Monday, March 31, 2008

Security Personnel at MRT Stations

Since the ‘911’ incident, security at key installations and public places in Singapore have been beefed up, one such place is the MRT stations sprouted throughout the island.

The ubiquitous stations have undergone a relative number of changes since the day that changed the world (to a certain extent).

Gone are the litterbins that dotted the stations; postage mailboxes became situated further from the stations. These measures are necessary and the inconveniences caused by these measures shall not detract from their important objectives.

However, some measures taken at MRT stations may become overbearing though the message contained in them to be disseminated is important.

Everyday, passengers boarding the trains are reminded to report anything or any person found behaving suspiciously via the public announcement broadcasts in the trains. The announcements are often quite loud (which serve their purposes) and the close frequency of such broadcasts, though good in serving to remind passengers constantly, may lose their significance gradually as passengers become accustomed to them in the same manner that they are accustomed to periodic loud music.

Security personnel at MRT stations, deployed to conduct random checks on baggage of passengers, especially the suspicious-looking ones is another good measure. However, often at times, I witness many of these personnel are quite old; will they be able to handle aggressors? (yes, the papers say so). Sometimes I see them carrying out their duties more as bored rather than looking alert with ‘smsing’ being carried out at times. It is understandable that these personnel are human beings, doing their jobs, contributing to the security of the country, though they can be bored and tired at times inevitably. Only in a real crisis, will Singapore’s security system be tested.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The 8th Wonder of the World in Singapore




The world has 7 ‘wonders of the world’; many Singaporeans have been thinking whether Singapore can have a possible candidate for the 8th wonder of the world?

A slew of suggestions have been thrown up in the previous years, these ranged from the iconic landmarks of Singapore: the Changi Airport, the Zoo, the Botanic Gardens to the newly built key architectural beauties like the Esplanade, the Singapore Flyer and the soon-to-be-built structure of the IRs (Integrated Resorts).

I would like to propose a 8th wonder of the World for Singapore. This 8th wonder has not been deliberately built; it is formed naturally by Singaporeans for Singaporeans.

And this 8th wonder of the world as proposed by me is nonetheless found underground, in the exit linking City Hall MRT Station to Connaught Drive!

People who pass by this underground at any time of the day, be it weekdays, weekends, in the night or day would be amazed at this naturally-formed 8th wonder of the world in Singapore.

There, right in this place, one can find different interesting groups of people, from skaters honing their skating skills, to those sleeping on the cool tiled floors (including the homeless), to people practising their slew of magical skills and acrobats, to students reading and studying for exams, to couples displaying their fair bit of intimacy, and the show list goes on, with different actors coming to the stage everyday though there are some regulars. Life is like a stage, as the saying goes…. here in this underground linkway is the life of the different spectra of Singapore being encapsulated, and naturally formed over time, without the intervention of the authorities and without displeasing the authorities with this ‘accidental use’………………

Who says Singaporeans are not creative, a small underground portion of a linkway has been transformed into a microism of the Singapore society gradually without the deliberate allocation of facilities and amenities. This natural metamorphosis of a space into an activity centre to be used, to be decided how to use by Singaproeans, may be the most accurate way or rather a frame of outlook to look at Singapore. This is the reason why I think the 8th wonder for Singapore should be this underground portion of the city linkway.

Some other strong reasons why I believe this venue to be so unique are the facts that:

a) Singaporeans are known to be busy, but in this venue, one can find people other than the homeless sleeping comfortably with even just a cardboard used as a mattress.

b) It is an indeed extraordinary phenomenon to see people sleeping amidst the loud noise made by skaters honing their skating skills near to them!


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cabinet reshuffles

Following the last Cabinet reshuffle in May 2006 soon after Mr Lee won his first General Elections as Prime Minister, PM Lee announced the long-awaited changes to his Cabinet today with most of the changes taking into effect from 1 Apr 08.

A new addition to the cabinet will be Member of Parliament for Sembawang GRC, K Shanmugam, who will take over as the new Law Minister from Professor S Jayakumar from May 1st. Mr Shanmugam will also concurrently hold the appointment of Second Minister for Home Affairs. Professor Jayakumar will continue as Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security.

A summary of the reshuffle in the cabinet is as follows:

Education Ministry
*Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister (cum Second Defence Minister)
*Ms Grace Fu (MOS to SMOS)
Mr Lui Tuck Yew (MOS to SMOS)
Mr Masagos Zulkifli (SPS)
Mr Gan Kim Yong relinquish MOS
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam relinquished Minister

Ministry of Finance
Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister
Mrs Lim Hwee Hua (MOS to SMOS)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Dr Balaji Sadasivan (SMOS)

Health Ministry
*Mr Hawazi Daipi (PS to SPS)
Mr Heng Chee How relinquished MOS

Home Affairs Ministry
*K Shanmugam, 2nd Minister
*Mr Masagos Zulkifli (SPS)

Ministry of Manpower
*Mr Gan Kim Yong, Acting Minister (MOS to SMOS)
Dr Ng Eng Hen relinquished Minister.
Mr Hawazi Daipi (PS to SPS)

National Development Ministry
Grace Fu (MOS to SMOS)

Transport Ministry
Mrs Lim Hwee Hua (MOS to SMOS)
*Mr Teo Ser Luck (PS to SPS)

Ministry for Community Development, Youth and Sports
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister
Mr Teo Ser Luck (PS to SPS)

Prime Minister's Office
*Mr Heng Chee How (MOS)

Information, Communications and The Arts Ministry or MICA
*Mr Lui Tuck Yew (MOS to SMOS)
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan relinquish Second Minister
Dr Balaji Sadasivan relinquished SMOS

Trade and Industry Ministry
Mr S Iswaran (MOS to SMOS)

*: appointed to new ministry

SMOS: Senior Minister of State
MOS: Minister of State
SPS: Senior Parliamentary Secretary
PS:Parliamentary Secretary


It was earlier believed that in this coming cabinet reshuffle, there would be a first woman minister for Singapore but the reshuffle indicated that Singapore may wait for a few more years before this became a reality.

Minister for MICA, Mr Lee Boon Yang, widely speculated to retire in this reshuffle, with Dr Vivian, the Second Minister replacing him, still helm the top post in MICA. It was also earlier speculated that if Dr Vivian were to replace Mr Lee in MICA as the Minister, there would be a vacant post of Minister in MCYS and a new minster for MCYS would be appointed, but it did not happen.

Senior Counsels Alvin Yeo and K Shanmugam were hottly tipped to be the next Law Minister before the appointment of the latter for this position.

Straight after the elections in year 2006, 5 new candidates assumed top office: Grace Fu, Lui Teck Yew and Lee Yi Shyan were appointed MOS, Masagos as SPS and Teo Ser Luck as PS. In this latest cabinet reshuffle, only Lee Yi Shyan and Masago retained their current offices title though the latter assumed another post in the Home Affairs Ministry.

Plans for Joo Chiat SMC where SMOS Lee Yi Shyan is made the Second Adviser to the constituency, together with Adviser Chan Soo Sen were also not revealed in this reshuffle.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hair Loss

Singapore Hair Loss Support Group is Singapore's Hair Loss support group for all hair loss sufferers. Discuss, learn and share. You may want to send your questions, hair loss combat tips or share your story with all of us. Email: acer_apex@yahoo.com.sg now!Personal details not necessary, just your name and your area of residence will do. Thanks!



