Saturday, November 29, 2008

A Device to lower your electricity bills?

I was at SITEX today, wondering around the endless booths selling all kinds of computer related stuff. Then I found this little booth selling a device that claims to help you lower your electricity bills.

Out of curiousity, I asked the saleman how it works. He happily explained to me that the device is actually a capacitor, and it helps to smooth out the current surge in the supply line from the power company. He also showed me some actual electricity bills to prove the effectiveness of the device.

I never liked power engineering during my university days, but the whatever little knowledge that I can still remember doesn't make me believe that putting capacitors to the supply line will improve your electrical applicances' efficiency. I do agree that putting a good capacitor will smooth out current surge, your supply will be more 'clean' and stable. It may also improve on the power factor (which may help to improve efficiency).

I voiced out my doubts to the saleman. The poor saleman, who is not from electrical engineering background, had a hard time. I didn't want to embarrasse him or make life difficult for him, just that I wanted to learn. At the end, he told me the device will not be effective if your monthly electricity usage is low.

Judging by the number of people who came to enquire about the product, looks like products that have good efficiency will be in higher and higher demand in the not to distant future....

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


My first contact with eBook was reading Dan Brown's Demons & Angels. It was quite different. Instead of hold a physical book in your hand and flip the pages, you click your mouse :D And if you wish, you can read the book anywhere on your PDA or handphone.

eBook is also good in the sense that it gives large saving in printing and material cost, and it can help lower the publisher cost, as well as the shipping cost. I have been looking at some eBook auctions at eBay, everybody is offering 'free shipping'. I just couldn't stop laughing when I saw that. eBook 'shipping' is nothing more than just a click away. :D

I am also thinking of compiling all my previous writings on microstock into an eBook as a beginner's guide. Do you think anyone will be interested to buy it? Any way, I just started the first few pages. Hopefully, it will be ready after new year. Curious to see the response.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shopping Time -- The Christmas Season

It is the time of the year for everybody to happily shop around again. It is the Christmas shopping season. Walked around Orchard and City Hall areas over the last weekend. Many shops are having discounts to attract customers.

5-10% discounts are easily available almost every corner you turn. 15-20% are not uncommon. And then you see more steep discounts varying from 50% to 70%. (Lee Hwa is the one having the 50% discount, so ladies....)

However, those discounts are very much subject to scrutiny. Some of the items still cost about the same as a few weeks ago after the 'attractive' discount. If you are a consumer of short-term memory, or have no sense of prices, you might be duped into believing you are having a good deal. So, please, when you shop around and happily grapping the bargains, make sure they are the real bargains, ok? :D

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rich Dad's Cashflow Quadrant

Title: Rich Dad's Cashflow Quadrant - Rich Dad's Guide to Financial Freedom
Author: Robert T. Kiyosaki/Sharon L. Lechter

This is another book in the Rich Dad Poor Dad series. I always like Robert's books, his books kind of shape my view on my personal financial matters.

In this book, he outlines the 7 steps to finding financial fast track:

1. It's time to mind your own business
2. Take control of your cash flow
3. Know the difference between risk and risky
4. Decide what kind of investor you want to be
5. Seek mentors
6. Make disappointment your strength
7. The power of faith

He classified investors to 7 different levels, and I am at level 3, the so-called 'pig' investor who is always loosing money, buy high, sell low. It is high time I broke this 'curse', or 'norm', and advance to the next level. :) Working hard to achieve it...

This is a book that you should read, especially if you are like my own dad, who still insists that the flat he is living in is an asset.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kyoto 1: Kinkakuji (金阁寺)

Kinkakuji, or more commonly known as the Temple of Golden Pavilion, is one of the most famous temples in Japan. It is almost like the symbol of Japan.

Japanese temples have a distinct difference from Chinese temples. Chinese temples tend to emphasis on the statues, which is quite understandable because that's precisely the reason many visitors are there. Japanese temples tend to emphasis more on the garden, or the 'feel'. Their statues are in general quite small, sometimes even hard to see.

Being a famous temple in Japan, Kinkakuji is always crowded, with bus loads of tourists from in & outside of Japan, and the many many Japanese students embarking on their 'study' tour. Then I admire the foresight the founder/architect of Kinkakuji had. What do you hate most at touristic sites? Whenever you want to take a photo, there are always crowds of other tourists in the backaground! In Kinkakuji, you have less of such problem.

The golden pavilion is built at the one side of a pond called the 'mirror' pond. Tourists can't step into the golden pavilion, but only to admire its beauty from the other side of the mirror pond. As a result, everybody has a clean and beautiful photo of the golden pavilion, without the crowds of tourists in the background!
The admission is 400 yen. Their admission ticket is no other than a charm on a piece of paper that will protect you and family from any harm :)
Definitely this is a place you should not miss if you are visiting Kyoto.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not So Budget Budget Airlines

The budget airlines claim to be give the passenger the best value for money, but is it really true?

I just bought an air ticket from Tiger Airways. The cost of tax & surcharge is SGD$170.00. At the booking site, how this SGD$170.00 came about is not explained. In comparison, for a similar route, it is only SGD$64.00 total for tax & surcharge for SIA.

