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.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Paris Hilton - A Lesson In Clever Marketing

No matter what you read and watch recently, you will inevitably see something about Paris Hilton. People may say that Paris is a dumb "bottle" blonde and she definitely plays up to that in her Simple Life show. But I don't think anyone that's dumb can build a mini empire like she has. She is practically a brand name now. She has mareketed her career so well, despite not having any talents to back it up.

Yes, Paris may have been blessed by being born into a rich family, but she definitely hasn't relied purely on that. No matter how much you hate her, you must respect the brand image that she has been able to creat, through some luck but definitely with a lot of endeavour as well.

Paris may have first become famous for just being a Hollywood party girl, but now she is much more than that. In the past, she was just another comestically enhanced rich girl who partied and was seen in all the right places with the right people. But her career has lifted off since starring in her own TV show with "best friend" Nicole Ritchie. Whereas Nicole was the slightly more pratical one in the show, Paris was as dumb and Princess like as ever. She played right into that mould that people already put her in.

Her stardom stepped up another notch when a video of her, shot in night vision, hit the internet. It starred her then boyfriend, Rick Solomon, as well. In it, we get to see Paris in some other positions, and she also answers her mobile phone with a laugh, not that I've seen the video. Initially, she tried to block the video, but when it was seen that she couldn't, she instead capitcalised on it and released it officially. Her career since has not taken a step back.

Paris then capitalised on her video success and launched a clothing range, a comestics and perfume range, a movie career as well as a singing career. She sucked at the movie and sining part. I'm not sure about the perfume and cosmetic as I haven't tried them. However, being bad at all these things has not held her back. People can't help but be interested in the Paris brand and love her or loathe her, people will still give it a try.

This latest jail escapade has only helped to forever solidify her stardom. Others may say how stupid of her to get arrested again while driving without a license, but I say she is the smartest marketing person on Earth. This little jail stint, with all the media hoopla surrounding it has lifted Paris well and truly into the A-list celebrity bracket. She can demand $1 million for the first interview, and who knows what else she will be able to milk out of it. Her name has been plastered in every newspaper and TV show you can think of. Whats 23 days in a low security, well furnished room with private toilets when you think of the rewards to come. Someone chuck me in that jail for 23 days if I will definitely get $1 million out of it. That's already been done, its called Big Brother, but Paris doesn't have any other competitors.

If you have just read this and think that I'm going crazy writing such a serious essay on Paris Hilton, well, what can I do. I'm sure a million others have already slagged her off. I need to be different and put another point of view out there. It will make a few people think anyway. :-)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Movie Review - Fantastic Four 2


I was suckered in, as my friend Kin put it. A sequel to an average movie just gets worse. The first Fantastic Four movie was ok, a bit slow for my liking. I gave them the benefit of the doubt that they had to set up the characters and give us some back story to get us involved. However, without the need to do as much back story in the sequel, I was expecting a much faster paced movie.

The movie fell so flat it wasn't funny. I'm ok with the ridiculous storylines since it is a comic book movie after all. But a silver surfer who has come from another planet to destroy ours? The silver surfer guy isn't even the badie, he was just a soft hearted soul working for another unknown evil force trying to save his loved one. Puh-lease, someone find me a script writer. With no real evil guy, even with Julian McMahon's reprisal of Von Doom, the movie just doesn't feel right.

The internal battles between Sue Storm (the amazingly hot Jessica Alba) and Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffold) about their wedding is rather tedious. Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) and his story about finding his true heroic unselfish self is ok, but its still fairly predictable and weak. Ben Grimm (Michael Chiklas) provides another small tangent story with his blind wife Alicia, but that story is probably the most boring.

I don't know if the movie is trying to be serious in trying to develop the characters or whether the script writers were just crap. A comic movie like this needs humour and fast paced action. It doesn't need too much of a story. A simple good versus evil is enough. But the evil needs to be so evil that it makes your skin crawl, think Darth Vader in Star Wars part 1. There were some fast paced action scenes in this movie and they were great, but they were few and far between. The movie needed to move along faster. The evil guy, the silver surfer, lacked all substance and wasn't even evil or scary. The humour was pretty weak. There were some laughs, but most of the jokes were so lame I could have written them. Jokes can be obvious but still funny. These were obvious but not funny.

I vow here and now that if there is a third Fantastic Four movie, I will definitely not go watch it at the movies and waste my hard earned money. I will wait for it to go to DVD.

Overall Rating: *1/2 Movie slow and story boring.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bargaining Agreement

I just had my performance review for work. Apparently, a performance review does not equate to a salary review. So I asked when the salary review part is, to which the reply is that there isn't one. Management and HR will review my performance and decide whether I should get an increase depending on a million things such as whether the company can afford to, what market rates are etc etc.