More and more Singaporean men are losing their ‘crowns of glory’ and this trend may be getting earlier and earlier.

On the streets in these recent years, we may spot a relatively number of young men who are bald or balding. Compare this phenomenon to say ten years ago when this phenomenon is not commonly seen. This balding trend among Singaporean men is sparking an increasing proliferation of hair treatment centres. Hair treatment centres have practically sprung up all over the island with the likes of Beijing 101, Yunnan, Svenson, Bossin, etc.

Causes of hair loss can be hereditary, or caused by stress, drug medications, poor diets, oily scalp etc and these causes manifest into the many forms or types of hair loss such as male pattern baldness, telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, etc.

A normal human loses about 50 to 100 hairs per day and this loss is not alarming. However if more than this number is lost per day, one should seek a doctor before it is too late.

Hair grows from follicles, and if one balds and takes no actions, the follicles will eventually die and there will be no more growth. It will be too late for any action. Note that when I say bald, normally a human will not go totally bald, the follicles at the sides of the human scalp, the parts above the years are programmed for life, and hair grows for life at these particular areas. Balding follows a pattern known as the Norwood chart.

There are three stages of hair growth: anagen (the growing phase), catagen (the intermediate phase) and telogen (the shedding phase). Hair loss occurs when the hair grows and sheds fast. The average life cycle of a hair is 2 to 3 years and each hair growth to fall can last 25 cycles, balding occurs when these cycles are accelerated and completed so fast that the cycles end, the follicles dies off and the hair can never grow back again.

I understand in this post, there are many jargons and technical terms that are used. The internet offers a rich array of resources for which one can research in depth and understand more about hair loss. In this post, I will just roughly summarize what I understand and experience about hair loss from my studies and very own personal experiences.

In the past, I have very thick volumes of hair so much so that I complained about having to go to the barber often as my hair grows so fast. Showering, there would be no hair lost as my hair is so strong.

Following a medical treatment some two years ago from a supposedly reputable clinic and consuming the drug nimigen, I notice hair loss, my hair shed in the dozens on the bed and at the bathtub sinks daily so much so that I stopped taking this drug nimigen and stop the laser treatments. During the consumption of nimigen, my complexion becomes too dry as it is supposed to prevent facial oiliness but it overdoes. Till today, I still do not know the real reason for my hair loss though I believe it has to do significantly with the laser treatment and the consumption of nimigen. On hindsight, I shall not have carried out with the treatment and the consumption of the medicine and this doctor still asked his nurses to force me back to continue with the remaining treatments and at the same time, refuting all my allegations squarely. I spent close to $3K only to lose even more

Anyway that is the past already and nothing can be done to turn back the clock. What I want to share with readers here are my experiences and what I have gone through to combat hair loss and hopefully it can provide some useful glimpses or lessons to those who are currently suffering from hair loss.

Okay for the start, I first stopped all the causes that I believe have contributed to my hair loss and that is to discontinue with the medical treatments and the nimigen consumption. But even with that, two months down the road, the hair loss does not subside, so it was time to take some real actions.

From the internet, I came to learnt of two drugs called Propecia, an oral medication, costing about $95 dollars at that time for 28 pills, to be taken one pill a day; and a topical hair spray called minoxidil (called Regaine, Rogaine, Growell, etc in the market) also at a $95 for one bottle that can last a month.

I went to a doctor and was prescribed Propecia, taking one pill a day for three months, after which I stopped.

Why do I stop? Firstly, there was no improvement and secondly, I began to experience what was mentioned as the side effects of this drug, i.e. I begin to feel less manly, though it was a minor side effect that the drug claimed and that it affect only a small percentage of users. With these two factors, I stopped using this drug and the less- than- manly feeling, which was temporary finally subsided. I did not use Minoxidil, as I also learnt of its side effects too. I want to list down the possible side effects of these two drugs here:

Propecia: Lack of ‘manliness’

Minoxidil: Increase scalp sensitivity, itchiness, dandruff, increase sensitivity to the sun

And the most important drawback of these two scientific proven drugs is that once you stop using these two drugs, whatever new hair that you have grow will fall again! Thus these two drugs are to be used for life! Imagine the cost involved to maintain these newly formed hair: $100 (for each of these treatments per month), this amount translates to $1200 and more per year, and so on ......

So after ending the use of the Propecia, I began to explore natural ways of cure. One method that I thought of was using mild shampoo like Johnson Baby Shampoo, however its mild concentration was not strong enough to clear the oilness of my scalp. My hair loss may be due to oiliness and dandruff as I did notice these symptoms like dandruff on my pillow.

So I decided to explore the help of professionals and there was a vast array of choices from the dermatogists and hair treatment centres.

I went to one such hair treatment centre for a free consultation and these ‘professionals’ scanned my hair, only to reveal many patches of oil and these ‘professionals’ introduced me a package to clear my scalp greasiness. The package cost a bomb and I did not like the pushiness of these professional in introducing these packages to me. Also I have heard many stories of people having spent more than $10,000 on these supposedly good cures only to lose even more hair or having no improvement seen, besides wasting their hard-earned money.!Thus, hair treatment centres scared me off at that point and I decided to consult a top hair dermatologist in Singapore instead.

It was not cheap. First consultation alone cost $80. The dermatologist inspected my hair and said there was nothing wrong. She prescribed me with two shampoo, Nizoral ($25) and a Gentle Shampoo ($21) to be rotated interchangeably daily and a sebum regulator to be applied on the scalp at night after washing ($18).

However, there was still no improvement.

(to be continued)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tibet

The unrest in Tibet caused by the crackdown of the China police on the protestors in Tibet has cast a shadow on the China’s Olympics, with some of the world’s leaders openly boycotting the Olympics.

China has claimed the protest was instigated by the Dalai Lama but this claim is still yet to be confirmed.
Steven Speiberg’s withdrawal as an artistic director for the Olympic games, the boycott of an African marathon record holder from running the marathon in the games, an Olympic backlash and a media assault by Hollywood stars, international human rights groups and US politicians to urge Beijing to make greater use of its influence to stop the slaughter in Darfur which has contributed to a crisis that has left 200,000 dead; and finally the recent Tibet unrest have all plagued China’s preparations for their first great games.
There may be political agenda in all these sudden incidents, all aimed to blight China’s Olympics.

Hailstones

It rained hailstones in the central part of Singapore today. It was reported that the hailstones were the size of 5 cent coins. The hailstones were seen mainly in Bishan, Toa Payoh and Ang Mo Kio, falling for about 20 minutes before subsiding. The last hailstone incident was reported in July 2007. Hailstones form in intense thunderstorm clouds. Such clouds develop when there is strong convection, which occur all year round in the tropics. Generally, the hailstones would have been melted before they reach the ground. However, in the presence of a strong downdraft in an intense thunderstorm, the hailstones can be brought to the ground rapidly without melting.

Singapore’s weather is really interesting and unpredictable. The moment before the hailstones fell, the afternoon was marked by especially hot and dry weather, but suddenly it rained cats and dogs in the late afternoon. I was not even aware of hailstones falling until I came back home and watched the news.

