?

Perhaps many shied away from buying insurance policies because they could not afford it and certain extent due to procrastination. Not because they felt they are immortal!

For those who could afford, many bought insurance policies on an ad-hoc or stand alone basis which does not provide much protection or benefit to them or their next of kin. Some spent quite significantly on various policies which in reality were not relevant or necessary, hence incurring additional expenses. So it is vital to prioritise your insurance needs to match your financial budget.

Take into account your budget and buy policies that provide comprehensive coverage. A suitable plan should cover income protection, children education needs, liabilities, post retirement health care and critical illness protection.

Employees should think beyond their retirement medical and health insurance coverage. They should look for independent medical plans apart from those provided by employers. Critical illness protection plans are important for better and affordable medical treatment. This protection could also provide a peace of mind.

Once a loved one is struck with critical illness and eventually kick the bucket, there is nothing in the world that could replace him / her. However at the very least, there is some financial compensation to sustain the lives of the dependent or to pay for the ever rising medical bills!

6 Ways To Protect Your Wealth

1) Dealing with death - make a will. You need to leave instructions on how to distribute your assets when you die! If you don't, you're condemning your loved ones to financial worries on top of grief!

2) Protect your life - Ever important if you have dependent children. The loss of your income (as a breadwinner)could be a huge blow to the family. Shop around for a life insurance that provides adequate protection.

3) Protect your partner - It's a grave mistake to insure yourself adequately while ignoring the financial havoc that the death of a partner could inflict. Imagine the surviving partner has to work and raise the kids alone, facing financial and emotional heartbreak.

4) Protect against life threatening illnesses - 1 in 4 Malaysians will suffer cancer. Then there are the other lifestyle diseases to worry about. Get critical illness insurance.

5) Safeguard your income - If you are out of action for,say, 6 months, your employer will cut your pay and eventually stop paying your salary altogether. Think about building pipeline and embark on passive income. No work but still get paid.

6) Take good care of your health - Health is wealth. Start watching your diet, do regular exercise and prolong your productive years!

Friday, August 22, 2008

$500 Toilet Paper

How bad is inflation in Zimbabwe? Well, consider this. Toilet paper costs $417. No, not per roll. 417 Zimbabwean dollars is the value of a single two-ply sheet. A roll costs $145,750. The price of toilet paper, like everything else, soars daily, spawning jokes about an impending better use for $500 bill, now the smallest in circulation.

This is no laughing matter. Toilet paper, bread and even the morning cup of tea have become luxuries. All are casualties of the hyperinflation that is roaring toward 11 million percent in June, a rate usually seen only in war zones. It has been tormented this entire decade by both deep recession and high inflation, but in recent months all hell breaks loose. Its inflation is the world's highest and has been for some time.

If you need something and have cash, you buy it. If you have cash you spend it today, because tomorrow it's going to be worth 5% less. Those with spare cash put it not in banks, which pay a paltry 4 to 10% annual interest, but in investments like bags of corn meal and sugar!

Public-school fees and other ever-rising government surcharges have begun to exceed the monthly incomes of many urban families lucky enough to find work. The unemployed is officially 70% of 4.2 million workers, but widely placed at 80% when idle farmers are included.

The purity of drinking water, siphoned from a lake downstream of its sewer outfall, has been unreliable for months. The city suffers rolling electrical blackouts. Mounds of uncollected garbage pile up on the streets of the slums.
The government has printed trillions of new Zimbabwean dollars to keep ministries functioning and to shield the salaries of public servants. This only worsens inflation, for printing too many worthless dollars is in part what got Zimbabwe into this mess to begin with.

What is your thought on the above? Definitely it’s a living hell! Let this be a good lesson to our leaders and keep our fingers cross that it’s not the path that we are heading to!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Shocking Truth Behind Advertisement Words!

When They Say.. Free
What They’re Really Saying Is.. We’ll build the price of what’s ‘free’ into something else so you think you got the best of us while we’re getting the best of you. Fair play, eh!

When They Say.. Sale Price
What They’re Really Saying Is.. We overpriced this a little too much so we’re overpricing it a little less

When They Say.. New and Improved
What They’re Really Saying Is.. We made a difference that makes no difference so we can charge you a ‘new and improved’ price

When They Say.. Special Offer
What They’re Really Saying Is.. We’re stuck with 888 boxes of this stuff in our warehouse. Help us out here la!

