Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vuvuzela : 20 Interesting Things

A little tongue-in-cheek, Kristian Walsh explores these 20 'facts' about that oh-so-irritating horn:

1. Despite its clear links to South Africa and the fact that most South African fans have a horn tied around their neck, the vuvuzela originated in Mexico.

2. The vuvuzela, which is now made solely of plastic, used to be made out of tin.

3. ... this occured because the tin vuvuzela was banned from football stadiums. It was regarded as a dangerous weapon - physcially dangerous as opposed to mentally, presumably.

4. ... all of this is according to Freddie Maake, South African club team Kaiser Chief's version of John Portsmouth, who claims to have invented the vuvuzela by adapting an aluminium version as early as 1965 from a bicycle horn.

5. The aforementioned Makke produced an album called Vuvuzela Cellular. The vuvuzela featured heavily and it was ten tracks long. None of the tracks are currently in the UK Top 40.

6. The worries about the vuvuzela's noise seem to be well justified. A stadium full of vuvuzelas can hit up to 130 decibels - a chainsaw can only reach a meagre 100.

7. Hearing damage can occur in less than 15 minutes.

8. The average cost of one from a street vendor is £2, although no doubt there will be some BOGOF (blow one, get one free) deals this summer.

9. Broadcasters wanted it banned as there were fears it would harrass armchair fans across the globe, but another loud and annoying instrument jumped to its defence: "That is what African and South Africa football is all about - noise, excitement, dancing, shouting and enjoyment," said the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter.

10. A vuvuzela is not just for life, or just for South Africa - it can also irritate the neighbours on these shores. They can be bought on Amazon.

11. ITV voiced their concerns regarding the England game over the weekend: “We have the ability to adjust sound levels to ensure there is the right balance of crowd and pitch atmosphere and the commentary. We’re not going to cut out the crowd sound completely as it is an important part of the atmosphere." Perhaps ITV should have focused on not putting advertisements on-screen during moments football fans have anticipating for years, instead.

12. Not only can it cause violent urges from usually rational people, it can spread colds and flu.

13. South African Itumeleng Khune loves them and doesn't think there's enough.

14. Vuvuzelas can be used as a beer funnel or makeshift goalposts.

15. If the thought of a 'normal' sized vuvuzela makes you shudder, grab a stiff drink as you contemplate the world's biggest vuvuzela in Cape Town which measures over 35 metres long.

16. Even football teams have tried to get the instrument banned, as there are worries coaches cannot communicate with players enough. The French national squad have petitioned to have every seat installed with them, so they can't hear Raymond Domenech.

17. Also known as "lepatata", which is its Setswana name.

18. Neil van Schalkwyk - the man who is essentially credited with the vuvuzela - says the vuvuzela industry is worth 50 million rand (£44 million) in South Africa and Europe. It's a small price for being the most hated man in football.

19. It has produced such masterpieces as this.

20. No matter what you think of the vuvuzela, at least it's not as annoying as the England band.

Friday, June 25, 2010

7 Habits of Highly IN-Effective People

Dan Ariely shares:

1) Procrastination. Joys untold attend this particular bad habit. And it’s one people indulge in all the time, exercise, projects at work, calling the family, doing paperwork, and so on. Each time we face a decision between completing a slightly annoying task now and putting it off for later, battle for self-control ensues. If we surrender, procrastination wins.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with delaying unpleasant tasks at work from time to time in order to watch a (crucial) football game at the pub with friends. But, the problem is that as we get close to our deadline we start thinking differently about the whole decision. As we stay up all night to finish a task on time we start wondering what were we thinking when we succumbed to the temptation of the football game, and why didn’t we start on the task a week earlier. Moreover, as with all habits one procrastination leads to another and soon we get used to watching deadlines as they zoom by.

2) The planning fallacy. This is more or less what it sounds like; it’s our tendency to vastly underestimate the amount of time we’ll require to complete a task. This hardly needs illustration, but for the sake of clarity, recall the last time you delegated time to a complex task. Cleaning your flat from top to bottom (couldn’t take more than two hours right? Wrong.); finishing the paper or project at hand (who knew the people in department X could be so impossibly slow?). The problem is that even if we try to plan for delays, we can’t imagine them all. What if the person you’re working out a deal with gets hospitalized? What if an important document gets deleted or lost? There are infinite possible delays (procrastination of course being one of them), and because there are so many, we end up not taking them into account.

3) Texting while driving. Let me start by saying that in my class of 200 Master’s students, 197 admitted not only to doing this regularly, but also to having made driving mistakes while doing so. Also, one of the three abstainers in the class was physically blind, so we should not really count him as a saint, and who knows maybe the other two were liars. Texting while driving is clearly very stupid. If we were not intimately familiar with our own Texting behavior, we might think that it’s insane to think that anyone would knowingly increase their chances of dying 10 fold rather than waiting a few minutes to check email, but this is the reality. Moreover, the issue here is not just Texting, it is much more general than this particular bad habit. The basic issue has to do with succumbing to short-term desires and foregoing long-term benefits. Across many areas in our life, when temptation strikes we very often succumb to it (think about your commitment to always wearing a condom when you are not aroused and when you are). And we do this over and over and over.

4) Checking email too much. If it seems that there’s too much about email on this list, I assure you, there isn’t. Checking email is addictive in the same way gambling is. You see, years back the famous psychologist B.F. Skinner discovered that rats would work much harder if the rewards were unpredictable (rather than a treat every 5 times they pressed a bar, one would come after 4, then 13, etc). This is the same as email, most of it is junk, but every so often, it’s fantastic: an email from the woman you’ve been chasing for instance. So we distract ourselves from work by constantly checking and checking and waiting to hit the email jackpot. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve checked my email at least 30 times since starting writing this article.

