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, November 28, 2007

Humans - Social Animals

Humans are inherently social animals. Look at us, we live in communities, join clubs, work with other people and do fun things with others. Some of us are able to live more isolated than others and not be bothered. This is definitely not the case for me. I hate being isolated and by myself most of the time. I do like some alone time occasionally where I might enjoy some music, read a book or go for a walk. As I'm getting older, I'm finding that I don't mind doing more and more things by myself. However, on the whole I like being around other people.

At work for instance, if I'm alone for a long period of time in the lab, I have to call or email someone just to have some interaction. The abscence of other people is not something I particularly enjoy. I don't know where this need to interact with others comes from. I know that some people (a small percentage) can sit at their desks all day and work away, not needing to talk to anyone. I often wonder what goes through the head. Do they not mind keeping to themselves or is it that way due to not finding things in common with others to talk about.

Our work place is quite large so I would think that you can find someone that has something in common with you. I know that I talk to so many people every day about so many various topics. But there are a few individuals who I do not know a single thing about in 3 years. They just don't seem to need to talk. If they don't need to talk, well then who am I to force them to.

Occasionally you do discover that some people take longer to open up. But still, they show initial signs that they want to interact. For instance, one good friend at work and I didn't talk to each other for a year. But once the floodgates opened, we talk every day. Another friend at work took a lot longer to know as well. I always thought he was a bit of a hermit as I didn't see him chat much. But as I would talk to him more, I would find that some people don't open up to everyone, just those they really trust and know well. Gaining trust obviously takes time and talking to the other party. Hence there is a bit of a catch 22 going on.

I'm talking about needing other people because a friend has recently been relocated in his job. It was not his choice and he has found that the new work place environment is not to his liking. He feels very isolated as no one talks to him at all. You would think that new staff would be warmly welcomed and people would ask him how he was going. But this has not been the case. His exact words were "I might as well be invisible". He too is clearly someone that needs social interaction. Not talking to anyone all day is making him rather sad. He has lost his Joie de Vivre. I thought he was just joking originally as he is always joking and so happy. Obviously his situation must be affecting him more than I thought. It is not too dire a situation. He can always change jobs but that too takes time. In the mean time, he's pretty unhappy. Other people who are isolated, such as in country areas, and cannot just change jobs have to deal with it much tougher.

It's funny how demanding we are as humans. We want to be individuals and have our own identity sometimes. Yet we also want to feel like we belong and are part of a larger network. Look at all the social clubs and groups forming in the real world and more and more in the virtual world of the internet. I know that I feel like I belong even more after meeting a lot of other food bloggers. Due to sharing this common interest, we are instantly connected. I've felt like I know some of them a lot longer, even though I don't really know them at all.

I think the lesson that can be learnt from my friends situation is that we all want to belong, to different extents. It doesn't take long to say a quick "hi" to others if they are looking really down. I don't mean that we have to go around saying hi all day to everyone. Just when people are looking sad, a few simple words to make them feel like they belong can lift their spirits.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Email Etiquette Follow Up

Previously, I had written a post about some email rules and etiquette that I think people should follow. A company has recently done a study of people's email etiquette. As expected, we all misuse email terrribly. We reply too quickly without thinking or things get misunderstood.

I had quite a few misunderstandings via email. We interpret emails using our own sense of humour and hence we can read things very differently to how it was intended. Email lacks all the other vital signs that we sub consciously deliver when we talk. The tone of voice, facial expressions, hand gestures and body language are all missing. Emoticons are a very crude way to try and express these things.

In the past, I have written things and am laughing my head off as I write it as it sounds so sarcastic to me. Then I get back an angry reply. I was totally confused that the recipient didn't get my sarcasm. But when I re-read my own emails trying to read it as if I was them, I could see where there can be a mixup.

Nowadays, I try not to write too provocative sentences in my email. If I intend it to be a joke, I will clearly write it as that in brackets. I don't want more confusion, which usually leads to anger. If I have more important things to say, I will ring or go talk to that person face to face. There's no substitute for face to face interaction. A string of emails can often lose sight of the initial goal, whereas ideas are much clearer face to face.

