Friday, November 20, 2009

Healthy company

The working world is very dynamic. It is very rare to see a company without any staff turnover. Depending on the type of business, the turnover rate may easily reach above 50%, e.g. hotel and service industry. Part of the issue is the long hours in those industry which does not tend to translate into adequate pay for the employees. Despite whatever turnover rate existing, I believe the spread of employee service duration can be used to describe the effectiveness of the company.

I would split the service duration in a company to short (0-5 years), medium (5 to 10 years) and long term (above 10 years). I believe that an effective company the spread of service duration should follow a kind of normal distribution where most of the employees should be in medium service durations.

Young employees of 20s to mid 30s are known to job hop and change job regularly to (1) find a job that suit themselves better; (2) negotiate better working condition. However, some of those 'lucky' youngsters will land in their dream job from day one or near day one. These are the people that would stay in medium to long term. People in medium term would be expected to have master their work and be in good productive part of their life while not being paid excessively. Thus, they are the ones which would be upholding the effectiveness and productivity of the company. Employees serving less than 5 years would be expected to still learn the rope and still climbing in productivity. Unless the company attempt to keep more of this people, the company will experience high turnover for the young employees.

Employees who have served the company for more than 10 years are known to be loyal and die hard fans of the company. They are the stalwart employees. However, their salary is often rather high compared to what they do. After all, you would have few people in the top management (normally people who has served for a long time). The rest would be low or medium level employees. Hence, their work would normally considered of lower value add but yet due to their long service, they are paid quite well.

Therefore, I believe an effective and productive company would be those with employee in medium service duration followed by a short service duration. A company that experiences a hollow medium service duration employee , i.e. lots more oldies and youngsters, may not function as effectively as they should be since the employees are either still (i) learning the rope or (ii) paid overly high compared to their value.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology marketplace - a potentially better set up?

I just visited A*STAR's website on a whim and I found an interesting link:

Looks like they are heading to a correct direction. They are offering technologies for licensing openly in the market. I wish there are more things listed there though. But then again, Singapore's R&D scene is still in the growing stage. The list there may even be considered impressive for the beginners.

However, I feel that more should be done for those patented technologies. They should be actively offered to targeted businesses or industries. A team of people whose job scope comprises of listing and finding potential companies who may find those technologies useful will serve any R&D institute well. Not many companies embrace the idea of searching technologies to buy online so to wait for one to stumble upon the webpage seems complacent. Active searching of buyers should still be the main activity.

The webpage set up could be improved as well by allowing companies to search based on their need, e.g. searching based on the type of the company, the type of technology and trying to categorize the technologies in wider manner. A technology would normally fall under several categories so they should be listed under those categories at the same time.

Another issue that can be taken up is to reduce patent applications. Patenting findings seem to be a pastime of Singapore's researchers. Unfortunately, not many of those patents really worth patenting. I think this is a credible explanation to the lack of commercialization. In fact, patent application may serve as the end point of the research without afterthought put into what will happen after that. Money spent for patenting nearly useless research findings could be well spent into bettering the technology or even channeling them to better use. Before a patent is applied, potential for commercialization should actually be assessed first. I would think that having 100% commercialization success of 100 patents are better than having 10,000 patent with 10 commercialization success.

Good idea for mall management

I went to West Mall today and I must confess that I am impressed with whoever has the idea for the escalator arrangement. The Mall is roughly a rectangle and runs two stacks of escalator at the opposite long side. It used to be set such that one stack is for going up while the other stack is for going down. In this set up, the shoppers simply walk along a side to reach the escalator for continuing their trips up or down.

Today I saw the escalator being set in a crisscrossing manner. The escalator on the next level is running to the opposite direction of the previous level. In short, the shoppers has to circle one short side and one long side of the Mall to reach the escalator to the next level. Hence, the shoppers are required to pass through 50% of the shop in one level just to get to another level regardless of whether they are going up or going down! It is a simple but really good idea, for the retailers of course.

As for the shoppers, they have to travel far longer than they are used to. In fact, more than twice the previous distance, as previously one only need to go through one of the short side.

Who wins here? I guess both as the shoppers who need to reach the level would normally know where they want to go and they shouldn't really mind the extra trips while the shop owners are also happier (especially shop owners at the long side of the Mall) since more shoppers pass their way (although most will not go into their shops, at least higher chance of having shoppers). The definite winner is clear, the Mall management, for satisfying the shop owners while not terribly turning away the shoppers.

Customer satisfaction

Recently, there has been quite a hot discussion the results of customer satisfaction survey in Singapore. The key issue is the finding that Singapore's customer satisfaction index has declined! It means that customer is less satisfied with the service this year compared to last year. In response to that, the so called Singapore Retailers Association (SRA) blames the customer! It is said that the frontline service personnel has been given training and they have improved. The customer is now to be blamed because they have increase their expectation.

How far can the retailers be from the current denial? Are really customers to be blamed for desiring more? Who are the customers? I thought customers are what the retailers want to gain. The world is dynamic and so are customers. It is inherent that people desire better situations, better products, better service and so on. The key point of winning customers is to fulfill their expectations or even winning them. So, customer satisfaction is a moving target. To say that the service improve while not managing to satisfy customers or clients are like saying that one is prepared to catch a 1 tonne fish with a makeshift wooden fishing rod (forgive my analogy, I can't find better example than this :-P). The inability of the retailers to understand what the customer wants or expects should not be turned around to the extent that customers are asked to lower their expectation. Who are to be served here at the first place? Service should not stagnate and should aim higher and higher to fulfill and exceed customer satisfactions. Efforts should be put forward to really understand customer's needs, e.g. maybe better ambient, better store set up, wider product line up or simply staff that speaks the language. Instead of complaining, the energy should be better spent on interviewing and seeking feedback to formulate real actions.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ineffective advertisement

Advertisements on "encounter of the nice kind" aka "closer" (if I remember the title correctly) that are normally put up in the MRT station have quite good stories. It talks about friendship of people from different background. However, I don't think it is effective. I would love to take a poll of how many people actually know which advertisement I am talking about. I bet there are not many people who are aware of that.

The only appealing thing (or repealing) on the advertisements are the huge number of words they use. I don't count but a simple glance can tell anyone it's far too many. Not surprising that people will not remember the advertisement or know what it talks about. MRT station is where people pass through and it's rare to see people stopping. It'll be difficult to expect people to stop, stand still and takes half a minute to read! In fact, people may actually remember "oh yeah, wordy advertisement with weird fonts and random highlights" but does this constitute effective advertisement? I don't think so. Effective advertisement is one where people know what the advertisement is about, remember clearly what it looks like or hears like and it's best if people involuntarily recall the advertisement. The advertisement on "encounter of the nice kind" (or maybe some other title... if you get what I mean here) does not seem to fulfill any of those requirements.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Fair company

Nowadays we are flooded with news about pay and bonuses in the big bank where the bonus pool is larger than profit. Then there are the other side of the stories where employers run away with pay and leave the employees without pay.

I am wondering, have been wondering for long in fact, whether it is possible to set up a fair company. Seems logical and easy but haven't even found any that is built on such principle. What I mean by a fair company is where the profit is shared from the top to the bottom. Where say a profit of 1 million goes to the CEO for about 10%, the rest is to the say, 50 employees. There must be a way to work out a fair proportion where employees feel the CEO worth getting paid that much. Doing so, everyone in the company will be spurred to work and feel ownership. This is very ideal, I realize. How do you find a CEO nowadays that care less about his pay and bonuses? How do you find a married man with less worry on how to feed his family?

But I do strongly feel that unless we as human dare to stand up and share earnings in more equally manner, all of us stand to lose. The violence in Africa is a living testament of such issue and as the few corporation complexes (fortress like) in Indonesia where the surrounding is still forest like.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

SMRT fine for eating or drinking - ungracious SMRT?

The SMRT is embarking on a new campaign, fining all passengers caught eating or drinking.

As of now, it appears that the following falls under the definition of an offense:
1. Breastfeeding
2. Baby drinking from milk bottle
3. Sucking lozenges not from doctor - someone actually has been fined
4. Sipping a drink from your bottled water - someone actually has been fined

Now, the argument is that all kind of eating or drinking is an offense unless it is a medication. It is quite easy to define, isn't it? Unless you bring your MC or something labelled as prescriptive medicine, you'll be fined. What a convenient way.

