Saturday, 10 December 2005

Here I am

I have been taking advantage of the free high speed internet in the serviced apartment to use instant messenger as well as using the voice conversation functions. With many companies using voice over IP (VoIP), I figured that it must be rather mature by now. In all honesty, I have found it to be quite bearable - not much different to buying a calling card.

After deciding to take it one step further and supplement audio with video, I spent some time in choosing a small webcam for myself. Like any kid half my age, I got home all excited and eager to try it out. The setup always takes a long time, but I managed to see myself on my laptop screen! Success!

My previous experiences with using video conferencing were poor - perhaps due to the quality of the actual hardware itself. When I finally got it working with my instant messenger, I was pleasantly surprised with the results - potentially from low expectations up front.

Normal capture mode was reasonably fluid. Once integrated with an instant messenger, it was slightly laggy, but at least the quality of the image was high (640x480). Overall I was quite pleased with the results and felt that the video side definitely has added a very different dimension to keeping in touch with people. Sure, it beats just talking on the phone, but I'm sure further developments will continue to enrich this experience.

Being so far from all my friends and family highlights how difficult it is to keep in touch. Even with a relative abundance of resources at our disposal to communicate, it is still difficult to keep in touch and a far cry from face to face contact. There are many aspects outside audio and video which contributes to the entire experience, so I think that there is some way to go. For the time being, I'd just rather be there.

Sunday, 4 December 2005

Wine and memories

Last night was spent with some work colleagues, sitting around drinking a couple of bottles of wine after downing some eye fillet steaks from Oz.

Being out of town was no doubt being an important factor in bringing us together in the same room - easy as we are all living in the same apartment building spread over 3 floors.

"So what's your favourite wine?" I asked.
"Cab Sauv; South Australian," someone responded.
"I like fruity wines," chimed another.
I turned to the only person who hadn't answered.
"Hmm...," he said as he pondered over the question a bit more. "I'd have to say it really depends on the time, place and company. Sometimes you can have a mediocre wine, but remember it because of who you were with, what you were doing or that particular event. Sometimes, even good wines can be forgotten easily, if it wasn't a memorable occasion in itself."

The alcohol had already started to slow down my thinking and I needed some time to soak up that statement.

"I have this wine journal at home," he continued. "In it, there is a wine label peeler allowing you to take off the wine label and stick into the book. There are spaces in the book for you to write the time and place of opening the wine, who you were with and what rating you gave the wine. After a couple of years, it is rather interesting ot go back to the book and see what I had written."

What a great idea!

I agree that the environment which one is in is very important to setting up something to being memorable. Average food and service cannot sour moments where the company and environment is good. Sure, if the food and service were also top notch, then it would be a fantastic time.

Having the right people to share fantastic moments is a precious thing. It is times when I am away which I realise that hte people around me contribute to my memories a lot more than I originally thought. They are integral to ensuring each and every moment is a memorable one.

Almost one!

The Christmas lights lining the main road here in Singapore have served as a gentle reminder that the year is drawing to a close. Barely did I realise that almost a year has passed since I started this blog.

Of course, an update was long overdue - so I decided to take the opportunity to personalise my blog while I was at it. Little did I know that I knew so little about how this page is built! So after fiddling for a bit, I have made some minor additions. Now, some photos are up (although some are a bit of a blast from the past!).

I just plan to keep telling my story.

Saturday, 26 November 2005

Uncharted Waters

I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to go through some decent schooling, healthy and good meals, supportive and caring family and friends. I may not be the first to admit this, however, I do acknowledge this.

Although a large proportion of my friends consist of my high school and university friends, I would have to say that we became friends and stayed friends because we shared common thread - in that our backgrounds were largely the same. Furthermore, our next steps were similar too - we worried about what course, which university, what jobs, which jobs etc.

Looking back, I do wonder what happened to some people I used to know. Like that guy at the back of the class who never really said that much or that girl who used to be in my tutorial in uni. Sometimes, in a very roundabout way, I will meet these people again in a very different context. While I was working at the video store, a customer happened to also be a girl from my primary school. She looked the same, but this time, she had a little girl in her arms as she perused through the videos. It's interesting that at some point our lives had converged but we had eventually headed in different directions.

For me, the progressions from primary school to high school and subsequently university were probably a generated through a mixture of expectations, persuasion and environment. Very briefly I wondered a million what-if's, but realised the futility in such an exercise. I cannot change the past and have made so many choices over the years that the countless possibilities may have yielded a very large number of permutations which would be too difficult to speculate. What is now, is what is real.

I needed to eat, live and finance my habits of sports and videogames, so work was almost an obvious step after years of hitting the books. Following a number of years of plugging away at work, I could not think of a logical progression in terms of time usage. Retirement? - but this could be another 40 years away, a timeframe with which I am definitely not familiar.

"I have no direction," I complained to a friend.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't know what I want to do next."

Does there always have to be a next? Does one have to know what one is doing? There swere the same questions which were bombarding me.

"So where do you see yourself in five years time?"
"I don't know," I responded.
"Make sure you have a plan, because if you don't have a plan, you end up being part of someone else's plan."

A plan?

I pondered this for a moment. The thought had never really crossed my mind, as ironic as that may seem since I look as project plans and manage teams of people.

Perhaps the whole progression from school to uni to work was a plan. A plan which I had been transparent to me, but was there nonetheless. To this point, I was pretty much just going with the flow and not really thinking about what I wanted to do in the long run. Although plans rarely come true, at least there is something to aim for rather than standing on the spot.

I then spoke to one of my close friends.
"Do you have a plan?" I asked.
"Yeah. Of course. And an exit strategy." He began to explain his plan. Even though there were bumps along the way, his general plan was flexible enough to lead him to where he was and he is very happy where he is at the moment. I marvelled at his attention to detail, flexibility and general approach.

