Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Legend of Wind (風の伝説) - Joe Hisaishi

I still remember that I was so captivated with Joe Hisaishi's music when I was small. This one is one of my favorites from the animated film Nausicaä of The Valley Of The Wind. Man, the film was produced in 1984! 25 years ago already...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin at Mimi's Cafe

Went to Mimi's Cafe last week to use the free breakfast coupon and discovered its very delicious Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin:

I think that warming up a muffin makes it
a lot tastier. Serving it with butter is very
important too :P (Alright, I know it's fat)

Their Seafood Fettuccine was good too. I like
the scallop and shrimp.

This is the free breakfast we got: Crab
and Avocado Omelette. Not that
remarkable but, well, it's free.

On our way out, we saw a McDonald's with
a line across its logo. Is it a real McDonald's?
(O__O )

Friday, March 20, 2009

Annoying Windows restart popup

Whenever Windows XP gets an update that requires a restart, the following popup will keep showing up no matter how many times you click "Restart Later":

If you insist that we should restart, why ask the question in the first place?? They can simply remind us to restart when we log off. And one time it actually restarted my machine when I was away from my PC (yeah, for more than their five-minute countdown) and all my unsaved work was lost.

Sometimes I just don't know what the software engineers at Microsoft are thinking.. (~__~ )

Monday, March 16, 2009

七百年後 (After 700 years) - Eason Chan

Excellent MTV for WALL•E! The song is sung by Eason. If you can read Chinese, you'd notice that the lyrics matches the story very well :)

P.S. Again, if you've not watched WALL•E, watch it! It's worth every second of your time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An interview of Ricky Wong (王维基)

There're two people whose values and life philosophies are very similar to mine: CK and Ricky Wong. Here's a good interview of Ricky conducted by Stephen Chan:

Let me share some of my thoughts about the interview with you.

Tool is neutral

He's ruthless and persistent on things that he believes are right. When he was in high school, he asked the principal whether they could bring cards back to school because they wanted to form a Bridge Club. Back in those days, adults often related cards with gambling and so the principal rejected him.

However, he didn't give up. He told the principal that many of his schoolmates learned martial arts at school and if these skills were used in the wrong way (fighting) it would be bad to the school too. At last, the principal changed his mind and let them bring cards to school.

The morale of of this story is that

Tool, including money, is a neutral thing. Whether it's good or bad depends on how you use it.

Of course, we shouldn't let young kids play with knives. After they pass a certain age, however, we should let them know that what knives are used for and and give them the freedom to use it; let them make decisions and learn from mistakes.

Risk taking

Although he said in the beginning that he's a timid person but I don't think so at all. He's actually a very good risk taker.

One time, he tried to bring around HK$120,000 into Taiwan to buy books for his business. Because there was a limit of the money (HK$40,000 per person) one can bring through the customs, the officers denied his entry.

After thinking for a while, he decided to give HK$80,000 to a couple and asked them to bring it through the gate and then give the money back to him on the other side. This certainly carried quite a good deal of risks since the couple could have grabbed the money and run. Nevertheless, he believed that the couple is trustworthy and they did gave that HK$80,000 to him afterward.

This world is full of risks and opportunities. Successful entrepreneurs are the ones who have the ability to measure various kind of risks and take them when the potential rewards are worth it. If you play chess with me before, you would notice that I'm not a very good risk taker. That's why this is one thing that I should learn from Ricky.


One reason Ricky trusted that couple at the airport was that he could tell they're honest people from their appearance.

Physiognomy has a long history in China. When I was small, I always thought that it's just some mysterious belief with no scientific foundation. In recent years, however, I started to believe that it's indeed a study of the statistics of how human facial characteristics are related to characters.

A good example of that is "Hong Kong Girl" (港女). To my English reader, "Hong Kong Girl" are generally defined as the Hong Kong girls who are very self-centered and materialistic. From my experience, it's not difficult to tell whether a girl is "Hong Kong Girl" from her look such as makeup, clothes, and, most importantly (although it's not appearance technically), the way she talks.

