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Duties and Responsibilities; Honest Lies

August 30th, 2012 Posted by General No Comment yet

Duties and Responsibilities – Honest Lies

Today is the first time in my life when I felt trapped. I felt as if all of the choices in life were just; that choice, one that you can’t possibly make; not at all real, there to fancy my intellectual mind – a willful carrot to reward me one fine day; but not now; not when I still have some youth in me; not when I have time and interest; not when life is at its most meaningful.

Duties and Responsibilities

I can’t say that I can actually choose anything. But I always thought I’m the master of my destiny and I lived it as if I really am.  I have duties and responsibilities that I thought I have to fulfill. I’m a son, a brother, a husband and a friend.  Sure, my choices are not the title I inherited but the actual relationships I have. I choose the kind of relationship I have as a son, a brother, a husband and a friend. I did that.

I kept my end.  Tell me that I didn’t do all of that with effort; that my idle ways must have brought about it; that it just is.  No, I say, it is with some effort and duties and responsibilities fulfilled. It must be, not, my action is in vain. Did I not endure the parties that go on long after I was tired; the boredom conversation that passes like a slow, dreary, drifting windless night in Singapore?

I believe that life is what we make of it. Am I mislead, like a child and some honest lies tailored for youth? I have outgrown my youth and believe. Is this too, another one, I dare not say, but true; another believe have departed. I didn’t cheer it as I did when knowing that I had known something back then that my younger siblings didn’t, because I’m older; what joy that was; simple joy in knowing, a passage or status achieved.  Something was different about knowing that life is not what I can make of it. I met it as if a dear friend have departed and I was left, among, a sea of youthful innocence, only now there is no joy in being older. No joy at all.

No Choices

I have no choices in life because I have to fulfill my duties and responsibilities.  It is easy for a soldier to know of one’s duties and responsibilities. I found it extremely hard for a selfish soul like me. I’ve done what I thought was best, at the time, what more could I do? I did what I was told; play, learn then work. I remembered. I tried to keep the play, learn and work in everything I do, honest.

I’ve tried. A lifetime of tried, empty and useless, but all is not without effort.  Am I foolish; not all is for nothing? Can you tell me with a clear scene what are my duties and responsibilities?  What must I fulfill before I’ve given my all and the will of my soul vanished one fine summer day while my decaying bones mark an untraceable tale of duties and responsibilities fulfilled?

I just want to go somewhere; to have a new start, a place where a new beginning is possible, not down the street, where the neighbors are different and the lights are better. Somewhere I can stretch and lay my tiresome head; full of worries, doubts and fears.  Is there a place like that, it doesn’t exists?  It must.  I will find it, you will see. Reality is different; I can’t, so I’m told.

Realization

I have duties and responsibilities. I have a car payment; insurance bill; debts from the past accumulated from stupidity and ignorance.  Must my mistakes be my eternal burden? Can’t I have a fresh start?  What if I give you all that I have, my tormentor and friend; you my duties and responsibilities; you, who are still unclear, even after all of my worries, loomed large and unsure. Am I but an animal trapped thinking I could do what I want, that I am my own destiny, like a child believing in honest lies?

Copyright 2012 by fartingcamel.com

Olympic Gender Inequality in London 2012: Women Still Stride Behind

August 9th, 2012 Posted by General No Comment yet

Olympic Gender Inequality

It is obvious that women still get discriminated against in many areas in the world, including many of the most developed nations. However, I’m actually shock to know that gender inequity still stares in your eyes glaringly under the Olympic spot light!

I’m not just taking about the female athletes wearing hijab on the track and field in the Olympics. Granted, taking into the consideration their starting point, their attendence itself is already a leap. I’m refering to Australia and Japan. Seriously? In Australia? Where the Prime Minister’s first name is Julia?

The current world champion, the Japanese female football team flew premium economy while their less successful male counter flew business. The Japanese Football Associate (JFA) has suggested that its women footballer may get an upgrade on their way home. “May” is not good enough, JFA! There is an online petition on change.org for JFA to change their discriminating treatment towards its female players. Support it here!

And do you know that there are 5 men’s Olympic canoe events but none for women?  A female canoeist, Samantha Rippington, the current British champion in canoeing, has launched a legal challenge last month to the Olympics organiser for a good reason for the exclusion. Would there be?

When I first read the Straits Time article on July 21st, “Fury Over Second-Class Trip”, I could not believe that this disparate treatment is right in the open. And that the chirvalous Australian male basket ballers let that happened to their female counterparts! (Ok, I should stop being sarcastic here). Not to forget that the Australian men basket ball team (ranked 9th) has not gotten an olympic medal before while their female counterpart has won 3 silver and 1 bronze and is currently ranked 2nd in the world.

The disparate treatment is also mirrored in Australian soccer and cricket team. And the poor excuse given by the Football Federation Australia that “The Socceroos tend to be scattered all over the world and need to be flown into various locations on short time turnrounds…” Yes, the last time I check, you do not fly faster when you are seated in Business class.

Cricket Australia’s excuse was that “the men’s team generated a high percentage of the revenue that is then plunged back into the game to develop women’s cricket.” Obviously, the “plunge-back” was not enough.

If there were so many “unjust” events happening in the open, guess what could be done in the dark? I do not call myself a feminist but hey, it is 2012! Women were first allowed to compete in Olympics in 1896, 116 years ago. It’s about time the stride towards gender equality be taken with more Olympic gusto! Olympic gender inequality persists.  Note that one of the key missions of the International Olympic Council is to “Encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women.” I cheer to that!

