Saturday, February 28, 2009

Spare the rod, spoil the child

I've never believed in sparing the rod. It seems that now the British are finally agreeing that this doesn't work, according to today's newspapers. Why? Kids that are spared the rod mostly lack discipline, and they lack respect to elders. There are of course exceptions, but sparing the rod is not the cure all solution.

I've heard stories from many of my friends, and its seems that over here, sparing the rod is the current trend. However, I've seen it taken in a new twist. It seems that pushing the blame, has also been in-corporated into sparing the rod.

Now it seems that parents not only spare the rod, they blame others for the mistakes their child makes. Let's say for example if the child doesn't do their homework, and thus couldn't score well. Back in my days, my parents will punish me, and take the extra effort to make sure I study. Now? It seems that the parents scold the teachers that they are not teaching correctly. I mean this is totally ridiculous! If your child is not studying, what can the teachers do? Then I find it very amusing that the parents like to use their parents' letter to apply MC for their child. My question is... Can you write a MC to your boss if you're sick? If your child is late, then face the consequences. That's the "rod".

In the normal working environment, the boss will fire a worker if they are not performing. What can the teacher do? Fire the student? Like it or not, there's a baby in all of us. We need to have boundaries defined around us. The "rod" helps to define the boundaries. In the case of a worker, the "rod" can be a pay cut, or a dismissal. If adults need to have such boundaries defined, why on earth parents think that kids should not have such boundaries defined?

Like it or not, how your children turns out depends largely on the parents, not the teachers. Nowadays you see some children scolding adults, rushing for seats when they are in public transport, and jumping queues... There are of course other factors that induce such behaviour, but sparing the rod does not help.

Look after your own children, and not push the job of parenting to someone else. The rod is there for a reason. Use it wisely... Note that the word "spare" is used, not "avoid".

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

IE8 going the way of Vista

I remember previously when Microsoft Vista was released, even Microsoft internally was not able to use Vista because it breaks a lot of their applications. That is why one of the main reasons why Vista is so unpopular among the corporate world.

Now many organisations are shifting towards web-based applications. That would mean that now theoretically, they should be able to upgrade their operating system without any impact to their in-house applications.

Now comes Internet Explorer 8 (IE8), and surprise!! is not compatible with IE8. Does that sound familiar? This news might look small, but this I feel has a huge impact on the corporate world.

Using Singapore as an example, many in-house applications are only designed to work with only one internet browser, and that is Internet Explorer. I've seen many poorly designed web applications that could only work with one browser. Try to use any other browser and the application will not work to its full potential. Some applications might not even submit.

Just imagine... All those in-house applications might just stop working once IE8 is out. Let's not forget that Microsoft products internally is also using IE. Will those applications stop working properly once IE8 is out? The news that is not compatible with IE8 doesn't give much confidence to their internal products compatibility.

As someone who has the experience of trying to make web applications work on all 4 browsers, IE8, Firefox, Opera and Safari, I can assure you... It's not easy, especially if your UI is fanciful, and you're using CSS layout.

So what will happen to IE8? It will go the way of Vista, most probably.


I quote from Maya Angelou:

If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.

This is a very simple concept. You do not like it, either try to change it, or you try to accept it. Complaining about it does relieve stress a little, but you should actively try to do any of the above. Otherwise, you're just wasting your energy and upping your stress level un-necessarily.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Security problem at ecareers

Today just for the fun of it, I've surfed to the ecareers website that was done by MOE. To my surprise (and a little horror), I've seen a very big security loophole the moment I saw the first page.

It asks for the person's NRIC, and that page and the subsequent pages are not even secured by SSL. In IT, this is quite serious. A person can do much with an NRIC. Even the number itself should be protected, regardless if there is a password or not. Especially now where people are surfing around wirelessly, it's quite simple to grab the information off the air.

I do hope someone fixes it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2 stations from Boon Lay extension to open on 28 Feb 2009

The following 2 MRT stations extended from Boon Lay (Boon Lay extension) will be officially open on 28 Feb 2009:
  1. Pioneer
  2. Joo Koon
It seems like this will connect the MRT to the Jurong Industrial Estate. No more switching between buses and MRT.

Anyway. here's a map from LTA of our soon to look complicated train network:

Inflation is up 2.9%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2009:
January: 2.9%

Food and Housing is leading the charge, rising by 6.2% and 7.7% respectively year on year. The inflation rate will continue to maintain around this rate for at least the first quarter.

