Better year ahead!

2011 has been a roller-coaster for me, with the second half being much more challenging than the first half...or maybe just that my memory of the first half is blurry now hehe.

Anyway, some of the notable events/incidents I can remember are:
  • Bought secondhand Myvi and drive around PJ, Seremban and occasionally KL. Driving skill improved...I think.
  • Tutoring my student, who failed his Math exam before, to an A for his UPSR. Was a little stressed when his performance dipped in between
  • Went to OZ with Ban during the cold April/May period. Really shouldn't go anywhere near winter, no matter how low the airfare is
  • Went to OZ again for a record of 1 month in Oct/Nov, chiefly to help my sister. Overall, it was great but admittedly I did miss Ban :)
  • My grandfather passed away in August. Wasn't as emotional for the mourners compared to the death of my grandmother. My guess is that his death had been expected for some time (for more than a year) and so everyone had time to come to terms with his eventual passing
  • Birth of my nephew, the latest cutie-pie of our extended family
  • Read many more books compared to when I was working, which is great!
  • Significant changes to my stock investment portfolio. Been lucky to have a relatively small realised loss that's easily offset by a large amount of dividend received thus far. Stopped accumulating. Priority now is to built up an emergency fund that can last me for a year and at the same time, to read investment book to begin investing properly (rather than relying on superficial research and other people's analysis)
  • My assets are too heavily skewed towards property and so am now selling one of them in Seremban and hopefully there's a buyer soon! Twice, I agonised over whether should sell the one in Singapore and twice I decided not to, after thinking hard about it for a few days. Really hope the rental fee will remain more or less stable during these expected trying years
  • Dengue fever. One week of boring stay at the hospital. Wasn't helped by the fact that the iv drip needle was inserted incorrectly and thus caused pain and swelling to my left hand. They didn't switch to my right hand, despite my parents and I voicing our concern about the pain occuring each time I move my hand
  • Ever since the dengue fever, I just have no mood to do anything, including routine stuff e.g. reading news, investment, books, playing computer games. I suspect I'm still weak from the illness and also due to lack of exercise. I'm forcing myself to at least do the routine stuff and also to meet people. Gradually getting back into the exercise routine
Here's wishing everyone a much better year ahead!

The Windmill Station

On Christmas, I had dinner with my family at The Windmill Station at S2 Seremban. We had a horrible start because there was confusion over the directions my dad received from the restaurant. It took us an hour to go there! Much later on, when it was all over, my brother-in-law confirmed that it was indeed quite easy to get there from Jaya Jusco. For certain, I will want to have him in my car next time we're going there hehe.

Windmill serves Western meals at prices that are generally cheaper than other Western restaurants. For example, Fish n Chip costs only RM9.80 nett (there weren't any sales tax and service charge). For some of the dishes, like those shown below, there is set meal deal for each of them which costs about RM3 more whereby you get a small bowl of soup (it was mushroom soup that night) and a glass of cold drink (from a short list of selection, I believed).

Hot n Spicy Fish
Hot n Spicy Fish

Grilled Chic
Grilled Chicken

Gordon Blue
Gordon Blue

Special mixed
Special Mixed

I had the Hot n Spicy Fish, which was not spicy at all. I'm not sure whether it was a mistake or not. My sister, who had a taste, too concluded it wasn't spicy but merely a little pepperish. In any case, it was oily: there was oil residual clearly underneath the piece of dory fish. The flour crumbled too easily. The taste was so-so only.

We shared a plate of chicken wings and a small basket of onion rings. The former was not too bad but nothing to shout about, whereas the latter, though taste-wise was ok, was obviously oily. Again, I'm not sure whether normally they're supposed to be like that or whether the restaurant was rushing to cook because of the crowd.

I had a taste of Gordon Blue, which was mildly interesting to me and I would try that if I'm there next time. I didn't try anything else but everyone else loved their meals. So I guess you should just avoid the fish :)

Not sure whether there is a Windmill restaurant in PJ/KL but apparently there are 3 of them in Melaka, of which I did sight one at Klebang Kecil/Besar on the left on the way to town.

Books 2011

On top of the Actuary magazine I read each month, here are the books I read this year:
  • The Lost Symbol - Dan Brown
  • The Towers of Midnight - Robert Jordan/ Brandon Sanderson
  • Stone of Tears - Terry Goodkind
  • Blood of the Fold - Terry Goodkind
  • Temple of the Winds - Terry Goodkind
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
These are the books I've started reading but haven't finished (with the first one my current priority):
  • The Intelligent Investor - Benjamin Graham, revised edition updated with commentary by Jason Zweig
  • Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes - Edith Hamilton
  • How to Think Straight about Psychology - Keith E. Stanovich
  • The World Affairs Companion: the essential one-volume guide to global issues - Gerald Segal
I'm fairly certain I have left out one or two books.

My baby

Each time I go away for more than a week, I'll get Ban's help to water my baby, the money plant. My poor baby has shrunk a lot for reasons unknown to me :( So the latest thing I did was to trim off the excessively long scrawny stem, making the pot much less crowded and hope that more leaves will grow than die.

I have a reminder in my phone that will alert me every Sunday at 1.45 pm to water my baby. So, when I'm away, I would text Ban to do it, which he said he would always do it the moment he read the sms. I would also ask about how it's doing and usually Ban would say they look the same.

This time, after I've been away for about 2 weeks...

Me: Hey honey, I thought you said my plant look the same
Ban: They do
Me: Come here and look at this *Pointed to a dried up leave and another leave that has turned completely yellow* See those? That's not good. It means they are dying
Ban: Oh, is it? I always thought it's natural for them to do so
Me: ......

Dengue, then malaise

I've been missing in action due to a few days of high fever and subsequent hospitalisation. It was one of the most boring mind numbing things I've ever done.

I just didn't have mood to do anything. It didn't help that that they stick the iv needle right next to my wrist and thus the slightest movement was painful. Even after I complained a few times, I was assured that that I wasn't used to it. A nurse even called me a baby! It was a few days later that another nurse astutely observed that my left hand was swollen and thus quickly got a doctor to shift the needle to the right hand and nowhere next to the wrist either. What a world of difference it made.

Everyday, I was given medication injected directly into my blood stream - once around 8am and another time around 8pm. Thereafter, I would fall asleep. Each day, I just looked forward to the result of my platlet count. Such a dull period.

After exactly a week of being in hospital, I was finally discharged. Thank goodness! I'm beginning to wonder why there are no more people going crazy and jumping down from a hospital building.

However, the malaise continues at home. I have no desire to watch any particular tv, read papers, read books, eat anything, drink anything. Everyday I'm just going through the motion just to live yet another day. So strange lah.

I'm now racking my brain to come up with reasons/excuses for me to get back to KL (to be with Ban) after my mum is discharged, scheduled to be on Tuesday. Any ideas?

Growth stock selection

The reader will understand from these instances why we regard growth stocks as a whole as too uncertain and risky a vehicle for the defensive investor. Of course, wonders can be accomplished with the right individual selections, bought at the right levels, and later sold after a huge rise and before the probable decline. But the average investor can no more expect to accomplish this than to find money growing on trees.

