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Politicians do plenty to mess up my daily life. For example, I can't work in a newspaper in my own country because all the newspapers have been turned into propaganda pamphlets. Journalism is by and large a sham in the country because of politicians. By politicians. I could go on. 


If you look hard enough, kotmj, you will realise that politicians are affecting your life too. 


Anyway Zarium, it does not follow that just because Malaysia has various problems, that a state with no problems exists. Since we can accept from the get-go that no perfect state exists, we can also forget about all the nihilism that accompanies this 'discovery'. Therefore we are left with only one thing: Malaysia. 

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So this is how a mafia boss treats a subordinate who says his wife is a murderer:


"Court proceedings Saturday centered on events around the time when Bo's former top aide, Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate in the neighboring city of Chengdu in February 2012, fearing for his safety after he told Bo that the politician's wife had killed a British associate."


"Bo told the court Saturday that he reacted angrily to the report of the murder, slapping the police chief in the face and smashing a cup in fury because he thought Wang was framing his wife for the crime. Bo denied trying to cover up the murder."


"I thought he was being duplicitous. I have zero tolerance for duplicity," Bo said. "I slapped him in the face."


"In his own testimony Saturday, Wang said the violent confrontation with Bo, as well as the disappearance of his subordinates who were investigating the murder, spurred him to flee to American officials for safety. He also said Bo did not slap him as much as punch him hard, causing his mouth to bleed."


"It was dangerous at the time," Wang told the court. "I was subject to violence, and my staff working closely with me and those working on the case disappeared."

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I had an intense, multi-hour conversation last night with a couple who owns a tailoring shop. The husband is European, and was formerly a C-suite exec. His main goal for himself is to make his brand an international brand. He believes people are mostly buying a brand, except for enthusiasts who buy the intrinsic characteristics of a product.


This got me thinking if you can build a brand by starting with the mass market.


Apple is an exceptionally valuable brand, but it started off with an enthusiast core. Even with the iPod, it was mostly an esoteric brand. It was with the iPhone that it became mass market.


Nike started with the founder selling his sneakers at athletic meets and competitions in a van. It was only much later that it became a mass market brand.


Levi's started by selling trousers to miners.


I'm thinking that the great brands started off making products for the enthusiasts.


However, I'm also confronted by the likes of Padini and Ikea and possibly Uniqlo who were always mass market.

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^^^ Mass market means uniformity in product/service offering. Bespoke is customised/niche, and by definition, not uniform or standardised. I think, in terms of tailoring, it will be difficult to marry the two.  Having said that, in the mass market, you can still go up the value chain eg LV and Burberry luxury to the middle classes.


Your point of great brands creating products for enthusiasts is worth deeper consideration. But then we have brands like McDonalds and Starbucks....as you know, it is much easier to disprove a hypothesis than to prove one.

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Well, let's put things in perpsective. When we talk about the iPod being an 'esoteric' product, Apple already had revenues in the hundreds of millions. With Nike and Levi's, although I am guessing that even when they were specialist or niche products, the scale they operated at was far larger than many companies in Southeast Asia today. The reason for this is that they are located in a large domestic market. 


When you are in a large domestic market, you can dream big. Of all the great brands mentioned above, only one is non-American. It's worth noting that that non-American entrant, Uniqlo, crashed and burned on its first attempt to get out of its domestic market, which is relatively small. It was only after this massive failure that its current strategy -- limiting its catalogue, placing huge orders with a few manufacturers, spending big on retail real estate -- took shape. 


So I think a debate about being a great brand or being mass market is largely theoretical when you are in a small domestic market. Basically, all brands in this market are small or niche, even if you captured 100% of the market. 

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Just listened to an interview with Goetz Werner, founder of dm-drogeriemarkt, Germany's largest pharmacy/drugstore chain. He started with a single store. Now he has thousands. The guy is completely contrarian.


He said when he was 32 (he's 69 now), his grandmother asked him, "You have so many people working in your shops, aren't you afraid they steal from you?" He says you will never scale with such an attitude. He says he likes to think that "each is better than the other". Such an attitude at the top, he says, permeates the whole org and filters down to the customers.


The interviewer then asked him, "Aren't you disappointed in your trust sometimes?"


Werner says, "Of course. Constantly. But that's not the point. You cannot scale unless you trust people to do the right thing."


Asked if there is anything in his assortment that makes his shops special, he says, "None. Anything you buy from us you can buy elsewhere. Our job is to make you want to buy it from us, instead of from others. You know, we do not live in a world where people buy the naked product. We live in a world of add-ons. You're not just buying the product; there are all the little things that you buy as a package with the product."


He says we all have the wrong concept of money.


