Sunday, May 31, 2009

Secularism has a place in policies

I do not understand why some people are so bent on bringing religion into the picture. I usually don't talk about religion but this time I really got fed up.

Now one of the NMPs say that because the line between religion and norm of life is blurring, this should be relooked. This NMP also mentioned that secularism' is a protean, chameleon-like term. What it means depends on the context and who is using it; it can be a virtue or a vice. This NMP even stated the casino debate a few years back as an example where people stated their beliefs when they were debating the bill.

However, the main point is that the bill did not take into account of this when it was deliberated. It took into account the social problems that it will cause, and what can be done to mitigate it. Stating the faith or not has no bearing on the bill. That should be the key point! So the example that was stated was a perfect example why religion should NOT be brought into the picture when you're deciding a policy.

Let me give you another example. In Singapore, majority of the Singaporeans are actually Buddhists. Buddhists do not eat beef, and they also go vegetarian on the 15th day of the lunar month. Since majority of Singaporeans are Buddhists and this is a healthy lifestyle, why don't we enshrine this in our policy? There are several advantages. If you do not eat beef, less cows are needed and we help to save the earth because cows actually contribute quite a bit to greenhouse gases. By going vegetarian once a month, we are also in the process detoxing ourselves, and saving the animals. This also reduces greenhouse gases. So why not?

If you see where I am coming from, religion is a belief someone has over certain rules or principles. However this does not necessarily mean that I must believe in their beliefs, and as a gracious Singaporean, I should not force this belief on others. Buddhists do not prohibit people from eating beef on the same table as them. They also do not force other people to go vegetarian on the 15th day of the lunar month. However, we should respect their beliefs and accommodate them if we're eating out with them for example. Is it a bad thing if I eat beef and I'm a "carnivore"? Not exactly. So why must I force everyone to do the same by making it as a policy?

Another important point is that once the first religion related point gets mentioned in a policy, what's stopping from other religions from claiming a place in other policies? What will stop this flood of request from the other religions? Nothing! Because you've allowed one case, that sets precedent for the rest! This is a nightmare for the policy makers. Where's the boundary? Some religions ban smoking. So does that mean the policy should ban it to pacify that particular religion? The only harm of banning smoking is to the tobacco companies. Just think of how many different religions are here in Singapore. Who is going to handle and decide on all those requests? That NMP?

I'm sorry but by mentioning this in Parliament, this NMP has proven that he/she does not think in the national level, and in my opinion, should not even participate in the debate in Parliament. We're a multi-racial society, with many religions in our midst. Can this NMP understand how much harm it can bring to Singapore if this "religious style" is allowed in policy making?

Furthermore, anyone who has friends from other religions should know that it's a BIG NO NO to talk about religions in such gatherings. We respect each other faiths and we leave it at that. Do you know that friendships can be lost just by saying a few wrong words? Secularism MUST be maintained in making policies. This is the only way of prevent chaos from erupting.

Can this "religion debate" ever stop? Why is it always brought up?

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Friday, May 29, 2009

SMBs relying on free web services? I don't agree

Recently there were so many articles related to cloud computing. One of which encourages Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) to go for free web services as it is a more reliable choice. I disagree.

Again the crux of the matter is not about reliability. It's all about security.

Let's say for example you're using a free email account to conduct your business. What's stopping from someone to hack your email account to gain access to your emails? Your emails may contain confidential information about your clients. Are you willing to have this possibility of your business information being exposed out into the web? Worst still... Being posted publicly in the web for all to see? There were already a few incidents where supposedly protected information appeared in Google. People can argue this can happen if you have your own email server. This is true, but it's significantly more difficult as you first need to gain access to the company's internal network.

The writers of the article also argued that reliability is about the same if you host it internally in your own premises. However, it neglected to bring up one point. The response time to bring up the service if it goes down.

I used to do this for my company previously. Whenever a service goes down, I just pop into the server room, do a little diagnostic and I can usually get everything up in a few minutes. That's how fast my up-time is, unless the server crashed beyond recovery. If that happens, I'll usually just activate the backup contingency planning which will take at most half a day.

Just imagine if this happens to your free web service. What's your backup contingency planning? Is this service essential? What happens if it's not due to the provider, but due to your ISP connection to the Internet? What happens if there is a contention between your ISP provider and the free web service provider, where both blame each other for the problem?