Interesting weather phenomenon of Singapore.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

MOH's ruling on aesthetic treatments

The Health Ministry on Monday 24 March 08 sent a circular to all doctors, explaining its stand on aesthetic treatments and why there is a need to 'safeguard medical standards'.
It said media reports last week on the ministry banning doctors from doing 11 aesthetic procedures might have 'presented an inaccurate picture'.
There has been some confusion on the ground, especially among doctors who offer treatments the ministry had likened to 'snake oil', as they are not backed by science.
Some doctors had been asked by the ministry to show proof that such treatment works. If they are not able to do so, they should cease offering them. Others offering similar treatments had not heard from the ministry.
Monday's circular by Professor K Satku, director of medical services, gave three reasons for the ministry's stand on safeguarding medical standards' on these treatments:
Not enough evidence to prove the safety and effectiveness of some treatments.
Reports of side effects such as scarring and infections.
Some of the medicines used have not been approved by the Health Sciences Authority - the body that regulates all drug use - for such use.
Reiterating what the ministry told The Straits Times last week, Prof Satku reminded doctors that the code of ethics clearly states that 'a doctor shall not offer to patients management plans or remedies that are not generally accepted by the profession, except in the context of a formal and approved clinical trial'.
On Sunday, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed plans to tighten regulations on who can provide higher risk aesthetic treatments, what training they need and where such treatments should be carried out.
Guidelines on less risky procedures that have 'dubious' benefits will be left to the professional bodies, he said.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Goreng Pisang

A reader of a local daily recently sparked an interest (or rather a disinterest) in Goreng Pisang (malay word for ‘fried banana cakes’) among Singaporeans when she wrote in, narrating her vivid account of witnessing a hawker in Malaysia throwing plastic straws in hot frying oil; once the straws were molten, the hawker commenced his cooking of his Goreng Pisangs in this ‘plastic oil’!

According to the writer, the hawker had cited that Goreng Pisangs cooked in this manner would turn out superbly crispy and the crispiness would last for a very long time!

Local authorities here are quick to alleviate Singaporeans’ concerns by announcing that hitherto, their regular stringent checks on food stalls selling Goreng Pisang have not discovered any acts of such nature.

Scientists here have also debunked the fact that the cakes cooked in this manner would turn out crispy as the ‘theory’ does not hold water with scientific reasoning.

Though everything may turn out well with the cooking of our favorite cake here, after hearing the report, I have, to a certain extent, feel disgusted and would not be indulging in these cakes for the time being.

There are always urban legends concerning the cooking of some signature dishes in Singapore. A popular saying in the past cited the squeezing of earth worms to yield nice fluids in enhancing the flavor of the curry used in laksas.

Singaporeans are gourmets and may not mind the cooking of food if the food goes down well into his stomach.

The Candle of Life

Glancing through the obituaries in the newspapers, I noticed the age of the deceased range from 30 plus to over 90s, with the average deceased age at around 70.

Many believe life itself is unfair, the world is unfair, and death seems to be the only equalizer. But looking at the aforementioned statistics, it seems that death may itself be unfair as some do not live long, maybe till 30 plus while for others, their candles of life do not wither off till 90 years of age. For me, I consider living beyond the age of 50 a blessing already, if one can achieve most of what he sets to achieve by then.

Imagine if one is to pass on around the average age of 70 while another lives till 90; though both are considered to be in advanced stages of ages, the difference in age is a staggering of 20 years! Can you imagine how much difference one can make and do in this amount of time (provided that one is healthy enough)?

Back to the question of fairness in death, another side of the equation is to look at the quality of life instead of the length of life. Indeed, it would not be meaningful and fulfilling if one lives to a very ripe old age, only to suffer in sickness and pain, without any family, friends and relatives. Would it be fair to one if he lives a long life to suffer in this sense? (he may find it unfair to live long to suffer and hope for an earlier end to life).

Singaporeans are living longer and the government is implementing compulsory annuity for all adult Singaporeans with monthly payouts to be given out from the age of 85 onwards. When this policy came to the forefront few months ago, many doubt whether they can live up to this age. To counter these doubts, the government drew upon some statistics to support the premise that there is a ‘significant number’ of people who are older than 85 and 100 years old.

Health is the most important element in life and it underscores the quality of living in the older years. One must constantly exercise his mental and physical muscles else degradation will set in and before long, one would waste away.

Numerous reports abound of the fact that people who have retire and spend their time at home, idling around do not last long. The government is also encouraging older workers to work and to defer the minimum retiring age to 65 or higher. The committee in charge of ageing issues led by Minister Lim Boon Heng is also promoting an active lifestyle among senior citizens, a lifestyle premised on continuous learning and upgrading so that these senior citizens can still be still of relevance to and in touch with the society. The silver industry is set to boom in Singapore in tandem with the increase in the aged in Singapore, come 20 years later. Manjong, a game once banned in the community centres is making a revival as the relevant policyholders and authorities considered it to be a healthy mental game, citing the advantages the workout could give to their minds by researchers and academicians.

Ultimately, as the famous saying goes, life is not about nature or nurture, it is about the choices one makes in life. How true is this saying! In many points in life, we witness people who are unfortunately disabled or handicapped achieve much more than ordinary man, take for example, Dr. William Tan, who though wheel-chair bounded has achieved many firsts with his many marathon feats, all within the confines of his wheelchair and raising thousands of dollars for charity! One can also be nurtured well but ultimately if he makes a wrong choice and a wrong decision follows (e.g. mixing with bad companies or picking up bad habits), his life will inevitably be affected for the worse.

Towards this goal, one shall not wait and procrastinate; rather one shall proactively seek what he wants to achieve now! One shall also seek to exercise, eat right, focus on health, develop good mental and physical strength and cultivate meaningful relationships now! There can be no better time than now! Time and tide waits for no man, life is unpredictable, our flames of life may wither anytime.

It is precisely due to the uncertainties of life (no one knows when one would pass on) which causes some to indulge in merry-making and pleasure while they are still strong and healthy to enjoy and partake in such worldly pleasures. As with many other things, too much of anything is not good.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Holi festival

Holi festival, also called the Festival of Colours, is a popular Hindu spring festival observed in India and Nepal. In West Bengal, it is known as Dolyatra (Doljatra) or Boshonto Utsav ("spring festival").
Holi - the festival of colors - is undoubtedly the most fun-filled and boisterous of Hindu festival. It's an occasion that brings in unadulterated joy and mirth, fun and play, music and dance, and, of course, lots of bright colors! With winter neatly tucked up in the attic, it's time to come out of our cocoons and enjoy this spring festival. Every year it is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March and glorifies good harvest and fertility of the land. It is also time for spring harvest. The new crop refills the stores in
every household and perhaps such abundance accounts for the riotous merriment during Holi. This also explains the other names of this celebration - 'Vasant Mahotsava' and 'Kama Mahotsava'.
On the first day bonfires are lit at night to signify burning the demoness Holika, Hiranyakashipu's sister.
On the second day, known as Dhulhendi, people spend the day throwing colored powder and water at each other. The spring season, during which the weather changes, is believed to cause viral fever and cold. Thus, the playful throwing of the colored powders has a medicinal significance: the colors are traditionally made of Neem, Kumkum, Haldi, Bilva, and other medicinal herbs prescribed by Āyurvedic doctors. A special drink called thandai is prepared, sometimes containing bhang (Cannabis sativa).
Rangapanchami occurs a few days later on a Panchami (fifth day of the full moon), marking the end of festivities involving colours.
Holi takes place over two days in the later part of February or March. As per the Hindu calendar, it falls on the Phalgun Purnima (or Pooranmashi, Full Moon), which will occur on March 22 in 2008. On the first day (22 March 2008 CE), symbolic burning of evil takes place, while the fun part of playing with colors takes place on the second day. (In 2007, Holi was celebrated on 3 March, the burning of Holika was on 4 March and the Dhuleti on 5 March.)
Holi, the festival of colours is undoubtedly one of the most fun filled festival. It is an occasion that brings joy and mirth, fun and play, music and dance and of course……………Lots of Colours…………….. rich and vibrant, flung into the air and smeared with laughter of friends and loved
ones.

