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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fear Creates Uncertainty

I was just watching the new quiz show "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader". Initially, I thought it would be a silly show since the questions would be so easy that everyone would win the big bucks. As I watched it though, it definitely wasn't the case. Some questions are so simple but yet with our busy lives, we neglect to notice them. For example, did you know when John Howard was first elected to Government. I thought it was 1997, but the answer was 1996. The contestant got it wrong, yet all the kids got it right. To their simple uncomplicated lives, their brains allow them to focus on these things and remember them.

However, what I wanted to write about was not how clever these kids are, but how fear can create such uncertainty in us. When the contestant was answering the initial questions, with the stakes so low, even for questions she was fairly sure about, she would lock them in. However, as the money values got higher and higher, even though the questions were similarly difficult, she didn't lock them in. She was pretty sure of the answers, but was unwilling to lock them in. This was due to the big risk she would be taking financially. We all know how hard it is to make $50 000 after tax dollars, so would be unwilling to risk it. The fear in us of losing that money makes us so uncertain about our own decisions.

I can relate to this. Any time when the stakes are deemed to be high, we second guess ourselves. It's all very relative as well as to when the stakes are high. When I play poker with my friends for example, even though we may only play for $20 all up, in relative terms in that game, the stakes are high. Hence I get so nervous when I have to decide whether to go all in or not. Yet, when the situation changes and I play a few hands at the casino, $20 in that environment is so little and I'm not nervous betting it.

In both those situations though, if the stakes are deemed to be high by someone, it will make us uncertain about our actions. This applies to all facets of our lives. Hence it is why its so hard to take a risk. Taking a risk implies that the stakes are high and its something you are not sure about. The outcomes may be advantageous, but we have to way those positives with the consequences of it going wrong. The natural fear in us will make us second guess our decisions. People who are brave enough and have the conviction will make those decisions. We are all brave in one sense as we all have to make some decisions. It's just that some people are willing to make bigger decisions. In general, its people who take risks that get rewarded. It's rare for really good things to just land in your lap without you taking a chance and going for it. You may regret your risk, but you will probably regret it even more if you don't take that risk.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Great Ocean Road - The Twelve Apostles

We went on a road trip down the Great Ocean Road, with our prime destination being the Twelve Apostles but with the intention to make lots of stops along the way. We started off the journey from Melbourne and went via Geelong before lunch time. There were lots of "Go Cats" signs as Geelong had just won their preliminary finals match the previous night. We didn't stop as we wanted to get some more distance on board first.

Our first stop was at Torquay to grab some lunch. A couple of us also sneaked in some quick shopping at the various surf shops. After that, we stopped at Bells Beach to view the world famous surf beach. The waves were crashing quite often and there were lots of surfers out in the waves doing their stuff.

After watching the surfers a bit, it was back onto the road. The next stop was at Aireys Inlet, where we saw the lighthouse. We were just commenting how the lighthouse looked familar, like from a movie or something. I chimed in that it looked like the "Round the Twist" TV show lighthouse. Little did we know that it was indeed the lighthouse from Mad Max and Round the Twist.

Here I am at the base of the lighthouse to give a comparison of the size of it.

After Aireys Inlet it was onto the winding stretch of the Great Ocean Road. Upon reading the history of the Great Ocean Road and being totally amazed at all the work it took to build it, we passed this inconspicous paddock. What made us stop was that it looked out of place with the rest of the scenery and reminded everyone more of Austrian Hills, with the obvious link that we all immediately thought of being "The Sound of Music". Hence we got out of the car and did our "Doe, a dear, a female deer" and "The hills are alive with the sound of music" singing and twirled ourselves around a bit.

We finally reached the Twelve Apostles just as the visitor centre was closing. Not to worry, we walked across the underground tunnel towards the viewing areas for the Twelve Apostles. Here we are taking a short break. From left is Paul, Valerie, me, Sharon and Queenie at the front.

The Apostles are definitely a wonderful sight and a demonstration of how water is such a powerful eroding force. I think currently there are only 9 Apostles still standing, with one falling down earlier this year.

Valerie and I are patting the Apostles for some good luck.

Finally, we waited until the sunset and watched in amazement at the wonderful sight. Truly beautiful and picture perfect.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Chaser's War on APEC

I only sometimes watch The Chaser's War on Everything as I find that only some of their segments are funny, whereas other segments are just too try hard. I have to give them credit though for this APEC stunt. Just the nerve to try it deserves applaud. The APEC summit represents probably the largest gathering of world leaders in Australia ever, and here are the Chaser team gate crashing it.

There was so much hype and talk beforehand of how $160 million has been spent on security and no terrorists would even get close. Well maybe terrorists didn't get close, but a TV show with cameras sure did.

Having just watched the show, it was ridiculous how simple they got in. It's worse than a night club. Even at night clubs they ask for ID from people. All it took here was to drive some cars straight in, with their dodgy flag and security passes that said "Joke" and "Insecurity".

