Sunday, August 31, 2014

Battery recycling effort in Singapore

There isn't any battery recycling need in Singapore because the importation of primary batteries (non-recyclable) has been restricted to the lowest possible content of toxic metal such as mercury. See two articles giving great explanation of the scenario in Singapore and also how we can do to minimize wastage and pollution. (1) recycling batteries in Singapore, (2) Efforts to recycle batteries - part II.

Lithium ion batteries from phones and notebooks are recycled in Singapore but the collection centers are available only at certain areas. Lithium is toxic and a teratogen. However, the material safety data sheet (MSDS) pertaining to lithium ion battery states that teratogenicity and  reproductive toxicity are "not anticipated". I could mean that no data is available and no toxicity is expected, or preliminary data shown that toxicity is not anticipated, or preliminary data on animal shows no anticipated toxicity in human.

My main problem with batteries is that some are prone to leaks. The leaked fluid often damages sensitive gadgets. Although the content of batteries is stated as non-toxic, but there is always a possibility that certain individuals will be susceptible to allergic reaction to the content.

I have tried Duracell batteries (Made in China) that leaked afterwards and damaged my mouse. I have tried Panasonic batteries (Made in Thailand) that also leaked and tainted the stroller fan. I bet most batteries out there are prone to leakage.

So far, I have not experienced leaky recyclable batteries. It seemed that the exterior of these batteries are different from primary batteries (non-recyclable; they are recyclable up to 10 times with certain charger).

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Streetdeal and the likes cheap tricks exposed

I'm referring to the article "Customers complain about StreetDeal Singapore ‘trap’, company responds" (by Yahoo News). I thank the prudent and tech-savvy customers who exposed the cheap trick by such online companies using unscrupulous method to trick customers to OPT-INTO their membership subscription.

A streetdeal Singapore spokesperson said, "Premium charges are clearly stated twice on the payment page, first in the offer itself, second in the legal T&Cs right before customer confirm their purchase. Customers might not pay attention to the offer when they purchase a deal; at no moment the offer is misleading. They can unsubscribe without any charge in one simple click in their account. If you require a refund, no questions will be asked we will process refund within seven working days".

Let us judge for ourselves, okay.

  • First, for the promotions, there are the premium only and usual promotions (such as Gucci Key holder)
  • At the payment page, the spokesperson claimed that the "Premium charges are clearly stated twice on the payment page" (where the heck was this or these indicated on the payment page???? Oh, the checked box stating Premium membership $88 quarterly (hmm...12mo/4 = 3 months; or ~$33/mo).



  • At the payment confirmation page, there are the general and membership T&C (but there isn't any indication of what I'm confirming to, except perhaps for  payment to the price listed, especially if I might once in hundredth occasion forgotten to uncheck the subscription!!!!!). There should be a pop-up to remind users that they will be charged membership fee once confirmed, especially when users might accidentally forgot to uncheck the default OPT-IN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Cheap stunt.
  • I've read the general T&C (it's approximately 10 pages in Times Roman New 12 point font in A4 size). The summary is the usual:
  1. Intro and definitions (standard)
  2. Personal Data Protection Act
  3. Exoneration/limitation of liabilities/Disclaimer of warranty
  4. Self protection regarding copyrights and trademarks
  5. Compliant to Rules and Procedures established by SIAC ("Rules and Procedures") within Singapore Arbitration Act
  6. Streetdeal as agent, not merchant of "goods or services".
  7. Streetdeal member subscription linked to other page.

  • I've read the member subscription T&C and have several comments
  1. Automatic renewal ((fees incurred)): You agree that StreetDeal will not provide You with any notices prior to each renewal payment ((charge you for membership fee)). You must cancel the Services before the renewal date to avoid being billed for the renewal ((can be done at My Account page)). This is completely UNTRUE, StreetDeal should remind subscribers to OPT-OUT especially if the SUBSCRIBER had no idea HE/SHE was accidental subscriber. The ONUS should not be placed on users solely (especially considering that no reminder/confirmation was given regarding CHARGED membership subscription during checkout payments (unless email was sent to notify consumers, all else is void). Let us try to remember the cheap tactic to charge unsolicited credit card to users for membership fees for failure to opt-out of the service...... nostalgia?
  2. Trial period offers ((after which fees incurred)): If you are taking part in any trial-period offer, you must cancel the Services by the end of the trial period to avoid incurring new charges, unless we notify you otherwise. If you do not cancel your Services at the end of the trial period, we may charge you for the Services ((according to CONSUMER PROTECTION (FAIR TRADING) (OPT-OUT PRACTICES) REGULATIONS 2009, Streetdeal should remind subscribers to OPT-OUT at least a week before they start charging users. In other words, users should be given sufficient time to OPT-OUT...........)).

  1. Premium charges are clearly stated twice on the payment page, first in the offer itself (but not very clear to me on the non-premium offers with default check-in box for subscription), second in the legal T&Cs right before customer confirm their purchase. I disagree, the premium charge is inconspicuous to me and I'm not sure of what I'm confirming myself into except for the payment for the price of the item (there is no reminder if I had forgotten to uncheck the automatic opt-in TRAP). Imaging one time failure to remember to uncheck the "auto opt-in membership" on my hundredth and one-th transaction (pull hair and bite toenails).
  2. Customers might not pay attention to the offer when they purchase a deal; at no moment the offer is misleading. I disagree, the offer is not intuitive and although it's not "misleading", it is not "leading" as well, i.e. not easy to comprehend or understand what most users are getting themselves into, sometimes by accident/forgetfulness to the opt-in TRAP.
  3. They can unsubscribe without any charge in one simple click in their account. Most shitty spams and unsolicited services can be unsubscribed too. To prevent bad feelings, good companies always ensure that there isn't any accidental subscribers by providing sufficient warning popups notifying users of extra charges prior to proceeding to payment.
  4. If you require a refund, no questions will be asked we will process refund within seven working days. I hope it's as breezy as accidentally having to pay for it in the first place.
 Fortunately Singaporeans are prudent and mature users. Just a thought.

To StreetDeal, your promotional items are good. But remember that your greatest assets are your HAPPY USERS. If 5% of your users are unhappy and growing each month, soon, you will have more than 5% unhappy users. Once your assets are leaving, don't hit yourself on the head for being stupid and greedy.

Singapore zoo, a jungle of people

Today visited Singapore zoo. It's a Saturday. At Woodlands bus interchange, bus number 926 was not operational except on Sunday and Public holiday (can't understand why not). We proceeded to wait at the taxi stand. It seemed that taxi drivers were selective with their patrons. Some didn't want to go to the zoo. At last, caught one taxi (thank goodness not all taxi drivers are bad apples).

At the zoo, all we saw was a flood of people. It seemed very lively. Our Singapore zoo was indeed popular. This was good. 

Once we entered, there were still plenty of people. At each station, there were plenty of people (with family and kids). It was good. However, I'm not sure if the animals enjoyed the flock of people. The White Tiger moved back and forth repeatedly looking at the mass of people. I'm not an expert in animal behaviour but I suspected that the animal was stressed (or intimidated by the sheer amount of two-legged creatures staring, clicking away cameras, and talking (we were like flock of birds perched on tree branches at late evening making loud noises before flying off to our nests). That's how I thought the animals must have felt.

Today seemed to be a family day. No wonder. That was why there were plenty of people today. Furthermore, it was near school holidays. Kids were seen playing happily with parents, grandparents, and siblings. I'm not sure if they appreciated the animals though, because some were obviously enjoying the greeneries, tracks, and stops, more than the animals. I know my kid was not at all interested to know what the animals were doing. She was more interested to move to the next stop and the next. The only stop she stuck to for the longest time was the kids' world Wet Play (see the Singapore zoo map). We had the tan to prove it. Talk about the Wet Play, the water was milky white in some places. There were indications of wear and tear everywhere, but that didn't stop the kids from having the best moment of their day at the zoo. My kid was so happy there she didn't want to leave the play afterwards.

