Tag Archives: future

Rightmove real estate fun, and organic thinking

I’ve recently (re)started wasting hours of my life going through the rightmove website. It’s a fun hobby I tell you.

“Can I find a house/flat for less than £60,000 within 40 miles of Waterloo?”

“Where can I find the cheapest flat north of Crewe that isn’t in a shithole (haha)”

“What can I afford for £900,000 up my street?”

It’s amusing to see listings saying “Studio flat” alongside a picture of a garage. In Mayfair. Or anywhere in the South. Taking “future potential” a bit too far, like Enron.

So what I have resolved to do is, instead of letting my youth slip away amongst pictures of decrepit and luxury houses, I’m going to blog instead. About anything. In fact it does appear that my mind thinks best while walking or on the train in the morning or about to sleep at night. Anywhere but in front of the computer.

That is exactly what Richard Watson said recently in his speech Future Minds. Amongst other things he says the best place to think is not in front of the computer. Although I have spent more than half my life in front of a computer, I agree with him. I can think of doing specific things on a computer, like emailing, buying, or saying impulse stuff like leaving a comment. However new thoughts I find are generated elsewhere – because when I’m on a computer I’m invariably doing something. Which is not conducive to clear thinking.

The unfortunate fact is that all my wonderful thoughts are forgotten once I’m in front of a computer… or even a paper notebook. I’ll try harder next time… for my sake…

For a wonderful Asian food blog, visit the Catty Life. Wonderful pics, and unsurpassed Asian foodie.

Is Google boss’ vision for augmented humanity insidious?

“Schmidt said the long term goal here is to ensure everyone lives a happier life. Central to this is information, which is where Google comes in as a company driven by organising all the world’s data and making it accessible.”

Isn’t it dangerous to trust one private company with the world’s data? Was it George Orwell who said smth like, he who controls the present, controls the past; he who controls the past, controls the future. The word accessible has such a positive meaning these days, but what is being made accessible and to whom? What is in data? What is considered information esp in the digital age are at times beyond simple comprehension – as in, why would anyone want to know that? Like how many people visit my website, what websites I go to, what I download, who I speak to, who emails me, what I search for (indeed this has been used by police to track someone’s motives) and many more I cannot think of.

Also…. one data= one culture? The homogenization of world society well under way? We’ll generally aspire to similar things and dreams? Hence widening the market across the world to keep the demand going? Things and dreams that sap time and life so that we don’t have time left to think (only on trains and planes… oh wait, there are free newspapers to distract you)?

“In the future, he remarked, “We can suggest where you go next, who to meet, what to read…What’s interesting about this future is that it’s for the average person, not just the elites.”

Another mechanism to curb human thinking and natural ability to explore? Thinking is like a muscle. Anything that directly saves labour (like washing machines) is ok – anything that attempts to save thinking should be viewed with suspicion.

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Philo tasty

OK, this is just so I remember what I read this past week:

Seneca – essay ‘On the Shortness of Life‘ – Man what an eye-opener! It basically says philosophy is the only worthy thing to do in life. Yeah well he’s a philosopher. But other things in that essay rings so true and there so many quotable quotes.

Alain de Botton – Status Anxiety – Amazing book. Explains status in it’s broadest sense and why we all crave for it – to get love, to meet expectations in the modern meritocratic society and being dependent on stuff like talent, luck and employers. What I was struck by was the theory that, now that mere mortals are all held up to be equal, there’s almost no excuse not to be rich, famous or successful. In the past luck had a bigger factor, like if you were born to a rich family or an aristocrat. The mere plebs were just that, mere plebs. Life was harder but they enjoyed what they had. Now we have lots of self-help books and ‘normal’ guys like Duncan Bannatyne and Richard Branson lining the shelves showing you the way to big success. So we have much higher expectations of ourselves and hence more prone to being disappointed in our lives. Especially if our peers are visibly doing better. It also shows how things, when before were not essential, become considered essential by a larger part of society 30 years later – stuff like 2nd cars and TVs.
To counter status anxiety, de Botton looks at philosophy, art, politics, religion and the bohemian lifestyle.

Rules of Parenting – Richard Templar and Confident Baby Care – Jo Frost – I just signed up to the local library. Thought I’d indulge myself in some super forward planning. Good tips in the rules of parenting book, but some points I just don’t agree with. I come from the school of tough love and obligation… and ‘Asian values’. The Jo Frost book is really cute and I’ll read it again come the time.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work – Alain de Botton – I had been meaning to check this book out for well over a year since he gave a talk at my workplace. My curiosity was reignited when I finished with the Status Anxiety book. This book was a bit of a surprise. A pleasant surprise – I was expecting a more ‘theoretical’ and general approach to describing work – but he went into detail focusing on specific jobs, tailing specific people who work in accounting (audit firm, Ernst & Young I think), fishing, rocket scientists, a careers adviser, a guy who is a member of the Pylon Appreciation Society, biscuit-making and aviation. It’s like a story book with lots of pictures. And also what is extremely evident is his constant use of metaphors and juxtapositions – some were so beautiful, but approaching the end of the book it gets a tiny bit dejavu-ish. I still like this guy, and this book is very insightful so I’ll seek out his other stuff. It is just so amazing the mundanity of some jobs and puts a magnifying glass on the monstrosity of wasting time, particularly other people’s time, never mind even if you’re paying them for it. It’s like first degree murder cos you’re robbing them of their life. Life = time. It brings work to perspective too – what significance would a specific project or task have in 3 years? And to think we sweat over them so much.