- Benjamin Graham, in the book "The Intelligent Investor"

The wonders of KL

KL traffic

Stucked in a 4km traffic jam for 40 mins. Then spent 50 mins to find a parking bay at Pavilion through 5 storeys of car park. Hours later, spent another 20 mins trying to get out of the car park.


Also, on a separate occassion, the delayed (so typical!) commuter train to Seremban was so packed that I couldn't get on it. Same story for the next yet-another-delayed train, which arrived about half an hour later. Frustrated and ended not going back to Seremban that day.

Don't you just love KL?


Americans are getting stronger. Twenty years ago, it took two people to carry ten dollars' worth of groceries. Today, a five-year-old can do it.

- Henny Youngman

Insomnia 2

Following on from my previous post, on that day itself (Thursday), I already felt tired just past 8pm. Ban pointed out that this wasn't unusual since I didn't have enough proper sleep.

Instead of sleeping, I decided to stay up so as not to ruin further my sleeping/waking pattern. Also, I decided to do some yoga exercise to sweat it out and to properly stretch and relax my body, in the hope I could sleep better that night.

At 9pm, I did yoga for about half an hour, with about 5 mins of relaxation. Although the latter didn't work as usual (my mind was wandering all over the place!), the yoga exercise was great. I didn't do much upside down poses (where the pelvis is elevated above the heart and not necessarily directly vertically above) as I had blocked nose but I stretched my legs a lot and did a few twisting poses. The great news is that I finally did a difficult pose (sorry, I forgot its name) which I have been trying from time to time. Yay!

I went to bed just past 12am and probably fell asleep within half an hour. This time, fortunately, I had proper sleep for about 6 hours. I suddenly woke up just before 6.30am and just couldn't sleep any more. Similarly, I slept for about 6 hours on Friday night and no more. However on Friday night, it was 6.5 hours. I wish it was enough but it wasn't as I was still tired. Just couldn't sleep any more.

Hopefully my sleeping hours will normalise soon. *cross fingers*


It's been a while since I couldn't sleep throughout the night, not due to problem with the stomach/digestive track. Probably more than 2 years? *shrug*

On Monday night, I slept just before 12.30am (early Tuesday morning) but prematurely woke up before 6am. Tried sleeping again but ended up just tossing and turning until about 8am. Had breakfast, surfed net and then back to bed at around 9am. Couldn't sleep and so permanently woke up at about 11.20am.

Managed to nap at around 5.45pm but had to wake up at 7.15pm for dinner. Stayed up till midnight, which is my usual bedtime. Couldn't sleep throughout the night, although I was very tired. In fact, so tired that I had restless leg syndrome.

Inevitably, during these sleepless periods hunger pangs occurred. Drank milk. Had bread. Once past 6am, I had breakfast.

Not sure why this happened. I did the usual relaxation/meditation/stretching exercise before sleep. Made sure I wasn't hungry.

Troubled Qantas A380

Qantas A380 VH-OQD

On my way back to KL from Canberra, I took a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Singapore, scheduled to depart at 5pm local time. The domestic flight from Canberra to Melbourne, on the puny Qantaslink plane, went smoothly and so I had more than 2 hours to laze around the airport. Boarding time was at 4.20pm.

Around 4pm, there was an announcement that the flight is delayed. Since the plane was just right outside, we could see some (presumably) engineers working on the plane. The new departure time was 6pm, with boarding time at 5.30pm. I just shrugged and continue reading the free newspapers.

Melbourne Airport - Departure

Unfortunately, at about 5pm, there was yet another delay - this time to 7pm. Goodness, that meant the plane was scheduled to touch down in Singapore only at about 11.45pm (local time). I was feeling bad for my friends who would need to stay up till then (I was going to stay over at their place). I groaned and silent said, "You gotta be kidding".

To give them some credits, Qantas gave out a AUD20 F&B voucher to each passenger to be used in the airport, which was great since dinner was going to be late. However, everyone had the same idea and so all eateries had long queue. By the time I was served, it was just 10 mins away from the scheduled boarding time of 6.30pm. So I ate only a small sandwich and drank a bottle of orange juice and bought a bottle of mineral water to bring onto the plane. The flight on British Airway on the way from Singapore to Sydney did serve water but in the standard paper cup.

It turned out that the boarding time was delayed by about 15 mins. Once on board, we were informed that the plane could depart only after the engineers had gotten some documents signed. That took a good half an hour! Goodness gracious. I rolled my eyes once again.

Singapore Changi  Airport

The bad luck continued in Singapore: once it touched down, the auxiliary power wasn't functioning. Apparently it was needed to get the plane to the parking bay. Fortunately, everything else was working. So that added another half an hour of delay. By the time I entered the airport terminal, it was already 1am. I reached my friends' place at about 1.45am, feeling so embarrassed about being so late (compared to the scheduled touch down at 9.45pm).

On the bright side, I managed to watch the movies Green Lantern and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Ban didn't want to watch either) and the entire 4th season of Big Bang Theory, except for the last 7 mins when I had to disembark. Unlike previous experience where it was switched off during take-off and landing, the entertainment set was functioning from the time I boarded the plane till the time I disembarked. Oh, and remember the bottle of mineral water I bought? Turned out that instead of serving in paper cups, they freely gave bottles of mineral water. Goodie!

The plane was very new, with nice comfortable seat (unlike previous experience where my tail bone would hurt) and toilet taps that had sensors. It was only later on that I realised it an A380 plane - a first for me.

Spring Oct11 in Canberra

When I'm in Australia, I will inevitably discover some interesting subjects for me to take photo of. This is especially true for the spring season. There's something about flowers of varying colours and birds busy finding food (especially for their ever hungry chicks!). So alive.

Spring Oct11 2

Spring Oct11 1

Spring Oct11 3

Spring Oct11 4

Spring Oct11 5

Manja Chilli?

Manja Chilli

Incongruent, isn't it?

Success by student

My student, whom I've tutored in Math, has gotten his Primary 6 national exam results on Thursday. The great news is that he has gotten A in Math! Woot! It feels great to be able to help others to succeed.

The immediate action I'm taking now is to help him with basic math techniques e.g. multiplication of numbers that are multiples of 10s, approximation method to help in division. I've already suggested this be done in 2 or 3 sessions free of charge.

I've also made clear to his mum, who is my sister's godsister, that there is no obligation to continue with me if there is another tutor who is better for him. I'm all for him getting the right help.

Simple joy

One fine cool afternoon, after a bout of heavy rain, I swept and mopped the floor. It was quite pleasant as I hardly sweated. Also, my laptop was playing music CDs, after making sure Ban was fine with that (he was working on his PhD).

Then a particular Gloria Estefan song came on that prompted me to have a slow casual dance with Ban, who gamely acquiesced to my whimsical request :)

I felt so joyful dancing with him for these few minutes. I was smiling all the while :) Simple bliss.


Found this advertisement in a community newsletter in Canberra:


Didn't know mother-in-laws are that...'resourceful' :P

Home grown organic vegetable

Home grown veg

Had the privilege to eat organic bok choy, grown without fetiliser and pesticide by my sister in Australia. As shown above, it was in a bowl of spicy seafood ramen with fish tofu. Yum!

