The Peter Principle – Lawrence J. Peter and Raymond Hull

The Peter Principle 這次我去印度工幹﹐放週未時逛書店﹐竟然給我遇上了這本商管奇書《彼得定律》。這本小書只有百來二百頁﹐你不會在MBA看到這本書的內容﹐但書中所描述卻是職場千古不變的真理。可能真相實在顯淺得太過尷尬﹐一般商管書籍索性避而不談﹐當作這個真相並不存在。不過讀者也不要過份認真讀這書﹐始終這本書不是學術著作﹐沒有深奧的理論或數據支持﹐只憑作者的直覺分析﹐得出一個令人恍然大悟的結論。彼得定律的邏輯很簡單﹐就是在一間公司或機構中﹐大部份員工都是無能。因為有能力的員工可以升職﹐直到他們因能力所限不能再住上爬﹐於是每個人都滯留在不能勝任的職位。

這本小書水份甚多﹐簡單的幾個論點可以說上幾十頁紙。作者在申述論點之間﹐加插大量道聽途說的小故事。雖然那些小故事讀起來十分有趣﹐不過立旨內容免未過份冗長重覆。書中除了說明彼得定律外﹐還詳細地分析這條定律對工作的影響﹐以及如何運用這條定律。一個機構不論是公司﹐學校或政府機關﹐其存在意義的並不機構的服務理念﹐而是以機構的繼續存在作為其最終目的。太過無能的員工會被開除﹐因為會直接影響到機構的運作﹐但太過能力出眾的員工也會被開除﹐因為會威脅到機構賴生存的潛規則。不過大部份員工也不屬於這兩個極端﹐稍具能力的員工會被升遷﹐直到超出他的能力笵圍為唯止。至於那些升到無能崗位的員工﹐由於他們對機構並沒有重大威脅﹐所以在一般下情況會被容忍存在﹐不過當然就升職無望了。

當明白沒有機構逃得過彼得定律﹐我們便可以發明對我們有利的應對策略。彼得定律助我們理解升職的潛規則﹐明白從上面拉比從下面推更有效率。所以我們想要升職﹐首先要觀察上司是否已經到道彼得頂點﹐他還沒有升遷的希望。若果不肯往上爬的路給堵塞了﹐便要技巧地向橫發展﹐開拓新的升遷空間。若我們已不幸到達彼得頂點﹐書中教我們保持心理健康的方法﹐不要被工作上的錯敗感打跨。書中亦提供方法防止到達彼得頂點﹐明言拒絕升遷對工作有壞影響﹐所以要很有技巧地防止自己升職。最佳的方法莫過於在重要的工作上勝任讓機構繼續在這個位置重用你﹐但在小事情上糊塗讓上級沒有信心把你升上去﹐這就可以保持工作帶來的滿足感了。不過我認為作者的方法行不通﹐工作的最大滿足感是出糧﹐升職後當然會加人工吧。只要不是太過無能而被公司開除﹐在不能勝任的高職位收多些人工﹐總比在勝任愉快的低職位收少些人工好﹐反正書中有方法教導失敗者保持心理平衡。升至無能的職位便順其自然地無能好了﹐一般無能與公司的生存方針沒有衡突﹐反正受害的只是公司的客人﹐和沒有實際意義的工作效率統計數字。

Possessions

Possessions are different than assets. Asset has monetary value. It is very liquidate, you can turn your asset back into money in no time. Possessions are simply something you own, you may value them very much, but it may worthy nothing to other people. I am moving in with Pat, so I am clean my apartment. I am surprise by amount of things in my little apartment. I have accumulated lots of things over the years. My life in Vancouver is in big contrast with my life in India. I have so many things here, but I am able live off with only two suit cases in India. Sometimes, I wonder how much thing a person really needs, probably not much.

In some African tribes, people don’t have any possessions. They only value things that can be carried with them from one place to another. Human start to have possessions when we settle down in a place and have the means to take all our belongs with us everything we move. In modern society, people love to have many possessions. We just love to own stuffs We keep accumulating furniture, clothes, books, CDs, DVDs, collectibles in our home, although we probably won’t use all of them in foreseeable future. Strictly speaking, possessions are useless things somehow make us happy. I guess all we want is just a sense of ownership.

