Thursday, July 20, 2006


There's similar examples in boxing but I see the same things during poker sometimes. When playing someone heads-up (1 on 1) I usually find it easy to beat someone who's cautious and afraid of making a mistake. They're easy to read and when they eventually make a mistake I can take advantage of it, assuming I have the patience to keep my cool until they blink first.

The harder opponents to play are the ones not afraid of losing and play a little crazy. Not only are they harder to read, when you think that you're in a slightly better spot you've got to be able to put your entire stack on the line. In the long run, you might still have an advantage over such players but the swings you experience and the resulting hits to your confidence will be significant.

To be a championship player, or a championship team, you've got to be able to endure those swings and be prepared to put it all on the line each time. If you're a team like liverpool, arsenal and Man U, you often don't know how teams like Bolton, Leicester, Blackburn will play you. They might play cautious football and pack it into their own half or they might gamble and go for the win as if their premiership survival was at stake. The big clubs will still win more often than not, but the mental state of the players after they've gone a goal down against these clubs, or after they've lost a match they should have won really determines whether they can challenge for trophies in the long run.

I don't think i'm anywhere close to that mental state of mind. It will be impossibly hard to give my all and put everything on the line while consistently enduring failure after failure that you can't seem to comprehend.

Cheers to David Duval for his work ethic and dedication to the game. You're a great role model for people aspiring to be great.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

is working hard a necessary evil?

As the Korean electronics industry rapidly developed in the 80s and 90s, executives began to realize that, in order to catch up to the best in the business (like Sony), they needed a competitive edge to help them overcome the disadvantages they have in the technology development process. What they came up with was the philosophy of working harder and longer till you get it right. It's hard to argue that it has not been successful, especially when you look at how much companies like Samsung and LG have grown. However, the deeper question I ask myself is whether such an idealogy, of working hard and going at it till you get it right, a necessary evil to be successful in life?

Samsung is now considered one of the world-leaders in the memory chip and cell-phone industries and has a market capitalization exceeding 100 billion dollars, which is roughly 24.3% of the Korea's total market capitalization and twice that of Sony's. However, it can be argued that both the level of productivity and the quality of life for Samsung employees have been on a rapid decline. If long hours are the norm, there is simply no incentive to push for increased productivity and when things don't get done on time it simply means that it's time to add more employees.

The Korean national soccer team provides yet another example of this philosphy. In terms of pure footballing ability the Koreans lag significantly behind the europeans, latin americans and the africans. After years of getting pushed around by the better teams in the international arena, we decided that to have to have any kind of success we needed to play soccer differently. If you've noticed the Korean team play in the recent World Cup, you'll know what I mean. Our philosphy for the first 70 minutes is to run, run and then run some more. (The famous Dutch coach Guus Hiddink came up with this strategy while watching a re-run of Forrest Gump in his hotel room after signing on with the Korean team.)

If you get the ball you run and even if you don't have the ball you run, pretending to make an incisive run although the player with the ball is likely incapable of making an accurate through pass. By the 70th minute the other team will hopefully get so tired that they stop challenging for balls as much and start backing off, allowing the best Korean strikers like Ahn Jung Hwan (who usually come on late in the 2nd half to exploit this) some room to start putting some attempts on goal.

During the last World Cup, Korea had the home advantange and the European teams were not well prepared for fitness battles lasting a full 90 minutes plus extra time (in some cases with an extra-man down which makes it so much tougher). This time, the French were ready and the Swiss were ready and it's hard to win games consistently when luck+running is all you have.
Many Koreans have lamented that we're a few Park Ji Sungs short of doing well in the World Cup. But is that the way football is meant to be played or are we encouraging a new breed of alien soccer where the aim is to outlast the opponent in running around the pitch?

It is the same within the workplace environment of Samsung as it is with the national football team. There is something deeply unmotivating about such a work philosophy that only tries to achieve quick results. Nobody follows a boxer, that always trys to win by decision, for long. Likewise, admitting from the get-go that your employees or your players are technically second-rate and trying to outlast the opposition is never going to put you on the path towards becoming one of the world's best.

Undoubtedly, it takes a phenomenal amount of effort to become truly successful in whatever you do. However, the lesson often comes with a price; the subtle message that we need to work hard only because we are not as smart, capable, or physically gifted. In order to truly become great, there's got to be a stronger sense of self-belief, coupled with motivation and dedication towards each of our daily tasks.

You really have to enjoy the soccer more than the running or winning.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

how did we all become engineers?

From my experiences in Singapore, Korea and reading about the ever-determined focus of developing asian economies to produce engineers that contribute to economic growth, I think we're gradually losing touch with emotional development on an inter-personal level.

