Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Do, not talk

I quote from a Chinese proverb:

To talk much and arrive nowhere is the same as climbing a tree to catch a fish

In chinese, that will be 缘木求鱼. I'm reminded of this quote whenever I go to seminars and I get a reply to my question that makes me none the wiser.

Do, not talk. Act, and understand they will. :)

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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Employees Results in Happy Customers

Managed to catch an episode of Undercover Boss and the main takeaway I had from it was that the boss said happy employees will result in happy customers. The idea is quite simple in my personal opinion. If your employees are happy, their mood will affect how they interact with the customers. Happiness is contagious and it is quite likely the customers will be influenced by the employees. A happy customer is always good for business.

Wonder how many bosses follow this mantra. Judging from the moods of my friends and people that I've interacted with, not many. Pity.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Seems like the June WWDC is all about software

Just happened to see the press release from Apple on WWDC 2011 and it seems that this coming WWDC focus is all on software. There are no hints on any new hardware for the iPhone so it does seem that the upcoming iPhone will not have any major differences in terms of that.

The theme however for this June WWDC 2011 is the integration between Mac OS and iOS. That itself is quite exciting as I like to see what ideas they can throw around for these 2 operating systems. Some of the features I can think about is the integration of software between iOS, Mac OS and maybe even the cloud. That would mean a purchase of an iOS software on the iPhone can trigger a similar purchase (or bundled) for the software on the Mac OS and maybe some service offering in the cloud. All these can be achieved from the iTunes store on desktop or on the mobile device.

However, the million dollar question is always what software functionality will drive this service. I can think of a few though. June 6, 2011. A date to mark on my calendar.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

OECD Happiness Index 2011

OECD has launched it's Better Life Index for 2011, also known to us as the Happiness Index, specially for their 50th anniversary. They have surveyed all the countries currently in the OECD. If you rank them equally, the top 10 happiest place among the OECD countries are as follows:
  1. Australia
  2. Canada
  3. Sweden
  4. New Zealand
  5. Norway
  6. Denmark
  7. United States
  8. Switzerland
  9. Finland
  10. Netherlands

One thing I want to highlight while looking at the amount of data being analysed is that everyone seems to have a poor ranking for their income except for Luxembourg. I guess that proves we're never satisfied with how much we earn. :)

Anyway, I would like to highlight Denmark, ranked 6th overall but ranked the highest in work-life balance where 91% of the people said that they were satisfied with their life.This is definitely not normal in Singapore. Looking at the data, you can also see which are the popular countries I keep hearing people say that they wish to migrate to when possible. This index proves the reason why these people choose those countries.

Take a look at the actual OECD Happiness Index here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Only you are responsibile for your own happiness

I quote from Stacey Charter:

Don't rely on someone else for your happiness and self worth. Only you can be responsible for that. If you can't love and respect yourself - no one else will be able to make that happen. Accept who you are - completely; the good and the bad - and make changes as YOU see fit - not because you think someone else wants you to be different.

Only you will know what you want, and what happiness is to you.
Only you will know when you achieve true happiness.
Only you will be able to bring about the change to achieve that happiness.
Change is all about you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Irreplaceable? That's not what we're being told

If you have spoken to the senior management level often enough, it is very often that they will tell you that no one is irreplaceable. This is one of my bugbears and I have written about it in a post here. However just recently, someone has again stated that someone is irreplaceable.

I will not repeat what I've written in my post previously but the point that I want to bring up is why the double standards? Why senior management level can be irreplaceable but others are replaceable? Do you know how difficult is it to find a team that is able to deliver on time and on schedule? It takes a lot of teamwork and individual proficiency to achieve that state.

In fact, individual proficiency is easier to achieve than working together harmoniously. Teamwork is something that you cannot achieve overnight as team dynamics are very often complicated. Teamwork is where 1 + 1 > 2. How things are able to move smoothly is quite often team dynamics at work. Team members being able to instinctively react to situations regardless.

That is irreplaceable, and teamwork is needed throughout the organisation, not only in the senior management level.

