Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SMRT Mandarin station name announcements

I emailed LTA the following on the 16th of November this year

I took the North South Line today and noticed the bilingual announcements made in English as well as Mandarin each time the train approached a station. I would like to question the rationale for this change. 
Who are the targeted commuters of this new change? As far as I know, Singapore's main education and working medium is in English, and primary education is compulsory, therefore it is impossible that locals do not understand the simple English announcements that has been used since the day our trains start operating. 
If the targeted commuters are the older generation of locals who may not understand English, why was this change not done earlier? It it impossible that they lose their grasp of English as they grow older. It is also impossible that this change was not technologically possible before this. 
If the targeted commuters for this change are for the foreign workers and new citizens, are the figures that huge that it warrants this change? In that case, what are the figures like and are their understanding of English that bad that they do not understand simple English, like station names? 
Also, why are only the Chinese foreigners and new citizens being accommodated? Why not Telugu or Hindustan to accommodate those from India as well as Vietnamese, Tagalog and Thai? 
Appreciate a response.

And this is their reply, 11 days later.

Our Ref : LTA/VTL/PTR/TR/F20.000.000/4139
Date       : 26-NOV-2012
Tel         : 6553 5955
Fax        : 6553 5279

Dear Sir,   
SMRT Announcement
FEEDBACK NUMBER: 20121116-0348

We refer to your email of 16 November 2012.

We will like to share that the move to have the names of stations announced in Mandarin is part of a trial by SMRT which was implemented recently. As they have regularly received public feedback and suggestions to announce station names in Mandarin, they decided to adopt commuters' recommendations as it is a service improvement that would benefit passengers who rely on announcements during their journey.

SMRT have taken into consideration the request for the announcement of station names to be in the four official languages of Singapore, namely, English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. During their review, they found that the pronunciation for most station names, with the exception of Mandarin, sound similar when pronounced in English, Malay or Tamil.

We acknowledge the concern for announcements to be made in multiple languages and we will keep this in mind during future review.

Yours sincerely,

WONG HSIEN HAN
ASST MGR, MAINTENANCE
TRANSIT REGULATION

Sunday, November 25, 2012

HDB: Jan 2013 BTO pre-launch analysis

HDB has released information on the upoming Jan 2013 BTO.

For Ang Mo Kio BTO, it is near the confirmed future Mayflower MRT station of the Thomson Line

For Choa Chua Kang BTO, it is near the possible future Brickland MRT station of the North South Line.


The rest of the BTOs are far from any MRT Stations although they have some other attributes that may be attractive to buyers

For example the Hougang BTO is near the riverside and facing the Punggol Park so some units will have good unblock views. It is actually on the fringes of Sengkang and very near the KPE.

Yishun BTO is also near Orchid Country Club therefore some units will have good unblocked views too.

Tampines BTO is far from most except for Tampines Ave 10 which makes getting to the PIE and TPE easier.

Kallang/Whampoa is not near any MRT stations as well. Both the NSL and NEL are just as far. However it may be attractive to those who prefer staying near town.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Renovation: HDB Household Shelters

Nobody wants it and everybody hates it but like it or not, all HDB BTO flats will come with a household shelter. Only question is what can you do with it now that you are stuck with this so called wasted space as it cannot be hacked away?

Depending on where the location of the shelter is, it can actually serve some useful purpose. Below list out all the possible use of the space.

Location - near main door entrance.

You can turn the household shelter into a closet where you store all the footwear,  jackets, bags, umbrellas and all the things you often use when you step out of the house.

If you have kids, this can also be a good place to store the stroller(s) as well.

If your unit is small, then having a few spare fordable chairs will come in handy when you have a gathering. The chairs can be hung up nicely in the closet until there is a need for them.

Location - along the walkway to the rooms



Even though there is already a service yard, that area will most probably be wet making it not suitable to iron your clothes. So turning the household shelter into a central dry utility room would be practical especially if you have grown up kids who do their own ironing. With a central dry utility room, you do not have to bring the iron and ironing board in and out from room to room each time someone needs to use them or each room having their own iron and ironing board.

You can also store items like bedding, sheets, towels, pillow cases or even winter wears. Practically anything related to fabric. This saves you the precious space you have in your closet with the ever decreasing size of the rooms.

If you have babies, this will be a good place too to store stock of diapers and what not for those who like to buy in bulk.

