19 November 2009

Past, Present And Future

Actually, ape wanted to use the title of "Know The Past To Understand The Present So As To Plan For The Future" but that seemed a bit long so ape simply cut it short.

Also, to cut this potentially long post short, ape was immersed with this blog http://singaporegovt.blogspot.com for almost the whole night, reading through some of the events that lead to the Singapore that we know today. Ape came across this site because ape had wanted to find out more about this person called Lim Chin Siong. Ape came across this person called Lim Chin Siong because.... nevermind... long story short, ok?

Some years ago, Ape was very surprised when ape came to know that MM Lee became Singapore's PM when he was 35? Gosh! What the hell is ape doing at age 35?

Ape largi more surprised today when ape found out that Lim Chin Siong, at age 21, was already leader of workers, trade union and students. Got elected into legislative assembly a year later and yet another year later, represented PAP for constitutional talks in London. What was ape doing at age 21? Representing a friend to impress a girl for a date... damn.

Besides some history lessons (that are not found in school textbooks) that can be found in the blog mentioned, there's a whole lot more thought provoking matters discussed there. Ape wanted to make that bog as one of the forest ape frequents only to realized that the blog seems to have stopped since 2007... sigh.

27 October 2009

Effective Road Pricing, Again?

Some ardent fans (if they visit KJL still) will recall ape was in Melbourne, Australia sometime earlier this year. One of the things that impress ape was the manner in which toll is collected on their highway. Motorist there need not install an IU. (An IU cost more than $100, although it was free for existing motorist when ERP started here). One only need to log in to the internet and make payment online, prior to the intended journey where toll exists.

What if one in Melbourne suffers from similar situation ape faced previously? Motorist is given a certain days of grace period to pay the toll online or via phone calls. If you missed that deadline, the fine is hefty. (Go here for more information). Forgetful motorist or foreign motorist who are not familiar with the toll will appreciate their system of toll collection.

Ape rented a car on one of the weekends when wifey joined ape in that foreign land. Ape studied the map to avoid the toll but still got lost along the way and suspected he has entered a toll zone. Went online as soon as ape managed to get an internet connection and was directed to a page where ape can make payment. Problem was, the online service could not indicate whether ape actually went through the toll. A 24 hour hotline was available to make enquiries though. Ape made that call. The lady on the other end of line sounded merry and was absolutely helpful and polite, even though it was after 10pm. She got ape's name, the license plate number and did a search in the database. "Nope. Your records did not show up" she replied. Ape, being a kiasu and kiasi Singaporean probed further.

"Does that mean I did not enter a toll zone or the records has not been updated yet?" ape asked.

"It was only this afternoon when you travelled so it could be that it has not been updated yet. Why don't you try calling tomorrow?".

The next day, ape called again. The voice at the other end sounded familiar. Ape told her the problem and immediately she recalled "Oh! You're [Mr Ape] who called last night" Ohhhh, that's customer service! Not only did she remember the call she received, she recalled my name! Ape's response was embarrassing.

"I'm sorry I couldn't recall your name... is it Beth?"

"Bertha. No worries... give me your car number again. I'm sorry I couldn't remember what it was." Customer first... administrative matters took a back seat.

She ran through the database and there it was. Advised me on the toll cost and payment mode. Ape gave her the credit card number and settled the matter. No additional administrative charge.

Why can't we do the same? Ape thought. In the previous post, prior to dinner, ape recalled the pleasant encounter in Melbourne and asked why can't we do the same. After paying my "violation" with administrative charge, ape think again - why can't we do the same?

24 October 2009

Effective Road Pricing?

Ape had a somewhat eventful night. Went to the gym after work to burn some calories, purge the nicotined lungs and cleared some cholesterol blocked arteries. Joined wifey and friends for dinner in town after that. Ape made sure he had his cash card inserted into the In-vehicle Unit (IU) just in case Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) is still in operation.

Ape is a biker who doesn't frequent town or any of the ERP tolls. As far as Ape can recall, it's an average of once a year ever since ERP was introduced. It does not occur to ape that he has to remember every single toll, the precise hours that they will be in operation and the charges. Simply because, the next time ape has to pass through any of these gantries, the rules has probably changed. Nevertheless, ape had his cash card placed in just in case. It was the journey home that caught ape off guard.

Dinner ended close to 10. Ape deliberated on inserting the cash card. Ape knew he had to travel along CTE and the toll in CTE lasts longer than all other ERP gantry. Ape can take the safe way out by inserting the cash card but run the risk of forgetting to retrieve it. IU on a bike is unlike that of a car whereby one can keep the car locked and a passerby cannot take the cash card without breaking the window. Cash card left in the IU of a forgetful biker can be easily and frequently got "picked up" by any passerby and this happened to ape a handful of times. It is also easy for ape to forget taking out his cash card because ape seldom has any need to place it in the IU.

It was 10 pm and ape is heading out of town... should be safe, ape reasoned. Big mistake.

Traffic was heavy and slow moving. "Accident on lane one" was displayed on the EMAS. Better keep the eyes on the road... in case ape became the 2nd accident. Shortly after the accident site where the traffic became smoother, ape looked up and saw "ERP in operation until 10:30pm". Damn. Where's the next turning before the toll booth? NONE! "What time is it now?" Ape thought. Ape dared not steal a glance at his sleeve covered watch. Nevertheless, ape the saw the time... prominently displayed on the ERP gantry. "10:24pm ...." Shit. "...motorcycles $0.25..." as if in mockery. ARRGGH! Went through the gantry. The LED on the IU flashed red merrily and all ape could do was to wait for the letter from LTA. Ape wondered how much he'll be fined.

