Monday, December 30, 2013

JTC equivalent for retail shops?

I think what is very lacking in Singapore now is a JTC equivalent for retail shops. Many of the retail shops are now increasingly being driven out of their shop space due to the ever increasing rents charged by the landowners.

For some retailers, the shop rent could increase as much as 100% per renewal of contract. With this kind of rental increase, how could any small retailers survive, let alone try to expand their business and handle the manpower issue?

In short, they are unable to. That is why it is of no surprise that few Singaporeans dare to venture out to setup their own business due to this insane high rental cost. They cannot afford the capital to seed their venture.

If the retail shop rentals can be controlled, similarly to how JTC charges for the office/warehouse JTC buildings, there might be hope for the Singaporeans who hope to setup their own retail shops. Otherwise, I think entrepreneurship will always take a backseat in Singapore.

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

Friday, December 27, 2013

Overcoming proverty is a right

I quote from Nelson Mandela:
Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Not enough bins and frequency to be reduced?

Recently I've been hearing news that there are talks on reducing the frequency of the collection of the rubbish to contain costs. I was quite surprised to hear this because there is a fundamental issue now for Singapore, which is indirectly causing people to litter indiscriminately. The issue is right in your face. There are just not enough rubbish bins.

It is increasingly difficult to find any rubbish bins in Singapore and that by itself, should have contained the costs because the cleaners now have to collect rubbish from lesser bins. If the frequency is reduced, it's almost certain that most of the rubbish bins in Singapore will start to overflow, which will attract more insects and animals, thereby increasing the chance of people in Singapore catching some new diseases or virus.

It's just that simple. Anyone who will take the time to walk around the neighbourhood during normal hours will see that most of the bins are already full to the brim by the time night falls. Does this warrant for a reduction in frequency?

Not for me.

Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Inflation is up 2.6%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2013:
January: 3.6%
February: 4.9%
March: 3.5%
April: 1.5%
May: 1.6%
June: 1.8%
July: 1.9%
August: 2% 
September: 1.6%
October: 2%
November: 2.6%  

Healthcare is once again leading the pack, rising by 3.6%, while Education & Stationery rose 3.5% respectively year on year, similar to last month. The difference is that Transport and Housing inflation have been spiking up compared to October. Seems like accommodation inflation has spiked up substantially, causing the overall rise of housing inflation.

December inflation should taper off as mentioned previously, and may fall within the 2.3% inflation rate which I've mentioned back in October. Inflation is being kept down due to the review of the public transport fees. If the fees are going up and there is no revision downwards to any other fares such as the taxi initial rates, then inflation will most probably be up next year too.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Unelected council in Thailand a step backwards

I understand that the Thai's opposition must be quite tired after 20 years of not being able to get the majority and thus lead the government but seriously, asking for an unelected council to replace the democratic council elected by the people is a huge step backwards. In fact, what's the difference between this unelected council and dictatorship?

Think of it this way. What if Thaksin's government are the ones that wish for this unelected council and not the democratic parliament elected by the people? If you think that it's not good for the country, what makes you think that just because it's someone else asking for it, it will be good for the country?

Basically, looking at this issue from a third-party perspective, I see a big disconnect between the opposition party and what the people really want. There must be an important reason why the majority of the Thais choose to vote Thaksin's related party into the government year after year for over 20 years.

The opposition party must be missing something and this is causing the majority of the Thais not to vote for them. However asking for an unelected council is definitely not the way. In fact, the opposition party should start to analyse the root cause of the issue, and not take the easy way out. If you do not bother to listen to the people, then you will not be elected.

It's just that simple.

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fight for your own security

I quote from Rose Wilder Lane:
Anyone who says that economic security is a human right, has been to much babied. While he babbles, other men are risking and losing their lives to protect him. They are fighting the sea, fighting the land, fighting disease and insects and weather and space and time, for him, while he chatters that all men have a right to security and that some pagan god—Society, The State, The Government, The Commune—must give it to them. Let the fighting men stop fighting this inhuman earth for one hour, and he will learn how much security there is.

Individual security is not a right and given. You have to action upon it in order for it to happen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Random Photos at Phuklet

Below are some random photos that I took throughout my short stay at Phuket, Thailand. Enjoy...

A big golden dragon located near the Tourism Authority of Thailand

Phuket Thai Hua Museum near Phuket old town

An interesting dim sum shop near Phuket Old Town, around Krabi road.

Governor's mansion, which is now a cooking school & restaurant, in Phuket old town

Christmas tree at Central Festival Phuket

Interesting postbox at Phuket old town

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Phuket Food!

Let's say that I always wanted to try Pad Thai, Tom Yum and Green Curry in Thailand, mainly because I want to know the difference between what is being sold there and what I can find here. Based on what I've tried so far in Phuket, Thailand, I think the Pad Thai and Tom Yum are similar to what I can eat over here but the green curry is slightly different. In fact, one of the dish that I ate was green curry rice and the taste was more "traditional" than what I find here. It's cheap too. More about that later.

