After years of working in an ecommerce startup, the author has come to miss one thing that dominates the office landscape of tech startups: the high-rising stool chair. In lieu of cubicles with their low desks and chairs that characterize established corporations, tech startups prefer a much more flexible arrangement where people are always on the move, working wherever they can find space to put down their laptops. To facilitate the mobile nature of fast-moving employees, startups employ a series of these high-rising chairs, alongside equally high small tables.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
at 6:38 AM
Being a poor student at age 29 should not inspired this much envy. If anything, a 29-year-old student should be the epitome of someone who is too old to be clueless about what to do with his/her life, at a golden age where careers are made or broke. For anyone who genuinely cares about moving up the corporate ladder, it is not a desirable position to be in. Yet, when conversations turn to the idea of being a 29-year-old student here in Japan, the general reaction among people of similar age has been one of "why can't I be a student now too?" coupled with discussions on the unglamorous daily grind of paid work.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
at 2:16 AM
For those who know, I am a freelance translator who translates all sorts of different things in Japanese and Chinese into English. However, I rarely translate in reverse, from English to the two Asian languages. As someone educated almost entirely in English, I have much more confidence in writing in English than I am of Chinese or Japanese. And in the past week, I again had to put that confidence up to the test, by first working on an assignment translating a research report in English into Chinese, followed by a school guide in Chinese into English.
Friday, June 23, 2017
English Use in Foreign Setting Revisited: Is Forceful Use of a Foreign Language Leading to Cultural Conflict?
at 9:44 PM
One of the most difficult things about working in a foreign setting is the need to communicate with locals in the local language. Many people are not talented in the art of learning new languages, and many locals have not had experience having to slow down their usual ways of talking to accommodate nonnative speakers of their local language. The result is frustration on both sides. For the learner, it is a daunting experience of facing an unknown tongue spoken with plenty of ridiculous speed and incomprehensive slangs.
Thursday, June 22, 2017
at 8:46 PM
As noted in a previous blog post, one of the most admirable feature of American society is its charitability. Not only is there ingrained culture of charitable giving among a significant portion of the local populace, there are physical institutions, ranging from tax reductions on donations to multiple large nationwide organizations that take in donations, that allow people to act upon their charitability in highly convenient fashion. The result is a highly efficient and productive charity sector. On global rankings for charitability as measured by percent income donated, America consistently rank at the top of the table.
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
at 10:22 PM
"The guy was not doing so well, so we had to let him go..." casually quips the converser when speaking about the recent going-ons at work. Back here in California, firing incompetent people is an everyday phenomenon that one simply lives, so much so that no one assumes that s/he would not be targeted by managers when periods of low performance and intra-office conflicts persist. Even when one performs well, structural changes or financial problems at one's workplace is enough of a reason to fire people, and people, while angry or anxious, simply get on with their lives afterwards.
Friday, May 19, 2017
at 9:19 PM
A few months ago at the G20 Summit held in Hangzhou, China, Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, gave an interview to China Central Television on the Summit's sidelines. One of the key topic of the interview was the recent economic troubles faced by South Africa, especially pertaining to the financial downgrading associated with the recent sacking of the reputable finance minister Pravin Gordhan. The interviewer questioned Zuma on how the lack of confidence international markets and rating agencies toward South Africa will impact the South African economy in the coming months.
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
at 4:57 PM
Life is about experience, and that experience can come in many different ways, in work, in recreation, and in entertainment. Sometimes, the boundaries of those three things blur, giving new realizations of how one perceives work, of entertainment, and of what is the difference between "work" and "life." A paid translation project that the author completed in the last few days is a perfect illustration of this blurring. Required to submit English subtitles for Japanese adult videos, he was quite surprised, in a brand-new way, of just how porn, work psychology, and a bit more subtly, how human desire and work ethic works.
Below are some of the main lessons learned from this little paid exercise:
Below are some of the main lessons learned from this little paid exercise:
Sunday, December 4, 2016
at 11:58 AM
When the author was still working in an ecommerce startup in Southeast Asia, he was surrounded by a highly optimistic environment for new online businesses there. The logic goes that people who are going online for the very first time are much more open to new technologies that they have not seen before, becoming first adopters of concepts that conservative consumers in the developed world would shun because such technologies goes against their established norms. Emerging markets, through open-mindedness toward new businesses, will make "technological leap" that puts them ahead of the developed world in no time.
