Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Double strollers: What are your choices?

This is not a review of double strollers but rather a guide on how to shop for one which gives you the most bang for your buck.

I am expecting a second child so I started looking for double strollers and one thing that is common of all double strollers is that they are expensive.

There are a lot available here locally. Brands like Peg-Prego, Quinny, Stokke etc are aplenty but when you look beyond that, you will see how we are actually being restricted to just a small pool of them as compared to what is available out there overseas.

If you cannot find anything you like locally, then you have to consider ordering one in. Even if what you like is available locally, ordering them in can actually save you a bit, maybe even up to 1/2 the cost. For example, the Phil&Teds Navigator is selling around $1.6k in an online store here. You can ship one in for $800.

Facts about ordering online.

1. It will definitely be cheaper ordering them from the source or origin of the manufacturer. For example, Graco, which made in US will be cheaper if you order them from there.

2. Many online stores do not ship them internationally which can be frustrating as some of them have really good deals. Try browsing through Tesco and you'll get what I mean.

3. Shipping rates can balloon up the total cost making them more expensive than local set.

4. Practically no warranty.

5. GST will be levied on orders exceeding SGD400 in total, including shipping etc.

So how you do know if it is worth it to buy from overseas and where do you start shopping?

The first thing you should do is find the origin of the manufacturer. For example, Jane (pronounced Ha-ne) is  from Spain and Hauck is from Germany. Do take note that almost everything is made in China though.

Once you find that out, you can start to find online stores from that country. If you have no clue whatsoever, two best source that I can think of is Amazon and eBay.

For eBay, if the manufacturer is from a European country, go to eBay UK. From there make sure you choose the option "European Union" in your location filter. This will include all the available items by sellers in Europe. It is easier this way than shopping at the localised site itself as everything will be in English.

If the seller in eBay do not specifically state that they can ship internationally, you can try to contact the seller and ask if they can ship the items here and what rates will be like.

If you know someone living abroad, you can have your item delivered to them (as shipping is normally free to the same country) and ask for a favour to have them ship the item over. However, from my experience, this normally cost more but still, do make the comparison with shipping them directly.

Some sellers have their own website outside eBay. If they do, you can ask them directly, out of eBay. The reason why is because in eBay, they will not be able to exclude the VAT from the price (which can be as much as 19% in Europe and 20% in the UK) if the item is not shipped to a European destination. So if the item cost 300€, you will save about 50€, which is about SGD$80.

As mentioned, shipping can negate all the cost savings, so make sure you get the correct shipping rates and factor that in your final cost.

Some stores accepts payment by PayPal which can be a good thing as they provide buyer protection in the event the item was not delivered or different from what is described. Sellers or stores may also give you further discount if your make the payment through PayPal. Just take note that when paying through PayPal, change the conversion option from PayPal to Mastercard/Visa. PayPay conversion option will usually end up higher.

You may also want to buy insurance for your purchase. All costs needs to be totalled up and once that is confirmed, convert them to SGD (include another 7% (in SGD) for orders about SGD$400 as levied by the ICA. Payment of the GST can be found here) and compare the cost with the ones available locally to see if it is cheaper.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Proposal for HDB to revert back to queue system

This is a proposal to HDB to revert back to the queue system instead of the current balloting system for the sale of flats.

Current balloting system has been a source of consternation among buyers for the lack of transparency and unpredictability. There are many cases where applicants were not successful even after many attempts. Having more chances is negated as balloting is still dependent on the luck factor.

QUEUE NUMBER SYSTEM

1. To kick start the queue system again, interested parties will have to register with HDB within a stipulated period of time for the initial phase of queue number allocation.

2. After the cut off date of the initial phase, all registrants will be put to a ballot where a queue number will be permanently assigned to them.

3. Those who registered after the initial phase will be assigned a permanent queue number based on the first come first serve basis.

4. Registrants with a queue numbers can opt to participate in any future sales launch where priority is given based on the queue number.

5. Registrant who do not participate in a sales launch will automatically move up the priority list for the next launch, based on his queue number.

6. Queue number can be revoked if chances to book a unit are not accepted.

7. Those who had their queue number revoked will need to register for a new queue number and join at the back of the queue.


SALES LAUNCH

1. When there is a sales launch, all applicants with a queue number can register their interest within a stipulated period of time.

2. After the registration cut off date, HDB will publish the list of applicants who registered in order of their queue number and demarcate those who has 100% chances of getting a unit (based on number of available unit) and those who do not.