In multi-racial Singapore, certain groups of Indians do celebrate this festival and as Singaporeans, we should try to find out and understand more about different races as well as their festivals and not assume that each race celebrate only a few festivals, like Thaipusam for the Indians.

Singapore is a rich cultural melting pot and living here, one gets to enjoy the rich arrays of gourmets from the different races and one also has the benefits and opportunities to get to know more about each other’s races. The onus is for one to be more proactive, ask and understand and share with the different religions and races of Singapore.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Coffee Boutique Restaurant

I had a taste of the uber-rich when I met my friends today at one of the latest coffee boutiques that have sprung up in Singapore recently.

I was not the one who had initiated going to this boutique restaurant for a coffee and I have never been to this restaurant before. However being a high class boutique restaurant, I have expected the possibly high prices of the coffee that they serve in this restaurant.

My beliefs were affirmed as I glanced through the menu, looking at prices from $4.30 onwards. I ordered the least expensive cup of coffee (at $4.30 of course), and when my cup of coffee came, I was shocked and dumbfounded.

The cup of coffee that was presented to me was nothing like that presented in the brochure. Presented in the brochure was a familiar regular-sized cup from which I normally drink my fluids, however what appeared in front of me when the waiter arrived was a super tiny cup and a miserable portion of Italian Expresso that I could easily complete it in less than one-quarter gulp! Alas, such insignificant portion of what was touted to be premium coffee commands such high prices: $4.30 and including 7% GST and 10 % service charge, the price tag this small insignificant amount of coffee commands becomes $5.03! which may be more expensive than a bowl of sharp fin in such tiny quantities!

$5.03! I can easily have two bowls of ‘ban mian’ @ $2 and two glasses of grass jelly drink @ $0.50 at a regular hawker centre that I patrol with $0.03 still spare. However, the prices of food and drinks at hawker and food centres are also increasing in tandem with inflation.

Such coffee boutique joints which sell small cups of coffee at such premium prices would still able to operate and sustain in our country as there are still many Singaporeans and expatriates who do not mind to fork out premium prices for a drink and meal at what they believe to be classy dining places. These are rich people of course!

Rain

Singapore’s weather is interesting. It never rains but pours. What seems to be a very hot and humid Saturday day in the morning was suddenly disrupted when it poured heavily in the late afternoon throughout many parts of Singapore.

Luckily I am always armed with a weapon against rain: the umbrella. I only knew how heavy the rain was when my shoes were utterly soaked as I stepped out into the deep puddles of water, braving the rain with my small umbrella.

It proved futile as the rain and wind were coming in from all directions and half of my body was soaked. Halfway throughout my ordeal to get to my destination in the rain, I felt a pat on my shoulder, and before I could realise, there was a man who had, without my consent, sought hostage in my umbrella! This was the first time I encountered such a situation and I could understand him if he were really in a rush of time, but he should have the decency to seek the permission of me before such a ‘hitch-hike’. As a result of the sharing, I became wetter than before.

However I was glad to offer some help and relief to the man who would have waited for some time before the rain stopped though his request was somehow abrupt and not courteous.

I cannot imagine if he had done the same to a lady, the lady would have been frightened by such an intrusion of privacy under an umbrella and may find this man’s act of patting on her back as a transgression of her modesty.

Singapore Short Stories

This Singapore Short Stories blog started by me had gained quite a significant following and it was ranked fourth in placing as of today by the Yahoo Search Engine. Just go to Yahoo and type ‘Singapore Short Stories’. This result could not have been possible without the support of you, yes, you reader, now reading my modest website. Feel free to recommend this website to and share with your friends and relatives should you find it interesting!

Taiwan has Decided

Taiwanese has decided today 22 March 2008 as to who would be the country’s next President after Chen Shui Bian helmed the top office for 8 long years amidst the growing dissatisfaction of the Taiwanese with this current leader of the country, particularly over the growing economic woes that the nation faces in recent years.

Ma Ying Jiu of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) faced off with Xie Chang Ting of the Kuomingtang (KMT). Finally Ma Ying Jiu garnered 58.45 % of the total votes over his rival contender to become the President of Taiwan.

This year seems to be a year of elections, first in Malaysia, then in Taiwan, and then soon in the United States. In recent weeks, the leading contender in the US Presidential Candidacy for the Democratic Party, Mr Obama had lost a number of votes to his strong opponent, Ms Hilary Clinton.

Compounding interest formula

Money grows exponentially with the compounding of interests!

Just imagine, you put in $2,000 in a bank account which has a fixed interest rate of 3% and when the interest on this $2,000 has accrued at the end of the year, instead of taking out the interest, you plough back this interest of $60 to the $2,000 that you have placed at the beginning of the earlier year to reap an even bigger interest.

Thus, at the beginning of the second year, you would have $2,060 in your account for the interest to effect on in the second year, and so on subsequently.

I have provided below a useful formula for the calculation of the amount one can receive in the nth year due to such compounding of interest:

Amount received in nth year= {(1+ rate of compound interest) to the power of n} multiply by starting amount put in Year 1, e.g. if interest rate is 15%, rate of compound interest = 0.15)

There is another form of compounding of interest rate. Say you put $300 every month into a bank deposit and at the end of every year; there will be an x % of interest earned on the amount accumulated at the end of each year. Instead of taking out this interest, you keep this interest earned so that the interest earned on the 2nd year will be on the amount you have accumulated over the past two years together with the interest.

It will be clearer with an example.

Assume you put in $300 per month into a bank account with a compound interest of 15%. At the end of the first year, you would have $3,600 and with the 15% interest earned on this amount you would have $4140. Similarly, at the end of the second year, you would have amassed ($4,140 +$3,600) x 1.15= $8,901

Let x =monthly amount put in the account
n = number of years
y = interest rate (e.g. if interest rate is 15%, y= 0.15)

The general calculation would be as follows:

1) 12 multiply by x multiply by (1+y)
2) Divide the result obtained in 1) by y
3) Calculate (1+y) to the power of n, then minus 1 from this result
4) Multiply the result obtained in 2) with that obtained in 3) to obtain the amount amassed at the end of nth year due to the compounding of interest.

Divestment of Tuas Power (14 Mar 08)

Temasek Holdings (“Temasek”) today announced the signing of a Share Purchase Agreement with SinoSing Power Pte Ltd (“SinoSing”), a wholly-owned subsidiary of China Huaneng Group (“China Huaneng”), a leading power company based in the People's Republic of China, for the 100% sale of Temasek’s wholly-owned Tuas Power Ltd (“Tuas Power”) for a cash consideration of S$4.235 billion. The transaction is expected to be completed by 24 March 2008.

The sale of Tuas Power, one of the three major power generation companies in Singapore, marks the completion of a competitive and rigorous bidding process which began in October last year when Temasek announced its plan to divest Tuas Power. This is also the first of Temasek’s three power generation companies to be sold under its long-stated plan to divest all of its wholly-owned power generation companies in Singapore.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Singapore’s Happiest Person

Who is Singapore’s Happiest Person?