Employer Water Test; Did your company pass?

July 8th, 2012 Posted by General No Comment yet

Employer Water Test

A few years ago, I received a few job offers and could not decide the one to accept. My friend, Jyunko asked me a question, which I called the “Water Test”. She asked me how each of the company offered me water , what kind of beverage they offered or even offer any at all.

So here it goes:

Company A asked me if I would like a drink? Yes please. Cold or hot? Hot. Green tea, hot chocolate or tea? Green Tea. With or without sugar? Without. Concentrated or more diluted? …… Between the interviews, someone came to offer me more green tea and asked me if I would like another drink!

Company B already had a glass of water ready in my seat in the interview room.

Company C did not offer me a drink until the end of the interview when I was given a bottle of chilled Dasani.

Company D did not even offer me any drink at all. And it was a 2-hour interview.

Jyunko’s theory is simple: How your potential employer offer you drinks during the interview is a big sign how they will treat you on the job. And that, of course, should be one key factor to be considered in deciding the job offer to accept. In this case, Company A should be the employer of choice and calls/emails from Company D should be gently rejected! One point to note is that how the company treat its employees will be mirrored in how they treat others (current and prospective colleagues, vendors, etc) on their job. Goodness begets goodness and vice versa!

I did not believe her simple test fully. Too bad for me! I learnt over the years that she is quite right!

Don’t believe me or Jyunko? Try the “reverse test”. Think about some companies you know of. Good companies that treat their employees right will not just treat their potential hires right, they will also treat their clients, customers and vendors right. Believe in the water test.

Think about it the next time you visit a company or more importantly, during an interview!

The picture was taken with iPhone in one of my interviews. Yes, it’s water I know, not green tea or hot chocolate

Starbucks is not Vegetarian!

April 3rd, 2012 Posted by General No Comment yet

I am never a big Starbucks fan. Since I’m transiting from being a lacto-vegetarian to vegan (read my article on vegetarianism here), I have been avoiding Starbucks for its lattes, hot chocolates and frappacinos. But one thing that I could never guess is that there is Beetle Extract in their Frappaccinos! How could you, Starbucks? No, it is not acceptable that you are using “we are moving away from artificial dyes” as an excuse for crushing the Beetles. Yes, we do not want artificial coloring, but we do not want any beetles either! I guess “no artificial coloring” is no longer a safe label for all health nuts, unless you are bug friendly.

What is alarming to me is that Starbucks acknowledges they cannot guarantee that their drinks are free from animal-derived products due to cross contamination. Yes, cross contamination with milk might be acceptable to many Vegans, but cross contamination with bettle juice? – NO THANKS!

Read more here. (Source: www.huffingtonpost.com)

“Starbucks enraged vegetarians this week after confirming that its strawberry flavored drinks contain a new ingredient of cochineal extract — a red dye made out of crushed cochineal beetles.A vegan Starbucks barista first leaked the news on thisdishisvegetarian.com by providing a list of new ingredients used in the Strawberries & Crème Frappuccino and strawberry-flavored smoothies.

Two years ago the company launched the”However-You-Want-it Frappuccino” and confirmed the drinks could be made vegan if made with soymilk.

Starbucks explained in a company statement that the new extract is part of a wider move to minimize the amount of artificial ingredients in its products. Though it can create a vegan ingredient drink, it can’t guarantee a completely pure drink thanks to cross-contamination of animal-derived products at stores. The company’s complete statement reads in full:

At Starbucks, we strive to carry products that meet a variety of dietary lifestyles and needs. We also have the goal to minimize artificial ingredients in our products. While the strawberry base isn’t a vegan product, it helps us move away from artificial dyes.

Many Starbucks ingredients can be combined to create a beverage free from animal-derived products; however, we are unable to guarantee this due to the potential cross-contamination with other animal-derived products in our retail locations.

Cochineal is nothing new. Deemed safe by the FDA, the extract is an additive found in a number of food and cosmetic products. The World Health Organization, however, found that cochineal extract can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals, while asthma may be triggered in others. Co-founder and managing director of thisdishisvegetarian.com Daelyn Fortney took to Change.org to start a petition to stop use of the dye in the drinks. With 717 out of 1,000 signatures so far, the campaign is under way to get Starbucks to opt for other natural alternatives.

 

 

“I See Unemployed People”

December 5th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

In reel life, there is a line from one of the scariest movies; The Sixth Sense, where the young actor Haley Joel Osment played Coal Sear said, “I see dead people”. In real life, there is an even scarier scene – “I see unemployed people.”

The New York Times reported today that “Jobs Report Is Strongest Since the Start of the Recession”. The unemployment rate in the States is ‘rosy’ at 10 percent, from 10.2 percent the month before. Well, yet another report on unemployment, but it does say A LOT on our current state of affairs when a 10 percent unemployment rate is termed ‘strong’ and maybe even a time to pop the champagne.

Despite the ‘good news’ in US, this state of unemployment is probably unimaginable for many Singaporeans at home.

I remembered vividly reading ‘grim’ reports last year in The Straits Times (The national newspaper in Singapore) when the unemployment rate in the country was ‘out of hand’ and the country ‘bracing for the gloom’. I was concern, only to realize that the unemployment rate at that time was 3.3 percent. I just checked back on Singapore Statistics website, the unemployment rate was 3.4 percent in September 2009.