I am surprised that inflation could still hit 2.9%, considering last January's inflation was 6.6%. However, I've forgotten about the property revaluation which explains the 7.7% increase, and I did not expect health care and recreation to increase 4.1% and 3.2% respectively. I was thinking the inflation rate should be more at the region of 2.4%-2.5%.

Looks like the food and health care sectors are really resilient. Even in this kind of climate, prices can still increase. Judging from the news recently though, this might not last. I expect it to slowly moderate downwards.

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

General Elections this year?

The boundaries of the polling districts have recently been altered. The details of the alteration can be found here. Does this mean that elections will be coming soon? The newspapers today are debating on this topic, and I agree with it. The answer is yes, in my opinion. Elections will be coming soon. I personally think there are mainly 3 reasons for this:
  1. I cannot understand why anyone will bother to extensively map all the polling districts (the attachment has 144 pages) if they do not intend to call for elections in an instant. The effort to look through all the polling districts is substantial, plus knowing the tapes, many approvals will be needed.

  2. My take is the financial crisis is still unfolding, and the situation is only going to get worse, not better. Many companies are surviving only on leverage. Regardless of the interest rate, if the risk level is high, no one is going to loan anything. The excess will need to be drained out. There seems to be many companies that have not been making any profit for years (GM is one example), and have been living on leverage for years! A few big companies are either going to go bankrupt, or they will be forced to merge.

    Once all these excesses are drained out, you will find that the world economy will be governed by the basic fundamentals once again. Population, and innovation. Economy is governed by the consumption of products and services. Many have been consuming on leverage. Once it is back to the basics, the increase of consumption will again come mainly from the increase of population. Innovation will lead to more hiring to research and develop new products and services. That would help drive the economy forward. As per my previous posts, I still liken this crisis to the great depression, regardless.

    There is no miracle pill that will restore the economy, regardless of how many billions, or trillions is spent to stimulate the economy. All these will only provide a base.

    Bottom line... Things are only going to get worst.

  3. Currently Singapore is still largely not that affected by the economy crisis. The evidence is clear. Walk around in the weekends and you'll still see restaurants (normal ones) full, and people shopping around. Queues are still formed at mobile shops. People are still flocking to travel fairs.

    However, this might not last for long. The MNCs and SMEs are all being affected, and most are just waiting out this crisis. This is not good... In this kind of crisis, the only way out is to innovate your products and services. Go out of the comfort zone... I see that more SMEs increasingly will fold, and I think there is evidence of this.

So the question is when the elections will come? My guess... After the next stimulus package.

The recently announced stimulus package in Jan in my opinion, is just to give temporary relieve. The government is unsure of how the crisis will unfold as this is the first major crisis they are handling since the existence of Singapore. It's one of its kind, and you can see evidence around the world that no one knows the solution. That's why the first stimulus package is called the resilience package. It is meant to ride out the crisis, not to meet the crisis head-on.

I strongly believe that there will be a next stimulus package coming soon, and will be this year. My guess is that this package will try to directly stimulate the economy by:
  1. Increasing domestic consumption
  2. Providing jobs by targeting major investments in up-coming sectors
  3. Proving more relief to the lower to middle income groups, and injecting money into the CPF to prevent foreclosures of homes.

So my guess is that the date of the general election will be 1 or 2 months after the unveiling of the next stimulus package. There would a feel-good effect after the stimulus package, if it is well-received by the public, and the global economy is stable. This would be the best time to hold a snap election, and get this "red tape" over and done with, so that the concentration will be on restoring the economy. This process would be a long one. Re-organisation and re-alignment of objectives will most probably be needed.

Guessing for the fun of it, I think the ideal time for elections would be the end of 3Q, to the start of the 4Q, this year.

Let's see how this year will unfold... It will definitely be more interesting than last year.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

4.6% reduction of transport fares from 1st April 2009

Today it was announced that there is an overall 4.6% reduction of both bus and MRT fares from 1st April 2009. The next review would be on 1st October 2009. Below is a summary of the reductions:

Types of JourneySavings on EZ-Link fares per journey

Adults & Senior CitizensChild/Student
Direct Journeys-2 cents-1 cents
Transfer Journeys

- 1 Transfer-(10+2+2) cents-(1+1) cents
- 2 Transfers-(20+2+2+2) cents-(1+1+1) cents
- 3 Transfers-(30+2+2+2+2) cents-(1+1+1+1) cents
Monthly concession passes-$2 to -$4 per month
(FullTime National Servicemen)
-$1 to -$4 per month

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

MWC is a joke

I read with great interest on the recent GSMA Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2009.