Judging people from their appearance has been condemned and underrated for long and I hope that it'll see some light after scientists conduct research on it. After all, it's a very useful skill (like how Ricky interviews people in 5 minutes) :P

Media's Big Influence

The media is very good at focusing on and "enlarging" certain words that a celebrity says and ignoring the rest of the story. They do that since it can boost the sales of their newspaper/magazines/TV ads/whatever. A by-product of that, sadly, is that they also give you a false/unfair impression of the things and people of an incident.

For example, Ricky once asked a Miss Asia whether her breast is "real". Not surprisingly, the media found that it was a great title for their top news and used big font for these few words. Now that you watched Ricky's interview, you should realize that he was trying to test how well the Miss Asia's could respond to surprising/embarrassing questions (the Miss Asia's were well aware of this before he asked the questions).

Knowing the entirety of the incident, although I can't deny that the question is insulting by itself, it wasn't really much of a big deal given the context.

The media wasn't lying. To my mind, however, reporting part of the truth while intentionally ignoring the rest isn't much better than lying. After all, they both lead to the same result: give you a false impression of the truth.

So, instead of making a judgment right after you hear one side of a story, try listening to other sides of the story first. Having a certain degree of skepticism is always healthy.

Last but not least: the importance of family

At the end of the interview, Ricky acknowledged that he didn't spend enough time with his two children because of his busy career life.

Career success is important but we shall not forget about our family. That's why I define, as mentioned in my previous post before, a successful person to be someone who 1) brings great value to this world and 2) has a happy family. Although it's not easy, let's hope that we can all strike a good balance between the two :)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Free Breakfast at Mimi's Cafe

You can get a free breakfast at a participating Mimi's Cafe by joining their E-Club:

Image from Mimi's Cafe

You can only use one offer per party and the free entree can't exceed $10. Still an okay deal though :P

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Some rants about this financial crisis

This post has quite some rants about the financial crisis we have now. If you'd like to acquire some background of this tremendous mess, watch the excellent video below created by Jonathan Jarvis first:

So, who should we really blame for this humongous financial mess that led to hundreds of thousands of layoffs not only in the finance sector but basically every industries?

Apparently, the banks' irresponsible lending practice was a major cause; had they not done this, the investment banks wouldn't have the opportunity to utilize their leverage and buy thousands of subprime loans. To my mind, however, the government is the biggest culprit behind all this mess.

"How come? The banks were so crazy that they lent huge sums of money to people without a decent credit score or even income proof! They're the biggest culprit!"

Well, if a system has holes in it, people will always abuse them to maximize their gains.

Wake up guys. You're not living in a wonderland. You've to assume that a substantial number of people are greedy and selfish. The most important thing a government should do is to make sure that when greedy people earn their money, they also bring some values to society. Ideally, the more money they earn, the more values should be resulted. Even if you cannot make these two things proportional, at least make sure they're doing no harm.

Both the government and the banks have bad systems. Let's take a look at the banks first.

If you read Joel's article "How Hard Could it be?: Sin of Commissions", you'll see how a shoe chain cashier earned his commission while driving down the net income of the business with hard-to-find coupons. Similarly, if you give your loan officers commissions based on the number of mortgages they solicited and the values of the loans, they'll sacrifice the things you're not measuring just to make sure these two benchmarks look good on paper.

"The borrowers don't have income proof? No problem. I will 'make it work'."

"How? The underwriter will reject the loan right?"

"Haha you must be kidding me. The underwriter is just a small potato. Who's he to say anything when our CEO says that it's okay to do subprime loans?"

And, guess what, the CEO's bonus is based on the revenue of the bank in that year (Will we be still okay in 2008? Who cares?).

If I claim that this financial mess was unavoidable because no freaking bankers was able to see that they were generating a housing bubble, you must say that I'm out of mind.