When They Say.. Hurry, Sale Ends Tomorrow
What They’re Really Saying Is.. But if you still want the stuff, you can buy it at the sale that ‘starts today’

When They Say.. You Could Be a Winner
What They’re Really Saying Is.. You have never won anything in your life and you never will, so just give us your money and go home!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

RM880,000 Per Week!

Michael Owen was last night offered £21million to stay at Newcastle. Owner Mike Ashley has handed the England striker a three-year contract worth a whopping £140,000 a week. It would make Owen not only one of the Premier League highest-paid stars but also one the world richest. The ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid ace, 28, is currently earning £100,000-a-week. (what an increment, how come the corporate world does not have the same rate?)

What is your initial thought? Thinking about sending your kids to football academy instead of piano and ballet lessons? Or change career and become a football agent?

Majority of the workforce will never earn this obscene amount of money in their lifetime. I will not go into the debate if they are overpaid and overrated. (We, football kakis, can debate until the cow comes home). The interesting point to note is being a sportsman is no longer a pastime. It is a profession. It is a sunrise industry and it is attracting huge amount of money. The income stream is no longer limited to tickets sales but so many innovative ways to get big bucks. There are TV broadcasting revenue (think ESPN channel), sponsorship rights, advertisement fee, jersey and merchandise royalty, property and facility rental, investment income and even the right to name the stadium (how about finding a Petronas Stadium in London?).

The recent Malaysia Olympic case study is a good example. RM1 million was dangled to reward the gold medalist plus lifetime pension money! (Throw in a Datukship!)

The stakes are so high that many are willing to cheat including doping. However the flip side is that their career span will probably last till late 30s. Once retire, most will prefer to remain in touch with the game, returning as coach, pundit, punter etc and continue to earn a living. Some highly publicized cases wasted their riches and, sadly their lives away – spent on the booze and bees. These were the ones that do not know how to handle the riches and were surrounded by free loaders. The classic example of rags to riches and back to rags – the most exciting heavyweight boxer, Mike Tyson!

On the one end of the chart, one of my favourites, Robbie ‘The God’ Fowler – Owen ex-strike partner -who is at the tail-end of his career has divested his money into good use mainly investing in properties all over UK. He wrote in his autobiography that he was blessed with a good financial planner who guided him into making wise investment choices. Instead of buying the flashiest car to celebrate a new contract, which is the norm, he has an eye for property in prime location!

They are human after all. No matter how much we earn, we need to save and plan for the retirement years. We need to set aside for the rainy days. Without money we are in hope business. Hope the kids don’t get sick. This negative hope is a miserable way to live!

C’mon let start teaching our kids – when the teacher ask what is your ambition? It is no longer cool to answer doctor or teacher. The in answers should be footballer or golfer. Or maybe a weightlifter?

*Money is option. With money you have many options. Without money, you have very few options!*

pic - pa said forget about dancing. Got to start running. Don't like it, it's hot out there. Anyway, gotta listen to pa. Target Olympic 2022.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Buy Low in China

The recent performance of the Chinese stock market is a good reminder of just how volatile emerging markets can be. The Shanghai Composite Index fell by 50% from late 2001 to late 2005. Then, in the following two years, it gained an astonishing 500% before starting its current slide.

Why are emerging markets so volatile? Much of the problem is hot money from the West looking for the next big thing. Four of the largest twenty public companies are Chinese and only the US and Japanese stock markets are worth more. However many firms such as Petrochina and China Mobile are still majority owned by the government, so lots of Western money has been chasing relatively few available shares and squeezed prices upwards as a result.

Other emerging markets have been struggled too. However, Brazil, Russia and India – together with China are hailed as new economic superpowers – have fared much better. Brazil and India are at roughly the same level they were at twelve months ago and Russia is only some 10% lower.

China’s growth is slowing a little, although it is still above 10% a year. The government has been raising interest rates to bring down inflation, while lower demand from the US for its manufactured goods is also having an effect. It seems to be working as Chinese consumer inflation has decreased by a couple of % points this year, in contrast to the experience of other countries.

Questions are increasingly being asked about the quality of China’s growth and the robustness of its lending practices have been criticised. It will become increasingly dependent on food and raw material imports in the coming years. Despite all this, China is expected to take over from the US as the world largest manufacturer next year with a 17% share. Back in 1990, it accounted for just 3%.

