Monday, December 27, 2010

My New Year Resolution

... is NOT to have one. 

In a few days' time, millions of people around the world will be announcing their new year resolutions. Thanks to new media, sharing such promises has become so easy.

The start of the year brings on many "if only" thoughts. Deep down, we have always wanted some change. In reality, we lack fuel to bring about the change. Few people actually fulfill their new year resolutions and one study suggests only 12% are successful.

 So, were you one of the 12%? I can hear some people even asking 'What was my new year resolution again?'

If it is so hard to keep our promises, why do so many people make new year resolutions year after year?

There are reasons why people traditionally or if I may say, habitually make new year resolutions. Psychologically, the start of a year always brings new hope. It signifies a new start and a chance to start all over again. It reminds us that 365 days have passed and we wonder how we could have lived those days better. 

The truth is, nothing starts all over again.

Time simply moves on regardless of how mankind chooses to compartmentalize it. From the time of early civilization, man has devised many ways to measure time. For those who adopt the Gregorian calendar, 1st of January may seem special. However, for those who follow other calendar systems such as the Chinese and Islamic calendar, that day holds no special significance.

We are given a finite time on Planet Earth but many people live their lives as if they have another in the bank. Everyone knows today will never come back. Yet, many rather procrastinate and they leave their hopes in 'tomorrows' rather than act on 'todays'.

At the start of the article, I said I am not making a new year resolution. For that, I mean to say I make a promise to change whenever the need arises. I do not look at the calendar and see if it is the first day of the year. Why wait till the start of the year before you swear to quit smoking? Do it now.

I have nothing against making any resolution. I am just suggesting that we should do it whenever and wherever. No special occasion is ever needed for that.

I wish everyone a promising 2011 with many promises fulfilled.

"Losers make promises they often break. Winners make commitments they always keep. ~Denis Waitley~

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Picture Blog #17 : Tanjung Pagar Railway Station

Tanjung Pagar Railway Station [Pic]

Yesterday, I visited Malaysia without leaving Singapore. Sort of.

Most local residents would know the historical Tanjung Pagar Railway station (see location map). It is located at Keppel Road just next to the busy Singapore Port.

The station is in Singapore but operated by KTM (Keratapi Tanah Melayu Berhad / Malayan Railway Limited), the main railway operator in Malaysia (See KTM Railway Map).

It is sitting on prime land at the edge of Singapore CBD area and not too far away from Sentosa, a popular tourist destination in Singapore. Even though it is located deep in Singaporean territory, the land occupied by the railway station and the tracks in Singapore technically belongs to Malaysia. (the land is held by KTM on a 999-year lease)

Tanjung Pagar Railway station has its history date back to 1932. In the days when train was a major mode of transport, it was one of the main train terminals within the Malayan railway network. That was so even after Singapore gained her independence in 1965

Today, travelers have many other choices and traveling into Malaysia by train is no longer preferred. However, KTM still operates services from Kuala Lumpur (capital of Malaysia) and other parts of Peninsular Malaysia.

24 May 2010 marked a major milestone in the history of the station when the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak met Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Singapore. They resolved a long-standing dispute relating to the relocation of Tanjung Pagar station. After the meeting, the two governments announced a land swop deal. With that, Tanjung Pagar station will cease operation by July 2011.

The future development of the area around the station is unknown. However, the railway station building is likely to be conserved by the National Heritage Board of Singapore. One thing I am sure: in a few months' time, Tanjung Pagar Railway station will no longer be the train station we used to know. I was there to capture some of its last moments before it fades into history.

Railway station is operated by
Malaysia-owned KTM

KTM was previously known as FMSR
(Federated Malay States Railways)
White marble relief representing 'Agriculture'
with letter F from 'FMSR' above it.
White marble relief representing 'Commerce'
with letter M from 'FMSR' above it.
White marble relief representing 'Transport'
with letter S from 'FMSR' above it.
White marble relief representing 'Industry'
with letter R from 'the 'FMSR' above it.
Driveway at the main entrance. [Pic]
Motifs on arches at the main entrance. [Pic]
The clock at the side of building
is no longer telling time.
Many parts of the building
are not well maintained.
One of the wall murals in the main hall
depicting 'rubber tapping'.
The ticket counter looks very 'yesteryear'. [Pic]
Most scheduling boards
would have gone electronic by now.
Departure gate for train departing at 1 pm. [Pic]
The luxury line operated by Eastern & Oriental Express
stops at Tanjung Pagar Station.
Malaysian food can be found at the station. [Pic]
These Malaysian flags are reminders that
you are on Malaysian soil.
Simple signage to Arrival Platform. [Pic]
The Arrival Platform. [Pic]
The KTM trains will be stopping at Tanjung Pagar Railway
station for another few more months.
The station is expected to shut its
gate for the last time by July 2011.
After the closure of the station, these tracks
will only carry traces of the past.