Ikea's Gorm storage solution are cost effective for this purpose, as shown below.

Picture courtesy of loweryourpresserfoot.blogspot.sg

Location - kitchen

Obviously, the best use of this space is to turn it into a pantry for all those things that you do not actually need to store in the kitchen cabinet itself. This includes stocks of canned/boxed/bottled food, packs of rice, garlic, onions etc. It is a life saver especially if your kitchen is small where it is not possible to have a big kitchen cabinet. It also helps to keep those things away and not spoil the look of your nifty kitchen.

Again, Ikea Gorm is suitable for you to create yourself a pantry





To store or not to store?

At the end of it all, what matters is how you use the space. Keeping it clean, tidy and organised is what actually counts. Don't treat the space as a dumping ground to store stuff for dust to settle.

On a side note, how do you know if the things you keep are a necessity? When it has never been used for more than a year, it most likely never will. Having an annual spring cleaning, normally before a festive season is a good way to throw unused junk out of your storage space.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Adult acne

I am not an expert but I just want to share my experience with whoever is facing it right now because it can really be demoralizing and a cause of low self-confidence and not to mention lots of sleepless nights

Just a short history. Throughout my teenage years, I had flawless skin. Then in my early to mid 20s, I had some small bumps here and there. I assumed it was because I rode a bike then. I guess my skin is a little more sensitive than most so the dust, the exhaust fumes etc on the roads clogged up my pores and resulted in pimples. I was a lazy guy who don't bother about my skin so much so it kind of served me right. Still it was manageable and nothing that affected me that much.

It was only in my late 20s that I experience an acne outbreak. It was really that bad that my face was full of big, red and painful pimples. Forget about looking bad, the pain from the breakouts itself can get really unbearable. I cannot forget how often I had to change my pillow covers because I'll wake up most mornings with them blood stained unless I sleep on my back all night. It is also a must to have tissues all the time because the pimples can just pop anytime and blood will ooze out. It was that bad. Did I felt like crap? I sure did.

Not to scare anyone out there but adult acne can happen to anybody for many reasons. So if you have flawless skin, be thankful and take care of it.

So back to me, my face now is way better. I still get approached by those skin care specialists each time I pass by them at the stores. I know it isn't perfect now but they do not know how glad I am that I cleared the worst stage of it. Sometimes when I see those with similar condition as I used to have, I feel like telling them how I managed to clear mine but then, I wouldn't like if a stranger does that to me too.

So let's get into the reason why pimples pop out. To the best of my understanding, this is how it goes.

Our face cannot be too dry. When that happens, our natural body mechanism will react and produce oil (sebum) to moisturise our skin. That is why sometimes your skin is oily. It's normal and it is not because you ate too much of this or that. The oil is produced because it had too. However, some people produce more than others.

Now, the problem occurs when too much of it is produced. The oil itself is not the actual problem. Problem is when there is too much it, the chances of your face trapping dirt is higher. Since you face is sticky with oil, dirt will stay put. If you do not clean your face fast enough, dirt can get trapped in your skin pores. When that happens, the oil produced through the pores will have no where to go and this is the reason why bumps appear. The bumps are actually accumulation of dirt and oil. If not rectified, it can be infected with bacteria and resulting in pimples.

Some think that because their face is oily all the time, washing often is good. It's not. The more often you wash your face, the more it will react. Dry skin, more oil. It does not solve anything. In fact it can get worse, with your face thinking it's too dry most of the time.

Key to maintaining an oil free skin is to prevent the oil from being produced too much and at the same time maintain the level of moisture in your skin. Face not dry, less oil. It is as simple as that.

So the first thing is to get a cleanser that do not dry your skin too much. For this, you have to try out and find the one that works for you. God knows how many I have tried and finally got one that works for me. Then get face moisturizer that will fool your skin and stop it from producing oil. What you get is moisturised skin and less oil. That itself will slowly help in preventing breakouts.

Drinking a lot of water helps too. How to know if you lack of it? See your lips. If they are dry, then chances are your face is dry too. Remember, dry face, more oil. Your face don't feel dry don't mean you are hydrated. It could be that is it covered with oil!