Although Apple wasn't present at MWC, the iPhone got more than a passing mention. The panel which included three of the most powerful CEOs in the mobile industry -- CEO of AT&T Mobility, CEO of Nokia, CEO of Microsoft -- centered on the need for more openness to spur successful innovation in the mobile market.

Openness? Before iPhone came along, not many was using the 3G network, at least in Singapore. After the iPhone became successful, suddenly you have Symbian being open sourced, and Andriod coming into the picture. Now you have "AppStores" sprouting up everywhere. I find it very amusing that Microsoft actually asked for more openness.

Considering Microsoft pretty much dominated the PC world with Windows, a closed operating system, I do not think they have the right to ask for more openness. If they want to have more openness, then they should walk the talk. Start with the Windows family. Allow developers to create applications that can run on both Windows and Linux. Or they can start small by starting with Internet Explorer.

Microsoft going towards the openness route? Not likely.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

CPF Changes from 1st April 2009

These are the changes to the CPF from 1st April 2009. Seems like now there are changes every year.
  1. From 1st April 2009, the member can only make top-ups using their CPF savings if the sum of their ordinary and special account balances (net balances), including the amount withdrawn under the CPF-IS scheme, is more than the prevailing minimum sum (no longer 1.5x). The maximum amount for top-up will be (net balances + CPF-IS withdrawn amount) - prevailing minimum sum.

    That means the amount available for top-up will be lesser.

  2. From 1st May 2009, the first $30,000 of the member's Special Account (SA) will no longer be allowed to use for investments. This is in addition to the $20,000 that is locked in the member's Ordinary Account (OA).

  3. From 1st Aug 2009, the member can use their CPF savings to top-up for their parents and grandparents, regardless of age.

  4. Changes are made to the CPF-Life annuity plans. Read more of the details here. More details will be out on September 2009.

  5. From YA2009, a member can receive 2 separate tax reliefs - up to $7,000 for minimum sum cash top-ups by the member or his employer to his own CPF and up to $7,000 for cash top-ups to the CPF of family members. (For tax relief on cash top-ups for spouses or siblings, the recipient must have earned $2,000 or less in the preceding year). Both reliefs will apply regardless of the age of the recipient when the top-ups are made. Employers who make the cash top-ups will receive full tax deduction for the top-ups made.

  6. From 1st Jan 2011, all CPF-IS funds must meet the strict admission criteria that was set in February 2006.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Freddy Kempf Sonata Pathétique by Beethoven

Movement 1 (Grave—Allegro di molto e con brio)

Movement 2 (Adagio cantabile)

Movement 3 (Rondo: Allegro)

CPF-Life Update

As per what I predicted back in March last year here, they have tweaked the plans again. CPF-Life now has been tweaked to only 4 plans, instead of the original 12 plans, 3 of which is refundable. It has been made much simpler, and I can see a lot of thought has gone into it. The annuity premium, and other full details will only be out in September 2009.

However, the gist of the changes are:
  1. First glance would be the tweaking of the draw down age (DDA). The previous plans allow you to delay your withdrawal from CPF, in order to boost up your monthly income. This will be a total administration nightmare in my opinion. The revised CPF-Life instead will be pegged to the national retirement age, which is currently at 65. The table below shows the DDA for the older Singaporeans:

    Born in DDA
    1949 and earlier 62
    1950 - 1951 63
    1952 - 1953 64
    1954 and later 65

  2. Next I would see is the simplification of the amount left to the beneficiaries upon the member's death, known as the bequest amount. This bequest amount is made up of the balance left in the member’s Retirement Account (RA) and any unused annuity premium. The previous scheme is so confusing that a lot of people are left scratching their heads. Again I would see this as a total administration nightmare. Now they have made it simpler to understand.

    In summary, the higher monthly income you get, the lesser bequest amount you will have if you have chosen the refundable plans. The calculation of the bequest amount will be the CPF RA amount + the unused portion of the premium (annuity premium less the LIFE monthly income that member has received thus far).

  3. The obvious change would the number of plans available. It has been simplified to 3 refundable plans and 1 non-refundable plan, a total of 4 CPF Life plans. The non-refundable plan (no bequest amount) is the LIFE Income Plan (a small amount may still be left due to the 1% extra interest credited for the year). By default, everyone will be on the LIFE Balanced Plan.