The food that is sold around Kamala beach is quite pricy but the portions that are given out are more generous than the portions you will get if you buy from the traditional food stalls where the local Thais eat. However, do note that most of those traditional food stalls will not have a English translation so getting your food may be a challenge.

I ate at a nice place called Mama Mia near Kamala beach that sells decent food, about 125 THB each for Pad Thai Gai and Tom Yum Gai. In fact, most set meals (including Japanese food) sells for around that pricing. Fast food is slightly less than 100 THB while the local food stalls that I ate sell food for about 40-50 THB. I've not tried the roadside stalls though but it should be cheaper. Soft drinks sell for about 20 THB at 7-11 so you may not want to order from the restaurant if you can help it. :)

Some of the non-local thai food is quite good though so don't only restrict yourself to only Thai food. Below are some pictures of some of the food I ate at Phuket. Enjoy.

Pad Thai Gai from Mama Mia at Kamala beach. About 125 THB

"Banana split" from Mama Mia at Kamala beach. The banana is good. :). Slightly more expensive than the Pad Thai

Oyako Don fron Yayoi. Less than 130 THB. The food is good and affordable!

Hot green tea from Yayoi, served in a very nice teapot, cup and saucer.

Kiss and Kiss waffles from iBerry at Central Festival Phuket. It's very good!

New type of Yuan Yang. It's Green tea and coffee and it's not bad. Slightly less than 90 THB.

Green Curry rice with some small slices of chicken. Only 40 THB, located near the old clock tower at Phuket old town

Monday, December 16, 2013

Phuket Old Town

Whenever I go out for a holiday, I always take care to visit places that I am not able to find here in Singapore. I always target either the nature and wildlife, or urban architecture that is unique to that country. Luckily in Phuket, Thailand, there is a place called Phuket old town that sort of retains some of the traditional elements of how businesses used to be conducted.

I had the chance to visit Thalang Road, Krabi Road and Phang Nga road. Below is a picture of Thalang road, the place "where it all began". Being the lazy me, I chose to take a taxi service which I got from the place I stayed to Thalang road. It helps that I took a map which was available for free at the airport and this road was clearly stated on the map. The cost is about 700 THB from Kamala beach to Thalang road.

The shop houses do not look a lot different from what I can find here but it is what is within that is important. I see many shops that reminds me of the traditional Chinese medicinal shops and shops that are closed using those long wooden planks. It also seems that Thalang road is also closed on Sunday afternoons until late. Didn't really stay that long to find out the difference.

Below is a picture of a more unique shophouse which I saw along Thalang road.

There is a very cute vintage cum souvenir shop cum mini cafe located at the start of Thalang road. Other than items such as tuk tuk made from soft drink cans, they also sell small handicrafts. With the staff's permission, I took a picture of this cute vintage typewriter located within the shop. Pretty neat isn't it?

Below is a picture of the old clock tower at Phuket old town, and you can see a "modernised" red tuk tuk in the foreground. Anything interesting about this old clock tower? Actually, not really. However, it's a recognisable landmark there and helps you to get your bearings. :)

The tuks tuks will horn at you every now and then to ask if you wish for a lift. I did not take up their offer so I'm unsure of how much will it cost for the trip. I was on a budget since it is a rather short trip.

If you're interested, there is a shopping mall called Central Festival Phuket near that area. There are about 5 stories and even a cinema. Around that area there is also a factory outlet mall which I passed by on the way to the airport from Central Festival Phuket. Not sure what outlets are there but I distinctly saw a Rebook outlet shop.

Next related post? Food... Stay tuned. :)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Kamala Beach

How can you not go to the beach if you're at Phuket, Thailand? :) If you have read my previous posts, you would have known that Kamala beach is right outside my "door step" so as to speak. Therefore, this post is dedicated to Kamala beach.

Being someone who likes to take photos, I also took the chance to wake up super early in the morning to catch the "sun rise". Unfortunately, the sun rose at the opposite direction from the sea so the view was not that magical. However, it's amazing to see some folks waking up so early in the morning (before 7am) just so that they can have their swim at the beach.

Below are some pictures of the Kamala beach when I arrived some time in the afternoon. As you can see, the beach is pretty shallow at some parts and it is also cordoned off so that you will not stray too far off into the ocean. You can also choose to "rent" a bed and an umbrella at the beach if you're in for a bit of sun tanning. In addition, they also provide massage service right at the beach.

Below are of the pictures of the Kamala beach that I took around sun rise. It was also low tide so I could take the chance to go up right close and personal with the boats littered around the beach.

Below is the picture of the small road leading to Kamala Dreams. This road is off the main road and is quite small. I guess if you have a GPS, this should not be an issue but I will not dream of traveling around Phuket without a GPS. It's suicidal as many of the road names are in Thai and the English words, if any, are quite small.