I think with the new campaign, SMRT is being totally ungracious. Does it mean that they are suggesting someone with itchy throat or sore throat to tap out of the MRT, walk out to outside station to eat or drink before continuing the journey? That's absurd. I can understand the fine imposed to people eating bread, curry puff, nasi lemak, or drink from McDonald etc. However, fining a simple sweet eating and drinking from bottled water is bordering on over zealousy. The train is by itself not a bullet train. For me who takes 1.5 hours journey one way every morning and afternoon for work, I have experienced dry throat and sort. Demanding such a customer not to take a simple sip of water during that long journey is really too much. I wonder whether Health Promotion Board or Ministry of Health can even bother to put up comment on the health benefit of drinking water. Ha ha... No way.

For now, I suggest purchasing SMRT stocks. It is one of the company that won't fail and it's stock will always increase. What you earn from dividend and stock price is guaranteed. After all, everyone is bound to take MRT, the MRT price increases over time, more leasing of F&B outlet, and hey there are always ways to earn more money. Some time ago, after complaining of price not increased over some time, they are allowed to increase the price and hey, they posted a record profit after that. So much for "public" transportation.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The patient flight to Singapore

JW Mariott and Ritz Carlton hotel was bombed yesterday morning. Soon, the news report in Indonesia reported the flight of foreign patients, bomb victims, to Singapore to seek hospitalization and cure. The news highlighted the advance of skin grafting and burn victim care in Singapore. Salute to Singapore.

On the other hand, it exposes once again the perception (and I would think, the reality) of poor health care in Indonesia. Coming from Indonesia, I know clearly doctors are among those that make tonnes of money. Lots of smart doctors but the infrastructure and the investment are just not supportive of getting some good surgeons. Unless you are very nationalistic or very dedicated to human lives in Indonesia, there seems to be nothing that prevent the doctor leaving for a better place. Yet, I would tend to think that not many countries would recognize medicine degree from Indonesia. Then, if that is such, there is a slim chance of medicine graduate in Indonesia to work somewhere else. Perhaps it is the insufficient medicine education in Indonesia to produce good skin doctors that pulls down the quality care.

Considering the chance of more attacks in time to come, more disasters, it is imperative that the government or private institution to look at bettering the healthcare of the country. I would believe that a hospital that manages to pull themselves out beyond the average hospital and claims the best doctor would at the end be able to sell the value and serve the crowd more. It is quite unimaginable why no hospital has clearly done so. What has transpired recently is more like a wanna be 'international' hospital suing a patient who complains. Then, plenty of report how those 'international' hospital is not really 'international'. I can't comprehend the wish to be 'international'. There is in no way any international hospital standard. The standard of care between Africa and western countries are definitely beyond imagination. The fundamental issue is more on the line of perception and obtaining the instrument capable of helping doctors providing the best of care. And of course the medicine education must be reviewed to get them up to date from time to time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

SSO advertisement in MRT can be better

Saw Singapore Symphony Orchestra's new advertisement in MRT train. Impressive and educative. Lots of new musical terms to learn! Simple graphics and the message is that classical music is not that complicated. The advertisement is pasted in the exterior and interior's overhead advertisement board. In addition, it is also pasted on the panel at the end of the seating row. The ads on the panel could have been improved though. It seems that the ads pasted on that panel is with graphics on the top part and sentences on the lower part, which ends up at the side of the person sitting on the seat at the end of the row. Meaning.... noone can read the sentence at all. In other words, the poster on the panel is totally useless unless noone is sitting at the priority seat, which is always at the side of the poster. The graphics could have been at the lower part and the sentence at the top part? Or perhaps change the design?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Surgical mask and N95

It seems that there are quite a number of article perpetrating wrong information on the use of surgical mask to prevent from getting flu.

Referring to

It says that surgical mask is for ill people. The mask captures whatever expelled out from the nose and mouth during coughing and sneezing. It does not seal tightly so it only blocks large droplets. However, it is still useful for the ill people to prevent them from infecting others. They are not supposed to wear N95 because they are already with nose problem and wearing N95 may as well kill them due to additional breathing difficulty.

If you want to prevent yourself from catching flu, wear N95. N95 is supposedly fitting tightly to your face. In occupational setting, there is respiratory fit testing you are supposed to take to test how fitting N95 can be on your face. They will get you to breath lots of smell to test. On the other hand, in community testing, at least you have to cup your hand around the seals and inhale or exhale deeply to ensure that no flow is felt around the edge connecting the mask to your face. N95 then will protect you from breathing aerosols containing the virus. The big problem with N95 is that it won't fit in small face (e.g. children) since it's only produced in one size and it won't fit in people with facial hair (no way to create seal around the big mustache and beard.

So if you are the sick one, surgical mask is your choice. Ensure the flexible adjustment around the nose is pressed around your nose and check properly.

If you really feel you need to wear N95 since you are within 2 m of the sick all the time, wear N95 then, don't just wear surgical mask. In your household with flu infected person, just isolate that person and get him to wear mask when he is to common area. Stay away from him 2 m apart. You won't really need N95 or mask then.

Best precaution is still personal hygiene and get away from people displaying flu-like symptom (sneezing, coughing). But remembers, still help them if they need to. Just don't breathe in their direction if possible. The suggested steps if you see people sneezing or coughing near you is to exhale and then move away before inhaling and continuing with normal breathing cycle.

Get more information

If you can read Bahasa Indonesia, read

A representative from Indonesian embassy claimed that an Indonesian citizen paid 10k SGD as a treatment of his dengue fever although he went to doctor as a suspected H1N1 case. The report is written such that I interpret the representative being confused why the so-called suspected case has to pay for treatment. He also says that the change from having free treatment to having to pay is because there are more cases.

Strange reporting, as always from Indonesian news. The Singapore MOH said in the news that H1N1 screening is free while there are definitely charges of consultancy fee, etc. Now, the clear fact from the Indonesian news is that the patient is hospitalized because of dengue, not H1N1. It's not weird for him to be charged to cure his dengue!

Not a first time I read strange news from Antara.

Flu clinic and observance of PPE

I just came back from a Flu Clinic since I have fever and sore throat. So, I went to the flu clinic wearing a piece of surgical mask. I can testify that surgical mask is really posing breathing problem. My blocked nose went worse under the mask since I guess the nose detect higher breathing resistance which induces the production of more mucous!

Since I was without travel history, apparently was let go with just paracetamol and previous day's medication for sore throat.

What appalls me again is the observance of PPE by the front line staff in the clinic. I do realize that surgical mask is a problem, but the registration lady had her mask under her nose when she talked to the people who registered! Well, she did don it properly when talking to me. Perhaps she makes a judgement based on whether you wear a mask or not when you register. That should be problematic, isn't it? Not everyone has a mask at home! Well, the lady taking the temperature does wear gloves and N95. However, the same issue as the pervious clinic I went to, people are using the same pen. Hence, really, personal hygiene must be really implemented. Only if my eczema allows me to do so though.

So at the moment, extra days MC and hoping that the fever subsides tomorrow. Oh, quarantining yourself is a big problem. I am wondering about people who stays alone and never stocks up anything to cook. In that situation, is he going to wear mask to supermarket and buy things? I wonder...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Temperature screening, mask and H1N1 in Singapore

Yesterday there is an article written by Dr. Lee Wei Ling, Director of National Neuroscience Institute in Singapore, daughter of Lee Kuan Yew. She called temperature screening as herd mentality. She argued that temperature screening is carried out since everyone else is doing it, not really because true belief that it will works. She is a knowledgeable person and quite right to quote research saying that asymptomatic person with H1N1 can be infectious. In fact, Singapore acknowledges that 1/3 of people infected with H1N1 can be infectious and this is a clear group of people which temperature screening will definitely miss.