(The latest comment about ERP ape read about is here).

09 August 2009

National Day, National Pledge... Nationalism

We, the citizens of Singapore,
Pledge ourselves as one united people
Regardless of race, language or religion
To build a democratic society
Based on justice and equality
So as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation

Ape joins Singaporeans to make this pledge. On this day, allow ape to recall some thoughts about the sense of patriotism, nationalism and sense of belonging... to Singapore.

Remember some time ago, Dr Vivian B. recall the conversation he had with his son? About why should he fight for Singapore if there's a war? Actually, ape came across this topic some 10 years before Dr Vivian brought it up in parliament. Ape has found his answer and is simple. Ape has a part in this nation building and is still doing his part.

No no no... ape is no civil servant. Ape is just a common citizen like any other citizen. Ape works, ape pays tax. Ape owns a HDB flat and ape pays road tax (motorcycle). Ape likes to believe his occasional feedback to Town Councils help improved general estate of the town ape stays. Ape did his national service is still serving as an NSmen (actually, ape was a regular).

Ape did not come up with national policies nor build skyscrapers or highways and the little things is within ape's capabilities and the capabilities of many Singaporeans does contribute to our country. For these little (little doesn't mean unimportant, though) efforts that ape has contributed, should ape allow any aggressor to overrun this country or should stand and defend what is rightfully ours?

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country" (John F. Kennedy)

Nope. Ape is not going to quote JKF because it is meaningless to ape. Ape is going to amend it to something that is more meaningful to ape should I ever have doubts about fighting for Singapore...

Ask not what Singapore has done for you - ask what you have done for Singapore. (Ape... not Abe hor.)

When you have a part in building something, I'm sure you'll stand to defend it when it's in threat of destuction. Think about it. What have you done for this country that makes you want to stand and defend her. It doesn't matter if it's big or small... as long as you've done your part.

Have a wondeful National Day

30 May 2009

Things We Take For Granted

Something came into my thoughts and I decided to put it down in writing. I'll share more of my thoughts at the bottom of this post. Do share yours with mine.

You're in love

So is the man who loves you

You're so in love that you want to make a vow,
To live together in the legal estate of matrimony,
To love him, comfort him, honour and keep him in sickness and in health
and forsaking all others, be faithful to him, so long as you both shall live.

So does he

You're so in love that you want to declare your love to everyone and anyone
and receive the blessings from those who love you

So does he

You're so in love that you'll devote your heart, mind and body to him

So does he

You're so in love that you want to raise children with him
To see them grow and realise their own potential
and to be valuable members of society

So does he

But you can't,
you can't live together in the legal estate of matrimony
you can't declare your love to everyone
you won't receive the blessings
you can't devote your body to him
you can't raise children with him, not even if all you're asking for is adopted children

not only that,

you can't apply for subsidized government housing
or place his name under the beneficiary of your life insurance

Neither can he

Because you are a man


I wonder how many of you were thinking about the gender of "You". Gender aside, what if the last statement has been changed to

"Because you are of a different race / religion /social class"

What will your thoughts be then?

I realised, after I went through these thoughts, that there are so many things that we, heterosexuals, happily married people, take for granted.

We happily walk into that tiny building in Fort Canning Hill to register our marriage. Declare our marriage vows to our friends and family. We even hold lavish banquet and receive loads of well wishes.

We're granted subsidized public housing, we can put our spouse name as beneficiary in case the unfortunate happens to us. We can adopt children even if we can't have any.

We hug and kiss our partner publicly when we happy, we do the same when we're sad. We can do all these because we love and are capable of loving. Why can't they?

17 May 2009

Pink Dot Sg

Ape is proud to be there, with his wife and daughter.

You be your own judge on how you and your family want to live your lives. Please don't judge others how they live theirs as long as they do no harm to others and are happy.

02 May 2009


Updated on 9 May 2009

Ape is really a peace loving person. For that matter, ape is always a firm believer of listening first, decide later, action latest. In order to be able to listen first, one has to be open minded, non-judgemental and empathetic. That is the exact reason why ape supported the original AWARE. The ousted new-EXCO headed by Josie Lau did the reverse of what ape believes in - that is action first (by taking over the EXCO) and listen last. Thus, ape can never support or condone them.

28 April 2009

Stay Alert and Be Vigilant

If you've not read in the papers, stay alert and be vigilant of a flu pandemic. A new strain of the flu virus, commonly know as swine flu has spread to countries including USA, Mexico, Canada, Spain and Scotland as reported in Today Online.

In Singapore, efforts have been made to step up pre-cautionary measures (reported here and here) in order to prevent a recurrence of tragedy when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) hit us back in year 2003.

Ape was in the airport on Sunday and apparently, Changi Airport wasted no time in rolling out the temperature screening machines that were used during the SARS outbreak to detect for any signs of fever of its passengers. Ape supposed the Immigration and Checkpoint Authority will be particularly observant of passengers arriving from America and Europe.

Just yesterday, at ape's workplace, we were told to take out our business continuity plan and go through them... just in case Alert Level has been raised to Orange.

