Sunday, November 16, 2014

No, SG Is Not Going To Shits: Another View of Raffles Place Stabbing

Comments always irritate me to no end. I should stop reading comments. Yet, like an invisible force that the remnants of your bowel movements have over you to make you look, I still click and read. Seriously, I should stop.

Commentary on the recent stabbing at Raffles Place buzzed around how Singapore isn't a safe place anymore. I knew I'd be irritated by such narrow views, yet I still continue to read the ridiculous paranoia and xenophobia.

"Surely not local. SG not safe. Distressing. Nothing good. What happened. Not like last time. Tsk Tsk Tsk." Tongues have been wagging like menopausal aunties at a wedding banquet.

My views were contrary. What greatly struck me about the article was that people actually stopped the robbery. They participated in apprehending the culprit. Do you realise what this means? It means that I have to readjust my outdated view that Singaporeans are passive aggressive slobs who would just stand by and Stomp.
"Mr Nazir also saw a woman, who he believes to be in her late 20s to early 30s, holding on to one man's shirt sleeve. Not knowing who was in the wrong, Mr Nazir, who is a police national serviceman, went up to detain the alleged assailant.
Another passer-by later helped hold on to the alleged robber's lower limbs, he said."
"(Mr Nazir) was asked by the police to make a statement later that night. Asked about the kudos he has been getting online, he said: "If a lady was brave enough to hold on to the guy, then why should I be afraid?""
I had expected folks to whip out their cellphones like, you know, some sort of super citizen journalist vigilantes they think they are while the robber got away. Which was also what happened of course.
"However, (Mr Nazir) said he was disappointed that there were many others who stood by to record the incident instead of helping."
What I gathered from this incident isn't a doomsday prophecy that Singapore is going to shits. Rather the opposite, it gave me hope. Singaporeans actually have decent social ethics. They saw, they reacted fast, and the assailant was detained. If we maintain this trajectory, we will actually develop into a more cooperative and cohesive society.

I'd like to bring up Johor at this point though, where Malaysians live in fear of robberies everyday, and chances are if they were to derail an armed robbery they would be facing groups of parangs instead of one knife. It is understandable that most Malaysians would be reluctant to help out in such dire circumstances. From first hand accounts of my Malaysian friends, break ins with parangs are common, and yes their neighbours won't help because you may be a robber pretending to be asking for help. It doesn't mean their social moral compass is tardy, it is just that their reactions were born out of different circumstances.

Crime rates on our island could also be dependant on our neighbour's economy. We can't just point and shoot at foreign workers here without seeing other variables. There are many people less fortunate compared to those on our island. If I were a robber, I would also imagine Singapore being an easy target because we aren't used to robberies here. We're a people that like to wag our tongues and complain how badly we have it. I won't be surprised how easy it may seem to just snatch and go, because I too thought that our locals would go the way of China, remain frozen, and simply watch the scene unfold.

So yes, fellow people living on this island with me, take this incident and look at it from another angle. Try to avoid shouting how only FTs are to blame, or crudely debating why we should pay a dying LKY. Instead, have faith that our crime rate would be lowered as long as we remain vigilant. In other words, Singapore is still moderately safe, so let's not take things for granted. When crime rates spike, we'll need to collectively counter it as much as we can in our own ways.

Our island may not be going to shits after all, we're actually quite an alright bunch of folks.

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Nah, give you more hope. Don't keep complaining SG damn cb.


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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Paying Politicians To Do Jin Bo Liao Things

Okay chewing gum I can somewhat agree, it gets extremely irritating when you kena gum on your shoes, hands, hair, buttocks, etc. It is still nevertheless embarrassing that our country banned it.

Now, like how your parents forced you to wear them big plastic nerd glasses to school because they don't want to buy you cool ones, the nation's politicians has once again embarrassed me by banning Shisha. Really... Shisha... Why on earth? Is it because you can't find a way to tax it?

Yes, Shisha may provide a different array of heath hazards and aren't a healthier replacement from cigarettes, so why don't you ban both if you want locals to be healthy? In fact, why not just tax Shisha tobacco, it's what you're good at, taxing all the fun and decadent stuff in Singapore. Have the nation's politicians gone the way of 'Murica and decided to ban Shisha so that cigarette tobacco companies can maintain their obscene profits? You know, the way major corps rub shoulders with politicians because that's where you can bend policies to your favour. That may be quite unlikely, us going the way of American politics, but it's not one to rule out. One can speculate since our government is hardly transparent with us.