There are definitely advantages to email, such as being able to send to a lot of people. Also, information is more easily digested when you can read it slowly at your own pace. However, there are many pitfalls too that must be avoided or a lot of angry arguments will ensure, usually these arguments occur over email even. Then people hate each other and don't bother talking, hence never clearing up the misunderstanding.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Verizon Maths - $0.002 versus 0.002 cents

I read an article in Jeff Milners blog a while ago and it made me crack up. It also made me quite worried that people could still be so bad at maths. The post revolved around a guy who had called up Verizon (a telco company in the US) to complain that he was being charged incorrectly for his internet or something. He kept being quoted that is was 0.002 cents per kilobyte. But they had charged him 0.002 per kilobyte, a 100 times greater amount that he was quoted. Go to Jeff's post for a link to the original file and transcript. Have a listen, it will totally crack you up and also make you so frustrated at the stupidity of the service staff.

In a follow up to that guy's problem, someone else has done some research on whether Verizon have improved their service. Again, the operators make so many mistakes it's hilarious. It's probably not so hilarious if you are trying to argue your point with them. Again Jeff has posted about it. If I was Verizon's customer, I would want to see contracts before signing up for everything. For heaven's sake, haven't these people done primary school maths.

Here is a video of the phone conversations. Go to the research website to get the full story about it.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Election Time

Well, it's time again, election time. So who will you be voting for? Labor, Liberal, no you silly, Australian Idol.

Will it be young heart throb Matt Corby, or the beautiful Natalie Gauci. I have to say that they were the two stand outs of the season, so definitely deserve to be the final two. They are both so talented, writing their own music, playing instruments and arranging such unique more obscure songs.

Who should win? That's a tough call. I think no one would complain if either of the two win. They both have had many highlights throughout the season. Who do I want to win? Natalie, just because I think she's had more spectacular performances throughout the season. Her rendition of Rhianna's "Umbrella", the Divinyls "Boys In Town" and the Natalie Cole "Orange Coloured Sky" were clear highlights for me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Customer Service 6 - Queue Here

In my ongoing series about customer service, I follow on from the last post about computer says no to a post about queuing up for service.

No one likes to queue up for things, as it seems like a ridiculous pointless exercise. We all want what we want immediately. Queues are often confusing and may wind in many directions. Some people may also cut the queue, which drives people mad. Others may have problems that take forever and we're all thinking, if only I could go first, my problem only takes a second.

Some of the worse places for queues are at sports stadiums. The queues can be so long and usually you are standing outside in the hot sun. Nowadays, you can buy tickets online, but here's the crazy part, you need to pay an extra fee for the priviledge of making things easier for yourself. And then if you want to pick up your ticket at the stadium on the day, you again need to queue, albeit a much shorter queue. At least the invent of virtual tickets where you just print out a barcode has made that a bit better.

At quite a few computer stores nowadays, MSY is a classic example, the queues can get so frustrating. Their service is so slow and there is no separation between quick tasks and long tasks. They aren't really geared towards customer service so people asking about things tend to take up the resource of a whole person, of which there are only two or three. This means the line creeps along. Most people just want to pay for something they want to buy. My transactions seem to always be so quick because I know what I want, I ring in beforehand to check that it is in stock and then I pay for it. They need to have a queue where people can just pay for their products.

On the weekend, I went to ANZ bank. The branch at Parkmore shopping centre have introduced a docket machine. Nothing new there, my local deli has had one of those for years. However, the ANZ have separate dockets for separate tasks, again nothing new there. However, the stupidity of it all is that most people who want teller service take a docket and still stand around waiting anyway. You can't relax and have to be listening intently at all times for your number. They don't call it out a few times like at the deli even. If you are not focusing and miss your number, well, you're stuffed. It's probably easier just to queue and there is no confusion. You can talk to your friend in a queue without worrying about missing your number. Unlike at the deli where taking a number means you have time to browse the goods, it serves no purpose here at the bank. The only thing is does is confuse people with bad English skills, as you have to press for the right docket, hear the voice pronounce your number and counter number and then quickly walk over there. I saw a guy who was furious and scrunched up his number and throw it on the floow. He must have missed his number when it was called.

Finally, I was in a queue at the post office that wound it's way out of the shop. It's getting near Christmas and everyone is posting things. The problem with the post office is that it tries to do a bit of everything. This means that people are queueing to pay their bills (fast), send money orders overseas (slow), passports (ultra slow as it takes up a whole person for an hour), send things (fast or slow depending on what, where, how) and if unfortunately you just need to buy some stamps, you may as well tear your hair out waiting. Again, there needs to be separate queues, maybe a priority queue for buying and sending stuff. But then people will not be happy that others are "jumping" the queue.