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

Monday, May 23, 2011

Inflation is up 4.5%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2011:
January: 5.5%
February: 5.0%
March: 5.0%
April: 4.5%

Transport and Housing are once again leading the pack, rising by 11.7% and 5.1% respectively year on year. The inflation level is quite similar to March except for a notable increase in Transport inflation. This is most probably due to the increase of commodities pricing, which has also affected the Recreation & Others inflation.

It was reported that there was a taming of inflation from 5%, but if you look at the numbers, there has been an increase of inflation for Food, Transport and Others. The only saving grace was that housing rebates were given out in April. Otherwise, the inflation would have even been higher. This month's inflation will be similar to April, give or take a little.

Based on the current trend, it will seem that the average inflation for 2011 will be around 4.5% to 4.6%. Many factors will affect it though like the PIIG economies, China slowdown and of course, our dear US. These factors will most probably cause the inflation to tread lower.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Time for a new look

I was intending to do this for the new year but I didn't have the time to sit down and play with the css. Finally, I had some spare time today while waiting for things to happen. I had to take out the fixed picture background though as it is not compatible with mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad. I had to take out some of the widgets too as I did not realise that it was causing some script error.

Hope you like this new look.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Be an optimist!

I quote from Harry S. Truman:

A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and 
an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.

Opportunities may not knock twice so make full use of the opportunities or difficulties presented.
Last but not least, don't kill yourself over it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Are people still so easily tricked?

I can't believe it. People can just key in the password whenever they are being prompted when visiting a website. It's like giving the keys to your house to a stranger who asks you for it.

Obviously when you do that, you'll get hit by something bad. In this case, a virus. And guess what? People say that the Mac is insecure because of this incident. How come I don't see people complaining that the lock is inferior just because they passed the key to someone else?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Some truth on workers rights

I recently read up on some information from International Trade Union Confederation (Asia Pacific) with regard to rights of workers and how they should also cater for the needs of employers. For example, you don't ask for a raise for all the workers when the company is losing money, and the employers are also taking a pay cut. You can also look at the relationship between yourself and your maid.

However, they did bring up a point which is quite true. It was recognised that there is a lack of formal institutions that promote the cause of workers while meeting the competing needs of employers and governments. Workers rights are minimal and in some instances, workers were made to sacrifice their benefits. Is contract or irregular work meeting the needs of workers? How about unfair employment contracts that workers are made to sign even though they may not have any idea what they are getting themselves into?

From the gist of the statement, it will infer that formal institutions that promote the cause of workers should be independent and should not have any representations from the employers and governments in the decision body. This is to prevent conflict of interest because the needs of workers and needs of employers and governments are conflicting.

Therefore, I can conclude that the biggest trade union in Singapore, NTUC, is not a trade union because representatives from the government is in the union's decision body. Representatives from the employers and government can be in the steering committee but they shouldn't be represented in the decision body itself.

Will Coca-cola have a representative from Pepsi in the Board's decision committee? It seems that over here, this is perfectly normal.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Credit Ratings are a Joke

Just today, effectively the US government has hit their debt ceiling. Translated, they are unable to pay their bills. Although the US government is now initiating measures so that they could fund their operations until 2 Aug 2011, the whole issue is that they are effectively going bankrupt.

And guess what's the US government's credit ratings now? Still AAA, the highest credit rating. Then what on earth is the credit rating for? An organisation is close to not being able to fund their operations and the credit rating is still unchanged?

It would seems that ratings given by rating agencies may not be that useful at all.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Frost & Sullivan Journey Experience Index shows our frustrations

Frost & Sullivan's Journey Experience Index is calculated on the basis of speed, cost of travel and overall comfort and experience. The survey was conducted from September 2010 to February 2011 and involved 14,771 respondents from 23 cities.

Yes, the survey sample only consists of 23 cities and our "world class" public transport system ranks 18th. I believe Singaporeans have been giving feedback that we're facing some problems a few years back but we have been largely ignored until recently. It is heartening to know that LTA is going to do something about it although I have yet to see any improvements. Just recently, I had a total waiting time of 20 mins as I had to change MRT lines 4 times to reach my destination.

Below shows the journey index for reference.

