Wednesday, August 14

+2 Dimensions

(1)

Roughly 10 years ago, my parents discovered their favourite restaurant somewhere 15 mins of drive from my home. They went there so often and they liked the restaurant so much to the extent that whenever they finished eating, they would stay there for awhile to chat with other customers who shared the same table (all tables of the restaurant were unusually big).

Sooner they also realised that there were also people who, like them, like this restaurant so much and visit it frequently. Then they became friends.

One of their friends is a bald old man in his sixties. He is very talkative and extroverted. So I have quite some impression on him when I followed my parents to the restaurant.

Later, I got to know more about his background. He is a bachelor (and therefore needless to say, he does not have any children). He is illiterate. He worked as a factory worker for his whole life which was largely consisted of manual labour. He used to have some chronic heart illness. Some years ago my parents drove him to Serdang Hospital to conduct a major surgery. Things got better, but as his past medical history implies, he is no longer the same as a healthy man.

He retired somewhere 7 or 8 years ago and now he mainly lives off a few hundred thousands Ringgits from his Employees Provident Fund which he withdrew when he retired. Though the absolute number of few hundred thousands seem quite a fortune for a normal person, we must remind ourselves that wealth is relative. A few hundred thousands are actually very little for an illiterate, retired old man in his sixties with bad past medical history and no kids

That last sentence is what I am trying to highlight here. At many moments I can't help to imagine being him, and the word "awful" inevitably crossed my mind.

What can I envision? What can I look forward to tomorrow?

There is no one at home waiting for me. Everyday I need to keep an eye on some food which could possibly cost my life. I can't read, which means that I will miss out some things which I can get to know (But I don't know what I don't know anyway, so it might not matter that much?). I have some money, but it's quite unlikely that I can make more. So the remaining days are purely all about subtraction, counting down the reduction of bank accounts until nil, counting down days until...hmm.

I realise the questions which I framed earlier about envisioning and looking forward to tomorrow are strangely youthful thus completely off the mark to a man in sixties. Probably those questions are only relevant to me and people at my age (therefore it is no surprised that I thought about those questions). Probably those questions are nonsensical and not even a concern for him at all.

His life is strange for me (thus it sparked so much of thoughts in my mind). Because I have never imagined life in sixties in such a form. I believe none of my peers imagine their sixties to be like that. We all hope that it would rosier and less gloomy.

I also feel funny on the contrast between (a) him feeling that his days are pretty good (he is now helping out the favourite restaurant as cashier and in return the restaurant gave him free food and he has a lot of friends there) eventhough he is already in his sixties, and (b) me feeling "I don't know how to go through tomorrow" at 27. I still have 30 years to create things.

______________________________________________________________________________
(2)

My father has a childhood friend who also lives in the same town as us. They often meet each other to catch up on life. So recently my father's friend faced a problem. He let his shoplot to a guy to run a restaurant business. That guy had not been paying rent for more than 3 months. Further, that guy had also failed to pay all utility bills for many months and up to date the outstanding amount of electricity bills is over RM 10,000. And that guy is still there, in the unit.

So the normal questions people tend to ask, or the things that people first think about are:-
- What does your tenancy agreement say?
- Did you issue warning to the tenant?
- Why did you not chase him out? Are you crazy? You are still allowing him to be there.
- You have collected deposits right. You should have evicted him way earlier. You should not even tolerate at all at the very first moment he failed to pay rent!
- Did you make police report?
- How come this guy doesn't afraid at all and he still can run his restaurant everyday without failing shame?

There was no written tenancy agreement. My dad's friend tolerated him months by months when he did not pay (I believe he gave a lot of nonsense excuses). No police report was made. No written warning was given. My dad's friend is quite reluctant/hesitant/afraid to chase him out.

And yes. He is still running his restaurant (wtf?).

I can't fathom. For me and many of my peers we are so risk-averse and we often feel very paranoid if we are ever near to breaking any laws/offending any people. We follow all the "procedures", "rules" (that's why I mentioned about "written warning" earlier, that's what we think is necessary). That's why this restaurant tenant guy already sounds extreme enough for me.

