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Thursday, April 30, 2009

NEA Fails to Reply My Follow-Up Email After 4 Working Days

21 Apr 2009 23:01

My first email to the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Potential Contamination of Fresh Sugar Cane Juice was on 21 Apr 2009.

24 Apr 2009 20:30

My email was replied after 3 working days by a Public Relations Executive from the Environmental Health Department. The reply was unacceptable and failed to assure me.

26 Apr 2009 18:40

I replied the email from NEA to ask for more information on what was done within the 3 working days. My reply is as such,

Dear XX,

I appreciate you replying within short a short period of time - a mere 3 working days. I was in fact shocked that NEA took such a short period of time to investigate such a potential serious case as mine.

As a concerned Singapore citizen, I am more interested to know the process NEA conducted in the 3 days of investigation before giving me assurances and assuming this case to be closed. I am utterly disappointed with how NEA handled this case. With due respect to the government body, I should have lied to myself, telling myself the reply from NEA was not from a reply-template but it is tough.

I hope NEA can take my case more seriously and prevent a second Geylang Serai food poisoning case from happening. We should not be complacent and take things for granted assuming the current so-called unfailing measures put in place will always be executed and will never be breached.

I look forward towards NEA's more sincere approach towards this case. If the process needed more time, say 1 month, NEA can just reply frankly on the time needed. By reverting and reporting progress, I do not see your KPI to be affected. 3 working days to get to the bottom of this case is far too short, unconvincing, illogical and "fake". Don't you think so?

No offence.

Hon Chun

It has been 4 working days since I hear from NEA. I am going to send a reminder to "wake" them up.

Login to Windows Administrator and Linux Root Account Without Knowing or Changing Current Password

Looks cool. Shall try it one day after my exams.

Login to Windows Administrator and Linux Root Account Without Knowing or Changing Current Password [via]

Gmail Claims to Run Faster On Google Chrome

If you were to access Google Gmail on browsers other than Google Chrome, you should see a label "Gmail runs faster in Google Chrome", something like the above.

Watch the below video by the Google Chrome team to advertise their web browser - Google Chrome.

Gmail runs faster in Google Chrome [via]

On Leave for Exam but Shopping in Singapore Exchange

I am on leave today to prepare for tonight's examination. I end up shopping in Singapore Exchange and bought Rickmers Maritme.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SMRT Trains and Buses Ridership Figures

Monthly total MRT Ridership

Monthly total Bus Ridership

Another interesting statistics from SMRT for trains is the Average operating car occupancy (persons). For FY2008, the number stood at an average of 73.3 persons per car, a 6.8% increase.

Uniqlo Singapore Opening Sale

Uniqlo Singapore [via]

NTUC Income CEO Tan Suee Chieh With 2 Bikini Girls in Australia

NTUC Income CEO Tan Suee Chieh was seen with 2 bikini girls in a photo shoot. NTUC Income was then at Surfers Paradise, Australia, for a retreat.

What is Swine Flu and All Else About it

What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people

Are there human infections with swine flu in the U.S.?
In late March and early April 2009, cases of human infection with swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses were first reported in Southern California and near San Antonio, Texas. Other U.S. states have reported cases of swine flu infection in humans and cases have been reported internationally as well. An updated case count of confirmed swine flu infections in the United States is kept at CDC and local and state health agencies are working together to investigate this situation.

Is this swine flu virus contagious?
CDC has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it not known how easily the virus spreads between people.

What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.

How does swine flu spread?
Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

What should I do to keep from getting the flu?
First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).

How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

How long can viruses live outside the body?
We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. Frequent handwashing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water. or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. we recommend that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

What should I do if I get sick?
If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhoea, you may want to contact their health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
  • Fever with a rash
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
How serious is swine flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. However, swine flu infection can be serious. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died 8 days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death.

Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Swine Influenza and You [via]

View H1N1 Swine Flu Affected Areas in Google Maps Mashup

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

Monday, April 27, 2009

Co-operative NTUC Income Advertising on Google Ads

Is co-operative NTUC Income getting more commercialized?

S.H.E 花都開好了 手語搞笑版

More than 20% of Singapore Population are Foreigners

I read this

"An estimated one million foreigners live in Singapore, representing more than 20 percent of the total population, which is predominantly ethnic Chinese."

Land registry publishes warning on land bank investment schemes

On 15 Jan 2009, the Land Registry (U.K.) published a warning on land banking. So far, nothing serious is done in many countries including Singapore.

Land Registry has published a guide warning against so-called land banking investment schemes which are often advertised as offering big returns on investments in land.

The government department says many investors have handed over thousands of pounds for land that has little or no chance of being developed.

Plots of land are offered for sale, often online, and sometimes with the claim that there will be huge returns when planning permission is obtained for housing or other development. But the land is usually in areas protected from development by planning law.

Read my previous post on Land Banking - Read This First.

Land registry publishes warning on land bank investment schemes [via]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Confessions of a S-Chip CEO

Is this how the business world should operate? I myself am neither surprised by what I read. For your information, the below article may be a bit lengthy and so I suggest you print and read it while travelling. I did that myself.

Confessions of a S-Chip CEO [via]

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Organizational Politics is a Reality

Politics is a reality. It is also a competence. One that CIOs need to learn if they are going to ensure IT occupies its rightful place at the top table. Do you agree or disagree? It depends.

Good Politics

The following techniques can be considered valid, legitimate parts of a political process:
  1. Education
  2. Persuasion
  3. Consensus building
  4. Fact-finding
  5. Intellectually honest discussions
  6. Identification of common interests
  7. Exposure of hidden or subtle facts
  8. Seeking compromise
  9. Reasoning together
Neutral Politics

The following behaviors are in the gray zone. Some people admit them as part of a legitimate political process, while others abhor them. I make no value judgment here other than to put them in the "neutral" category:
  1. Cajoling
  2. Ridiculing
  3. Lobbying
  4. Delaying
  5. Defocusing issues
  6. Positioning
  7. Not telling all the truth all the time
  8. You do this for me and I'll do that for you
Bad Politics

Without belaboring the neutral zone too long, we pass to those aspects of the political process that most people find unpleasant and "over the line":
  1. Lying or deliberately misleading
  2. Bribing
  3. Intimidating, threatening, bullying
  4. Undermining, conspiring, plotting
  5. Personal attacks, abusive behavior
  6. Filibustering
  7. Hidden agendas
  8. Committing to do something you have no intention of doing
  9. Committing to not do something you have every intention of doing
  10. Appeal to authority to subvert the process
  11. "The end justifies the means," or "All's fair in love and war."
On Politics in Technical Organizations [via]
The Politics of failure: watch out for the warning signs of bad leadership [via]

Friday, April 24, 2009

NEA Reply is Political and Unacceptable to Me

On 21st April 2009, I sent an email to National Environment Agency (NEA) to report a case on potential contamination of fresh sugar cane juice. The case was forwarded to me via email by one of my friends and I thought I should bring this matter to NEA for investigation.

