Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Friends who talk to you ONLY when they need help

Do you have friends who talk to you only when they need help? Unfortunately, I do.

I never really had this experience before graduating from college. When you're young, you friends usually call you up to have fun together: watch movie, play sports, eating, hanging out, whatever.

After starting my career, I begin to notice that some people only contact me when they need certain kind of help. As soon as they discover that there's no way to gain any benefit from me, they'll stop talking to me, so suddenly that as if they intend to let me know that I'm of no value to them anymore.

Does society encourage this kind of thoughts for working professionals? If not, how come I never saw people like that when I was small?

I mean, even if you have such thought of only interacting with people who can help you in certain ways, would you make it a little bit less obvious?

Maybe that's the way the "professional" world works.

Maybe I'm still not "mature" enough to accept this as the norm of socializing (-____- )

Sunday, August 26, 2007

一生何求 (What you want in your Life) - Leo Ku

Like this song very much lately. The melody is very sweet :) Sorry for the sound quality of the video though, I couldn't find a better one on YouTube..

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Multilevel Marketing (MLM)? No...

I hesitated before writing this post since it may offend some of my friends who're in the business of Multilevel Marketing (MLM). However, I decided to write this post anyways because I really want to say something about it. So, if you're doing MLM business, please don't take this post personally as I'm just speaking of my general feelings about it.

Fear of MLM people

To be honest, I have a fear of MLM people (people in a MLM business). Why do a I fear them? Two reasons:
  • They make me feel that they're some form of cult
  • Whenever the MLM people contact me, I'll, automatically, think that they're trying to ask me to join them or sell me their products/services
Most of the times I'm just not interested in their products/services and I have to think of some excuse to reject their solicitations.

Rejecting a "friend"

It's pretty easy to say no to a stranger. The problem is that the MLM people are usually my "friends". I don't know about you, but I have an uneasy feeling whenever I need to reject my friends' requests. Sometimes I just don't know if I should treat the MLM people as my real friends or not since I don't like friendship with so much focus on money.

"Using" a friend

My old friend in Hong Kong once described friendship in the following way:
  • if you think of friendship in a nice way, it's helping each other
  • if you think of friendship in a bad way, it's using each other
Yes, what he said is kind of true. Nevertheless, I'm still not fond of the idea of "using your friends", and MLM people give me exactly that feeling (although they may not all think that way). They have every reason to persuade you to join their teams because once you do so they
  1. Get a bonus just because you sign up
  2. Earn a portion of your commission whenever you ask more people to join or sell some products/services

I know, they emphasize on the point that it's a "win-win" strategy: whenever you make money, I make money too. Yes, but this "win-win" is only in one direction. If I am one level below you,
  • You make money when I make money, cool, win-win
  • I don't make money when you make money, oops, no win-win
So, if I sign up at a level below you, effectively I'm working for you without getting paid!

Think about it, in an employer-employee relationship, the employer has to pay for the work the employee does for him/her. In an MLM relationship, a lower-level person works for him/herself, but then a portion of the money s/he earns goes to the upper-level person, no, actually, ALL the upper-level people, even someone s/he doesn't know. How do you feel about that? Do you feel being treated fairly? How about the fact that your "friend" or some stranger suddenly becomes your boss?

And sometimes those "friends" are just acquaintances

According to what I said above, MLM isn't really a win-win relationship. Instead, I feel that I'm doing one a favor if I join his/her MLM business.

Now, the funny thing is that those MLM people usually introduce the MLM business to the friends they just meet, some people they've only chatted for a while.

"Why would I do you a favor if I just know you? How can I not think that you're just using me?"

It's not that difficult to spend some time to get to know the person first before asking for a favor, right?

To friend or not to friend?

Actually what I just said about how "close" a friend is may not matter much: I don't like the idea of "using a friend", what's in my mind when you ask me to join a MLM business?
  • if I treat you as a friend, I can't join since being used or using others violate my definition of friends
  • if I don't treat you as a friend, why the hack do I want to help you?
Initial signup fee is a ripoff

Another bad thing about the MLM business is that people usually need to spend quite some money (usually a few hundred dollars) before they can join it. Some MLM even asks its member to pay a monthly fee.

I just hate these ideas.

I sell stuff for you and you pay me, good, it's fair. But now you're asking me to pay you even if I do nothing. Doing nothing isn't a sin but I've to pay for it? That doesn't make sense to me. If I don't have to pay anything for doing nothing and you only pay me when I help you sell stuff, I may consider joining your team.


