Buy me a cup of coffee.
I love coffee. I drink coffee 24 x 7. More so, when I write articles.
Donate $5.00 for a cup of coffee. You can buy me a cup of coffee once, or once a week, or everyday for that matter. This could inspire me to write more.
Any money leftover from the cost of a cup of coffee per day and other expenses; will be donated to buying someone in need of a cup of coffee, a meal or food groceries. We care. We share.
As I start the morning, I ponder on what to write about. I open my computer to a fresh, blank page. Yes, I have several articles / essays / projects in various stages of writing on my ideaSketchpad 💡 that I can work on… But then again, it is a blank page that faces me… With the “Add title” in big bold letters on the top left hand corner, I wonder.
Maybe, I should get back on track with the idea of writing my book.
Interestingly, I just researched that what I and other like me, do is “blag”. Oops! I have to mention that this is an Irish word, I repeat: an “Irish” word. My family line on my father’s side is suppose to be Irish 3 generations ago. So, I thought I’d tembak a word or two in Irish here and there. “Tembak”(i) is a Malay word meaning “shoot” (ii). In this context, it means “to let fly” (iii) a word or two.
The meaning of “blag” in English is a word we commonly hear – “blog”.
a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. “A blog, or web log to give the term its full name, is basically a journal available for other people to read on the web.”
add new material to or regularly update a blog. “It’s about a week since I last blogged”
“Blag” in informal British means
manage to obtain (something) by using persuasion or guile. “they blagged two free tickets to France”
steal (something) in a violent robbery or raid. “I could lie in wait and blag her fur coat”
an act of using persuasion or guile to obtain something. “Raising the £6.5 million had been either a heroic achievement by selfless, dedicated humanitarians or the blag of the century”
A violent robbery or raid. “He plays an ageing thief whose plans to retire are postponed by a young whipper-snapper who blackmails him into one last blag.” (1)
So, I have to be careful where I use “blag”.
Then, it seems to become more complicating when I attempt to explain further. The word “tembak” literally means to shoot (bang! bang! Not the other shoot that grows). My sentence “I thought I’d tembak a word or two” would mean “to say” or Malaysian English explanation “simply say”.
“Does “simply say” have the same meaning as “to let fly”? Generally, it is meant to have the same meaning… maybe… to say without thinking. “You simply say” or “don’t simply say” is commonly used here in Malaysia.
Then again, when I said, “I thought I’d tembak a word or two in Irish”; it was meant to mean, “I thought I’d show off my knowledge of the Irish language with a word or two in Irish”.
Ok okay, so why did I research what I and others do is called blog (more commonly used) or “blag” (to add more colour than the bland statements)? Until just a few minutes ago before I found out the actual meaning of “blog”; I used to think of it as logging in to your diary or updating your social media. Here I have a website and I’d say, I just updated my website with a new article. Now, I know what it means.
English can be a tad bit confusing, don’t you think?
I’d like to leave you with a video song clip I watched early this morning as I love to listen to the music. The Free Radicals Band is awesome. Here, they perform some hits from the iconic group, “The Doobie Brothers”.
“In times like these” – A day rarely goes by that you don’t hear someone utter these words.
Well, in times like these, when the world is battled and grappling with the devastating Covid-19 pandemic; you would think that we have learnt a lesson or two, and even applied them.
In times like these, a financially desperate person stealing a packet of milk to feed her hungry child gets caught and goes to jail for 2 years. Whereas another person who was charged with corruption involving millions of $, many times over, was convicted for over 10 years and fined. He is linked further to hundreds of millions of dollars more in corruption, including money laundering; and is set to have more court charges levied at him. Yet, he still walks free, not having served any time.
In times like these, two tarantula naval military submarines were purchased with the expectation that they will provide naval underwater surveillance and protect it’s country’s naval waters from intruders.
Instead, one submarine was turned into a floating restaurant (better than a sinking one), serving none other than the cosmoclot’s nasi lemak (if you are lucky, you may get a piece or two of shattered glass. This comes from the test tubes that shattered when the cosmoclot was returning into the earth’s atmosphere, on his way back from main masak2 at the space station some years back), two ondeh-ondeh, air sirap bandung, kari pup, kuih keyatap and more. Bear with me, if I am going off point, my thoughts may have jumped the tracks and derailed because I feel sleepy now. Partly due to my 10 km walk I just walked. Cannot keep my eyes open. Going to take a short break. See you in a bit.