Today (after famous 3 working days), I received a reply from NEA. As expected, their reply was political and looked very much like a standard reply-template from any government body for a similar case like mine. I wonder if they really did take my case seriously.

I will think of a reply to them soon. Let's see what's their next reply-template.

Their reply is as below,

Dear Sir

We refer to your enquiry appended below.

Sugar-cane juice that is prepared in a hygienic manner is safe for consumption. The National Environment Agency (NEA) has a strict regime to ensure that vendors observe this responsibility. For example, vendors are required to obtain their supplies of cut sugar cane from approved sources.

Our officers also conduct regular checks to make sure that hygiene is observed during juice preparation (including proper storage). Pls rest assured that NEA will not hesitate to take action against vendors who do not comply with our food safety and hygiene requirements.

Thank you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Offloaded First Resources

After 6 months, I finally managed to sell and offload First Resources Limited shares. The stock has since rallied over 25% for the past few weeks.

I am hoping for a correction on agriculture stock so I can get back into the sector again.

About Wireless@SG Registration

This post contains information about registration for Wireless@SG account.

Sign Up

You can sign up a total of 3 user accounts, one each from the 3 internet service providers. My recommendation is to sign up all 3 because I have experienced there are times you may not be able to login to a WiFi zone using one of the account. For convenience, you may wish to choose a common user id for all the user accounts.
  1. Singtel

  2. iCell

  3. QMax

Once you have successfully connected to a wireless network through Wireless@SG, simply go to any default homepage e.g. You will be redirected to a login page for authentication before you can continue surfing.

There will be a list of accounts to choose from. You may choose SingTel, iCell or QMax. Your user id will be in the format as below.
  1. SingTel - @singnet

  2. iCell -

  3. QMax -
Note that there is no need to logout after use.

Wireless@SG Homepage

JB SONG 新山真好

83 km/h Winds Recorded in Singapore Yesterday

Strong winds up to 83km/h were recorded in Singapore yesterday. The unusual strong wind was the result of the development of storm over at Sumatra and the Straits of Malacca.

This strong wind had resulted in fallen trees and a broken construction crane.

Tropical storm behind strongest winds to hit S'pore in 9 yrs [via]

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Every 22 April marks Earth Day. Google celebrates today by unveiling their very earthly logo.

Prudential cutting terminal bonuses

Just by doing a search on "Prudential cutting terminal bonuses" on Google, you will easily see hundreds of search result.

On today's news, Prudential declared cutting of terminal bonuses.

Prudential cutting terminal bonuses [via]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Potential Contamination of Fresh Sugar Cane Juice

I just sent an email to National Environment Agency (NEA) on a potential contamination of fresh sugar cane juice.

Dear Sir/Mdm,

I received an email circulated among my friends on potential contamination of fresh sugar cane juice and I wonder its authenticity. With the recent heightened concern over food hygiene, I hope the relevant authorities can address this matter and confirm if there's any potential contamination of fresh sugar cane juice.

Please read on the below.

*Avoid Drinking Fresh Sugar Cane Juice*

Please take 2 mins to read this.

This email was sent by a friend whose father is working with the Ministry of the Environment in S'pore.*

Health News - About Sugar Cane Drinks*

A friend whose father works for the government health inspection passed on his info. Their job is to inspect all hawkers, their cooked food, their store hygiene, etc. They found sugar cane juice hasthe highest content of bacteria among all food.. In fact, it has exceeded the set limit.

Hence, these guys had to find out why. They went round all sugar cane stores and watched the way the hawkers handled their sugar cane, wash their glasses, their entire procedure. But they couldn't find the problem.

One day, they stayed till closing time and discovered some shocking facts! Whenever, the hawkers closed their stores, they wouldwash the floor with detergent.. As we know, the remaining sugar canes will be placed at the back of the store, vertically standing and as sugar canes are very porous, they tend to absorb whatever liquid around them. Besides the soapy water, the dirt on hawkers'boots, cats' urine, etc, will all be absorbed?? Now, whenever I eat at a hawker centre, I would warn all my friends about this and of course I stopped drinking my favorite sugar cane juice.

A friend, who loved sugar cane juice, was pregnant. She was always drinking sugar cane juice. Anyway, one day she miscarried and the fetus was already like 6 or 7 months old, I think. When the doctors did an autopsy to find out why all of a sudden the fetus had died inside her, they found traces of some chemical substance, which was found in cat urine. Large traces of it.

While it would not be able to harm adults, it was extremely toxic to babies, what more a fetus? So they tried to determine how this cat urine thing could have ended up in the fetus.. This meant that it had to be digested by the mother, right? And the only logical conclusion they could come up with was that since these sugar cane juice stall holders just leave the canes lying around on the wet and dirty floor, it would not be impossible to think that stray cats could have peed on those sugar canes or near those sugar canes. So think carefully the next time you order that favorite sugar cane juice!

Please pass this on to everyone you know in S'pore & M'sia.. Let's take action to make this world a better & safer place for all of us & the generations to come..

Hope to hear from you soon.

Loh Hon Chun (MR)

New Singapore Exchange Web Interface on BETA

Have you tried the new Singapore Exchange (SGX) web interface on BETA? The new interface is scheduled to go live on 8 May 2008.

For now, you will need to use to access the new interface.

Award winning short film - "Chicken Ala Carte" - DO NOT Waste Food

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is hospitalized

The man who is arguably the world's most famous scientist, and who is widely known for trying to help everyday people understand questions like how was the universe formed, is hospitalized with a chest infection.