We stopped at the Polar bear station. There was a single bear (similar to the white tiger; I heard that the other white tiger had to be euthanized because she was terminally ill. It was indeed sad for the other tiger). I'm not sure why there is only a single bear. It was swimming the whole day except during feeding time when it could be seen resting on an artificial platform made to look like a block of ice. I always thought that polar bear was completely white. This one was not completely white. The bear was brownish, with a tinge of green on the head. It's amazing how close we were with the polar bear. I felt sad that the bear couldn't have its natural habitat, but I felt amazed too that I could see a polar bear up close.

During our visit to the zoo, the one thing that surprises me was how unbelievably expensive a bottle of drink can be. For a bottle of isotonic drink (approximately 450 ml), it cost SGD 3.50. I wanted plain water but couldn't find one when I really needed it. I couldn't find any drinking water fountain nearby too. Probably it's somewhere in the zoo, but not easily found (unless if I ask someone who works there, but I didn't). The weather today was hot and humid as usual (sort of like in a sauna). Staying hydrated was surely a good idea (and a bottle of isotonic helped).

Our favourite hangouts would be the polar bear station where it's cooling and cozy. The igloo was fun.

The tram helped with the travel, especially with kids around. It would also be handy for expectant moms and the elderly. However, there were long queues at some stations, but luckily the flow was fast. The ticket for tram was SGD 5.00 per person (whereas kids below 3 years old are free).

The orangutans were spotted nearby Ah Meng restaurant. We were able to catch them during feeding time. A handler was using a long pole to extend/reach the edible leaves to the orangutans. I felt a little bad for the orangutan. They were completely reliant on men for food and shelter. I'm not sure how they felt, but I do know some people would be thinking, "why not? free food without breaking a sweat, that's the best lifestyle to be in". I hope these primates are used to the presence of men by now, so that they are more at ease with the noise and crowding.

The elephant ride tickets were sold out today. I am glad to see this happening. That would mean that the elephant handlers were being very sensitive and empathetic to the creature and their well being (thanks to the prudent management by Singapore Zoo and AVA). The tickets must have been capped at a specific number so as to prevent these creatures from over-exhaustion due to carrying too many people per day.

We visited fragile forest and spotted several mouse-deers, a variety of birds, insects, spiders, beetles, and butterflies.

During lunch time, finding a seat is a challenge. Food there is okay, the price is pricier, and thus we didn't get any drinks from the restaurant. The vending machine shows the same price for drinks, e.g. SGD 3.50. We should have gotten our bottle of water today.

The vending machine for pressed penny of Singapore zoo costs SGD 2.00. I wanted to get something as momento, and thus slipped in SGD 2.00 note, turned the wheel and waited for the coin. I couldn't believe how thin the coin was. It wasn't even a coin, it looked like a locket, but with sharp edges, and pointy print. A youtube video showing the pressed penny uploaded by someone; or you can just Google "Singapore zoo pressed penny" and jump to image to search for these coins. Some people are selling them at Ebay at higher value (I'm not sure I would be buying or selling these coins). I think it could be made of copper (not entirely sure, but the metal is bronze and pliable).

Today, it rained and drizzled. The air was cooling. The street was wet and some places are slippery. The roof to the polar bear pavilion was leaky. There wasn't sufficient sheltered walkway to escape the rain. There were plenty of visitors donning raincoat they bought from the Zoo with "Orang Utan" printed on them. These coats came with many colours and I would be getting one too if it was not for the umbrellas we remembered to bring along.

When it was time to go back, the bus stops were full of people queuing up. Bus number 138 came more frequent than 927. The difference could be five 138 buses to one 927 bus frequency. People queuing were friendly and didn't seem to be as agitated as commuters we have seen rushing to work and rushing back home after work during weekdays. Several considerate people were seen letting their seats to expectant moms and parents with newborn babies. Children were happy just to stand beside their parents holding on to bus poles during the journey home. Some kids were heard talking about how happy they were today. One kid was seen crying out loud just because he thought he didn't have sufficient time to play at the Zoo. A dad was seen cuddling and consoling him... 

It was still a happy trip to Singapore Zoo. There were still many places we didn't manage to cover. Probably next time.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Different types of tiles in Singapore

Google is disappointment in this topic too. Sigh, probably lack of data to show.

What I wanted to know
  1. Different types of tiles
  2. What are the material that made up these tiles
  3. Comparing the performance of each tile, or the pro and con of these tiles
I've got one blogger who provided a good answer to my query, "Home Memory" blog and the types of tiles (Laminate, homogenous, granite, parquet, teak, marble, ceramic), and the pros and cons. Parquet is a flooring design made of wood, whereas a teak is a wood derived from evergreen tree (Tectona grandis) of southeast Asia. Therefore, parquet is a process whereas teak is the material. Similarly, don't confuse with mosaic with tiles. Mosaic is a process that uses materials other than tiles.

Types of tiles
Homogenous(or homogeneous) tile
Man-made tile composed of uniform materials (no information regarding the material used), and considered to be as tough as granite (coarse-grained, light-coloured, hard igneous rock [composed of quartz, orthoclase/microline, and mica]).

Marble tile (not to be confused with marble toy)
Durable, but weaker than homogenous and granite tiles. Marble tiles can be porous (even though after polished or honed) and coloured liquid can easily stain marble tiles. In addition, constant acid (such as lime juice) exposure will corrode marble tile (but not to worry because it could be repaired with cost).

Compressed marble
Not as durable as homogenous tiles. The compression might not be as efficient as nature intended.

Granite tile
Granite is hardest stone used for flooring, but can be slippery if not well maintained.

Ceramic tile (not homogenous)
Low cost, not durable (if in constant contact that could cause cracks) and hence not advisable for flooring. It is made of red clay and glazed with surface coating.

Got it from Forum
Thanks to yoongf for the input in a forum estimating the price of different tiles (minus workmanship and other materials; which can markup the price 20% to 80%).
  • Real Marble approximately SGD 12 per square foot (psf), 
  • Compressed Marble approximately SGD 9 psf, 
  • Homogenous Glossed approximately SGD 3.50 psf. 
Note that 1 psf is roughly 30 x 30 square cm (or exactly 929.0304 square centimeters). 

I will continue the blog once I visit the showroom and compare the prices for homogenous tiles. I'm looking for textured homogenous tiles.

Search Singapore HDB tile and Google comes up something else

My search for HDB bathroom/floor tiles ends up no where near what I was looking for (except for complaints about popped tiles; I guess the incident must have flooded the internet with tonnes of entry). Google failed to help probably because it was overwhelmed irrelevant data.

What I wanted to search for are:

  1. What is the dimensions of floor/bathroom tiles available? I know that 30 x 30 square cm is common in Singapore, but are they common in HDB contractor list?
  2. What is the average cost of per piece of tile? Surprisingly, there is no answer on the web. You will have to get a quote by contact. Sigh, having that information would have been helpful in budgeting.
  3. Google failed to provide hits on any trading companies in Singapore that provided the products. 
What I currently know is that HDB contractors have their own set of tiles. But I don't know what dimensions are available. An HDB officer hinted that larger tiles are unavailable. I am not sure if 30 x 30 square cm tiles are considered "larger".

From discourse, I got to know about few traders that provided wall, bathroom, floor tiles. They are Harafy (reviewed in and Lian Seng Hin Trading (note that LSH website is not informative, you will have to go to the showroom). Lian Seng Hin dot com much better selection of tiles (gallery pics) but without price.

Another good find is via Streetdirectory (search tiles dealer and hit 31 returns).

