Monday, February 28, 2011

Greatest mistake you can make

I quote from Elbert Hubbard:

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one

I love to quote this because I strongly believe that if you do not ask, you'll never know. And if you'll never know, you'll continue to make the same mistakes.

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

Friday, February 25, 2011

Estate Agent Card for all property agents from 1 Mar 2011

Updated 27 Feb 2011: CEA Website to check if agent is registered

Starting from 1 Mar 2011, all property agents will carry an Estate Agent Card that shows that they are certified by the Council of Estate Agents (CEA).

The new Estate Agent Card displays clearly the name and licence number of the property agent and his firm, as well as his photograph and the registration expiry date. You are also able to search for these details at the CEA website here. I have checked it and it works.

Let's hope this will reduce those fly by night operators.

Windows Phone 7 Update may brick your phone

Seems like the Windows update for the Windows Phone 7 has caused some problems for the unlucky Samsung owners. If you're lucky, the update will just fail and reboot. If you're not, it will corrupt your firmware and your phone will be bricked. Better check with your carrier or the manufacturer before you update your Windows Phone 7.

Apparently, carriers are allowed to block your Windows update too. Oh well...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Inflation is up 5.5%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2011:
January: 5.5%

Transport and Housing are once again leading the pack, rising by an astonishing 18.4% and 5.3% respectively year on year. The inflation for Transport has maintained the upward trend as the COE price remains elevated. The high price of oil is also evident as you can see inflation rising across the board for all items.

For some reason, MAS has introduced a core inflation this year. Anyway, I will not look at it for the simple fact that the definition of "core inflation" is different for everyone.

Judging from the disruptions that happened this year, this month's inflation will be even higher and this will persist until April. Not good for all of us.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How big is 500 square feet?

I'm sure all of us are aware of the recent trend of the mickey mouse flats that are less than 500 square feet. Do you want to know exactly how big is 500 square feet?

Look at the living room of a new 4 room flat and put another similar living room of the same size side by side, and that's about 500 square feet. Big enough for you?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mindset change? Or a deeper problem?

The raising of fertility rate is the current hot topic but I think it has nothing to do with a mindset change. Other than the affordability issue, there are also other issues that results in most stopping at one or two.

Why is this so? I for one think that there are not many differences between animals and humans so my advice is to look at our Singapore Zoo's breeding program for a solution. Why is it so successful? Analyse it and you'll find the solution to the Singapore fertility rate problem.

Personally, after a hard day's of work from Monday to Friday, and looking towards a weekend of housework and sometimes work too (the dreaded blackberry), how much can you change your mindset?

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

Monday, February 21, 2011

Direct Benefit for Households in Budget 2011

I am only highlighting some of the more direct benefits (non-business related) to households. This year's budget is truly an election budget where most of the benefits are to the working class and families.

Looking at the benefits to businesses, you can see the general direction that the government is heading is that foreign workers should not be brought in to lower the salaries of Singaporeans. To counter this, they are most probably going to keep raising the foreign workers levy so as to level the playing field. On the other hand, they are also providing productivity packages to the companies in order to encourage them to train their workers.

The benefits in this budget however does nothing in enhancing work-life balance for all Singaporeans. All the benefits are mostly in monetary terms. There is still no definition of how the productivity is to be measured. Labour Productivity (average output per worker-hour) should be emphasized instead of general productivity. Labour Productivity will show the true picture that the increase in productivity is not due to the exploitation of workers. This is sadly, not mentioned.

Anyway, below are some of the more direct benefits to households:
  1. A one-off Special Bonus in cash, for those on the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme, amounting to 50% more WIS payment for work done in 2010, and 25% more WIS payment each year for work done in 2011 and 2012,  will be paid out on 15 May 2011.

  2. For Year of Assessment 2011, a personal income tax rebate of 20% will be given to individual resident taxpayers, capped at $2,000.
  3. From July 2011, $400 will be credited to the Children Development Account (CDA) for families with Annual Value of Home in 2010 that is up to $13,000. The rest of the families' CDA will be credited $300.
  4. The CPF Medisave accounts for Singaporeans aged 45 years and above will receive top-ups according to the table below.

  5. By 1st May 2011, all adult Singaporeans will be given Growth Dividends according to the table below.

  6. Singapore Households will be given Utilities-Save (U-Save) and Service and Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates according to the table below.

  7. For Year of Assessment 2012, the tax structure will be made more progressive resulting in middle-income earners enjoying the largest percentage reduction in their taxes. The tax structure will be according to the table below.

