The food we threw away

The average rubbish bin in Singapore holds something quite unexpected for some. Discover what happens when we realise exactly how much food we discard without a second thought. makan mantra is a student-led initiative to reduce food waste in Singapore.

There are observable wastage in the office areas especially. And why’s that so?

  1. The food isn’t what we expect
  2. We might not be conscious over the amount of the food we are receiving
  3. Even if we do, the price of the food doesn’t typically decrease
  4. We buy additional food to share with others

1. The food isn’t what we expect

This is simple. I didn’t know this is so spicy so I couldn’t take it. I will go order something else.

Or maybe the spaghetti bolognese  looks terrible and didn’t taste good enough. We all want the best and at some point of time I tell myself I rather waste food than to take in food I do not want to eat. Is it fair to the hungry people in Afghanistan? Not at all. Do we still do it? Yes! Because by eating the horrible food, we gave in and accepted the extra calories and misery we could have easily deflected by just ordering something else. Food is affordable and happiness is at stake.

2. We might not be conscious over the amount of the food we are receiving

This happens quite often to me at least. I overestimate the amount of food I need in McDonald’s nearly all the time. The person at the cashier helpfully asks if I would like an upsize. Of course baby! Double upsize it, will you? And oh, change that drink to Milo. And you know what, I know want a sundae also, chocolate fudge please. Oh, Twister Fries? Why not?! Thank you!

And that’s how I end up with food I can’t finish. My fault? Maybe. But it does happen often because I’m not the one processing the food, the price of the food I am paying for is not significantly higher if I make these add ons. Sometimes I’m just feeling really hungry and I estimate my possible intake incorrectly.

3. Even if we do, the price of the food doesn’t typically decrease

Okay you go to Food Republic to have a meal. You order this beef noodle you know you cannot finish this time. So you ask if you could have lesser noodles. Do you get a discount? Nope. Same price as always.

This discourages me from even asking in the first place. It’s really market forces here acting, or rather the lack of. If things get cheaper, I might make a conscious effort to ask for lesser. More just doesn’t hurt the individual. I know you’re hating me right now, but cool off bro.

4. We buy additional food to share with others

This fried oyster egg thing. We always have a plate of it as an extra because someone in the party would have the craving for it. (I never have this craving, by the way.) So this person will order it but he or she will never just have it alone right? So they share, which itself is a beautiful gesture.

Let’s define the scenario clearer. There are 4 people, and Person A wants some sinful fried oyster egg. So Person A’s gonna buy a small portion, costing 3$. It’s great, and perhaps everybody’s happy. What if there are 8 people? Person A’s not going to just get a small portion. Okay, make it a large then, 5$. Person A can afford it and is willing to share with friends. And to worsen things a little, Person A doesn’t tell anyone he or she’s ordering fried oyster egg to share since Person A isn’t expecting anyone else to pay, it’s a treat. Now let me introduce Person B. Person B is very much like Person A, only that he likes fried carrot cake this time and similarly he got a large portion of it, 5$, gonna share too.

So effectively we ended up with an abundance of food we cannot finish and the cleaning dude shaking his head in disgust.

So what can I do better?

This works for me but might not for you. I always look at what others are having and sometimes I see something that looks nice and I order it. For those cases at least it is easy to recognize that I might not be able to finish the food and I order less of it.

If the person whom you’re eating with is close to you, half your portions and share this way. Also announcing that you’re going to buy something to share might give you a good idea who might be disinterested with the addons you are ordering.

Lastly, the less popular opinion, maybe food prices can still be increased.

Phone applications fatigue

I’m having a bit of fatigue on phone applications, especially those phone applications that work well as mere web applications. Some web sites would prompt you to get the iPhone version of their website. That just serves very little benefit to me as a consumer. In fact it breaks the flow of things! Worse, you keep having to upgrade it on your phones to get new features for an application that you probably use once a week. One day my phone might feature a whole directory of websites. Things have to change, people will realize the problems with this soon. And stop of the apps. Enough is enough.

Share about your problems

I kept a fair share of things to myself, trying to solve problems in my own way. Maybe I felt that sharing on my problems is a sign of weakness and that weakness I can overcome. It came to me that these little problems I have might be solved much quicker had I just shared with others.

