Monthly Archives: November 2008

The MRT door scrum

Just thought I’ll do another Singapore-related (commuting) post before leaving for Japan tonight.

Following the earlier post on being a seat samaritan, the natural follow-up was to comment on people rushing in when the train doors open, without allowing passengers to first alight. This was inspired particularly upon reading a fellow NIEer’s post, which I’d found rather amusing.

A “clear your table” campaign won’t do no nothing in making us a more gracious society…sometimes a more hard-handed approach is needed, and here are some helpful suggestions:

1. Create MRT doors that swing outwards. This will clear the way for outgoing train commuters.

Oh, so true! In a rational world, those waiting at the platforms would wait for the alighting passengers to get off the train first, so that there would be less obstruction when they themselves enter the train, and overall efficiency is improved. The time saving per stop might be minuscule, but it kinda adds up on long journeys, plus it’s only the polite thing to do!

In the real world, though, everybody is a selfish b@%!@#d who’s primarily concerned with securing a seat for themselves. So instead of patiently waiting for people to get out, people tend to rush onto the train as soon as physically possible, often camping in front of the doors and blocking the exit route before the train arrives. The typical view from the eyes of an alighting passenger might look something like this.

I was getting really annoyed with all this recently, since I actually like to stand at the side of the doors and attempt to be a rational human being who waits for people to get off before getting on. The problem with this strategy is that you lose out when nobody else plays by these rules (I’m sure there’s an economics lesson hiding in all this), because the only reward for stupidly waiting outside the train is the joy of witnessing your ruder fellow passengers secure a rest spot for their fannies.

So one fine day I decided to punish these evil-doers with my very own brand of vigilante justice. When I alighted at Boon Lay MRT station (a hotspot for MRT door scrums), I would do my utmost to make life difficult for these door-scrummers. I would claim my God-given (hyperbole intended) right to exit the train unobstructed, and callously push aside all who opposed me.

In other words, I would walk out those doors forcefully. Hey, I never promised a particularly awe-inspiring brand of vigilante justice.

All plans were brought to a halt, however, when the train doors opened the fateful day to reveal, right in my path, a frail-looking but decidedly sprightly elderly lady aggressively pushing her way onto the train. I was all prepared to get a little roughed up while alighting the train, but somehow that was something I was totally not prepared for. Needless to say, my scheme for vengeance never did quite take off.

I think I’ve given up on Singaporeans ever waiting to get onto the train in an orderly manner. So I’ve decided – if you can’t beat them, join them!

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Animated films

…which is just another way of saying cartoon movies, I suppose, but one that avoids invoking the imagery of rattles and pacifiers.

I was really charmed by the trailer of The Tale of Despereaux, apparently based on a novel of the same title. I definitely hope to catch it. I guess this might be a shameful thing for some, but I actually rather enjoy watching cartoons. Not all of them, to be certain, but perhaps the more adult-accessible ones like those by Pixar and Dreamworks.

So are there any proud animated film connoisseurs lurking out there? We should totally band together in the face of animation-naysayers and proudly declare our love of… cartoons. Really.

~£~

The Bank of England have reduced the Base Rate by 1.50% to 3.00%. Following this, we have changed the rate of interest you earn on your Online Saver account from 4.25% AER to 2.75% AER, 2.72% gross variable.

The interest rates that apply to your Online Bonus Saver will change as well. The interest you earn changes from 4.75% AER to 3.25% AER (3.23% gross variable, including 1.75% AER bonus interest) in any calendar month you don’t make a withdrawal. If you do make a withdrawal, you’ll still be earning standard interest of 1.50% AER, 1.49% gross variable.

The interest rate that applies to amounts over £50,000 in your account will continue to track Base Rate (3.00% AER, 2.98% gross) if no withdrawals are made and a standard rate of 1.50% AER (1.49% gross variable) if you do make a withdrawal.

These new rates are effective from 13 November 2008.

Thank you for saving with HSBC.

Sigh. Really wishing I’d brought home more of my UK funds back when the exchange rate was 2.7 (it’s gone down to about 2.3 now, almost a 20% drop in value for me). Nothing to do now but let it earn (lowered) interest while waiting for it to rise, I guess. Not like I urgently need the cash right now.

The rate should rise eventually, right?

-sees a 1.5 exchange rate next year- NOOOOOooooo!!!

GPS fun

You know a something’s really fun to play with when it makes you go jogging, after weeks of (exercise) inactivity.

I’ve been playing with the GPS function of my new phone for quite a few days now, initially just to locate myself on the Singapore map, but more recently with turn-by-turn voice navigation, albeit with simple familiar routes. That in itself was already rather entertaining – perhaps it was just the novelty of it all, but I do think voice navigation is pretty useful, especially for someone who’s really bad with directions (such as myself). After all, why bother researching how to go somewhere if you don’t go there often?

