Saturday, October 25, 2014

A Quiz

My brother-in-law showed me this quiz. What's your answer? (The English in the original version was pretty bad; I have taken the liberty to correct the grammatical mistakes.)

Richard is selling slippers. His cost is $20 a pair, selling at $30. There was a 20% discount during a certain festive period. One customer came and bought a pair and paid him $50. Richard had no small change so he changed it with his neighbour. The next day, the neighbour came back with the $50 and told him that's counterfeit note. Richard paid the neighbour back $50. How much did Richard actually lose?

For those who love such challenges, I urge you to read a book by Noble laureate Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Time for a Quiz with MAS

 MAS never ceases to amaze me!

The three pictures on the left were taken by me three weeks ago - on MH148 Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur.

The first picture says that the plane is 679 miles from Kuala Lumpur. The second picture shows the position vis-à-vis the geography of the area.

But look at the third picture.

It says:
Time to Kuala Lumpur: 0:00
Local Time at Kuala Lumpur 6:50pm
Estimated Time of Arrival: 6:50pm

I leave it to readers to figure out what I am hitting at! (The pictures were taken with my iPAD; readers may find the numbers too blurred to read.)

Hours earlier, I did alert one of the crew  members of this "donkey". He said the cockpit was aware of the mistake but was unable to do anything. I suppose the computer was still a little groggy - after an over-night visit to the wineries in Victoria's Yarra Valley!

A year or so ago, I flew SQ - Singapore to Melbourne. Guess what, the destination on the screen was listed Sydney. I asked one of the ground crews whether we were going to Sydney. He came back sheepishly to apologize on behalf of his captain. I am not sure the captain was able to keep his job!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

On Products and Services

I used to have a lot of respect for Korean products. I have also been quite impressed with Korean dramas. And having visited Korean, albeit on a package tour, I was quite convinced that Koreans have “arrived” – until my wife bought a Samsung’s iBot – a robot that can take over the chores of a maid: cleaning up your floor and return to its base after the work is done. In short it is an i-Maid. But this Samsung iBot proves to be dump maid. Surprisingly it is not sensitive enough to detect drops in floor levels. It would tip over and hangs up when it comes to one. When it meets an obstacle, like the base of a chair, it would struggle and try to climb it – like a dogged mountaineer trying to climb Mount Everest! And from the following picture you can see how ridiculous it can behave when it goes near a bed. It would mobilise its entire might to squeeze itself into the gap, only to lose its power and ends up stranded in that place. Samsung should have offered it in golden colour!

Dumb Blonde, where are you going?
If your product is not ready, it is best that you don’t introduce it to the market. It will cause irreparable damage to your brand. Ask me to buy a Samsung phone or a tablet now?  I will certainly think more than twice.

I have never bought a car from Cycle & Carriage Bintang before. When Mercedes Benz introduced its new A-class, I thought it suited me – small, economical and, of course, “prestigious”, at least my ego told me so.
Mine was the lower end version. The car turned out to be disappointing. The accelerator response is worse than the Perodua I replaced. And its frugality in fuel consumption was nowhere near what the brochure claimed. Its appetite is in fact as big as the C-class I use in Melbourne. I wrote to give them the feedback. Guess what? A lukewarm response from both Cycle & Carriage Bintang, followed by Mercedes Benz AG, but nothing useful was offered. One day I took the car for a trip up north – the first long-distance run – and found that the car keep towing to one side. A Chinaman mechanic told me the obvious. He suggested that I sent it back to Cycle & Carriage Bintang to have it fixed, since it involved camber adjustments. The service consultant confirmed it was the case, but slapped me with a huge bill. The car had only done less than 10,000 km, including the long trip to Penang. I wrote in to protest. Guess what? A case number was given to me, but it has been months, I have yet to hear from Cycle & Carriage Bintang. Ask me to patronize the company again? You must be joking!!!

ASUS’s Wifi thumb drive is another case in point. It asks you to connect, then you are supposed to enter your password, next it asks you to save, which attracts another question like: Do you want to override the old one. You can click yes or no to your heart’s content; it will take you back to the same series of questions one more time!
It is strange that these IT designers don’t get users, especially those who are new, to walk through the process. Sure, such silliness is not a problem since they know the system. But others, especially older dinosaurs like me?

Microsoft likes to hit you where it hurts most. As recent as last month, even though my Office suite was the 2010 version, for Outlook, I still used the 2003 vintage. Outlook, as we all know, is the most expensive component of Office and I was too stingy to change, since the old "Morris Minor" was still very much functioning.

Lately I was attracted by Microsoft’s new offer. For A$9 a month, I could have its Office 2013. I lost no time in signing up. The next couple of days were very frustrating. Error messages kept popping up: Error 40x800blahblahblah. They were worse than Greek to me. Its Technical Support was not available during weekends and non-office hours. I went to its web notes to look for solutions. I got nowhere. Finally, I spoke to their support team. Despite my handicap in Filipino English, I managed to get the programs activated. However, I have yet to be able to access my contacts with one click, a feature which Microsoft proudly claims.

