vWhen a global financial crisis happens, life doesn’t end there. Yes, we may have completely devastated people jumping off buildings because they may be unable to cope with the unbearable thought of losing everything, but that doesn’t mean you should too! In a previous post, I mentioned about Singapore going into recession and how a seemingly harmless “technical recession” can potentially bring about job less and a downward spiral for the economy in Singapore.

However, a down trend in economy does not mean that you have to go with the flow. In fact, it may be such times that opportunities arise and with properly planning, you may be able to ride through and succeed through the crisis. I am not going to talk about positive thinking and all the hocus pocus stuffs, I am going to talk about how you, or for that matter, I, can ride through the recession comfortably.

To survive the recession, you can either pray that you will not lose your job, or you can start looking around you and understanding the dynamics of this challenging duration and how you can learn to ride on it. If you are thinking of establishing a business and feel that you might be affected by the current economic turmoil, you may wish to take a look at the Challenging Times and Managing Challenges organized by Action Community for Entrepreneurship (ACE). If you are holding on to a job and looking to establish yourself, there can’t be a better time. After all, in the unforeseen event that you decide to stick to a salaried job, you are at least, still holding on to one.

Some people would wonder if they are too young to start a business – to this, they should just scrap this misnomer out of their minds. There’s no right age, or right situation. If there’s a business idea, the person should start assessing it and work towards getting it started. One of the more popular computer forums (creating various, ahem, zones of hardware) probably started off as a simply idea, but look at where it’s at now? If you think you are too young to start a business, you should seriously consider attending the MoneyTree Entrepreneurship Workshop. However, it’s limited to the first 30 registrants and it’s particularly hot as many of the younger generation are already toying with the idea of starting their own business. Here, you will not only learn about starting a business, but also understand why most businesses fail within the first few years.

If you have already established a business, you may also wish to consider attending the workshop on Recognizing the Challenge of the Times. This workshop will help you to not only recognise the hot soup that you are potentially walking into, but also to cover various aspects that you may not have considered previously. After all, no business is too small to be ignored and this workshop will help you reassess whatever that you have now to move on and brace through the trying times.

Lastly, if you are still exploring prospective areas to start on, why not explore the women consumer market? Renowned cosmetics company Shiseido will be talking on the latest topics and trends in the cosmetic industry, as well as challenges that they face. They may not be able to give you a piece of their market, but they may be able to share with you ideas that you can perhaps pick up through the workshop.

Of course, these events are happening during the Global Entrepreneurship Week 2008 which is held from the 17th to the 23rd of November 2008. The entire calendar of events can be found here and locations may various between workshops. So, go on and find out which of the many events catch your fancy. Remember, if opportunities do not seem to come to you, then you should just go out, reach out and grab them!

Global Entrepreneurship Week 2008

17th to the 23rd of November 2008

Hospitalized: Day 3

Personal October 28th, 2008

It’s almost been like a holiday camp if not for the drip that hangs from the side of my bed. I slept past midnight yesterday, but it had been a good sleep. The only thing I remembered was the doctor waking me up at 7am to tell me that I can be home after the antibiotics’ done. Erm… I would have thought that I’d be home today, but it turned out otherwise. Sigh.

Today turned out to be a rather quiet day. No visitors and all. Then again, it’s a reflection of how little, or no friends I have. And again, perhaps I like it this way. It’s quite pointless to trouble people to visit you in hospital. It wastes their time and they might not know what to talk to you about.

Today happened to be a rather gloomy day as well and it rained slightly in the afternoon. I like the smell of rain somehow. It relaxes and freshens me up a little. Of course, i won’t say the same for the visitors to the Istana, which is open to the public since it’s Deepavali today. Speaking of which…

HAPPY DEEPAVALI TO ALL MY HINDU READERS!

Hmm… not too sure if that made sense. I always get confused with race and religion and am often not too sure if a festival is celebrated by people of a certain race of if it’s celebrated by people of a certain religion. It’s just like Chinese New Year and Christmas. Everyone just celebrates regardless of race, language or religion, but I am sure it helps to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality, so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation!

