Really ah? How come there’s media silence? Did some that wasn’t supposed to happen, happen? (did that sound confusing?) Or did something that was supposed to happen didn’t happen that ended up having something that wasn’t supposed to happen, happen? (ok, now I am confused too). However, what I do have here are lots and lots of pictures! Which I believe are long overdue! Haha…

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So here we were, at the Vilage, which was previously Marche. Actually, there’s not much difference in the way things are being ran, just that… the name has changed. There’s still a Marche at Vivocity, so I think Marche is far from being closed down. =P This will be a photo blog of sorts… Lotsa pictures! But I only got the better ones here… =)

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I know this is a little late, but I thought it’d be nice to note down all the obstacles that I came across while searching for a suitable gift. $20 isn’t particular a big budget to work along with, nor is it small enough to be dismissed as irrelevant. So what I ended up experiencing was really a huge dilemma as to what I should be getting for the dinner gift.

What better place than to search for a gift than to head on down to the nearest Cold Storage? Haha…

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First stop, cheese! I gathered that there will be wine… or will there? After all, it’s a Christmas dinner right? What’s a good Christmas dinner without wine? Hehe.. but to make up $20, I have to buy 7 packets of cheese! Woohoo! Gelat sia?!

#1: 7 packets of cheese!

 

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Next stop: prawn crackers! Usually a hot favourite (pun unintended) amongst young people like myself. It’ll hurt the gums of the not so young cos’ the cracker is a little too small and thin. That’s about $10, so that means 2 bottles of that… hmm…

#2: 2 bottles of prawn crackers

 

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Ah! Perfume! But hor, it’s like implying that the other person is smelly! Haha… so, if I were to get the cheaper one, then it’s about $10.90. Either 2 of that or 1 of the more expensive one.

#3: 2 sets of perfume

 

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Toilet paper! Hey, don’t despise it. Remember what you had to do the last time you forgot your toilet paper? Did you have to flush the toilet and then start scooping the water I’m sure it wasn’t a good experience. So, don’t look down on these toilet paper! And they don’t cost cheap too! $20 for 6 rolls! w00t w00t!

#4: 6 rolls of toilet paper

 

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Haha… instant noodles?! Yeah… it’s a practical gift. Just that the gift will disappear after a couple of days or weeks and your gift will be long gone forgotten. This is best given with the toilet paper (cheaper alternatives than the one mentioned above)… =P

#5: 20 cups of instant noodles

 

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A packet of diapers?! Actually I was looking for adult versions, but wasn’t able to find one. But hey, if the recipient has kids, it’d be a good gift, no? Hmm… just like the toilet paper, it gives practical use and will disappear within the months =P

#6: 1 packet of diapers

 

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Cherries?!?!? Ya. You know why cherries? Because it is the first item that was about $20 showing at the entrance of Cold Storage. Haha… well, at least it’d go well with Bailey’s on the rock. Haha…

#7: 1 box of cherries

 

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VapoDrops! This will prove to be exceptionally useful after Christmas celebrations because like me, you’d be down with lots and lots of sore throat from eating too much junk good food. Seriously, your recipient may frown at this at first instance but will be thanking your gratefully after Christmas. (Ed: The authors will not be responsible for any mishaps that happen between you and your recipient, especially if you are a guy and your recipient is your girlfriend)

#8: 12 packets of VapoDrops

 

So there you go! All my 8 options of getting something for the ping.sg Christmas dinner. Do you know what I got? (May not be in the list too) =P

Merry Christmas!

Quite unfortunately, the taxi that we tried to board just outside Orchard Presbyterian Church refused to pick us up after asking us where we were going. It was a destination that was just down the streets so technically even if he was changing shift, there’s no reason for him not to be able to pick us.

I think the mentality of such drivers should change – and drivers should stop doing complaining about not having enough pay – if they consistently refuse to pick passengers up.

Sigh… I’m not sure how well Comfort Delgro take complaints, but there were 4 of us who witnessed this. So you better prepare a good explanation.

Merry Christmas to all!

Special December 24th, 2007

Here’s wishing everyone – yes, you – the reader, a merry, merry Christmas! And remember, Christmas is not about taking, but about giving. So, make it someone’s day today and it’d be your day!

Merry Christmas!