The gold medal for the most laughable brochures in English, I reckon, has to be awarded to suppliers of Chinese products and services. Many volumes have been written on this phenomenon. I would just like to contribute a little here. I love to cite CCTV’s English Channel. Is it for the West? If it is, then its producers have certainly not been doing their job. I have yet to come across any westerner who bothers to tune in to this channel. If it is for English-speaking Chinese, then I must say that it is also a very mediocre do, notwithstanding the money spent. Even I find the commercials irritating; same voices are being used over and over and they sound as if they were doing a drama! The so-called experts that have been brought in to talk about global issues would always start their sentence “I think” or “You understand” or the likes. These are direct Chinese translations from the way we Chinese tend to speak. Even the former chief economist of the World Bank, who is supposed to have a PhD from one of the top universities in the States, also displays the same thought process.
Jia Qing Ling was a governor and later party secretary of China's ujian Province before he went on to become the mayor of Beijing and later a politburo member. I thought I had made a friend out of him when he visited Genting. I wrote to him to suggest that China should start a clearing house for English translations of the products and services that it exported. Guess what, it must have ended up as a piece of junk mail in his secretary’s rubbish bin.

I can go on and on with examples like these. Fortunately, there are still many good companies around.
If you forget to turn off data-roaming when you are overseas, you are likely to end up with a fat bill after your return. I believe Maxis, Digi and all their buddies don’t alert you about this; they only want to trap you to pay more. I like my Optus. For an old man like me, I tend to forget things. The moment I turn on my Australian phone overseas, I am sure to see a message from Optus that my data roaming facility was on and this would incur costly charges. Why do you need this on when Wifi is quite readily available in many places nowadays? Turn the feature off! Before Optus introduced this alert, I was hit by a couple of hundred Aussie dollars because I was overseas and did not turn off data roaming. I telephoned to explain; the lady over the line was happy to credit much of the amount back. There are also another two occasions when they informed that their internal audit had discovered that I had been overcharged. Credits were promptly given.  Do you get that from Maxis or Digi or their likes in Malaysia? Fat hope!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Show some respect to your elders please!

Many students coming to Australia are quick to pick up Aussie habits, one of which is the way they address elders and teachers: first of given names like John, Peter, Linda, etc. 

Recently a friend asked if I could help facilitate his friend's daughter to do a short internship in the farm near Melbourne which I am associated with. I was happy to oblige. An SMS soon came through from her; it began with "Dear Yu Book". It really turned me off; nonetheless, I responded, but advised that she should not forget her oriental roots. She was all apologetic.

This is not the first time I saw Malaysian students were quick to pick up Aussie casualness. Earlier another friend's son who is doing his PhD also began his email to me with the "Dear Yu Book" stuff, I lost in correcting him.

Even at my age and station, I still address acquaintances and people I meet for the first time as Mr or Mrs or Madam. It is people who are much younger than me than I would call them by their given name. I find Indonesians are particular courteous; everyone is Pak or Ibu to them. I feel a little awkward when son-in-law's friends, some of whom are already very senior executives, addressing me as Uncle. But that's the type of upbringing many of us would actually like to see. I a a firm believer of Confucian etiquette. I was very strict with my children about the need to observe such cultural norm when they met their elders. I see with great pride that they are still practising it even though they were educated in Australia and are close to 40 now. To every friend of mine whom they knew from childhood, it was uncle or auntie to them; otherwise Mr or Mrs so and so. 

My Aussie staff, even those at entry level, are oblivious to the need to show respect to seniors or bosses. Based on their "first" name "ignorance", they would address me as "Yu", which I found most irritating. Since Yu Book was too much of a mouthful to them, I usually would advise me to call me "Lim". But few saw the need to address me as Mr Lim. (My oriental staff would, always without exception, address me as Mr Lim.) This lack of awareness also speaks volumes about Aussies' ability to handle the outside world!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Names, names, names

I always get a little irritated when someone calls me Yu. What Yu? The more courteous ones would address me as Mr Book, a name which appears logical to many. But they are NOT my names!

The name my father gave me is Yu Book in Romanised form and my surname or family name is Lim. But most Aussie or westerners just don't get it. I can understand their ignorance, but in our own backyard Malaysia, many forms still carry the column "First Name" and "Last Name". (Take a look at those from the local airlines, credit card companies, merchants and even banks.)  If I go by their simplistic approach, I might have to fill them as Lim and Book respectively. But obviously they are not the right answers sought.

This is basically an east-west divide; but many in our own backyard have also lost their common sense in blindly adopting the "First and Last names" nomenclature.

I usually take pain to explain to my western and non-East Asian acquaintances. Chinese names come in two parts, the preceding one represents the surname or the family name. The second and third ones have to be taken together. Amongst the more traditional Chinese, one of the two components in the given name has a generational identification. (You can tell someone is your remote cousin, even though he might be decades younger than you, or is almost as ancient as your grandpa.) To help people in my part of the world, in my case, I hyphenate my given name: Yu-Book. In Rome, it is best you do what the Romans do. In Australia, I carry my card as Yu-Book LIM, with LIM spelt in capital letters, for the benefit of East Asians so that they would not be confused what my surname or family name is.

Coming to Romanising Chinese names, Mainland China is not doing justice to themselves. I think the Taiwan version, which I have adopted, is basically the right approach. China’s President Xi's (Mr Eleven to an Indian broadcaster!) given name "Jinping" is spelt as one word. It should have been Jin-Ping, where each component carries a meaning and when both taken together and hyphenated, the name becomes totally wholesome - in the manner what one's parents aspires his child to grow up into.

The Version in mainland China is most confusing, especially in geographical names: Beijing, Wuyisan, Xian, etc. There may be an even better approach than the Taiwan version. My name should perhaps be spelt as LIM YuBook, so that Beijing, Wuyisan, Xian etc can be spelt as Bei-jing, WuYi-san, Xi-An, etc. From them, foreigners would also be able to discern it is a capital city (jing), a mountain (san) or a road (lu). Think about it!