Picture: Interesting Poster :P

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Beijing 北京: LiuLiChang 琉璃厂, originally uploaded by micpohling.

Spotted this poster at LiuLiChang 琉璃厂, Beijing 北京. Cost about RMB30 (USD4). Interesting subtitle there 🙂

Sale: Selling my Books!

I have 2 more months to stay in Kyoto, and therefore now is the time for me to clear off some of my stuffs, including some books I brought or purchased here. If anyone who stays in Kyoto/Osaka area and interested in the item list below, please leave your message in the comment for further contact.

1. Collapse – Jared Diamond (1000 yen)

2. 1000 Films to Change Your Life – TimeOut (1000 yen)

3. The Interpretation of Dreams – Sigmund Freud (400 yen)

4. The 9/11 Report, National Commision on Terrorist Attack Upon United States (400 yen)

5. Kanji Starter 2 – Daiki Kusuya (450 yen)

6. Basic Connections, Making Your Japanese Flow – Kakuko Shoji (900 yen)

7. Basic Kanji Book, Vol.1 (1200 yen)

8. Basic Kanji Book, Vol.2 (1200 yen)

Travel: Beijing, July 2007, Part I

Beijing, well, what can I say, the very lingering impression I have is haze. When we first touched down at Qingdao LiuTing International Airport for transit purpose, the air visibility wasn’t good already. We did not notice much when arriving Beijing at night, but was totally taken aback after waking up early in the morning and looking over the city from our 7th floor hotel room. Now, browsing through this webpage, the air pollution index in Beijing from 21st to 28th July varied from lowest 98 to highest 151. I am not sure how this number reflect the reality of how bad the air pollution is in Beijing, but I have the hunch whereby if the same condition persist until 8th August next year, a lot of noise from international community will be made about the air pollution in Beijing.

Secondly, I was quite amazed by the huge amount of cars and number of people in Beijing city. Most of the main streets in Beijing are 5-lane for single way, or 10 lanes in total for both ways. However, at the peak hours starting as early as 7am on weekdays, these lanes are full with vehicles! The same would go for bus (which I have not noted any bus without full of standing passengers) and subway system (which is another interesting topic to write).

As for the people, hot spots like WangFuJing shopping street or tourist spots like Great Wall China or Forbidden City, the places are always crowded with people, regardless of weekdays! When we climbed up the steep staircase of Great Wall at JuYongGuan, we were shoulder-packed with other tourists, be it local or foreign. It is noted that most of the local tourist derived not from Beijing area but many other parts of China. Great Wall and Beijing is just like a Mecca to local Chinese.

The view of HuTong from the windown of our hotel room. The haze is covering up the constructions at the background…

The large street, vehicles, people, and the haze…

–Part I

Picture: Smurf in Beijing!

Smurf in Beijing!, originally uploaded by micpohling.

Yoo, I am back from Beijing, in one piece!
There were quite some happenings and discoveries about Beijing/China from me, probably will write more after this. But for time being, enjoy my favourite picture, smurf at JuYongGuan 居庸关Great Wall China!

Picture: Mr KFC in yukata!

Kyoto: Gion Matsuri Eve, originally uploaded by micpohling.

I wonder what else could Colonel Harland Sanders wear – the local costume around the world? At least I found him in Japanese bath robe (yukata) for summer and hold watermelon 😛

MeThink: Redistribution of Reward…

Oh gee, somehow this is my third post for today already. Why am I suddenly so productive in writing? May be I will be away for 1 week? 😛

Anyway, there is something for me to ponder about about today’s happening. I just came back from a meeting with Japanese students at local university. Sort of like getting-to-know-each-other program, organized by my Nihongo-class sensei. During the meeting, we played a game called Bingo. As you might know, bingo is just purely a luck game, requires no skill or whatsoever. It is just a nice and simple game for ice-breaking purpose. For those who have completed the bingo pattern, he/she is rewarded by a bag of potato chip. And the reward is limited to first 12 winners (only 12 bags of potato chips there).

Well, the game went very well, pretty much everyone was excited to hope that they completed the bingo and have the chips! But at the end of the game, it turned out that regardless which group (we were divided into 4 main groups) earned more or less than 3 bags of potato chip, each group will be getting 3 bags anyway. In that sense, the rewards were being restributed!

Now I am thinking to myself, if we know that each group will be getting 3 bags of potato chips anyway, would the game be still as excited as we were experienced? We were excited because we were entertained by the though of we completed the bingo by luck (hence we are lucky today), or we were really hoping to win the potato chip? What if the game involved was not based on pure luck but required your effort/knowledge/hardwork into it? What would these people feel about sense of fairness/sharing vs I work it/I earn it mentality?