Unfortunately, the cucumber seedlings were kept being eaten by slugs. Any idea of how to solve the problem without resorting to chemical warfare?

Googling kills discussion and more

Google search
Sometimes when I asked someone a question (usually in reference to what that person said), I was immediately given a two-word response: "Google it."

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for putting information online as it helps to disseminate knowledge as widely as possible and, for those who use internet, as easy as possible.

However, for some people, it has some adverse effects. It makes them lazy to engage in lively discussions. They basically has outsourced their memory retrieval and social skill to Google! This is bad because:

(1) they're not exercising their brains and thus accelerate the decline of their cognitive functions. Yes, googling enables them to gather vast amount of knowledge but that is not enough to keep your mind active and healthy. You need to also exercise the ability to retrieve and use them.

(2) it reduces social interactions. Discussion is one of the main ways of social interactions. In the past, people can spend considerably time discussing a variety topic, being exposed to difference point of view and information. This is good for all parties involved as they're exercising their brains in a variety of ways. If this is nipped at the bud, then they'll be reduced to essentially talking about inane things all the time.

(3) it may affect their ability to work. As with any skill/function, the less you use it, the more you lose it.

I'm not saying that people should discuss until their voices are hoarse. Just don't give up at the beginning and so easily.

What's love?

Love isn't about taking what you want; it's about wanting happiness for the one you love.

- Kahlan Amnell in the book "Temple of the Winds" of the "The Sword of Truth" series

Switching geographical positions

When I was working in Singapore, Nothamsap was studying in Sydney. We met a couple of times in Singapore and once in KL (when I was visiting Ban regularly) but thereafter, it was like fate playing a cruel game with our schedule :)

For example, when I moved back to Malaysia, he then moved to Singapore, looking for work. In September, I was in Singapore for a week and so contacted him. However, he was flying back to Sydney.

Latest example is best illustrated by this sms dialogue:

Me: Hey Nothamsap. I'm in Canberra.
Nothamsap: I am flying to Malaysia today hahaha.
Me: Lol. Are you avoiding me? ;) We keep switching geographical positions!
Nothamsap: I know! How long are you going be in Canberra for?
Me: Until Nov 12.
Nothamsap: I am coming back on the 11th!!! Omg.
Me: :D You just changed your arrival date, didn't you? You sux ;)
Nothamsap: Hahaha no, I didn't. Aiyo. We should arrange it next time.
Me: Yes, we should! Perhaps when we next meet, we may be toothless and chew on soft boneless chicken meat :D
Nothamsap: Haha not that long! Probably soon, who knows.

Devil in the details?

Everyone is impatiently awaiting the details but it's not the devil that's in the details, it's all of hell.

- Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk on Europe's long-awaited master plan to fix the eurozone debt crisis


Psychology is often the bearer of the "bad tidings" that comfortable folks belief do not stand up to the cold light of day. Perhaps it is not surprising that many people would like not only to ignore the message but also to do away with the messenger.

- Keith E. Stanovich in the book "How To Think Straight About Psychology"

Gay or not gay?

Duck Crossing

For those who are thinking hard about whether they are gay or not, my advice is to look out for any telltale signs in the past.

For example, if you regularly find yourself in situations where your friends remark aloud, "Oh wow, look at that hot chick across the street." while at the same time, you silently thought, "Omg, look at that gorgeous guy next to her.", then please seriously (re)consider your (homo)sexuality.

Shares investment Oct 11 Part 2

Here's an update of historical average dividend yields of shares I own:

Div yield 2

Please note there's a change to the calculation method compared to that in my previous post:

1) Dividend yield = dividend amount / cost of shares
(2) Annualised dividend yield = sum of dividend yields pro-rated to a year

Shares investment Oct 11 Part 1

It's been an 'exciting' (read: nerve-wrecking) period these few months. Share markets globally plunged, eked out some gains and then plunged again. Rinse and repeat.

Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009

I took the opportunity to add some shares to my modest portfolio:

(1) Boustead Singapore Limited. Although I did some cursory research about the company, chiefly about its operations, geographical reach and its profitability, I admit that I rely quite heavily on someone else's analysis. I like the business strategy, its diversified nature and, of course, its past performance. While keeping the amount invested in this company low, I'll keep an eye on any news and analysis of the company

(2) CapitaRetailChina Trust: I've always wanted to invest in REIT that owns good shopping malls. Problem is that I am only familiar with malls in Singapore. After speaking with some friends who just recently moved from China, after years living there, I decided to invest a nominal sum in this trust. So far, REITs created by Capitaland consist of good quality assets and appear to be well-managed, although their dividend yiels are typically lower than its peers but that's alright if one consider them to be the blue-chip version of their industry

(3) SPDR STI ETF: This is mainly to obtain capital gain as I'm convinced that market will move much higher within 2 years. This conviction comes from research by others as well as from my days of investing in unit trusts. Note that this ETF is denoted in SGD and thus I do not need to take into account of losses due to currency exchange rates (more on this later)

(4) Added more to CapitaCommercial Trust and Suntec Reit when the price dropped by more than 20% relative to my average purchase price.

stock market

On the other hand, I have sold the following:

(a) DBXT MSCI Asia ex-Japan ETF 10: Mainly because I decided that I didn't want the extra trouble of taking into account of the movement between SGD and USD (the share is denoted in USD)

(b) DBXT MSCI Emerging Markets ETF 10: Same reason as (a)

(c) DBXT MSCI World TRN ETF 10: Same reason as (a)

(d) Cityspring Infrastructure Trust: It has excellent investment moat but unfortunately, it has been making losses in recent years (and yet the entity managing it is making profit!). More importantly, the trustee-manager chooses to emphasise on cash earnings and thus appear to brush off the losses. Cash earnings do not take into account the capital expendicture that eventually would be needed e.g. for repairs, replacement of parts. Many investors have dumped this share because of this stance. At last, I joined them too.

(e) First Ship Lease Trust: The management either has no plan or doesn't want to announce a plan on how to reduce its debts, especially those with LTV covenants of which they had some difficulties with previously. Also, there is still no news on how they're going to deal with repayment of loan due in about 6 months time. Hence, I've decided to exit this counter despite its historical dividend yield of about 11%.

(f) Pacific Shipping Trust: I actually like this trust, despite its share denominated in USD. The management has a clear plan to reduce debts and thus it is no surprise that its share price has been steadily increasing. Unfortunately, its sponsor Pacific International Lines Pte Ltd, who is also the main shareholder, wants to delist it, subject to regulator's and shareholders' approval. They would need just 75% to delist the trust and highly likely they'll achieve it given that they had over 59% and likely more now as it seems that they've been buying from share market too. The offer price is excellent compared to my purchase price. Though I loathe to sell such well-managed trust (historical dividend yield of about 10%), I do not wish to be in the position of the remaining 25% and thinking of how to sell my shares privately (since it would be delisted).

profit & loss account

So far, I've made a realised loss of just over 1% but I'm conforted by the fact that the dividends I've received thus far is about 9 times of the amount of losses. Phew!