China currently produces 600,000 engineering graduates per year, India - 460,000 per year while Europe and the United States produce only 100,000 and 70,000 respectively. Numbers like these could mean a lot of different things. After all, China and India have a large overall population and although the percentage of engineering grads to overall population is still alarmingly large, that can be attributed to the need to support the influx of foreign invesment in engineering and manufacturing-related industries.

However, there are severe side-effects that can occur from skewing our social priorities towards first improving our economic interests. Oversupply of engineering graduates breeds unhealthy competition between potential hires that causes an abundant amount of emotional stress, both to new graduates with no experience and to middle-aged engineers in danger of being displaced by younger hires. From the company's perspective, the oversupply or undersupply of potential candidates dramatically skews the perceived value of these new hires. During a period of oversupply, new hires and company employees are simply chess pieces that can be easily replaced, while during a period undersupply potential candidates are desperate stop-gap measures that you have to take regardless of the candidate's value or virtue. Furthermore, societal pressures that attempts to conform young minds into doctors, lawyers and engineers
diminishes our ability to encourage the interest and development in other less recognized but equally important fields.

In an ideal world we would only have the kids who have the keen engineering intuition coupled with a strong interest in the field, to pursue careers in engineering. Not every half-smart kid in class pushed towards engineering because they can do the work and not because they want to.
With more motivation and less competition, managers would feel more inclined to guide subordinates and value current employees. Employees would feel less pressure for career advancement as they would feel more satisfied in accomplishing their work tasks. I've read about workers here who have declined promotion opportunities because of current job sastisfaction (with little desire for management tasks) and lifestyle opportunities (more time with family) which they enjoy in their current job situations.

In my mind there is nothing more devastating in life than doing things because it was the thing to do then, rather than thinking about what you really want to do. The result of personal disatisfaction with our lives breeds a situation where we give less thought towards doing the right thing and more towards self-serving thoughts that appear to feed the depressing void within us.

Friday, June 02, 2006

summary of recent events

have not updated for a while but not much time so I'll summarize real quick.

Decided to go back to korea after graduation.
Submitted resume to a few places.
Got back the standard "we're sorry but at this time.." emails.
My labmate who recently joined the lab from korea got a call from her colleagues coming over for recruiting.
Fwd my resume, got the call, interviewed with them.
Went pretty well I think. waiting for call back for the 2nd interview over the phone with the technical folks.
that's the short summary of the boring things that happened the past few weeks.

now for the less mundane things...
thinking of starting soccer again. will go for the korean grad students soccer club practice tomorrow if it doesn't rain like they say it will.
my winning eleven skills are improving. still dunno the flashy stuff but better overall team play.
started reading alan alda's never get your dog stuffed. interesting + funny reading. if you thought your childhood was messed up, you should read what he has to say about his.
my korean buddy in the lab (more like an older brudder since he's much older) told me about the adult nightlife scene in korea which I found shocking. I won't go into the details but maybe I'll bring you there Jo or loe if you come visit me.

read on the news about the baby in china with an extra arm. started wondering what would be coolest thing you could do with an extra arm.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

What's Passe?

When you're in you late teens and early 20s, you care about what's in and what's passe, what people are listening, reading, watching, wearing, thinking... we're either too lazy, too stupid or just too plain immature to figure out what we're like.

Now that I'm older, I classify things into different categories. Things that I understand or don't understand; things that I agree with, have no opinion on, or think are plain stupid; things I care about, things I'm somewhat concerned about (like global warming perhaps) and things I don't give a rats ass about.

Developing your own style and personality is about expanding your knowledge, thoughts, and sense about the things you care about. If that's passe, who gives a damn? I don't think I can have a normal conversation about someone who uses that word anymore, "That's so Passe". What's that got to do with what you think, or what I think?

With that said, to my labmate who only listens to Celine Dion type diva songs and be openly public about it by singing in the lab, rock on brother. You're still cool,.... sometimes.

Friday, April 28, 2006

I think I've learnt what it's like to be parent

I just came back from work and my dog kobe's just lying there on the floor. Normally he would jump up and wag his tail to greet me but this time he just stays there on the floor looking at me. Then all of a sudden he jumps up as if he remembered something, then runs to the patio door and scratches it with his paw, asking me to open the door so he can sun himself outside.

I can so imagine coming home from work and my kids immediately going "Dad, can I have 20 bucks to go to the movies?" then disappear for the rest of the night. But I still love kobe, and as a parent I guess you just take what you get, don't expect any more or any less.

My parents should know, I haven't called home for several weeks. Oops!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

swamped with work

life sucks, it sucks, it really really sucks.