Sorry for the rattling. Staying in hospital makes your mind wander more than it should.

Yes, so day 3 is rather quiet. So quiet that I ended up on a spending spree on clubsnap – not a good thing, I tell you. I probably bought a whole bunch of useless things that I am going to sell of at the end. Consolation is, they are bought second hand price and I hope I can still sell them at the same price later. =P

Alice came during dinner… after my dinner. Dinner was coney dog for me, with meat sauce on the side. It tasted… ok, but I had to dip the corney dog into the sauce. In the end, I gave up and just ate the bread, then the hot dog, then the corn in the vegetable sides and left the onion soup for Alice. I am not a great fan of onion soups. =P

Today, Alice brought a 3-pin plug along and so there was no need to deprive someone of his or her defibrillator. Heh… and we spent most of our time searching for stuffs on clubsnap. Sure, it’s cheap little things but it may just add up if we are not careful. If you are wonder, we follow the 2/3 rule – that all used stuffs should be at most 2/3 of their new counterparts – and be of condition 10/10. Ngiao hor? Ya, I know. =) I am a poor student.

So basically, that’s what we did the rest of the evening – surfing the net. Then again, if not, there’s nothing much we can do except staring at each other, which is not exactly very healthy. So yeah, and I didn’t manage to inform people that I won’t be home tonight. Oh well, no one will miss me any way. =)

Hospitalized: Day 2

Personal October 28th, 2008

Didn’t manage to sleep until pretty late last night. Well, at least according to hospital time since lights off is at 9pm. Dinner was alright yesterday – think it was minced meet with some other stuffs. A friend visited me until it was past the visiting hours, but for some reason, the staff didn’t chase him away. Most staff thought that I am a foreign talent – or at least a foreign student, because I wasn’t accompanied by my family members, which is probably a typical sight in most places.

Breakfast this morning was nice, but the IV drip wasn’t. Yeah. My right hand is swollen from the bite while my left hand is hurting from the IV. It isn’t exactly a nice thing though. Alice drop by some time during lunch with her own food. Hmm… speaking of which, hospital food seems to be getting better – as long as you stick to either the Chinese or Malay menu. The Western one can barely make it, but it’s edible. =)

It’s been a while since I had been in a hospital setting with 5 other people. I preferred the B ward with 6 people because I think I enjoy the company of more people – non-screaming ones, at least. Yeah. There’s at least one other patient in the next section that kept screaming in pain. I really pitied him. I used to think that there’s nothing that morphine can’t do, but perhaps I am wrong.

There’s also a stark difference between the nurses now and the nurses when I was born. I remembered that as a kid, nurses don head dresses and are usually very… senior. There seemed to be no way that a patient can defy a nurse and the head dress in itself seemed like a Captain rank to a new recruit. Nurses nowadays, however, are more friendly, more chatty and joke a little more; which is good to loosen the tension.

Hmm… the IV insert is beginning to hurt and I wonder how long more my veins can take it before it starts turning red and bursting. Sigh…

Anyway, the same friend visited me again in the evening and brought with him more Qian4 Bian3 Wen4 Da2 Ti2 to amuse me. Heh. Nothing beats a cold joke to bring my attention away from the pain on my left and right hands. In the meantime, Alice had to… ahem, borrow the power plug from another bed by plugging of his defibrillator.

Heh. Of course, I am kidding. The bed’s empty.

The Western food dinner was so-so, but not too bad. I might have preferred Chinese food, but it could be worse. =P So, I should just count my blessings for edible food since as far as I can remember, it’s better than the last hospital food. Oh, did I mention it’s prepared by the same company that does your airline food? =P

Gosh! More Melamine!

Singapore October 25th, 2008

Like the Lehman Brothers, many brands are getting into the papers for the wrong reasons. Household brand Khong Guan (Malaysia-made) Biscuits, which had been feeding so many people including young kids from tender ages, is found to contain melamine. I somehow have a bad feeling about this entire Melamine Expose thingie because it does seem like the more they dig, the more dirt they find out.