EasyBits Go

Please don't install this programme. Why? It's a pain to uninstall it. Firstly, it doesn't have a folder in the programme list for you to open and select 'Uninstall'. Secondly, if you try to uninstall it via 'Control Panel', it would appear to have been uninstalled instantly but it is still there.

Even if you choose not to install it, there have been reports that it would still be installed (what the?!). Where on earth did it come from? It rides on Skype.

There's a detailed account of how to manually uninstall it here. However, I find it difficult to (1) discern the corresponding jargon for Vista (the instruction is for XP) and (2) to find the specific items (likely due to the overprotectie nature of Vista).

I tried using the removal application by the game publisher but I when I executed it, nothing happen. Later, I got it to work but running it as administrator (damn Vista!).

Windshield wipers

Ban regularly teases me for putting up all my car's windshield wipers, especially the back, by saying that other drivers find that strange and so purposely try to park close to my car :)

Well, I'm not the only one:

Windshield wipers

I also notice that the car has shades up at the front side of the car (but not back), similar to how I handle mine.

Mantle of rule

It's right for the mantle of rule to be heavy, Richard, but you can't let it crush you.

- Kahlan Amnell to Richard Rahl/Cypher in the book "Blood of the Fold" of the "The Sword of Truth" series

To share or not to share

wordle of my 2009 facebook status updates

Someone on my gtalk friend's list had the status "Studying for exam". So naturally, I asked him what exam it was. Shockingly, he reacted in a angry manner, lamenting why people kept asking him that. Duh.

Another time, a friend's status indicated she had some problems. I was concern and so asked her about it. I was reprimanded for being a busybody. Duh.

It's unpleasant and grossly unfair to be angry with people who are concerned about you. If you don't wish people to ask you about your status update, don't display them at all. Keep it private.


On my recent trip to Singapore, I took the opportunity to come out to a rather good friend, whom I befriended during my university days. He was someone I used to have a crush on but thankfully I moved on. In fact, at one point, he did suspect but I denied it at that time.

I wanted him to meet Ban and so I came out to him over the phone. Remarkably and thankfully he took it extremely well: "Of course I'm ok with it. You're my good friend." Due to the sheer amount of news we exchanged, I totally forgot to ask him whether he had any questions to ask me pertaining to my homosexuality. Oh well, perhaps next time.

Rain on stock exchange

Read this broadcast few days ago:

Philippines Stock Exchange : Trading is suspended today due to weather conditions. For more details, please refer to

Huh? Are they trading out in the open or what?

Haze from Indonesia

Haze in Malaysia and Singapore is usually attributed to forest fire in Indonesia caused by slash-and-burn method.

Here's a novel idea for the victims: impose a 'haze tax' on all goods imported from Indonesia. Besides working as a deterrent, it is also a way for the countries to recoup the cost of providing healthcare to those affected by the haze (notably children and old folks).

Naturally, there are lots of details that can be discussed and implemented e.g.
  • Exemption can be given to companies and their suppliers, collectively, that have been independently verified not practicing the slash-and-burn or any any practices that result in haze.
  • Impose the tax each time the haze season starts and end it when it's obvious the haze is not coming back for sometime
The first point's inspiration comes from the H1N1 epidemic years ago where Singapore sent team of experts to check and verify, on a state by state basis, chicken farms in Malaysia to be H1N1 free and thus allowing eggs to continue to be imported by Singapore. As for putting to condition on the suppliers of the exporting company, there is precedent in the Western countries where MNCs abide by and impose on the downstream suppliers certain conditions relating to child labour.

What do you think?

Stuff on the net

Don't believe everything you read on the internet.

- Abraham Lincoln

2nd Anniversary

Happy 2nd Anniversay, honey! I've been very happy to be with you these past two years and hope for many more years to come. Thanks for making me feel very loved and making me laugh every single day :) Hope you feel likewise.



This is a simple but good commentary on why people in Singapore are underinsured, which is highly likely the case in Malaysia too since the insurance industry is also dominated by insurance agents and the structure of agents' compensation is similar.

Coincidentally, one of the questions I recently asked an insurance agent was whether she herself was buying the insurance product she was trying to sell to my sister, of which the answer was affirmative. You can try asking that too but please don't make it obvious to the agent that you will not buy the product if he/she doesn't buy it. If the agent doesn't plan to buy it, ask why and judge whether the reasons are sound or not.

On a side note, I find it a little disconcerting that the agents I've spoken with recently either provided misleading information (whether the agent was misinformed or not, I don't know) or didn't provide important information until I asked for them. All these would have gone unnoticed by my family because either they do not know what information to ask for or are inexperience to notice something is amiss. It's scary.



Verna shook her head. 'No.' She looked up into the other's eyes. 'No, the thorn was to discover that appearance was all that ever mattered, and that what was inside' - she tapped the side of her head - 'didn't hold any meaning for him, only its wrapping.'

- Verna to Phoebe in "Blood of the Fold"

CPF Nomination Risk

Found this article by Martin Lee:

As a followup to this story about missing CPF money, my colleague Wilfred emailed the CPF board to confirm their policy regarding the confidentiality of nominees. This is what he received:
As the Board is under a duty to CPF members to maintain the confidentiality of the information belonging to our CPF members hence we do not release confidential information of a deceased’s CPF nomination.
The information of the deceased’s beneficiaries is confidential to the next beneficiary(ies). Therefore, the beneficiaries will not be identified with each other as we will contact the deceased’s beneficiary(ies) directly.
This is a very serious loophole. What is there to prevent a rogue agent at CPF board from making a fake nomination and making off with someone else’s money? Dead man tell no tales and without knowing where the money went to, it is even harder for the deceased next of kin to detect such a fraud.

This is dangerous. CPF Board should make this process similar to a will i.e. the 'executor' of the will can reveal the content to interested parties.

What's wrong with her?

I recently read in newspaper about an Indonesian maid who managed to dodge execution in Saudi Arabia. I tried to find it online but to no avail and so please bear in mind that the details may be inaccurate.

Seems that she was sentenced to death for killing a relative of her employer who allegedly tried to rape her. The family of the victim was willing to forgo that punishment for a huge amount of compensation. So the Indonesian government and the Indoensian public raised fund for her.

It seems that it was more than needed. So when she was back at her village in Indonesia, apparently she spent the excess money on jewelries, house repairs and other things. She was viewed to be spluging money in the village and thus was scorned by the villagers.

When asked (presumably by a journalist) whether she would consider using the excess money to fund legal fees for the remaining 23 Indonesian maids waiting for trials in Saudi Arabia (a popular suggestion in Twitter), her response was one of incredulity: "Why should I help them? I don't know them" or something to that effect.

Excuse me, if everyone thinks the same way you do, then you wouldn't have had help in the first place, right? Seriously, what's wrong with her?

Grand Slam in equatorial region?

Tennis ball

Recently I watched a US Open tennis match on tv where a woman tennis player was trying very hard to close out an energy sapping match (over 2 hours at that time) and at one point, she seems to be retching.