I've encountered these problems before... You'll be lucky if you can get it resolved in a week's time. You cannot even figure out what's the problem in the first place because you're just a subscriber.

I do agree though that free web services are a stepping stone for those very small SMEs to hit the ground running. However, once you've grown, please invest in your own IT infrastructure. It'll be worth it. In business, it's all about fast response to the changing business environment. If you use free web services that can be accessed by anybody, how do you differentiate yourself from your competition?

Accessing the Intranet for your web services is quite different from access your web services through the Internet. Weigh your pros and cons carefully before deciding.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Being Happy

Unknown quote:

Being happy doesn't mean that everything is perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.

After reading this quote, it came to me that everyday, we always seem to remember the negative things that happen throughout the day rather than the positive ones. How our day will end depends on how negative it was. If we have less negative happenings, it'll be an OKAY day. If we have more, it'll be a bad day. If we're on leave, it'll be a happy day.

I guess we must take note that there's always 2 sides to a coin. If there's a negative side, there's always a positive side. It's just that we (at least I am) are wired to look towards the negative side instead of the positive side. If we learn to look more positively in the happenings around us, we'll end up being a happier person.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Can Graciousness and the 2 Ks Coexist?

Recently Parliament has been talking about how to encourage a gracious society. Personally, I think it's a losing battle. Why? Because I cannot find a way for the 2 Ks and graciousness to coexist together.

What 2 Ks? They are actually Kiasu, and Kiasi.

Kiasu is a Hokkien word that translates to a fear of losing. One very good example can be seen everyday in the MRT. People rushing into the train even before the train doors are fully open, blocking the passengers from coming out. Why? Because they are either afraid of losing the seat to someone who goes in earlier than them, or afraid of the door closing onto them. This trait could also be seen by people who stands right in front of the door. When the door opens, some will block the door and refuse to step out so that passengers can get out of the train. Why? Because they are afraid of not being able to get back onto the train.

Kiasi is also a Hokkien word that translates to being timid. One very good example can be seen everyday in the MRT too. People who needs to get out of the train use their "eye power" to try to telepathically tell the person to move. Either that or a rather timid and soft "excuse me" will come out, which is at times inaudible.

Tell me, with Kiasuism and Kiasiism so common, how can there be a gracious society?

First Kiasuism. This is rather straightforward. In a gracious society, you let passengers get out of the train before going in. If you're blocking the way, you will make space to allow people to move pass you. With Kiasuism so prevalent, do you see this happening? I do, but you still get idiots who refuse to budge.

Next is Kiasiism. Why I included this is due to one reason. You cannot be gracious, if you do not know what's happening around you. Looking from the point of the person that said an inaudible excuse me, the person in front is not gracious. Looking from the point of the person in front, he/she did nothing wrong because he/she doesn't know what is happening. In fact, it's the fault of the other person for not making known his/her intention to pass through. In a gracious society, you also expect people to politely say excuse me. However, note the number of plugged in people in Singapore. Plugged in as in plugged into their handphone, MP3/MP4 players, etc. Do you think that a polite excuse me can be heard? Not very likely. So most of the time, we have to shout our excuse me. Is that gracious?

To me, the culture here fundamentally does not allow graciousness. This is especially so because of Kiasuism, which is also a direct result of competitiveness. How can you be gracious if you always have the fear of losing to others?

Of course I do see graceful Singaporeans but they are few and far between. For me, the only way to resolve this is to lower the pace, and adjust our expectations. Do not always expect 101% from everyone. Sometimes, 90% is enough. Give 10% as a buffer for them to re-charge. If people have time to re-charge, maybe a more gracious person will emerge.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Susan Boyle's Memories

Updated 27 May 2009: Changed the Youtube video as embedding has been disabled

This is Susan Boyle's 2nd performance. Somehow, she went out of tune at the start of the song. I believe for me, this affected the rest of her performance. It doesn't have the same effect as her previous performance, Susan Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream.

This performance though revealed that her falsetto voice during an unplugged song isn't that steady. She seems to perform well for difficult songs with loud background music. However, once you put in a soft background music like unplugged versions, her soft falsetto voice doesn't really move people as much, to me that is.

