Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coffeeshops In Close Proximity to Hawkers Ctrs Cannot Compete

Over the years more & more normal coffeeshops have closed down. This is especially the case for those just a stone throw away from a hawker centre. I conclude 2 reasons for this.

1) People don't find it worthwhile to pay the bigger rental component for their food in coffeeshops.
2) Income gap becoming wider. The market segment occupied by normal coffeeshops has shrunk with the emergence of more specialised eateries since coffeeshops are still a form of hawker ctr but with increased prices for same stuff & less variety.

The coffeeshops that are left are mostly those run by chains such as kopitiam, Koufu etc which i avoid as much as i can since is not value for $$.

Latest one to bite the dust is the below coffeeshop is at blk 505 West Coast Drive. Hawker ctr(triangular roof) is just a couple of metres away. It follows the same fate as the one at blk 354 Clementi Ave 2. Why pay for overpriced stuff(rental component) when is more value for $$ just a few metres away?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Himalayan Mt Range in Road Deformity

Appalling state of road is increasing evident in recent years just as the state of nation's infrastrature is stretched to breaking point.

As a leisure sightseeing cyclist i often ride on roads. Worst stretch i encounter is West Coast Highway beside of baseball field of the Japanese Secondary School.
What you see is only around 20% of the horrendous state of decay as the photos are shrank down in size so as not to bogged down the loading speed of the site. You got to see it 'live' to appreciate the true extent of the deformity.

I've sent the photos to the Land Transport Authority for rectification. Even buses dare not roll over this 'Himalayan Mt Range' & keep a safe distance away(cut into another lane by doing so). Is particularly dangerous to cyclists at night speeding down & not noticing it until too late.

1st patch of deformity. This is just the appetizer for what lies ahead.

No idea how this small eruption occur which overlap up onto the yellow line. Not an issue for bigger tires but those on road bike slick tires might encounter 'hiccups' after 1st patch of deformity.

Main course of obstacle aka 'Himalayan Mt Range' viewed in same direction of traffic. Look at the 'lava flow'. Jln Buroh & West Coast Highway roundabout is just up ahead.

Look how the 'lava' spill over & cover the drain.

View of the 'mountain range' & 'depression' facing the direction of traffic.

This 'lone outcrop' is situated at the beginning of the flyover bridge along Commonwealth Ave West over the Ulu Pandan canal. It got a 'sister' diagonally opposite in the other direction at opposite end. This lone outcrop is just as if not more dangerous at night since is not as obvious as the 'Himalayan Mt range' it could cause a cyclist to lose control if tripped over it.

Long stretches of 'patches' such as these are an inconvenience in recent years making for a somewhat rough ride for road bikers. Where to lay cables & pipes etc without taking up undue space in tiny tiny S'pore as infrastrature is bursting with huge influx of people? You've guess it-beneath roads.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Turning Intense Dislike into Creativity through Comics

The comic creator is darn savvy, he sure hang out a lot at political sites. His comics are a wonderful tool to wake up those ignorant people through laughter. I admire his creativity. Opposite of love is not dislike but indifference. If he is indifferent he wouldn't have drawn those cartoons. Dislike is another form of passion. Admire how he transform dislike of the current ruling party into works of art & laughter using the local political scene as the landscape.

Very funny comic series. I laugh as much as like watching Mr Bean. Creativity in short supply like balls. His latest comic on ballot slip is darn hilarious. Specs symbol become bra with slight modification. Also added lightning to palmtree as warning.

I've become a fan of his 'Turn Dislike into Creativity' comics at . Are you amused by his comics?

Monday, August 22, 2011

42km Ride to East Coast Park & Back

After mapping out the distance i'm surprised is shorter than the Woodlands Waterfront ride. The ride to East Coast Park has the lowest turnout of 11 riders. It is also the first ride since i joined the group to venture beyond Kallang by the ride organiser after a rider feedback to him how come never ride to east coast & beyond during a breakstop at the Woodlands Waterfront ride.

