Translate

21 February 2013

Frequent Flyer Program Membership


As a Singaporean, we all started off flying Singapore Airlines initially and as such getting into the Krisflyer program was a natural progression as we begin to fly more and more both for leisure and for work.

However, the one thing about Singapore Airlines flights is that it is so goddam expensive. Then when I started work in QQland, I ended up taking Cathay Pacific flights for my home leave back to Singapore out from Hong Kong, simply because it is cheaper and mind you, Cathay Pacific is an awesome airline too.

Some may simply ask, why not budget airlines like Jetstar or Tiger which are even cheaper (most of the time)? Personally for me, I am at the point where I can afford to fly the more comfortable and reliable FSC but it doesn't mean I have an open cheque book. Hence, I have to find the best deal at that price point.


Coming back, the years between 2000 and 2008, I was flying to the US a lot (6 times a year) and back then the American airlines gave me the best deals, with Northwest Airlines in particular. So I signed up for their Northwest Worldperks frequent flyer membership which was later converted to Delta Skymiles when the latter acquired Northwest Airlines.

Now that I am in another job and no longer flying to the US, my Delta Skymiles membership card is now sitting in a corner collecting dust. I was just 1 US trip to hitting the 1 million mile mark.

What's ahead for me then?

Domestic China flights.

A shitload of them.

Air China is my preferred airline of choice, for domestic China routes, followed by Shenzhen Airlines which both of them are Star Alliance members?

Does it mean that I can go back to Krisflyer? The answer is no as I have discovered that Air China's Phoenixmiles membership gives me a better deal.

The thing to all these frequent flyer membership is that you need to consolidate all your miles in a single card before you can actually reap the benefits. Too often do we have miles scattered everywhere only to be useless at each respective program.

Let me give you an example. Say you have a total (all memberships) of 60,000 miles. That's more than enough to get you a return business class ticket back to Singapore from Hong Kong but only if they are all in a single membership account. So let's say that in reality these 60,000 miles is spread out evenly among your 3 memberships (Star Alliance, One World and Sky Team), then each account's 20,000 miles can't do squat.

So, between Singapore Airlines' Krisflyer and Air China Phoenixmiles which are both Star Alliance members, why the latter?

For starters, Air China Phoenixmiles is more widely recognised in China and they have separate private arrangements with other airlines not in the Star Alliance network e.g. Eva Air, Shandong Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Dragon Air, Air Macau, etc. In other words, I can fly Cathay Pacific and still accumulate the miles in my Phoenixmiles card. The only downside is that these miles cannot be counted towards your FF Elite status qualification. Still, you can use these miles to change for free tickets or upgrades on Air China flights.

Sorry Krisflyer, I am still not coming back to you. You will have to do better.
 
- Voxeros

20 February 2013

CNB vs SCDF


We are on to Round Two as the State Prosecutors suffered a humiliating defeat when Ng Boon Gay was acquitted.

Under normal circumstances, anyone hauled up by the State Prosecutors usually do not stand a chance as any of such cases are made public only if the State Prosecutors have an iron-hold on evidence and/or witnesses.

From the State Prosecutors' point of view, Ng Boon Gay "got away" and that is a big loss of face there. The loss of face is so massive here that I suspect the DPP-in-charge's career is more or less hentak kaki liao.

Over-confidence, perhaps?

So now, we head on to Round Two where we put the Ex-SCDF Chief up on the stand.

I suspect Peter Lim will not stand a chance this time. I believe the prosecution will prepare the witness better and plug up all the areas where they risk shooting themselves in the foot.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

I'd bet that's the mantra of the State Prosecutors right now.

Imagine the impact of the State Prosecutors' credibility if they were to lose two mega-profiles cases in a row?

The way I see it, that is not going to happen. We have already one DPP's career in the shit hole, I don't think they would want to have a second one tanked in quick succession.


Image Credit: http://www.straitstimes.com
- Voxeros

19 February 2013

The Red Dot Awakens 2.1


Read the above link before proceeding.

The letter was supposedly written anonymously by someone active in the PAP grassroot camp. While some say that the letter was fabricated, it nevertheless resonated with a lot of us. The letter said a lot of things that have been in our hearts all this while.