– from the authors of Simply Jean

More salmonella scare

Singapore December 23rd, 2007

Hmm… I am not sure how this news escaped from me, but apparently, another restaurant had been hit by salmonella. Again. A test done on a chef turned out positive, but this was different from the ones that were found on customers who were affected.

Personally, I am suspecting that the monsoon season might have something to do with it – at least for the recent case. A search on google.com would have returned results that hinted of a possibility of the spread of the bacteria via fishes and other crustaceans.

Quoted from one paper (A. A. Mohamed Hatha and P. Lakshmanaperumalsamy. Department of Environmental Sciences, Bharathiar University, Coimbatore—641 046, Tamil Nadu, India. Received 27 March 1996.  Available online 18 April 2002.):

Seven hundred and thirty fishes and 276 crustaceans collected from various fish markets of Coimbatore, South India, over a period of 2 years (September 1990 to August 1992) were analysed for the prevalence of Salmonella. Fishes (14.25%) and 17.39% of crustaceans were found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Of the different fishes analysed, the highest incidence of Salmonella was seen in Scopelidae (28%) followed by Trachnidae (26.9%). Among crustaceans Portunus pelagicus (33.33%) showed the highest incidence followed byScylla serrata(28.57%).

A well-marked seasonal variation in the incidence pattern was observed in both fishes and crustaceans with a higher incidence during monsoon season followed by post-monsoon and pre-monsoon. The region of the body that showed frequent isolation was the alimentary canal in fishes (41.33%) and gills (35.06%) in crustaceans.

Serotyping of the isolates revealed prevalence of Salmonella weltevreden, Salmonella typhi, Salmonella paratyphi B, Salmonella mgulani and Salmonella typhimuriumin both fishes and crustaceans.Salmonella senftenberg was isolated only from crustaceans.

That’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? In a nut shell, its findings 15 years ago showed that Salmonella is frequently spread by fishes and crustaceans based on their investigations from the wet markets of South India.

However, it is very common for bacteria to be transmitted via various forms of meat, including fishes because these are usually very good dwelling places for bacteria. In the ocean, this is more so because of the many microbes that are present in the waters.

So the next time you get any seafood, do rinse it careful before preparing it.

THE main kitchen at Sentosa Golf Club may be closed after a recent salmonella scare, but food is still being served and it is business as usual at the club.

Sixteen people fell ill and subsequently tested positive for salmonella after attending a seminar at the club on Dec 11. A chef, one of the eight kitchen staff who handled the food, later tested positive for salmonella.

But the chef’s salmonella strain is different from the one the 16 people were infected with. The source of their infection is still not known.

Last Friday, the club closed its kitchen so that all 16 of its kitchen staff could undergo medical checks.

The club has since ushered in a separate food and beverage team to prepare food for the restaurant, but operating from a different kitchen.

A club spokesman said: ‘The management has to take proactive steps to ensure that the highest levels of health and safety are observed.’

The Ministry of Health (MOH) and National Environment Agency (NEA) inspected the club’s restaurant on Friday. The NEA said it has found the premises to be ‘well maintained’.

The 16 people infected with salmonella were part of a bigger group present at the seminar on that day.

Earlier this month, 203 people came down with food poisoning after eating salmonella-tainted cakes from bakery chain PrimaDeli. Fifteen people were hospitalised.

People who catch the salmonella bacteria usually experience the mild form of the disease, which includes symptoms such as diarrhoea, stomach pains and fever.

However, in some rare cases, the bacteria enters the bloodstream and can cause organ failure or death.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 22nd December 2007

Taxi fare hike revisited

Singapore December 22nd, 2007

I was late for a send off this morning and had to take a taxi to the airport. Yes, it’s dreadful to think about the exorbitant amount that I have to pay to get to the airport.

So what did I do? I called a cab. Yes, that’s about the only other option I have. However, being a weekend morning – especially a Saturday morning, shouldn’t be getting a cab pretty easy? Well yes, however, I’d probably have to pay through my nose with all the increase in taxi fare! Calling cabs would in fact reduce this.

An oxymoron? Not quite. You see, Premier Silvercab taxis are the only taxis that have yet to raise their metered rates. I figure that despite paying an additional $2.50, I’d still be able to save a fair bit on the distance traveled.