Every so often, in between telling us that we are so much better off then our communistic or religiously oppressive Asian counterparts, you smoke us with epic-thousand-face-palms worthy announcements. Let me list down some thoughts I have about Singapore when you were making the decision to ban Shisha:

The issues of astronomical health care costs and insufficient hospital beds aren't resolved yet. But you ban Shisha.

The lower income and disabled welfare pay outs are still meagre. But you ban Shisha.

AWARE needs encouragement to update their gender biased no-men-allowed rule and should realise that one of the more formidable methods of abolishing females being discriminated and objectified would be through fathers guiding their sons. But you ban Shisha.

How about that horrid sexuality education workshop that slipped past MOE's eye, but god forbid we put a gay penguin book in the library? We need to address outdated mentalities and encompass diversity; male and female roles have evolved. But you ban Shisha.

Business owners need positive reinforcement on providing more for their staff in terms of salaries and benefits. But you ban Shisha.

The massive issue on the influx of Filipino and China's Chinese workers that even reduced the pay scale of our Malaysian counterparts is still floating around. But you ban Shisha.

The potential to become Asia's Switzerland through educating a culturally, emotionally, and intellectually wholesome society is not unattainable as long as we just start to dare to try. Yes, just a start, to dare to try, we could do so many things. But. You ban. Shisha.

Instead of progressing and updating your policies, trusting your people, granting autonomy to voters on matters of national agendas, promoting a healthier work life balance to enhance the living standards of already disgruntled Singaporeans, or preventing the disturbing growth in the number of keyboard warriors, you come up with something like banning Shisha simply because it's as unhealthy as all the other things we Singaporeans have been gorging on.

You know what else is embarrassing? Chan Chun Seng saying single mothers enjoy the same benefits as married mothers when they clearly don't. To name a few differences, single mothers do not receive baby bonuses and they are only entitled to half the maternity leave. See? Another issue that urgently needs addressing.

But what do you do? You go ban Shisha.


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Friday, August 15, 2014

Roy Ngerng and His 5300.

A supporter of Roy Ngerng recently asked Singaporeans to donate $1/mth to support Roy as an NMP. 5300 Singaporeans would suffice. Apparently to her, Roy has now become a messiah of sorts for the common people maligned by a tyrannical CPF system. He is the one that will speak up for the masses where none had dared to. He has sacrificed his livelihood for the good of the people. For a better Singapore!

Just wow.

1. Roy Ngerng now appears to have pulled off a City Harvest. Not in the misappropriation of funds or anything of that illegal sort, but more in the sense of having a feverish supporter asking for money on his behalf.

2. I cannot fathom in a million years how he speaks for me. What would be your credentials Roy? Not referring to anything academic, we have tons of those A Star A hole blokes in parliament doing A shit. How about the sensibility to foresee things in a grand scale? Or analysing possible repercussions of every policy change? Maybe you can relate to the everyday folk because of the education you got on the street? A good balance between humility and power? Let's just start with having a good head on your shoulders by not slandering a very rich Prime Minister. No? I guess not.

3. So... you are passionate and you write it in your blog. If I want to support a blogger as an NMP, I'd rather give $10/mth to Mr Brown.

The CPF issue has its flaws, but the reasons behind its restrictions are not too far fetched either. How would one handle a senior citizen blowing their retirement fund on a metaphorical Nigerian prince? Yet, it is arguable that a person is entitled to spend their savings however they want to.

CPF is only one issue, and new Singapore has more then one problem. Has Roy in his youthful life experienced diverse avenues that may sometimes meander into dark alleys? Issues of education, racial and gender discrimination, sexual violation, human trafficking, abuse, labour, foreign integration, or simply a better society overall regardless of which class you are from. In fact, how about we start with the eradication of the ridiculous self-entitlement most Singaporeans have. I am sick and tired of my own uncles complaining how the government aren't helping them in any way because they do not want to work. I repeat: They do not like work.

It angers me that Roy thinks himself as speaking on behalf of Singaporeans. If there is a chance, it would be in the future when through maturity he will no longer be blinded by angst. James Dean was cool, but unfortunately Roy does not have his publicist. What he does have is his head in a cloud that is shaped uncannily like his bottom.

I cannot easily kick out those A Star A holes out of office and stop paying them, but at least with Roy Ngerng I do have a choice. If Roy had wanted some money because he was crippled by the Prime Minister, then yes I would donate to him.

Lee Hsien Loong and Roy Ngerng have one thing in common. Both of them need to grow up.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Vid: The Known Universe by AMNH

The universe fascinates me. I guess it is the closest thing I have to a religion, in that I believe in stardust.

