Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm Excited About The New Birth Rate Boosting Measures

baby
Story source: New measures to boost birth rate to be introduced in August
Nope, I'm not going to become a father anytime soon.

I'm just excited because I'm interested to understand the minds behind the new measures. In this case, I just want to know if the policy makers are actually diagnosing the population problem correctly.

Recent surveys showed that financial constraints, busy work schedules and lack of childcare support were top concerns that limit a larger family size.


One can pretty much cross out financial constraints. Let's face it, Singaporeans are not poor. There's no way they can't afford to have a baby. Yes, I have no experience in the economics of having a baby but why is it that I'm so sure that it's affordable. Because I'm using the word affordable instead of expensive.

The new measures must understand the motivation of couples for wanting to have a baby and for not wanting one.

My personal argument for the low fertility count has always been that people just have more things to accomplish and get done nowadays. You can bet that having a baby isn't very high on the priority list.

I'll put it bluntly. Having a baby is small obstacle slowing people down towards their goal. There's no such thing as a main focus when there's someone whom you're responsible for. With no main focus, naturally, everything proceeds slower.

The new measures, whatever they are, better hit the nail on the spot. Give people time, even if it means not giving them directly. Such as having more childcare support, which is already mentioned in the survey.

We're a time starved nation. We have money but no time. Give us time.

I Didn't Like The Dark Knight

the dark knight
I didn't like the first Batman either. That's not to say that the movie was bad. A movie can be great but that doesn't mean that it would be liked by people. I didn't like Lord of the Rings. I didn't like Pulp Fiction.

There was something missing in the movie.

Batman's not struggling hard enough. You don't get the feeling that Batman's vulnerable even when buildings around him are exploding, people are dropping dead like flies. You just know that Batman's going to win, and win by not killing his enemies. So what's different here?

What's Batman fighting for? To clean up the streets? Throughout the movie, there was chaos created by Joker that at the end, you wonder why Batman even wants to try. What's Batman trying to bring back? What was lost?

rachel dawes
Maggie Gyllenhaal wasn't the a great cast as Rachel Dawes. She doesn't have the glow Katie Holmes had. Maggie Gyllenhaal also looked pretty tired in the movie. Even when she smiles or laugh, there wasn't any glow. There's always a glow when a good screen actress smile on screen. Always. I've just watched Black Book a few days again and the lead actress' smile still stayed very clear in my mind.

joker

Heath Ledger's role as Joker was fantastic. Somehow, I felt that it was the character itself that was great. The no-rules thing with him was very frightening. He was worse than a terrorist because he has no motive except to kill. Just like Alfred said,"Some people just want to see the world burn." And that's just scary. How do you fight with someone who has nothing to lose?

Batman in a way is like Hancock. Because he couldn't kill the Joker when he had the chance, he let the mad man destroyed everything in his path. There's nothing wrong with killing people, if that's not the message that wars are telling us everyday. There has to be a cause.

Overall, the screen writing was terrific. The movie was a little too long at 152 minutes. I started looking at my phone for the time at the hour mark. But I'm someone with very short attention span.

Overall: 4/5

I still liked Spiderman 2 better.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Your Mac Was Lost or Stolen. Now What?

Refurbished Macbook Pro
This probably isn't what you want to hear, but there's really nothing you can do.

Reporting your serial number to Apple doesn't help

You can call Apple to confirm that yourself. It's probably because they can't filter out true claims from fake claims. Imagine the hassle the original buyer has to go through because some saboteur reported that buyer's serial number is from a stolen Mac.

I see a lot of people posting screenshots of their Mac specifications online without masking out the serial number.

Registering your Mac with Apple doesn't help

Everyone can reinstall the Mac OS and register their name with Apple. Everyone. So what's preventing someone from registering the stolen Mac? Nothing.

Apple will however continue to honour the warranty coverage even if the Mac is stolen, provided it is still within the coverage period. That's basically saying that the secondhand value of stolen Mac is no different from that of a non-stolen Mac.

Once your Mac reach the secondhand market, it's a goner

There are tracking software that can be installed to take photos of the thief when they are using the stolen Mac. The question is, how do you know it is the thief that's using your Mac and not a genuine secondhand Mac buyer?