Haha, I know I think too much, afterall, it is just an ice-breaking game. Anyway, it was kinda having fun time to meet these very young and funny Japanese students, and that matters more than anything else, for that particular moment 🙂

MeThink: Negative Income Tax in Malaysia?

At first glimpse and judging from the arguments put forward by Noor Yahaya Hamzah on her(or his? Pardon me if I just assume the author is a her, Noor, my experience tells me it is a lady’s name) letter to MalaysiaKini, the idea of negative income tax (NIT) sounds plausible, as compared to other proposal like minimum wage. At least I am much convinced NIT over minimum wages because the latter will/can cause unemployment. And that is the major setback I have over minimum wages.

Well, just found out that another reader is responding to her proposal. I can understand why Mr. Azhar is worried about the development of dependant mentality (waiting for hand-out) on those who are “waiting” for the extra bonus from government on negative income tax. Can we say that actually NIT is quite similar to unemployment benefit in the West? Government would surely worry about the free-riding issue as well, that’s why there are/should be certain measures are counted in to take care the free-riding issue as well. At the same time, I am not much convinced to believe that a basic income at RM900 (as proposed by NYH) is a “very good” incentive for people to sit back and waiting for the “extra bonus” from government. The amount we are dealing here is probably just good enough to cover the basic or neccessity of living, but if you want more than that, you have to earn it by your work.

As for where the Malaysia government can get the money from to support the idea of NIT, that’s another issue. But I guess NYH had pointed out few major problems in her letter already (reduce red tape, free the capital market, increase efficiency etc). As for tax more on the rich (wonder how rich is consider rich), there is something to be wary of not to overkill and hence decrease the “incentive” of people to work hard or/and creatively, aka, daylight (sanctioned) robbery. So much for the trade off I can think of, imho…

P/S: Mr KokTheng, please do visit this post regularly to see if you can add something… sort of taking care of my blog while I am gone for 1 week 😛

PP/S: Well, it certainly surprises me to see my post was having 128 hits in short 2 hours time, thanks to Malaysiakini referral’s link here. I was having more thoughts on the NIT over my dinner just now, about the incentives… If NIT is implemented, what would happen to the incentives to all party involved – employee, employer and government? I was thinking would the existence of NIT encourage the employer the cut back on the salary, slow increment, no bonus and etc? Would the workers are more encouraged to take up the least working-hours job, merely making enough to pass the minimal wage in order to get the extra from NIT? What would happen at the point of RM900 job? More thinking for me about incentives, supply, demand…

PPP/S: As Rajan pointed out in the comment, the structure of NIT is different from what NYH proposed, and to curb the “incentives” of employer (read tauke) to offer lower wages than RM900 (the proposed basic wage) and employee (worker) has no incentives to bargain higher salary (after all, they will be getting same amount of money, regardless from whom – employer or government). Thus, the burden will or is expected to be shifted towards government.
As explained by Rajan, and now I put in table format, let’s say tax at 5, 10 and 20% and rebate at RM400 and RM500:
The lower the original income is, the higher amount of rebate or NIT you will be getting. However, the employee will still have the incentives to work hard for higher salary because the final income will be increased, even though the amount of rebate will be reduced compared to lower income. Furthermore, it makes fair sense that the government is giving out more rebate/subsidy to those who need it, like RM300 original income earner (amount subisidy/revate received=RM370 [tax 10%+RM400]) compared to RM2000 original income earner (RM200 [tax 10%+RM400]).

MeThink: To have monarchy or no monarchy

Well, I am not a big fan in the sense that I am not a hardcore supporter to defend monarchies in Malaysia, but I am also not seeing any urge to abolish them, yes all 9 of them in Malaysia. However, I did do write something about my humble ideas why *I* would want to preserve the monarchy in Malaysia, as can be read at fellow blogger’s site:

http://www.rajanr.com/2007/07/14/that-slippery-slope/

Maybe, it is just my nostalgiac feeling kicking in, or the leftover reverence for Sultan, especially Sultan Kedah in my hometown. As long as Monarchy back in Malaysia does not really cause great harm to Malaysia’s socio-economic-political scenario, I would say monarchy should be preserved.

OECD: Important in Job – Good hours & a Generous Holiday

In the World Values Survey, the interviewees in the selected countries were asked how important these aspects in the job. In this second post, 2 questions were listed like below:

a) Good hours.
b) A generous holiday

As for the result, the value in the graphs show the percentage (%) of the interviewee mentioned who mentioned that the criteria is important in a job:

a) Good hours:

83.1% Koreans mentioned that a job with good hours is important to them, and followed by 79.1% Hungarian, 71.6% Japanese, 68.0% South Africans and 66.2% Americans. May be this is the reflection of which they think their job hours are bad in the respective countries? This is true in the Japan and Korea workplace, which is quite notorious for long working hours. On the other hand, only 30.9% Czech people, 32.1% Danish, 34.9% Australia, 36.1% French, and 36.6% Dutch think that good hours is important in their job selection criteria.

