Showing posts with label work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label work. Show all posts

Friday, April 27, 2018

Nationalistic Politicians Need to Heed the Intricacies of Global Supply Chains

The hot topic in international diplomacy is "trade wars."  The idea that a major economic power, by blockading access to certain economic resources to foreign firms, can somehow hurt foreign economic interests to such a degree that the foreign country in question has no choice but to make economic concessions.  The idea is rooted in a "zero-sum" mentality, whereby economic victory and resulting benefits of one country and its firms is correlated with economic defeat and economic costs of another country and their companies.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Academic Exchanges across Disciplines Must be Dumbed down to the Very Basics

Imagine you are sitting in an academic conference, listening to presentations by scholars from a field for which you have little background knowledge.  Among the audience they are members who are from the same field as the presenters, and they listen intently to the presentations.  Because they were able to comprehend the contents so thoroughly, at the Q&A session, they ask extremely detailed questions about the research presented, and a highly technical conversation between the presenter and the inquirer follows.  You, people from other fields, neither understood the presentations nor the questions.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Ode to the High-Rising Stool Chair

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.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Getting Reacquainted with Japan's Workplace Frustration

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

Lack of Variety in Vocabulary as Lack of Language Proficiency

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.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

English Use in Foreign Setting Revisited: Is Forceful Use of a Foreign Language Leading to Cultural Conflict?

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. 

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Case against Donations: Short-Term Gratification for Long-Term Damage

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.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Is the Inability to Easily Fire Workers a Reason for Rural Africa's Lack of Formal Jobs?

"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.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Psychology of Owing and Being Owed

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

Lessons from Watching Japanese Porn for Money

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:

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Revisiting the Issue of Trust in Rural Tanzania: The Prevalence of Its Fickle Fragility

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

Why Would Anyone Think That Monopolies Based on Trust Can Breed Economic Optimum?

"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.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Linguistic Inequality of Modern Technology

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

Broken Timelines, Broken Trucks, Broken "Laws," Broken Roads, Broken Arms, Broken Wallets...

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

Has Capitalism Failed People Who "Have No Interest in Money"?

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?

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

Why a Tax on Farm Produce, Contradictorily, Might be Good for African Farmers

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

チャリティーの感覚 VS ビジネスの感覚

以前このブログをご覧になっていらっしゃる方はご存知かもしれないが、筆者が今務める組織はタンザニアの農民に対してローン方式でメイズの種や肥料を販売している。販売相手となる農民の中で、このような世界どこかの工場で大量生産された種や肥料を見たこともなく、その効果を心から疑っている人は少なくない。彼らが持つその根本的な疑いを収めるため、農村でこれらの商品を紹介する際、常にこのような言葉を使う:「私たちはこれらの商品を通じてあなたたちを助けに参りました!」

Friday, September 23, 2016

腐敗與公共財產濫用的關聯性

在著者工作的辦公室有一個非常有趣的現象。儘管使用厠所的人數并不多(通常每天在辦公室里的工作人員不超過30人左右),厠所垃圾桶總會堆起滿滿幾桶的衛生紙。這些衛生紙雖被用過,通常都僅沾了些水而已且并不會有任何其他異物。而這些沒有怎麽被用過但已被丟棄的衛生紙每一條都大概有手指尖到胳膊的長度。以著者的簡單目測,僅是這些丟在垃圾桶里的衛生紙應該就等同于每天足足四捲的使用量。著者在家裏即便每天大便,大概一個月都不會消費怎麽多的衛生紙。

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

When Corporate Economics Works against Smallholder Farmers

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.