Its so funny come review time each year. Everyone knows that it doesn't mean much, but still have to play the game. If you find out something dramatic during review time, I see this as an example of managers and staff not communicating. Any large issues should have been brought up at least some other time throughout the year rather than at review time when it is sprung as a surprise.

I don't want to go into too much detail, but my review went very well. I hope this equates to a salary rise. I don't think I'm paid terribly, but I also don't think I'm paid well either. An employees salary is always a bargaining agreement between how much you're willing to work for and how much a company is willing to pay you. The opinions on this will always differ. We, as the employees, always want more money, while the employers always want to pay us less, so they can have more. My manager said that, "The problem with engineering is that a lot of engineers actually enjoy their work, so why would the company want to pay you more when you are already happy." This is so true. Because people enjoy their work, they will put up with much lower salaries. But why can't we have the best of both worlds, a job we enjoy and get paid accordingly to what work we produce.

I have only been in the work force a very short amount of time, but I have learnt that you will only get something if you ask. People are not mind readers and will not do anything if they think you are happy where you are. Human resources aren't there to look out for you, they are there to cover the company's legal backside. If you think that HR will recognise that you are doing a good job and give you a pay rise, wake up. They won't know what you do in most cases, in fact, they may not even know your name. So the only way to get more money is just to ask. What is the worse outcome, you get a no. It's better to get a no than to regret and think what if. I have asked for a pay rise in the two reviews I've have done so far. Last year went well and I got a pay rise. Hopefully I can get another pay rise this year as I think I did a good job in the past year.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Slowly Mending Bridges

Once you burn a bridge (metaphorically of course, don't go trying to burn a real bridge), it is extremely hard to repair. Here is an article on how to avoid it in the first place. Most of it comes down to communication and trying to hold one's emotions in tact. That is easier said than done.

A few months ago, I wrote about burning a bridge with a friend and how quickly it happened. That bridge is still under major damage and is only slowly being repaired. At the time when I wrote the post, we were still civil to each other and would still talk fairly regularly. But it was clearly evident that we no longer had the same friendship. We slowly but surely started to avoid each other, and those awkward conversations about the weather got fewer and fewer. Only when we bumped into each other would we talk.

I found that avoiding this person was very hard and so awkward. We would avoid eye contact and clearly walk past each other pretending not to see the other person sometimes. I have since forgiven what this person had said to me, but I haven't forgotten. It's not that I don't want to forget or even think about it at all, but deep in my mind, every time I see him, I feel like I just can't trust him fully.

Of late, we've started talking a little, but I'm still hesistant to talk more with him as I always think that the same things as in the past will occur and we'll just argue over the same issues again. It's amazing how long trust takes to develop, but you can lose trust in people so quickly. I find that I just can't tell this person who used to be one of my best friends anything anymore, in fear of it being used against me.

Hopefully I will be able to forget the events of the past enough to become friends again with this person. If not, I think I have learnt some valuable lessons on how to deal with other arguments in the future and hopefully prevent a burning of the bridges so quickly.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Blog Comments

I just read this a couple of great posts about blog comments and whether they are a good thing or not. Firstly, read the posts here and here.

I think that blog comments can be a good thing, but also a very evil thing. Let's start with the positives. Blog comments are a good thing when discussion about a topic ensues and parties with diverse knowledge and background on the topic contribute information that is both interesting and adds to the original post. I've seen this happen quite a lot on the food blog that I write and many food blogs that I read. The food community encourage each other to try new things and give helpful hints on things to try or recommendations on places to eat. I find it is a very supportive group and comments on those blogs are add real value to each post.

The places where blog comments are evil is when a post presents a personal view of a topic by the author (which may be conservative or extreme) and the author gets attacked personally for expressing an opinion. The anonymity factor of blog comments (online forums also fall into this category) means that people feel like they can be outright rude without retribution. You wouldn't swear at people in real life for giving an opinion that you disagreed with, but with anonymity comes power. It gets really ugly sometimes and people are slanging it out very fiercely. I've only felt this on a very small scale. I posted some discussion topics on some forums and gave an opinion and asked people for theirs. Most people discussed the topic, but there were a few who went way off tangent and attacked me over other things which aren't even related to the post. There are always a***oles in this world, who feel like they have the right to attack others. It's just that in cyberspace, that is much easier to do with little consequences.

It's in instances where people start attacking each other that comments are a total waste of time. The idiots will always dominate the comments and no real discussion can take place. It's always the case that a few rotten apples ruin the barrel of apples. You can try to curb this by moderating comment, but there is an equally strong argument against doing that. Moderating comments takes a lot of time, and the mere fact that you control what others says means that discussion is already skewed to what you want, no matter how fairly you think you are being.