For eg,

Available number of unit - 10
Registered applicants (in order of queue number) - 1, 3,4,5,6,8,10,11,12,15,16,17,19
Group A (applicants with 100% chances) - 1,3,4,5,6,8,10,11,12,15
Group B (applicants on waiting list) - 16,17,19

3. Applicants in Group A can choose their unit and priority will be given based on their queue number.

4. Applicants in Group A who do not book a unit at the end of the exercise will have his queue number revoked.

5. Once the list has been published and registered applicants informed accordingly of their grouping, another stipulated period of time will be given to those in Group A to book a unit.

6. Number of applicants to be placed in Group B can be fined tuned based on statistics.

7. Applicants in Group B has to the choice to opt out of this exercise at this point of time and still retain their their queue number.


SELECTION PROCESS

1. Selection process will continue as it is now

2. Any applicant who choose not to select a unit after he have accepted the offer to select will have his queue number

3. Available flat can then be offered to those on the waiting list.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Natural way to cure kidney stones

Just would like to share my experience as someone who had kidney stones.

First of all, a brief recap.

I had a horrible pain on my right lower back about a year ago. It was so bad I was on all fours and almost tearing. I had my wife rub Cajuput oil which did provide some relief before the pain goes away. It happened few times before I decided to see a doctor. He diagnosed that I had kidney stones by doing a simple test of punching my right middle back with moderate force which send me almost screaming in pain.

I was referred to a urologist who ordered an X-ray on me and confirmed a stone in my right kidney. I was scheduled for a lithotripsy procedure but did not go through it I experienced no more pain until recently, which is about a year later.

This time, I had difficulty and discomfort when peeing. I also experienced random sudden sharp pain in my right groin area. The doctor made a similar diagnosis and the urologist confirmed after an X-ray that the stone has gone down to my bladder and just at the end of the urethra. I was scheduled for a scope the next day where I will be put on general anesthesia and they will try to crush the stone by sticking a uretaroscope up my urethra (ouch!). However, when I got back home, I managed to purge it out without even realising it along with all the excruciating pain.

Before I go into how I managed to purge the stone out, I would like to list out some of the early painless symptoms I can recall.

1. The need to urinate more often than usual even though water intake regime do not change.
2. Unable to completely discharge urine. There will still be droplets leaking after you have zipped up.
3. Pinkish, thicker or cloudier than usual urine (abnormal colour)

All the above are sign of urinary disorder. For males, the most common reason for having a disorder is either due to STD or kidney stones.

If you really have kidney stones, you may experience some of the infamous excruciating pain such as

1. If you have belly and/or side back pain, you may have kidney stones in your kidney.
2. If you experience sharp pain in your groin, you may have stones in your ureter making its way down to your bladder
3. If you feel horrible burning sensation at the start and the end of your pee, you may have stones in your bladder.

All the above may be accompanied with chills, fever, nausea or vomiting.

So what did I do to help me pee the stone out?

When I experienced the symptoms the second time, I drank a lot of citrus fruit drinks like lime, lemon, all types of berries, grapefruit, orange etc on a daily basis, hoping that it will help by either making the pain go away and eventually peeing it out. However, after about a month, I gave up to the pain and made an appointment with a urologist.

After I got back from seeing my urologist, I decided to give it one last attempt to try to purge the stone naturally. I squeezed all the juice out of a lemon and drank it as it is. I then drink at least two cups of pure grapefruit juice from Natural Florida. After that I drank as much water as my stomach can take.

As expected, after a while, my body reacted and signaled the need for me to urinate. As I was tired of going in and out of the bathroom just to painfully expel just a small amount of urine at a time, I sat on the water closet and urinate as and when it felt like it. As I was sitting down, I had to hold my penis to point it downwards so my pee will go into the bowl.

It was the third or fourth time I had to urinate with so much pain that I suddenly feel that my pee just gush out  and it was not painful. It was then that I realised I actually peed the stone out. I fished the stone out of the bowl. and there it was this coral like stone measuring 12mm x 6mm.

While I do not know what actually help me to purge the stone out, I believe the grapefruit helped a lot and here's why.

Potassium citrate helps to dissolve the stones and according to this NCBI article, grapefruit has the highest citrate content. A separate study also concluded that grapefruit actually helps.

However, other websites says grapefruit increases the risk of kidney stones, so it is best to check with your urologist as there are many types of stones and not all react the same towards to citrate. Also, some may not be able to handled high level of citrate in their stomach.

Hopefully this article will be of help to anyone out there suffering just like I did. If you experienced any  urinary disorder, try increasing your water intake. And if it still do not go away, it is best to have it checked out.