Tim Yang is a copywriter, brand strategist and web developer living in Malaysia. He has under-graduate training in account planning and research and insists that differentiation and consumer insights rule his work. So if you need some copywriting done or an account planner to analyse your consumer research to add strategic value to your advertising campaign, call him.
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TimYang.com: The man, the blog, the butt-crack.

Sunday, November 24, 2023
More fan mail
UPDATE: Thanks to a referal link, we now know who the sender of the fan mail probably is -- a 16 year old kid in Maryland. (I haven't decided yet whether that disclaimer at the bottom of his page is calling me a phoney or whether he's just self-deprecatingly refering to himself in the third person.)

I love opening fan mail!

From: DCD15@aol.com
Date: 22/11/2023 10:03:16
Message: ur lame man, my name is tim yang and ur giving a bad name to all the tim yangs in this world.. take off ur pic and take down this site asap dude..

Dear Mr Thick Yang,
But I got Timyang.com first. Sucks to be you innit, dude?
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Saturday, November 23, 2023
Don't talk to me
I must be in a lousy mood this week. When I got back my laptop today, instead of showing appreciation for expediency, I chewed out the delivery guy.

Don't talk to me.

I chewed out the repair guy too. After I sent it for the replacement of the DVD drive, he tells me the screw on the casing broke and he would charge me extra because the casing was damaged at the same time. Then he refused to use super-glue on the casing after I suggested it as an alternative.

Don't talk to me.

I chewed out the salesguy at the Mac shop for making the mistake of over-enthusiasm by insisting he could uninstall OSX using an Apple-provided uninstaller when 10 out of 10 Mac experts (not to mention my left eyeball and my right eyeball) say there isn't one.

Don't talk to me.

I also chewed out the designer of an agency I do freelance for because she balked when I asked her to set up a meeting between me and a client of the agency for whom she was doing a corporate brochure. At the insistence of the client, the brochure became crap and the designer didn't have to heart to tell the client so I had to.

Just don't talk to me.
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Saturday, November 23, 2023
I now know what a rotten egg smells like
This is not something you'd normally want to blog. But since it's the only interesting thing that has happened all week...

The smell itself isn't unpleasant. It's a bit like a mildewed curtains. But it hid a potency that reacted badly with my body. I was making fried eggs and unknown to me, one of the eggs was already bad. I'd cracked it with the spatula and let the white dribble in the hot pan. But the pan had a most violent rejection to it, throwing hot oil everywhere, singeing my left palm. I'd never encountered rotten eggs before so it took me a while before I realised I had to throw the whole egg into the sink.

I had not the sense to cover my mouth and nose before proceeding to scrub the pan and the spatula. I had no idea that in a few moments of exposure my body would begin the wretch and spasm and I would instinctively run to the window. In the first seconds of panic, I still managed to keep the contents of my stomach intact by focusing on a meditative breathing technique I'd learned from an old martial arts manual. I forgot about my stomach and imagined myself breathing out all the bad air and breathing in all the good air.

As I calmed down, my first coherent thought was to scrub down and to get the smell off me. I rushed to the upstairs bathroom and threw off all my clothes and got into the shower, taking extra care around my face, hands and hair. Then I grabbed a t-shirt and wrapped it around my face before going back to the kitchen to finish the job.

I found green goo everywhere. And I'm considering throwing away the pan and the spatula. But I'm still hungry...

(What a lousy entry. Mental note: must delete this later when nobody's looking.)
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Monday, November 18, 2023
Madness and the local ISPs
I gave my host company an earful the other day because of problems updating with my websites. The changes never seem to show. After asking a couple of local designers, I owe my host an apology. They said the problem lies with my ISP's resource-saving cache policy. If I over-write and access files numerous times a day (which I have to in order to make and check the updates), my ISP automatically caches the file and refuses to refresh.

