Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tesco's Market Share Slips

This morning, I was involved in a research project that concerns shopping malls. I cannot divulge the details but it promises to be both an illuminating and interesting assignment. I can't wait to start.


I also read in The Telegraph today that Tesco's dominance of the supermarket industry in the UK slipped further. According to Kantar Worldpanel, Tesco's market share fell from 30.3 percent this time last year to 29.7 percent in the 12 weeks to February 19, a further decline on the 29.9 percent reported last month. This is the lowest level Tesco has experienced since May 2005.

This demonstrates that Tesco’s pricing initiatives – I had blogged about them, read my postings dated September 28 & October 25, 2011 – have not fared well, having failed to lure customers away from its competitors, particularly Asda and Sainsbury's, both of which gave out many vouchers.

As a result, Carolyn Bradley, the UK marketing director who oversaw the Big Price Drop Campaign has been replaced by David Wood, the commercial director of its Hungary business. Bradley moved to a new role as group brand director working for the group. I am stumped. If she could not succeed in marketing, what makes the supermarket group think she will succeed in branding? I hope people won’t think that failed marketers can simply re-invent themselves as branding experts! This is totally not true!

Bloodshed Continues in Syria

The 24-deadline has long passed. I wish people don’t promise something that they cannot deliver. It was an empty threat. Who is going to believe that Najib will be alarmed or even worried about being confronted with a bigger anti-Lynas demo? Defijnitely, not him! If there’s trouble, he will just order the police, the FRU and maybe, even Rela to intervene! Or like in Penang, just send in the gorillas – they are UMNO’s rapid deployment troops.

Bersih 2.0 co-chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan who spoke at Sunday’s anti-Lynas rally, told protestors “when you vote, you can reject candidates who support Lynas”. Do you really think enough people care about Lynas outside of the Gebeng-Kuantan area? Already, BN believes that the Lynas issue may, at the most, impact on just two parliamentary seats in Pahang (i.e. Kuantan and Indera Mahkota) and therefore, it will not affect BN’s chances in the next election. What's more, the said marginal parliamentary seats are with the opposition anyway. So please know that Najib is not going to shutter Lynas any time soon!

By the way, the Lynas Corp website (
http://www.lynascorp.com/) is still down!


Image credit: http://actforamerica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/syria-260-people-killed-by-authorities-in-one-day/


In Syria, the bloodshed continues unabated. What devils move Bashar al-Assad to murder his own people with impunity? I guess lives are cheap when dictators like him want to hold onto power at all costs!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Run Out of Money

Do you know that it now costs more than £100 to fill up the 70-liter tank in a typical family car in the UK? As fuel prices in the country spiraled upwards, Chancellor George Osborne made it clear to Britons that they must accept the painful truth – that the country has 'run out of money'!

I wonder if Malaysia will face the same fate since the BN government is spending money as if there is no tomorrow?

Last evening, I was at the MidValley Toastmasters Club for just one reason – to watch a club member, Jane Lee deliver her contest speech. She had requested me to help prepare her for the International Speech contest and against my better judgment, I had agreed. I do not believe in short-cuts but anyway, since I had agreed, I tried to do what I can in this short stretch of time. I was not expecting a miracle but having said this, Jane did well enough – to my mind, she has shown improvement if I were to compare yesterday’s performance with the speeches she had made before at the club.

To be honest, when Jane finished speaking, I wasn’t too thrilled. I must share part of the blame. Still, I was glad to receive an email from Moses Wong (another club member and also contestant) which said: “…A few of us remarked that Jane did very well with her speech. She was poised, articulate and confident – and her speech was well written. Though she floundered towards the end. Thanks Victor. No surprise our members look to you for mentoring and support.”


Mary Pickford once said: "If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down". I am positive that Jane will make another fresh start. She wants to improve. I know that she knows – there‘s still a lot for her to learn and she has to invest even more time and energy to be a better speaker. I can only urge her to go for it!

As I typed the above words, I too realize that these same words are also meant for me! I have found a truth – that we can all learn to speak better if we put our hearts and minds to it! I, for one, will try – for in trying, I look to the future because as George Burns said, that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life!