    Below is the table generated from the CPF Life Income estimator here. This is for a male Singaporean, born in 1958, with $67,000 in the CPF RA:

    monthly income
    LIFE Balanced Plan
    $559 to $615
    LIFE Basic Plan
    $522 to $575
    LIFE Plus Plan
    $594 to $654
    LIFE Income Plan
    $635 to $696

  4. This is for a female Singaporean, born in 1958, with $67,000 in the CPF RA:

    monthly income
    LIFE Balanced Plan
    $518 to $573
    LIFE Basic Plan
    $498 to $551
    LIFE Plus Plan
    $535 to $591
    LIFE Income Plan
    $553 to $609

Comparatively, the previous Refund-65 plan gives a monthly premium of about $645, and NoRefund-65 plan a monthly premium of about $689 for males. It would seem that the amounts would match the LIFE Plus Plan range, which indicates a lower bequest amount.

All in all, the plans have been tweaked to make it much simpler to the public. I would say good work has been done on this aspect.

On a side note, it would seem that from the figures here, Singaporean females live much longer than males. That explains the difference in the income level. Males live shorter, therefore getting more income. Good or bad? Hmm...

Friday, February 13, 2009

5 stations from Circle Line to open on 28 May 2009

Updated 18 Apr 2009: Opening date has been changed to 28 May 2009

Finally some good news for Circle Line. The following 5 stations for Circle Line will be officially open on 30 28 May 2009:
  1. Bartley
  2. Serangoon
  3. Lorong Chuan
  4. Bishan
  5. Marymount

The other stages of the circle line is targeted to open from 2010 onwards. I guess the schedule has been tied to the opening of the IR too, to boost the connectivity around Singapore when the IRs are officially open. Circle Line will really shorten the travel time, especially to those people living near the Punggol area.

Co-incidentally or not, this is also the timing where we will have our general election...

Anyway, here's a map from LTA of our soon to look complicated train network (Circle Line is in orange - Click on map to enlarge):

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Expose at NLB again!

Expose is performing again at the Bugis National Library Plaza this Saturday, Feb 14 at 6pm. This time it's sort of outdoors. I guess outdoor performance will be different from indoors, with a different set of problems. :p

Being Valentine's day, there will mostly be "love" songs. As far as I know, the following songs are being performed:
  1. Carmen Suite
  2. Super Mario Brothers
  3. Titanic Medley
  4. Vamo' alla Flamenco
  5. FFVII Advent Children - Tifa's theme
  6. Dance of Yao (瑶族舞曲)
  7. Waltz of the Flowers

Don't ask me what's so loving about Super Mario Brothers. :D If you're around the area, pop by and listen. It's free anyway.

I have attached the publicity poster below:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Attitude towards conflicts

I quote from Willliam James:

Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

If you're negative about someone, and a conflict results, most likely the attitude you have towards that person will be quite bad. However, if one chooses to look at all conflicts with an optimistic attitude, sometimes the conflict will just go away.

It seems that when you're in a happier mood, conflicts will most likely resolve itself. It might be the optimistic attitude rubbing off to everyone.

Always note your attitude. It might make a difference.

Why bad bank again?

It's of no surprise to me that the Feds couldn't come out with a detailed plan to purchase the toxic assets.

It sounds good on paper. Purchase the toxic assets, free the banks' balance sheets, and lending can resume. However, they've forgotten one important point. How do you price a toxic asset?

If it is doable in the first place, I'm sure all the biggest banks in the US would have gotten together to create a fund to dump these assets in. Remember Citi tried to do something like that way back when the crisis was at its infant stage? It never got off the ground.

There lies the problem. You cannot price it, you cannot sell it.

I would still think that the insurance idea will still work. Likewise, first you need to price your premium. Not all toxic assets are considered write offs. Price the risk of default accordingly, and insure maybe 90% of the cost value. After that, create a fund/bad bank that will own all those assets, and pay all the premiums. Note that all these so-called toxic assets are still generating income. It's just that the default rate is climbing. The bad bank can be half owned by the government, half by the other big US banks which created the mess in the first place. This would put a floor on all those losses, and maybe the economy can again function normally.

There is no way now anyone can escape this crisis without absorbing some sort of loss. Stop thinking of profits, and start thinking of how to turn the economy around. The argument I always hear is that why must the taxpayers bail out Wall Street. True... But look at the other perspective, who is the one borrowing more than they earn, that caused this crisis? The taxpayers....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The trend of being money minded

Today I have just read a news article on a businessman who is undergoing a divorce now. At first, the article started off normally. Regretted not spending enough time with the family, etc etc. Then the key point came...

It concluded by remarking that if he knows that if he knew he will lose so much financially, he will spend more time with the family.

I mean what the... Now being married is not above love, but it's about financials? In the usual case, people will regret about the love lost between the two, and hope that they can turn back the clock, so that they could spend more time together as a family.