Just this morning, when ape returned to my NS unit for medical checks, the public announcement system called for all medics to assemble for morning brief. One out of the two medics who attended to ape left for the brief and returned to update his buddy on the precautionary measures to be taken. Just before ape left the medical centre, tables were placed outside the rooms... presumably to prepare for "pre-screening" before letting visitors into the centre itself.

As of now, while ape is writing this, CNA on TV says that the Alert Level has been raised to Yellow.

Keep yourself updated on the news and development and stay alert for any signs of flu. Take care everyone... for yourself and your family. Ape has to find his masks and personal thermometer. Ape wonders if there's anymore masks or thermometer in the pharmacy below.

25 April 2009

Ape Supports AWARE

Ape Supports AWARE... and ape don't mean the bogus new EXCO. In ape's previous post, ape has already made known and urge any readers here to support AWARE by signing the online petition here.

What are ape's reasons besides those stated in the petition?

1) The removal of the old guards was clearly a deliberate and pre-planned coup, orchestrated by a certain Dr Thio... who self-proclaimed to be "feminist mentor". Ape has heard of Braema Mathi but who is this self professed Dr Thio Su Mien?

This tells ape the new EXCO (and supporters) lacks humility.

2) The new EXCO allege that AWARE had strayed into promoting homosexuality and intend to set AWARE back on its correct path. If this is true, why can't they address this concern in an open debate? Instead, they went in stealthily and staged a coup.

This tells ape the new EXCO is capable of dodgy actions.

3) All the sub-committee heads, include internationally known Braema Mathi who heads CEDAW were removed from their positions without reasons ... and a simple thank you.

This tells ape the new EXCO is disrespectful and lacks decency.

4) The locks were changed, effectively keeping out the old guards from saving their documents. The centre's manager was fired for "not following instructions" with no further elaboration when the manager had wanted the new EXCO to explain their actions to the old guards.

This tells ape the new EXCO is unreasonable and will force its way through.

Ape suppose the above four reasons is more than enough for ape not to support them. What has the old guards done, anyway, that wins ape's support?

The old guards have maintained their position and objectives clearly and soundly. They embraces diversity in race, religion, culture and sexuality. To ape, the key word is embracing diversity which apes finds is particularly important in this multiracial, multireligion and multicultural society. Embracing diversity is also one of ape's beliefs. So if you do share the same belief as ape, please lend your support by going here and here.

(If you noticed, ape has not mentioned anything about religion other than the last paragraph. The reason is simple. This AWARE saga has nothing to do with religion. It's about our ability to mature as a society in whole and truly progress as a great nation. This is also the reason why ape got involved in this misunderstood "38 38 women thingy")

Save AWARE For Gender Equality

Ape is a male, in case you haven't noticed, so when ape first got to read about the AWARE saga in the Straits Times, ape really can't be bothered. The reason is that, ape heard of this name AWARE and heard that they do something for women and that's all ape knew.

What went on in ape's mind then was "Hmmm... imagine if after the last General Election in year 2006, all supporters of say Workers Party started moving to say Tanjong Pagar GRC and consolidate there and by the next election, WP contest against PAP that is headed by Minister Mentor and PAP lost!!!! Wah! Big news leh!" ... but of course this would not happen.

Anyway, that news article on 10 April 2009 was soon forgotten by ape (not entirely la... ape did visit other blogs and got a little bit info about the backgrounds of the new EXCO). Then on 17 April 2009, over lunch break, ape's colleague was saying something about DBS start interfering with employees personal time and something something relating to AWARE. Oooh! Interesting.

So after work, ape read about the incident in Business Times. Apparently, it is not a case of employer interfering with employees personal time. Read carefully. It is a case of employee breaching the company's staff code of conduct. Josie Lau did not declare or seek approval from her boss (twice) when she joined the AWARE EXCO and then elected to President of the EXCO.

And so days passed. Ape met a neanderthal friend for coffee who said," aiyah... all these women folk things... all the 38 38 matters... why receive so much attention in the news? Trying to suppress the Geylang Serai Market problem izit?"

Well... ape is not sure of both allegations ... 1) Is what's happening in AWARE just an internal problem? 2) Is there some cover ups at the GSM?

At least ape is sure he can find out more about AWARE. What ape found out is that, the AWARE saga, as the ape see it, has become a battle of idealism (is that the right word?)

Apparently the old EXCO feels that the new EXCO will possibly impose their religious views into AWARE. The new EXCO accusses the old EXCO of promoting lesbanism. In their defence, old EXCO maintained that AWARE is a secular organization that embraces diversity and they are neither pro or anti gay/lesbanism.

Is you want to find out more, search the net or if you trust the posting of new AWARE website set up by the old EXCO (so confusing new website, old exco :p.. ape going bananas), go here where the old EXCO supporters have consolidated all the news reports from main stream media. (Remember hor, in Singapore, main stream media is supposedly to be factual and objective).

After reading through all these reports and the events that occurred... ape feels not only this matter concerns him, ape also feels he need to lend some support to the old guards... and he did so by signing this petition.

Actually, in this post, ape wanted to tell you why he decided to support the old guards but... really, it's very late now so I'll explain further on another day .

13 April 2009

Story of Duke and Bruno

Duke and Bruno have been with their keeper for as long as anyone can remember. Both are equally loyal. Both protects the interests of their keeper but in different ways.