Though the group has a higher % of smokers & drinkers compared to other riding groups the strength lies in the variety of routes. Variety of rides is something that some riders look forward & guess during the monotonous work week. Even if is to the same location like the Woodlands Waterfront, there is some alterations within it to make it interesting. I'm glad i went for that 2nd Waterfront ride though that voice in my head said 'U've ridden that route why ride the same stuff again? Better to sleep early than cycle into the wee hours.'

How to avoid the negative smoking & drinking part? Well i avoid by riding home after the ride is done instead of joining the others for drinks.

Distance rode is around 42km.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

KSL Mall on Weekday at Lunchtime

1st visit to this mall in JB, Msia is shortly after it opened its door early this year. Nothing much has changed except for the opening of supermarket Tesco at the mall during my recent 2nd visit.

I took a bus at bay 4(if i remember correctly) at Sentral to the bus-stop opposite Plaza Pelangi as i was going to fix a dental appointment at a clinic nearby. Medical costs are frickin expensive in S'pore. Initially i intend to wait for the KSL bus but since another bus with signage Plaza Pelangi displayed i simply boarded it. Bus fare is same at RM1.30

Isn't it refreshing to stroll around with not much people during lunchtime compared to 'locusts-filled' malls in S'pore?

Dining area outside 2 restaurants(below photo) during lunchtime. Malaysians seem like a frugal bunch compared to us S'poreans many of whom pack & devour food at restaurants like never eaten before. I had my lunch at a coffeeshop outside the mall for a laidback atmosphere & easier on my wallet.

With less people walking & hurrying around, time just seem to pass slower compared to hectic S'pore. I usually turn off my cellphone during daytrips to JB, Msia to prevent unnecessary charges & also to "disconnect" from the grid from time to time so as not to be addicted.

Took KSL bus to return back to JB Sentral (RM1.60). However i head to City Square Mall instead for the bookstores to check out what are the new books. Books that are banned in S'pore by the govt are good sellers over in JB for obvious reasons.

There's a street market(above photo) for the muslim fasting month just outside the road of JB Sentral before is home sweet home again by clearing the customs complex behind.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Vague Slogan from A Multi Million Dollar Ex-Deputy Prime Minister

Confidence For The Future. Whose future is he referring to by a vague THE?

How to have confidence in this person when his slogan is vague?

How to have confidence with this type of murky slogan coming from a veteran top echelon politician?

How to have confidence when his colleagues pay themselves millions while delivering lapses in policy making such as shortage of hospital beds, public transport, housing etc?

How to have confidence when his spectacles symbol(short-sightness) remind people of massive losses suffered by the sovereign wealth fund under his charge?

Is Heart. Balls Are Always in Short Supply

My fav scene in entire Captain America movie. There are many others more fit & muscular than him. How come he is selected?

What is scarce? Is balls. Always have been, always will be.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Presidential Election Symbols as Marketing Tools

My mum collected the presidential voting card from the letterbox. Told me to vote for the 'heart' candidate & not for the 'specs' candidate which is endorsed by the incumbent party. Mum belongs to the illiterate elderly like many older s'poreans. With the hike in public transport fees despite a worsening of service quality shortly after the general election, the incumbent party is perceived to be heartless.

'Heart' candidate is marketing himself as the conscience of the nation. Having stood as an alternative voice candidate in the May general elections his action is congruent compared to the other 3 candidates.

Simple symbol combined with congruent action doesn't cost much & easily understood by the not well educated folks. Is a big marketing budget needed? How effective are the other 3 symbols when explanation of what they stand for are needed?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Tick On' by Default Installation/Spam

Got a prompt about Java update. I proceeded with it & up popped this deceptive 'tick on' by default prompt when proceeding to next step of installation.

Users who are impatient & just want to get on with the installation might not notice & untick the box & end up with something extra they didn't know of & wanted.

Do companies need to resort to trick people by 'on by default procedures' unless you opt out?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

46km Ride To Woodlands Waterfront & Back via Ulu Sembawang PCN

Almost didn't make it for the ride. One of my earliest ride with the group was to Woodlands Waterfront fishing jetty. Voice inside me saying 'Going there again?'. I was also bit sleepy & lethargic so was comtemplating to stay home & sleep early instead.