It might be due to the stress though. After all, 100 over million people are rooting for her. Her last part of the song was better than the first part. But I still somehow have the feeling that her voice is not suited for unplugged songs. Hmm...

Below is the Youtube video of her performance:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Inflation is down 0.7%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2009:
January: 2.9%
February: 1.9%
March: 1.6%
April: -0.7%

Food and Health Care is leading the charge, both rising by 3.6% respectively year on year. What surprised me was that the CPI actually went negative. What I've forgotten to take into account was the Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates handed out in April. I expected the housing inflation to be around 4%, and not -1.7%. Recreation inflation also turned negative due to reduction in the travel fares. Transport & Communication inflation as expected was lower, -6.3% to be exact.

I'm not sure if they normalised the S&CC rebates over a period of time, or it's treated as a one-off rebate. If it is a one-off rebate, then from May onwards, the Housing inflation would go back to being positive. Transport & Communication might start to increase slightly due to the increase in oil prices. I'm still of view CPI should go back to slightly around 0.5% till June, if the S&CC rebates are one-off. That also depends on the Great Singapore Sale though.

I believe that this year it would really be a sale worth waiting for.

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Circle Line Discovery

Seems like there's a pre-opening launch of the Circle line today. However, I find it a little amusing that you need to register to attend a pre-opening launch. Not only that, it lasts 2 hours.

Well, I do not really understand why someone needs to use 2 hours to talk about 5 stations. The only reason why I think there's a registration is due to crowd control. But then again... If your stations cannot handle the crowds, then what makes you think that the stations can handle the normal day to day operations?

For us the end users, we might be a little interested in knowing the background of the stations, but what we're really concerned about is the frequency of the arrival, and the backups it have so that it will not breakdown so often.

Oh well... If anyone is interested, click here to register for the pre-opening launch. They call it Circle Line Discovery.

Below are the details of the pre-launch.

Date: 23 May 2009 (Saturday)
Venue: Circle Line Stations [Bartley, Serangoon, Lorong Chuan, Bishan and Marymount]
Time: 8.30am to 6.00 pm

Reporting Time Start Time
Session 1 8.30am 9.00am
Session 2 11.00am 11.30am
Session 3 1.30pm 2.00pm
Session 4 4.00pm 4.30pm

Friday, May 22, 2009

Popularity of iPhone

Latest figures from Gartner put the iPhone as the world's 3rd most popular smartphone. The top 3 popularity ranking for smartphones is:
  1. Nokia - 41.2% from 45.1%
  2. BlackBerry - 19.9% from 13.3%
  3. iPhone - 10.8% from 5.3%

In terms of increase in percentage, iPhone leads the pack. Guess what's the best part? This is despite iPhone being exclusive to selective telcos in some countries. Just imagine how popular the iPhone will be, if this restriction is removed.

I'm still waiting for M1 and Starhub to offer the iPhone. When this happens, the iPhone prices and plans will definitely be more competitive. M1 and Starhub might think that this is a fad, but I urge them to think otherwise. Within a span of a few months, I've seen more and more people using the iPhone on the public transport. And since iPhone is sold exclusively by one telco, it means that some customers may have been displeased with the telcos in-action and voted with their feet. I knew a few people who has switched telco purely because of the iPhone.

Ignore iPhone at your own risk telcos, especially when iPhone 3.0 is released on June 8 this year.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Know who you really are, and you'll end up happier

I quote from Margaret Young:

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.

The key point is to know what you want out of your life. Once you've figured that out, everything will naturally fall into place.

However, doing anything in excess is always bad for health. Remember that moderation is the key, and you'll always be happy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Risks in Cloud Computing

On May 14th US timing, Google experienced a wide-spread outage lasting several hours that affected many of their services like Youtube, Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Maps and Google Docs. The outage affected many countries like the US, Europe, China and Australia. This comes right after the outage for Microsoft Azure cloud.

Considering the scale of Google's services, it's commendable that they were able to bring up all the services in a few hours (faster than Microsoft 22 hours outage). However if you look at the other perspective, even a huge company like Google could suffer an outage, who else will not?

Recently I've seen many articles written on cloud computing, both abroad and local. First of all, what's the foremost reason why you want to consider cloud computing.

