Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's Your Age? (China Part 1)

The Beijing Olympics are just round the corner. Tips abound on how to behave in China. It says do not be offended if you are asked, "How old are you?" In the Westernized ways one do not asked each other's age (esp. women), religious and political persuasions, pay packet and marital status.

Let's just try this one, "How old are you?" and follow-up with "Are you married?"

They want to know your age as to how to address you properly. If you are younger/older there is a special word for each. This applies to your marital status too. Whether 20 or 50 years old and is married or not (tried not to use other options), they want to know! Relationships and its hierarchy is an important part of Asian family and social life.

I used to have a Singaporean female staff who is 39 and single and each time she goes to these areas she will be asked these questions (it went on for 4 years).

How old are you? Are you married? Why not married at 39? Do you want a local man? She is exasperated and flabbergasted each time the loving interrogation begins. New place but the same line of questioning.

Personally, when I told mother that I am going out with a girl, the first question she asked me was, "What's her age?" My reply: Same age. More questions, "Is she older or younger?" My reply: Older than me by 5 months. Then she made a statement: Same year older sister is better than a same year younger sister! With this she concluded.

I did not asked her why even up to now. My choice was firm and sure. I was 25 then.

What's in the age? A lot in Asia.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cheong Wah Restaurant - Pusat Bandar Puchong

We have lunch at this popular restaurant. It was formerly located at a corner lot in Jalan Kenari area in Bandar Puchong Jaya (opposite IOI Mall).

Moving own to bigger and place with a purpose build restaurant success still follows it. It is now located at the commercial part of Pusat Bandar Puchong (opposite Tesco - i.e. on the other side of the LDP). The food is served promptly and the price is reasonable. The air-con is comfy and the distance from other tables is 'luxurious'.

We have 2 veges (Yau Mak and Green Dragon), Fried Tofu, Kung Po Frog, Rice Wine Chicken and Roast Pork Knuckle.

The cooking is minimal oil use for the veges and tofu. The Foyee is missing from the Yau Mak. Interestingly the Green Dragon vege taste and smell a bit like leeks. Both are crunchy.

The inside of the tofu is tongue burning hot. It is rather bland but it is intended that way so that the tofu unique taste and smell can be delivered. The frog leg is the best part as it is the meatiest and I can feel it in my mouth. If possible I would just have the legs. The dry chilli and sauces are just nice and not too strong. The Chicken cooked in Rice Wine is a bit of a disappointment. The chicken meat smell is too strong despite the wine infusion.

The crown jewel of the lot is the most expensive. The Roast Pork knuckle is crunchy on the outside and the fat and tendons were cooked just right and the meat is not chewy. A good workout for the jaws though!

Price: RM186 (food and drinks)
Pax: 10
Pictures: Taken with Nokia E90
Chicken cooked in Rice Wine
Fried Tofu - Signature dish Kung Po Frog
Roast Pork Knuckle Yau MakGreen Dragon Vege

Audiobooks

The world of Mp3 devices like Ipods and cellular phones has created more than one way to read. Now I can read a book by listening to one. I either use my E90 or Creative Neeon Mp3 player.

I am a subscriber of audible.com which offers a wide selection of books for sale in the Mp3 format. There are audiobooks by Jodi Picoult, Paulo Coelho, Patricia Cornwell, Stephen Covey, Marcus Buckingham, Brian Tracy, Stephen King.... It has an offer for new subscriber starting at USD7.49/mth for three months thereafter reverting to the usual USD14.95/mth. However, there is no tax exemption for Mp3 downloads!

MPH Sale - Tax Exemption

BTW the MPH Sale is on from 30th July - 3rd August! You get 15% discount store-wide for members and 10% for non-members. Good time to pick up some books and also get tax-exemption of up to RM1000 a year. Those in higher bracket will benefit the most.

CIMB/Direct Access cards will also get a further 10% discounts on the 1st Sunday of the month.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Poverty - Muhammad Yunus

I am reading Muhammad Yunus books since last week. He is the founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh a micro-credit organization serving millions (incl. family members) of the poorest of the poor in Bangladesh. The most empowering features of this program is 97% of the borrowers are women and there is no need for collateral. This movement has inspired many more outfits all over the world serving more than 100 million people. Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank have been jointly awarded the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize.