Not to mention Lotte biscuits – which is a popular brand in Seoul and a popular brand of biscuits that I had been feeding my friends with since my return overseas is also found to contain melamine. Although they have only mentioned one type of biscuits that should be avoided, I am just wondering how deep will the hole get to.

Then again, the media/AVA seemed to be downplaying the effects of consumed melamine – that you’d probably need one helluva melamine before it can cause any harm. I wonder if the media will run a report on what happens to consumed melamine.

I am not sure, but I foresee a potential market if people are able to make portable melamine tester. Imagine – being able to determine if a particular food contains melamine by just placing a sample of that item into this yet-to-be-invented portable melamine tester (or for that matter, any other tester). With all the manufacturers taking all the fast-routes to QC OK, it won’t be long before our food are filled not just with anti-retardants, but anti-freeze as well.

Just like the strawberry that goes not freeze and go mashy.

20 more products found tainted with melamine

Julie’s products banned; Malaysia-made Khong Guan items also affected

By Tessa Wong

MELAMINE has been found in 20 more food products, making it the biggest batch of items discovered by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) to contain the potentially harmful chemical.

They include well-known products such as Lotte Koala biscuits and Julie’s crackers.

Three of them are from China while 17 are from Malaysia, making this also the first time that non-China products available here have been found to be tainted.

Also among them were Khong Guan biscuits made in Malaysia. Khong Guan biscuits made in Singapore are still safe to eat, as well as other biscuits made here, the AVA said.

Two of the China-made products, the Lotte Koala’s March Cocoa Chocolate Biscuit and Hello Kitty Strawberry Cream Filled Biscuit, should have been removed from shelves by now.

The third, an unbranded non-dairy creamer meant for re-export and never sold in stores or used in food production here, has been sealed in the manufacturer’s warehouse.

On Sept 19, the AVA banned all China dairy and other products which may contain China dairy, such as confectionery.

The made-in-Malaysia tainted items, which comprise 12 Julie’s products and five other brands, are to be withdrawn immediately from shelves.

The AVA has also imposed a ban on all Julie’s products. Test results for other Malaysia-imported biscuits have proven that they are safe to eat for now.

The AVA has urged those who bought the tainted products not to consume them.

It has said that the levels of melamine in the products are low. For example, an adult weighing 60kg would have to eat 378 pieces of Julie’s Golden Kaka Crackers every day of his life to be in any danger.

Melamine, a chemical more commonly found in plastic, has been at the centre of a worldwide food scandal which originated in China.

It was added to milk to artificially boost its protein content, and has since caused four infant deaths in China and thousands of others to fall ill with kidney-related sicknesses.

Dozens of places including Hong Kong, Canada, France and India have pulled China dairy products as a result.

As of yesterday, over 3,200 types of milk and milk products, chocolates, biscuits, non-dairy creamers and other products have been taken in for analysis.

The number of tainted items here has now more than doubled, from 13 to 33. They include ice-cream bars, milk candy, flavoured milk and crackers.

twong@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Singapore/Story/STIStory_294578.html?sunwMethod=GET

Article extracted on 25th October 2008

Hospitalized

Personal October 25th, 2008

Well… it started from a really small insect bite – actually, I don’t even know what bit me. Then an itch started and it got a little inflamed. The next thing I know, my entire limb got inflamed and here I am, stuck in the hospital. Without a power supply.

Well, I plugged out the power for the defibrillator – not too sure what it’s there for; and plugged in my laptop power adaptor. *ta-dah* Heh.

Life on the bed is definitely different from life walking around and pretending that I know everything. =P At least, for a moment, it seemed like I will be getting a lot of rest, but sadly, I am not. Deadlines, deadlines and more deadlines.

So, what really happened to me? Well, what I thought was a mosquito bite turned out to be really “toxic” and caused my index finger to swell. Then the swelling progressed towards the back of my palm before going to the tip of my finger. By the evening, my entire arm was red and mildly swollen because the infection has gone to the lymph nodes and that’s like sending the bacteria/toxin to the CTE via the Braddell Road slip road. Heh. No need ERP some more.

