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About Me

I am the "IBM Collaboration & Productivity Advisor" for IBM Asia Pacific. I'm based in Singapore.
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17/06/2014

The taxi loyalty program isn't working and how to fix it

Category  
Singapore is a little like New York: train and taxis are a mainstay of the daily commute. So the taxi market is highly regulated and fiercely competitive. As no surprise taxi companies try to bind customers before they loyalty switches to alternative bookings or the disruptors.
So Comfort & CityCab started CabRewards. After all loyalty cards work well for their inventor.
In a smart move, instead of creating a new piece of plastic, Comfort teamed up with ezLink Singapore's leading provider of cash cards. Everyone in Singapore has a ezLink card, since they are used for train access and road tolls.
From there it all went downhill.
In Usability studies one of they key activities is to watch users and refine on their feedback. So I loaded my ezLink card, to see how Taxi drivers will handle it. In (so they told me, after I inquired with Comfort) an attempt (a futile one) to make things "consistent", the designer decided to add a prompt into the touchscreen application "Cabrewards Yes/No" before the driver can process payment. So something the driver has no benefit from stands between him and his livelihood. To no surprise, 95% of the drivers don't bother to ask "Are you a CabRewards member?", even when I announce "I will pay by ezLink". They just click NO and process to payment. If they would answer yes, they had to tap once for the points and another time for the actual payment. They have no benefit, so they skip it (and rightly so, their job is driving, not administration of loyalty programs).
I asked Comfort and they explained, I could ask the Taxi driver to switch back and add the points - but I'm not their program admin either. So how to fix this?
Plan, Reality and Fix
The graphic above, shows the intended workflow, the actual workflow and a possible fix. There are several touchpoints, where an automated IT system can determine if I'm a known passenger and a CabRewards member: I call a cab, I uase a mobile app to get a cab or I pay with a registered method of payment (ezLink, Nets, CreditCard). In all of these cases the taxi driver doesn't need to be bothered with a question. Most likely that also would cover most reward members. The ones paying cash might anyway not have registered for the program - or a simple change of terms (points only with electronic payments) would even completely eliminate the question. So far I haven't seen a change. I wonder if the person in charge of the process is trying to cover up the problem?
I would say: It is OK to have an idea, even if problems arise, just fix them. Despite other opinion there is no such thing as a "honest mistake". There is trial, error and correction (and start over).
Simplicity after all isn't simple
Comfort, you can do better!

23/06/2013

Air Quality Measurements

Category  
Singapore is facing a severe haze crisis. Besides the subjective "this is bad", I got curious how the official air quality gets reported. Singapore's National Environment Agency uses the US devised Pollution Standard Index, but reports that onlt only as 24h, but also 3 h average for different places in the republic. Besides that they report the 2.5µ particle (PM2.5) count that isn't part of the PSI ( PM stands for particulate matter).
So far it feels like the information is genuine. Nevertheless knowing how an abstract number is formed is the first step to independent verification. With a little digging NEA provides the detailed instructions how the value is computed. The substances measured are: Sulphur dioxide (µg/m³). Particles with 10µ or more size (µg/m³), Carbon Monoxide (mg/m³), Ozone (µg/m³) and Nitrogene dioxide (µg/m³) which NEA publishes separately including a haze map:
Regional Haze Map
Source: NEA
A quick check on Google reveals, that air quality measurement is quite a popular application both with Arduino as well as the Raspberry PI (there are more). It seems the Arduino has an edge when it comes to coupling the sensors, while the Raspberry PI shines in aggregation and web accessibility. Probably a combination of both would be a winner. Something like the Pinoccio meshed with a Raspberry Pi powered CouchDB for aggregation.
The real challenge however are the sensors (and their calibration later on). The PSI measurements are in weight per volume, while most of the data sheets for the sensors I found state sensitivity in particles per million (PPM) or particles per billion (PPB). Luckily LennTech provides an online calculator to transcribe the values for us:
Substancerange (weight/volume)Parts per millionParts per billion
Sulphur dioxide80-2620 µg/m³0.0284 - 0.928928.4 - 928.9
Carbon monoxide5-57.5 mg/m³4.05 -46.64050 - 46600
Ozone118-1180 µg/m³0.0558 - 0.55855.8 - 558
Nitrogen dioxide1130 - 3750 µg/m³0.558 - 1.85558 - 1850
The PM concentration can't be converted from weight/volume into ppm using a static formula, since particles can be anything with different weight. It needs to be measured.
So the hunt for suitable sensors starts. SO2 seems to be the biggest item on the list. I've looked so far at the following providers: I would be grateful for more hints of suppliers. Once the sensors have been settled, further planning will commence. stay tuned!

05/05/2013

CRM > Sales Tracking

Category
IBM is ditching Siebel CRM in favour of SugarCRM. Cloud based CRM was made popular by SalesForce while Zoho wants a share of the pie too.
All to often CRM offers or is used as sales force automation tool, which it is not (only). But what makes a good CRM? It needs to provide access to anything that relates to a customer. Doh - that's what the name claims.
Wide view of customer relationship management
In larger organisations CRM typically is understood very narrowly as sales tracking tool, the broader definition as outlined above gets covered by a combination of Portal on the front (a.k.a glass level) and master data management (MDM). Smaller organisations don't have that luxury. There an integrated system makes most sense.
Now guess on what platform those have been built. A little selection (in no specific order and not complete): As usual YMMV

01/03/2013

Commuting experiment

Category
I live in the north of Singapore, the IBM office is in the east. Getting there either takes time or costs quite some money.
 Bus/MRT via Airport
(to office)
MRT
(from office)
Taxi
(to office)
Steps
  1. Walk to the bus stop: 2 min
  2. Wait for the bus: 7min (could be anything from 0-15)
  3. Take SBS 858 to Changi Airport T3: 32min
  4. Walk to Airport SMRT station: 2min
  5. Wait for the MRT to depart: 10min (can be 0-15 min)
  6. One stop to EXPO: 5min
  7. Walk to the office: 5min
  1. Walk to MRT: 5min
  2. Wait for MRT: 2min (could be anything from 0-15)
  3. MRT to Tanah Merah interchange: 5min (it had to wait a little)
  4. Wait for EW line: 3min (could be anything from 0-10)
  5. Ride on EW line to Paya Lebar 9min
  6. Walk to Circle line: 3min (less if not crowded)
  7. Wait for MRT: 1min (could be anything from 0-10)
  8. Ride on Circle line to Bishan: 14min
  9. Walk to NE line: 2min
  10. Wait for MRT: 3min (could be anything from 0-10)
  11. Ride on NS line to Khatib: 12min
  12. Walk home: 5min
  1. Call a cab: 5min (anything from 2-45)
  2. Ride to office: 24min
Total duration 63 min (46-86) 64 min (55-100) 24 min (excluding call time)
Cost S$ 2.72 S$ 1.86 S$ 19.00
Remarks Bus was not too full, got a seat. Catch up on Social reading. Standing all the way During rush hours 25% extra!

23/03/2012

Connecting to Wireless@SGx using Ubuntu Linux

Category   
Singapore's island wide wireless network Wireless@SG provides encrypted and unencryped Wifi access. Unless your are a fan of being a Firesheep target, you want to use Wireless@SGx with encryption. Singtel provides detailed instructions for many platform with the unsurprising absence of instructions for Linux. So here you go:
  1. You will need the certificate they use from GoDaddy. So go to their certificate site and download the "Go Daddy Class 2 Certification Authority" in DER format. Note down the SHA1 key for the file: 27 96 BA E6 3F 18 01 E2 77 26 1B A0 D7 77 70 02 8F 20 EE E4. Optional (but highly recommended): open a terminal and check the checksum of your download: sha1sum gd-class2-root.cer
  2. In your network manager applet connect to Wireless@SGx. You will be prompted with "Wireless Network Authentication Required"
    Wireless SGx settings
  3. Fill in the form:
    • Wireless security: WPA & WPA2 Enterprise
    • Authentication: Protected EAP (PEAP)
    • Anonymous identity:: leave empty
    • CA certificate: gd-class2-root.cer (The one you downloaded in step 1)
    • PEAP version: Automatic
    • Inner authentication: MSCHAPv2
    • Username/Password: Your Wireless@SG credentials
A little embarrassment for SingTel: The registration page (at of today 23 March 2012) uses an outdated https certificate.
As usual YMMV

05/07/2011

Singapore Lotus User Group Meeting July 15 2011

Category  
It has been a long time since the last LAUG meeting in Singapore. Certain events seemed to have left the Lotus community all but dead. But we are used to that and now we are back. I'd like to invite my Singapore Lotus enthusiasts to join me Friday next week for a session on mobile applications. Ben Green from TeamStudio will share with us how TeamStudio's latest offering Unplugged allows easy mobilising of Notes applications. Please visit the event page for more details. I'm using FlickEvents to plan this session. They are a Singapore startup hosted in the NUS Enterprise Incubator. Of course I'd like to support our local startups. Register below: See you next week!