The commentators attributed her physcial ailment to the heat and humidity, which it seems are 'higher' than usual at that time. I was thinking of temperature along the line of maybe at least 35 degree celcius but I was surprised to hear later from them that the temperature was a mere 28 degree celcius (considered coolish in Malaysia and Singapore) and the humidity level was only 60% (whereas normal humidity level in Malaysia and Singapore is easily 70%).

Of course the length of the match matters. When I played tennis (singles, not doubles) for even half and hour in Malaysia or Singapore, I was already panting and needing a break. However, in US Open, bear in mind that they have a few minutes break after every 2 or 3 points and a much longer break after a set.

Hmmm I wonder whether this could be one reason there's no Grand Slam championship in the equatorial region? Players will be dropping like flies.

PS: My first guess of why there's no such championship in the region is the prize money :)

'Status update'

On Facebook as well as when using gtalk and yahoo messenger, one can insert a remark about one's current 'status' from simple status such as "Busy", "Away" and "Available" to multi-words/sentences status such as "It's Friday!", "Yay! Got it! :)" and "I can't go back to sleep after feeding the dog early in the morning. Argh!"

Who can see the your status? Well, generally it would be anyone whom you added to your list of 'friends'. Some of them would contact you via messages (instant or normal) or comments regarding your status. The reasons they do so are varied: it could be because they're concerned, curious or just a social thing to do. It is just a normal reaction.

Yet, there are some who react to such messages/comments in a curious (at times, outrightly negative) manner. Examples (from mild to outrageous cases):
  1. Status: "Wow! Such a long queue". Comment: "Where is this?". Respond: "Somewhere in KL". It can go on and on in similar fashion with respect to the same status. Why so coy? Is this a tactic to get people more interested? It's ok to do this once a while but it's annoying once this becomes a habit.
  2. Status: "I feel sad". Comment: "Oh, what happen?". Respond: "None of your businss". Huh? If you don't even want those on your list of friends to ask you, then don't put up such update. It's common sense"
  3. Status: "Studying for exam". Comment: "So what exam are you studying for?" Respond: "Why do people keep asking me this? I'm fed up answering such questions!" Then don't bloody hell put it in your status! Goodness.
It's just so strange lah.

What do you think? Have you encountered such behaviour or perhaps you yourself exhibit such behaviour?

Recurring dream themes

I've realised long ago (and it's still true till today) that my dreams have some recurring themes:
  1. Late for class/exam
  2. Forget to bring something important to school
  3. Can't find my timetable to determine the next class and its venue
  4. Running away from something I fear, usually either something supernatural like vampires or monsters/dinosaurs but could be humans too e.g. assassins 
Except for the last one, noticed a similar thread for the rest? :)

As for the last one, oftentimes I got tired of running away in my dreams and I would simply stood still, bracing for the 'attack'. My pulse quickened while waiting for the impact of the attack but it usually never materialise. Either the assailants simply vanished or they just lost interest in me.

How about you? Any recurring theme for your dreams?

Budgeting & Saving

Oftentimes I hear people lamenting about their impotency at saving money. So, when my (then) colleague in Singapore lamented the same thing, I demonstrated to him, in about 5 mins, that he could actually save nearly 50% of his gross salary if he wanted too. He appeared to be truly amazed by this fact.

How did I do it? Just purely by budgeting. Here's a more elaborated example: assume a gross salary of S$2,500.

Breakfast: bread with some bread spread, with a loaf of bread lasting for 4 days (i.e. a little more than 3 slices per day). Generous budgeting of S$3 every 4 days i.e. about S$24 per month. You probably can have soft-boiled egg every now and then.
Lunch and dinner: mixed rice for one of these meals and noodle or anything about S$5/S$6 for the other meal, with possibly one drink for one of these meals. Budget of S$10 per day i.e. S$310 per month
Luxury food: Treat yourself to some nicer food, with budget of S$25 per meal, once a week i.e. S$100 per month

Current rent for a room, not too close to city centre and yet possibly not too far too, is about S$500 - S$800 per month. Generous budget of S$650 per month.

Take MRT or bus or a combo. Budget of S$1.40 per trip i.e. S$2.80 per day. Further budget for taxi ride of S$10 per ride and 4 times per month. Total budget for transport is about S$127.

Budget of S$50 can get you a decent broadband, with broadband speed of at least 6Mbps unlimited.

Mobile phone
Actually, S$28 is more than enough. That's the cost for about every 50 days for a particular type of prepaid plan that's available from all the major telcos of which I could never get to finish the credit for local calls/sms. I ended rolling over local credit worth over S$300!. Even if this info is outdated, I believed a budget of S$45 per month is more than sufficient.

Based purely on gross monthly salary of S$2,500, instalment for income tax is S$15 per month. Note that the inland revenue authority in Singapore allows payment to be instalment over 12 months interest free.

Budget of S$32 per month enables you to watch a movie each week for 4 weeks a month, if you get one of those credit cards that enables you to purchase movie ticket at S$8. Even at the original price of S$10, you still get to watch 3 movies a week.

A buffer is for those unexpected expenses e.g. your parents are down and you bore all their expenses while they there are there. Budget of S$200 per month.

Budget 1
Budget 2
Net income = gross salary less total expenses.

Based on this budget, net income is over S$900, which is nearly 40% of the gross salary of S$2,500.

That's a lot. In a year, you would have saved over S$10,000.

Some of the reasons, I observed, why some people seem incapable at saving are as follows:
  • They're spending beyond their means. Enough said.
  • They're spending within their means but barely, mainly because they want the best of everything. They just got to have the latest iPhone, take taxi everywhere, have meals of at least S$10 per meal, the best internet and mobile phone packages etc.
  • They want to save more but fail to budget and hence have nothing to adhere to.
  • They have a budget but simply fail to adhere to it.
  • They have a budget and try to adhere to it but only try to put aside what's left of their salary at the end of the month after having spent on everything else.
On the last point above, for people who have come up with a budget (similar to the above example) and really want to save, one effective way is to "pay yourself" first the moment you get your salary. For example, in the example above, the net income is about S$947 a month. So, once salary is received, immediately set aside this amount in another account (or invest it straightaway) separate from the account you used to pay for expenses.

Another cause of failure to follow the budget is the lack of monitoring and feedback process. Expenses should be recorded (preferably on a daily basis lest you forget) using the same categories as the budget (with a useful additional category of "Misc"). Then examine these on a monthly basis to determine the difference between actual expendicture and budget. Reflect on the reasons for any significant discrepancy and take appropriate actions e.g. more discipline approach, budget's too optimistic, more categories to facilitate monitoring etc.

In such task and any other important tasts, it's important to have this monitoring and feedback loop as part of the control cycle: (1) defining the problem (e.g. not saving enough), (2) developing solution (e.g. create a budget) and (3) monitoring and feedback (e.g. record actual expenses and examine them against budget), which then goes back to (1).

Purpose of having children

Friend: Do you know that I was conceived as an insurance for my family?
Me: Huh? What do you mean?
Friend: Well, my elder brother was the only child for sometime until one day, he was nearly knocked down by a car. My grandmother then insisted that my father have another son. Hence me!
Me: What?! *laugh*

Although it seems rather funny at that time, it is actually rather sad.

