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Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Got something to complement my toy. Been meaning to get one for the longest time but some how heart pain to part with close to $400 for a Nikon SB600.

Finally after scouting around for so long, settled on this Tumax DBT386. This is a Hongkong made flash. Not that many review on the web site since it is fairly new. What was available was a mixed bag of praise and brickbats.

Anyway stingy me decided to take the plunge anyway.The more impressive specs* of the flash was what sold me in the end. In fact, the sales guy said it is more close to the SB800 than SB600 which was my original choice. My more camera savy colleague who accompanied me to the shop thought I was a bit crazy to just buy like that without finding out more. He wasn't too impressed with its weight and felt that it was not powerful enough. But for slightly under $200, I deemed it worth taking the risk. For good measure, I also took a CPL and a remote shutter release. Now all I need to do is to find time to play with it.
*1) Guide number: 45
2) Zoom range is 24 to 85
3) TTL with full manual control(iso,zoom,fstop,power ratio),
4) Built in wide panel and reflector
5) Built in optical sensor
6) With LCD

Anyway, this shop, artworkfoto, got some amazing stuff for a small little shop in the middle of nowhere. Check it out. They now have some promo going on.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Batam Island

Been quite some time since we went 'oversea' to Batam island. The last time we were there, we went straight to the resort and nuay there the whole time. Before that, was when there was only one Matahari dept stall, 1 big wet market and 1 main street and the only tourist spot that the local guide brought us to was the tree planted by our LKY.

So when the Company organised a free day trip there, we went. Dunno how tall is the tree that LKY planted has grown but there are now many more malls and hotels there. We didn't get to any tourisy spot - heard there is a Chinese temple; a mini kingdom or something but instead of those places, all we got to go to was one local product shop after another.

Will I go there again? I don't think so unless it is to one of the beach resort to nuay again otherwise spare me the agony!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Gems down

Continuing the story of the URA reply.

So after some persuasions from friends, I shot another reply on 9 September 2009 to URA:

Dear Ms Wan,

I referred to your 4 similar email replies requesting for my personal particulars.

I reiterate I am not asking for a wavier for the notice. In fact, I have already made the payment.

I am asking for an explanation why the Certis Cisco officer did not book those vehicles that are parked illegally along Changi South that day.

If you are not in the dept responsible for this, please redirect accordingly.

And I got this reply. Finally a real reply. There are humans in URA after all!

We refer to your email.

As all feedback sent to the authorities from members of the public are viewed as official correspondences, we require members of the public to furnish their personal particulars like NRIC/Passport no., full name and address for us to authenticate and process their feedback.

We would appreciate your co-operation in furnishing your full particulars so that we can assess your case officially.

Yours sincerely
Lum Fong Teng (Ms)
For Deputy Superintendent
Car Parks Division
This reply is sent via email which requires no signature.

Exasperated that they keep harping over the personal details, I sent another email on 15 September:

Dear Ms Lum,
I have sent feedbacks to Npark, LTA, NEA and other government agencies and in all cases I have only provided my contact and none has asked for so much personal information which I feel is irrelevant. In any case, I have given my contact number which you can easily call to authenticate' the feedback.

Be that as it may, I do not think the URA is sincere in responding to this simple query of mine so I shall use other feedback channel to get a proper response.

And I reiterate again - I am not asking for a waiver of fine.

And geez, what do I get in return? Another automated reply:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your email.

We will reply to your enquiries within 3 working days and appeals against parking offences within 10 working days. For further enquiries or clarifications, you may call our hotline number at 63293434.

Please do not reply to this message as it is a system-generated acknowledgment.

Yours Faithfully,

Car Parks Division
Urban Redevelopment Authority
45, Maxwell Road, The URA Centre
Singapore 069118

And of course there is no further reply.

On a related issue, I sent a feedback (a complaint) to M1 via their online feedback form more than 2 weeks ago. To date I have got no acknowledgment or reply.