Frost & Sullivan Journey Experience Index
  1. Copenhagen (81.5)
  2. Seattle (78.5)
  3. Sydney (78)
  4. San Francisco (75)
  5. Dubai (72.5)
  6. Los Angeles (72.5)
  7. New York (71)
  8. London (67.5)
  9. Shanghai (67.5)
  10. Frankfurt (63.5)
  11. Johannesburg (62)
  12. New Delhi (62)
  13. Paris (61.5)
  14. Kuala Lumpur (61)
  15. Beijing (60.5)
  16. Moscow (60.5)
  17. Tokyo (60.5)
  18. Singapore (54.5)
  19. Mexico City (49.5)
  20. Cairo (46.5)
  21. Rio de Janeiro (45.5)
  22. Seoul (36.5)
  23. Jakarta (30.5)

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Generation that looks towards the future

Recently someone remarked that the young Singaporeans are a generation that does not remember from whence we came. I would rather rephrase it as the young Singaporeans are a generation that looks towards where we wish we will be in the future.

Using IT as an example, look at Microsoft and Apple. Under the leadership of Microsoft, we have never gone beyond desktop and laptop. The move towards tablet was a disaster and the Microsoft smartphones leaves much to be desired. It works, just not as well as we expected.

I do not need to explain how Apple changed the game, and brought so many new innovations and even brought Google into the game.

Look towards the future. How things should be done, and not why it cannot be done.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Define your goals

I quote from Denis Waitley:

The reason most people never reach their goals is that they don't define them, learn about them, or even seriously consider them as believable or achievable. Winners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will

Surprisingly, many people will claim that they have goals but when asked to describe them, they come out with a generic goal that may apply to many different instances. The problem with this definition is that it will be too generic and it is very difficult to reach it is not clear.

Clearly define your goal. When your destination is clearly defined, only then will you be able to reach it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

iOS 4.3.3 at a glance

Seems like Apple released a patch for the iOS 4.3.2 last Friday again. Patch Friday? Hmm...

Below are the patches of iOS 4.3.3 at a glance:
  • Reduces the size of the cache
  • No longer backs the cache up to iTunes
  • Deletes the cache entirely when Location Services is turned off

The purpose of this patch seems to purely address the location bug that was found last week. Seems like Apple wants to send a message that for serious bugs, they are able to patch very quickly.

The only additional change that I've realised is that my Facebook started functioning again without going through the Help Centre workaround. Thank goodness for that.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Pitfalls of a GRC is clear for all to see

The recent 2011 election is really a watershed election in many ways and shows the pitfalls of the Group Representation Constituencies (GRC) system.

The introduction of GRCs in 1988 was to ensure that Singapore's Parliament would continue to be multiracial in its composition and representation by dictating that at least one candidate or Member of Parliament must be from the minority race. However at the same time, the government is also talking about meritocracy. Does the GRC system ensure meritocracy? I believe based on the number of cambridge scholars in the parliament, it will be easy to find ways to ensure representations from the minority race without using the GRC system.

From the results of the 2011 election, the problems with this GRC system are very apparent. A very good minister was booted out of parliament and a person whom everyone was against rode on the coat-tails of a minister and got into parliament through the GRC system. That particular constituency seemed to have also sent a message by having one of the largest number of voters that did not vote (over 13,000 I believe). Is that the objective of the GRC system? To reject good ministers and to let others hide behind other ministers to get into parliament?

Even the drawing of the boundaries of the GRC system leaves much to be desired. A family can be in a different constituency for every election due to the frequent redrawing of the boundaries. Is that also the purpose of a GRC system? Shouldn't the number of MPs decrease or increase depending on the number of voters within a fixed GRC boundary instead of redrawing the boundaries?

I believe Singaporeans have sent the message that we're willing to go broke if the opposition presents a slate of capable candidates during the election. In the next election, I hope all of us will be ready to send the same message again that Singapore policies are meant to benefit all  the citizens. Let's hope the opposition use this 5 years to prove to the people that they can be our voice in parliament. People first.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Do something about your stress

I quote from Debra Costanzo:

Stress will only increase with your permission.
If you desire more of it, do nothing.
If you desire less of it, do something.
If you’ve been doing nothing, 
doing something means everything! 

Are we a bunch of NATO people?

Come tomorrow is a day where we Singaporeans will decide our future.

