Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Japan has set another example again

I read with interest on what the senior executives of NTT DoCoMo have done over the series of network malfunctions and leakage of personal information. The president will have his remuneration reduced by 20 percent for three months while the other executives will take a 10 percent cut over the same period.

It's not the cut that counts, but the responsibility shown that is worth emulating. The top management after all are responsible for the direction the company is doing towards. If there are problems, either the direction is wrong, or the direction is not filtered down to the lower levels. Either case, the management cannot absolve themselves from all responsibilities.

Something that we do not see frequently.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Is that the reason why buildings have 99 years lease?

I read recently that high-rise, steel-reinforced concrete buildings are designed and built to last more than 100 years according to international construction standards. That led me into thinking if this is one of the reasons why certain buildings have a 99 year lease.

It makes sense that the lease is given up to the building's estimated usable life. The immediate benefit that I can think of is that the lease forces the owners to redevelop the building so that the useful life can be increased, be it a renovation or a total tear-down and rebuild.

Makes sense? At least that will partially explain why the pipes always have problems in old buildings.

Friday, January 27, 2012

There is no avoiding it

I quote from Helen Keller:
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

"Danger" is always everywhere, whether you step up to meet it or it meets you when you least expect it. The question is whether you want to imagine it does not exist, or step up to meet it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Inflation is up 5.5%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2011:
January: 5.5%
February: 5.0%
March: 5.0%
April: 4.5%
May: 4.5%
June: 5.2%
July: 5.4%
August: 5.7%
September: 5.5%
October: 5.4%
November: 5.7%
December: 5.5%

Transport and Housing are once again leading the pack, rising by 10% and 9.9% respectively year on year. Inflation went slightly lower as expected, most probably due to the Christmas sale and housing cooling measures. Overall inflation is 5.2% for 2011, as I've indicated back in my previous post here.

It's a no brainer that inflation will most probably be lower this year than 2011. Of course, pending any oil shock, especially from Iran. In fact, inflation should be quite low from Jan to Mar before trending a little higher.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Didn't know it is so easy to get PR

According to a recent article I read, permanent residents (PRs) are granted five years after their first long-term pass, which include employment pass, long-term visit pass, student pass, work pass and dependant's pass, was issued.

Basically, it means that as long as you studied here (e.g. honors 4 years course), you only need to work one more year in order to be eligible for PR. No wonder some people take advantage of this "loop hole" to become half a Singaporean and gain almost all the benefits of a Singaporean.

Little wonder why Singaporeans are angry.

Monday, January 23, 2012


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Friday, January 20, 2012

Do not stagnate

I quote from Henry A. Kissinger:
A leader who confines his role to his people's experience dooms himself to stagnation; a leader who outstrips his people's experience runs the risk of not being understood. 

Similar to real life. Confine yourself to what is generally known and you'll stagnate. However, go too far out of what is known and people will think you're wacky. The question is how to present it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Why don't they link the iPod Nano to the iPhone?

I find it pretty frustrating that the iPod Nano still does not have any integration to the iPhone itself. iPod Nano is what you can describe a iPod on the wrist. However, it can only play music.

What if the iPod Nano can link to the iPhone and :
  1. show you the latest SMS
  2. control the music in your iPhone
  3. allows you to make and answer phone calls through the iPod Nano and allows you to talk through an inbuilt mic within the iPod Nano

Pretty cool?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Disable your iPhone iMessage if...

Since iOS5, Apple has added the iMessage to the iPhone capabilities. Idea is very good. Think WhatsApp but inbuilt into the iPhone. However, there is a problem if you are changing to a non-iPhone from an iOS5, like an Android phone for an example. Apple servers still think that you are using an iPhone, so it will send all iPhone SMSes to you as an iMessage, which you will never receive because you are no longer using an iPhone.

Solution? Disable your iPhone before you change to a non-iPhone. To do that, do the following:
  1. Tap on Settings > Messages
  2. Turn off your iMessage

That should be it. You have instructed Apple servers to NOT send any iMessage to you.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Productivity is not the only way to generate more profits

Recently one of the ministers said that the only way to prevent a zero-sum game (more profits) is to upgrade productivity. I disagree the word only. It is not the only way though.

Productivity is not the only way to generate more profits. Innovative products have always been the key point in generating profits. Look at Apple. The iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad. All these products made them, at one time, the biggest company in the world. Can productivity give you this level of profits? Not by itself.