Because of the things I mentioned above, I just don't have a good feeling about MLM business in general. What're you thoughts?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Silent Emotions - Long Vacation

Another nice song from the Long Vacation drama. I think that the name of the song matches the melody very well :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are you right more than 50% of the time?

Do you find the following conversation familiar to you?

"I think that [something] works [that way]", A claims.

"No, you're wrong. Don't you see that [an example of that something] works [the other way]?", B protests.

Besides math and logic, no theory in this world is absolute. Newton claimed that F = ma but it doesn't hold true when force approaches infinity, according to Einstein's theory of relativity. Hack, Heisenberg's uncertainly principle claims that we can never know the exact position and momentum of a particle simultaneously.

If Physics, a well-defined branch of science, is not so certain all the time, the day-to-day claims made by average people of course are even cruder.

So what makes a claim worth any value? From a probabilistic point of view, if the claim isn't true more than 50% of the time, we shouldn't believe it.

When one person makes a claim, instead of thinking of counter examples to protest it (which is easy to do), one should ask him/herself this question:

"Is this claim correct more than 50% of the time?"

To answer this question, one should think objectively and examine all the relevant cases s/he has experienced before. If most of the cases agree with the claim, the claim is true, in a probabilistic sense, and there is no point to argue.

People usually fall into one mind trap: when some counter examples are so personal or close to them, they'll use them as evidence and object to the claim strongly. (For example, I claim that "Most women know how to cook" and unfortunately your wife is an exception so you say "NO, that's NOT true!")

No no no.... Remember, we're not talking about math here.
  • In math, one counter example can prove a theory wrong
  • In reality, one counter example doesn't prove a claim wrong
You need more than 50% of counter examples to prove a claim wrong. And, even in that case, the claim is still worth something since by reversing it, you get a new claim that's right more than half of the times.

What're the the most useless claims then? You bet, those claims that are correct exactly 50% of the times. That's why I hate answers like "Maybe", "Probably", "It depends" so much.

Come on, claim you thoughts guys. Even they're wrong, it still worths more than those "It depends"'s :P

One more thought: If you think about it, how can a claim be right exactly 50% of the time?? It's obvious that people who give "It depends" as an answer haven't really use their brains to analyze the claim...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I Hate Myself for Loving You - Joan Jett and the Black Hearts

Another hit song from Joan Jett and the Black Hearts. Joan looks a lot younger in the video.. Well, that's a recording from the 80's :P

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Beware of robbery in Alhambra

Yesterday, my friend told me that her friends got robbed in the parking lot behind Phoenix Inn Chinese Cusine on Valley Blvd. It was around midnight and they got robbed by four people, three threatening them and one driving. All of them wore some kind of masks and were armed with knifes. Her friends gave them all their valuable belongings but fortunately no one was hurt. They called the police afterwards but I'm not sure even anyone is caught at this point.

This is the third time my friend's friends got robbed in the Alhambra area already (I don't know why her friends are so unlucky).

Man, when did Alhambra became so dangerous?

My friend said that it's probably due to the increasing number of light clubs and bars since those patrons serve as very good "targets" for robbery.

Did a little bit of research about preventing and reacting to robbery and would like to share with you:

Preventing robbery
  • Avoid going to/through places where lighting are inadequate
  • Walk with a group of friends (2 robbers probably won't target a group of 10 people)
  • Glance behind you from time to time
  • If there're suspicious people on your way to the parking lot/in the parking lot, go back to the bar/club/restaurant and call for help
  • If you sense that someone is following you, go to places where you'll find people around you as soon as possible
  • Bring a personal alarm with you. Trigger it immediately when you're very certain that someone approaching is going to pose a danger to you (if s/he has a knife or gun in his hand!)
  • Have you keys ready when you come close to your car. Don't stand alone and look for it in your handbag since you won't know someone is approaching you!
  • Watch around before stepping into or out of your car
  • Check if somebody is already in the backseat before stepping into your car!
  • Keep the car doors locked and windows rolled up when you're driving
  • If you car is being followed, drive to the closest well-lit gas station, or, better yet, police station
  • If you get into a car accident at late night, signal the other driver to drive to a well-lit public place. You won't know if he's trying to hit your car and lure you out to rob you
  • If someone suspicious approaches you when you stop at a red light or stop sign, blow your horn repeatedly
  • If there're suspicious people hanging around your home, drive to some public place where you can call for help
  • If some "good" fellows tell you that your car has some problem (like a broken tire), drive to the closet well-lit public place to check it
  • Don't stay out too late!
Reacting to robbery
  • Stay calm and don't scream. The robbers may attack you to "make your mouth shut"
  • Even if no immediate weapon is visible, believe that the robber is armed if s/he claims so
  • Cooperate with the robber! Your life is much more valuable their your money and belongings
  • Silently note the physical appearance of the robber: height, sex, race, face, clothing, etc.
  • Although we say that you should cooperate with the robber, there're exceptions. If the robber is trying to (1) attack you, (2) force you into his/her car, you have to resist!! (Think about it, if s/he only wants your money, why would s/he take you to somewhere else?)
  • This one is obvious: dial 9-1-1 as soon as the robber leaves. Listen to the instructions given by the police
In any case, remember that your personal safety is the most important. Be careful!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Telling your boss about your ideas