  8. The radio ($27) and television licence ($110) annual fees will be removed with effect from Year 2011.
  9. From September 2011, the employer CPF contribution rate will be raised by 0.5 percentage points, bringing the total CPF contribution rate to 36%. The additional 0.5% will go into the Special Account. The CPF salary ceiling will also be revised from $4,500 to $5,000 per month
  10. In line with the higher CPF ceiling, the contribution cap of the Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) will be increased.
  11. From Year of Assessment 2012, tax deduction will be granted to eligible companies that make voluntary contributions to the Medisave accounts of their self-employed persons (SEPs) partners, up to $1,500 per SEP per year.
  12. The Kindergarten Financial Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) and the Centre-based Financial Assistance Scheme for Childcare (CFAC) will be enhanced and extended to include families with up to $3,500 in gross monthly household income.
  13. A Special CPF Housing Grant (SHG) to help low income families making a first-time Build-to-Order (BTO) flat purchase, on top of the existing Additional CPF Housing Grants (AHG). The SHG will be provided to families who earn up to $2,250 per month.

For more information on the budget 2011, you can visit the budget website here.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Out to whatever that I did not recommend

Politics! Innovation is definitely not in action.

R: To reduce our expenses, we need to stop spending on the big ticket items. Healthcare, regulation to limit greenhouse gases, and spending on education. They are too expensive. These need to be cut!

D: Definitely not! Healthcare is the fundamental right for everyone. We need to ensure that everyone has affordable healthcare for the foreseeable future.

D: Greenhouse gases have already caused widespread disruption to our weather. We're spending billions to clean up the mess caused by extreme weather. This has to be addressed now.

D: Our nation's education has already fallen to average instead of one of the top few in the world. Do we want our education system to deteriorate further?

R: To reduce our expenses, we need to stop spending on the big ticket items. Healthcare, regulation to limit greenhouse gases, and spending on education. They are too expensive. These need to be cut!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Enough on weird MRT station names

Update 21 Feb 2011: Explanation of this post

I find it extremely weird that Singapore allows naming of MRT stations that sometimes have no bearing at all on where it is situated.

A few stations come to mind. The famous Esplanade MRT station. For those who are not in the know, the nearest landmark for this station is actually Suntec City. You have to walk quite a bit to reach Esplanade. The other is Dakota station. Since when we have a Dakota road?

Seriously, quit all those creative naming of MRT stations. It is part of our public transport system and the main aim is to allow us to reach our destination. The names of the MRT station should reflect the surroundings, be it road names or famous landmarks that will most probably not be demolished.

How are we going to reach our destination if we cannot even identify at a glance which station we are suppose to alight??

Update 1: I realised that many of the comments are implying that I did not research properly before I posted this. The question is not whether I did my research properly, but rather whether if I should research at all. FYI, I've been to Dakota MRT station a few times and I never knew that there is a Dakota Crescent just behind it. To me, I know it as Old Airport Road MRT station because that's the main road that I see the moment I get out of the MRT. Just as simple as that. Must I do my research on Google Maps or Streetdirectory to figure out why a MRT station is named that way? The station should be named in the most obvious manner. Drawing an analogy, how would you feel if Orchard MRT is called Patterson MRT, and ION Orchard is smack right on top of it?

Actually, there is a specific reason why I choose to use the word Dakota Road. Pity only a few realised the hidden meaning behind it. Anyway, I'm not going to comment on this further. The gist of this post is not about how far the roads are to the MRT station. It's about simplicity.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Signs of high level of stress in Singapore

I was recently reading about how some people can get a higher risk of contracting heart disease when having less than 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This to me is a sign of high level of stress or work needed as this is usually the case if I cannot get enough sleep.

It seemed that there may be such a trend in Singapore. Looking at Wikipedia, heart disease is the number 2 killer in Singapore other than cancer for 2007. I was also looking at the facts and figures from our Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for 2010. These are the top 3 disorders:
  1. Schizophrenic Disorders
  2. Depressive Disorder
  3. Anxiety, dissociative & somatoform disorders 

I'm not an expert in this kind of disorders but I do recall reading that depressive and anxiety disorders are also triggered by stress.

Is this a sign?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Learn from your mistakes

I quote from Alfred Adler:

What do you first do when you learn to swim? You make mistakes, do you not? And what happens? You make other mistakes, and when you have made all the mistakes you possibly can without drowning - and some of them many times over - what do you find? That you can swim? Well - life is just the same as learning to swim! Do not be afraid of making mistakes, for there is no other way of learning how to live! 