The key question for investors is whether the current problems are just normal growing pains or due to deeper structural faults that will prevent China being the economic superpower. Investing is a long-term game and a bet on the growth China should be seen as a 10- to 20-year play. Given that sort of timeframe, now looks like a reasonable entry point, although dripping money into the market on a regular basis will be a better strategy for most people. It’s certainly easier on the investing nerves!

Summarised based on article by Stuart J Watson | 14 August 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

Credit Card Debt

Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) said the spending habits of Malaysians have changed and there are now many extravagant shoppers who are credit-card holders. This is a disturbing trend. It said about 2.7 million people have credit cards and a majority of them are youngsters. CAP opposes this system of spending first and paying later as it encourages people to spend more and accumulate debts.

The results of not paying this debt on time are you will be charged a late payment penalty and interest (at the very high rate of at least 18% p.a.) In no time debt accumulates. It’s a very similar situation with the loan shark arrangement except the bankers do not repaint your house and harass your spouse! Not now anyway! The other intangible liability is that your bad credit standing will be reported to credit rating agencies!

As at February 2008, Finance Minister reported that total loans via credit cards accounted for 3.5% of the total financing by banking institutions. Statistics showed that an average 30% of card holders settled their unpaid balances in full every month and almost 60% of the amount spent every month was settled by the following month.
(Me and wife are proud to belong to the 30% category. Hope that you are on my team!)

He added in 2007, only 2,764,085 applications or 49.7% of the 5,566,871 applications received by credit card issuers were approved. This low rate put to rest the misconception that the issuance of credit cards was casually done. (We thought so as we always get ‘harassed’ by the sales agents in the shopping malls)

The number of people declared bankrupt due to credit card debts for 2007 was 1,873 people compared with 1,656 in 2006 and 1,479 in 2005 and 1,397 people in 2004.

If you are in credit card debt, start paying the full amount. Negotiate with the banks to pay on installments and to waive some of the penalties. Then stop spending using the credit cards. Finally, cut the cards in half!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Education Planning

My daughter is 7 years old and son is a toddler. Que sera, sera! However at the very least, for bringing them to this crazy crazy world, I vow to save enough for their education.

Education will not get any cheaper. With the ever rising cost of living, parents are facing tougher challenges to look for ways to fund their children’s education. If there is a will, there is definitely a way.

Some start planning the moment the children are born, others when their children complete secondary school. Some like it hot. If you are left out, don’t be despair. Just do it now. There are many tools to achieve this objective. Read on, some hot tips.

Jolie bought an apartment, rented out for many years before selling it off to finance her eldest child’s education. The monthly income from rental was regularly invested in unit trust which is geared for the younger child’s education. If unit trusts are carefully monitored, the returns are very attractive. The returns can be as much as three or four times higher than fixed deposits. Investing in properties and unit trusts are both ways to hedge funds for education.

Pitt did not encourage his children to apply for study loans as he didn’t want them to start working life with a financial burden. Instead he bought insurance policies when they were born. Although he can’t plan for the full cost of the children’s education but some planning is better than nothing.

Hisham plans to withdraw money from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) account for this purpose.

The above examples are not the only avenues. One of the keys is to have a good “basket of eggs”. Other options include buying foreign currency and investing in shares.

Parents should seek help when investing. Some don’t know what to do with the money they’ve set aside. They put them in fixed deposits, the returns which are probably lower than the inflation rate, thus effectively losing the value of the money. Some who are well versed with financial matters may invest in properties overseas, especially in the country their children intend to study in. By doing this, they cushion themselves against fluctuations in foreign exchange and the child can live there when he is studying.

Parents should also involve their children in their financial planning. The ‘don’t let the children know, we can handle it’ mentality is old school. Share with the children on the family’s financial resources. The children could also share some of the financial burden by working part time. This move will give them insights on the rough and tough of the rat race.

Majority Neglect Retirement Plans

According to a recent survey, AXA Retirement Scope 2008, more than half of Malaysian workers have not prepared for retirement while those who have, only started planning after age 40. (Yeah, life begins at 40 but don’t you think it’s way too late to build our retirement fund?)

The survey, part of a global study conducted in 26 countries, involving 18,000 respondents, was undertaken from July 23 to Aug 27, 2007.