I've people arguing with me that they will snatch back their Mac from the genuine secondhand Mac buyer. My question to them is, whose mistake was it that allow the transaction to happen in the first place? Answer is, of course, the original Mac owner. I had to write this one out explicitly because it might be hard for grief stricken owners to comprehend.

One cannot expect the secondhand buyer to call back to Apple to check if the Mac was stolen. If you've read earlier, you'll know that Apple doesn't care about whether your Mac is stolen or not.

I've bought a lot of secondhand Mac before. Never have I made any effort to check with Apple to see if the Mac was a stolen property. It just doesn't matter even if it was stolen. There's no difference for me, personally.

Even if I know the Mac was stolen, I've no way to prove that the seller didn't get his/her Mac from the secondhand market.

Move on

Yeah, it's sad when your Mac is gone. Face the truth. If it's lost, maybe some considerate person might return to you, provided you have your address or contact information on your Mac. If it's stolen, it's pretty much gone for good.

I've never read of any person who successfully recovered their Mac other than those who write on those Mac-tracking-applications websites.

10 Cool Mac Application Websites

Alright, you probably won't need as much applications as this dude from Flickr, but it's always useful to find out where to look for stuff.



In the list below, you'll find websites containing more Mac applications you can ever think of. This list is also to help myself remember where to find stuff to download.

1. Mac Specialist has a list that separates applications that are free and those that require purchasing.

2. Top 100 Mac Apps is a compiled list of Mac applications by a blogger. Great to see what you've missed.

3. Open Source Mac offers opensource Mac applications, of course. Tremendously useful for small businesses running on Macs. Think free and legal.

4. Cool OSX Apps is basically an applications review website that constantly updates with new stuff.

5. Versiontracker is the download.com version for Mac downloads.

6. Mac Tricks And Tips is another list of top 100 applications.

7. Apple also has their own database of interesting and cool stuff. Note that demo and shareware are mixed.

8. 10 Apps Every New Mac User Should Download. Out of the 10, I've 9 on the list. It's close to essential.

9. download.com - You should already know this.

10. del.icio.us - Better than Google in the way that find popular Mac application websites through related tags.

Bonus

MacUpdate - Very similar to Versiontracker. Just in case you can't find what you want there.

FreeMacWare has a very comprehensive list of free stuff as well.

SoundSource Detects Your Earphone on Your Mac

macbook pro earphone jack
Does your Mac detect your earphone when it's plugged in?

Amazingly, my Mac Pro doesn't detect it automatically. Because of that, I have to constantly fire up my System Preferences to change my audio output settings.

If you have similar problems, you might want to check out SoundSource. After installing that, I no longer has the hassle of using the System Preferences. This is pretty amazing. I thought Apple would have figured this one out.

SoundSource download page

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ronaldinho is in Singapore

The Brazilian soccer team is currently in Singapore making a short stopover before heading for Olympics 2008. They were training at the National Stadium on Saturday. And on Monday, there will be a friendly match against the Singapore team.

I was there at the stadium on Saturday to catch some samba and star action.

Fans Waiting for Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
These were the fans waiting outside of Gate 1, where the Brazilian stars were supposed to be entering. The police officers said that they will be arriving on bus, and that wasn't the place to see the stars. These fans really have great sources.

Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
The media was waiting at the opposite side.

Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
This was inside the stadium where the workers were trying to uncover the field. It had been drizzling the whole day.

Brazil's Coach Dunga in Singapore
There it was, the bus holding multi-millionaire soccer superstars.

Brazil's Coach in Singapore
One of the assistant coaches answering some questions.

Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
I didn't know the names of these players.

Brazil's Lucas in Singapore
This is Lucas, who's playing for Liverpool.

Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
When Ronaldinho came forward for his interview, the crowd of reporters were just swarming to him. I was standing at the back, which explained this shot. At that time, I realised that a portable chair would be extremely helpful.

Brazil's Ronaldinho in Singapore
Alright, I did managed to get a close shot of Ronaldinho. I was standing on the fence beside, one head above the rest of the guys.

Fans Waiting for Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
These were the fans, waiting eagerly for the stars in the drizzle.

Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
When is the National Stadium supposed to be demolished? Anyway, the soccer players finally went onto the field to everyone's delight. One fan was singing a song for Anderson. Others were just shouting "Lucas" all the way.

Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
There were playing Monkey here, with 4 monkeys.

Dunga Showing Moves in Singapore National Stadium
Dunga showing he still has the moves.

Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
They played against themselves casually and didn't display any special trademark moves, like those in compilations you can find on Youtube. This photo is also a reminder for myself to get a telephoto lens.

Brazil Soccer Players in Singapore
These were all the fans who came to watch the training session. Man, this stadium is old.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Free Maya model: South Korea XK2 Black Panther tank

This is the South Korean XK2 Black Panther. Rendered using global illumination with Mental Ray. It should be done in Maya 7.0 if I remember correctly.

It was actually done in March 2007 but was never used. I've made it available for download under a creative commons license. It's a Maya project folder zipped up.

If you use this in your work, I would love to see it.

Enjoy.

Download via deviantART

South Korea XK2 Black Panther
South Korea XK2 Black Panther
South Korea XK2 Black Panther

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Noise Cancelling Earphones

I've bought 2 new earphones recently because I can no longer hear my podcast while travelling on the bus. I hate turning the volume way up to overpower the engine and people talking.

Audio-technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC3
This is the Audio-technica QuietPoint ATH-ANC3, which I bought secondhand. It's still brand new and very well worth the money. Great at noise cancelling and provides decent music quality with some soundstage. I can listen to podcasts on my iPod at 50% or less volume level.

One day, there was these two people quarrelling loudly about 3 seats in front of me. I couldn't hear what they are arguing about. Fantastic!

The only thing I dislike is the extra part where you have to put the battery in. Too bad it can't draw power from the player itself.

This is a very good earphone for walking around. The only minor annoyance is the noise of the wires when they are knocking each other. Yes, you can hear wires, left and right, knocking each other, when you put your earphones on while walking.

It's a terrific buy for me.

Shure se530
The next one I bought was the Shure se530.

There is no noise cancelling mechanism but the ear buds are great at blocking out noise. So good at blocking noise that it's comparable to the white earphones above. It's like putting your fingers into your ears. At night, I can hear my own heart beat when no music is playing. Seriously. You can hear yourself breath or turn your head.

This earphone is not suitable for listening while you're on the move. Sound travels by vibration. Because of that, it actually makes this earphone not suitable when you're on the move. You can hear the wires hitting against each other and your footsteps as they hit the ground. You'll have to be stationary to enjoy the music.

As for the music quality, I thought it should feature better soundstage for its price. It's definitely much better than most earphones out there, for sure. But for that kind of price, it should offer much more.

The thing I wished was probably for music to play outside of the head, which is like the real world scenario. Earphones play music in the head. For a pricey earphones like this, it should at least be able to simulate playing music outside of the head. That's coming from after listening to my dad's old Sennheiser HD 560.

I'm looking to get the Sennheiser HD595. Quite a bargain for the price. Fantastic reviews from customers. The only downside is it doesn't ship to Singapore from amazon.com! I was stopped during the checkout process.

How HDB flats are priced affordably


HDB adopts a market-based pricing approach so as to reflect the true subsidy that buyers enjoy. Under this approach, HDB determines the market value of the flat, based on its location, finish and other attributes. Then, it sells the flat at a discount to the market value. HDB buyers understand this, and appreciate that new HDB flats are priced lower than resale flats. Similarly, when they want to sell their flat in the open market, they do so at the prevailing market value, not at their cost of purchase of the flat.

We also wish to highlight that this approach has enabled HDB to continue to price its flats affordably despite the current sharp escalation in construction costs. Currently, a new four-room flat can cost close to $300,000 to develop, taking into account land, building and other costs. This is significantly higher than the subsidised price of a four-room flat in Punggol/Sengkang sold by HDB at about $200,000 to $260,000.

Source: How HDB flats are priced affordably

This is the story that's getting a lot of heat lately. I've managed to dig up a cartoon I drew in January 2007.



