Friday, June 28, 2013

Suffer primarily from our illusions

I quote from Daniel J. Boorstin:
We suffer primarily not from our vices or our weaknesses, but from our illusions. We are haunted, not by reality, but by those images we have put in their place.

Stop second guessing ourselves and think up on ways on which we'll fail. Instead, look at the problem objectively and concentrate on finding the solution. Do not dream up of illusions and make matters worst.

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Return Tray? Change the design of the table

If we're serious in getting Singaporeans to return the trays, we first need to start looking at what the hawker centres or food courts can redesign to make it easier for customers to do it.

2 main problems with customers returning the trays.

First problem: The tray return station is difficult to find, and if we find it, nobody clears it.

Next problem: The table is super small and most of the customers have to empty their tray in order to eat the food that they have purchased.

First problem is the easiest to resolve and some food courts and hawker centres have already started making the tray return station obvious and staffing people there to clear the trays when it comes in. That resolves the first problem. No one seems to be doing anything for the next major problem.

The next problem needs a radical rethink of the type of food sold in the food courts and hawker centres. The food that is purchased by any customer needs to first fit into the tray. That's easy. The next is more radical. Redesign the tables.

Best solution is to redesign the table such that the table top is the tray itself. Slide the tray into the table so that you can have your meal. Take the tray with you to clear it. The tray then becomes essential if you want to sit on the table. This is the easiest way to persuade customers to return their trays.

Don't you think so?

Tuesday, June 25, 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%

Last month's inflation is also abnormal compared to when I first started tracking the inflation. Healthcare and Housing are leading the pack, rising by 4.2% and 3.3% respectively year on year.

Transport started its downward trend, dropping by 2.8% year on year, which is a severe drop compared to previous month. Seems like there is still a downtrend of private transport pricing. As transport inflation occupy a part of the inflation basket and the other items are stable, inflation only rose by 0.1% compared to April. There was a general uptrend in inflation for the other items in the inflation basket.

Next few months will most probably see an uptrend in the inflation according to the trend I'm seeing from the results, and based on my observations on the private transport pricing.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Pollution tax based on country of origin

Seriously, I do not believe Indonesia will do anything to stop the fires unless the countries unite and start to hit them where it hurts. Money.

Why are they using slash and burn to clear the areas? Its because its a cheap way to do it. The only way is to make it expensive for them. Let's say,  if the countries seriously affected by the haze (e.g. in the very unhealthy range for more than a day) starts to invoke a 30% pollution tax on all goods where the country of origin is where the fires are for a period of 6 months, I believe Indonesia will start to do something serious about it.

You're responsible for your own mess, and if your mess affects others, you need to fix it. No one can fix it for you. If Indonesia doesn't fix it, then the other countries need to force them to fix it. We cannot put out the fires for you without your permission, but we can impose penalties on you as long as anything belonging to Indonesia reaches our shores.

This is where the affected countries need to show their unity.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Listen to your voice within

I quote from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:
How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if only we would listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown.

Listen to the voice within us. I learn to trust it far more than what others are telling me. You will know yourself best.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Looking into rigging of oil prices now

With the recent crackdown on LIBOR and SIBOR rates, it should be time now that the authorities look into the manipulation of oil prices. The oil prices are in now way in relation to what's happening on the ground. Look at the record supplies of oil in the US. Why is the WTI crude still hovering over $90, even though the shale oil supply looks like it's just going to increase further?

It doesn't make sense. If anyone wants to buy oil in advance, the simplest way is to treat it the same as stocks, using options to purchase. If someone wants to arbitrage against it, create something like contracts for differences (CFD). It's time to stop all this rigging of prices and all the nonsense of traders submitting their own prices of their "own free will" to determine the price. The technology is definitely already out there. It's just a matter of whether you wish to use it or not.

Greed is part of human nature, and therefore rules must be there to govern it. If you do not believe in that, try telling your government to tell the police to take a break for a week. You will definitely think otherwise then.

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Horrible SingPost SpeedPost / POPStation experience

Below is an experience that I do not wish upon anyone I know.