Duke rarely barks. He would do his usual walk around the house, survey the area, keeping a mindful look out for anything unusual. He would pick up the wayward litter,casually dropped by his keeper when he takes out the trash. In the night when all were asleep, he would rest near the doorstep,keeping vigil. His gaze would be fixated on any passerby and ready to pounce on any stranger who has the audacity to trespass. He rarely barks and did his work dutifully.

Bruno was never missed by his keeper. His presence is always felt. He would follow his keeper wherever he went. He barks at the slightest anomaly, including the occassional rebel leaf from the neighbour that found its way across the fence. When opportunity arised,he would strut towards his keeper,parading the squeaking pest in his jaws - the pest that was snatched rudely from the paws of the neighbourhood cat who hunted it.

In spite of their differences, Duke and Bruno never had any rivalry between them. The only time they fought was playtime, solely for the entertainment of the keeper's child, KJ.

It was under new moon and the winds were high. A stealthy shadow leapt across the fence and took cover in the garden shed in a single swift motion. Fast but not enough to escape Duke's sight. Duke stood his ground and guarded the house entrance still. His gaze never left the fugitive. As long as the escaped prisoner stayed in the shed, he was no threat to the family and Duke intended to leave it that way. Nevertheless, Duke adjusted to a crouching position,ready to pounce should shadow take another step towards the house. Further up north along the street, the flashing lights of the local patrol could be seen.
Bruno roused from his slumber, glanced at Duke and realised something was amissed. He followed the gaze of Duke and barely made out a man sitting in the garden shed. Bruno leapt up, ran round the courtyard excitedly and woke the entire neighbourhood with his incessant barks.

The fugitive panicked. He had to think fast. From his position, he could see the patrol approaching. The barking dog had effectively blocked his escape into the street. He was not prepared to test the truthfullnes of the adage - a barking dog never bites. His alternative was to hold someone hostage in this house. He'd rather die fighting than return to the cell and face the noose. A hatchet hung harmlessly on the shed and turned evil in the hand of the fugitive. Shadow dashed for the main door. Duke pounced. Bruno watched as the hatchet landed on Duke's shoulder while Duke landed squarely on Shadow's chest. Dog and man sprawled on the grass. The hatchet flung into the bushes. Duke would have gone for Shadow's throat but was too weak. Shadow was disoriented but quick to pick himself up and dash into the street southwards, only after he kicked that barking dog out of his path. Bruno laid whining and wheezing with a couple of broken ribs. He would never be able to bark as he used to. Duke, totally exhausted and bleeding profusely, remained fixated on Shadow as he diminished down the street with the patrol on his heels. A couple of gun shots were heard and that's the last anyone in the neighbourhood saw Shadow. Duke took a final look at the house. Saw Keeper and family safe and sound. He closed his eyes for the final time, knowing he had kept the family safe.

Keeper missed Bruno's bark. In fact,he missed those days when Bruno would run around the house,chase after birds or leaves and any little things that excited him. KJ is no longer a child. KJ will soon be told that Bruno's health had deteriorated and he would need to take Bruno to the town vet. Keeper is sure that KJ will brightened up when he present a puppy to KJ. However,Keeper is determined that he will only keep one dog. Keeper knows exactly the type of dog he wanted.

KJ is at the pet cemetary. He placed Duke's favourite biscuit on the ground. He remembered how Duke would always break his fall when he was a toddler. Or how Duke would snuggle up to him and lick his face when he felt all alone in the sand pit. Duke never failed to find his lost toy or shoes. He remembered vavidly how Duke had heroically saved the family on that fateful night. He had witnessed the entirely episode but no one cared what he saw because he was just a kid.

20 March 2009

School Is Fun! Really!

School is really fun! If you know how to ask the right questions... if not, you can still make it fun by behaving like an absolutely insensitive moron ragging your peers or just a moron being ragged by your peers, video captured and posted online and laughed about it.

If only ape had been like them (ape meant the two mentioned below, not the morons above) during his younger days...

"TWO Singaporean teenagers have designed a 'sponge' that can possibly mop up massive oil leaks at sea.

Hwa Chong Institution student Tan Ding Jie and River Valley High School's Gu Tianyu, both 17, spent their year-end school holidays last year experimenting with a 'superhydrophobic membrane' that repels water, like a lotus leaf, while absorbing organic solvents such as oil.

Their project was one of 59 developed last year under the Young Defence Scientists Programme (YDSP), a joint effort between the Defence Science and Technology Agency and DSO National Laboratories.

The annual programme, begun in 1992, helps students venture beyond textbook theories by working with defence technology professionals.

Instead of enjoying time off during the holidays, Ding Jie and Tianyu holed themselves up in the laboratories of the National University of Singapore (NUS) to find the most cost-effective material to absorb grease or oil leaks. They were mentored by scientists from NUS and DSO. ..." (Straits Times, March 16, 2009) Click here to read more.

You see, ape was once a very bright kid. If ape had been better, he would be a lawyer or doctor... or a doctor who desperately need a lawyer or a lawyer desperately needing a doctor. However, when ape reaches that weird period in life called "teenage", ape became... weird. (Maybe ape has never grown out of teenage... or perhaps he did but had not loose the weirdness... whatever?!?!)

