elb's hovel of thoughts

Friday, December 31, 2004

Middle East white blanket

It snowed in the Middle East, more precisely the United Arab Emirates. Apparently something that happens every couple of decades, but still a bit unbelievable, considering it hardly rains and temperatures don't really fall below freezing.


Thursday, December 30, 2004

Power of a tsunami; how Penang could have been hit

One very common comment made by people regarding the tragic event is 'how powerful the water was, being able to lift cars etc'.

Little physics lesson time: The water was powerful simply because of the momentum it had. What is momentum? It is simply the weight of the object multiplied by its velocity. Another way to put it is the constant force of the object at any instant.

How heavy is water? 1 metre x 1 metre x 1 metre of water weighs 1000kg. One ton. According to eyewitnesses in Penang, the waves there were a couple of metres high. We assume a length of 10metres per wave (I have no idea about actual values, but I think it is a reasonable estimate). Hence the volume of water per metre of coastline would be 2m (depth) x 1m (width) x 10m (length) which gives us a total of 20 cubic metres, or 40 000kg of water crashing down for every metre of coastline in a matter of a few seconds.

A tsunami usually hits the shore with shallow water at around 20miles an hour (or 8.89 metres per second, or 32km/h). Hence the water per tidal wave would hit with a total momentum of 1280 tons.km/h, or 355tons.metre/second. Not something to be fooled around!!! The good thing is that it hits over a long period of time, say maybe each surge lasts for 20 seconds. This gives a impulse of 17.75 tons.metre/second^2. Still very powerful!

That force could easily cause all the destruction you see; in fact it would be two and half times as worse for the people at Sri Lanka (they got hit by waves 5 metres high).

As to why Penang could have been hit by the tidal waves (yes, Penang was not hit by a real tsunami, but a weakened version of it called a tidal wave), my theories are:
1) The quake was powerful enough that a tidal wave was formed east of Sumatra. Highly unlikely though, otherwise we'd have reports coming in from states south of Penang
2) The waves that were travelling north of Sumatra got deflected towards Phuket/ Penang. Yes, it is possible for waves to deflect off objects it hits.
3) The radial effect of waves as it passes the top of Sumatra would mean that the waves would be able to reach Penang easily as it is within radius.

What do I think?
Number 1 is most probably happened, according to some media reports. Strangely though; we should have reports coming in from states south of Penang had it happened.
2 might sound far fetched for most of you, but in order for Gurney Drive (which is north east of Penang) to have gotten hit, I think that there had to be a reflection from somewhere north of it.

Probably a combination of reflection and radial effect.

Advance tsunami warning system

They want to build an early warning system of some sort or something to pick up tsunamis/tidal waves to alert people. A weak excuse really. General knowledge would tell you that when an underwater earthquake occurs, the shift and displacement of the teutonic plates would displace an enormous amount of water, which moves and forms the tsunami.

Hence, people with enough knowledge in these matters would be able to tell that a tsunami would occur. And in fact it was; a warning was issued to Pacific nations within minutes by the NOAA, but not beyond that as 'it was not in the area of responsability'. Another version alleges 'that people in the know had wanted to warn countries around the Indian ocean but did not know who to inform.'

Well, no warning? I think its more of a lack of communication and responsability.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Random scab formation (Warning: might be too graphic for some)

Ever had one of those moments when you happened to pick up a cut without realising it until you run your hand down your leg/ arm and felt a sticky mass that shouldn't be there? I had one such moment earlier, when I ran a hand down my right leg and bumped into something hard and gooey. It was a scary looking scab clotting on the outside of a cut I had somehow obtained without realising. I plucked it out, but it grew back again in a couple of hours:

The second scab formation in almost all its glory (lacks focus due to poor fluorescent lighting)

With flash, to give the gooey effect of the semi-clotted, still running blood.