True enough, while I didn’t calculate the exact raise in terms of metered fare (now with their 20 cents jump instead of a 10 cents jump) in addition to a complex tiered fare, I compared my metered fare to one with a 12% increase – and that worked out to be about the same fare if I were to add in the booking fee! In addition, because there is minimal waiting time (which is really the killer in the recent hike), this does not reflect the savings that I get. All in all, my fare worked out to be about S$19.00 inclusive of booking fee. This means that I would have to travel for at least $16.50 based on the normal fare before I can quantify booking for a cab. Hmm… either way, I lose.

Anyway, one of my readers left a message defending the taxi driver that took a break for 7 minutes so that he can earn that extra S$4.00. While I empathize with the possible situation that the driver could be in, I am unable to condone this kind of behavior. As another reader puts it, if the taxi drivers are choosing their passengers, then life couldn’t be that bad, could it?

Someone once told me that being a taxi driver is really the last job that anyone would want to take. To a certain degree, I have to agree with that statement because the driver is literally stuck behind his wheels the entire day – with no time for a proper meal or a break and having to work when people are not. Of course, the converse may be true but I am in no position to postulate that. However, as I have mentioned, if the drivers choose to play the market by waiting for peak hours so as to earn the extra surcharge, he is in effect breaking the law. If you see such drivers, you should just call 1800-CALL-LTA. Am I heartless? Perhaps. However, as I have mentioned, if everyone gives in to the taxi drivers, who are going to give in to the passengers. Mind you, not every passenger is getting a pay rise, and not everyone is taking a cab because they want to enjoy the luxury of taking one, but rather because every other option runs out.

Seriously, if anyone were to think that the cab drivers deserve a raise just like any of the people who are working (and not everyone is getting a raise anyway), then why should the burden be passed on to the passengers? Why are the transport companies not doing anything to help them? In addition, there are always entry-level jobs that will always hover around the pay of S$1200 to S$1800 and not change through the years. Even if the starting pay does get raised, it doesn’t go up by 30% to 50% within 1 year. So, if we were to argue that taxi fares should be raised by leaps and bounds just like any other private sector job, does it mean that in 5 years time, we will be paying up to 8 times more the current taxi fare?

The argument that the fares should be raised in accordance to that of the salary in the private sector is definitely flawed. In addition, because there are no appointments and rankings for taxi drivers, it is not fair to raise the fares across the board because the older taxi drivers deserve a pay raise.

Take for instance a company who is hiring a software engineer. Assuming that the pay for an entry level engineer is S$2800, he may jolly well get about S$3400 (as a senior engineer?) 3 years down the road. By then, an entry level software engineer may be paid about S$2900 (and not S$3400 since he’s still an entry level engineer) taking into consideration inflation – and he rises up the ranks as he works.

Now, when people mention that the taxi drivers deserve a raise and recommend that fares be raised, this meant that newer taxi drivers (akin to entry level engineers) will be earning as much as drivers who have driven for a longer time (akin to senior engineers); and because there is no differentiation (and there shouldn’t be, else it’d be chaotic) between the taxi drivers, there is no way to have a "fair fare hike" across the board. People have to understand that while the taxi drivers deserve a pay raise, the system, in reality, has many constraints and is different from most jobs that do not depend on a constant pay across the board.

I am not in the opinion that the taxi drivers to not deserve a raise. However, I feel that they should earn it honestly and not cut corners where they can. At the end of the day, if it is illegal, they will eventually be caught. Caring more for the family? I beg to differ.

What I do feel will help the taxi drivers would be the consistency that the taxi companies can give – by not raising the drivers’ rental soon after they apply for a fare hike – in the name of the betterment of the drivers. As per conversation with some drivers (sorry, I can’t show you their ICs), this is a pattern that they have observed – especially from the veteran drivers. This may be a biased view for all I know, but the taxi companies are not disclaiming it at all. If it’s a fallacy, the companies should clarify it once and for all instead of letting the rumour ruin the goodwill of the company.

At the end of the day, it’s up to everyone else to judge if this is a fair hike – given all the excuses and reasons to raise the fare. After all, it’s beyond me.

Our dear ex-PM from our neighbouring country had been recently probed for apparent scandals over appointments in the judicial system. Dr Mahathir was asked to assist in investigations regarding his influence over the appointments of official during his term.

There had been suspicion since the last century that appointments in the judicial system had been influenced by political powers as opposed to being free from any strongholds. In any judicial system, it is important for it to be free from political influences so as to enable an unbiased, fair and corruption-free judgement in any court case, which is why political influences in any judicial system undermines the integrity of the country in providing fair trial. This potential affects how foreigners do business with the country.