This whole stunt just demonstrated how the best security is dependent on the weakest link. If one guard doesn't do his job and lets someone through that may be carrying say a bomb, all the defence in the world is no use.

The other thing that this stunt showed is that when you are confident enough, you can trick people into believing anything. I mean thats how con artist get away with things. With the correct appearance and actions, you can get away with a lot of things. It just shows how prone we all are to authority and that you don't question things just because you feel you should act a certain way when dealing with people who supposedly have more power than you.

I hope the Government is thankful to the Chaser team for showing them the flaw in their security rather than trying to prosecute them.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mount Hotham Ski Trip

I went on a ski trip the past weekend with some friends. I have only ever gone on one day ski trips and you don't get to do too much since you only get a few hours on the snow. We left Melbourne on Thursday night and spent a night at a hostel in Bright, a town along the way. We then got up really early and reached Mount Hotham by about 8am.

We stayed at the Lawler's Apartment right near the main village. Here is a photo below.

The apartment is only about a 100 metre walk from our apartment to the main village and ski slopes. You can see on the right hand side of the photo is our apartment.

We could see the main Hotham Central building from our front steps.

At night, the view of the sunset behind the mountain is also very spectacular.

Once we were all settled in at our apartment, we got kitted up in our rental ski gear. Everyone decided to ski, except David R who had his own snowboard and Jo also decided to snow board. Here we are posing in front of Hotham Central, with some other people behind us who also decided to pose for the photo. From left back is Peter, David R and Kin. From front left is Simon, Jo, me and David M.

For the first day, we all decided to take lessons. I had never been on a ski in my life. I had done snow boarding before for one day but wasn't very good at that. I was surprised how quickly I picked up skiing. After the Level 1 lessons, I could stop and do basic turns already. My balance was quite good. After the lesson I did some skiing on my own down half of The Summit slope. Then in the afternoon, I did Level 2 lessons. Again I found it all quite manageable. We took the chair lift up the hill and did lots of S curves down the hill. It was really fun, but tiring as well.

Here's Kin and Simon taking the chair lift up the hill.

Kin also showed his awesome duck technique for going down the hill. My style wasn't much better, but I did take more chances and go down the hill much faster.

After a hectic day of skiing, we went back to our apartment and relaxed a bit. What did we choose to do, play computer games of course. In particular FIFA 2006 and Nintendo Wii Sports. That got really competitive.

Day two was more of the same as day one. Everyone chose to do more lessons. I was confident enough to take Level 3 lessons. I did ok for the most part of it. We went down quite a few Blue Runs, and I did the Sun Run, Gully Catwalk and Mother Johnson's Return ok. It was only Slalom Gully that got me as my legs were getting really tired and I crashed a few times. The snow was really soft though and my 10 or so crashes during the weekend didn't hurt at all.

Here I am standing at The Summit overlooking Feather Top, which David M told me was one of the highest mountains in Victoria. Isn't it just spectacular.

In the second half of Saturday, we went to The Big D slope and did some runs there. Jo tried to board there but got really frustrated that she kept falling there so she took her board and went back to The Summit with Kin and David M.

Peter, Simon and I kept going on the Big D because it had this perfect wide straight run with hardly any people. We went full steam down in a straight line and I can tell you, the feeling is exhilarating. I felt like I was going so fast but probably in reality I wasn't going that fast. We also attempted this half pipe type run down the side. The first attempt I managed to navigated the half pipe, but then crashed at the first bump. However, I was determined to do a good run on it so did it again and made it all the way down without falling. That run was probably the best all weekend since it felt so fast. Here is Peter zooming down the hill.

For the final day of our trip there, we took it fairly easily. Everyone just did runs down The Summit and we had lots of snowball fights. I even managed to juggle three snowballs. Then it was lunch, some more skiing and finally the trip home.

The weekend was so much fun. The accomodation was great and so convenient. It was fully fitted with furniture and utensils etc. The view from it was good. There was lots of snow so we got a lot of good skiing in. The lessons were very helpful and I went from never being on skis to doing Blue Runs in two and a half days. The company was also great. We joked around, talked, played video games, drank some wine and beer and just had fun skiing and enjoying the surroundings. I am definitely hooked to skiing now and can't wait to go again soon.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Customer Service 5 - Computer Says No

In my ever continuing series on customer, I have some more stories following from the last post.

Kin, Jo and I were at Rebel Sport in Southland Shopping Centre to pick up some ski gear for our trip this Friday. Since its nearing the end of the ski season, a lot of gear were on sale. Jo and Kin picked up some great pants and gloves from a bin that had 50% off marked on it.