I personally know of people whom parents view them as 'investment' e.g. they are born and bred with the sole purpose of looking after their carers (I don't view them as 'parents') once they're mature in future. Oftentimes this is demanded.

For goodness sake, please don't do this to your children. It's hurtful and I'm pretty sure they would rather not be born than to suffer this. Parents should just do their best in raising their children and if they turn out right and treat you well, then it's a bonus. If not, then you've done your best and move on.

2011 economic doldrums

Until last year, policymakers could always produce a new rabbit from their hat to reflate asset prices and trigger economic recovery. Fiscal stimulus, near-zero interest rates, two rounds of "quantitative easing", ring-fencing of bad debt, and trillions of dollars in bailouts and liquidity provision for banks and financial institutions: Officials tried them all. Now they have run out of rabbits.

- Noriel Roubini, in his commentary "Is capitalism doomed?"

Australia's politic is a joke?

The topic was what Sis requested for me to talk about. Well, I honestly don't know much about Australia's politic but I do have some points to make.

The strangest thing about Australia's politic is the election cycle: it is a mere 3 years. What on earth can one party hope to achieve in 3 years? The first 0.5 year is honey moon. The 3rd year is spent on preparing for election. That leaves only 1.5 years to do real work.

How much can be accomplished in 1.5 years that will hopefully leaves such a good impression on the voters and encourage them to re-elect that party again? Remember, any major project involves lots of work such as establishing objectives (this could be argued for months!), committees, draft bills, debates, redrafts, debates, posturing, gazette, implementation. Also, how about its effect? Will the effect of any major project be felt in time for the next election?

Such short election cycle probably encourages the government to just try to come up with short-term wins or populist or tinkering with the easy stuff or any of the above. Tough choices which are theoretically correct but are either unpopular or of which results will only be known beyond the cycle (or both) are probably the last thing the government wants to do. Some actions that are effective to combat certain scenario of inflation (vaguely recalling my Economics lectures) take years to have the desired effect.

Yet popular choices are not necessarily good for the country. Hopefully the more knowledgeable voters are, the likely it is that the right choices are taken.

N.B: I'm wondering how the carbon tax will play out? I'm pretty sure it'll be implemented but I'm more keen on seeing its effects.

Yummy soy sauce chicken

Although I knew that most likely it would be the same price as last time (now that I think about it, why did I ever except the price to be lower?), I couldn't resist to buy the soy sauce chicken drumstick a few days ago:

Amazing RM5

Yup, it is still RM5. I now suspect that the drumstick was counted as equivalent to 2 portions of meat. What do you think?

Data Execution Prevention (DEP) error

Recently, I've purchased the game King's Bounty: The Legend, which is like the rpg version of Heroes of Might and Magic. Recommended for fans of the latter.

Anyway, after playing it for some time, I began experiencing frequent crashes. The error message stated that my laptop's DEP closed the programme for security reason blah blah blah.

At first, it wasn't a big deal as I diligently saved the game often but it came to a point where it crashed within 10 mins of loading/reloading a saved game.

Googling time
It seems to be a problem shared by quite a number of people with most of them having in common the following:
  • Windows Vista (such a troublesome Windows!)
  • Nvidia graphic card
It's very disappointing that the game's developer didn't release a patch to fix this (unlike the developer of the free MMORPG Trickster).

I have tried the following suggestions but didn't work:
(1) Turned off the sound of the game
(2) Disable Nvidia display driver service
(3) (2) + change from "automatic" to "manual" for startup Nvidia programmes
(4) Turned off DEP (risky, in my opinion)
(5) Update Nvidia graphic card's driver

Phew, finally something works!
Finally, what did work was (i) rolling back the graphic card's driver as far back as possible and (ii) immediately installing the latest driver. It was a variant of a suggestion made by someone who successfully solved the problem buy uninstalling all different versions of the driver and installing the latest one after that.

I did not undo option (3) above but my gut feel is that it didn't matter.

I spent about 4 hours of so trying to troubleshoot this problem. I hope this helps someone out there.

Facebook and robbers

To all those who love to advertise where they are or where they are going via Facebook:

Robbers Checked Facebook Status Updates To See When People Weren’t Home

Three robbers in New Hampshire are suspected of using Facebook to find status updates of people who wouldn't be home. It was a pretty genius strategy actually, they scored $200,000 worth of goods until they got caught.

Apparently, the robbers checked Facebook to see who would be out of their house at a certain time of the day. It obviously helped because the police say that the robbers managed to break into 50 homes and took items like monitors, watches, motorcycle helmets (?), and fireworks (not to mention the cold hard cash above). No word whether they were social network-savvy enough to use Foursquare as a "research tool" too.


I know this is old news but it's likely still be applicable now.

Soft toys chilling out

Saw this at Damansara Damai. Made me smile.

Soft toys


Italy does, of course, face issues of political strife and corruption. (And in other news, the sun rose again this morning...)

- Andrew Lilico, in his article 'Italy unlikely to default'.

Another help for health

Here's something I recently discovere that helps with my pseudo-sinusitis: heat pack placed on eyes covering the area right below the eyes. This idea came about when I came across a heat pack in Daiso that was shaped such that it seem to fit just snugly on the eyes and avoiding the nose.

So I tried it at night before sleep when I felt the pressure around that area. It worked well, even when the pressure was bad enough to cause slight headache. I slept well.

Thanks to my sister who lend me her heat pack, although I initially borrowed it for my hand :)

Fountain and autumn

During my last trip to Canberra, I made the effort to capture the feel of autumn there. Here are some photos taken at Civic (which is like the town centre of Canberra):

Autumn Civic 1

Autumn Civic 2

Autumn Civic 3

They look quite nice to me, although I still don't like the cold weather then :)

In the same trip, I also manage to take a photo of the tall fountain at Lake Burley Griffin:

Canberra fountain

Another bread

Yay! I discovered another bread that works just as well as the Hailam bread when it comes to my delicate stomach: it's French bread i.e. the long baguette.

What happened was that I asked Ban a favour to buy Hailam bread for me. Unsurprisingly, there wasn't any stocked at the Jaya Grocer nearby. Ban then bought the French bread, believing that there wasn't milk in it (is that the reason, Ban?). In any case, I believed he can eat it if I couldn't.

So good news is that I have another alternative. The downside is that the French bread is more expensive. Oh well.

Car wash: man and machine

Until recently, I have never gone through the experience of having a car washed by that multi-brush machine typically found at a petrol kiosk,

To my surprise, there was substantial manual work involved: the high-pressure jet spray of water (to wash away the bird shit, which is the main reason I took my car to wash this time), the soaping of the car and then at the end, the drying of the car. I had always thought that everything was done during the time in the 'small tunnel'.

However, it appears that handwash is a little cleaner and detailed from my experience (a total of 2 times hehe). Perhaps that's why handwash is a little more expensive?

What's your experience?