Removed the scab again, I won't gross you people anymore than I already have by taking a picture of it and putting it up. Wonder how I'm going to get good sleep shortly without staining the bed, considering I need the services of my duvet in this weather, and the blood is still oozing out.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Secondary school Geography lesson

Who remembers those Geography lessons we used to have back at secondary school? The chapter on Malaysia, which goes somewhat like saying:

"Malaysia is in a very suitable geographical location. We are blessed with enormous natural resources, an important trading position, and suffers from no natural disasters (if you ignore the floods on the Eastern peninsula)."

Well, they can now cut off that final bit. A tsunami finally hit Malaysian shores. May those who have gone to meet the Maker rest in peace.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

White Christmas

We had one!!!! My second one! :D

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Marketing and branding

How do companies make their goods so desirable in the eyes of people? Why are some people willing to part with four digit figures (or high threes) (in ringgit) for a piece of clothing?

Via good marketing and with the help of the power of branding of course.

Taking shoes as an example: you can break down this segment into several: sports, technical, leisure, formal. Within each segment you can further break it down, say in this case technical shoes; which can be split into for example: running, and outdoor.

Well so you now have a product and want to target a specific area. In this case for example we have Asics; which has a reputation for having some of the best running shoes around. But it also has competition from brands such as New Balance and Puma. (Now, I'm not even counting brands such as Nike et cetera, which do make running shoes but not exactly recommended for proper outdoor jogging etc) Or for outdoors, where we have Timberland, Salomon et cetera.

Within each niche market, the company has to decide where the focus should be. For say, running shoes, how much focus should be done on comfort? On performance? On support? On the styling? Would the customer be willing to pay through their nose for the best combination of all variables? Or should the focus be on cheap shoes which don't give much performance, but look stylish? Etc. And the goods are marketed accordingly. And branding helps to give an edge. People who are more into sports would most likely buy Nike/Adidas/Puma, people who want the more technical shoes would most likely buy Asics, and for outdoors, well, Timberland probably wins the masses over. People who want good value for money for sports shoes would go for Power. (if you could even call it that)

The girls who aren't very well off would most probably go for Vincci. Those who could afford a bit more would go for Hush Puppies and so on, jumping up to the couture wagon all the way to Manolo Blahnik.

Same with clothes. You identify a segment of population you wish to target, then market your product accordingly. Can the people afford the clothes? How much are they willing to pay for couture? Can you make your product seem so exclusive and so priviledged that people would pay a bomb just to wear them? Usually this is done via the inclusion of high quality materials in the fabrication process; a very exclusive looking shop; and expensive looking price tags that reflect it. So you have cheap mass produced clothes at stores that go for a few ringgit each, to the more exclusive ones which might cost RM50 each, to RM100 and so on. In brand equivalents: your cheap no-brand stuff, to FOS/Reject Shop to Body Glove to Quiksilver to smaller local designers to the big haute coutures such as Moschino, Versace, Burberry, Dior and Prada

Then again, you have imitation Burberry stuff everywhere in Malaysia, so what's the point? Besides knowing that you have the real deal.

Well for me personally, I don't like to show off my stuff. I'm happy with a small label at the side and just knowing that I have it. Less trouble too.

Religious gear =/= instant piety

Well, so does wearing 'religious gear' make someone holy?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Update: Life... is a sexually transmitted disease.

>> Yep it is.

I've gotten a few queries as to the rather pessimistic view of life from a few quarters, and I'd like to perhaps shed a bit of light as to that little quote on the subject title:

I like to think of that quote as an ironic little bit of oxymoron. For those of you wondering what the heck an oxymoron is; its a rhetorical figure/ phrase in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined; i.e. stationary automobile. In this case, the contradictory terms would be 'life' and 'disease'.

Then again, the little quote is also true. Natural procreation of life would be done via intercourse; i.e. 'sexually transmitted'. The word 'disease' merely 'completes' it (or complement, if you will).

Another alternative to its pessimistic tone could probably lie in the fact that I had found the quote inscribed on a toilet wall. I leave it to you people to figure out what could have happened in there that inspired the quote.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Malaysian mentality

Problem: My flight was delayed twice throughout the day
Reason? Incompetance on the part of AirAsia
Acceptable? Yes. 'Cheap flights mah.'
Oh? I didn't have that problem with RyanAir
Well... this is Malaysia!