Curious to know, I wonder what would be the correlation between annual work hours and the opinion of each participant countries on the important of good hours in job criteria. After some google, OECD do provide the annual work hours per work for year 2002. Below here shows the correlation graph:

A moderate strong and positive correlation is seen (Rsquare=0.283, p=0.0062) between annual work hours per worker and the % of people mentioned the good hours as important aspect of job. So this could mean that the longer working hours make people in a particular country wants good hours in their job.

b) Generous holidays:

Again, most of the people in  Korea think that a generous holiday is important in a job, apparently due to the lack of holidays (as seen from long working hours). This is followed by Japan (70.6%), Hungary (53.8%), Ireland (45.9%), and Spain (40.2%). On the other hand, only 10.7% Norwegian would mention that a generous holiday is important in a job. It could be because that they are already having generous holidays (1328 hours compared to Korean 2390 hours). Next, 13.7% Australians, 14.3% Mexicans, 16.2% Danish, and 16.9% Czechs would say that a generous holiday is important in a job. It is noted that both Mexico and Czech have long working hours (1980 and 1882 hours respectively) compared to developed countries like Norway or Denmark. Their possible explanation could be that a generous holiday is a luxury, therefore it is not important. Just my guess 😛

Picture: Summer Sunflower

Kyoto: Summer Sunflower, originally uploaded by micpohling.

… around the neighbourhood in Kyoto.

UpdateFromMe: Earthquake in Niigata, Kyoto not affected

Well, my sister wrote to me asking if anything ok in Kyoto.

And just now, I got call from my parent-in-law asking how were we doing here. After 2 missed call, they were starting to get anxious. My bad, I did not bring my handphone to dinner just now, and do not usually check the handphone, especially when it is not my handphone 😦

And the reason was because there was an earthquake reported in Niigata, Japan
yesterday morning (17th July 2007). Niigata (新潟県) prefecture is quite close to Tokyo, but far away from Kyoto (2.5 hours Shinkansen/bullet train trip from Tokyo to Kyoto). It did not occur to me or Mikko that we should actually write or call our families back in Finland and Malaysia to assure that we are doing fine here. Our bad, to expect that they would know where the earthquake actually was and it did not affect us here in Kyoto 😦

Almost the same thing happened to Mikko once, when he was visiting me in Malaysia in March 2005. There was an earthquake occurred in Sumatra, Indonesia and a tsunami alarm was reported. Everything was doing fine in Penang and Kulim (where I was living), but due to the overshadow of Indian Ocean Tsunami tragedy which happened not long ago (26 December 2004), his colleagues were concerned and wrote to him. However, it took him few days before he read the email and replied them he was doing fine. So I guess Mikko and I have to be conscious enough to realize that even though we are doing fine over somewhere, but to those who concern us, a disaster occurrence close enough to our location seems to be wary enough, and both of us should be more sensitive towards the concern.

OECD: Important in Job – Good Pay and Good Job Security

In the World Values Survey, the interviewees in the selected countries were asked how important these aspects in the job. In this post, first 2 questions were listed, and the value in the graphs show the percentage (%) of the interviewee mentioned who mentioned that the criteria is important in a job:

a) Good pay:

For all the countries listed here, more than 50% of the interviewees in the participants countries mentioned that good pay is an important criteria in a job. Among them, 95.6% Koreans, 90.9% South Africans, 89.7% Hungarians, 89.6% Greeks and 88.8% Irishs agreed that good pay is important in a job. On the other hand, slightly over 53% of Danish, 58.1% Swedish, 58.4% of Norwegians, 60.7% Australians, and 64.5% of Finnish mentioned that good pay is important. May be their social welfare system is good enough to cushion their worries on other expenses, thus their desire to have high-salary is reduced?

b) Good job security:

Again, Koreans think that good job security is important in a job, followed by people in Hungary, South Africa, Japan and German. On the other hand, people in Netherlands are the least mentioned about good job security in the survey, and the same goes to France, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. Any reason to explain why they do not worry about job security? They could not be fired easily? Backed up by strong labour union? Good unemployment benefit or compensation if they are dismissed?

