More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

It's All Mental

It's amazing how many things are all triggered by our state of mind. Our mental health can determine how our physical health is. I don't know what the statistics are, but it has definitely been proven that placebos work for some illnesses. My friend John was saying that he thinks placebos would work for cancer even. I disagreed with him and didn't think they would work for such things, but it wouldn't hurt to be in a good frame of mind when dealing with cancer.

Just this past week, I've had the medically incurably and frustratingly annoying common cold. How can we put a man on the moon but not cure the cold. Humans are definitely not the most dominant species on this planet, bacteria and virus are. Should all other things die, bacteria and viruses would still survive I think. Anyway I digresss as usual. Even with a cold, I have found that my mental state is totally different to normally.

Having a cold makes you tired and hence irritable. Tiny things annoy the heck out of me. I can't help but get angry at small things. My moods would swing quite quickly from being happy one minute to angry the next and feeling sorry for myself. I've always said to everyone that I'm pathetically weak and at the first sign of sickness, I'll be playing the victim game. Everything will the be fault of the world and not me. And the problem is that I'm conscious of it, but yet still do it. It's like I don't have full control over it. I guess this is in a very very small way how it might feel to have a mental illness. Not that I'm comparing a cold to being mentally ill. I would never make lite of mental illness, but I guess not being able to fully control one's mind with a cold is how I think it must feel to be mentally ill. You may be aware of your actions when you are mentally ill but yet feel hopeless when you can't control them.

Out of all the mental illnesses, depression would probably be the worse one. On the surface, people with depression may look and act like they don't have a problem. But underneath, a million things must be happening in their minds that they can't control. To have a common feeling of helplessness would drive anyone to lash out and show it physically, verbally and emotionally. What makes it worse still is that other people might not know that you have a problem, so assume its just how bad a person you are. Hence, you commonly hear people with depression say how relieved they felt to be diagnosed with depression. At least then they knew they have a problem and could start dealing with it.

I think I've heard, someone correct me if I'm wrong, that Australia might have one of the highest percentage of people with depression. I wonder why that is. This is a great country as far as I'm concerned, with many opportunities if you are willing to give things a go. All the conditions would be inducive to mentally fit people. I would have expected people in countries like Japan for instance, where there is so much pressure to do well, to have high levels of depression. Maybe Japan does have high levels of depression, I don't know. But you rarely hear of people in say Ethiopia having depression. Is it merely not diagnosed there, or does the constant struggle to survive from day to day stop their minds from thinking of other things? Is depression a disease for the wealthy? If you are worrying for your life each day, does natural survival instincts kick in and therefore push out all these other negative thoughts?

All these questions will be hard to answer, since the mind is still the most unexplained part of human biology. The mind can be such a wonderous thing but can also be such a destructive machine for each of us.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Corporate Training - A Study In Social Interaction

One of the pluses of working in a resonable sized corporation is that you get to go on training courses and learn more skills. Usually, the training courses don't turn out to be as good as they sound on paper, but hey, what do you really expect to learn in a day or two. The courses usually give you a starting point and you can take it further should you wish. The best part of training for me, is watching the social interaction of the people who attend.

Last week, I went on a training course for Six Hats. To explain it properly is quite long, so you can read about it slowly on Wikipedia. But it basically boils down to each team member wearing certain "hats" where the hats define how they should act. As an example, if you have your "yellow hat" on, you should try to find positives of an idea. You go through various hats throughout the meeting. In the exercises that we did, it seemed to be an extremely useful tool for decision making and ideas generations. Everyone really got into it and I learnt quite a bit from that training.

Today and yesterday, I went on a Project Management Fundamentals course. It was a bit too long in my opinion, running over two days when everything could have been covered quite clearly in one day. The course was slightly helpful, with some new knowledge learnt that will help me in my job. It just seemed like a lot of the course material wasn't directly related to project management. As an aside, one particular girl on my table probably needs to go to Six Hats training. She was so negative towards any ideas put forward by other people and was always confrontational (disguised in a nice manner) about it and shot other people's ideas down. Her ideas always ended up being the chosen one.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love to watch people interact, and this was one of those forced situations where a group of strangers are thrown together. Whereas the Six Hats training was a small group of 4 so there wasn't as much social interaction to look at, the Project Management group of 18 provided much more material for me. Right from the first morning when we got there, watching people choose seats was already very interesting. I was 15 minutes early and turned out to be the first person there. So obviously I choose a seat more to the back and in direct line of sight to everyone so could watch everything. As people slowly came in, the obvious thing happened. Initially the next two people sat at different tables from me. Then when all three tables were taken, the fourth person made a very quick assessment of all of us and then chose a table, with a seat as far away from the other person as possible. Who wants to sit next to a stranger when there are other seats available. This kept happening with each table being filled at roughly the same rate. People would walk in, make a quick assessment of the people they might get along with and then go sit at a table. The tables people chose were also surprising. I was expecting like-groups, such as young women to sit together, older ladies to sit together, young men to sit together etc but that didn't happen at all. The mix was quite even.