Lian Seng Hin Trading Co (PTE) LTD
Address: 568A Balestier Road, Singapore 329885
Tel: +65-62522222 (6 lines)

Address: 105 Eunos Avenue 3, Singapore 409836
Tel: +65 62501368

Address: 560 Balestier Rd, Singapore 329876
Tel: +65 62501369

Address: 18 Boon Lay Way #01-132, Tradehub 21, Singapore 609966
Tel: +65 65706265

Address: 3 Changi North Street 1, Singapore 498824
Tel: +65 62858010

Address: 5A Defu Lane 8, Singapore 539310
Tel: +65 62835770

Address: 54/56 Sungei Kadut Loop, Singapore 729477
Tel: +65 63680889

Address: 18C Sungei Kadut Street 4, Singapore 729066

Monday, August 25, 2014

Be transparent with CPF

I'm a little too sick (vomit) listening to people saying that CPF should be made "more open and transparent". Wah lau, most of us can't even understand our credit card, debit card, bank, insurance (and whatever else out there) terms and condition, annual financial report, and other similar kinds of reports, and YET we are so freaking hyped and can be heard often saying phrases, such as "be more open and transparent". What does it mean? I bet most can't even pin-point or itemize the key points that need opening or made transparent. Oh no, wait, I think I know.... could it be CEO salary (that's the most darn thing common people want to know). If that is considered being open and transparent, then we are doomed because I was thinking of more sophistication than this.

If most of us can't even understand the "open and transparent" reporting of financial status of company, what make us super kin to understand the CPF reports. Who will be scrutinizing these reports? Where will these reports be made available? How many bigots of us will be downloading the pdf format and read through the reports? I bet it won't be ROY. So, for most people like me, to constantly hear people scream, "Transparent, transparent and open, open" is really like asking someone to strip naked and walk around.

Now for some fact about CPF

"CPF don't take away your (just 55.6% only, while the other half is your employers') money"

(1) You get monthly payout once you turn 65 (and dependent on which plan you chose when you were 55)
(2) The amount not consumed will be passed on to next gen (as bequest/will)
(3) CPF is not your money entirely, don't defeat the purpose of CPF
(4) Singapore is not welfare country; if the majority of people opted for withdrawal and made bad decisions with the money, Other Singaporeans will have to pay (through tax payers' money) to support these people. Furthermore, most people (esp. those low income earners) are not into savings and if given an opt-out option, they would have been more than happy to have taken it (at least some can be used for TOTO or 4D because I would do that too). Also, what freaking mind made you think that they will be able to manage their money (money management)? As an example, those who were self-employed and didn't thought through about retirement, and thus forgo CPF self-contribution, are the ones who have no money management skills. Instead of emphasizing on the fact that CPF will not allow you to withdraw lump sums, they should have focused on the purpose of CPF, i.e. to sustain contributors in golden years with basic monthly payout. This can be on top of other income you will be receiving then (if any), e.g. from insurance, dividends from shares, allowance from your kids, etc.
(5) No money management skill with lump sum money = die liao!
(6) With money sense and lump sum money = huat ah!
(7) How are we going to manage the "die liao" people? Let them die or use tax payers' money to sustain them with monthly payouts?

If I am the government, I will try out a research on randomly selected Singaporean population, e.g. 1000 of selected participants in each group, i.e. those opting for monthly payouts and those opting for complete lump sum withdrawal. After a time (e.g. 5 to 10 years), CPF in collaboration with Singapore Universities, will conduct follow ups to determine the outcome of their subject. Based on the findings, publish it for the public to judge for themselves. Although some will argue (without merit) about the findings, they will be arguing with no evidence to support their say (whereas the CPF board will have the scientific evidence to back it up).

To summarize: Singapore is being too protective of its citizens. Singapore worried that failure of certain group of people in managing their withdrawn money will end up becoming a social and financial burden to Singapore and tax-payers (read about homeless people in Singapore). However, without any trials and errors, it will be very difficult for the majority of people to accept. In addition, some people just despise Singapore government treating them as kids (an innate rebellious trait that we will have one time or another in our lifetime).

Not long ago, the banning of chewing gums were mocked by many. Considering that the rationale was to prevent littering of this sticky leftovers, most people still think that the government should just forgo their parental role and allow them "grow up" and decide on their own. Fortunately the ban is still in place or else most of us will be scrapping gums off us everywhere we go. Fortunately, gums can still be bought for dental health reasons. Unfortunately, we still have litter bugs leaving plastic cups, plastic bags hanging on tree branches, abandoned bicycles, spittoon, urine and stools left at common walkways, lift buttons, on the floor etc. I wonder how long should we be letting these people to "grow up". Even when these batch grew up, how about the next batch of people coming in?

Just a thought.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The right Singapore taxes

Lots of complains regarding Singapore taxes by people who are against taxes, but probably haven't even contributed a cent to it (except for the GST). These people are the loudest empty tins that make the most noise while contorting facts.

If most people can pay monthly maintenance fees for their condos, their HDBs, their club membership, their gyms, or pay a salary for helpers to manage their households, surely paying a sum for the maintenance of a country shouldn't be a problem. To run a country is not free and in order for any government in the world (except probably oil-rich nations) to function, they need funds (in the form of taxes) from their citizens. That's the most basic requirement that even the oppositions will have to concur (unless if they want to be populists and wouldn't mind drying up national coffer, increase national debt (which is currently considered "zero"), or targeting business entities for even higher tax (Singapore is among the world lowest).

On the side note, some will say think that Singapore tax is not low, considering that there are other taxes (e.g. goods & services tax, GST), and "monopolised" public transit, utility, etc., as well road tolls (e.g. Electronic Road Pricing, ERP), housing tax (higher when applied to second property owner to cool speculation). There will be people out there who will paint Singapore as not really that ideal a place to invest out of whatever reasons they could possibly have, e.g. David Cay Johnston (who is 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner during his short one week stay in Singapore surprisingly managed to gain an opposite perception that Singapore is not really low-tax haven for business; reported 2011). I wonder who could have been his source...

My rebuttal:
  • First, other taxes, such as GST and any other incurred taxes can be claimed in Singapore by businesses; 
  • Second, Singapore is (unlike America) land-scarce and having daily traffic-jam problem will affect businesses and the daily operation in Singapore. To prevent that from happening, car prices are not cheap (considering that there is a cap/quota of the number of cars that can be on the road per certain period, and a bidding system to secure certificate of entitlement [COE] to get a car). If there is no COE and everyone can own a car, then don't complain about being stuck in traffic for several hours. If that happen, I can bet that Singapore will be in the news for having the first car in the world with state-of-the-art toilets on-board.
  • Monopoly in public transit and other utility? Public transport in Singapore is operated by SBS and SMRT. The government through Temasek Holdings owns significant share in the business so that it will have a say in the management of our public transports (e.g. in matter pertaining to costing and business operation). Most will think that fare hikes is up to Tamasek, but in reality, fare hikes are due to operators' requests in reflection to either debt, operation cost, or profit margin (do note that a healthy profit margin in every business is motivation to continue operation). In many countries where mass transit is of utmost importance, government will never unwittingly increase fare if really necessary. To do so would be politically suicidal. Hence, fare hike is dependent on other factors, rather than whims of Temasek (e.g. oil price and operation cost). Similarly, control of utilities considered as crucial part of Singapore is owned by Temasek. I guess whatever that is considered as a National Security or Interest will be controlled (if not by regulation), e.g. water, power, communication, transportation, etc.
  • ERP is placed at strategic places to prevent traffic congestion in the city (but there are sufficient roads that is not with ERP, especially those that is not connected to the city or jam prone areas). Note that not a lot of Singaporeans are into car-pool and the amount of cars plying the road to office will be bad if it is not regulated by ERP. How efficient is ERP? It will only be efficient when drivers start shunning away from these roads. In my opinion, taxi is also not the best means to beat the congestion, especially considering that taxi only take one customer per trip. It would be best if Singapore can invest more in improving the mass transit system (such as upgrades), so that it will be more efficient (less hiccups and more regular), spacious, comfortable, convenient, and affordable for all people.
  • Property tax? If anyone say that property tax is high at 10%, read the whole story here, in which Singapore is battling to cool down property speculation, and hence several measures were taken. However, I do concur that property rent is high and this is one factor that is driving up prices (BUT it is unrelated to the subject of this blog, i.e. Singapore tax is low/the right taxes).