I read and heard a lot about him when I was in my secondary school days.

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking is hospitalized [via]

Monday, April 20, 2009

Should "Comic Sans" Font Be Banned?

Oracle to Buy Sun Micro for Over US$7 Billion

Oracle Corp plans to buy Sun Microsystems Inc for more than US$7 billion, after the high-end computer server and software maker's talks with IBM fell apart.

Oracle is to buy Sun at US$9.5 per share after IBM earlier offer of US$9.40 per share collapsed.

Oracle to buy Sun Micro for over $7 bln [via]

POSB Internet Banking New Integrated Trading Services Sucks

POSB recently integrated DBS Vickers into their internet banking. I can only say the integration is not very well thought of since new banking/trading account is actually used.

So, instead of holding only onto your POSB savings account and DBS Vickers trading account, you will now have a third account called DBS Vickers-Cash Upfront account. I admit I am at fault too for not reading fine prints and almost got myself into some inconveniences. I made payment to shares I bought through DBS Vickers trading account by doing a fund transfer to my newly created third account. The fund was transferred to my third account instead of DBS Vickers trading account.

I do not see an integration between POSB and DBS Vickers here. Trade done using DBS Vickers platform cannot be settled using the new trading service.


Sign the petition to keep YouTube back to the way it was in 2006. It was really "YOU" back then.

New AWARE President, Josie Lau First Television Interview

AWARE new President Ms Josie Lau first interview - Part 1

AWARE new President Ms Josie Lau first interview - Part 2

Earth Hour 2009 - See Before and After

Started in Sydney, Australia in 2007, Earth Hour quickly grew into a global observance. More than 1,000 cities in over 80 countries observed Earth Hour 2009 on Saturday March 28th, as homes, office towers and landmarks turned off their lights for an hour starting at 8.30 pm local time to raise awareness about climate change and the threat from rising greenhouse gas emissions. Collected here are a series of before-and-after photographs - which (starting with the second one below) will fade between "on" and "off" when clicked. Let me state that again, since I know not everyone reads the whole intro here - starting with image #2 below, click on the image to see an animated fade between "on" and "off". This effect requires javascript to be enabled. (17 photos total)

Earth Hour 2009 [via]

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Obama Weekly Address - 18 Apr 2009

Obama administration is going to have a team of Chief Performance Officer, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer to help improve the check and balance of the U.S. government. Obama is determined to cut cost by putting an end to unnecessary projects.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Susan Boyle - Cry Me A River - 1999 Recording

Susan Boyle, the one who stunned many in a performance for "Britain's Got Talent" television show, actually made her first recording back in 1999, when she sang blues ballad Cry Me A River for a charity CD. Back then, the CD only managed to sell 1,000 copies.

The track is simply professional.

47 Year Old Susan Boyle Wowed "Britain's Got Talent" Audiences

This is a MUST watch plus listen performance! I am equally wowed.

The performance for "Britain's Got Talent" television show was put up by a 47-year-old Scottish charity volunteer by the name Susan Boyle. She had stunned the audiences, judges and definitely the public.

Singing Scottish spinster a global media sensation [via]

Singing Scottish spinster a global media sensation (MUST WATCH)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Selfish Project Team

A project team, from my today's lecture, whom had already presented for assignment 1 volunteered to present for the second assignment as well. They claimed to share their findings to the entire lecture group. I must admit their findings were indeed interesting and it must be because of it being interesting, the lecturer actually requested to have a copy of their presentation slides so they can be uploaded.

Few minutes ago, the lecturer made an announcement informing all students of the new document upload. The document is in PDF format instead of the original PPT format. The PDF document is security protected, having its Print capability removed.

Obviously, the project team had converted the original PPT presentation slides into PDF format not for its portability nature. They did it with a selfish mentality by disabling the print capability. However, they forgot to disable the Print Screen capability which allowed me to create my own document.

Anyone taking CS5259 - Information Technology Outsourcing and would like to have a copy of the selfish project team's presentation slides can leave a message here.

SGX Seeing Increase in Volume

For the past few days, I observed the number of shares transacted had increased significantly as compared to months back. Just yesterday, more than 3,000 million shares were transacted.

Today before 12pm, the total number of shares transacted exceeded 2,000 million.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

You've Requalified

Congratulations, hongjun - You've Requalified!

I have finally regained my FREE premium services with Experts-Exchange. I lost it for the first time few months back since I first joined EE in year 1999 due to my inactivity.

I better maintain it.

MTI Revises Forecasts for 2009 GDP Growth to -9.0 to -6.0 Per Cent

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announced today that it expects Singapore's GDP to contract by 6.0 to 9.0 per cent in 2009, lower than the contraction of 2.0 to 5.0 per cent that it had forecast on 21 January 2009.

According to MTI, the below are the various economic indicators for Singapore:
- 11.5 % in 1Q 2009
Total Trade:
- 22.1 % in Feb 2009
Industrial Production:
- 22.4 % in Feb 2009
+ 1.9 % in Feb 2009
MTI Revises Forecasts for 2009 GDP Growth to -9.0 to -6.0 Per Cent [via]

Thai Protests Aborted ASEAN Summit in Pattaya

It is noted ministers were told to leave by small boats if protesters remained in the building where ministers were in at the moment!

The Fokker 50 plane looks familiar to me because I worked on it before!

Aborted Summit in Pattaya [via]

Win 7: Looks to be Vista disaster, Take 2

Redmond (WA) - InformationWeek has been given a first-look at data collected by KACE from over 1100 sources regarding corporate uptake of Windows 7 after it's released later this year. According to their stats, 83% of businesses will not be upgrading to Windows 7 until at least 2011, making the Windows 7 launch quite possibly a Vista Take 2 under additional declines in OS market share.

Win 7: Looks to be Vista disaster, Take 2 [via]

As a Experts-Exchange Cleanup Volunteer

I have been a Cleanup Volunteer for Experts-Exchange for at least 3 years. However, due to work commitments and school, I have since suspended my community work. I hope to start again in a months' time after my exams.