The Six Hats training was so small that we were all forced to talk to each other. Today, since there were other strangers all over the room, no one wanted to be the sole person heard talking so the room was deadly quiet, with no one making eye contact, of if they did, quickly turned away afterwards. Once the introductions, run by the trainer, were done, it was on with the class so that got more comfortable. When the first tea break arrived, this was where things got uncomfortable again. When everyone went outside for snacks, people tended to stick to their table groups and talk amongst ourselves since we already had some team interaction. The talk all revolved around "What did you do again?", "So why are you on this training?" etc.

The two days were pretty much all work related talk. I would talk to different people and ask them what they did and about their job. There was occasional non work chat and joking during the various team tasks, but there were also many moments of silence after a break when we would all sit waiting for the trainer. I guess the difference between corporate training and maybe a food class that you attend is that the food class is probably a passion. People with common interests in food will strike up relationships very quickly and bond much more over something they all love. Here, no one is particularly into Project Management. We were there to learn, but its not like to can get to know someone by their Project Management skills unlike what they like to eat. So even after two days, despite people being nice to each other, I didn't feel like anyone connected on any emotional level. As I was walking towards my car, I stopped at a road crossing where one of the other ladies was also walking to her car. We chatted but you could feel how uncomfortable it was. We were both just trying to get to the car park as fast as possible so we could stop talking and walk away. It would seem rude to walk away immediately since we sort of knew each other but really didn't.

Lunch time was similarly weird. The food was great by the way, but again being forced to sit together and eat was weird. It was deadly quiet at times with conversations occurring between some people and the rest of us being unwilling listeners. There was a lot of looking around and some very concentrated looks at the food. Once everyone finished eating, there was no sitting around talking. Everyone went outside to make calls on their mobiles or go for walks etc.

It just shows how unreal those reactions on Big Brother are. How could people who are total strangers be like best friends in a matter of minutes. Whenever people meet new people, there is always hesitation since you don't know if you can trust them yet. There is also the unkown of what the other person is like and whether you will get along with them.

The next training I'm going on is a Laser Safety Course. I think that will be more of a class based training session and have very little group activities, so it probably won't provide as many wonderful social interactions. I hope the lunch is good though, thats usually the highlight of training.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Parcel Delivery Conspiracy

I've recently had a conspiracy theory that a lot of parcel delivery men don't acutally carry all the parcels with them. Of late, I've received many parcels, or supposed to have received them, only to have to go and pick them up myself. There have been many occasions when there has definitely been someone home, only for a note to be left saying that no one was home and that I would have to go and pick up the parcel. Why am I paying for a premium delivery service when I have to go and get them myself, especially if the depot is far away.

So why would a delivery man drive all the way to my house and then not deliver the parcel. I think that sometimes since their trucks are so full as they try to maximise their delivery and hence earnings, that its physically too crowded to carry every parcel. It's much easier to carry a little piece of paper and just stick that on you door and get you to go and pick up the parcel yourself.

My second guess is that maybe delivery men get paid for a second delivery if you are not home since its not their fault. This means they can generate more business for themselves (since you cover a specific suburb each I believe) by having to deliver a parcel a few times.

Other extremely annoying things that parcel delivery people do is a) leave parcels without getting a signature. They are marked for signing for a reason. The consumer pays for the service and hence the delivery man should wait the one extra minute to get a signature rather than ring the door bell and then just leave the parcel; b) leave parcels in exposed areas where they can easily be rained on or easily taken by any passer bys; c) throw parcels over gates so that items are broken inside. I've had so many cd cases cracked due to the parcels being throw over this high steel gate I used to have at the old house.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Time Shifting aka End of Daylight Saving

I woke up today to the very pleasant surprise that it was the end of daylight saving. This means that we turn the clocks back one hour, effectively giving everyone an extra hour of sleep. So instead of waking up at 11am, I had woken up at 10am, giving me an extra hour to get ready to go to the Chocolate and Coffee festival in the city that starts at 11am.

