Tuesday, November 30, 2010

STI chart analysis

Let's do some analysis on the charts for STI for practice. As usual, I'll look at both time frames - the weekly and the daily. Weekly should play a more important role as compared to daily. With the analogy of a man walking his dog, the weekly will be the direction that the man is heading to, while the daily is the movement that the dog is moving with reference to the man. Sometimes the dog will dash forward to inspect some interesting things and the man will pull on the leash to rein it back, other times it will linger on behind the man and he will have to pull the leash to hurry it forward. However the dog moves, it is moving generally in the direction that the man is moving.


The weekly chart for STI shows a rather bleak picture. I identified 2 support lines, one at around 3100, the other at 3000 (I only give to 2 significant figures), which also coincides with the fibo retracement lines of 50% and 23.6% respectively. I think 3100 is strong because it's sitting on the value zone. Historically, the ema 22w had been a strong moving support line for STI, so it's good to see if STI breaks below that moving support. MACD lines looks bleak with an impending cross-over on the downside, but it could mean nothing. If this breaks, another strong support line will be at 3000. Since it's the resistance at the previous 2 peaks, it should be a rather strong support. That better don't break, if not we going to hurdle down towards sub 3000 levels. Not pretty at all.


Daily chart shows pretty much the same picture as the weekly - bleak. There's a bearish pattern called head and shoulders that can be seen, with the neckline at 3114 level. If the pattern works out, the price objective of the heads and shoulders pattern could go around 2900. The moving average lines should now act as the moving resistance line that prevents the price from going above it, until the trend is broken that is. Is this a good time to enter? I think not. Most BB should have take break for the rest of the year already, so volume should be dwindling towards the end of the year. I think at best the market should be going sideways, at worst a downright gentle slide down.


Do nothing when there's nothing to do. I'll look out for signs of reversal (break trendline + divergence) before doing any trades. As for keeps, I'll wait for a suitable price based on individual charts to decide if I want to enter more on whatever I'm holding. Suitable price is based on both charts and the yield at buy price.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lessons to learn from Warcraft III

Recently I started re-playing war craft III. I had played that game since I was in university, so it had been around for quite a long time already. For those who had been living underground for the past 10 years, war craft III is a real time strategy game (RTS for short), meaning that you get your minions to gather resources, while building up a force to deal with the mission objectives. There are several mission to form a campaign and the campaign will follow certain story lines.

I found that I'm actually better at playing this game than in the past. Perhaps maturity and years of multi-tasking in the routines of life itself had trained me well. As such, I think this game is quite educational because beyond the sheer fun of the game itself, the skills needed to excel in the game can also be applied to life in general.

This is what I learnt from the game:

1. Multi-task. Can't really get through life without multi-tasking these days. It'll be quite a luxury if you can work through things sequentially, but unfortunately, there's just too much things that need your attention simultaneously. As such, you have to handle them in parallel, rather than in series (I'm using jargons found in electrical circuit arrangement). What the game really forces you to do is to learn how to handle multiple tasks all at the same time, which is truly educational.

2. Prioritize. Multi-tasking can only take up so far because there's a physical limit to how much a human can do things all at the same time. Hence, when there's just too many things to handle, you must be able to prioritize and do the things that are most urgent and most important first. Urgent tasks imply that there is a time constraint to complete the task, beyond which there is no point in doing it anymore or is simply too late. Important tasks are those that help you accomplish your goals or your mission. Therefore, important AND urgent task are to be the top priority. Personally, I'll do urgent tasks first before doing the important tasks, so I tend to classify things to do according to this system. In the game, while advancing towards your mission objectives (important), you should also focus on immediate (urgent) things that can seriously impact your well being.

My favorite faction: The Scourge. I like them because they are extremely efficient and are not 'wasteful'

3. Leverage. In the game, there are scenarios where you are up against a bigger enemy force and before you can build up a sizable force to counter attack, they would have trampled you several times. In such cases, the trick is to look for the correct terrain, the chokepoints where the enemy forces are coming. With a few guard towers and a much smaller defensive force, the right terrain can force the enemy into such a position that their bigger size is of no use to them at all. Thus, a smaller force can repel a bigger force. It's like the legendary last stand by the 300 odd Spartans against the much bigger Persian forces at the Battle of Thermopylae. With the right leverage, a smaller amount of force can also be multiplied to accomplish a bigger amount of work.