Canon 450D

Canon 450D

I have been resisting the temptation to get a DSLR camera for a long time. Finally I gave up and bought a DSLR camera, Canon 450D. I used to have a film SLR camera when I was in high school, so I am not new to photography. I just have too many other hobbies such that I could not afford to spent any time or money in picking up photography. Well, the camera is not for myself, it’s for my wife. She lost her pocket camera and she want to get a DSLR like her friends, so I buy her a Canon 450D for her birthday present. I compare quite a few of entry level DSLR cameras. I rule out brands other than Canon and Nikon at once. For DSLR camera, there are the top two brands with most support in term of lens and accessories. Then I narrow it down to the choice of Canon 450D and Nikon 90D, since I don’t want to get last year’s model. In the end, Canon is cheaper than Nikon, so I go for the Canon.

I just take a few test shots using the camera. It is quite light. The body is not too big. It fits my wife’s small hand better than the more professional models with bigger body. The kit len is pretty decent. It is a 18-55mm zoom len with image stabilizer. The only complain is the aperture is not big enough, only F3.5. I haven’t take serious photos for many years, so I have forgot most of my photography skills. So I also bought a book on how to become a good photographers using 450D in 7 days. It has lots of illustration on how to use the camera. I guess the only way to become a good photographer is to practice more.

Since the camera is for my wife, I bought her a nice purple camera bag, which is her favorite color. Somehow she think the camera bag is blue, although it says the bag is purple in the tag. I can’t really tell whether the bag is purple or blue, it’s kinda in between. But if the tag says it’s purple, it must be purple.

Farewell Bangalore

It is my third time visiting Bangalore. The city still sucks and I don’t have any pleasant experience with it. However, I am getting over all my uneasiness of India and become indifference to the surroundings. I just came to release Bangalore is the forth city I spent most time of my life. I spent almost 3 months here for my three trips combined. Only after Hong Kong, where I was born, Canada, where I grew up and California, where I worked and visit once a while.

Compare to my first two trips, this time I have a very difference altitude returning to India. I come here to work and I get away once my work is done. I did not take many photos this time, only beer pictures with my colleagues at dinner. I no longer amused by the strange sights in India. Cows on the streets and rush hour traffic madness seems so common to me. I still got ripped off a few times, but I laugh at my stupidity and learn the lesson instead of feeling anguish about my lost. I have confirmed my bias and stereotypes about Indian culture and I learned how to cope with it. Just don’t take anything for granted in this country. They can screw things up in the most unimaginable way. I still hate Bangalore, but I am getting accustom to it.

Maid Guy 假面女僕衛士

Maid Guy 近年日本動畫萌風泛濫﹐很多動畫角色的設計沒有靈魂﹐只是像藥材舖執藥般把萌屬性堆切一些角色出來。結果大部份動畫的角色都千篇一律﹐不過是更換些少屬性改少許造型。這種以屬性配對創造角色的方法﹐偶然也會出現令人咋舌﹐完全預期不到的特別效果。《假面女僕衛士》的主角枯木﹐便是把肌肉男和女僕這兩個牛馬不相同的屬性﹐混合一起創造出來的角色。單是看枯木的角色設計﹐已經可以預期這套動畫會走瘋狂惡搞的搞笑路線。

這套動畫基本上沒有什麼主線﹐每集都是獨立單完﹐內容環繞著富士原兩姊弟的生活。話說富士原姊弟的爺爺是超級大富豪﹐亦同時是個有女僕癖的色老頭。爺爺為了保護和照顧兩姊弟﹐派了兩個女僕來他們家。正確點來說﹐應該是一個女僕和一個穿女僕裝的男僕。女僕吹雪比較正常﹐除了一般女僕的屬性外﹐只是加入忍者屬性。至於男僕枯木則完全顛倒人物設計的邏輯﹐把所有不可能的屬性混合在一起。這套動畫是不可以用常識來理解﹐枯木在上個鏡頭給打到全身爆血﹐下個鏡頭可以像沒發生過事一樣已是小兒科。觀眾更加千萬別勿深究枯木的特異功能從來而來﹐不要問為什麼他可以從耳後拉條USB電線出來﹐也不要問他的頭髮為什麼可以變怪物觸手。歡樂愉快地看每一集﹐嘻嘻哈哈笑一大餐看過便算了。

故事沒有明確主線﹐不過每集的共同主題﹐就是故事中的擦邊黃色笑話。作者拿女主角的巨乳開玩笑﹐簡真到了出神入化的景界。第一季十二集﹐差不多集集也有開巨乳的玩笑﹐從扎胸谷腦到巨乳甜品﹐無一不讓觀眾捧腹大笑。其中最搞笑是反轉常理的服務鏡頭﹐從原本偷窺女主角洗澡﹐偷天換日變成看大叔出浴。故事雖然很多黃色笑話﹐但總能堅守樂而不淫的底線﹐要不然也不能在兒童時段播放了。