If you wish to buy cheaper food, you can walk all the way to the main road where you can find a typical Thai meal for about 40 THB each. However, do note that everything is in Thai and it may be quite difficult to know what you're ordering. No pictures too as far as I can see. However, you can't go wrong with Tom Yum Gai (Tom yum with Chicken) or Pad Thai Gai (rice noodles with chicken). :)

I will have another post on the food I ate in this short trip so stay tuned for more related posts about Phuket.

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kamala Dreams

I stayed at the Kamala dreams during my short stay at Phuket, Thailand. The main entrance is not something to shout about but the back gate leads you directly to the Kamala beach.

The room is surprisingly quite big and comes with both the aircon and fan as shown below. The power is controlled by the key that you're issued with so take note that the power will be cut off once you take the key with you. You only have 1 key issued to you. :)

As you can see in the picture below, the door is the typical kind of door you see in the bedroom. Yes, it behaves exactly like that so please remember to lock the door from the inside before leaving the room. The room doesn't "auto-lock". :) They have a microwave oven, a small fridge and a sink. There is a 7-11 nearby so if you wish, you can microwave your own food. :)

The picture below shows the toilet. Big and comfy. :)  The hot water was working quite well for me too. Towels and face towels are provided too.

The balcony as shown in the picture below overlooks a small mini pool and of course, Kamala beach. Near sunset, I see many of them sitting at the balcony, facing the Kamala beach.

Below is a picture of the Kamala Dreams from the back entrance.

The stay comes with free ala-carte breakfast, where you can choose from the set. However, the food is the typical home cooked style and in my opinion, a little bit too oily. The poached egg does look like it is poached though so I would say breakfast is ok. Coffee is good. :) That was the only meal I tried there so I cannot comment on its other dishes.

Stay tuned for more of my posts about Phuket.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Back from Phuket

Just came back from a short trip to Phuket, Thailand which I could just summarise with 3 words, beach, food, and water sports in that order. :)

Phuket is the place to go if you're into the beach, the sea and of course water sports. As my trip was quite short, I did not explore much on the other aspects of Phuket such as the nature trails, elephant trekking, etc but so far from what I observe, those 3 words summarises Phuket quite nicely.

Traveling to Phuket is now a breeze, mainly because there are flights that bring you direct and there is no need to transit via Bangkok. Visa is not required if you're Singaporean. I did not see any ASEAN members requiring visas but I might be wrong.

Immigration will not be so time consuming if you know which queue to follow. Each queue will branch out to 2 counters if both counters are manned. Therefore, choose the queue where you can see both counters are being manned. The queue will be much faster. Believe me... I chose the wrong queue. :(

Going out of immigration will bring you direct to the baggage claim area. There are digital signages around telling you which belt you're to go to claim your baggage. Take note of the belt number early because it will disappear after a while.

After getting out of the baggage claim area, you will see a counter where you can get taxi service. If the place you're staying is not in the main city centre or well-known, I suggest that you take the taxi service within the Phuket airport. Even though my resort is facing the beach, the taxi driver was not familiar with the location.

Do note that there are 2 kinds of taxi service, one is the mini-van which is ideal if you have groups of up to 8 people, or a limousine taxi service (I was in a Toyota Camry). Obviously the limousine taxi service is cheaper. The people there directed me to the limousine taxi service when the initial price that quoted was too expensive. The cost is about 750 THB to go to Kamala Dreams, taking the limousine taxi service. For some reason, the trip from Central Festival Phuket only costs 600 THB even though the timing is similar. It may be because I was traveling on the "main road" instead of the winding road near the coastal area.

If you take a limousine taxi, I believe it will stop at a location near the airport for them to"process" your ride and a "friendly" guy will ask you if you're interested in a package tour whereby your taxi ride will be "free". Just politely decline and he will not ask further. If you're interested in getting a return taxi ride from the same taxi driver, you can arrange there if you wish.

One thing to note about Phuket is that so far, I did not really see anything that looks like an expressway. Therefore, the average speed of the car is actually quite slow. Do not trust Google's estimates because there is always perpetually a mini jam, especially so if you're going to the beach area. The roads there are small and winding. For example, it took me about 40mins - 60mins to reach Kamala beach.

Do note that if you do not have time to get souvenirs, there are plenty of souvenir shops at the airport near the departure area. I counted at least 3 souvenir shops at terminal 1, and many food shops such as Burger King, Subway, Chester's grill and Bill Bentley pub so that you can grab a bite before taking your flight. There is only a small souvenir shop at terminal 2 and since terminal 2 is not that far from terminal 1, it's better for you to do all your shopping before checking-in and going through immigration, which is located at terminal 1.

Stay tuned for more posts on my short adventure at Phuket. :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Singaporeans need to re-think about themselves

I was out of town and was quite surprised about the riot that happened in Little India. Kudos to the police for settling the issue without firing a single shot. However, what is truly disappointing is some of the comments made on this incident.

I'm assuming those who made the comments are Singaporeans and I find that it is ridiculous that they are not even supporting our fellow Singaporeans who were attacked by others. Many of our own were attacked by others and yet we get stupid comments about them being attacked.