Picture: Pinky Poppy :)

Kyoto: Hieizan Garden Museum, originally uploaded by micpohling.

at Kyoto Hieizan Garden Museum

OECD: Work – should come first even if it means less spare time

In the World Values Survey, a series of questions on attitude towards work such below was asked:

Attitude towards Work: Work should come first even if it means less spare time

There are 5 categorical answers: “strongly agree”, “agree”, “neither agree nor disagree”, “disagree” and “disagree strongly”. Selected OECD countries’s result is shown in 3 forms: a) the percentage (%) of people strongly agree with the statement, b) the percentage (%) of people strongly disagree with the statement, and c) mean score of the statement, by assigning value 5 for ”strongly agree”, 4 on “agree”, 3 for “neither agree nor disagree”, 2 for “disagree” and 1 for “strongly disagree”. The graphs depicted the result are shown as below:

a) the percentage (%) of people strongly agree with the statement: “Work should come first even if it means less spare time”

38.4% Hungarian, 33.4% South African, 25.1% Turkish, and 18.4% Luxembourger strongly agree that work should come first even if it means less spare time. On the other hand, relatively richer countries like Netherlands (3.9%), UK (4.0%), Iceland (5.3%) and Ireland (6.7%) would agree with the statement. I guess they value spare time more than work itself.

b) the percentage (%) of people strongly disagree with the statement: “Work should come first even if it means less spare time”

So, 23.0% of French, 18.6% Belgian, 15.3% Luxembourger and 12.9% Dutch strongly disagree with the statement. On the other hand, only 1.1% South African, 1.8% Hungarian, 2.3% Turkish and 3.5% Portugese would strongly disgaree with the statement.

c) Overall mean score of the statement. 5 for “strongly agree” and 1 for “strongly disagree”

Overall, the more developed/higher income countries like Netherlands, UK, Sweden, France, Belgium and Iceland have the general opinion shift towards disgreeing that work should come first even if it means less spare time. On the other hand, lower income countries like Hungary, South Africa, Turkey and Italy would definitely view work as more important or valuable compared to spare time.  

Picture: Sunset over the lake

Finland: Sunset and Lake, originally uploaded by micpohling.

… at Kallavesi lake, Kuopio, Finland. Courtesy of my father-in-law, Juha 🙂

OECD: Work – People should not have to work if they don’t want to

In the World Values Survey, a series of questions on attitude towards work such below was asked:

Attitude towards Work: People should not have to work if they don’t want to

There are 5 categorical answers: “strongly agree”, “agree”, “neither agree nor disagree”, “disagree” and “disagree strongly”. Selected OECD countries’s result is shown in 3 forms: a) the percentage (%) of people strongly agree with the statement, b) the percentage (%) of people strongly disagree with the statement, and c) mean score of the statement, by assigning value 5 for ”strongly agree”, 4 on “agree”, 3 for “neither agree nor disagree”, 2 for “disagree” and 1 for “strongly disagree”. The graphs depicted the result are shown as below:

a) the percentage (%) of people strongly agree with the statement: “People should not have to work if they don’t want to”

Oh, tell me about it, where would be the place that it is ok for people don’t have to work if they don’t want: only handful of 12.8% French, 12.6% Turkish, 10.7% Luxembourger and 10.1% Belgian. Nice. So how exactly is the people going to survive without working? I guess not by social welfare benefits: only 2.0% Swedish, 2.1% Dutch, 2.3% Danish, 2.6% Canadian strongly agree with the statement.

b) the percentage (%) of people strongly disagree with the statement: “”People should not have to work if they don’t want to”

So 31.1% people in Denmark, 29.4% in Germany (West), 27% in both Luxembourg and Hungary strongly disagree that people should not have to work if they don’t want to. However, only a small percentage of people in places like Iceland, Spain, Ireland and Italy strongly disagree with such statement.

c) Overall mean score of the statement. 5 for “strongly agree” and 1 for “strongly disagree”

All of the participant countries generally disagree that people should not have to work if they don’t want to, except Iceland which has the score pass the middle point 3. The social-welfare based countries like Denmark and Sweden are seeing lower score (towards stronger disagreement) compared to Turkey and Spain.

Picture: Ladybug on Sunflower

Kyoto: Hieizan Garden Museum, originally uploaded by micpohling.

Kawaii desu ne… 🙂

Japan: Maiko

Kelly Osbourne as  Maiko ?

Check this out, it took place in Kyoto, which is why I am eager to show you here 🙂

Picture: Soft-feel Flowers

Osaka: BanpakuKinen Koen, originally uploaded by micpohling.

At Osaka’s Banpaku Kinen Koen

Japan: Love Hotel

Love hotel, as the name suggest, is for lovers 🙂 You can see how it looks like from this show: Kelly Osbourne Turning Japanese, whereby Kelly (me not a fan) works as hotel receptionist.

Hope you enjoy it 😉

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