Saturday, November 19, 2016
at 12:46 AM
"You know, after you guys delivered the inputs out here to your shop. Another big NGO came to the village officials asking if they can open a shop here to sell inputs like you guys," the local agricultural officer nonchalantly mentioned as he chatted away with the program staff on a rather not-so-busy afternoon, "apparently the village officials told them they already have your shop, so they can go somewhere else for their own shop-opening." With that, the agricultural officer threw a sly smile at the program staff, not willing to explain further the process of the village officials' decision-making.
Sunday, November 6, 2016
at 10:10 PM
For many rural Tanzanians, coming face to face with pieces of modern technology for the very first time is more than simply learning about its various functionalities. The personal computer, the Internet, and its various websites are more likely than not, written completely in English, or to a lesser extent, another foreign language, and the prevalence of foreign languages is all the more comprehensive when the subject becomes more technical (e.g. manuals for troubleshooting software problems, guidelines on network configuration, FAQs on how to use a online system).
Friday, October 28, 2016
at 12:31 PM
For those who knows, the author works in a job where the main responsibility is providing agricultural inputs to farmers on loan. The method by which it is done is through a series of retail outlets in the remotes villages where farmers can visit to purchase those inputs on loan. So naturally, preparing to open the shops requires transport of the said inputs from a central warehouse to the locations of the shops. As the coming agricultural season approaches, the team here is beginning those "truck runs." Unfortunately bottlenecks are everywhere, and some of them experienced recently could be considered novel for the inexperienced.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
at 1:21 AM
Working in rural Tanzania, the author has encountered these kinds of people. They, and their family, tend not to have much money, but they do not work simply because they "do not like to work." No, these are not people who are falsely called "lazy." Real lazy people likes money, but simply do not want to put in the effort to earn it. These people, however, simply have no interest in earning money to begin with. Perhaps if they are more motivated to earn money, they would work very hard and persistently. But one simply cannot tell because they show not enough desire to earn money in order to work hard.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Is Sensationalized Focus on Individuals in Poverty Crowding out Efforts to Build Sustainable Systems to Eradicate Poverty?
at 3:10 PM
Anyone would have seen the tear-jerking photo: a malnourished African child, dressed in torn rags that can barely be defined as "clothing" and sitting on barren red dirt, tears and nasal mucus freely following down her earth-crested face. It is a poster child for the likes of UNICEF, so well-utilized to help part the sympathetic rich folks of the First World with their cash. Itis a strategy used prevalently even among the less fortunate in more well-off places: give a visual representation of misfortune, and the many people who feel sorry will mindlessly donate to "end the misfortune."
Sunday, October 2, 2016
at 5:29 PM
In practice, farmers here in rural Tanzania do not pay taxes today. The reason is rather obvious. On one hand, it is just too logistically difficult to collect taxes on millions of farmers who live far apart from one another. If attempted, the cost of collecting taxes (walking around villages asking for cash) probably would exceed the collected amount by many times. Only systematic usage of mobile money can resolve this problem. Without a scalable way to have farmers themselves hand over money for fear of credible threats of punishment, everyone will just evade tax.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
at 4:20 PM
Often, working in the middle of nowhere in rural Africa for a clientele of mostly subsistence farmers feel like the work is largely removed from the realities of global economics. Many farmers plant their local seeds and sell their produce to local markets. Many foreign food imports see little local demand due to local populations' lack of sufficient income and exposure (and thus palate) for foreign cuisines, and more often than not, insufficient infrastructure prevent large amount of local produce to be shipped globally, even when the qualities and pricing of the products are competitive.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
at 3:49 PM
A recent article on the Economist magazine makes a very direct (if rather obvious, on the second thought) argument that try to pinpoint why underdeveloped states do not attract resources for development. The article states "lack of trust," particularly on societal institutions, as the root cause of economic failures. Specifically, in underdeveloped states, there is complete lack of popular confidence that bureaucracies will function as they are created for, laws will be enforced as written, and any written agreement will be honored as stipulated in their terms.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
at 11:39 PM
More than a year ago, when the author was still a high-flying businessman for one of Southeast Asia's most hyped-up e-commerce startups, he made frequent business trips to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam from his homebase in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the immigration check area in the Ho Chi Minh City airport, there was always a familiar sight. In an area with a couple of dozen booths for passport stamping, only two or three are staffed with grim-faced immigration officers in uniform, doing their inspections at a leisurely pace while the line for entry in front of the booths get longer and longer as more passengers arrive.