Hence, it was after much deliberation that I decided to go to the A&E and after 6 hours, they decided best to ward me. I also realised that people who are warded tend not to want it while people who are free to go from the A&E tend to want to stay longer. It’s no feat to guess which group I belonged to.

I had to be put on intravenous drip for a couple of days until the swelling goes down or until the doctors know what’s wrong. Yes, apparently my blood test was “ambiguous” and there’s no clear indication of what’s wrong. The next thing I knew. I was put on every single broad and narrow spectrum antibiotic that’s known to man.

Well, I do hope to get some rest though, since I had been having 3 hours or less sleep for the past few days. However, work is piling up quickly and I can’t wait to finish them all. Sigh. That means work-in-bed.

Editor: Please send all white gold to Alice of Simply Jean

I got an interesting call from a person representing one of the banks in Singapore on how they can give me back my money with a service charge imposed on it. Actually, it’s one of those “fund transfer program” that the banks offer you at 0% interest but with a “processing fee” of a few percent. Mine went this way:

Me: Hello

Bank lady: Hello. May I speak to Miss XXX?

Me: Yes, speaking.

BL: Hi, Miss XXX, this is YYY calling on behalf of bank ZZZ. Can I have a moment of your time?

Me: Yes, how can I be of service to you?

BL: Erm, our bank would like to offer you a zero percent funds transfer program. You can transfer up to $A from your personal loan account with just a 2% processing fee for 6 months.

Me: Oh, ok. So it’s effectively 4% interest p.a. on upfront loan amount

BL: Yes.

Me: Hmm… I understand that I have a positive balance in my account. So, do you charge your processing fee on that amount as well?

BL: *a little lost for words* Please hold on while I speak to my supervisor

*meanwhile, I buffer my nails with the new $50 thingie that I got from one of those standalone cart stores – yeah, I got ripped off*

BL: Hello Miss XXX, thanks for waiting. I have checked for you, because it is a processing fee and not interest, your positive balance will also be charged a processing fee.

Me: So, you are saying that I have to pay a fee to withdraw my own money from my account?

BL: Erm… yes.

Me: Does this sound right to you?

BL: Ya… because this is a processing fee and not interests on the principle sum, that’s why there’s a fee for it.

Me: It’s ok. Thanks. I am not interested.

*click*

Personally, I am amused that the bank actually bothers to call someone who has a positive balance in the loan account to offer a fund transfer program that charges the account holder for money that belongs to him or her. What the above effectively means is that, if I have a personal loan account of $50 and I have $30 on top of that $50 personal credit account (meaning, I can withdraw a total of $80 – with the first $30 belonging to me and the next $50 belonging to the bank that I have to pay interest for), and if I were to take up the fund transfer program, I would have to pay a processing fee for the $30 that belongs to me. This is all because it’s a “processing fee” which is based on the amount of money that the bank transfer out for you.

Kinda ridiculous, isn’t it? Perhaps they are not expecting people to put money in a loan account (which also acts conveniently as a checking account that is also conveniently tied to a personal credit just in case there is not enough money), and I am not expecting them to change any of the rules they have. However, they should perhaps assess their clientele data properly before dishing out loans to everyone out there.

I had a personal experience with the DBS Relationships Managers (RMs) a few years back when I was utilizing their counter services at the then Raffles City branch (which had since closed). I was ushered to one of the cubicles of the RM and he started telling me about investing my money. At that time, the market was bad, and he was introducing a product that works for that; meaning, when the market goes down, I earn.

I didn’t know what that was, and even if it was shorting the market, I didn’t know there can also be a product for it. Nonetheless, after a while, I decided not to invest because he was asking for tens of thousands to invest, which I obviously didn’t have.

Since then, my mum had also been asked by the RM to invest recently. However, I have no idea what she invested in and I have not spoken to her for a long time. She might have been burned for all I know, but when I first knew about her investment, I was quite furious because she has totally no idea what she’s investing in and it’s not her fault. The RM simply told her that it’s a form of investment with GUARANTEED returns. Oh come on, there’s NO SUCH THING as a GUARANTEED RETURN!

