28 October 2007

Quality Of A Korean Product "Exposed"

Previously I blogged about the "Korean invasion" of Singapore.

Almost 2 years ago, I bought a brand new Samsung Digimax L50 camera from a fellow Renault Car Club forum member. He had just won it in a company dinner lucky draw. At that time, the camera's recommended retail price (RRP) was S$499. (However, as is usually the case, most camera shops charge some 20 percent less than the RRP. One shop in Sim Lim Square was selling the camera for S$415.) In comparison, a similar made-in-Japan camera was selling at about S$600 then.

Most of the photos in this blog were taken with the Samsung camera. The quality of the images taken by the camera was passable, though not terribly impressive. (Ahem, of course a good photographer can make photos taken with an average camera look better.)

Then about one year ago, the camera suddenly broke down. All photos taken with it looked grossly over... well, exposed, like this:

As the camera was still under warranty, I brought it in to the Service Centre and they repaired it without any charge. They told me that the lens barrel was replaced and it would have cost me more than $100 if the camera was not under warranty!

After the repair, the camera worked fine... until last Friday, that is. Perhaps, I would find it easier to accept if another defect had surfaced, especially since the camera was heavily used for almost 2 years now. But dammit, it was the same old problem!!!

I decided not to repair the camera this time as the warranty period had expired. It was just not worth spending so much money for repairs, especially when my experience was that the defect could very likely recur not long after. I intended to shop for another camera.

Last Saturday, I was browsing at Best superstore in Century Square when I saw the 7-mp Lumix FX12 selling at S$369. In contrast, the lower-end 6-mp FX10 was selling at S$409. What an anomaly! I thought that the price tags were inadvertently switched. Honest as I am, I confirmed with the salesman that it was not a mistake in pricing. He clarified that there was no mistake - the FX12 was on offer. It was a very good buy as he would include the following freebies with the deal:

1. Extra original battery (worth S$75);

2. 2GB Sandisk SD card (worth S$37); and

3. 1GB Toshiba SD card (worth S$19)

With the above giveaways, it was like charging me only about S$238 for the camera alone! My resistance simply crumbled. "Okay I will take one", I said without much hesitation.

So this is my new camera:

And here are the some photos taken with it:

22 October 2007

A Child Was Born

Eleven years ago today morn
A little child was born
So little was he
Weighed barely 1 kg

So early was he
Was to arrive only in January
But came in October
Making him a year older

A Malay woman passed him by
Possibly visiting a baby nearby
Commented "Bayi ini keci*"
Innocent remark though that may be

Though happy at his arrival
We worried for his survival
Told his chance was "not too good"
That kinda affected our mood

Friends and relatives dared not congratulate
What if there was a twist of fate?
There were no flowers or cards
But they must be praying in their hearts

Many hospital visits were made
Most days we were by his bed
At first he couldn't even be carried
Needed more time, couldn't be hurried

So many tubes attached to his body
Seeing him like this made us sorry
We felt his pain
Nearly drove us insane

Mum lovingly prepared EBM** for his food
We were told nothing else was as good
Brought it daily in a box that could chill
Which he consumed via his nostril!

Little by little, he grew steadily
We brought him home when he was 2 kg
After almost 3 months' stay
But the happiness was more than words could say

Today he's happy
And he's healthy
We're grateful as that's all we want
Happy Birthday, My Son

Mum, Dad and gor gor*** love you dearly, always.


* kecil (sometimes mispronounced as "keci") = Malay for "small"

** EBM = expressed breast milk

***gor gor = Cantonese for "elder brother"

The Last Kampong In Singapore

The Sep/Oct 07 issue of Spring magazine published by the Northeast CDC has an interesting article written by Juliana June Rasul titled "The Simple Life". It is about the last surviving kampong in Singapore that lies right in the heart of Buangkok.

For a taste of 1960s living, you should take a stroll down the idyllic village that's home to just 14 families. Do it before this last kampong in Singapore also disappears in the name of progress and development.

(For enlarged versions of the photos, please click here: 1st page and 2nd page)

19 October 2007

Festival Of The Nine Emperor Gods

Today is the 9th day of the 9th lunar month (九月初九). It is the day on which the Nine Emperor Gods Festival culminates. Nine Emperor Gods is 九皇爷 (Jiu Huang Ye in Mandarin, Kew Ong Yeah in Hokkien or Kow Wong Yeh in Cantonese).

The following passage is extracted from this website:

"This Chinese festival lasts for nine days. Following the Chinese lunar calendar, it is usually held during September and/or October. Activities centre around the Nine Emperor Gods Temple at Upper Serangoon Road, near Little India! You will find the temple near Yio Chu Kang Road.