Singapore taxes (IRAS)
For locals (see IRAS explanation)
For a person with monthly income of sgd 3000 and annual income of 40,000 (plus bonuses and supplements), he will have to pay sgd 200 for the first sgd 30,000 and within subsequent extra sgd 10,000 block a 3.5% pa ratev(correspond to 10,000 x 3.5% = 350). The total would be sgd 550 per year of sgd 36,000 annual income.

If another person earns more than sgd 40,000, he pays sgd 550 per year, and 7% for subsequent additional sgd 40,000 block.

Someone that didn't pay tax "played played" (insinuated) by claiming that Singaporean paid between 0% to 35% without factoring in how much is the person being charged 35% is earning, and how much regular Singaporeans are really charged (my guess is < 5% for annual income of < sgd 80, 000). For the high-earner, he/she will be earning > sgd 640,000 per year. That's like > sgd 50,000 per month. To pay ~3% tax per monthly earning of sgd 50,000 is too much? That's just sgd 1500 for a month (equivalent to one night stay at Raffles Hotel) for these high earners. If that is bad in Singapore, how about the proposed and implemented tax amount of 75% pa for millionaires in France?

For businesses
I will not cover taxes for businesses because I have no idea just how many taxes are incurred and what is claimable. That is best delegated to professional accountants. For your interest, refer again to IRAS Singapore for other taxes.

Consumption taxes
This is not income tax, but the famous Goods and Services Tax (GST) that people talk/gripe about. People complained about GST the most because it affects everyone. The aim of GST is to tax consumers based on their consumption habit (or indulgence). Singapore can't be selective in implementing GST (not sure why yet), and so a blanket GST is imposed on all goods and services, including medical care/hospitalization (for those opting "regular" treatment or ward, the GST is subsidized by the government).

Singapore is not money hungry towards its majority of citizens. If you think about it, the high earners are the one forking out significant amount of money to the National coffer, e.g. a night stay in luxury hotel costing 1000 will earn Singapore 7% (or sgd 70). In comparison, regular Singaporean eating out with a bill of sgd 100 only pays sgd 7.70 (or 7% of food item and 10% service charge). The darn service charge is even higher than the tax and we want to COMPLAIN? For a McD, a ~ sgd 5.00 McChicken meal only cost us 35 cents of GST. So who are Singapore government actually taxing the most? However, I do agree that there are several basic necessities that can do without GST, e.g. medication, essential medical service, basic food items, milk etc. which will be equally needed by the poor and rich. As I have mentioned, medication and medical help are subsidized but not for A-ward treatment. In addition, there is GST voucher to help the low income family to cope with basic necessities. If regular Singaporeans don't indulge as high earners do, the tax incurred would be relatively high for high spenders rather than regular family. That is why I don't go out for dinner at Shopping Malls daily, but rather at once a week. Eating at my favourite hangout that cost me sgd 3.00 for a three-dish rice (only cost me 20 cents of GST if that is even applicable here).

I agree that there is much to improve on the implementation of GST in Singapore. If everyone is contributing to constructive inputs and views, I believe we can come up with a sound GST to tax consumption based on indulgence rather than necessity (so as also to increase national coffer and allow better utility of the revenue in other aspect).

For those trying to be funny, I just want to say that COE, cash-over-valuation (COV) of property, ERP, car tax (only applicable for car owners and is considered wants rather than needs), and others are not considered as "regular taxes" that affect majority of people. Note that COV depends on buyer's choice to either accept or reject to the offer.

Just a thought

Unruly passengers on board flights should be banned from flight

If a passenger can be banned from flight just because he/she is overweight (which is not his/her fault), there should also be ban for people considered as being a danger, menace, and irresponsible. This ban should especially apply to the reported unruly, drunk, violent passenger who assaulted flight attendants and other passengers on board India Air.

There should be an global/International identification system to list these people and accessible for all other airlines. The allowance/permission for such individual to travel should then be made under special arrangement, such as travel under security, prohibited from drinking, and he/she must pay extra "good-behavior bond" (or something similar) prior to boarding (in which failure to adhere to stipulated condition will forfeit any sum of money placed as guarantee). In addition, for repeated offense, the offender will be barred from traveling by plane for a specified period of time.

Some people place the fault to the airline for providing alcohol to passengers in the first place, and allowing him to drink more than the allowed dose (or number of drinks). Although alcohol is required by some passengers to induce sleep and to calm the nerve, some people just have the opposite effect and become agitated, unruly, disorientated, and irrational. It would be a difficult task to identify the latter group. However, with a system to identify such individual, extra precaution can be made to prevent them from being a danger on board flight.

Ban from flight should also be applied to selfish, irresponsible, and suicidal people. For example:
In my opinion, passengers who failed to follow instruction given by flight attendants should also be blacklisted and grounded. If these people want to fly, they should do so under supervision and bond.

Just a thought.

I support police action to issue fine to cyclist found to ride illegally in Bedok Town Center

I am referring to this article about 11 cyclists so far being issued a fine amounting to SGD 100 for riding ILLEGALLY in town center. However, some in the cyclist community (without understanding the issue in full) did not support such move. To some of them, I have to highlight the keyword here ILLEGALLY, which was the reason for the police fine. I have been to town center markets where bikes are not allowed to be ridden in the compound, but some apathetic cyclists rode in anyway and risked knocking down children who were walking about, running, or coming from a corner. These irresponsible cyclists are the ones who would risk knocking down the elderly, kids, expectant moms, and anyone else just for their own convenience to park their bikes near an NTUC store/wet market to go shopping. There are sufficient signage before the entrance indicating that riding a bike is not allowed (FOR a reason), and there are enough parking spaces for bicycles. If cyclists wants to park their bikes in the market compound, they should push their bikes into the compound instead of riding them.

Photo from SG Cyclists facebook page. Some cyclists commented that it is this cyclist who give bad impression of cyclists in general.

CPF is not your money entirely

CPF was established to force working adults to save enough for retirement (see Wikipedia). It was also setup to force people who don't plan for the future, people who use up what they earn on unnecessary things. The arrangement is that, workers will be forced to allocate 20% of their salary for CPF. At the same time, the government forces employers to top that up, with 16% of worker's salary (from the companies coffer). Talk about government intervention for the betterment of its working citizens. All in all, workers get to enjoy a long term saving plan of 36% of their salary. What's more, the fund generates a risk-free interest rate that is higher than most of any other investment out there, currently at > 4% pa for for Medisave and Retirement account.

To think that "CPF is my money" is wrong. If CPF did not force people to save in the first place, there won't be an additional 16% from employers, and an annual interest rate of  > 4%. Without CPF, most people without plan will end up homeless and "clingy" to government help (but fortunately, Singapore is not a welfare country that would spend tax-payers money on lazy bums [I'm not talking about jobless people who deserve short-term help during their job search, but rather on people who misuses the fund to live off being a bum]).

The role of CPF is to dispense monthly retirement monies to contributors once they turn 65. This is similar to pension given by certain governments to their employees after retirement. Unlike certain countries, Singapore depends on CPF to dispense "pensions", in which the amount is relative to the sum kept with CPF. If the contributor has more in CPF, then the allocated monthly payout will be higher. There is a minimum requirement for CPF, and most working Singaporeans (with lower salary) worried about not being able to fulfil this. Fortunately, the government is helping by providing annual "bonus" payment to these accounts after contributors turn 65 years old. This is to supplement the lower monthly payout of these accounts.