As we went to pay, it was near closing time so everyone was queued up. The queues weren't that long, but with two other people in front of us, it took a good 15 minutes for our turn. Firstly, the girl behind the counter is working so slow that I thought she didn't have breakfast. To make matters worse, one staff was bouncing a footy the whole time rather than come over and give her a hand. Finally, she asked a guy who was chatting up a lady customer to give her a hand. He says ok and gets behind the counter and starts taking the tag. However, he keeps yapping to the lady customer so only managed to take off ONE whole tag. When it's the turn of the next customer before me, the customer bought a pair of shoes. It's in a square box about 40cm by 20cm. The girl scans the item. Then, here's the bit where I nearly fall down laughing. The guy turns to the girl and says "Which bag should I use". My goodness, do they teach people to think anymore at school. This guy wasn't exactly 6 years old, he looked to be 18-20. There are only THREE plastic bag sizes, all layed out on the counter. The fact that two of the bags were clearly too small would reduce the options. Even if there were two bags that fit, I think you can make a judgement call and pick one bag. What a total dimwit.

When we go to leave, Jo looks at her dockets and sees that they had incorrectly reduced the price. Instead of taking off 50%, they had only taken off 20%. She goes back in and asks one of the supervising staff, who goes with her to look at the bin. It did say 50% so he tells her to go back to the counter and to tell the checkout girl to fix it. Jo does that, only that the girl doesn't believe her and says "The computer has already deducted the amount." Jo says "Look at the price, $160 down to $128 is definitely not 50%." "but the computer has already deducted the amount" the girl insists. "Just do the maths yourself" Jo said.

Is this the level of maths and common sense they teach in schools nowadays. We are in a lot of trouble if it is. So then the girl still has to call the supervising staff to check that it is 50% off, despite the computer telling her it is. Finally, she starts to give Jo a refund. So although she had only saw Jo two minutes ago and charged her credit card, she now needed ID proof that the credit card is indeed Jo's and asks for a drivers license. What the? You charge the card two seconds ago, now the refund is going back into the card but you need ID? How does that work, what's there to gain for Jo. It's not like she is getting the money back in cash so if she had stolen the card, that would work to her advantage.

After the girl refunds the money, she then scans the prices again and did another deduction. Despite looking at the price tag THREE times for the jacket which cost $269, when the computer scanned it and it came up as $216, it didn't click for her. She then took 50% off that, down to $108. Hence Jo made a handy saving indeed.

I'm so dismayed that most kids can't even use some common sense. If the computer says one thing, it doesn't have to be write. It's how you use the computer that determines the outcome. If someone had incorrectly entered the wrong discount, the computer will only calculate the correct value for that incorrect discount. Use some common sense and use your brain.

Week's Roundup

I rarely do this but just thought I would do a roundup of sorts of this week and maybe a bit of last week too.

* I'm still on the job hunt, but keep that hush hush between us. It's no military secret as I've told many people at work but just not officially yet. I haven't found anything yet. As soon as I get my butt off my chair and start searching, I'm sure things will start popping up. I'm letting friends know at least so if they hear anything, they can let me know.

* Our company is moving building, so I will have to start looking for the best way to get to work now. It's in the total opposite direction and early indications are that it will take longer to get to work. Just great, more frustration in the morning and less sleep. Another reason to possibly switch jobs I guess.

* I've also been doing my tax and it looks like I might have to pay even more tax. I hate tax. Isn't the Government suppose to be reducing tax rates so that I can keep more of my money.

* I'm going to be going skiing this Friday - Sunday. I'm really looking forward to it. It should be heaps of fun, albeit expensive as well.

* There's quite a bit to watch on TV recently. I admit that I love Australian Idol. I love singing and karaoke so I really like watching others sing too. This years ecletic mix of artists means I'm being exposed to many new music artists. I currently love "Mad World" by Gary Jules. I always liked that song when I watched Donnie Darko, just didn't know who the artist was. The Tears for Fears version of the song is also starting to grow on me.

There's also a heap of sports on currently. The footy is heading into the finals stage. Finally my team Hawthorn is going to make the finals so this year I will be even more interested. The US Open tennis is currently on. I'm following that through the Internet currently but they will start broadcasting it on TV from the quarter finals. The IAAF Atheletics Championship have been on. It's been great watching that as there isn't much atheletics on TV here in Oz. The Rugby World Cup is about to start. I'm very excited about that and hope the Wallabies will do well.

* I went to a friends birthday drinks on Friday. I can't believe how fast time flies since I hadn't seen him in like 5 months before he went off overseas for holiday. Heard some extremely juicy gossip (supposedly fact) as well during drinks that I can't repeat.

* I'm gaining heaps of weight since I haven't been running because of the cold weather. I've also been eating too much of the desserts that I have been making. Check out some of them on my food blog. Also The Age Good Food Guide is out and I went and got a copy. There's so many restaurants that I want to go and try now.

I think thats all I can think of for now. I must do a video blog soon. Haven't done that in ages. I just don't have time. So many things to do, so little time.

Happy Father's Day to my dad and all other dads out there.