It all comes down to if you want to outsource your IT operations. BUT... IT often drives productivity in an organisation, if implemented properly. Nowadays, what differentiates the competition is your response to the happenings in the business world. And very often, this response is inter-related with your IT infrastructure, and how you use IT.

Just imagine if you put all your company's data, email, etc in the "generic cloud". What happens if your cloud is down several hours like Google? What will happen to your business operations? What happens if let's say you're running a mission critical system? Using an example of a healthcare system, can you imagine the implications on such an outage? Of course you can say that you're protected by the SLA, 99.5% uptime, etc etc. However, the outage can cause irreversible damage to your company's reputation.

Some will argue that you will also face the same problem maintaining your own IT infrastructure. However, you have to take into account the complexity. Your cloud computing vendor might have 1000s of customers. Can you imagine how complex will their infrastructure architecture be? Compared to your ONE company's infrastructure? Coming from the technical standpoint, I personally believe the cloud infrastructure is much more complicated to bring up once it goes down.

I've also seen articles on hybrid clouds, which I also do not agree. Other than outsourcing your IT operations to the cloud, the other advantage of the cloud is the utility model. You're only paying what you're using. It makes absolutely no sense for example for the vendors to provide only the application hosting, and not the actual database hosting. They will never commit to any SLA because access to the application and access to the database is interconnected. It HAS to come as a package.

That brings about my next point. Security... Coming from the perspective of economies of scale and cost, I seriously do not see the cloud computing vendor deploying separate databases for each customer. The most likely scenario would be a huge database with many schema users. It just takes ONE unsecured schema user and a determined hacker, and your data can be compromised. So what if there is high availability, backup, uptime, etc?

Previously back in March, I've written a post related to this topic. There's still no change in my position. I still strongly believe that the generic cloud can only be used for public services. For example, your company's website, forums, etc. If you want to put companies' confidential data like CRM, ERP, etc, I still think a "private cloud" will be the way to go, combine with the use of virtualisation.

There's also one critical fundamental question you need to answer if you wish to go into cloud computing. What happens if the cloud computing company goes out of business?

Something for you to think about...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Deferred Payment Coming to Bite

I remembered last year, some joker in the papers actually wrote an article to request for the deferred payment to be reinstated. I believe that was what triggered me to write this post here. Thank goodness the government got more sense than that.

Recently, the deferred payment has come back to bite. Several buyers are unable to make the payment. Most of them bought the units in bulk, costing millions of dollars. I think there are a few here and there that bought 2-4 units.

This cause problems for both the buyers and developers. Buyers will lose their deposits, and I believe there are some implications if it's a sub-sale. For the developers, they now have to re-sell those units in this kind of economic climate. That doesn't bold well for them.

In fact, the property market has been recently stirring. Some people think that just because the developers are going to flood the market with those units, the prices will be driven down. Well, it's highly unlikely that will happen. Don't forget. All the small players are already out of the market. I believe last year, some new entrants have already been burnt and they had to forfeit their en-bloc deposit. The ones left are the big guys. They have staying power.

The developers still have the choice of renting out the units until the property market improves. This would be their most likely move if they are unable to recover their costs.

All these problems all arising because of the deferred payment scheme.

Rule of thumb: If you can't afford it, don't even think about it.

Save everyone the trouble.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

How not to use AJAX

I believe I've finally seen the worst example of an AJAX website. You can see clearly that the team who designed the website do not use the basic web interface guidelines. AJAX is suppose to help make the website more user friendly. Not this example...

And the website belongs to ... ... *drum roll* SGX.

Let me use this stocks page as an example. These are some points of what you should not do for an AJAX site:
  • Previously when you click on the company's name, you'll get the company's announcements in a pop-up. Now when you click on it, only the checkbox will be checked/unchecked. No one will know what the heck is happening.

    So is it apparent how to retrieve the company's announcements? Obviously not.

    If you're interested, the way to view the company's announcement is to click on the column Cde (Most probably stands for company code). I found that out by accident.

  • After clicking on the company's announcements, and you wish to go back to the previous page, what do you do? Previously, you'll just close the pop-up window. Now?

