Monday, October 31, 2011

Humans Fail monkey bins

A while back I wondered when the monkeys at MacRitchie Nature Reserve would overcome the new monkey-proof trash bins introduced by NEA*. (see this blog)

I have yet to see this happen but something else funnier has occurred.

*National Environment Agency

The trash bins seem to be human proof as well.
I have tried these trash bins and it is so easy to understand why it fails.

1. The lock is tight and needs strong finger pressure to unlock it.

2. The lock appears dirty and you'll feel uncomfortable touching it.

3. The lid is made of thick steel and is heavy to lift it open. 
(The lid doesn't pop open - you gotta lift it manually - I supposed they presume monkeys don't have the strength to lift it)

Already reasons 2 & 3 makes you queasy touching the filthy surfaces, but lastly,

4. you need all three of your hands to use the trash bin.  
    One to press and hold the lock, 
    another to lift the heavy cover, and, 
    your third hand to hold the trash you intend to dispose.

So now you know why the garbage is outside the trash bins. It's a no brainer!
Well done, NEA. Kudos to you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Mister, can you spare a dime?

Poor sad rich man!

Sheldon Adelson, chairman of Las Vegas Sands and one of the richest man in the world, is disappointed, apologetic and suffering from the loss of dignity.

And why is that so?
Well apparently, he made a substantial error in his profits forecast for his Marina Bay Sands Casino in Singapore.

His casino made MORE money than he imagine it would!
In the last 3 months, his casino made only US$413.9 million in PROFIT!
He didn't get his math right, he expected his casino to make less!
My heart bleeds for him.

Click on pix for detailed view of the ST report.
"But trust me, I will suffer through the indignity of being wrong by such a substantial amount."
Such arrogance! He is laughing all the way to his private banker at the expense of all the losers.

In Singapore, the number of those getting caught up in this vice trap can be seen through the increasing court cases of frauds and bankruptcies, the increasing numbers turning to gambling counsellors and the increase in self-exclusion orders.

This not withstanding the case of Madam Choo who supposedly won S$416,742 at the slots in his casino but was denied her winnings due to 'machine malfunction' ?

Her winnings of $416,742 is just 0.08% of the profits he made in the last 3 months.
That's less than a dime to the dollar!

Related links:

For God sake

I have taken this post down temporarily on the advise of the authorities.
Unfortunately, there are some who "can't handle the truth" (Jack Nicholson A Few Good Men

Due to threat and libel made, this piece has now become part of an ongoing investigation.
As such, I am unable to comment on this further until I am given the green light by my legal advisors.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Venice of Punggol? Oh Please lah!

The waterfront park at Punggol was officially opened to the public yesterday.
But I just couldn't help laughing at the newspaper report this morning describing the new waterway as the "Venice of Punggol" !

Venice !

Please lah!  It's just one big longkang and they put it on the same level as Venice?

I have been to Venice and just last week I visited the My Waterway@ Punggol .
It will tire out all my brain cells just trying to think of any similarities.

Maybe they can start a gondolier service to see the old dump, now converted to a wetland, at Lorong Halus?

I must say that the wording in the news report is so clever that you can't really tell who came up with the moniker!  So nobody can be faulted if there's any backlash! (see report here).
Maybe it's a pre-emptive way to avoid future embarrassment in case of floods like previously in Bukit Timah and Orchard Road? Or perhaps it's a new directive to rename flood prone areas to "Venice of..."

Venice of Bukit Timah?

I am not disparaging the residents (Venetians?) of Punggol and congratulate them on their new facilities.
There is a long long way to go before Punggol 21+ achieves its aim of being a truly waterfront eco town, but please, be a bit more original with the names.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Non-stop elevator ride

I was just told of a neat trick which is supposedly used by the emergency services staff.
How to make an elevator proceed non stop to the floor that you want.

I cannot confirm this as I have not tried it out myself.  (and I live on the 2nd floor!)
Can someone try this out and confirm or debunk this story?
It may just be an urban legend for all I know.

1. Enter the elevator and  HOLD the Close Door >|< button.
2. Press the floor you wish to go to while still holding the Close Door >|< button.
3. Hold BOTH buttons till the door closes and the elevator starts moving.
4. The elevator should ride non-stop to your floor.

I was just thinking,  it doesn't make sense if you are going home and alone in the elevator.
Your neighbors would be unlikely to be going up from other floors!

Maybe, it's only useful in a commercial building?
Or does it work as well going DOWN to the ground floor?

Will someone try it out and respond to this?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Bridge at Gillman Barracks

If you drive along Alexandra Road, you might be able to spot an old disused bridge near the Alexandra Arch, just opposite the Hort Park.