Why can't I take all my money out from CPF? If you want to withdraw your money, then it should be just 55.6% of the amount on the CPF account. This is considering that 44.4% was not yours (because when you injected 20% of your salary, your employers were injecting 16%). If you want to defeat the purpose of why CPF was setup, then you shouldn't complain about getting just 55.6%. At least, 44.4% will still be available for use in giving a monthly payout to sustain you.

For those who will use their CPF withdrawal for the greater good, congrats because I believe the "investment" will be great, e.g. funding a college or education for your kids, or investing in the property you have always dreamed of that will appreciate in value, in years to come, or in case of emergency for the medical treatment of someone you cared/loved, or for religious obligations and other beneficial purposes.

Anyway, for those who will spend it off to go for the dream vacation, or to spend it on lovers, or a visit to Sentosa Gambling hub, or the sport car (with yearly value depreciation), or whatever indulgence you can think of; then good luck to you and I hope you don't live for long because when your saving is depleted and you are useless, you will be a burden to your kids, and your government. One good use you will be is for politicians to misuse during election day. Let Singapore accumulate debts so as to give welfare to undeserving candidates. If the payout is good, probably these bums can stay in third world country and live like Kings.

As a parent, it's never in my mind to think that CPF being inherited by next generation is a BAD idea. Why not pass the CPF to your kids? Are they unworthy? If your children are useless (or not filial piety), as parents you are held responsible too.

Well, good news to those who always wanted their CPF for enjoyment or upgrade of their current lifestyle before meeting their makers. You will be able to get lump sum now (~ 20%). For those with poor circumstance, I hope you will not be hawked by unscrupulous people/condition (be it family members, "lovers", conmen, or gambling tables), in which the spent money becomes a regret later. Not to worry though, the 80% left is still a safety net for you; how long will this be status quo is unknown considering that certain politician (or wannabe blogger) wants to harp on the issue to get more votes (or more "likes" on their blogs) just to topple a system that has benefited countless.

Just a thought.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

MND Change in HDB Resale Price Negotiation Process

Change in HDB Resale Price Negotiation Process (COV).
  • HDB will publish daily prices of resale transactions (previously was fortnight/14 days).
  • HDB will only accept valuation requests from resale flat buyers (or their appointed agent) after Option to Purchase (OTP); previously house owner will request for valuation report.
  • Buyers with OTP have 21 days (instead of 14 days) to exercise their OTP.

For more information, see the video from Youtube

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Volkswagen, I wouldn't want to drive my wife and daughter in a car that is so insensitive to women

Nude models in Volkswagen car show in China. Unbelievable, some people can be so very stupid. So unfortunate to have them as Chinese because they paint China in a bad light once again, with their stupidity. Their lack of education and creativity allowed them to pull a distasteful stunt. What were they thinking? It's Volkswagen dude! That's a family car too, and which customer in their freaking mind would want to drive their mom, wife, and daughter in a car that is so insensitive to women?

If it had been a sport car, with less chances for family man to buy, the chick could have work (although still cheap). But hey, that is Volkswagen we are talking about. What was Volkswagen thinking, or could it be that the company didn't know what the Chinese dealer was up to?

If I wanted sex, sex magazine or product, I would have appreciated having nude models promoting the event. However, to attend to a car show (with family) and then "assaulted" by these models is really inappropriate. Furthermore, having a hard-on while buying a car is hilariously sick and far from the mind of any normal people.

Luckily, China has put a stop to this tasteless trend.

P.S. Demeaning women in car show is not exclusively found in China, because the practice is found in other countries including America. So, don't bark up the wrong tree.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Scary condo such as City Square Residence in Singapore

It's sad that due to several circumstances, living in City Square Residence condominium has been transformed from happy to scary. I'm referring to Condo's residents and security guards clash (The Straits Times, Aug 16), which is also reported in Asiaone. If I'm a buyer, I will surely avoid this condo or the likes. If I'm a lessee/tenant, I will avoid looking for this place to stay.

I don't feel comfortable having unfriendly security in a place I call HOME. I don't fancy having to be scrutinized, re-scrutinized and treated as if I'm returning to a prison cell. Work is already stressful, and to return home to a much worse place is not what I want for home.

The problem started with illegal subletting of condo. This prompted the management to introduce access card with photograph. In other word, families living in the condo are "dog-tagged". Furthermore, to have a security guard such as Mr. Hazzin who consistently confronted and caused inconvenience to visitors and residents alike, is like having the worst "prison warden" or "bouncer".

The worst thing that can happen to home buyer is for a decent and comfortable home to be transformed into an ugly affair involving unwanted confrontation with over-zealous guards. I wished that there was a better way to deal with unruly residents/visitors or illegal tenants in condos. Surely brute force isn't the answer. Surely rude and unfriendly behaviour isn't the answer. This is considering that most residents are just returning home, and not visiting pub or bar. We don't really appreciate having a bouncer who constantly check the IDs of suspicious looking person in the premises.

I guess if I want to be a prudent home buyer in the future, I will have to search for reviews about the place first. Most important of all, I will have to read reviews about the security there. For now, with this news in mind, I know for sure I won't be looking for a place or condo that engages GATES PCM Integrated Services (GPIS) for security. I truly doubt the quality of their service. Furthermore, as I have written before, having a friendly security is worth twice the security. Being mean and scary don't really deter crime nor does it enhance security. Worst, it affect the whole ambiance and cause unnecessary stress.

"You don't need to tell me what to do. I don't need to be polite on my job. You understand that?" allegedly said by the security guard (Asiaone).

According to GPIS website, "prevention is better than cure". That is really stupid, and cliche. Nowadays, prevention is not better than cure. It is impossible to prevent anything unless if you live in a "bubble". In the medical sphere nowadays, much more is being invested in treatment and care to improve the quality of life and promotion of fast recovery. In my opinion, GPIS failed to recognize who are its clients. They are not inmates from prisons or rowdy bar patrons. There is no such thing as "I don't need to be polite on my job". If you don't show respect, don't expect any respect from anyone.

Just a thought.

Best of Pay-As-You-Use Metering Scheme in Singapore

In Singapore, the Pay-As-You-Use Metering Scheme was implemented (by SP Services and the Energy Market Authority of Singapore) in 2005 to ensure that consumers who default frequently can better manage their electrical usage by opting for this scheme in which consumers will have to purchase credit keys to top-up the credit value of  the electric meter. For the credit value, 20% of the value will be used for paying the arrears, while 80% will be used for the actual top-up. A display screen will highlight the amount remaining (or credit balance) to remind consumers to top-up when the value is low. Noteworthy to mention that this scheme has been adopted in other countries.

There are a lot we can benefit from such scheme if we look at the whole thing positively. For example, as a good Samaritan and knowing that there are fellow neighbours who are not doing well, we can purchase these keys and top-up for them anonymously. I have seen Social workers and volunteers helping these households by topping up their Prepaid meters. Such prepaid meter should allow better management of electric utility and paying of bills.

Prepaid is not that bad and should be considered as advantageous to some people because such payment scheme can help better manage usage and bill payment (as compared to postpaid). It is hassle but at least consumers will not chalk up too much arrears.

I have not seen a prepaid meter and can't find it on the web. Anyone has seen it in their HDB area? Also, there isn't any information about how we can help pay for less-fortunate households who might need our assistance. I guess we can get more information from National Council of Social Service (NCSS) or Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF). For a list of members Voluntary Welfare Organisation (VWO), a list can be accessed from NCSS.

