Saturday, September 28, 2013

Annoying Alarm Clock

Recently, one of my neighbours set his/her alarm clock to ring at 6am.  That's pretty fine if the alarm clock can wake up its owner in time.  Unfortunately in my case, that alarm clock can ring so loud that the whole block can hear it, but its owner.  On Monday, the alarm went off at 6am sharp, and kept ringing and ringing until 6.23am.  It is still not that bad, at least it only rang for 23 minutes, long, but still tolerable.

Then today, that same alarm clock went off at 6am again, as it has been programmed to.  But then can you guess how long that it rang?  From 6am till 8.30am!!!  Two and a half hours!!!

I was waken up by the alarm, and tried to find the source to no avail.  The alarm just kept ringing and ringing and ringing, never a minute of silence.  Out of frustration, I called our friendly neighbourhood police at around 8am.  They sent someone down at around 8.15am.  The officer said the sound sounds like an alarm clock, they could only see what they could do, but it was difficult to locate the source.

At 8.30am, the alarm finally stopped.  I don't know whether the alarm clock woke up its owner eventually or our police officers managed to locate the alarm clock.

I hope this will not repeat in the coming days.  

Friday, September 27, 2013

It Pays to Do Your Price Comparison

I must say I am not a very price sensitive guy.  If I want to buy something, I will just buy the item when I see it, as long as the price is within reasonable range.  Never did I realize even for small items, the price difference can still be quite a lot.

For example, I like the Nin Jiom herbal candy (original).  The small can at Watson's goes for $3.30 as its normal price.  In the period of discount, it is $3.00, as 10% discount.  Just a few steps across Watson's, at Unity, you can buy the same can for $2.95, as its normal price!

The absolute difference is very small, just 5 cents in one case, and 35 cents in the worst case, but still it shows how prices can vary on some minor items that you thought the price was universal!

It really pays to do some price comparisons, even though the amount can be small, let alone the big items who may cost you thousands of dollars.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Real Estate Bubble?

There has been quite a lot of talk of a real estate bubble in the brew in Asia for some time, but it has never come to me that it would be this heuristic until I read this blog post from a fellow Singaporean investor.

To my limited knowledge, I only knew that we could at best borrow 100% of the value of the property from any financial institution.  Years ago, a Malaysian property expert once told a small group of people that the banks are your best friends, as they will finance your debt, you only need to pay 5% of the value of a property, and the bank will take care of the rest.

At 120% loan ratio, of course people can buy a lot more properties and they will do very well under a very low interest rate environment.  What if the rates go up?  What if there are too many properties available for rent, everyone is a owner and everyone is looking for a tenant?

There are arguments to say that if there is another financial crisis in Asia, then anyway the interest rate will continue to remain low, and some governments will continue to print more paper money to devalue their currency.  In that case, real estate will only become more expensive in local currency terms, and you can preserve the purchasing power of your hard earn money.  It is much better than putting your money in the bank to depreciate every single day.  The fallacy of such an argument is that under that scenario, would you still be able to find a tenant who will pay a rent that can cover your mortgage?  In the worst case scenario, can the rent cover both the mortgage and your & your family's living expenses?  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno is famous writer Dan Brown's latest installation of the series of Professor Robert Langdon's adventures.  In previous works, Dan Brown had brought Robert Langdon from Italy to United States, and stirred up the world controversy with the Roman Catholic church.

In this latest episode, Robert Langdon again goes back to his most favourite country, Italy for his adventure.  This time, he picks the epic center of Renaissance - Florence, as the background of the story.  As usual, Dan Brown's capability to put twists and turns into his novel is never failing.  There are plenty of surprises awaiting the readers.  Beside simple surprises, Dan also makes his readers ponder about the boundary and ethnicity of the advancement of science and technology.

A weak point, or a good point about this new novel is that you can also use it as a text book for art students.  Dan spends lengthy pages to explain to the readers about Dante Alighieri, a 13th century Italian poet.

Before reading this novel, my knowledge about Dante was only up to 'heard of him before', but after reading this novel, I got quite some education about the poet, and a glimpse into the history of Florence.
In addition, this novel can also be used as a guide book for Florence.  When I last visited Florence, I had not much clue about all those naked men standing at Piazza Vecchia, other than the most famous Mr David.  Inferno gives you some useful information, telling you who is who.

I must say this book is still a good read, but after reading 3 of his previous works, The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, The Lost Symbol, the novelty of his style is a bit worn out, and the lengthy art history may put some off.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Microstock: A Caste System

The Caste system in India is well known around the world, and the system is now being 'introduced' into the modern Microstock industry.

In the past, contributors can join almost as many sites as they wish, without any obvious disadvantage, only advantage as you can sell your images to much more people, with a much bigger client base.  That has changed in the past one or two years.  If you are not exclusive with them, your images may not even have a chance for the buyers to see.

In the past, once I had some new uploads, the new images will get their fair share of views from the buyers, although they might not buy eventually, but at least I had a chance.  Now, if you are not exclusive, your new images immediately go to a second class 'category'.  They will not show up on top of the search results.  I was scratching my head why my new images don't even have a single view, and that's the answer.

This is in particular with one of the most influential microstock agencies.  Luckily, there are still other agencies for you, but then they are also introducing new measures, such as putting you on different levels based on your past performance.

Microstock is getting tougher and tougher.  Anyway, it is my way of sharing my photos at least then they don't just sit in my harddisk drive doing nothing.   