Readers are getting very annoyed at the revealed cost and demands a breakdown. If it's a minority who are in disagreement, it's probably no big deal. But when it's a majority, you can be sure where the problem lies with. I'm also very interested to find out because I find it highly suspicious that HDB is actually revealing the cost of construction.

My belief has always been from a macro economic viewpoint. If you keep the property prices high, people will have to work harder. That's essentially good for the economy.

Essentially, people are angry at the lack of information that HDB has been providing , or should I say not been providing, all these years.

The solution for HDB is very simple. This is just essentially a marketing or PR problem. I hope they do realise that this is a marketing problem in the first place.

First, stop beating around the bush and state the real cost of building a HDB flat, with the cost breakdown.

Secondly, don't be afraid to tell people the profit margin on each flat. There has to be a profit margin or else who would built the housing? Tell people that, loud and bashfully.

Third, listen to people and answer their damn questions straight. Understand that people can say whatever they want. Whether you want to implement it is another thing altogether. There's nothing the people can do except earn more money.

Fourth, educate the public on the concept of value. Value is the perceived benefit over the sales price. If you cannot change the sales price, improve the perceived benefit. It's basic marketing. It's like Starbucks is not selling coffee and Ikea is not selling furniture. If not, there's no chance in hell people will pay that kind of price and not complain.

Sometimes it's not about the price, it's about the value. Simple analogy, just because one's a millionaire doesn't mean one has to buy an orange for $10.

There's nothing to hide, unless there is something.

The Problem With Legalising Organ Trading

This is a very interesting excerpt from Khaw says key problem to legalising organ trade is exploitation of donors

But Mr Khaw said there is a shortage of living donors in Singapore who are willing to donate their organs to relatives with kidney failure.

He said: "In countries like Norway, when patients have kidney failure, the doctors will straightaway ask, which family member is going to donate (their kidney). And you see the whole family putting up their hands - grandmothers, grandfathers, grandchildren - everyone offers (their kidney). In the case of Singapore, I asked our doctors, (and they said) first, not many put up their hands. And, (among) the few families that do put up their hands, very few family members put up their hands."

My question is very simple. Do you think that throwing money in this case will solve the problem? Is this essentially a money problem? Are the relatives not donating because there's no monetary incentive?

If money is really the problem, when did we allow it to become the problem?

This is where the media can really help educate the public on all issues relating to kidney transplant.

One idea that I've always like when it comes to preventing exploitation is to give out money without giving out money. Instead of giving out cash amount in one lump sum, the money should be broken up and distributed periodically. Or simply given out incentives worth the cash amount, like HDB grants or something.

Razor Falls by Kelvin Chan

This is Razor Falls. A 6-page web comic done by fellow colleagues Kevin Chan (aka rocketraygun on deviantart.com and JonBob. It's ultra violent and has a ass-kicking chick. Check them out by clicking the picture below.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Singapore Formula 1 Cars

These are the Formula 1 cars that are going to be racing in Singapore coming September. Found them while doing my research.

I can't really differentiate between them though.

These cars are the ultimate business marketing machines. Just look at the number of company logos on them.

Ferrari F2008
Ferrari F2008

BMW Sauber F1.08
BMW Sauber F1.08

  Renault R28
Renault R28

  Williams FW30
Williams FW30

  Red Bull Racing RB03/04
Red Bull Racing RB03/04

  Toyota TF108
Toyota TF108

  Toro Rosso STR02
Toro Rosso STR02

  Honda RA108
Honda RA108

Force India VJM01
Force India VJM01

McLaren MP4/23
McLaren MP4/23

For more information on the team and drivers, just head on to the official website for the Singapore Grand Prix.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Even God Needs Accountability

I'm so damn right.

SINGAPORE: Head of Ren Ci Hospital, the Venerable Shi Ming Yi has been charged with alleged forgery, conspiracy and misuse of funds.

Venerable Ming Yi, who was also former Ren Ci Chairman, was slapped with 10 charges Tuesday morning.

Source: Channelnewsasia

On 24 Oct 2007, I wrote the following, with the title "Even God Needs Accountability:

If accountability isn't important, I hope these news will make you think a bit harder.