Maybe this is a problem of being overeducated. For many years since I entered university, while I was quite happy learning and getting a degree, there was another voice often popping up in my mind i.e. "Studying too much of theories made you a stupid nerd, the real world is different and it requires being street-smart".

This is Klang, this is Malaysia, this is business. This is not university, there are no classrooms, there is no examination. It is less about ties and suits, it is about humans. It is about making profits or lose.
This is the real world.

Friday, August 2

"Tips for Interview"

During March this year as usual I received queries pertaining to undergraduate law study. One of the e-mail was titled "Enquiries of um law from a desperate f6 leaver". This young girl is asking me about "tips for interview" and as how the e-mail title showed, she seemed a little bit anxious.

Later on she told me that the reason she was that nervous was because there were some people who told her a lot about "interviews" and what she needs to "prepare". While more information adds more options to life, it can backfire sometimes especially causing damage to our psyche. 

I answered a little bit differently this time compared to the past and I think my answer worth being re-posted as follows:-

Hi Miao,

Thank you for your e-mail and well done for your examination results.

My blog entry was a record about the interview I attended in UKM for its law degree in 2011. I did not attend any interview for UM's law degree as UM's Faculty of Law only introduced the interview mechanism around year 2013 or 2014.

Anyway UKM's law degree was my 2nd choice and UM's law degree was my 1st. At the end I was offered UM's law degree in year 2011 and I graduated in year 2015.

You are asking for "advice for attending interview of UM's law degree". I think you might be assuming the below:-
1) Your performance in the interview of UM's law degree is something important as it will decide whether you will be offered the course
2) You need "advice" or you need to "prepare" for an interview

1) Your performance in the interview of UM's law degree is something important as it will decide whether you will be offered the course

University admission officers normally consider:-
a) Your academic result (including MUET)
b) Co-curricular activities
c) Other bunch of random factors (How many seats are available, consideration of racial quota systems, budget of the university etc.)

Until few years ago only they thought that "Oh I think we should also at least see the faces of them so that at least we can feel/grasp who they are, how they behave etc since we never try that in the past" then they started introducing and mandating the requirement of interview. 

So how much will your performance of interview affect the selection of students? not much. They need to interview thousands of students within few weeks and even the so-called brightest guy/girl in that 30 minutes won't sway their decisions too much, or not at all. The officers are bound to follow the traditional way of selecting students, i.e. through academic results. 

You can try spending a lot of time preparing for the interview, but it is near to useless. It's like trying to cook using wood and charcoal. There is gas stove (other better things to do). If you wouldn't accept using charcoal to cook, then you shouldn't try preparing for this interview.


2) You need "advice" or you need to "prepare" for an interview
If you enter "how to do well in interview" on Google Search there are 1.18 billion of results, and your teachers, parents, seniors will all tell you about "tips" for interview like "speak confidently", "dress well", "be polite", "ask good questions".

The original meaning of the word "interview" means "to see each other". So what an interview really is, is for two parties to meet each other and try to know each other within that meeting, that's all.

Imagine your friend want to introduce some of her friends to you next week, are you going to "prepare" for it? Are you going to think "How should I impress them?" and then start searching on Google for "tips"? If it sounds insane, that's what I mean.

You are who you are, the product of your past 19 years of life and all the things you have done in the past 19 years. Any "tips" won't "improve" you. And you probably don't need "improvement" at all. You don't need to try hard to be great or to impress someone.

The University Admission Officers (They are the one who are going to be your interviewers) are no ordinary person than your friends. They are just normal person like you and I. You don't have to work hard to impress them. You don't even have to see them as someone superior or senior. See them as your peers and talk to them like how you talk to your friends. 

And since they always meet students who are afraid of them, if you are not afraid of them, they might be even thinking "Oh this kid is so natural, genuine and humble. She just be herself and speak loudly on things she know and admit directly on things that she is bad at. She just be herself. Meanwhile some students want to try hard to impress me, they look so fake and hypocritical. I like this girl!"


"What if?"
"But what if I can't answer anything if they ask me some law questions? Isn't that stupid? Shouldn't I prepare for it?"

That's exactly my points above.
I have said above that interview means almost nothing in assessing students, they are bound to consider your academic results primarily.