5) Relativity in salary. The fatter a sea lion is, the more sea lionesses he has in his harem. He doesn’t need to be immense, just slightly bigger than the others (too fat and he won’t make it out of the water). As it turns out, it’s the same for salaries; we don’t figure out how much we need to be satisfied, we just want to make more than the people around us. More than our co-workers, more than our neighbors, and more than our wife’s sister’s husband. The first sad thing about our desire to compare is that our happiness depends less on us, and more on the people around us. The second sad thing is that we often make decisions that make it harder for us to be happy with our comparisons: Would you prefer to get a 50,000 pound salary where salaries range from 40,000-50,000 or a 55,000 pound salary where they’re between 55,000-65,000? If you’re like almost everyone, you’d realize that you would be happier with the 50,000 pound salary, but you would pick the 55,000.

6) Overoptimism. Everyone, except for the very depressed, overestimates their chances when it comes to good things like getting a raise, not getting a divorce, parking illegally without getting a ticket. It’s natural—no one gets married thinking “I am so going to be divorced in 4 years”, and yet a large number of people end up getting divorced. Like other bad habits, overoptimism is not all bad. It helps us take risks like opening a business (even though the vast majority fail) or working to develop new medicines (which take many years and usually don’t pan out). Ironically overoptimism often tends to work out well for society (new restaurants, cures for disease) while endangering the individuals who take them (financial ruin, stress-induced insanity). Sadly we are often overoptimistic – my most recent example of this was just a few hours ago when I sat down to write an essay entitled: “The 7 Habits Of Highly Ineffective People.” If I only didn’t go out last night…..

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another Kind of Internship

If someone peers closely enough into my career, they'll notice an awkward 6-month gap from Jan to June 2002. This was when I was working three days a week at Connectif Commerce - and the remaining two? I was at Malaysian Care's Prison, Drugs & AIDS Division.

This was six months of:
  • walking around the back-alleys of Kuala Lumpur buildings and one or two abandoned buildings, handing out food (usually bread) and flyers to drug addicts (we even 'threw' bread down into hole in response to a voice which came out from there)
  • going to drug rehab centers to hold fellowship-meetings with inmates (the best part was the huge buckets of KFC and/or curry chicken rice we'd also host)
  • scooping rice and vegetables for the soup-kitchens (except I don't think they called it that) which were usually held in one of those streets next to the Klang Bus Stand, then listening to the participants talk about their (usually broken) lives; I can recall at least two stories - one by an addict also stricken with polio and now confined to a wheel-chair, he told me was a musician and composed songs; another by a guy whose wife left him because he couldn't keep away from drugs.
  • eaves-dropping on Bible studies held for rehabilitating drug addicts at M.Care's many rehab houses (along Old Klang Road)

As with every volunteer, I had my fair share of, well, fear the first time I walked into rehab center; the first time my mentor, Steve, drove our van barely 4 feet next to some dudes sniffing glue from a spoon; the first time I stood next to a HIV-positive lady (with open sores) next to the soya-bean drink vendor; the first time I walked into a rundown old house taken over by displaced addicts.

This was more than seven years ago.

Colleges may wish to consider sending their students for 'internships' at institutions like Malaysian Care, CREST, CES, HISTeam etc. No it may not exactly be 'related' to the course, but (not unlike Seth Godin's post on 'free work') students will:
  • learn how to serve and give of themselves (minus the selfish financial calculations)
  • lead projects (trust me, if you prove yourself willing and able to champion an event or proposal, you'll get to do it)
  • learn patience of the highest kind (because the pay-off is not more money but a trusting heart)
  • apply their course skills in the most diverse/awkward of settings (e.g. in prison)
  • gain valuable experience of the kind not quite available selling one's services for a pittance in the corporate world
Best of all, heart work is internalised and (hopefully) brought forth into the world, both before and after the handshakes and photographs at the graduation ceremony.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


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The Adams Theory of Content Value

"I predict that the profession known as "author" will be retired to history in my lifetime, like blacksmith and cowboy. In the future, everyone will be a writer, and some will be better and more prolific than others. But no one will pay to read what anyone else creates. People might someday write entire books - and good ones - for the benefit of their own publicity, such as to promote themselves as consultants, lecturers, or the like. But no one born today is the next multi-best-selling author. That job won't exist.

As an author, my knee-jerk reaction is to assume that the media content of the future will suck because there will be no true professionals producing it. But I think suckiness is solved by better search capabilities. Somewhere out in the big old world are artists who are more talented than we can imagine, and willing to create content for free, for a variety of reasons. And so, as our ability to search for media content improves, the economic value of that content will approach zero."

Read the full article from Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert.

16 Questions for Free Agents

Posed by Seth Godin:
  • Who are you trying to please?
  • Are you trying to make a living, make a difference, or leave a legacy?
  • How will the world be different when you've succeeded?
  • Is it more important to add new customers or to increase your interactions with existing ones?
  • Do you want a team? How big? (I know, that's two questions)
  • Would you rather have an open-ended project that's never done, or one where you hit natural end points? (How high is high enough?)
  • Are you prepared to actively sell your stuff, or are you expecting that buyers will walk in the door and ask for it?
  • Which: to invent a category or to be just like Bob/Sue, but better?
  • If you take someone else's investment, are you prepared to sell out to pay it back?
  • Are you done personally growing, or is this project going to force you to change and develop yourself?
  • Choose: teach and lead and challenge your customers, or do what they ask...
  • How long can you wait before it feels as though you're succeeding?
  • Is perfect important? (Do you feel the need to fail privately, not in public?)
  • Do you want your customers to know each other (a tribe) or is it better they be anonymous and separate?
  • How close to failure, wipe out and humiliation are you willing to fly? (And while we're on the topic, how open to criticism are you willing to be?)
  • What does busy look like?