Babylon A.D. 巴比倫密碼

Babylon AD 每次我為了看電影而看電影﹐不是因為想看某套電影才去戲院﹐總是失望而回看了套爛片。這個幾個星期我在印度工幹﹐週未晚上沒有任何節目﹐幾個同事便決定去看場電影﹐好過留在酒店發霉。幾個男人沒有理由看劇情片﹐對印度歌舞片也興趣不大﹐剩下荷里活動作電影《巴比倫密碼》是唯一的選擇。

這套電影爛得我差不多不想寫影評﹐Van Dissel飾演未來世界的僱傭兵接了一項任務﹐把一個少女從蒙古的修院護送到紐約。至於少女有什麼特別﹐為什麼全世界也在追殺她﹐故事可能有講但我完全看不明白。整套電影的前四分三勉強合格﹐未來世界的頹癈設定很酷。動作場面一場緊接一場﹐酒吧亡命拳擊比賽﹐在結冰海面爭奪偷渡潛艇的位置﹐雪上電單車決戰無人戰機﹐到最後的紐約街頭混戰﹐畫面刺激火爆算是交足功課。不過動作場面之間欠缺連貫性﹐中間亦沒有任何文戲交待戲情。若果只是這些小問題﹐我倒可以忍受動作電影的通病。

可是電影最尾四分一完全急轉直下﹐少女身世之謎下場怎樣﹐觀眾完全不知道。最要命是不見了主角決戰壞蛋那場最終大戰﹐在一場毫不驚險的追車場面後﹐電影忽然完了﹐好像導演錯手把真正的結尾剪掉。完全場開燈時觀眾罵聲四起﹐很久沒有看過一套爛得如些徹底的電影。若果夾硬要找這套電影的優點的話﹐唯一可以說是楊紫的演出不錯﹐飾演養大少女的修女﹐在戲中展露了幾下功夫身手﹐可惜她的角色一出場﹐妨彿在額頭上已寫著會領便當﹐不過她沒有主角般幸運﹐死了就死了﹐ 不會無端端復活。

印度看電影一般很便宜﹐但我們貪過癮﹐要一試超豪華VIP戲院﹐一張戲票差不多要二十美元﹐大約等於平圴印度人一星期的收入﹐或加拿大一張戲票的兩倍價錢。未開場前等入場不用排隊﹐可以在像酒吧的休息室等候﹐有待應送上果汁和汽水。入場後一看﹐被戲院的豪華級數嚇呆了。戲院的大小與平常可以坐百多人的中型戲院相若﹐可是戲院內只有二十四個坐位﹐全是電動升降椅背的真皮梳化。每張梳化間有張小桌子﹐桌上有個電鈴可以用來召喚服務員﹐隨時送上飲品爆谷小吃。音響當然是無敵強勁﹐大慨除了IMAX外﹐我未去過有更好音效的戲院。雖然電影真的夠爛﹐但我不會高喊退票回水﹐因為享受超豪華戲院﹐已經完全值回票價。

Watching Cricket

Cricket to Indians is like hockey to Canadian. The Australian team is playing the Indian team in Bangalore this week. A cricket match last 4-5 days, and 8 hours per day. The game will start in the morning, then players will have a lunch break, and the game continue until the evening. Since it would be fun to watch a live cricket game, we decided to try out luck at the stadium after lunch yesterday.

When we arrived at the stadium, the ticket is already sold out. We were a bit disappointed, so the driver offered to help us get some tickets from the scalper. He left the car disappeared into the crowd for a few minutes, then come back with the scalper with him. The scalper is selling us three tickets for 3000 Rupee. We thought its a bit too expensive, so he lower it down to 2000 Rupee. We still think it’s too much and we counter offer him 1500 Rupee. Which is what we original budget for the game. CAD$10 for a few hours of game. Not bad. So we got our tickets, sent our driver away and ready to have some fun.

When we arrive at the gate, we found out the tickets turn out to be used. It’s OK, because the ticket come with the return pass allowing ticket holder go out and get back into the stadium. However we only got two return pass, one return pass is missing. We played dumb with the door man, pulled our innocent tourist card and eventually he let us go inside. When we arrive at the seats, it turns out 2 tickets belong to one section and another ticket belong to another section. Again, we play dumb and pulled our innocent tourist card, all three of us get into the seats. The seats are very good, we were sitting on the 3rd row right behind the camera men. We watched the game until the end of the day, get almost 2 hours of good cricket action. The pace of the game is quite slow, probably it is as exciting as base ball. It really test my patient spending two hours watching the Indian team getting 100 points, trying to catch up with the 450 points Australian team got in the 1st inning.