17/06/2011

Echelon 2011 - day 1

Category  
I took leave (literally) to attend Echelon 2011, allegedly Asia’s best startup launchpad event. Having contributed to its Twitter stream throughout the day some of my thoughts needed a break and a little sorting, so here you go:
Registration did not work. A huge queue formed in front of too little registration counters with the badges not ready for fast retrieval. This wasn't a good first impression since it delayed proceedings by an hour+ (which made me miss some of the pitches). Worse even since Flickevents, one of the startups (located conveniently in the NUS Incubator), offers registration services and its founder Yan Phun clearly knows what she is talking about. So next year please use her!
The exhibition space wasn't very organised, mainly consisting of bar tables and banners, which I found quite refreshing (and economically). Looking for a specific company made you scout around between all of them, which is the purpose of a startup conference after all. Having Nespresso pitch their corporate solution in the middleof all that ensure a high quality supply of free caffeine. All in all it was good to see a lot of energy, confidence (partly bordering at naivety or arrogance) and we-can-do-that spirit.
Compared to the product manager driven corporate culture with its "Which customers demanded this feature" or "How much more will we sell if we fix this" or "Please provide a 5 year revenue projection for this feature" or "We have existing code we cherish more than innovation" the spirit was rather refreshing.
The opening session aptly titled "Uncommon Sense" was delivered by the hilarious and down to earth Derek Sivers. The best quote: "I made 23 million and then gave it all away". His session was followed by a series of panels, which were - well panels. At least they didn't read from a teleprompter. What made them slightly interesting was the use of Pigeonhole. Pigeonhole = (IdeaJam meets twitter). Users with the right access code can post live questions and/or vote on questions asked. A summary screen shows the top 12 questions which then were projected behind the panel. A neat way to both ask questions and let the panel know what you think about them.
Before the main attraction, the 11 elevator pitches (5 minutes each with 10min Q&A), Jason Wishnow of TED fame walked us through "what makes TED - TED" and how they got there. TED is 100x times more entertaining than TV.
The elevator pitches I saw were quite surprising. Surprising since none of them went down well. While ideas and potential were often visible, they were not prepared very well (I might be a little hypercritical here)
  1. Tribute Balloon is a social site for mourners (I can hear them howling reading this summary). Might actually work, but lies dangerously close to a possible Facebook feature trajectory. The presenters didn't have their numbers ready
  2. WorkCrowd is social software for enterprises in the cloud. It is actually the closest competitor I have seen so far to IBM Connections. They took their visual clue from Facebook and their business model from Yammer, allowing them a stealth adoption I discussed here before. Interestingly they see Facebook and LinkedIn as their competitors, not IBM and Socialtext. While I think they have a market, their pitch was hopeless. Social Sandy could have answered any of the panels question without blinking, while they didn't get their point across at all
  3. SixReps is social software for fitness fans. The founder lives in Indonesia's fitness community and realised that ganging up to achieve a fitness goal improves your odds tremendously. Knowing his target audience and monetisation options (e.g. take a cut from the gym membership) this will fly. The pitch didn't make that really clear (personally I'll stick with Dr. John Beradi - who also advocates community!)
  4. JellyBus allows you to assemble and edit picture collages on mobile devices with the capability to edit and adjust them. The makers designed it as an excellent fit for their home Korean market. The presenter struggled with English and I'm sure the same pitch in Korean would have just rocked. Will be interesting to see if Korean taste works in other markets too
  5. Fetch Fans On first sight the most professional pitch, but the presenter blew it in the Q&A. It is good to have an answer to every question, but it is outright rude to cut the asker off halfway into the question. She clearly suffered from overconfidence. Rounding up Facebook fans might work, but left me with the stale taste of them seeing Facebook users as digital cattle
  6. Bouncity allows to fuse virtual and real world with activities: Go places, do challenges, get rewards. Clean concept might work as digtial form of a paper chase. They didn't prepare their numbers well for Q&A, so left me wanting for a peek into their viability
  7. Moglue allows to create interactive eBooks easily. Again struggling with English the Korean presenter actually had a success story to share. I liked that a lot. It allows to go beyond what Calibre can do without the heavy price tag of a custom development. The presenter wasn't really clear about the target audience
  8. Second CRM: A little startup with big plans. They want to serve CRM to a market other vendors like SugarCRM and SalesForce consider too far or too small. I like the idea, but it needs to be more than CRM. (I ran a business in their target size long enough, so I can judge that): something that takes care of all business stuff: customers, partners, suppliers and back office including workload/workflow. Unfortunately the presenter wasn't ready to limit his pitch to 300 sec. So a lot of his ideas stayed untold
  9. Price Area: an Indonesian price comparison engine. When pressed for answers about global competition the presenter hid his real answer emphasising his local data knowledge and nimbleness, while the real answer seemed to me: Our end game is to be bought by one
Unfortunately due to the late start and a promise I made to Anthony and Ernest, I missed LocoBuzz and PlayMoolah, something to catch up tomorrow.
In summary: one trend seems to be creating social applications for specific target audiences. This can work when one knows the audiences well. The other trend: investors need to rethink their approach to Startups. The Startups need more than money: access to market insights, catalysts for focus, enablement for execution excellence and competitive intelligence. So an angel approach might be most appropriate.
Of course no event is fun without a little networking (mental note to self: bring more business cards) and I had some good conversations including catching up with Jonathan and relaxing on colourful doob bean bags. Stay tuned for day 2.

05/05/2011

Does a minister in Singapore have to be an *elected* member of parliament?

Category
The 2011 general election is drawing closer and the debates are heating up. One hotly contested district this time is The Aljunied GRC where the opposition Workers Party wants to unseat the incumbent PAP. GRC stands for "Group Representation Constituency" where a team of politicians gets elected together. In Aljunied the winning party will gain 5 seats, which is more than 5% of the total elected seats. The PAP team in Aljunied is headed by Mr George Yeo, who happens to be Singapore's current foreign minister.
In articles, on Facebook and else where assertions are made, that he has to leave government if he doesn't get elected in Aljunied. Having grown up in a continental European democracy I was quite puzzled. In Germany the cabinet is appointed by the president on suggestion of the chancellor (our equivalent to the prime minister) and the cabinet members might or might not be members of parliament (The chancellor is elected by the parliament, not appointed by the president). After all the ministers head the Executive and not the Legislative. So I though: "If in doubt check the source". The Singapore Constitution states in Part V Chapter 2 Paragraph 25 #1: "The President shall appoint as Prime Minister a Member of Parliament who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament, and shall, acting in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister, appoint other Ministers from among the Members of Parliament. Provided that, if an appointment is made while Parliament is dissolved, a person who was a Member of the last Parliament may be appointed but shall not continue to hold office after the first sitting of the next Parliament unless he is a Member thereof." (emphasis mine).
So on first view the concerns "if Mr. Yeo loses he is out" seem valid. My late father, who was a lawyer, taught me always to read surrounding paragraphs or the whole law to make sure to get the full picture. In Part VI Paragraph 39 1c we can read: "such other Members not exceeding 9 in number, who shall be known as nominated Members, as may be appointed by the President in accordance with the provisions of the Fourth Schedule". So while it wouldn't be an ideal proceeding and certainly not in the spirit of the Nominated Members of Parliament (NMP) idea, it looks like a NMP can be part of the cabinet (The speaker or deputy speaker of the parliament also can be appointed from non-elected members, but is explicitly banned in Paragraph 39(4) from becoming a cabinet member). Of course I'm not an expert in Anglo-Saxon inspired law, so I might stand corrected (and learn something new in the process). Also a constitution can be changed. Narrowing the selection base for ministers to members of the parliament excludes a lot of talent.
Now what would be really embarrassing (for the PAP): If Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's PAP team loses in Ang Mo Kio. In 2006 the team got 66.14% of the votes, presuming the number of voters hasn't changed, 23,579 people would need to change their mind in one direction. Is that a lot or a little?
We live in interesting times

04/05/2011

You have come a long way

Category
End of this week are elections in Singapore where the 87 elected members of parliament face their voters. Since independence the result was always clear: The People's Action Party (PAP) will win. Very few doubt that this will change. However things are different this time around. In a Wikipedia article about Singapore's Internal Security Act one can read: "Political opposition is technically allowed in Singapore, however many opposition politicians fear being imprisoned, fined, or bankrupted via government-led litigation (with the effect of not only economically destroying opponents, but also disqualifying them from elections) merely for voicing critical opinions." Today that fear is gone and the political landscape is vibrant as one can expect from a living democracy. Online media are abuzz and bloggers more daring than ever. Mr. Wang a.k.a. Gilbert Koh writes: "Abundantly clear that Lee Kuan Yew is mongering foolish fears. Don't be his sucker.", The Mr. Brown show pokes fun on PAP and government politics and performance (If the driver falls asleep you better slap, slap, slap). Not so long ago they both probably would have ended in hot water for this. Just watching the stream on Twitter is fun and shows no trace of fear. Even Darth Vader is summoned into campaigning (Note to Lucas film: satire is a work of art, free speech and that spot covered by fair use, so don't take it down). If this is the harbinger of public discourse in Singapore I live in a good place. I'm not commenting on the various claims of the different parties here, there are better commentators around, I'm just enjoying the blossoming of a civil society. And where else can you get such campaign videos:


Enjoy!

28/03/2011

Facebook for pre-Teenagers?

Category
Interesting Homework assignment for a P5 student (that is age 10-12 max) in my son's class:
Facebook homework
  1. Could Facebook help you in your studies? How?
  2. Could Facebook provide a platform for you to manage your time? How?
  3. Could Facebook be dangerous? Why or why not?
So far my reply is still in "awaiting moderation" while others have appeared. So I repeat it here:
The Facebook Terms of service under section 4.5 clearly state:
"You will not use Facebook if you are under 13."
Since P5 students are ALL below 13 I find it very inappropriate to make Facebook the subject of homework other than explaining the reasons why there is an age limit and what are the ramifications of violating the "terms of service" (e.g. in opposite to violating a law). I know that the age stated on a P5 student's birth certificate often vastly differs from his "facebook age", but what students do in their pastime is one thing, what is subject of their studies another.
stw
I'm curious if my original comment will appear there.
Update: The comment is now visible, kudos to the teacher for accepting publicly visible critique.

27/03/2011

Debug your Internet

Category  
Working Internet connections are invisible. The fun starts when things are broken or somewhat broken. Then we wonder: is DHCP and NAT working, does the DNS do what it should, are all service ports open etc. Berkeley University's ICSI provides the Netalyzr tool to have a closer look at your connection. So make yourself familiar and run Netalyzr. The test results for my Starhub MaxOnline Express (16 GB in my dreams) were quite revealing:
Netanalyzer results for MaxOnline Express
So Starhub is meddling with the DNS, doesn't get Proxy right, filters content (mandated by the government for a handful internet sites), provides a slow DNS and needs a lesson on caching and buffering. I wonder how Singtel would fare.