Wouldn't life be so great if we could just turn time back and forth whenever we wanted. I suspect most people would be turning time back a lot, since people are usually late for things. Turning time forward could be useful but I wonder how that would work. If you turn time back, you simply go back to a point in time that has already happened and insert yourself into it again and then press play. But if you turn time forward, the events would have to had happen already without your prescence, so if you then appear, would you wreck the whole time-space continuum.

I'm constantly intrigued by how time and space would work if you bend it. I watch and read so many sci fi movies, tv shows and books that always feature this issue and all have varying views. If you go back in time, do you wreck the space continuum because you would exist in the same time frame with two of you. Or would the old you not exist because only one of you can exist in that time frame at one point in time. And if you were in the past or future, what is happening to you in the interim period where you were supposed to be. Are you still in that old time frame, because if you aren't, then doesn't causality mean that you should therefore not exist since you are merely a continuum of your past self.

Hmmmm, all these questions are too much for a lazy Sunday morning. I need to find smarter minds to explain theoretically how all this time travelling would work. Anyone have a theory on how time travelling works.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Panic - a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior, and that often spreads quickly through a group of persons or animals. Isn't it strange how we react when something goes wrong. We tend to go into this irrational state of emotion known as panicking.

Yesterday, I experienced a little bit of panic. I was supposed to go on a training course in the city. Since it takes ages to get to the city, I had changed my alarm clock to wake up much earlier than usual and also checked out which trains to take. I was all prepared, even going as far as packing my bag with a book to read on the train. When I awoke the next day, I felt unusually refreshed. I wondered why the alarm clock hadn't gone off yet. Then when I saw it was 8:40am, I went into slight panic mode. I was supposed to be in the city by 9am for my training and it takes about an hour to get to the city.

After about 30 seconds of being unsure what to do, I slowly shook myself awake and formed an action plane. I rang the training place and informed them that I would be late. Then I quickly brushed my teeth and got changed. Next I rang my friend John to ask him what was the quickest way to get to the city via the freeway. He gave me instructions on how to get to my training place. I grabbed a drink and bbq pork bun from the pantry and rushed out to my car. I drove as quickly as I could while still being safe. I felt a bit of panic, but it wasn't too bad. I was already late and panicking would not help. So I concentrated on the music in the car and sang along to distract myself. Eventually I got to my training, a bit late, but others were also late so I hadn't missed much.

Panic is such a common human emotion when what we expect to happen, doesn't happen. In changing my alarm time, I had also accidentally switched the alarm off. Although there was intial panic from me, I quickly started to formulate a plan after that. I was told by my manager that the common misconception of people running around and screaming when there is some disaster is so inaccurate. We work in the fire business and know from a lot of data that people may panic initially, but they quickly start to find ways to escape the fire. Hence, the common practise of not informing people of imminent danger so that they don't panic is so wrong. It just gives people less time to react when it does occur.

I guess the level of panic also depends very much on the situation. I remember another time when I panicked much more was when I once again overslept for a uni exam. I had thought that the exam was in the afternoon, but it turned out to be in the morning. This time I did pace around a bit unsure what to do. I walked back and forth swearing and not sure what to do. Once I got over that, I quickly brushed my teeth, got changed and rang the exam department. They said that since the exam wasn't over yet, I could come in and complete the exam in a separate room. I'm glad to say that I actually passed that subject with a high distinction.

I'm not sure what purpose panic has for us. Why has evolution chosen to keep this emotion. Does the panic help release the initial fear and frustration so that your mind can think clearly afterwards. What have been your experience with panic. Has there been any situations where you have panicked to such an extent that you did run around screaming your head off?

Monday, March 19, 2007

How To Get The Best Seat In A Plane.

Lately, at work, there's been heaps of talk amongst our group of work mates because one of us, Emmanuel, gets to go on business trips overseas where he gets to travl on business class. He keeps telling us how good the service and seats are, and we're all so jealous. I just read an article where the writer discusses ways to get the best seat in a plane.

To get the best seats, there really aren't any secrets. Try to reserve your seat if possible at the time of purchase. Otherwise, some companies allow you to reserve a seat online or over the phone 2 days prior to flying. Lastly, if all of that is unavaiable, arriving early means you get first choice at a seat.

So which seat in the plane is the best. Obviously, if you're in first class, you have the best seat, besides the pilot seat or the toilet seat if you're Ralph Fiennes. However, lets concentrate on economy class (aka poor man's galley) since most of us can only ever afford to travel economy.