4. Use the right solution for the right problem. In the game, there are several types of enemy forces - some are aerial, some are land, some are building destroyers, some are spellcasters etc. To build a fighting force that can repel/attack all the different kinds of possible enemy forces, you need to build an army that can cater to aerial attacks, good at fighting land enemy forces and good at destroying buildings etc. The key is to prepare yourself for the different possibilities that life throws at you from time to time. The interesting thing is that with a very large force, any person can defeat any army. However, there are always time and resource constrains to make it very difficult to get a very large force. As such, the right kind of force can do wonders if you do not have a huge force. The lesson here is to apply the right solution for the right problem instead of using just brute force all the time. This way, you'll maximize the results while minimizing the effort.

There are often more than one way to do the same thing.

 So there you go. Playing games isn't as bad as people think it is - wasting money and wasting time, anti-social, ah beng ah seng hideout etc. Of course, too much of any thing is bad, so moderation is the key. I've seen students who are so addicted to world of warcraft (WOW) that they spend almost the entire night playing it, thus becoming listless and sleepy during the day in class. These kind of students will require cold turkey treatment to get rid of their gaming addiction. But to blame computer games for this is to treat anyone with a gun as a murderer.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Changes in HK trading hours

I read with amusement the news that HK stock exchange is lengthening its hours from the usual 10 am (singapore time) to 12 noon, then 230pm to 4pm, to the final 930am to 12, then 1pm to 4pm. The point of doing this is to ensure the HKSE remains competitive and have more turnover. I think the stock broker must have been cursing and swearing because their working hours changes from the current 3.5 hrs to the final 5.5 hrs. They should have come to SGX because the hours here are from 9am to 1230pm, then 2pm to 5pm, a total of 6.5hrs!

They mentioned that the shorter lunch hour will reduce volatility and make the transition from morning session to afternoon session smoother. Okay, perhaps so. But as far as I can tell, the afternoon session in HK is more affected by how the european market opens.

I think the HK brokers will have to do this because of the shortened lunch break

Anyway, since I do the HK market too, it's important to keep up to date with the changes in the HK trading hours. They are going to do it in stages, to ease the pain I suppose. Here's the summary:

Current: 10am to 1230pm, 230pm to 4pm
7th March 2011 to 31 December 2011: 930am to 12pm, 130pm to 4pm
1st Jan 2012 onwards: 930am to 12pm, 1pm to 4pm

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Singpost chart

For self reference. Next dividend on Feb. 1.14 - 1.16, 1.20, >5.4


Price touching value zone. Long term FI divergence.


Macd divergence, macd lines divergence, downtrend broken & retested

Rights exercise for ICBC bank

ICBC, a china bank listed in HK (1398.hk), is going to have a rights issue. The reason for the rights issue is to meet the new basel III requirement for banks. ICBC is already well capitalised, so they do not require much of a capital injection. Hence, the rights of the H shares (that is, HK listed one) is on the basis of 0.45 shares at HK$3.49 for every 10 existing H shares held before XR.

The announcement is made here.

Having rights for HK listed companies is a little different from those in Singapore. I had experienced it before for my HSBC counter. Basically the shares are held in a custodian account held by whichever broker you had bought the H shares from. Hence, they will do the necessary paper work for you (don't be happy, you have to pay them for such things known as company action). They will send you a letter to ask you to tick your choice and you'll have to send it back, together with the payment for the rights.

I've no intention of subscribing to the rights at all, hence I've already disposed of ICBC long before this announcement. Last close was at 6.04. Based on this price, the price after the rights should go down to 5.93. ( {6.04*10 + 0.45*3.49}/10.45 ) It had been dropping after China announced more controls to raise the capital adequacy ratio of the state bank (which ICBC proudly belongs to) and hinting of more controls over its fight on inflation and the bubbling property market.

It'll be interesting to see how it reacts after the rights issue, by mid December this year.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kindle dx review

Someone asked me to show some pictures of the kindle, and how it rendered pdf files. Took me some time to get hold of a camera and snap the pictures, so I'll do it shortly in this post. I'd been using the kindle for quite a few months and I am in the right position to comment about it.

Good things I liked about the kindle dx:

1. Large display - which makes reading easy and rendering pdf files easier, as it will fit nicely on the screen and it'll still be large enough to read comfortably

2. Very long battery life - since it uses the e-ink technology instead of a back lit display, power is used up only when you press a button. I use it everyday for up to 3 hours and the battery can last me up to 1.5 to 2 months in a single charge.

3. Firmware updates - it makes it better with upgraded software. The recent update I made makes life a little easier for me when using the kindle. I think amazon will continue to upgrade their firmware to improve on the functionality of the product.

4. Accompanied dictionary - okay, this is found in most other e-readers as well but I must still say it. Usually I'm lazy to check out the meaning of new words encountered during my reading, but the kindle makes it so easy to check the meanings. You just have to move the cursor to the word and the meaning will just roll out at the bottom of the screen. It's not essential but I think it makes reading a real pleasure.