Hmm...maybe it's time I started planning.

Monday, 21 November 2005

Where in the world...?

Walking around with throngs of other people in the stifling heat; Watching beads of sweat develop on others; Feeling waterfalls of perspiration develop on me as my already saturated clothes cling to my body like huge suction caps.

I do feel like lazing about the pool and going for a swim and then getting fit (hey, at least I think about it). But my entire body feels like rejecting the notion of stepping outside in such humidity.

There's nothing like being in Singapore!

When the combination of 30 degrees celsius and 60% precipitation makes one feel a bit more than uncomfortable, there's nothing like sitting in an apartment with high speed internet and air-con creating a dry 23 degrees of comfort.

A lazy Sunday.

Typically, I attempt to compress as much as I can into my Sundays, although admittedly, a majority of the time is spent just travelling to and from destinations, rather than at the actual place I wanted to go.

Today started off great. Woke up late. Took a long shower. Had a hearty continental breakfast. Read some magazines. Chatted with friends. Played some games. Organised some emails and notes. Often, I don't allow myself that luxury, but once in a while it is relaxing and recharges.

A couple of things I noticed while here:

1) Just like HK, there is a general persistence to get on the train first - even if that means going against the tidal wave of people trying to get off the train. I am not sure whether it is to get bragging rights of who gets on first or general clamour to get to a seat or even fear of missing the trains which come every two minutes anyway.

2) Yesterday, I went shopping down at the local supermarket and was shocked at the extorionist prices charged for some of the goods. A packet of 250gms of beef was SG$4, milk was SG$3 and a punnet of berries were SG$8. Cooking for oneself is ludicrously expensive (upwards of $10) while food at the hawker stalls is $5 a pop. Talk about economies of scale! Apparently, most of the food is imported - even water is pumped from Malaysia!

3) Having just returned from HK, I understand that the temptation of shopping will be very great in many comparatively "cheaper" countries. For some reason, I spend more when I am overseas than when I am in town. Not that I spend it on food, but I just spend it buying item which, to be honest, I probably don't need or wouldn't have purchased back home. Having confided in a friend and confirmed that such behaviour was not isolated to myself, we concluded that this behaviour was the good deal theory.

Good Deal Theory
Knowing full well that it is comparatively more expensive in one's home country, one will merely spend the money for the sake of getting a good deal.
Common statements to justify one's decision include:
"I am not spending - I just saved money."
"I can't get the same product for that price back home."

This, I must say, would explain why my HK trip yielded seven pairs of shoes on the way home (admittedly, I had taken three pairs to HK in the first place - golf shoes, runners, and black shoes. Not unreasonable, right?)

4) Singapore has one of the highest level of savings in the world - gross national savings is about 38% of gross national income. That's a rather astonishing level and definitely puts me to shame! This would explain the high proportion of salespeople on the streets offering credit cards with low interest rates while throwing in some expensive gifts (like hi-fis and mobile phones). The uptake of credit cards is so low, that credit card companies are practically throwing them at people!

Thursday, 13 October 2005

Price check

Based on some hazy memories of finance, the value is what something is worth to a particular person whereas price is the actual sum paid for something. Furthermore, factors of demand and supply (and inherently value) will ultimately affect the price paid for a commodity.

For example, a drug which treats a rare disease which only five people in the world contracted. It would be logical to note that:
  • The drug would probably not be valuable to anyone who did not have any connection to those five people.
  • However, the value of this would be very high to those five people (and probably those around them too). But the price of this would definitely vary depending on supply: if there were hundreds of the drug available, then the pricewould be low; if there were only two of the drug in the world, then the price would be naturally be high (as those five people would be bidding furiously for those prized two cures).
Rationally, a "bargain" would be had when the price paid for a particular commodity is less than what it is worth (to that person). Furthermore, a person will not deliberately overpay for an item (especially if there is a direct substitute for that product).

Thinking through this raises a few questions:

1) What is my value to myself? Am I decently priced?

Casting my thoughts back to some obscure finance lectures and exams (*shudder*), a logical and widely accepted model to understand value would be the Discounted Cash Flow (DCF) model. The theory here is to find the present value of future free cash flow for the next couple of years. Unfortunately, unlike a company, my "going-concern" (i.e. my ability to continue operation in the future) is pretty much a concern. My useful life, will probably be closer to the next forty years or so. Based on this I can probably calculate how much I will have in retirement. Furthermore, I can reverse the formulae and derive how much free cash flow I need to generate now, in order to have a fixed amount in future.

This is only as good as the underlying assumptions made, but theoretically, I can probably work out my monetary value to myself. This excludes all other value to myself, e.g. relationships, etc.

Secondly is price. How does one price oneself? Perhaps the jobs market is a reasonably good indicator. If I have rare skills and experience, I will most likely be more expensive than if I had generic skills (all things being equal). If there was demand for the skills I have , I would be paid more. Alas, doing nothing and playing video games doesn't pay that well. Probably, by placing oneself on the market one would realise one's value, which is probably why many people change jobs within five years.

Interestingly enough, I also value my time. What could I be spending my time on to maximise my value? TV. Video games. Ok, so I am not constructive.

2) Do I value and price safety accurately?

Recent history cannot highlight the importance of safety - natural and man-made disasters have certainly changed the landscape of what I would have previously called a safe and comfortable place. Perhaps it is also a function of growing up and becoming more aware of what's been happening in the world, rather than being concerned about what I have been doing. I have to admit, though, that I value safety highly, but I am not sure that I pay a good price. In fact, this should be a time when I shy away from getting a bargain (hey - let's face it, sometimes you don't know what you are getting until you have gotten it), but in fact, I appear to be doing the opposite.