There are rules that need to be followed. If everyone becomes trigger happy just because of any incident, then I think those people can jolly well go to those countries who think that bringing guns everywhere, even where kids can have easy access to it, is a right thing to do.

I'm thankful that guns are not allowed here in Singapore and there are rules that govern on when it can be fired.

People who live in Singapore need to respect all the laws and rules that come with it. It's simple as that. If you do not intend to do it, then go home. Regardless of the situation, I do not welcome anyone who doesn't respect the host country and think that they can live by their own rules.

For your information, I do include those thoughtless Singaporeans who made stupid comments on our own Singaporeans being attacked by others. Ridiculous.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The world is a reflection of your own thinking

I quote from Byron Katie:
When you do the work, you see who you are by seeing who you think other people are. Eventually you come to see that everything outside you is a reflection of your own thinking. You are the storyteller, the projector of all stories, and the world is the projected image of your thoughts.

The world is different from everyone because everyone perceives that goes on around us differently. You decide how the world is going to be like. If you want change, make the first step.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Product obsolesce is natural

Product obsolesce is something that people think is a trick to get consumers to buy more.

I do admit that some companies think that way and the products that they produce only works a few times before it does not work. Thankfully these companies do not last long because customers are not stupid.

However, this phenomena is actually quite natural because of a simple fact... Customers demand more.

In the olden days, people think more simply. For example, when we want to buy a radio, we only want to listen to radio stations. Nowadays when you buy a radio, they give you bluetooth capability to connect to external devices, connection to other music player devices, etc. My trust Aiwa radio receiver is still working after close to 20 years.

The rule of thumb is that the more capabilities you add to a device, the harder it is for the components to work longer as "they" are working harder. These components are also much more prone to damages. One small drop or even exposure to moisture will render the components useless.

Standard rule of thumb is for the devices to last about 5 years. If you can make it last longer, usually it means that some thought was put in to ensure the product lasts as long as possible, provided the owner takes good care of it.

Technology is moving quite fast though. The device that you have might be usable, but the new devices that come out will provide more features that you may think it is useful. Some devices that are designed with more thought in mind may be upgradeable via a firmware upgrade but even that has its limits.

Drawing an analogy, if the computer only supports 640KB of memory, there's a limit on what it can do. Do not bash product companies unnecessary.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Is IT strategic? I don't see it

The buzz word for all businesses is that IT is now strategic, and it's critical for the survival of the business. However, the actions that the businesses do is contrary to what they say.

The reasons are very simple. If IT is strategic, the first rule of thumb is that it should not be outsourced. You will need a good internal team in order to build up the capability to support and drive the internal operations.

Finding people can be difficult but other great companies out there have already programmes that allow them to fund scholarships so that they are able to attract people to work in the business. This sponsorship allows businesses to get people in and ensure the inflow of professionals.

However, this sponsorship should never be used as an excuse to throw these people into jobs that no one wants to do. The sponsorship bond is for the companies to prove to these students that this company is worth staying in. Talent has always been a 2-way traffic.

If IT is really strategic to the business, put those words into actions. Outsourcing your entire IT out makes you no different from other businesses.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Gve happiness if you ...

I quote from Gisele Bundchen:
If you are happy, you can give happiness. If you don't love yourself and if you are unhappy with yourself, you can't give anything else but that.  

You can only give happiness if you're happy. Otherwise, you'll just give whatever that you're feeling now. Do you want to do that?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Support housewives by ...

A thought hit me recently on how to support housewives in Singapore. The concept is simple. If someone is not working, taking care of the children/house, that means someone else is working and may be working quite hard to support the family.

Therefore, to relieve the financial load of the family, the government should bring back the family declaration of taxes, where the amount of tax payable is upped as we're talking about combined income than a single income.

Simplicity aside, this will in a way give the support to people who stay at home to take care of the family. It's not easy to take care of the family alone and using this combined income tax declaration, you can also calculate the monthly income per household member. Using this calculation, you can also give workfare to further support the family.

A family should not be penalised if the family needs someone to stay at home to look after the family.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Inflation is up 2%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2013:
January: 3.6%
February: 4.9%
March: 3.5%
April: 1.5%
May: 1.6%
June: 1.8%
July: 1.9%
August: 2% 
September: 1.6%
October: 2% 

Healthcare is once again leading the pack, rising by 3.7%, while Education & Stationery rose 3.5% respectively year on year, similar to last month. These 2 basket items are now becoming a trend compared to last year where inflation trending items are more likely to be transport and housing.

Transport has risen 2.3% year on year, most probably due to the fluctuations of the COE prices again. With the exception of Housing, inflation is rising across the board.

As mentioned in the previous post, inflation should be gradually rising until December where it will taper off slightly.

Let's see if US will re-vist the debt ceiling fiasco again next month. This is again unknown territory.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Automation causing accidents?

Recently there was an article talking about the recent uptick in airplane crashes. It was reasoned that some airline pilots have lost flying skills as a result of automation taking over mundane tasks. When the system do not behave as it should, they get startled and that may have contributed to crashes.