URA PARK(ing) day on 19th Sept 2014

Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is again adopting PARK(ing) Day falling on 19th September this year (2014). URA is inviting the public to turn parking lots in Singapore into temporary places for the public to hangout and enjoy. We did it last year for the first time (2013), but unfortunately I can't find any picture of the event except for the only one from aerial view reported in Asiaone, which showed only few parking lots being taken up and transformed into beautiful mini-gardens. Hopefully this year we will be able to transform more parking lots into beautiful and creative places of FUN, BEAUTY, and FAMILY hangouts. We can also turn these lots into libraries, exhibitions, games, health clinics, etc.

Date: 19 September 2014
Venue: any URA coupon-paid parking lot and a few HDB kerbside parking lots at Tiong Bahru
Requirement: register with the URA and get a coupon for "free packing" on that day to create the "PARK"
Proposal: Submit an idea or proposal of what you will be doing
Closing date: Unknown

For more information regarding future (or past) projects (by URA) to improve and transform public places/spaces into wonderful and fun places, visit Publicity (Public Spaces in our city).

Photo from Asiaone

1/8 EC unit vacant in 2Q14

News from The Straits Times "one in eight EC units left vacant in Q2" (2Q14)

The probable reasons suggested by consultants are
  • People bought EC units ahead of their needs.
  • Unsold and incompleted ECs contribute to the data.
  • People buying EC units for fun? Just so that they can use up the housing grants?
  • People buying EC untis to rent out instead of staying and need to wait for the 5 years minimum occupation period restriction.
  • Newly completed EC units under further renovation (and unoccupied) contributes to the data
  • Weak HDB resale market preventing upgraders from selling their previous HDB flat and hence they are staying in the old flat rather than new EC unit?
The above are the probable reasons from experts.

My two cents. I think the most probable reason for the unoccupied EC units are as follows.
  • Unsold EC units (if the statistics factored in these units)
  • People bought the unit for renting out or selling at profitable prices, but don't mind waiting for 5 years.
Without any available data, it will be difficult to guess.

Singtel Lite data plan exceeded 2Gb charges extra SGD 10

My Singtel Lite plan with 2Gb data plan was exceeded (at 2.01 Gb) three days before the end of the month. I tried to cap my usage at 2.1G so that I don't overuse it. However, when the monthly bill came, my 2.1039 Gb data usage was charged at SGD 10. It means I am paying SGD10 for 104 Mb of data usage.

I called Singtel Bill Enquiry at 1688 and talked to the person on the line. He said that no matter how much data you used, the first 1Gb block (after the free 2Gb) costs SGD 10. It means that if I used 2.0001 Gb, I still have to pay SGD10 for the 0.1 Mb of data. I was disappointed at Singtel for being unfair to people like me. Instead of charging consumers pro rated for the data used exceeding the free 2Gb, Singtel is forcing consumers to take up a minimal of 1 Gb (data block) once they exceeded the free 2 Gb data. That is how Singtel is making sure that they earn a minimal SGD 10 for each gullible consumer like me that exceeded their free 2Gb and thought that the subsequent data charge is pro rated.

The saying, "Once bitten twice shy" (When something or someone has hurt you once, you tend to avoid that thing or person) applies here. The bad news is it does no good to Singtel, in term of its reputation, customer loyalty, and customer satisfaction. Such distasteful tactic by any business doesn't work for long and will backfire most of the time.

 Anyway, for those who are not very sure how to avoid the excess usage of the free 2Gb, here are several ways you can minimize data usage.

(1) Go to setting and touch data usage.

(2) Under data usage, click on "set mobile data limit" (a popup will appear, just touch ok), then set the data limit that warns user if data usage has exceeded this amount (e.g. 1.8 Gb shown here as orange line). Next, set the data limit in which when data usage reaches that amount, mobile data connection will be disabled (e.g. 2 Gb shown below with red line; to be safe,  set the number to 1.9 Gb). The data usage cycle (can't be seen here) can be set manually to reflect the period when service providers calculate the monthly bill.


(3) When you are either outstation (to avoid higher outstation charges) or at a hotspot/home with Wifi, then you can disable Mobile data under Setting > Data Usage, and uncheck the Mobile Data (as shown here)

(4) When the Mobile Data is unchecked, turn on Wi-Fi. 

When business entity/service provider can't place customer (best) interest at heart, the only way customer can do is protect themselves. We should learn from other customers on how to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of.

There are several other distasteful method Singtel and probably other business entity uses to force unsolicited services onto customers. For example, the "bundled" free SMS services or other unless services that customers have to unsubscribe (after few days of getting the mobile plan) in order to opt out from these "packages". 

Luckily not all services are of such nature in which if the customer doesn't initiate an opt-out request (at certain time), then they (are considered to have agreed to the service offered) and will be billed accordingly. Fortunately, Singapore has sufficient Act to protect consumers. According to the Consumer Protection (Fair Trading) (Opt-Out Practices) Regulations 2009, Singtel should give reminder to customers at least 3 days (or 14 days) before the end of the unsolicited service free trials. If a customer felt that he/she is made to pay for unsolicited services and wants a refund, he/she can still do so by contacting the service provider to request for the refund. If the provider failed to satisfy customer's request, the affected customer can get help from Ministry of Trade & Industry Singapore (MTI). For more information, see FAQ for consumers. Consumers can also contact Consumer Association of Singapore (CASE) for help. However, for cases pertaining to Lemon Law, it seemed that Lemon Law only applies to tangible products and not services. Having said that, if consumers felt that they have been taken advantage of by service providers, especially in the opt-out practice by business entities, CASE will be able to help.

In my case, I think there isn't much I can do about it. A lesson (costing SGD10) learned is definitely worth it considering that I won't be getting into the same disadvantage.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Singapore UOB Bank Savings account compound interest rate per annum is circa 0.046%

Singapore UOB Bank Savings account earns depositor ~ 0.046% per annum of compound interest rate (calculated per month). If you have sgd 1000, you would earn average per month ~ sgd 0.038 and a total of sgd 0.42 per year (or 40 cent).

In summary, sgd 1000 in the bank gives you 40 cent after a year (rough estimate).

Note that the interbank rate in Singapore is very low at around this value.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Backup your phone contact

Samsung S4 motherboard damaged. The problem started during system upgrade that failed and caused a reboot loop (constant restart and shutdown, repeated infinitely). There wasn't any chance of getting the contact list backed up. The only alternative was to factory reset the device. Tried it and didn't work. Submitted the phone to Samsung Service Center at Plaza Singapore. Do you know that there are four Samsung service centers in Singapore?

The service staff was robotic. She talked robot-like with "Sir" added to the end of the sentence. The usual, "if phone found tampered, dropped, etc. then it voids warranty). I said I understood. At the end of the session, I submitted an electronic feedback as "excellent". The electronic tablet for feedback was placed right in front of the service staff for him/her to see and I wouldn't want to demoralize her by giving mediocre rating (it sorta defeat the purpose, right?).

The repair was swift, it took three days to get the phone repaired. The notice for collection was sent to my other number via SMS. At the counter, while I was there to collect the phone, I asked what was wrong with the phone and the staff said that they had changed the motherboard. I asked how long is the warranty for the motherboard. The staff said that the warranty is the same as the remainder of the phone warranty, i.e. few months time, which translate to mean that there isn't any warranty. I asked if the motherboard issue was frequent for S4. He said it's case-by-case (meaning, "I don't know"). Anyway, I was glad that the phone is available for use.

What I was not glad was the contact I had on this phone was gone forever. I should remember to backup my contacts regularly in the future.

Handphone battery oh battery, you changes so frequently

Why do handphone batteries change so often,  but the capacity still the same? Why not get the slimmest smallest design and then stick with it? Stick to it like a glue until you figured out how to increase the storage capacity (in milliAmp hour, or mAh). That way, the consumers don't have to search for replacement batteries with difficulties. 