Today I visited a clinic in CCK and notice first hand how I think temperature screening can really create more cases than prevent it. The clinic has employed a girl who is her teenage years. She wore a disposable blue gown, N95 mask and used ear thermometer. The N95 mask clearly looks too big for her, with the lower strap dangling loosely at the back of her neck. The N95 mask she wore is from 3M and it is actually for occupational use where respiratory fit testing is required and the mask must fit the face. The guidance document on mask clearly specify N95 mask is not designed for small faces.
Worse is the way she touched and adjusted the mask and then use the same finger to:
1. Touch her eyes
2. Play with her handphone which was on the table
3. Write using a pen which is also used by the multiple visitors + patients
4. She has no gloves. Not that it's wrong, but she has to perform personal hygiene to do it right.
And despite having a hand sanitizer on the desk, she never used it.

The girl is a clear example that putting PPE and temperature screening may create more havoc. The chance of cross infection from her action especially through the pen is enormous. The false sense of security by the patient and visitor that temperature screening will prevent H1N1 infection is something that should not be maintained. Inexperienced personnel handling supposedly first line defence like temperature screening is really an error that should be easily fixed.

Temperature screening is indeed helping to screen 2/3 of cases but the false sense of security and simple mistakes in screening activities may simply create more cases from the missed 1/3. The fact that a lady actually asked her daugther to wear surgical mask only because of fever is another example of wrong knowledge. Educating the population to be vigilant, appropirate use of PPE, keeping themselves away from people sneezing and coughing while being responsible to lock themselves up if they suspect themselves having flu will probably go a long way further than screening by inexperienced personnel.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Orange juice dangerous for your teeth

Scientists compare effect of orange juice and whitening agent to teeth and they found that orange juice is more dangerous than whitening agent! Read more at

This finding is distressing. So many people (including myself) are drinking orange juices and we all just see the bright side, that it is full of vitamin C. If orange juices are dangerous for teeth, it would also mean that orange by itself (not yet juiced) is also not so good for teeth. I wonder if this will provide the fuel needed by all the supplement manufacturer to promote the use of vitamin C tablet. To be very frank, they really should use this finding to boost their sales.

If indeed drinking orange juice is not good for our teeth, should there be any research on how to lessen the impact? Will there be such thing? Vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid anyway. Hence, it is indeed acidic by nature. But then again, if we as human has been eating orange all our lives, why should we care about the finding? I think the real perspective is that we drink and take too many substance that is not good for our teeth. Whitening agent is not uncommon in toothpaste. Sodas are also known to erode enamel. Therefore, the best and reasonable steps are to reduce those unnecessary sodas going down the teeth way and just enjoy our orange juices. Oh yeah, drink faster. Drinking longer = longer contact to teeth = bad for your teeth.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

IES magazine vs. Eureka from UK

In this writing, I would like to dissect engineering publication.

I got myself a copy of Eureka, an engineering publication from UK and IES magazine, publication of Institute of Engineer Singapore. My first and foremost assumption is that both publication attempts to interest people to the field engineering. My verdict: Eureka is a nice and cool publication that really triggers my thought and re-kindle my interest in engineering. On the opposite end, IES magazine is an old boring magazine that is full of advertisements.

Eureka contains articles of engineering advancement and extol the goodness and roles of engineering in life. The two magazines I have show solar powered car, new rapid prototyping method, bacterial cellulose from fruit waste, green power from compressed air, spin off examples from F1, plastic technology, etc. Those topics are the in-things. The articles and magazines are designed to look like a normal off-the-shelf magazine (not the gossip type). By showing reader that engineering is advancing and not long time dead and archeological finding, it tells them that engineers still takes part in the betterment of the world and the magazine proudly proclaim that engineers is to solve the problem of the world! That engineers have an important role to play and engineers deal with trendy stuff. That is exactly what students need to hear and to know that engineering is a field they can be proud of.

On the other hand, IES magazine is written like a journal! It has abstract, introduction, etc. etc. I am wondering why they don't call it IES journal instead. Then it has multiple times more advertisements (from NTU, from some course organizers, from some manufacturers, etc.). The articles talks about earthquake being from some other stuff, that risk management something and I can't even recall any title completely. I am wondering why Eureka can be designed more impressively without so many advertisements while IES magazine is full of advertisements.

One glance of Eureka and it gives me a good impression and I remember the title. One glance of IES magazine and I can't even remember anything but that it is terrible.

My point is that if the aim of the publications are to interest people to engineering, IES fails miserably. I feel that IES can do the following:
1. Take a look at other engineering magazine and use part of the advertisement money to pay someone to re-design the magazine.
2. Gather industrial people in engineering field and scour the engineering marvel that can be found in those organizations locally (not necessarily a local made technology, of course as Singapore gets more and more innovative, the local made stuff can take the prominence, until then anything will do).
3. Do number 2, but from the local universities.
4. Re-assess the role the magazine play, gather feedback!
5. If need more money, talk to the government of Singapore and plan a way to improve IES image and plays a part in government's attempt to make engineering cool.
6. Many more other things.

Of course ideally is for IES to bridge the engineering company and universities to once again produce engineers that are hands on and with critical thoughts and innovative!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Urinal without flushing

Went to Vivocity on Sunday and realized one interesting thing from the toilet! The urinal is said to require no water flushing since it was treated with biotechnological system! It sounds really cool and very environmental friendly especially if it does prevent the smelly part as well. Alas, I still detect slight smell and one disturbing issue... there is no mention of the so called biotechnological system. A visit to the company's website ( on Sunday and today shows it to be under maintenance. I surely will visit the website again to get more details. The company actually seems like one that will succeed with such a radical idea. Weird that they don't publicize themselves more openly though... Let's see in a couple more days.

Monday, 30 June - Website still under "maintenance"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Exhausting all oil and gas on earth

Green and renewable energy source is one hot topic nowadays. In US, the stimulus package has largely focus on getting more people involved in the green business area. However, the Democrats as the majority in congress also calls for energy tax to encourage more responsible energy use. On the other hand, the Republicans (now being the opposition) in US, banking on the potential hurt at the bottom line of the population having to pay extra, calls for greater oil and gas exploration and greater investment to renewable energy sources. Here, we see two opposite view of the situation. One says stop spending more non renewables, one says spend till the end.

We, being human, are quite creative and we think very well. So, normally it is the cost and benefit analysis that sways our decision. Nevertheless, cost and benefit will never manage to account for things that we cannot put exact value on, i.e. morals, ethics. In the energy debate, however, ethics and morals are quite complicated. Having less energy to spend freely means human having to survive with potentially less welfare (arguably, depending on where your "greed" level is). This could mean less morally responsible to ourselves while being morally responsible to the environment and our descendants. Which would be morally and ethically correct to side?

It is also known that human does extraordinary stuff when we are cornered. So, I would think that for energy debate, perhaps the best is to exhaust all oil and gas until suddenly we are totally out of oil and gas. Then perhaps we would be very creative. However, that would mean an extremely bad situation for those countries having winter season. Well, the solution would be to discover commercially viable renewable sources before all oil and gas are gone. Exploring and extracting more reserves would definitely mean faster exhausting, which in turn may force quicker innovation. That's a gamble and hey, I think it really suits the Republicans philiosophy so far, considering all the wars they have fought. But mind you, renewable sources are useful if the earth is not yet submerged and destroyed by global warming. If you think of the imminent rise of sea level or think a bit further than "now", perhaps you may want to consider the other end of argument.

Experts expect a certain minimum temperature rise that is no longer unavoidable, so it's not about mitigating and coping, no longer about preventing. At least in UK, the bag reuse scheme seems to be working well. But in Asia, owing to the mentality "Europe and US has enjoyed polluting to get better, it's our turn to experience the same thing", things are not so simple. After all, when you are still hungry all the time, floods are common and plantation failure is not unusual, global warming effect is not that great. In such situation, who would consider the Maldive residents having to search for another island to settle when the sea level rises a bit higher? Exhausting all oil and gases and not reigning their use will definitely fasten the bad effect but perhaps then it is a lot easier to make the argument. Again, when it is not too late to do so.

In the mean time, regardless of what other people is saying, time for me to reduce my plastic bag usage and be mindful with my electricity and water cost. It helps my bottom line at least.


Weather report from BBC looks totally different from the Asia counterparts in the equator. In those countries, I think we don't really expect any difference from looking at the weather. After all, it's always wet and shine repeatedly. We are kind of always prepared for the wet and any change of weather does not affect the temperature by much any way. While in UK, rain and shine can swing the temperature from 10 C to 23 C, a huge range of change. Wind blowing in the shining sun may mean freezing feeling in a hot sun! Well, it's still better than raining and cloudy at the same time... Therefore, if there is huge incentive in following the weather report. Any sunny days in Summer means people rushing to enjoy the day, which at times is rare to come. People will travel out of town. It would also mean that Sunday evening would ten to have congestion in the motorway.