There is no way to avoid queues and all methods are imperfect. You just have to put up with standing there uselessly doing absolutely nothing but wasting your time. At least you can talk on your mobile nowadays, that always makes it a bit less boring.

Bar and Club Hopping - Asian Style

Just like C grade celebrities like to name drop A grade celebrities that they are supposedly friends with, Asians love to name drop so called bars and clubs where they have "VIP" entrance. They supposedly "know a friend of a friend who can get us all on the VIP list". What exactly does that entail us? The answer is not much. You don't get a discount price upon entry into the club, a reserved table, or even a free drink. You just get to get in, which I guess is already a bonus.

Last week, I went on a drinking session with some friends. Instead of just going to a bar where we could watch some sport and drink our beer, the organisers decided it was a good idea to go to a new place every hour. Each of these places were supposedly "hip" and they knew someone who could get us in. There were even unspoken competitions between people about who could get into what.

A lot of good that all did. We just ended up going from place to place aimlessly where the bouncers get to play their power trip games and refuse us entry. What's worse, one friend couldn't lose face so after being refused entry the first time and going someplace else, he said we should go back as it was probably quieter and we could get in. Well, again we couldn't get in. The look on his face was priceless.

I don't get why people try to make it sound like they're so popular and know everyone and can get into all these clubs. Why can't people just go to a normal bar where they don't charge you a stupid fee to get in and then also rip you off on drinks. What's up with Asians and this supposed need to be on the VIP list of these clubs and bars. Does it actually increase your social status at all? It just seems like you're a whore who tries to get to know as many people superficially as possible to get on these lists. A totally pointless activity I reckon, but that's just my opinion.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Kheang and Leanne's Wedding

Congratulations to Kheang and Leanne on their wedding this past Saturday. I have know Kheang since high school and have gone through many adventures with him. It was great to see him so happy at his wedding. In fact, rumours are from some astute observers that there was even a few tears from him when he was reading his vows.

The wedding was held at one of the lakes in the Botanical Gardens. It was a really beautiful setting, with the green grass, lake behind and a bright sunny day. If anything, it was a bit too bright, getting really hot. And there were so many flies that people were waving their arms all day.

The wedding was, as is most Asian weddings, fashionably behind schedule time wise. The groom and his men were already about 20 minutes late, arriving on foot from behind the lake, all looking extremely smart. But the bride always hold centre stage at every wedding. Leanne arrived in a black classic Bentley. The bridesmaid walked down the red carpet first, and then the bride followed in father escorting her.

A string quartet played live music to accompany the ceremony.

The ceremony was then performed by a marriage celebrant. She read the happy couples story and the bridesmaids then proceeded to read poems. The exchange of vows and rings were made, with tears all round. Finally, the marriage certificates were signed and witnessed.

Photos were then taken with everyone. And there you have it, another married friend who has lost half his pay check and freedom hahaha. Just joking. I wish Kheang and Leanne all the best together.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Kids Are Not Alright

This is a post by guest blogger George and has not been edited in any way.

Kids today are a menace. You see it everywhere you go, any time of the day, on the news or in the public scene. They are constant and consistent parasites for attention, amusement, and anarchy. They lack any sort of moral fiber, show no signs of consideration and zero respect for their parent figures, authorities, and even within themselves.

There’s no explaining needed for what I am going on about. Everyday you switch on the Telly or open the front page of the daily newspaper will always include a sad and disturbing story of kids and their sordid affairs. The law offers no boundaries to their actions; their humanity at times is very questionable. The Werribee high school DVD saga is just one of many dark tales about our youths that would make any parental figure or adult wish they had no part of.