A search is now on, for the Happiest Person in Singapore.

To qualify, participants in the contest must be at least 18 years in age, have good disposition and show a strong sense of belonging. They must also contribute to society. The closing date of the search is till 30 March 2008.

The search is spearheaded by Mr. Philip Merry (the link of his name with happiness is pure coincidence), CEO and founder of Global Leadership Academy (GLA) as part of a well-being conference called the ‘New Science of Happiness and Well Being Conference’ to be held in the middle of April.

Mr. Philip has indicated to the press that some 2 or 3 Singaporeans have already signed up for the contest.

A poll has discovered that 90% of Singaporeans cited life in this tiny island is stressful and many hope that there would be more fun in their lives. The poll results run parallel to a Happy Planet Index, which ranks Singapore a low placing of 131 out of 178 countries in the happiness arena.

This hunt for the Happiest Person is launched with the existing hunt for Mas Selamat still ongoing. The latter hunt seems futile as it continues into the 4th week since the escape of Mas Selamat.

Mas Selamat may be the happiest person in Singapore as he is still uncaught despites the carpet combing searches involving the whole nation and international police.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Financial Abundance

I have always thought that financial freedom is the highest level of financial status, however there seems to be even a higher level.

In one of his best-selling books, “Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires”, author Adam Khoo, a multi-millionaire himself shared with readers what he defined as the 4 levels of wealth:

a) Financial Stability

i) when you have accumulated enough liquid assets to cover your current expenses for a minimum of 6 months.
ii) you have life and hospitalization insurance to protect you and/or family’s lifestyle should you be permanently disabled, unable to work or pass away suddenly.

b) Financial Security

Through investment of time, money and ideas, you accumulate a critical amount of positive cash flow assets that generate enough passive income to COVER YOUR BASIC EXPENSES.

c) Financial Freedom

Through investment of time, money and ideas, you accumulate a critical amount of positive cash flow assets that generate enough passive income to SUSTAIN YOUR CURRENT LIFESTYLE.

d) Financial Abundance

Through investment of time, money and ideas, you accumulate a critical amount of positive cash flow assets that generate enough passive income to sUSTAIN YOUR DESIRED LIFESTYLE.

As our society evolves, ‘newly invented’ terms always enter into the lexicon of businesses, finances and other arenas.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Education and Salary

University places in Singapore are much coveted. Statistics in year 2007 attest to this fact: 34,000 applicants vie for 6,600 places among the various faculties in NUS. For NTU and SMU, the ratio of applicants to number of places in the varsity is 35,000: 5,850 and 12,900: 1,500 respectively.

There has been such a surging demand for local university places in Singapore that there will be a fourth university in the pipeline to cater to the demand, and it will be an university offering an alternative mix of subjects and curriculum like soft science, arts, etc although details have not been firmed up.

The red-hot demand for a university education in Singapore is understandable as more and more of its citizens; especially the younger ones are degree-holders. A large proportion of Singaporeans without degrees are continuing their further studies to a bachelor degree through part-time study in, long distance learning with the public and private universities.

The reason for this trend is the belief a degree will earn you more pay, or rather a higher academic qualification will earn you a higher pay.

In the recent years, many degree-holders are already on their way to further advancing their education to a Masters or a Ph.d. MBAs are the hot favourites though they can be costly too.

It is important not to be blinded by the chase for such higher degrees such as MBAs and splurge thousands of dollars to obtain these degrees, only to find that these higher degrees may not benefit one professionally ultimately. It is not common to hear stories of people with a MBA degree jobless or getting lesser pay than expected.

To a certain degree, yes, a higher academic qualification will stand one in good stead in demanding a better pay. It is common for Singapore’s Civil service to peg the pays of its officers with good degrees (such as First Class and Second Class Upper Honours) with higher starting pays than the other degrees or lower qualifications. And who can forget the scholars in Civil Service, who are blessed people, with charmed lives as they have a fast-tracked (‘parachuted’ is the term to use) career? Successful lawyers and medical professionals also earn millions annually.

But as discussed above, is just one half of the equation. There is the other half of the equation to look at.

First the statistics: 66,000 millionaires in Singapore and growing! Another tell tale sign: Advertisements after advertisements run on newspapers daily in these recent years featuring entrepreneurs running forums to teach others the skills to make the first millions towards financial freedom. Yes, more Singaporeans are getting hyper-rich and even many more are learning from the 666,000 people who have made it.

It is obvious that not all of these 666,000 millionaires are people who had sterling academic records; however they had fared much better (in pay) than their counterparts with higher academic qualifications.

Thus, it is not always true that higher academic qualifications will necessary lead to higher pays. The most important thing to achieve high pays and financial freedom is to do something you like and excel in it and most often than not, do not be an employee or be one employee but one who can command passive income too through investing, etc.

In fact, I know of many friends who did not do so well in schools now zapping the streets of Singapore in Mercedes, commanding pays exceeding $20,000 per month all at a young age.

Sometimes, a higher qualification can act as a comfort zone to people, preventing them from venturing out to be an entrepreneur for there are many things to lose if they were to fail.

Sometimes, a dose of luck and perseverance are critical to success too for out of 100 entrepreneurs starting out, 90 would fail.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Loyang Tua Pek Kong

Loyang Tua Pek Kong temple has moved to a new location 2km down the road from its old address. Click here for the new location

The old location was just next to the sea while the new location is opposite Loyang Valley.

For first-timers to the temple, please do not rely on your hardcopy of the street directories for the location of the temple if your street directory was published in early 07. You would be directed to the temple’s old location and be disappointed when you arrive since the temple has already moved, though just recently on 3 Aug 2007.

Loyang Tua Pek Kong is a unique Chinese temple as you can find a Natoh Kong and a Hindu temple in it besides Tua Pek Kong (and others Chinese deities). A little bit about its history is that someone found some statues washed to the shore years ago. Therefore, he decided to built a small shrine for it. Among those statues is Hindu God, therefore Hindu temple inside Loyang Tua Pek Kong. As time passed by, devotees to this shrine increases. Thus, it becomes a big temple nowadays.

There are major celebrations such as the Jiu Weng Ye’s celebrations celebrated at the temple at certain periods of the year.

And for tonight (15 March 08), there was a huge celebration attended by hundreds of followers, guests, with guest of honours including Minister of Defence Teo Chee Hean and MPs: Indranee, Teo Ser Luck, Charles Chong, Michael Palmer, Penny Low and Chan Soo Seng.There was a host of variety shows and singings by singers such as the popular Wong Qian Yu.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Performance Bonus

It is the time of the year civil servants receive their performance bonuses (PBs). In the coming two weeks, civil servants will not only receive their performance bonuses, special ‘growth bonuses’, would also await them for the very first time.

These PBs and growth bonuses are only applicable to performers, defined as officers with assessed performance gradings above the ‘D’ grade.

Typically, civil servants receive their performance bonuses in March, a 0.5 month of bonus in July and a 13th month plus AVC in December.

Are all the bonuses good? To be frank, the bonuses dished out in Civil Service are averages at best.

With the various bonuses being given out in these months: July, December and March, a civil servant who would like to quit would most likely try to find a ‘suitable’ month to quit so as not to forfeit his bonuses.

The December bonus is generally the most generous portion. To quantify for this bonus, an officer would have to be in service till the end of January next year; i.e should an officer decide to quit after getting this generous bonus payout, he should give a one-month notice earliest after 31 December. This is applicable for July bonuses too.