Problem: Disgusting manners at roundabouts
Reason? Malaysian driving attitudes; coffee licenses
How do they deal with it? Encouragment via bribes; shutting down vital roundabouts and routes
Oh? If they drive like that here they'd be banned for life
Well... this is Malaysia!!

Problem: Taxi drivers not using meters
Reason: 'Meter spoilt!'
Acceptable? 'Aiya.. fixed rate la boss (paying RM10 for a journey that costs RM6 on the meter)'
Oh? They would get disciplined immediately without a meter here
Well... this is Malaysia!!!

What do the three scenarios (and even more!) have in common? The Malaysian mentality. If I dare to make comparisons with the UK (which I incidentally I will point out that I have the right to do so, having lived and experienced life here for the past two years), that is the reply I would get.

Dammit people, listen up. You may pay for cheap flights, but that does NOT mean it is acceptable for them to toss you around with the departure times. Yes, you should expect less bells and whistles, but the basic service of getting to your destination on time is something that should EXPECTED.

I hate it when you assholes utterly block the roundabouts or turnings because of your selfishness. It is fine if you have an emergency; but if you do it because you're supposed to save what, 20 seconds off your journey (but ends up being 25 minutes because you're an asshole). And if an ambulance is racing to save a life? Idiots.

And I hate it when you people just shrug your shoulders and say 'that's Malaysia for you' when you have simply no acceptable explanation for the lack of things being done to rectify these shortcomings. Powerless? Please. If enough people can form a collective opinion on the contrary, the fat cats will have to do something about it.

It is as if you're saying that all these shortcomings are simply acceptable behaviour. Its a stupid way to shift the blame of inefficiency and cronyism and corruption and going 'its our lifestyle'. Hell yea, fine, you could say that. But it would never have been part of a 'lifestyle' if you didn't allow it to creep in to begin with.

Look, fine, I accept that these stuff does happen. It happens everywhere around the world. But it doesn't mean that you adopt it into your lifestyle!! When everyone starts doing so, that is where the problem begins.

I'm annoyed because A&W has deteriorated a lot over the past decade. Same with KFC. Why? Because the damn quality control for them have been handed over to certain priviledged locals with special links. So now we have pathetic food from A&W and chicken 50% the size it used to be. Etc etc. If enough people make a ruckus for transparency the government would be forced to do something about it. But nooooooo. 'what to do... Malaysia la'.

And some of you wonder why I complain a lot?

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Krispy Kreme

I purchased some of the afore mentioned doughnuts while at Harrod's. These doughnuts are probably one of the best in the world, made even more famous by its appearance in 'The Simpsons' animated TV series:

They taste simply amazing especially when freshly hot and the glaze still hasn't settled. Below is the picture taken after it had somehow survived the journey home getting squished at the bottom of the box (which I had carried vertically instead of horizontal).

If any of you ever somehow come across these in your journeys, you MUST at the very least try one.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Christmas Market

The Christmas Market ended a couple of days ago. There were around 100 stalls if I am not mistaken, spread out around the church courtyard (as per tradition); selling things as varied as food and drink to crystals to pashminas to hardware tools.

It came complete with a merry-go-round:

Glühwein, or mulled wine, or glow wine (the literal translation). Made by boiling red wine with herbs such as cinnamon and star anise and berries. Traditional Christmas alcoholic drink (I had once tried an non-alcoholic version that used orange juice):

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Blogger.com rant

Is it me, or do I notice that blogger has a damn problem which involves spaces? Noticed it big time in my profile brief, but didn't really make a big fuss about it until the last post.

In a hurry in London?

Reminder to all people:

Should you ever need to take the London Underground, be very wary of certain lines which co-share the same platforms, but end up splitting to different destinations after a station or two (note: this effect is also commonly observed at the outer areas of London, where the same line can branch out into several). Especially when you can hear and see the train coming when you are making way to the platform, and you suddenly somehow summon some previously unknown source of stamina to dash through the turnstile, and enter the train.