I personally do not think increasing of our island population is wrong but I just felt that it was too knee-jerked.

Remember the "Two Is Enough" campaign back in the 70s & 80s? The gahmen then was afraid of a population explosion as Singapore was growing at a stellar rate.

What they didn't foresee was that the outcome of that campaign was so successful that it backfired and the rapid aging population problem was to become a full-blown reality.

Anyone also recall "Two Is Enough But Three Is Better" (or something to that effect)?

So now the gahmen says let's open the floodgate and push it up to 6.9 million by 2030.

Let me ask you this. Do you see a trend here?

It's knee-jerk, knee-jerk, knee-jerk.

I have come to notice that this is the trait of our current gahmen. We are run by a bunch of myopic knee-jerkers.

But what really got my goat was the way the gahmen handled this. Bulldozing without a regard of what the people of the land has to say about it.

Remember this? --> JayWalk Online (25 Apr 2005) - CasiNo? CasiYes?

Essentially, the supposedly letter to the PM above is talking about the same thing as my blog entry circa 2005.

If anyone recall a person by the name of Pauline Hanson? She was an Australian politician who had a big beef with her own country's immigration policy where she said that they were "in danger of being swamped by Asians". I remembered my first reaction to that 1996 speech was "What a xenophobic cow!"

And here we are at Hong Lim Park protesting against the massive influx of foreigners and I and starting to understand where she was coming from.

There is a difference between xenophobia and cane toads.


The next article below was an interesting one as it talked about a similiar plight faced by Britain.


They too, got the short end of the stick when they inadvertently let in too many people in too short a time and then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown lost his job as a result.


This got me thinking. Come 2016. What if PAP loses Ang Mo Kio GRC?

Under this scenario, while I am sure PAP would still return to power come 2016 GE (likely by the skin of their teeth), Lee Hsien Loong would be out of a job when Ang Mo Kio GRC falls.

Who then would be the one to steer the PAP ship? What would PAP be like without the Lees?

So who will be the next PM? Lee Kuan Yew coming back to the front line at the ripe old age of 93. Seriously? 93?

How about Goh Chok Tong coming out of a more recent retirement instead? Would Teo Chee Hean stand idly by and let his career advancement be stalled?

So perhaps it will be Teo Chee Hean then?

How about Chan "Kee Chiew" Chun Seng who is supposedly a future candidate for that PM seat? Too soon?

Someone else? Who?


Would this be the end of the Lee Dynasty?

Think about it.

Image Credits: http://www.straitstimes.com; http://3b1ssblog.edublogs.org; Reuters

- Voxeros

18 February 2013

The Red Dot Awakens 2.0


It's a sign.

It's a sign that marks the beginning of Lee Kuan Yew's political career coming to a close. While I wish him all the best of health and am glad to hear that he has been discharged. However, I wonder if this is the curtain call to LKY's reign.

He has done great things for the country. Singapore will not be where we are if he had not sacrifice blood, sweat and tears for us. I thank him for that from the bottom of my heart.

Problem is, "where we are" has two meanings these days. Where we are from a Malayan discard to a state of the art metropolitan. Where we are from a happy nation of one united people to an unhappy one of us versus them.

LKY is mostly associated with the former more than the latter.

The general election of 2016 will be one of great interest. Will LKY continue to run at the age of 93 (which he will end that term at 98)? If no, will the current batch of Tanjong Pagar GRC back-door MPs survive the polls without LKY's shelter? If yes, will LKY live to 98 and complete his term? What about thereafter at 103? Will he have the longevity to go on all the way to contest 2021 GE?

What about Wong Kan Seng and Mah Bow Tan? Will they survive without the backing of the elder statesman when the latter is gone?

We can only wait and see as the Red Dot Awakens.

Image Credit: Reuters/Tim Chong

- Voxeros

11 February 2013

XiShi BakKwa



XiShi Bakkwa (西施肉干).

I have known this father-and-daughter team for quite a few years already and I have been ordering their bakkwas for quite a number of years too.