Let's see. Could the reason for constantly changing battery design (outlook) be due to the phone manufacturers' effort to prevent battery glut and reduced/falling prices? Or could it be that batteries were subcontracted to China for production (after first launch) and to ensure subsequent licensing fee imposed to the factories there, phone manufacturers purposely redesign the darn batteries just to recontract the license? Whatever the reason,  consumers' benefit (or interest) is obviously far in their mind. Everything is profit, profit and profit. 

All is not lost, consumers can get genuine batteries online from Ebay, Amazon and the like. However,  in Ebay, we run the risk of getting "generic" batteries at higher prices and with fire hazard.

In the world we are living in, consumers are still not strong enough to force business entities to place consumer interest first. Remember the stupid cables for charging phones? No standardisation,  a waste, and money-churning opportunity for manufacturers to sell parts to us. With changes in each phone launch, we are forced to consume and "excrete" more waste to the environment. 

Alas, there isn't any standard imposed on batteries. We are stuck with different battery designs but with similar power capacity. 

Compact cameras face similar problem! Sometimes, I'm tempted to just get cameras with AA batteries. At least after 5 years time,  I know I will still get to purchase the batteries, rather than throw the whole camera to the environment for failure to get the cheap batteries. 

For business, getting consumers to waste is good for business. So pathetic. At least buy back your junks and give consumers discount for next purchase. That way, you recycle the junk and save the environment.

Drawing; Street performer at MRT station

Respectful street performer at MRT station. I think they are better than tissue sellers.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Drawing; MRT station

The 1st drawing shows two commuters, one female and the other male seated side by side. The way they say can really tell who is who.
The 2nd piece shows people queuing up at the MRT platform waiting for the sliding door to open.
The 3rd drawing shows a lady standing inside the train,  near the exit for.

No grasshopper in my estate

I have a daughter and I wanted to show her grasshopper, and so we went out to the field full of green and nicely cropped/mowed grass. I tried to catch one grasshopper for her. I was really surprised that there isn't any in my estate.

Is it natural? What happened to grasshoppers? Mowed to death? Eaten by birds like in the animation "A Bug's Life"?

The only creepers I could find there were the moth, crickets, and other unfamiliar insects but no grasshopper. I really wanted then to go to other estates and grab a few back to my estate to populate the field.

Do you know what more is missing? I have not seen any ladybird (or ladybug). No dragonfly which is expected considering that there isn't any lake nearby. There isn't any praying mantis (probably there wasn't any prey), and beetle.

Fortunately, there are butterflies hovering around my area and sometimes I can hear cicadas on top of trees. Occasionally, we can spot bees and wasps. Sometimes, there are millipedes and centipedes (being drawn out after heavy rain). Very often, we will see very long earth worm wriggling out from the earth to traverse to a greener pasture during the rain, but some will end up eaten by birds or dried up by the sun later.

Junk mails in the mailbox a waste of paper

Majority of junk mails in my mailbox are those pertaining mostly to property agents (sometimes tuition, plumbing, and others). If I had received these junk mails at long intervals, I wouldn't have minded keeping some of them for future decisions. However, after being bombarded with frequent junk mails from the same advertisers, I have been mentally-conditioned to remove them from the mail box, and subconsciously shredding them into numerous strips just to relax my nerves. Surprisingly, the shredding has grown to being a therapy for me and I have grown fond of the action.

To shred the junk mail would assure me that no one will reuse these ads again.

I am no longer worried about saving the trees. They are not savable considering how CHEAP papers are in Singapore. Trees are a gone case not worth worrying about. If we (or Singapore) really wanted to save trees, we would have made the cost of printing craps much more expensive. Alas, papers are so cheap that not printing them will be a sin.

Just a thought.

Smoking walkers in Singapore

The "walking dead" who smoke. They are apathetic, dead inside, who lacked feeling for others. Most of them are brisk walkers unlike the TV series "The Walking Dead" and so, they could walk pass most people with ease, such as the elderly, baby-on-stroller, toddlers, pregnant ladies, dogs on leash, and many more who don't appreciate being clouded by left-over trail of cigarette smoke.

I can never understand them. Why can't the smoking walkers just stand in a corner, smoke to their content as fast as they can in order to fill their blood with nicotine and then move along? I would have preferred if these people had farted while they walked rather than inhale their smoky waste. At least the fart was unintentional and could have happened to anyone. The smoke however is really a nagging prick.

The only explanation for the behavior smoking walkers is that their brains were dead long ago and hence they lacked thinking ability. This has been studied in the scientific point of view (Berger et al., 1998. Nicotinic receptor-induced apoptotic cell death of hippocampal progenitor cells. J Neurosci.18(17):6871 pmid 9712657).

Just a thought.

Singapore needs birdbath

We are proud of having a healthy number of different bird species in Singapore, with beautiful migratory birds visiting Singapore occasionally. With the advent of modernization and huge changes in our landscape to concrete jungle with healthy mix of plants/flora, we are seriously missing something for our friendly birds. We are lacking birdbath for our feathered friends to cool themselves and quench their thirst. Although we have water fountains and pools, some are not accessible to birds. This is considering that most of them don't have long legs (like stork) to trudge water.

Having birdbath will not just benefit birds, but also benefit our poor bees and other flying "non-nuisance" insects. If we can design a birdbath that isn't accessible to mosquito as breeding ground, we will be able to provide strategically placed drinking source for our birds and bees and other beneficial insects. Although we have plenty of rain coming our way, sometimes during hot season, it is really difficult to get sufficient water to cool off. Getting a helping hand from us will be much appreciated.

Just a thought.

How to deal with abandoned bicycles in MRT stations and shopping malls

Lately, there have been many cases of abandoned bicycles all over Singapore, or at least in major estates. I have no idea why people would abandon their bikes. Could it be that they have forgotten where they parked these bikes and had no idea how to search for them? Or was it due to moving away from Singapore? If indeed they had moved away, shouldn't the owners unlock their bikes and allow other people to just "adopt" their bikes? Isn't it better than locking these bikes at poles, trees, and rails and allow them to waste away?

In my opinion, the authority should do something about these abandoned bikes. The authority should stick a warning letter to these bikes and allow a grace period for the owners to remove their bikes and failing which the bike will be "towed" away for good.

What to do with the abandoned bike?

I have a good idea. The authority can reuse the metal from the bike frame to build wheel chairs or push chairs for the needy at affordable prices. Most of us have no idea how expensive wheel chairs can be. They are more than sgd 100 and can reach up to sgd 400. Most can't really afford the huge price tag.

Considering that Singapore is going to have a significant number of elderly folks, having a better walkway which is wheel-friendly as well as good and affordable wheelchairs or pushchairs will help many households. Why not pick up these abandoned useless metals and reuse them for making affordable wheels for the needy?

Just a thought.

Air conditioned wet market a value added place with increased item pricing

I hope that Singapore will not phase out the good old day wet market which is a place of bargains for cheap and fresh goods. They are fresh because the goods are bought instantly by buyers everyday. They are cheap because the rent to the wet market isn't expensive and hence not factored into the item to off-set expenses.

When I heard that Singapore will phase out old markets and add value to the place by transforming wet markets into pleasant air-conditioned place, my first thought was, "value addition will translate into higher rent for sellers, and that will translate into higher prices for the items in store". Please tell me I'm wrong.

When I looked at Kopitiam, the good old kopi tiam was way cheaper than the Kopitiam franchise. Now, getting a cup is not as good as last time. Rent up, food price up.

Anyway, it's better than eating at Shopping Malls. The minimum price for a set meal at these places is no less than sgd 5.00 (McChicken set at McD is around that value). Fortunately, we still can have a nasi lemak, chicken rice and mee hoon at sgd 2.20 at stores in major MRT stations.

