Month: May 2019

I Miss Coffee

A cup of americano

I’m actually not a coffee drinker – I grew up drinking tea well into adulthood. Coffee was rarely served by mother and grandmothers. Usually it is weak sweetened tea that accompanied our meals.

It’s only in 2015 when I started to seriously drink coffee – probably because of the free flow fresh brewed coffee at the co-working space I used to go. Then it coincide with my travels to Singapore & Indonesia that opened my senses to even more great coffee.

Although I appreciate coffee better since then, my body don’t adapt much to the higher intake caffeine. I easily get the jitters and dehydration. So I have to stay away from coffee for the whole of Ramadhan else I’ll be severely weakened.

The temptation is even higher this year since I already learned how to make great tasting brewed coffee at home. But alas, I have to abstain from this perfectly halal indulgence even outside fasting hours in order to allow me to fast well.

Jamizal Zainol & Co. Photoshoot

Jamizal Zainol & Co. Photoshoot

Every now and then I do corporate photoshoot for friends. It maybe bands or startups. This time I do it for a legal firm which is a first for me. Below are some pictures straight from the camera (no edit).

I use a Canon EOS M50 tethered to my MacBook Air for better control and review. Composition is also easier on the laptop rather than the tiny camera LCD. Lighting are provided by a pair of Aputure video lights.

To get some idea I referred to this two excellent blog posts.

Hijrah vs Modern Emigration

Hijrah vs Modern Emigration

In the run up to GE14, some of my friends did talk about leaving Malaysia for good if things don’t change. Things did change but the same people still talks about emigrating.

On the other hand, another friend reaffirms his commitment to be here for good despite lucrative career path overseas.

That got me thinking, as a Muslim what justifies someone to leave. This is not a fatwa of sorts but trying to see Rasulullah’s Hijrah in our modern context.

The first fact that strikes me is that Rasulullah didn’t move ‘out of country’. Granted there wasn’t a modern nation state as it is now. But the fact remains that Medina is still an Arab city populated with Arab tribe speaking Arabic.

The Masjidi al-Haram (Kaaba) complex in Mecca is always busy with pilgrims during the hajj season. Keeping things tidy and organised thus becomes a challenge. Thankfully the  staff are working round the clock! The are also efficient and have a unique way of doing things to ensure that the facility is comfortable for all. For this photo, I tried to capture the  team work and the fast motion of running & mopping.
Photo by Adli Wahid / Unsplash

On the other hand emigration as we usually discuss is moving to a first-world, white-majority, English speaking country. So there’s a stark contrast there.

Once in Medina, life is not exactly walk in the park either for Rasulullah. He challenged and changed the status quo. Brought justice to the oppressed and united warring factions. Not to mention fighting skirmishes and battles.

Comparatively, Medina was perhaps less oppressive as compared to Mecca back then. There are groups that’s more open to his ideals and there’s no death threats hanging over his head.

The fact remains that he changed Medina and later reformed Mecca as well. He didn’t stop and just enjoyed himself after receiving material support from the people of Medina.

Putting the fact into perspective I think the bar is rather high for one to leave your people for good. Unless one can bring significant benefit to society at large (or one’s life is in danger), then don’t bother.  Each of us owed a lot to the village that has raised us and it’s up to us to raise a better next generation.

Tech Hype-Busting Through Lindy Effect

Tech Hype-Busting Through Lindy Effect

Working in tech means that you are inevitably will get caught up in hype. Enormous VC funds distorts the market further by sustaining the hype even longer than it normally should.

I recently moved all my Medium post to this Ghost installation. At one time, Medium is touted to be the savior of blog and long form content. It combines the familiar blogging format and discoverability of social media. However, Medium later changed for the worse for no clear objective.

I was caught up in the Medium hype, at one time we even considering to move The Dredger TV blog to Medium. Thankfully we didn’t.

Mainstream blogging platform had been around since 15 years ago, so it should last at least another 15 years.

Medium on the other hand had only been around for 5 years, so the best estimate is only another 5 years.

I also observed similar trend in eCommerce. Many online sellers are now moving to giant marketplace such as Amazon, Shopee and Lazada. They can get more customers on these massive platform.

Amazon Pickup & Returns on South St. in Philadelphia
Photo by Bryan Angelo / Unsplash

Amazon had started to go wrong for many sellers. They find themselves kicked out, banned, or sabotaged by other traders. Expect to see the same story play out on Lazada & Shopee soon as they want to extract more profit.