    No idea... There's no breadcrumb that helps you to navigate the site. So all you can do is to press the browser's back button.

    Now here comes the problem. When you click on the back button, it doesn't bring you back to the original page you've clicked. Yes! I've no idea how it passed the usability test! Just imagine, you're looking at maybe the 10th page and you click on the announcements. When you press the back button, you're redirected back to the 1st page instead of the 10th page!

  • Sometimes after clicking on the company's announcements, you'll just get a blank page or get some funny codes that appear on the screen. Refreshing the page will not work.

    No problem. I thought I will just press the back button and click on it again.

    Boy was I wrong. When I go back, the same problem I've described in the point above comes back again! My original page is gone! I need to look for the page all over again.

There are many more weird things in the website but I think the top 3 is enough to drive anybody away.

When you try to implement a solution, for goodness sake look at your end-objective and your target audience. Know what your audience is doing and how are they navigating your website. It is quite obvious that the SGX team does not know how the users use their website. This looks to me like a classic example of implementing a technology just because it's the latest and coolest, without thinking through if it will benefit the end-users. Otherwise, how could anyone launch such a website?

There's only one word that can describe the new SGX website. It sucks!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Intel fined 1.06 billion pounds by EU!

Looks like the EU is on the war path. After fining Microsoft 497 billion pounds for anti-competition behaviour, Intel is now at its cross-hairs. They are fining Intel more than 2 times the amount they've fined Microsoft. 1.06 billion pounds! I thought that I've mis-read the amount.

I was a supporter of AMD chips back in the good old days. Back in the days where I still like to DIY, I've always chosen AMD chips. They are cheap, and generally quite okay for normal office work, and some non-FPS games. I still remember rushing to get the AMD Athlon chip when it was first released. Guess what? I'm still using that old desktop. It's still surviving quite well, although a little slow now.

However back in those days, it's near impossible to get any AMD branded computers anywhere in the market. The past few years were slightly better. I guessed it may be because Intel was preparing ammunition for this lawsuit by EU. 10 over years ago, you can never see a AMD inside in any of the branded computers. The only way to get a AMD computer previously is to build one yourself. Most of the computers I built last time are all based on the AMD chips.

Anyone who studies basic economics know that monopoly is ALWAYS bad for the consumers. Why? Simple. Human behaviour. It leads to complacency. Intel has fallen behind AMD a few times back in the days when I was tracking their benchmarks. Without AMD, I'm sure our Intel chips won't become as powerful as what we're having now.

That aside... 1.06 billion pounds is quite a big sum. I wonder what is EU thinking about when they gave that amount?

Local Banks Produced Results. Obviously.

As indicated in my previous post here back in April, the 3 local banks produced quite healthy results in this kind of climate.

I have no idea why the market previously is giving such a valuation to the local banks. They do not have a lot of exposure to the toxic assets, and they are definitely not going to lose 10+ billion dollars per quarter. So why such a valuation? At most the banks will make lesser profit, but profits they will certainly have. People forget that Singapore is a highly regulated country. There's a reason why we are often labeled kiasu and kiasi.

Not only the banks will do okay, this will extend to most of our non-property blue chips. They will not make billions of dollars losses like the news that we keep reading about. Going forward, I see lesser profits for those companies, but I don't see any losses. In fact, I think the 1Q is the crucial test for them. Once they past this test, the 2Q results should be better. In fact, go out to the streets and you'll know what I mean. Judge by what you can see, and not by what you're reading.

This only goes to prove what I've known ages ago. There is no such thing as an efficient market. I won't try to persuade anyone with any analysis, charts, or some crystal ball.

Just ask yourself this. The market is governed by buyers and sellers who can enter/exit anytime they want. Buying and selling are all directly/indirectly controlled by humans. Humans are imperfect. Therefore, how can the market be efficient?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Follow your Passion

I quote from Howard Washington Thurman:

Don't ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

In another words... Follow your passion. You do not need to have the "Follow the herd" mentality. Just because it's done by everyone, need not necessarily mean that it's correct or it's the only way. Take into account your surroundings and do what you deem best.

Do not underestimate the power of passion.

Monday, May 11, 2009

iPhone cannot survive in humid weather?? Not for me.