It's good that there are many shopping malls and air-conditioned eateries (and wet markets), I hope that there will also be allocation for an affordable good old (and hygienic of course) places where we can still get goods such as vegetables and meat, and have a cuppa and breakfast or lunch at affordable prices. Let the goods and food be reflected by the market price of the goods per se rather than it being due to the ballooning price of rents.

I won't mind visiting air-con markets once in a while, but having a good old wet market would still be great to find fresh veggies, fruits, and meat at cheap price.

Just a thought.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dear nasty Ah Pek (uncle) on MRT

Dear nasty Ah Pek on MRT,

I know you must think that other people should give way and give up their seats to you whenever you are present. I have seen you Ah Peks nudging towards occupied reserved seats with your mouth mum but your EXPECTATION high. I don't really know why you don't ask nicely for a seat in front of you, BUT instead use a nasty look of contempt on youngsters who were too green to know better. As an "old ginger" (aged with experience), I am clueless as your approach to "communicating" with youngsters. In my opinion, you Ah Pek built up such negative energy unnecessarily (or is that your true character, persisted even after you have aged?), when you should be positive and make the first move to ask for seat graciously. The kid in front of you will surely give up his or her seat. Even if one doesn't, then surely the one seated next to him or her will give up his or her seat to you. When you say, "thank you", your gesture is encouraging and fulfilling. However, you nasty Ah Pek never open your mouth. You nudged, you sat and you disregarded the person who moved away.The only time I have seen you Ah Pek open your mouth was when you yawn and dozed off afterwards.

It seemed to me that age didn't increase your wisdom. It didn't tone down your nastiness. It didn't improve your patience. Your pride prevented you from asking people for help properly and it made you look pathetic. You are the creator of bad karma in this world. You mistreat and people reciprocate. You are the bad apple of the older generation and you make it more difficult for the rest of gracious Ah Pek (old "uncle"), or Ah Gong (grandpas) to receive help.

For that reason, I'm writing this entry to remind myself that there are the nasty Ah Pek and there are the good ones. I won't allow a few bad apples to affect me. If I observe an ingratitude gesture by nasty Ah Pek on MRT, I will say, "THANK YOU" on his behalf. That gesture from me will remind the nasty Ah Pek about graciousness and to motivate the person giving up his/her seat.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Some elders, be courteous or get karma

Most elders are friendly and courteous. However, there are some elders who were brats when they were young, and end up a grumpy and nasty people when they get old. Unfortunately, we will bump into these people occasionally.

A word of wisdom, "don't be misled into thinking that age will tone down the nastiness of people". It won't. Nastiness is an integral part of certain people. It is their character trait. Although some people will grow out of it, a significant will harbor this trait until their last breath.

On the MRT, I have seen plenty of times how nasty and grumpy some elders can be. These elders mistreat others. Remember the grumpy old man who poked his stick/umbrella at a youngster to signal to the young man to leave his seat so that the old man can take it? What an ill-mannered way to ask for a seat! Age doesn't give a person the license to be obnoxious and ill-mannered. As expected, the young man didn't budge and refused to let his seat. The old man took the young man's picture and posted it on Facebook. How vindictive this grumpy old man can be?

Today, I've seen an old man in his 50s. He was not frail and didn't look like he needed seat. Anyway, he needed a seat. What happened next was unexpected, the uncle moved to the reserved seat where a young girl was seated. The old man gestured with his hand for the girl to stand up and move away. How rude can the uncle be? The young girl left her seat. Out of the blue, this uncle started grumbling about how rude the young girl was for not letting her seat "willingly" or on her own accord.

What happened to courteousness? Shouldn't we lead by example? Did age wasted away good-manners in certain old people? Would age erode kind words from our vocabulary, such as "please, thank you, may I have your seat, you are really kind, god bless you, appreciate your kind help, thanks for your understanding" when we get old? Should we expect people to let their seats on their own accord and expect to reciprocate by being a nasty old person if they failed to do so? How on earth do people know who needs a seat? Being courteous is a two way traffic.

My conclusion is that, nasty old people are sometimes derived from the nasty and bratty youngsters. Age obviously didn't change their character nor tone down their nastiness. If I were the receiving end of this ill-mannered treatment by grumpy and nasty old people, I will surely shoot back, "Uncle! be respectful if you want to be respected!!!"

Lastly, don't be misled by appearances.

Just a thought.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

SMRT "care sticker" for those willing to help

SMRT "care sticker" was launched recently to identify commuters in need of seats. I've not seen anyone wearing them yet. Japan had the sticker for sometimes now. I'm not sure about Europe. 

All of them have something in common, "let the wearer be noticed by those seated in the reserved seating".

What is lacking in all these implementations is the involvement of the majority of the public. Most of them are caring individuals. 

In most time while we are travelling in a public transit, we are not aware of people around us. It could be due to the sheer number of commuters around us or it could be due to distraction,  e.g. smart phones, lethargy, etc. For whatever reason, there are most of us willing to give up our seats if we are made aware of the people who need them.

Instead of identifying commuters in need of seats,  why not provide an identification mark for those willing to give up their seats? By including the participation of the general public, we can show how caring society really is. 

This article was written after reading a comment from Straits Times

Battery compartment door/cover of compact camera

Compact cameras. They have one thing in common,  i.e. the battery compartment door/cover is made flimsy (non-durable, easily damaged).
This part of the camera is important. The door act not only to cover the battery compartment for aesthetic reason, but also to close the circuit of the battery. When the circuit is not closed, you won't be able to switch the camera on. Try it, open the door ajar and press the "on" button. Nothing will happen.
So, it is important that the door is intact. If you accidentally break the door, you should keep that piece with you. Use a tape to stick the door to the camera for it to work. If you lost the door/cover; you must find a compatible cover for the camera to work. Using a cardboard and sticky tape will not revive your camera.
I have no idea for the reason to ensure that the door must be closed to operate the camera. Was it to prevent shocks from the exposed battery? Whatever it was, it seemed important enough for all camera manufacturers to want to implement the same design concept.
My Nikon coolpix S6000 has a clumsy design at the cover. My camera automatically switches off whenever I want to use it (even though the battery indicator showed full bar). The problem seemed to be due to the cover constantly losing contact with the battery and hence breaking the circuit. If anyone has an "automatic switched off camera" problem, it's likely caused by the cover/door to the battery.
Nikon conveniently stated that the cover/door to the camera is not under any warranty. That was their point when I first bought the said camera (S6000 series). Try asking the sales representative or Nikon Service Center. Most probably, the policy is still retained,  i.e. no warranty for battery compartment cover/door.
Another problem I faced with this camera is that,  now I'm having dead pixels at two corners of my LCD screen. I just hope they don't spread. Worst come to worst, I'll have to shoot without any cue from the LCD, just like old compact camera (but without "view finder"). Haha.

Friday, August 1, 2014

MRT captain had no choice but to key in available announcement for train delay

Train stalled due to congestion was used several times,  then an announcement about train fault. Later, the train sped at full throttle. To me, it didn't feel like train fault. To me,  the announcements were made at intervals to act as "fillers" and to break the silence commuters experienced while stranded at the station. True enough, the train sped off the station and made jerky journey due to abrupt speeding and brakings, probably to adhere to the right schedule again. Now,  how I wished all MRT trains were automated. How I wished technology was playinh a part in driving the MRT as well as buses. 

In addition,  how I wished the MRT rails ran in loops. Isn't that the most efficient way rather than to wait for the train on terminals to clear before the next train could dock. Furthermore, to decommission the train for the day, just exit at service points for daily maintenance. Alas, that is not to be. 

Now, how I wish that I'm with SMRT, SBS and major public transit companies, working at managerial level to oversee the running of Singapore's mass transit. I will enforce a rule for my managerial level staffs to take the public transit at least three days per week to taste the running of our business.