Whilst the service level among sales and front line has improved, there is still a lot of room for improvement in the backend processes where the people can hide behind a cloak of IT maze. Maybe the people doing the GEMS Up thingy should look into this area?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Smallest Kong Bak Pau

Paus have been getter bigger like the Gozilla bao or smaller like this one but kong bak pau (stewed pork bun)?

Was at Toa Payoh and went and got the miniscule pau and saw that they have this whole tray of what looks like the yong tau foo roll. It turned out to be the smallest kong bak pau I ever see.

Just how small is it? Look at the picture. It is about the length of the cashcard and about 3/4 of it. That's how small it is. 1 pop and its gone. At $0.50 a pop, it is a bit costly but hell, it taste good despite the not so flattering picture here.

But anyway, all the paus there are good. Just look at the queue. Or maybe it is just that the small size made it seem more palatable?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Loot

The Princess made this lovely Cinnamon roll for this old man.

Okay shape wise don't really look too good but taste wise they are pretty good. The gesture is so very much appreciated considering that she doesn't like cinnamon and can't stand the smell of it.

Meanwhile, the young man got his old man this small little piece of gadget. I am blown away by the sound that came out from it. I never knew such small speaker can produce such a rich sound - and this from a Singapore company. Hopefully, they will be another Creative!

Sound beyond size

Hmm I have 1 more item due to me. Shall I ask for a pair of Nike Lunar or a flash for the camera?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ebisboshi Shotengai

Been meaning to check out the Ebisboshi Shotengai at Iluma @ Bugis since it opened and finally went there last evening. The restaurant is actually 7 restaurants in one featuring food from various cities of Japan in a sort of street setting. The interesting thing is that you can choose to just go direct to one of the restaurant or sit in the open area and order from the menu. Of course, we being typical kiasu Singaporean, must try everything so we choose the open area.

I like the decor especially the front entrance with its paper lanterns, figurines and the typical fake food all so colorfully done up.
The front entrance

Colourful Lanterns

A poster instructions on how to order the food in the restaurants

A colourful paper lantern of the Ebisu God from whom the restaurant is named after

A map of the Food Street and the usual display of fake food

We were fortunate that there was a HSBC 1 for 1 offer and we took advantage of that to order the drinks, some food from the HSBC offer menu (which turned out disappointingly rather small in portion). We also order some of the items from the main menu including the Teriyaki Lobster. The price for each item was pretty decent averaging about $12 each. In the end, we had a total of 7 dishes and 4 deserts and the bill came out to about $95.00 for the 4 of us which I thought was pretty decent. Taste wise, nothing too spectacular about the food, and like I said, portion was a tad too small but for its price and ambience I figured it was worth it and definitely better than going to Manpuku or Shokudu.
Another unique feature about the place was that you get to order food from the menu using the wireless pen scanner. Just point at the menu item, point at the quantity and point at enter and the order is sent wireless to the kitchen. Pretty neat although the artificial voice repeating the order can sound very irritating after some time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

URA Service

Got booked by a Certis Cisco for an expired car park coupon last weekend. The gahmen had outsource almost everything under the sky and enforcement of traffic offences is just one of them. In this case I was at Singapore Expo and since the carparks were all full (NATA, Food fair, John Little Sale) I had to park along Changi South's streetside lot. I wasn't too peeved about the ticket. This is the problem with the paper coupon. One can never fully judged the time required and so it is either over displayed or under display sufficient coupon to cover the time but the issue I had was the guy was walking around looking at the dashboard of all the cars parked in the car lot (presumably checking for expired coupon or no coupon) and he was ignoring the many many cars that were illegally parked on double yellow line; next to fire hydrant etc. Which made me very kapo. Just exactly what was in the terms of the outsourcing contract to Certis Cisco? Does it cover only parking within a designated car park lot and nothing else?

So I wrote to the Traffic Police, URA and the Straits Times. Of course, the Straits Times as is normal ignore it only printing those politically correct or sensational items. This one probably got no news making potential. The Traffic Police was nice enough after the usual automated reply to follow up with another email to URA and copied to me to ask URA to respond to me directly. And URA?