Although I wasn’t able to find out more about the appointment system in Singapore, the Singapore government is apparently the least corrupt government in Asia, quoted from the Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International 2007. More information can be found at http://www.psd.gov.sg/ – before it expires.

PUTRAJAYA – MALAYSIAN anti-corruption officials have interviewed former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as part of their investigation into a scandal over judicial appointments.

Dr Mahathir, whose critics say he presided over a weakening of the judiciary during his 22 years in power, said on Saturday that three officials had come to interview him on Friday for about an hour. He did not reveal the questions or his answers.

‘The anti-corruption agency interviewed me and asked me questions and I answered them,’ the 82-year-old, who retired as leader in late 2003, told reporters.

The government has ordered a royal commission of inquiry into allegations that a lawyer with connections to government played a role in influencing judicial appointments.

It followed the release in September by opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim of a video said to have been recorded in 2002 and purporting to show the lawyer boasting to a judge over the phone of his ability to influence appointments.

In Malaysia, judicial appointments are made by the king, on the advice of the prime minister, though the Malaysian Bar Council has been lobbying for years for a special commission to handle the appointment of judges, free from politics.

Dr Mahathir has always denied he sought to interfere in the judicial process during his rule, though Malaysian justice has been dogged since the late 1980s by the perception that it is not free from government interference.

Asked on Saturday for his criteria in appointing judges, Dr Mahathir said he had only considered their judicial merits.

‘Obviously when you promote people, you have to look into their qualifications, also their background and performance when they were magistrates,’ he said after launching a book at his think-tank in the administrative capital of Putrajaya.

Dr Mahathir said he would also appear, if required, to give evidence at public hearings of the royal commission of inquiry.

The hearings are scheduled to begin next month.

‘Well, if I am required to testify, if the law requires I should testify, I cannot say no,’ he said. — REUTERS

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 22nd December 2007

I can’t imagine anyone having sex with someone else who has AIDS – and no, I am not discriminating because I am talking about people who knows that the person that they are having sex with has AIDS, yet they are almost throwing caution into the air even though they exercise safe sex.

And what’s in for the AIDS people, you might ask? Well, apparently, by giving into the demands of the the other party, they will be provided with AIDS medication. If you ask me, I thought this is rather ironic. What in the world is happening?!

NEW DELHI – HIV-POSITIVE women in the northern Indian state of Punjab were forced by technicians at a medical institute to have sex in return for tests and medicines, a report said on Saturday.

Police were investigating the allegations against employees of the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in state capital Chandigarh, the Times of India said.

The women who complained of abuse were mainly young patients from city slums.

‘I was helped by a technician there. He provided me medicines and other testing facilities without any problem,’ a 27-year-old widow who was diagnosed with HIV in 2005 told the paper.

‘But this was all for his sexual gratification.’

The woman said she was also asked to procure other girls for workers at the institute’s AIDS testing and counselling centre.

Stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people are widespread in the country of 1.1 billion people, where an estimated 2.5 million people are infected with the virus, according to the United Nations.

The number of estimated AIDS cases in India came down sharply this year from estimates of 5.7 million cases in 2005, reflecting an increase in testing and better statistical sampling methods, the UN said. — AFP

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 22nd December 2007

Just laid my hands on a Fujitsu P1610 (3G) and I am going to give the low down on it. At first sight, this is probably no bigger than an ordinary note book – the paper ones and probably just as thick as a 200-page textbook that I can easily find in the school’s library. Weighing just over 1kg with battery included, this seems to spell the end of heavy days for me.

The set that I got comes installed with Windows XP tablet – not because it is the default installatin, but because I requested for it. The Vista DVD comes together with it so that I can review it if I ever want to. Powering up this baby, it gives the familiar POST screen, showing its prowess as a U1400 Intel 1.2Ghz machine come loaded with the maximum of 1GB of RAM. Not a lot of RAM to run Windows Vista on, as I had assumed but this proves to be suffiient for Windows XP.

Starting up the machine in Windows XP was easy. There was the familiar screen of Omnipass that allows the user to log in with his fingerprint – a good alternative to trying to recall hard-to-remember passwords. For a machine that’s still running in the lower of the 1-2 GHz range, starting up is faster than expectation – mind you, this is a new machine and had not been subjected to the evils of mountains of software installation.