For the March PB, there is no requirement for the officer to be still in service for at least one month after this payout, i.e. he can tender his resignation (giving one-month notice) at the beginning of March and still be eligible for the March PB paid at the end of March.

However, one must take note that the abovementioned staggered payout of bonuses is not fixed for all statutory boards and ministries as each of them has the discretion to decide the months such payments.

How is the performance of the civil servants assessed? The civil service, as usual, undertakes a rigorous evaluation of the officers’ performance or so as it is claimed.

Performance evaluations no matter how well crafted to suit the very purpose of evaluation would still be imperfect.

Not too long ago, the forum pages of the local newspapers were awash with letters from readers who asked for a re-evaluation of the performance appraisal for teachers.

The main point of contention they brought out was the poor grades received by some teachers who are deemed to be ‘good’ in their eyes.

As previously mentioned in this post, performance appraisal systems created to measure subjective parameters like ‘good’ can never be perfect, though officers appraising their reportees would need to cite examples to substantiate quantities of their reportees like ‘excellent worker’, ‘proactive learner’, etc.

Back to the frays drawn by the appraising of the teachers in the previous years, readers have commented that the hallmark of a great teacher is someone who encourages learning in his students, sacrifices time, sometimes even personal time, to coach, motivate, develop and mentor his students and see them through to better results both academically and in personal development.

However, the heavy curriculum today demands teachers to balance delicately the task of doing extra projects and developing their students. It is a fine rope to be threaded.

It may not be fair to award high grades to teachers who excel in doing additional projects outside of theie normal teaching duties and score little in developing his students while penalizing teachers who may not be shouldering additional projects on top of their normal workloads, with lower grades, but who are nevertheless exemplary in developing their students’ potential.

Due to the fact that higher performance rankings translate to higher PBs and bonuses, performance grades do matter significantly to all employees, to the extent that some ‘theories’ have been formed by many civil servants after their ‘insightful’ observances on the system in some statutory boards and ministries for some time

The most common theory is if an officer was promoted last year and obtain an excellent grade, he would inevitably obtain the lowest grade or slightly better (short of being summoned for a consultation) in this year’s ranking as he has not chalked up much experience when compared him with his current grade of officers who have had much experience than him.

Obviously there would be happy and disappointed souls every year the appraisal results are published. Let us not detract these negative points with the positive aims that the appraisal systems are set to achieve. The system, like dating, cannot be perfect.

22 degree celsius

Yesterday’s night might be the one of the coldest here in recent months when the thermometer registered an unusual low reading of 22 degree Celsius.

It has been raining daily in the afternoons and evenings since the start of March; so much so that this month can actually be a good month for employees to clear their leaves; the drowsiness among many employees in this weather is inevitable and understandable.

Apart from the aforementioned reason, the weeklong school holidays in March has provided additional incentives for couples with children for taking of leaves during this period to holiday with their children.

The whole of Singapore was practically air-conditioned yesterday night. Despites the massive intensive manhunt, the cold weather and the torrents of rain pelted, Mas Selamat has still not been ‘flushed out’ by all of these natural and man-made elements (if he is still in Singapore).

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Malaysia General Election

The mass media labelled the Malaysia General Election as a ‘political tsunamis’ as 5 out of the 13 states fell to the Opposition.

Penang fell to the DAP; Kedah, Perak and Kelatan fell to the PAS and even the most industrialised state of Malaysia, Selangor, where Kulau Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia is based fell to Keadilan, Anwar’s party.

It is a political awakening for Malaysia!

Rain

March is not a month to be associated with rain but it has been raining moderately to heavily in the afternoons and evenings since the beginning of March. With the sweltering heat in Singapore, I welcome the rain though it can get inconvenient at times for outings.

The Aftermath of Manhunt

Despites the hundreds of policemen and military personnel conducting carpet-combing searches round-the-clock among the forests and thick foliage in the island, 15 days have passed since the escape of Mas Selamat from Whitley Detention Centre and he is still nowhere to be found (in Singapore, as presumed by the police).

Though Mas Selamat has not been caught, others have been arrested as a corollary of this incident.

Illegal immigrants, though few, still exist in our tiny island. The massive, intensive and thorough searches yielded around 40 illegal immigrants staking their illegal habitats in our island the previous week. The yield begs the question of whether these illegal immigrants would only be caught as a result of this massive manhunt? How did they get here in the first place? How effective are our security efforts in deterring illegal immigrants and arresting them once they land on our shore? If there is no such massive manhunt, would they still be caught?

On the other hand, 2 men, in a certain way, ‘volunteered’ to be dealt with by the law. One called the police, claiming to be the fugitive; the other, a bus driver, deliberately set the police on a wild goose hunt by accusing a man who had offended him for being the fugitive, so as to be rewarded for his tip-off.

Besides the above aftermath, the manhunt caused massive traffic jams around the causeway (stretching 8km once from the Causeway to the Ten miles junction shopping centre in Bukit Batok), as the police stepped up their checks on the motorists, their belongings and vehicles at the causeway.

The whole nation is galvanized by the combing exercises, with the same intense spirit comparable to the combing exercise conducted around this time in the previous year. The exception is that the targets for the latter exercise were mosquitoes!

Drawing parallels between the two combings, we can see that the targets of both exercises are dangerous and potential killers of man. It seems as hard to eradicate the seeming rising dengue cases last year as to capture Mas Selamat but for the former, we have at least a benchmark for success: the number of dengue infection cases reported, whereas for the case of Mas Selamat, there is no benchmark; the sole success is to capture Mas Selamat. We achieved success in containing the dengue scourge the previous year, would we achieve the same for the capture of Mas?

The whole nation is involved in both combing exercises, with the nation actively eradicating potential mosquito habits and breeding grounds in the exercise last year whereas for the ongoing combing exercise for Mas, the whole nation is on the lookout in their daily lives for any person who resembles Mas Selamat.

Manhunt has its historical roots. In historical China, the imperial court pasted hand-drawn posters of wanted fugitives on city walls, appealing for their information from the denizens, who by word-of-mouth spread the information to others, creating a multiplier effect for the dissemination of such messages. In modern times, mass media such as televisions, radios and the internet, play a significant role in the broadcasting of the appeal of information for the capture of fugitives though posters (now digitalized one) are still in vogue. Singapore has taken the call for the appeal of the fugitive’s information to an even higher plane when the various local telecommunications broadcasted at their own costs, millions of multi-media messages to its subscribers, featuring the personal information of Mas Selmat as well as his picture.

A slip-up in the security, which led to the escape of Mas Selamat has created massive implications. Only time will tell whether Mas will ultimately be caught in the arms of the law.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mas Selmat bin Kastari

Mas Selamat has not been found after his escape on 27 February 2008. Authorities here still believe that he is hiding in the forests of Singapore and the searches for this criminal are unrelentlessly conducted everyday.

Security experts reckoned that no matter how strong Mas’ willpower is (to stay inside the forests and prevent capture as believed), his physical body, subject to the strong elements, the constant maneuvering (to prevent detection) and void of little nutrition, will soon reach a ‘breaking point’ that may cause him to final surrender to the police.

But all the above may be a conjecture, who knows Mas may have left Singapore, though there is no concrete facts to prove this point.

By the way, I am bothered by the erroneous name that the Chinese TV news use for Mas Selamat: Mas Selamat Kastari. On National television, in this multi-racial country, how can such an error occur? Call him Mas Selamat or Mas Selmat bin Kastari but not Mas Selmat Kastari for Kastari is the name of Mas Selamat’s father.