I’m currently reading a doorstopper – Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy. It’s prolly the only doorstopper I’ve read in my life, I think. I’m up to Protagoras. I’m also reading some ‘making full use of your iPod’ book which isn’t very arresting.

Care to recommend any books?

Rethink the future

This evening, I thought I’d be a busybody and attend an event for the launch of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. I’d never heard of the lady, and I imagined her to be kinda older and from a titled background (I don’t know why, maybe it’s the name). Turns out she sailed around the world, at 28 years old, broke records, became a Dame off that, all pretty impressive. I think she’s a really inspiring character and a goal-setter who actually seeks to achieve those goals to the highest standard possible. She was very emotive, confident and great speaker/presenter I think – no notes, held our attention, all the sentences in one piece. The video presentations were also very professionally done and informative.

Superficial impressions aside, I think the message really resonates. ‘Rethink the future’ means creating a sustainable future. Because at the moment the status quo is to take stuff from the ground, make something with it, (buy it), use it, throw it away. But where is ‘away’? It festers in the landfill, and with a growing population and increasing consumption, that is not sustainable. So we should use technological know-how to create material and products that can be reused again and again or are thoroughly biodegradable. Electric cars that run on renewable energy. Fridges that can be made into something else at the end of their life. Even we humans are biodegradable! So we need to put more effort into the stuff we make to make them sustainable. It’s not merely recycling. It’s actually producing things in a different way, through a different product cycle model. Ellen MacArthur mentioned ‘circular economy’  and apparently China are onto that now. So things don’t get thrown away and instead go on to be different things or can decompose.  Waste should also be minimized on production, be it material or energy. For example, in the exhibition just now, a textile student came up with a weaving machine that creates the fabric pattern pieces to spec, so there is no cutting involved and no wastage; just sew the pieces together.

Seems like an exciting but also challenging future to face. I say, it’s definitely a very great time to be in science, design and engineering!

Singapore, how I love thee

Lovely enjoying himself

I’m finally back from a wonderful holiday in my homeland… well been back a couple of weeks now. I always feel downhearted whenever I arrive back in the UK – not that I don’t like it, and thank God I’ve arrived safely – but the airports aren’t as visitor friendly. In Singapore it all makes sense – the taxi rank is just there, and there’ll be taxis waiting for your custom, with sufficiently polite drivers. Or, my relatives will be there to pick me up. Upon arriving at Gatwick I had to hunt around for a taxi, no, I had to ring for one, then walk through some other hotel’s carpark to get to some random pick up spot. We waited where we were told. But no, there were 3 different spots, on the same width of road which has been inconveniently split into 3 sections of roads, and the taxi was waiting on the other side of the road, which we then had to cross. There weren’t any signs specifying where to wait for a cab. The driver was grumpy cos he had been hanging around for like, what 5 mins? Tsk I have no time for this – I’ve been waiting longer myself! Why didn’t he ring? How come there are no signs?!

The following day, another rude taxi driver. Macam bagus aje. And not only that, taxi drivers in Singapore give you exact change, and even round it down. Over here, no chance. If it’s £12.40 and you paid £13, you’ll be waiting around for him to fumble around for change, and he takes a little bit longer to do that so that you eventually give up and let them keep the change – OR, they just go ‘Thank you’ –  and that’s it, no change. They think they have a god-given right to the change. I really hate that. I suppose I grew up in a no tipping culture. Hey, what you see is what you pay what! And not only that, it ain’t cheap!

I have moved out to the provinces now, so no more daily tube rides for me, and the irony is that although the journey is much further, it doesn’t feel further. Esp on a direct train. I can just about play two rounds of Hell’s Kitchen on my iPod.

All this week I had been on a TV presenting course, which was a lot of fun. It was quite an eye-opener, how enjoyable it was. It ain’t that easy – I mean on a course, we’re all molly coddled – but in real life TV presenting I’m sure will be quite challenging. I do want to go into it. Maybe children’s presenting! Haha. I want to internationally acclaimed at something, but I’m not quite clear what yet. I’ve tried music and now I haven’t really got much faith in it. I enjoy listening and dancing to it but making it just seems like a lot of effort. And it makes a noise. At one point I enjoyed making clothes and bedclothes because I can be creative in silence. TV presenting is slightly different as well as you are essentially speaking – nothing weird there. With singing I just get self-conscious at home. Until I start singing.

Anyhoo, I want to start a Kelab Cakap Melayu in London – to improve my karat Malay. And also would be interesting to see who comes. Anybody who wants to speak Malay and practise would be welcome. Anyone who speaks in English in a whole sentence will kena fine. There will be dictionaries on the ready!

