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.

Food
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

Lodging
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.

Transport
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.

Internet
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.

Taxes
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.

Entertainment
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.

Buffer
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.


Source:
http://gizmodo.com/5636025/robbers-used-facebook-to-see-when-people-werent-home
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/burglars-picked-houses-based-on-facebook-updates/

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

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 :)