USA versus Singapore
  • 10.0 percent unemployment rate versus 3.4 percent
  • 15,400,000 people out of work versus 84,000
  • 300 million population versus 4.8 million

Some people may say, US is so much bigger than Singapore, why even bother comparing the absolute number of unemployed people. Yes, that’s true, it probably does not make sense if both economies are doing well, as a big economy can churn out more jobs than a much smaller one.

However, when no one is hiring and there are no jobs around, it matters little that the country is big. Bumping onto 15.4 million unemployed people in the coffee shop is a huge difference from seeing 84,000 people in the kopitiam (Singapore’s version of coffee shop)!

I live in New York City where the unemployment rate is 10.3 percent in Oct 09. There was a point last year that probably half of my friends, who were mainly finance professionals, were unemployed. And sad to say, many of them are still unemployed now, more than one year later.

According to the report, 38.3 percent of those unemployed have been unemployed for more than a year, reflecting what I observed.

That’s scary news! More than 1 out of 3 job seekers in the States have been looking for work for more than a year!

Well, some of my Singaporean friends might judge that, “If you are out of work for more than a year, you are either lazy or stupid.” Well, all I can say is that, I hope that Singapore will never see the days of 10 percent unemployment.

Sharing with you one eerie statement from the article, “Many companies have reached the point that they can’t extract more work from their existing employees,” Ouch, I could almost visualize myself like an olive, being squeeze between two pliers, for the extraction of ‘olive oil’, aka ‘more work’.

To pile on the gloom, if you quote the broader measure of unemployment, the one that includes those who are forced to work only part time and those who have given up looking for work, the ‘real’ unemployment rate fell from 17.5 percent to 17.2 percent, according to the article.

Oh, don’t even try to get me going comparing 17.2 percent to 3.4 percent. I’m not in the mood.

17.2 percent? You are talking about over 26 million people wanting full time job in the States! It’s no wonder ‘I see dead…opps, I mean unemployed people’…

Take a break and have a good weekend.

Mira

Copyright 2009 by Farting Camel

Mark Twain’s Recipe of Success

December 5th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then Success is sure.” – Mark Twain, 1887

How do I know what I should do in life?

I see the world differently – everything before today is only a blink, a tag line of one kind; an uninteresting one at that.  Sounds familiar? I now see everyone as a Mark Twain, having read a book on the famous author yesterday.

I have a fine education; I can still show you the expense to prove it. I can spin a tale on many topics, but in my own mind; I am a legend in business.  I always thought I could put together any business: the unearned confidence, built from years of attending our modern day education system; a naive trait shared by many of my peers.

There lays the Mark Twain in me.  I am an idiot – every business venture I ever committed in earnest, all have turned out to be a complete and utter failure.  Like Mark Twain, I only have one talent; unlike Mark Twain my one talent is questionable.

Seemingly, the only optimistic part was I knew what that one talent is: I have more than my fair share of luck as a stock picker; it seems whenever I was in need of money I could simply put some time into researching and investing in a few value stocks; this has rescued me far more times than I care to recall. To me my one talent: rare, like an old friend, always there to lend a supportive hand, sadly, the same friend who could easily be lost to us; one never realize what one has until perhaps it’s too late.

Completely like Mark Twain, I spent the great deal of my time doing businesses I had no reason to be in – I am utterly incompetent; to put it mildly.  In Mark Twain’s life he always wanted to be rich; as if being a famous author wasn’t enough.

This obsession Mark Twain had: like a strategically trap leading him to form one business venture after the next – the curse; that almost destroyed his illustrious reputation as an author; put him in contentions among friends; one could even argue – almost killed his profoundly admirable and very supportive wife.  All of these things happened because selfishly, he simply wanted, to be rich enough to comfortably support his family; terrible isn’t it.

I thought to myself – here is a remarkable man unequaled, perhaps no other person can confess to possess his monumental talent as a writer, here wasting his time on things he knew nothing of (building businesses), simply because of greed; might I label it so.

It was obvious from the book with much help from the author, implied directly; how illogical.  Why? All Mark Twain had to do to earn a living or even to amass wealth was to use his God given talent; write a few great books, easily at will. Nothing else is needed in this simple recipe, to any observer of Mark Twain’s life, but oddly, this is undoubtedly a very secret recipe of success to this otherwise brilliant man himself.

Now, maybe you can see in your life, a few Mark Twain characters, driven by mad ambitions of the seemingly logical kind; in disguise really, the logical part, maybe not.  For me, the apparent truth of Mark Twain’s trouble, as I read, came fast as a falling brink from a construction site; accidentally, not from any effort on my behalf, maybe incidental because the author summarized the obvious.

I realized, I am indeed that very crazy fellow too, the entrepreneur side of the famous Mark Twain; again pointing out that my similarity has one difference; his talent was assured whereas mine is still in question.

I have wasted considerable time and money I don’t have going for things I do not need.  I have pursued and tried my best to court all kinds of businesses, only to appreciate, like an ill-faith couple, ending in less than complete satisfaction; not even close; a close observer might utter.  All my pursuit of wealth finally succeeded in giving me a life of poverty.

The lesson to partake in life if you happen to have Mark Twain’s ‘good’ business judgment is to reflect seriously.  Failing which I suggest you follow what Mark Twain did after his bankruptcy experiences, focus on what you are good at and to a lesser extent on what you are interested in.