When I read that article, somehow I immediately associate it with the recent uptick in car accidents in Singapore. Since Jan 2005, auto gear car licenses are allowable in Singapore. Somehow during that period, it also resulted in a huge decrease of COE prices which meant more people are able to purchase cars.

It may be that people take less care of cars as it is cheaper but that shouldn't be the case as COE prices have risen a lot these few years and accidents are still quite common in Singapore.

Therefore, I reasoned that the auto gear licenses may have a hand in it. My thinking is that:
  1. Getting a car license is easier to get as one does not need to grapple with the half-clutch issue
  2. People as a result may not understand how the car gears work and may not know the relationship between high gears and brake distance
  3. Auto gear cars are now also easier to drive and that may resulted in people having a false sense of superiority that they are able to multi-task when they are driving

I do admit that the above may occur even though you're having the manual driving license but seriously, once you have encountered the difficulties of handling the clutch, you will be able to better appreciate the relationship between the speed of the car and the gears engaged. Changing of the gears also mean that you concentrate more on the roads then your smartphone / sms / incoming call.

Humans cannot multi-task. Look at the research done.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dare to Be

I quote from Steve Maraboli:
When a new day begins, dare to smile gratefully.
When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light.
When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it.
When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway.
When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back.
When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some.
When you’re feeling tired, dare to keep going.
When times are tough, dare to be tougher.
When love hurts you, dare to love again.
When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.
When another is lost, dare to help them find the way.
When a friend falls, dare to be the first to extend a hand.
When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile.
When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.
When the day has ended, dare to feel as you’ve done your best.
Dare to be the best you can – At all times, Dare to be!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

TDSR in my opinion

Recently I was reading some write-up from some property firm talking about the problem with the Total Debt Servicing Ratio (TDSR) recently implemented. It was said that due to the TDSR, many owners will be forced to sell their properties later on when the interest rates go up which brings them above the TDSR. Seriously, I don't see what's the issue here.

The problem with the current property market here is that everyone assumes that interest rates will remain low. Is that a fact? No it is not. Therefore many people are taking advantage of the low interest rates to over-extend themselves and start buying up many properties. So what happens if the interest rates suddenly go up, and prevents you from servicing your loans?

No prizes for guessing. You will be forced to sell your properties and guess what, when that happens you have to sell it at a greater loss which may not even help you repay your debt due to the bad climate. And what will the average citizens do after that? Blame the bank and government when the interest rates rise. Nevermind that they actually over-extended themselves when they started buying multiple properties (e.g. earn $1, borrow $2).
The TDSR in my opinion was implemented to bring this situation up front so that we will not encounter the Great Recession crisis that happened to the US. If you are trapped in this credit bubble when the economy is still churning along, you will not suffer as great a loss as when you're forced to let go of your properties when the economy is in a down spiral.

TANSTAAFL. When someone wins, someone loses.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Clean toilets? Look at Plaza Singapura

With all the recent emphasis on clean toilets, just take a look at the basement toilets at Plaza Singapura to know how far we have "progressed". Did I say progress? Sorry. I think it is more like walking backwards.

Hint... You can smell the toilet even before you see it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Open at 11, lunch at 12?

I find some of the local banks operating hours very unique and seems like it was not designed to be customer focused.

Common sense will tell you that if the bank opens at 11am for customers, the staff within should have already taken lunch before the bank is open. It does not make any sense to open the bank at 11am, where a long queue has already formed outside, and then later go for lunch at 12pm when the bank is full of customers.

Does it make sense? Apparently the local banks here think so. Wonder if this is some new management theory.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Do not regret that you did not try

I quote from Theodore Roosevelt:
Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Do not regret that you did not try

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Removal of spikes in LRT stations created alot of poo issues

Recently, I realised that for some LRT stations, they have removed the spikes from the structures and fittings at the top of the stations. I'm not sure if they take the LRTs regularly but this is a very big mistake.

In fact, ask those responsible to visit those LRT stations and they will start to see immediately the result of their "cost saving". Bird poo on the floor, bird poo staining the structures and fittings at the top of the stations.

The spikes are there for a reason, and is especially important for those stations that are above ground because we have a lot of birds flying around in Singapore. In fact, we cannot even resolve the bird problem in Orchard Road. Just look at the pavements below those trees.

I hope they will start putting the spikes back to those overhead stations. How expensive can those spikes be? Or they find that bird poo stains are a better alternative?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Obamacare issues may not be technical in nature

The recent Obamacare website issues does not really sound like a technical issue to me. Just looking at the issue from a third-party perspective, it seems to me that the main issue is there isn't a solution architect in-charge of looking at the system holistically.

If you are looking at a solution to work end-to-end with multiple systems, you need a main contractor or an overall solution architect team to design all the systems end to end. The reason is very simple. Without someone overseeing the whole architecture of the system, how do you ensure all the systems can perform optimally and also interface with each other without any issues?