It turn out by overruling the voice in my head the ride is worthwhile. We rested at the playground area & managed to explore the eastern part of the waterfront which was not completed the last time we went. The eastern portion ain't much to see though. Biggest harvest for me is returning via Ulu Sembawang PCN from Woodlands Ave 2. That PCN is unlit & the moon is so much brighter in the dark. Is my 1st time riding there. Now i know there's a shortcut from Woodlands to Mandai Rd.

Around 50% of Ulu Sembawang PCN is not smoothy paved so there's much vibration riding on my roadbike tires(still rideable surface). I dare not ride fast for fear of tripping over branches or debris & fall.

In total it was around 46km.

Friday, August 12, 2011

US Debt Crisis Explained

I love concepts distilled into easy to understand videos in a free market environment like youtube. All those bullshit about quality education doesn't come cheap from a high rank govt official is just a lie. Why a lie? Because they need to up school fees citing inflation as an excuse to extract more $$ out of the people.

Why be trapped & being taught by boring teachers in traditional classroom settings? Apparently making stuff simple & easy to understand is a hard thing to do for many academics. I suspect a reason is they need to keep things complicated so as to keep their paychecks as people would be fooled into needing their 'deliberately made complicated' expertise.

How much does it cost to reach the masses & educate them with quality stuff?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Are You Infected with Affluenza?

What is affluenza? I've never heard of this term until i come across the book with that title. A documentary is done on it. I've let you watch it & decide for yourself how afflicted you are especially in S'pore where there are so many malls growing like weeds near us.

To give you a clue here are a few startling revelations(doesn't matter it mention americans):

- Americans now spend 6hrs/week shopping & only 40mins playing with our kids.

- I bought a lot more than i planned to. You just see so much. Yes, you do & that's the idea. it's why big malls sell much more per sq/foot than do their smaller counterparts. Seeing so much leads to impulse buying, the key to mall profitability. Only 25% of mall shoppers actually come with a specific product in mind.

- Do you walk fast? Do you eat fast? Do you often do 2 or more things at the same time?

- Corporations are recognizing that the consumer lifestyle starts younger & younger. If you wait to reach children with your product until they're 18, you probably won't capture them.

- Polls show that nearly 90% of American adults worry that our children are becoming 'focused on buying & consuming things'.

- The more Americans fill their lives with things, the more psychiatrists, friends & family members that feel 'empty' inside. The more toys our kids have to play with, the more they complain of boredom.
Watch Affluenza (56mins)now.

With regards to hobbies, i've seen people with countless boardgames they don't have time to play that clutter up their homes. 3-4 badminton racquets when can only use 1 at a time. 3-4 bicycles when can only ride 1 at a time. Clearly there is far too much possession overload. You may have notice that warehouse buildings have sprout up in recent years for 'consumers' to rent & store their excess stuff spilling over from their overcluttered homes.

Do people need so much stuff? How come more & more people are mentally ill from stress?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Drudgery Work = Certain Path to Poverty

"You do want to avoid drudgrey. No one can maintain self-motivation & productivity very long when engaged in activities they find mind-numbing or onerous, or dealing with people they despise, or doing work they find unfulfilling, or selling things they do not believe in. This is a certain path to poverty. But, on the other hand, only doing what you like with no regard to market demand is just as certain a path to poverty.

Truth is, you rarely get all the results you want only from activities & process you prefer. Maturity involves opting for desirable results rather than pleasing activities."-Dan Kennedy

1st paragraph is basic common sense advice from Dan Kennedy but unfortuntately many are sucked into the drudgery vicious cycle especially in S'pore where the education system is overly emphasised on studying on something that can get a job. At times i wonder how those big corporations hire people via resumes where the intangibles like whether they like the job, sell things they believe in are very unlikely to be detected.

The part on selling things one to not believe in is a certain path to poverty reminds me of network marketing. MLM mania occur in S'pore during the early & mid 2000s. Dismay high rate of failures & dropouts can be attributing on emphasis on recruiting more downlines with little to no regard on whether the person believes in the product or service.

His mention of market demand is something i've not come across from other authors. In summary i visualise what he said as 2 individual circles (avoid drudgrey & no mkt demand) inside a rectangle. The sweet spot is the rectangle area not covered by the 2 circles.