07/01/2011

SpeedTest

Category  
To see what your ISP has in store for you SpeedTest and PingTest provide the measurements you are looking for. All the shiny web2.0 applications are less vulnerable to speed bumps but to latency since they make small calls but a lot of them. While the local figures for Starhub, my current ISP, look close to the advertised speed, latency and international speed leave wanting. SpeedTest measurement
SpeedTest measurement
PingTest measurement
PingTest measurement
PingTest measurement
Starhub doesn't fare well for their mobile access speed in Justin Lee's field test known as #sgtelcotest. So back to SingTel?

03/01/2011

Timex Ironman Sleek 150

Category  
My favorite workout actually is swimming. Since the Polar FT80 doesn't count laps and its button shouldn't be pressed in water I was looking for an alternative. Turns out the Timex Ironman Sleek 150 fits the bill. With its large display it is easy to read under water

and its TAP technology allows for a buttonless operation. The reviews were rather mixed to negative but I tried it anyway based on a recommendation from the sales guy at House of Times who I regard as competent (and savy: he can repair watches - I watched him doing that). It turns out the "tap" rather needs to be a distinct "peg" under water (pegging onto glass surfaces is all the rage these days isn't it). Force and speed to get a lap counted are stable, so once I got used to it operation is as designed and as expected. The large numbers make a huge positive difference. I love it. Now I only need to get back to my 19" for 1000m breast as I swam them at university days.

03/01/2011

Polar FT80 Customer Service

Category  
I'm using a Polar FT80 watch when working out to monitor my heart rate and training progress. I like it a lot since it allows me to upload training results to Polar Personal Trainer to keep track. When Polar released the Mac version of the upload software I finally could upgrade the S10 Netbook to Ubuntu.


Unfortunately my firmware was to old, so I gave the unit to Polar's service center in Singapore via the shop where I bought it "House of Times" in Orchard road. Something went wrong with the upgrade so I wrote an angry eMail to Polar support. Less than an hour later I got a reply with a mobile number and the name of the service person who would look into my problem. So I brought the unit back. After a short check he told me, that he has to send the unit back and that it will take some days. The "some days" to my pleasant surprise turned out to be 4 only (with new year in between!) and I could collect the unit today. He wasn't around when a staff handed me the phone back. Half an hour later he called, apologized that he wasn't around and asked if I'm satisfied with the result of the repair - which was free of charge. What a pleasant customer service experience.

15/10/2010

Teaching - Singapore style

Category   
As an "engaged parent" I spend some time with the teachers from CHS to understand how teaching in Singapore works and what's in store for their eLearning initiative. Last year Singapore's Ministry of Education (MOE) decided to roll out Google Apps for Education for the teachers. When I see my gentlemen working they log into Google docs too. However task assignement and full utilization seems to lack. So I got the, very approchable CHS teachers to explain how learning in Singapore works:
Cascading learning in Singapore
The MOE defines the curriculum to be covered by the schools for Primary and Secondary Education and so on. It also breaks that curriculum down into the years (nicely referenced in this booklet) and also publishes (AFAIK only for teacher consumption) a break down into 40 module recommendations how to structure a learning year. I really like their syllabus section for the richness of content, but would love if that information would be available in machine consumable formats (DocBook, DITA, XML etc.) so individual learning items could be cross referenced.
Armed with the 40 module recommendations and the list of approved text books the teachers of each school coordinated by their respective head of department devise the various learning units and how to deliver them (duration, teaching and interaction methods). The individual teacher then breaks out assignments that might be eLearning modules, delivered in class, teamwork or classical homework. It is then up to the student to deliver while the teacher tracks and grades the results.
An learning solution that improves the learning delivery needs to tie back into this flow. Ultimately MOE will need to go ahead and turn the curriculum into something that can be deep linked. Currently MOE is working with Jotterlab to provide eLearning for the schools. They plan to start with the new school year with a pilot. You can follow them on Twitter or keep updated on their blog. I'm curious how they will incorporate modern learning sources like the Khan Academy, The Open Textbook Repository, cK12 Flexbooks or COSTP (There are many more, I'll cover them in due time). Also interesting will be how they include the Singapore Tuition Industry and stack up against their competitors like Grokit.

26/09/2010

VPost needs more attention to security details

Category   
I'm using vPost, a service by Singapore's postal service to ship stuff I oder online. vPost provides me with an US, European and Japanese shipping address, so I can take advantage of free "local" shipping or get stuff from vendors that don't ship overseas. After a few teething problems the service works reasonable well, I can recommend it in general. You have to compare shipping rates from the vendor since vPost might not always be the cheapest option. However vPost needs to pay more attention to security. They have the basics right and use https on all their site, so that's OK. They also leverage on "Verified by Visa" that uses one-time tokens via SMS to secure transactions. The improvements needed are after you enter your credit card details and hit next:
vPost securit challenges
  1. The credit card number is displayed in full (other sites only show a few digits). So someone peeking over the shoulder can note it (same applies to the expiry date)
  2. The security code is displayed. It shouldn't be shown AT ALL.
  3. Being security concious (and not liking tracking cookies) I don't allow cookies from other websites. VPost requires me to lower my security standards. I'm sure that could be avoided
Some work to be done.

13/07/2010

eLearning day at Catholic High School

Category
Yesterday some schools in Singapore conducted an eLearning day including Catholic High School where my boys are attending P4. The eLearning day's purpose was to gather experience how school can continue if access to a school campus isn't feasible (natural disaster or an epidemic like SARS or Swine flu). The boys suspected rather different motives for the date set:"They just don't want us to see tired teachers since they were up all night watching the world cup finals" (In German we would say to such a statement: Kindermund tut Wahrheit kund <g>). Working from home I rather curiously watched how that eLearning would work. It became very obvious that this day was very experimental. On one side that is good. Only through experimentation experience can be build to find the right mix for optimum performance. On the other side the way the tools were used was utterly inadequate for a comprehensive eLearning experience. All teachers by now should have access to a gMail account and Google docs. The students access their learning materials through the Lead portal, which is also linked to Google docs and their schools website. I made the following observations:
  • The website didn't cope well with the load and some alternative access had to be given. Having not prepared for the estimated load is bad, but remedial actions like notifying via SMS for the alternate access worked well
  • Tasks arrived in many ways: some were posted on blogs, some on the school website, some were emailed. All in all it felt quite messy. I would expect an integrated homework assignment system that works for students every day
  • Submission of completed work items, unsurprisingly was messy too. Some teachers required the documents to be emailed back, some wanted a form based on Google spreadsheets to be filled
  • There was a total format mess. Everything could be found: PDF, Doc, PNG. Very messy to process, especially when you are on a Mac without MS Office. I taught Ernest how to download files and then re-import them into Google docs
  • There was no real eLearning at all. All the tasks were file representations from worksheets that used to be paper handouts in class. Big disappointment there
  • None of the tasks were collaborative. Everything was solitary: complete your assignment and be done with
  • The sharing facility of Google docs wasn't used. Instead eMails were used to share documents. Did MOE miss something when opting for Google docs? Training eventually?
  • Teachers were not available for chat to ask questions or discuss results. I would have expected at least Google chat or an active bulletin board. While we (I live here 10 years, so I think it is OK for me to speak of "people of Singapore" as we) pride ourselfs with a world class network infrastructure I can understand that in a first of such events video and voice chat was out. In contrast on a recent team assignment Ernest and his school buddy happily chatted away on Skype video chat (but 1:1 video is much easier than catering to a whole class and many of them concurrently)
  • The LEAD portal has a Windows dependency for a series of functions. So no iPad for the gentlemen anytime soon
I'm sure these topics will be brought up in a de-briefing (at least I hope so). So what would I change?
  • Improved Homework and task assignment and submission. Preparing for a digital world the schools should adopt such a system for general use, not just for the eLearning day. It also would ease the teachers' task of tracking who has submitted an assigned task and who has not. A good starting point could be the applications listed at schoolforge.net, OS4ED, OSEF, EduTech (University of Geneva), EduCause or Wikipedia (also here)
  • More collaborative task to learn teamwork. E.g. a task could be split into 2 where one part is to obtain information from a peer and interpret/analyse it
  • Back channel: eLearning without chat/chat room is incomplete
  • Full use of Google documents (I like LotusLive's collaborative editor better, but that's not what the schools bought) instead of emailing stuff around. No more use of other formats. This also would include reformatting work for use as electronic documents rather than files that only look good when printed
  • Material that is better suited for eLearning and properly managed. Maybe Moodle would be a good start. Of course creating good eLearning materials is hard and creating dual use material even more.
  • Mobility enabled content: works on Android, i[Touch|Phone|Pad|Mac], Linux tablets

12/07/2010

Leaders of the fee world

Category
Basic salary is a very crude measure to gauge total perks for elected politicians, but its a number easy to compare. Especially compare to the countries GDP per person. India's Manmohan Singh's base salary is pretty much in line with India's GDP per person and the lowest in a recent comparison by the Economist. On the other end are South Africa, Indonesia and Singapore (and Kenia, if the salary increase would have been accepted). Impressive figures:

What would be interesting is to see a table with 3 columns: Base salary, total perks (including seats on boards etc.), personal wealth. And of course a small country need to pay their leaders well. After retiring from a political job, there isn't that much else to do. Just ask MM why he sticks around.

18/06/2010

Singapore's Citizen Inbox

Category  
On June 15, 2010 the Straits Times published an article cheekily titled 'G' mail for all govt e-mail. From the article:

" SINGAPORE residents will each get a personal online mailbox in two years' time to receive their mail from the Government and public agencies.