Among those who had planned for retirement, most began after they married, had children, fell into financial difficulties or had health problems.(Me - tick on all the above except health problem).

Their sources of retirement income included life insurance, Employees Provident Fund and personal savings.(Me - tick on all above plus real properties, shares and unit trusts).

The retired saved an average of RM478 a month and the working RM704, figures that were considered low compared with other countries. The retired feel that their retirement income is insufficient to cover household expenses. The average income is RM1,243 but the amount needed is RM1,568 – a deficit of RM325.

In comparison, Singapore’s average retirement income is RM3,690 and the amount needed RM3,465; while Thailand’s average income is RM1,276 and the amount needed RM903. (that's the way to count!)

The disparity between high and low income earners in Malaysia is wide, the high-income retirees having four times more than those with low income. (Yeah, rich become richer, poor become poorer?). Despite insufficient income, three-quarters of the retirees said their quality of life had improved if not remaining the same, while 83% of the working group expect their quality of life to improve or remain the same. (possible but be very wary of the inflation rate!).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

10 Steps To Great Retirement

We will grow old and retire one day (provided we don’t do a ‘Heath Ledger’). As a senior citizen, we still need to eat and surf the net. Here are 10 steps to ensure we have the dough for our sustenance :

1. Face your future honestly. Retirement studies show that those who exercise control over when they retire live happier lives than those who wait to be put out to pasture by others. Malaysians generally still expect our children to look after us in retirement. It is not a good safety net as our children have their very own family to take care of. So be proactive, plan our own retirement.

2. Exercise delayed gratification. Don’t spend like there’s no tomorrow. ‘Delay’ some enjoyment in the short term for the great enjoyment in the long term

3. Start yesterday, failing which start today. The time value of money tells us money today is worth more than the same amount tomorrow. E.g. RM1,000 today will be worth RM1,030 one year later if it is deposited in a 3% fixed deposit account. This ability of money to snowball over time is termed compounding.

4. Save money. Two effective ways to save money 1) set aside savings before allowing any other outflows each time we receive our salary. Inflows – Savings = Outflow 2) manage our cash flow effectively. It’s obviously better to start saving early, it is never too late to start even if we’re already close to retirement.

5. Beef up net worth. Our net worth statement is the difference between assets and liabilities. We should boost our productive assets that generate passive income in the form of dividend, rental and interest.

6. Create own pension. Some public servants can look forward to a lifetime pension. Others include the private sector workers contribute to EPF. Retirees must have a pension. No pension, no retirement! So, those without a government pension must take personal responsibility for creating their own. The goal should be to proactively create multiple sources of income from investments and through a future pipeline of passive income.

7. Prepare for future inflation. A major factor in retirement funding calculations is future inflation. Saving money in the bank is unlikely to generate returns greater than inflation. So, start educating ourselves on the damaging effects of inflation and the need to accept some level of investment risk.

8. Enslave our money. Make our money works for us. Failing to plan is planning to fail! The wealth we accumulated throughout our working life will have to work for us too. The larger that pool of resources and the harder it works for the retiree, the better the quality of life in retirement.

9. Aim to be debt-free. While there is such a thing as good debt that ends up enriching us, most people are wired in such a way as to benefit from living a debt-free life. Work toward attaining zero gearing in as short a period as is practical. Certainly settle all credit card monthly dues promptly and in full! Remember, there is always a cost to borrowing.

10. Marry a Rich Spouse!

That’s The End!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Top 10 Ways to Unlock Your Leadership Potentials

The following story is based on Toastmaster, July 08 issue.

The trainer asked his audience :
"Did the Wright brothers ever quit" "No" shouted the trainees.
"Did Walt Disney ever quit" "No" the same reply.
"Did Lance Armstrong ever quit" " No" it got louder.
"Did Tom McKester ever quit". There was a confused silent. Finally a trainee asked "Who in the world is Tom McKester" Nobody heard of him.
The trainer nailed it " Of course you have never heard of him - that's because he quit!".

There is no mystery in leadership. Leaders are both born and made!

lesson #1 One simple and yet vital aspect of leadership is the ability to persevere.

Lesson #2 Be a good listener, don't just hear noises. Listen, add values and convey empathy.

Lesson #3 Maintain good attitude 247, even in very tough conditions.

Lesson #4 Go extra mile. Give more, do more, offer more.

Lesson #5 Be a problem solver not a problem spotter.