Therefore, if we're stuck at thinking productivity equals to more profits, we'll be forever stuck at the vicious cycle of cutting costs to create the same product or service. Who knows. We may end up like the MRT breakdown. Too much productivity? Innovative cable ties perhaps?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Take time to feel your negative emotion

I quote from Bo Sanchez:
Whenever you feel a negative emotion be alone in a room and just sit down with it and feel. Don't judge it, criticize it, intellectualize it, explain it away. Allow yourself to feel the pain. It's okay. Accompany it - breathe into it - and after a while, you'll feel the anger or fear or sadness lose it's urgency and power.

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Reduction of Corporate Tax will not help the economy

Budget day is approaching and as usual, some are asking for the corporate tax to be reduced, in light of the problems in the eurozone. However, by looking the situation in the United States, anyone will know that this will not help the economy at all. In fact, all those savings only resulted in an increase of savings in the bank. It did not result in more hiring or more spending.

The only way to help the economy is to encourage the same level or slightly higher level of spending. Reduction of corporate tax will not help. Continue rebates in our utility bills, GST and income tax may help for a while but this is only waiting for someone else (namely the US and Europe) to recover and give us a leg up.

Is there something more innovative to help us stand on our own 2 feet instead of waiting for others to push us along? Nothing comes to mind yet. At least the government is in the best position to help push the economy at least for a while until they figure this out. I only hope that whatever they do, they should not push up the inflation again to 2011 levels.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Parkland Residences @ Hougang

I was surprised that there was another DBSS sales coming up so fast after Trivelis@ Clementi. I will not repeat what I have written in my other posts on DBSS and you refer to my other posts for more information.

DBSS @ Hougang has been named Parkland Residences, and is located near Upper Serangoon Road. The indicative pricing and configuration are as follows:

3 room67 sqm
(136 units)
from $359,000

67 sq m: A/c Ledge;
Living Room w/ Balcony

Internal floor area: 59 sqm

4 room92 sqm
(272 units)
from $485,000

92 sq m: Big A/c Ledge;
Living Room w/ Balcony

Internal floor area: 79 sqm
5 room109-112 sqm
(272 units)
from $606,000
109 sq m: Big A/c Ledge;
Living Room w/ Balcony;
Master Bedroom w/ Balcony

Internal floor area: 89 sqm

112 sq m: 2 A/c Ledges;
Living Room w/ Balcony;
Master Bedroom w/ Balcony

Internal floor area: 96 sqm

You can take a look for more information here.Compared to DBSS @ Clementi, the pricing for Parkland Residences is much more affordable and the internal floor plan is also bigger. At the very least, the 5-room flat is slightly bigger than a normal HDB 4-room flat, something you find quite rare among DBSS for some reason. As usual there are built-in wardrobes, kitchen cabinets and appliances, air-conditioning system, etc. What caught my eye was that there's a gas water heater in addition to the gas supply to the kitchen appliances.

Based on the floor plan, it seems that there are suggested study areas even for the 3-room flats. It does makes you wonder how small the flat is though. For the biggest 5-room flat, there are also 2 air-con ledges and 4 bedrooms including the master bedroom. There also flat types with higher ceilings for the living/dining room area, even for the 3-room flat. I like the interior design though at it is all squarish in shape. No weird corners, but the balconies as usual still looks big to me.

According to the map, the DBSS is just behind Punggol park, which makes it quite far away from the nearest MRT station, which is Hougang MRT (~1km away). The location to me though is smack right in-between Buangkok and Hougang station. That will explain the relatively cheaper pricing. However, it still near many schools, Hougang Central (Hougang Mall, etc) and of course Punggol Park.

The Centrale8 post includes some of the calculations I did to see if it fits into my affordability matrix so I will not repeat it here. Although at first glance, the room looks quite big but as usual, the big air-con ledges and balconies are taking up quite a bit of space, leaving you with a much smaller interior area. If you're getting the normal flat units that do not have high ceiling, the psf pricing ranges around 650psf. For the addition psf you're paying over and above a normal HDB flat, you can renovate your house to make it look even more spectacular.

DBSS to me, is always a big mistake made by HDB. A public housing project (and forever will be, unlike EC) sold with pricing like a private property. I guess you know what's my recommendation.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Definition of CEO?

SMRT CEO's surprise resignation triggered many responses throughout Singapore. Some said that its about time while some says that she should not step down because the top should not resign for every single fault. My problem is that should we consider the latest 2 breakdowns as any fault?

First, let's have a look at the definition of CEO. According to Investopedia, CEO is the highest ranking executive in a company whose main responsibilities include developing and implementing high-level strategies, making major corporate decisions, managing the overall operations and resources of a company, and acting as the main point of communication between the board of directors and the corporate operations.