Things I don't like about the kindle:

1. You can access the kindle store in singapore, nor the internet. I have the older version, so I'm not sure if the cheaper and more advanced version of the kindle dx will allow users locally to access the internet (free). It'll be cool to access wikipedia and google about stuff while reading. It makes it easier to explore certain keywords encountered during reading.

2. It doesn't have colour. Affordable colour e-ink technology is still some years away, so until then, if you need colour you should get back lit tablets instead of kindle dx. I guess it really depends on how you want to treat the kindle as - a multi functional gadget or just a good ol' e-book reader.

3. Needs a light source - okay, this is both the good and bad thing about the kindle dx. Since it does not have an internal light source, you really do need an external light. Treat it like a conventional paper book, if you need to read, you'll need a light source. Those with back lit is more like reading off a computer monitor, so the light source is within the monitor itself. I personally find it much more comfortable reading on the kindle (I've tried both) - it's less strenuous on the eye.

Okay, here's some pictures of the kindle dx as promised:

This is how it renders pdf file. Notice that it fits nicely onto the screen and it's still highly readable. That's because of the larger screen size.

You can check out the actual pdf file and compare against this same one rendered on kindle dx

A zoomed up view of the words. Background is a little grayish, and the contrast is pretty sharp.
You can rotate the screen if you want to have a landscape view
This is how a chart looks like on the kindle. Basically there's no difference between a actual pdf file and the one read on the kindle.

It renders comics very very well too, though I prefer my comics to be coloured rather than shades of gray.

This is the copy of the strait times. Look at how it shows the picture clearly and sharply. The contrast is really good.

This is the screen where you can select the font size, the words per line and the screen rotation. Did I mention it can read out the words for you (there's a speaker in the kindle)?

I bought mine at $605 sgd but now it's much cheaper. You get a newer version, 3G (free), 9.7 inch screen one for around 500 sgd exclusive of shipping (originally it costs 700-800 sgd). If you're like me who don't mind second hand goods, you can get it from ebay perhaps at 350 to 400 sgd inclusive of shipping. Just shop around and make use of the strong SGD and cheap USD :)

Sabana Shari'ah Compliant REIT part II

The Sabana Shari'ah compliant reit got its offer price of the IPO finalised at $1.05, which is in the middle of the indicative range of 1.00 to 1.10. This raises a few questions on why the institutions are not snapping up this high yield and largest shari'ah compliant reit in the world. I can't answer that, of course. I've written at length about this new reit on another post sometime ago, so I'm not going to repeat again.

This IPO is supposed to start last Fri until this coming Wed on 24th Nov 2010. Trading begins on Fri on 26th Nov.  At 1.05, the yield for 2011 and 2012 will be 8.05% and 8.08% respectively. NAV value is 0.94, so it will debut at a premium of 11.7% above the NAV.

Based on my plan, I intend to sell out on the first day at around 15% to 20% above IPO price. That means a target of 1.21 to 1.26. The price increase will bring the yield down to 7% to 6.7% (for 2011). That's for the first day. If I have more than 5 lots, then I'll hold another portion of it until some of the Shari'ah compliant indexes in the world starts to include this newly listed reit into their portfolio, then I'll dispose of it. I doubt I'll get more than 5 lots anyway.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anime fest 2010 (Part III)

Last installment of the photos. Till next year, haha :)

This is the most effort cosplayer I've seen. Well done!

I wonder how they make their rifles...D&T lessons? haha

Sexy right? The guitar I mean. It's a real electric guitar, a thing of beauty :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Anime fest 2010 (Part II)

Here's some more pictures from the cosplay/anime fest that I went on Sunday. Still one more batch to upload :) Sometimes I wonder what their parents think of these folks who bothered to spend money and dress up. There are even guys who dress up as female characters and vice versa. I wonder what I'll think if my kids dress up like this...would I approve of it?

What's this? The demon from death note?

Some halloween girls...I like the pumpkin lantern

I know this! Yuna and Tidus from Final Fantasy X!!

Don't know who she's cosplaying as...But shouldn't sit near to the windows, bad for photoshoots..

Monday, November 15, 2010

Anime fest 2010 (Part I)

I went to anime fest on last Sunday. Rather, I stumbled onto it, rather than planned for it. Wanted to go into the mall hall area to take a closer look at all the cosplayers but supposed to buy a ticket. Not ready to go join the long snaky queue and pay money for it, so I just whipped out my hp and took a few pictures of the action happening outside the hall.

Does anyone know who these people are dressing up as? I've absolutely no idea, seriously. I'm not really into the scene, haha :) I've still some more photos, will upload it next time.

The girl is just some random person. Who is this? TV guy?

A lot of 'maids' there...did you see the power rangers behind?

This is Mario! About the only character that I recognise...