After having been in the weather swing for a week, I really appreciate the sunny days...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer in Sheffield

Yay! Summer is here! That's what many Europeans and other residents of temperate climate is exclaiming happily. I had always thought that summer is hot and humid. Little did I realize that although summer is relatively better than winter, those two seasons are pretty much the same for tropical people! Although the sun is burning my skin today, any breeze will cause me to shivers. The temperature of air brought about by the wind feels like <10 C. A sweater made of 100% polyester is of not much a help in this case.

Weirder of all is the bright sky light at 9 pm! The ambient light at that time in Sheffield feels like 5 pm in Singapore. It only gets dark at round 10 pm. On the other hand, 4 am shows bright sky. What a short night!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fixed my Acer laptop and I am convinced

Finally my Acer laptop is fixed on 4 June 2009. They again repaired the motherboard. Last repair on 29 November 2008 actually also has the motherboard changed! This time, at first they offered to change the motherboard for 600+ then I protested and thought they will give me better offer, but at the end they still asked me to pay 480+ to get the motherboard repair! They said they offer customer to replace motherboard before asking them to repair. Stupid part about this is that the motherboard (regardless of being replaced or repaired) has only 3 months warranty following the visit! What a funny thing....

When I collected, my first start up end up with the Welcome screen and hang system... shut down, power up.... second start up end up at the loading screen and hang... then I asked the customer service, he plugged and restarted and it's okay! Now... I don't feel confident with this laptop anymore...

Few statements from the customer service officer in Acer Service Centre I learned while collecting my Acer Travelmate 3280:
1. Laptop is like a car. You won't know when it's broken and which part it is broken. There is no guarantee that all laptop produces the same quality although same model.
Translation: Acer laptop does not perform similarly although same model. If you are unlucky, you may come back and forth for multiple faults. In my case, I saw more people with faulty and running away from Acer than not. So, no Acer for me please.

2. You should not play games in your laptop. If you want to play games, use desktop. This statement came because I said my laptop went faulty when I played game. What the officer miss is that my laptop is not exactly thouse low weight item. I purchased 3280 because I thought it's desktop replacement and after all it came with ATI Radeon X1400 in 2006. Don't tell me the fancy video card is only for surfing net.
Translation: Acer laptop is not good for playing game, regardless of how good their video card is. Said the customer service officer. Hence, don't trust Acer! Even the employee won't use the laptop for games! So, no Acer for me please.

3. Nowadays people just want to have fast machine. They do not care whether it is reliable or not since they will just buy new one when it is broken. Only machines from long time ago perform reliably.
Translation: Acer laptop is not designed to last. It will definitely get broken after the warranty is off. After all, they think all customers has money and will just replace their broken Acer machine with another machine. What they miss is that customer change Acer machine with NON ACER machine. Hence, no Acer for me please. The officer clearly said that Acer is not reliable.

I am merely reporting on statements by the officer and what I as a customer interpret. You are free to try Acer on your own and I wish you good luck. Who knows you get the best of the batch and your Acer product lasts longer than warranty. For me, I am not fancy of gambling. My ATI Radeon and system (made in 2006) can't even run Star Trek Armada II, made in 2001 with the motherboard replaced 6 months before that. In fact, I have been using the laptop in that 6 months merely to surf internet and watch movie and yet the laptop still go hay wire. So, no thanks.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Once Phua Chu Kang Pte. Ltd. was a very popular show. The main character of the show is a man called Phua Chu Kang (PCK) who speaks perfect Singlish or Singapore English (and PCK is actually Gurmit Singh, an Indian descent). Then he changed his accent and spoke better English. There was also a big hoo haa on his status as Singapore icon. Although he was generally regarded as the symbolism of Singapore folks (general folks), his one sided elevation to an icon is not agreed by some others.

Strangely though, the recent advertisement by MRT and supported by LTA put Phua Chu Kang aka PCK as the main cast with his on-screen's 'wife'. This to me, as a foreigner, indicates that PCK is indeed an icon and symbolizes the common Singaporean folks. It bedazzles me why it is so difficult to admit that PCK is indeed popular and people like him. His use to promote graciousness in public transport (train) is a clear sign of such.

I say let's admit and put PCK back to his rightful place. He may be the only clear Singapore-made 'culture' that should be preserved. At least, he is original.

Dirty Singapore

Singapore is very clean. That is always the first and foremost impression of visitors to this city state. Admittedly, the city areas (like Orchard, City Hall) are indeed clean. However, decades of foreign and elderly sweepers who clean up the mess have generated complacent populations. The heartland is mostly dirty. On my walk from my house to MRT station, I encountered void deck with torn paper. Looks like some kids got fed up with his/her notes and tore them. I saw cigarette butts here and there, paper planes in a parking lot and tissue and paper cups on the raised platform with vegetations.

People think that someone will clean up their mess so it is okay to throw them away. Indeed they can be fined but who is watching them? There is no inspector normally in the heartland and the cost of patrolling may even be higher than just getting someone to sweep and clean those rubbishes. But at times, the sweepers need someone to supervise to ensure their work quality and at times, certain areas are sweeped not every day. Hence, some times some areas are very dirty.

Indeed the country is in overall still cleaner than other countries in the world. Yet, I shuddered with the thought that this is just the tip of icebergs and rubbishes will pile up even more simply because of irresponsibility of the crowd after being pampered for decades. It is really time for citizens and residence to be engaged and involved more in caring about their environment. Simply putting up recycle bin far away and who-know-what-place and paying sweepers do not educate at all. Schools should also start with educating young children on cleanliness and responsibility. I think Indonesia at least is scoring a point in teaching civic. I still remember what it taught me even after these years!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Acer service is just poor

Bought my Acer Travelmater 3280 in 2006, warranty period of 3 years, ending in March 2009.

Starting 2007, I keep having problem whenever I tried to play games. The screen just freezes in the middle of the games and I have to shut down and restart. The windows would then report possible corruption in the HDD and I have to wait for it to finish scanning unless I skip it. It does not happen when I do browsing and other stuff, just with games. I went to fix and voila, they change the fans on the spot (this is a good time where such service is still there). Unfortunately, I never played games for soooo long that I thought it's fine.

In 2008, I played RTK IX and I realized that the same problem re occur. The screen will freeze and same old issues. Went back to them, luckily still warranty. Given them the laptop and waited for nearly a week for it to be fixed. Thought it's a display card problem and they replaced.... the motherboard. Stupidly, I never played the game anymore so I can't test the repair, can I?

Now... recently I started playing Star Trek Armada II and Star Trek Legacy. Guess what... same old issues. But now I realize the problem.. for Star Trek Legacy, when I set the setting to 800 x 600 screen resolution and 2 x aliasing, I have 1 in 10 chances of freezing. Any better setting = 100% chance of freezing. Amazing thing is that Armada is from 2001. So, there is in no way normal ATI Radeon X1400 can fail to perform. Not in my case though. Sadly, I thought I should just stop playing, after all it's beyond warranty. But then, the screen starts blanking off (fading) for few seconds and then returning to normal... and two nights ago, I can't start the laptop. Perfect.... the warranty is off in March. They really count and probably create the high probability of laptop dead after warranty. What irates me simply is that the main issues is the same old issues they NEVER manage to fix it for me. They told me I have to bring it back within a MONTH to get the claim. Guess what, the terms in the letter I sign actually says 90 days, so the service guy does not even say the same thing as the letter! And in my case, it's a random happening and only when I play games. How the heck such a 90 days term will work in my case? I forces myself to play games for 90 days? Yeah right....

The basic issue is still the same and no matter what I would think a reasonable manufacturer would consider that into their costing and warranty. But for ACER, at least in Singapore, it just doesn't work. Worse is the fact that the system does OVERHEAT all the times. It's well known with ACER laptop and it's really my fault not to read the reviews before buying it.

I decided that it is just not worth it. After this repair, provided it's not so expensive, I won't return for the next repair. And I am very sure I WILL NOT BUY ANY MORE ACER.