Just finished 'Banker to the Poor' and starting 'Creating a World Without Poverty'. His utopian ideals and child-like enthusiasm are contagious. He is currently developing the idea and implementing Social Business (companies with a much stronger CSR). I hope to write more on these later.

In my travels I have interacted and even participated in some of the micro-credit programs in Kolkata, Indonesia, Thailand, Mongolia and Vietnam. Personally, I am interested to learn more of its successes and failures. From my reading the interest on the loan taken by Grameen is 20% per annum. Some goes up to 40% per annum. As the saying goes the interest is needed to pay salaries and many other expenses. A lean and mean, transparent and corruption-free organization will do well.

Fundamentals of Micro-credit
Social Business

Eric Tsang Restaurant in Hartamas Shopping Centre, Sri Hartamas

My friends took me to Eric's for lunch last Sunday. Tried their Dim Sum. The service was prompt and attentive. They also make the right moves during serving. All shots taken with Nokia E90.

Too much honey left me with a de-sensitized tongue.
Lingmug (Lemon Honey Tea)
I would have preferred to have their bamboo trays first rather than the following. The honey has done some damage to my tongue. Now these with strong and thick sauces. I would be lost when the real dim sum comes with its subtle taste and flavor 'lost'.
Phoenix Claw (A bit too bland - need more 5 spice and also black beans)
Glutinous Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf (Just nice . Not sticky and salty.)Chee Cheong Fun (A bit cold, did not excite my sense of smell and taste)Lobak Ko - Radish (I prefer the hawkers - the wok is not hot enough) Porridge (The chicken slices taste like yesterday prep and the rice seems to have been pureed)Yong Tow Foo (The sauce is just nice and fish meat is fresh)
Fish B all (Fresh but a bit too salty)Siu Loong Pau (Normal but no zing)Siew Mai (Fresh and taste is subtle)Yam Puff - This is the best (Fillings is an excellent balance of sauces and meat)Pork Ribs (Steamed to perfection with a nice blend of subtle sauces)Har Kaw (The prawn is crunchy - another winner)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Thinking and Rehearsing

An once of careful thinking is worth a pound of thoughtless labor.

Jeffrey J. Fox is a prolific author. In one of his books entitled 'How to Become CEO' he recommends an hour of hard thinking everyday. As one move up the corporate ladder, it is no longer the work life that is crucial. It is the thought life.

Senior executives arrive early to the office to have quiet time alone. When the office arrives for the day there will be no more time to think, rehearse, muse, meditate, reflect, scheme, dream and visualize.
Photo taken at Musee d'Orsay, 2005 in 2005
I personally practise musing, reflecting, rehearsing and dreaming and visualizing.

Musing is particularly useful when I am faced with complex situations esp. those that I am ill-equipped and have no experience in. Webster gives the definition as, "to become absorbed in thought; especially : to turn something over in the mind meditatively and often inconclusively." It is like talking and discussing with oneself all the time looking for the answer or solution. I am looking at the problem from different angles. By combining it with researching or talking to experts this will usually yield what I am looking for.

The other is reflection. The ability to pause and reflect is a gift. Many lunge headlong calling this courage. It fails to recognized the fact that victories are won by careful thought and reflection. Reflect on what? I look for connections, linkages, histories and then relate and align them to the present situation. Thereafter the answer becomes academic.

Horizontal meditation! - Also shot at Musee d'Orsay, Paris in 2005
Rehearsing is another integral part of success. When I was part of a choir I was told that to be perfect at least 19 rehearsals are needed. Reads rehearsal not practice. The professional and business part of my life needs rehearsals esp. in the presentations, speeches, meetings, consultations and everything new. Rehearsals smoothen and enhances delivery. The rehearsals are the easy part. But the rest will come smoothly if I have done my rehearsals.

Possibly some may think that rehearsals will make one look stiff. Like the recent debate between Anwar and Cheek. Anwar came off well rehearsed and Cheek is more natural. Look at Clinton and Obama. Clinton is rehearsed while Obama is natural and even inspiring. In our mind Anwar and Clinton came off as though they are well prepared. In my opinion Cheek and Obama are better prepared and rehearsed. My reasoning is only those well rehearsed will not be too concern with the contents and can afford to be natural and inspiring.

Finally, I need to be able to have dreams and visions. This differentiate me from animals. It also gives me a life and a reason to work and live. Dreams and visions activates and launches. It brings life to my being.


