Sunday, September 26, 2010

Economics @ Home © Volume 2 Issue 20

Maximum Utility

This is going into the second year after my graduation from Bucknell University, which also marks the second year of my ownership of my Nikon D40. Purchasing my very first DSLR was a long and arduous process because of how much it costs and more importantly, because of how miserly I am (according to my mother). Against all odds, I decided to invest in a real man’s camera, supposedly the most practical of its kind.

Now, two years down the road, with the surge in social network activity, photo sharing becomes increasingly taken for granted. In fact, some of the photos are completely unnecessary and probably better left unshared. Nonetheless, this issue is not a whine-fest about Facebook and other similar sites. After two years of experiencing the barrage of photos from friends and even strangers in Facebook, there are two lessons that I can draw. First, there is a trend of improving photography skills among the common folk. Second, my Nikon D40 is utterly underutilized.

Seeing people take blurry pictures and having the courage to share it online made me realize that I need to make full use of my D40 a bit more. One of the main reasons I have not dragged it along everywhere I go is that I cannot afford an indoor lens (yet). With the 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the D40 is only good for outdoor purposes. My next target acquisition would be to either get an 18-200 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens (can’t afford the f/2.8 lens, which costs around RM7,000 last I checked, plus, using that on a D40 would be a laughing stock) or a fixed 50 mm f/1.4 AF-S. I think that acquisition process will be another long and arduous one as well.

But I digress. The point of today’s issue is, how often do we purchase items that we hardly use? The easiest example would be, girls and their clothes and shoes. Although my sample size is somewhat limited, the proportion of girls who own clothes and shoes that they have not used for more then 3 times is sufficient for me to conclude that this problem of buying things we don’t use is fairly common. I have recently made an acquisition where its utility is somewhat controversial.

While many of you are getting excited about the iPhone 4, I must say that I have managed to stay behind the curve by buying an iPhone 3GS. The motive of that purchase is not the topic of discussion today, but I want to address the question, what can I do with my iPhone to make it worth the money? So far, I have not jail broken it. I have used it to surf the net, used the maps (pretty awesome stuff, I have been to the jungle and back), emailed, blogged, played games, read books, updated my calendar and maybe a few more insignificant things on it. Has the value of the iPhone paid off its price? Quite likely.

As for the D40, I am not too sure. Nonetheless, I can rest assured that its value cannot decrease. Even the newer D40x has not replaced its uberness. So I can take my sweet time in adding a new lens to it.

What about you? Planning to buy something you will likely not fully utilize?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Economics @ Home © Volume 2 Issue 19

Nothing Short of World Class

It is difficult to imagine what these girls have to go through to have to come up with an 8-minute performance like that. The blood, sweat, and tears must have flooded the gym several times over. The synchronized routine that was almost flawless should be made an epitome of the 1Malaysia culture that we so badly try to explain.

Why? First, to be able to come up with a performance like that requires more than just hard work. Even that, many Malaysians cannot even say that they are willing to work that hard in anything they do. Bear in mind that these girls were not forced to do it. They are in it for themselves. They are in it because they enjoy doing it. How often do Malaysians find themselves waking up on Monday morning grumbling about why they have to go to work and how long they have to work? Why can't Malaysians enjoy what they do and therefore work hard at it?

Second, the passion and commitment in what they do is unbelievable. It is safe to say that every girl in that performance loved what they were doing. Otherwise, they would not have been able to do it that well. Their only reward for all the effort that they invest, is simply the small sense of accomplishment that they did something amazing. Why do Malaysians work and complain about why they are not being paid enough, and why they have to work long hours? Why can't they find something worth doing, and do it well, and thus be satisfied with the sense of accomplishment of having done an honest day's work? The girls knew right from the beginning that their weeks and months of hard work would boil down to those 8 minutes of make or break. If they can be satisfied with working non-stop for weeks and months for an 8-minute performance, what is stopping us from working hard at something we enjoy doing to achieve something far beyond the greater good?

Third, every member in that team knew their role. While it is not hard to imagine that not everyone put in the same amount of effort for the whole performance, every single member in that team knew that they could not afford to slack off. There was no room to sit back and let the "better" members carry the team. Every member knew that if she was out of sync with the rest of the group, she would have to work extra hard the next day to make sure she was at the same pace as the rest. The moment she slacks off and decides to give up, she will be off the team. The analogy for 1Malaysia is clear. There should be no room for rent-seeking. Every member of the Malaysian society should know their role in making Malaysia a better place. There is simply no room to sit back and let the "smarter" ones lead the economy, while you sit back and hope to reap the fruits of their labour. Now, if only we can kick the non-contributing members of Malaysia off the country... that would be an interesting idea.

What better way to exemplify how Malaysia can become a world class nation? What better way to show how 1Malaysia can work?