I mean, how could they NOT KNOW? Even if the low-rank loan officers didn't know because they couldn't see the big picture, the management MUST have known that. They do that for a living, okay?

And the sad thing was: who would give a dime even they knew what's going on? If you're pocketing astronomical bonuses that're more than enough for you to retire at 40 and live a easy life later on, why would you care that you're killing Citigroup, Bank of America, HSBC, etc?

"In addition to our bonuses, the stupid government will utilize all means to save our ass should we run into troubles since we're 'too big to fail'."

Talk about AIG.

Yeah the boards of directors should have had the incentives to care. After all, they're supposed to have substantial amount of stock of the banks. No matter how much dividend they got in those few booming years, I don't see how it's worth it to have all their stock flushed down the toilet later on. Well, the only reason I can think of is that they were all fooled by their CXO's (X = E, F, O, etc).

"We've increased our income by 20% this year!" said the CEO.

"You've done a good job! Let's give him 20% increase in bonus!" cheered the board of morons directors.

Anyways, how about the government?

Banks are no regular businesses in at least two ways:
  • they've a huge number of small debtees (aka depositors)
  • the money they borrow (the deposits) are backed by FDIC
The first characteristic makes it a disaster when banks fail because it affect so many people. A large number of people seeing their money gone is much worse than a few rich guys losing their investment since the former can cause widespread panic.

Because of this, the government created FDIC to insure the depositors' money. This is a good thing, but it also creates the "government-will-save-our-ass" problem. If the banks aren't regulated, they'll make very risky bets:

"Hey, the money is backed by the government anyways so let's make this bet. If we win, we'll be rich. If we lose, worst case is that we got fired, no big deal."

And the banks weren't regulated at all when they were creating the biggest housing bubble in history. Did Alan Greenspan notice the bubble? Of course he did, everyone did. Did he or the government do anything to stop it from growing? To the best of my knowledge, not that much or even none.

I don't have enough knowledge in economics (heck, I've never taken any economics class) to judge how well his free market ideology works. That being said, there're some regulations that make perfect sense to even to a layman like me. How about these rules?
  1. Do not lend money to borrowers who've no proof of income.
  2. Do not lend money to borrowers who've very bad or zero credit.
  3. Do not let borrowers make 0% down payment despite the lucrative high interest rate.
  4. Do not make ARMs to borrowers who've no hope of making payments when the interest rises after a few years.
  5. And so on.
Or, maybe the above rules already exist? If that's the case, the banks were clearly violating those rules and, surprisingly, no one is being punished now (at least I've not heard of any banker being sued or put to jail or at least pay a fine).

Using any kind of reasonable measure, the Bush administration was a failure. Bill Clinton might have initiated the bubble back in the 90's but Bush had plenty of time (8 years) to at least make the bubble burst more gracefully.

I hope that the Obama administration will reform the rules that govern the banks so as to stop these irresponsible lending practices from emerging again. Remember, to own a home is the American Dream, but there's no shame whatsoever to rent. If you can't afford to buy, just don't buy. This is one message that I really hope that the government can spread to the general public (preferably from Obama's mouth).

Beside having a more capable government, another long term solution is to educate the our next generation to have better values:

Instead of judging people's success by how much money they make, judge them by what they do to the country, to the world, to humanity.

There's no way to construct a perfect legal system with no hole at all that can be exploited by the malicious to get rich. However, if we have values like the one I propose above, a low-income janitor will be considered far superior than a wealthy investment banker who uses his smarts to invent securities that no one can understand and sell them to the ignorant elderly (Lehman mini-bonds in Hong Kong anyone?). When people have right values, they'll tend to do the right things.

To the bankers who caused this world disaster for the sake of their commissions/bonus/whatever: how do you think the history will judge you?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

That's Why You Go Away - Michael Learns To Rock

I guess no people from Hong Kong doesn't know this song? Excellent song from MLTR but I don't really like the black and white MTV...It's kind of weird (~__~ )