Solution architects are the ones that are able to design and ensure that the functionality requested in the system are able to work seamlessly and optimally. They are the ones that can keep groups of developers working as a team to design the system such that the requirements meet the functionality of the system.

The issue now is that a lot of people have been pampered by big MNCs such as Apple and think that simple to use systems are easy to develop. Ask any developer this question and they will give you the "death stare". In fact, some think that it's so "easy" to develop easy to use applications that they think solution architects are not a necessity.

Reading the "tabloids" about the Obamacare issues seem to indicate that there is no overall solution architect designing the whole system end to end, and it seems that it was the way the project was being funded. Just because the system did not work as intended does not mean that the technical team is at fault.

If there is no overall solution architect or a main contractor looking at the full end to end solution, then the issue is the project organisation structure isn't structured in such a way that someone is looking at the big picture. That is the main issue.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Beware of our emotional baggage

I quote from H.E. Davey:
“Emotional baggage,” which is carried over from the past, colors our perceptions. Likewise, past conclusions and beliefs, based on reasoning that may or may not have been accurate, also tint our perception of reality. Retaining our capacity for reason is common sense, but definite conclusions and beliefs keep us from seeing life as it really is at any given moment.
Emotional reactions can be unreasonable, and reason can be flawed. It’s difficult to have deep confidence in either one, especially when they’re often at war with each other. But the universal mind exists in the instant, in a moment beyond time, and it sees the universe as it literally is. It’s the universe perceiving itself. It is, moreover, something we can have absolute confidence in, and with that confidence, we can maintain a genuinely positive attitude. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Republicans look set to bring the House down... again!

I don't think the Republicans are still going to allow the government to function normally. Recently they have been blocking all the nominations for some of the posts within the US administration. Personally, I think that they are causing the poor rank and file people to be overworked because if the position isn't filled, who will be doing the job? Seriously, they should put a clause that whoever who objects to the nomination without sufficient basis has to cover for that particular position full-time, at no pay.

If you look at the current trend, do you think that the Republicans will be able to resolve this budget and debt ceiling fiasco by Dec 2013? Of course not. They are too busy trying to implement party interest even though they are clearly not in-charge of the government.

So what happens if this deal is not done by Dec 2013? In short, the Republicans will then be responsible for being the party that single handedly prevented the Wall Street year end rally, disrupting all the "potential" bonuses some people may have, and thus bringing down consumption.

Let's hope not, for everyone's sake.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Secure your iOS7 Lock Screen

I was never a fan of putting pass codes on my phone, mainly because I have never put anything important into it, or surf into sites that will reveal my bank account numbers for example. Apple has finally persuaded me to put a pass code because the fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5S is pretty cool and pretty darn works most of the time at almost any angle, at least for me.

However, if you are the kind of person who puts important things into your phone, do take note that in iOS 7, you are able to access notifications centre (i.e. swipe down from the top) and control centre (i.e. swipe up from the bottom) from your lock screen by default.

Translated, that means anyone can read your calendar (e.g. the meeting name), reminders (e,g, the brief description), and turn on your airplane mode without knowing your pass code. Personally, I'm comfortable with people reading my calendar but I draw the line at people turning on the airplane mode. The reason is very simple. If I ever lose my phone, the "Find my iPhone" capability only works if my data connection is on. If someone snatches my iPhone and immediately turn on the airplane mode without even going pass the pass code security, and that person can take their time to break into the iPhone. That, I am not comfortable with.

If you're concerned about someone reading your calendar directly at the lock screen without going through the pass code, just do the following to turn it off:
  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Tap on Notification Center
  3. Turn off the Today View by swiping the toggle button to your left, under the section Access on Lock Screen.
  4. If you wish to even secure all the iPhone notifications, you can also turn off the Notifications View in the same section by doing the same.

To turn off the control centre in the lock screen, just do the following:
  1. Tap on Settings
  2. Tap on Control Center
  3. Turn off the Access on Lock Screen by swiping the toggle button to your left

That is all to it. Hope this helps...

Set meal = promotional items

Just got a 10% discount card which has a disclaimer that it is not valid for "on-going promotional items". Guess what? Set meals are promotional items too. 

Might as well don't give the discount card. To add on, it is only valid for 1 week. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Joy and Sorrow

I quote from Khalil Gibran:
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. 
When you have joy, there is sorrow, and vice versa. Something I need to remind myself as it is impossible to not have sorrow as it means that you have no joy. You need to have joy in your life.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Difference between being married, and having kids

I was recently reading a recent Pew study which found that 71 percent of unmarried Americans aren't in committed relationships. However, I think that there is a big cultural and generational differences in the meaning of "single," "dating" and "having kids."

There was a bloomberg article talking about Japan's low birthrate is not as a result of the citizens not interested in having relationships. Some people in Japan though think that it is a result of exorbitant living costs, elevated stress and diminished confidence.