Interest is like one of those crazy desires we all have – the one that we can never satisfy.  Like the kind of thirst that makes you drink, the kind of thirst that you can never quenched.  After a while you are forced to give it up or face with a revolt and have a major bolt of pain.

Howard

Copyright 2009 by Farting Camel

Migrating WPMU To Subdirectory

November 11th, 2009 Posted by General 2 comments

6 Steps to Move WPMU with Domain Mapping from Root Folder to Subdirector!

I really do appreciate the WordPress Community.  Recently I had a lot of difficulties with the technical aspects of working with WordPress MU.  I wanted to move all of the files from the root folder into a subdirectory.  In the process I had a lot of help.  I’m usually the silent reader – seldom do I post a comment. I’m like a sponge: soaking up all the information. Today, I like to contribute by sharing my tip bits here because I couldn’t find the information on the Internet that will perfectly solve my problem.

This is simple:

1) Create your subdirectory (example: /public_html/subdirectory/)

2) Move all of your WordPress MU files into the subdirectory.

3) Create a file in the root (/public_html/) and name it .htaccess

4) Go to the bottom and copy the code below and paste it into your .htaccess file (located in root (/public_html/).  Be careful to paste the code in the empty .htaccess file because there are many .htaccess files.

5) If you are using domain mapping you will usually have the domain parked, so go to your cpanel and delete the domains you parked (pointing to the root /public_html/).

6) Now, this is the secret that took me 4 days to figure out with the help of my hosting company.  They did a fantastic job.  Go to your cpanel and instead of parking the domains, create it as an add-on domain pointing to the subdirectory you had created above. If you are unable to do for any reason contact your hosting company and they can manually place an add-on for the domain.

Code Below:

# Turn on rewrites.

RewriteEngine on

# Only apply to URLs on this domain

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www.)?yourdomain.com$

# Only apply to URLs that aren’t already under folder.

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/your subdirectory path/

# Don’t apply to URLs that go to existing files or folders.

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

# Rewrite all those to insert /folder.

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ /your subdirectory path/$1

# Also redirect the root folder.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^(www.)?yourdomain.com$

RewriteRule ^(/)?$ /your subdirectory path/index.php[L]

Copyright 2009 by Farting Camel

Top Four Secrets to the US$3 Billion Art of Bribery

October 17th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

Bribery is a common thing.  Just last summer my friend was driving from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.  Perhaps, he was speeding but he claimed that he didn’t. We will never know the truth.  A policeman approached him and started to question him.  He pleaded his innocence before the lawman.  The police officer said, “You can plead your case in front of the judge or you can give me S$100 and we can forget about the whole thing.”

Another friend now living in Laos thinks, “It is easier to get things done when you know you can pay people off.” The concept of bribing someone with influence to get what you want is nothing new. It is common.

Like you, perhaps I prefer to close one eye when it comes to these things, especially if it happens in the underworld.  If it doesn’t happen to me why bother? What disturbs me most is when it is brought to my attention, especially when bribery and corruption happens right in front of me, in broad day light?

“I’m glad I don’t have to deal with all that.”  So you say. In the US, we don’t have bribery.  We have campaign finance contribution or for short ‘finance contribution’.  What is the difference between bribery and finance contribution? In the Webster dictionary a bribe means “1) money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust or 2) something that serves to induce or influence.  In the same dictionary, I can’t seem to find the definition for finance contribution.  I can find the word lobby, it means, “to try to influence (the Government etc).”

How does the lobbyist lobby the government? It might not come as a surprise if I tell you it has to do with money.  Yes, lobbyist, not just tries to but effectively influences government officials with money.  Lots of it!  In fact, I was surprised, to say the least.

My debate in my head continues… I kept thinking about it.  Is it better for bribery to be underground or in plain view?  The S$100 paid to influence the policeman was distasteful; $200 would have been more suitable for the risks.

Where was I? …What risks? I would be uncomfortable making a bribery payoff. If someone else were to do it for me, that would be another story. All I can think about was a scene from some mafia movie where the bad guy passes a bulged envelope to some cop or judge.  The delivery usually is very discrete. If I had to bribe someone I would be very concerned.  I would also pass the envelope discretely. And that is where I; like most bribery amateur would go wrong.  Another thing to consider, what if the person I wanted to bride is not corruptible?  In that case, I would drop and run for the hill because everyone and their mothers would know about my failed attempt and I would be ruined.

Bribery is harder than you think.  For bribery to be popular, it has to be accepted not just by the corrupted officers and their counter parts, it has to be institutionally acceptable to the general public.  Take the case of the cop blackmailing for the S$100, his chance of success would be better if he were to stop someone who actually speeds, unintentionally or not, that is another story.

The guilty driver gets off clean with a minor dent to his wallet and the cop does his job; call it a bonus for his large family with a small take home cop salary; a win win case for everyone. It is easier to overlook this. Now, blackmailing the innocent is plain hard.  You never know, someone might just call the bluff and the cop would soon find himself running for the hill.

The hill I refer to is nothing less than the infamous Capitol Hill.  In Washington D.C. there is a street called K Street.  This is where corporate America sends their elite battalion of lobbyists to bribe government officials, sorry…, to make the ‘finance contribution’.  In 2008 there were a reported 14,802 lobbyists. I’m very impressed by these people, these guys are smart they have figured out these amazing secrets decades before I was informed of it.  Maybe because the money is so staggering that it is hard to believe.  I’m not talking about the S$100, not even US$1,000 or even US$100,000.