Some army persona...metal gear solid?

Power rangers with Naruto? Hahaa!

Preference shares Part IV

Ok, here's my analysis on the 7 preference shares listed in SGX. Let's run through some definitions before I show you the results. I made the following assumptions/clarifications:

1. The preference shares is assumed to be called off at the first callable date at the par value. This means that with the exception of OCBC Bk 4.2% NCPS which has a par value of $1, the rest has a par value of $100. The respective banks that issued the preference shares will buy it back from the holder at the par value, regardless of whatever price that the preference shares is trading at.

2. I assumed that you had bought the shares last Friday on 12 Nov 2010. That is just an arbitrary date because I just took the last closing price. Based on that date, some of the preference shares still have some payment to be made this year, particularly those that had payment on 20 Dec. Depending on the callable date, there could be 1 installment of payment before it gets called off. I put down under the column "no. of payments till maturity".

3. Returns till maturity is the sum of the total number of payments made till the first callable date plus any capital gain (or loss) resulting from the difference in the price and the par value. So if a preference share is bought at 100.58 and the par value is 100, you will book in a capital loss of $0.58 per share. So the returns till maturity (in my definition) is the capital loss + whatever payments made from the time you bought to the first callable date.

4. Yield pa is the annualised yield calculated by the formula:

Yield pa = (returns till maturity)/(price of share)   x  360/(days till maturity)  x 100%

I think this is what they call the yield to call.

So here's the tabulated results shown below:

My thoughts:

1. Three factors affect the annualised yield till maturity - the callable date, the price that you bought in (above par or below par value) and the nominal yield. I think of all that factors, the price that you bought in is the most important. Why? Price that you bought controls the actual yield that you get from the preference shares, and can allow you to book a capital gain when it matures. That being said, OCBC 3.93% NCPS 10 is the only preference shares out of the 7 listed in SGX that is currently below par value. That boost the yield to 4.13% (3.93*100/95.2) instead of the nominal 3.93%. We haven't even talk about the potential capital gain should they choose to call it back.

2. All these looks very nice on paper. However, if the assumption that the preference shares are not called back, then things would not be so nice anymore. That is because 3 of the 7 preference shares have this dividend policy that if it is not called back, the dividend will be pegged to some percentage of 3 month SOR. Who knows what the 3 month SOR will be like when it is near the callable date? What I do know is that if the SOR is low, the banks shouldn't recall it back since they can get to use the debts at a cheaper cost. If the SOR is high, then the banks should want to recall it back and you don't get the upside from the new dividend policy. Tails they win, heads you lose.

3. To remove all the anxieties and messiness of the overall picture, it might be better to just concentrate on those preference shares without 'funny' dividend policy. You know exactly what the dividend you'll get before and after callable date. I think people who are into preference shares do not want to be troubled by such things. That's the whole point isn't it?

4. The best time to buy a preference shares is when they are below par. Like during the time when we're at the deepest of the financial crisis and all of these preference shares are at a discount to the par value (so are all the rest of the market).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Preference shares Part III

I've always wanted to compile a list of all the preference shares offered by banks since 2008, but never really got the time and inclination to do it. That is until some anonymous reader of my blog prompted me by asking me some questions about the preference shares. I did some quick research to answer the questions and realised that there just isn't any place where I can compile all the data in a single post. I think I should do that for personal reference.

I started collecting information about the 7 preference shares that are already listed in SGX. Soon, there'll be one more addition to the family by DBS. I shall skip all the technical details about what actually is a preference share, since I've mentioned at length in other posts. For quick reference, here's the two posts I made on preference shares:

Preference shares part I 

Preference shares part II

Here's a compiled list of all the 7 preference shares below. Please do pay attention to the remarks below the table, as they contained important information relating to the preference shares.


1. All the preference shares listed above have par value of $100, with the exception of OCBC Bk 4.2% NCPS which has a par value of $1.00.

2. For OCBC Bk 4.2% NCPS, there are two listing date. For the first tranche listed on 21-Jul-2003, it is issued at a price of $0.995. For the second tranche listed on 7-Aug-03, the issue price is $1.0027. All the other preference shares are issued at a price of $100.

3. I typed out information related to the DBS preference shares here, OCBC here and UOB here. Please double check the information yourself. It's late at night and I'm sleepy.