Their quality has always been good and because of the fact that I get straight from the factory, the pricing is naturally lower then the commercialised names out there.

Frankly, I don't see it any inferior to the better known names like Bee Cheng Hiang and Lim Chee Guan bakkwas. At their price point, I say they are tops in the value-for-money category.

I did, however, got into trouble during Chinese New Year two years ago when I recommended them to my friends only to have that particular year's batch turning out pretty bad.

What happened was that there was an incident that year where somebody in the factory forgot to close the refrigerator door one evening, resulting in their entire pork inventory gone bad overnight. Their usual pork stock comes from Brazil but under the sudden circumstances, they could only get pork from an untested source in China at such short notice. The end product, as anyone could guess, turned out less than satisfactory.

I got a shitload of stick from my friends who bought it and weren't happy with them. Everyone bitched about having to go through the hassle of getting replacement bakkwas so close to the New Year.

Well, it is all water under the bridge now and XiShi Bakkwa has bounced back since then. Granted that I have lost some friends' faith in my recommendation, I made up with recommendations to new friends who are happy with the bakkwas, post-disaster era.

These couple of years, XiShi Bakkwas has been experimenting with new flavours in order to differentiate themselves from the market competition as well as find ways to boost sales.

I bought a few kinds this year and below are my reviews on them:


1. Sliced Pork & Minced Pork

These are the regular staples where the minced version is softer and less chewy then the sliced one. I find these year's batch a tad sweeter than last year. Given that I am someone who do not have a sweet tooth, I prefer it a little bit less sweet.

These also come in spicy and original flavours.


2. Mushroom Pork

This has got to be my family's favourite as by the time I got back to Singapore, it was all finished. I didn't have a chance at all. Going by my family's testimony, this one is a winner.


3. Sesame & Sea Weed Chicken

If you hold the thin slice of bakkwa against the light, you would be able to see strands of sea weed dotted by black sesame seeds. The tastes of the sea weed and sesame are very subtle due to the over powering of the bakkwa's original taste. As such, you need to have a very sensitive palate, like me, to be able to savour the additional ingredients.


4. BBQ Duck

I didn't like this for a few reasons. First of all, there is the "duck smell" which didn't go too well with me as far as bakkwas are supposed to be. The Hokkiens called it "bar wu" (B.O.).

Second problem was the texture of the fowl meat which felt "tannic" or again, as the Hokkiens say, "siap siap".

Lastly, is that I am a purist when it comes to bakkwas. It has to be pork and nothing else. Still, I understand XiShi Bakkwa's rationale when it comes to dabbling with chicken and duck. With a separate Halal-certified production facility, they can introduce their products (Halal, of course) to our Muslim brothers and sisters.


5. Monascus Rice Pork

Monascus, I am sure, is an unfamiliar word to most people. XiShi Bakkwa wrote it as 红曲 while I am more familiar with 红麹. I believe both refers to the same thing just that the former is the modern simplified way of writing it.

Monascus is fairly common in Fujian cuisine and I guess people will ring a bell when I mention 红糟鸡, 红糟酒, 绍兴酒, etc.

It is recorded in TCM that monascus has health benefits of lowering blood pressure, blood lipids as well as blood glucose. However, in this modern day and age of food production, I feel that monascus is used, here in the bakkwa as well, for flavouring and colouring purposes only.


Too sum it all up, value-for-money is definitely the edge that XiShi Bakkwa has over the competition. While my mom said that Lim Chee Guan is still better, I simply ask to compare their respective price.

Bee Cheng Hiang? XiShi Bakkwa, in my opinion, is better in both taste and price over their over-commercialised counterpart. I love Bee Cheng Hiang's hay bee hiam mini spring rolls though but I digress.


Note: I do have to say up front that both XiShi Bakkwa's towkay and daughter are my friends. While this is not an advertorial, I do get extra chao tar bits from the daughter.


XiShi Bakkwa 西施肉干
Cecilia Minced & Dried Pork Food Trading
Blk 15, Woodlands Loop, #02-37, Singapore 73832
Tel: +65 6756 6696
Fax: +65 6752 1502


p.s. So if 西施 is Cecilia hor, then I supposed we have Yvonne 杨玉环, Diane 貂蝉 and Wendy 王昭君?