Lesson #6 Up, up and away concept. Strong leader adds values and lift people up. Live and let live. Not live and let die

Lesson #7 Give your all - total commitment. No half - half!

Lesson #8 Be open minded, like a beginner's mind

Lesson #9 Practice what you preach

Lesson #10 Pay it forward - make the world a better place for everyone

pic - 1st step taken - being born into this world, next step - to be made into a great leader! Second To None!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

RM45m City Overtime

That is the staggering amount of Kuala Lumpur City Hall overtime claims for 2007, as published in the local paper yesterday. It paid to 11,200 employees in 27 departments, averaging RM4,017 per employee. Major chunks were paid to staff in petty traders management, health & licensing and public works departments.

The mayor admitted the huge amount showed that there were some discrepancies i.e. poor management of the employees' schedules. He said that clocking long hours did not necessary mean that they were working! (Ooh! he just opened a can of worms! His staff will not like it and the union will 'manage' him!)

A task force will be set up to monitor the work schedules. (Brilliant idea - more overtime claims by the task force members but the best is yet to come). He added logically, if they were working overtime, there should not be any complaint against City Hall. There would be no illegal activities in the city and enforcement would have been carried out in a proper manner. (Genius 1+1 = 2, right baby! Mayor for PM!)

(Now come the icing on the cake). "Lately the public has doubted our ability, reliability and integrity. There have been lots of reports criticising City Hall and complaints keep piling up." (Huh? Lately? Either he was living in a shell for the past 2 decades or our integrity benchmark was bloody high! However hats off to him - at least he realised - whereas many more are still in self denial mode and playing the blame game!)

As the parting shot, he hoped that all employees will change their culture so that City Hall can work towards making Kuala Lumpur a world class city. (Broken records, same old scripts since I could read English!)

pic - My beloved Kuala Lumpur

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

* And The Winner Is ...

Spend above RM30 and win a car! Buy 2 items and stand a chance to travel to Timbuktu. Everyday we are bombarded by advertisements to tempt us to spend. As a sweetener, the retailers are offering contests whole year round to increase their sales. It is a proven marketing ploy that plays tricks on consumers. The more we buy the more chances to win the cars, electrical items, holidays etc.

Hmm, we did hear stories that some of these retailers were not 'honest'. There was no winner at the end or a model or two will be employed to be photographed as winner. Any real story to share?

Picked this interesting story published in the UK tabloids last week. The BBC has been fined £400,000 for “deliberately” cheating the public with fake phone-in competitions. Telly watchdog Ofcom blasted BBC for “faking winners of competitions and deliberately conducting competitions unfairly”. A probe revealed that the shows had made up names for phone-in competitions or pre-recorded them with fake “winners”.

Another broadcaster, ITV has been hit with a record fine of £5.68m for abusing premium rate phone services in a host of hit shows. Popular shows were found to have “serious editorial issues” and have all been penalised for misleading viewers. The production team of Soapstar Superstar ignored the viewers' vote and finalised results before the lines had closed. ITV made £7.8m from uncounted votes from these programmes in question and some 10 million telephone calls were affected.

So still have the urge to attach the counterfoil and submit the contest form? Or sms to vote your favourite reality stars?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dance, Little Lady, Dance

Performance by 7 years old students

Monday, August 4, 2008

An Evening With Cancer Patients

Ling, 59 was diagnosed with nose cancer a year ago. He had to stop work as a machine operator as the fainting spells could lead to industrial accident. He has been going in and out of hospital for his chemotherapy. As he has difficulties in eating, he survives on soft diet. At times, he salivated looking at those delicious food on the table. Recently he was able to eat rice but has to drown plenty of liquid to down the grain. He has just finished his evening tea and as he was speaking, traces of tea was dripping from his mouth. He was not bitter. In fact, he enlightened me with these statements. "You can still live if you are poor and have no money! But you can't live if you are not healthy!" "You can consider this illness as a blessing or payback time for all the sins committed. But I consider it as a blessing. My 3 kids have all grown up and I have fulfilled my responsibilities. Imagine if they are still in school - Die Also Must Work! (Malaysian English)

Leong, early 50s has a growth in his neck. He was a tile and marble contractor working in Dubai. Life was good there. Prior to there, he had a stint in Doha. 1 day he coughed blood and did not take it seriously. He thought it could be due to the hot weather. He did visit GP and popped in the normal drug. Then he felt a tumor in the neck. As the tumor was moving around from left to right and grew in size, he panicked. Worst fear was confirmed - neck cancer. He was fasting since morning and was waiting to be wheeled to the operation theater to remove the tumor. He did open up with tales on Dubai. 1 funny tale was on how they went searching for pork. Aagh! Chinaman, must have pork! (Reminded me of my uni days, where we would ride to the nearby town, 10km away for our weekly fix on pork!). Apparently, there was an 'underground' mainland Chinese joint, operating from an apartment room that served the roasted meat - char siew! The shop was always full as tables were limited.