It's a tough topic to decide whether blog comments are useful. Like another writer wrote, some stories don't require comments. Breaking news stories really don't require people adding comments like "That's so sad" or "OMG". Those stories speak for themselves and people can decide how they should react themselves. Even opinion based stories may not necessarily require comments. In the days of old, a print story was just that, a printed story that you read. You could discuss it with your own friends, but the writer didn't need to hear back from you to have a satisfied feeling about writing a well researched story. They have done their part by imparting that knowledge out into the world, and how others want to use it is up to them.

Customer Service 4 - Asian Style Service

Following in my series of customer service stories, I have a couple more to add.

Firstly, my friend Kin had emailed me today about his customer service saga and I was going to blog about it anyway. But then during the day, I had my own customer service story and will include that as well. The common theme between both stories is that both of us were served by Asians. It may be stereotypical but it also has some basis of truth that you don't really get much service in suburbs such as Springvale where most of the service staff are Asian, and in particular, Asians that didn't grow up here. Being Asian myself, I recognise this trait as just part of the way people grow up in Asia, but it varies vastly with the service that you come to expect in Australia.

So here is Kin's email detailing his story with corrects for grammar only.

You won't believe what I had to go thru to cancel that Asian VCD/DVD membership card. I knew I had to be there in person because if I tried explaining over the phone it would be impossible.

First I just said I've lost the card, please cancel my membership. She was confused (mainland China I think), and said she could do that but I can't get my money back. I said I don't want my money back, the card was expired years ago anyway. Just take me off the records just to be completely safe.

It took her 5 mins to go through the records in the computer, in the cabinet and then she had to call up someone and spoke in mandarin. After about another 5 mins, she finished her phone call and then said it was ok but asked me why I wanted to cancel my membership. I thought we established that at the very start. I had to explain to her to potential dangers of having someone else use your card to rent from them and not returning.

My story is worse since at least the other assistant was trying to help him but maybe wasn't paying close attention. I went to Western Union to make a money transfer. When I walked in, I was the only one in the place and there was an Asian lady behind the counter. She was on the cordless phone and initially I thought it was a work call so I just stood at the counter and waited. Then when I realised she was talking in Vietnamese and in a very casual manner, I knew it was a private call. She looked up and saw me standing there, yet it must have been a good minute before she even bothered to take the phone down for a second and ask what I wanted.

I thought she would hang up at that point, but no, she kept talking, walked over to another counter computer and quickly snapped, "What do you want to send". I passed over the form that I had already filled out. She proceeded to chat away without doing much, then slowly started typing in the computer. All the while, she was talking in a mixture of English and Vietnamese and laughing and giggling and telling her friend that "You're so naiive if you think that..... (switches to Vietnamese)". When she was done typing, she literally barks at me "Are you going to pay". I'm already standing there holding out my bank card. What did she think I was trying to do, use the card as a part of my ninja throwing. I said "Please charge it on EFTPOS". She replied with "Cash only", no "Sorry we don't take card, only cash." So I said I would have to go to the bank teller and get money, which I proceeded to do. When I got back, she was still yapping on the phone and I handed over the money. She then counted the money, literally tossed over my change and printed out the form. She didn't bother explaining anything about the tracking numbers. I just took my form, said "Thanks" and walked out.

That was totally unprofessional and very rude. If that is the way that that particular Western Union shop operates, I won't be doing business with them unless it is totally the last option. That girl was so lazy and irresponsible. She was at work and that is no way to conduct yourself at work. You will never get anywhere far with that attitude. However, that type of attitude is all too common amongst a lot of Asians who think service is something you do to your car. This is such a shame since leaving the customers unhappy is not going to do your business any good.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Natural Talent Versus Guts and Determination

I was at a friends house watching the Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal French Open final. Unfortunately for me, Federer lost to the current king of clay, Rafa. I just can't stand Rafael Nadal. I find his fighting style so obnoxious. One of the commentators description at the end of the match really made me think though. He described Nadal as a "warrior" and that Federer needed some of that warrrior mentality if he is to win on clay which is a very slow surface where you have to grind out points.

The commentators words are very accurate. When you watch Federer play Nadal on clay, you always have this sense of the envitable and that Nadal will be able to grind out a win. The way Nadal plays is similar to how I used to feel about Lleyton Hewitt as well. These players aren't blessed with the total natural abilities of others, but yet have been able to be so successful because they train hard and fight things out. They use pure will power to win some of their tougher matches.

We all would love to be blessed with natural talent like Roger Federer and make things look so elegant and easy. I guess that's why so many, like myself, admire him. We all wished that we were that lucky and could make things that seem so hard by others look like a stroll in the park.

However, Roger Federers are few and far between. In fact, a lot of people who are blessed with natural talent don't go on to do well at all. These people lacking that fighting quality to take them to the next step. There lies the solution for all of us. Even if we aren't blessed with natural talent, every one of us can work hard and fight to achieve what we want. Although it may not be pretty sometime, being able to achieve that final result is testament to what type of character you are.