"Traditional" curry chicken

Curry chicken 2

This time, since Ban was not here, I cooked it closer to my usual style. The differences, compared to previously, are:

  • Chicken thigh, with skin on, though I didn't eat most of the skin
  • White onion
  • A tad more oil
  • Curry leaves (finally found some)
  • No sugar added
It was still hardly spicy lol. I'm now even more inclined to believe that this is due to the brand of curry powder. It was a little oilier than I like it to be but no more oilier than that sold outside.

Snake? Lizard?

My sister's sons found this in their backyard and alerted us to it (thank goodness they did that rather trying to "get to know it" or something):

Stumpy snake

I've never seen such snake before, be it in books, on tv or at the zoo. It was short and its head looked too huge for its body - like a stumpy snake or (scary) lizard without legs. Any idea what is it?

Price vs Income

One of the most persistent myths in Australian politics has been that providing
household assistance undermines the effect of imposing a carbon price. If the
prices of carbon-intensive products rise by$10 and you give me $10 in
assistance, aren’t we back where we started?

If there were only one product in the world, the answer would be yes. If
there’s only one thing I can buy, you can be sure that’s where every dollar in
my wallet is going to go. Soif you put the price of that product up and
increase my income, I’ll carry on exactly as before.

Yet the one-product world is a far cry from the vast plethora of options facing
modern consumers, who can spend on anything from a ballet lesson to a
bunch of bananas, a train fare to a television. And here’s the insight from
modern economics: when you have choices, changing relative prices changes behaviour.



In understanding how carbon pricing works, there’s no more critical
distinction than the difference between prices and incomes.

- Andrew Leigh in the article "The price is right for consumer shift"

Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodle

There are lots of 'local' food in Singapore that can also be commonly found in Malaysia and vice versa, though they may not be cooked the exactly the same way e.g. wantan mee, fried carrot cake, satay, roti canai, ayam ponteh etc.

However, it's not the case for Singapore's Fried Hokkien Prawn Noodle. This is a common noodle dish in Singapore but could never be found in Malaysia...until now (apologies for the gimpy photo quality):

Pavilion Food Republic 7.50

It was found in the Food Republic food court at Pavilion. Food Republic is owned by Breadtalk, a Singaporean company. Food Republic has a number of food courts in Singapore. Though the design at Pavilion is quite typical of a Food Republic food court, it is more spacious.

Some observations about the noodle dish:
  • It had 4 medium-sized prawns, few slices of squid, some egg and beansprout
  • The noodle was either the Korean potato noodle (chapchae) or something similiar i.e. translucent and smooth, unlike the one in Singapore where 2 types of noodle are used i.e. yellow and white
  • It tasted the same as that in Singapore
  • The sambal was different: it was watery and not as spicy but tasted ok
  • The serving size was similar to the any noodle dish in a typical 'tai chau' place. Hence, at the price of RM7.50, it's about RM1-1.50 more expensive

Inverted pyramid

Historically, as country modernises, families have fewer children while retirees live longer. This gradually changes the typical pyramid-shaped population demography to an inverted one. This raises serious concerns on many financing problems such as health and pension, among others.

For various reasons, families choose to have fewer children (fewer than 2 on average) that causes this shrinking population, while everyone generally lives longer beyond retirement.

Among the measures countries have been doing to cope or improve this situation are to provide incentives to have more children, attract new citizens from overseas and to extend retirement age (but only effective if older workers can still get employment).

Here's a radical idea: what if the states pay to get ovaries and sperms and hire surrogate mothers (or use whatever futuristic device) to have their (the state's) own children? The states then act as parents to these children until they are adults (age 18 or 21).

Of course there is a host of issues associated with this but it's an interesting idea, isn't it? Perhaps it'll be made into a movie :)


It's amazing what can happen when you want to flick raindrops off an umbrella:

Broken umbrella

Home loan as leverage

Let's say someone has the cash to pay fully for a house. Assuming that he's not risk averse and just interested in generating good investment rate of return, should he pay fully or get a home loan and invest the rest of cash in, say, shares? If further assuming that there's little fluctuation in interest rate and investment rate of return on share price, then the answer is pretty obvious.

However, from my experience, not many people realise this. Hence, I set out the example below to show the answer.

Cash = $400,000
House price = $400,000
House price appreciation = 10% p.a.
Rental yield = 4% p.a.
Share price appreciation = 7% p.a.

Option 1
Use cash to buy house. Rent received is invested in shares.

Home cash
b.o.y = beginning of year

Investment value at the end of 10 years = $1,395,072
Investment rate of return = 13.3% p.a.

Option 2
Use 10% cash and 90% home loan (over 10 years) to buy house. Rent received is invested in shares. Shares are liquidated if needed to pay the loan instalment.

Home loan interest rate = 5% p.a.
Yearly instalment = $46,622

Home loan
e.o.y = end of year

Investment value at the end of 10 years = $1,459,101
Investment rate of return = 13.8% p.a.

Hence, the answer is to take the home loan. In fact, there is no need to consider rent because it is applicable to both options. For the same reason, there is no need to consider expenses relating to the house e.g. maintenance and taxes.

The key factor is whether home loan is borrowed or not. The difference in the investment rate of return between the 2 options in the example above is 0.5% p.a. This difference will be larger the greater the gap between the investment rate of return on the share price and the home loan interest rate.

In deciding whether you should use cash or take a home loan, you may want to consider taking the home loan if you are able to generate a return on your cash that is at a higher rate than the home loan interest rate.

Update: the above points are also applicable when deciding how much loan to take e.g. 90% or 80% and also when deciding whether to make partial prepayment in the future.

Photo for wallpaper

Recently, I decided that it was time to change the wallpaper of my laptop. I then selected one of the photos I took during my latest trip to Canberra :

Autumn ANU4

Due to the fact that this was taken with my gimpy 2MP camphone, I'm surprised at how good it looks as wallpaper. I can actually believe that it is one of those pictures specially made for wallpaper hehe. Also, the green colour is soothing for my eyes :)

The curry chicken that wasn't

Curry chicken

This is my first time cooking curry chicken in Malaysia. In fact, it is the first time in a long while.

It's not my usual style:
  • The curry powder seems less red than I'm used to
  • Instead of drumstick and thigh with skin on, I used chicken keel so that Ban could eat it too
  • Olive oil and at less quantity so that Ban could eat it too
  • Added a little sugar
Besides chicken, there were potatos and large red onions. The toughest part during the preparation was chopping the onion. It was so stinging. I was about to put on my swimming goggles when Ban volunteered to continue chopping. I could have used large white onions but from experience, large red onions are better at flavouring the curry.

I would love to add in some curry leaves but those are so hard to get.

The resultant dish wasn't spicy at all lol. In fact, the first time I smelled it, it reminded me of ABC soup, likely because of the onion though I used large white onions for the latter.

It was a success since Ban was able to eat it :) Next time perhaps I should look up how to cook Japanese curry since it's something he can eat.

Consistent weird weather

These past weeks had weather that were consistently the same each day:
  • Breeze in the morning, with darkening clouds
  • Breeze stopped just after noon, with clouds gradually lightening and sun peeking out
  • Quite sunny in late afternoon, with some breeze
  • No rain!
I want heavy rain to wash my car! :)

Stomachache when go to bed

For years, I usually get stomachache half of the time when I'm ready to sleep. It could just be purely gastric or stomach cramp or both. If I'm certain it's just gastric, I'll take some bread and then antacid. If that fails, then it's omeprazole and domperidone. If I'm not certain, then it's all of these.