One Hell of a Leg



At the Oscars 2012 event on Sunday, Angelina Jolie was presenting the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay when she stood with one hand on her hip and a bent right knee thrust out through the slit of her Versace gown, replicating a similar pose she had struck earlier on the red carpet.

And for that pose, Jolie became a popular topic on Twitter as users rushed to comment on her appearance. Soon after, the Twitter account AngiesRightLeg was set up, tweeting "Look at me!". Later it added "Still here. Great view, but thank god for the slit in this dress" and "You have to admit I'm one hell of a leg". The account currently has over 10,000 followers.

I always believe that if you have got the legs, please flaunt them!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Superspecs



Google is on the verge of launching a pair of futuristic glasses that would deliver all the services of a smartphone straight to the wearer’s eye – at least according to this report in UK’s Mail Online on February 24, 2012.

Featuring a miniature display on one lens, the hi-tech specs allow users to surf the internet or deal with text messages and emails without lifting a finger.

The screen is controlled with a ‘mouse’ which is moved simply by tilting your head. And should you still wish to actually talk to someone, it is believed the glasses will let you make calls using an in-built microphone.

There has been suggestions that the device, which would revolutionize the smartphone market, could be available by the end of this year costing less than £380 – making it cheaper than Apple’s iPhone.

Users would also be able to see through the lenses as normal and go about their daily business, then with a flick of the head activate the display and start surfing.

The glasses would use the same Google operating system that powers Android smartphones and tablets and would connect to the internet through 3G or next-generation 4G mobile networks.

They would also be equipped with GPS mapping technology and motion sensors, as well as a camera. It brings the prospect that wearers could be given information instantly on the buildings they are looking at, on nearby landmarks or friends who are in the area.

But the devices will also bring new potential for advertisers to reach users in ever more personal situations, such as in a lift, a restaurant or relaxing on their sofa.

Google declined to comment.

Apple is also thought to be developing pioneering technology, such as smartphones that can be worn as watches or sewn into clothing.

Maybe, one day, who knows, we might even see a microchip that will replace my brain!


Liverpool won its first silverware in six years Sunday, beating second-tier Cardiff 3-2 in a penalty shootout to capture the League Cup at Wembley. The score was 1-1 after 90 minutes and 2-2 after extra time. Although the Reds started the game in attack mode, it was the other team who struck first through Joe Mason in the 18th minute and Liverpool only levelling the score through Martin Skrtel in the 60th minute. Reds substitute Dirk Kuyt fired his team 2-1 ahead after 108 minutes but Cardiff snatched the equalizer when centre-half Ben Turner jabbed home from close range with just two minutes remaining. In the penalty shootout, Kuyt, Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson all found the net and for the other side, it was Don Cowie and Peter Whittingham who contributed the two goals.

It was a nail-biting finish but as Kenny Daglish said, "It's not a nice way to win a cup but we'll take it".

Sunday, February 26, 2012

SMK Subang Utama



The MidValley Toastmasters Club organized a Youth Leadership Program for Subang Jaya’s SMK Subang Utama (February 24-26, 2012). I was asked to help and so I presented “Organize Your Speech” and “Elements of a Good Speech” and even took up the lead mentor role for one of four groups of students. I was absent on Saturday but returned on Sunday to be one of four judges for the speech contest.


I must say I was in awe with this enthusiastic group of exuberant students because they were determined to learn. More than that, they demonstrated a caring attitude towards one another and even went so far as to encourage fellow speakers who faltered, floundered and stumbled. Having listened to them on the first day when they did their ice-breaker speeches and then returned on the third day when they delivered their contest speeches, I marveled at their transformation. All twenty-four of them had become good speakers! I say ‘good’ because they are non-Toastmasters and yet over two days, they learnt and learnt well. They had an advantage though – their English proficiency is impressive! It is comforting to know that there are still Malaysians who do speak good English!

I am putting up their individual photos because I believe every one of them did well! Sure there were the winners – and I don’t mean to devalue their victories – but the truth of the matter is that everybody is a winner! Honest! That explains why I didn’t take photos of the title-holders. I am very privileged to have known these students because they are real gems! They did their school proud and they did themselves proud too!