So although I hate watching tennis players like Nadal and Hewitt, I definitely respect them for being such competitive and driven individuals. They have managed to succeed using what talents they have and working extremely hard to improve other aspects of themselves, a trait that is well worth admiring. I just wish it wasn't so hard to work hard. Why couldn't I have been born with heaps of natural talent hahaha.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Power of Music

I have always loved listening to music. I find that it is such a powerful tool in helping to enhance or control my moods. Good music is timeless and you can listen to it so many times and it will still always appeal to you.

As you could see from the frequency of my blog posts during the first half of last month, I wasn't feeling too great. I was so down for some reason which I'm not entirely sure of. It could be my birthday and how I felt like another year had slipped past and I hadn't achieved that much. Or it was just the weather going cold which always makes me sad. Or it was the two full moons in a month as my friend John joked. Whatever it was, I found myself turning to music a lot to get through it.

I was listening to all these really sad songs, with my favourite being "Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. I couldn't stop listening to this song. I had it on repeat throughout most of the day at work. It just felt so right to listen to it. It wasn't exactly making me happier, but it just felt so soothing. The lyrics seemed to be reflecting the sad mood I was going through.

Suddenly, about a week after listening to that song endlessly, I just seemed to snap out of my unhappy mood. It could be due to many reasons, from getting some great sleep over one weekend (after not sleeping well for about two weeks), to getting over pitying myself, to adapting to the weather. However, I think the song also helped in some way. It helped me to stop getting down on myself.

After I had snapped out of my unhappy mood. I still kept listening to that song for another day or two quite constantly throughout the day. However, the feeling I got was totally different to when I was unhappy. The song now seemed to be much happier and full of hope rather that sadness. I heard Kate Bush's chorus part a lot more rather than Peter Gabriel's verse parts where he is sad. I was even smiling when singing along.

I then started to listen to disco music soon after and was grooving along at work. I was singing all the songs in my head and might of accidentally sang out aloud a few times even. The music was making to make me even happier than I already was.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Lions Versus Buffalo Versus Crocodile

If you haven't seen this footage already, I recommend you take the time to watch it. It is unbelievable footage of a pride of lions fighting with buffalos and crocodiles over their catch of a baby buffalo.

It's amazing how the animal kingdom works. In this case, the buffalos were able to save the baby buffalo, but usually the lions would have eaten it. The animals are built with this ingrained notion that lions are king and buffalo are the prey. However, if the buffalos work together, they could easily kill a pride of lions. They outnumber the lions by so much and are so much bigger and stronger. It's just that that isn't their natural instincts and hence they are always the prey.

The same can be said about humans. Some people (those born rich) just feel like they are superior and will treat those poorer as a sub class sometimes. And those are that really really poor and don't have a chance to get an education, will be bullied by richer people who may be less intelligent or weaker than them, but just because they feel like they are inferior, they will get treated as such. Education buys you self belief and the chance to change a situation so that a buffalo can turn around and take on a lion. That's my insight for the day students. I wonder where the crocodile fits in. Maybe the sly sneaky humans are the crocdile, ready to capitalise on any opportunites that present themselves without having to do the hard work. :-)

Paintball Skirmish Part 2

I had previously gone to paintball and had a fantastic time. I was looking for another opportunity to go back and play. The problem is that it's usually quite hard to get a large group of people to go since it's quite expensive. So when our work place started a social activities club, I suggested paintball as something that we could do.

A lot of people were interested so I got the request to organise it since I had been before. I'm actually not part of the social club committee since I'm lazy and don't want to organise all the other activities. But since I actually want to go to paintball, I put in the effort and gathered enough people for 100 free paintballs. Since I had been to Paintball Games place in Coldstream last time, I decided to go to the same place as it was close and I already knew all the details and prices.

Not surprisingly, most of the attendees were male. But we did have Wei and Sue who were brave enough to join in and tough it out.

A great day was had by all and just like last time, there was so much talk between people before and after each game. It's a great activity for team bonding, as the games force you to work together, but the mere fact that you were all involved in something unique makes you talk a lot about it. This is the closest that most of us would ever (or want to) get to a real battle as we all in the movies. The realism of pain when you get hit by a paintball causes your body to fill with adrenalin and all your senses are heightened. It gives you a temporary high and makes it all the more fun.

I took a gung-ho attitude and charged out and got into the thick of the action. This meant I got shot quite a few times (with many bruises to show for it) but I also shot many people a lot of times as well. The most pain I am feeling today is in my legs. The crouching position that you take all day really causes the quad muscles to ache. When I was getting out of my chair today, I would go "ugghh" and have to push myself up with my arms. Walking down the stairs at work today was hell. Each step was so painful as I needed to use my quads to support my legs down each step. But it was all worth it for the enjoyment of yesterday and the memories that last a very long time. Everyone was still reliving yesterdays adventure today at work.