Acer just does not seem to be keen in cultivating good customer experience, provide crappy service and you just have to be without your computer for few days (or a week) for them to repair. Unless of course, you like being without it or abstaining from computer.

Acer Service in Singapore

I have just returned from delivering my Acer Travelmate 3280 to Acer Service Centre in International Business Park, Singapore.

Let me give you a straight fact right, that many Acer purchaser never knows unless they visited the service centre for repair: NO ON THE SPOT SERVICE.

I repeat: There is NO ON THE SPOT SERVICE.

The service given is basically filling form and submitting the form along with your laptop / desktop / whatever to them and go back. So in fact, it shortens your wait and cut their cost on Saturday at least since they don't need to employ many staff to handle.

Just now I heard a Filipino couple who was confused by the inexistence of on the spot service. They claimed they were told (or perhaps reading their terms and conditions), that there is on the spot service. Do not be fooled. There has not been on the spot service since early 2008 as far as I know.

And as far as I can understand, normally your terms and conditions allow the supplier to change their terms any time without telling you. Well, not sure of other countries, but this is Singapore.

What the couple said while taking the form (something like this): "No Acer laptop again!".

Thursday, May 28, 2009

H1N1 in Singapore

H1N1 finally hits Singapore. The student from one of the university returned from New York with cough and missed by thermal scanner (not really missed, she is without fever after all) and then visited GP after developing fever. To be sent to CDC at TTSH and confirmed as first victim.

After that, came salvo of curses from some people shouting at her "foolishness" and "selfishness". They think that if she has not returned, there won't be H1N1 in Singapore. They seem to miss the point that today's global world is so interconnected that despite of what people do, pandemic will travel. Illness will reach everywhere, provided the transmissibility is good. Even mathematical modelling assuming 99.9% travel restriction into the country only produce delays of 2 months for pandemic to reach the country! If it's not her, it'll be definitely someone else.

She in fact has been quite responsible for going to doctor, revealing her travel history. I think people should realize that she acts correctly as the government never forbid the travel in any case. She has weighed her risk by travelling to NY. Government has weighed the risk by not banning travel. They all know non symptomatic person can infect starting 24 hours before symptom and not all symptomatic person has fever. Both sides know their risk, they accept it. Now that incident happens, it should be remedied and reacted upon. The importance is the reaction and quarantine not laying blame.

Election in Indonesia
Presidential candidate, Megawati states that Indonesia should have a long term plan. I think I would probably applaud her for saying something obvious. However, I would then question her memory and fitness for president. She has completely forgotten that she was Indonesia's past president and she did not produce, suggest or have any. Good point taken is that she seems to have changed. Good for her. Nevertheless, I'm not convinced by any of the presidential candidate as none actually shows a vision or even outlines a long term plan.

Despite all his brokenness, Suharto set 25 years long term and 5 years short term plan. His ability to continue ruling maximizes the execution of his plan. Not sure whether fake or not, his plan once made Indonesia one of the top rice exporter before it became importer and now, the plan to export has been coined once again since it seems that there is enough rice to supply locally. Yet, most of this data does not seem to be backed by appropriate statistics. You see, statistics is not Indonesia's forte.

During Suharto's time, there is census every 10 years. After he went down at 1998, there has been zero census. That's, I think, the main reason for the chaos of this year's electoral list problem.

Unless the public administration is reformed, whatever progress planned will always lag behind. How does anyone know where to focus work if the data on what work is lacking, is inexisting or inaccurate?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fu Ji duck rice in Cafe Lobby, Yew Tee

Ate my dinner of a duck rice set meal, SGD 2.70 from Fu Ji duck rice stall in Cafe Lobby, Yew Tee MRT station.

The duck rice comes with half taukwa (soya bean curd), half egg, 3 slices of cucumber and 5 pieces of duck. And a bowl of soup.

Yeah, you read it rightly. It's FIVE pieces of duck meat. I don't even need to glance more than 2 seconds to finish counting. The duck is pretty much on the low side of taste, lots worse than Yu Kee duck rice you can find from Koufu in Yew Tee Point. The bowl of soup tastes like light soya sauce (salty) diluted with water then doused with lots of oil. The oil is pretty much on my lips and if there is any, the herb hint is almost inexistent. The taste of the glorious soup is not there at all. Such a sad serving of duck meat and sad soup, I don't think I would want to return there.

Fair trial does not exist

The coroner court on the case between David Hartanto Widjaja (Indonesian) and A/Prof. Chan Kap Luk (Singaporean) is finally ongoing and the stories really get interesting. The latest news is

David allegedly stabbed his final year project's supervisor, A/P Chan before then jumping to his death. However, the family disputed the event and calls for fair trial, where they said the truth about a conspiracy behind the event will emerge. Unfortunately, woe to them, up to today, witnesses claiming direct involvement in the alledged stabbing, from bloody David and A/P Chan to David's jumping, support the allegation that David jumped to his death on his own accord. There is even a video recorded by a handphone allegedly showing David sitting on the parapet of the connecting bridge before jumping down. Now, the family did not accept that the person in the video is David and disputed the account. They wanted to get digital forensic expert to examine the video. Great effort and I applaud for that. They continued claiming that this is not a fair trial and there is a conspiracy behind the death of the beloved son.

Now, this case causes me to re-examine the term "fair trial". Frankly, while following this case, I realize that generally media tells story they want their audience to read. News in Indonesia tends to run contrary to news in Singapore. Interestingly, people also forms their own opinion based on what they perceived to be the truth. One side of the podium sits the people thinking of a good student gone haywire due to online gaming and stabbing his nice supervisor. On the other side of the podium sits the people claiming conspiracy theory where David's final year project is of great economy value and the supervisor planned to steal it by killing the student. These people could not have sat in the opposite of a wider and deeper chasm. After all, the thoughts they have are so much ingrained that it seems to be quite difficult to sway them to the other way. The conspiracy theory group for example, calls for a fair trial to be conducted to reveal the conspiracy theory.

Wait a minute, there is stark mistake in that call. How can it be a fair trial if the final result of the trial (that it is a conspiracy theory) has been decided? I really don't think these people will accept any results other than a conspiracy theory. That's why I don't think they won't agree that the trial is fair unless A/P Chan is proven to be the aggressor. They miss one obvious point though, trials are going to result in one version of a story, not two, not three. The trials are set by the witnesses, the judge and the lawyers. It is often a fight between two opposing theories. People can only say it is a fair trial if they see the trial with open eyes, not one eyes closed. In this case, unless there is a witness with contradictory witnessing and standing up in the witness stand, I am afraid that the "fair trial" sought by the conspiracy theory group may be hard to manifest.

A trial will always be directed. If by definition, a fair trial is where cases are examined by allowing truthful account of the situation to be brought forward, then there won't be a fair trial unless people accept that the witness gives a truthful account. If the crowd has decided a version of the story, it would be very difficult to see any "fair trial" at all. Hence, I don't think fair trial will exist for them. It is like searching for cat in a compound of dogs (forgive me of my crude analogy). This observation applies to all cases where people demands for a truth where the court provides the opposite, regardless of how truthful the court is. Cases where court is directed and fake group of witnesses are produced are also not uncommon in many places such as Indonesia. In such situation, it will be the victim, the sufferer who will be at the bad end. So will they get a fair trial? Bet you they won't. The witnesses pretty much also gives opinion of what they feel they have seen. It's not a completely objective view in any case. The court will always be steered by the witnesses. Strange thing I find is that the witnesses can attend the witnessing of others. I feel this approach helps steer the later witness to a common points. I may be wrong.. but one thing I am confident is that fair trial does not exist for people who has formulated their mindset to the opposite of the court results.

I pity the "victimised" and can only hope for their serenity in getting on with lives.

Latest news from Indonesia news:

The family lamented that non of the witnesses so far describes what happens in the emergency stairwell, which David used to run down to the bridge, his condition before falling and what exactly causes his wound. There are few things they have not considered before sounding their complaints:
1. Being in the building that is connected by the bridge for more than 2 years and in NTU for 7.5 years, I can confidently say, emergency stair well is not normally used. Students like lift, it's easier to get to places.
2. The area is deserted unless it is a lunch time. It is not improbable at all that no one passes that area. I remembered clearly that few days ago, a student from Iran claimed he tried to persuade David to come down from the parapet before then he left him to call for others to help. So, there is actually someone near David before he jumped.
3. The alleged stabbing event occur in a room where only two people were present and one of them is dead. How exactly can any other person describes what happen except the only living one? Too bad for them it's the supervisor who the family thinks as part of the big conspiracy theory.