Congratulations also to club president Ang Chee Yong for being the dedicated driver of this Toastmasters project – you did a great job!

Himpunan Hijau 2.0


Picture by Jack Ooi

The anti-Lynas popular protest, dubbed Himpunan Hijau 2.0 began in a carnival-like atmosphere with people dressed in green and beating drums. An Aliran report published today put the attendance at some fifteen thousand people. Malaysiakini also put the number at 15,000. This was probably the biggest environmental protest in Malaysian history. Of course, the mainstream press downplayed the numbers to just a gathering of between 2,000 to 3,000 people.

Kuantan OCPD Mohd Jasmani Yusoff signalled his unhappiness that the Lynas rally had violated conditions of their police permit, one of which was that political speeches were delivered and placards and banners condemning the government were hoisted by participants. The Lynas issue became a hot potato only because the government steamrolled over the local people’s objections. And if it involves the government, of course it will become political. And what’s wrong with condemning the government? The government refused to budge on this project, so the government must take the blame.

On this same day too, Najib Razak said: “We would not give an operating license unless we are satisfied that the local community can accept that this project is safe”. I wish he can see beyond his own stupidity! Isn’t that what the local community was protesting about today? They couldn’t accept Lynas and they were demonstrating against it! What is it that he couldn’t understand? Najib is an idiot!

In addition to Kuantan, there were protests in major cities throughout the country including Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Bukit Merah, Kuching and elsewhere. They were all peaceful rallies except for Penang where about fifty thugs from UMNO Youth and Perkasa turned hostile and injured two journalists from the local Chinese daily Kwong Wah Jit Poh, i.e. Adam Chew and Lee Hong Chun. The police stood and watched respectfully.


The protest even spread to cyberspace where unidentified hackers took down Lynas corporate website and replaced it with a posting that said: "Stop Lynas, save Malaysia. Do not hurt my country."

Buoyed by a successful turnout yesterday, the anti-Lynas protest group, Himpunan Hijau, issued a 24-hour deadline for the federal government to shut down the Lynas plant in Gebeng or face an even bigger demonstration.

In the SPL game between Celtic and Motherwell, good goalkeeping by Darren Randolph prevented the former from scoring even as they dominated. It was Gary Hooper who broke Motherwell's resistance when he fired home from close range (59). Their lead over second-placed Rangers widened to 23 points.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Apple News

Two separate stories about Apple show an irony that is afflicting our world today!

The first story is featured in UK’s The Telegraph on Thursday in which a public letter that claims to be from two former workers (i.e. Guo Rui-qiang and Jia Jing-chuan) at the Suzhou plant in China where iPhone touchscreens were assembled, has pleaded for Apple to improve working conditions in their factories.

Their open letter to SumOfUs, an organization campaigning for an ‘ethical iPhone’ carried the claim that they have been injured by a chemical cleaner called N-hexane, and say they have suffered neurological damage as a result. They are demanding reforms so that other workers don’t suffer like they do.

The second stroy tells of Apple CEO Tim Cook openly admitting that: the world's most valuable company has more money than it needs. During the past year, Apple's stock has surged 50 percent to create about $160 billion in shareholder wealth. Apple now has a market value of $480 billion -- more than the combined value of Microsoft and Google Inc. (Webpage http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/02/24/apple-has-more-cash-than-it-needs-ceo-says/
, published February 24, 2012). And if I am not mistaken, Apple has more cash than even the US Government!

Should a company make bucketfuls of profits through the blood, sweat and tears of long-suffering workers? Won’t Apple customers prod, push and press the company to do something for these workers? Will we continue to turn a blind eye to the 1% who is exploiting the other 99%?


Today, former vice president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi took the oath to become Yemen’s new president and formally removing autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh from power. A former general, Hadi stood as the sole candidate to replace Saleh in a power transfer deal brokered by Gulf neighbours and backed by Western powers. He was elected after more than 60 percent of eligible voters took part in balloting this week.

Why am I not at all surprised? Everybody doesn’t want to rock the boat – hence Hadi is a shoo-in. But I doubt normalcy will return to this country.

Saleh’s departure makes him the fourth Arab leader to be displaced from power in more than a year of mass uprisings that have redrawn the political map of the Middle East.