Over this week, I personally witnessed two separate events that really sickened me in a lot of ways and left me a state of disbelief and disgust. The first was during a visit at Big W in Southland Shopping Centre. There we were browsing board games in the toy section where we noticed two kids not older than 13 making a racquet with a certain toy that speaks when operated. Foul language was audible along the section of the shop where any shopper nearby could hear them. Next moment, we see them running around a-muck with plastic swords and bouncy balls yelling more profanities and play fighting as moving from aisle to aisle. However, the most shocking part was when one of the youths threw one of the balls and narrowly missed a young mother pushing a stroller. The lady firmly called for them to “cut it out”, whereupon one of the rascals replied rudely “I DIDN’T FUCKING THROW IT”. The young mother responded by saying that she was directing it to whomever threw the ball, and the stupid brat came back with “Well I’m going to throw it back at him”. This just exemplifies the extreme low level of consideration, common sense, and respect demonstrated by these two little goons. I’m fairly certain that these two particular kids come from some special school or institution.

The second moment of youths gone badly was just yesterday after lunch on a train back to my workplace. I happen to hop onto a carriage where there were three high school youths sitting at one of the ends of the carriage. They were probably in Year 7 or 8 and each were playing the old spitball game targeting random passengers leaving the train at every stop. Just before every time the train closes its doors and departs, they would position themselves just next to the opening and blow spitballs through straws aiming at complete random passengers. Every opportunity excited them; every time there was a hit or a near miss they would crack up and make a scene as if it was the funniest thing they’ve experienced. The thoughts that ran through my head the whole time during that whole train ride was hoping that these kids get into real big trouble for it, whether by the train authorities or getting their asses kicked by blowing those disgusting spitballs at the wrong person.

These two separate incidents were real eye openers for me. Even though I should not be surprised, I simply could not comprehend these wreck less and inconsiderate youths. Having been at their age level and experiencing the teen years myself, I can understand some of the reasons behind their actions and their intolerable behaviors. I can admit that I and the friends I grew up with were not angels ourselves. We were always seeking amusement and laughter at the expense of fooling and confusing people we did and did not know. However, we always knew we were always out there to make ourselves look foolish rather than embarrassing others. We knew our limits and when or if we ever stepped over the time. There were never times were we would go out and do something intentional or not that could hurt others or causing damage people’s property. Any moment one of us believed we had gone too far, one would stop himself and the others, usually warning that it would lead us to too much trouble or simply out of concern and respect for the safety or well being of people we had no grudge against. I guess even though we loved a good fun time doing these silly dares and pranks, we still adhered to some of the morals that we learnt at home and at school.

I was talking to my workmate and discussed what both us believed was the root of the problem. We shared the same theories that it has a lot to do with the level and quality of today’s parenting. Kids nowadays most likely did not have the same upbringing as most us decades ago. A good number of us who are in the late 20s grew up with either parent present at home to keep watchful eyes, and keeping us in line. While today’s preteens and adolescent are still nurtured, fed, clothed and provided for, it is very obvious that they lacked certain values that their mothers and fathers probably did not take into account. These values that most of us adults are aware of and understand the importance of are respect, responsibility, accountability and moral decency. Parents of youths nowadays neglect this somehow whether they assume too much that their kids will learn it somehow or they just don’t have the time to becoming their kid’s role model.

A point also discussed was simply the difference in society today compared to our time about over a decade ago. What you see on TV, movies, video games, magazines today would have been banned and inaccessible to youths back a while ago. All that violence, sex, drugs, bad attitudes, drunkenness, are influencing kids even in Primary school. To make things worst is how easy these corrupt materials can be accessed and consumed by our problem children of today. Technologies and the innovation of the Internet and mobile phones make it so much easier for kids today to mingle and devise mischief and disorder. Today these tools are so affordable and free to access that it is a much a lifestyle to these kids just as the TV, the microwave and the toilet.

Let’s also point out the lack respect and responsibility. My workmate was spot on when she said it was simply how they grew up and what they had growing up. Kids today have and always had everything given to them at their disposal. They expect money, food, transport, and freedom like it was their birthright, not their privilege. With that they are corrupt minded, believing that the world evolves around them and everyone including their parents should kiss their feet and be treated like Kings and Queens. Take away their money and their freedom, and we all know what they will turn into and what they will do. Running away from home, taking drugs, standing outside the red light district; there’s no limit to what they’ll do for the special attention they crave every minute of their lives.