Unfortunately, I have little recourse. There are only two ISPs in Malaysia -- TMNet and Jaring. There's a third called Maxis, but it's quite fledgling. After a bit of testing, both TMNet and Jaring seem to have the same cache policy. And why not. They've been pinching personnel from each other for years so both of them have identical outlooks and strategies.

Am I screwed? Oh yes. I've got a drill-bit the size of a Howitzer up my ass.
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Monday, November 18, 2023
Malaysia isn't anti-e-commerce. Oh and my nose only needs a bit of trimming...
I spent the morning calling up a dozen local and international banks inquiring about e-commerce merchant banking accounts. Only one had it. (But we'll come to that in a short while.) Shockingly, Citibank, Standard Chartered and HSBC (supposedly pro-business banks) did not. The rep at HSBC insisted that there is "very little demand" for such a service. "Maybe it's because there's little supply," I retorted.

"That... may be true."

The only bank with an e-commerce account is Maybank, a long-established local bank. But its facility is tailored for bricks-and-mortars rather than pure-plays. You have to have been in business for a year to open the account and they charge 3-4% of the value of each transaction -- so the internet cannot be your primary source of revenue. That's kind of like saying "We'll do business with you... only if you don't need us."

Without a ready e-commerce plan, none of the local merchants will be able to develop workable e-commerce sites. Even if the local internet users aren't ready to make purchases online, the internet allows ready access to the US and Europe markets. So whenever the banks quote the smaller local user base figures back at me, they start looking like they'd only just picked up "Internet for Dummies".

So much for the government's lip-service for e-commerce...
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Sunday, November 17, 2023
Easter eggs
Ok they're not really easter eggs because I just told you that they're there, but hidden somewhere on this page are two hidden alert windows. Turning off CSS won't help you find them because they're not regular links. They're made with javascript. And, hey, no peeking at the source code!
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Saturday, November 16, 2023
The number one symptom of computer withdrawal

1. The computer repair guy is now on speed-dial.

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Friday, November 15, 2023
Laptop is gone. *Sob*
My laptop is gone for repairs. It's just the CD drive that went kaput. I was watching a DVD one moment and then it stopped reading the disc. I didn't think Robocop was THAT bad!

And wouldn't you know it, the one year warranty ended yesterday. I kid you not.

Anyway I have to figure out something else to do. I heard of these things called books. Seems you have to "read" them. What a crazy concept!
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Friday, November 15, 2023
Asian policemen - the world's greatest puppet show
Bali Bomber and policemen - best friends

Does this picture say it all or what? If you still think that the Bali bombers are going to be caught, shovel your pathetic hopes into the bottom of the water-logged bomb-site pit. That's the policemen smiling along with the Amrozi there like they're the best friends in the world.

When I heard the police conducted an open interrogation with the media as the audience, I thought, yup, this is surely typical of Asian culture maxim - it is far better to be seen doing something than to be actually doing anything. And if the police agenda was to make Amrozi a hero to the extremist elements, well, by gumption, they can pat themselves on the back for a job well-done. They've just given Amrozi a worldwide platform and showed that terrorism is for fun and profit.

(Of course, to save myself some tongue biting later, there is also the possibility that the police may be creating an environment that will encourage the other bombers to let down their guard and come out into the open..... blink blink... naaaaaahhh!)
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Thursday, November 14, 2023
Letter from a fan
I caught flak in my comments recently about a bit of humour on the topic of religious beliefs. So Ahmad decided to write me a little ditty. It seems that Ahmad doesn't quite understand that as a concept, religion's chief strength (and also its weakness) is that in practice it is open to interpretation. Religion can produce self-empowering epiphanies and at the same time produce Louis Farakhan. He's also got to understand that people don't always practice his religion the way he thinks they ought to. Certainly he's never seen muslims sitting at coffee shops, with piles of food on the table, impatiently tapping their fingers, waiting for the break-fast siren to go off. So much for spiritual cleansing...