The fun factor really scaled up, however, upon discovering Nokia Sports Tracker. I was trying to figure out how to chart the path covered using GPS, which struck me as a relatively simple thing to do – the program just needed to keep a log of the calculated location as it changed. The default navigation program wasn’t able to do that, though, and I later found one that was.

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to take a test walk around my neighbourhood, making a trip to Novena Square before turning around and heading home. The data collated was easily uploaded for analysis and easy sharing (click here to see what the interface looks like). Pretty nifty! Now I really wanted to play with it a little more.

So about half an hour later I was out for a run. I wanted to replicate the route I’d used to run before NIE started, since I’ve been curious what the exact distance covered was, and to more thoroughly test the various features of the program.

Sadly, it wasn’t particularly successful. As you can see, although I was out for about 45 minutes, somehow the program stopped gathering data at about 20 minutes. The photos I’d taken along the way (all after 20 minutes) were supposed to be automatically tagged to the map, but as a consequence are all registered as being taken at the last location recorded. I suspect it’s because of the version I was using (changes for the experimental v1.82 include “Fixed a problem with GPS sometimes turning off in the middle of exercise.” – d’oh!)

Strangely enough, the location data is accurate when I examined the photos on my phone, so I assume duplicate (erroneous) copies were created for the program. I managed to upload the geotagged pictures to Picasa (and have their location automatically registered). You can take a quick look at the album (and observe the mapped locations at the right of the picture) – among other things I managed to capture somebody riding a Segway (in Singapore? Seriously?)

CJC running route

I really wish I’d had this capability back in my university days, it’d have been great to chart my running routes in the UK and Japan. Or even my holiday travels. The possibilities are not limited to sports alone – I’ve even read some online comments on people trying it on their airplane flights!

I’ll be trying to map the route of the night cycling event my GESL group has organised tonight, hopefully there’re no glitches this time and my battery somehow manages to last the night!

Nokia N85

So I got myself the N85 after all. I wasn’t able to find someone with a spare phone upgrade (with contract extension) they weren’t planning to use, but armed with my arsenal of Tangs vouchers, I still managed to get it cheaper than the standard SingTel price (with a 6% rebate earned when using a Citibank card, too!).

I was actually debating if I should upgrade the phone the day I got it – I was actually quite contented with my previous phone (which I managed to sell for a cool $150), and I didn’t really need the mobile entertainment value the Wi-Fi connectivity offered, since I’d be in Japan for nearly a month. That last factor, however, was what pushed me to get it in the end – having read an article on using GPS in Malaysia (also applicable to Singapore), I was really keen to try out using GPS when in Japan this time round. I don’t think I’ll have voice navigation available in the region, but it’ll still be pretty fun (and useful) to be able to locate myself on a map while on the road there.

I’ve not been disappointed with the phone so far, aside from maybe the rather hard-to-press control buttons. Thankfully, the number buttons (the ones used for text messages) are much better. Wi-Fi connectivity has (thus far) turned out to be less useful than anticipated, though perhaps after installing more programs it’ll be appreciated more. Battery life has been good so far (it’s the main reason I’m avoiding the iPhone), although with all the extra functions I tend to play with it more and increase recharge frequency.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good purchase, and I’ll probably update again after having more thoroughly explored some its potential functions.

Prayer requests

School’s actually (practically) been over for a week already for me, and you’d have thought that meant more time for blogging, but between playing with a new phone (which I’ll probably blog about this week) and playing old uncompleted games (finally completed Neverwinter Nights 2 two years after its release, and got started on the expansion), there’s actually been very little leftover time (or incentive) to write. Somehow I’ve gained the motivation to write on this rainy Sunday evening, so here goes.

I’ve been going to Wesley Methodist Church these past few weeks, and though I’m not sure I’ll be making it a permanent home, it’s been a comfortable place to go for service. Anyway, they hand out a church bulletin booklet every week, which is probably a phenomenal waste of paper, but something nice about that is the prayer request section they have at the back. Basically, anybody who has requests they’ll like people to pray for could submit them to be printed in the booklet.

I don’t usually read that section in detail, but I do occasionally skim through it, and when I do, the thing that strikes me is the wide range in nature of the requests. On the one hand, you have people dying from leukaemia, lying comatose, and on the other you have requests for exam results and the like. I don’t think I’d have dared to submit a public prayer request for such (relatively) trivial matters when others’ lives are hanging in the balance, but I guess when believing in an infinite God, you’re supposed to assume that he can deal with your little requests without diminishing his ability to tackle the big ones.

I’ve realised, though, that this is a philosophy I take into my private prayer habits. I seldom pray for things, unless they’re things I feel to be really important. I know in theory that an omnipotent God should be able to deal with it all, but I guess I’m unable to actually comprehend this rationally, and decide not to bring my unworthy desires before God. This has always bothered me somewhat, though – especially upon meeting Ailin’s fellowship group in Japan and observing how each one of them always had stuff to pray about when they met weekly. It’s like, all the normal Christians are bringing their various requests to God, what are you, too good to ask for anything?

