Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Long haul flight

Finally after picking up rental car from Avis and going around nearby supermarkets, I'm sitting in my room fighting jetlag after a day long trip from KL-US.

Let me recount back see how long is it. The flight route is from KL-HongKong-SanFrancisco-Dallas.
Hmm....connecting flight list already sound long enough eh?

KL-HK total time: 3 hrs 45min + transit time of 55min
There is too little time for transit between these 2 flights and the plane departed 35 minutes late! I basically ran through HK airport and to the next plane after being gathered by a CathayPacific staff, Miss A.

Here is the thing about race superiority thing here. There is a group of 4 of us, 3 American/European and me whom have to rush to the next flight. With the crazy queue from next incoming flight overlapping our flight, we don't look like we will make it. Miss A, accompanying us asked us to go through the business class lane. Being the last in the group of 4, the ticket checking staff wouldn't allow me to go through, kept asking me to go to back to economy class queue. I was like 'wtf? just because i'm asian so i get a different treatment?? '. Luckily i found the Miss A and finally she needed to escort me through just because i'm asian.....

HK-San Fran total time: 12 hrs 30 min + 3 hours transit time
I noticed that Cathay Pacific from HK-SanFran have a majority of Indian passengers. When i first entered the plane, i thought i was on the wrong plane.

SanFran - Dallas total time: 3hrs 30min + 2 hours of wait time
Finally after 11 hours of sleepless indian babies cry choirs in the plane and an overdose of movies marathon I reached San Francisco. Another crazy queue through immigration and custom of US. When i reached boarding area, i only managed to get online for 15 minutes before the last flight in my list this time.

Huh, why another 2 hours wait after reaching SanFran?
American Airline messed up my luggage from the international to domestic transfer. I've checked them in but it was put on the next flight after mine, which I found out from the baggage office staff after waiting 30 minutes at the baggage claim area. Luckily, my colleague Dalila arrived 1 hour late and we only had to wait another hour. I went back there after 1hr 30min of waiting to get my luggage and guess what, it's been transferred to a different terminal. Great, that's like a 5+ minute drive away. To make it worse, when i got to the other terminal, i found only one of my luggage and the other is still stuck in San Francisco.

Once i got back to hotel, I called the customer line number the fellow at baggage claim of the other terminal gave me. The call lasted at least 25min. The operator at the other end kept telling me 'Hold on, I'm checking........I'm still here, just hold on' for a duration of 20 min. Finally she put me on hold and after 5 mins of instrumental music which starts,stops and starts again, i'm already drifting to lala-land. Kind of lost track of time but finally she confirmed that I'll get my luggage delivered the next day to my hotel.


This is quiet a bad case of mismanagement, they could've send both luggages to my hotel instead of making me run around airport searching, wait 2 hours and keep wondering whether they already lost my luggage. Looks like AA is still not really customer satisfaction oriented yet.

Total time spent on this long haul flight: 4h40m + 15h30m + 5h30m = 25hr

Now i'm sitting at my room after finding every excuse to keep awake. Inclusive of unpacking every item i have into the cupboards, setting the kitchen, washing the coffee maker, calling up American airline to locate my 2nd bag which didn't reach on time and ironing my clothes. At the end of all these, I am still falling victim to the jetlag and now 'fishing' in front of the laptop ...

Sorry for the crappy quality post. I blame it on the jetlag :p

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

World economy crisis (again?)

The video reminds me of the banana currency we had during Japanese occupation times in Malaysia. Anyway, it's a simple way of explaining the speculated and looming debt crisis we see now at Uncle Sam's.

Thanks to Venissa for sharing this video.
The summary is as below.

Inflation happens either when a country prints more currency making the currency value shrink or food/commodity (food, metal, oil est) price goes up versus consumer's income.

Higher cost in Uncle Sam causes manufactuerers to go to other cheaper counties usually in Asia such as Vietnam, Malaysia,Thailand, China and etc. so that they can pay less for the same product to get manufactured.

This contributes to recession where more peoples in UncleSam losses their jobs.In effect, there is less contributions to tax and more people collecting government benefits meaning less money for UncleSam who is already in huge debt.

Here is something new i learn from this :)
Stagflation = Inflation + recession

The last portion of the world economy collapse is interesting.

Here is another clip on debt crisis centered around European countries.

Quite fascinating for the not so economy-savvy me :p

But I digress,how would educating one another help in this? Do we spend less using credit cards or do the opposite? Don't keep savings in banks but go the classic buy-gold way like those in the 70s/80s? Prepare/stock or whatever people do and brace for a possibility of worldwide economy tsunami?

Illustrations from:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Project Management 101

Not too long ago, the boss of department asked my opinion of what's wrong with the projects going on in my team. I shrugged and tell him that there are different managers i work with and they are all not in sync when setting job priorities, which makes things quite chaotic.

To put it simply, there are some basic Project Management fundamentals that they are violating.