Interests in being curious was lost and curiosity took a turn in interest towards, erm other more sociological and biological subjects. The problem was, sociology and biology was not taught in secondary school - at least not then and biology was offered to smart students only if they can cope with physics and chemistry. Come to think of it, this arrangement makes sense. You have to have some chemistry before getting physical and only when you know what you're really getting into then the biology of life takes place... but again, with or without you knowing what you're really into, biology of life will take place... know what I mean? Don't? Told you I am weird, didn't I?

Anyway, ape's academic performance took a dive. In case you're wondering if the cause of ape's falling grades had something to do ape's independent venture into chemistry, physics and biology out of school's curriculum, nope, that was not the cause... ape didn't get lucky.

You see, studying has to be enjoyable, education has to be fun! Ape had lots of fun in primary school. There were no stress, no targets to meet and between ape and his primary school friends, never once did we compare our grades. Most of us lived in a small humble town called Taman Jurong and our parents mostly blue collar workers.

However, in secondary school, things took a different turn. Ape enrolled into one of the top schools. Competition was high. Teachers are worried about our grades. Students are worried about their grades. The parents are worried about their grades. ECA (now called CCA) was also a competition... with other schools. Ape was thrown into a very competitive environment but ape has never been a competitive sort of person. As if academic performance and ECA was not enough, there's a certain subtlety within the students and teachers to compare the family backgrounds of students.

Ape certainly didn't score on that either. But this is not want ape want to say, especially to my teenage or weird readers. The point is, when you feel stressed about school and studies, and you lost interest... beat up your teacher, rag your peers and burn the school down... ... ... no, just joking, don't do that... maybe just beat up your teacher. No seriously, don't beat up your teacher, rag your peers and burn the school down.

Seek knowledge that interests you. I mean knowledge, and not subject, that you can relate too and interested in. Ask your English literature teacher why people in Shakespearean time talk funny with Dees and Daos anon. Or 500 years from now,will the students then ask why is it students in the 21st century talk funny with words like OMG, LOL, XD? :p

Ask your biology teacher about the birds and bees... and why, even though you took protection, your girlfriend got pregnant! If you're taking history, ask why was World War II started and not when it started. Ask how did it end and not when.

Ask your mathematics teacher if he had ever used Fourier Series, other than teaching it. And how can maths help you solve the equation of,

John+Jane)=unwanted x preganacy


protection ≠ broken ≠ expired

Ask yourself what would you like to know about the subject and not what is going to be delivered to you in the curriculum. Don't be afraid to ask questions and questions don't have to be smart... only answers need to be smart. In case your teacher gives you stupid answers such as "That's not in the exam" or "You don't have to know this", well, you can still try ragging him/her... or substitute John or Jane and see if equation proves true.

16 March 2009

Do You Really Need Your CPF Now?

Ape saw "Allow Partial CPF Withdrawals Now" in ST Forum. (Thanks to KTM).

Just to share some thoughts (thoughts meaning ape can be wrong) about the author and following comments to his article.

Gary Teo appear to be someone who is doing relatively well. At least he still has his job and his job allows him to pay off his 5 room HDB flat before 40! His children seems to be around secondary school age. Perhaps his financial crunch will come in 4-6 years time when they really need some money for their children's higher education? However, he did not elaborate further as to the "issue that worries" them. As far as ape is concerned, Mr Gary Teo is someone who does not need the CPF money now.

Comments following the article were mostly arguing, sarcastically, that our CPF should be released to us in times of need. Most of such argument will eventually lead to this,

"The BIG problem is the MIWs think that MOST SGANS dont know how to manage their $$$$... Posted by: NoodleWon at Sat Mar 14 19:02:38 SGT 2009"

Do we? Do we know how to manage our money?

Ape was once like quite a lot of people saying "CPF is MY $$$, why can't I use it when I NEED IT!" Ape still is. No one can argue that your CPF is not yours... unless you were once a victim or accomplice of those schemes where employers "borrowed" elderlies ID to make them their "employees" so as to get some grants/subsidies (ape's a bit hazy on this but I diverted).

The question is when and where can you use it. The answers can be found in CPF webpage. The problem is, some people need their CPF earlier than they are allowed to do so or for other purposes not allowed for in CPF... and so, it came back to this "CPF is MY $$$, why can't I use it when I NEED IT!".

What has changed for ape is the definition of NEED.

About the only people whom ape thinks has a real need to withdraw their CPF monies earlier than what is presribed are people who, by some unfortunate turn of events, have to incur HUGE sums of money for their MEDICAL treatments. Unfortunate turn of events (for medical treatments) include accidents and critical illnesses. If untreated, lead to death. Amounts so huge that their normal savings cannot cover (but adequate in their CPF). Maybe ape is saying this because ape is a smoker and worried that one day... he may get some heart/lung diseases :p Perhaps, ape REALLY should quit smoking... ...

Why not for times like now? Worse economy downturn ever? Loss of jobs? Because, ape thinks, one can save and prepare for such days and they are temporary. A simple solution is to save to an amount equivalent to say 3 times your salary or more. It may take years (took ape a decade to build up this amount... after ape has wasted some years before that) so do it as soon as you draw your first paycheck.

CPF is meant for retirement... for our old age. Thus, we have medisave (for medical cure during old age). We can buy our property, that we can still use in retirement, with CPF (conditions attached though). CPF is not meant for joblessness or bad economy... and certainly not a back up plan for those who don't know how to manage their own money.