Friday:Customer received a parcel from Speedpost and was directed to collect the parcel on the next working day at a specific post office
Following Monday lunch time:Customer was told by SingPost in the post office that the parcel was put inside POPStation even though the delivery slip indicated otherwise. Their records show that the parcel was taken out of POPStation and delivered back to their main post office on the previous Saturday. The officer then proceeded to inform the customer to go out to the POPStation lockers and look for the number to call and enquire more information from POPStation.

Singpost did not volunteer to handle this mistake for the customer. Customer was directed to settle it.
Monday afternoonCustomer called the hotline and got redirected from Speedpost to POPStation and back, with no one knowing where is the parcel and why was it put in POPStation even though the delivery slip said otherwise. No one could also explain why is it delivered back to base even though it is supposed to be at a specific post office. Deadlines were given to call back the customer but this was not done. The customer was finally informed that they will call back after 6pm for an update, wasting the customer's whole afternoon.
Monday late eveningA postman came to deliver the missing parcel even though this was never conveyed to the customer, assuming that the customer will wait at home. The customer just happened to be at home. The postman had no idea of what went though earlier and was clueless of the origins of the parcel.

SingPost did not call back the customer at all after 6pm.

Monday, June 17, 2013

PasarBella - A Farmers' Market

Recently managed to find time to visit Singapore's PasarBella, which is touted to be a Farmer's market. It's located in Singapore's Turf City at Bukit Timah Road, now better known as The Grandstand, at the North Grandstand. Below is the google map of the area.

View Larger Map

You can find out more information on how to get to the PasarBella from the link above. The easiest way to get there is by car, taxi or shuttle bus. However, if you're taking the taxi, you can tell them, "Turf City, Bukit Timah Road, where the Giant Supermarket is located". To my astonishment, I realised that some taxi drivers do not know where is Turf City. Oh well...

The main entrance to PasarBella, as shown below, is located near the carpark that is facing the Giant supermarket, near the area where you wait for the Shuttle bus.


Near the main entrance, you can see the directory of stalls within PasarBella. This is also found near the back entrance, which is near the entrance of the Giant Supermarket, as shown below.

PasarBella is a collective of farmers gourmet produces, craft retailers and food stores. If you're entering from the main entrance,  you will see the store that is selling mostly seafood sushi, and of course seafood as shown below.


In addition to sushi, they are also selling Japanese sauces, condiments, etc. There are many obvious areas where you can sit down to enjoy your food but do note that there area seating areas upstairs, as shown in the picture below.

As you walk in further, you will be able to see other stores selling other types of food, condiments, wines, beers and some craft stores too. 

It's quite an interesting place and it's crowded too. There are also many other food stores outside of Pasarbella. All in all, a place that you should visit. And no, this is not an advertorial. :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Impress the subconscious with the conviction

I quote from Florence Scovel Shinn:
You will be a failure, until you impress the subconscious with the conviction you are a success. This is done by making an affirmation which 'clicks.'

You have to first convince yourself before you're able to convince others. Once you believe in yourself, letting others believe in you comes naturally.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Updates will only come when you're logged in as administrator

Recently I realised that my Mac has not been receiving any updates for some time. Upon investigation, it seems that my App Store is unable to detect that I have any updates, even though my iTunes clearly indicated that there is a newer version, and that Mountain Lion released a new update.

Tried googling and I couldn't get any answer to my predicament. At a last resort, I tried logging off my current user account and logging in to the administrator account. Walla. That did the trick. All the updates started to come in.

Problem? I guess one of the earlier patches/updates must have deactivated the updates from working if I'm checking it through a non-administrator account.

This will not affect most Mac users as not everyone is like me, creating a normal user account for normal usage and rarely using the administrator account. :) However if you face a problem like me where the updates are not coming in, try updating when you're logged in to your administrator account.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Light pollution is extremely bad in Singapore

It's difficult to know when it is night time in Singapore due to the severe light pollution we have over here. True, recently there were calls to go green and reduce electricity consumption but sometimes, I feel that people are saying it for the sake of just saying it.