At the end of the day, every one is happy. The scalper is happy for turning an handsome profit on some garbage paper. The driver is happy for getting a cut from the scalper. We are happy for watching an international cricket game at prime location seats. We get to experienced two India trademark experience first handed in a single cricket game. We got ripped off big time by the scalper and we got bored by watching the endless bowl and bat in a cricket game. One stone shooting down two birds.

Bargaining

As an engineer, a market perfectionist, an inspired to-be-economist, I hate bargaining. Bargaining is a very inefficient way of trade. The sellers use their advantage of having asymmetric information of the transaction price, getting buyers to pay more they should have. In a perfect transparent market, where everyone knows want everyone else pays, there should not be any room for bargaining. Every buyers should get the same good deal at the market equilibrium. Bargaining not only is a waste of time, it also distorting the market price burden the buyers with additional transaction cost. In short, bargaining is evil. In Indian, you simply can’t buy anything without bargaining, that’s another proof Indian culture is backward.

However, for the first time, I find the joy of bargaining. Bargaining is still evil, but at least if you get are lemons, you can still make some lemonade. Here is the story. Today, I went to MG road, the tourist district in Bangalore, with my colleagues to shop for gifts to bring home. On the street, there is a young boy selling wooden chess set. The chess set is not very pretty, the craftsmanship is kinda rough. One of my colleagues is interested to get one for his son, so he asked for the price. The young boy open his offer with 1500 Rupee. We thought we were quite savvy in bargaining, we slash the prince to 1/3 and make him a 500 Rupee counter offer. The bargaining going back and forth for a while, at last the colleague bought the chess set for 600 Rupee. 60% off from the initial price, we thought that was not bad. The boy try to sell another chess set to another colleague, but we just walked pass an interesting shop, so we enter the shop and ignored him.

We spend quite some time in the shop looking at things. To our surprise, when we come out, the boy is still there waiting for us. Trying to sell us another chess set. We keeps saying we don’t want to buy another set. Then the boy slash the price to 500 Rupee, our original offer. Mmm… if things start getting interesting. If he lower the price, it means there is room for more cuts. I decide to test the limit and see how low can I get. Here the games of bargaining begins. I don’t really want the chess set, so I counter offer him 100 Rupee to see what happen. To keep the story short, the boy followed us for the next hour, when we enter a shop, he just waited outside patiently and continue the bargain on our way from one shop to another. At the end, after I had enough fun and it’s almost time for dinner, I settle make a deal with him at 200 Rupee. The money is not really for buying the chess set, rather it is to reward him keeping us entertained for over a hour. It is only 1/3 the price of what my colleague paid! We laughed at the poor colleague for being ripped off the whole night. We joked that we should have a bargaining competition for those come to Bangalore. Everyone has to buy a chess set from MG road and see who is the king of bargaining.

Here is the moral of the story. 1) Counter offering 1/5 is still too high, you should start from 1/10 as the new default value. 2) If the seller agrees to your price, it means your price is too high. You know you can go lower. 3) Time is money, the longer you bargain, the lower the price. If I have enough time, I think I could bargain it down to 100 Rupee. I suspect the boy can sell it for 50 Rupee and still make a profit. 4) Don’t counter offer at once, let him cut the prince first. 5) Bargaining is fun because you can make your over-paid friend looks like a fool! Probably I still have over paid for buying the chess at 200 Rupee, but the bragging right to make fun of your friend is priceless.

Red Storm Rising 紅潮風暴 – Tom Clancy

Red Strom Rising 第一次看Tom Clancy的小說是很多年前的事﹐那時我十分喜歡辛康納利主演的《追擊赤十月》﹐看完電影後便急不及待從老父的書櫃找原著來讀。當年我還是只個中學生﹐英文水平馬馬虎虎﹐在看得明與不明之間﹐把整本小說硬啃下去。現在已經記不起原著好不好看﹐好像是情節﹐反而電影版的情節倒印象深刻。我常常以為自己很喜歡Tom Clancy﹐其實也只不過是看了後來兩套夏理遜福當Jack Ryan的電影﹐之後他的一本小說也沒讀過。不過老父倒是Tom Clancy迷﹐當年兩父子看電影時﹐他如數家珍地講Jack Ryan的故事﹐從小特工如何一直升上去當美國總統。我印象中老父說過Tom Clancy的眾多小說中﹐第二本著作《紅潮風暴》寫得最好﹐可是亦是最艱深最難讀。大慨從那時開始﹐這本小說便加入我腦內的必讀書單上。很多次想過買來看也因種種原因作罷﹐轉眼過了十幾年也一直沒有機會看這本小說﹐。想不到去渡蜜月坐遊輪﹐船上的圖書館剛巧有這本書﹐反正在船上閒著沒事幹﹐便借了下來以極速趕在上岸前讀完。