No matter which seat you choose in economy, you can never truly be comfortable, but some seats are better than others. The best seats are probably those near the emergency door. They have large leg room and no one reclining back onto you. The TV screen is also a decent distance away so you don't get a headache after watching for a few hours.

Sitting in seats at the front have the advantage that you can get off first and be in line for customs quickly. It is also further away from the engine so is a bit quieter. You will also be served food and drinks first. However, the increased traffic going past you for the toilet can be annoying. I personally don't like to sit too close to the toilets since I have very good nose and can smell the toilet odours. Sitting at the back means there isn't people walking past you all the time, but it is last for everything.

A choice between the middle block of seats or the window block of seats is a no-brainer in my opinion. I love sitting in the side block of two seats. I don't care whether its the window or ailse seat that I'm in. Just having two passengers is so much better. There is a much lower chance of someone who stinks and just feels much calmer there. The window seat lets you rest your head while the ailse seat means you can stretch your arms and legs and go to the toilet easier.

When Paul and I were on holiday recently, we forgot to pick a seat on the two major long haul flights. What a huge mistake that was. The trip to Hong Kong from Melbourne was ok. We were in the middle block of seats, but were in the last row of a block where there was only three seats, so our seats were a bit bigger. However, the TV screen was offset since the seat in front was not directly in line. I enjoyed the larger seat a lot and made do with watching the TV reclining out of my chair and into the ailse area.

The trip back from Hong Kong was the worst possible scenario. We were in the middle block of seats, but worse still, we were sandwiched right in the middle, so neither of us were in an aisle seat. If you know me, you know that I need to go to the toilet a lot. So instead of just climbing over Pauls chair or being in a aisle seat myself, each time I needed to go to the toilet, I had to ask this huge guy to get out and let me through. This was really bad in the middle of the night when he was sleeping and I had to hold it in for quite a while. Also, the Indian (well he was Indian so I'm not being racist) guy two seats across on the other ailse took his shoes off, and I swear to God, the smell was so bad that I kept wanting to throw up. I had to keep breathing through my jumper to dull the smell. Never again will I forgot to book a seat.

The holy grail of seats as the article suggests, is when there is a row of free seats and you can hog it all. This rarely happens on international flights, but Pual and I made sure this happened on the short haul flights we took. The short haul planes usually had two rows of 3 seats. So each of us would occupy a seat, and then put our bags in the middle seat so no one would take it. There was usually enough extra seats in the plane for us to do this. Afterwards, we could lounge around a bit and stretch a little.

In future, I think I need to find a way to weasel my way into business class. Maybe I should pretend to be claustrophic or scared of flying and start panicking. They will probably stick me in business class then, or stick me into a straight jacket. It could go either way. :-)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Walking With Dinosaurs

So I was just walking through a Westfield Shopping Centre when I saw that there was a crowd so I went over to have a look myself at what was happening. And what do I see, this huge dinosaur head coming right at me and then lets out a loud roar. I actually was shocked and my shoulders twitched, but it doesn't take much to shock me, just a loud boo from behind will make me jump. Anyway, the dinosaur looked so cool, not a clumsy robot one, but a puppet operated by a person. You can see the person clearly, but such is the size, walking sytle, sound, colour of the dinosaur so real, that you focus on that instead.

It turns out that the dinousaur was promoting the stage production of the Walking With Dinosaurs documentary from the BBC. The production will be touring Australia, and from the video clip that you can watch below, it does look spectacular. As someone who loves dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park movies, I really want to go see the show. But then I had a quick look at the prices, and at $65 for the cheapest seats, well I'll have to think about it a bit more.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Mobile Phones - Definitely A Necessity

A while ago, I had written a post about whether mobile phones were a necessity or a nuisance. I had concluded that for me at least, it is a necessity. Today I have another story to show that most people should get a mobile, even if you rarely use it. This post will be a half discussive post about mobiles but also a rant because I am fuming mad right now, all because of a mobile phone, or lack thereof.

I had sold a memory card on an online auction. I mistakenly gave the buyer the option of picking it up, to save them a few bucks. The buyer was going to drop by my work place today to pick up the card. I thought nothing of it since I was so busy today. At about 4:40pm, this guy rings me on my mobile (I gave him my mobile number) and says that he is the buyer, but doesn't know how to get to my work place. I was just about to ask him where he was when the phone cut out. I thought that maybe he was in a bad reception area. A few minutes later, he rang again. This time, I managed to find out that he was at a train station. Since I didn't know where that station was, I couldn't direct him on how to get to my work place. Again, after about 30 seconds, the phone cuts out again. I would have rung him back except the number showed up as a private number.