You see it all the time on the daily news where some poor out of luck soul tried to rob the bank and succeeded in getting away with US$8,000, and he went in hiding for the rest of his life.  Now this would be the dumb guy, if he was smart he would join the other guys on the hill.  A reported sum of over US$3 billion, from 1998 to 2009, of ‘finance contribution’, was more to me like bribe money, from just 20 companies. You and I know there are thousands and thousands of companies in America.  Just think about it. In fact in just 2008 alone, all the lobbyist spends US$3.3 billion to influence Washington.

Not so long ago the country Iceland needed $5 billion to prevent a national bankruptcy… A National Bankruptcy!  That puts things into perspective.

To succeed in the art of bribery, you have to be good at four things:1) Don’t make it a secret, 2) Call it ‘finance contribution’, 3) Pay someone else to do it for you, like a lobbyist, and 4) Last being the most important, practice only on Capitol Hill, anywhere else it could cost you your life.

Bribe responsibly.

P.S.  Special thanks to opensecrets.org where I have obtained the numbers used in this article.

Copyright 2009 by Farting Camel

Fight for a US Soldier

October 15th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

I used to live in West Valley City, Utah – a small and quiet place. This year, our family will travel from different States to pay pilgrimage to this wonderful place.  Why?  Thirty years ago on December 22, 1979 our family of six came to this country with nothing more than the cloths on our backs.  We made a life in Utah.  I loved the state.  We are all going back this year for Christmas.

The memory of Utah has been tainted I supposed.  I always remember the people of Utah to be warm and above all very decent people. I could only remember having a wonderful life growing up.  After moving out of the state, I would go home whenever I could, especially during the holidays.

This year however, something has changed.  Perhaps, I’m more disheartened with people in general, with Utahan for the injustices against our soldiers, one in particular.

Let me share with you a short story. Many years ago a troubled young man drifted around and dropped out of high school, but eventually landed a job in a restaurant. The work was hard and the pay was low but this young man found it within himself to put in his all.

Like many enterprises, the restaurant had many competitors and could barely survive. However, year after year, the never-quit attitude of the people working kept it opened. Inevitable, soon after, the restaurant had to close its doors.

The young man without a place to go or a future, stayed with the owner in a small house on the west side of town.  He had no one, it seemed. The business failure was hard on the young man.  For a time his situation had worsened and many did pondered his faith in life.  Somehow, after a while he took steps to improve his situation by getting his high school diploma and enlisting with the army.

He served this country, his adopted country by risking his life to clear booms in Iraq. He was honorary discharged from the Army after his tour of duties in Iraq.  Much older now, the young man returned to Utah.

He wanted to start a family. Moved by this young man, the owner of the restaurant introduced him, through family, to a wonderful girl from his birth country.  I attended the wedding.  It was a turning chapter in his life. He was so happy, then.  He and his bride looked good as a couple – a perfect match.

After the marriage, he took steps to have her join him in Utah.  He found work at two jobs to make money so that he could provide for his new family.  Upon advice from his family, he purchased a home.  Slowly, he decorated it, upon what he thought, his wife’s impending arrival.

I visited him in his home. He had so much joy and pride on his face showing me around. Proud that he saved what he earned to build his matrimonial home. Joyous that he and his lovely wife will be building a life together in this house.

Tragically, the wife never showed up.  They did not have the life or family they had planned.  There were no wedding receptions in Utah to speak of.  As if they had never gotten married, but for the few of us who were there, we knew he got married.

It wasn’t because he and his wife didn’t get along. It wasn’t because both didn’t try to make the marriage work.  And no, she did not die nor did he. All this time the couple stayed true to each other.  However, just a month ago, the couple decided to let go of each other, move on with their lives and parted ways.

Ironically, the country he fought for and almost gave up his life for had turned her back on him.  For three and half years, he battled the US Immigration office as well as the government officials in Utah, pleaded with them to allow his bride to migrate to Utah under a legal immigration law and rights of a citizen.

The young man, a US Soldier, against all of the odds in life, had little but never seemed to quit. But now, facing the seemingly insurmountable US Immigration, he did just that, he gave up.

It seemed that a betrayal by the country he loved was too much for one soldier to take.

Copyrighted 2009 Farting Camel

Happy Wind By The Hudson

October 13th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

The moisture in the air was heavy this morning. The sun was trying hard to break through. Maybe, the cloud seemed formidable.  I got out of the apartment and made my way across the busy West Street.  I can see the commuters heading to work.

I live in a small island city called Manhattan – the southern-most end. Today is like most days, except that I’m out of the apartment.  If you know me, you would realize that is a rare event.  I always tell myself I need to be more active.

Walking west towards Battery Park, I hastened my pace. Most people living on this island seldom ever venture down to this part of town.  I find it hard to believe.  The wind is amazing here.  It has a special kind of charm about it, the kind that made you feel good inside.

I think the wind here is the happy wind; it dances around from building to building.  You see the trees and branches dance about with joy whenever the wind greets them. It is easy for a smile to break through my usually expressionless face. It comes from nowhere.  I’m sure of that.

I came across a modern luxury structure which houses today’s top business minds.  The buildings are menacing at the least.  I never really felt at home in one of these places, with their marble floors and huge interior dome.  I can walk about as it is open to the general public.  It is indeed beautiful but perhaps a bit on the egotistical side.  It makes you wonder who actually built these things.

As I continued north, walking along the Hudson River, there were constructions going on.  I noticed a sign, the Hudson River Tennis.  I can’t believe my eyes, perhaps there will be more tennis courts closer to my apartment.