Image Credit: http://www.xishibakkwa.com 

- Voxeros

07 February 2013

Chiam See Tong 2013


After the defeat at the 2011 General Elections, we don't really see much of Mr Chiam See Tong anymore.

He recently got onto the internet media bandwagon, putting up his views on the recent Singapore 2030 Population White Paper.

I am not here to critique his views on the white paper. You can google that somewhere else.

I am more concern about his well being. Obviously, the stroke has taken a very big toll on his health, albeit he is now very much better.

I notice the 5-minute video took several takes to complete and his speech was made with great difficulty. (Btw, was it me or did he say that Singapore became independent in 1957 despite the subtitles saying 1965?)

IMHO, I feel that this great servant of Singapore has paid his dues and should hand over the reigns to the next generation. I admire his spirit and fire but one cannot ignore the fact that physical condition trumps everything else.

I feel that unless he gets even better in health, he should consider retirement or at the very least take a step back.

Problem is that he has no successor. Dr Chee Soon Juan left. Wilfred Leung left. Desmond Lim left. Benjamin Pwee left. It was obvious that something inside that SPP machinery was not right, resulting in a messy implosion. The SPP today is now merely a mom-and-pop setup.

With all due respect, I think the SPP will never get to see another light of day again. Ever.

That, however, does not diminish my respect for Mr Chiam who has served Singapore dilligently for more than 30 years.

Like it or not, it is time to call it a day when the sun sets.

Take a bow, Mr Chiam. Take a bow. I applaud you.

- Voxeros

05 February 2013

RunForFunds 2013 - February Update

We did a contribution call back in Decemeber 2012 and I am happy to report that we got more than what we asked for.

Thank you.

Below is Adrian's report in greater detail.




Dear folks,

An update on our fund raising efforts.

I’m extremely grateful for your generous support.

To keep Maximize Your Potential (MYP) programme going for another 3 years (2013-2015), the target was to raise $6,000.

At present, the pledges are $12,795 with more than $7,000 of funds received already!

I intend to close off the accounts for the 2012/3 RFF fund raising on 15th Feb 2013.

After that, I’ll send the cheque for $22,000 to GMSP under my name for the continued support of the MYP programme.

The tax benefit I receive from this $22,000 donation to the school will be recycled back to RFF.

The excess funds will be kept in the RFF DBS account to cater for exigencies (and potentially enhancements to MYP scheme).

The plan is to hold the MYP ceremony in 2Q 2013 so that the students can be inspired earlier viz the traditional 3Q of the year.

Will keep you posted.

I thank you once again for your continued generous support.

Blessings,

Adrian


- Voxeros

04 February 2013

Running Gear


I do quite a bit of running but it is only recently that I decided to take stock on what I bring along for something as simple as a run.

I used to laugh at people at runs who are armed to the teeth with gadgets but uh-oh. I just realised I am not very far away from these folks.

So let's take stock of the stuff (on top of the essential shirt, shorts, socks and shoes that is) that I carry from the toe up.


1. Shoe Wallet (pictured above)

I have no pockets in my running shorts and so the shoe wallet, though ugly, is a nifty little thing to carry my house keys and a little bit of money for emergencies while I run.

Given this day and age, your mobile phone goes everywhere with you, the shoe wallet would be inadequate as you can't run with a mobile phone on your foot, now can you?


2. Runner's Belt


So instead of a shoe wallet, I got myself a runner's belt that cost me RMB 35 (about SGD 7.00) just so I can put my mobile phone in. These days mobile phones have running aids like trackers and GPS to give you a better analysis of your run. It also doubles up as an MP3 player.

I was tempted to keep your shoe wallet on coz I was worried that the keys might scratch my phone if there were put inside the pouch together and jiggled together for the next 10km. Then I thought otherwise against the idea of getting carried away with carrying (no pun intended) everything but the kitchen sink, just for a simple run.

With all due respect, I find people who strap their mobile phones or MP3 players to their arm damn bladdy dorky. So no. A runner's belt discretely hidden under my tucked out tank top.