If you are guaranteeing 0.3% p.a. or something along that line, yes, I might buy it; but 5% p.a.? Even my AIA financial advisor didn’t dare to guarantee such a return for me. Then again, if he did, I would probably switch my financial advisor right away. Speaking about that, it’s probably a fact that the RMs disappear from the banks faster than the Starbucks barista can make an iced lemon tea. The next time my mum went back to the bank to ask them about her investment, the RM who attended to her was no longer there, and her balance in her port folio was near zero. Where’s the integrity?

However, as the saying goes, a fool and his money are soon parted. I would not call the investors fools, however, I would say that the RMs made fools out of them by not informing them of the risks that are involved in investments. In fact, Maybank also advertised a fixed deposit of about 3.8% returns during the last Comex Show. Upon further inquiry, I found out that there is no fixed deposit as per se, but rather, an investment plan by another insurance company. Integrity? Presenting facts? I only see false selling.

I do not feel angry about my mum’s loss. In fact, she’s still investing her money monthly because of what the first RM told her – that eventually, the money will “grow back”. See? A fool and his money are soon parted. A bigger fool and all his money is owned by the bank (editor: I am so tempted to write this: A fool and his money is all belongs to the banks [sic]). I foresee that 10 years down the road, my mum will still have zero in her investment port folio because the RMs at the POSB/DBS bank are not doing their job. They are treating all their customers like fools. I don’t think they have contacted her since she invested – and  paper statements do not count because she can’t make her own decisions based on whatever’s written in there!

So, as for the DBS debacle, the RMs have definitely made fools out of the investors, and it’s unlikely that any sound organization will step in to intervene. Investment – regardless of whether the investor knows about it – has its own risk. One might think that I am being heartless – but can you imagine how things will be if, say, the MAS insists that DBS refund the investors their money?

“Gain, I keep; loss you pay”?

I don’t think the investors, especially the elderly ones deserved what they got. However, if a government financial institution steps in to demand for compensation, I think it sets a precedence which will not be good for anyone. The next time some investors lose some money, the same thing might happen again and they may demand for compensation for apparent ignorance.

The people in Hong Kong are not getting it any better too, even as the banks buy back at market rate. Come on, how much are the bonds worth now anyway? Singapore, at best, might go down this road, but it’s no consolation to anyone. As for responsibility, the RMs might eventually be blamed for this – but they may no longer be around to “bear the responsibility”.

Yes, SBS and SMRT both got fined for not meeting the service standards set by the Public Transport Council. While the sums are not huge, it will still eat into the bottom line of the bus operators, who will then find that they don’t have enough to answer to their shareholders. The ultimate solution for them is to…

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I had been procrastinating this for ages, but by some chance, I happened to be in Toa Payoh; and by some chance, I thought I’d be in time for the last entry into the registration. I grabbed a cab from Toa Payoh in the middle of nowhere because I didn’t know where the taxi stand is. This is pretty much like the Amazing Race (except that the camera doesn’t cut and asks for 2 extra tickets for the camera crew before resuming filming). The taxi driver sprang into action after seeing how badly swollen my left wrist is. From my elbow, it looks like a baseball bat all the up the hands if I clench my fist.

Actually, I wasn’t really here to see the doctor because of this. It’s because of a disturbing growth on my right wrist (yes, the other wrist) that seems to be getting painful by the day. Then again, I was probably worried that some inflammation on my left wrist would cost me my limb.

Oh well, I can’t make up my mind why I am at the polyclinic.

However, the good thing is that I am here now, and I am really the last patient to register. Someone else came late behind me and didn’t get to register at the machine because it shuts down at 4:15pm sharp – just like how the computers in NTU shut down after multiple warnings and students scramble to save their work – only to realise that they can’t.

Sitting here at the second floor of the polyclinic, I was reminded of my last visit to the polyclinic at Yishun, when I had a digestion problem. I was faced with the prospects of having a scope run down my throat and along my oesophagus but eventually seemed to have solved the problem through the help of a sinseh. Yeah, it’s probably hard to find a science person believing in Chinese medicine… but it does take an experience to know more about it.