As I continued walking, I was thinking about what I wanted to do with this website.  Mira and I always talk a great deal about money and for as long as I can remember money has always been on my mind.  Perhaps it was due to my background, perhaps it was my disposition, whatever the reasons.  I knew I had something to share with you.

This could be an outlet for me perhaps to connect to humanity.  So what is it that I can offer?  Maybe a perspective or an open window into my world and how I view money, time, and spirituality.  And in the midst of all, this thing we called living.

I cherish the interaction I have with you, most likely you are our friends or family, who I would remember most, and everything else that is material is just that. Relationship gives best a fleeting joy, beautiful for now but perhaps it will be like everything before – just faded memories. Wherever I was fortunate to find myself, I always remember the people, seldom the things of this world.

From time to time, I will post different topics of my interest.  However, I welcome you to extend your hands to us as this community takes shape, as it surely will.  You can email us your questions and if it is important to you we will give you our perspective and share with you our experiences.

For now, I’ve made it to the tennis courts and my friend is waiting for me that could only mean one thing.  I’m late.  I love free tennis court – a rare find on this island.  When you are unemployed like me, I have lots of time but not a lot of money.  One last thing, as I look at the court overlooking the beautiful yet active waters of the Hudson River, there is something lively about it that I cannot explain.  Well off I go and I hope you will visit us again.

Howard

Copyright 2009 by Farting Camel.

America’s Stolen Elections

September 30th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

When I was a soldier serving with the US Marine Corps as a reservist, I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan.  I was young then and I needed money for college. At that time serving my adopted country seemed to be the right thing to do.  While my older kin were bitterly opposed to war, I didn’t connect the dots that being a soldier meant having a possibility of one tragic day I would be called to choose between being killed, or worst still, having to take a life.  I was fortunate that (more…)

What Could Singaporeans Teach Americans About Public Schools?

September 30th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

The product of a good education has to do more with the inherent system than the caliber of the individual students. A good system will in the end turn out more good students. A bad or poorly designed system creates an imbalance and can cause much disruption in society, producing far more academically under-performing students.

Executive Pay Is It Connected To Responsibilities?

September 24th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

I read a report on Reuters highlighting the executive pay for companies like JP Morgan, Bank of China, ICBC, and others.  Executive pay in the US seems excessive.  Tell me what you think?  Here’s a link to the report:
Study shows U.S. bank CEO pay dwarfs rest of world

Copyright 2009 by fartingcamel.com

Could Health Care Be The Turning Point In US History?

September 20th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

Have you ever asked, “What happened to the great empires of the past?” Take for example the empires built by Alexandra the Great, the great Mongols, the Romans, or the Ottoman Empire built by the Turks? Why do I cite these historical empires? Perhaps we can learn something from history. What you and I can clearly assume is that it does not really matter about their differences, what matter most is their similarity – they all met the same faith. In the end, all are now reduced to a small state, reclaiming their rightful place in the world.

If we can go back in time it would not be difficult to assume people in power and with means would not want to change at the height of the empire prosperity. Why change if they have something good going for themselves? It is said that people are motivated more from their fear of loss more than from their prospect of gain. You can read more about it in an article posted at http://knowledge.wpcarey.asu.edu/article.cfm?articleid=1369. It boils down to a battle of the “haves” and “have not” and its’ relevance, as it seem, could to be at the cornerstone of our health care debate. The most logical outcome has always and sadly been so – an impending revolution.

Today, in America there is a call to arms, not with knifes, swords, or guns but with words, as you can easily see from the press coverage of town hall meetings across the country. At the center to all that is right or wrong has to do with the differences between those who “have” and those who “have not”. It is a struggled that most “haves” would not be able to understand. Have you ever heard of someone talking and they are telling you they understand you but deep down everything they say tells you how ignorant they are of your cause. You know they only understand their own views. Perhaps, their fear of loss is far more important than the gain from a “what if scenario.” or the unknowns?

If both sides can’t come to a mutual agreement, ultimately, the call of change will have to deal the outcome and death is certain of the old ways. America is a great empire born from blood, innovation, and greed. This land is home of the bold and the free. What makes it amazing is not the land but the people with innovation, from the concept that we the people can govern ourselves to the adoption of capitalist. This is a place where if you thirst for a better life in every aspect you would sacrifice all so that your children can have the American experience. This is the greed of a better life. It is nothing more noble then that. You find greed nowhere more abundant in quality and quantity then America. Perhaps, greed in this context, i.e., greed for someone else’s gain is a good thing and it is what I’m writing about here. Not the greed that corrupts our souls and drags us down to a level unfit for even animals without a conscience.

Free Market, is great but let us not get stuck in the idea of the past. Let us innovate. Today you and I hear all too clear how the dome of health care as we know it if somehow we allow the government to compete with the private sector. I am ashamed to say I have a soft spot for the Republican Party. It is the great party of Reagan now reduced to domes-day fortune cookies; foretelling the end of the economic and health world. Where is it written that an entrance of a large competitor like a government run company would foretell the death of the system? You have to understand this is a global economy now. Gone are the days of yesteryear. Free Market means competition more so now than before. What it is not is the banishment of competition. Banishment of the government involvement in the Free Market is included.