The mere act of sharing requires verbalization of the problem. I find myself forced to frame the problem in a manner that can be easily digested by the listener. There’re times that already solves half the problem. Then the listener will probe the issue at stake and this further constraints the boundaries of the problem and that might just lead me to discover the primary sources of the issues.

Well two minds can work better than one. It doesn’t hurt to share and the best part is no one really judges me as much as I judge myself. So share.

Default surfing

Know of the time when your mind’s spacing out and your fingers start typing things in your address bar and pressing Enter?

It used to be Yahoo.com that I go to when I have nothing in mind. I don’t know why but it seems like my mind’s portal of choice. Uh, it’s not mine, it’s my mind’s. Anyway, it has since changed to Facebook.com and I am concerned.

I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook.com, that it is that I love to hate it. Facebook.com has my photographs and life trapped in it and just the other day I was using Facebook to date a particular moment of my life. I am so reliant on a channel that it almost is part of me. My friends are there, okay, my friends’ profiles are there. Facebook manages to make me feel I’ve done my social homework everyday and it fulfills my need to be close to people somewhat sufficiently.

But, there are times when I typed Facebook.com on my browser windows only to close it in defiance. This is the rebel facility in my mind acting up. I call it a bunch of names:

  • Unsocial
  • Fake social
  • Toilet status machine
  • Rant Reader 2.0

At one point of time I blocked myself from Facebook.com by, very smartly, adding Facebook.com to my /etc/hosts file. I remained proud of myself till the day I had to do some work on Facebook. I now have it unblocked and Chrome is picking it up as one of my most frequented sites.

So let’s look at my most frequented sites:

  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • Hacker News
  • Google Reader
  • YouTube
  • Gmail
  • Cafyn
  • CNN

Okay I can’t continue my topic from here, let’s go back to the topic on Facebook.

My point is Facebook has become some sort of a validation tool. Nothing happened unless it’s on Facebook. Went to Australia? No you didn’t, because it ain’t on Facebook. Which is why it took me so long to put up my Sydney and Melbourne photographs (I still have yet to). I felt a part of me is putting it up to confirmed my presence in Australia and that disturbed me.

And think of the time you do something good and write on Facebook.com. What happens? Your friends flock to Like your comment. You feel pleased and your act of kindness is validated by their likes. For the lazy, Facebook is the new moral compass. “I’m not sure what I am doing is right or not. I’ll put it on Facebook.”

Then the rants. Facebook is the most unhappy website for me because I read far too many complaints I feel unhappy too. There’s just too many rants on Facebook until I feel a little less reading lightens my mood.

Now look at your news feed and look at what people are sharing on Facebook. I’m not sure about your news feed but mine is filled with music videos. “Charles shared this with me the –” I stopped and thought for a while. Well he did share it to Facebook but it wasn’t specifically to me. Suddenly sharing the way I understand is evolving. I don’t feel the exclusivity anymore and they’re sharing everything they found interesting. I missed the times when shares are with more intent, now things are just so random. Furthermore I don’t feel my friend really shared things with me. My friend just delegated the sharing to Facebook. My friend is Facebook.

I am back to blocking Facebook. I’m staying away from it for a while. It’s getting depressing.

Interesting discoveries #01

I wrote on a set of interesting discoveries I made in this week. It’s somewhat inspired by Sayanee Basu’s Build podcast, you can check it out on iTunes by searching “build podcast” where she introduces different tools to build applications.

1. John McAfee

First is John McAfee, the McAfee in the anti-virus software of a similar name. You can read more in this WIRED article. McAfee, 67 years of age, is wanted for murder in Belize — a murder he claims he did not commit. The homicide victim is McAfee’s neighbor, Gregory Faull, who was killed by a gunshot wound in his head. I read the full account through this Amazon Kindle Single. Through that I came to learn how McAfee started his business by giving the antivirus software for free until companies felt compelled to be paying his company a fee. I shan’t spoil it more.

2. Organizational Structure That Supports Your Digital Presence

Also interesting is Paul Boag’s write up on a simple organization structure to support a digital presence featured in Smashing Magazine. It’s an accessible read with good examples to illustrate how it could be done.