You already have CGPA 4.00 and MUET band 5, now because you can't answer in interview you are disqualified? Seriously?!
If they really do so they will have to answer to their Minister on what kind of grand rocket science question that justify them on disqualifying a CGPA 4.00 student.


"what should I know beforehand so I won't end up like a fool in front of people, especially the interviewers?"

You already have CGPA 4.00 and MUET band 5, and then because of that 30 minutes of interview you let the world to define you as a 'fool'? Seriously?!

What and who is 'fool' is 100% subjective. The greatest fool of all is those who act know-it-all. Admitting that "I don't know" and say it out loud is not a sign of foolishness, but humillity. And humility is the beginning of intelligence. 

"What should I do"?
So I have said a lot of things that seem cynical and dismissive. You don't have to prepare for interview, you don't have to have law knowledge, you don't have to even do anything! Then what should you do?

What you should do as a 20-year-old now is: Try everything that you are interested in.

Think music is very cool? Go play that piano/guitar or just sing!
Think designing/painting is such a great beautiful art? Pick up that pen and just draw!
Always admire people who speak confidently? Go to youth camps, volunteer to speak on stage, the larger the crowd the better the training is.

A 20-year-old isn't supposed to know what he/she exactly wants. In fact any 20-year-old who tells me that he/she is so sure that his/her ambition or passion is ABC or XYZ. I will not only be shocked but think that he/she is likely to be mistaken.

I did matriculation not STPM, so in 2011 I only had 4 months holidays while waiting for the university application results:-
- I was so interested in photography, so I went to work for a job selling credit cards for 3 months, made RM3000+ and went to buy a DSLR camera, then I started playing it.
- I hated myself for being so shy and introverted and I was determined to learn how to talk and be more extroverted. So I signed up Famine-30 camp under World Vision and the experience opened up my world!
- Ended up I also learned a lot from my job of selling credit cards even though I hated it so much in the first place.

I did worry a little bit about my UKM law interview and intended to "prepare" for it. But I didn't know what to do and who to ask for (Google search wasn't that common that time), so I just ignored it. At hindsight that was a great thing. I didn't waste time "preparing" for interviews. I focused on what I am interested.

Now looking back I feel that I should have even pushed further.
Why only sell credit cards? I should try selling some more expensive items and challenge my sales skills!
Why only join Famine-30 Camp as a camp member? I should be camp leader and start one myself!

If you don't know what is your interests, just do something that scares you.

Last
Since I published this UKM Interview experience in 2011, I received more than 20 enquiries. More than 20 ambitious kids (like you) have approached me and asked me the same question: Tips and Advice for interview.

At first I thought "Ohh cool these kids know what they want and they work hard to 'prepare' for it". After a while I started to worry for them.

Kids who like to ask for "advice" and "tips" seem smart, but it is a danger sign that they like to "hack" and treat things like a game that they can optimise. Most importantly they always tend to focus on the wrong game: Starting from aiming for that so-called prestigious course and university because someone else told them that it is good, then after graduation aim for that so-called prestigious company because someone else told them that it is good, then after started working aim for that so-called prestigious position and titles because someone else told them that it is good, treating life like a checklist crossing one after another because someone else told them that it is good.

You already have 4.00 and Band 5. What is the worst that could happen? Even if you talk like an idiot in that 30 minutes, they will still accept you. And I know that someone who bothers to e-mail me to ask for advice is not and will not talk like an idiot.

Unless your passion is "prepare for interview", do things that you really like.

If you bother, read What You'll Wish You'd Known .

Take care :)

Sunday, June 2

Long time no see

Long time no see guys (and girls) !

If you are (still) here let me know by saying Hi below!

I miss alot of you.

Saturday, January 5

Peasants' Life

My parents told me that a shop nearby my house (whose owner is their friend) was "visited" by an Indian "Kongsi Gelap" (I do not know what's the equivalent in English, maybe "the Mafia"? Except that they are much less stylish and classy compared to the Italians). The owner was requested to pay RM1,000/year per unit as a courtesy of being protected well all the time. She owns 4 units, so that's RM4,000/year.

Of course those are illegal. The "protection" is merely an official fiction by the mafia for extortion. They have done nothing economically deserving for money in return.