Clean up volunteers are members of Experts Exchange who volunteer their time to clean up open questions. Clean up volunteers are selected by the Clean Up Administrator for their demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the topics in the zone they clean, and for their passion for helping the site. Every clean up volunteer goes through training, which helps them become part of the team and do their job right. Cleaning up includes:
  • Make recommendations for closing out old questions so that the Moderators can finalize them.
  • Improve the quality of the PAQ database by moving good, useful information into the PAQ and clearing out old questions that were not answered or have no value to future readers.
  • Ensure that Experts receive the points they've earned.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Live Search Now Solves Algebra for You

Microsoft Live Search can now solve algebra for you. For example, if you were to enter 3x=18, Live Search will return x=6.

More impressively, Live Search can even give you more than 1 answer for a square root. E.g. if you enter x*x=9, you will get x=3, x=-3.

SMRT Shares Filled

I queued for SMRT shares at S$1.49 per share last weekend and I got it. S$1.49 is the closing price for today and so happen to be the lowest price.

This is going to be one of my long term stock in my portfolio. Hopefully the price I bought is low and can yield me good dividend.

Not sure if it will be on the uptrend for SMRT since MA (14d) and MA (25d) do not look perfect to me but there is a chance for them to come close. Think long term.

Please take more trains! Circle line is going to start soon!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Civil Service is Singapore's Biggest Employer

I read there are approximately 66,000 employees in the civil service alone (not counting statutory boards and the armed forces). The government’s total wage bill for the civil service for 2009 is estimated to be at over $5 billion (again, excluding the stat boards and SAF).

This is pretty huge! And the government is still recruiting.

DBS CEO Richard Stanley dies from leukaemia

The chief executive of Singapore's DBS Bank Richard Stanley has died from leukaemia. He was 48.

DBS CEO Richard Stanley dies from leukaemia [via]

Fiber Optic Cables Vandalized and Cut

Fiber optic cables were vandalized and cut in San Jose and San Carlos on 9 Apr 2009, leaving more than 50,000 residents without phone or Internet service. Could this be evolve and become a new plot for terrorism?

Fiber Optic Cable Vandalism A National Security Problem

Friday, April 10, 2009

SMRT Shares Shortlisted

I have shortlisted and picked SMRT shares as a possible buy for its resilence and share price within my tight budget. Hopefully I can buy it at a low price after Singapore MTI announcement on Singapore's Q1 2009 GDP on 14 April 2009.

SMRT shares closed at S$1.51 on 9 April 2009.

2009-04-06: CLSA
Notes shares trade at 12.9X FY10 earnings vs 10X average of the Singapore universe of stocks that yield over 5%.
Reiterates Outperform call with S$1.98 target price.

2009-03-18: Credit Suisse
Based on discounted cash-flow valuation, to assume lower bus ridership for FY10.
Keeps Neutral call, target price to S$1.70 from S$1.90.

2009-03-09: Phillip
Steady Does It More
Upgrade to BUY, raise fair value estimate to S$1.97.

2009-01-28: CIMB
Riding out the recession More
Maintain DCF-derived target price of S$2.08. Maintain Outperform.

2009-01-28: DBS
3Q09 results in line More
Maintain Buy, TP: S$1.82.

NOTE: I shall not be responsible for the above target price from the various brokerage houses. They are just for your information. It is recommended to download and study the respective research reports before making your own stock pick.

Funeral - MCYS Latest Viewers' Choice 2008

Funeral is a new TV commerical launched by the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) which looks at relationships in a different light, through a woman at her husband's funeral. Ultimately, the TVC celebrates the beautiful imperfections that make a relationship perfect. This is fresh off MCYS latest Viewers' Choice 2008 win for last year's Family TVC which promotes the importance and value of family bonding.

In my opinion, the script of the video is very strangely written.

What Price Cool?

The below whitepaper compares Mac and PC. It seeks to reveal the extras one actually pays when purchasing a Mac.

What Price Cool? Users may know they pay more for Mac hardware, but much of the "Apple Tax" is hidden.

At the dawn of the personal computer age, two major operating systems or platforms emerged: Mac and PC. And although many of us have used and continue to use both over time, they really did end up diverging in profound and philosophical ways.

With respect to operating systems, the question of value has to be viewed in the context of a long and rich history, during which Microsoft and Apple took divergent approaches to building a
platform. Microsoft worked with partners to provide the widest range of choice possible. Apple kept control of the whole stack from top to bottom, providing a more integrated, but less flexible platform.

Outgrowths of these strategies have been Apple’s premium priced product positioning and Microsoft’s nurturing of a large competitive ecosystem that produces a wide array of hardware — including high-end tricked-out gaming rigs of the first order, but also low-cost entry-level systems accessible to buyers on a budget. Apple’s positioning has often been justified by an elegant user experience and a branding that attempts to associate the user with a “cool” in-group.

While the gap in user experience has been particularly noticeable in the most recent period, when Microsoft pitted Windows Vista against Apple’s OS X, this gap will likely close up when Microsoft introduces Windows 7 late this year. Then, only coolness, if that, will separate the two worlds. Mac users, and Windows users considering switching to Mac, might want to know the real price of cool. Actually comparing the two makes it clear that Mac buyers are paying a lot for cool.

What Price Cool? [via]

Gmail Labs Add Insert Images Feature

Gmail Labs has added a new feature to insert inline images when composing emails. Sometimes I wonder why Google don't just push it to live to all users. This feature is seen to me as basic.

New in Labs: Inserting images [via]

Thursday, April 09, 2009

What is Scareware?

According to Wikipedia,

"Scareware is several classes of software, often with limited or no benefit, that are sold to consumers by certain unethical marketing practices."

An example of Scareware is security software. It is sold to technically naive and gullible users to address supposed computer security threats.

Scareware on Wikipedia [via]

Polyphasic Sleep

Polyphasic Sleep [via]
Polyphasic Sleep on Wikipedia [via]

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

SGX to Revamp Website

It is really about time for Singapore Exchange (SGX) to revamp its website. The current interface has been around for many years!

The new site will come with a refreshed look loaded with many new features. According to SGX, the new site is set to go live on 8 May 2009. A preview of this enhanced website will be made available at to the public from 18 April 2009. However, the official site still remains at


Obama Speaks to the Troops in a Surprise Visit to Iraq

Goldman Sachs CEO to the Council of Institutional Investors

Good morning. I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today. For more than two decades, the Council of Institutional Investors has committed itself to the values of accountability, transparency and responsible ownership. I’m pleased to be able to speak to those principles in front of a group that has played such a powerful role in advancing them over the years.