I went back to work and about 5 minutes later, another call from the same guy. This time, I asked him whether he wanted me to call him mobile from my land line at work, maybe the reception would be better this way. Then he said that he didn't have a mobile and was calling from a pay phone. Now how stupid is that. If he had come to my work place, how would he have rung me anyway to let me know he had arrived. Now, he's at a train station and wants direction, but the phone keeps cutting out. After about 5 calls, all I had established was that he was lost. I quickly told him to go to a station where I did know and could meet him there.

I was already in an ultra foul mood at this stage. I had been doing electronic schematic layout all day. Anyone's who's ever done it knows how hard it is to sift through a hundred component specifications to find the right one, inputting the footprints for the PCB etc, it can put you in a really bad mood since your head is overloaded with information. Because this buyer was suppose to come and pick up the card directly and now he wasn't, that made me even more angry. The effort I would have to go to for just a few dollars profit was not worth it. I would have rung him to say that I will post it, but I couldn't because he didn't have a mobile. My work mate Mark told me to just ditch him, but I wasn't that sort of person to make a promise and not keep it if I could.

So I leave work quickly and start driving. At peak hour time, instead of being able to head off into the opposite direction to go home where there was no traffic, I had to go and drive with all the traffic to go and meet someone just to give him a stupid card to earn a few bucks. The traffic and thought of the situation made me curse so much. I must have said more "f**king hells" in that car trip there than I have said all year. The traffic was so bad that it took me forever to cover the fairly short distance. And this guy kept calling me every 5 minutes to see where I was. I was ready to throw my phone out the window and just turn around and drive home. But the thought that I was already on my way made me keep going.

Anyway, I got there, parked my car illegally, rushed out and gave him a blast for his actions, or inactions. He paid me the money and I rushed home, again swearing heaps. I have learnt some vital lessons today, no more pick ups for items sold online, people are tight (it would have cost him $5 for delivery and all this hassle could have been avoided) and that a mobile phone is gold in situations like these.

A mobile phone is really a necessity if you plan on doing any type of business transactions. Even when you are meeting up with people, having the flexibility of a phone is just so reassuring. There's no waiting for hours unsure whether to leave or keep waiting, a simple call can solve everything. So I urge everyone to get a mobile phone, even if you rarely use it. Just buy a pre-paid card so that people can reach you if they need. You don't have to give your number to people you don't want to, and you can always decline incoming calls.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Driving In My Car

Just before, I went to my friends house to pick up some things. The drive there was totally enjoyable. The roads were empty and I could drive without having to concentrate really hard. I was travelling down the freeway so could drive a bit faster and it was exhilirating. I had the music up loud and was singing away. The cool breeze was blowing into my face and I was in a good frame of mind. This all made the short trip a lot of fun. I even drove a bit crazier than normal, overtaking cars and taking the corners very fast.

Generally, driving is such a chore, its what you do to get from A to B. The driving journey itself is not fun. This is because we are constantly stuck in traffic with time constraints on where we have to be and when we have to be there by. Driving gets associated with all the things that we don't like.

I generally don't mind driving too much, even when I'm stuck in traffic jams. I must have music in the car though. When my car stereo broke down, it was like the end of the world. Driving became so much more of a pain. The radio still worked but it wasn't the same. I like to listen to my music from my CDs. Nowadays though, I just plug my ipod into the FM transmitter and have hours and hours of listening pleasure. I love to sing along to the music, much to the annoyance of my passengers as I'm a fairly bad singer, but I don't care, I like it. Singing also makes my mind drift away and think about other things, making the driving trip less painful. My friend John says that his drive home each day is when he thinks of all the philosphical ponderings about the bigger scheme of life. My thoughts are generally much simpler and I'm reliving TV shows or what food I would like to eat. Occasionally I do have some insightful thoughts about life and things around me.

Driving only tends to be fun when you're driving off somewhere on a holiday. Then it becomes this relaxing exercise where you enjoy the scenery. Out in the country areas, you also get to drive faster too, and somehow speed just makes driving more fun.