This is quite a common mistake in the Western media too. Their news had broadcasted that the hunt is still ongoing for Mr. Laden (the father of Osama Bin Laden) where in actual fact, the hunt shall still be ongoing for Mr Osama, or Mr Osama Bin Laden.

The crux of the mistake of the name is not the capturing of the wrong persons but the understanding of Muslim name.

Plastic Identification Code

Mineral water are drunk by the thousands everyday in Singapore and many Singaporeans are reusing these mineral water bottles for their daily containment of potable water to work, to school, etc.

But how many of these Singaporeans understand the proper and safe use of these bottles? Just some year ago, it was reported that the chemicals making up the mineral water bottles may leak and seep into the water on reusing the bottles many times. It is also shuddering to witness some pouring boiling water into plastic mineral water bottles and water bottles, totally ignorant of the health risk of these acts.

How many Singaporeans are aware of the plastic identification code found at the side or bottom of plastic containers, mineral water bottles and their meanings?

For a deeper understanding of the Plastic Identification Code.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Africans in Singpore

Today’s Sunday Times offers an invaluable insight into the lives of Africans residing in Singapore. There are currently 3000 Africans in Singapore, with the majority residing in the Little India district.

Africans making their appearances in Singapore is a recent phenomenon. With the Nigerian scams making headlines here in recent years and the occasional brawls among the Africans in little India, there is a typical negative stereotype harboured by Singaporeans towards these Africans, in general. The Africans in Singapore come from the many different countries in Africa which include the wealthier South African and the poorer Ghana. There is also a myopic assumption by Singaporeans that all the Africans in Singapore belong to one particular country. This myopic assumption is understandable given the small landmass of Singapore which may render many of its citizens to think ‘small’ too in geography. Try asking a foreigner what is the weather of his country, and you will get a smile. For indeed other foreign land masses are much bigger than Singapore and hence there is a diverse range of climates from one part of the country to another part.

Africans coming to Singapore are often attracted by the promise of good job prospects here and to escape the chaotic civil war infighting in some of the African countries. A typical African has to save on average US $2000 to travel to Singapore. A number of these Africans were duped by bogus employment agents so much so that they have to resort to sleeping in the streets. Other Africans who were not so unfortunate set up businesses in Singapore. Example, one electronic trader could easily sell off a second-hand computer he picked up in a flea market in Little India for more than three times its value back at his home in Africa.

There have already been some brawls among the different tribes of Africans back in Africa. The presence of the diverse groups of Africans, all congregated in tiny spot of Little India hence inevitably lead to arguments and even brawls that one may occasionally witness in Little India. Hence Singaporeans should not assume Africans are belligerent people due to the occasional fights.

The report serves as an intelligent insight into the lives of Africans here in Singapore. Hopefully some Singaporeans do read it like me so as to view our African friends in Singapore with a different and better perspective.

Who wants to be a millionaire?

Singapore boasts of some 66,660 millionaires, more than enough to fill the old National stadium.

‘Millionaire’, a status so coveted by Singaporeans in this era! To be one, Singaporeans can consider some of these three options:

a) perform exceedingly well in school and co-curricular activities and land a prestigious President’s scholarship, or PSC scholarships and stick to civil service and be automatically promoted ranks after ranks towards the higher helms of civil service
b) consider a career in investment banking
c) be an entrepreneur

Of these three options, the most common route towards achieving that first million is to be an entrepreneur, though that path is laid with risks after risks.

In this modern era, setting up your own business may require little capital as ideas are the most important capitals in this knowledge economy.

Since some years ago, advertisements proclaiming to assist Singaporeans to achieve that first $1,000,000 are aplenty in the dailies. Often the taglines of such advertisements are that little time and/ or capital is needed to start a business or to engage in their programmes which will guarantee manifold increments in one’s salary.

Just two days ago, I responded to one of the dozens of daily advertisements featuring free seminars in which real-life self-made multi-millionaires shared with ordinary folks the pathway to financial independency.

I have attended such seminars before and at the end of the day, the presenters would urge the participants to sign up for a fee some programmes, to be taught the proper and tested route to earning the first million. This seminar was no exception but what surprised me was that the multi-millionaire CEO who was also the presenter agreed to waive the full fees for such training programme!

The seminar focused on the golden opportunities that could be harvested from the booming education industry both locally and regionally. The presenter who was a multi-millionaire and had several businesses locally, is currently in the education business, opening local schools recognised by the Ministry of Education which offers programmes from degrees to doctorates from well-recognised foreign universities (mainly Australian) and is rapidly expanding his businesses overseas. The board of the education business company counts business leaders the likes of Douglas Foo, Adam Khoo, etc. Basically, the company looks strong and steady.

To cut the story short, the passionate CEO urged the participants to take the first step out from the drudgery of ordinary work towards financial independency. Here is the company’s proposal.

Sign up for a fee of close to $9000 for a year of training (consisting of 26 weeks scattered throughout a year). The training would be conducted on weekends (full days) and on weekend nights, mentoring sessions are conducted.

During the training course, participants would be taught the basic skills of sales, business, marketing, proper representation of the company. The students would also sit and pass tests, examinations and attend practical sessions both locally and overseas,

After clearing the training courses and examinations, the participants would become ‘associates’ of the company and would be on the route to achieving higher incomes. Here is how:

As an associate of the company, with the training attained, the associate would help the company to recruit students overseas or locally for the vast arrays of programmes, namely bachelors, masters, doctorates and specialised programmes run by the company.

The associate would then earn a 10% commission of the value of the programme that the student he recruited enrols in. For example, if the associate recruits one student per week who signs up for a three-year bachelor programme costing $24,000, the associate would earn $2,400 per week or $9,600 per month. And if the associate were to recruit a doctorate candidate, higher commissions would obviously be given.

When a certain quota is met, the associate would be promoted to the next level, managing associates and would be sent overseas to handle overseas colleges and earning commissions from the associates’ recruitment of students as well as management of the colleges, thus multiplying his income to a higher and higher level.

Currently, the company is looking only for an optimal number of 20 more associates. The passionate CEO in a bid to help the masses of ordinary folks agreed to return the full fees for the training course to the participants provided they achieved 90% training attendance and recruit at least one student upon completion of their training. In addition, the company would hand out a free scholarship every three years to the family members of the participants or to the participants themselves for programmes run by the school.

After reading the above paragraphs, don’t you think the offers are too good to be true and to be refused? Ironically, after the presentation, despites the excellent sales patter of the presenter, many of the audience left, leaving only a few who seemed interested to sign up for the training programme.

There are only two reasons for such behaviours a) Singaporeans are not ready to take the first step towards financial independency and risk losing what they have b) they have no trust in the programme.

For those who leave the programme, they shall not treat attendances for such seminar as ‘time-wasters’. Conversely, I found it to be a good avenue to learn more on the diverse and often novel trends and ideas of getting rich from the mouth of millionaires themselves, rather than spending time in front of the black box at home.