The witnesses so far seems to have been from the other side of the fence. It would be good to hear what witnesses the family can call up since they claim that there is a witness claiming to hear David screaming "They want to kill me". I will wait for the witness, it will be interesting.

Praying for peace in everybody's mind.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Pharmaceutical manufacturing

Just yesterday, some baby powder in US is found to have perchlorate above safe level of consumption. Read it here:

The find makes me reflect. Pharmaceutical manufacturing (including baby powder) is regarded as a very regulated industry where validation of each process and regular maintenance of the plant is required by regulation so as to ensure safe product is being produced. The baby powder and salmonella presence in the pistachio clearly show that the so called regulation does not exactlyu work well. After all, although the validation process where input and output is verified, I am not aware that the roles and responsibilities are regulated, i.e. noone care the independence and quality of the guy who does the work. You can probably get someone from the street and get him sign for you (correct me if I am wrong). I realize that at times company presents their validation strategy to the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and submit whole chunk of paperwork before they can start the validation process to confirm that what they will produce is safe or consumption (in short although there are lots more details to it). However, if these process is conducted correctly and regulated, why such clear disaster recipe such as the perchlorate and salmonella can happen?

Simply said, you can regulate process, you can not regulate people. People can choose to sign and not really able to vouch for it. People can choose not to reveal bad news (such as Salmonella in pistachio). Unless a good management system supported firmly by responsible top management is the only way to go. When people are aware of every consequence of their action, that is how we can prevent disaster. Simple validation and signature does not prevent bad things from happening especially when commitment from the top management may not exist. Furthermore, as my write up earlier point out, you can check for what you know you need to check. You can not possibly check everything. The most important issue is the responsibility. I view the Salmonella case as worse than the baby formula simply because their an indication of cover up. What we need in this world for the safety of all is responsible people who realizes the need to care for others, not just money.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Raw or cooked veggie?

For many years I have been told by friends that raw vegetables is better because cooked vegetables destroy this and that. Some researchers have just published

And they found that that actually raw vegetables may not always be healthier than cooked vegetables. Cooked tomatoes may have more lycopene but less Vitamin C, for example. Hence, it really depends on what you want. Choose well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

And I thought this kind of network only exist in Bond movie

In 007 movies, we watched how skillful the spies obtain information from the internet and various places, including at times activating computers remotely. We think that this must be of movie-kind-of-thing only. Guess what, read this:

Canadian researchers just found a huge spy network infecting computers worldwide and the implanted malware can activate the web camera and audio recording function of the computer to gain information! O my, imagine your action and your word being recorded unknowingly. It shudders me. Luckily at least I don't have a web camera in my laptop and neither I am that famous to get access. Now I know that turning off my in speaker volume does not really help.

Perhaps being aware of what website you visited and what files you open will prevent malwares into your computer. At least to a great extent.

Earth hour: the irony

Discussed the Earth hour event with some friends, and here are some of our concerns:
1. Is the promotion and marketing of earth hour event carbon offseted? Well, the publicity of earth hour including website programming needs electricity, paper, water, ink, etc. Can anyone ensure that the resources spent to publicize the earth hour event is less than the minute savings of electricity by the participants of earth hour? Or is this the case of necessary evil?

2. How many participants of earth hour end up in shopping mall? Singaporeans are normally fond of air conditioned locations. So, when they switch off their lamps at home, will they flock to the shopping malls and cause the HVAC system in shopping mall to work harder?

Much more efforts should be coordinated beyond earth hour to battle global warming. Hopefully, whatever resources spent by the earth hour event can spur further awareness and get more people to participate in real time. If not, it may end up as another wasteful effort.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Eating medicine daily without knowing

Do you realize that you are taking medicine everyday without knowing? If not, perhaps you can try to read

The news is about the research that discovers the presence of medicine in fishes. In fact, there has been many researches establishing the presence of medicine in our food and drink chain. I remembered reading the findings about the presence of medicine in drinking water in US.

The fact I know are:
1. Whatever drugs you take, they are not totally absorbed by our body. Some will go down the drain via our urine or feces.
2. We can only detect what we know.

The sewerage system worldwide (good or bad) interacts with the environment and in many places, waste water (including urine) is treated to produce drinking water. The main issues are that unless there are specific compound to remove, chances are that noone knows how to remove them. Ozone, UV and whatever treatment given to waste water will not take away residual medicine in water. Medicinal residue in the soil going up to the plants (from even the so called organic plantation), will definitely end up in our kitchen. Even if you say that the soil is organic, there is no way to ensure the water is free from all unwanted residues. In short, our food and drink chain has become so entertwined that everything is linked. The amount of possible residues are also so many that it is virtually impossible to track.

Not trying to be pessimistic, I think we need to realistically accept the fact that we will be taking some of the unwanted medicinal residue. Chances are that the residue is in small amount after being diluted so many times, unless everyone use the same medicine at the same time! So, perhaps it is least likely that anything harm will come to us mainly because of taking those residues. The risk of dying from accident on the way to work or choking on fish bones may actually be higher. Nevertheless, there is no zero risk in this world and most of the time, it is really your perception that matters.

Edit: 28 March 2009
Guess what I have just read.

The article reported a finding that bottles of drinking water in Germany releases xenohormone, that is chemical that has hormone-like effect. Worse, the chemical behaves like estrogen, primary female sex hormone... the hormone promote some female characteristics, not so fun to have that in male, definitely...

This finding reflect exactly the fear on how much unwanted chemicals have entered human lives unknowingly. I wonder how safe glass bottle is as well.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SQ321 flight delay from London to Singapore

On 15 March 2009 10.15 pm, I am supposed to return to Singapore from London on A380, flight number SQ321. Unfortunately, the flight is delayed for 12 hours. I'll chronicle that journey in this blog.

On that day, I reached Heathrow at 8.15 pm but alas, at 9.30 pm, the notice board put up "gate opened at 22.50". And at 9.45 pm, they called passengers to collect 10 pounds voucher for meal. I sensed something is wrong, but still, voucher is good for supper. Amazingly little did I realize that shops in the airport open only till 10.00 pm! By the time I got my voucher (which is VERY early compared to other passengers), "TGIF" is no longer taking orders and only sandwiches shops are open. Slightly fed up, I ended up buying some "innocent" smoothies (which I have been craving for) and lots of snacks to bring home. I still can hold my head high and thought perhaps the flight will take place at 11 pm. I was quite happy when they told us to go into the gate at 11.30 pm. I thought finally we'll fly. So, the long queue to the boarding gate by the anxious passengers start. By the time we reached the gate, the bomb fell. The customer service officers said we are to stay overnight in the hotel since there is a hydraulic leak on the landing wheel. They said update will be available on 6 am the day after and hopefully the plane can fly between 8 to 10 am. So, they gave us a box of snack and told us to wait for bus transport.

Amazing thing happen during the waiting for the bus transport outside the airport after exiting from the custom. Noone seem to do a simple calculation: passengers divide by bus capacity equal number of bus required. So, around 20 of us were standing in the cold night waiting for a bus that never come. Basically a fleet of bus waited for the passengers but one more was required. Another simple math calculation missed is the number of overnight kit required. There were lots of passengers without the kit, which was distributed during the queue. I find it amusing for SIA not to have simple consideration as such in the procedure.

Not only that, apparently business class people is put up in Radissons Edwardian, the economy class in Premier Inn. What a difference. And to act a bit more responsibly (which is appreciated), those of us (economy passengers) waiting in the cold, they ended up putting us in Radissons. I thought, at that time, what a luck that there was no old persons with some problems in the queue. None of the customer service officers actually told us to take comfort in the bus waiting room while waiting for 20 minutes in the cold!