What are your thoughts on driving, do you like it or hate it? Are you one of those people who just really worked up when they're driving and anything others do on the road will drive you insane? Or are you really relaxed like me and are bopping away to the music?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Amway - My Opinion

Firstly, I need to make it clear that this is by no way a criticism or attack on my friends or anyone who has joined Amway. That is you choice and that's fine with me. This post is clearly my own opinion on the scheme.

So a couple of days ago, my friend asked me to go to his place for an Amway session. I have always been a sceptic regarding Amway but since it was only supposed to go for an hour at most, I went along since there was supposedly dinner afterwards (you can coax me to do a lot of things with a free meal). So I arrived on time and took my seat. The one hour session ended up going for about 3 hours. I was very sceptical from the start, but decided to keep an open mind and listened carefully to everything that was said. I asked questions that I genuinely wanted answers to. By the end of the night, I'm now positive that Amway is an evil scheme where you can only make money by convincing more people that its a good thing.

During the presentation, the constant message that kept being bombarded at me was that if I wanted "financial freedom", Amway is my way to that. Amway is also great for everyone, since its just like doing your regular shopping but at discounted prices. The so called "middleman" is cut off and you get the direct discount due to this. Herein lies the first problem. I don't believe that huge multi-national companies such as Coles and Safeway who turn over hundreds of billion a year cannot negotiate better prices than Amway, which are selling much lower numbers. Coles and Safeway don't need to go through any middlemen, they're such large buyers that I'm sure they can negotiate deals directly with manufacturers. With Amway, they themselves are sourcing mostly third party products anyway, so what makes them any different to the supermarkets. Amway also has to pay each of the Independent Business Operators (IBO) a percent of the profits to keep them recruiting more people. This means that the sale price has to be marked up by Amway to account for these commission to the IBOs. Amway also need to make a profit so need to mark up the price even further.

Lets take a simple example to illustrate this price mark up. Say a bottle of dishwashing liquid costs $5 for Amway to buy from the manufacture. If they were to sell that bottle for $10, they would make 50% profit. However, since they might have to pay many levels of commission to their IBOs, they have to cover themselves for this so that they don't end up making a loss on the profit. So they mark up the product grossly, to say $50. This way, no matter how many levels of commission there are (at a maximum 21% commission), as long as people are buying the overly priced product (that they then have to pay a commission for), they will still be making money.

The second message that I kept getting throughtout the night was that Amway is not a pyramid scheme. Why is there the need to make this so clear. People will know for themselves whether it is or isn't a pyramid scheme. Because pyramid schemes are illegal, Amway is nowadays a "pipeline", where we (its all very team orientated so it was always WE, US, IBOs etc giving this sense of team) would be all working together to make savings and more money. However, how can you truly be a team when some people are gaining more from the same effort whilst others gaining less. I was told that everyone in my "pipeline" UNDER me would contribute to savings and money I could make. However, I kept asking who are these people UNDER me in my pipeline. They were supposedly just people who signed up after me. But how does that work exactly, I couldn't get a straight answer. I was told that if the person who signed me up, signed another person up, they would be UNDER me in the pipeline. Then what is the motivation to do anything. I can just be lazy and depend on my other IBOs to sign people up and I would reap the benefits. But how many levels away from my original signee does that work. So say the person who is two levels up from me, person A who signed person B, who signed me, would I get the benefits of further people that person A signs. I don't know. The above assumption is the best case scenario. I looked up the Australian and American Amway sights and couldn't get any clear answers as to who are UNDER me in the pipeline. I read the handbook from front to back, including all the technical contracts and still couldn't find anything. Finally, on the European Amway site, they do say that people are only in your pipeline if you directly sign them, the classic pyramid scheme that everyone knows.

Lets just assume that everyone who signs after me who is someway connected to my signees also goes towards my commission. If it truly was a team, why shouldn't everyone be getting the same benefits. I can never match it with the people above me. Now matter how hard I worked and signed up people, those above would always be getting more benefits. And as a maths major, I can tell you that you cannot maintain a skewed distribution pyramidal scheme for a long time. If I signed more and more people, I would rise up, but so would those above me. They would keep going up. To maintain this upward trend, you would need an exponential increase in the lower levels, but then those originally in the lower levels would start to move up, meaning that even more lower level people are needed. This trend cannot continue as you physically run out of people. So unless you were one of the early adopters of Amway, it is extremely hard for you to move up in the scheme.