I have a respect for my own demise one day, but I fear the death of my husband and my unborn child more so then my own. It is a crumbling fear, so much so that I will cry dry tears. If he is around when my irrationality strikes, I will simply hug him, look at him, or take a whiff of that musk he carries around. C'est la vie, as my heart aches.

When it comes to my parents, siblings, relatives, and friends, I do not fear so much. My respect for death also mean I have already imagined them dead, and that I have taken stock of the necessary steps I need to make so that the living may handle it as best that they can.

But my husband... I cannot imagine. It stops at loss, and a white wash of grief floods in. He is my only kryptonite.

This is where the universe comes in. Imagining the unimaginable makes me realise we are all but minute creatures within a speck of dust. This is my faith. The cosmos is my god. Earth is not forever. We will go back into the universe as stardust. The magnitude of what the universe is may be incomprehensible to our brains. Our hardware may simply not be equipped to hold such information. And this is how I am spiritual. My husband, my family, my friends, our bodies will all go back into the system again. Who knows where our souls will end up.

For now, I'll live life as much as I can in this casing I am given, with the knowledge that the greater universe cares as much for human lives and us humans care about dead skin cells.

Remember, if you're having a bad day, take comfort in that your boss, your client, their money, it will all be stardust one day. We often tend to forget how minuscule we really are.

Awesome vid yo.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Japan's Plan To Lure Foreign Talents: So... You Want To Work In Japan?

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It's official, Japan wants to open its doors to foreign talents so that they can compete with their more versatile neighbours. Before you start sprucing up your LinkedIn resume with half truths about that 67% increases in sales revenue, do consider that Japan is not as friendly as it seems.

You need to speak Japanese and differentiate between business and casual language forms. If you're not a Caucasian gaijin holding a VP or CEO post, you can't afford a kawaii secretary to translate everything for you. There are no two ways about it, no matter what that friend of your friend told you.

Most are friendly, if not at least cordial, to visitors, but don't mess with their rice bowl. Yes, Masuzoe may want to open the floodgates for foreign workers so that Japan can alleviate the impact of an aging work force (Japan Times article), but it doesn't mean that one can apply for a job and work like they do here. The Japanese are very hardworking, and they follow a strict code of conduct. I believe you have experienced the influx of Asian immigrants coming into Singapore and irritating the eyeballs out of you? That shit ain't gonna go down well in Japan. Don't worry you won't get physically stabbed, but I guarantee that you'll be psychologically murdered.

Just 3 years ago the NY Times did a story on Japan's very simple foreign labour policy: Foreign workers are discouraged. It's quite a hard truth to swallow especially if your impression of Japan are the sparkly cosplay girls smiling at you on TV, but it is a fact. They love their efficiency, low crime rate, and culture, and they don't want foreigners coming in to topple that balance.

For women, they find it hard to be on equal grounds with their male counterparts. In Japan, the wives would be the queen of the house and they are in charge of their husband's finances. These wives are the CFOs. Due to this practice, I suspect Japanese men are used to seeing women as heads of households, and therefore aren't comfortable giving them the reign at the workplace as well. It would be suffocating. That's my own theory, that sexism in the Japanese work place stems from beyond the simple "because you are woman" reason. It's quite common knowledge this practice of giving all your money to your wife, so I didn't bother linking any articles. Instead, here's an interesting blog entry on mixed nationality romantic relationships in Japan. Their version of SPGs are called "Gaijin Hunters". So cool.

In addition, unequal opportunities for women in the work place is reinforced by actual taxes discouraging married women from seeking employment. Here's a recent Bloomberg article on the issue, of the aches mothers face and how Abe now wishes to make drastic changes in these policies. In line with Masuzoe's idea of welcoming foreign talents, Abe is considering to admitting overseas domestic workers to ease the burden of child care. A system that already proved it's efficiency in Hong Kong and here.

And ladies, take note, coloured nails are frowned upon at work, only nudes or skin tones are considered acceptable.

These are some issues one must understand about Japan before you do get a job based on that fantastic resume of yours. Apart from the articles available online, my perception stemmed from conversing with my Japanese suppliers and friends here in Singapore, conversing a lot with my Japanese father-in-law, and observing Tokyo during my one trip there. Yes, the sources aren't an academic gold mine.

There are some things I picked up from the father-in-law though:

- They are facing what we are facing now, PRC immigrants flooding (most on tourist visas) to work. They set up shop, they undercut markets, and worst of all they do not care for quality. The Japanese are meticulous, and they take very great pride in their work. I can feel his sadness somewhat at seeing a drop in these standards.