The public option in healthcare is a must and its’ day has come. Let there be no doubt about this. If you are worried about the end of the healthcare world, you can look only to the USPS and the competitive global mail and package industry. I heard the congressman Jessie Jackson Jr. and the wife of the presidential candidate John Edwards, Elisabeth Edwards referred to this example. How right are they in putting a finger to these similarities? Today USPS is more efficient and more innovative. I would argue that competition did a world of good.

Some of you might not agree than I ask you to take a look at the sovereign enterprises of the Asian Tigers or China in the business world. You will slowly understand Free Market means that anyone can compete, not excluding companies own and run by a sovereign nation. Today with our technology we should not be afraid of competition. I heard of a story about a three men business team armed with innovation were able to put together a company that successfully took on the large corporations. If you haven’t you can Google a project that took the project management industry by storm – they called the project, ‘Basecamp’

Furthermore, you and I should not lose any sleep over competitive nature of greedy men or women who runs the insurance business. Take my idol; the world most successful investor; Warren Buffett. He is without say one of the greediest person in the world (the good greed – gave billions away). He controls a good part of the nations’ insurance business, of one kind or another. Why are you up worrying about him competing with the US government?

Contrary you should worry that our government is not competing and abandoning the Free Market. Today, sovereign enterprises of the Asian Tigers and China roam unchallenged. Today the economy as the world you know it is global and not just the good old USA. Why are we are not competing? Perhaps it is because we believe in the idea that government should not compete with it citizen? And this has served us well in the past. What has worked for ancient Rome or ancient Mongols now has vanished. Perhaps, our concept of Free Market, in particularly the idea of competition from the government have vanished and while we hold dear to the past. Will we share the faith of the past empires?

In summary if you are those who have everything going well for you with the current health care system please be flexible and try to see it from the perspective of your countrymen who does not have access to health care. History always teaches us that change will come and history has often been repeated, especially to a nation of innovators. It is useless to deny others access to health care. Although your fear of loss now motivates you more than our fear of gain, ultimately the hungriest among us will almost always fight the hardest. And in our modern day version the fight is with words. Those without health care will make this a revolution of our time. You should join the revolution and not create obstacles by putting up scare tactics or adopting a stale idea of the past Free Market. Why, because you want to have a place in the new system. Competition is good – fight for that and not some version of a Free Market you and I hold to be truth in the past, failure to understand and compete and we as Americans will need to worry more than just health care.

Copyright 2009 by fartingcamel.com

Is Your Money Safe In The US Banks?

July 13th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

A friend of mine asks me a question yesterday and it got me thinking. You see, she has been putting money away in a savings account at the bank for years. This was her retirement plan. While most of us agree this should constitute a very conservative and safe method. After all our deposits at the bank is secured and guaranteed by FDIC or government.

This safety was even more evident by government actions all over the world rushing at the first outset of the current banking crisis by increasing the amount under insured. Our own government increased the amount from $100,000 to $250,000. That means if the banks fail at least your money is safe up to $250,000. Why do they have to do this? If people fear of losing their money deposited with the banks and rushes to withdraw it, the world economy would collapse.

Did you know that banks are only required to keep a very small amount of the total deposit on site? The rest of your money is invested. Bank takes your deposit and lends them to borrowers. They pay you a small about of interest while lending out at a higher interest rate. If everyone wants their money back as happened in the late 1920’s without the insurance by the government one by one banks would crash. And this would definitely send the world into a deep recession or depression.

So, there is no question about the safety of putting away money for retirement in a savings account especially with the governments of the world insuring its safety, right? Before you answer let’s talk about money and how we use it to exchange for what you really want.

I was once young perhaps like many of you. I remember it must have been around the time when I was nine years old and my group of friends’ favorite thing to do after school was to go to a convenient store and buy candies. Not all of us had money. One boy bought candy when he had money. When he didn’t have enough he would pocket the candy with the so called “Five Finger Discount”.

Assume further that you own the convenient store and that I told you your merchandise are safe. It is insured with highest reputable government on earth, none other than the US Treasury Department itself. They don’t do these things but it’s our assumption, so. In this case you know better. The whole thing has a leak. This is almost the same as what is going on day in and day out at your bank.

While your money sits in the vault – if you can imagine with me, everyday someone goes into the bank and steals just a little bit from you. What happens to you? Suppose further that you saved your whole life and finally at retirement you have all the money you need to pay in cash for a brand new house – with of course enough money to live on for the rest of your days. You are eager to open the impenetrable fork vault insured by the highest of government.

Only to realize that upon receiving the cash all you have left is not even enough to pay for a down payment on the house. You believe me right? Think back with me, when I was young at the store with one dollar I could buy three candy bars. If I thought to myself back then and decided to save the one dollar and safely hid it somewhere. Now, I found that once forgotten dollar with my eager but aged youth. I still would rush to the convenient store.

What horror it must have been when I find out that I can only buy one candy bar instead of three. Over time I had lost the purchasing power to buy the other two. In real life we are not shock because we are conditioned to pay more and more for the same stuff every day. Well, you get where I’m going. Money is designed to lose value due to inflation (the theft in our example). The safety assured to us by our government provides us with a false sense of security.

Original Post Date: February 22, 2009

The Entrepreneur Trap

July 13th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

We all know a story or two about a person who started a business with very little money and in a short time became rich – the envied of the community. Few stories can compare to the likes of Michael Dell and Bill Gates. My own inspiration was Warren Buffett.

Besides the success and famed stories lie the untold and often obscured stories of struggle, broken lives, and tragedy. Untold mainly because we are not interested when we have no intention to start a business. When we are interested we don’t not want them to perturb us from what we perceive as our dream. Our society is big on dreams. Everyone knows not to let anything stop us from what we want, right?