This bridge crosses over a very deep gully and was formerly within the compounds of the old British Army Gillman Barracks. In 1969, Gillman Barracks was handed over to the then newly established Singapore Armed Forces and was used by the SAF Combat Engineers as their headquarters.

Back then, Alexandra Road did not exist as it is today.
Gillman Barracks was just a part of the entire British military area that encompassed places like Portsdown, Normanton, Alexandra Hospital, and the entire area we call Ayer Rajah and Buona Vista today.

My very first encounter with this bridge was around 1970, when as part of a group of school army cadets, we were brought to Gillman Barracks as there was a proper parade ground for us to practice for the National Day Parade.

We were transported to the camp entrance and had to cross this bridge to get to the parade square.
At that time, there was hardly any vegetation in the gully and that made the bridge appear very high above the valley floor.

One thing I also remembered was that the bridge was different from the one existing now, although it is in the same location. The one I remembered was a black wooden trestle bridge like the one in the picture below. The existing bridge is a modern design steel truss bridge, which must have been a replacement.

I remembered we were all really afraid to cross that bridge because of the height.
And what made it worse was a sign that said "BREAK STEP WHEN CROSSING BRIDGE"

We didn't understand what "Break Step" was.  We were told not to march as a group across but to walk individually and out of step with each other. They said otherwise the bridge might collapse! That made us even more afraid.

At that time, as schoolboys, we were not aware of the effects of resonance.
Resonance happens when regular vibration, such as soldiers marching, matches the vibrating resonance of the bridge causing it to sway in unison and can lead to collapse.

Gillman Barracks was converted to a Food & Beverage hub in early 2000 and was renamed Gillman Village. However, the response was lukewarm leading to its final demise last year.
There are new plans by the government to convert the area into a new Arts and creative production hub utilizing the old army complexes. Just like the ones at Dempsey Road today.

Any old SAF combat engineers reading this?
Perhaps you can post a picture of the orignal bridge?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NParks' new surveillance system

Saw these at Toa Payoh Central Park. 

There's also another set at Adam Park on Lornie Road. Cute.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Sony Timer strikes again?

This morning, I awoke to read with a bit of concern, an article in the Straits Times.

Straits Times, 14 Oct 2011.      Click for larger view.
Later, reading more news online, I came across the same Bloomberg news release which said SONY had started a recall of 1.6m sets of 40" Bravia TV( Link here. ).  Other news agencies confirmed the SONY  recall.

I own a SONY 40" Bravia LCD TV which was why I was concerned.

Globally, SONY had announced the RECALL, but according to the ST report, Sony Singapore "insisted this was not a product recall but a 'service inspection' " Is Sony Singapore being truthful here?

SONY has been having a run of extremely bad luck with product quality of late, especially batteries. Remember the recall of millions of Dell computers due to exploding SONY batteries?
Just last month, 2 million mobiles phones were recalled due to overheating batteries.
How many of you can remember when SONY admitted a 'software bug' caused their E-Series TV to automatically shutdown after 1200 hours of use?

All these brings back again the urban legend and rumors about the so called SONY TIMER.
Have you heard of the Sony Timer ? 

Many people, especially tech geeks, believe that Sony products contain a hidden 'timer' that when activated causes the product to start failing. Some believe this can be remotely activated and is done before a new replacement product is announced or when the warranty expires! Though never proven, speculations run from a hidden hardware chip to cleverly programmed software contained in the products.

It is not difficult to imagine some built-in software controlling your TV and making it 'shutdown' after 3 years. What do you do? Go buy a new TV!
Did your VAIO, walkman or TV breakdown after their warranty period ended?

You may not know this, but in Japan, a lot of Japanese actually believe this despite not having any evidence to the contrary. Sony products are not as well received in Japan as abroad for this reason.

Can a product actually have a programmed shelf life?
Yes, products can be designed with a predictable obsolescence period !

I used to work in aviation a long time ago. One thing I learned from my time as an aircraft mechanic was that all aircraft parts have a 'safe life'. Parts are designed for a certain tolerance in usage and beyond that it must be changed due to the risk of failure. What the layman might term simply as 'wear and tear'.

So, technically, products can and are engineered for a certain shelf life.
Is that how the Sony Timer works?

I have taken to feeling my TV each time before I turn it off for the day.
I hope it won't explode. Gee, the warranty had just run out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Surviving the train crush

Complaints of overcrowding on the trains have escalated over the past few years and reached a crescendo just before the recent general elections. Denials, spins and excuses from the operators and 'authorities' have led to widespread frustration by commuters. The local Net is full of blogs over this issue ad nauseam.