After that the question keep bugging me out of the corners of my mind from time to time. It's like staring at a bubble wrap trying to resist the urge and you finally couldn't help but start popping them for no reason at all. So my hands got itchy and i decided to write this piece here to ease this instinctive itch of mine.

Warning: This will be a lengthy one. Be prepared before you go on.

In whatever project management we do, there are always the 3 fundamental elements that we need to look at. Else we are probably managing projects as we go and hope that it works out or trying to manage without really understanding.

These 3 elements are known as the triple constraints plus a hidden q element.
See the illustration of the triangle consisting of schedule, resource & scope, quality being in the middle.

Imagine the triangle to be a flexible shape.
You increase the scope of project, the resources we need goes up - we have to pay for the extra things we wanted to add and usually more manpower is required. Our schedule will be affected since we now need to accommodate for new activities. These 3 elements are always interlinked and affect the quality of our project's outcome or deliverables.

Let's get a little example of McDees kitchen using the triple contraints of schedule, scope and resource.

In this project, the workers produce the deliverables which are McChickies. In laymen term, it's putting all the ingredients together between the buns after frying the chicken. The supervisor is Mary who manages the worker and monitors the output. Let's say we have only one worker, John. John can produce 10 McChickies per hour (i know this sounds quite ridiculous, but it simplifies the equation here).

Consider John's work hour per day as 9 hours. Take away 1.5 hours for break time, cleaning up and rest times in between to give a realistic work effort duration. That leaves 7.5 of work hour expected from John daily. We can estimate John to produce 7.5 hours x 10 = 75 McChickies comfortably.

Now let's make it abit more complicated.

Scope change or scope creep

Mary discovered that there is a new product that will be really hot in the fast food market at this time and would help to increase McDee's market share. It's the BeetMac ,appealing to our community which is becoming more and more health conscious.

John is given new training on how to prepare BeetMac and found that he can only produce 5 BeetMacs per hour. However, Mary is expecting to produce 75 McChickies and 10 BeetMacs from now onwards.

We see that the scope now increases, we call this scope creep. Originally we are suppose to produce 75McChickies to make our customers happy.

Mary have to ask for more budget to buy ingredients for the BeetMac and John will need more time to prepare the new demand from Mary.
75 McChickies requires 7.5 hours and 10 BeetMacs requires 2 hours to make. That sums up to 9.5 hours.

Now John needs to work without break daily and exceed half an hour of his daily work duration.
I wonder how he copes with having no time to answer nature's call or take a bite to stop his stomach from growling. Maybe Mary is willing to spend some budget to pay for John's overtime.

Now this little McDee's kitchen is seeing a major impact on its delivery schedule. Effectively, he will probably be working 2 extra hours per day to meet the new target of 75 McChickies and 10 BeetMacs daily.

We see that the resources here,being manpower is being stretched to meet the new daily demand of McDee's customers now and extra cost for new different ingredients, John's OT pay and his training cost. John's now thinking that his work days are getting busy, but oh well, he did get paid overtime for the extra 2 hours he worked.

Now hang on a while, aren't we missing something?

Yes, things don't stay this way for long. Mary's strategy to introduce the BeetMacs worked and now she estimated customers demand to increase. The new demand is to produce 75 McChickies and
double the amount of original BeetMacs giving a tally of 20 BeetMacs.

Now, John's OT hour has increased from 2 to 4 hours. How much can he do overtime and multitask at this point?

There's a serious problems now with customer A screaming at Mary to deliver McChickies while customer B wanted at least 2 BeetMacs per hour. Trying to meet customers demand since 'customers are always right', Mary ordered John to produce both McChickies and BeetMacs per customer's demand.

In the beginning, John tried to use minimum time to cook the ingredients. On customer's end, the products gets less tasty, but being loyal customers, tolerated this slacking in quality and continued to order more. The order increased again to 30 BeetMacs a day.

This gives John really high pressure to meet Mary and the customer's expectation. One day, John was not feeling well and in the haste, he mixed the wrong ingredient - chickens in BeetMacs and beetroots in McChickies. Uh oh, this is a serious quality issue yeah?

Result is quite predictable. McChickies customer was furious why there is beetroot instead of chicken meat and BeetMacs customers is very upset since they were looking for vegetarian diet but found meat in it. Mary would now have to answer to all the quality issues that McDee is having. So do we get a clear picture of how scope creeps impacts the other 2 elements of the triple constraint and eventually the quality of our product/deliverable.

Now imagine in the real world, to be really competitive in the market, there is also the fish-lovers, which might lead to McFishies product being introduced into the kitchen. Imagine the changes to the triple constraint if Mary kept having only John to work on producing the McDee products with increasing variety and demand volumes.

Let's add in a twist of economy impact to the business. As a result of economy downturn, the company slashes down on budget. With a budget constraint, Mary needs to stop paying overtime to John and give him replacement rest days. For the times John took his days off, she took in a casual worker Jack.