Recently someone written in the ST forum that he/she suspect the iPhone cannot function in a humid environment like Singapore as the iPhone was spoiled due to seepage of water. I would like to say that this is highly unlikely.

Why do I say that? Very simple. My iPhone has absolutely no case, or any form of protection whatsoever. My iPhone usually will be on the table, next to my ear, or in my pocket.

The only problem I had was that the vibration button broke off. But, there is definitely no humidity problem.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Netbooks based on ARM useful?

Now it seems that there's another new trend for Netbooks. That is Netbooks with the Android OS, running on the ARM chip. The Netbook that is coming out is called Alpha 680. From what I read, it has a 7 inch screen with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, 128 MB RAM, and a 1GB SSD. The 2 cell battery last from 2 to 4 hours with WiFi enabled.

Regardless of the price, just by looking at the specs, I do not see the point of creating such a Netbook. Using the iPhone, I can use 3G for a day before charging. The iPhone is basically enough to check e-mail, browse the web, read some documents, play tons of games, etc etc. Why someone bothered to create a 7 inch netbook that only allows people to see a little clearer, type a bit better, but only last 2 to 4 hours? Just based on the battery life, I will not even bring the Netbook out. It's of no use. The battery life is too short.

Even if the Alpha 680 has a 3G option, the battery life will definitely be significantly reduced, based on my experience using the iPhone. Most probably the battery life for Alpha 680 will shorten to an hour or so using 3G.

Personally, I do not see any business case for it, or any market for it. I can't think of any reason why I would buy it over a laptop like the Thinkpad X200, or an iPhone/Android, even if it is sold cheaply.

Do you?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Windows 7 and Snow Leopard

Wondering why suddenly there are so many sales of Macs, iPhones, and even normal laptops recently? The reason is quite simple.

Coming June 8 at WWDC 2009, not only the new iPhone 3G 3.0 updates will be announced, I think Snow Leopard, the new OS for the Mac will also be announced. And guess what? Windows 7 is also targeted to be released 3Q of this year.

So have you guess the reason for the sales? Everyone is clearing stock now, waiting for the new OSes or hardware to come in.

Previously, I have remarked on my blog that Windows Vista is going the way of Windows ME. I'm still of view that Vista is a mistake. However, it seems that Windows 7 is suppose to fix that mistake. Will history repeat? Windows Vista = Windows ME? Windows 7 = Windows XP? I would think I rather wait for the egg to hatch before I comment on it, based on past experience. I have nothing against Windows. I'm currently using Windows XP Pro right now to type this post. However, I personally feel that there's a tinge of arrogance when Vista was released. It's like the take it, or leave it mentality... Look at the number of complaints and unofficial downgrades from Vista to XP and you'll know what I mean. Sorry. I don't like this kind of attitude. I do not even think the XP mode is that big a deal. It's just another way for Microsoft to make more money. Since the launch of the Intel Mac, Mac OS provided a emulator called Rosetta that is able to run any applications created for the PowerPC Macs.

I'm actually more curious about Snow Leopard. Basically, other than adding Microsoft Exchange 2007 support in Snow Leopard, the other big changes will be the 64bit compatibility, support of multi-core processors by the OS itself, and OpenCL, which allows developers to take advantage of the GPU for non-graphics computing purposes. That is interesting... Basically, it's like trying to tell all the developers. I'm changing the OS, and I will make your applications run faster, and more efficient. You do not need to do anything, or you just need to change minimally. That's what I like about the Mac platform.

Snow Leopard is targeted to be a Mac OS that will make your present Mac fly. It'll be interesting once it is released.

All of us are unique

I quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate. The world is all gates, all opportunities.

In simple words, this means that we're all unique. We should not make ourselves feel inferior just because someone does something better than you. Very likely, you're able to do something better than the other person.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths usually translate to something that we like to do. Build on it. Do not view your strengths with the mindset that others can do better than you. There are always different view points to the same matter. Who knows... Yours might be better.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

MOH: Downgrade to Yellow Alert by 11 May

MOH has only upgraded to Orange alert just before Labour Day. If the disease remains status quo, it seems that MOH will downgrade the alert back to yellow on 11 May 2009. Hurray for that! Just recently, my colleagues were just discussing if the Orange alert is just a knee jerk kiasuism syndrome. But, you know what they say... It's better to be safe, than to be sorry.