This is a noisy celebration, as Chinese worshippers welcome the visitation of the Nine Emperor Gods who bring good fortune, longevity and health to the sound of drums and cymbals. Priests write out protective charms with their blood, and the festival climaxes with a parade of the nine gods, each carried in a large and elaborate sedan chair."
Next to Eunos MRT station and at a temple near my place, this festival is being celebrated. I took the following photos last weekend:

A traditional Wayang stage and show

Nearby tentage housing paraphernalia for prayers - notice the 9 flags, each representing an Emperor God

"Up-sized" joss sticks

The Chinese temple near my place

Lantern in the shape of a dragon, a mythical and traditional creature commonly used to adorn Chinese temples

Dragon head, close-up

A not-so-traditional decorative lantern

Hmm... could it have been inspired by or rather, mutated from the above icons?

9 lanterns, each representing an Emperor God

Lantern representing the First Emperor God

Procession vehicle

Procession vehicle transporting temple volunteers

Sedan of one of the Emperor Gods

Another sedan up on a vehicle

Essential transport as arrival and departure of the Emperor Gods are believed to be via waterways

The band (note that the $10 and $50 bills at the top of the photo are real money, possibly donations from temple devotees)

Joss paper scattered on the ground after the procession

This festival is currently still commonly observed by many Chinese temples in Singapore. However, it is anybody's guess how long this tradition is going to last. As a Business Times article dated 24 August 2007 about Mr Jimmy Lam, a Singaporean photographer puts it:

"Today, with local wayang and festivals like the Nine Emperor Gods becoming a rare sight on the streets of Singapore, Lam has made it his mission to photograph the indigenous culture of Asia before it vanishes in the march of modernity here.

'I've been documenting Asia for the last 12 years, because I've been through it myself - growing up amidst a place full of culture and then finding it swept away by modernity, inevitably,' he explains."
You can read more about this festival from the following links:

1. Wikipedia;

2. Becky Whitlock of Bath, UK witnessed the festival celebrations at the Upper Serangoon Road temple on 4 October 2003 and wrote a very animated account of the festival celebrations complete with photographs.

14 October 2007

55 Is Not Always A Lucky Number

If you notice something is not right, what will you do? How far will you go to try put it right?

Here, I am not talking about confronting litterbugs or smokers. To do this, you need to be very tactful and have some guts. Of course, it helps if you have a burly look and at the same time, if the culprit looks meek and puny too. (My friend Walter does not look burly by all accounts, so he must have been either very tactful or gutsy.)

I am talking about situations that are not right. You usually don't need to be burly or gutsy to do this. For me, I will not hesitate to point them out to the authorities and insist that they put them right. One example is when I informed the authorities about a misplaced rubbish bin blocking the view of a zebra crossing. Although, there was some initial red tape and delay, the situation was finally put right before any zebra or people was killed or seriously injured at this location.

Needless to say, some effort is required to bring the matter up. You also have to speak to the right people. Not only that, you still have to follow-up to make sure somebody is acting on your feedback. Otherwise, your effort in raising the matter would have been wasted. Once a while, due to oversight or the bo chap (couldn't be bothered) attitude of the people whom you complained to, your feedback may not be relayed to the right people and nothing is done about the problem. I believe that it is because some conscious effort is required to report a problem that most people just don't bother to do it. Some might even think that there will always be some other people who would do it. And as joke goes, in the end nobody does it.

Almost every Saturday morning, while my younger son is attending a 90-minute tuition class in Simei, my wife and I will be window-shopping in nearby Tampines Central. I always park my car at Century Square where short-term parking is cheapest - first-hour parking at 66 cents is even cheaper than HDB/URA carpark rates! Where to find nowadays? Because of the cheap parking rates, this car park is extremely popular with motorists.

Two Saturdays ago, I was looking for a parking lot in this car park. I thanked my lucky stars when I finally found an empty lot (no. 55).

But while reversing into the lot, I noticed that there was a sharp-edged hoarding protuding 1/3 into the lot.

It was not easy to spot it as it was painted in white. In any case, no one would expect such an obstruction in a car park lot that was opened for parking. Luckily I realised it and stopped my car just in time, only a few centimetres away from the hoarding. One third of my car was still outside the lot, jutting out into the driveway. So in the end, I parked my car in another lot.

When I walked passed the lot, there were 2 other motorists who like me, attempted to park in this lot. I waved them away, signalling that it was impossible to park in this lot, unless they were driving micro-compact cars. They should be grateful to me because I probably saved them the trouble and costs of repairing their rear bumpers. However, someone else was apparently not so lucky - I inspected the hoarding closely and saw that it was already crumpled. Obviously someone's car had already knocked into it earlier on.

I immediately reported the dangerous situation to the carpark's Customer Service Centre.

The female carpark attendant inside the booth (not the guy in the photo) did not appear like she was very interested in what I had told her. So I reported the matter to the Information Counter instead.

The pretty lady manning the counter was a stark contrast to the woman in the carpark booth, not only in terms of looks but also in terms of service as well. She smiled and asked me if she could help me. When I told her the problem, she gave me the office number of someone by the name of Rachel, the shopping centre's Operation Manager. However, she told me that Rachel might not be in the office as it was Saturday. When I requested for Rachel's handphone number, she called Rachel rightaway and I managed to speak to her in the end. Rachel promised to do something.