So has Singaporeans become so money minded now, that the first regret that comes into mind in a failed marriage is the financial part? And people still complain that the young now has no respect for the old.


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Online Self Regulation?

These few days, many articles in the newspapers have been commenting on the online self regulation of forums and blogs. One of our ministers made a comment that online self regulation doesn't work.

I beg to disagree... Anyone who participates in the online community knows that online self regulation does work, if you provide the necessary tools. For example, if someone posts something offensive in a forum post, and you have a moderator and a reporting link available, the post will be moderated or removed once it is reported. Likewise, if someone writes something that is off the norm, you'll see a barrage of posts, for and against the topic. However, if the information being discussed is not publicly known or available, then you'll see some sort of one-sided debate in the forum.

There are always 2 sides to a story. Looking from the other perspective, why did few people try to correct the impression of the MP who got attacked? Note that the online community acts on publicly available information. No matter how good an MP is, if the actions are not perceivable by the general public, then it does not matter. In the online world, there is usually no smoke without fire.

I do not know or keep track of this particular case but knowing the way the online world works, something the MP done previously might have triggered a bad impression, causing a pent-up resentment which burst forth after he was attacked. Usually if someone is known to be of good repute in the online world, people will rush to the person's defense immediately. According to the newspapers, this is not the case.

Is this a case where someone felt that one is doing a good job, but it's not perceived as such by the people below? Or is it a case where something was done for their own good, but it is misunderstood by the people below? I do not know... In the corporate world, this happens quite often, sad to say.

This is the power of the Internet.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I quote from Ewan Mcgregor in Moulin Rouge:

The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

Enough said...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

VirtualBox Snapshots Problem for Transient Folders

It seems that since the release of VirtualBox 2.1, new bugs were introduced. I have never encountered problems with saving the snapshot for my VM but it seems that since v2.1, I will have a problem with restoring the VM if I have added a transient folder (temporary folder), and mapped it as a drive. I'm not sure if this is the case, but I have tried taking out the transient folder, and my snapshot recovered successfully. With the transient folder, it seems that the restoration of the snapshot will definitely crash. Even the latest version still has this problem.

Anyway, with the newest VirtualBox 2.1.2, it seems that they've fixed the VHD problem to pre v2.1. That means you can run some VHDs, but most of the VHDs will not work. You can refer to my post here on my problems with VHDs. They have also added in graphics acceleration I believe. Did not try it because that's not the main aim for my VM. I'm still waiting for the VHD to work though...

Other than the VHDs, VirtualBox still matches my needs. Hope the next version doesn't break anything else. :)

Windows XP SP3 and IE8 pre-RC users take note

Microsoft came out with an advisory again. It seems that if you have installed Internet Explorer (IE)8 Beta 1 or Beta 2 (pre-RC) before you have installed SP3, you will be stuck with both IE8 and SP3, and you will not be able to uninstall either of them.

Solution? Uninstall SP3, uninstall IE8 Beta, re-install SP3, and install IE 8 RC1.

If not, you'll be stuck with both, not that anyone of us will bother to try to uninstall IE anyway. The last time I've tried that, my machine seems to have lots of errors.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Means Testing for 2009

Means Testing has begun for Singapore hospitals starting Jan 2009. Below is the table I've compiled from MOH website with regards to the subsidies for Singaporeans:
Monthly IncomeClass C SubsidyClass B2 Subsidy
$3,200 and below80%65%
$3,201 - $3,35079%64%
$3,351 - $3,50078%63%
$3,501 - $3,65077%62%
$3,651 - $3,80076%61%
$3,801 - $3,95075%60%
$3,951 - $4,10074%59%
$4,101 - $4,25073%58%
$4,251 - $4,40072%57%
$4,401 - $4,55071%56%
$4,551 - $4,70070%55%
$4,701 - $4,85069%54%
$4,851 - $5,00068%53%
$5,001 - $5,10067%52%
$5,101 - $5,20066%51%
$5,201 and above65%50%

Addition Information:
  • Those who do not have a monthly income, such as housewives, retirees and children, and live in properties with annual values of $11,000 or less, will also get full subsidies

  • Subsidies for permanent residents (PR) will be 10% less than the citizens of the same income level

  • Means testing only applies to class B2 and C hospitalisations. Services such as day surgery, A&E services, Specialist Outpatient, and polyclinics will not be means tested.

  • Any follow-up at the Specialist Outpatient clinics after hospitalisations will continue to be subsidised.

  • For children and those under 21 years old, bills will be estimated based on the annual values of their residence if they been issued an NRIC. If not, the parent's or guardian's residence will be used instead.
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