*** beep *** my turn to the doctor’s

Waiting time at polyclinics seem to be getting shorter nowadays; or perhaps it’s because I went there quite late. I got a letter to see another doctor at TTSH in November. Possibly for surgery. Sigh. I don’t like knives; and to think that I am going to be the one cutting people up in 6 years’ time. Heh. Irony, isn’t it?

I wondered around quite aimlessly after seeing the doctor. For once, I didn’t know what to do with my time, and I didn’t quite want to go back to my usual routines. I dropped by RC2 but didn’t find familiar faces. However, I did meet Damien on my way out to grab the bus to Marina Square. Yes, I was that lazy; and it didn’t help much that I wasn’t feeling well. Appetite was virtually zero nowadays; and if that isn’t bad enough, my stomach is revolting every now and then.

I basically bumped my whole evening away at Cathay Photos. Looked at the bags, the teleconverters and spoke to the people over there. There’s something about the price tags there, but I think I shouldn’t mention about it. The guys there turned out to be quite friendly and nice people… at least they are, when they are not giving me exorbitant price tags for the things I asked about. =)

I wasn’t able to swallow much food today. Seems to me like the start of stomach flu – from the looks of it. I hope it comes fast and goes fast. It’s been a long time since my evenings are this aimless. Well, then again, I can’t do much without a phone now. Perhaps, that’s the feeling of peace.

A guy was apparently fined for taking a nap on a park bench. The fine, $200, was issued to him while he was taking a 15 minute snooze while taking shelter from the rain. He was approached by 2 NPark rangers and was told that he had abused park facilities by sleeping on the park bench. Faster than the lightning of the rain, he was issued a ticket.

Personally, I didn’t know that such things could happen. Now, I am beginning to be worried if I will be fined if I accidentally dozed off while waiting for my friends. Perhaps, then, I will pass the fine around for everyone to share since they could have been late. 🙂

And mind you, falling asleep at the park bench is just one of the many “don’ts” on the NPark list – which is not even exhaustive at the website.

Costly park bench nap

Nappers can be fined $200 for misue of park facility.

WHAT was supposed to be a free 15-minute nap on a park bench turned into a costly snooze for one Singaporean.

The New Paper on Tuesday reported that a 62-year-old, who only wanted to be known as Mr Kassim, was fined $200 when he dozed off on a Sun Plaza Park bench while taking shelter from the rain.

The National Parks Board (NParks) fined the private bus driver for having misused the park facility by sleeping on the bench.

The incident happened on Sept 1 at a park in Tampines.

Mr Kassim had dozed off on one of the wooden benches while seeking shelter from a heavy downpour. He woke up about 15 minutes later to see two men, who would later identify themselves as NParks rangers, walking towards him.

They asked for his identity card, told him he had ‘abused park facilities by sleeping on the park bench,’ and issued him a ticket.

Mr Kassim accepted the ticket despite not knowing it was an offence to sleep on a park bench.

Five days later, he received an NParks letter detailing his offence and asking him to pay the $200 fine. When he went to the NParks office to make payment, he claimed he was told by a staff member that he could appeal.

But he decided against it, citing it would be a hassle.

According to an NParks spokesman, more than 10 people have been fined for misusing the facilities in the parks. The spokesman did not say if these specifically involved sleeping on park benches.

He told TNP: ‘We try to create the conditions that make visitors feel at ease… When people abuse our parks by overstaying or squatting, they make genuine park users feel uncomfortable. Others sleep on benches or in shelters in an inconsiderate manner and deny park users from these facilities.’

Of eight regular park-goers surveyed by The New Paper, none knew that sleeping on park benches was an offence.

On the NParks website, there is a list of ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ for visiting parks. Sleeping on a park bench was not among the ‘Don’ts’, but there was a disclaimer which said the list was ‘not exhaustive or intended to be a complete list of the prohibitions or regulations governing our parks’.

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_290308.html

Article extracted on 14 October 2008