I think what's important here is to pay close attention to the callable date and the dividend payment policy. Especially the dividend policy. The callable date is important because it determines when the party might end. For example, DBS 6% NCPS 10, the callable date is on 15-May-2011. This means that on that date or thereafter on every dividend payment date, the bank might recall back the preference shares by paying the holder the par value of the preference shares, which is $100. If you bought it at $100.58 last Friday and they recall it on 15-May-2011, you get payment on 15 May 2011 only (too late for the 15 Nov 2010 payment because it had gone XD, thanks to WR for pointing out my mistake), hence you'll get less than the $6 per share. At the same time, you'll have to incur a capital loss because the bank will give you $100 for each share you bought. Since you bought it at $100.58, you'll stand to lose $0.58 per share

That's not all. After the callable date, if the bank did not recall the preference shares back, the dividend policy will also change. Instead of giving 6% pa on the par value (i.e.$100), they will give you 3 month Swap Offer Rate (SOR) + 2.28%. The 3 month SOR as of last Friday (12th Nov 2010) is 0.268%. The highest since 2008 is around 2% and the lowest, well, is right now.

Let's say I'm the bank. If by 15 May 2011, the 3 month SOR hovers around the same level, say 0.3%, then instead of giving each preference share owner 6% pa, I'll be giving them 2.58% pa (0.3 + 2.28 = 2.58). That is much lower than the 4.7% preference share that DBS is going to launch soon. Will I recall them back? Probably not, unless I need the money (I didn't bother to find out exactly how many 6% pref shares are issued, compared against the 4.7% one) because I can secure the debt (selling preference shares is sort of a debt) at a cheaper cost and use it to generate profits. Let's see how it turns out by May 2011.

Some of these had two callable dates, and I didn't list out those callable dates that had passed. I just want to say that the banks do not have to recall at the callable date. It's just a possibility to consider. I'll do some more analysis on each preference shares because I think it's quite interesting to see their total returns, assuming they will be recalled back at the earliest possible callable date.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sabana Shari'ah Compliant REIT

There's more IPO coming up and more REIT type of IPO, right after the launch of the mega one by MIT. Unfortunately, though I bidded for that in the offer period, I didn't get a single lot at all. Let's hope this one - Sabana Shari'ah Compliant REIT works out well for me.

This is actually an industrial reit managed in a manner compliant with Shari'ah investment principles and they can only invest in Shari'ah compliant real estate and real estate related assets. It holds 15 industrial properties across Singapore and is the only Shari'ah compliant reit listed in Singapore - possibly the largest in the world by total assets. What's interesting about Shari'ah compliant reit is that muslims can apply into this. Strictly according to their religion, there are certain investments (even insurance) that does not sit too well with their religious teachings and principles, hence they are not allowed to invest in them. By setting up this reit, it opens up a new instrument for them to put their money in. Sort of to tap the Middle eastern market, so to speak.

Shari'ah guidelines state that non-permissible activities cannot exceed 5% pa of the gross revenue of the reit. Non-permissible activities include activities like conventional financial and insurances services, gaming, non halal production, tobacco related products, non-permitted entertainment activities and stock broking in non-complaint securities. Takaful insurance coverage have to be sought where available and financing, investment and deposit facilities have to be shari'ah compliant, if not, after seeking approval, the conventional kinds will do. Go on and google about Takaful and Shari'ah. It's a very elegant way to do ethical investing.

They should be doing road shows to entice institutional investors to get into their placement tranche before deciding on the IPO price. The minimum and maximum offer price is $1.00 and $1.10 respectively. Based on the minimum offer price, the forecasted yield for the reit in 2011 and 2012 is 8.45% and 8.48% respectively. NAV value is 0.94, so obviously the IPO price is above the NAV by around 6.4% to 17%, depending on the offer price. Gearing, defined as total liabilities to total assets stands at 33%, which is pretty okay. AIMS and CIT, both industrial reits, have gearing at 34% and 39% respectively, so this sabana one is quite normal I suppose.

Sabana reit have quarterly payouts, on the last day of March, June, Sept and Dec. However, the first distribution after listing will be on March 2011, payout latest by end of June, so says the prospectus. 503,994,445 units will be offered in total, of which 428,494,445 (85%) will be for placements to institutions. Another 44,500,000 (8.8%) will be for managers and employees and the rest 31,000,000 (6.2%) will be for the retail investors like you and me.

In comparison, GLP offered 1,173,244,000 shares, with 102,375,000 (8.7%, but could be less, I didn't subtract those given to employees/managers) offered to the public. MIT offered 594,913,000 with 80,445,000 (13.5%) offered to the public. I didn't get any shares from MIT and got 1 miserable lot for GLP. I think it's going to be tough getting something for Sabana because the amount allocated for retail investors are even less than half that given by MIT for retailers. That's my honest opinion.


My rule - don't hold IPO for more than 1 day. If I've less than 5 lots I'll just sell on the debut day of trading and be done with it. Since the price range is more like MIT than like those penny 20 cts IPO, the first day gains should be like 20% rather than 40%. Say it's 1.10 offer price, 15% will be 1.27. I'm happy to run at that price and any more is a bonus. I'm not greedy at all.