After the usual automated reply, I got another email. I will publish here the full content of the emails exchanges

This was my first email to TP, URA and ST:

I was booked by Certis Cisco on 29/8/09 at Changi South St 2 for an expired
coupon (Notice Number: __________). I am not disputing this as I understand
the officer has his job to do.

However, due to the ongoing fairs at the Singapore Expo, I noticed that
there were a lot of vehicles which were illegally park all over the roads
around the expo including along Changi South St 2. They were parked along
double yellow line; next to fire hydrant etc but the Certis Cisco officer
did not book any of these vehicles but instead concentrated only on
vehicles which were parked in proper car lots and looking only for expired
coupon or no coupon.

I am not too sure what was the mandate to Cerits Cisco in the outsourcing
contract but something is wrong with the logic here if only legally parked
vehicles can be booked and illegally parked vehicles can get away scott

This was the first reply I got from URA (other than the automated reply)

To: _____________ <_____________>
Date: 08/31/2009 04:12 PM
Subject: Re: Role of Certis Cisco in Traffic Enforcement - Notice Number: __________
Sent by: Eunice WAN

Dear Sir/ Mdm

We refer to your email below.

In order for us to process your case officially, please provide us with
the following information within the next 7 days:

1) Your Full name & NRIC/passport no.
2) Your registered address & Contact no.
3) Whether you are the driver responsible for the parking offence.

Yours sincerely
Eunice Wan (Ms)
For Deputy Superintendent
Car Parks Division

That wasn't the reply I want since I wasn't asking for a waiver so I shot another reply this time to the Eunice Wan (hurray a real name!)

Dear Ms Wan,

I am not asking for a waiver of the fine. I returned to my car late. The
coupon has expired. The officer was right to give me a ticket. So be it. I
will pay the fine.

I am questioning why the Certis Cisco did not book the other vehicles which
were illegally parked.

That is all.

I don't think you require my full particulars for this.

And this was the reply I got:

Dear Sir/ Mdm

We refer to your email below.

In order for us to process your case officially, please provide us with
the following information within the next 7 days:

1) Your Full name & NRIC/passport no.
2) Your registered address & Contact no.
3) Whether you are the driver responsible for the parking offence.

Yours sincerely
Eunice Wan (Ms)
For Deputy Superintendent
Car Parks Division

This reply is sent via email which requires no signature.

And in reply to the TP's forwarded email, I got a reply from URA as well:

Dear Mr Koh

We refer to your email below.

In order for us to process your case officially, please provide us with
the following information within the next 7 days:

1) Your Full name & NRIC/passport no.
2) Your registered address & Contact no.
3) Whether you are the driver responsible for the parking offence.

Yours sincerely
Eunice Wan (Ms)
For Deputy Superintendent
Car Parks Division

Noticed anything? All the emails from URA are the same! It makes me wonder firstly whether they have read my email and secondly is there really a real person behind the name Eunice Wan or is it just a generated name to throw the public off! It is things like that from the Public Service that made me boiling mad whether I have to deal with anybody from there.

Anyway, I gave up my kapo quest for an answer to my query from URA. Me think I will now go and dig for the tender documents to see what is the terms. That will probably be faster and easier.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Teachers Day

Among my biggest group of relatives, friends and acquaintances, other than those who work in 'offices', I think the next biggest group are teachers. Not doctor, soldier, lawyers or any other profession but teachers.

Let me see.. of course among sgrunners and the RL group, there are a big number of teachers. And among our relatives and family friends, there are at least 5 current teachers, 2 retired and 2 ex.

Being the kapo me, everything I meet a teacher, when I get the chance, I love to ask them why they take up teaching as a profession. Is it a love for children, for teaching or just another job? The answers vary but most of them started with a passion for teaching and for children. Sadly, a fair number soon get disillusioned with the system and the fire soon die out and teaching thus become another routine job. It's sad but I hope they do realised that they are doing a very important job and will continue with the drive and passion and to challenge and fight the system if the system is not what they expect instead of quitting.

On this Teacher's Day, I would like to wish all teachers that I know many more years of happy teaching and hope that their fire will continue to burn as they impart and mould our children. Happy Teacher's Day!