There is a new rule that came into effect on 1 Nov 2008, that all air fare advertisements must indicate the fare inclusive of both tax & surcharges. Even with that, Tiger Airways still has other hidden charges.

1. Cost of check-in luggage: SGD$10.00/check-in luggage per sector
2. Cost of selecting your seat: SGD$10.00 for any normal seat; more for emergence exit seats
3. Cost of paying your air fare by credit card: SGD$5.00

It is not really fair to charge extra for paying by credit card, as there is no other payment method other than paying by credit card!

Tiger Airways has one more trick that you must be careful. For example, if you want to buy a ticket from Hong Kong to Singapore, you can have the option to pay in Singapore dollars or Hong Kong dollars. If you choose to pay in Singapore dollars, better check out the exchange rate first. The rate offered at Tiger Airways' website is much lower.

Considering Tiger flights always set off at odd hours, you have to pay many hidden charges, you may need to take a cab to catch your flight, you need to pay to get your food or drinks on board, the total amount sometimes can explode to close to what you pay for a normal airline.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lonely Planet Guide Book on Japan - Great Disappointment

Lonely Planet guide books are getting more and more expensive over years, but the quality is getting worse and worse. After my disappointment with their guide book on Europe, their guide book on Japan is another big disappointment.

Firstly, it is bloody expensive. SGD$50 plus dollars.

Second, this guide book does not really sound like a guide book, more like a hate book. The authors are frequently critising the places they mentioned, especially the more famous Japanese sites. In some cases, their criticism is right; but many other times, their criticism is more because they, as most of them are non-Japanese speaking, non-Chinese reading western travelers, they have no clue about the cultural significance of some of the places, how precious some of the treasures are. Disrespectful, demeaning languages or tones are used to describe many of the famous Japanese temples. Those authors have no understanding of Japanese Buddhism.

Third, the places they recommend for lodging are totally out of the question. It is not even possible to make a booking. Probably everybody is having a Lonely Planet guide book and everybody wants to book the same few lodgings recommended by Lonely Planet. The book gives the reader a false impression that good accommodations are far and rare in Japan, especially those cheap and good. The fact is nothing but the contrary. Japanese hotels/ryokans/budget hotels may have small rooms by western standard, but they are usually well-maintained, clean, decent and most importantly, affordable by any average traveler.

Fourth, the guide book confuses you more than giving you a clearer picture. Reading the guide book make me feel dizzy about Tokyo. It gave me the impression that Tokyo is like a huge maze. Again, it is nothing but the contrary. Spend a little time to do your research, get hold of a Tokyo map, everything is clear. Tokyo is a well-planned city. Once you get a hand of it, you will have no trouble going around. For example, in the guide book it makes Harajuku sound like millions of miles away from the Tokyo station, while it is just along the green JR line, and it takes about 30 mins to get there from Tokyo station. Straight forward.

If you need to get information about Japan, do your research online. There are plenty of information freely available to you. Spending 50 bucks on a hate book is not worth the money.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kyoto 1-Day Bus Pass

Kyoto does not offer any 1-day or 2-day pass for all transports like Osaka, however, it does offer a 1-day bus pass. The cost is 500 yen, free for all Kyoto buses, but not valid for subways.

This 1-day is good value for money if you make 3 or more bus rides. The bus fare in Kyoto is skyhigh, 220 yen for adult and 110 yen for children as long as you board any bus, regardless of travel distance. It will cost you a lot if you make a few bus trips.

The Kyoto bus network is efficient and buses will bring you to all the major tourist attractions. You can get the 1-day pass at the bus terminal or any bus that you board. Ask the bus driver. And get yourself equipped with a Kyoto bus map. It will prove very useful. I am not very sure about the English-speaking only tourists, for me, I grapped the bus map in Japanese. The Japanese bus map is more useful. You can point at the place you want to go and ask questions to the locals or the bus driver. If you use a Japanese map, they may not be able to understand what your question is. And of course, the bus map is full of Chinese characters, many have the exact meaning as they are known in Chinese.

Plan your trip carefully in Kyoto though. Buses can be very crowded during rush hours, or when students go to school and come back from school.

Btw, this Kyoto 1-day pass used to cost 700 yen back in 2001 (?), thanks to long-lasting deflation in Japan, now it is only 500 yen :D

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Black President for USA

Mr Barack Obama, an African American, became the President-Elect of the United States of American, a first BLACK president of a dominantly white country.

He won by large margins to his opponent John McCain. Before the election, pollsters showed the two of them were very close to each other without either one being an obvious winner. And the media was speculating that the racist white Americans would ditch the black Barack Obama on the election day itself.

Well, maybe the opinion polls helped Obama, because they gave the voters an impression that as the two were so close in the polls, if they didn't vote in Obama's favour, Obama may actually lose to McCain!

And of course, one person who must not be left out of Mr Obama's thank you list is the junior Mr Bush. If he didn't mismanage the country and get this once wealthy country into piling debt, then Mr Obama might not even have a chance.

Oh, never mind. A great day to remember...