Upon reaching the hotel, we checked in and that's 00.45 am. I finally got my overnight kit at around 2 am I think. The overnight kit has an amusing oversight. It contained XL t-shirt and no underwears. O dear, some one in SIA actually think t-shirt is more important than underwear for people forced to do an overnight due to flight delay. I really want to know who has the hand on deciding the overnight kit and whether a proper need assessment has been done to decide the content!

In the morning, I thought someone will be nice enough to call to inform the arranged flight. But well, guess what, despite all the SIA being "world class", noone calls and people were expected to queue to get more information. What I learned during the queue was disturbing. Apparently the busines class passengers was booked on the normal flight at 10.55 am and they booked the economy class passengers to 10.05 pm for the night. Amazingly, apparently the business class passengers know about their booking into the new flight at 10.55 am from the night! Hence, the customer service officers provided misleading information to the economy class passengers. Now, that does not seem to be any fair to me. Where is the customer service standard? The rich rules?

So, the economy class passengers were told to spend time in the hotel. That's quite a bleak way to spend your day, isn't it? Then I went up to the assistant station manager of SIA in London and commented that I would have spent 60 hours on the same clothes by the time I reached Singapore on the midnight flight and asked for a solution. He amusingly told me that I can try to purchase an under garment and TRY to reimburse. Now, that's only a TRY and we can't even reimburse our trip out of hotel, how on earth would I be able to buy the under garment? No offer to purchase one for me or sort of things... what another minus note in the service. So, I dejectedly went back to my room and continued working.

At 10.48 am suddenly I was rang to be told a bus is coming to fetch the economy class passengers at 11.00 am to get the flight on 1.00 pm since the plane was fixed. Wow, 12 minutes to get down and my socks were wet since I washed them thinking I may be able to dry them by 10.00 pm. While ironing, I forgot about the time and only called the receptionist at 11.07 am to check and to be told that the bus was leaving without me and I was told to go down fast. Now, I was really about to be left by the bus and they NEVER even check the name of the passengers in the bus against the hotel list. What a good service!

Cut things short, we ended up in the plane at 1.15 pm and waited till around 2.45 pm for the plane to finally fly since there were 14 passengers not accounted for. Somehow, someone forgot to ask all the contact number of all passengers and never call all of them before deciding to enter people into the plane. And amazingly, snacks were not served to the starving passengers (remember that we entered the waiting room before lunch) until later than 2.00 pm.

I am strongly unimpressed by the SIA's customer service in London and what disturbs me is that no offer of compensation for the inconvenience is even mentioned. I believe there should be some measure for such but they seem to be avoiding that. My e-mail to them has gone unanswered. This really shows that SIA has a long way to go for the customer service to be first class. I wonder whether the next quality certification will find this issue?

Death on the MRT

Another death yesterday on the train track in Singapore. I wonder why there is quite a number of death in Singapore while there is nothing about death on the track in UK. There are lots more train track in UK than in Singapore. There is a plan to include platform screen door in Singapore to reduce accident in the track. This seems to be a fire fighting response and pretty much, a corrective action. There is no such screen in the upper ground platform in London and yet, everything seems fine. Perhaps Singapore is addressing the issue from the wrong angle?

Passengers should be aware of their surrounding more often to spot their fellow passengers who need help. Most of the time, people in Singapore is too mechanistic and have a race hourse view (blinded from side view). I myself at times feel so when I am waiting for train either due to drowsiness or plain stress from my commuting experience. Being aware at the surrounding surely help, but then again that will take some mindset change, not an entirely easy option. Perhaps the authorities know this and choose the easy way out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Something that SBS and SMRT should consider

Who never complains about SBS's and SMRT's waiting time in Singapore? Let me have a show of hand. I must confess I am not impressed at all by their standard. However, it's also true that their standard is better than the undeground in London. But hey, in London, the distance between station can be easily travelled on foot! In Singapore, unless you have the time (I mean it), strength of will and strong leg power, I do not suggest walking between the train stations outside the business district. So, the bottom line is that both cities are different. Where the options of route and type of transportation are not available, the train and bus service are the only thing that people can take. Hence, it is extremely important for the service to be efficient for the user of the public transport. Sadly, it is not the way it should be in Singapore.

Perhaps the SBS and SMRT can look at for some inspiration on how to better their bus services. At least according to the article, heuristic programming allows the Spanish to create a better bus route. Anything that will allow the passengers to have a reasonable waiting time should be tried, provided they are there to serve the public (I know many people think the companies said here do not serve the public, but that is another issue).

Nanotechnology: the unknown

People are crazy about nanotechnology. Even household cleaning products tout the presence of nano-sized particle in the mixture. The big issue here about nanotechnology is the pretty much the lack of knowledge on what the result of the interaction between nanotechnology and living organism is. As far as I understand, researchers have been trying to use nanotechnology to kill bacteria. Researchers have also understood by now that nano-sized material behave differently from the big size one (by big size, it can mean micro to few meters). You can easily search for these information in the net. Yet, because of its mass appeal, nanotechnology produces many nano-sized particles that have been rolled out into the market without fully testing whether the particles affect the world in the wrong way. Recently, I came across a report saying that the nano-sized particles in the sunscreen were found to kill the beneficial microbes in the environment. I shudder to think that this is really only on the iceberg.

Technology advancement is crucial important for human advancement. Nanotechnology is indeed one of the forefront in the effort to better human lives. However, researchers need to have the moral and ethical understanding that technology interacts with the environment. Technology should not be made in the expense of the environment. Nothing good will emerge if the environment start dying because of human foolishness and lack of effort to understand their own made technology.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New mammals?

Two species of new mouse have been discovered! Read it at

Well, frankly, the expanse of earth makes it almost impossible for human to catalogue the entire world of animals and plants. I remembered recently about the discovery of a new tree in Europe as well. At times I wonder why the attempt to understand the earth's population is receiving far less attention than the space exploration. Perhaps the idea is that space exploration creates more spin off invention that has benefited human kind. There are tonnes of such ideas actually.

However, it has also been widely known of the attempt to replicate some of the nature properties to help human, for example the study of bird flight to create better flight engine, the study of gecko to create better adhesives, etc. Perhaps if more attention is put to study nature, there are lots of ideas to equal those presented by the space exploration as well?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big vs. Small

Books on Economic always tell about the agility of small corporation and the high inertia of big corporation. I've never really thought about that until recently. Simply said, I come to appreciate the difference between different sizes of a company. Small company equals to small number of employees. When there are few employees, they are all somehow forced to reach quite high efficiency and productivity. People would also be more resourceful. Hence, the cost of keeping them are pretty much similar.

However, in big company, there are lots of employees. Hence, there are far more people who work inefficiently and perhaps sit around doing nothing. These people who contribute not much still need cost to keep them and these huge cost when divided among the departments would definitely increase the cost to keep of all people across the board, including those competent, productive employee. This is also the main reason that the reason that big company can take in more people because the cost will be spread to many people. The bad news is that if one's hard work is also distributed to the same amount of people.

I believe, though, that the recent globalization and the pace at which the world moves will derail the big corporation who maintains their sluggishness. They either have reinvent themselves and seek for more efficient operation or face the risk of being perish within 5 to 10 years time. The world is no longer capable of waiting for anyone who sits tight. It's so dynamic and collaboration is everywhere. Innovation is pretty much alive with the concept of mass idea. The big corporation that works inefficiently will be soon taken over by other small agile companies that manage to harness the power of the crowd.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A car? no! a plane!

See this:

Amazing innovation, priced at <>

I would be wondering about the danger though. If I were to drive in such a car, I think I'd wear parachute at all time. Someone really need to do good risk assessment of the car and show the buyer!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hoshi - Japanese Restaurant

Just ate at Hoshi, a Japanese restaurant in IMM. The restaurant was quite crowded so I am a bit surprised. I went there with my wife because her Japanese friend said the restaurant serves good Japanese food. So, we tried. We bought onigiri, saba shiyoaki and karee katsu. The onigiri has salmon and taste quite good although it was quite cold. It could have been better if it's warmer. The karee is a bit too average and the miso soup that came with the set tastes like soup made with some miso bought from supermarket. Admittedly, the soup is still better than the one in Sakae Sushi. The chawanmushi, though simple with a tiny cut of chicken, tastes quite good actually. There is stock with the chawanmushi and the egg texture is smooth. The karee comes with salad, ebi prawn and chicken katsu. The ebi prawn has too thick a batter although the prawn is crunchy. On average, the price is quite reasonable, we paid around 35 SGD so the food worth the price in fact.