As for the other submarine, it was making a loss, and they did not have a filot (yes, filot) to navigate it. The owners tried to sell it to Subway. But Subway insisted they only make submarines sandwiches, that they were not interested in acquiring an actual submarine. Though the idea seemed pretty nifty – eating submarine sandwiches in an actual submarine. If not eating, then, grab and go – it would still have been brilliant.
Finally, it was sold to The Beatles for 1 pound sterling, who then proceeded to paint it yellow. The rest is history, as they (who are the “they”?) say.
In times like these, when interest rates are rising, governments are coming up with new taxes to earn more revenue to balance their annual budgets and long term fiscal deficits. They should just stop building costly invisible ships and flying cars with trolley wheels.
In times like these, people have gone back to spending money like there was no tomorrow, having forgotten the hardships they faced during the last two years of financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In times like these” is a phrase that is beginning to sound like it belongs to the past, with no place for the present or the future. This phrase is usually quoted by senior citizens comparing present time with the past, that today, life is more difficult.
We should adjust to living “in times like these”. Yes, we should be more cautious or prudent in our spending habits and save a portion of income for that rainy day (more like stormy weather).
In times like these…We should live life, too; and live it to the fullest. Have fun, laugh a lot, laugh lots more than just “a lot”; spend time with our families and friends, and continuously work at building on them.
In times like these; don’t forget to chill and relax, eat some delicious chocolate frosted with coconut and caramel, with mixed nuts in them; have a cup of coffee and maybe…just maybe, have a bit of a chuckle reading this article.
NOTES: Having fun. Went off the rails with this article. Submarine on rails? Haha. Have an awe-inspiring and laughter filled weekend.
Nasi Lemak, ondeh-ondeh, kari pup (karipap), kuih keyatap (ketayap) are favourite Malaysian foods. Air sirap bandung is a favourite Malaysian drink.
Postage stamps are more than just currency denominated pieces of paper pasted on letters, envelopes and parcels, showing that transportation charges have been paid.
What is a postage stamp? It is a small adhesive piece of paper of specified value issued by a national Post Office to be affixed to a letter or parcel to indicate the amount of postage paid.
A schoolmaster from England, Sir Rowland Hill invented the adhesive postage stamp in 1837, an act for which he was knighted. Through his efforts, the first stamp in the world was issued in England in 1840. Roland Hill also created the first uniform postage rates that were based on weight rather than size.
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II
Below is a sampling of part of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II stamp collection from over 50 years ago. FOR SALE.
The pounding of a wall on the house in front of mine; a loud grinding or what seems like a sharpening of metal plates in another house nearby; another house towards the north-east of the direction I am facing at my workstation; with a hammer-drill, hammer-drilling into a wall or something like that. One could be forgiven to think that this is a major construction site. It is not. It is just that there are quite a few houses in the midst of major renovations. ‘Tis the season?
Then, one can be forgiven (again) if they were to ask, “economic tough times, inflation, possible recession?” Apparently not. With prices of things in general on the rise, construction and renovation are not spared from it. There is a massive labour shortage all around with home renovation contractors finding difficulty in getting workers. Yet home renovations are still in full swing. The unspoken ‘kiasu’ trait is in the air: “If you can do, I (also) can do; but better”. For the uninitiated, “kiasu” is the Chinese version (1) of the western saying, “Keeping up with the Joneses” (2); loosely translated.
Kiasu sounds better. It has a more aggressive “oomph” to its expression!
It looks like people are going on a spending rampage or revenge, being let loose from the confines of being cooped up at home during the Covid-19 pandemic which turned into an endemic on its way out.
One can be forgiven in thinking that this is a spending rampage or a spending epidemic with the many homes in just one area, being re-modelled or renovated.