As I was recently booking my air-tickets, I recalled a lecture in Flight and Civilisation. Interestingly enough, many people book air-tickets based on price, rather than the history/mentality of the carrier. Most people will see flights as direct substitutes for one another, but I'm not sure that many people would attempt to understand the cause of the price difference. Sure, the number of major accidents in the airline industry has dropped considerably than that of the 70's and 80's, but I know that when I travel, I appreciate well maintained aircraft (not ones which have bits of exposed metal in the cabin, and are a flying tin shed) and reliable pilots (not ex-military pilots with vendettas).

Also, having recently evaluated the current car I drive as well as a potential cars, I understand the importance of technological and safety enhancements in cars: ABS is preventative, air-bags and crumple zones are damage control. Is it worth getting newer with better safety features? I would have to agree.

I absolutely agree that taking the necessary steps to prevent something happening does not guarantee it doesn't happen, it doesn't hurt to reduce the chances of it happening. I am risk averse and a numbers person, so higher exposure just means greater chance of something happening.

Insurance will have to be the next big example. If an insurance company goes belly up, the premiums and excesses would have been cheap while it lasted, but what if you had a claim? A disability or income protection claim. And didn't get paid. Disgruntled would most definitely be an understatement.

3) How do I value and price lifestyle?

I value lifestyle. Some people enjoy a vibrant, fast lifestyle and aim to be injected in a technological advance country. Different people have different perceptions of lifstryle - and I ultimately believe that it is a choice which someone makes.

Personally, I feel pretty lucky that I can play soccer on grass and not concrete, I can play golf without having to pay an arm and a leg, I can enjoy beautiful beaches (when I have the chance to go to them), enjoy good weather and enjoying all the good company of friends. All these little things really add up and make staying in this place worthwhile.

Assuming a simplistic model (mainly cos I can't think at the moment or am too lazy to do so) I would price this as the money I forgo by working in places which can give me those things. It could also be the comparative price it cost me to do a particular thing (e.g. playing golf here vs in Japan).

If I worked overseas and got paid more, then all those things which I forgo is the compensated through better pay. Previously, I wanted to travel and have fun. However it is also great to appreciate what I have back home.

Perhaps the phrase, "you get what you paid" isn't too far from the truth.

Monday, 12 September 2005


I admit, I have been feeling rather unhealthy as of late.

It would possibly have something to do with he fact that:
1) I am injured, therefore no sport (yeah, don't ask)
2) I have been busy at work (and therefore have successfully moulded the seat to my backside)
3) Snacking on very healthy foods (e.g. ice blocks, chocolate, fast food, lollies)
4) Over eating (like having two sandwiches and a Hainanese Chicken Rice for lunch, and then biscuits after lunch)

Signs that I am unhealthy:
1) Walking to the bus stop and feeling puffed. Walking to the train station and feeling flustered. Walking back from lunch and feeling a bit out of breath...ok, maybe just walking.
2) Wearing some pants and having a "muffin top" staring back at me.
3) Feeling hungry for most of the time
4) People commenting that I am eating a lot

All those biscuits, chips, chocolates, ice-creams and burgers finally have won. I feel like my metabolism is like that hare - running at hyper speed in the beginning but now, slowing down and taking a nap...practically hibernating.

In a quest to feel better, I decided to wear some of my "loose" fitting pants, only to find that they were tight now - can you believe it?

I also am feeling like I am tired as of late.
1) I can't stay up to watch TV or play games any more. I start to fall asleep. I used to laugh at those people. Now I don't even know if people are laughing at me - since I am asleep.
2) I want to take afternoon naps - maybe I am just bored, but they feel refreshing. Siestas have to be a good thing. Only problem is trying to fit that in around work.
3) Generally I feel like I am lacking energy (or boost) in the mornings. Maybe it's a lack of iron - who knows?
4) My reaction speeds are slower. This is evident whilst driving at high speeds. On PS2.

I think I need a total lifestyle revamp - consisting of a regime of exercies coupled with a healthy diet

Or maybe I am just getting on and need to accept it. But I won't go out without a fight!

Tuesday, 9 August 2005

Comfort Zone

"Did you ever think that the reason you are still doing something is because you are in your comfort zone?

The words churned through my mind.

Comfort zone. What is this? Is this when one hits the cruise control, doing everything instinctively and mindlessly? I am definitely comfortable in that scenario. Is it when one takes a holiday, lying around and not doing much? I would be comfortable then too.

One definition is:
"an established lifestyle in which a person feels comfortable as long as there is no drastic change"

Are humans really creatures of change? Or are we resistant to changes in our environment?

There is no doubt in my mind that as humans, we have changed. From subsistence lifestyles to supermarkets. As humans, we have altered the face of this earth through creation of items which serve our needs. Cities, building, cars, trains and planes. All these were human creations in order to make life comfortable.

Now, if suddenly someone said that we could no longer use our cars, would that be a change we would be able to live with? Would we be resistant to that change? My first answer would be a resounding, "YES!". It's almost like taking away a right. So how can it be that we had lived without cars for so long that we need it today? Is that our comfort zone? Is treading outside those boundaries really that difficult?

Maybe humans wish to have everything. We want changes when it suits our needs. But hate the changes which negatively affect us. Do humans really learn to adapt?

Perhaps one develops a reliance on something else which creates that comfort zone? Can one become a little too comfortable and reliant and therefore reluctant to move on even if they are not really happy?

Is it a trade-off or state of mind in which one feels that they cannot find a better substitute and therefore settle with what they already have?

Admittedly, if people were so comfortable, they would not take holidays or breaks from the things which they do. Even professionals sports people who are apparently doing what they love need a break from it all. Without change or a break from the norm, one doesn't really know what they are missing out, or have missed in that period of time.

Perhaps I need a break.

Monday, 4 July 2005

How have you been?