Because the train could take you to where you least expect it, often only noticable after
1) Glancing at the platform table and noticing the station you want to get out of is mysteriously missing
2) You encounter unfamiliar stations or notice after a couple of minutes overdue 'where the heck is my stop', which is immediately followed by step 1.

What to do next:
1) Calm down, and assess the situation and the maze of lines that make up the London Underground. Pick the next most direct route to the intended destination.
2) If you're lucky, the change only involves one transfer; i.e. stations A B and C are lined up in a triangle, with one line going to and from A and B, another B and C and the third A and C. Assuming that you got onto A and wanted to go to B but instead somehow found yourself at C, all you need is to board the C to B line.
3) If you're unlucky, the switching in the above step involves an inhuman walk up and down staircases, long straights and curves of up to almost a kilometre (at certain stations). Or if you have to backtrack from C to A, and then do A to B.
4) If you're really unlucky, the above two steps can really mess up your schedule. For example, if you have a train ticket for a fixed journey, and you are running late and miss it and need a new ticket which can cost a bomb. Or it could get your partner/wife/husband all worked up and smelling foul play. Or something else, well, let your imagination do all the thinking.

Fortunately there is a sort of saviour, in the form of London taxi drivers, who would carefully navigate the streets of Central London for you (maybe some reward could be handy). This is however subject to
1) Traffic jams. Central London has plenty of these. Majority caused by either
a) Buses, be it the accordian kind of the double decker kind or the standard buses, which stop
at every stop.
b) Pedestrians. Yes, the power of the masses, who swarm up and down the pedestrian crossings and jaywalk, even when the lights are green for the cars. Unfortunately the poor drivers cannot afford to plough through a crowd of one hundred; this would result in a lynch mob of several thousand. (Note: super-pedestrian mentality has to be disabled upon return to Malaysia)
c) The insane amount of traffic lights. In some stretches, you could barely drive as little as 50metres before hitting the next red light. Add that with the pedestrian factor, and you need one heck of a patience.
2) Money. A cab in London is super expensive. Unless you have a minimum of 50GBP, forget it. (It is unknown to me whether the cab drivers now, if they ever have, use credit/debit card facilities. I do not wish to find out). On the plus side, they are honest people.
3) Walk. Sometimes you just might have actually have to use those muscles.

To simplify: Never hurry when there are several lines using the same platform.

Copyright Patrick Ee, 2004

Monday, December 06, 2004

Malaysia E-bay

Its up!


Thursday, December 02, 2004

German nostalgia

After gym earlier, I decided to pop by the supermarket for a short while. My route from the gym involves cutting across the abbey courtyard, and while I was approaching there, I noticed some heavy activity. Upon turning the corner, lo and behold, the Christmas market!

When I think of the Christmas market, I instantly flash back to last year in Germany, where I experienced the Christmas market at three major cities. I looked for the food stalls immediately; craving for some German fast food (read: bratwürst) especially since I was hungry after a workout session.

One or two of the food stalls were closed unfortunately; however one or two were still going strong. The signage was instantly familiar: German words! Glühwein! Frankfürter! Goulash! I bent to the will of my stomach and queued up.

"One hot dog and some mulled wein, please."
"Five pounds please"
In Germany, I would have said "Ein bratwürst und glühwein, bitte.", and the propertier of the stall would have responded with "Vier (that's four for those of you who are feeling blur) Euro". Yup, it cost me around four Euroes for the lot in Germany. And I'm paying what, twice the Euroes for the same priviledge here. Ow.

I was served the food and drink, and I sipped some of the mulled wine.

Never mind that everyone around me spoke English and the mustard was English not German and it was a frankfurter instead of a genuine bratwürst.

For an instant, I was back in München, standing in front of a wooden stall at the side of a straße and sipping glühwein and muching on a bratwürst. Mmmmm....