So were the recent breakdowns normal faults? 
40m stretch of power rail was damaged at the North-South line. Do not forget the frequent breakdowns of the SMRT managed LRT operations at Choa Chu Kang. According to the Wikipedia source here, the LRT was down more than 30 times since 2008, and the latest breakdown happened in June 2011. I do not even want to mention Circle Line, which was brand new. Looks to me like a maintenance problem. What happened to managing overall operations? Result of change in high level strategy?

Turning off the power of the train, leading to breathing problems for some passengers, causing one of them to break the windows to allow fresh air to come in. What happened to the disaster planning? Problem with operations again?

And why did the CEO resign effective immediately just before the minister is due to speak in Parliament?

Anyway, what's done is done.  I hope the next CEO will bring SMRT back to its roots.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Moral education taking a back-seat in Singapore

Recently, Singapore's Prime Minister has urged parents to pay attention to their children's moral and national education on top of encouraging them to do well in their studies. However, this has been simmering in the background since before the election where our government has been putting too much emphasis on education and of course, making money. Case in question? A scene I saw at a cafe in Singapore.

Scenario. 2 families queuing up to gain entrance to the cafe. Family A consist of 2 individuals which looks to me like a father and daughter who is most probably still schooling. The other family B consist of 3 individuals, with a baby-in-tow. The waiter ushered the first family to a 2 seater table. The daughter saw a 4 seater table vacated and requested (to me, it sounded like insisted) to be re-seated to that 4 seater table. Waiter explained to them if they can stay at the 2 seater table because of family B. The daughter refused, saying that they came first and a whole of non-nonsensical reasons (to me). The father was silent throughout the whole conversation. Both families look Singaporeans to me.

This is what Singapore has become. Before someone bring religion, high and mighty, etc in the picture, this has nothing to do with it. This is called, "Common Courtesy".

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Turn off 3G? How to do that on the iPhone 4S?

Singtel 3G services has disrupted twice in 24 hours. Advice from Singtel? Disable your 3G. My question is how do you disable 3G on the iPhone 4S? There is no way that you can do that. I believe some phones also do not have the option to turn off 3G.

So what happens if the telco gives instructions that cannot be followed? Nothing apparently.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Left unspoken, Singapore last year grew less than inflation

In the 2012 New Year's message, Singapore has announced that they grew 4.8% in 2011. However what was left unspoken is that the real growth is negative, based on my advanced estimates of 5.2% inflation rate for 2011 which I have written in my post here.

The fact that Singapore is dependent on the global economy growth is no secret. However, what puzzles me is that since Singapore is keen to promote innovation, why is Singapore not trying to excite our own domestic economy and promoting more spending within, than to keep relying on external economies to determine our economic growth? Based on IMF, Singapore has a PPP of about $56,000 USD for 2010.

Judging from what I overheard during my recent cruise,  it would seem that one of the major reasons of not spending is because we're never on holiday. Instead of families discussing what they will do on the cruise ship, I overheard people talking about the power plugs within the cabin, and "boasting" that they brought their laptops on-board to do work.

What's the use of holidaying if you're bringing your work along? Most importantly, are you spending your time during your holidays on your laptop at work, or are you spending your money on the economy?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to worry less about ourselves

 I quote from Ethics for a New Millennium:
Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others' actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others' activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.

Nor is it so remarkable that our greatest joy should come when we are motivated by concern for others. But that is not all. We find that not only do altruistic actions bring about happiness but they also lessen our experience of suffering. Here I am not suggesting that the individual whose actions are motivated by the wish to bring others' happiness necessarily meets with less misfortune than the one who does not. Sickness, old age, mishaps of one sort or another are the same for us all. But the sufferings which undermine our internal peace -- anxiety, doubt, disappointment -- these things are definitely less. In our concern for others, we worry less about ourselves. When we worry less about ourselves an experience of our own suffering is less intense.

What does this tell us? Firstly, because our every action has a universal dimension, a potential impact on others' happiness, ethics are necessary as a means to ensure that we do not harm others. Secondly, it tells us that genuine happiness consists in those spiritual qualities of love, compassion, patience, tolerance and forgiveness and so on. For it is these which provide both for our happiness and others' happiness.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Something to ease our hospitals?

I was recently reading an article on relieving the overcrowded hospitals by giving elderly an alternative to hospitals. The solution was to allow certain specialist healthcare at home. The person, also a doctor, detailed an experience of an elderly in a hospital:
I called an ambulance and admitted him to the hospital, where we soon brought his urinary tract infection under control. But he developed a bedsore, which became infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterium that bred in hospitals. He didn't survive the hospitalisation.

Do we always need to be hospitalised? Can we recuperate at home instead of in a hospital? Most important of all, is it cheaper to provide specialist healthcare at our own home, or to find the land to build a new hospital, especially in land-scarce places like Singapore?

Something to think about...
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