The downgrade to Yellow alert, according to MOH:
  • Stringent border controls will still be maintained, with temperature screening at air, land and sea checkpoints. Home Quarantine Orders (HQO) will still apply to persons with a travel history to Mexico in the past seven days.

  • At healthcare institutions, the current tighter restrictions will continue to be in place for the time being, especially in high risk areas such as A & E and ICU.

  • Lift temperature screening requirements and screening for flu-like symptoms and travel history at work places, schools, buildings and events.

Globally, the following countries have been affected as of 6 May 2009:
  • Mexico
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • Israel
  • Costa Rica
  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Portugal
  • El Salvador
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Columbia
  • Hong Kong
  • Republic of Korea

It seems that there is also a private Singapore Swine Flu website setup to track the spread of the disease. I find it quite accurate. I came across some other Swine Flu websites that are inaccurate. How did I know? The dead giveaway was when it listed Singapore as one of the countries being affected. You can find the Singapore Swine Flu website here.

Hopefully it'll be downgraded to Yellow next Monday. The taking of temperature is so troublesome.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Liber Tango - Astor Piazzolla (Cello)

My friend recently SMS me about a new Korean drama called Beethoven Virus. I saw a snippet of the drama. Didn't really like what I saw compared to Nodame, but I've heard a beautiful rendition of Liber Tango by Astor Piazzolla, where the solo is played by the Cello. I love the sound of the cello in that rendition.

I did a search and I found that there's a Cello Project for Liber Tango. Below is the Youtube version that I've found. Piano and Cello. Amazing... The bridge is quite interesting.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

AWARE saga is finally coming to an end

After almost a month, the AWARE (Association of Women for Action and REsearch) saga is finally coming to an end. I have refrained from going into it because it touches on one of my personal taboo topic which I do not wish to bring in. That is religion. I'm also not involved in the happenings of AWARE so it's not fair for me to comment on things that I've no knowledge of.

The recent EGM however, which was all over the news and was even on Twitter, brought up quite a few points which I felt are good learning points, without bringing in my taboo topic.
  1. Do not impose your beliefs on others.
    If I feel that sleeping at 10pm, and waking up at 6am to study is good for my exam results, then it's my business. I do not impose this belief on someone else who thinks that cramming until 3am and waking up just in time to go for the exam is the magic formula.

    Frankly, I see no problems with the sexuality issue in question being categorised as neutral. People have the right to live the way they wish to. That's the basis of equality, which is what AWARE is fighting for.

    You may have strong beliefs in certain areas, but there's a lack of basic courtesy and respect for others if you try to enforce your beliefs on others. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    I would also like to bring out sections of the National Pledge as a reminder to all (in bold):

    We, the citizens of Singapore,
    pledge ourselves as one united people,
    regardless of race, language or religion,
    to build a democratic society
    based on justice and equality
    so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
    progress for our nation.

  2. Do not act rashly on things that you've heard. Act only on things that you've experienced.
    As revealed by a CSE (Comprehensive Sexuality Education) instructor during the AWARE EGM, the sexuality issue turns out to occupy only 1 and a half minutes out of a 3 hour programme. That doesn't seem to be the picture painted before.

    To me, it seems that there was a lack of understanding in the programmes being conducted in AWARE, and several decisions were implemented by the "new" exco based on misconceptions on what's happening.

    Do not act on things that you've only heard about. That's one of the basic fundamental rule I've learned since I came out in the working world.

  3. Know what you can do, and cannot do in an organisation.
    I was very surprised on the lack of knowledge of the "new" exco on the constitution of AWARE. In any organisation that you work in, or even in any committee that you've joined in school, the first thing that you should do is to familiarise yourself on what you can, and what you cannot do. Being in the position of power does not give you the right to do anything you deem fit. That's called dictatorship, not leadership.

    To borrow a line from Spiderman:

    With power comes great responsibility

    Spending $90,000 in a month is mind boggling. Although this was offset by the surge of new memberships, one should take note that the surge of memberships were a result of the pro-activeness of people in Singapore to act on what they believe in. This surge of membership and the spending of $90,000 by the "new" exco, are 2 completely different matters. This should not be a valid reason on why the expenditure limit of $20,000 per month set out in the constitution was disregarded.