If you do go, try to sit near the side facing the garden, at least there are some better views. The service is good actually. They employ a lot of Singaporean elderly and they speak english well! This is really in contrast with other restaurants which tend to employ mainly Chinese from PRC who speaks no English (e.g. Mayim restaurant in Bukit Batok, just try it). The uncle serving us the green tea even provided a baby seat for my wife to put her bag! That's what I called good service. He even threw away the cold tea and poured for us the hot ones.

7/10 for the taste
8/10 for the service

Friday, March 6, 2009

More conspiracy theory

And now the situation has somewhat worsened. News in Indonesia reported the parents of the student saying that they never saw wrist wound and Singapore police confirmed the absence of the wound. They said they saw slash wound in the neck of the student. They indicated that it may be the student who was assaulted. The student's friend claimed that the student carried a bag with towels, drinking bottles and other normal stuffs implying that he did not intend to kill (? or do any harm). There is even an opinion that there are 3 people in the room where the incident happens!

Now, this has gotten more out of hand for the fact that the police is somehow keeping very quiet. I hope the police works fair and faster.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I hope it ends fast

I hope the police can reveal what happens in the stabbing fast. There is far too much speculation going on that would do more harm than good. Undeniably, there has been lots of pressure into the scholars to produce good results at all time. I understand clearly their pain because I was one myself. However, part of the problem lies on the scholars themselves. By subjecting themselves to the scholarship, they have taken part in adding the pressure into themselves, knowingly or unknowingly. Self-expectation, parents' expectation, peer pressure and the benefactor's expectation is a deadly mixture of pressure that can easily culminate in a sad incident.

Take this analogy:
Studying hard and enjoying the good result is like developing a cocoon that protects the scholars. Once a wrong turn is taken, the cocoon has a hole exposing the weak developing pupa to the harsh world. Unless the pupa manages to close the hole, heaven knows what will happen to the pupa. But the pupa should have known at the beginning that by doing the cocoon, he is subjecting himself to a vulnerability.

It's a two-two relationship, that of the benefactor and the scholars. Both have their own motives. None is at fault.

What should really be done is to encourage communication. Although the online world opens up possibility of many connecting virtual friends, visible friends are those that can save the day. One in the net can't reach his hand to pull his friend out of a mud, although after multiple connections, the virtual friend can reach a visible friend to help which hopefully by then won't be too late.

A buddy system and network should be implemented. Sadly, the tutor system in NTU never works. I can tell honestly that I've not seen my tutor more than the first time ever when he was supposed to see me. After all, if the lecturers are pressured into producing research, how can they spend time to teach and mentor? The university nowadays are putting themselves into the shoes of research institute and have neglected the holy duty of teaching. I've seen a number of my old lecturers, capable of teaching well, being asked to become "teaching fellow" and get their teaching duty decreased with a lot lower pay. The saving then spent for young and brilliant researchers who speak bad english and zero teaching skill but with extremely good journals. Who can blame the university if the world measures the rank of universities by research (just look at Times).

This incident should be a good wake up call for the university to re look their priority and the scholars to think about what they are really doing.

The truth will never be revealed

The real story on what really happened during the stabbing in NTU will never go out. Sadly, that's how I feel. There is only one witness alive at this time and that witness will be the one ruling where the story will go. Apparently the student had been warned about his falling grade three times according to the news, contrary to what I felt previously. However, it would be nice if the parents can confirm this. You see, I am not a believer of one sided story. People are usually vindicated due to one sided story. Not that I am saying that the A/P is wrong. It just that two stories from different perspective will bring a more complete picture the situation.

Only if the student was alive to tell his story that solution can be found. His untimely death, decided by himself, brought him and the history more harm. Now, no way that we can get the real story. Even by reconstructing the event based on the one sided story, we'd only have again, one perspective.

After all, it's actually quite hard to fail your final year project. Experiments can always be wrong. There is no idea and experiments that can have its result predicted with 100% certainty. So, it won't be fair to penalize due to experiments not producing the expected results. After all, even the lecturers know so and hence, they will be lenient (I hope...). Hence, to be so afraid of failing is really... a myth propagated by self-fear. I hope no other student will fall into that trap.

I am still intrigued by the fact that the blood is splattered at the other end of the table containing the monitor. I hope more complete picture will emerge when the police is done with their fair investigation.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Analysis of the incident in NTU - flaws in logic

I read that lots of people in the net is saying that the student (David) was told by A/P Chan that his scholarship was revoked and hence David became angry thinking that A/P Chan was the one initiating the idea. Then the killing. I think there are a couple of issues with such logic that need to be addressed:

1. I believe that unless there is a huge breach in confidentiality, A/P Chan should not even know whether or not any ASEAN scholarship is withdrawn. Scholarship matter belongs to the university and only the university staff administering the scholarship are supposed to know whether or not they are withdrawing any scholarship from anyone. If indeed A/P Chan somehow knows the scholarship issues, this matter should be investigated.

2. If any scholarship is withdrawn, the scholarship should have been withdrawn before the beginning of the new semester. Hence, it seems that the student has a long time to think about? I am not sure what exactly happen, but it may be too short (<2>

Student - lecturer relationship can easily get sour for many things. What the university should do are:
1. Employ lecturers who can teach and can read students' feelings better.
2. Teach lecturers to do that.
3. Provide avenue for students to complain. Many times, students feel disillusioned and greatly disappointed for not knowing where to lodge complain. When complaints are put up, nobody seems to care.
4. Hold sessions to seek feedback from students under pressure, i.e. students having scholarships, having to take loan, etc.
5. Find a better way to communicate any bad news. Ready counsellor at all times.

In the current hard time, there will definitely students who are affected by the recession. There must be measures in place to help such students.

In all honesty, being an ex-student of NTU, there are TONNES of things that the university should have done better in preventing such an unnecessary death and incident.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

GM food

There are so many contradicting publications and study on Genetically Modified (GM) food. How could one feel safe consuming such food if there is no agreement on the safety. I wonder what's the difficulty of getting organizations like greenpeace and the producer of GM food to sit together and form a neutral party to study the GM food that is intended for release? The study result from a group of scientists consisitng of both contending party surely will calm the population, doesn't it? The uncertainty posed by GM food is quite real since there is no one on earth that can safely say that modifying gene A will not cause any harm or any other mutation or change of function of other genes. However, the potential posed by GM food is equal if not greater since GM food potentially allow better products as in bigger quantity or quality. Hence, I would feel that rationally both contending parties should really sit together to figure out how to resolve their differences for the sake of humanity. Just get a group of capable scientists, neutral, if not get an equal group of scientists supporting different stands and carry out a study on the GM food!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Israel and Gaza

I think the world has to learn that in all things there two sides of a coin.

When the world condemn Israel for the ground intrusion and calls it a terrorism, the rocket attack to Israel from Gaza should be equally condemned. It's strange that after millions of years, human never realize the chaos and bitterness that an eye for an eye causes.

MRT having more spaces for passengers

Recently I realized that more SMRT trains are having cars without seats, i.e. you can only stand in that car. It greatly increases the number of passengers that train can take and smartly, the "standing car" is alternate between normal car. I find it as a very smart and effective measure since when the train is very crowded, one would be more or less forced to stand all the way through in the standing car unless one finds it rational to squeeze through the other standing passengers to another car to test his luck in finding empty seat. This new train set up surely will make the shareholders of SMRT very happy people as it lowers the maintenance cost (i.e. no more seat to repaint and replace) and hence, the profit. It surely will supplement the increase of transport fare due to the oil price increase, which amazingly when the oil price drops, the minister said that the transport fare is NOT linked to oil price. What an amazing counter argument.

Backpack posture

I see a lot of teenagers in Singapore like to let their backpacks hang low to their buttocks. Perhaps to avoid feeling hot, damage to their long hair (for ladies), or simply due to peer pressure. A simple search on the net at shows that it's not good to hang the backpack that low. even provides a good load of academic journal on backpack links to injury.

Nevertheless, I still use a backpack although I strongly advocate using the backpack snuggling fit to one's back and put it sufficiently tight to the body to evenly distribut ethre weight across the body.