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

Monday, February 14, 2011

Hints for an upward review of transport fares in the 4Q2011

Updated 15 Feb 2011: Singapore Residents Household Median Income

Singapore has deferred their mid-term review of transport fares to the the 4Q2011. However, there are already hints of things to come. A quick re-cap of the public transport fares formula:

Maximum fare adjustment =
Price Index – 1.5% (productivity extraction set for 2008 to 2012)

Price Index = 0.5CPI + 0.5WI;

CPI: the change in Consumer Price Index over preceding year: 2.8% in 2010.

Wage Index (WI): the change in Average Monthly Earnings (Annual National Average) over the preceding year, adjusted to account for any change in the employer’s CPF contribution rate; 3.1% in 2010.

However, looking at the recent results of the SBS Transit and SMRT though, both have cited the increase in fuel/electricity prices and staff costs for the lost of profitability. Looking at SBS Transit increase of staff costs (increase of 1.3%), that would mean an increase of at least 0.5% of our public transport fares. Looking at the latest household median income information for 2010, that will translate to an increase of 2.95% of transport fares!

Let's not forget though that the delay of the review is due to the opening of the rest of the Circle Line. That would also mean that there will be another fares review as both the bus and train fares are sharing the same fare structure.

How will it change? I've no idea, but my gut feel says UP. There's no way that there will be a reduction or even a status quo after such a stunning economic and inflation growth in 2010.

Time will tell.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Now he is saying engineers are important?

Recently, Microsoft has announced that they are putting engineers back as head of the respective divisions, 3 months after he said that the Chief Software Architect is not necessary as written in a post here.

This to me seems to be an about turn for him. Anyone knows that in a software company, the Chief Software Architect should be able to see all the technology that is in use and aligns it to the best interest of the company. Microsoft however thinks that they only need the respective heads of the divisions to be the technology experts, and somehow it will magically align together.

Will this work? Without someone who is overlooking all the aspects, it will take a miracle to align all the different technology to the best interests to Microsoft. It is also quite likely that without someone at the head, you will soon see some products in Microsoft outright cannibalizing each other.

In fact by doing this, Microsoft has also confirmed that it is better for them if they split up. After all, the divisions are suppose to be experts in their area.


Telcos finding reasons again

Just read an article on telcos trying to get service providers to contribute to the maintenance of the data networks again, giving reasons that they are using the bulk of the network. Personally, I think they are trying to shirk their responsibilities.

How do normal consumers like us subscribe to a data connection? We apply to a telco for a line. The line usually gives us the downstream speed but limited upstream speed.

Have you ever thought of how you can access Google website for example? That's because Google has also subscribed to a data connection, and the data connection upstream and downstream speeds are exactly the same as they are sending information to us. This line usually costs many times what normal consumers are paying. Google, the service provider, will most probably estimate the number of users coming in for each server and subscribe to the appropriate speed.

Therefore, it is definitely NOT true that the service provider is not paying the telcos for the content. They are paying it through the more expensive data connection that they are subscribing to.

If the telcos are having network congestion problems, this actually shows that they are trying to push for more user subscriptions with little regard to their existing network capacity.

So whose fault is that?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The new HP WebOS TouchPad looks cool

HP has just launched their new WebOS TouchPad, their answer to iPad. Based on the demo that I've seen, it seems quite cool. I like the idea where you can close applications by using gestures instead of pressing a button and spoiling the button in the process. It also comes with QuickOffice so you can edit simple documents I presume.

The other cool part is the integration of the TouchPad to the other new WebOS phones like the Pre3. Seems like you can tap the WebOS phone at a certain location and it will be able to share the current web page that is being viewed on the TouchPad.

Some quick specs of the Touchpad known so far:
  • 1024x768 pixel 
  • 1.5 pounds
  • 13mm thickness
  • front-facing cameras for video chat
  • 16GB or 32GB of built-in memory
  • Support for Adobe's Flash
  • Beats by Dre speakers
  • 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor

Take a look at the video below that shows a quick demo of the TouchPad. Cool...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Beware of your negative thoughts

I quote from Robert H. Schuller:

Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come.

Bad decisions will be made when you're not concentrating. Make your important decisions with a clear mind.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Are our public holildays fair to all?