About an 2 hrs ago, I returned from what I remember as being my longest holiday since 2002. A whopping three weeks of fun in the good ol' US of A. (where have all those long uni holidays gone? Damn work!)

One of the most interesting points during this trip was when I was with my aunties in New Jersey. They had previously studied and lived in New York for around eight to ten years and in that time had obviously made a number of friends. Being far from home and in a new country, I imagined that it would be tough. They informed me that it was, as they had to work to help fund their way through college and had to live. It seemed rather strange as practically all my life I had known them to be in Hong Kong working as professionals. I forget they that they too went through a period of time whereby they had to study and work with minimal qualifications - it was just a side I had never even thought about.

So there I was being introduced to my aunties' network of friends - many whom they had not seen in years (mind you they had not been back to NY for close to 20 years). What I received was the warmest of welcomes and great openness and frankness. They discussed everything imaginable and I casually asked, "So how did you all know each other?" There was a slight pause and then as if a floodgate of memories were opened, they began explaining me the story of how they met, studied together, found jobs together, lived together - I could tell that their rich history was such a strong and special bond.

Each of the four days I spent in New Jersey and New York was filled with meeting new people - friends and family alike - who had in some way crossed paths with my aunts. Unfortunately, some of the meetings were very brief and I knew that those minutes of catch up could not replace the years in between. But the conversations covered the past, the present and the future. For some odd reason it felt wonderful to listen in a part of my relative's lives which I had no idea even existed. Of course, my particpation in those conversations were minimal, which allowed me ample time to observe and appreciate the situation.

The night that my aunt's were leaving the hotel, they said, "Sorry that you had to follow us around for the last few days meeting our friends. You did not get to see as much of New York as you would have liked."
I shrugged and replied, "That's ok - it was good to see another side of you both that I had never seen before. I think I had seen a lot in those 4 days and I really do envy you both. I wish that my friendships last like yours and they can pick up where they left off."
They laughed, "Well, you still have time - we had been friends with those people before you were born!"

I felt like I was a young kid again - like the last time I was in NY.

Monday, 6 June 2005

A weekend away

Quality family time is something which has been forgetten as of late. It's good to have the opportunity to get together once in a while to do things together and feel united once again.

As my family had not been on an outing in quite some time, we decided to head up to the Hunter Valley (including our relatively "new" addition, my brother in law). Thankfully, my other siblings had the time to organise it and had given it some thought beforehand.

We drove up on the Friday night (I was late, as I had to work till around 7pm) and my sister, her husband and I made it up there by around 10:30pm.

The cottage which we were staying in was quite cosy yet spacious - it was a one year old cottage with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a fireplace (and my gosh that fireplace was handy in the six-degree nights). I was the lucky one who had the lounge room....the reason being that I slept right near the fireplace and the rooms were all cold!

On the first night, we fell asleep while watching "Two Towers" (yes, they had a TV with a DVD player too).

The next morning, we woke up and looking out the window, there were sheep in a farm opposite our cottage! The front porch lead out to a flat plain and beyond that was farm with some sheep. The establishment provided us with some basic food such as bacon, eggs, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, milk, tea and juice so that served us well on the Saturday morning.

As my second sister had an assignment due and she doesn't drink wine, we decided to head off to our first vineyard - McGuigan. Bright and early, we headed into the McGuigan cellar by around 10:40am and decided to participate in the tour. I felt that it was a worthwhile exercise in that I learnt a few things about wine which I had not known before.

Following that, we took the opportunity to do a bit of wine tasting. Before long, we had tasted an expansive range of wines, and I personally had commited to 7 bottles of wine! But the most surprising thing of the day, was seeing someone I know there tasting wines as well! What a coincidence!

Next, we headed next door to the cheese factory and bought a few cheeses before heading home to grab my sister to go for lunch.

We ended up at Tempus Two where we ate at a Thai/Japanese place. The food was not spectacular, but the silliest moment was when my sister asked the waitress what type of potatoes were in the curry at which point the waitress came back and informed her that it was an ordinary potato! What a silly waitress and chef! Very unprofessional indeed.

We dropped my parents and sister back home and then proceeded to the Hunter Village to buy some more milk. I think it's a bit too commercialised and fake in that it is a bit of a touristy place. However, mission accomplished we headed back to the cottage for a bit of a breather before going out to dinner.

Dinner was at a place called Mojos. I quite liked the place (though it was very warm in there!). I had the lamb shanks (washed down with a Pepper Tree wine) and the creme brulee...both were delicious!

After dinner, it was home time, and in no time we had the log fire going again while finishing "Two Towers". Everyone was pretty beat, so we called it an early night (I fell asleep from all the wine drinking I think!)

The next morning, it was "Da Boyz" turn to make breakfast, so my dad, brother in law and I were in charge. My brother in law did a good job with the sausages, but my omlette of bacon, eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms failed miserably. It turned out to be some stuff all together edible, but zero points for presentation.

We packed up our bags and checked out by 10:30am and went to a small gallery of works before attempting to find the Cockfighters Cellar Door. Unfortunately, after driving for about an hour and only managing to find the vineyard, we called it quits and headed to Cypress Lakes to see if there was anything for lunch. Unfortunately, there was nothing on the menu which was that appetising, so we ended up at the Hunter Village again and had lunch there. The lowlight of the trip was here, as the coffee at Oscars was horrendous. The food was ok, but man, the coffee was terrible.

Walking off lunch we headed around the shops and found the Ken Duncan gallery. The panoramic photos were breathtaking. Some of those shots were absolutely unbelievable - I wondered how long it would have taken for him to take that perfect photo where not a ripple was in the water or where there was not a breeze to shake the leaves. The magical serenity of the photos were really soothing. It made me want to find my camera and take photos!