Bad times such as loss of jobs? Come on, don't we have enough sense to keep some savings (other than CPF) for such days? Of course such savings won't build up overnight but they will eventually,as long as one watches his expenditure carefully.

"Spend within your means!" Cliche, right? But how many listens?

Ape be honest with you... ape wasn't listening in the past also and felt so angry that Govt don't think ape can manage his own peanuts. Until a elderly kopi-buddy advised ape to pretend that ape don't have CPF, what ape gonna do if he lost his job? Hmmmm... so ape start saving since and ape is reaping the rewards now.

Ooh... ape really finds it hard to believe that over the years, Gary had not built up any personal savings... unless, he doesn't know how to manage his money in which case, should his CPF be released for him to manage himself? Even if it's just a little?

26 February 2009

Buying a (HDB) Property

Ape sold his HDB flat a couple of months back... when property market was still good. Nope, ape did not make any profit - ape only managed to break even. How much ape (and wifey) took out from CPF to furnish the loan (including interests), how much ape (and wifey) returned back to our CPF. It's like saying ape has lived in a HDB flat for close to decade... for free :=)

For those of you who are considering purchasing a HDB flat, ape has no advice for you since ape is no property guru. However, the following was what went through ape's mind when he embarked on the journey of "owning" a property. (BTW, one doesn't really own a HDB flat since it's only good for a maximum of 99-years lease, that is, if you live long enough, the flat will be returned to HDB and you won't get a single cent in return)

What For?
The first thing that got into ape's mind was the objective of purchasing a property. What was ape buying a property for? To speculate and earn money or what they call "investment"? To live nearer to ape's workplace/parents/mistress (oops)? Or simply wanted a place to stay and able to declare "Welcome to OUR humble abode"? Well, it's all a bit of the above (and perhaps more for others) but ape set priorities and put "A place to stay and call our own" at the top.

Listing these objectives is important because they would eventually shape the choices and availability of the property ape were looking for. Therefore, with the priorities set, certain options such as "renting a property" or "staying in parents place" were ruled out.

HDB or Private?
First off, private property was (and still is) out of the question. Ape's income simply could not afford one. So ape turn to HDB. Ape didn't think further than affordability then. However, ever since, ape hears a lot of advice to make HDB your first property, even if you could afford private property. One of the reasons is that, should you ever wish/need to switch from private to HDB, it will be very difficult and it's not about affordability. Ape will leave that to the experts to explain.

Direct or Resale?
But then hor, should ape buy direct from HDB (supposedly subsidised?) or from the open market? Since ape was a first time buyer, ape can still enjoy a certain amount of grant ($40K then for a 4 room HDB flat) which more or less made the differences between direct and resale flats close to neglible - as far as $$$ is concerned. Eventually ape chosed buying resale for the following reasons:-

1) New flats were developing in places too far from parents (hey! ape still want to visit parents regularly hor!)

2) New flats were developing at areas not close to MRT (hey! ape no peanuts for private transport hor!)

3) Ape has to wait for a couple of years before the new flats are complete (hey! ape was getting married hor!)

To put it another way is that there's more flexibility in getting a resale flat instead of purchasing direct from HDB.

Where and Affordability?
So ape zoomed in on our requirement, that fulfilled our needs and start checking out the prices of resale flats in areas (near parents and/or MRT stations) to get a feel of "market rate". Next, of course is affordability. With our paychecks, we can afford a 5-rm or EC HDB flat but we decided against it. For the following reasons:-

1) The floor area for 5 room is big...which means we'll have to sweep more often, mop more often, pay higher Service and Conservancy Charges. BTW, Town Councils' Sinking Funds investments were not known and rebates base on flat type was also not popular then. So when all those news came out, ape said "Heng ah! Lucky I never buy 5 room flat!"

2) Whatever that went into our CPF would be utilised to service the housing loan... for the next 30 years! What? Did someone say "But your money just sit in the CPF cannot use for other purposes?"

But ape thinks simply, mah!

Firstly, can anyone guarantee that ape will keep his job for the next 30 years? On top of that, his income will at worse remain stagnant and will never decrease? Last time ape checked, no one gave such guarantee.

So how much can the ape afford? We estimated on this basis:- the monthly installment to furnish the housing loan should preferably be around 50% of our monthly CPF Ordinary Account (OA) contributions and not more than 75%. You'll need to do a bit of reverse engineering to establish what should be the purchase price of the flat. Other things ape had to consider was exactly how much loan would ape be taking? The loan cannot be more than 90% of the purchase price and cannot include any Cash-Above-Valuation (COV). On top of that, your initial CPF would be wiped clean first. (Ape will probably explain this in more details in the next post... but then again, ape thinks you shouldn't be lazy...so go HDB to find out the latest updates)

Why did we pick this figure of 50% of our CPF OA? Since no one can gaurantee that we could keep our jobs for the next 30 years, ape had to prepare for the worst - that is in case ape or wifey or both of us had been out of job! Let's say if ape was out of job the very fist month when he start furnishing his loan... where can he find the money? Not forgetting CPF already wiped clean. From his own savings, right? Then who's going to pay for S&CC, utilities, bread and butter? However, since ape applied the "50% rule" and if the ape was able to hold out for say 3 months before losing his job, he would be able to furnish the housing loan for another 3 months, right? The longer the ape keep his job, the longer he'll hold out if he loose his job. Boleh? In fact, if ape could afford it, he would not even want to stretch his loan for 30 years... the longer you loan, the more interest you pay!