Even after two decades of deflation, prices in Japan for everything from rent to food to entertainment remain among the highest in the world. Economic stagnation and changes in labor laws have restrained wage growth and enabled companies to swap employees into low-paying part-time jobs with few benefits. This means forcing many to work additional jobs. If you leave for work at 6 a.m. and get home close to midnight, including weekends, where is there time for dating?

Looking at this in relation to Singapore, it seems that we're facing the same issue here, although not as serious as Japan. I wake up at 6+ am in the morning and I only reach home at 9+pm at night every working day. And no, I do not spend time at work surfing the internet aimlessly or chatting with people on Facebook.

If we do not have any time to chill and relax, where is the face to face social networking that is essential in any relationships? You cannot have kids via Facebook, that's is a fact.

Unless there is a change in labour policies that will give workers time for their social commitment, then the low birth rate will continue, despite you have a "married" status. That is a fact.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Inflation is up 1.6%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2013:
January: 3.6%
February: 4.9%
March: 3.5%
April: 1.5%
May: 1.6%
June: 1.8%
July: 1.9%
August: 2% 
September: 1.6% 

Healthcare is once again leading the pack, rising by 4%, while Education & Stationery rose 3.3% respectively year on year, similar to last month.

Transport has plunged once again, reducing by 1.5% year on year, most probably due to the fluctuations of the COE prices again. Inflation seems to be quite stable compared to last month but the fluctuations of the COE prices make estimating the inflation rate almost impossible.

This is most probably an anomaly and inflation should be gradually rising until December where it will taper off slightly. Inflation rate for 2013 will most probably be around 2.3% based on current trend.

Who knows... If US has that debt ceiling fiasco again in Dec, all the estimates will again be thrown out.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hope is not optimism

I quote from Vaclav Havel:
Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cloud Computing and Network Resilience is different

The recent fire at the Singtel exchange caused a lot of connectivity problems for the whole of Singapore. However, I was wondering why someone commented that cloud computing is able to avert this issue. It doesn't.

Yes, cloud computing technology allows virtual network connections to be made within the infrastructure. However, do not forget that no matter how many virtual connections you have, you will still need physical cables to connect the whole infrastructure together. If the fibre connections to the data centre containing this cloud computing infrastructure have issues, the connectivity problem will still exist. That's a fact.

Cloud computing will not help in resolving the issue that plague Singtel. Resiliency in network is a tricky issue because the fire at the exchange happened at the gateway. Rerouting it to other exchanges will probably mean a slowdown for the other customers because the fibre connections may not be able to take the extra load from the rerouted traffic.

It's a tricky issue... Having backup exchanges may be the answer but who will pay for this backup infrastructure that is only used in an emergency?

Monday, October 21, 2013

US Congress playing with fire

Last week's fiasco in the US congress seems to show that party priorities is more important than the country's priorities. In fact, after the US president sign the bill into law to avoid the US going into default, the tea party Republicans immediately started preparing for the 2014 elections.

When elected into the government, country priorities should be way ahead of party priorities. Instead, the Republicans refused to pass the budget or raise the debt limit over an unrelated item, Obamacare. This is party politics at its worst. This is akin to protecting a pine tree in the middle of the forest but letting the other trees surrounding it burn.

Guess what? The fire will also spread to the pine tree and the whole forest will still burn down. This kind of strategy is a recipe for disaster. I hope this kind of strategy will not persist next year. This is an unnecessary distraction.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Concentrate our energy

I quote from Denis Waitley:
Goals provide the energy source that powers our lives. One of the best ways we can get the most from the energy we have is to focus it. That is what goals can do for us; concentrate our energy. 

Multi-tasking is a myth and if you truly want to excel in a particular area, you will need to focus. Focus can do wonders.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Why support centres need to generate profit?

I don't quite understand why nowadays, companies think that every single department including support units, must generate a profit. Seriously, it doesn't make sense.

IT departments have always been in general support units because they support the other business units to further optimise their process, thus improving time to market and therefore generate revenue. It is actually an important unit within any organisation because if they are not being funded, you will end up in a situation your competitors get out to the market faster, and this gaining a competitive advantage.

The trend now seems to be that we're outsourcing departments that do not generate a profit. Many companies I heard do not even have a IT department, or they nominate a poor fellow who may not have any IT background, to be the IT department just because the poor fellow likes gadgets for example.

Seriously, knowing about gadgets and latest news on new technology does not equate to a functional IT department. Even IT vendor management is not something that anyone can do because you can only manage things that you understand. Straight and simple. The vendor does not know your business and what are the technology tools required to enhance your processes. They may know their technology tools well, or they might be trying to pull a fast one on you.

The least they could do is ask you to buy something you do not need. The worst that they can do is that your whole IT environment gets burned down and they advise you that this is just how it goes.

I still do not quite understand the logic of outsourcing the entire IT department to a completely unrelated third-party. Doesn't make sense to me as your main objective is to support other units and you do not have control over how the system is being used.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Total neglect of Software Design

The issue now with some of the technology companies out there is that there seems to be a total neglect of one important aspect of software development, the design.