家父說得沒錯﹐這本小說真的很難讀。不過今時今日的我已非當年的中學生﹐讀英文磚頭小說已是如履平地。我雖算不上是軍事迷﹐但自問軍事常識不錯﹐足以應付小說中的大量軍事述語。不過《紅潮風暴》我還是看得頗為吃力﹐除了平時上哲學課的教科書外﹐大慨這是近年我讀過最傷腦筋的書。小說難讀不是因為寫得差﹐而是因為實在有太多資料要吸收記憶。故事有十多條主線平衡發展﹐平均每二三頁便轉換焦點人物一次。每條主線的故事互相緊扣﹐交織出美蘇第三次世界大戰的前因後果與來龍去脈。若讀者果少點記憶力﹐在看一條主線時﹐忘記另外那些主線發生的事情﹐恐怕會如墮八里雲霧中﹐完全看不到故事正在發生什麼事情。這本小說對讀者的要求非常嚴格﹐要有良好的閱讀和綜合分析能力﹐才可以把所有主線整合﹐從中看到整個戰局的戰況變化。

《紅潮風暴》的主戰場在德國爆發﹐蘇聯因油井受到恐怖襲擊﹐導至國內能源供應嚴重短缺﹐於是決定打中東石油的主意。攻佔中東產油國不是問題﹐最大問題是如何防止西方國家插手。於是紅軍便先發制人﹐發動西德侵略戰﹐務求在進軍中東前﹐完全摧毀北約的軍力。故事的規模十分龐大﹐主要角色多達十多人﹐從對戰雙方的角度去描述戰況的發展。作戰細節很詳盡真實﹐這場戰役的關鍵﹐是在於北約能否保護大西洋航道﹐從美國本土運輸彈藥兵源來增援﹐堅守西德防線直到紅軍耗盡燃油。承續他上一部小說的傳統﹐在潛艇與反潛艇戰是其中一個描述重點。這部小說更加入陸戰和空戰元素﹐成為絕少數海陸空全方位的軍事小說。地面是決定勝負關鍵的主戰場﹐海軍則是陸軍的生命線。空軍的任務是攻擊敵方和保護己方的的陸軍海軍。在空戰中搶鐘的戰鬥機並不主角﹐只不過是為環繞攻擊機的衍生品。破壞敵方陸軍海軍的攻擊機﹐才是空軍的真正主角。現實的空戰沒有電影中的精彩纏鬥戰﹐大部份時間只是在玩躲迷藏遊戲﹐看誰先找到敵方誰便贏。除了軍事上的描述外﹐這本小說對蘇聯共黨內政治角力也有深入的描述。其中莫斯科兵變那一場最精彩﹐Tom Clany對軍隊和政治的關係有精辟獨到的見解。

雖然小說中的美蘇第三次世界大戰口是虛構出來﹐但Tom Clancy小說的魅力超真實的戰況抽述。他不像其他軍事小說般﹐單從前線戰鬥人員描寫戰況的慘烈﹐也不是如三國演義般描寫將領如何談笑用兵。他小說的主角並不是任何一個人物﹐而是整場戰爭本身﹐人物只不過用來串連起所有事件的載體。看Tom Clancy的小說最有趣的地方﹐就是作者非常豐富的軍事知識﹐就像在看軍事百科全書。他的小說更顛覆很多一直以來習以為常﹐建立於傳統戰爭的軍事理論。要到十多年後的波斯灣戰爭﹐展現首次高科技現代化戰爭的力量﹐才證明他的小說是超越時代的軍事預言。

Toilet Papar

Before I come to Indian, I heard that Indians don’t use toilet paper, they use their left hand. I thought it was a joke or it is stories from last centuries. Now I am in Indian, I can confirm the story is true. In a typical Indian toilet, you won’t find any toilet paper. Instead, you get a tap and a water bucket in each stall. After you had done your business, you can use the water bucket and your left hand to clean your butt. In some more advance toilet, it has a hose with shower head, so you can wash your butt more thoroughly than using a water bucket. I only find toilet paper is provided in hotels or fine dining restaurants with lots of foreigner customers.

No only that Indians don’t use toilet paper, they don’t even know what toilet paper is. The toilet paper in the guest house is running low, so I asked the maid to get me some new toilet paper. Guess what I got? I got kitchen paper towels! Flushing those thing down will guarantee a flooding toilet. Luckily, my box kleenex save the day. My highest priority task for this weekend is to get some toilet paper for the guest house from the super market.