I'm not trying to single out Islam. Every religion, including Christianity, also have their Jerry Falwells, Pat Robertsons and Pope John Pauls. I just happen to live in a muslim country so I've seen plenty of muslim practices. Anyway, enough editorialising...

The comment:
I just came across your page while browsing the directory at blogger.com - seems they stopped updating their sites in 2001. Anyway, I know it's a blog and all but just to clarify a few facts: fasting is not to commemorate the suffering of the Prophet Muhammad. It's a command from God which was sent down to Muhammad's. Fasting has been in existence since before Muhammad (I remember the Jews were commanded to fast and I think the Christians were as well). The act of fasting brings about feelings of enlightenement - of the sufferings of the poor and of charity and piousness and devotion.

Also festival of Hari Raya is not a New Years Day celebration as is a common mistaken assumption. It is to celebrate the end of the fasting month and promotes the act of forgiveness and charity through visiting relatives/friends etc.
I won't bother commenting on the rest and this is probably the last post I'll submit to your site. Just making sure misinterpretation isnt being spread about Islam. Clarify before you perpetuate?

The reply:
I sincerely apologise for spreading misinformation, Ahmad. We do try to uphold absolute truth on this blog out of respect for our readers. As such, we will try to spread the absolute truth that

a) Islam, as a religion, is not open to interpretation. It would be blasphemous to suggest that people from different cultures view the teachings of the prophet differently.
b) All muslims follow the exact same practices in whatever culture they reside among, from the shores of Qatar to the minarets of Baghdad to the mosques of Portland, Oregon.
c) Osama bin Laden is the paragon of muslim faith and all muslims must strive to follow his example. Not to do so is to blaspheme Allah.

Oh wait.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2023
Who Wants to Be A Millionaire - Arabic-style
I was sitting in a coffee shop in the evening and the shop's TV was tuned to the satellite station. I turned around to view it when I heard the a presenter speaking in Arabic - since when did Malaysian presenters speak Arabic? The TV was actually tuned to an Arab channel and Cairo's version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire was on.

The host, George Kurdahi, was a huge broad-faced man who could easily have been a dock-yard worker were he not dressed in a neatly-cut navy suit. Interestingly, he's a Lebanese who used to be a respected war journalist for Egyptian TV and a Christian, before moving into the entertainment field. Despite an Egyptian fatwa against it, the show's extremely popular in the middle east.

Anyway, he had two contestants in front of him, both dressed in smart buttoned-up Bedoin-style suits with red and white checkered head-dress. Of course I couldn't understand a word they were saying but their body language translated quite well.

Fat One: [Two hands going up and down] So I climbed up the tree to get a better look at Ali's wife getting veilless...
Skinny One: [Both palms moving back and forth] And that's when he caught me diddling our pet camel! [Hahaha!]
Fat One: [Eyes opening largely] I yelled, "Ali! How could you do something like that!
Skinny One: [Stroking his head-dress and tossing it back like Farrah Fawcett] But you never come see me any more and I got lonely.
Fat One: [Jumping up and down his seat] No, no... up-and-down strokes, up-and-down, not in-and-out...
George Kurdahi: [Smiling] I swear I'm going to kill my producer for letting you two yo-yos on my show... [Hahaha!] Opps, wardrobe! I just came in my pants!

Waitaminute? TWO contestants?
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Monday, November 11, 2023
America's Army
I read about this 3-D shooter game in Wired a month back because part of the promotion tactics was a weblog written by a soldier in Afghanistan. It was developed by the US army as a way to attract recruits. Has anybody tried this game yet? How does that work? If you kill a lot of bad guys, does that mean an application form to Delta Force immediately pop up on your screen?

I don't quite understand the army's intentions. I expect the tactics displayed in the game conform to SOP in the army. But is it meant to be pre-training training? In that case, I'd really love to find out if players of the game or 3-D shooters in general make better recruits. Then again, maybe not. The army public affairs department issued a statement saying it was not meant to be training.