This spending splurge is not just limited to re-modelling and renovation of homes, but also in cars, especially luxury cars, property investment and travel, too. For instance, until recently, there was an incentive for people to buy new vehicles in Malaysia. The government waived the sales and service tax on the nett selling price for both, completely knocked down (ckd) vehicles which is 10% and completely built up (cbu) vehicles which is 5%, thus reducing the overall price of vehicles by quite a bit.
It can be quite difficult to fathom or even believe that, not too long ago; around the same neighbourhood vicinity, some people were flying the white flag outside their homes. The white flag was a signal that homes were suffering from financial distress, with no money to buy food and basic house essentials.
These were homes in the middle to upper strata residential areas, too. This could have been due to many people having to take big pay cuts or were laid off from work due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They were not poor people. It was just that their monthly expenses outstripped their incomes which were reduced or stopped.
With the wonderful support of the generous public, and biding of time; they pulled through. The general takeaway lesson here was to live within one’s means.
Income seems flexible, non-guaranteed and cannot be taken for granted. Loans on the other hand, are most times not flexible. Once a loan is taken out, repayments have to be met.
When a loan has been taken out or a purchase made with a monthly installment repayment schedule, the onus is solely on the person to meet those obligations. It is a sale for the seller or financial institution. There is no “toui toui tak balek”. (3)
And, he has to meet those obligations, regardless of his financial situation. If he encounters any form of financial stress and may have difficulty in repayments even if it is for a short period of time; he will still have to meet those obligations punctually. As a chairman of one of Malaysia’s leading banks once said (could have said it many times before), “It does not matter to us if the customer had a spotless record in meeting all his financial obligations for the last 25 years, what matters most to us is ‘now'”.
Interest rates have gone up twice this year and is still expected to move up the scale at least a couple more times before end-December. This in turn, has caused the cost of most things, especially essential goods; to go up. Unfortunately, salaries and wages have not increased in tandem with the increased cost of everything else.
The question you may want to ask is, “Do I want to have a bigger financial risk exposure than I am in now?” Why is it a risk? We cannot really guarantee that we have the funds if a loan facility is recalled and full payment is demanded. Unless, if collateral is assigned to a loan making it a “secured loan”.
But collateral is becoming a rarity for personal loans as financial institutions want to charge a higher interest rate on unsecured loans. Overall non-performing loans (NPL) in Malaysia are low, with little risk to the bank.
Are we more prepared now for a “financial pandemic”? Have we forgotten the white flag era or will we re-visit it again?
Food for thought: Funny how the price of things does not come down when the reason for it going up in the first place, does.
NOTES: 1. Taken from the Chinese dialect Hokkien, kiasu translates to a fear of losing out, but encompasses any sort of competitive, stingy or selfish behavior. If you stand in line for hours just because there’s a gift at the end, then you’re kiasu. 2. Striving to achieve or own as much as the people around you: “If you want to keep up with the Joneses in this neighborhood, you will have to own at least three cars.” 3. “Toui toui tak balek” in Malay was used when we were kids to mean “it is not too late to go back on your decision”.
Don’t listen to those who say, “It’s not done that way.” Maybe it’s not, but maybe you’ll do it anyway. Don’t listen to those who say, You’re taking too big a chance.” Michaelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out today.
Most important, don’t listen when that little voice of fear inside you rears its ugly head and say, “They’re all smarter than you out there. They’re more talented, they’re taller, blonder, prettier, luckier, and they have connections. They have a cousin who took out Meryl Streep’s baby-sitter….”
I firmly believe that if you follow a path that interests you, not to the exclusion of love, sensitivity, and cooperation with others, but with the strength of conviction that you can move others by your own efforts, and do not make success or failure the criteria by which you live, the chances are you’ll be a person worth of your own respect.
Skechers : The brand that once was the main brand of shoes my wife and I wore; is now no longer the brand of footwear for us.
It was a brand that we could rely on for reliability, comfort and superior quality. Until about 10 months ago.
These shoes have become the cause for the many blisters on my feet, heels and surrounding areas. I have tried reaching out to Skechers both locally and at their headquarters in the U.S. but I have not got any response from them. It has been almost a year. Yet, even with these injuries(?), we still continued to use this brand of footwear.