Of course Amazon had been around for 20 years, and can possibly survive another 20 years.

But don’t forget standalone eCommerce site is even older than that. At the very least it had been around for 25 years (a quarter century!). It can easily outlast Amazon. It’s even more stark if compared with Lazada & Shopee that had been around for less than 5 years.

You might not pull as much sales as on Amazon but you do have a bit more security of your business. The tools to create your own eCommerce website is now cheaper and easier than ever before.

Please have your own place on the internet. Your career and business survival might depend on it.

Back to Opera

Photo by Panos Sakalakis / Unsplash

In an effort to lessen my dependency on BigTech, I decided to install Opera on my desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet. Discovering Opera Touch is what really made this possible.

All this while I only know Opera Mini – which gave me an impression that Opera is only useful to save data while on mobile devices. Opera Touch really give a new spin to mobile browser UI and it’s genuinely useful. It works so much better for single handed operation.

Synchronization function is rather clunky since it have both the My Flow function and Opera Account. But somehow it must be setup on desktop or laptop first to achieve a Google Chrome style of synchronization. It works though, just a bit convoluted to initialize.

I actually really love Google Chrome since way back when it launched 10 years ago. I remember when I started to use Mac and Google Chrome is still not available for Mac I even run it via VMware! Those were the days when Firefox started to get really cluttered and slow.

Anyway,  back to using Opera I even changed the default search to DuckDuckGo to further distance myself from Google. I have no plan to completely abandon Google, it’s just that I’m taking steps not to be caught in the algorithmic filter bubble.

Cost of Accessing the Market

Cost of Accessing the Market

Of course you can just open a stall in front of your house selling nasi lemak. However, most likely there will not be enough customer.

If the Internet can really save you then at least you’ll need a smartphone and a data plan. That will cost at least RM700 for a decent Xiaomi smartphone and RM30 per month for the cheapest Umobile data plan.

To start receiving money online you’ll require a basic savings account from any local bank. CIMB or Maybank will be a safe bet. The initial deposit is around RM250 – RM300.

Please tag me @belart84 if you use this photo in Instagram, or post a link to my page unsplash.com/@belart84 if you use it anywhere  else 🙏🏻
Photo by Artem Beliaikin / Unsplash

Even if you don’t plan to sell anything many employer will require you to have a savings account. Probably you can search for jobs using your smartphone.

So at the very least you’ll need RM1000 initial outlay plus RM30 per month.

If you want to go full fledged eCommerce then you need to register an enterprise. That will cost around RM100. Then the company current account will require RM100o to RM2000 initial deposit.

eCommerce site can’t be effectively managed from a smartphone so the very least you’ll need a second hand laptop. That will add another RM3000 to the cost.

Factor in hosting and domain then you’ll need another RM150 per year.

Thus, even if you have all the required technical skills you’ll need at least RM5250 to begin. That’s quite a lot!

Attempting to Go Deep

Photo by Mohamed Ben Zineb / Unsplash

Since reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work, I tried to adopt some of the strategies to go deep. In fact, some of it started earlier as Ramadhan kicked off.

  1. Logged out of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This really cleared out my head. No political stories to spoil my mood.
  2. Thankfully Facebook made separate app for Messenger and Page Manager. So I can get my work done without going the messy front lawn of the Newsfeed.
  3. Use native app to access Basecamp & Ghost. Less distraction, focus to the task at hand.
  4. Dedicated desk and office outside of home. I’m grateful Hj. Saidy offered to use his place. No matter how distracted I am at the home office when I came here I got to clear the distraction and focus again.
  5. I do kill some time with YouTube and Netflix but the contents didn’t rile me up as Facebook’s Newsfeed. As long as there’s no local political news content shows up I’m good to go.
  6. Now I don’t turn on music when I commute to and fro the office. Train my mind to tolerate boredom. That allows to go deeper when doing work that matters.

That’s it for now, no point trying to add too much new habit as it won’t stick. One at a time and add new one as the old one had firmly rooted.

Why Philanthropy Alone Can’t Fix Inequality

All Hands On Deck
Photo by Perry Grone / Unsplash

I think for the first time ever someone from the 1% explicitly calls out philanthropy in relation to inequality. This is an excerpt from Abigail Disney’s testimony to House Financial Services Committee. Read the full statement here.