As we headed off, we decided to visit Pepper Tree Wines. The taste testing experience was only average but I still came away with two bottles of wine. We were about to go back to Sydney, but I had an urge to go to Lindemans, just because I wanted to see whether they had a wine I had been looking for.

We reached Lindemans and when I saw what was behind the counter, my heart almost skipped a beat! There was a wine which I had been searching for in Sydney for years! When I asked the price, he gave me a 33% discount! Not only that, I now have the range from 1994 to 1999! We tried Cabernet Sauvignons and could not say no to a few of the nice ones! Not sure whether I was under the influence, but I walked away with 13 bottles of wine that afternoon! What an alco!

Following that, we decided to head back home...It was definitely a welcome breather from work and fun to do something with my family again!

Wednesday, 18 May 2005

One man's chocolate...

To be honest, I rarely eat a lot of chocolate these days. I guess that's part of me trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. Or perhaps it was because one time I pigged out on a lot of chocolate and felt sick afterwards. Hmmm....either/or I hadn't really had a calling to eat chocolate for a while. I also confess that I hadn't been to a confectionary store in a while (I guess I, like most others, shop at supermarkets).

But it was upon recommendation (or maybe some strong marketing - who knows) that I was standing inside the chocolate store, requesting samples of the different types of chocolates that the
Chocolate Genie had to offer.

The assortment really stirred the imagination as well as the stomach. I sampled the Equadorian, Cinnamon, Chilli, Ginger, Dark, Milk Coffee, Lemon, Lime, Lemon Myrtle, Orange - and it definitely was a heck of a decision when it came down to choosing the ones I really liked. Some were really refreshing; some had a bit of a bite to them; some were downright unusual so they had the novelty factor working for them.

I tried to narrow my choices down to a few items which I really enjoyed, but I have to say, I really did like a lot of them! Of course I ended up buying a whopping 7 packets for myself and 5 packets as gifts (and departing with $50 - even after a 30% discount). That coming from someone who "rarely" eats chocolates.

Unfortunately, I learned from the shop attendant that they are closing down over the next 2-4 weeks (the owner has decided to retire at 66 years of age). To an extent, that would have fuelled some of those purchases as I would not be able to buy them in the future.

It's a shame to see a store like this will not be available any more. This got me thinking why a store with an award winning product would close down (and I'm sure that I am not the only one thinking that either).

For those who have actually been to the store, I would say the first few things which hit me were:
1) Location - being at the back of an shopping arcade in a residential area just did not allow it to get the visibility it deserved. Furthermore, with a major shopping centre in the next suburb, it was much more easily forgotten.
2) Packaging - the packaging definitely left something to be desired. Sure, the product is great, but part of it is self promotion. A well presented and unique box or bag will surely go a long way to ensuring that people will buy it or use it as gifts.
3) Marketing - how many people had even heard of this place? There is virtually no marketing outside local areas for this product. Also, the decor seemed dated and was not conducive to enticing a broad crowd to come and try the chocolates even if tasting was for free.
    There are a number of other factors working against the chocolate scene in that it is not perceived to be a health food and typically is complimentary around a normal meal in that it is really a eaten when relaxing. Now other chocolate stores have cropped up and really taken a foothold in the market.

    However, without trying to oversimplify the complexities and underestimating the difficulties in running a business, I do believe that there is a positive value proposition to be had with the store. I wonder if it will be rescued or reincarnated in some form or other? I hope it will.

    Wednesday, 6 April 2005



    I doesn't seem like a long time - but it has been. I can't believe that an entire month and half has gone by - things just seem to move so quickly. It feels like I have been in a time warp.

    Work has been rather busy and eating up most of my time. In my quest to achieve balance, I decided to up the hours I spend going out too! Unfortunately, this took its toll on me and here I am sitting at home sick. Obviously, that balance I mentioned earlier needed to include rest. Oh well!

    One would think that I would be thinking of a million things to do while I gleefully clutched my medical certificate. Obviously, sick leave is the perfect excuse to play video games, watch movies and play golf! But no. I decided to take some rest and get better soon. This is probably the first time in around 3 years when I felt so sick I needed to take sick leave. More than anything, I realised that I needed rest.

    Dedicating so much time at work really makes one wonder what is all for? Work will still be there tomorrow. If things don't get done, someone else will step up to the plate and do the job. Resigning will only manage to piss people off for not telling them earlier. That's about it.

    A colleague saw my security pass and asked me when that photo was taken. Thinking back, it has been a while. Over the years, it has been interesting catching up with my fellow start group members. Many have moved on to other things they wanted to do - working in , becoming a lecturer, relaxing in a less demanding work like contracting, taking unpaid leave or building huts in Thailand.

    Wouldn't it be great to be free from the shackles of having to work and doing it just for fun?

    My chemistry teacher was apparently a millionaire. He speculated on a couple of gold mining stocks earlier in his life and they went from sub $1 to over $100. Naturally, cashing in on this he made a small fortune. All the students were incredulous.When truanting and getting away from school was a school boy's entire reason for existance, we could not understand why he was coming back for more punishment. "Why would you want to put yourself through the misery of looking after a group of mischevious school boys when you can be relaxing and doing nothing?"
    He shrugged and mentioned that it was something for him to do, kept his mind busy and said that he did not need to work, but it was a choice he made because he liked it.

    Looking at my parents I think that they are lucky to be able to retire and lead a more relaxed and comfortable lifestyle without the hassles of working. I guess they have gone through their own tough times to get there.

    I hope I can get to that stage where I can retire and live comfortably. I will have the freedom to do all the things that I want to do.

    I think I need to dedicate more time to figuring that out. Perhaps I need to just work smarter and not harder.

    quote: "I want to bang a mouse"

    *referring to getting pissed off at work and wanting to hit something, so hence the computer mouse.

    Monday, 28 February 2005

    To a grinding halt

    I always thought that if you take care of something, then chances are that it won't break down when you least expect it or really need it.