Sik, 80 has growth in his hand. He started sharing his life story in traditional Hokkien. Came from China at the age of 19 in 1947 and had toiled hard over the decades to bring food to the family. Managed to balik kampong in 1995 and said there was massive development there. Asked about my folks and was surprised to hear that they were born here! Exchanged further note and he noted that my ancestors' kampong was nearby to his. I have no clue and just nodded as the only kampong I know is Kampong Air Panas, Kuala Lumpur!

Khairi, mid 50s from Teluk Intan. He 'kerja kampong' - that was what he said when asked about his profession. Stricken with lung cancer, he had since quit smoking. Few kids are still in school. The medical facilities are inadequate thus has to travel more than 100km by public bus to get his treatment in the city. Wife was there to accompany him. They have to depend on their folks back home to take care of the children. Wife has been sleeping on the floor and only on the bed if there is a spare bed in the ward. His only wish is to go home to be with his kids.

Najib, early 20s had his right leg amputated to contain the bone cancer. This boy was pale. Spoke to his elderly mom. They came from Banting. Najib had stopped schooling after SPM as the disease spread. The mom has been at his bedside ever since, taking care of his needs. That's motherly love at the highest level!

Samy, newly wed with a pregnant wife, was emotional to see us. After lenghty spells of headaches and many visit to different doctors, he was diagnosed with brain cancer. My mate massaged him which brought some relief. There was sign of bedsores!

An evening with cancer patients. It reminded me that the big C disease does not follow a quota system. It can struck anytime and has no sentimental value for auspicious dates like 08.08.08 or 2020! It does not discriminate and does not give 2 hoots on the colour of your skin, age, profession etc! And you cannot bribe it away! The scary part is all parts of your body can be 'attacked'!

So let us start leading a healthy lifestyle. Watch our diet, take care of our mental and physical conditions. Curb our anger and spread loving kindness! May You Be Free From Mental And Physical Suffering!

All names had been changed! Pic - strive diligently before you turn into T-Rex!

Friday, August 1, 2008


The article Crude Prediction featured in CFO Asia latest issue caught my eyes. It mentioned that Alam Flora, the solid waste management company that serves 6.4 million Malaysians had come up with a list of measures to cut down oil consumption. This is where the fun begins.

Among the ideas ;
1) upsizing garbage containers so trucks can make one collection per week!
2) moving from day to night time pickups which could reduce drive times from eight to six hours due to lighter traffic!
3) convert to natural gas

What a load of Rubbish! Of course business is set up to make money but do not reduce expenses at the expense of the customers! Will be disgusted if the first 2 ideas are implemented.

1) 1 collection per week? Perhaps you readers could comment and tell me the consequences (I know, I know, pinch your nose and don't let it go.. for a week!) Lately there are an increasing number of scavengers rummaging the bin to look for recyclable items. Nothing against them as they are doing the earth a big favour but very often, they do not 'clean up'. Then it's fiesta for the neighbours' pets! Do I need to say more?

2) night pickups? (worse if idea #1 materialises) Don't like the idea to be honked in the wee hours as you are dreaming 'fiesta-ing' in the Nirvana land or when you are about to score a goal in the injury time against your bitter rival. We have witnessed many times - the drivers would just honked if other vehicles were blocking their paths. Most households own a few cars but the problem is that the garage is only designed to accommodate 1 car! So Malaysians are very creative in parking their vehicles. Of course, they need some tools in order to maintain civil order i.e. business card and mobile phone! Yeah, no joke, parking disputes did claim few lives in the past few years!

Suggest a more holistic ways to reduce expenses. Perhaps for a start, cut down on business travels and 'entertainment'. Lastly, stop the kickbacks and bribes!

pic - a better way to collect the waste? No petrol ma!