One of the most obvious case of light pollution is the replacement of energy efficient lights in the common areas. Yes, many manufacturers are saying that their lights are now brighter, and yet more energy saving than the previous models. However, the people buying it are missing one important point. The whole point of lights is to light up the area. Why do you need the lights to be brighter than the not so efficient light bulbs? Won't it be more energy efficient if you replace the lights with models that give out the same amount of light, but yet use much lesser energy? Did people forget that the brighter the light is, the more heat it generates? As if Singapore is not hot enough.

There is already enough light that is reflecting back to the atmosphere such that even on moonless nights, I am not even able to see any stars in the night sky. Why do we want to light up the night sky? Is there a whole point to lighting up the car park / basketball court like it's one big light bulb?

One very simple way of reducing light reflecting upwards back to the night sky is to just put light shades. I've already started seeing some light shades in some lighting below the HDB blocks but more can definitely be done to reduce the amount of light hitting back the atmosphere. I do not think it's healthy for the younger generation in Singapore never ever being able to see the night sky due to the excessive use of lights.

Singapore will be a much more beautiful place at night if we reducing the amount of light we use.

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

Show some action instead of just talking to DPRK

Recently North Korea (DPRK) said that it has passed a law on setting up more special economic zones to attract more foreign investment in its economy. Seriously though, are they really living in such isolation that they do not know no one will even dare to invest in their country?

Come on... As a businessman, will you invest in an area where at any point in time, someone can just close down your whole operation in a single night just because they feel like it? Obviously not. If a "bellweather" area such as Kaesong can be closed down just because DPRK feels like it, I think the world should send a message that this is not going to be acceptable and not allow their citizens to invest in DPRK.

Why restrict businesses you might ask? It's very simple. If you have any countryman in a foreign country and they run into trouble, do you think the government is going to just ignore them and leave them to their fate? Definitely not. DPRK, in not respecting the international rule of law, just got themselves into a situation where no country in the world trusts them. If at any point in time they can just close down the zone, will you risk letting your citizens be stuck in a foreign country and waste previous time and resources to get them out, if it is even possible at all?

If you come from a business perspective, you might as well avoid that area altogether. Why invest in an area of certain uncertainty? Personally, I think the risks outweigh the benefits. There are other countries that are more deserving, and appreciative to invest in.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them

I quote from Jonathan Haidt:
The final moment of success is often no more thrilling than taking off a heavy backpack at the end of a long hike. If you went on the hike only to feel that pleasure, you are a fool. Yet people sometimes do just this. They work hard at a task and expect some special euphoria at the end. But when they achieve success and find only moderate and short-lived pleasure, they ask is that all there is? They devalue their accomplishments as a striving after wind. We can call this the progress principle: Pleasure comes more from making progress toward goals than from achieving them.

Pleasure comes from the progress towards the goal. If you do not stop to look around while trying to achieve our goal, then you have lost a lot in life.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Invest in maintaining relationships

I'm tired by all the constant bombardment about increasing productivity in the mainstream media because few people seem to understand that it's always a zero sum game. When something increases, something always decreases. That is called equilibrium.

One of the unfortunate side effects of this productivity drive is the decreasing amount of time in which people can spend with their love ones. When we're talking about maintaining relationships with family and friends, you cannot take interaction out of the equation. To build a strong relationship, you need constant interaction. For example, do you measure interaction by saying you spend one hour with someone, vs half a day? You do not. Some things are not meant to be measured in those units. I hope I never live to hear another buzzword called relationship productivity.

To invest in a relationship, to ensure that we can build on those relationships, time is a key factor. When people are wondering why people are not getting married, people are not having children, it's always about time.

You want to reverse that? Simple. Start protecting employees by ensuring that they do not spend their whole waking hours working. I hate to use this analogy but if people still do not understand the importance of time, learn more about the Singapore zoo programmes and you may be able to understand it more clearly.

Monday, June 3, 2013

DCA 8 years on

Time flies by so quickly and now, I've been investing for close to 8 years. It seems like yesterday that I first started lurking in the sgfunds forum, and starting to decide what is the investment strategy that I will use. It didn't take long for me to settle on using the DCA strategy to stay invested in the market.