Apparently, the train operators, being public companies, have to ensure that its bottom line is priority.  Even the gahmen gives all out support to ensure that the operations are not running at a loss.

The train operators claimed that the lines are maximized to capacity and it would be difficult to add more trains or increase frequency. With  a burgeoning workforce, the situation can only get worse. Passenger comfort and quality of service don'y seem to be a priority for them to resolve. The proof is simply to go to any station during rush hour. Enuff said.

Yesterday, my sister Stephenie was so stressed out, especially after reading the Oct 11th Stomp article about how commuters were forced to wait till the 4th train passing before being able to board. She was one of those who experienced this twice at Bukit Batok and Jurong East Stations.

Click here to read the Stomp article

I am luckier in that I don't take the train so often nowadays, but I do empathize with my fellow commuters.
Just last week, I had a 5-day assignment at the Ministry of Education at Buona Vista starting at 8 am each morning. That meant I had to join the crowd to get there from Bukit Batok Station, with a transfer at Jurong East Station.

It is extremely difficult to board the trains at Bukit Batok,  being the last stop before the terminal at Jurong East. The train is already filled to the brim and you just hope some students, heading for school in the vicinity, will get off so that you can squeeze into that vacated space.

Next, the train discharges the full load at Jurong East, adding to the crowd already there who have yet to make the connection to the city-bound trains. It's really CHAOTIC!

Transfer at Jurong East Station (pic from TNP)
SMRT recently opened an additional platform at Jurong East, which helps to distribute the in-coming passengers from the Bukit Batok line, but its a zero sum game as the same number of city-bound trains still take the transfer paxes from Jurong East!  It's just less crowding on the platform but not on the trains.

As I am powerless to do anything about the overcrowding, I'll just share what goes through my mind in these situations.

These are my pet peeves on the MRT trains:-

1. No hand holds near the door area.
It's a funny paradox.
They don't provide hand holds near the door area in order to force you further inside the car. But the car is already full and you can only stand near the door area a lot of the time!
You have to be as acrobatic as a gymnast throughout the ride - balancing with the sway, doing knee flexs, toe curls and bum shiftings. All because you have nothing to hold on to.
Passenger safety was never in the minds of the operators.

There's always a crush near the doors as commuters tend not to squeeze once they move 'further in'. So while the door area is packed, it appears that there are actually more space 'inside'.
Commuters also fear that they can't get out easily once they move too far in!

2. Pole leaners and dual hand holders
Inconsiderate passengers who lean on the grab pole for their own support. I normally won't tell them off but instead let them feel my knuckles against their back or arms. Then there are some will will hold on to 2 hanging hand holds.

3. Backpackers.
Idiotic commuters who don't have the sense to remove their backpacks. What's worst is that they are unaware that it's knocking into others. The backpacks only take up more space.

4. Fear of pickpocket or accidental contact.
As I have a habit of carrying my wallet in my back pocket, I have this nagging fear of pickpockets in the crowd. Men also face the awkward problem of where to put their hands for fear of accidental contact and for some lady to scream accusations of trying to be funny with roaming hands. It doesn't really happen but there's always this fear.

5. B O !
Not too bad in the mornings but woe be you in the evening rush hour!

I fear that unless something tragic happens not much will change in the near future.

In my next blog, I'll tell you of my own experiences on the Tokyo rush hour morning trains.

Here is the link to that blog:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Amateur photographer

I really appreciate that friends and even strangers and well wishers visit my photo blog. Comments and compliments from you all really make my day.

At this stage in life, when I can quite contentedly say "been there, done that" to most thingsphotography is still one of my little joys that I have never really given up.

Today, someone again paid me a compliment after viewing my photo blog.
But inevitably, and I am very sure without any malice, the oft asked question arose.

What camera did you take these picture with? 
You must be a Canon or Nikon user.

I still take that as a compliment in that assumption that good pictures come from better equipment. Well, perhaps, or perhaps not?

Here's a quotation from the world famous South African photographer, Sam Haskins.
He nails it with his anecdote on the comment faced by most photographers.

“A photographer went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said ‘I love your pictures – they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.’ He said nothing until dinner was finished, then: ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove.”
- Sam Haskins

My hobby is definitely still at an amateur level.
And what cameras do I use?

My equipment is very basic.
I carry the point & shoot Olympus u1030 all the time in my satchel, and occasionally bring along my other Olympus E-PL1.
The E-PL1 is a micro four-thirds camera, if you know what that is. (haha).
It's supposed to give comparable DSLR quality pictures but is less bulky as it does not have a reflex mirror system  like an SLR.  Just to my liking.