    My computer has been rather temperamental as of late. I thought I treated it well. Fed it new data once in a while, fixed it when lightning fried the motherboard and nurtured when it was sick with a virus. But instead, it repays me by refusing to launch IE (hence the switch to Firefox, so don't blame me for lack of browser support) and shaking its head disdainfully at MSN.
    "Why won't you connect? Why man, why?" I would ask, but the silence would be deafening. Some can be so ungrateful. I guess I need to get a better computer.

    My ISP must have decided to increase their customer base - resulting in slow connectivity...oh hang on - that's only when I can connect. How can such a network not have enough lines? I thought I had been a loyal customer (my plan is so old, that they don't even offer it anymore). I guess it's time to upgrade to broadband....and hold a ritual where I burn my modem. My patience has been tested one time too many.

    I drink the filtered water dispensed from the fridge often - I wait patiently while my cup fills up. But the tubing to the fridge burst and leaked everywhere. Did I drink too much water? What did I do? No quick filtered water now.

    I trusted our family Corolla for close to 11 years now. In one week, it developed a burst water pipe, which was followed by a complication of a burst radiator. My friend reckons it was my PS2. I knew I should not have got the wheel for GT4. It's not my fault that I see racing lines on the road and try to get best laps in my Corolla, is it? Ok, so I probably did deserve it, but I was there for the car when it cracked 80,000km and 150,000km - I was there for those big milestones. I guess it just wasn't enough.
    On a side note, it is really inconvenient not having a car. Getting lifts is definitely not a great way to go. *sigh* I guess that forces me into getting a car. Also, insurance is a killer for my "profile" when coupled with particular types of cars (read: "performance vehicles").

    I consider myself to be rather patient, but when my laptop decides to take three minutes to navigate between applications, followed by a screen with nothing but a mouse pointer...what on earth do a click on? Restarting my laptop a number of times with deadlines is really annoying.

    Work needs to be more compassionate. Looking at the people around me, some people look broken - they need a break!

    Today, my MD decides that buttons on the remote are not meaningful, so my remote decides to stop working. Great!

    I also hate it when people decide to steal things and break into places. Why do that? Our welfare system is adequate, though not providing a fantastic standard of living. *sigh* Surely there are other ways to earn a living...

    Sometimes, even if one invests patience, time, energy to look after something, it does not necessarily equate to it working out or even guarantees that it will be there. There are other external factors at play which one is not necessarily aware of, which can change the outcome. It does help, but sometimes it is out of one's hands.

    Oh well.
    I guess it's just time to upgrade and look forward to getting some new stuff!

    Sunday, 13 February 2005

    What I remember....

    During high school, I was rather fascinated by the idea of having a fantastic memory. Such a skill would be invaluable – think of the possibilities? I wouldn’t forget a formula, a Shakespearean quote or what my parents have told me. Everything could be recalled at will and with fantastic detail! Best of all, it means less study time, more play time!

    This led me to read up about a man named Dr A.R. Luria, a psychologist who tested the memory of a man for thirty years. The case study, a man referred to as S., had practically perfect recall – even after thirty years! He could recall the contents of the tests, the time of day, what the professor was wearing - all with a huge amount of detail. He would use synesthesia to aid his memory, utilising all his senses to describe an event.

    Sometimes, different sensory cues will trigger memories. Seeing particular icons, smelling the sweet grass at the park or the taste of certain foods – all can cause memories to come rushing back, whether voluntarily or not.

    Upon further analysis, I noticed that, unlike S., my memory does not use all senses every time. In terms of the order of the senses I seem to file against a memory, it would be:

    1. Sight – A lot of my memory seems to have detailed images.
    2. Smells – To me, scents are important. I would go so far as to say that perfumes that people use can also determine the type of person that they are – but that’s another story. Sometimes perfumes, foods can bring up some random memories. Also, they can be bad scents too – like that time I was in Guangzhou and had to visit a public toilet. To this day, if I think about it, I still gag….**gag, cough, splutter** Yuck!
    3. Sound – For some reason I don’t appear to have that many sounds attached to my memories. I sometimes don’t remember what people tell me – which is a bad thing, I am often told…doh!
    4. Taste – to a lesser extent but only for foods. Except after eating very hot chilly – since my mouth goes numb and I can’t taste anything!
    5. Touch – for me, this is definitely an underused sense. Wait, I do have a strong memory of touch – I remember gliding my thumb over it and feeling the wave of joy as I realised that I just picked up a “two of bamboo” tile in Mahjong and won! Haha!

    With all memories, I believe that I attach an emotion as well, so I also remember what I felt at the time.

    I wondered why my memories do not contain utilise all senses and figured that it was because I had not learnt to develop all my senses equally. Some people would naturally have stronger senses than others, but it may also be a function of what one did in the past. For example, playing video games relied heavily on visual clues so this trained my visual senses more quickly. Only recently have I been developing my audio skills. The reason is work – my team members would come to me with their problems and I would have to listen to them. I remember when I first became a team lead, I did not listen well but luckily I had a whiteboard, so I would use it to help me visualise problems. I have a fair bit to go in this department and could do with more practise!

    Tuesday, 1 February 2005


    "How many basketball comps would that make it?"
    "Well, if I join these two, then it would make it four."
    "I think that's too many."

    Having spent three years of my time on out-of-town assignments, I came back safe in the knowledge that I had upgraded my fitness levels - from terrible to horrendous.

    I played pickup basketball and my friend asked me, "Are you ok? Your face looks black from lack of oxygen..."

    At that point I knew I needed to do something to regain my fitness, so proceeded to ask around with regards to basketball competitions, pickup games, indoor/outdoor soccer - practically anything which allowed me to sweat it out.

    My regime would consist of basketball training three times a week, two basketball comps during the week as well as an indoor soccer session.