Mail such as tax statements, reminders to renew TV licences and bills for service and conservancy charges will be sent to this Internet mailbox.
"

I think that is a terrific idea for citizen services and a good example for clever marketing (I'll explain why). In the comments people lambast about stealing of identity, not-another-mailbox and hacking and viruses. I think they all get it wrong. Reading the article a little further we learn: "People can log into the mailbox using their SingPass ID as well as register online to get e-mail and SMS alerts for new mail.". So what exactly is happening here? My take:
  • Somebody did some serious thinking how to bring Citizen service to the next level. I like the idea and I hope the implementation is as bold as the idea itself. The OneInbox is the place where all Government - Citizen interaction takes place. Government interaction requires forms, so a classical eMail won't do. Government interaction is confidential so SMTP, POP etc. won't do. Regular users are overwhelmed when it comes to eMail security as encryption and signatures. The typical approach would be to build a G2C portal and let users interact with it. But "Portal and interactions" sounds complicated and scary to non technical people. So the brains behind the initiative call that Portal an Inbox. Everybody understands Inbox.
  • It won't be an eMail system - the sentence "register to get eMail and SMS alerts" gives it away. Why on earth would I want an eMail alert for an incoming eMail. So forget about sending a message to Auntie Joanne (that's what the other gMail is for). And that is OK.
  • It uses a well established Single SignOn (SingPass). I expect that in a future iteration SingPass will either use Singapore's Smart-ID chip or some biometrics (which is already stored in our ID card records), so it will be better than the arbitrary name/password of other online systems. Also it efficiently allows to click from you Inbox to the specialized applications of the respective ministries.
  • The plan seems to allow that government applications deposit just a notification to the inbox or ever surface their entire UI there depending on the readiness of the respective application. This nicely allows for incremental improvement and deeper and deeper integration. In IBM we call such an approach SOA.
  • The absence of normal eMail functions is a big security plus. No Viagra or body part size changing message can be used as an attack vector into that inbox. It is strictly public business
Of course questions need to be answered: Is SingPass secure enough, is privacy guaranteed (we don't have privacy laws here, so that actually might not be a topic) and is the user experience well balanced? For my part: I'm happy to gain a single stop for my government dealings.

11/11/2009

Gifted Education, Social Computing, Decisions and Mr Wang

Category
My son Ernest passed the selection test for Singapore's Gifted Education Program (GEP). Being German I value education very highly and I'm rather critical of Singapore's pressure cooker type of education system. Aware of the potential partisan view on it I started sourcing for experience and opinions about the GEP. After all I had to negotiate with Ernest about his future and insisting on objective criteria is a corner stone of principled negotiation. Family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances are obvious sources besides "Auntie Google". Reflecting about SIngapore's education I remembered that Gilbert Koh, a.k.a Mr. Wang had blogged about his viewpoints regarding education numerous times, resonating well with my own view points. So I dropped him a note (for experts in communication matters the sentence reveals, that I'm a Lotus Notes user) asking for his opinion. In best web2.0 manners Gilbert congratulated Ernest in his blog, attracting quite some comments and notified me about the entry. Guess I'll pick up that habit and add a button to my inbox "reply by blog".
Ernest is quite uneasy to leave his current classmates behind, but seems to be attracted to the advertised "fun and games" type of learning. I'll try to get Anthony into the same school and eventually into the same program, he didn't miss the mark too much.

30/09/2009

Quick note to Singapore's design, carpenter and construction companies

Category
Take note: this is the 21st century. If you want business update your YellowPages listing with an eMail address. Go and fix your websites: if all that is on your homepage is one piece of flash no searchengine will find you - and yes that high paid executive looking for you on her iPhone won't see you either.

26/12/2007

Boxing Day - Chinese Edition

Category  
Merry Christmas and a happy new year to all of you!

Our boxing day will start of as "Chinese Boxing" day, commonly also known as Wushu. About a year ago I signed Anthony and Ernest up for a Wushu class at our community center. When filling in the form Ernest challenged me: "Daddy what is it about that role model thing?". He got me there. So I asked the lady attending to us what the age limit for the lessons would be. "Seven and above" was her answer. I smiled: "OK, sign me up". She was puzzled: "But sir, they are all children!". I replied: "I'm a child at heart, so I'll be fine". So I ended up with 15 short ones and a teacher half my age. With a big smile I greeted him: "Lao she hao". Lao in Chinese means "old". The course turned out to be great fun and after a while more parents and finally unrelated adults joined in, so we are a fully mixed troupe now.
So far our training was limited to once a week on Sunday evening 7:30-9:30pm (yep, I don't travel on Sundays anymore). Today we are leaving for our first training camp. Two and a half days end to end training in technique, strength, endurance and fun. The goalpost is set.

17/06/2007

Tony Buzan Power Learning Camp in Singapore

Category
I'm pleading guilty of a mild infection with Singapore's education enrichment fever. Since I'm a big fan of Mindmaps, I though giving the kids a head start and let them learn about the mindmaps from the master himself. So I signed them up for the "Power Learning Camp" with the snappy tag line "let your child be trained in Buzan Learning Techniques". I was expecting the use of mindmaps throughout the course since they were introduced on the second day. The agenda had also math topics and I was curious how Mindmaps would help in math skills.

10/02/2007

Moving house

Category
Most bags/boxes are packed, we are ready to go.
A picture named M2
Reconnect broadband might take a week.

19/11/2006

Home automation confusion

Category

Being a real geek I want a home that reacts to my voice (Enterprise anyone). So I started looking around what the state of the art in home automation is. Confusing is a mild expression what I found out there. There are many different standards and philophies available in the market. The good folks at Futurehomes helped me to bring light (pun intended) to the darkness of my knowledge. I finally settled on a combination of PLC Bus and X10.

Anthony and Ernest were quite exited, that they could switch on and off the lights in their room (we used the Sleeping-time-moon and the Story-telling-spotlight as gunea pigs). She-who-must-be-obeyed murmured something along the lines of "Boys and their toys". So some convincing needs to be done there.

Lessons learned so far:

  • Check carefully what system you want to use: does it have all the components / functions you are looking for (get a white-paper with good questions)
  • Components from different manufacturers have different abilities. E.g. the RF receiver from Marmite can be addressed from the RF remote and the X10 bus. A competitive product (forgot the name) from China can't be addressed from the bus.
  • Start bottom to top: first play with modules you plug into a regular socket then move on to installed components (which your certified installer will install for you)
  • Once all devices work (switch on/off, dim etc.) move on to the fun part: plan scenarios
  • Devices that can be reconfigured with a push of a button make a great game: randomly reconfigure them and let the kids figure out which light is triggered by a specific button
  • Get a phone and a PC module to control it further (have good passwords once you connect to the outside)
I haven't settled on the PC software to use. Homesser is for sure a candidate. However I'm looking into Linux based stuff (could I get that running on a Linksys router ?) just for the fun of it.
Stay tuned for updates.

05/11/2006

Furniture, Moving and Google

Category
Next Thursday we have our first appointment with HDB to finalize the purchase of our new apartment. In about 2 month we will move. Until then all renovation works has to be awarded, a mover has to be picked and new furniture procured. Quite a lot of work besides a busy travel schedule (no I don't think home decoration is the sole domain of she-who-must-be-obeyed). So our living room table is covered by a lot of home decoration and renovation magazines and brochures.
Since I would like to have some custom made furniture we also started to talk to carpenters, only to realize, that they have a tough time to understand my not-so-usual ideas. So I started hunting for a tool to visualize my ideas and found this little gem courtesy of Google.
A picture named M2
So it looks like Anthony and Ernest will get their new play-sleep-hide-store beds after all.

03/11/2006

Singapore in a Song: We live in Singapura

Category

Some of the passages in the song require local knowledge to be appreciated. A little background: The video was recorded at the Singapore parliament. The artist Mr. Brown produced during the recent general elections the "persistently non political podcast" since the government would have required registration and a permit for any political podcast. Episode 6 was the most famous of them all mocking some election incidents: Political aspirant, Jeff Lopez, the Man and His Ideas*, goes for lunch. And finds himself embroiled in a controversy focuses the spotlight on his very integrity and credibility. This audio podcast does not contain "persistent political content" because that is prohibited during the election period under the Singapore's Election Advertising Regulations.
Remember, prison got no broadband!




*
"The Man and His Ideas" is a subtitle of a Lee Kuan Yew biography. LKY is Singapore's founding überfather.

25/05/2006

Meeting Mr. Wang

Category
As mentioned before Mr. Wang bakes good karma is one of my favourite Singapore bloggers. Today we had lunch, since we both felt putting a face and a voice behind the mutual respect gained from blogging is a nice thing to do. Indeed very nice it was. We chatted about a wide variety of topics ranging from work, books, spirituality, politics to blogging. I asked him, whether the journalists that are "featured" in his blog are unhappy with him. I wasn't surprised, when he told me, that he knows quite a lot of them personally. Unfortunately I only had an hour to spend, since I could have listen and talked on for hours. Made my day.

25/05/2006

Fusion Pizza

Category
Living in Singapore has the clear advantage of being a melting pot of cultures. The nicest part is the fusion of food. Yesterday we went to Pizza Walker and I had a Chicken Teriyaki Pizza. It looked a little odd to have stripes of seaweed on a pizza but it tasted quite nice. Next time I'll be more daring and have the beef Wasabi Pizza.

19/05/2006

Buying a new phone at Singtel's Hallo Shop

Category
I had my grievances with Singtel before. So heading to Singtel's Hello shop on a Friday evening 20:40 (twenty minutes before they close) didn't seem like a good idea to conclude an relaxed Thai dinner. Anyway Ida needed a phone replacement and we didn't find time during the week. When you browse Singtel's store you keep remarkably undisturbed. Undisturbed to a point where you could call it neglected. There were a lot of phones on display and a rather pathetic kiosk system that didn't really help to narrow down choices. Anyway if you want to make a transaction to get a queue ticket and have to wait for the counter to call you up.
So we picket a ticket and were browsing the selection while waiting. Hint to Singtel: make it less confusing and provide a phone finder: select a model and show where it is exhibited. Also provide some good find and comparison features.
When it was our turn a young woman (salesman 8190) attended to us. She first asked if we already had a model in mind. Since this wasn't the case she helped us to narrow down the choices based on criteria she established with a few easy questions: No more Samsung (the 2 year old Samsung couldn't even associate pictures with numbers), flat design - no clamshell, good camera, 3G, big numbers and small enough to fit into Ida's hands. She used a external website (seems Singtel's own wasn't as feature rich) to compare various models. She even discussed upcoming models with us to make sure, that it wouldn't make sense just to wait a little longer. Once we narrowed our choice to 3 models she actually got 3 boxed with the original phones, so Ida could weight them and feel the keys and balance. There was quite some price span in the models, so one would expect the more expensive models would get all the praise. Not here. The sales girl used solely our criteria to match it to the phones regardless of price.
We settled on a Nokia 6280 in black. Once it was decided, despite the fact that we were well beyond closing time, she made the effort to copy all phone book entries from the Samsung (which would let go of entries only one by one) to the Nokia.
What a pleasant shopping experience. Can backoffice and support please take note?