If however, I'm given more than 5 lots, I'll sell half on first day, and hold on the rest for a while. At 8+% it'll be quite good holding it, so I'm not scared of it falling further. The price is supported by the yield so it shouldn't fall too much, if at all. There are indexes which are Shari'ah compliant, so since Sabana reit is a biggie in term of total assets, I'm sure the indexes will get their hands into it. I'm of course assuming that the placement is not enough for the big boys, so they will try to get their hands in open market, much like GLP upon listing. That might be catalyst for it to go up further. Could be time to dispose of the remaining lots by then.

Talk so much, get it first then talk more.

Mothership is here

Nature throws its fury onto earth. Amazingly scary, looks like alien mothership is descending on top of me. Here's 2 pictures that I took just out of my window. No, I didn't photoshop anything.

See the little bright light in the centre of the picture? Didn't see that when I took the picture.

It's quite scary when you're there in person

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good deal for fixed deposit

I was surfing blogs recently when Singapore Blue Chips (I call him sbc for short) made a very interesting post. It's regarding this bank, ICICI bank, that is giving a very good interest rates for its fixed deposit account with them. ICICI bank has only one branch in Singapore at Raffle Quay and is one of the newest foreign bank setting up shop locally.

I was checking casually, not 2 weeks ago, when I was trying to see if there's anything to recommend to my parents. They are not investors and savings plans for them is a joke at this point in time. For short term, almost risk free, good returns only. As I was checking out the different banks, I realised that the local banks are giving us a pittance for the sum of money deposited in their banks. Here's a breakdown for a sum of  100k, SGD denominated, 3 yrs maturity period, fixed deposit by the various banks (dated 8-Nov-2010):

UOB: 0.7% pa

DBS: 0.7% pa (their website did not have the data for 3 yrs, so the rates are for 2 yrs)

OCBC: 0.7% pa

HSBC: 0.45% pa (their website did not have the data for 3 yrs, so the rates are for 1 yr)

Standard chartered: 0.75% pa (for 60 months, it's 1.10% pa)

Citibank 0.45% pa

May bank: 1.15% pa

You can see how pathetic the options are for fixed deposit. It really pays to shop around rather than think that they are all the same everywhere. You can get a huge range of interest rates just by shopping around. So, imagine the shock I had when I read the post by SBC regarding the interest rates offered by ICICI bank. Take a look:

It's frakking 2.20% pa - twice as much as the highest rate given by the whole list given to you earlier. At 2.20% pa, it even beats the SIA bonds offered to the retailer not too long ago. That has a maturity of 5 yrs, given a return of 2.15% pa. It's a very good deal, in my opinion. So, if you have spare cash that you can't put anywhere, you might want to consider putting it into ICICI bank for 3 years. It's as safe as local banks because it's guaranteed by the same act that governs the deposits in Singapore. Might want to check out what's the guaranteed amount though, that is due to change by end of this year, I believe.

Monday, November 08, 2010

What makes a fulfilling day?

What makes a fulfilling day? It's a happy problem to think about, especially now when I'm moving at a slower beat. You know, some days are just more fulfilling than the rest because you finish the day, lying on the bed just before you sleep, thinking that you've accomplished quite a few stuff. You feel warm and snugly and think that if life is like this all the time, it would be great.

I thought about what could be a fulfilling day for me. Here's what I thought:

1. Having a great outing with good company. this can really make me jump for joy. A great outing would be those that time seems to fly by and before you know it, it's time to go off. I had many many great outings with the folks in the cbox and it'll always be etched in my memory. I remember fondly those 'roasted pig' outings at Beng Hiang especially, haha!

2. Good food. Good food is amazingly morale boosting. I remember when I was having a very hectic 5 classes day, having a good meal at the end of it all makes me feel satisfied and utterly contented. Maybe that's why a good outing always involve food because dinning together is such an important way to get close together. When I'm alone, I just feed - usually the $2.50 economical 'lice' that is stomach filling but not really satisfying. But if you eat too much, then you've got to exercise off that extra weight, so you've got to have some....

3. Exercise. It can be a slow jog or some weights or even a leisurely walk at night, soaking in the quietness and solitude that the night offers. I've been starting up on some exercise program recently and it's making me more alert when I'm awake and more sleepy when I'm tired. Which brings me to the next point...

4. A good night sleep. Or an afternoon, but preferably both. Having a restful night is one of the best thing that defines the day because you'll wake up feeling so refreshed and alert and ready to take on the day's challenges. On the flip side, if you can't sleep well, no matter how great the day's program is going to be, you'll probably won't enjoy it as much. Sleep is important. Having proper sleep discipline is what I wanted to do in the future. I believe it's important to one's long term health as well.