    The first couple of weeks were absolutely exhausting (especially with work slotted around all that too), but slowly my fitness was back and I could run for ages without getting tired.

    If I threw two more competitions in there, I would have absolutely no time to do anything.

    I guess I get carried away sometimes, and in my mind I am unwilling to compromise. With all those activities, it is not surprising that I have very little time to do anything else at all. Yet, I still lament that I have not finished enough video games, worked on my golf swing, seen friends enough or tackled the massive stack of paperwork sitting on my desk.

    In the past, I would have questioned why I couldn't have everything.
    "Why can't I play heaps of basketball and be good at it, as well as have a successful career as well as see all my friends?"
    Now, I realise that my biggest constraints are: time and energy.

    I'm also sure that there are some very talented folk out there who are good at practically everything without having to work on it. But for those who are like me and suffer from severe mediocracy: to be good at anything, time and energy are required.

    Perhaps the same could be said for relationships. Without dedicating proper time and energy to it, it will never flourish. Sure, time and energy doesn't guarantee results but less time and energy could have even worse results than those already achieved (think what it would be like if no time or energy were spent on it!)

    Both elements are important. Time without energy means that one does not put their heart into it. Having energy with no time results in intense spurts which are not effective nor long term focused.

    Having recently played chaffeur for my sister, we stopped for coffee and chatted about what we had been doing and our thoughts on the future. The forty minutes went by quickly and I think we both had a good time talking and we both realised that we had not chatted like that in ages.

    I am a big advocate of striving for balance in the activities I do, so I will definitely aim to dedicate more time and energy in different facets of my life.

    Monday, 17 January 2005

    Scratch and sniff

    "So while we were all crammed into the one carriage and there was no air-con, " my friend relayed to me, with regards to a particular commute to work by train. "This small girl was standing near a pole, and this huge guy came over and put his arm up to grab the pole. Only that this guy's shirt was clearly stained and saturated with what could only have been identified as sweat and her face was practically rubbing his wet armpits. I had a blocked nose and I could smell it. Poor girl."

    I was thinking about this for a while and thought this is something I don't miss about being back in Sydney. It is so relaxing to be able to walk to work, the breeze in your face and having space was such a great feeling.

    Thankfully, the bus fleet which services my area has been largely upgraded to air-conditioned buses, so the summer heat is definitely bearable even when the maximum loads are applied.
    But the trains and train stations (the underground ones in particular) are practically furnaces. The trek to the platform is enough to induce beads of sweat on most people - let alone the train ride itself. There's almost a collective sigh of relief as the doors open at my stop. There's a mad rush to get out of the station and into the adjacent shopping centre or an office environment to cool down.

    Let's face it - most people do perspire but it depends on the degree. I can be rather self conscious some times and I do wonder whether I stink - whether it be at work after a commute or after playing sport. I mean, what if someone thought I really stank the whole place out? That would be very embarassing wouldn't it? Would I have the guts to tell someone? Probably not - I mean how would one go about hinting that to someone? Buy them a deodorant pack for Kris Kringle??? Say something like, "Hey they were giving out deodorant packs at the station and I managed to pick up two. Do you want one??" What if they responded, "No, that's ok. I don't use deodorant."

    However, some people go out for runs/gym etc and come back as if they never went out to be active. What's the story there?

    To be fair, generally there aren't many girls who smell bad (not including bad chocies in perfume) . I have to give them credit - how do they do it?

    * Maybe people should wear some sports gear that are "specially designed to shift perspiration away from the body, and keep you cool."...

    * Maybe people should ensure that deodorant is available readily everywhere they go...

    * Maybe I should just learn to be less self conscious...

    * Maybe all of the above!

    Would I want to know if I was bothering others? Yeah - for the reason that I can actually do something about it and take corrective steps to stem the stench. I don't want to be know as "stinkikin" now, would I?

    Monday, 10 January 2005

    Sales 'tude

    Gosh the weekends seem to just evaporate. Perhaps I was spoilt with those three/four day weekends, but they go by so quickly.

    On Saturday, I decided to go for a test drive (just for fun). Hadn’t driven manual in a while (make that three years), but obviously had to drive the manual version of the 350Z Roadster. Very nice car I have to say! Bad part was having dirt and leaves blowing into the car and that my arms were burnt from having the top down. Only problem was that it doesn’t fit a set of golf clubs! I hit the driving range in the afternoon and tested out my friend’s new R5 460CC driver. The sweet note of hitting the ball cleanly was just as much reward as seeing the ball traveling a great distance.

    Sunday morning was a little dreary but decided to go shopping with my little sister. We decided to go out to buy a few choice items but I must have been underdressed for the occasion. I was seriously dished some attitude when I went shopping! What is it about me that I always seem to get snobbed at? Ok, so I don’t dress well, but hey, why on earth do you think I am go shopping in the first place?

    Example 1.
    Walk into store to look at a shirt. I pick it up and we have the following exchange:

    Sales: "Can I help you there?"
    Me: "Yes. I was wondering whether I can try this shirt?"
    Sales: (*takes shirt from my hand and clutches it protectively*) "Sorry this won’t fit you. This is the last one I have left."
    Me: "Right-io..."

    That sales was a like Smeagol. *my precious shirt*. What a loser!

    Example 2.
    Walk into store and I tried on this brown jacket. The salesperson helped us and there were about four jackets in both brown and black on the rack, one in each size. I proceeded to tell the sales that I wanted it.