18/05/2006

Redesigning your Intranet

Category
Redesigning your Intranet The Arkgroup is hosting the 3rd Re-desing your Intranet conference in Singapore. I'm speaking on "Social Software for your Intranet".

07/05/2006

Singapore election result reporting

Category
Hastily stiched together, not tested properly. When you read this is might be fixed.
A picture named M2
PHP = Potential Harzardous Programming?
(For comment trolls: I don't think it is a question of language, but of mindset and process)

02/05/2006

Wild Wild Wet

Category
While China shuts down for a whole week to celebrate workers day, Singapore like most of Europe enjoys one day off (only). Messrs. Ernest and Anthony convinced us to spend the day at Wild Wild Wet. It is a theme park around water featuring slides, a wave pool, splashes and water rides. The theme park belongs to the National Trade Unions Congress (NTUC) of Singapore, the main union here. It looks to me like more like a social or benefit club running supermarkets, theme parks, resorts, insurance and -- I nearly forgot -- doing union work. NTUC is a child of the approach to development in Singapore. Instead of confronting corporations the unions make sure, that the dollar earned goes the extra mile.
We had a jolly good time with all the rides, despite the fact that a few were strictly off limits for Anthony and Ernest. To ensure the rougher rides are taken only by older kids (there were no grown ups there, at least after the first ride everybody was a kid again) a simple height measurement is taken. Below 1.2m the very long tunnel slides are out of reach. Anthony and Ernest vowed to add the missing 7 and 8cm until next time . Being a curious kid I tried the ride: Is is a dark purple tube that is entirely closed. The height from start to landing point is about 12 meters and it is winding like a garden hose in all directions. After the first few meters there is a sharp turn right and downwards and I was enclosed in complete darkness. I think I have a mild case of claustrophobia. My pulse started to accelerate and I wasn't sure if I should hold my breath or scream. It felt like a rerun of the birth channel: going down, longing for the light and not knowing how long it will take. After a few seconds it was over but it left a huge pile of thought to chew on. I'll see the bench for it soon.
When we came back home, Ernest uttered the quote of the day: "Look daddy, there seems to be Gong Fu lessons near our block now". He was referring to the election advertisement of the PAP someone had dropped at our doorstep with a picture of the candidates all dressed in white. More on the election at another day.

01/05/2006

Singapore's elections

Category
Our general election is coming up next Saturday. As an permanent resident I'm neither eligible to vote nor to be elected. This doesn't seem too much a loss to me, since the outcome is quite predictable. Since Singapore's independence the Peoples Action Party (PAP) under the reign of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has won every election so far, it is quite sure that they will win this time again. This year they announced to run for a clean sweep: they want to will all of the 84 seats in parliament (they held 82 before). Around election time, it is not uncommon, that opposition politicians face libel suits (that would both deprive them from funds and the right to stand in an election). The mainstream press has been accused to biased in favour of the government, (political) video and podcasting has been banned during elections, hot election topics become part of a law suite (so it becomes an offence to blame anybody) and senior politicians threaten voters that the executive (which should be apolitical by definition) would neglect them once they vote for the opposition. Also the opposition is not very strong in numbers, they can't field a team to contest all 84 seats.
No wonder that besides a low record on press freedom, Singapore doesn't score well on the Asia Democracy Index either.
Nevertheless, it seems this election seems to get a little more interesting than before:
First of all, for the first time since 1988 the opposition fields enough candidates to contest more than half of the seats, so the PAP didn't return to power on nomination day (which is only a few days before the elections to shorten the campaign time, which otherwise could dent Singapore's productivity). The opposition dares to contest the electorate run by the prime minister The team is young and unknown, so any vote for them rather counts as a vote of no confidence for the incumbent prime minister Lee Hsien Long (son of Lee Kuan Yew --- anybody thinking it could be this, better gets ready for a libel suit). But the most surprising fact, since very little is found in our local press: the opposition seems to enjoy quite some support. The famous Singapore Blogger Yawning Bread reports from a rally of the opposition Worker's Party in Hougang. He estimates up to 100000 people might have attended this event. That would be quite a number for Singapore. I wasn't aware of it until Mr. Wang mentioned it.
Wasn't it an old Chinese curse? "May you live in interesting times!"

24/04/2006

Blogging to resume soon - bits and pieces

Category
Getting assimilated into IBM takes a lot of my attention right now. I've been presenting on Lotusphere comes to you in Manila and Singapore and managed to get Ed for a usergroup session in Singapore. The group was very pleased with what Ed had to say and his session was the only one where they asked questions (we are shy in this part of the world <g>).
Tomorrow we are all travelling to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian session.
Last week I had my initiation session to IBM values. IBM's corporate motto hasn't changed since Watsons time and is simple, clear and to my liking: Think!
Stay tuned.

13/04/2006

About religion and spirituality

Category
One of my favorite Singapore bloggers is Mr. Wang who "bakes good karma". I like his fine ironic and well pointed style. Today he muses about spirituality, religion and the small mind. It could be a pice of mine, if I would posess the same power of expression. In a nutshell he says: "The problem, as I see it, is that the human mind is unwilling to accept uncertainty ... Some people would rather die (literally) than ...  to consider the alternative idea." Seems good Mr. Wang and I share the Buddhas view: "Work on you on salvation. Do not depend on others" (and don't impose your view on them)

31/03/2006

If you love somebody, set them free

Category
After some teasing and cryptic thoughts, here the conclusion. Linus Torvald said it in his keynote address during 1999' Lotus DevCon: "If you love somebody, set them free". I put in a lot of work in TAO Consulting over the last 6 years and it is time to set it free. Ms. Ida Cheong will take over as Managing Director, Pitt will run the Notes consulting arm, Dr. Magaret Tan continues the Business consulting, Christoph Schaaf will cover UMsys. The position for a sales director has three hot candidates (more once its closed). We recently signed partner agreements with eWorkplace and CPUSoft to resell our products, so expect more activities there. If you want to have your product represented in SE-Asia talk to the good folks at TAO.

And I? Well think Rock, think Bob

I will be the LTPA ....

27/03/2006

Hello Singnet, ever heard of RFC2142?

Category
There is a document called RFC2142. This RFC defines some standard email addresses every provider is supposed to implement monitor and attend to. Names like hostmaster, abuse etc. You would expect, that a very big provider would implement them to be a good net-citizen. Not so here:


Dear Stephan H. Wissel,

Emails sent directly to our mailbox are no longer attended to with
immediate effect. Please use the online form at
http://www.singnet.com.sg/tou/misc/ia_incidentreport.asp to submit your
Internet Abuse Incident Report.

For more information on Internet Security, please visit our website at
http://www.singnet.com.sg/tou/security.asp

We wish you a pleasant day ahead!


Yours sincerely,
SingNet Internet Security Team
(this is a system automated reply)

SingNet Homepage - http://www.singnet.com.sg
Internet Security - http://www.singnet.com.sg/tou/security.asp

<rant> !@#$%^&
So when you just forward a virus message nicely with all headers, so they can notify the poor soul and rescue it, you get told: no we won't help unless you accommodate our process, that is in violation of internet standards. Hhm. Time for the ICT regulators to step forward and have a nice roster of fines for negligence. An ISP should be held responsible for maleware traffic leaving their network. </rant>

26/03/2006

Sunday thoughts

Category
I did some clean-up in my paper files and realized how time flies Twenty years ago I completed my internship with IBM. I still wonder till today why they took in a law school student as intern. Ten years ago I designed the new UI for UMsys which has stood the test of time since then (of course with the help of some facial and plenty of make-up). Nine years ago I became a CLP. Eight years ago I married into the adventure of an Intercultural relationship. Six years ago I moved to Singapore, became a father and started TAO Consulting. Three years ago I spoke on my first public conference. Last year I spoke for the first time on conferences in Iran, Vietnam, Pakistan and China. Two month ago I spoke for the first time on Lotusphere.
More first time events are ahead. Stay tuned.

23/03/2006

Big news ahead

Category
On a personal note: Big changes and new exitement ahead. Updates soon here, tune in next week.

10/03/2006

Volunteering at Northland Primary School

Category
Singapore's educational system is modelled after the British one. Actually is modelled by  the British. So we have primary schools, secondary schools, college and universities (and a few other things). Schools compete with each other and put a huge effort in branding themselves (mostly with bright students and good Alumni connections). Back in Germany the Primary Schools don't do that and you simply go to the nearest one. So I felt a little helpless when we had to select one for Anthony and Ernest. They will go to Primary one in 2007, so selection had to be done now to be able to take the needed action.
We decided on the Northland Primary School. It has a decent reputation and is not too far away from where we stay. Admission to the school is regulated by a (at least for me) confusing set of rules about school distance, siblings in school, Alumni connection and parent contribution. Since we just live outside the 1km circle of practically sure admission we had to opt for scheme 2b. That means voluntary work of the parents. This doesn't guarantee admission, but increases the chances.
Until today all of the hours have been contributed by my wife. Today was my turn. The school was organizing a sports day with many station where the students had to exercise. My station was basketball. So 300 kids had 3 turns each to score. Balls were flying in all directions and I had fun doing 900 times catch the ball and throw it back. I definitely can skip my gym session tonight. There might be photos up on the parent volunteers website.

03/03/2006

To the gentlemen (?) who use story?OpenForm on my blog

Category
I'm generally open to have guest entries here. However it would be a clever idea to ask me instead of trying to log in. The IPs are logged, so I can find out who you are.
Special note to the Singaporean subset of you. Can you spell Computer Misuse Act?

I'm not amused.