"When you buy a tube of toothpaste and go to the counter, you think you are paying for the toothpaste. You are wrong. The toothpaste has already been paid for -- otherwise, it wouldn't be on the shelf. What you are in fact paying for is for the replacement for the toohpaste you took from the shelf. In other words, you are paying us to continue doing what we do."


He thinks differently about salary than most. "You do not get paid for the work you do. We pay you so you can do what you want to do. Your salary is not compensation. It is support for you to continue doing your work."


He says work is what people do in order to learn more about themselves and to become a different person. He says it would be a tragedy if you remained the same 20 years from now.


Werner is an advocate for a concept of unconditional basic income. He thinks every human being should never fear not being able to survive. He thinks the "community" should have ready for each individual about 1000 Euro/month. Once survival is out of the way, he says, "Think of how people would make decisions differently in their lives. Think of how much human potential would be released this way."


The interviewer asked, "But wouldn't people work less?"


He replied, "Well if a mother who now works full time in order to make ends meet starts working part time in order to care more for her child, do you think she has worked less?"


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How appropriate. Just read this in the Economist:


The Greeks are some of the most hardworking in the OECD, putting in over 2,000 hours a year on average. Germans, on the other hand, are comparative slackers, working about 1,400 hours each year. But German productivity is about 70% higher.


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I am very amused at the lack of self awareness of some people. On September 24th, the NYT published an article about Santiago Calatrava's current problems with his projects: clients are fuming over cost overruns and technical deficiencies in the structures he built.



Architects being threatened by their clients ("finish the damned thing now, cheaply, or else...") is no new thing. Every building project is born out of strife, difficulty, cash shortages, and an unbelievable amount of conflict between the various parties. It's normal. More so if the project is technically novel, which is basically every project which is original and singular in some way, as is many of Calatrava's works.


Must we really name examples of buildings born out of immense conflict and difficulty but which are now the pride of the towns and cities they are in?


What is shockingly stupid is a response by a certain Peggy Deamer, who wrote in to the NYT. She uses the word "we" to suggest that she, too, is star architect. She criticised Calatrava's methods of working.



She prides herself on working to the budget and deadline, and leveraging the talents of others. But what are the results? A look at her website tells all:




That's about it with Peggy Deamer.


What I admire about the great architects is how they have decided never to give in to anything that would compromise the artistic integrity of their buildings. This makes it very risky to hire them. They care more about the singularity of their buildings than about the client, most of whom are committees of civil servants (with everything that that entails). I wonder how these architects sleep, and how, despite the incredibly distasteful encounters with clients, they somehow keep dreaming of ever more optimistic and bold structures. They must have the ability to compartmentalise their brains the way Presidents, Prime Ministers and Chancellors do.


Peggy Deamer is no Santiago Calatrava. It's not even close. Not even an itty bitty close. Small people do not have the privilege to criticize giants. Who will achieve immortality, Peggy or Santiago? Peggy is so small, her brain can't even begin to comprehend just how incredibly big Calatrava is.


Santiago Calatrava




Look at the intricacy of the details! Like a Richard Mille watch.



More here


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I was coming down a narrow winding mountain road just now. From the opposite direction, a black Mercedes R-class appeared. In the driver's seat was who I had expected to see -- my former managing director.


My most lasting memory of working at that factory is chronic sleep deprivation. Nothing I tried helped. No matter what I did, something about having to punch the card at 8 a.m. simply did not agree with me. Now, years later, I've discovered that I'm an 11 a.m. person. There is nothing I can do to change this.


I saw the R-class at noon. He was going to work. This MD is famous for not coming in before 10 a.m. Something about having private yoga classes at his home in Dua Residency before he drives the 45 minutes to work in the jungle. What nonsense. I think he's just an 11 a.m. person like me.


The remarkable thing is that back when I worked there the factory employed 1000 people. It now has 700. Out of 700 people, only one person -- the MD -- gets to choose his working hours. The others all have to punch card and are penalized if late by 15 minutes.


There is some sort of principle, some truth, to be found in this somewhere, but I know not what.

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How I Changed My Lifestyle and Became an Urban Hippie





It all started when I approached 60.

I had been a copywriter for many years and I was working hard. Boss suits filled my closet, I drove a Mercedes, and I preferred fine dining with selected, red wine. It all went well for me, but life felt empty. I didn’t want to grow any older this way. Instead, I rediscovered some of the feelings I felt in my 20s

Today, I define myself as an urban hippie.

The suits are donated to charity. The car has been sold, and I take my bicycle whereever I go. I’m a vegetarian, and I don’t drink any alcohol at all. My grey hair has grown long, and I have lost many kilos. More importantly, I only dress in denim and workwear. And I feel great!

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