My parents did not know whether she pays at the end so I lack an ending to make judgment. But they did not describe the incident with anger. They were merely narrating it to me as a normal incident of the day. Then they further told me how common this situation is by citing all other past occurrence that happened to them and their friends, and how powerless they are and how useless it is even if we report to the police.

"We have to accept", they said.

Dilemma
If this happens a few years ago, I would have been disturbed heavily, entered into an (unnecessary) debate with them, or even talked to them with contempt. I would not understand how could a person accept such an obscene act and an outright crime.

Of course, a normal person with conscience would not tolerate the bastards. But a person's conscience also changes along with the situations and the environments that they are living in. I am still as angry as I would if I was told a few years ago, but this time I am angry (or actually feeling helpless) about my environment.

They tolerate because they think they are powerless. They think they are powerless because the environment render them so. If the country is powerful enough to sentence the criminals, the citizens would fight together with the country for seizure. Otherwise, it will degenerate into a real life Gotham, and if we are lucky, Batman will be there.

When I imagine the enforcers of our country, my stereotype of them comes in. They are lazy, inefficient and also as tolerant as my parents. I do not know whether it is true. Perhaps they are just  my stupid assumptions.

Acquiescence?
For the first time in this kind of issue, I might have to stand at the side of tolerating (as that of my parents). Because I started feeling old, I started to feel the same might have happened to me, I started to imagine if I have kids, I might need to succumb to protect them, like what my parents did when I was young.

If you ask people hypothetically, most of them would say that they would not pay the Mafia, they would not succumb.
If every subject of the thought experiment is being tested in real life, I do not dare to imagine the actual statistics.
Hypothetical questions pose zero risks, real life do.

Real-life risks are largely not computable. I can't count the probability of the Mafia taking out a knife or burning my shop. So do the probability of the police ending their evilness. I can't decide whether this Mafia thing is a issue big enough for me to bother to eradicate it, or a issue small enough for me to just acquiesce by paying them.

Insolubleness
I still can't believe that the rule of law is just being broken just like that in front of me. It sounded that my country is still some barbarian place on Earth, a remnant of 10th century when the feudal landlords oppressed the peasants by collecting large fees.

Maybe it is just a location problem. My house is in a low-income neighbourhood. If I live in an affluent city it might be better.

Or maybe it is just a country problem. We can move. A developed country might be better.

Or, all the buzzing big "solutions" might work: tightening the enforcement, alleviating poverty, upholding rule of law etc.

Rebelling the Mafia might pose danger, but surrendering is stupid either. Attacking the problem in an oblique angle is better. But I find the angle quite blurry now.

A brief answer (opinion) to big questions?

Recently I stumbled upon some videos on Youtube about the political tension between China & Hong Kong. I was reminded on the hopelessly insoluble conflicts between China, Hong Kong & Taiwan. 

My parents have been calling the Hong Kongese and Taiwanese activists "naive" on an economic standpoint. They think that Hong Kongese and Taiwanese are committing suicide gradually as the Chinese may stop their trade with Hong Kong & Taiwan due to their rebellion. Meanwhile, in the videos the "reformers" had propounded their strong arguments on democracy, liberty and the nations' "future".


Some principles
I do not know enough to have opinions about the situation. Coincidentally a friend of mine also spoke to me casually about this topic. That conversation enlightened me about the fundamental principles hold by the conflicting parties. 

The conservatives say that Hong Kong and Taiwan originally belong to China, and for them any large-scale modification is an unacceptable betrayal, where are the respect and loyalty?
The "reformers" say that everyone should be given opportunity to try new reforms given that the proposed changes will give rise to good prospects, why are you resistant to changes? Do you admit that you are just a tyranny? We by all means oppose tyrannical regimes!


I do not know how long the Chinese can hold Hong Kong in the current shape and how long can the Taiwanese continue despising the Chinese. It's even harder to gauge what will happen to China if Hong Kong is given more freedom and Taiwan is being recognised. 

"I know"

Political questions are always hard questions with too high a level of abstractions for humans to make good decisions, no matter how wise a person is. Yet humans like to treat big questions as if they are in the same class as repairing water pipes, cooking steaks or lifting weights. Politicians claim that they know what's happening. The "reformers" claim that the incumbents are stupid. 