Just a brief description of DCA. Dollar cost averaging (DCA) is an investment strategy that may be used with any currency. It takes the form of investing equal monetary amounts regularly and periodically over specific time periods in a particular investment or portfolio. By doing so, more shares are purchased when prices are low and fewer shares are purchased when prices are high. The point of this is to lower the total average cost per share of the investment, giving the investor a lower overall cost for the shares purchased over time.

However, that doesn't mean I followed strictly to the description of DCA to the letter. Not my style. :)

Basically, I practise DCA from the portfolio perspective, and within the portfolio, I practise some form of market diversification so that the portfolio will not be adversely affected due to a downturn in a specific sector. I've written about diversification some time back in the post here which you can refer to if you're interested. 

The whole rationale of doing DCA and staying invested in the market is to keep expenses low, and to be in the market so that you capture all the lows and highs of the market. Some thinks that this is the way to go, while there are others who think that active investment will generate more returns. The question is what kind of risks you're willing to take? I won't go into it in detail but you can take a look at the post here which I've written some time back where I've talked about Risk vs Returns.

The reason why I went into DCA is because I do not have the time to track the market on an active basis. I chose to "invest" in my job instead and so far, the returns from my job far outweigh the returns from the market. Key thing to remember is to not only listen to those percentages being thrown around. The final figure matters. Do you prefer a one-off 10% profit out of $1,000 , or a consistent 2% profit out of $30,000?

If you have the time to actively track the market and like to track the market, then DCA may not suit you. Do take note that if you're actively timing the market, you want to keep an eye on your expenses. Profit = Revenue - Expenses. Always remember that.

I've already stayed invested in the market for 8 years and my portfolio has gone through the Great Recession which is still "on-going" in Europe. Results? Mixed. DCA are for those who believe that you cannot predict the future. You may be invested in a company that is ahead of its time, which will later blossom into the next Facebook, or invested in a strong company which suddenly tumbled during the Great Recession. The idea is that you believe in the management of the company, and will consistently buy into the company when the price is right. That is my DCA. Did I regret following this strategy? No. Judging the amount of spare time I have, this is an appropriate strategy that fits into my life.

I'm sure people are interested in the returns so far using DCA and diversification. Truth? Definitely not 8% p.a., the magical figure that analysts or FA are always throwing around. Is it possible? Definitely. I have double digit growth and declines throughout my years in the market. On hindsight, I could have said that I made x% when I sold off at that specific point in time. Did I? No. Don't second guess your actions.

Anyway, back to the point. Did I ever suffer a real loss, from a portfolio perspective? No.

8 years on, my portfolio is going on with a comfortable 4% CAGR excluding dividends, and a dividend of about 4% p.a.

Am I satisfied? Considering the amount of time I've spent on it, yes. Will I continue using this strategy? Definitely ... unless I think of something new.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Problem is in the wordings... again

The recent big hoo ha over the MDA ruling over online news sites got many Singapore netizens up in arms. The reason is very simple. It's again, in the wordings of the "licensing framework".

According to MDA, under the licensing framework, online news sites will be individually licensed if they (i) report an average of at least one article per week on Singapore’s news and current affairs over a period of two months, and (ii) are visited by at least 50,000 unique IP addresses from Singapore each month over a period of two months.

A “Singapore news programme”, according to MDA,  is any programme (whether or not the programme is presenter-based and whether or not the programme is provided by a third party) containing any news, intelligence, report of occurrence, or any matter of public interest, about any social, economic, political, cultural, artistic, sporting, scientific or any other aspect of Singapore in any language (whether paid or free and whether at regular interval or otherwise) but does not include any programme produced by or on behalf of the Government.

The problem? The above 2 paragraphs cover everything under the sun as long as you're talking/writing about something that is related to Singapore. It does not say personal websites/blogs are not in the licensing framework, which was what certain individuals have been clarifying these past few days. No wonder so many people are up in arms about this latest ruling.

This reminds me the time where Instagram terms and conditions were changed unilaterally by Facebook, causing every netizens in the world to boycott Instagram instantly after it was announced.

Solution to this? As simple as what Facebook did. Change the wordings. Put clarity into obscurity.

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