It looks like their current model range of shoes don’t last very long – the most common problem being a tear at the front side of the shoe near the joint between the top (upper) and the sole. They tear quite easily. I believe Skechers are using different or lower-spec (sub-quality?) materials (at least for the Asean region) in their manufacturing process.
Skechers have been and probably is still a good shoe manufacturer. Now, with their “S” logo tearing off from the side of their shoes being quite a common feature, the question of the quality of their products is growing bigger.
One does tend to wonder if Skechers buys up a model range or several model ranges from other, smaller, not so famous, no budget for brand advertising, cottage industry manufacturers, and just slap their famous “S” logo with glue to the sides of these shoes and call them their own. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is just that for the premium it prices its products at; the consumer will expect more.
So, for the first time in 6 years; I have chosen Timberland over Skechers. To be fair to Skechers, Timberland had the model that I was looking for. It was also a change from the black, blue and grey colours most common on Skechers men’s shoe lineup.
THE VEBLEN EFFECT
At 23, Julius Caesar was a junior politician on the way up – and he had substantial advantages: Confidence and Brains! While sailing across the Aegean Sea, he was captured by Sicilian pirates. They demanded a ransom: 20 talents of silver. That is about 620 Kg, worth about $600,000 today.
Caesar told them they were being ridiculous. He couldn’t possibly allow himself to be ransomed so cheaply. The pirates hesitated; they were confused. Caesar insisted the ransom must be raised to 50 talents of silver –around 1,550 Kg, worth about $1.5 million.
Now the pirates had no idea what to make of this. Normally, their captives tried to escape as cheaply as possible. They didn’t understand what was going on. But, if he said he would double the ransom, why argue?
They let Caesar’s men go back to Rome to raise the money. And in Rome, in his absence, Caesar suddenly became very famous and well known. No one had ever been ransomed for such an enormous sum ever before.
People assumed he must be someone very special; he must be incredibly important. Thus did the demand for such an enormous amount of silver for ransom put Caesar on the political map and made him famous.
He had just invented ‘The Veblen Effect’. Although Thorstein Veblen wouldn’t give it that name for another 2,000 years! Interestingly, the Veblen Effect is an illusory psychological strategy that has been in use for generations – for thousands of years. It describes the phenomena wherein consumers perceive higher-priced goods to have greater value and be much better than they actually are … simply because they cost more!
Ironically, despite all the knowledge, technological advancement as well as awareness and detailed understanding of it, the Veblen Effect continues to persist.
There are many examples besides Skechers… Rolex, Cartier, Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, Harrods, Cristal Champagne, etc.
These products may not be any better – functionally – than their cheaper alternatives, but their high prices alone make them seem better, more valuable and therefore much more desirable.
Caesar effectively made himself a Veblen brand. He placed a much higher value on himself than anyone in Rome. But, as far as anyone in Rome knew, it wasn’t he who had done it; It was an independent valuation, which made it credible and authentic. And because Caesar was now so highly valued, his men had little trouble raising the ransom. They returned to the island and freed him.
But Caesar wasn’t going to allow the pirates to keep that sort of money at all. As important and famous a man as he had become, it was easy to raise a huge force which he used to hunt down the pirates and take back all the money, plus everything else they had pillaged, and then execute all of them.
Thus, Caesar became both very rich and very famous. In time, with that same combination of confidence and intelligence, he became the ruler of all Rome. And he presided over the golden age of the Roman Empire.
Expanding it from Spain to Germany, from Britain to the Middle East. Because Caesar understood that reality begins in the mind.
So, the most important piece of real estate in which to stake a claim is the human mind. How you stake a claim in the mind is by creating a perception. And how you create that perception is by controlling the context.
Control the context and you control the mind. Control the mind and you control reality.
A very good example of ‘The Veblen Effect’ is Johnnie Walker Double Black Scotch whisky! The basic JW Black is labelled as being at least 12 years old scotch. But JW Double Black has no age statement! Nonetheless, JW Double Black is sold at a higher price than basic JW Black based on the perceived notion that ‘double black’ must be much better than just ‘black’, and that is reinforced by Double Black being much costlier than Black! That is how the human mind works.
In reality, no one knows what is so special about Double Black, except that the label claims it to be very smooth; Without actually saying it is smoother than Black!
