2013-01-14

Optimisations

One can spend time on the pursuit of cash inflow (sales), or on reducing cash outflows, or on both. I typically focus on one or the other at a time. The period 4Q2007-1Q2012 was characterised by my trying to do both at the same time, while pursuing my studies. From March 2012, I severely deprioritised sales activity, and diverted my time to research, and minimising the cost of my daily operations. Here are some of the measures I employ:

Internet access
Cost of data has been covered in the previous post. With what data I have, my usage pattern is as follows.

Email: I use a static HTML web client, for proximity to the full-blown AJAX feature set of my email provider. To check email, I just hit a static link, or press F5 if the link is already open. Consumption of data come to typically 10-30 KB - quite a bit more it would be if I used a desktop client, but I do not check email on a minute-to-minute basis, and the ease of staying on the miminal cloud is worth it.

Chat: I use a desktop client to interface with instant-messaging services. I was on mobile.twitter.com, with profile images turned off, until my Twitter account was suspended. Previously, Twitter's mobile site was quite heavy, and dabr.co.uk provided roughly what Twitter's mobile site does now.

News: I use the web client of an RSS aggregator service. Again, minimising desktop clutter, and staying away from the website clutter of most online content providers. For the sites I wish to check directly, such as Bloomberg and Business Insider, I have them bookmarked to be accessed via Google's Web Transcoder. If you've never heard of it, you have to check it out. (I also have a bookmarklet that sends sites to GW-Transcoder (there's another, unrelated, entity called GW-Toolkit). Reading web content this way brings down the cost of accessing a website, often by a factor of ten.

Static references: I have been using Pocket since it had another name, and have found this to be an excellent way to store a textbook-sized block of website references, such as wiki pages, for offline reading. I have over five thousand pages bookmarked this way, and stored on my tablet and my phone. Desktop storage is also available, but I have too many hardware devices at this point, to require that. (On a side note, I bought a tablet 1.5 years ago because GoodReader for iOS provided the best way to annotated PDF documents. Between GoodReader and Pocket, that's 80% of what the productivity gains I get from using a tablet - syncing documents to the cloud, and editing them locally in a reliable fashion, remains, of course, one of the defining challenges of this hardware form-factor.)

I don't do much else on the Internet.
Food
Here are some aspects of how I deal with this major chuck of living costs. It's quite close to the guidance of "eat real food, not too much, mostly plants," with some numbers and tweaks thrown in to accomodate my high-protein requirements. All nutritional research said and done, I focus on the following heuristics.

(0) Dichotomy: minimise the purchase of processed food whenever possible.

(1) Scalar: maximisation of protein mass/price, or the quantity of protein I can obtain per Ringgit. Soya beans seem to offer peak value - I cook and eat them whole, since processed soy products are often lacking in density. I do eat meat. Frozen fish and tuna are easily obtained, occasional cans of tuna and sardines, dried anchovies (classical food of the Malay archipelago), chicken eggs by the 25-tray, frozen beef (or buffalo) imported from India, chicken keels (breasts on the bone) for protein density, and thighs for flavour (though I have not been able to quantify whether thighs offer more protein-per-price), etc. Pork is usually sold in an annexe of the large low-price supermarkets where I usually shop, and I rarely make the effort to home-in on it.



(2) Distribution: maximising colour, and species diversity - that's the variety of colours that my food comes in, and the variety of organismal species which provide it. (Point of interest: many varieties of green vegetables actually belong to the same species - check out the table of Cruciferous vegetables, by genus and species, on Wikipedia.)



(3) Distribution: observe a traditional "balanced diet," within the class structure of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, and vitamins. See, (3) is so abstract.

Residence and transportation
For many years, I rented in the cities of Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, and commuted to work mostly by public transport, or on foot whenever that was possible. Finding a property in the city, that was cheap enough to purchase, was out of the question, since the career strategy which I was tracking did not offer much financial remuneration. However, at some point, resources were available for the purchase of a little car, and there were some social and commercial advantages to be obtained from this - so I bought a 15-year-old car for MYR 5,300. That being done, shopping for cheaper properties to rent or buy became a larger focus, as the reach of my travels was now far greater.

Residence: The saga of purchasing a property will be left out here, but to-date, I have secured residence (at least temporarily) in a location 25 kilometres from the Kuala Lumpur city centre, at a very low cost, relative to living in the city. It is an 800+ square-foot flat, fully maintained by myself, and it has been fun learning how to fix piping, caulk roof tiles, etc. Dishes are washed by hand. Clothes are washed in a machine, partially dried on hangers, then finished off in a dryer. Clothes are then sorted and stored in bins for reach-in access, under a hanger made from slotted angles.











Utilities: Internet access has been covered amply above and elsewhere. Electricity is partially subsidised by the government, and so is water. I have not yet been here long enought to obtain stable data on my usage patterns, but for the first month, when I moved in, I had to pay only some MYR 42.30 for electricity and water. Cooking gas (a propane and butane mixture costing MYR 1.90/kg) is also subsidised by the government, and I am curious to know how long a tank will last - I cook meals one to three times a day.

Transportation: The bus from my town to the city costs MYR 6 - and I live some distance from the bus stop, so this will not be a frequent option. I have a bicycle, and enjoy cycling to the shops in this town, Bandar Sungai Long, and to those in the adjacent township of Bandar Mahkota Cheras. Back to mein kleinen auto, I would actually be quite happy to park and ignore the car for weeks on end, as I have in the past. But the electricals and gas lines do not seem to function reliably upon ignition, if I do not drive it frequently. At this point, I have just had the alternator and battery replaced, and I intend to take the car for a short drive every two days or so.

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