- The Chinese immigrants do not speak Japanese, they converse by translating Kanji. Most of the time, they stay within their Chinatown and mix with their own race. The Japanese aren't really bothered with that, because Japan is rather big to begin with so they don't get rubbed in their faces so much.

The husband also has a Singaporean friend working in Japan's creative industry for many years. The friend went to study there. Thereafter he managed to find a job. and a Japanese wife who speaks English fluently. From him:

- It's not all that bad. Speak their language and know the culture, you're safe.

- Asians have an easier time then Caucasians. If we don't open our mouths, we fit in quite well and no stereotyping will be made during the first impression. Gaijins, well, Japan did refer to the Portuguese as "Nambans" in the 17th century. Westerners just tend to stand out. The Japanese do not like to stand out.

Japan, with all its difficulties, is still an undeniably beautiful place. I've noted how our friend has no plans to come back to Singapore. I've also seen how my father-in-law interacts with his boss back in Japan. Within all these contexts, I have realised that working there involves a lot of awareness, and there won't be much space for big egos who torque their way like a hillbilly trucker into getting things done. The regiment somehow makes you want to stay and fight because the rewards can be peaceful.

In contrast, we have an easier time here in Singapore. Yes, the inflation and cost of living here is getting ridiculous, but the same goes for Japan. Yet there are more opportunities here, and a less rigid work environment, unlike Japan. I guess we would appreciate more the things that we have to fight harder for. Having it too easy here makes us rather myopic in our bubbled world. The Japanese love it here though, it's a paradise compared to Tokyo.

Do foreigners love working in Japan? Of course! No matter what, the Japanese will still show you courtesy. They will smile and laugh with you. Be very careful though, they are not confrontational, therefore if you have offended them in any way they will not tell you. Most have learnt it the hard way, and when they do they become more aware of their speech and mannerisms. It is a good thing really, to not be a blur cock.

With all being said, listing out the cons of working in Japan, would I still go there for work if I were offered the opportunity? Of course! Why? I really don't know. Well... okay maybe not an office job. Maybe for a small business or a weird occupation, like these "Foreigners Finding Creative Ways To Make A Living In Japan".

I'll hang myself in a Japanese corporate environment. I like my rouge nail colour too much.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

How would one describe Japan? 

In many ways. Many many ways. In which these many many many ways contradict each other to create a society that has been bound together by these intricacies. To put it in another way, Japan is a place where two ends of a rope tug each other, and this tension is the very foundation that supports the entire culture.

The ostentatious can be friendly and mindful. 

The formal salary man sits on the train watching drumming tutorials.

The formidable boss (san-cho) expresses humour behind his stoicism.

The people welcome you wholeheartedly while at the same time alienate you as a foreigner.

It is a beautiful country, and a difficult place to work in. Should you be a craftsman at reading between the lines, then Tokyo can become a playground. Easier if you're Asian too. Although some PRC Asians stand out like a Korn gig in a library. And that fella that shoved me in Shinjuku station turns out to be a Gaijin of maybe Turkish or South American descent. It is so easy to stand out in a country where collectivism rules both corporate and social world.

Regardless, Japan is a beautiful place that enthralled me. The countryside took my heart, while the city took my breath. 

I would probably not like to work in Japan, Singapore has bubbled me already. We're not as getto as other countries, us Singaporeans. We're still that nerdy class monitor everyone kind of likes but finds boring to hang out with. Or so I think.

I would love to retire in Japan. I would love my child to remember his/her roots, even though it's only 1/4 Japanese. Should I bring it to Holland as well since it's now 1/32 Dutch? Which reminds me I have to start on Japanese lessons. A child with a Japanese name whose parents know only an inkling of the language is rather unacceptable.

Till the next time, Japan. Husband and I will return with the Tokyo kid you created.

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The waterfall at Nikko.


Lake Chuzenji


Nikko


Train to Nikko.


Kamakura, visiting Ozu's grave.


The aforementioned grave of Ozu.


Square Enix shop and cafe.


Sensoji temple, Asakusa


Best. Ramen. Ever. Ikebukuro.


Overlooking Yoyogi park, Shinjuku.
The view from our room in the Park Hyatt.

And its sunrise.


Otoro at Daiwa, Tsukiji.


Yakiniku in Yokohama.


That robot place in Kabuki-cho.

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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A $42mil Drop In Profits, SMRT Corporation So Poor Thing Right?

In the wake of their terrible drop in profits, SMRT Corporation would need to pump up their vigilance in all aspects.