Indeed, when I passed by the lot again an hour later, an operation staff had already barricaded up the lot. (He requested not to be identified so I have blurred out his face.)

So remember my friend, 55 is not always a lucky number. Not unless it is your age and you have money in the CPF to be collected, just like this guy.

06 October 2007

Our Founder Has A Change Of Name

We all know that our founder is Sir Stamford Raffles.

He founded Singapore in 1819.

Therefore, I am surprised to read in today's Zao Bao that he has a change of name. But relax, only his Chinese name will be changed - from 莱佛士 to 来福士.

CapitaLand, which owns Raffles City Singapore, is behind the name change. The reason why Raffles City Singapore is named as such is because it stands on the original Raffles Institution (RI) site. (RI was demolished to make way for Raffles City.) Sir Stamford Raffles had personally chosen this RI site in 1823. So the name Raffles City was adopted in commemoration of him.

This name change came about mainly because of CapitaLand's expansion overseas, particularly in Shanghai. Shanghai's regulations do not allow a building to have the Chinese character 佛 (Buddha) as part of its name. Neither are foreigners' names allowed.

As if in support of the change, the newspaper article mentioned that places in Singapore like Lavender and Bendemeer had their names changed some time ago as well. It further mentioned that Colonel William Farquhar (Sir Stamford Raffles' right-hand man) had his name translated into different Chinese versions which sounded similar as well. The CEO of CapitaLand, Mr Liew Mun Leong said that the two Chinese versions of Raffles' name were only slightly different. He further mentioned that the new name had a more modern and auspicious meaning, as it meant "bringing in prosperity". The old name was deemed to belong to history and obsolescence.

What do you think of the name change? Do you think that it is justified because of commercial reasons? Will we lose part of our Singaporean identity because of this name change?

What if one day, someone decided to change Raffles to Rapheus for the same reasons? They sound alike too.

The Zao Bao article is reproduced below:


● 洪艺菁angyc@sph.com.sg











  当英文名称翻译成华文的过程中,出现数个版本并不稀奇。莱佛士的助理William Farquhar的译名就曾先后出现“法古哈、法奇尔、法夸尔”等不同版本。此君于1819年至1823年间是首任英国驻扎行政官,代表莱佛士实际管理新加坡,贡献不在他之下,可惜多数新加坡人对新加坡开埠初期历史的记忆,似乎只停留在一个莱佛士身上。若说起Farquhar,一些人也许还有印象,但如果提起他的华文译名,这位名字被改来改去的先驱人物,更是没在许多人脑海中留下印象。

  Stamford Raffles比他的助理幸运多了。记忆中,他的译名始终只有“莱佛士”,从未出现其他版本。反而是国家名称“新加坡”,殖民地时代曾有人写为“星加坡”、“星嘉坡”、“新嘉坡”等,国家独立后,政府成立了统一译名委员会,才将国名统一为“新加坡”。









Breakfast In Singapore's First New Town

According to this website, Toa Payoh is Singapore's first New Town but second satellite town (after Queenstown) built by HDB in the 1960s.

Don't ask me what's the difference between a satellite town and a New Town. This is all I can say - a satellite town is a town away from the main town. The meaning of New Town is quite obvious so I don't have to explain it. However, more than 40 years on, I am not sure if is still appropriate to call Toa Payoh a New Town. This is despite of the fact that in last decade or so, Toa Payoh has undergone a lot of renewal.

Yet, if you bother to look around, there are still many pockets of old Toa Payoh that remained largely unchanged since the town was built. On Saturday 29 Sep 2007, I had breakfast at Blk 210, Lorong 8, Toa Payoh.

This hawker centre is as old as the town itself but probably has been upgraded a few times along the way. Fishball mee is still available at $2. However, if you have a big appetite, I would recommend that you order a $3 bowl.

As with many hawker centres in Singapore, the market is just next to it.

It is little wonder that this courtyard looks uncannily like the one that used to be in Commonwealth Avenue, Queenstown since Toa Payoh and Queenstown were developed within a few years of each other. Hmm... could the two towns be designed by the same team of architects or was it simply more economical to mass produce?

This part of Toa Payoh has a very laid-back feel to it. You have time to stop and smell the flowers along the way.

You see people having leisurely breakfasts with their dogs.

Oh my, you even see a free-roaming rooster! You don't often get to see one in many places in Singapore anymore. As you probably know, most fowls are now kept by people as pets or are raised for the dinner table.

This rooster was seen busy chasing some Javan Mynas around.

When there were no more mynas to chase, it perched on its favourite roost, crowing away.

The loud crowing roused a cat from its sleep. It was clearly annoyed at being so rudely awakened.

And as if that was not enough, the rooster proceeded to strut around the cat, as if to taunt him further.

I was waiting eagerly with camera in hand to catch an exciting cock-cat fight when all of a sudden, a woman appeared with some food. A nasty confrontation was thus averted.

As they say, food soothes a savage beast. I had my breakfast and the woman left the scene safely. And so ended my leisurely breakfast in an old town.