21/02/2006

What I do

Category

The running joke goes "If you can't explain to your mom, what you are doing for a living, you must work in IT". The not so funny side is, that I do have difficulties to explain my bandwidth. Typical dialogues go: "So you are a programmer". "Hhm, yes I code software, but I also design it". "So you are a designer". "I also do architecture, requirements and usability". "So you are a project manager?" "Only if I have too, I'm more like an architect and coach". "Ah a coach - what sports?" "The sport of team work in software development".......
and so on.
I was long pondering to write an article what I really do (best). Today I came across a post from James Shore, which I mostly could copy:
"I'm James Shore and I make my living providing good advice to good companies. Have a software development team and think I might help? Give me a call and we'll find out."  and "I provide full-service consulting."
Other than James I'm not into Scrum but Crystal Clear. Crystal Clear works well with Notes and Domino, which I love. However I developed and coached in SAP, Java, .NET, xForms and XML. It's the team not the tools that matter in the first place. My credentials are less impressive than James (asides from winning APICTA awards two years in a row). Nevertheless, buzz me if your projects need a boost.  

20/02/2006

Where I stay

Category
The red circle, 4th floor. On the left side the blue and purple roofs are a primary and secondary school. The red roofs a little to the right is next to the 7eleven, the market and the coffeeshop. The line on the far right are the MRT (our public transport) tracks. The red roof right is the station.

A picture named M2
(Image reporduced without any permission)

07/01/2006

Hotels in Singapore

Category
When you stay in Singapore, both as a resident or a visitor hotels are an integrated part of daily live. While it is obvious for visitors, it is also true for residents. A lot of training and sales events happen there. Also it is quite common to meet in a hotel lobby or the restaurant for a business meeting. My weekly meeting of my Rotary club is in a hotel (the Regent) too. Hotels also offer weekend deals for Singaporeans who want to escape the life in their HDB flat for a while. Have you ever booked a room for yourself in the city you live? So it is no surprise, that we have a lot of them. The bigger chains (Marriott, Hilton etc.) are world class and not really local - you could easily take the building and put it into any other city without noticing it. Our local flagship is the Raffles Hotel. This is a truly local one with a very authentic colonial building. In its long bar the famous Singapore Sling was invented (only 2 get served per person, since you are supposed to still walk by yourself). Unfortunately also the prices are world class too and you can spend USD 2000 or more a night for the best suites in the house. If that is a little above your budget but you would like to stay in an authentic place you can look for boutique hotels. My favourite is Perak Hotel in the middle of Little India and close to the city core. Their rates start as US 55++ and you have a very private atmosphere. The Hotel has been converted from an old shop house, so you stay will be as authentic as it can get here. So when you stop by here, give them a try (unless you want to stay on our guest mattress to experience a HDB sleep over <vbg>).
Did I mention, that their booking page is powered by Domino? <g>.

24/12/2005

Merry Christmas!

Category
Happy XMas
It is Christmas and not "the festive season". Events have names and shouldn't be blurred in meaningless summary terms. For my part I'll stick with "Happy Christmas", "Selamat Hari Raja", "Happy Hanukah" and "Happy Deepa Vali". And I do miss the snow.

23/12/2005

A drug free tomorrow

Category

There has been a lot of press about Singapore's dealing (pun intended) with drugs. Today I had a chance to look at the other side. The Central Narcotics Bureau has a set of ongoing activities to prevent you from getting started on drug use.

Together with Adamsapple they started an animation competition for schools and tertiary education about drug prevention. I was invited to be on the panel of judges to rate the competition entries. We had a look at the entries in three categories: primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary education. Judgement criteria were items like: story line, visual apperance, clear message, creativity and innovativeness.

It was refreshing to see how clearly the students saw the issues that lead to drug addiction (at least here): stress & pressure, curiosity, peer pressure, personal difficulties, social context were clearly mapped out. Being Singapore a recurring theme was the risk of being imprisoned. One entry however, which I liked best, highlighted the self responsibility as core of a drug free life.

20/09/2005

1.5B SGD outsourcing contract

Category

IDA our Infocom regulator is working on a 1.5B SGD (about 891M USD / 733M EUR) outsourcing deal. They will define a Standard ICT operating environment (SOE), that will be the mandatory desktop environment for all government agencies/ministries/stat boards except the Ministry of Defence, which travelled down the Linux desktop road and are a lost cause/beacon of hope (depending on your view).
From the press release: S$1.5 billion worth of IT tenders to be called will be for a Standard ICT Operating Environment (SOE) project which the Government is going to embark on. The SOE comprises a standard desktop environment and a standard network environment. Examples of components to be standardised are desktop operating system and desktop management tool. "A Standard ICT Operating Environment will greatly enhance the operating efficiency in government. It will reduce the time needed to deploy new ICT services in government, improve our ability to respond to ICT security threats, and most importantly, make it easier to operate and maintain our desktops and networks," said Mr Chan Yeng Kit, CEO of IDA at Industry Briefing 2005.
(It also will allow attackers to sweep all public sector sites once they found a loophole). The interesting twist: the ministries run their own backbones, only the desktops are standardized. This underlines the perception, that desktops (in terms of operation and software) are a commodity now. The contract will sport a "pay per use" model with the government unloading IT assets to the successful contractor and renting them back.
The tender hasn't been published yet, but you can safely bet, that the knifes are out and the fight is on: what will be the office application (my bet: MS Office), the mail environment (My bet: Lotus Notes), the OS (My bet: XP, Vista and a flavour of Linux). The battle is on for: will there be a .net framework, a JVM (which one?). The Eclipse RCP? Java webstart? What browser? I'm wondering how the outsourcing contract will be structured to allow for flexibility and optimization. Catering to individual needs is typically opposite to the economic interest of the outsourcing company, thus a huge risk of missed productivity increases exist. Or is the era of the desktop tools over (at least here), new applications will run in a browser and Microsoft truly lost the API war?  

14/09/2005

Meeting Scott McNealy

Category
Scott McNealy graced Singapore with his presence on invitation of IDA. He was all the rave about building communities. In a hit to Microsoft he stated: "If you give the 75% of the not connected people a Wintel box that consumes 250 watts a pop you will have global warming at it's best".
His key message for Java's tenth anniversary was: Compatibility, Community, Volume and Value.
Through all his presentation he was poking fun on Microsoft creating laughter in the audience.
SUN started GELC as a global education initiative to bridge the digital divide, interesting concept. Microsoft was not the only one to be poked fun on by Scott, IBM and OpenSource got their share too. He blamed IBM to make IT so complicated, so professional service can generate revenue and OpenSource to be freewheeling lucky go easy unreliable stuff. He advocated to step back and review if it does make sense to have customized IT infrastructure. His point is, that standardized components would be more efficient. He reminded, that cost is not only acquisition cost and operational cost, but also exit cost. Only open standards will keep exit costs low. Then he drifted away and dreamt of Solaris surviving and overtaking all other Unix versions a well as Linux. Scott stated SUN has one million subscribers for their enterprise system. Sounds a bit thin compared to half a billion eMail seats worldwide. And he was dreaming on envisioning: slim clients (a.k.a. smart terminals) would replace PCs since the data centre would provide the horsepower needed.
Here he has a point: power consumption becomes a huge problem and energy efficiency will be key. Scott used the opportunity to bash Dell claiming the new SUN Opteron servers are 60% more efficient, 75% smaller and half the price of a comparable Dell system.
Scott called all this opportunities "iPod moments".
I am curious how all that will work out for SUN.

P.S: This Blog entry is created life during his speech.

12/09/2005

Internet filtering in Singapore

Category
The University of Toronto, Harvard Lawschool and the University of Cambridge jointly run the OpenNet Initiative.
From their objective: "The ONI mission is to investigate and challenge state filtration and surveillance practices. Our approach applies methodological rigor to the study of filtration and surveillance blending empirical case studies with sophisticated means for technical verification. Our aim is to generate a credible picture of these practices at a national, regional and corporate level, and to excavate their impact on state sovereignty, security, human rights, international law, and global governance."
Their latest research paper sheds a light on Internet filtering in Singapore. In a nutshell: filtering does barely happen on a technical level but mostly in the heads of people. There are some compelling reasons for this "scissors in the head", but read for yourself.

29/08/2005

Linux Desktop

Category
The best of all my wifes is changing jobs, so she has to return the corporate PC. Until she might get a new one I have to provide access.
Earlier trials with unconventional computing (we tried mobile Firefox/Thunderbird on a memorystick) have shown, that she has a hand getting around.
So we decided to put her on Linux. The big question now which one: Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Suse, Knoppix, AsiaNux or...?
Any opinion appreciated. And Yes, Wine/Notes is a must.

Update: I struggled with a number of distributions, luckily all of them provide live CDs, so the effort was download, burn, slot in the CD.
This is what I tried:
  • Inside Security Rescue CD 3.14: A Linux squeezed on a credit card CD. It can read NTFS even if XP doesn't do it anymore. It found all drives, all partitions, the right graphic card resolution etc. Since it's a rescue CD this was only a test.
  • Kubuntu 5.04: While it gets all the rave I wasn't so happy. It prompted for my graphic card, which is a show stopper for a normal user. Also I couldn't figure out how to format/mount my second harddisk. Another point of grievance: I couldn't figure out how to increase the refresh rate from 60Hz to something higher, so the screen was quite flickering. The software selection on the other hand was quite complete featuring the usual suspects: Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice and all the K* apps.
  • Ubuntu 5.04: The installation worked smoothly, no prompt for graphic card. I liked evolution. However both issues from Kubuntu (Graphic card, hard disk) remained.
  • Simply Mephis 3.3.2: Following a link from linuxdesktop I found SimplyMepis. Seduced by the praise I tried it. Quite nice: the live CD also allows you to install it on the PC. It is based on Debian/KDE. The usual suspects are there and Choi Fong uses Kontakt for eMail now. It also found all harddisks and allowed me to format the second one. Connecting to my XP machine and back works fine. After setting my monitor type to generic LCD1024x768 (in a simple menu) I could set the refresh rate to 70Hz. The only drawback I encountered so far: Getting a little adventurous I checked the box "use the original NVidia drivers". They were downloaded and screwed up the settings. The system wanted to go to 1280x1024 which made the old and trusted 15" LCD scream. I fixed that by temporarily using my 17" to reset the setting. Alternatively I could have used text mode, but my VI is still limited and Midnight Command (The Linux resurrection of Norton Commander) is not installed by default).
So far so good. I'm sure with a little more RTFM I would get all of them working properly. However I switched off most of my IT brain to make sure a NDU* could handle that. Seems Linux is getting there.
Notes/Wine installation is still pending.
*NDU = normal dumb user

17/08/2005

Singapore loves its pee!