3. Water Belt


I have a water belt for runs above 10km, which I have given it to nadnut on a permanent loan basis. The one good thing about water belt is that you do not need to stop at water points on runs which essentially translates to easily overtaking 30 to 40 people at every water point AND to gloat over these poor sods fighting over miserable cups of water or 100-plus or H20 isotonic or whatever.

So with a water belt and a runner's belt, it is one or the other. For sure.


4. Music


I run with music. There is another school of folks who are against running with your ears plugged in. They say you won't be able to hear your own breathing, pacing etc. Well, I am not that pro and so I need my music to keep me distracted while I zoned out into yonder.

I got the Creative Zen during one of the office Secret Santa's gift exchange thingie. I loved it. It is small, and best of all, it has a clip that allows you to hook it onto your shorts. And Yes. It is light lest it weighs down your entire shorts down to your ankles. While. You. Run.

The only bad thing about the Zen is that it has only a capacity of 1 GB which means for a person who runs very often, you run out of songs to listen to very quickly.

Enough of that. Let's talk about the earphones.

I have this PMX-80 Sports. It is over-the-ear and back-around-the-neck which means it will never drop off your ears when you start to do some really serious perspiration. Then when you are not listening to music, you can easily just hang it around your neck.

The cord is rubber insulated and so you don't have to worry about your sweat soaking into the cable.

As I have said earlier, the mobile phone now doubles up as an MP3 player and so my trusty Creative Zen is now retired.


 5. Heart Rate Monitor


The heart rate monitor is for safety precaution. I have read so many news about people in their prime suddenly dropping dead during runs. While doctors were never conclusive, my suspicion is that these unfortunate souls did a Juan Pablo Montoya i.e. engine blow.

Over exertion.

Hence, the heart monitor to keep a check on my heart rate while I run. Regardless of how good I am feeling, as soon as it hits 180 and above, I would slow down my pace or even stop just so I get my heart rate down to a more adequate level.

Better to stay on the safe side.

Before I go on, I want to say. Polar. Never. Again.

My first Polar HRM was a birthday gift from my darling MistressGrace. It was perfect until I lost it accidentally. :(

Having such great user experience with the first one, I bought another Polar as a replacement.

It. Was. A. Nightmare.

I sent it back for repairs 5 to 6 times and was in vain. I wasn't able to resolve the problem of the watch losing signal somewhere after the 6th kilometer. I changed everything from the battery to the transmitter to the watch motherboard(?). Still the same problem.

I was so exasperated with the incompetent service staff at Amoy Street, that I threw away the watch in angst (though it was very satisfying to hear the watch bounced from wall to wall down 8 floors of the rubbish chute).

I got another Polar (the FT-40 that you see in the picture is my fourth. I gave my third one away) thinking that I got a lemon previously in a barrel of apples.

I. Was. Wrong. 我. 错. 了.

This current one has the same problem. After running a few km, it cannot find my heartbeat. WTF?

Here's the thing. It's ok actually if you are a short-distance runner. But for me, my normal runs go beyond 6km which means, I get grief with every run.

In any case, I am on the look out for a replacement HRM. One that is not Polar. Feel free to recommend.


6. Cap and Shades


While the shades are optional, the cap is a must. Not so much to give me shade from the sun but more to hold my hair away from my face as I have quite a long fringe. It is really irritating to have your fringe constantly slapping into your eye with every step.


Ok. Enough about me. To my fellow readers who also run. What's your gear list like?

- Voxeros

01 February 2013

Culling Of Singapore Golf Courses



In actual fact, the culling of the golf courses has already begun earlier than said.

The site at Folkestone Road, now known as University Town, was a public golf course run by Transview Golf. Back in the day, it was where Warren Golf & Country Club was before the latter shifted to their new home in Choa Chu Kang.

Like all old golf courses, the one at Folkestone Road was still a cow grass course. A laggard from the modern Bermuda grass courses. When Transview Golf took over the site, it was so badly run (presumably due to the fact that it went from a private club to a public course) that it could not generate enough revenue to sustain the course to a respectable level. WarrenGCC barely made it decent,during their time, and was nicknamed "Padi Field" during monsoon seasons, as the ball had a tendency to bury itself into the soft ground upon landing, thus making the ball disappear.