So far,we're still on housing loan. We had to consider the cash sum, too. Thnigs that cannot be paid by our CPF, including Cash-Above-Valuation, property agent fees (if you're getting one), renovations and furniture. All these have to be worked out before one actually commit to purchasing the property.

So after working out our objectives, setting our priorities and calculated our affordability, the rest was a breeze - find a place that we like, give and take a bit base on priorities and make an offer within our affordability. Seller not impressed? Move on and find the next.

We got our first home within 3 months...I think. Had been staying there happily since. So why sell now? Well... objectives changed (or perhaps not) but priorities certainly changed but ape will tell you more next time.

10 February 2009

Huh? Wats Tat Again?

Ape is away from Singapore since early Feb. Been busy with hardly anytime to blog. Anyway, was trying to catch up on some home news by back tracking and here's what ape found...

Netizens ‘squandered an opportunity’

Ape was like "Huh? You mean there's is something called a community in the internet? Remotely resembling a group with a certain kind of characteristics and somehow, have to rise and voice up when something socially unacceptable arise?"

Come on... "netizens" are as generic "humans".

When ape started to use his brain,the next question pop out "Wa lau! You mean there's nothing more important to discuss in parliament? Aren't we in a recession? Look into that!"

Anyway... ape rants. Good thing ape is neither human nor netizen... ape is erm... ape :p

10 January 2009

Engaging The Government Online

Previously, ape pointed a few ways to engage the authority and mentioned about bloggers' response to AIMS consultation paper. If you want to know more about what AIMS has been doing, read here, I'm not sure if this is the official website though.

The Government held a press conference to conclude AIMS report. The full report can be found on AIMS website. Or you can be like the ape, read someone else's summary. Ape is too lazy to repeat what is said or written.

However, ape just want to give a bit of his peanuts on one particular area - Reach. Reach is the official Government feedback unit. Ape has been there some time ago but not very active there. Topics were quite boring actually and comments posted by netizens were hardly "thought provoking". Read a lot of "I agree" or "disagree" without further elaboration. Not too sure how are things getting on there...

Anyway, the Minister for Infomation, Communincations and the Arts, said they'll expand the role of Reach and Reach will still remain "as its authoritative online source to engage Netizens [... as opposed to...] wandering the whole of the Internet just to debunk every single misleading or wrong posting" (Today, 10 Jan 09, words in brackets by ape).

Some may see it as Government limiting it's engagements with the online community but ape feels it's purely for practical reasons.

Who To Engage?
First, which online community or blog, should Government engage? Even if we zoom down to social political blogs, which one? Perhaps there's only a handful of good social political blogs now but what happens when there's more?

"Eh, why gahmen respond to The Online Citizen but not my blog, Talk Only Cock, har? Same same what! they TOC, I orso TOC leh?"

Who's This?
Besides that, if, for example, ape decides to talk about social-political issues only and one fine day, some one allegely from the Government decides to engage in discussions here. Ape will think - "Are you really who you are?" and so ape check with the respective ministry to confirmation and everytime this person post then everytime ape need to check... because ape can't really know if this person is still the same person who last posted. Ape no time to count peanuts!

And what if readers of ape read here that ape is discussing with someone from the Governement, won't the readers think "Is this reeeaaaaal?!?! Or is this ape trying to impress and boost his readership to earn advertisement?" and so they'll check with the Government... one reader one letter, 10 readers 10 letters? Government no time to count peanuts... oops, Government not like ape, they don't count peanuts.

And if say, supposing someone uses the inital LKY and claims that he is a civil servant and gave his comments here, do I really want to enquire from the ministries if this "LKY" is really from the civil service? And is he or perhaps she writing in personal capacity or as "Government"?

So, ape still think it is better to go to Reach if one wants to seek Governments engagement. At least netizens (readers and posters) know respond is from Government and Government need not appear to be bias by visiting some online forum but not the others. Win-win?

08 January 2009

New Name?

Ape must be suffering from identity crisis.

In my previous post, ape wasn't quite certain about where he is going with this blog but at least ape decided to change his name now and simply call himself... Ape... until identity crisis resurface :p

Previously, the name khirsah was used but seemed to cause quite a bit of confusion. (and more letters to type) "Khirsah" is unique but not original. It's actually the name of a dragon taken from a fantasy story book series called Dragonlance. Not many people are familiar with this name and some thought that I'm an Indian, perhaps of it's similiarity to Krishna. I'm not an Indian and I have nothing against Indians. I'm just an ape.

Some of those who know me through CNA forum called me M. K or Master K... nope, I'm not a Master in Karate or master in anything. It's just that I started my story telling there and one of them relate me to the late Master Lee Dai Sor, a well known Redifussion story teller. A shoe too big to fill.

Finally, ape decided to settle for Ape because Ape is simple. Ape loves peanuts, go Ooh ooh and Ape is simply ape.

P/S Ooh, ooh, Ape still dream of retiring by setting up a simple stall by the Singapore River and tell stories to entertain interested listeners and you only need to pay him peanuts.

07 January 2009

Engaging The Authority

Once again, we hear the all too often "respect the authority"... probably more often in the year 2008 when we have a number of cases where the Singapore Court was challenged or questioned in several cases.