3. Dumb Ways To Die

Madelyn shared this with me the other day and it is quite possibly the best video I watched all week. Dumb Ways To Die is a Melbourne Metro viral video, you can read more about it here. I love the song and video. Please watch it here:

4. The David Petraeus Scandal

What? David what? Really it doesn’t matter at all. It’s such a non-issue in fact that making it an issue all over news websites becomes the issue itself. Short story — David Petraeus, director of CIA, has an affair with his biographer could have possibly put the country at risk. Did Pertaeus reveal anything then? Nobody knows, but a scandal’s a scandal and Americans are concerned anyhow. John Prados’ Washington Post article cannot have articulated this better.

5. The issue with unions

The death of Twinkie is imminent anyway but the reason as to way it died is partly due to unions. Previously the troubled company behind Twinkie, Hostess Brands, declared bankruptcy to save itself some money, after which employee wages and benefits were cut. The union organized a strike and Hostess claimed that it is unable to operate in such circumstances and shut its operations. Unions which supposed to help workers didn’t this time around. The New Yorker has a good overview. This also reminds me of how Caterpillar manages to make unions ineffective but continuing operations during strikes by hiring temporary workers and not bowing down repeatedly. The concept of unions might be in need of a change for good.

6. Romney supporters looking for agent to blame — Orca

So Romney lost as we learnt last week. Supporters have switched to pointing fingers. One interesting agent to blame is Romney campaign’s Orca project. Ars Technica initially wrote that Microsoft is responsible for Orca but has since reverse that claim. Now no consultant seems responsible for Orca, claims Ars Technica again. There’re so little news of Romney’s Orca project who that the presidential candidate has dismantled his campaigns, you know, bury it under the carpet, and try again four years later. Orca is in response to Obama’s Narwhal project which isn’t exactly a software but more of an emphasis towards real time campaign data analytics. I can’t forget Orca though, nothing is clear at all and it annoys me so little is being mentioned on it.

7. On Gong Li

I’m back to watching movies and this week I caught Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum. My favorite parts of the movie is its cinematography and Gong Li. The whole film is a visual treat and yet it’s so simple. There’s also something about Gong Li that makes her so mesmerizing and she is undoubtedly one of the most consistently good actresses I have watched.

8. Tower.js

Not really a new discovery but I am amazed by how fast Tower.js is moving. Lance Pollard’s Tower.js is a relatively new web framework that is build on JavaScript, Node.js platform. I haven’t done any actual projects on it but it’s something I am loving. The fact that they chose CoffeeScript makes things really appealing. The only downside is the MongoDB support which is still hard for me to change. This increases the learning curve but I fancy the idea where web developers only need to essentially know CoffeeScript/JavaScript to could a web application in both client and server side. I’ll definitely be exploring more and I can probably write some getting started guide soon.

9. Euthyphro dilemma

In its modified form: “Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is morally good, or is it morally good because it is commanded by God?” You can read more in Wikipedia about this. Refrain from making a conclusion too fast.

End note

It’s been a short week. I haven’t done as much reading as I hope. I’m making a transition out of the company I worked for — Cherry Credits. It represents a key change of direction for me. It will have no more PHP, will be moving to somewhere with much more JavaScript. I’ll share more when the time is right.

Yahoo’s earnings rise in Mayer’s debut

The New York Times reported Yahoo doing quite well in this quarter:

For the quarter in which Marissa Mayer came aboard as chief executive, Yahoo reported stronger earnings than a year earlier, but slightly lower revenue.

Yahoo reported Monday that net income in the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30, rose sharply to $3.16 billion, or $2.64 a share, from $298.3 million, or 23 cents a share, in the same quarter a year ago. That included a net gain of $2.8 billion related to the sale of Alibaba shares and restructuring charges of $16 million, net of tax.

Income from operations decreased 14 percent, to $152 million from $177 million in the year earlier period.

The company said revenue fell to $1.2 billion from $1.22 billion in the year earlier quarter.

Mayer continued that Yahoo is well positions in areas such as “checking weather, sports scores, financial information, watching videos sharing photos, getting news and playing games.” The only problem is how to extract money out of these services. It’s not going to be easy and if anything Yahoo is in the bad position to continue providing these services for free.

The chilling effects of success in China

Malcolm Moore of the Telegraph reports on Mo Yan or Guan Moye (管谟业) who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his work as a writer “who with hallucinatory realism merges folk tales, history and the contemporary.” Mo Yan is the first ever resident of mainland China to receive the Nobel Prize.