For those with really bad acne eg vulgaris, you will need special medication that will kill the germs residing under your skin, so see a doc. Try not to get them to prescribe you with medication that you need to take orally but rather those that can be applied externally. Oral medication usually have side effects, sometimes long term and irreversible. My doc prescribe me a lotion called Aknemycin which I applied twice a day. It dries up the skin (it had to, to kill of the germs) so you have to avoid the sun because it prevents oil from being produced too. Dry skin out in the sun is bad. If you work out in the sun, then use it only when you go to sleep. After about 4 months of usage, without fail, my big, red, painful acne are gone.

Now I am left with scars which possibly can be repaired with other form of face lotions. So far I have not found any that suit my skin, even after spending a lot.

For my daily face wash, I use T3 Acne Care Cleanser. It don't dry up my face too much. I wash my face twice a day. Once when I wake up and once before I go to bed. For those pimples that come and go, I use T3 Pimple Gel 1st Outbreak. Two days and it's gone. Other pimple gel simply don't work.

Like I said, try everything and stick to the one that works for you. Some get rid of the pimples but leave your face sore. Those are bad. I don't use moisturiser anymore but I do keep a pack of blotting sheets all the time to wipe oil off my face. I try to drink lots of water, especially in the morning. Two big glasses of them.

So if you have a similar problem, there is something you can do about it. You just need to work hard finding the right products for you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

HDB Loan Calculator

This file does a pretty accurate calculation of your HDB Loan, provided you key in the correct information in the blue cells. If you have not obtained your HLE, assume the full amount for the moment.

HDB LOAN CALCULATOR - DOWNLOAD

Take note that the maximum loan period is 25 years or until you are reach 65 of age, whichever is lesser.

The interest rate is based on the current concessionary rate of 2.6%. This rate is adjusted every quarterly, in January, April, July and October each year. Current HDB market interest rate is actually 3.38%

The file gives you 4 options

1. Calculate by loan period with a maximum of $40,000 (combined) parked in CPF-OA
2. Calculate by loan period without any amount parked in CPF-OA
3. Calculate by desired monthly payments with a maximum of $40,000 (combined) parked in CPF-OA
4. Calculate by desired monthly payments without any amount parked in CPF-OA.

You can choose to see either with maximum $40,000 (combined) parked in CPF-OA or without for the loan breakdown.


MAXIMUM OF $40,000 (COMBINED) IN CPF-OA

The option of having a maximum of $40,000 (combined) parked in CPF-OA is included because the first $20,000 in each individual CPF-OA earns extra interest of 1% making it a total of 3.5%, which is higher than HDB 2.6% interest rate. It means you are better off keeping that amount to earn that extra interest, if you can afford to*. Look at the calculated actual interest paid to make the comparison of having any amount parked or not.

Although the extra 1% interest goes into your Special Account and you will not be able to use it for other purpose except for retirement, it goes into meeting your Minimum Sum later on when you retire. That means, there is more of your Ordinary Account to draw out from when you reach the age of 55.

Having a maximum of $20,000 in your own CPF-OA on standby will also come in handy if you are unable to service your mortgage when there are no contributions to your CPF-OA for a period of time due to lost of income etc. The number of months that amount can help you out will be

Amount parked / monthly installment = number of months you are covered


MAXING OUT MONTHLY INSTALLMENT USING CPF-OA CONTRIBUTION

To know if you need to top up in cash on top of your monthly CPF-OA contribution to pay for your monthly installment, take note of the table below. All you need to concentrate on is the amount credited into your Ordinary Account (as highlighted in blue). If the amount is lesser than your calculated monthly installment, it means you have to top up the difference in cash.

Take note the percentage decreases as you grow older so if your income do not increase as you age, it means you have to top up more after every stage in the table. So take note if you plan to max out your monthly installment using your monthly CPF-OA contribution.

The file provides an estimate of the monthly cash top up that you may need to make.

Employee
Age (Years)
Contribution Rate
(for monthly wages ≥ $1,500)
Credited into
Contribution by Employer
(% of
wage)
Contribution by Employee
(% of
wage)
Total Contribution
(% of wage)
Ordinary Account
(% of wage)
Special Account
(% of wage)
Medisave Account
(% of wage)
35 & below1620362367
Above 35-451620362178
Above 45-501620361989
Above 50-551418.532.513.59.59.5
Above 55-6010.51323.51229.5
Above 60-6577.514.53.51.59.5
Above 656.5511.5119.5

 If you are a first timer, you may not have the luxury of  maintaining any amount in your CPF-OA as it will be emptied when you apply for HDB loan.