Category
Pee is one of Singapore's big success stories. Not only that we operate a succesful water reclamation facility called NEWater. We also managed to turn pee into power for laptops or mobile phones. So you'll hear soon in the bar: "Give me another beer, so I can recharge my phone".

06/06/2005

Neighbourhood Crime Watch

Category
Ernst Wissel sen
Last week I got invited to patrol with our local Neighbourhood Crime Watch team. There was a time where I was rather the type of person such a team would look for when on patrol then for being the patrol, so I was amused. Since I'm the only Ang Mo (Hokkien for "White Man") in our block my role probably was to give the group a more multi cultural touch.
So Saturday evening we went for our round with two police officers. We checked the cleanliness of the common areas, some id cards of people having their weekend beer on the void decks and talked to some neighbours who overdid the sound- and incense- level of their worshipping.
I had a nice chat with the comity members and the officers. We even got a highlight: Seeing us approaching two migrant workers, obviously with something to hide, started running. Since crime chase is police work only the officers started to run. What a silly idea from the other guys to try to outrun a Singapore police officer, man they were fast.
Me patrolling is kind of repeating history. After world war two, when the German police force hasn't been rebuild yet, a lot of places in Germany had civil patrols. My late father used to participate in these. He pushed it further and joined the village council and even became the major for a few years.

27/03/2005

Creativity and craft - building sand castles

Category
Sand Castles
My friend Alvin Lee is "Mr Sand-Castle" He invented a toolkit to build sand-castles and teaches enables people how to use it have fun on the beach. He invited us yesterday to join him at the East Coast park for his weekly sand-castle building session. Anthony, Ernest and me gave Ida a much needed break by disappearing to the beach for the whole afternoon. It takes a child about 30 seconds to get exited about sand castles and Anthony and Ernest were carrying buckets of seawater to wet the sand, dig up big sand hills and forming towers, walls, bridges. The joining adults took 10 times longer to get into the mood, but after 5 minutes the corner of the beach looked very much like "Camelot under construction with" a lot of busy people working at something.
While I was creating my share (a mix of the great wall of China with Rome's colosseum), I realized some important facts:
  • First of all, you need to focus on what you do otherwise the sand will simply not do what you want.
  • Second, that focus comes automatically once you have the vision what you want to do. As long as you visualize your outcome the focus is there.
  • Third, you need to have the right tools and skills. Dreaming up something will stay a dream until you got the skills to make it happen. Sand doesn't care about your smart talk or powerpoint skills. When you shovel it up it will fall down in a ratio 1:4. For one meter hight you need a 4 meter base. You want to make sand behave different? Know it very well: the granularity, the moist, the density and how it reacts with your tools.
  • Forth, skills need practise. Even if you are good in concepts and theory, I won't get you anywhere. The only thing is to get your hands dirty and try, ask a master to accept your apprenticeship and practise,  practise, practise. Seems to be on the list of endangered species these days.

09/02/2005

Gong Xi Fa Cai

Category
<img src="/blog/Images/SHWL-5PEK9Z/$FILE/GongXiFaCai.gif" title=Gong Xi Fa Cai" border="0" />

07/02/2005

Buying insurance

Category
Technology is supposed to make our life easier? (Ok for the ones who fell of their chairs laughing, come back and read on). I was walking with an insurance agent through the process of filling in an application for a life insurance on the agent's laptop.

Technology wise it was very impressive. The whole application is browser based and when the agent started it up, Tomcat and a database booted up (took about 2min+). It also had a digital write pad to sign the application. I don't know if it is working, since we failed much earlier.

The application nicely showed how the internal working of the insurance is and what shortcuts were taken to get it to work. (I'm German and a Singapore Permanent Resident -- which is important further down).

First we had to fill in all particulars including my wife's and my children particulars (since they will be the beneficiaries). Part of this is the IC number (IC = Identity Card), which is basically the Primary Key for every Human in Singapore. Unfortunately we were sitting at Starbucks (Insurance agents do that a lot) and I didn't carry the birth certs of them with me.

So the application complained: IC is missing. Since the number is checksum validated filling in 000000000 wouldn't work. Bummer - end of show. If the person (architect, developer, steering committee etc.) designing the application would have gone to real client situations with their agents, they would know, that information is ALLWAYS incomplete. So kindly remarking: “This information is missing, we added and item on the checklist, you can continue now” would have been the sensible thing.

Since I’m very persistent when I want to find out about software, we simply entered my IC for my boys and could continue. The local database already had my IC, so a check was missing here. I ask myself what is more critical: an information that is missing and can be completed or false data for the sake of data entry.

We continued filling in the form and I waded through screens and screens of meaningless questionnaires. To be fair: I exactly knew what product I wanted and the agent pointed out, that is was a requirement by law, so clients are well informed before making a decision. This is kind of an improvement since on paper you can be asked to sign without event looking at the questions.

Next bummer, I was asked to fill in a foreigner questionnaire. This confused me, since PRs are treated like citizens. Questions like: Why do you want to buy insurance in Singapore, What happens if you leave Singapore etc. We finally figured out that something must be wrong when the “Legal Status” field only offered “Employment pass, Social pass etc. but not Permanent Resident”. So we canceled this questionnaire and went back to the base data.

When inspecting the form in more detail we found out that there is a nationality in the system called: “Singapore Permanent Resident”. Since I only scrolled to “G” I missed that entry. Seems like a requirement has been added and adding a new field was too complicated (like: if not defaultNationality (Singapore) show Status: PR, Employment pass etc). Happy that we found the “bug” we updated the base data, only to be prompted “Data is inconsistent” when we wanted to continue with the save application. No further explanation or suggestion was provided what can be done to fix this problem.

Guess what: I didn’t buy insurance that day!

30/12/2004

Career switch

Category
I did a little temporary career switch this week. If you can receive Singapore TV advertisement, you can spot me as skin care specialist explaining the high tech devices and services of Adonis. Shooting the commercial was fun. Today I'm back to Domino, XML and human behaviour.

20/11/2004

Fighting Pirates with a Data Center

Category
Our local newspaper featured a story about the regional efforts to curb the piracy problem. A alliance from Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines will collaborate and share information to track down and stop piracy. To coordinate the effort a new data center will be located in Singapore.

27/10/2004

I made it to the front page of our local newspaper

Category

Take out our magnifying glasses <g>. Last Sunday I went to the ground breaking ceremony of an archeological project in Singapore. As part of the ceremony they made the British High Commissioner work physically. Since seeing a diplomat work is more unlikely than hitting the jackpot, I took a closer look and ended up on the official photo on the Strait Times (our leading local newspaper). Who can spot me?
A picture named M2

21/09/2004

1898 - 2004. No more stories about fried fish.

Category
My wife's grandmother, who contributed valuable lessons about software development, decided a week ago, that she had enough. She has seen the turn of two centuries and was propelled from rural Malaysia at the beginning of last century into High Tech Singapore of today. Last week she said to us, it's time for here to go and last night she passed away. Just fell asleep for the long one with a very peaceful smile on her face.
I'll miss her lessons.

15/06/2004

Free WIFI Singapore style.

Category
This week the ComunicAsia exhibition takes place in Singapore. The exhibitors proudly announced, that they provide free WIFI access during the exhibition. All local ISP support the exercise, so I powered on my laptop and looked at the available networks. Then I learned it is "free as in beer" but not "free as in speech". The login page prompted me with user name/password and the remark that I could use my ISP's or IPASS credentials.
So happily I provided them only to be prompted, that I supplied wrong credentials. Since I'm in the trade I know what credentials are, otherwise I would feel confused. The message should have been: "Sorry I can't process your user name/password, this is what might have happened and this are your support options..."
So I went to the support desk to learn: a) The WIFI hub has hiccups due to high demand and that you need to supply a business card to be issued an user name/password. The ISP support the show, but don't provide live authentication. Fishing for customer data I would say.
stw  

09/06/2004

Protect our children from this protection!

Category
Kid Stuff

Children are now so important to this county, they're getting the red carpet treatment. Last week, it was announced that roads leading to schools are being paved red, so drivers will know to keep an eagle eye out for crossing cows, snails, kangaroos, turtles, kids and other endangered species.
Clearly, children - in the words of the DHL Megacor "you don't have to" TV commercial - don't have to learn the proper procedure for crossing roads. No more "look right, left and right again". Just cross. It's the drivers who have to learn to stop for the kids.
This is not an isolated incident. It is but the latest innovation in the nationwide urge to protect kids from everything. Just the other week, we were told it is illegal to discipline kids using "harsh, humiliating, belittling or degrading responses of any kind, the deprivation of meals, isolation and the restriction of movement."
The proper way to discipline a recalcitrant child is with dignity and firmness, clearly explaining why his or her action is wrong. This is the way to do it:

Teacher: Can you please be quite?
Student: [ignores teacher]
Teacher: You! Yes, you with the big mouth! Stop talking!
Student: You can't talk like that to me. I can report you.
Teacher: I'm sorry. I won't do it again. Can you please keep quiet, pretty please?
Student: Why?
Teacher: Because I asked you nicely.
Student: That's not a good enough reason.
Teacher: Because then I can teach you important things.
Student: They're not important to me. Try again.
Teacher: Because Confucius said you must obey your teachers.
Student: Con who? That's it - you've used up your three lives, dude.
Teacher: Yes, I understand. I'll try harder next time. I apologize for interrupting you.

What next? Guaranteed degrees, secure jobs and eternal youth?

via IS Magazine Singapore.

While this story is fun to read it also provides a flashlight how people see education here. My personal believe is: You have to make children responsible for their actions to the extend they can cope with this responsibility. This includes to be very clear and consistent about how, why and where you set the limits and how to enforce them. As The Oracle would say: "It's all about choices and consequences".  