I have seen cases where a system has been designed seemingly based on best practices, 3 tier architecture, clustering, the works. However, when an external system wishes to consume a webservice from this system, it is corresponding with only one of the servers of the system.

For those familiar with software design and architecture, you will understand what is wrong with this approach.

Although my job scope no longer covers software design and architecture, I still shudder whenever I hear of this kind of design in the course of my work.

Why has software design been relegated down to this state? Don't they know that software design and architecture is the critical success factor of a well designed system that will enable the software to scale up or out depending on requirements?

If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. However, I see some companies charging you an arm and a leg, and still give this kind of design.

Times have changed, and it's not for the better. In fact, it reminded me of a seminar that I went previously where a professor from a well-known university said up front that software architecture is not important.

My goodness...

Friday, October 11, 2013

The universe works around whatever decision that you make

I quote from Deepak Chopra:
If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience. If this sounds too mystical, refer again to the body. Every significant vital sign- body temperature, heart rate, oxygen consumption, hormone level, brain activity, and so on- alters the moment you decide to do anything… decisions are signals telling your body, mind, and environment to move in a certain direction.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Good pictures != High Megapixels

Looks like the megapixels war are here again and this time, it has migrated to the mobile phones arena. However, the story still has the same ending. Megapixels have nothing to do with picture quality.

What is accurate though is that high megapixels camera does mean that you end up with bigger print resolution. You will then be able to crop the photo to the area that you're interested in, otherwise known as "fake zoom".

However, that's about it. There's no other plus points to a high megapixels count because what matters most is actually the image sensor and the camera lens itself. The image senor will determine the accuracy of the colors that it perceives and the camera lens itself determines the amount of light that will be able to get into the sensor, which in some way may determine how sharp your picture is.

Like it or not, your small mobile phone camera sensor may not be able to even beat a common point and shoot in terms of picture quality because there is a limit to the size of the image sensor and lens that one can put in your phone. If your photos are more for Facebook or social media networks, then the phone cameras will be quite okay.

It is possible to take very good photos using the phones too because good photo taking techniques help too in producing a very good photo. You can take a look at Jerry Ghionis blog here where he took some professional wedding photos using the iPhone

Let's not get drawn into the megapixel myth. It has nothing to do with picture quality.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Visited the zoo again

Recently came back from the zoo again and it seems that the zoo has refreshed some parts of the attractions. In fact, I find that I'm spending longer time in the zoo than before.

Just by walking around the zoo, I have already taken more than half a day, excluding all the animal shows. If you're interested in visiting the zoo, refer to my previous post here.

I have updated my previous posts on Birds and Penguins, Small Creatures, Monkeys & Orangutans, and Random Photos with some of my more recent photos.

Do note though that some of the shows have been cancelled as renovation is on-going. You can refer to the website for more up to date information.

Have fun.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quick trip to River Safari

Updated 22 Oct 2014: Added more pictures of creatures within River Safari

I managed to visit the River Safari recently to take a look at Singapore's newest attractions. The tickets are currently sold at a discounted price as the river safari is not yet fully opened. My understanding is that the last few attractions are due to be opened end of this year.

If you are unable to wait that long, River Safari is still surprisingly an interesting place to visit even though it is not fully opened. In fact, as the River Safari is still not yet fully opened, you can take advantage of the park hopper tickets and spend the whole day at the Singapore Zoo area as the River Safari, the Singapore Zoo and the Night Safari are all located at the same place.

Even though it is not fully opened, I still spent close to 4 hours exploring the area. Other than the famous pandas, Jia Jia and Kai Kai, almost all the other sections of the River Safari is opened except for the Amazon River Quest. What you should not miss is the feeding period for the pandas. Kai Kai doesn't mind eating in front of you and he is actually quite fun to watch.

Other than the star attractions, the 2 giant pandas, River Safari contains many other types of fishes, otters, beavers, monkeys and different types of crocodiles that will fill up your day, and entertain your children immensely. Do not miss the ultra big "aquarium" at Mekong River and the Amazon Flooded Forest too. Something that you should see if you happen to be here in Singapore.

Will I visit it again? I most probably will but it should be after it is fully opened. I had fun observing their antics.

Below are some of the pictures I've taken in my quick visit to River Safari. Enjoy...

Interesting Alligator Gar, most probably due to its "snout"

Mississippi Paddlefish

Groups of Mekong Giant Catfishes
Giraffe Catfish


Giant Freshwater Stingray

African Dwarf Crocodile

Chinese alligator hiding under the shade
Indian Gharial
Yangtze Alligator

Crab eating macaque

Crab eating macaque scratching it's ears

Birds lazing around the hot sun
Sleepy Red Panda
Close-up of a sleepy red panda

Kai Kai having its lunch
Jia Jia deciding what to eat

Unable to remember what cat this is.

Squirrel Monkey with a baby on its back

I believe its an Arapaima


Annoyed Giant River Otter? :)
Giant River Otter and its baby
Alligator snapping turtle
Frog-faced softshell turtle

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