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hamanoya@Marina Square

Had lunch at this newly opened Japanese restaurant at the revamped Marina Square shopping center.  The ambient is quite alright, the green tea is served with typical Japanese tea set.

We ordered a total of 3 dishes to share among the two of us.

The yakitori don has a nice presentation, making you feel good.  Yakitori don, if you have no idea about Japanese or Japanese food, basically it means skewered meat with rice.  The small little chicken wings are more on the dry side, not much juice left.  The sausage is, well, you know, processed meat.

The part of Japanese cuisine that I like very much is actually their small side dishes, the preserved vegetables.  Mmmh...It is not very healthy, but they taste good.  For example, this preserved reddish is crispy and a little bit sour, just nice to enhance your appetite.

I am not very sure whether beef tataki is something original in Japanese.  It seems to me it is more like a borrowed way of cooking beef from Western food.  They slice the beef into thin slices, then use a gas gun to briefly sear the beef.  The version we have at this restaurant is more on the dry side, the juice is gone.  However, I must say the presentation is nice.

The great expectation of the lunch is the Ayu Fish.  We had seen it on TV times and again, and it is always with great praises.  Our Ayu fish came about half an hour's time.  The presentation again is nice.  I had the honour to eat the head half of the fish.

I must say the experience is not very pleasant.  Firstly, the fish is obviously the frozen type, hence the meat is a bit soft and tasteless, less the taste of salt.  I can quite understand this, no matter what, we are thousands of miles away from Japan.

Secondly, the belly portion of the fish is bitter!  This is quite obvious that the fish was not properly prepared or selected.  I dislike bitter fish!  The aunty at my neighbourhood supermarket may have problem in cleaning the fish properly, that I have no complaints, but we are in a restaurant.  The minimum standard is to provide your customers with proper food.

The Art of Thinking Clearly

The Art of Thinking Clearly, a book written by Rolf Dobeli, a Swiss national working in the financial industry.  A best seller in Europe and a book that has been translated into many different languages.

The author points out many human fallacies in his work.  Such fallacies are common, natural and sometimes programmed by our genes inherited from ancestors, and as a survival skill from the ancient days.

Rolf lists down a total of 99 of them, and at the end of the chapter, he would provide some suggestions as how to avoid, or at least minimize the chance of falling into such natural traps setup by ourselves.

The book is awakening, and gives you a new look at life from a different perspective.  It keeps your mind sober, helps to clear the clutters.  However, it is always easy said then done.  So many of them are almost like natural response from any human being.  To change the behavior, you need consistent and constant training, which is not something without pain.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to improve his/her decision-making process.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tim Ho Wan (添好运) Singapore

Tim Ho Wan is a Hong Kong dim sum restaurant with a Michelin star rating.  When it first opened its doors here in Singapore at Plaza Singapura, the queue at the restaurant was insanely long.  People waited for 3 hours for their turn.  Now, it has been months since its launch, and with a second branch opening, the queue is still long.  Under normal circumstances, I would not even consider this option, but then a long time friend came to visit us from Malaysia, and he wanted to eat at Tim Ho Wan.  Ok, just for that, we decided to go there.

My friend started queuing at 7pm at its Plaza Singapure branch.  We joined him at 7.30pm.  By the time it was our turn, it was already 8.45pm, almost like just 45 minutes to the last order.

We reckon we will never come here again (because of the long queue), we basically ordered almost everything that was on the menu.  And our table was full of food!


1. Baked Bun with BBQ Pork

This is one of their four signature dishes.  The crust is crispy with light fragrance.  The BBQ pork is tender and there is quite some sauce in it.  I will say this is the best of all the dishes.  No photo?  Hahha...We were too busy fighting for the bun.  But luckily, you can still see the buns in the picture above, at the top of the picture, the 3 round buns, there they are.

2. Steamed Egg Cake

Another signature dish.  I like this one very much too.  The cake looks nothing special, but once you taste it, you will change your opinion.  The cake is sponge, not too sweet, and with a slight scent of fragrance.  When you bite it, the fragrance just gushes out from the cake to your mouth.  Must try!

3. Pan Fried Turnip Cake

This is a dish from my hometown.  Every Cantonese is supposed to be able to make this.  Yes, I can, but not very good.  Tim Ho Wan's version is very nice.  It retains the sweetness of the turnip, but skillfully gets rid of the slight bitterness in every turnip.  The turnip and the flour are organically combined together to present to the patrons a stimulation of the taste buds.

Other than the signature dishes, we also ordered many others on the menu.  They were all of good quality.  However, they were not that exceptionally good that I should wait for almost two hours for them :)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Singapore Night Festival 2013

Singapore Night Festival started from 23 Aug, and ended last night 31 Aug.  Over two Fri/Sat nights, there were a series of night activities, light shows in the Bra Basah - Bugis area, and together with the free admission of museums too.

The facade of National Museum has been used as the giant screen for projection.

Colorful animation is being projected to the facade.  There was supposed to be some live performances, but unfortunately it was partially cancelled due to a technical glitch.

On another side of the museum, people could have a taste of 'playing with fire', with sabre-like light sticks, not the real fire, of course.  And people can also have a taste of doing some acrobatic stunts.  You see this young man was to have the experience of being supported by the legs of the performer.  Brave young man.

It was a great way to spend your time on a hot summer night.