His 2nd para is another that hit me. Procrastination in one form or another inflicts many. When the activity is not pleasing we often feel we are forced to do it. Forced & forced to do it & often we dread the activity & eventually avoid it if possible. Being pushed to do(motivation from outside) something seldom last long compared to being pulled to do it(inspiration from within).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Are S'pore Companies Staying Safe By Doing The Wrong Things, The Right Way?

What kind of competitive advantage does a company have with regards to personnel when it is infested with staff who follow orders blindly without question? Employees whose mindset is just follow orders & do. Got do won't get fired. Not fired tonight got dinner.

S'pore's education system is very good at churning out many mindless automatons to fit as cogs into the economic machine. Guess what about mindless cogs? They can be easily replaced. The cliche 'Staff are our most valuable asset' is regarded as mere lip service by many. Machines & process can be easily copied but humans aren't (unless cloned) so engaged workers is an untapped & often neglected aspect of competitiveness.

I agree with many of the stuff in the below article after having experienced it myself. Superiors are risk adverse & coupled with my tendency to question the status quo they find me hard to manage.

Issue with 'zombie workers' aka workers with no passion for what they do has been persistent since Gallup pointed it out in their 2003 article - Disengaged Employees Cost S'pore $4.9B. Is not a surprise that S'pore's low productivity among workers compared to other nations can partly be attributed to employee disenchantment.

Trouble with The Singapore Workplace
It's the people that make a place. Singaporeans are hardworking, loyal & well-educated. Everyone speaks good English but "ask them to jump from A to G and forget about it." The nation abides by a system of strictly-adhered rules & processes. And let's face it, business doesn't come packaged in a box with instructions. Even if it means getting it wrong; the average Singaporean professional would rather do the wrong thing, the right way - than the right thing the wrong way.

Why? Because there's no accountability in mistakes from executing them the 'right' way' & too much risk involved deviating from procedure - even if it means success. It's ingrained in the culture; to follow step-by-step instructions religiously, without question. The penalty for doing things any different than set out are humiliation & guaranteed failure. Even if the alternate plan could have worked, anyone caught operating outside the guidelines is immediately pulled back in by a nervous manager before the plan even had a chance to succeed.

In a nutshell, the Singapore workplace from an employee perspective is about receiving instructions, following them closely to protect from accountability, & continue on a crooked path - as long as it was the one set out. And if you're asked to innovate new solutions? Freeze until further instruction & solid approval. The trouble is, everyone wants to play it safe.

So what about employers & senior managers? Are they more encouraging of innovative solutions & swifter practices from employee feedback & experimentation? Things are changing, but for the majority, the same rules apply: no instructions, no work. Senior managers are always out to cover their backs with set guidelines & approved plans. Employers shy away from innovative solutions they know will bear fruit in the long run, they want to see instant results.

In recent years the Singapore government started movements to encourage innovation & productivity in the workplace. All very vaguely, but I see what they're trying to do. The impression you get from the campaigns is they want Apple to be created in Singapore. When its really just a simple matter of introducing innovative thinking in business, encourage risk taking to trial new ways of doing things, resulting in higher productivity with better practices in place.

The funny thing is, I can actually see things changing in Singapore & these goals being achieved (in time to come). Skeptical as I was coming back to Singapore after working in Australia for 5 years - & knowing the difference in business environments; One prospective employer warned me "This is not Australia where you clock off at 5 & go for a beer. In Singapore, people work late."

To be completely honest, Australians achieve more in the workplace leaving a 5pm than Singaporeans leaving the office at 10pm. Poor leadership & unmotivated teams mean people wait around for instructions, and then run in circles trying to get a job done they don't know how to carry out without proper guidance.

Luckily, the company I did go to work for, gets all this. Buzzing with intelligent, talented individuals in hardworking teams and innovatively in-tune bosses, all passionate about doing the best job and trying new solutions for the best outcome - because they love & care about what they do. I suspect this is a rarity in the Singapore business landscape. So why can't all businesses in Singapore operate more progressively?

