The bear and the rabbit

Singapore October 10th, 2008

A bear and a rabbit took a poo in the forest one day and the bear asked the rabbit:

Bear: Do you have a problem with poo sticking on your fur?

Rabbit: No, why?

Before the rabbit knew it, the bear picked up the rabbit and begin cleaning the poo of his fur.

Alice came up with another joke with the bear and the rabbit:

Bear: Do you know how similar we are?

Rabbit: No?

Read the rest of this entry »

Finally, Singapore as slipped into a technical recession. What this means is that the output (export) of Singapore had been declining in the last 2 quarters. At the same time, inflation in Singapore has reached a 26 year peak, where consumer prices will rise between 6 to 7 per cent this year. So how does a recession affect you?

Well, from a layman’s perspective, less outgoing goods mean that more goods are being stuck in Singapore. More goods being stuck for too long means that the companies will try to reduce the amount of output, which may lead to the layoff of staff that they do not need. Laying off of staff means that employment rate goes down and the number of jobless people goes up. This in turn affects the spending power of people affected, i.e. people will spend less. People spending less means that there will be lesser business for companies out there, which means they will be struggling to keep afloat and will hence lay off more people to survive. Eventually, everyone gets laid laid off and all businesses will close because no one is buying anything.

Erm, except essentials, of course.

So, how does a recession lead to an inflation? Well, the cost of everything starts going up in order to cope with the recession and hence people will have to pay more to get what they want. Eventually people will stop buying things (especially when they start being laid off) and if this happens on a wide scale, deflation may happen. This is a time when people who are desperate for cash will start selling their stuffs at a low price in order to get some cash to survive. While it is unlikely that essentials or goods will ever go into a deflation, things like used cars and property may.

There are of course, some businesses that will still survive and that’s in the area of needs. Education and food are just some of them. So, even in a recession, all’s not gone yet – especially if you have sufficient spending power. This may be a good time for you to start a business especially when it does not require extensive purchase of goods.

Judging from the sentiments of what’s happening recently, Singaporeans don’t seem to be feeling the recession yet – especially when we just hit a record high of the number of people signing up for travel packages and the turnout at the recent F1 races. Perhaps we will know the true picture towards the end of the year, when bonuses are near rock bottom and when people are unable to fulfill their financial commitments, especially through credit card spendings.

S’pore slips into recession

  • MTI lowers 2008 forecast to 3%, from earlier 4-5%
  • MAS moves to ease monetary policy
  • Inflation has peaked

    By Fiona Chan

    SINGAPORE’S economy has slid into its first technical recession since 2002, as a slump in exports pushed quarterly growth into negative territory for the second quarter in a row.

    The economy shrank by a worse-than-expected 0.5 per cent in the third quarter compared to the same period last year, according to estimates from the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) released on Friday morning.

    MTI has also revised its full-year growth forecast for the second time this year, lowering it to ‘around 3 per cent’ from 4 to 5 per cent previously. This would make it the weakest pace in seven years.

    Recognising growth concerns, the Monetary Authority of Singapore also changed its policy stance to zero appreciation of the Singapore dollar, reversing the gradual appreciation policy it has adopted since 2003.

    On a quarterly basis, third-quarter GDP contracted 6.3 per cent from the second quarter, on top of a 5.7 per cent decline in the previous three months. A technical recession is generally defined as two consecutive quarters of decline.

    Manufacturing led the slowdown again this time around, weighed down by a poor performance in the biomedical sciences segment. It was also hit by weakened global demand for exports as the United States-triggered financial crisis spreads around the world.

    The sector shrank by 11.5 per cent in the third quarter, after declining 4.9 per cent in the previous quarter.

    Growth in construction and services also slowed. Construction, in particular, saw its pace of expansion halved to single-digit growth, as projects were delayed by the construction squeeze, said MTI.

    Services, touted as a key driver of growth this year, is likely to take a hit as well as financial services falters in the wake of the global credit crunch.

    Most economists expect the economy to grow even more slowly next year, with the chance of a technical recession turning into a ‘real’ one.

    ‘With external conditions deteriorating and the lack of domestic demand support, we expect Singapore to register no growth next year… with a muted recovery, if at all, expected only in the second half of next year at the earliest,’ said Morgan Stanley economists in a report.

    Inflation peaks
    Inflation, which reached a 26-year high earlier this year, has peaked, said MAS. Consumer prices will rise between 6 per cent and 7 per cent this year, and gains will ease to between 2.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent in 2009, it predicted.

    ‘Against the backdrop of a weakening external economic environment and continuing stresses in global financial markets, the growth of the Singapore economy is expected to remain below potential in the period ahead,’ said MAS.

    ‘Inflation is expected to trend down in 2009 as the global and domestic economies slow.’

    Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_288066.html

  • Article extracted on 10th October 2008

    For the 8th time this year, petrol and diesel prices have been steadily going down, with at least 3 consecutive dips within a span of 1 month a few months ago. This is happening as the cost of crude oil relaxed whole wide in the last few weeks. What is surprising is that, despite the cost of crude oil going down, the cost of electricity is going up… and mind you, by 21%! This is just because they are pegging to some other by-product of oil. If I were a chemical engineer good in math, I will calculate how this depreciation of crude oil can lead to an appreciation of oil by-products!

    However, despite this dip, the fuel surcharge in taxis is not going away and the fares on buses will still be going up, up and away. Sigh. By the way, does anyone know how does CNG compare to petrol/diesel in terms of price?

    Pump prices cut by 5 cents

    Eighth cut since July; more expected in coming months

    By Christopher Tan

    OIL companies on Tuesday cut pump prices here for the eighth time since July amid a worsening economic crisis in the United States and Europe that has driven oil prices to near 12-month lows.

    They lowered petrol and diesel rates by five cents a litre across the board. With the reduction, 92, 95 and 98-octane petrol now cost $1.863, $1.896 and $1.97 a litre respectively before discount.

    Shell’s V-Power is now $2.099, while Caltex Platinum is $2.096 a litre. Diesel, the fuel of commerce, is $1.703 a litre.

    The latest adjustment came as the price of crude oil fell below US$90 a barrel on Monday from a high of US$148 in July.

    On the New York Mercantile Exchange, November-dated oil fell by US $4.13 on Monday to US$89.75 a barrel. Brent crude was down by US$4.49 to US$85.76.

    Oil prices have been falling as the economic turmoil in the United States and Europe, spurred by the worldwide credit crisis, dampens demand. Drivers have also been switching to more fuel-efficient cars and cutting back on discretionary trips.

    With the latest cuts, petrol prices are down 39 cents a litre since their July highs, while diesel is 33 cents lower.

    Oil industry consultant Ong Eng Tong said pump prices should have been reduced more. ‘A US$1 drop in crude oil price roughly translates to a one-cent drop in pump price here,’ he said.

    Mr Ong expects prices to slide even further in the coming months.

    ‘Petrol demand in the US is down,’ he noted. ‘The US is the world’s biggest consumer. Whatever the demand there affects prices everywhere else.’

    But Mr Ng Weng Hoong, editor of energy news portal EnergyAsia.com, said oil will resume its northward trek in the long term.

    ‘The most recent analyses by the International Energy Agency and Opec predict that world demand will still be growing,’ he said. ‘No one is predicting a contraction in demand. ‘The world will still be using more oil despite the financial crisis.’

    He said when financial giants like Lehman, UBS, Morgan Stanley and AIG crumpled, ‘they were forced to liquidate their long positions in oil and commodities’.

    ‘That’s why prices collapsed,’ he explained.

    He added that Washington’s bailout plan will have an inflationary effect on the cost of goods, including oil.

    But should the bailout fail, ‘watch for rioting and geopolitical conflicts to escalate’.

    ‘An unstable political environment will also prove bullish for oil,’ he said.

    Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_286937.html

    Article extracted on 7th October 2008

    Just after Singtel announced that they will be raising the rates and fees for their fixed home line service, Starhub announced that they will be providing free fixed line for their customers – hardware all thrown in for free!

    Indeed, it does seem that Starhub has had the upper hand in this situation; what potential switchovers have to bear in mind is that Starhub runs on VoIP while Singtel runs over physical copper connections that are physically switched. However, given the advancement of VoIP, one can hardly tell the difference nowadays besides that suspicious occasional lag.

    This will also mean that in times of blackout, Starhub fixed line users will not be able to access their phone services while Singtel users would largely be able to. Largely – because there will be some who choose to use fanciful phones that will require a power supply.

    Given the current economic status (editor: which spelt “recession” on 10th October 2008), it is confounding on as to why government-privatised-companies such as Singtel and, just recently, Singapore Powers, have chosen this time to raise their rates. Given as they promise to provide “vouchers” to help the needy tide over this time of roughness, we can only hope that they don’t “run out of vouchers” just like the transport companies did earlier.

    Singtel had attributed the increase to how it hasn’t raised rates and fees in the last 18 years and that copper is becoming more expensive, while Singapore Powers attributed it to “the peg to fuel prices”.

    Nonetheless, if you are interested to take up the Starhub free fixed line offer, you may go to http://www.starhub.com/freehomeline

    SingTel fixed-line rates to go up

    Annual fee will also be raised; telco cites rising costs, offers vouchers for needy households

    SINGTEL is hiking its fixed-line phone rates and annual subscription fee starting on Jan 1 next year – the first increase in 18 years.

    All businesses and more than 90 per cent of households would be affected by the rises, said SingTel’s Singapore chief executive Allen Lew.

    A total of 60 per cent of residential customers, and 75 per cent of business owners will face rises of not more than $1.50 a month or $18 a year, Mr Lew said. The rest would face somewhat higher rises.

    The annual subscription rate will rise 10 per cent from $100 to $110 for home users and about 7 per cent from $150 to $160 for business users.

    Call charges will rise 14 per cent by 0.1 cents to 0.8 cents for every 30-second block during peak hours and for every 60-second block during off-peak hours.

    Peak hours will also be pushed back an hour to between 9am and 7pm from the current 8am to 6pm period, Monday through Friday, to reflect changes in call traffic patterns.

    While the price increase may be relatively modest for most home consumers, the story may be different for some businesses.

    Mr V. S. Kumar, managing director of Network Courier, said that communication with his customers by phone is a major part of his business. He has 24 phone lines and receives about 3,500 phone calls a day.

    ‘I am surprised at the timing of this announcement because we are entering a downturn and the costs of doing business have been rising,’ he said. ‘This is not very encouraging news.’

    Bus and train fares were increased by 0.7 per cent at the beginning of this month. Just last week the Energy Market Authority announced that electricity tariffs would go up 21 per cent.

    To help offset the higher charges, SingTel will provide $1 million worth of credit vouchers, each worth $10, to help households which are in need of financial assistance.

    People in need of this assistance should approach their Citizens Consultative Committees or People’s Association grassroots leaders.

    Home users who sign up for SingTel’s electronic bill statement and Giro before March 31 next year will also get a one-time discount of $10 from their annual subscription, SingTel said.

    In response to reporters’ questions, Mr Lew said SingTel’s operations were beginning to feel the strain from the global financial crisis and that cost-cutting measures at the company are on the agenda.

    ‘It is no longer business as usual,’ he said. ‘We are starting to see the impact on sentiment in some parts of the business.

    ‘We are adopting a framework that is customised for what we see as another 12 to 18 months of uncertainty and a difficult economic environment.’

    SingTel is starting to curtail costs such as discretionary costs and advertising costs.

    Said Mr Lew: ‘Until revenue goes back to the old days we will definitely have to cut back.’

    He said the telecommunications firm would provide more details of the impact of the global financial crisis on its operations when it releases its half-year financial results next month.

    In the meantime SingTel does not expect to cut any jobs as yet, but will focus on ‘holding with the current manpower that we have’. Any staff members who resign will not be replaced, he said.

    On the fixed-line rate increases, he explained that the rising cost of labour as well as copper, which is the medium through which voices are transmitted over phone lines, made the revision something ‘that we couldn’t hold off on’.

    The annual average wage rose 52 per cent between 1997 and last year, according to the Ministry of Manpower. The price of copper has trebled from 1991 to last year. The copper lines are replaced every 15 to 25 years based on wear and tear, Mr Lew said.

    He acknowledged that revenue from the traditional home fixed-lines is falling as more people are choosing to use mobile phones and broadband Internet connections rather than dial-up.

    However, he said that the fixed-line phone is still a unique product because it does not run on power, thereby offering a reliability that other alternatives cannot. He also noted that the new rates are still among the lowest in the region.

    The rate adjustment was necessary to reflect product value and to ensure the long-term sustainability of the product, Mr Lew added.

    He said SingTel had considered the possibility that some subscribers would defect to other telecom companies. The company would be working to ‘convince customers of the value of this product’.

    A Straits Times straw poll of 10 people found that eight of them felt they would be unaffected by the changes as they use cellphones or no longer have fixed lines.

    Ms Penny Koo, 25, a lawyer, said that she felt the fee increase was not too large, and so it will not affect her usage. She said that while it may not hurt most middle-income households, some lower-income consumers may still feel the pinch.

    However, Ms Pauline Tan, a civil engineer in a household of four, said that because she seldom uses her fixed-line phone, she may consider cutting the line in view of the increases.

    Others The Straits Times talked to said they had already given up home fixed lines.

    Mrs Josephine Tan, 57, a retired mother of one, said that when she moved into her new apartment five years ago she had decided to forego having a fixed-line phone as she saw no use for it.

    chanckr@sph.com.sg

    Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_286830.html

    And for your free Starhub fixed line:

    StarHub extends free fixed line phone service to more customers

    A day after SingTel announced rate increases for its fixed line phone services, its rival StarHub says it’s offering its residential voice service for free, to its cable tv customers.

    StarHub’s fixed-line service is called Digital Voice Home, and is already offered free to its broadband internet subscribers.

    The telco is extending it to its cable TV subscribers with immediate effect.

    StarHub said in a statement that customers who switch from their current residential fixed-line telephone service, will enjoy savings of more than 100 dollars a year.

    That’s because StarHub’s fixed line service comes with free unlimited outgoing calls to any local telephone number at any time of the day.

    Source: 938 Live, http://938live.sg/portal/site/938Live/menuitem.43735da1634c4377d21b2910618000a0/?vgnextoid=7dfa15b9bf6dc110VgnVCM1000001f0aa8c0RCRD&vgnextchannel=6f33638896593110VgnVCM100000e101000aRCRD&mcParam=6f33638896593110VgnVCM100000e101000aRCRD

    Article extracted on 8th October 2008

    BBQ Portobello mushroom

    Food October 10th, 2008

    And just because I am going for a BBQ tonight, served with Chardonnay and Merlot, I am going to present a recipe for making nice grilled BBQ Portobello mushrooms.

    Things that you need is simply:

    1. 1 x packet of (about 4 to 8 for 1-2 servings) Portobello mushroom (duh?)
    2. 1 x a few stalks of thyme (those in small stalks, if possible, else, the replacement for this is thyme leaves and a brush [those that the barber use for putting on shaving cream])
    3. 1 x Bottle of extra virgin olive oil (apparently, it’s not enough just to be virgin, must be extra virgin, more virgin than virgin)
    4. 1 x Bottle of Parsley leaves
    5. 2 x Chilli (preferably thinly sliced already, else you have to slice it yourself)
    6. 1 x Lemon (those big ones)

    After you have gotten all these from your friendly supermarket, just follow the steps to make nice, delicious grilled Portobello mushrooms:

    1. Cut of the stalks of the mushrooms so that they can be laid flat on the grill
    2. Place them on the grill until the bottom starts turning brown
    3. Meanwhile, get the stalks of thyme and tie them up at the stem-end so that it looks like a small brush
    4. Pound the leaves of the thyme until the leaves fall off (if you didn’t manage to get the thyme stalks, you may use thyme–leaves-in-a-bottle here)
    5. Add some water (about 1 teaspoon) onto the pounded leaves that came off
    6. Add about 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
    7. Stir and mix the concoction
    8. Go back to the grill and turn the mushrooms up
    9. Using the thyme stalks/brush, dip into the concoction and apply the mixture evenly on the mushrooms
    10. Turn the mushrooms and apply evenly on both sides
    11. Grill until desired level
    12. Place the mushrooms on a plate
    13. Cut the lemon into halves and give the mushrooms a generous sprinkle of lemon juice
    14. Sprinkle the parley leaves and sliced chilli on the mushrooms
    15. Complete it with a squeeze of extra virgin olive oil on the mushrooms
    16. Tuck in!

    You can actually change the concoction in steps 5-6 to anything else you wish. Some add vinegar for that extra tinge. We hope you enjoyed this session of Jean-learns-how-to-cook! =)

    Reliving India

    Singapore October 8th, 2008

    Within minutes of stepping into Starbucks and getting my regular drink, the lights went off in a power trip. This, I assure you, is quite an uncommon phenomenon; at least in Singapore. In no more than 5 minutes later, the lights went off again. Whoops! Another power trip! Hmm… This reminded me of the only time while I was in India that the lights went off. At least only the lights went off. I have heard of horror stories of power adaptors going up in smoke! No kidding! Just that I am not sure if that was in India or China.

    In fact, if you are going to be travelling overseas, 3rd, 2nd or 1st world, you may wish to equip yourself with some of the following items:

    • a universal travel adaptor
      • preferably one that has an LED (usually red) to indicate if power is flowing into it; this helps to cut the speculation if any fault lies in the power source or your electronic item
      • preferably one that has a surge protector will be ideal, given that this might happen in any country, regardless of how developed it may be; this may cost more, but hey, nothing beats a burnt laptop
    • a surge protector
      • in the event that you are unable to find a travel adaptor with a surge protector, then you will need an independent surge protector; it may not be easy to find a dedicated surge protector, so those multi-plugs with surge protectors will do just fine
    • an extension cable with a few sockets for all your stuffs
      • it’s best that you try to get those with… yes, surge protectors; I’m probably just being paranoid, but again, it’s best if they come with individual switches and LEDs

    These should be able to see u through your journey overseas. The extension cable will be particularly useful because you will get access to hard-to-reach places where the power socket is. In addition, you will not have to carry a travel adaptor for each item. If you do not wish to carry a lot of power adaptors when you go overseas, one way to reduce this is to search for USB cables that can power and charge your electronic item. You have to, however, take into consideration that the maximum output from the USB port is only up to 500mA, and depending the internal design of the motherboard, this 500mA may be split across all USB ports. In short, there’s a risk that your electronic item may not be powered/charged adequately through the USB port.

    I hope this had been a good tip for you. Meanwhile, the lights went off again in Starbucks. Working in the dark is fun. =)

    I got this while on SMRT service 970 home one evening. Some might have said that I should have been more gracious, some might have thought that I am over doing things… but I mean no harm while posting this picture up, just so that all who enjoys wearing shorts on buses, or those who enjoy sandwiching their hands between the seats and their thighs, will really know what had been on the seats =)

    Presenting to you… (taken on a Nokia E65 but not endorsing it, yet)

    06102008(003)

    What do think seems wrong with this picture?

    This is quite a brave heading but as things started to unfold over the past few weeks, there’s a chance that China may not be entirely at fault for the melamine in the milk – at least we don’t think that melamine had been deliberately added into the milk to fake the protein test.

    The first thing that came to my mind was – why melamine? There are a thousand and one proteins out there that can probably fake a protein test (milk is periodically tested to ensure that there is sufficient amounts of certain proteins in it) and to use melamine probably requires some level of sophistication on the part of the China factory on hind sight. To suddenly find melamine in every almost single thing imaginable now means that the factories in China have syndicates all over the world, or that something went wrong in some fundamental food chain that led to the surfacing of melamine everywhere.

    While the Chinese authorities have taken responsibility for the presence of melamine in the milk and that “the chemical was added to milk before being sold to dairy manufacturers in a bid to falsely boost protein readings”, I felt that there is more than meets the eye. *plays transformer song*

    There was a dead gave away when melamine was also found in lactoferrin, one of the export products from New Zealand. Unless there is a worldwide conspiracy on the use of melamine in their products, it is unlikely that the factories in New Zealand have also added melamine into their products to fake a protein test. However, if you look at the common denominator of the products, the answer lies in the cows. To be more precise, it lies in the food of the cows.

    Melamine is a by-product of cyromazine and is formed in the bodies of mammals that have ingested cyromazine. Cyromazine is a pesticide that is commonly used to control pests in plants. If cows have been given such plants as part of their diet, it could be possible that melamine is formed in their bodies and passed out in their milk and urine. This is particularly evident in the latest report of vegetables being tainted with melamine, which probably has no purpose when used on plants. However, it was also reported that cyromazine may also be converted to melamine on plants through photodegradation, resulting in dealkylation and thus the formation of melamine. This can be found in Lim et al., 1990 L.O. Lim, S.J. Scherer, K.D. Shuler and J.P. Toth, Disposition of cyromazine in plants under environmental conditions, J. Agric. Food Chem. 38 (1990), pp. 860–864.

    Thus, the real culprit at the end of the day could be the pesticide, cyromazine, through use of it leads to the metabolite, melamine being formed in milk, urine and on plants through photodegradation. To this, I felt that the Chinese government was probably too quick to admit to the accusation that their factories could have played a vital role to fake protein tests. Of course, it may still be possible that the factories somehow manage to find out that melamine had always been present in milk and perhaps thought that it’s an inexpensive way to boost their protein test results. The truth of it, will probably be known after a thorough investigation had been carried out.

    Melamine-tainted veggies

    KOTA KINABALU – THE Malaysian Health Ministry is now on high alert over melamine-tainted vegetables imported from China.

    ‘We have learnt from Korea that they have detected a high level of melamine in vegetables they import from China,’ said Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai.

    ‘We have launched a level 4 check on all food products from China where we will take samples to ensure the products are safe for consumption before releasing it into the market,’ he told reporters after attending the Sabah MCA convention on Saturday.

    Mr Liow assured that melamine-tainted food products in the country were at the permissible level of 2.5 parts per million (ppm), whilst baby products contained one ppm. – BERNAMA

    Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/SE%2BAsia/Story/STIStory_286024.html?vgnmr=1

    And the milk scare continues:

    China milk scandal spreads

    SEOUL – SOUTH Korea, Australia and Japan on Saturday pulled melamine-contaminated sweets and drinks from supermarket shelves amid a widening scandal over Chinese milk products tainted with the toxic chemical.

    Authorities in Seoul ordered Mars and Nestle to pull three products after melamine, which is usually used for making plastics, was detected in snacks made in China by the multinationals.

    The industrial chemical had been found in M&M’s milk chocolate snack and Snickers peanut Fun Size, both produced by Mars, and Kit Kat chocolate bars imported from Nestle Tianjin in China, Korea Food and Drug Administration said.

    ‘Mars is recalling these products because it is legally obligated to do so following the announcement by the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA),’ Mars said in a statement.

    Melamine has been blamed for making thousands of infants ill and killing four in mainland China after it tainted baby milk powder in one of the country’s worst ever product safety scandals.

    China is struggling to limit the damage to its food safety reputation as a growing number of countries have decided to suspend imports of Chinese milk products or withdraw them from sale over the scandal.

    Mars said while it was complying with the South Korean request, the melamine levels detected were too small to pose a health risk, and called for a standard reporting limit of the industrial chemical across Asia.

    ‘Minute traces of melamine are commonly found throughout the global food chain and melamine levels below 2.5 ppm are not deemed to indicate adulteration with melamine,’ it said. There was no immediate comment from Nestle Korea.

    A KFDA official said South Korea does not allow any level of melamine in food. ‘No melamine in food is our standard,’ he said.

    World Health Organisation food safety expert Peter Ben Embarek said earlier this week that many countries had only recently fixed limits for melamine in food as ‘melamine has nothing to do with the food chain’.

    The chemical was added to milk before being sold to dairy manufacturers in a bid to falsely boost protein readings, Chinese authorities have said.

    A fourth Chinese milk product has been withdrawn from sale in Australia after tests revealed it was tainted with melamine, Food Standards Australia New Zealand said in a statement.

    ‘Consumers are advised not to consume Kirin milk tea made in China,’ the organisation said.

    The Australian food watchdog has already recalled White Rabbit sweets and Chinese-made Cadbury chocolate eclairs, while importers of Lotte Koala Biscuits have undertaken a precautionary withdrawal of the product.

    A Japanese importer, meanwhile, began recalling Chinese chocolates suspected of being contaminated with melamine.

    The western Japanese city of Osaka said a test showed the chemical had been detected in ‘Chocolate Pillows’ imported from China by Osaka-based NS International.

    While there had been no reports of health problems, the city ordered the importer to recall some 86,000 packages of the chocolates on the grounds that the company may have violated the food sanitation law.

    A growing number of countries throughout Asia as well as Africa are banning products over the scandal but it has also hit Europe.

    The European Union recently banned all imports on Chinese milk-related products for children such as biscuits and chocolate on top of a long-standing embargo on Chinese dairy products like milk and yoghurt. – AFP

    Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Asia/Story/STIStory_285829.html

    Article extracted on 5th October 2008

    Yes, Simply Jean is migrating. It’s been a tough decision and it hasn’t been easy. Migrating to another place requires a lot of effort, especially when we have to pack everything up to make sure that everything that is packed will still be at its destination the next day. It’s tough and we hope that all readers will stand by us as we do so.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Going to India was probably not something within my plans if not for the event. However, it somewhat changed the way I viewed certain things. Frankly, before I went over, I envisaged cockroaches and rats running around on the hotel bedroom floor, families of ants under the bed blankets, toilets jammed and faeces overflowing from the toilet bowl, brown water coming out from the taps and shower heads that gradually changes to yellow. I brought everything imaginable to “protect me” from the creepy crawlies – insect repellent, water purification pills, Dettol, shower caps, tissue paper, toilet paper… but it was quite an overkill in the end.

    You see, I actually checked into a relatively ok hotel (and rather expensive too, no thanks to the organizer) and things in there are A-OK. So everything “extra” that I got were actually not really needed. I did, however, bring lesser clothes than I thought I’d need, so that will be something that I’ll note in the future.

    I guess I was also lucky enough to be sent to Hyderabad where, as NTT has touted, it is the Briyani capital of India. Indeed, the Briyani is not just the usual coloured rice with chicken/mutton and gravy poured over the rice, it is a dish where the chicken/mutton is cooked with the rice – bringing the flavour right into the heart of the rice. Paratha (prata) is also different there, where spices are added to it to give it an aromatic taste. We were however, not daring enough to try their street fare for fear of food poisoning, especially when we are not accustomed to their method of preparation.

    Roads there are filled with potholes, which can be quite exciting at times when you take a ride on their auto-rickshaw as the driver swerves to avoid them. It’s also interesting to see how horning is practiced consistently on their roads where in Singapore, this can potentially be thought as an anti-social act, leading to possible fights and challenges. It was also for the first time that I saw with my own eyes how people actually run after the bus and hangs perilously on the handle bars at the exit of the bus. I have also seen how they can just jump off the bus at their destination – just like how we see it on TV. 

    I also saw how a bungalow can be built right next to a slum – depicting the stark contrast between the very rich and the very poor. It is something that is probably not seen in modern Singapore. At one side of the road, people are driving huge cars while at the other end, people can be seen begging from drivers whose cars stopped at traffic junctions. I had been approached by an old lady while waiting for my driver to pick me up from Golconda Fort and apparently, if her begging fails to bring any sympathy dollars from me, she will rope in her granddaughter as well. They asked for Rs. 50, which can probably cover 2 street fare meals and if Alice and myself gave Rs. 50 each, that will probably cover 4. If they get at least 10 people to give them Rs. 50, then they will probably get about Rs. 500 a day and Rs. 15000 in a month. That’s twice of what a teacher earns in India. Eventually, we gave a small sum to which, the old lady probably just spat at. We were also told that no one will be allowed to starve in India, which we of course, have no idea how true it is.

    Other than cars, buses, auto-rickshaws and bikes, we also saw camels, horses and cows strolling on the streets of India. The cows were the most wonderful lot, especially with the expressions on their face that were so kind… and seemed to say “Don’t eat me”. Streets in India were also filled with people… lots of people who walked the roads in a manner would warrant mountains of fines from our traffic police. If you are able to cross the roads in India, you would be able to cross almost any roads in the world.

    There are many places which I didn’t get to explore because of my short stay in India. However, I have met many wonderful people who are most willing to help me out in difficult situations. To these people, I am most thankful. At the same time, I would also like to thank Su Min/ Derrick / Lenovo who most graciously loaned out the Lenovo U110, which, besides being a great notebook, has a cover whose carvings are good for caressing when I felt bored. The rubbery parts are also good for sinking my nails into, just like a cat does.

    Many thanks to TDM / Howie / Creative for their Creative Vado, on which we have taken many wonderful videos (which Alice will be putting up soon). Its clever disguise was good enough for us to smuggle it into the museum without the security guard knowing. Kekeke… *tsk tsk* this is of course, a bad example and we have probably brought shame to the good name of Singapore… Then again, bringing it in was just to prove that the Creative Vado is light and well-disguised enough to be thought of as an MP3 player. For the record, we didn’t take any videos while we were in the museum. See? We respect the rules that they have laid. Actually, it’s because there are 4 CCTVs filming us at any point in time.

    While our stay at Katriya De Royal had been expensive and probably way above market rate, we were glad to have met great staff at the lobby as well as friendly staff at the restaurant who served us food without letting us queue up for it. To this, we appreciate it a lot. Last but not least, we would also like to thank the ground crew of Singapore Airlines @ the Hyderabad Airport for retrieving Alice’s luggage when she checked it in with 4 small disposable cups of water that threatens to break open any time and wet all the luggage in the same bin while loaded in the plane.

    There are probably many things which we have not been able to address in these blog posts, but do email us and we will try to cover it here. Till our next trip in Myanmar, we will be posting pictures soon that we hope you will enjoy.

    Tata!