Philanthropy is often offered as the answer to the problem of inequality. While wonderful, philanthropy is not the answer because these problems are not a question of personal choices or individual behaviors. They are the consequences of structures that create and then enforce a deeply unfair and inequitable society.

Philanthropy offers a man a fish, even teaches a man to fish, but persistently fails to ask why the lake is running out of water…

Philanthropy offers a man a fish, even teaches a man to fish, but persistently fails to ask why the lake is running out of water, or why the man does not know how to do what his ancestors knew perfectly well how to do and did every day.

Philanthropy supports art and education and many indispensable cultural institutions, and we should all be grateful to the donors who take this job on. I do not question the generosity it entails.

Philanthropy that helps the poor is in many ways an even more admirable form of the art, because it offers benefits that the donor cannot possibly enjoy him or herself.

But in attempting to address the consequences of deeply unfair economic structures—the very structures, in fact, that make philanthropy possible—even the most generous charitable giving uses the master’s tools that can never dismantle the master’s house, to borrow a metaphor from Audre Lorde.

Even if philanthropy could face its fear of asking where all the money is coming from, it still cannot work at large enough of a scale or in enough unison to address the problems I am talking about. Even the largest philanthropy is dwarfed by government programs like Head Start, Food Stamps, Social Security and Medicare, each of which has proven effective and has already lifted many millions out of poverty.

Convert Coins to Phone Credits

Actually it’s been years since I first noticed this machine but I only finally got to try it this week. It works as advertised and I successfully bought RM15 Celcom credits purely using coins.

At first I was afraid that it will reject coins after a certain amount and ask for bank notes. But no such thing happened and it takes all the coins with minimal rejection.

But the catch is that is took a small fee, so you do pay a bit more. To get RM10 you need to pay RM0.30. But since it’s a loose change for me, so it doesn’t matter much.

However, the credit validity is a bit weird. At first I bought RM10 and it extended the validity by 10 days. Then I bought another RM5 yet the validity period didn’t extend.

Anyway, this machine made it worthwhile for me to diligently put aside coins from my wallet. I’m thankful it exists and it feels a bit nostalgic to press on the antiquated phone booth keypad.

Notes from Cal Newport’s Deep Work

Vintage polaroid on top of amazing books.
Photo by Kobu Agency / Unsplash

I started reading this book on my iPhone last Friday but it proved to be such a strain to the eye. This is true despite the improvement brought by the dark mode. This morning I loaded it to my Kindle and powered through it at the office. I really went deep on this one.

Notes from Cal Newport's Deep Work

So here’s some things that I’ve learnt from Deep Work:

  1. This book actually ties quite nicely with The One Thing and The Bullet Journal Method. It offer nuances and deeper why behind the tactics and narrative provided in both books.
  2. Your physical setting is important in supporting deep work. Open office clearly kills deep work. The same goes for rows of opened tab in your browser. That’s why native app for Ghost puts you in a better flow as compared to the busy WordPress editor.
  3. Set aside time to use the Internet for research. Don’t search round the clock. If an idea pops up in your head, jot it down and wait for the next research session. I think this important for me as I have the tendency to fall deep into the rabbit hole of Wikipedia (or worse: Wikia of fictional universes).
  4. Allow the mind to become bored. Don’t immediately reach for your smartphone when you are stuck waiting. If you are hooked to shallow work and pleasure, you are not able to dive in to deep work mode.
  5. Don’t use the Internet to entertain you. It primes you to stuck in the sandpit of shallows. Do other tasks – wash the dishes, clean up the house etc. If you still have free time do anything except going to the Internet for entertainment.
  6. Capacity for deep work need to be trained. Reading the Quran with Tafseer seems to be a good exercise. Yes I know it sounds perverse to do what Allah commands just to reap worldly rewards. But better start with insicerity then not starting at all.
  7. Social media really gives a false sense of importance to your musings. I’ve blogged during pre-social media days. It’s hard to gain sizeable following but the few that read regularly are really meaningful. Reading Deep Work made me realize this truth once again and discard the vanity metric of social media.
  8. Cal Newport did offer considerable nuance in deciding to quit social media. It made me confident to fully quit Twitter. I haven’t posted anything there for a while. As for Facebook, there’s not much use in using it in maintaining relationship as it is too shallow. Better meet up for coffee and such. However it is still vital for me on the commercial side as long as the ads run there brings considerable profit. If not I can safely ignore it or later delegate it to customer success officers.