The biggest problem with the Singapore workplace is the lack of passion. You don't get a sense of get-up-and-go in the air. Just "My mother told me if I studied this I'd make a lot of money" disappointment. Where is the sense of purpose? As for senior managers & employers, they expect miracles without a touch of their own magic. They have to realize that they play an integral role in shaping employees in their roles and careers - so that they're willing to go out on a limb & apply themselves innovatively. All for the success of the business.

Another interesting observation is the process of learning, information exchange & brainstorming in the workplace. Both young & seasoned professionals in the workplace are adverse to being taught what to do versus told what to do. Innovation comes from experience & fresh ideas, combined with a good opportunity to step outside the box. An undertone of "I know it all, already" & "You can't teach me what I already know" exists in the Lion City. As well as pessimism over new ideas. I get the feeling it's the sense of Singapore pride in being the best - and adverse reaction to being taught something new, bruises fragile egos. Lest we forget, the fear of flying.

That's an easy fix: employers & employees have to adopt 'people skills'. The professional interpersonal relationship skills it takes, to guide & mentor employees & provide feedback positively. Motivate staff so they can be the best they can be in their roles. Employees need to be open to feedback & take to guidance & learning - and be resilient. Keep working on those ideas & solutions, it's perfectly natural to get it wrong the first few times. Take feedback onboard positively & make it work for the group. After all, everybody is working on the same goal "Out with the old, in with the best".

The role of the Singapore government in all this? Fund more projects. It absorbs the risk, for a time, so businesses are willing to innovate - think of it as training wheels that will eventually come off. And perhaps it will happen sooner than later, the more risks Singapore takes.

Liz Zuliani,

Friday, August 5, 2011

Less Box Clutter - 4 games in 1

After consolidating 4 games into 1 box the box cover can't close fully. Is solved by getting rid of the compartmental cardboard(tiger stripes). While it did a basic job of compartmentalising into 3 sections i decide to get rid of it. With 4 games in a box ,is less to carry around to play sessions. Besides the core Zooloretto game i added:

- Bang!
- Carcasonne: Hunters & Gatherers
- Cartegena II

Many of these boardgames come with stunning artwork on their covers making it a tough decision to get rid of the box. In the end is still to either put other stuff into the box or discard it. Letting the empty boxes pile up is clutter.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Replacing Cog Labor with Robots (Foxconn)

Foxconn wants to put 1M robots to work in next 3 years citing army of chinese cog labor no longer cheap after 13 provinces up minimum wage by average 21%. When cog labor gets too expensive(incl benefits, leave, morale problems etc), companies will attempt to automate it if offshoring is not feasible.

Does replacing routine tasks done by cog labor with robots mean masses of workers are unemployed? It is not a losing scenario. One need only look at the horse carriage & automobile industry. Sure workers making horse carriages are obselete but entire new array of jobs in automobile & related companies have since sprout up.

China is moving up the value chain with automation but what about S'pore? It paints a grim picture for S'pore which current incumbent govt relies heavily on imported cheap labor instead of measures leaning towards automation to keep costs of doing business low & competitive. With massive influx of foreign workers to suppress local wages, many so called 'consumers' as the mass media call it have not much 'disposable' income(another bad name; need to dispose?) for spending amid record debt levels esp via housing costs.

Many white collar jobs are now also cog labor-do as told, routine no need to think much mundane job tasks. The term white collar is overrated nowadays. Is not surprising depression & suicides are rising among the general working population since many employees are like mindless robots working in an ever faster rolling production line doing what they are told with little to no control in exchange for the security of a steady paycheck(steady? is a myth).

Taiwan's Foxconn Technology Group, known for assembling Apple's iPhones and iPads in China, plans to use more robots, with one report saying the company will use 1 million of them in the next 3 years, to cope with rising labor costs.

Foxconn employs about 1.2 million workers, 1 million of which are based in mainland China. Use of automation is driven by Foxconn's desire to move workers from more routine tasks to more value-added positions in manufacturing such as R&D, innovation & other areas that are equally important to success.

Automation is a general trend in many sectors in China plagued by strikes & suicides, such as electronics. Of course some companies will consider moving their manufacturing overseas, but it's easier said than done when the supply chain is there.