I have written something about accountability a few days back also. And it seems that this theme is coming back.

The following is not meant as an insult to any religious group. Ok, say you have god running your company now. Normally on fine days, he's running the business well. He has all the decision power to make investments for the company. He' friendly with colleagues, delivers results and likes walking his dog. At the end of the financial year, everyone gets their bonuses.

"Hey, that guy is good. Thanks to him we have bonuses," says one coworker.

"Isn't it dangerous for him to have that much power and nobody is looking over his shoulders?" said a new employee who had just graduated from NUS.

"Are you nuts? Did you not receive your bonus this year? Isn't the company doing well? What are you trying to imply" replied the coworker with a little hostility.

"But what if one day he wants to try something naughty?" said the new employee.

Everyone looked at the new employee and wonder what the hell is wrong with him. Couldn't figure it out, they walked away. Suddenly, he's left standing alone beside the water cooler.

The thing is, even if you're god, suppose that one day you do decide to do something naughty to the company. Think investing $1 billion dollar into foreign exchange without consulting anyone, because you think you're smart enough and there's not need to consult anyone. And nobody was assigned to look over your shoulders. One day, the foreign exchange crash, the $1 billion dollar vanished, and the company has to go into red for the next few quarters.

Are you still not seeing the picture? If there's no accountability, you won't even know who's doing what to the company's money!

Corporate governance and accountability should be in place in all organisation in Singapore if they are dealing with money, which they WILL be dealing with money. That's the point I'm trying to say.

It's not that I'm paranoid. It's a mechanism meant to protect the company, making sure that the company is doing well financially. That's why you're able to get your bonus at the end of the year.

Lukas Podolski

Lukas Podolski illustration cartoon
A vector illustration of Lukas Podolski during Euro 2008, where he scored 2 goals against Poland.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why Not Just Put a Fuel Meter?


From July 17, passengers on Comfort and CityCab taxis will have to pay a 30-cent surcharge per journey.

Singapore's largest taxi group, ComfortDelGro, said this is to help its cabbies cope with increases in diesel costs.

Source: Channelnewsasia

Is 30-cents the right amount?

But why not just put a fuel meter that's pegged to petrol prices? This would save trouble deciding the amount of fuel surcharge in the future. Hey, petrol stations have been doing it since they were petrol stations.

And this is my reply should SMRT decide to increase their fares. Go ahead, peg your fixed fares with a fuel surcharge.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Day 4: Macau

Venentian, Macau
Venentian, Macau
The Venetian is one of the most beautiful hotels I've seen. Seems that gold and pastel colours mix well.

Venentian, Macau
Venentian, Macau
The rooms cost upwards of $HK2000. This particular suite we reserved cost around $HK2200. There are like 3000 such rooms in The Venetian.

Venentian, Macau
They serve all types of food in their food court. Average meal price with drinks adds up to around $HK50.

Streets of Macau
Taking a cab is the fastest, most comfortable and valued for money way to get around in Macau. The fare starts at HK11.

Macau has a lot of Portuguese influenced buildings.

Koi Kei Pastelaria
Koi Kei Pastelaria
Koi Kei Pastelaria
There are no lack of shops around. This is one of the more crowded shop. It bakery and sells all things pastry.

A Lorcha
This is the best restaurant in Macau, and serves the best food I have tasted so far. The entrance to the restaurant is behind that white van.

A Lorcha location
Take a cab there. The waiting time can be quite long but it's worth the wait.

Steamed cockles at A Lorcha
Cockles steamed to perfection. The flavour of the cockles fill the soup, which you can soak up with the warm bread provided.

Chicken in sweet sauce with fries at A Lorcha
Half a chicken generously smothered with exotic spicy sauce. There's no way chicken can be cooked better than this, or at least I have yet to eat one.

Rice with seafood
Not just plain old rice. Scoop up the crab, prawns and 2 giant clam hiding underneath. Never judge a dish by its appearance!

The food there is so heavenly that even writing about it is giving me some withdrawal symptoms.

All the days in Hong Kong:
Day 1: Looking at Kowloon
Day 2: Visiting the Giant Buddha
Day 3: Ocean City
Day 4: Macau