My solution to what I call a world epidemic: Don’t have kids. If you already have them and they are uncontrollable, let’s start thinking GENICIDE. The world can be a better place, buy pets instead.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Melbourne Cup 2007

Once again, the Melbourne Cup has been run and won. Won by Efficient this year, lost by me. As usual, my bets amounted to no wins. It was really funny at the TAB when I overheard as many confused people as myself trying to place a bet. People were unsure of how to mark the cards and which race it was. I was particularly confused about the ways to mark a trifecta. There were so many ways and the terminology was like another language.

The information on the back of the card wasn't very helpful. It must have been written by a lawyer since the terms that they used to describe a word contained the word. For example, it said something like "To pick a standout, mark the box labeled standout. If you don't wish to pick a standout, mark the box labeled mystery". What does any of that mean. If that was how they are trying to explain the terms, that didn't do a very good job. If it was instructions, well it's bloody obvious that if you knew what a standout was and wanted to pick it, of course you would mark the box standout. Needless to say, I didn't pick a standout. My choice for a trifecta didn't come close, but it's fun to place one bet a year in the hopes of winning some money.

Racing is supposed to be the sport of kings, but I just don't get it. What fun do you get from seeing some horses race around a track. To me, horse racing might as well be a coin toss, how can you pick winners. It's such a fickle thing. No one knows how the horse is feeling that day and all horses look like they are running the same to me. I like to watch any sport, even golf when there is nothing else on, but I just don't get horse racing.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


Cashtration - The act of buying a house, car, getting married, or having kids, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

I'm definitely not under cashtration, so don't know how it may change me. However, I do know lots of friends under cashtration and it can be a very crippling disease that totally changes people.

The obvious symptoms are that they can no longer go out with you and are very aware of every dollar. However, some people are still themselves and admit that they don't have any disposable money. Others still try to keep up the facade of being able to spend money but little things show what a scrooge they have become. I don't like this behaviour at all. If you don't have the money, no one will blame you for not going out. But when you become the typical "tight ass", and do little things that benefit yourself while taking advantage of your friends who are not under cashtration, that's just cheap.

Does your financial situation changes you or merely bring out another side of you that alway's there. It's not like we're living in a third world country and money is so desperate that people will kill for it. Being under cashtration just means you can't enjoy as many of the luxuries as you used to. I think that for people who become tight asses, it merely brings to the surface their real character. They have a choice not to do things, but yet still want to. Then they go and do little things that will benefit them, which I don't like.

When I am under cashtration, I must remind myself never to become a tight ass who tries to take advantage of his friends. I'd rather stay home and just watch TV than trying to keep up a facade of a person that I cannot afford to be.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Your Weakness Is My Gain

Everyone has their weakness, of which I mean personality wise. Our achilles heel where others can gain the advantage on us. As much as anyone will say that they don't want to take advantage of their friends, deep down I think we all know that we do it. It's just to what degree do you do it. If you constantly take advantage of your friends, well, you probably won't stay friends for much longer.

I know my weakness is that I'm too willing to help. I like the feeling I get when I help people. However, sometimes this means that you get take advantage of. For instance, from my previous post about being a carpet mat, I used to help people a lot. However, nowadays, I'm extremely happy that I still help people as it makes me happy, but to lesser extents.

If friends ask me for help, I still do my best to help them unless its really inconvenient. Instead of saying yes, I know say no without feeling any guilt at all. I mean why should I, they're the ones asking for help. In the past though, if someone put the hard word on me, I would feel guilty and say yes. Hence it was funny when a work mate asked if I wanted to volunteer for the work BBQ. I saw how it worked last time, you stand there for a whole hour where no one appreciates what you've done and you don't get to eat the whole time. Hence, I politely refused. I then jokingly said "I'm sure .... would like to help" and pointed at my work mate next to me. I thought he was going to just say no as well, but then the other work mate started with the story. She was being genuine when she said how volunteering really gave her joy. I think my other work mate saw it as a bit of a guilt trip. Hence he couldn't say no and said he would help cook at the BBQ. I laughed out really hard.

I gave his stick about volunteering all day. I asked him why he said yes when he didn't really want to do it. He said that he felt guilty otherwise. He has the same weakness of not being able to say no. Many people have it and it makes them really angry that others just assume that they would want to do something. It's brought on by your own past actions though since you never say no. So it's just a vicious cycle that keeps going where others may or may not pick up on but will continuous to take advantage of. I glad that I have realised my own problem and have made big strides in changing. I'm a lot less upset nowadays since I only do things that I want to do.