So what is the reason to join Amway. Well it supposedly costs you nothing and the potential is limitless. You can work in your own time and hence it can subsidise your normal salary rather than replace it. Well, lets address the first point of costing nothing. Firstly there is the small join up fee, $100-$160 dollars depending on the "kit" you want. The kits are basically just some pamphlets and information. Then there are running costs for Amway, just like any other business. Calling people to attend requires money for phone calls. Travelling to people's houses requires petrol, usage of your car. But the highest cost will be in your time. If each session takes 2-3 hours of actual time, you also need to do your presentation homework, travel to and from places and you're looking at a lot of your "spare" time being used up. Depending on how many you can sign up at each session (possibly none), you efforts may or may not result in much earnings. The second point that there is limitless potential I don't agree with either. You get higher and higher up by putting in more and more time and asking more and more people to join. However, due to the nature of this scheme, a lot of people will quickly realise they are not benefitting from it and drop out. This means you will need to recruit even more people, and there are only so many hours you have "spare", unless you quit your job and do it full time.

The final problem that I see with this whole scheme is in the products themselves. The common example that was used all night was "Imagine that you spent $400 dollars on groceries each week, well if you shopped through Amway, you would say 25% on the actual product prices already, plus gain 100 points so get a further 3% reduction". Well there lies the problem, no one would buy $400 worth of their products each month. Amway only has a very limited amount of grocery items in terms of food items. There was lots of cleaning agents and other things such as jewelery, electronic goods etc, but how much of that specific brand and type can you buy. Their washing powders, dishwashing liquids etc are all supposed to last a year from each bottle, so why would you buy a bottle each week. The products cannot sustain the level of buying that is required for the higher discounts. Also, all the customers are buying their own products and yet expecting to make a profit on it. It's like me buying a CD from someone at a "discounted" price from which I want to also make a profit on from that seller. How does that work, its just a closed loop with no income coming from externally so how can you every earn money from it. Someone has to make a loss, and that someone are the people at the base of the pyramid who aren't making any money but are paying for overpriced products. If Amway offered every item in a supermarket and people really could do all their shopping there, it theoretically could work. But then if it was like a regular supermarket, the prices would need to be competitive to regular supermarkets for people to buy. But how can the prices be competitive when they would be buying from the same suppliers as the supermarket at the same prices but yet needed to pay commission to their IBOs. See the problem with the whole situation. For 10% of people at the top to make money, 90% of the people at the bottom would need to lose money since there are not external incomes or maths as we know it needs to be totally rethought. And I trust in 3000 years of mathematical logic rather than what the Amway person is telling me.

So I think I have made it clear that I am not going to join Amway. The whole info session was a series of vague statements all sold on the simple fact of greed. I kept asking for more information and for the numbers to all be backed up with statistics and a break down of the figures, but all I got was that I would be told later, but never did see the breakdowns. I'm a maths major from uni and even I couldn't understand how the mathematics could possibly work, despite the claims that many people were making it rich through Amway. But this can be said for any industry. I'm sure there are plumbers out there who are millionaires, but what is the percentage of millionaire plumbers compared to just your normal average wage plumber.

I can do a quick exercise to give perspective of what amount of products need to be sold for you to make a decent earning. If I remember correctly, the lowest of the "presitge levels", diamond or something, required a pipeline at 21%, 15% and 12%. To achieve a pipeline of 21%, you need a total of 7500 points. Each $4 is worth one point. So overall that line would need sales of $30,000 a month. The other two lines would require another $20,000 say. I can't remember the exact values but its somewhere there. So in a month, you would need to achieve sales of $50,000 in your pipeline. It doesn't have to come directly from you, but from all people in your line. Lets be very generous and say each household spends $100 a month, that's still 500 households that need to consistently spend that much money a month. Those aren't small numbers, and thats assuming people buy $100 worth a month and then keep doing that for a whole year. That's the best case scenario. The worse case scenario is that 90% of people drop out of Amway after a year and most people will probably only buy a few hundred dollars worth of products in their first purchase and then buy hardly anything after that but instead try to convince their friends to buy products in the hopes of making money. This scheme is therefore only self sustaining for those at the very top who always have changing people under them purchasing, but not for those at the bottom where changing people will not contribute to their earnings.

So, if you have bothered to read to this stage, you are either someone like me who is interested in reading about interesting discussional topics or you are looking to join Amway. I will NOT discourage you to join, as that is your choice and it may work for you. I will just say that I don't think it is a viable sustaining method to make money. It is probably a way to lose some friends along the way if that is your wish.