One channel can be issuing penalties. When ST printed out what you can be fined for in trains and stations, it was such a laughable issue. Apart from paying to wait to board a full train, you might have to pay more if you squeeze into said train. What is to me the ball gag in this gimp suit is transactions between paid and unpaid areas. I mean, come on! I purchase many things through eBay sellers and the train stations have always been a convenient exchange location. Now, I have to fear that the $4.05 set of 26 hangers may cost me $2004.05. In fact, it is cheaper if you smoke in the station: $1000.60 (the price per stick based on $12).


Via sg.finance.yahoo.com

Let us give them the benefit of the doubt, maintaining law and order in train stations is an uphill task during these downhill times and every cent is precious. After all, they truly did experience a 50% drop in revenue from 2012. I present to you their financial report (unaudited)


2nd Quarter ending 30th Sept 2013 via smrt.com.sg -
Compared to 2012, there is a 57.1% drop from ~$33mil to ~$14mil. For those three months. A ~$19mil loss. Heart pain right?


Year to Date 2014 via smrt.com.sg -
There was a 50.1% from ~$84mil to ~$42mil. Wow. Down to a ~$42mil profit. So poor thing right? 

Alright enough with the jibes, time to proceed with the commentary.

SMRT operates on many subsidiaries. They have their shop space rental and station media/advertising yields, and these have increased slightly from the last year. They also have engineering, a consultancy, and a transportation business in Shenzhen. Taxi revenue increased as well and according to their notes it is due to higher rentals from a new fleet. This was where you noticed the increase in flag down rates at $3.80 for some vehicles compared to the standard $2.80, and of course the super atas Chrysler taxis (Side note: most of the times we are desperate for a taxi and beggars can't be choosing which cab we can get into).

The most disturbing change in numbers belong the 92.2% drop in profit for train revenue. 92.2%, translated to money that's ~$49mil in YTD2013, and a mere ~$3mil in YTD2014. This is where I snigger at their explanation, there is an increase in ridership resulting to an increase in revenue, but the lower profit came about due to a huge jump in operating expenses. From the figures, I could easily have speculated that SMRT Corporation has been cutting back on operating and maintenance fees by as much as ~$46mil in the past years so that their profits would be maximised, and now shit has hit the fan. The math doesn't really add up when you need 92.2% extra in operating costs to cater to the 3.1% increase in commuters.

They then decided to increase bus and train fares. Singapore, of course, not happy. I can understand that as the national transport something has got to give when profits plummet drastically, as in the case with SIA and their cut backs when profits dropped operating profits dropped from ~$700mil to ~$200mil in 2003. In addition, both SIA and SMRT (Holdings) are public listed companies that inevitably have to answer to shareholders; profits have to be maintained. Lastly, there must be reserves in the bank account for the longevity of national carriers. 

Yet, in all its similarities, the major difference between SIA and SMRT is that I can choose to fly Emirates, Cathay, or JAL, because our air space is not monopolised. Unless I can cough up $40k upfront and another $40k for the next 5 years to buy a brand new spanking Chery QQ, I am stuck with the crowded trains, jerky buses, and magically-disappearing-during-peak-hours taxis.

Contrary to local sentiments, privatisation of local transportation system is not always bad thing. Look at Japan, they had to be "privatised after sustaining huge debts due to mismanagement.". Now they run a competitive rail, bus, and ferry system that offers safe and affordable transportation for commuters (read also "Why Tokyo's Privately Owned Train System Works So Well."). What would be a bad thing is privatisation of public transportation which enjoys minimal regulating. Issuing fines may or may not encourage SMRT to improve its system, but it certainly encouraged train doors to quickly slam in your face.

My suggestion is for SMRT to focus on the secondary opportunities that comes with being the national transportation system. Advertising, rental, consultancy, and what ever the business and marketing department can monetize. With millions of eyeballs taking the train, you have a database that even spam bots would be envious of. Manage your expectations on profit making and decide what areas are ethically sound for you to squeeze out our dollars.

Of course, there are many factors to consider. Therefore, the pressure should be deservedly placed on all you government connected A-Star scholar buggers: Directors and Senior Management. Stop wondering what wine Ho Ching would like to drink at your dinner, and start focusing on getting your priorities right.

Bloody hell, I really don't want to pay $2004.05 for 26 hangers.

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If you have read this far, you're either one of the 3 readers of my blog, Gilbert Goh, or the government watch body (I have a conspiracy theory that the Singapore Memory Project may be that).

Or you're just curious. For that, thank you. 

As a post script, I have this bug of a thought on how our collective of aggressive keyboard warriors are able to chase racists and elitists out of the country, but we can't change the direction of any national policies that matter most to us. 

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