I bet Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler and Mao Ze Dong were all partly the beneficiaries/victims of certain circumstances, situations and environments. We then declare the heroes/victims ex post based on the end outcomes.

But there might be a possible solution: bottom-up politics.

Loss aversion
Why not let Hong Kong and Taiwan rule themselves for some period of time and let China rule them for some period of time? Then we compare the end outcomes so that there could be an official agreement and concession between the parties.

But of course practically this ideal might be a Sisyphean task. The main reason is that humans can't stand "bottom-up" approach in doing things. It's painful to see that the reality is not something we want but something we hate. It's even more painful to remain silent and endure patiently seeing what we hate is happening. We as humans can't stand that, we want to fix things fast and fix things now. 



It is just a trial, an experiment. But the conservatives can't stand the country being turned into an anarchy (an exaggeration in the mind of conservatives). The liberals can't stand submitting to a fascist (an exaggeration in the mind of liberals). So they start doing something to stop/interrupt the "enemy". Then the entire thing degenerates into a top-down game again. 

At the end the biggest enemy is our loss aversion.





Friday, November 16

Advice to old self

16.11 (Friday) 11.14am at office thought about UK scholarship super concave decision

dont limit your options (dont take present as your future). bottom up
dont take rewards (not possible)
dont work too hard (junyuan worked too hard want certainty so he chose UK), dont maximise, dont optimise, (the seemable best option now (jpa overseas) turn out to be worst. The best option in long run = something secondary or seem worst now)

' the advice of "avoid losses" = more losses '. it backfired as iatrogenics. the movie of 2 dumpsters

the most-near-to-best advice is "if you are losing alot, you are on the right track now"
("deliberately and actively lose!" and "lose alot" are not good advice, he won't listen just like he won't listen to "dont take rewards". this kind of hard and fast rule are useless or in fact iatrogenics/detrimental to humans)

ultimately the advice to old self = dont take advice

________

when you dont know much, dont make decision
"just do it " is crap
too bad because you dont know much, you dont know that you dont know much

Sunday, October 28

Contrarian

What is/are the truth(s) that you believe in which very few people agree with you?

Mine:
  • Eat alot a lot of fats, they are not harmful. Don't eat rice/bread/noodles/potatoes/corns/grains/wheats, they are not only not good but toxic.
  • Newspapers, tv news, social media news, radio news, and anything about news are not only as useless as rubbish, but as harmful as poisons.
  • Reading and "Knowledge" is overrated. They are not as good as you think. The people who read the most might be the stupidest and the most ignorant (drown by information)
  • Failure, "Just Do It!" and "Take Risks" are overrated. 
  • "Work Hard" and "Work Smart" are both wrong. 
  • "Planning" is the most useless activity on Earth. 
  • The smartest person in a gigantic company might be stupider than the dumbest person in a small company.
  • Economic inequality and income gaps are good things. They are signs of society's progress. 
  • Policy making, politicians, governments are all placebos. They don't change and improve society, they can't even affect anything. 
  • The current that you see = The past that you should have seen 30 years ago. The future that you will only see 30 years later = The actual current. 
  • "Ideas" is an euphemism for "Stupidity". Silence is an anti-euphemism for "Intelligence". 
  • If no one ever says that you are ridiculous, you are not doing things worth doing.
  • Good things are much worse than you think and bad things are much better than you think. Actively seek bad things instead of shunning them, don't actively seek good things (I don't mean that you should shun good things).
  • If you have not had a fierce conflict with the person in front of you, the relationship between you and him/her is superficial. You should anticipate conflicts not good times when you make a new friend/partner. 
  • the correlation between growth and pain is higher than 0.5 lower than 1
  • credentials are inversely proportional to reliability/trustworthiness. Beware of people with high credentials, and seek for people with low credentials 
  • advice that is the most useful for you are words that you hated the most and feel like disregarding the most (therefore not heeding them). advice that you like and you feel that they are profound and you feel like applying them straight are advice that is most useless for you. [Most of the time when we are looking for advice, we weren't looking for advice, we were merely looking for someone external to say something that we want to hear/to affirm what we have already thought]