The game however does bring the army to top of mind recall and it does push the army's promises (marketing slogan: "Empower yourself. Defend freedom"). But I think the REAL purpose of it is to support continued obsession in shooter games among kids so they can flunk their classes and have little career choice but to join the armed forces.
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Sunday, November 10, 2023
Ramadan - celebration for everyone
Ah Ramadan is here. It's the time of year when all muslims begin a period of fasting to commemorate the suffering of the prophet Mohammad. Many muslims take this time to remember their poorer bretheren through suffering and offer donations to them. The culmination of this spiritual session is a festival otherwise known as Hari Raya, a kind of muslim New Years Day.

Incidently, it is also a time of celebration for the rest of the population. With the majority of Malaysians being muslim (about 55%), the Chinese and the Indians have the city to themselves. Ah yes, no need to reserve places at restaurants ahead of time - the muslims are all breaking fast at home or at humbler locations. The pubs are less crowded (yes, yes I know, muslims don't consume alcohol, and abuse centres aren't filled with muslims). So are the McDonald's. Peak hour traffic is eased as muslims will break the evening fast within walking distance. Happiness!

Unlike the middle-eastern nations, muslim-majority Malaysia doesn't shut down during Ramadan. However, it does get very sluggish, especially at the muslim-run government offices. Imagine that! More so than usual, if that's at all possible.

So I raise this glass (of orange juice) to the prophet Mohammad. For this holiday period of Ramadan, I'm certain right now, leading into the Christmas period, retail workers all over the west are secretly wishing they were living in a muslim country too.
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Friday, November 08, 2023
The problem with RSS feeds
I've been looking into RSS feeds recently to build a large news feed page so that instead of my going to the numerous news sites I usually visit, I just go to one. My own.

But RSS feeds leave a lot to be desired for four reasons.

First, the display of the news site is often more useful than the feed. Or rather the feed has only a fraction of the usefulness of the original. Take the BBC feeds. They're nicely sectioned out according to geography and industry. And they give the headline and an informative description of the news story. However, the BBC news site attaches related news stories to each story - so that you can have a fuller understanding of the issues. A RSS feed doesn't carry that. One of my favourite sites, Fark, also omits a crucial bit of information in its feed - it doesn't display the links to the comments. So for these sites, I would still have to go to the original website, making the feed redundant. It is also problematic because feeds are often used to drive traffic to the news site. If the feed is less than useful, who wants to display them? The traffic-drive reasoning is no longer applicable.

Second, there is a lack of quantity of feeds. Not all my favourite news sites have feeds. Slate doesn't have one. Dave Barry ought to have one, but he doesn't. And MSNBC only has one available for its national news. Among the blogs, only those using Blogger Pro will more likely have them since Blogger Pro creates RSS sheets as a feature. Movable Type (despite using XML), Greymatter and B2 don't naturally do that.

Third, there are a lot of garbage feeds out there. News feeds that no one in their right mind would bother taking. They clutter up websites and give the impression that RSS feeds are faddish. No thanks to Blogger Pro which has made it easier for garbage bloggers to produce these feeds.

Fourth, the software for converting XML to HTML are not that easy to use. The authors assume you have a bit of PHP/Perl knowledge. The scripts often need a lot of hacking and customisation. It's easy, but it takes time and a bit of know-how. It's not just a case of cutting and pasting a few lines of javascript between the BODY tags. But I think it should be that easy.