Edit: Oops, should really proof read my posts. Leaving out the NOT makes a huge difference. I will NOT discourage you to join. :-)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


For those of you who haven't heard of Dilbert or used his wisdom to guide your workgin life, I am doing you a HUGE favour by telling you to visit the Dilbert website and learn a few things about how the workplace operates.

Maybe engineers associate with Dilbert more because its a geeky type of cartoon, but I think all workers can benefit from Dilbert. I may sound like I'm joking a bit, but there is some truths you can learn from Dilbert. The workplace is seriously full of people who are totally deluded, power hunger, idiots, selfish individuals, lazy bums etc etc. The list could go on forever. The creator Scott Adams has so cleverly tapped into this endless stream of stupidity that occurs and turned it into a very funny, and sometimes scary because of how accurate it is, cartoon.

I'm only a new convert to Dilbert so am slowly going through all his past cartoons from the last 10 years to learn. Occasionally I will find some gems in there that are just so accurate that they require repeat readings. It's like the TV show, "The Office" and how it so accurately captured a typical working environment. Dilbert did it first and takes it to the extreme since it is a cartoon and can do that.

Enjoy a couple of strips that I just quickly found.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Keeping Casual Off Handed Promises

So your friend says to you "Let go out for lunch or something this SATURDAY." When Saturday arrives, do you a)Ring up to set up a time for lunch or b)Just forget the remark and wait for them to call you.

The following scenario is not an unusual one. Friends make off handed casual promises to each other to meet up and do things all the time. To know whether to pick option a or b, you need to know when someone means it or not. You need to know how that person acts in the past. Knowing how they act will allow you to plan your calendar and whether to leave a space open for lunch or not.

I know that I am a person who really means promises that I make. I make it a point to try and remember to do things that I tell people I will and to honour any promises that I make to meet up with friends. I am pretty good with that, but I know of some friends who are even more serious and take everything you say literally. I know that I sometimes say some things too without fully knowing whether I will do it. Since I haven't given a specific time, to me that is when I'm still undecided, but some people still take that as an indication that I do want to do it.

However, there are some friends who constantly say they will do something and never ever do it. That annoys me a bit since I do take their comments seriously and might have planned to do that thing and hence organise around it. I don't know why these people keep making theses promises. If they have no intention at all, why even promise it. I know that in the past, there was one particular friend who did this so often, and then when I would actually ring them up to organise a specific time and place, they would say that they didn't want to go. I have since learnt not to listen to anything this person promises, so even when they mean it, I don't take it seriously. This is a shame, since I feel that I cannot listen to anything they promise anymore.

So how often do you promise to do things and then not follow up with it? I would estimate that I do what I say about 95% of the time. However, my own high rating might be due to having some a case of I'm Right, You're Biased syndrome and overestimating my own good habits. I guess only my friends can judge whether I honour my promises.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Heroes - The Lost Effect

Lately, my new favourite show is Heroes. I love science fiction so I would have watched it regardless. But, the premise of the show also has potential. I like the way they have set up all the characters with their unique powers and how they are all linked.

However, having said all that, its five episodes into the series so far in Australia and I'm starting to get frustrated. This show is doing what I now call the "Lost Effect". In the past, my other favourite show was Lost. You can read about my review on it ages ago here. With Lost, you can watch and watch and despite each episode seemingly giving you a bit more information, after three seasons, I still have no idea what is exactly happening. I've gotten more flashbacks of the survivors, but that has definitely becoming boring now. What I really want to know is who are these "others" and what they want. I now know that there used to be a scientific research department on the island but how are the others linked to this?

Anyway, I digress as usual, back to Heroes. Something better start happening on Heroes soon or I might stop watching it. Well, I probably won't stop watching, but it won't be must see tv anymore. I gave the show the benefit of the doubt in the first few weeks in that they needed to set up characters, but its continued too long and is just drifting along. Nothing happens during each episode. The writers give you so little that its really frustrating, much like Lost. When will things start coming together and the story start to take shape.

The recent success again of serial tv shows such as Lost, Desperate Housewives and Prison Break means that people are willing to watch a major story arc. But Heroes better start to deliver. Despite the promise of the major story arc, they still need to give the viewer some pay off each episode or we will start to lose patience. Desperate Housewives is probably the best example of this. They have a major story line in each season, but the sides stories in each episode is so clever as well.

I cross my fingers and hope something happens on Heroes soon. It would be a shame if the series gets taken off air due to dwindling viewers. There isn't enough sci fi on tv as it is, so losing another show would be very bad for this sci fi loving viewer.