A day where we will decide if we want something to be done only once every 5 years, or someone to respond to us as soon as they can.

A day where we will decide if we want proactive or reactive people helping us.

A day where we will decide if we want someone to really act and respond to our feedback, fight for us, and understand the problems we face everyday.

Tomorrow is polling day. A day that will also determine if Singaporeans are really just a bunch of No Action Talk Only (NATO) people.

Vote wisely.

Over focus on cost

I've been reading some postings on the reason why we need more foreign workers but I feel that there is a misconception that productivity means lower cost. That is in-correct.

All you need to look at is Apple products. Are they cheap? Are they the first in the market? Their R&D centre is situated in the USA!

It takes more to succeed in the real world and cost is only one factor. Being over reliant on cost will only make you efficient, but not competitive. Being efficient on producing a product that does not serve the market is of no use. Many also forget to look at the overheads. Turnover? Quality perhaps? Communication problems?

Many say that there are labour that are equally skilled but cheaper than locals. We cannot deny this fact. They are able to work longer hours than us, may be equally or more skilled than locals, and they are hardworking. If I'm someone who is working away from home, I will also be so hardworking because my family and friends are not with me. My main aim will be to work as hard as possible, earn as much as possible, and go back to my homeland.

How do we compete against that? Yes we can. See our country's birth rate? Seems like most of us are working as hard as them. We start to neglect our parents, our family, and the only focus is on money. Why have children where they will only take up your time and money, and cause us to lose out to the foreigners?

I guess we have no choice since this seems to be what the government wants us to do. Or do we have a choice? There is always a give and take in any situation. It's your choice.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

iPhone battery life seems to reflect how good your cell phone reception is

I've just realised something quite interesting based on my usage of the iPhone 3GS. It would seem to me that the battery life of the iPhone is affected greatly by the cell phone coverage of your telco.

Recently, I happened to be working at home for the day and I realised that my iPhone battery life only dropped by about 1-2% for the entire day (I was lucky not to get any phone calls during that time). This is not the case when I have to travel to and fro to my official workplace (a drop of 10% or more).

The only difference? I am getting a consistent 4 to 5 bar signal strength at home, while the signal strength is quite low at my workplace. My guess? The iPhone is consistently trying to get a better signal if your signal strength goes below a certain number.

Therefore, if your iPhone seems to be draining more power than usual, check your cell signal strength. It may be the cause of your trouble.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Policies should target People first

I was reading an economics book recently when a particular sentence stuck out to me. It is stated that the ideal case of good economics is where policies are targeted at the people, and not at the nation.

Well, at first glance some will say that policies should be made for the nation. However, people forget that what consist of a nation? The citizens. Therefore if the policies are targeted towards the citizens, it will automatically apply to the nation.

If a certain policy benefits the nation, but not the citizens, I think we need to rethink it thoroughly. Why are we implementing the policy if it does not benefit the citizens? Are we looking so far ahead that we lose sight of the problems facing us now and neglecting the present problems?

I think we need to bring things back to perspective. Policies are meant to benefit the citizens. If it doesn't, the policy is not worth implementing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Is Singapore mature enough for political appointments across party lines?

Is working in Singapore really based on meritocracy or on politics? I vaguely remember Barack Obama saying that he will appoint the opposition in the Cabinet so I did a quick search. Lo and behold, he did appoint the opposition into the cabinet for the following posts based on the article here:
  • Secretary of Transport
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Ambassador to Ireland
  • Ambassador to China
  • Secretary of the Army
  • Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Ambassador to Malta
  • U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad
  • Chairman of the Federal Reserve

The opposition was appointed to notable positions like the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Transport and Chairman of the Federal Reserve. This is really true meritocracy at work, and the million dollar question will be: "Is Singapore ready for true meritocracy?".

Monday, May 2, 2011

An attempt to peg the HDB flat prices to Singaporean's median income

I keep hearing that pegging the HDB flat prices to Singaporean's median income will cause the property values to plunge so I attempted to do a simple peg and I had some very interesting results.