How many people honestly woke up one day and decide to start a business and at the end of the day became successful? What qualities made these people successful? Does that mean the failures lack these qualities? Did luck have anything to do with it? Is it about hard work and determination? Who really understand the vast amount of work needed to create a business? I mean how many hours do you have to work to make it happen? (These are important questions that I will address in the near future.)

What happens to people who fail? These stories are harder to find. You have to look into the obscurity of people lives. Peel back time and like any hardship moments when we look back, its always bitter sweet memories. And how memories over time , ripe like wine – the older it is the better it gets. Perhaps that is why there are really no bad reasons to start a business in the end. There lies the Entrepreneur Trap. Success inspires us to move forward while failures are archives of fond memories.

Original Post Date: February 18, 2009
Copyright 2009 by fartingcamel.com

President Obama’s Stimulus Bill Is Not the Solution

July 13th, 2009 Posted by General No Comment yet

The economic stimulus as proposed by President Obama has passed both the House and Senate last Friday. He will soon sign it into law. The big question is will it work? That is, will it create jobs and get consumers back buying material things? My view is that in concept and in theory it should work. In practice this stimulus bill will not work.

Let me explain. First in order to fix the issue the trouble must be defined. Do you really think our President know what is truly the trouble. I submit that he does in part. While I do not profess I know any more then the next person – perhaps that is why I can see things clearer from the spectator stand.

Yes, it is true the trouble did come from the housing sector fueled my irresponsible lenders combined with unprecedented speculation by real estate speculators. I would not tell you that all investors and lenders are speculators but you have to entertain the fact that there must have been enough to make a real mess of things, as it is now.

And, this in turn created a bigger escalated mess in the lending circle. We had in the last nine months of troubling times – where lenders do not trust each other. Our banking and monetary system is based primarily on trust.

When real estate speculators brought more real estate then they can afford, they over leverage themselves. Speculators typically would borrow over 100 percent to purchase a property in the height of speculation just a few years ago. This was not acceptable but understandable because the price of real estate was seen as ever increasing.

Here’s how it started out. You purchased a property for $100,000. In the old days you need to put a down payment. The banks would access your credit and ability to pay. Let’s say you needed to put down 10 percent as the down payment. After an exhaustive process the bank would lend and finance your purchase. The down payment of 10 percent would protect the bank if you decide not to pay the mortgage.

What happens with escalating prices? Shortly after you, the buyer brought your property for $100,000 another speculator comes by and offers you $110,000. Your property is now worth 10% more. You would go to the bank to refinance or cash out with a line of credit secure by the home. Let’s say you were able to get conservative $9,000 line of credit (10% in equity). You are now flush with cash. You, who have only started with $10,000, now, have purchased a property (ever increasing in value) and $9,000 burning in your pocket.

If one property is good two would be better. A few months later your property increased yet again. Fuel with confident that you cannot lose. The speculator makes an offer, sometime over biding each other for the prime locations. Let say the same type of house you have purchased is now $120,000. Again, you are willing to put down 10 percent.

However, this time you have a relationship with the bank. They know you have an eye for success. It has been proven. The bank’s logic is: why demand such a high down payment and risk losing your business? And perhaps in a few months later the value of the property will go up anyway. Why fight with other lenders? The banks would do away with their strict guideline or risk sitting aside and watch others take over their business.

What evolved over a few short years in the center of the escalating crises would turn out to be a race for profit. Many would agree this simplified situation accord many years ago. Greed ultimately won. And for a time everyone had it good. The lenders made money and the speculators were rich. Once the race reaches the end and the value of property is beyond believe. Where, even if you had a good job, you and I could not afford to buy real estate. It didn’t happen overnight but eventually even the speculator can’t afford to buy.

The price began to fall. The speculator who committed not a dime of his own money walks away from the property. No one pays the banks and the banks can’t pay their lenders. The bank’s lenders don’t trust the banks and banks don’t trust each others. As more and more speculators walk away from their responsibilities the banks finds it hard to make the payment they were obligated to pay to their lenders. The house of cards come tumbling down.

What I submit to you is this economic problem is not a housing crisis nor is it the banking crisis BUT that of a crisis of trust. Had we identify the problem much earlier perhaps we would not be in this mess? Don’t get me wrong we would be in trouble, perhaps, but in much better shape. Not knowing the real issue the Bush administration set out to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the economy were at death’s door unless we all acknowledge and push the Senate to accept and pass the TARP.

The message was heard loud and clear. The consumers of the world decided that if we were indeed in such bad shape, we should all try to save for a rainy day. All at once, buyers stop buying and seller has nowhere to go – businesses stop making money. So business decides to cut their work force by firing people. The new truth is realized. More unemployment and the economy got sicker. The problem became self fulfilling.

It is now an issue of confidence. It started in the housing market what affected only about 4 percent of the total housing market. It escalated to a banking crisis. Now, the President is trying to continue the dialog of convincing us the consumer of the world, the worst is yet to come. President Obama will sign the bill into law and the government will spend massively. Meanwhile, consumers will continue to save. And when consumers save who will spend? Unless consumers believe the worst is behind us. No legislation spending bills will help get us out of this mess. Isn’t there a better way to pass a bill without having to make matters worse?

Original Post Date: Feb 22, 2009
Copyright 2009 by fartingcamel.com

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