Beyond the Rhetoric


What’s Up Wednesdays: Pad Thai and AdWords

April 23rd, 2014 by Michael Kwan

Pad Thai at Longtail Kitchen, by Stacey Robinsmith

For this week’s speedlink, we check in with Trent Hamm from The Simple Dollar. He offers some very useful self-employment advice for anyone who is thinking about going into business for themselves. For instance, he says that you should establish your business structure as early as possible, something that I also discuss in my book, Beyond the Margins. You should also set up a dedicated work space, so you can enter the right kind of mindset.

I don’t normally link out to corporate blogs, but Wordstream has a great infographic explaining how Google AdWords works. The infographic explains how keywords work (and how they’re different than search queries), how the bidding system works, why your quality score matters, and more. If you’re coming from the AdSense side of things, gaining a better understanding of AdWords is definitely in your favor.

Next, Dan Bacon provides some guidance on how you can be a better man. He says that you should be always be a man of your word and you should always be yourself. If you don’t respect yourself for who you are, you can’t possibly expect anyone else to respect you either. And you have to stand up to pressure, keeping a clear and cool head.

You might remember a while back when I highlighted a blog post from Stacey Robinsmith that listed some cool places to eat in Downtown Vancouver. He said that he was going to do a similar post for New Westminster, but that ensuing list didn’t include one of my personal favorites. He has since gone back and written a new post on Longtail Kitchen at River Market. It’s a different kind of Thai restaurant with some great noodles, rice and curries. We had a Dot Com Pho there during last year’s spot prawn season and it was amazing.

And finally, we have perennial top thinker Ray Ebersole going through some key information about how best to manage blood sugar levels as someone with diabetes. You can still have sugar, but you have to learn how much to eat, in what portion and in combination with what other foods. Dealing with serving sizes can be quite the challenge, but Ray has found that eating meals with higher protein content can help slow the ingestion of sugar from the carbs you find in chips, pasta, pizza and the like.

Michael Kwan Freelance Writer

Still Shopping for a Taiwan Prepaid 3G SIM

April 22nd, 2014 by Michael Kwan


Last week, I mentioned how I would be returning to Taipei for Computex this year and that I would be requiring some means of getting online in Taiwan. I’ve already signed up for the Taipei Free Public Wi-Fi service as a backup (the process is really straightforward, aside from the issues I had in receiving my SMS authorization code), but I really don’t want to rely on Wi-Fi access points that may be spotty and have painfully slow speeds.

At this point, I’m still undecided about how I want to go about doing this. That being said, it has been brought to my attention that getting signed up for a prepaid 3G service with one of the major carriers in Taipei has become a lot easier again. I have started the process of unlocking my primary smartphone for this purpose, even if I don’t end up getting a SIM for my Taiwan trip.

In a rather detailed post on TripAdvisor, user “cchanmen” of Singapore outlines the process for getting a prepaid SIM while at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport. The post is almost two years old, but I’m hoping it’s still reasonably accurate.

1. Upon arrival and passing through customs, turn left and head all the way to the end of the arrival hall. Turn left again and you see a row of 3 telco shops selling pre-paid cards on the right of the wide passageway. For reference, this is the side of the airport closest to pillar 1 if you were outside the airport along the arrival pickup driveway.

2. The shops are Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile,far and one other small player. We bought the 10 day pass (Package B) from Taiwan Mobile for NT$800, which includes 10 24-hour blocks of unlimited 3G data usage and NT$550 worth of airtime.

3. SIM cards are available in both standard sizes and micro-SIMs for the iOS devices.

4. Other packages are also available, e.g. Taiwan Mobile Package A for 5 days. Chunghwa offers 3 and 7 day packages (3 days for NT$300; 7 days for NT$450).

5. You can top up airtime and data days at convenience stores like 7-11 but we haven’t had to try that yet. Perhaps someone could document their process and experience here?

6. You MUST have at least 2 official picture IDs (e.g. Passport and Driver’s Licence) to purchase a pre-paid SIM. The shop will make a photocopy of your IDs.

7. The counter staff offered to swop out my current SIM for the pre-paid SIM, and the whole purchase process took less than 5 mins (if you knew what you wanted).

8. However lines can be long, and be prepared to wait if the folks ahead of you have lots of questions. We waited about 20 mins for our turn at Taiwan Mobile, even though the Chunghwa counter had no queue, ‘cos we wanted the 10 day pass.


Comparing the rates and packages, I found this handy post that breaks down some of the differences between Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far Eastone. What’s unclear to me is whether I can apply the airtime balance from buying a 3G Ideal Card from Chunghwa Telecom toward one of the 3G wireless Internet plans.