5. Do some work, preferably those that can earn you some money. Maybe it's just me, but a fulfilling day is one in which I can earn some income. Blogging is one way to get it...it's perfect - I get to write what's on my mind and crystallise it in words (it's very very therapeutic to me) and I get paid. Paid peanuts of course, but still, every little bit helps. My main work offers much more financial income but having too much of it is not efficient. Honestly, it's just self-driven slavery. But the point stays, having some income producing work makes a fulfilling day. Key word is actually 'some'. My work always make me feel happier and much more satisfied. Perhaps that's why I'm not feeling so good these days...my endorphin producing work is lessening...

6. Read. After getting myself a kindle dx, I've been reading like a 18 year old boy thrown into a palace full of scantily clad harem girls. Maybe it's more like a salivating alien spotting a group of marines because I'm devouring books like crazy. The fulfilling kind of reading is not to speed read, but to immerse yourself into the book so deeply then the next moment you look up from the book, one hour had passed. If I didn't do anything else, at least this is something that I do consistently every night before I go to bed. Almost without fail. It's almost a luxury to be able to read half a day without the normal interruptions that life often throws at you.

7. Watching some tv, series, youtube or movies. This is to be taken in light moderation, because I don't like to spend too much time watching tv. But a good show can leave in me a very reflective mood and gets me thinking about lots of stuff. I think reading and watching are the two best way to feed yourself mental food to grow as a person. If you find that you are still the same person 10 years ago, then you've not been reflecting a lot. Watching a great show is like looking at a piece of art - it suddenly hits you that this and that can actually be connected in such a way and the possibilities will just leave you thinking about more stuff. Recently I'm watching battlestar galactica....as far as I grok, it's the best sci-fi ever.

I think if out of this 7, I can hit 3 each day, that would be a very joyous day already. Time is the great equalizer of all, because everyone will have 24 hours no matter who you are. How are you going to spend your 24 hours so that if you will live a life as fulfilling as it possible can, and without regrets? I leave you to that thought.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Don't work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

I think there's great value in this speech. I reproduce it entirely from facebook where it is circulating. I think everyone should read it once to see if it makes sense to you. I love parts of it, though not all. This is written by Adrian Tan, author of The Teenage Textbook (1988). He was the guest-of-honour at a recent NTU convocation ceremony. This was his speech to the graduating class of 2008.

I must say thank you to the faculty and staff of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information for inviting me to give your convocation address. It’s a wonderful honour and a privilege for me to speak here for ten minutes without fear of contradiction, defamation or retaliation. I say this as a Singaporean and more so as a husband.

My wife is a wonderful person and perfect in every way except one. She is the editor of a magazine. She corrects people for a living. She has honed her expert skills over a quarter of a century, mostly by practising at home during conversations between her and me.

On the other hand, I am a litigator. Essentially, I spend my day telling people how wrong they are. I make my living being disagreeable.

Nevertheless, there is perfect harmony in our matrimonial home. That is because when an editor and a litigator have an argument, the one who triumphs is always the wife.

And so I want to start by giving one piece of advice to the men: when you’ve already won her heart, you don’t need to win every argument.

Marriage is considered one milestone of life. Some of you may already be married. Some of you may never be married. Some of you will be married. Some of you will enjoy the experience so much, you will be married many, many times. Good for you.

The next big milestone in your life is today: your graduation. The end of education. You’re done learning.

You’ve probably been told the big lie that “Learning is a lifelong process” and that therefore you will continue studying and taking masters’ degrees and doctorates and professorships and so on. You know the sort of people who tell you that? Teachers. Don’t you think there is some measure of conflict of interest? They are in the business of learning, after all. Where would they be without you? They need you to be repeat customers.

The good news is that they’re wrong.

The bad news is that you don’t need further education because your entire life is over. It is gone. That may come as a shock to some of you. You’re in your teens or early twenties. People may tell you that you will live to be 70, 80, 90 years old. That is your life expectancy.

I love that term: life expectancy. We all understand the term to mean the average life span of a group of people. But I’m here to talk about a bigger idea, which is what you expect from your life.

You may be very happy to know that Singapore is currently ranked as the country with the third highest life expectancy. We are behind Andorra and Japan, and tied with San Marino. It seems quite clear why people in those countries, and ours, live so long. We share one thing in common: our football teams are all hopeless. There’s very little danger of any of our citizens having their pulses raised by watching us play in the World Cup. Spectators are more likely to be lulled into a gentle and restful nap.

Singaporeans have a life expectancy of 81.8 years. Singapore men live to an average of 79.21 years, while Singapore women live more than five years longer, probably to take into account the additional time they need to spend in the bathroom.