Baby boomers vs bloomers

An acquaintance of mine appeared on TV the other day to debate the fate of ‘our generation’. I think the programme was trying to set up a slagging match between kids young people  and people who are as old as their parents. Did it work? I don’t know. It’s like trying to ask someone who’s  been happily blindfolded what he saw. The blindfold’s off, it ain’t pretty, but how did we get here?

Every cloud has a silver lining. Cliche. In the so-called age of austerity (hmm, austerity with laptops and iPods) , we have to learn to live with less, learn to cope. This is what the world needs; it cannot support unlimited, unbridled consumption. The older generation will eventually die out and we’ll inherit a surplus of stuff (houses, clothes, bad ideas) as there’s more of them –  at least where the population is declining. We cannot expect our generation to enjoy exactly the same privileges  – as it is, we probably have the best childhoods, historically, and the best prospects. People can get the sort of job that are a better match to their individual abilities, rather than being forced to work in t’pit, just ‘cos that’s what people do’. Technology has destroyed jobs and created exciting ones in its place.

It is a fair point though that some have been excessively greedy. I’m not talking about bankers – they get enough flak – I’m talking about university vice-chancellors. How is it justifiable that a student struggles through uni and leaves with thousands of debt, while a vice-chancellor gets paid over £250,000 a year, and urging for tuition-fee rises? I believe more of tuition fee costs must be shouldered by corporate firms, who ultimately benefit by employing such well-educated people. Also, there are plenty of positions it seems, that pay much more than what the prime minister gets paid – is their job much harder? They should be running the country then.

How to make more money from an arty-farty job – jack it

A new podcast from I Will Teach You To Be Rich features a young lady, Cass aka WebWallflower, who used her skills as theatre stage manager to become a freelance niche conference organiser. Apparently she was earning up to US$400 a week in her previous job, and now as a freelancer she’s making three times that and working three times less.

She really brought to light the magic of niche; she specialises in organising conferences and events just for start-ups and web 2.0 companies. Why clients hire her: she’ll take care of all the gruntwork involved in organising a conference (a/v etc), booking a venue and negotiating a bargain (apparently hotels always quote 40% over the price they’re willing to settle for), finding speakers, sponsorship… and on the day, her clients can be free to network and make business rather than take care of logistics.

She also selects her clients quite carefully – and focuses on taking on jobs that will get her more business e.g the right target market, and a good fit for her expertise and network. For example, she can organise an event for doctors or lawyers but would rather not as she wouldn’t bring as much value to the table, and vice-versa – she is not au fait with that particular market so would less likely get new clients.

She also takes investing in her business as a given – for her having a website and getting a faster computer are essentials. If you’re not psychologically prepared to pay to invest in your business, you’re not ready. It forces her to get things done/get more business since the overhead’s running!

She invested time as well, to figure out if this is the way forward. She was moonlighting whilst working 50-100 hours a week for the theatre, when it dawned on her that she was making as much money as a conference organiser in half the time!

Her main skill that she took from being a stage manager is being able to juggle plenty of proverbial balls in the air, liase with people in a friendly way, and keep the show running. Over time she’d developed a formidable database of contacts that she can call on to sell conference tickets to, or ask to speak at these conferences. She develops her business mainly through word of mouth and through the conferences she has organised – and I guess now, from interviews she’s done with the likes of Ramit. She never fails to make sure that she is noticed in conferences – despite being an introvert – and keeps her online presence alive via Twitter and Facebook.

The more she specialises, the more valuable she becomes, and hence the more likely clients are willing to pay top dollar!

Her sales pitch with a prospective client is not really a pitch – it’s a chance for her to suss out the clients’ needs. Through  information such as what they’re hoping to achieve through their conference and the sort of content/market they’re after, she’s able to work out how much they’re willing or should be spending. She also assuages their fears and make sure they know that they’ll be free to create new business and network while she handles the event’s logistics. If they’re actually not quite ready to host a conference, or are unclear about what they want to achieve, she tells it like it is and points them elsewhere! She doesn’t just hard sell. This shows her to be genuine and a source of expert advice, and in fact she’s thinking of providing a service where clients who aren’t quite ready to pay for full-blown event management to sit with her for a couple of hours to work out what they can do to organise their own forthcoming event.

As for getting paid, she either charges a flat fee and requests 50% upfront, or if she believes the conference is going to sell, and she thinks she can benefit from future business, she’ll charge a lower flat free but will take a percentage of profits after the conference.

She also advises that, to get the most out of a conference, it’s best to have it two or three times – with each time it gets cheaper to produce and will make more money, as it gets more established and punters know what they’re in for (plus the whole word of mouth effect from each successful event!).

Very useful ‘day in the life’ story to inspire us to see how we can take our existing skills and put it to use in a different capacity.  It is also another example of how starting small works, and that it’s better to be a big clever fish in a small niche pond. Listen to the full audio interview on I Will Teach You To Be Rich.