E-PL1 on the left, u1030 on the right. Taken with my iphone. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thai commercial at it's best

I like to watch Thai TV commercials because they're funny and humorous most of the time.
You don't need to understand the language as most of them depend on visual language to get the message across. Do a search for  'funny Thai commercials'  on Youtube and you'll see what I mean.

Recently, I came across this Thai commercial for Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 Tablet.
It's unusual in that it has a story line and is done over 5 episodes, just like a mini-series.
Although the commercial is about the Samsung Galaxy Tablet, the commercial does not come across as hard sell.

You must watch this!

I've put in only the 1st episode but you can subsequently follow through to episode 5 via the Youtube link.  Enjoy the show, who knows, you might even end up buying a Samsung Tablet!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Here's my 2 cents.

The public bus duopoly, SBS Transit and SMRT, today increased their fares by 1% as allowed by the Public Transport Council. For most commuters, this translates to an increase of 2 cents per trip.

Thus my trip from Bukit Batok Interchange to my office at Andrew Road will now cost me $1.35 instead of the previous $1.33. My math may be wrong but the 2 cents increase for me seem to be a 1.5% increase rather than the 1% permitted? Anyway....

Click to view larger picture of the fare increase chart.
I seemed to have become a watchdog over my fares ever since the bus companies introduced the Distance Related Fare System back in July.

After their initial claim that the glitches were fixed and that the overcharging incidents have been rectified, I still had a few incidences where I was still overcharged.

Just a month ago, I made my 10th or 11th claim (I forget how many now!) for overcharging.
So personally, I know that the glitches have not been fully fixed as claimed by the bus companies.

Related links:
Getting it back from the bus companies
The bus companies are still taking your money!
$300,000 in bus refunds for overcharging

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Get a better life ?

Today I did a typically Singaporean thing.
I went to the SMRT Circle Line Open House!

Free unlimited rides between Caldecott and Harbourfront stations.
Free mineral water, free brochures AND free balloons, wow!
And best of all - Irene Ang and Yam Ah Mee, live in person!
The good things in life are really free !

LOL ! Is this all there is to life in Singapore?

Here's a video I shot today....

I was really a bit devious. 
As some of you know,  I am photographing overhead bridges wherever I can find them.
So what better way to get around than to use the free rides on the Open Day trains!

Here's a picture of the overhead bridge at Telok Blangah MRT Station.

Not too bad composition for a boring subject like a pedestrian bridge, right?

Some people had ask what camera I use. 
But hey, it's not just the camera, dude. Give some credit to the photographer. 

I don't like lugging a bulky and heavy DSLR camera, so my pictures are taken with my small Olympus point & shoot camera. I've got 2 models, the waterproof u1030 and the slightly larger EPL1. 
I am happy with them.

I've passed the 100th bridge mark. If you want to see my bridge project, the link to that blog is on the right side panel. You can probably scroll through them all in about 6 seconds. The Jesuits have it on record that you can hold a person's interest only for the first 7 seconds, beyond which thier minds starts to drift.

Looking at the bridges, concrete seems so dull. 
I gotta write to the LTA to suggest they put some color unto the structures. 
Concrete grey is so passe.
Wouldn't you like to see red, yellow or blue bridges instead of battleship grey all the time?

Sigh, there's got to be more to life than concrete bridges!

Anyway, to break my routine, I am now planning for my annual trip to Japan. Yeaaa.
This time to see the autumn colors in November.
I had thought perhaps this year I might have to forgo Japan due to the radiation danger, but I guess it safer now. So at least my life is beginning to look better ?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The lady doth protests too much, methinks.

Are you depressed over your size? 
Do you feel the world is unfair because you are fat?
Want to loose 20kgs and find happiness? 

Now there's London Weight Management..   but wait! there's more...
they remind you that they are "neither discriminating nor nauseating the obese women in this territory"(sic) ???!!  LOL

When I first saw their advert, I thought it was stupid and paid no mind to it,  although I knew that it was asking for trouble. Sure enough, the brickbats came fast and furious.

What made me take up my keyboard again was the defense (protests?) that London Weight Management's  Marcomm Manager, Ms Hazel Tang,  raised to counter all the objections over their insensitive advert.

"we have not breached any regulation in accordance to the local regulation".

followed by the classic line,

"We wish to remind you that we are neither discriminating nor nauseating the obese women in this territory," said Tang.

I would just like to tell Miss Tang that being within 'regulations' does not justify putting obese people down, or even that we men are just that superficial.
Don't stereotype everyone just because one of your client experienced a regrettable incident.

You can read the full stories at these links:
Controversial slimming ad sparks debate
Slimming company defends its controversial ad