    Me: "Yes, I'll like to take this, except for one problem – there’s a mark on the front pocket."
    Sales: "Really? I think it comes off..."(*proceeds to scratch at the mark*)"...I don't think this is on the other ones."(*checks the other jackets on the rack*)
    Sister: "Well perhaps you have a new one?"
    Sales: " Well all the ones on the rack are new..."
    Me: " But they don't have the right size. "(since he was the one who helped us find the size, should know, but anyway...)
    Sales: "I don't suppose you want it in the black?"
    Me: "Ah no."
    Sales: "Well I suppose I could get it in."
    Me: "Well then I don't suppose you could check your Melbourne stores?"
    Sales: (*checks computer*) "Ah yes they have it..."
    Me: "So..."(waiting for him to fill in the blank, but clearly is unable to draw any conclusion for himself)"...can you order it in?" (I was starting to get a little more than exasperated)
    Sales: "Are you sure you want it?"
    (At this point I’m thinking that this guy is slow...)
    Me: "Yes, I do want it."
    Sales: "Well, I can’t order it in unless you buy it."
    (Is this guy for real??? I was almost speechless!!)
    Me: "Yes I will pay for it."
    Sis: "So, what if that jacket has a problem with it?"
    Sales: (*embarrassed at their apparent lack of quality control*) "Oh. I will get the sales down there to check it before they send it up."

    Got to hand it to my sister for putting him in his place. After taking down my name, he proceeded to ask me for my name again when he was entering it into the computer. He was even more embarrassed when he could clearly see that we were getting impatient at him entering the details into the computer. S.L.O.W. I'd hate to see his CV

    Example 3
    Walk into a particular store not to mention any brands associate with horses, but I was checking out these polo shirts, and the salesperson says: "I don’t have any Medium or Small sizes left".
    I'm thinking, "Huh? This guy must be schizophrenic, since I did not say anything".

    I mean, honestly, what is it? Really - tell me to my face. Do I need to dress up to look like I can buy something before going into your store? Sure dressed in t-shirt and jeans isn't exactly classy, but why on earth do I need to be dressed up to go shopping?

    Is it the way I carry myself? Do I look like a little kid just out of high school?

    Crap. I get better service at large chains than those some of those boutique stores. But what I don’t understand is their mentality. I just want to shake them silly and scream, "My purchase keeps in a job, you nincompoop! You idiot! Can't you see that I am not the one working here?"

    Friday, 7 January 2005


    I guess there is more to me than being a perfectionist.

    I recently got sent a link to a
    Jung Typology Test. I was a little more than curious, to say the least, so I embarked on the 72 questions with perfectionist tendencies - taking my time with each question and thinking of examples of each to match. However, I thought, "What the heck - it should be based on gut feel anyway!" and rushed through the last third of the questions.

    So what am I?

    Introverted + iNtuitive + Thinking + Perceiving = INTP

    The website then presented a link to some
    definitions of INTP.

    Apparently, INTPs:
    - Are pensive, analytical folk who can be so deep in thought that they are oblivious to the world around them (*hmm. let me see...yeah - I'll tick that*)
    - Love playing math (*tick*)
    - Enjoy chess! (*tick*)
    - Exploring and mastering systems (*tick!*)
    - Relatively easy going (*er...tick?...ok this is starting to freak me out!*)

    That was an interesting exercise!

    But I guess that people do change over time (I know I did) and the outcomes are probably dependant on what you happened to feel at that point in time too! From what I have observed though is that people normally have a range of characteristics and can sway from one side to the other.

    (This reminded me of one topic discussed in a recent course I attended. The topic focused on the different social styles of an individual. The particular point which impressed me, was that armed with the knowledge of one audience's social style, one can tailor material to appeal to one's audience. I think I will experiment with this a little and test out its accuracy.)

    quote: "I don't want arms that only Dr Hans Blix can find."

    *referring to having skinny arms and not being buff.

    Wednesday, 5 January 2005

    Another year over and a new one just begun

    What did I do to send off 2004? Well, after work (yes - work), I went to my sister's place. She and her husband just came back from their holidays and was kind enough to play host to a small group. Luckily, we went out to get some essentials - beer (Hoegaardens and Carlton Cold). Pity only 4 people drank...I think I guzzled the most!

    We kicked off the proceedings by playing drinking games with dice and after dinner, headed down to the vantage point in front of Luna Park for the 9pm fireworks. Nothing special for a quick 10mins. So proceeded to head back to my sister's place and make a start on the Mahjong table. Things were definitely not going my way there! Time-out was called at 11:45pm and we headed back down for the official 12am fireworks. To be honest, I was disappointed! Last year, from the same spot, I could feel the vibrations from the fireworks in my chest. This year, it was tame (and there was sight/sound disparity). Also, what's with that globe on the Bridge which did a whole lot of nothing! Anyway...

    Goodbye 2004!

    Welcome 2005!

    Went back to my sister's place to finish more beer and mahjong. First lesson of 2005 : beer and mahjong do not mix, especially if you want to concentrate and win. Lost heavily! **sniff**
    Anyway, wrapped things up at around 5am.

    I spent the first day of the year recuperating - at my sister's place! I ate, watched DVDs (Shrek 2, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Johnny English) and then my parents came and we all had dinner together. It was pretty good, but I could tell my sister and brother in law were rather exhausted.

    The 2 Jan was spent celebrating my good friend's birthday! My friend, his girlfriend and another friend had brunch at Bills 2 - it was great! This was followed by a scenic walk around Vaucluse and the Heads area. Very peaceful and relaxing - I had never known such a walk even existed! I was tired by the end of it - definitely a hot day!

    Managed to squeeze in a round of golf on 3 Jan (gotta love those public holidays)! Low point of the day was realising I forgot my buggy! High point of the day was teeing off to get over a gorge of around 180m without losing a ball! Overall, I didn't play too badly and managed to only win 6 holes which kept me even for the day. Definitely work on my golf game this year - I will probably take lessons.

    Due to me not having much luck with Lotto on 31 Dec (it was not a good gambling night for me), I had to go back to work on 4th Jan...a world of joy.