During the opening of the legal year 2009 in Singapore's Supreme Court, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong reiterate that the courts requires its authority to be respected by all (read this).

I do agree with CJ Chan. For the court or any authority to carry out their duty effectively, a certain form of respect must be accorded. Hurling insults, making false and scandalous allegations certainly impedes the authority. However, I must add that respect should not only come from the people, respect must come from the law enforcers, the authority themselves, i.e. all, everyone. Those holding public office should also respect the authority accorded to them and not abuse their powers. The people have to respect the authority and not make false or scandalous allegations.

What if we don't agree with certain laws? What if we don't agree with how the authority applies the law? Can't we voice it out? Sure we can... but how? Protest? Even if it's peaceful?

Attorney General Prof Walter Woon also spoke about the need to protect the integrity of the judicial system.

"He said that while freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed in the Constitution, the line is crossed 'where a person deliberately attempts to undermine the authority of the courts by casting aspersions on the integrity of the judges in order to further a political or ideological agenda'[...]'I can only conclude they were testing our resolve and probing to see how far we could be intimidated by their tactics,'" (Straits Times, 4 Jan 2009)

said Prof Woon with reference to a group of activists at the Attorney-General's Chambers the demanding the return of items seized by police investigating certain offences, with threats of sit-ins and protests.

Why is it so important to protect the integrity of the judicial system?

If the authority is seen to be intimdated, they'll loose all credibility. Common people like this ape will simply think "Ah? Like that also can ah? So next time I buay song (not satisfied) I can also kow peh cow bu la (rant or protest publicly)!"

You see, the point is, not everyone understands the cause(s) taken by activists. Even less people will know the true intent of such "activists". (Note: I use activists broadly to include politicians or anyone who go into the streets and kow peh kow bu as well as those who don't kow peh kow bu). Sadly, what some people will see is that a group of people not happy and they make a lot of noise and the authority give in to their demand, and therefore, conclude that if you want your demands met, make a lot of noise?

So how should we engage the authority if we cannot make our opinion heard through protest? If there's something I felt strongly about, a change in certain policy or law that I feel that is absolutely necessary, what can I do?

Law Minister K.Shanmugam mentioned one... a difficult one where not all can meet.

"The way to change the law was to get elected politically and argue in Parliament why the law should be changed" (Straits Times, 4 Jan 2009).

However, that is not the only way. You can go for Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP). Even if you can't be an NMP, you can talk to your MP during Meet the People Session and request your MP to raise it in Parliament. Or you can approach one of the NMP to raise it, like what some did when they petition to repeal Section 377A through NMP Siew Kum Hong. Sometimes, you may not need to raise your concerns in parliament through a proxy for matters on a smaller scale. You can write to the authority concerned, privately, seek their views and perhaps publish in your blog if you want to for sharing with fellow citizens. Someone like Dharmendra Yadav in Think Happiness. You can also present your feedback through Reach, the official Government's online portal for feedback. Last but not least is to organise yourselves to submit your proposal in response to public consultation papers like what 13 bloggers did in response to the Advisory Council on the Impact of New Media on Society (AIMS).

The above examples are some of the proper channels to engage the authority. They are non-aggressive measures that we can do. Look at it this way, what is our objective? To achieve a certain intentionally good outcome, right? Would you go bang table and demand change, in the process making those in-charge loose face put up defences immediately? Or would you be consultative and engaged the decision makers politely and amicably to seek an ideal resolution?

To close this off, I politely request that you watch Anna and the King (starring Jodie Foster as Anna Leonowens and Chow Yun-Fatt as Siam King Mongkut). In a particular scene, where Tuptim (King's concubine?) was sentenced to death, Anna cried babaric! outrageous! "I will speak to the King!" publicly in the court. What she did was effectively sealing Tuptim's doom. The King, who had the authority to pardon a death-roll convict, was no longer able to do so because his subjects would think that he was led by the nose by a woman... and a foreign one. The King would loose the faith and credibility to lead his country... even though he was a wise monarch and he too, need to respect the law of the country.

06 January 2009

New Year, New Look, New Erm...Uncertainties

It's 6 days into the year 2009. Ape kinda late in posting this but better late than never. Did I mentioned there's a new look in this blog? Oh, I did... getting forgetful these days :p

There'll be a lot of uncertainties this year - uncertain about the job security, property value, investment, general election, breakfast/lunch/dinner etc. Ape is, too... every year, in fact. In addition to these, ape wonders what he should do with this blog.

Ape is uncertain where he is heading here. Previously, ape mentioned the intent to start this blog was to rave about my misery. But when ape actually do get started, happier oreadi, so started talking cock ape stories instead. Then ape considered going into something more serious and finally decided to talk about growing up and avoid social-political matters... but never really got into doing so because social-political matters got very interesting... especially in year 2008. Yet, the ape a bit kiasi (ape still is but sometimes cannot tahan and start ranting).

So... there's no evolution, no changes. Ape will still be as is... turn wild occassionally and behave most of the time and silly all the time. In other words, ape will continue to talk ape and cover any topics that comes to mind.

02 January 2009

Happy New Year

This new year greetings come a bit late but then again, tis ape don't really have a good sense of time. The blogskin has been changed... just a little to maximise the screen space. Hope you like it.

Wish everyone a Happy New Year!