Just read CK's post 夠膽講 and the comments there and it makes me think about the issue of expressing one's ideas to the managements.

If you don't know Chinese, the post is about how CK was unhappy about the dead air when he asked his employees for their ideas/suggestions. In a nutshell, no one was willing to share their thoughts because
  • they're afraid that their ideas may offend the boss
  • they're afraid that other coworkers will think that they're "saying too much"
  • they only care about their salaries and not the company
After reading the post, I've a feeling that most people in Hong Kong think exactly like the three items I mentioned above and it scares me so much. If I have choices, I'll never work for a boss who doesn't listen to his employees and with coworkers who only care about their paychecks. It's just no fun to work in such an environment.

I don't treat the job duties of a manager (or boss) being superior to the ones of a subordinate. Instead, a manager is merely doing a different job. I'd guess that, to the minds of many people, a manager's greatest responsibility is to lead the team and make decisions. There're certainly merits in this thought but I think it's sub-optimal. Rather, I think that a manager's biggest job is to maximize the productivity of the team.

In this regard, the manager doesn't necessarily have to be the smartest/know the most about every issue that may come out from the project/work s/he manages. Instead, s/he should always think about how to help his/her team members to achieve more, for example, giving them the best work environment the company can afford.

If you think about it, actually, how can one individual knows all the details of a considerably big project? It's not just that it's unnecessary for the manager to know everything, it's infeasible for one to do so. If this is true, surely it's unwise for the manager to make decision without listening to other people.

Because of this, it's the management's responsibility to make the work place a friendly place to exchange ideas. Not only one shouldn't be punished for making suggestions, one should be encouraged to do so. If people are discouraged for voicing opinions, as time goes on, no one will speak out his/her thoughts anymore. There're two results
  • People who can still stand the company will just "work for money" everyday (The company doesn't care about him, why should he care about the company?)
  • People who can't stand will just leave the company
People who just "work for money" won't be happy about the job and coworkers around them can feel it, so in turn they won't be happy also or even be unhappy. When turnover rate is high, people will lose confidence in the company and this in turn leads to even higher turnover rate. It's just bad to the company, the boss, the managers, to everyone.

If you read Joel's post Two Stories, you'll know that the managers at Microsoft not only listen to the employees, they actually would like them to make decision themselves: (it was the old days of course, probably not the humongous Microsoft now)
At Microsoft, if you're the Program Manager working on the Excel macro strategy, even if you've been at the company for less than six months, it doesn't matter - you are the GOD of the Excel macro strategy, and nobody, not even employee number 6, is allowed to get in your way. Period.
As a conclusion, if you're
  • a boss/manager, stop practicing defensive management and listen to your employees. Better yet, let them make decisions as much as possible; mistakes make them learn and grow.
  • an employee, voice your opinions in a respectful way and encourage your coworkers to do so also. If it's impossible to do that in any way, LEAVE.
Be assertive guys! :)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Do you have lots of stuff?

Just read a nice article written by Paul Graham: Stuff. I think one golden rule to remember is that

When you own some stuff, it owns you in some way in reverse also.

Stuff will consume
  • Space: You need space to put it
  • Time: You usually need to think about how to deal with it (Keep it, give it to someone or trash it?)
  • Money: Obviously, you need to spend $$ to buy it in the first place?

Girls often like to buy stuff just because it looks nice or "it's such a good deal!" and this kind of mindset usually leads to a house full of useless stuff. Read Paul's article laidies! :P

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wish you all the best Jill!

Today is my supervisor Jill's last day at UCLA. She's one of the best supervisors I've ever had in my career life.

How many of your supervisors actually care about your work environment? Jill is one good example. Thanks to her, I have a perfect place to work: good monitor, keyboard tray, ergonomic chair, etc. If you've read my post about ergonomics, I can tell you that I have everything I need that let me do what I mentioned in that post. I seriously doubt that if there're 50% of the bosses in the US who are willing to give their employees such a good work environment.

So long Jill. I wish you all the best for you new life in Texas :)