To begin with an obvious point, much of the past year has been deeply humbling for my industry. We held ourselves up as the experts, and the loss of public confidence from failing to live up to the expectations that we created will take years to rebuild. Worse, decisions on compensation and other actions taken and not taken, particularly at banks that rapidly lost a lot of shareholder value, look self-serving and greedy in hindsight.

Financial institutions have an obligation to the broader financial system. We depend on a healthy, well-functioning system, but we collectively neglected to raise enough questions about whether some of the trends and practices that became commonplace really served the public’s long-term interests.

Meaningful change and effective reform are vital and should naturally emanate from the lessons learned. I will discuss a few of the more important lessons from this crisis. I’d also like to highlight some of the regulatory guideposts that may help us to improve the broader systemic management of risk, increase the level of institutional accountability and enhance investor confidence.

Without trying to shed one bit of our industry’s accountability, we would also further our collective interests by recognizing other contributing causes to the severity of the cycle we are living through.

As a matter of policy, we allowed housing prices to be subsidized, including through implied government support of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We watched as high consumption and low savings rates as well as entitlement spending were increasingly encouraged and financed through the twin deficits.

Factors from both Main Street and Wall Street contributed to today’s circumstances. Neither part of our economy acted completely independent of the other. So, any examination of how we got to this point must begin with an understanding of some of the global economic and financial dynamics of the last two decades.

Certainly, what started in a localized part of the U.S. mortgage market spread to virtually every corner of the global financial markets. But the genesis of the problem wasn’t in sub-prime. Instead, the roots of the damage to our financial system are broad and deep. They coalesced over many years to create a sustained period of cheap credit and excess liquidity. The resulting under-pricing of risk led to massive leverage across wide swaths of the economy – from households to the corporate sector to the public sector.

I see at least three broad underlying factors:

• First, there has been enormous growth in the amount of foreign capital, much of it held in large pools, and a very significant shift in the balance of payments of many emerging markets;
• Second, and linked to this, nearly ten years of low long-term interest rates; and
• Third, the official policy of subsidizing homeownership in the United States.

Let’s take each in turn, beginning with the growth in foreign capital.

Between 1992-2007, the U.S. current account deficit increased by more than 1,300 percent. During the same period, China’s current account surplus increased by over 5,700 percent, as did the surplus for the oil exporting nations.

After previous financial crises, emerging economies began to self-insure against a repeat of those events by building up their foreign currency reserves. Their primary objective was to reduce their dependence on dollar-denominated domestic debt.

Of course, the other, perhaps more significant factor in the growth in current account surpluses had been the record run-up in oil prices since 2000. Increases in global savings run almost parallel with the increase in petrodollar flows.

The growth in foreign capital had a profound effect on the global economy. Foreign holdings of U.S. government and corporate debt skyrocketed. China’s monthly average purchases of U.S. long-term securities went from less than $2 billion in 2001 to over $15 billion in 2007.

The flood of foreign capital into safe and liquid assets, particularly U.S. Treasuries, helped push relatively low long-term interest rates down even further. And they stayed low, even after the Federal Reserve began raising short-term rates in 2004.

This was accompanied by a significant reduction in inflation. Between the period 1985 and 1995 versus the next 12 years, inflation in advanced economies fell by more than one-half.

Enormous excess liquidity, strong global economic growth and low real-interest rates created a desire to find new investment opportunities. Many of the best were thought to be in the housing market. The reasons are three-fold.

First, governments, particularly the U.S., explicitly supported homeownership through a variety of government programs and initiatives. Second, mortgage assets were considered relatively impervious to sharp downturns. And lastly, the creation of more flexible and varied mortgage products attracted even more capital in search of higher returns.

These factors, to varying degrees, contributed to a housing bubble – not just in the U.S. but in many other countries as well. While real home prices increased nearly 50 percent in the U.S. between 1998 and 2006, they increased more than 130 percent in Ireland, 120 percent in the U.K. and Spain and over 100 percent in France.

Not surprisingly, in the U.S., mortgage origination as a percentage of total mortgage debt outstanding rose from an average of 6.3 percent between 1985 and 2000 to 10 percent between 2001 and 2006. Sub-prime debt, in particular, grew from just over 2 percent in 2002 to 14 percent in 2008. In a sustained environment of cheap capital, lending standards for residential mortgages simply deteriorated.

As I have thought about our industry’s understanding of the previous years’ risks, it is important to reflect on some of the lessons.

At the top of my list are the rationalizations that were made to justify that the downward pricing of risk was different. While we recognized that credit standards were historically lax, we rationalized the reasons with arguments such as: the emerging markets were more powerful, the risk mitigants were better, there was more than enough liquidity in the system.

We rationalized because our self-interest in preserving and growing our market share, as competitors, sometimes blinds us – especially when exuberance is at its peak.

A systemic lack of skepticism was equally true with respect to credit ratings. Too many financial institutions and investors simply outsourced their risk management. Rather than undertake their own analysis, they relied on the rating agencies to do the essential work of risk analysis for them. This was true at the inception and over the period of the investment, during which time they did not heed other indicators of financial deterioration.

This over-dependence on credit ratings coincided with the dilution of the coveted triple A rating. In January 2008, there were 12 triple A-rated companies in the world. At the same time, there were 64,000 structured finance instruments, like CDO tranches, rated triple A. It is easy to blame the rating agencies for their credit judgments. But the blame is not theirs alone. Every financial institution that participated in the process has to accept part of the responsibility.

More generally, risk management will come to define the events of 2007 and 2008. First, models, particularly those predicated on historical data, were too often allowed to substitute for judgment.

In the last several months, we have heard the phrase, “multiple standard deviation events” more than a few times. If events which were calculated to occur once in twenty years in fact occurred much more regularly, it doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that risk management assumptions did not reflect the distribution of actual outcomes. Our industry must do more to enhance and improve scenario analysis and stress testing.

Second, size matters. For example, whether you owned $5 billion or $50 billion of (supposedly) no-risk super-senior debt in a CDO, the likelihood of losses would appear to be the same. But the consequences of a miscalculation were obviously much bigger if you had a $50 billion exposure.