For instance, the NT$500 card (about $18 Canadian) comes with NT$600 of value and the 10-day unlimited Internet plan is 500NT. If true, this would mean I’d have 100NT to spare for talk and text. I don’t plan on making much (if any) phone calls and outbound texts are only NT$1.48 each, based on updated information. I’d use data-based messengers for conversations with friends and family back home.

Part of the challenge is that my flight arrives in the very early morning, likely before these cell phone shops open up for the day. It would depend on how long it takes for me to get through the customs process and collect my checked luggage. Of course, I could visit one of the many stores in the city itself, though it’d be fantastic if I could be up and running by the time I leave the airport.

Going with a prepaid SIM in my primary smartphone offers some advantages, like presumably having better coverage and overall speeds. On the other hand, there are some downsides too, like temporarily losing access to my Canadian number and falling out of my WhatsApp loop for those couple of weeks. I’m not sure if these plans (or my phone, for that matter) allows tethering either, though I imagine my Ultrabook will be used primarily back at the hotel where I have free Wi-Fi anyhow.

What are your thoughts? What would you do in my situation?

Money Monday: How to Get $175 in Free Cash

April 21st, 2014 by Michael Kwan


Aside from the necessary expenses that some people take on with business accounts and the like, it has always boggled my mind why so many people continue to pay unnecessary banking fees. They pay monthly maintenance fees. They pay transaction fees. They pay interest on credit card balances. All of these extra expenses can oftentimes be avoided with a little financial planning. And it’s even better when you get some “free” money as a result too.

I’ve been a customer of ING Direct in Canada for a number of years now, mostly because they offer among the best interest rates for high interest savings accounts. A big part of why they can do this is that their physical presence is remarkably minimal, so just about everything that you do is through their online banking portal. By and large, that works fine for me. In addition to regular savings accounts, they also offer most other services you’d expect from a bank like mutual funds, RRSPs, TFSAs, mortgages and so on.

Well, you may have heard that ING Direct (Canada) was sold to Scotiabank last year and they recently made a big transition, rebranding to Tangerine. I’m not a fan of the new name, myself, but the name doesn’t really matter all that much. We’ve been told that the new Tangerine will continue with the ING Direct philosophy of no fees and better rates. That’s good news for Canadians.

How Do I Get My Free $175?

To encourage more people to join Tangerine, they’ve launched a promotion with a bunch of bonuses. You can find more information via the offer details page, but here are the main points.

  • $50 – Open your first Tangerine Savings Account with at least $250 by June 30, 2014 and we’ll give you a $50 cash Bonus.
  • $50 – Open your first Tangerine Chequing Account with at least $250 by June 30, 2014 and we’ll give you a $50 cash Bonus.
  • $50 – Switch your pay to go directly to your Tangerine Chequing Account by July 31, 2014 and we’ll give you a $50 cash Bonus.
  • 2.50% – Enjoy a great interest rate of 2.50% on all new deposits made by June 30, 2014 to a new or existing Tangerine Savings Account, RSP Savings Account or Tax-Free Savings Account.

If you open a new savings account, open a new chequing account, and switch your payroll to your new chequing account, that’s $150 in bonuses. All of these are applicable to existing members too, as long as you don’t already have a savings or chequing account, respectively. For instance, I just opened my chequing account with them last week and I received my $50 bonus two days later. They say it pays out within 30 days.

But wait, here’s an important kicker.

If you are signing up with Tangerine for the first time, you’ll definitely want to enter Orange Key 16449274S1 when you’re going through the registration process. This will trigger an additional $25 bonus, assuming that you put in an initial deposit of at least $100. If you’re already taking advantage of the offers above, you’ll satisfy that requirement anyway.

Add up all those bonuses and you’ve got yourself $175 in “free” money. After the bonuses have been paid out, you can do whatever you want with your money. Tangerine doesn’t charge any fees for these sorts of transactions, so if you really prefer banking with another institution, there’s nothing stopping you from moving all your funds out afterward. It’s not a bad idea to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket anyhow.

So, go to and open your Tangerine account using Orange Key 16449274S1 to get the $25 bonus. Then, take advantage of the extra offers outlined above for another $150. That’s a pretty good deal, I’d say.

Full disclosure:
I don’t work for Tangerine, nor was I compensated in any way for writing this post. I am an existing member, though, and I do receive a $25 referral bonus if you sign up for a new account using my Orange Key. Win-win, right?