I wonder, though, whether I should be trying to change this perception by force, or whether I should be trying to reach an understanding of God that I can naturally accept? The Bible says to ask in order to receive (though it later qualifies that the intent behind the asking is important too), but if I don’t want it enough to trouble God about it (even though he probably won’t be troubled by it at all), that’s not really a problem, is it?

(And yes, I know supplication shouldn’t be all that’s involved in prayer, but I’m not particularly talky with God right now so it’s still the main component for me. Yes, I’m working on it.)

Male waiters

A random thought that struck me recently – what do you call male waiters? Like, when addressing a waitress you might say 小姐 or Miss, but I can’t think of a proper male equivalent. Mister? Sir? Not quite what you’d address the service staff with, right? How about in Mandarin, you don’t really call them 小二 anymore, do you?

Myself, I’ve been sticking with “hi” and “scuse me”, or simply waving, but surely there’s a nicer way of doing it?

Super size me

My mum’s been away on holiday for a week, and being too lazy to cook (especially without cookware of my very own), I’ve been paying more attention to the fast food scene of late. Apparently there’s a current batch of time-limited burgers right now, and the theme of it all seems rather clear – bigger is better!

I’m not a big fan of hamburgers, so I decided to give the beef-based burgers a miss (plus I’ve already tried a BK triple before), but I actually quite like the McSpicy, so I decided to give the mega version a go. It was actually pretty good, though I wonder how people with small mouths would manage, although the meal’s probably a little too much – I was feeling quite stuffed at the end of it all! Perfect for a ravenous teenager, perhaps, but probably not something I’ll repeat again.

Turducken

My brother mentioned the turducken today, essentially a chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey, similar to the three-bird roast I’d heard about (but never had) back in England. I’d always wanted to try it, but never got around to doing so (probably because the costs were quite prohibitive, plus you kinda need a horde of people to finish one).

Apparently Goodwood Park Hotel in Singapore sells it though, and after some searching I’ve located last year’s Christmas catalogue. Sounds like a dish I’d really like to sample – hopefully I’ll get to eat it this Christmas, somehow!

Day out

I went out today. This might not sound like earth-shaking news, until you consider that I’ve more or less not done so ever since school started. Well, I’ve gone out for meals, and adjourned to friends’ for post-dinner games, but that’s about it really. (Which is, incidentally, related to why I haven’t been blogging for some time – those assignments just kept coming! It’s not actually all that bad – I’ve definitely had time to blog if I’d wanted to, just that after rushing all those assignments, you don’t really feel like writing all that much…)

So on Monday I handed in my final assignment for the semester and suddenly I’m in holiday mode. I’ve still got classes to attend, but they pretty much finish this week – sweet! So yesterday I lounged around playing some computer games (starting on The Witcher, an RPG based on a Polish fantasy series of the same name), and decided that today will be spent on some chores I’d been meaning to do for awhile.

First up was the dentist. I’ve definitely got to find a cheaper place – TP Dental Surgeons is simply too expensive. It seems to cater to the expatriate crowd (which might explain the price), since the other customers there seem to be angmoh or Japanese. I mean, maybe they’re better somehow, but I think premium examination/scaling/polishing services are something I’m not willing to pay for.

Next, I went to claim some Tangs vouchers. I’d been making use of a referral scheme to score some free vouchers, and I’m happy to announce that I’ve earned S$80 doing pretty much nothing more than asking my friends if they wanted a Citibank credit card. Talk about easy money (If you want to apply for one let me know hor)! I think free vouchers are really good publicity for the company, though – I was wondering what to spend my newly-earned vouchers on, so I walked around and identified things I should buy before starting work next year. I’ll probably wait till the next GSS, though – I’ll probably be using the vouchers on a phone this time round.

I’ve actually been thinking of getting the Nokia N85 recently. It all started out with wishing I had a WiFi-capable mobile phone, so I could have web access at school without requiring a computer (or paying pricey 3G fees). Then I figured I should probably get something which can take decent (if not brilliant) photos, especially since I no longer have my own camera. Happily enough, there is a SingTel-affiliated store at Tangs that I can use the vouchers on, so I’ll probably get the phone soon enough.

Finally, I went for a free corporate photo shoot (again, from signing up for a credit card with Citibank). I was a little apprehensive about it, especially after reading poor reviews on the service, but figured that I had nothing much to lose since it was a free service. It turned out surprisingly well, perhaps because as a guy I didn’t have any problems with makeup, and I ended up purchasing a soft copy for S$10. Kinda pricey for a 30¢ CD, but as a overall package it was still a pretty good deal, and I can now print more copies by myself if required.

A day full of mundane tasks, but somehow I feel very satisfied having done them. It’s a snooze-worthy enough post as it is now, so I’ll probably just end here. Hopefully my next post will be a happy one about a new phone purchase!