Third, a lot of risk models incorrectly assumed that positions could be fully hedged. After LTCM and the crisis in emerging markets in 1998, new products like basket indices and credit default swaps were created to help offset a number of risks. However, we didn’t, as an industry, consider carefully enough the possibility that liquidity would dry up, making it difficult to apply effective hedges.

Fourth, risk models failed to capture the risk inherent in off-balance sheet activities, such as Structured Investment Vehicles (SIVs). It seems clear now that managers of companies with large off-balance sheet exposure didn’t appreciate the full magnitude of the economic risks they were exposed to; equally worrying, their counterparties were unaware of the full extent of these vehicles and, therefore, could not accurately assess the risk of doing business. Post Enron, that is quite amazing.

Fifth, complexity got the better of us. The industry let the growth in new instruments outstrip the operational capacity to manage them. As a result, operational risk increased dramatically and this had a direct effect on the overall stability of the financial system.

Lastly, financial institutions didn’t account for asset values accurately enough. I’ve heard some argue that fair value accounting – which assigns current values to financial assets and liabilities – is one of the major reasons for exacerbating the credit crisis. I see it differently. If more institutions had properly valued their positions and commitments at the outset, they would have been in a much better position to reduce their exposures.

For Goldman Sachs, the daily marking of positions to current market prices was a key contributor to our decision to reduce risk relatively early in markets and in positions that were deteriorating. This process can be difficult, and sometimes painful, but I believe it is a discipline that should define financial institutions. We mark-to-market, not because we are required to, but because we wouldn’t know how to assess or manage risk if market prices were not reflected on our books.

While this is not an exhaustive list of what went wrong, our focus is on learning from these lessons and others that will undoubtedly emerge as we work our way through this period.

The Administration, legislators and regulators have begun to consider the important regulatory actions to be taken and our firm pledges to be a constructive participant in that process. In that vein, I believe it is useful, in light of the lessons we take away from this crisis, to consider important principles for our industry, for policymakers and for regulators.

For the industry, we can’t let our ability to innovate exceed our capacity to manage. Given the size and interconnected character of markets, the growth in volumes, the global nature of trades and their cross-asset characteristics, managing operational risk will only become more important.

Risk and control functions need to be completely independent from the business units. And clarity as to whom risk and control managers report is crucial to maintaining that independence. Equally important, risk managers need to have at least equal stature with their counterparts in revenue producing divisions. If there is a question about a mark or a disagreement about a risk limit, the risk manager’s view should prevail.

Understandably, compensation continues to generate a lot of controversy and anger. We recognize that having TARP money creates an important context for compensation. That is why, in part, our executive management team elected not to receive a bonus in 2008, even though the firm produced a substantial profit. Beyond TARP, public scrutiny, a renewal of common sense and, perhaps, regulation will naturally affect compensation practices going forward.

More generally, we should apply basic standards to how we compensate people in our industry. Compensation should reflect an individual’s ability to identify and create value, including his or her contribution to the client franchise, enhancing the firm’s reputation and contributing to the better functioning and efficiency of markets.

Equally important, compensation should take into account strict adherence to a firm’s management and controls, especially with respect to a person’s judgment and exercising that judgment in terms of risk in all of its forms. That evaluation must be made on a multi-year basis to get a fuller picture of the effect of an individual’s decisions.

And, individual performance must not be viewed in isolation. Individual compensation should not be set without taking into strong consideration the performance of the business unit and the overall firm. Employees should share in the upside when overall performance is strong and they should all share in the downside when overall performance is weak.

No one should get compensated with reference to only his or her own P&L. Compensation should encourage real teamwork and discourage selfish behavior, including excessive risk taking, which hurts the longer term interests of the firm and its shareholders.

We also believe it is important to set forth specific guidelines on how we compensate in our industry.

• Compensation should include an annual salary plus deferred compensation, which is appropriately discretionary because it is based on performance over the entire year.

• The percentage of compensation awarded in equity should increase significantly as an employee’s total compensation increases.

• For senior people, most of the compensation should be in deferred equity. Only the firm’s junior people should receive the majority of their compensation in cash.

• As I mentioned earlier, an individual’s performance should be evaluated over time so as to avoid excessive risk taking and allow for a “clawback” effect. To ensure this, all equity awards should be subject to future delivery and/or deferred exercise over at least a three-year period.

• And, senior executive officers should be required to retain the bulk of the equity they receive until they retire. In addition, equity delivery schedules should continue to apply after the individual has left the firm.

At Goldman Sachs we believe attracting and retaining the best people is vital to our effectiveness and that incentives are an important element in that process. But we also recognize that, misapplied, they can also encourage excess. As an industry, we need to do a better job of understanding when incentives begin to work against the social good rather than for it and take action to redress the balance.

For policymakers and regulators, it should be clear that self-regulation has its limits. At the very least, fixing a system-wide problem, elevating standards or driving the industry to a collective response requires effective central regulation and the convening power of regulators.

While all of us in the industry have a common responsibility to ensure the system’s operational integrity, it is not realistic to expect that one firm alone can fix a system-wide problem like unsigned trade confirmations or the establishment of a central clearing facility.

Capital, credit and underwriting standards should be subject to more “dynamic regulation.” Regulators should consider the regulatory inputs and outputs needed to ensure a regime that is nimble and strong enough to identify and appropriately constrain market excesses, particularly in a sustained period of economic growth. Just as the Federal Reserve adjusts interest rates upward to curb economic frenzy, various benchmarks and ratios could be appropriately calibrated.

To increase overall transparency and help ensure that book value really means book value, regulators should require that all assets across financial institutions be similarly valued. Fair value accounting gives investors more clarity with respect to balance sheet risk. How can one justify that the same instruments or risks are priced differently because they reside in different parts of the balance sheet within the same institution?

As recognized at the recent G20 Summit, the level of global supervisory coordination and communication should reflect the global interconnectedness of markets. Regulators should implement more robust information sharing and harmonized disclosure, coupled with a more systemic, effective reporting regime for institutions and major market participants. Without these, regulators will lack essential tools to help them understand levels of systemic vulnerability in the banking sector and in financial markets more broadly.

In this vein, all pools of capital that depend on the smooth functioning of the financial system, and are large enough to be a burden on it in a crisis, should be subject to some degree of regulation. Yes, that includes large hedge funds and private equity funds.