Based on the 2010 population survey for residents (meaning Singaporeans and PRs), the median household (meaning the total income for your household) annual gross income for HDB flats are as follows:
  • 1 & 2-room: $14,400
  • 3-room: $40,812
  • 4-room or larger: $70,200

Assuming based on best practices, one should not spend more than 30% of their income and should finish paying for their loans in 20 years, the maximum values of the HDB flats will be as follows:
  • 1 & 2-room: $86,400
  • 3-room: $244,872
  • 4-room or larger: $421,200

Let's say I further assume that the 80, 90 and 100 percentile for the 4-room or larger flats equals to the 4-room, 5-room and executive flats respectively, the maximum values will break down as follows:
  • 4-room: $336,960
  • 5-room: $379,080
  • Executive: $421,200

The numbers will of course vary depending on various factors like location and the actual size of the flats, but the maximum value of the HDB flat should not exceed the above maximum values. Is there a big discrepency? Not that I can see.

So what's the big hoo-ha over pegging median income of Singaporeans to HDB prices? I don't see any problems at all.

In fact, I will further add that in future, all statistics should differentiate between Singaporeans and permanent residents. Don't tell me that a first world government cannot differentiate between Singaporeans and permanent residents. These maximum values of HDB flats should only apply to Singaporeans, and not to permanent residents. Meaning permanent residents who wish to purchase HDB flats should pay the market rate. Any subsidies should only be given to Singaporeans. Arrangements could be made to refund the difference if these PRs become Singaporeans.

Therefore, let's say that there is any discrepency betwee the"cost of construction" and the prices of the pegged HDB flats, the subsidy will come from the PRs paying for the HDB flats and the sale of the land by the government. If we're spending the subsidies on true Singaporeans, I don't see why it should be called a raid on our reserves.

After all, based on our GE figures, there are only 2.3 million Singaporeans eligible to get a flat (a simplistic figure based on the age criteria), an increase of only 140,000 Singaporeans compared to the previous election 5 years ago.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Who is in-charged of Estate Renewal and HDB Playgrounds?

Seems like the rallies have brought up the points of estate renewal and HDB playgrounds not being well maintained. Based on the reports I've seen, it seems that there is what I call selective information disclosure. Let me see if I can shed some light on these areas.

First point on estate renewals. Estate Renewals such as the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) and Neighbourhood Renewal Programme (NRP) is under the jurisdiction of HDB, not the town councils. It includes improvements such as drop-off porch, pipes leaking, etc. Refer to the HDB website here for more information.

On HDB playgrounds not being well maintained, I cannot find any literature that states the town council's exact scope of work but based on news releases on the grading of town councils, it would seem that it is under the town council's jurisdiction.

I am not an expert on this kind of M&E works but let me draw an analogy with IT. Let's say that you have a particular computer that you have bought 20 years ago. It was state of the art at that time and all the parts are easily upgradeable. 20 years later however, it is very difficult to find the parts that can be used to maintain that computer. Even if you can find it, you have to get someone to specifically manufacture it just for you, jacking up the cost. Sometimes, you cannot even find such a manufacturer because it is too obsolete.

Is that the case for some playgrounds not being maintained properly? I'm not sure but this may be a case. However, upgrading of HDB playgrounds is covered under HDB's Neighbourhood Renewal Programme. Maybe try to get your town council to upgrade the playgrounds so that it is easier and cheaper to maintain it. Refer to the HDB website here for more information on the NRP.

Maintenance of your block however, is under your town council. That will cover cleanliness, lift maintenance, repainting/redecorating, etc. However, I was reading some literature available for Tanjong Pagar GRC and it is stated that the amount collected from the S&CC is not sufficient to run the operations and they are reliant on the government operating grant. However, there is a big difference in the amount of operating grant given to different town councils. Based on the 2010 annual reports, Tanjong Pagar received an operating grant of 12 million dollars but Hougang only got an operating grant of 880 thousand dollars. How the government determine the operating grants I have no idea though. There are no records of any PAP SMC's government operating grant because all the SMCs seem to be maintained by a bigger GRC town council. All the government grants given to those town councils are in terms of millions.

For a better idea on what's the scope of your town council, you can take a look at Hougang's Town Council scope of work here.

This is all the information I can find on the scope of work of HDB and Town Councils.
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