    What astonished me the most though is that all the recent decisions made by the "new" exco may be done without fully understanding what they can, or cannot do, and what's really happening within the organisation. That's downright dangerous, working on what you perceived to be happening.

    Do not work on assumptions without merit. That's another basic fundamental rule I've learned since I came out in the working world.

This incident though does bring out one good aspect. Singaporeans are not afraid to step out and voice out their displeasure on what they deemed as an injustice. We're not people, painted by some media and people, that takes orders and decisions from the top without understanding the implications. To borrow a terminology used often in the army. We're thinking "soldiers".

To end this post, I would like to bring up one point I've read that mentions whether the 3,000 people (Note that there are many more waiting outside who are turned away from the EGM because they were late) in the AWARE EGM held yesterday are representative of the views of women in Singapore. To do this, I would like to ask all to blow off the dust of your Mathematics textbook, and turn to the chapter on probability.

The question:
What is the probability of a 65% majority taken from a random pick of 2,175 people of different ages, and background?

Friday, May 1, 2009

MOH: Orange Alert due to Swine Flu

Seems like our Ministry of Health (MOH) has issued an Orange Alert as of 30 Apr 2009 evening, due to the Swine Flu (or Mexican Flu).

According to MOH:
  • Temperature screening and screening for flu like symptoms for visitors to clinical care areas would be implemented. Hospital staff are required to don Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in all areas with patient contact. The number of visitors would also be restricted to one visitor per patient. This will help facilitate contact tracing and reduce unnecessary risk exposure in the hospitals.

  • Those with a travel history to Mexico over the past seven days will be quarantined for seven days when they enter Singapore and undergo phone surveillance for symptoms for Mexican Flu.

  • Members of the public who are returning from other affected areas (ie states of New York, California, Kansas and Texas in the United States and the state of Nova Scotia in Canada) are advised to stay at home for seven days upon return and check themselves for symptoms for Mexican Flu. They should practice social distancing and refrain from joining mass gatherings, e.g. going to the cinemas, shopping malls, or supermarkets etc. Those who develop respiratory illness with fever (Temperature > 38 degrees celcius) within seven days after their return should put on a surgical mask, call 993 for an ambulance. They should also disclose their travel histories to their doctors.

  • MOH also encourages schools, workplaces and places of mass gathering to conduct temperature checks routinely. Those with a higher-than-normal temperature should be advised to seek treatment immediately.

Globally, the following countries have been affected as of 30 Apr 2009:
  • Mexico
  • United States
  • Canada
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • Israel
  • Costa Rica
  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • Peru

Seems like the deaths are not confined to Mexico. USA has reported 1 death. It just makes me wonder why these kind of diseases come when there's a recession. Previously was the Asean Financial Crisis (SARS), now this Global Financial Crisis (SWINE). I wonder if it's because something has been fed to the animals during recessions (to cut cost) that caused this? The super hot weather these few weeks doesn't help either.

More information on the Mexican Flu can be found at MOH website.


Today I was reading the May 2009 edition of Reader's Digest where they talk about Keratoconus (pronounced KEHR-uhtoh-KOH-nus). According to Wikipedia, it is a degenerative disorder of the eye in which structural changes within the cornea cause it to thin and change to a more conical shape than its normal gradual curve. Serious cases could cause you to become almost blind.

Causes are unknown, but according to Reader's Digest, it seems that in some cases, wearing contact lenses for too long a time, or a habit of rubbing your eyes vigorously could cause this, as it may cause structural changes within the cornea. According to Wikipedia though, it seems that the treatment for Keratoconus also involves a special type of contact lens. Hmm...

This brought back memories. I remember some time back, I have a friend whose eyes went into "some trouble". Cause of reason. Contact lenses.

I know many people, especially girls, like to wear contact lenses. However, before you think about vanity, think about your eyes first. Becoming almost blind is no joke, and is too high a price to pay for vanity. Wearing contact lenses for too long could also cause your eyes to be starved of oxygen, causing your cornea to lose its transparency. This is especially true if you're staring at a computer screen in an air-conditioned office.

Treat your eyes well. It's your window to the world.
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