After the financial shocks and unsettling developments of recent months, I understand the desire for wholesale reform of our regulatory regime. And, in many cases, it is warranted. But we also should resist a response that is solely designed to protect us against the 100-year storm.

As long as human emotions influence decisions, this won’t be the last financial crisis the world has to contend with. But, most of the last century has been defined by markets that fund innovation, reward entrepreneurial risk taking and act as an important catalyst for economic growth.

History has proven that a vibrant, dynamic financial system is at the heart of a vibrant, dynamic economy. The U.S. brand of that system has produced growth nearly one-third higher than the rest of the industrialized world over the last two decades.

The events of the last year have put into stark relief the tension between innovation and stability. But, if we abandon, as opposed to regulate, market mechanisms created decades ago, like securitization and credit default swaps, we may end up constraining access to capital and the efficient hedging and distribution of risk, when we ultimately do come through this crisis.

Certain developments of recent decades, like changes in the structure of financial institutions post Glass-Steagall, have brought the risk of less frequent but more intense upheavals. The diverse income streams of mega financial conglomerates reduce the effects of the 10-year storm, but their size and ubiquity exacerbate the consequences of the 20- or 30-year storm.

Over the last several months, there have also been a number of broader policy lessons. Many had previously accepted the bifurcation of Wall Street and Main Street as well as the decoupling of the United States from the international economy. Both have proven false. In 2007, there were pitched debates over whether policy was being geared towards Wall Street at the expense of Main Street. Today, Wall Street remains destabilized, impeding the broader economy.

In terms of international implications, we have also seen actions that, for all intents and purposes, are protectionist and self-defeating. For instance, recent legislation constrains the ability of financial institutions to hire employees through the H-1B visa program. This program helps bring the most highly trained and technical people into our labor market.

The U.S. has always been a magnet for many of the most talented, hungry and qualified people in the world. Especially at this time in our economy, do we really want to tell individuals who will help companies to grow and innovate – ultimately creating more jobs – that they should go work elsewhere?

Equally significant and using Goldman Sachs as an example, we have approximately 200 employees who are in the U.S. because of the H-1B program. But, we have 2,000 employees who are working overseas and pay U.S. taxes. Do we want to invite other countries to take punitive measures against us?

This may be a relatively minor issue in the midst of the significant challenges we face, but I think it speaks to a potentially dangerous trend of withdrawing at a time we should do the opposite. While I don’t dismiss political considerations, short-term salves like the “Buy America” provision or mandating a certain level of domestic lending will only end up harming the process underlying economic growth.

All along, we have known that market events and economic trends are interwoven on a global basis. But the events of the last year have shown that the connections are more direct and immediate than perhaps we previously appreciated.

In times of economic distress, the relationships between creditor and debtor countries take on even more complex dynamics…especially as we are the largest debtor. We have learned that when a major financial institution fails in a debtor country, a creditor country is likely to pull back from its financing relationship in one way or another and, maybe, in every way.

For the United States at this time, the relationship is not just a matter of here and abroad; it is also a relationship between a debtor and its creditors. Certain of our economic decisions that have implications for our international partners could reverberate back to us very quickly and with great consequences in the current environment.

I want to conclude today with the following thought: we are fighting for nothing less than the immediate health and security of every person. We can never forget the products of economic growth – more accessible health care, better education, less crime, tolerance of diversity, social mobility and a commitment to democracy.

In so many respects, change is the order of the day. We have much to do to repair our financial system and reinvigorate our regulatory structure. At the same time, our financial system, rooted in the belief of putting risk capital to work on behalf of ideas and innovation, has helped produce a long-term record of economic growth and stability that is unparalleled in history.

We have to safeguard the value of risk capital, which is at the heart of market capitalism, while enhancing investor confidence through meaningful transparency, effective oversight and strong governance. But, there should be no doubt: markets simply cannot thrive without confidence.

Though honest disagreements will occur, the best companies don’t shy away or selfishly frustrate efforts to compel better industry practices. These companies recognize that they are the first to benefit from better standards, especially if their business requires extensive dealings with partners or counterparties. But, we have to recognize a higher responsibility: to speak up, to draw attention to potentially destabilizing trends and to act like an owner responsible for the integrity of the system.

I, for one, know we have not done the best job in the recent past but working with you, as many of the world’s most important investors, Goldman Sachs pledges to recommit itself to this fundamental obligation.

Thank you very much.

Remarks by Lloyd C. Blankfein to the Council of Institutional Investors [via]

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Singapore to Release Advance GDP Estimates for Q1 2009 on 14 Apr

According to a report from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), they will release advance GDP estimates for Q1 2009 on 14 April 2009 (Tuesday) 8.00 a.m.

Release of Advance GDP Estimates for First Quarter 2009 [via]

George Soros Says US Banks are Basically Insolvent

The U.S. economy is in for a "lasting slowdown" and could face a Japan-style period of relatively low growth coupled with high inflation, billionaire investor George Soros said on Monday.

Soros, speaking to Reuters Financial Television, also warned that rescuing U.S. banks could turn them into "zombies" that draw the lifeblood of the economy, prolonging the economic slowdown.

US Recovery Is Far Off, Banks Are 'Basically Insolvent': Soros [via]

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ireland Faces Total economic Collapse !!!

A Joke - Bus operators fined $100

It is reported that the Public Transport Council (PTC) had fined both SBS Transit and SMRT the third time since PTC was authorised by the government in 2006 to hand down financial penalties to public transport operators.

SBS Transit and SMRT were fined $4,500 and $100 respectively after found some of their services were overcrowded. The question here is should they be fined more? $100 and $4,500 may be insignificant to these multi-million dollar transport operators.

I thought $100 was meant to be a April Fool joke.

Bus operators fined [via]

Fire or Not to Fire a Know-it-All Technical Bully?

I came across the below article and thought it left me thinking what should be the appropriate way to handle a know-it-All technical bully who does not want to share. In an organization like this, people without the know-how knowledge will be at mercy of the technical wizard.

In my opinion, the following must be done
  • The technical bully should document his works (systems, applications, etc)
  • Audit the Information Systems (IS)
  • Create a knowledge-based systems
  • There must have a manager in control
Yeah, but he really knows his stuff... [via]

Ice bridge ruptures in Antarctic

An ice bridge linking a shelf of ice the size of Jamaica to two islands in Antarctica has snapped.