Mentors

Who are the true mentors? What do they do?

In my 24 years of working life I have many friends, allies, teachers and even coaches but only a few mentors. They are hard to come by but when it does they are gems. I do hope that a few more will be forthcoming in the second half of my career.

Most aspiring executives will go through these phases in their career. Hopefully as they climb the corporate ladder, opportunities will avail for them to lead in bigger companies with wider geographical responsibilities.

Even as I list the four steps here there are of course other factors that work for and against the executives. Factors like learning, being high touch, networking etc.

Four Possible Steps to the Top

1. Logistical and Operational Competence - ability to understand and to work and get the work done right.
2. Organizational and Tactical Competence - ability to sync and manage the company with other parts within the organization to do the right things.
3. Mobilization and Strategic Competence - ability to sync and position the company taking into consideration the competition and the environment (internal and external).
4. Creative and Imaginative Competence - ability to interpret current signs and extrapolate into the future ultimately thriving the company and/or creating new profitable products and services.

A mentor is not just a coach. He challenges and points me to the right direction. He releases dreams and visions. Nothing is impossible. But most importantly he needs to be creatively fertile that he can father many 'babies'. I called my mentor for the last 4 years as my tor-mentor. He likened our meetings as tough squash games. Drenched completely in sweat.

One very interesting meeting we have was in a coffee shop where we have chicken rice, char siew and roast pork. He was hungry when I picked him up from the KLIA. There was a lunch crowd. We ate and talked.

It went 'animated'. The decibels were rising. He told me to "Get real and grow up!!" But in between he also told that he will not start this project in this East Asian country if I am not committing myself to mentor and handhold the local partner. Such trust and honor. From one mentor to another.

In every meeting my mentor will challenged me mentally. Each meeting will moved me up the creative scale. This is what I value most. The day I lose my ability to be creative and be imaginative it will be day I become a deadwood. It is so easy for me to slipped into the paths of least resistance rather than to take the steep, narrow and winding road. It is so easy to say, "It won't work," "we've tried that before," "we can't afford it" and scores of other excuses.

Hip, hip hooray to wonderful mentors!
Meal in the First Class on MH

6 Thinking Action Hats*

Aussie
Fun and Leisure Loving.
Australia is a nation at leisure. They are mad about sports too.
When I need to relax and have some fun. It is especially crucial when I am stress out.
British
Discipline and Rigid.
When there is a need to get work done methodically and systematically in the midst of chaos and confusion.
Sundanese
Opportunistic.
When there is a need to be predatory in seizing windows of opportunities rather than having the “Whatever will be, will be!” mentality.
Mongolian
Aggressive in overcoming.
When there is a need to bulldoze barriers to success rather than being discouraged and wallow in self-pity.
Bali
Gentle and in harmony.
When there is a need to be in meditative and reflective mood. An ounce of thought is worth a pound of thoughtless work.
Bangladeshi/Bengali
Tagore received the Nobel Prize for Literature. I was given a book written by an unknown Bengali writer even though I can’t read Bengali. They are literature proud.
When there is a need to break the writer’s block this will be the inspiring one.
* Borrowing from de Bono's 'Six Thinking Hats'.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Settling In New House

I spent 2 weeks packing. The previous house was in total chaos. Three trucks with 6 workers came to move the stuff. It was money well-spent (RM750) as within 2 1/2 hours we have everything moved and positioned in new home.

However, I got to stay for 2 nights before hopping over to Indonesia for 5 days of hard travels. Came back for a week already and getting into the rhythm of things and life. New places to discover.

But have yet to unpacked another 15 boxes. Astro not shifted yet. My son is patiently waiting. And the phone and Internet line!! They have not called me yet for an appointment. It's been 3 days. However, I got a neat new number.

These few days took the opportunity to wind down and yesterday caught up with blogging. I am still winding down from the shifting and travel and enjoying new environment.

Took this shot at 800am this morning from the balcony.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Around Java in 5 days - Shoestring Budget

The budget was set at about RM1400 twin sharing. It is all inclusive with 4 nights of tourist class and above hotel, all food, airport taxes, domestic land and air travel.

Monday, 7th July
Took off with AirAsia from LCCT at 700am. The plane touched down in Jakarta at 800am. Colleagues took us to the office and breakfast was packed from the shops and were ready for us.