LCD screen and digitizer

I was eager to test out the tablet mode and hastily logged in and twisted its screen so that it becomes an instant slate. Navigation with the stylus was easy – as long as you did your calibration before hand. As this is a passive digitizer, there’s no additional functions that allows you to use other parts of the stylus for other purposes, such as erasing your text or drawings. However, the pros of it is that it allows you to nagivate using your finger tip.

The digitizer recognises gestures and writings very well and is not affected with your palm resting on the screen. Its sensitivity is precise and accurate, leaving very little fuss with whatever I wanted to do. Overall, I think Fujitsu had done a good job on it.

Peripherals

Used as a normal notebook, the mouse pad that I am so used to is sorely missing. In it’s place is a mouse stick which requires a little bit of familiarizing. The good thing about having a passive digitizer is that it allows you to scroll by just moving the scrollbars with your fingers – no fumbling over the stylus as with an active digitizer. To a certain extent, it is as convenient as it can get – until I am used to the mouse stick.

The keyboard is confined to a space of slightly more than 9 inches diagonally – and probably needs a little getting used to for people with bigger palms and fingers. However, the pitch is the keys is really confortable and there is very little mistyping, if any at all. The keyboard layout is the same as most other Fujitsu notebooks – with the use of the Fn function key to access the Page Up/Down and Home/End keys. While this may sometimes be a little daunting for first-time users, it becomes intuitive with time.

Display

This ultraportable also comes with function buttons just below the screen, which allows the user to configure and access frequently used programs at the touch of a button. There is also a function button that allows – at a single press – to toggle the backlight in the LED, hence allowing the user to turn of the backlight without turning off the monitor entirely. This is allows a quick toggle of the backlight to save power when the laptop is not in use momentarily without having to meddle with the actual LCD display. Think of it as putting the LCD brightness to the dimmest possible at a single touch.

Connectivity

The SIM slot that enables 3G capabilities is located behind the battery – and this means having to remove the battery and slipping the SIM card in. At first instance, I thought this was rather anti-intuitive. However, on second thoughts – it prevents the SIM card from being accidentally removed, or worse, stolen. Connection to the local 3G network was a breeze as the P1610 comes with a pre-installed network that makes connection as easy as firing up notepad. It also comes with wireless LAN capabilities that allows connection to A/B/G networks at the flick of the switch on the side. However, do note that this switch also controls the 3G connectivity, so selective wireless connection would have to be done via the application that comes with it.

Configuration

The P1610 also comes with standard ports, including 2 USB ports, 1 set of audio in/out, 1 SD slot, 1 PCMCIA slot, 1 VGA output port, 1 10/100Mbps LAN socket and a 56 Kbps modem socket. A Keningston port is also available for securing your P1610. At the bottom of the laptop is a docking port for an optional port replicator.

The laptop has a maximum memory configuration of 1 GB of RAM, which I suspect may not be sufficient for Windows Vista – and this should be a consideration if you have an option for the Operating System to be installed. It also comes with a 1.8 inch 80 GB HDD, which is partitioned into 2 drives. It should be generous enough for most usage as the largest 1.8 inch drive that is available in the market at this point is only 120 GB. The user should consider external storage if more hard disk space is desired.

Conclusion

Overall, the P1610 can be described with one word – sexy. It’s small built with a bundle of functions and crystal clear screen makes it an ideal companion to bring along for travel and redefines mobile computing in its own class. While a mouse touch pad would have been desired, I have no qualms sacrificing it for the power that it packs for its weight.

If you have not read from Sheylara, HighwayBlogger, Alice In Wonderland, Precious, Andy, Edmund, Arzhou and MissCel, who carried the news… and Nadnut, Sabrina and Jason who didn’t =P … then you are missing out a lot. Really a lot – cos’ you know what? You are missing out a lot; because here, you can get a chance to earn your first million! Damn! Sounds like a trick/joke/whatever right? Ya, I know. I hate it whenever they round it up to a million. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were S$998,794.23? At least it looks more authentic.

So, where was I? Oh yes, the million dollar shot. Now, everyone has a chance to take part in this. All you have to do is to answer the secret question that was given at the match last Wednesday. Do you not know what the question is? Oh dear. Do you want to know what it is?

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