I happened to chance across the Thaipusam festival one day and a thought suddenly hit me. Why can't we enjoy the Thaipusam festival together with the Indians? I have never ever seen the festival because Thaipusam is not a national holiday. It just happened that the festival blockaded some roads that I got a chance to look at it.

I took a look at the list of national holidays and tried to categorise it as follows:
  • Start of a new year: New Year's Day, Chinese New Year
  • Christians: Good Friday, Christmas
  • Muslims: Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Haji
  • Buddhist: Vesak Day 
  • Hindu: Deepavali (4th day is also known as the new year)
  • For all: Labour Day

If you look at it based on the categories above, it would seem that the Buddhists and the Hindu are not having as many holidays as the Christians and Malays. I also know of Indian colleagues that have to take leave so that they could celebrate Thaipusam. Is it fair to them, considering that Indians are also one of the 4 major races in Singapore?

It would seem that the Hindus are under-represented in Singapore. Even in our neighbouring country, Thaipusam is celebrated as a national holiday. On a side note, the Buddhists there also celebrate Vesākha. If we try to compare the number of public holidays we have with other countries, you can see why we have one of the lowest total fertility rate in the world. We're all work and no play.

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's the purpose of NMP?

Recently I just read another interesting forum post on the topic of Nominated Members of Parliament. The issue was that the writer feels that NMPs should not join political parties after their term has ended.

Personally though, I think it really depends on the reason for the existence of NMPs. If one of the objectives is for people to understand how government works and to entice them to join their ranks, then NMPs should be free to join any political parties after their term has ended.

I would think that this should be one of the aims, other than providing alternate views. Personally, I do not think there is any reason why an NMP should be prohibited from joining any political party after their term has ended. It's their right.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Continuing QE = Increasing Cash Reserve

In my opinion, as long as US continues thinking they can use QE to reduce their jobless rates, they will be in for a long era of slow growth.

The evidence is for all to see. The fact is that the big companies are now keeping records amount of cash reserves. Productivity is also up in US.

All this points to only one conclusion, the QE's only purpose is to help generate revenue for the government in terms of taxes, but does little to reduce the jobless rate because frankly, there are no incentives at all for companies to hire.

Like it or not, there is no such thing as free market. The companies are not stupid. If the outlook is not certain and there are no incentives for hiring, the company will rather keep the profit for a rainy day.

Joblessness cannot be reduced by flow of money. Fact, as far as I am concerned.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Are there too many leaders?

Recently I was reading an article that was questioning if there are too many leaders, and not enough managers in today's organisations. The reason is simple. Many leaders seem to be detached from the ground and are trying to chart the direction forward without fully understanding what's happening at the ground.

Is this the norm? Management says that they are cutting cost, but they are asking you to do magic and produce more. I'm sure this rings a bell for everyone. The leaders now may wish to drive the organisation to a certain direction but they may not understand that it's often the small things that will affect the outcome. When cost is cut, it is often that these significant small things are reduced/discontinued causing widespread displeasure, affecting your branding. Only the managers will understand this because they are closest to what matters, the customers.

Furthermore, what's the easiest way to drive up revenue and profit? It's to cut your expenses and get your workers to produce more, a vicious cycle I would say because it's highly likely that your quality will suffer as a result. It may even be possible that this will result in an opposite effect.

What's the ideal method for increasing revenue and profit? Innovation. Is that the norm? You decide.

Has the Board lost it's importance in the corporate world?

It seems that SMRT has appointed an executive committee (exco) to assist the Board in making decisions. Personally, I think this reflects badly on SMRT.

The Board usually convenes due to circumstances that require their attention. It may be a big purchase decision, or matters that are of high importance to the organization.

SMRT, by appointing an exco, seems to aim to bypass the Board for certain decisions. If the matter is of great importance and requires urgent attention, all the more the Board should hear it as it will definitely impact the organization. Moreover, if the matter requires urgent resolution, it does show a lack of planning and risk management.

Can a listed company bypass the Board in this manner?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Will the Lenovo ideapad U1 be available in Singapore?

I am not really a fan of Microsoft Windows but Lenovo has created a pretty innovative product called the Lenovo ideapad U1. The concept is very simple. It's a normal Windows 7 laptop but the screen can be detached and is able to function as an Android tablet. This is something that will totally fit into the way I use computers. The problem is that the availability of this product is still a question mark. I have also yet to see the specs of this but I will keep an eye out for it.

Below is a Youtube video that I've found on this product. Looks cool.

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