The only time I manage to reduce the frequency is when I'm in Australia (each time!). I couldn't seem to duplicate that, unfortunately. I tried all sorts and sometimes it worked for a few nights and then it was back to the same regularity.

This time I tried this:
  • No milk before bed (I used to drink cow's milk and then goat's milk)
  • A glass of Nestum (not mixed with milk or anything else)
  • A slice of plain bread, with no milk component in it (so far, only Hailam bread fits this criteria but boy, it's quite difficult to get)
So far, for about 2 weeks, there was only once or twice I needed to take medication. Otherwise, the worst was that I do feel some discomfort in my stomach but I could still sleep, especially if I use my small pillow to keep my stomach warm.

Hopefully this formula (though I wish it's tastier!) works in the long term.

Business strategy

Conventional wisdom holds that companies should see to their shareholders' needs first, their customers' second and their employees' last of all. I have always done the opposite and so has the rest of our team.

At the Virgin Group, our employees come first, then our customers, then our shareholders. It is simply common sense: If your workforce is happy and well-motivated, your customers are more likely to be happy as well - which means there is greater chance that your business will see strong sales and good profits, generating the results that your shareholders demand.

- Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active

Bubba Gump

Ban told me of this place that specialises in shrimp dishes. We decided to try it after watching Kungfu Panda 2.

A decent shrimp dish costs between RM30 - RM45, whereas other sort of meat dish costs about RM10 lower. Fair price? You decide.

Bubba Gump 4

We took advantage of the special lunch deal (available from Mon - Fri, excluding public holiday), which entitled us of 1 free dish for every 2 dishes we ordered. We weren't sure the portion and so just went ahead.

Turned out that, other than the shrimp broth dish, the portion was quite large. We ended up having to forgo the rice and tried eating everything else.

The pasta dish, broth and the shrimp stuffed with crab meat dish were all delicious, although towards the end it was just too much shrimp for me.

Instead of raising your hand and/or call the waiter/waitress to get his/her attention, they have a unique way for you to do so:

Bubba Gump 2

Flip the signboard to this red side to catch their attention.

Bubba Gump 3

Flip back to the blue side to indicate that you do not need attention.

Cool, huh?

Oh, and they showed Forrest Gump on tv :)

There was this funny sign stating something that I sometimes would like to do to some of my clients at my ex-company:

Bubba Gump

Expensive chair

Saw this chair at Ikea:
Expensive chair
Expensive chair 2

I tried sitting on it, just to figure out what was so good about it that it cost that much. Nope, it didn't levitate and started to glide across the floor. In fact, it didn't feel any different from other chairs costing much lesser than this. The price is insane.

Scam suspect

Recently, a relative posted an ad on a Malaysia website to sell his refurbished classic car. In the ad, he left his phone number as his only contact detail. He then received the following (in chronological order):

(1) An sms asking him to e-mail her information on the condition of the car and his price.

Observation: Price was already stated in the ad. Why did she ask again? Also, why doesn't she call? Outstation? Overseas?

(2) Consequently, after giving the requested details, the buyer revealed that she was in Europe and was getting the car for her husband who was working in the Middle East. She claimed to trust my relative's word that the car was in good condition and then said that she would transfer money to his bank, followed by asking an agent to claim the car. The agent would clear the paperwork with him and the government. She stressed that the whole process would be very simple for him.

Observation: She couldn't get such car at where she was? Or where her husband work? Perhaps it was hard to get such classic car? Also, wouldn't she be in great disadvantage buy paying the full price of the car and then only collect the car? She didn't even get someone to look at the condition of the car.

(3) The seller then received 3 e-mails. First e-mail purported from a European bank informing him of impending transfer of money to his bank account, subject to certain steps he should take in the subsequent e-mails pertaining to the delivery of the car. Included in the transferred amount was the transport fee of about Euro600. The e-mail subject heading was something like  "******Abcdefgh*******Abcdefgh*******".Typo and grammatical errors here and there. There was also a Director's name at the bottom, with address of the bank.

Observation: It was strange to have the bank involved in the transportation arrangement when it comes to just a simple transfer of money. Also, normally such notification does not have any 'sign-off' at the bottom. The subject heading and errors were so unprofessional.Also, as I found out on the net, the bank appeared in a list compiled by an European regulator stating that the bank was not licensed by them.

(4) Second e-mail was from a the same bank asking the seller to firstly remit to the freight company 60% of the transport fee i.e. Euro360 to show commitment to the buyer, with the remainder to be paid (out of the to the freight company upon collection of the car. The full amount of the money, including the transport fee, would only be transferred to the seller's account upon successful remittance of the amount above. The formatting of the e-mail was haphazard.

Observation: So the first actual transfer of money in this whole sale/purchase transaction was to come from the seller first? It was strange for a bank to be involved in such a manner. The e-mail was unprofessional. Very fishy.

(5) Third e-mail was from the freight company, asking for details for them to collect the car. They also stated that the goods that they could transport were "Goods Accepted" and goods they couldn't transport were "Goods Not Accepted" (I'm not joking).

Observation: Strange.

Fortunately, my relative responded to the seller that he didn't want such convoluted process but he would happily pass the car over to her after money was transferred into his account without fuss (by now he already knew this was highly likely a scam). Since then, there was no reply whatsoever.

Pain out, exhaustion in

Finally, the pain in my hand/palm is gone. So likely Ban is right: my hand was recovering from the prolonged use of the wrist holder and just needed lots of time to heal.

In any case, I'm taking precaution by not trying to use the laptop continuously for too long.

However, the recent bout of fatigueness is still there. In fact, I feel exhausted every morning when I wake up (and also by about 10pm). I end up finally waking up about an hour after my intended time i.e. oversleep by an hour and that too with me sitting on bed for a few minutes dozing lol.

I attribute this to lack of exercise and so I'm trying to get back to my exercise routine. Lazy but have to lah.

Subsidy in Malaysia

There is an ongoing effort of the Malaysian government to reduce subsidy for food and petrol. They have been pitching the argument that it's getting costly to do so, especially petrol, and that they need the money for development of the country.

I used to believe this should be the right approach based on economics. Otherwise, the market price is distorted and thus causing inefficiency.

However, now I rather have those subsidies directly benefiting all Malaysians than to have them reduced with savings in the hands of the government. Why? Simply because I don't trust the government to channel the savings entirely for the good of the people and I bet I'm hardly alone in thinking this way.

Mix rice (again)

I wrote about the increase of price of mix rice after Chinese New Year few months ago.

Recently, I had this at Sri Damansara, just before going for tuition class:
RM5 mix rice

Guess how much it was? A shocking RM5! Just for a drumstick and a portion of long beans and this was in a normal coffee shop, no aircond and not in the heart of KL.

Inflation in Malaysia is crazy. I'm a little worried whether I can generate enough income in future to afford such inflation.