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.

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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.

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

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.

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

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

Friday, October 4, 2013

Believe because it is the truth

I quote from Blaise Pascal:
People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.

The truth is often difficult to accept but is the correct way to move forward. Choosing an easier way forward may lead to compromising on what is right. It may not matter now but it will definitely come back and haunt you later. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why are the peak periods not uniform across all public transport?

I was searching around for the definition of peak periods in Singapore and I found that they are very clearly defined for taxis but yet, not defined for our buses and MRT lines. I only found the following definition of peak periods:

Peak periods:
  • Taxis: 6 - 930am Mon - Fri, 6pm - midnight every day
  • MRT: 7am - 9 am
  • Bus: Non-existent

Why the disparity? Is the peak period very different between Taxis, MRT and Buses in the same country? No they are not. The timing is where everyone expected frequency to be increased and yet we're always facing issues of getting our transport during those periods.

Since the taxi transport operators are charging more during peak periods, why are they not increasing the frequency for the MRT and Bus too? They are the same operators and there is no excuse for some of them because the trains are driverless.

Let's start by aligning all the peak periods between all our public transport systems, taxis, MRT and buses, after which we can then start to align all the service levels expected during those peak periods. I do not see the logic why taxis have different peak periods than the other transport systems.

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