Ice bridge ruptures in Antarctic [via]

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Dr Lee Wei Ling - Why I choose to remain single

Why I choose to remain single

Sun, Apr 05, 2009 - The Straits Times
My parents have a loving relationship, but I knew I could not live my life around a husband
By Lee Wei Ling

My father became prime minister in 1959, when I was just four years old. Inevitably, most people know me as Lee Kuan Yew's daughter.

My every move, every word, is scrutinised and sometimes subject to criticism. One friend said I lived in a glass house. After my father's recent comment on my lack of culinary skills, another observed: 'You live in a house without any walls.' Fortunately, I am not easily embarrassed.

As long as my conscience is clear, what other people say of me does not bother me. Indeed, I am open about my life since the more I try to conceal from the public, the wilder the speculation becomes.

My father said of my mother two weeks ago: 'My wife was...not a traditional wife. She was educated, a professional woman... We had Ah Mahs, reliable, professional, dependable. (My wife) came back every lunchtime to have lunch with the children.'

Actually, my mother was a traditional wife and mother. She was not traditional only in one respect: She was also a professional woman and, for many years, the family's main breadwinner.

One of my mother's proudest possessions is a gold pendant that my father commissioned for her. He had a calligrapher engrave on the pendant the following characters: 'xian qi liang mu' and 'nei xian wai de'.

The first four characters mean virtuous wife and caring mother. The second four mean wise in looking after the family, virtuous in behaviour towards the outside world.

My mother lived her life around my father and, while we were young, around her children. I remember my mother protesting gently once about something my father had asked her to do.

'It is a partnership, dear,' my father urged.

'But it is not an equal partnership,' my mother replied.

The partnership may not have been exactly equal at particular points in time. But over the years, especially after my mother's health deteriorated after she suffered a stroke, my father was the one who took care of her. She clearly indicated she preferred my father's care to that of the doctors', in itself a revelation of the quality of his care.

He remembers her complicated regime of medications. Because she cannot see on the left side of her visual field, he sits on her left during meals. He prompts her to eat the food on the left side of her plate and picks up whatever food her left hand drops on the table.

I have always admired my father for his dedication to Singapore, his determination to do what is right, his courage in standing up to foreigners who try to tell us how to run our country.

But my father was also the eldest son in a typical Peranakan family. He cannot even crack a soft-boiled egg - such things not being expected of men, especially eldest sons, in Peranakan families.

But when my mother's health deteriorated, he readily adjusted his lifestyle to accommodate her, took care of her medications and lived his life around her. I knew how much effort it took him to do all this, and I was surprised that he was able to make the effort.

If my parents have such a loving relationship, why then did I decide to remain single?

Firstly, my mother set the bar too high for me. I could not envisage being the kind of wife and mother she had been.

Secondly, I am temperamentally similar to my father. Indeed, he once said to me: 'You have all my traits - but to such an exaggerated degree that they become a disadvantage in you.'

When my father made that pendant for my mother, he also commissioned one for me. But the words he chose for me were very different from those he chose for my mother.

On one side of my pendant was engraved 'yang jing xu rui', which means to conserve energy and build up strength. On the other side was engraved 'chu lei ba cui', which means to stand out and excel.

The latter was added just for completion. His main message was in the first phrase, telling me, in effect, not to be so intense about so many things in life.

I knew I could not live my life around a husband; nor would I want a husband to live his life around me. Of course, there are any number of variations in marital relationships between those extremes. But there is always a need for spouses to change their behaviour or habits to suit each other. I have always been set in my ways and did not fancy changing my behaviour or lifestyle.

I had my first date when I was 21 years old. He was a doctor in the hospital ward I was posted to. We went out to a dinner party. I noted that the other guests were all rich socialites. I dropped him like a hot potato.

In 2005, while on an African safari with a small group of friends, one of them, Professor C.N. Lee, listed the men who had tried to woo me. There were three besides the first. Two were converted into friends and another, like the first, was dropped.

I am now 54 years old and happily single. In addition to my nuclear family, I have a close circle of friends. Most of my friends are men. But my reputation is such that their female partners would never consider me a threat.

More than 10 years ago, when there was still a slim chance I might have got married, my father told me: 'Your mother and I could be selfish and feel happy that you remain single and can look after us in our old age. But you will be lonely.'

I was not convinced. Better one person feeling lonely than two people miserable because they cannot adapt to each other, I figured.

I do not regret my choice. But I want to end with a warning to young men and women: What works for me may not work for others.

Many years ago, a young single woman asked me about training in neurology in a top US hospital. I advised her to 'grab the opportunity'.

She did and stayed away for eight years. She returned to Singapore in her late 30s and now worries that she may have missed her chance to get married.

Fertility in women drops dramatically with age, and older mothers run the risk of having offspring with congenital abnormalities.

Recent studies show also that advanced paternal age is associated with an increased risk of neurodevelopmental disorders in offspring, such as autism and schizophrenia, not to mention dyslexia and a subtle reduction in intelligence. Men can also suffer from diminished fertility with age although there is wide individual variation.

I would advise young men and women not to delay getting married and having children. I say this not to be politically correct. I say it in all sincerity because I have enjoyed a happy family life as a daughter and a sister, and I see both my brothers enjoying their own families.

The writer is director of the National Neuroscience Institute.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

G20 summit: Blacklisted tax havens face sanctions

Switzerland, Singapore, the Cayman Islands, Monaco, Luxembourg and Hong Kong are among 45 territories blacklisted on Thursday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and now threatened with punitive financial retaliation for their banking secrecy.

G20 summit: Blacklisted tax havens face sanctions [via]

Google Buying Twitter?

Report: Google in Talks with Twitter [via]
Twitter Co-Founder Addresses Google Rumors [via]

Gmail Add Autocomplete Search

Google Gmail has added "Autocomplete Search". I just tried it few minutes ago and it worked great. However, I required to perform a signout and a re-login before I could see the lab feature.

One of the search I attempted to search for is jpg files. I only need to type jp and Gmail very cleverly suggested "has photos".

New in Labs: Gmail search made easier (and lazier) [via]

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