Feeds are available, yes. But ultimately, they're not that useful yet. There is a drive to make them more abundant in use. Yet the evangelists have been working more on the demand and been ignoring the supply side. The quality, quantity and ease of use of RSS feeds need to be improved before we see them as a staple of the internet.
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Saturday, November 02, 2023
Quarter pounder with cheese
Quarter pounderMy goodness! This end of the world has suddenly introduced the quarter pounder with cheese to the menu. Previously, it was rejected because the non-metric reference was assumed to be confusing. Which is why architects and real estate agents never use square feet to measure floor space (/sarcasm). So in the spirit of this festive season of intelligence abuse, I'm putting up a picture of a quarter pounder with cheese to illustrate the story. Tada! Look, gaze, be amazed.
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Saturday, November 02, 2023
At the dentist's
As if lying in a dentist's chair wasn't enough, Dr Ariffin hissed very loudly to his assistant, "Do that BELOW the patient's eye-level!". It was a rather odd order since I was hardly concerned with what the assistant was doing. She was merely loosening the wire for insertion into my braces. However, Dr Ariffin was already frantic because he had just finished putting local anaesthetic on my front gums to re-do some bad filling and he still had vivid memories of the last time I was under anaesthetic.

A year ago, he and Dr Nethi performed a routine but complicated operation to remove three of my impacted molars. The thought of having invasive surgery was not doing my nerves any good and as the needle went into the IV, I was already in a panic. My blood pressure plummeted, the operating room was booked and time was ticking almost as fast as my heart. But, in my anxiety, the anaesthetic took over twenty minutes to be effective. Meanwhile, the doctors and nurses in waiting were treated to nothing less than the most shamefully unprintable verbal abuse for the full length of that time.

I give new meaning to the phrase 'no to drugs'.
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Friday, November 01, 2023
Moving to Movable Type?
With so many bloggers talking about moving to Movable Type after the recent hack of Blogger revealed unaddressed security issues, I couldn't help but mull over it again.

I swore off Blogger a year ago when they were having terrible server problems resulting in lost entries and loss of service for hours on end. Back then the only alternative was Greymatter and there was no easy way to convert entries. So the matter was laid to rest as I convinced myself how easy Blogger really was to use. And there was no need to look for paid hosting since I didn't need PHP (I was on Blogspot back then).

Then in April, my host collapsed. Their hard disk and the back up were corrupted in an unexplained way. All my entries were lost. It was a disaster until I remembered that every entry is also backed up on Blogger's server, including my template. I was up in 10 minutes after I pressed the 'republish all archives' button and re-uploaded my graphics files. (The current design is virtually sans graphics, except for photo thumbnails that are served from Sony. No chance of that going down.) So I happily stuck to Blogger, and I learned my lesson about the importance of back-ups.

In order to move from Blogger to self-hosted system like MT, I would have to have back-up somewhere else -- like my local hard disk. I would also need a cheap always-active connection that's fast enough so I can set a daily-timed back-up that won't take ages to download. Until recently, that was not readily available in this country.

I'm still on 56k. But I have applied for a 128k DSL-lite connection -- the latest "invention" in Malaysia. If truth be told, residential broadband was available over 8 years ago. However, the government-run ISP known as Jaring (the only ISP at the time), paid little heed to it. The word was you could get it, but it would cost you RM1000 (USD$280) per month and you would have to know "somebody on the inside". It was of course a rumour because Jaring refused to make it publicly available, citing lack of need -- completely forgetting that technology often drives demand. After all, before the internet providers set up in Malaysia in the early 90s, was there a demand for it? According to Datamonitor, there are now well over 2 million users here.

I applied for broadband a week ago and was told that it takes up to 3 months for someone in the semi-autonomous ISP known as TMNet to process the papers. It would of course help if I knew "somebody on the inside" but again I don't. Such is the "you scratch my back, I scratch your back" commerce in Asia.

Yet, the way I see it now, there is no real advantage to moving. MT (or for that matter other systems like Bloxsom or Cafelog) doesn't have any must-have features. Search is nice but the only people who search my blog are the ones looking for "Thai prostitutes" and "sex massages". And Dotcomments provides perfectly fine feedback for me. There is however a perceived advantage of greater control. Control over what? I ask. As my April incident and the October hack has shown, there are no guarantees as far as the internet is concerned.
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