02/04/2004

Uniquely Singapore(an)

Category
We have a new marketing campain for Singapore called "Uniquely Singapore". My local friends instantly identified it as a typo and advised me, that it should read "Uniquely Singaporean". And uniquely Singaporean means (in case that is not funny to you, come here and stay with us):
  1. Thanks to SMS, you have an extra large thumb.
  2. Tks 2 SMS, u oso dun no how 2 spel n e mor.
  3. You pat MRT and bus seats to cool them before you sit down.
  4. At lunch, you start discussing what to eat for dinner.
  5. Your wedding photos include shots of you dressed up like Louis XIV, Michael Jackson, or Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic.
  6. When speaking to foreigners, you somehow feel a need to adopt an accent. (If you’re a DJ, this happens even when you’re not speaking to foreigners.)
  7. You won’t raise your voice to protest policies, but you’ll raise your fists to whack someone over Hello Kitty.
  8. You’re forever talking about businesses you want to set up but will probably never get around to starting.
  9. You don’t know ¾ of the people attending your wedding.
  10. You separate food into 2 basic groups: ‘heaty’ and ‘cooling’.
  11. You’re never completely sure how many times you’ve sung the second verse of the National Anthem.
  12. You think that what makes you ‘married’ is not the legal registration but whether you’ve thrown a 12 course dinner.
  13. You marry for the real estate breaks.
  14. You have kids for the tax advantages.
  15. You move to where you want your child to go to school.
  16. You feel you can’t walk around naked in your own flat.
  17. You force your children to take Speech & Drama classes, but pray they won’t wind up in Arts later on.
  18. You suddenly realize you’re very interested in biotech - just like you suddenly realized three years ago that you were very interested in e-commerce, and before that, engineering, and before that, medicine and law.
  19. You think being an entrepreneur is setting up a bubble tea/Portuguese egg tart/gao luck/porridge shop right next to an existing bubble tea/Portuguese egg tart/gao luck/porridge shop.
  20. You think people are inconsiderate when they don’t leave their table immediately after eating at the food court but think you have every right to take 25 bites to finish the last red bean in your ice kachang.
  21. You find it impossible to make suggestions without drawing a fishbone chart first.
  22. If you’re a guy, whenever you get together with your guy friends, you invariably trade army stories.
  23. If you’re a girl, whenever you get together with your girl friends, you invariably trade stories about how your stupid guy friends are forever trading army stories.
  24. You think the most important sporting event in Singapore this year was David Beckham switching from Manchester United to Real Madrid.
  25. You somehow feel that food tastes better when eaten by a longkang.
  26. It actually makes a difference to you being called an ‘NSMan’ rather than a ‘Reservist’.
  27. You’ve eaten more times at the Esplanade than you’ve actually seen shows there.
  28. You need campaigns to tell you how to be courteous, to flush toilets, have sex, etc.
  29. When you visit the Zoo, you wonder what the animals taste like.
  30. You feel the urge to add the suffix ‘-polis’ to everything, viz. Biopolis, Airtropolis, Fusionopolis, Entrepolis, etc.
  31. You always feel oddly hungry at 11 pm, and are willing to drive to far away places for supper.
  32. You meet in hotels a lot.
  33. Your children have a rudimentary knowledge of Tagalog or Bahasa Indonesia.
  34. You work at McDonald’s when you’re old rather than young.
  35. You’ll gladly spend $50,000 on a car, but will go to great lengths to save a few bucks on ERP charges or even a few cents on a parking coupon.
  36. Pork floss and mayonnaise on bread is a completely natural combination to you.
  37. If you’re pregnant, you have the strange ability to make people on the MRT fall asleep instantly.
  38. You ask for the bill by miming a signing movement.
  39. You’ve started referring to foreign employees as ‘talent’ instead of ‘expatriates’.
  40. At the dinner table, you’re always discussing which other food places serve better versions of what you’re eating.
  41. You copy down licence plate numbers of cars involved in accidents.
  42. You think your boyfriend doesn’t really love you unless he gives you part of his liver.
  43. During sales, you book hotel rooms near malls to enable you to shop more efficiently.
  44. You pronounce the letter ‘R’ as ‘ah-rer’ and the letter ‘H’ as ‘haytch’.
  45. No matter how old you are, you keep associating people with their secondary schools. (alternative: No matter how old you are, you secretly need to know what other people got for their PSLE, O levels and A levels.)
  46. You’re always on a quest for the definitive version of your favourite local dish.
  47. When you explain things to people, you keep (a) using alphabets, and (b) speaking in point form.
  48. You believe that you can generate ‘creativity’ through rules and committees.
  49. You ‘chope’ a seat by placing a packet of tissues on the chair.
  50. You’re very forthright with your criticisms of the Gahmen, unless there’s a chance they might actually hear you.
  51. You diligently track the whereabouts of your favourite hawkers, i.e..you know that the famous Tiong Bahru Bao is now in Jurong, the famous Outram Char Kuay Teow is now in Hong Lim Centre and the famous Lau Hock Kien Hokkien mee from the old Lau Pa Sat is now at Beach Road.
  52. Your mother probably can’t speak your ‘mother tongue’.
  53. You’d rather drink your own pee than pay someone more for water.
  54. You secretly find that the best part of the Speak Good English Movement is hearing the Singlish bits in their ads.
  55. You have an automatic sensor in your head which categorizes people you meet into stayer/ quitter, cosmopolitan/heartlander, normal/ express/ gifted, etc.
  56. You think we’re living in a modern, sophisticated country even when our leaders still insist on wearing their school uniforms.
  57. You wish your constituency is in a walkover, because otherwise it’s damn ‘leceh’.
  58. During elections, you decide that there is no credible opposition even though you don’t know the name of the opposition candidate in your constituency.
  59. You think having a constitution is like the condition you get when you don’t eat enough fibre.
  60. You can never quite remember what “the core values” of Singaporeans are.
Via Talking cock

04/01/2004

Botanical Garden

Category

Once you become a regular of Singapore's Botanical Garden, you can discover little gems every visit. The richness of sensual variety lets your imagination run wild. As we would say in German: Ein Schelm wer bösses dabei denkt.

03/01/2004

Sembawang Park and marinated chicken

Category
Picknic
We spend the afternoon at Sembawang Park. Very much up in the north of our island it is pleasantly away from the hectic and business mind of central Singapore. You can see the coast of Johor/Malaysia and the Singapore Coast Guard performing show-off with their naval hardware (mental note: try to get a ride on one o these speed boats). We usually go there in the late afternoon where a light breeze makes the temperatures bearable (after sunset yesterday it still had 28C). Barbecue, camping facilities, a kiosk, showers and a restaurant make it a very convenient place to be. It takes us 10 min by cab or 2 stops with MRT/Bus to get there.
This time we had a classic picnic and I tried a new recipe for chicken breast:
  • You need Chicken breast for 4 persons. So 8-16 pieces, depending on the breast size and the people's stomach should do.
  • One bunch of fresh Parsley
  • 10-12 cloves of fresh Garlic
  • One to two red Chilies
  • Salt, Black Pepper, Soya Sauce
  • 1 spoon of Mustard
  • Sesame Oil and Olive Oil
  • A handful of Cranberries, I used dried ones, but resh should be OK to
Cut the Garlic, Parsley and Chilies very small with the big knife (it is important: don't use a blender and use fresh stuff). Put the mustard and salt on top. 2-3 spoon of sesame oil to start mixing it. Add 3-4 spoon of soya sauce and spices as you like (black pepper, herbs, salt). Fill up with Olive oil so you have enough substance to put your chicken breast in it. Add the cranberries. Don't be scared, its all unsaturated fat and that is OK. Put the chicken in the marinade and keep it there over night (2 day also doesn't harm). I a warm climate like ours that has to be in the fridge.
After the marination period pan-fry the chicken breasts. A few minutes until the are nicely brown should do (if you fry too long you might end up with shoe soles). Don't put anything in the pan when heating it up, there is enough grease in the marinade <g>.
Serve with fresh French baguette and a light white wine (or some juice if you, like me, don't drink.
You need you gut feeling to get the measurement right -- and try it on your own fun/risk. As Volker would say: Your mileage might vary.

23/11/2003

A day at the Singapore Zoo.

Category
Stephan and the Cat

 

We are "Friends of the Zoo". This program entitles you for a nominal fee to pay unlimited visits to the Singapore Zoo. Anthony's and Ernest's favourites are the monkeys and the fragile forrest. I like the crocodiles and the other reptiles, Ida enjoys lions, tigers and other predators.
If you are around the area plan TWO visits to the zoo: one at day and one at night. The two parts of the zoo do not overlap and give you a good impression where the jungle party is, once we are asleep. I like the jungle bridge in semi-darkness (a good place to tell scary stories to the kids).

11/08/2003

Weight Scale Update...

Category
I asked my pals at the gym and found John Berardi's website. Once I digged though all the muscle talk, I found some valuable insights about nutrition. With this information and the help of Almased I prodly announce: 5kg are down. (6 to go)

13/07/2003

When one is buying a new weight scale...

Category

19/06/2003

Buddha would use Linux

Category
Just completed a visit to a local monastry. They are moving their IT to Linux. Linus would be delighted.

17/06/2003

Tame the Tiger

Category
Tiger in Hawpar Villa
The family who invented Tiger Balm build a Theme Park in the 1930ties.... A bit wired today, but good for a Tiger ride!

15/04/2003

Finally moved

Category
After 50 Boxes down 10th floor and up 4th floor we finally have moved to our new flat. Broadband is not working yet, but the internal network. Stay tuned.

04/02/2003

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Category

01/01/2003

Predictions for 2003

Category
Everybody does it, me too. I stare into the Crystal ball and make some predictions for this year:
  • The US will go to war in Irak
  • My companies staff number will grow by 300%
  • My sons will not be able to ask away (Why Daddy...) my last hairs
  • Migration to Domino6 will keep me busy
Ask me again on 31.12.2003...

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