His village is to be transformed into “Mo Yan Culture Experience Zone” with immediate effect:

One week after Mo Yan became the first Chinese author to win the Nobel prize, proud local officials rushed out a £70 million plan to transform his sleepy village into a “Mo Yan Culture Experience Zone”. On Tuesday, Fan Hui, a local official, paid a visit to Mr Mo’s father to ask him to renovate the family home.

“Your son is no longer your son, and the house is no longer your house,” urged Mr Fan, according to the Beijing News, explaining that the author was now the pride of China. “It does not really matter if you agree or not,” he added.

Mr Fan said the “Red Sorghum Culture and Experience Zone”, which includes the “Red Sorghum Film and Television Exhibition Area”, would see villagers seed 1,600 acres of the crop. “(We need to grow it) even if it means losing money,” he told the Chinese media.

“One visitor dug up a radish [from Mr Mo’s vegetable patch],” reported the Beijing News. “He slipped it into his coat and showed it to villagers afterwards, saying: ‘Mo’s radish! Mo’s radish!’ ”

“A visiting mother picked some yams and told her daughter: ‘I’ll boil them, so you can eat them and win the Nobel prize too!'” Mr Mo’s brother, Guan Moxin, was forced to intervene to stop the family’s corn harvest, which was left lying out in the sun to dry, being swept away by the village tidying committee

Mr Mo himself has been non-commital amid the excitement. Asked by China Central Television whether he was happy, he responded: “I do not know”.

The chilling effects of success in a socialist country. This particular line is scary, “Your son is no longer your son, and the house is no longer your house.”

EA CEO blasts social and mobile gaming

VentureBeat reports John Riccitiello, chief executive of gaming powerhouse Electronic Arts, saying the following:

Just months later, as Zynga’s growth stalled, the press turned ugly. A few short months ago, social gaming CEOs were geniuses. Now they’re viewed as idiots.

“Consumers won’t pay for crap,” he said. “Bad entertainment ultimately will not prevail. Be suspicious of entertainment companies — I lead an entertainment company — that start to talk about themselves on the basis of the terabytes of data they are moving around on the Internet or on the basis of data-driven marketing analytics. I love data-driven marketing analytics. But great gaming starts with a great gaming experience, and if you lose sight of that, you ultimately will not have a business.”

I got tired of social and mobile games very early. There’s been a fatigue since. At some point of time you realize things are meaningless and the game play is too linear. Today the only mobile game I actively play is Blueprint 3D in the iPhone or iOS platform. That game is really creative. I’ll blog more on that in future.

Julia Gillard changes meaning of “misogynists”

This is just hilarious to me. Previously Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard used the word “misogynists” in her speech, and this triggered a change in Australia’s leading dictionary. CNN reports:

Julia Gillard Australia's Prime Minister
Julia Gillard Australia’s Prime Minister

PM’s sexism rant prompts Australian dictionary rewrite

“The leader of the opposition says that people who hold sexist views and who are misogynists are not appropriate for high office. Well, I hope the leader of the opposition has got a piece of paper and he is writing out his resignation,” Gillard blared.

Abbott’s National-Liberal Coalition took deep offense. Had the prime minister conflated or confused “sexism” and “misogyny,” or worse, deliberately distorted the meaning of misogyny to score a resounding political point? Was Gillard seriously asserting that her opposite number held a pathological hatred of women, as most dictionaries define misogyny?

Into the fray weighed Australia’s leading dictionary.

Editor Sue Butler surprised the nation Wednesday by declaring Macquarie Dictionary would alter its definition of misogyny, closer to the conflated version used by the prime minister.

In its next published edition, the dictionary’s editors said the word would be defined as both the “hatred of women” and “entrenched prejudice against women.”

Butler said Macquarie Dictionary had decided that for the past 20 or 30 years, “misogyny” had taken on wider meaning, particularly in feminist discourse and that with changed usage should come a changed definition.

I totally agree with dictionaries taking this approach, evolving the word based on current usage. But this is just too reactive. I see this as the dictionary’s editor Sue Butler helping Julia Gillard get over a sticky situation.

More coding

I realized a devoid of code examples lately. I was distracted by a lot of reading lately. Reading doesn’t translate to doing something significant yet still gives me a certain sense of accomplishment. I just spent an overwhelming amount of time last week just clicking and reading through — researching as I like to call it. I achieve some additional knowledge, I guess. However, time could possibly be put into better use had I actually coded something.

So, note to self — do, don’t just read.

Oh, and write, too.