Then there is also the Seletar Airbase Golf Club which was closed down even earlier.

I took a look at the rest of the golf courses in Singapore over a map and the following, though not exhaustive, are my thoughts (which may or may not be accurate):


1. Clubs that are going to remain untouched.

Sentosa Golf Club - Ranked, by Golf Digest Singapore (2011 edition), as the overall No.1 golf club in Singapore, this club is definitely going to stay and remain a beacon of Singapore pride. Besides, it is residing on a resort island. So even if it is converted to residential space, most folks won't be able to afford it anyway.

Tanah Merah Country Club - The Garden Course is ranked No.1 course in Singapore for the year 2011 and also host of one of the legs in the LPGA circuit. This golf course is definitely here to stay. Besides, you can't really built any residential site in this location as it is too near to the airport.

Laguna National Golf & Country Club - An excellently-maintained golf course if I may add. Being located near to the MRT deport as well as logitics hub makes it a poor site for residential development.

Singapore Island Country Club - Too many old money (as opposed to noveau riche) members here with enough influence over the lords of the land to even think about touching this site.

Marina Bay Golf Course - Very new public course to even think about taking it apart and redeveloping it. Also, it would spoil the view for the Singapore Flyer.

National Service Resort & Country Club - This one is here to stay as it is one of the rare non-elitist golf clubs to balance what otherwise is an elitist sport in this country. Like Tanah Merah Country Club, the Changi site is too near to the airport. Their Kranji site, on the other hand, may be a candidate for redevelopment.

First of all, the club is not privately-owned and as such the Board can do whatever they want with the club. There will always be the Changi site should they decided to shut down the Kranji site. The club started without the Kranji site and as such, members do not have much to complain about if it is taken away at a later stage.

Raffles Country Club - See Jurong Country Club below.

Sembawang Country Club - Located right next to Sembawang Airbase which is a restricted area making it a no-no for residentail development.

Tanglin Public Golf Course - Right next to the Ministry Of Foreign Affairs and the Australian High Commission means residential projects will never take place here, due to the sensitivity of the location.


2. The 50-50 Clubs

Keppel Club - Like SICC, there is too much old money in there to get them to budge. Besides, it is a terrible location for residential development as it is too near to the shipping ports.

Afternote: On second thoughts, I think it would be an excellent location for highly sought-after waterfront private development.

Orchid Country Club - Owned by the gahmen means that the gahmen can take it back whenever it likes.

Seletar Country Club - Located across the Seletar Reservoir from Orchid Country Club, this one is 50-50 due its proximity to Seletar Airport which is more for commercial private jet use than military. Owing to Pulau Punggol on the North-East side of Seletar Airport, residential development on Seletar Country Club site will not hinder the approach and departure of relatively low air traffic.

The real problem is membership. How do you deal with existing members? Monetary compensation? Transfer to other clubs?

Warren Golf & Country Club - This is prime land for residential development. As long as a settlement with existing members can be reached, like Seletar Country Club, this is one of the top sites for urban redevelopment.

Changi Golf Club - This mickey mouse golf club is so small, it is a joke actually. Singapore won't miss it, if it goes missing the next day. Problem however, is that it is located smack in the middle of resort chalets. So it doesn't make any sense to redevelop it.


3. It's-Time-To-Go Clubs

Jurong Country Club - There has been talks of merger with Raffles Country Club for years. With this population initiative, this merger rumour may in the end become a reality with all JCC members relocated to Tuas, thus releasing the parcel of land in Jurong East back to the gahmen for more residential projects.

Executive Golf Course - Another public mickey mouse course for the beginners that is across the street from Nee Soon Camp. If beginners want to hone their skills on a practice course when Executive Golf Course is gone, there is always the executive Par-27 golf course at NSRCC Changi.

Green Fairways Golf Course - Also a nine-hole mickey, this course should go to make way for lucrative District-10 private projects.


Image Credit: http://www.straitstimes.com

- Voxeros
There was an error in this gadget