Many believe that this is simply a marketing strategy to pass off un-aged scotch at a much higher price, through the Veblen Effect!
And that is how the Veblen Effect, when properly implemented, becomes a highly successful and profitable marketing strategy … to separate consumers from their hard-earned money while simultaneously leaving them feeling good about it –
Think about it. How profound these statements are: The most important piece of real estate in which to stake a claim is the human mind. How you stake a claim in the mind is by creating a perception. And how you create that perception is by controlling the context.
Control the context and you control the mind. Control the mind and you control reality.
When this is put into perspective, advertising and marketing campaigns aim are designed to control reality. Or are they designed to deceive reality?
For almost as long as I can remember; I always believed that Rolls Royce and Bentley cars were always stately vehicles, remaining in showroom condition no matter what the age of these vehicles were and how they were used. Until about 6 years ago, I stumbled about the “graveyard” – the graveyard of Rolls Royce and Bentley cars in Bandar Sunway, Subang Jaya. (1) Here, there were at least 10 of these cars of various models in various stages of being scrapped, rusty or scavenged for parts. Windshields broken, parts of dashboards, meters, ornaments, the winged flying lady (Rolls Royce), parts of the engines, etc.; rummaged, removed, broken off, flicked (stolen) – all gone.
These “heavens” on the road were nothing more than heaps of junk now. This was a reality check for me. I have to admit that I am still guilty – I am still in awe when one of these opulent ornaments drive past me.
38 years ago, a friend let me “test-drive” his elder brother’s brand new BMW 520i (e28). Putting the 520i through its paces, it effortlessly moved up to the 70mph mark and cruised at that speed. And it still had 50% more power to tap. I was sold. I declared that when I have the money, I will buy a new BMW.
In February, 2000; I took delivery of my first new BMW 318i(A) with its tagline, “Ultimate Driving Machine”; stickered on the rear windshield. It was a premium price to pay for a car. It was a nice car to drive, but I didn’t go so far as to agree with that tagline. BMW – the brand; was touted as a performance car, with race bred credentials. Maybe, it’s big brother models were; this was more a smooth tourer. I was excited to having owned my first BMW.
One of the BMW distributor company’s top management executives said to me, “Now, you have arrived”. I took offence to that statement. I asked, “Why? Is it because I now own a BMW that I have arrived?” I corrected him saying, “On the contrary. It is because I have arrived that I have decided to own a BMW. I decided on purchasing a BMW because I am successful. BMW did not make me successful. BMW has arrived because I am successful”.
A few years ago, Malaysia invested (paid) about RM1 billion in the purchase of Russian military aircraft. Included in the deal was to send the first Malaysian man, an orthopedic surgeon (scientist?); to space, to the Russian space station. He was to carry out an unbelievable task – to test if nasi lemak (2) could be eaten in space (well, that was what was going around in the local buzz). And perhaps, some other less significant tasks.
On his re-entry into earth’s space, it was reported that the samples which he was bringing back, fell and broke. That was the end of that. But Malaysia “gained” its first cosmonaut. – The Veblen Effect?
Reflecting on the question, “Is paying more equivalent to better products? Perception?” Or the statement “Willing seller, willing buyer” the leverage in decision making?
Having fun. Light moments. Questions, questions. Just pondering…
NOTES: 1. Subang Jaya is a city in the state of Selangor, Malaysia. 2. Nasi lemak is a dish originating in Malay cuisine that consists of fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It is commonly found in Malaysia, where it is considered the national dish. It is also the native dish in neighbouring areas with significant Malay populations such as Singapore, Brunei, and Southern Thailand. In Indonesia it can be found in several parts of Sumatra, especially the Malay regions of Riau, Riau Islands and Medan. Nasi lemak can also be found in the Bangsamoro region of Mindanao, prepared by Filipino Moros, as well as Australia’s external territories of Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. It is considered an essential dish for a typical Malay-style breakfast. Nasi lemak is featured as a national dish in most of the country’s tourism brochures and promotional materials. Wikipedia 3. “The Veblen Effect” section was written by someone else. I seem to have lost the citing for this section. fig.1 examples.yourdictionary.com