Yes, I do get excited by these programmes, it inspires me but nevertheless there are still doubts in my mind on such programmes. Or am I as what the millionaire claimed, afraid to take the road less travelled, the first 'baby' step towards financial stability and be contented to be an employee all my life and with the few thousands of dollars earned every month?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

News this week

Billionaires (6 Mar)

Warren Buffet has ‘overthrown’ Bill Gates to be the richest man on earth with a staggering net worth of US$62 billion. List


Terminal 4 (6 Mar)

Singapore’s Minister of State for Transport Ms Lim Hwee Hua announced in the debate on her ministry’s spending plans today, that the government is planning another Airport Terminal 4, to better prepare for the surging air traffic volume in the next few years and to fend off competition in the region.

With the huge Changi Airport Terminal 3 costing 1.75 billion just open in January, it is an unexpected piece of news to many.

Terminal 4 may be built to rival Beijing Airport’s $3.8 billion third terminal, just open on 29 February 2008, which is bigger than all the five terminals at London’s Heathrow.

Singapore already has 3 airport terminals, should the 4th be built to fend off competition and to find itself to be underutilised upon completion, it would go in the way of the few ‘white elephants’ such as the Esplanade.

Murderer shot dead (6 Mar)

A police officer shot dead a man in Outram MRT station this afternoon. The man had killed his friend in a coffee shop in the vicinity just moments earlier.

It is one of the very rare instances in Singapore when a police enforcement officer opened fires during duties.

But the shot was fired as the murderer has tried to endanger the police officer with his knife within 3 metres.

Mas Selamat is still at large

It has been more than a week and Mas Selmat has not been found. The police authorities still believed Mas is still in Singapore. The week-long stringent checks on vehicles and their boots have caused massive jams on both sides of the causeway and the inconvenience to motorists that came along.

Soldiers, policemen and Gurkhas continued their search for Mas among the densely forested parts of the island, but all their efforts were in vain. Nature experts believed that should Mas be hiding in the dense forests of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, he could possibly hold out for a long period of time, subsisting on the vast array of flora, fauna and water in the forests which would serve as food. In their own words, “Mas could eat what monkeys eat as what they eat would be safe for consumption.”

Since the incident, the police has eschewed from offering a reward for information leading to the capture of Mas. However, several Singaporeans, from businessmen to real estate agents, have come forward to offer such rewards from $1,000 to $10,000 from their own pockets.

In my own modest opinion, Mas shall have left Singapore or would have been harboured by one of his supporters. The police may be engaging in a wild goose chase.


Singapore Table Tennis Women Heroines

Singapore’s women Table Tennis team put up a sterling performance at the World’s Championship, clinching the runner-up title, only to return home, without any welcome fanfare or cheers by Singaporeans and the Singapore Table Tennis Association.

Singaporeans may still be mired in the belief that our foreign sports talents are still not our ‘local products’ and hence may not really share in the pride and joy of the achievements of these foreign talents.

By the way, ‘foreign talent’ is a term uniquely Singaporean.

Singapore is Best Asian City to live

Singapore is the best city in the world for Asian expatriates to live in mainly due to its quality of life and low crime rate, a survey released Tuesday 4 March 2008 by ECA International showed.

Singapore is indeed a nice place to live in though I do dread the long working hours put in by many Singaporeans at work which made taking a nap in the buses, trains among employees such a common sight.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

5th day of hunt

The hunt for Mas Selamat seems more knotty as it continues into the fifth day. Pierce reservoir was searched today. But all efforts were futile.

Police revealed more information on Mas Selamat, clarifying for the first time that Mas walks with a limb only when he is running or walking quickly.

Mas Selamat continues to hog the headlines of several local and international newspapers. For instance, the Sunday Time’s today published special reports on the life of Mas Selamat.

It seemed for once Mas Selamat became an international and local celebrity! Millions of phone subscribers received MMS pictures and information of Mas Selamat. The posters of Mas Selamat are also practically all over Singapore. I boarded buses today only to find his posters were plastered on the front windscreen of buses and on their exit doors.

Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng told the local media that the hunt for Mas Selamat would continue till he is found!

An investigation panel has been formed to investigate the escape of Mas Selamat.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hunt goes carnival?

The hunt for Mas Selamat continues into its fourth day since the detainee escaped from Whitley Detention Centre on the evening of 27 February 2008.

Besides calling upon the Interpol to help, Singapore has issued a global alert for this wanted criminal.

Back at home, the hunt for Mas Selamat drizzled down to the grassroots. This morning and afternoon, several Members of Parliament and their grassroots volunteers made their rounds into the heartlands of their constituencies, giving out posters and information of Mas Selamat, appealing to the public to call the police once they spot the top wanted man.
The scene was akin to the hustings prior to the General Election, only difference was that the posters did not contain the election candidates but that of Singapore’s most wanted man.

There was not a fitting word to describe the style of the hunt than that of ‘carnival’ as besides the aforementioned husting-style scene, some schools carried out emergency drills, exhibitions against terrorism to drive home the message of anti-terrorism. A large percentage of the Singapore Police Force and Military Force were also deployed, not to mention the vast array of different military and defence automobile. Thus it seems for once, these days, there is a National Day cum Election where the almost full military might of Singapore is displayed and the public engagement via the Members-of-Parliament, grassroots volunteers were set in full swing. Even local private companies also come to the fore to give out flyers on the wanted man. Singtel, M1 and Starhub even sent out MMS containing photos of Mas Selamat to its subscribers. All these efforts are spent just to nab one limping criminal! But it is inevitable as the cat has been let out of the bag and all efforts must not be spared to capture this cat. You can call me sarcastic but I am really disappointed at the Singapore’s security system.

I read in the news that a Singapore Post van was hijacked hours after the escape of Mas Selamat and it has not been found at this moment of writing. The police could not comment further whether this case was linked to the case of Mas Selamat.

Meanwhile, the Singapore Military Force cordoned off Bukit Batok nature reserve, a likely hideout place for Mas Selamat due to its large hectares of forests.

In my opinion, Mas Selamat could not have survived in the open without food and drink for such a long period of time, he might have been harboured by some of his supporters. It is unlikely that Mas had fled Singapore.

IF the police and the military are not be able to find Mas Selamat over the next few days or weeks, should a bounty on Mas Selamat be made?

IF Singapore is not able to recapture Mas Selamat, it is indeed unthinkable since it was also reported that security experts may believe Mas may link up with Indonesia’s most wanted criminal Nordin, another JI’s top leader who was still and large and perpetuate morbid terrorist plans !

Including this case, Singapore has suffered many flaws in its security system, cases which included that of Dave Teo Min (carrying a M16, loaded with live rounds, wandering freely after escaping from his military camp’s guard duties), Ah Hao (murderer of Huang Nan) walking easily and nonchalantly along the causeway and entering Malaysia without any kind of intervention and the like.

Singapore shall revamp its security system. Too often, I witness many old guards at MRT stations whose duties are to check the bags and belongings of suspected passengers. Are they trained or fit enough to ward off terrorists?

Apology from the Home Affairs Minister may not be enough to appease Singaporeans, hopefully Mas Selamat could be captured, following which his ministry should provide a full explanation of the escape of Mas Selamat and plans to avoid such incidents in the future.

This incident has exposed some flaws in the Singapore’s security system. Yes, there can never been a flawless security system, but the escape of Mas Selamat certainly needs serious explanation!

Too often, I have watched the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) touting its professional might on TVs, in advertisements, but I am really concerned whether SAF can really protect Singaporeans in the face of terrorist attacks, as it is already so many days and SAF still could not capture a limping Mas Selamat despites spending lots of resources and manpower.

Ironically this event become the hot news that galvanised Singaporeans into action just after the bid for the Youth Olympic Games

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