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Sunday Snippet: Sir David Attenborough

April 20th, 2014 by Michael Kwan

Sunday Snippet: Sir David Attenborough

“There are some four million different kinds of animals and plants in the world. Four million different solutions to the problems of staying alive. This is the story of how a few of them came to be as they are.”

I’ve always enjoyed watching nature documentaries. It’s fascinating to peer into the lives of different creatures from all around the world, as small as insects and as massive as whales. And it is positively undeniable that one of the best narrators for such programs is one Sir David Attenborough.

You probably know Attenborough best from the BBC series that he has done, compiled into the Planet Earth and Life collections, which have been subsequently re-cut into Disney’s Earth (albeit without Attenborough’s narration). His career as a nature documentary presenter has seen him travel to some very remote places, catching just a glimpse into the secret world of many elusive animals.

The footage that they’re able to get is positively astounding, but the sense of enthusiasm and childlike curiosity that Attenborough brings to these documentaries is positively infectious. You can’t help but to get as excited as he does about spotting the unique behaviors of the various animals. And in 1979′s Life on Earth, Attenborough points out something so simple, yet so significant. Even though there are millions of species on this little blue planet of ours and they are all quite different from one another, they all have precisely the same ultimate goal: to survive and to pass their genes on to the next generation.

This illustrates an incredibly powerful life lesson. Even when faced with the exact same problem, we can come up with millions of possible solutions, all of which are equally viable and have withstood the test of time. To borrow a line from Jurassic Park, life finds a way… though it can take some trial and error to get it right. And then you’ll need to adapt to new circumstances again.

“I am at the very centre of the great white continent, Antarctica. The South Pole is about half a mile away. For a thousand miles in all directions, there is nothing but ice. And, in the whole of this continent, which is about one-and-a-half times the size of the United States and larger than Europe, there is a year-round population of no more than 800 people. This is the loneliest and coldest place on Earth, the place that is most hostile to life. And yet, in one or two places, it is astonishingly rich.”

Just as we learn there are many effective ways to address the same problem, we also learn that even the most inhospitable of situations can still prove fruitful to the right individuals with the right strategies. This quote comes from 1993′s Life in the Freezer, where Attenborough braves the unbearable cold of the South Pole. Even when conditions are at their worse, life finds a way.

And so can you. Stay vigilant, keep learning, and never lose your natural curiosity for the world around you.

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Grammar 101: What Does “Quid Pro Quo” Mean?

April 18th, 2014 by Michael Kwan

Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

English borrows a lot from other languages and this includes a number of Latin phrases that persist to this day. You might remember when I wrote about the proper use of e.g. and i.e. and how the former is used to provide examples, whereas the latter is used more for providing meaning or clarification. And then we get phrases like “quid pro quo” that are usually reserved for more formal discussion.

But what does “quid pro quo” mean in the first place? Literally translated from the original Latin, “quid pro quo” means “something for something.” An English phrase that provides a similar meaning would be “tit for tat” or “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” The fundamental idea here is that we are discussing a roughly equal exchange of goods or services. The trade should be of reasonably equivalent value.

While it may pop up in conversation now and then, “quid pro quo” is most commonly found in the context of legal discussions, especially when it comes to contracts, investing and other sorts of business transactions. The exchange is said to be reasonably fair where both parties are getting something of value. For instance, if George designs a website for Harry and Harry paints George’s house, you might call that a quid pro quo.

Similarly, George’s Trucking might use the storage facilities of Harry’s Warehouses. In exchange, Harry’s Warehouses can transport some of their goods via George’s Trucking. No actual money is exchanged between the two companies, because they negotiated an agreement where both parties are receiving roughly equivalent value in services. This is a type of quid pro quo agreement that is sometimes called a “soft dollar” agreement.

The term can come up in the context of a corruption case where an official is accused of taking bribes in exchange for providing certain favors. For instance, there was a recent news story coming out of Pennsylvania where the reporter said, “But to be prosecutable bribes, the transactions required a quid pro quo. But in this case, the supposed quid pro quo was laughable.”

You might also find “quid pro quo” used in the context of sexual harassment. If some sort of job benefit, like receiving preferred shifts or getting an increase in pay, is tied to performing sexual favors to a manager, supervisor or other superior, then this is called quid pro quo harassment. It’s the same if the same job benefits are unduly withheld due to a refusal to perform those sexual favors.

Realistically, it’s quite unlikely that you’ll use “quid pro quo” in casual conversation, but the next time you see it mentioned in a news story about a corrupt government official or an agreement between businesses, you’ll know what it means.

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