"History never looks like history when you are living through it."  ~John W. Gardner ~

KTM relocation under way (CNA 3 Mar 2011) (video)
Railway stations' heritage conserved (CNA 8 Apr 11)

More photos by Vanilla at Vanillafoto.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Don't Lose Your Wallet in the Cyberspace

Christmas is just around the corner...

There is no snow or winter in Singapore but the festive mood here is unmistakable. Traditionally, this is also the time to shop for gifts.

A decade ago, I enthusiastically shared with many that shopping would be going virtual. I received cold shoulders and skeptics walked away from that idea. They swore that they would only shop in brick-and-mortar malls.

Today, I need to convince nobody. Ya, talking about paradigm shifts.

Needless to say, at this time of the year, many would be searching for something special from online stores. To the diehards, online shopping is cool, swift and very often, satisfying. I dare to add on, addictive too.

What affects purchases?

According to survey, buyers place visual appearance above other factors such as smell, sound or texture. Most of them are also more persuaded by colors rather than other visual aspects. This probably explains why online stores can be successful. I am sure the web designers are well aware of that. (See infographic)

Stay safe

If you are clicking away for some unique finds, take a moment to think through before your next purchase. You would not want your online shopping to go wrong. I admit that nothing is very new here. However, think about it, how many times our common-sense simply fails us?

7. Will it be safe to give your payment information?

You do not want someone else to be shopping with your money. Just like shopping in the stores, you would want to keep vigilant guard of your wallet. Check that your online security is in place before you click 'buy'.

6. Who are you buying from?

When we shop in the real world, we go for someone whom we can trust. It gets a little tricky when we shop online because we cannot see the other person. You need to know the reliability of this guy.

5. What are you buying?

How do you know what you buy will meet your needs? Do you believe what is said on the website? There are just a few things you should know about your purchase.

 4. How should you pay?

The most common payment mode is by credit cards. You would want to understand the limitation of paying via this mode.

3. Do you know the legal terms of purchase?

You sure hope that nothing will go wrong. What if it does? Would you be able to return the item and get a refund? Will your purchase come with any warranty? Check the legal terms before committing the purchase.

2. How should you keep records?

In this case, you cannot ask for a receipt from the cashier. You would have to get it yourself and keep your own records. This is so that you can keep track of your purchase and hopeful not, use it to resolve a dispute.

1. Did you double check pricing?

If you are sold shortly after you hit the website, your 'warning light' should start blinking. It is always advisable to check alternative websites or call up other stores. If something is too good to be true, it usually is. Trust your instinct.

More tips

There are many tips on safe online shopping. Here are two of them: 'Online Shopping Tips' and 'Top 10 Cyber Monday tips for safe online shopping'.

Now that you have done what you have to do, what should you buy?

It is not surprising that in recent years, IT gadgets have been ranked top choices by many. I can almost see iPad popping out of your thought bubbles. Interestingly, it is one of the "4 Popular Tech Gifts You Should NOT Buy This Holiday". Odd isn't it? Even my cats want them. Find out why.

For those who are beating cold winter right now, check out these "6 Great Gloves for Touchscreen Gadget Lovers". I certainly won't find them useful in tropical Singapore.

This post is not about gift ideas. Those are just some quick ones for sharing. You may continue to browse your favorite online stores for something else. This time, do it safely and don't lose your wallet in the cyberspace.

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

"A bargain is something you can't use at a price you can't resist." 
~Franklin P Jones~

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Picture Blog #16 : From the Aviary

Macaw [Pic]
They say, 'Birds of the same feather flock together'.

In this post, I have included some of the bird photos which I have taken over the past few months. I hope those who are similarly attracted to these amazing creatures will also 'flock together' to view them.

Peacock [Pic]
Peacock [Pic]
Peacock, pecking dead insects [Pic]
Barn Owl [Pic]
Wedge-Tailed Eagle [Pic]
Tawny Frogmouth [Pic]
Kestrel [Pic]
Kestrel [Pic]
Laughing Kookaburra [Pic]
Seagull [Pic]
Seagull [Pic]
Seagull, with a broken leg [Pic]
Seagulls [Pic]
  Flamingo [Pic]
Pelican [Pic]
Emu [Pic]

Cassowary [Pic]
Ostrich [Pic]
Pigeon [Pic]
Pigeon [Pic]
Pigeon [Pic]
Pigeon [Pic]
Pigeon [Pic]
Sparrow [Pic]
Sparrows [Pic]
Myna [Pic]
Myna [Pic]
Swan [Pic]
Cockatoos [Pic]
Macaw [Pic]
A baby Myna being taken care of,
with our house cat Oreo looking on

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

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