After our meeting we left for Bandung by road at noon arriving at 230pm. It was a bevy of activities as we have 3 locations to attend to. Bandung undulating hills and mountains were a sight to behold. We manage to catch dinner at a Chinese seafood resturant called Pondok Persanggrahan in Jln Karapitan. It is operated by an engineer called Budi Hidayat. Having to depart at 500am the next day for Jakarta to catch the 900am flight to Solo I hit the sack early. There was no Bandung to Solo flight.

Tuesday, 8th July
The Sriwijaya Air was 2/3 filled, testimony to the popularity of air travel. Local short hops usually costs around USD50 all inclusive one way. Sriwijaya has a good safety record even though we were using Boeing MD 82 planes. It should be more than 20 years old. Check out their overhead cabin!!

We have Solo and Semarang to cover. We have lunch at Resto Olo Gelo in Solo and left for Semarang 3 hours away. Due to to last minute changes we were not able to change our flight from Jakarta to Semarang which will cut road travel time by 3 hours as we will have to backtracked to Solo and then onwards to Jogjakarta. We have no meals till our late Gudeg Kampung Ayam dinner sitting on the five foot way of Jogjakarta city at around midnight! The saving grace was we managed to buy the famous Jogjakarta's Buah Salak. We look forward to 2 days stay in Plaza Hotel.

Wednesday, 9th July
Visited Magelang a town just after Borobodur. We have excellent grilled chicken. Thereafter we headed for Wonosobo, a small, quaint and high altitude touristy town. It is popular with locals. We passed 2 major volcanoes almost in a perfect cone shape. At Wonosbo we were treated to Tauhu Goreng, Tempe, Fried chicken and Mie Ongklong (like the Malaysian Law Mee without the vinegar).An interesting sight was cockerels strung up in cages up a 30 foot pole. It is part of training the Ayam Bekisar (cockerel) to sing (berkokok). Top competition winners is traded at USD25,000. Our dinner on Wednesday was prepared by Bangka Chinese. We have pork trotters, vegetables and meat prepared ala Chinese style. The next stop will be Surabaya. The flight will be early and checking out at 430am.Thursday, 10th July
We took Wings/Lion Air. An old Boeing 737, like those from yesteryears. Probably aged 20. However, local LCCs are investing in newer fuel efficient planes. I look forward to their re-fleeting as there are so many places to visited in this vast archipelago.

The plane touched down early Thursday morning in Surabaya. After a hearty breakfast of Sop Buntut and the usual fare we were packed off for visitation. Our luggages were check-in by friends. We have lunch of Sop Buntut and grilled chicken again other Indonesian small resto fare. We ta pau a lot of melinjo crackers (emping). It is an acquired taste. The crackers has a bitter after taste.
Ayam bakarNasi Kuning
We got back to Garden Palace Hotel (not recommended as the sparkle is gone) to change and then for dinner at a local popular Dapur Desa Resto. After dinner my room-mate and I book for a traditional Javanese massage. The massage room looks decent with curtains cubicles but were smoke-filled i.e. cigarettes smoke so we adjourned to our room. Bad mistake. We were offered extra services after the massage which we turned down.

Friday, 11th July
Time to wind down at the hotel breakfast. 1 more meeting and a visit to go. Then off to the souvenir shop for Smoke Bandeng (local milk fish). Go for the smoke and not the preserved ones. Shelf life for the smoked variety is 4 days. Eat it as ASAP. It is excellent. However, it a lot of nasty and fine bones. Well treat it as part of the eating ritual. There are fish floss available in the shops. Be careful. One of them have a few tablespoons and came down with bad food poisoning. If it taste and smell bad, throw it away.

Took off at 300pm from Surabay with AirAsia for home sweet home.

Breakfast in Jakarta, Indonesia

Monday, 7th July

We have a simple breakfast packed from the hawkers and small warong.

It is simple and delicious. Waking up at 345am is not anybody cup of coffee. I was hungry.

The fried kampung chicken was the favorite.
Sambel (Sambal), Fresh vegetables, Tempe, Tauhu and Fried chicken
Mie SotoGado-gado

Seafood in Bandung, Indonesia

Monday, 7th July

We have a seafood dinner Bandung. Preparation is simple and the taste depends very much on the freshness. The price is definitely economical. The style is mostly deepfried or grilled.

My selection is always grilled seafood. It brings the best out fish or other sea produce.