How about the training that Jack needs to undergo in order to be on par with John's productivity? Will Jack be willing to work casual on long term? How much is the cost-benefit of taking casual workers in the long run?
Would Mary finally decide to stop taking in extra customer orders? How much market share is she at risk of losing if she do?

Hope this writing is able give some insights on how the triple constraint impacts one another. The McDee's kitchen scenario above gives some examples of the disadvantages of not understanding how the 3 elements link to one another and lead to quality standard of our deliverables.

Keep in mind that the basics of project management is to understand how the 3 elements and their fundamentals and balance them to keep our deliverable quality up to our expectations while maintaining a sustainable system to deliver the product.

Excuse me for the long post. I will be untethered for at least the few days to come.
Hope you enjoy reading this!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Keep your cables tangle free

This is one of the things that i read somewhere in the web which fits FriedBeef's motto of 'Solving everyday problem with simple technology'. Yup, FriedBeef's Tech articles are one of my all time favourite. If you are interested here is the link to Friedbeef's Tech

Now back to the main topic. Everyone loves music and most of us have earphones which only leads to the countless mind-numbing cycles of tangling-untangling of the cables especially for portable device usage.

So in the spirit of 5S (see wikipedia on 5S), here are some practical tricks I want to share which comes pretty handy.

#1 Use a wire to bind your cables together. This is basic 5S. See the way our headphones or any other cable product is tied when we just newly purchased them?

That's the main idea. You can undo the wire tie and release the length of cables according to your usage. Those stray cable wires you don't need will finally serve their purpose and also contribute in a small way to a greener earth.

#2 Victory sign method or more popularly known as the right hand devil horn method.You can refer to Lifehacker's right hand devil horn as well. I personally find using the victory sign method easier for thinner cables. Wrap the cables in a figure of 8 around your two fingers regardless of which method you use.
You can loop the wires through each 'O' half to keep the figure of 8 shape intact and finally wrap across in the middle.

#3 The DIY cord wrapper. If you happen to have something like a phone card which you no longer need, you can DIY one holder. Same concept as method #2. Make a curved hole on each end as the illustration (also from lifehacker) and viola you got yourself a DIY cord wrapper.

My choice is pretty clear. #2 as nothing is needed to 5S-up.
A snapshot on my choice of wire free solution.

Hope this helps out and enjoy your tangle-free days ahead :)

Illustrations from:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Insurance: Doesn't make sense to everyone especially those < 25

Everyone is familiar with insurance and most people buy insurance without a second thought.Here is another dosage of horlic investment reads i had. Most of it goes along the same line of thought as what I have currently.
They say sharing is caring, so here I am sharing the love here :)

Refer to this video, which kinda makes sense to me & hopefully you too.

Simple and nice right?

From personal experience, I would also recommend that you ensure that your financial consultant is trustworthy & professional, not just-another-salesman type whose only concern is that you buy insurance from them.

Some of the factors we might want to consider:
a) dependent- who is dependent on me? a housewife with 0 income and a baby? 2 babies? retired parents who depend on us for monthly spending
b) age- the older we are the more risk we are at especially in health department. Guess thats why its more expensive the insurance payment gets.
c) earnings/maritial status - i guess these 2 are linked..if you earn enough and you are single,well not much problems. If you are married and have commitments, then that is something to ponder about in regards to insurance.

Look out for the sales gimmick which seems quite popular quite sometime back 'You'll never know when you might be involved in a serious accident'. However, give this a thought especially if you are the sole bread winner of the house.

For me, I've got an insurance plan for about 1 year when i just started working and then my agent quitted the field. There is no agent attending my insurance case if i'm in an emergency and needed to make claims from insurance. Meaning that IF i broke my leg in an accident, i still need to drag my sorry ass in crutches or in wheelchair to make insurance claims by myself.

Sure, there is a name of the insurance team's manager as replacement but its purely procedural. I tried many times and this person can't be reached at all. Another lesson learnt here, ask and clarify with your insurance agent before signing the contract.

I thought this over on the pros and cons of this situation and decided to drop the insurance plan altogether. Note: no refund on insurance premium, but i managed to get back my investment fund since this is a investment linked plan.

Based on the few factors above, i guess i'll be alright without insurance at the moment since:
a) i'm provided partial medical card coverage by my company
b) less than 30 years old
c) plan to eat right, work out right and keep healthy (need to work abit on this, been slacking and off balance these half of year)
d) don't have serious debt issues , at least not for now

Horlic did mention some good points there.(Horlic's post)

#1. "The main thing to keep in mind is: The amount of life insurance must be enough to replace the earning power of the deceased for those that depend on them"
#2. "For myself, medical health insurance (medical card) is a must! "

This reminded me of a scene from a Singaporean movie 'Money not enough 2' where the mother of the family got warded with illness and wham this sudden cashflow need hits her 3 sons who have their own daily commitments to meet.
Money_No_Enough_2 wiki

What do you guys think?
Drop a comment or gimme a holler at the shoutbox :)

image source: