A Few Perfect Days On Vacation

Nikoi Island gave us a perfect beach holiday a couple of months ago. If you haven’t heard of the place, it’s ok. We’d rather not have so many people know about it.

Its only other presence on social media besides its own website is its TripAdvisor profile and FB page, and it’s really quite difficult to get a booking because there are only a few “rooms” on the this very well thought out resort. We loved it that there was no tv, and the internet was so patchy I had to give up trying to do work or Facebook and simply talk, snorkel, swim, kayak, eat and drink for four days.

Food options are limited, but that isn’t something to worry about. Healthy-ish simple meals are prepared three times a day, and you’re always welcome to ask for seconds. And our friends would attest to us being very likely to protest if there were no air-conditioned rooms, but we were pleasantly surprised that the breeze that blew through our house/room was cool and strong enough for us to need blankets when we slept.

I don’t remember any other vacation where we didn’t have a single complaint to make about service, board or amenities.

 

Private car takes you to private jetty to take the private ferry to the private island
Private car takes you to private jetty to take the private ferry to the private island

 
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Our Monkeys Are Safe, For Now

Driving through to the end of Rifle Range Road, where there’s an ST Kinetics factory, and back out to Dunearn Road was very pleasant, and we’re very thankful for very pretty green pockets like these around the island. We hope it stays that way.

We had been a bit worried that we hadn’t seen our monkey troop around for nearly two months now. And with reports of sanctioned mass culling, we feared the worst for the Rifle Range Road Troop – as our bunch of monkeys are known (thanks Amanda for telling me).

We even missed seeing the Lone Ranger in the troop – the naughty one responsible for many trespassing and food stealing incidents at our condo and nearby terrace houses. So we took a drive this afternoon through Rifle Range Road hoping to look for them.

We’re happy to report that the Rifle Range Road macaques are well, although I don’t think we saw Lone Ranger. I hope he’s just off by himself nearby. To the humans who live around this neck of the woods, please learn to live with these very important primates.

You can start by not leaving your trash/food in plastic bags (because the macaques have been conditioned to look for plastic bags because most of the time, they contain food) in the open. Secure your trash bins with bungee cords, and for goodness’ sakes, do not feed the monkeys. If you don’t follow these guidelines, you’re the ones being the nuisance.

The AVA has sanctioned private contractors who trap these creatures and kill them because of human complaints. The contractors have been reported to be a little too zealous in the culling – 300+ kills out of a total macaque population of 2,000 is excessive.  I blame the humans who complain. Please, just move out and leave us and our monkeys alone.

 

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Security Association Shooting Themselves In The Foot

T. Mogan and Friends: Do these guards know that they’re posing for a photo accompanying an interview which asks NOT to raise pay?
T. Mogan and Friends: Do these guards know that they’re posing for a photo accompanying an interview which asks NOT to raise pay?

I read with some dismay last month the Security Association of Singapore’s chief’s statement about proposed progressive wage model guides for security professionals.

It is positions like that which pose the biggest obstacles to better jobs and working conditions for lower income workers which NTUC has been calling for. Security guards remain one of the lowest paid workers in Singapore, and it is damn sian to hear people complaining that “gahmen don’t care about low wage workers” while at the same time railing against proposed improved wages.

Mr T. Mogan’s complaint in the ST interview, that “flexibility” is needed in place of Progressive Wage increases are a disservice to his industry.

The whole idea of progressive wages (as opposed to a wholesale minimum wage system) is flexibility. You don’t raise wages just ‘cos you think you need to – the work that is tied to the wage increase has to be improved.

Furthermore, security companies have also been complaining that since the rule was implemented several years ago to restrict security professionals to Singaporeans and PRs, “cannot find security officers – nobody want to work”.

As a friend in the HR business puts it – “then pay them more lah, wah lao.”

Before you get more shrill in your protests about higher overheads and needing to shut your businesses down, please, read on:

Your security business is in need of a serious revamp. The entire industry is. This dependence on low wage workers to service clients in a 24hr a day service is so very obviously not sustainable. I’m sorry, but you have to be the ones, together with your customers, to bite the bullet.

You may well protest against even that – saying you have done everything you can – improved the workers’ wages and trained them – but the fact remains that your customers still need to have 24hr a day security guarding, and that has become a lot more expensive with the wage increase, and therefore a wage increase does not and cannot create an increase in productivity.

But what if you exercised the other letter in the acronym PIC (Productivity and Innovation Credit – see also “free Gahmen money”): “Innovation”?

What if you took the shocking step of telling your customer, “eh boss, acherly hor, you no need 2 shifts x 12hr x day security guard – we can use centralized CCTV so you share one team of 2 roving security guards for this 16 square km area. Any sign of trouble – like somebody forget to close security door, the alarm will alert the guards to come and investigate. Around the same price. Can?”

Who will foot the bill, you say? That’s too radical, you say?

There’s a Swedish company in Singapore that’s already doing that – Securitas. Roving guard teams, state-of-art surveillance systems, centralized security details, highly trained and certified officers who are paid higher than industry standard. Smart, happy security guards backed by technology. Who dowan?

The more Singapore security companies start to innovate, the more customers will get round to understanding what they need. It’s the same like in 2007 – people didn’t know they needed a smart phone which could do everything else apart from making voice calls, and which in fact has reduced the number of voice calls.

For instance, most condos don’t actually need security guards if you think about it. You don’t even really need a doorman or a carpark attendant – which is what most condo guards double and triple up as. Replace this staffing with one daytime caretaker and a security surveillance system like the one described above. Double confirm can one.

As to who will foot the bill, sorry friend, you have to put some money down into the industry you’ve known and loved and want to see improved. But don’t worry, got free monies in the form of PIC, NTUC’s e2i Inclusive Growth Programme and more.

If you take a look here, you’ll see that in some instances, if you wanted to invest in $100,000 worth of equipment/software, you may only end up effectively paying $5,000 of the total cost, and think that Christmas has come early.

Meantime, tolong please, raise pay – gahmen will pay 40% of your wage increase.

Avoid The Unexpected: Shield Your Travels

Naomi and I make it a point to travel as much as we can while Kai is young, not least due to the fact we can still get children’s discounts. It also helps us a lot that people generally like Kai and treat us better as a result.

Traveling with kids can be difficult, especially on long journeys. You have to find out whether there are restrooms, rest stops, proper food, entertainment, medical facilities if needed, and when Kai was much younger, the bulk of our luggage was literally made up of his diapers (because we no trust China diaper).

I buy travel insurance every time we go somewhere, just so we get covered for unforeseen things like delays or illness. Clinic visits can be expensive, as we found out once in Shanghai, when Kai had a spectacular bout of projectile vomiting. At a Singapore-branded medical chain clinic, the bill came up to US$200.

Our friends had a horror travel story very recently – the A380 that was supposed to have taken them home from Australia was found to have had technical issues while the crew was doing pre-flight checks. A few rounds of boarding and disembarkations ensued, together with confused ground staff at the check-ins and a total of an 8 hour delay which caused a stomach upset severe enough for our friends to seek several days’ medical leave when they finally got home.

When you’re going on a much deserved, hard earned holiday, the last thing you want is for something to screw up so badly that it destroys the whole trip. So it makes complete sense every time for us to just pay a small premium on top of our tickets, just so we can dampen the blow of something shitty happening (or in Kai’s case, something vomitty happening).

DBS’ Travellershield is a travel insurance plan that now has an event alert service for travelers who buy the product. Say for example if there’s a riot happening in the city you’re about to head to next, but you haven’t had the chance to watch tv or be online to know of it, TravelAlert Service will send an SMS telling you about it and advising you to make alternate plans in your itinerary.

The TravelAlert Service is exclusive to the new TravellerShield Single Trip Premier Plan and Classic & Premier Annual Plan purchases via the DBS website or branches.

This weekend, DBS TravellerShield has a launch event at Ngee Ann City.

DBS will be having an event this Sat 26 Oct and Sun 27 Oct at Ngee Ann City Basement 2 from 12PM to 9PM where a photo booth will be installed and you can get your photo taken at the booth for FREE!

Your photo will then be uploaded on to DBS Facebook Page after which you can tag yourself and ask your friends to vote for you so you stand a chance to win a pair of tickets to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. Online voting ends 11 Nov at 12PM.

I’ll be there to take a couple of selfies to try to win a trip. Plus, if you sign up by 31 December, you’ll get 25% off TravellerShield covers and what they call a “free” gift.

Visit http://bit.ly/UnexpectedHoliday to find out more.

Investing In Shares For Absolute Beginners

I learned a few important things at a seminar conducted by the SGX Academy last month.

One: The person I referred to in my previous blog post about investing in shares is not a broker. He is a remisier. The term “broker” refers to the company he works for/under.

Two: There is a difference between an investor and a trader. The course I attended, Basics of Investing, teaches people, well, the basics of investing. Trading is the act of buying and selling shares, and for some people, the use of the stock market as a speculative venue based in part on chance and in part on knowledge.

Investing in stock market products, on the other hand, is the process of growing one’s assets through educated and informed purchases.

If you’re a super gorblok like me, you’d have benefited from this Dummies Guide type of course I went to on a Saturday morning at the SGX Centre. They even teach you the very basics – things you were afraid to ask, in case you were branded a super gorblok.

Opening a CDP account, appointing a broker and a remisier, opening an online trading account and investing in various instruments like bonds, shares and exchange traded funds – were all taught concisely throughout the 3 hour session.

Armed with this knowledge, attendees can graduate from the super gorblok class to further sessions either privately (groups can be arranged with the speakers) or at the SGX for more specialised fields of investment, such as, say, iron ore futures or structured warrants.

More importantly, attendees will become better able to invest their assets in shares – another interesting snippet here: stock values have increased at a higher rate than real property – and at the very least, learned about another avenue of diversifying their investments.

There were words of caution for people who attended thinking they’d learn inside tips on how to get rich quick on the stock markets: Trading in stocks is a zero sum game. Only  a small percentage of traders win consistently, and if you want to trade as opposed to invest, then you need to possess the necessary knowledge and deploy effective trading techniques.

Without proper knowledge many end up not adhering to conventional mantras like “buy low sell high”. Instead, they will “sell because many people say they are selling” or “buy because many people say must buy”.

But if you were to dip your feet in the stock market with the objective of growing your investment, you’d be looking at, for example, buying shares based on knowledge like “ok, there’s going to be high demand for agricultural products that this company is looking to sell”, and you’ll buy, and keep those shares while they grow with you.

I’ve gotten a lot more interested in looking at what else the SGX Academy has to offer – there’s already a whole slew of information available that I now can make some sense of. And if someone were to ask me, in the local vernacular – “eh, bro, you got play shares or not”? I want to be able to tell them, “No, bro. I don’t play shares. I invest in them”.

I strongly encourage anyone who’s interested in share investing but don’t know enough, to attend a talk conducted by the SGX (beginners’ ones like Basics of Investing are free of charge) and come away armed and ready to potentially outpace inflation.