So here you are, in your twenties, thinking that you’ll have another 40 years to go. Four decades in which to live long and prosper.

Bad news. Read the papers. There are people dropping dead when they’re 50, 40, 30 years old. Or quite possibly just after finishing their convocation. They would be very disappointed that they didn’t meet their life expectancy.

I’m here to tell you this. Forget about your life expectancy.

After all, it’s calculated based on an average. And you never, ever want to expect being average.

Revisit those expectations. You might be looking forward to working, falling in love, marrying, raising a family. You are told that, as graduates, you should expect to find a job paying so much, where your hours are so much, where your responsibilities are so much.

That is what is expected of you. And if you live up to it, it will be an awful waste.

If you expect that, you will be limiting yourself. You will be living your life according to boundaries set by average people. I have nothing against average people. But no one should aspire to be them. And you don’t need years of education by the best minds in Singapore to prepare you to be average.

What you should prepare for is mess. Life’s a mess. You are not entitled to expect anything from it. Life is not fair. Everything does not balance out in the end. Life happens, and you have no control over it. Good and bad things happen to you day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment. Your degree is a poor armour against fate.

Don’t expect anything. Erase all life expectancies. Just live. Your life is over as of today. At this point in time, you have grown as tall as you will ever be, you are physically the fittest you will ever be in your entire life and you are probably looking the best that you will ever look. This is as good as it gets. It is all downhill from here. Or up. No one knows.

What does this mean for you? It is good that your life is over.

Since your life is over, you are free. Let me tell you the many wonderful things that you can do when you are free.

The most important is this: do not work.

Work is anything that you are compelled to do. By its very nature, it is undesirable.

Work kills. The Japanese have a term “Karoshi”, which means death from overwork. That’s the most dramatic form of how work can kill. But it can also kill you in more subtle ways. If you work, then day by day, bit by bit, your soul is chipped away, disintegrating until there’s nothing left. A rock has been ground into sand and dust.

There’s a common misconception that work is necessary. You will meet people working at miserable jobs. They tell you they are “making a living”. No, they’re not. They’re dying, frittering away their fast-extinguishing lives doing things which are, at best, meaningless and, at worst, harmful.

People will tell you that work ennobles you, that work lends you a certain dignity. Work makes you free. The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps. Utter nonsense.

Do not waste the vast majority of your life doing something you hate so that you can spend the small remainder sliver of your life in modest comfort. You may never reach that end anyway.

Resist the temptation to get a job. Instead, play. Find something you enjoy doing. Do it. Over and over again. You will become good at it for two reasons: you like it, and you do it often. Soon, that will have value in itself.

I like arguing, and I love language. So, I became a litigator. I enjoy it and I would do it for free. If I didn’t do that, I would’ve been in some other type of work that still involved writing fiction – probably a sports journalist.

So what should you do? You will find your own niche. I don’t imagine you will need to look very hard. By this time in your life, you will have a very good idea of what you will want to do. In fact, I’ll go further and say the ideal situation would be that you will not be able to stop yourself pursuing your passions. By this time you should know what your obsessions are. If you enjoy showing off your knowledge and feeling superior, you might become a teacher.

Find that pursuit that will energise you, consume you, become an obsession. Each day, you must rise with a restless enthusiasm. If you don’t, you are working.

Most of you will end up in activities which involve communication. To those of you I have a second message: be wary of the truth. I’m not asking you to speak it, or write it, for there are times when it is dangerous or impossible to do those things. The truth has a great capacity to offend and injure, and you will find that the closer you are to someone, the more care you must take to disguise or even conceal the truth. Often, there is great virtue in being evasive, or equivocating. There is also great skill. Any child can blurt out the truth, without thought to the consequences. It takes great maturity to appreciate the value of silence.

In order to be wary of the truth, you must first know it. That requires great frankness to yourself. Never fool the person in the mirror.

I have told you that your life is over, that you should not work, and that you should avoid telling the truth. I now say this to you: be hated.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know anyone who hates you? Yet every great figure who has contributed to the human race has been hated, not just by one person, but often by a great many. That hatred is so strong it has caused those great figures to be shunned, abused, murdered and in one famous instance, nailed to a cross.

One does not have to be evil to be hated. In fact, it’s often the case that one is hated precisely because one is trying to do right by one’s own convictions. It is far too easy to be liked, one merely has to be accommodating and hold no strong convictions. Then one will gravitate towards the centre and settle into the average. That cannot be your role. There are a great many bad people in the world, and if you are not offending them, you must be bad yourself. Popularity is a sure sign that you are doing something wrong.

The other side of the coin is this: fall in love.

I didn’t say “be loved”. That requires too much compromise. If one changes one’s looks, personality and values, one can be loved by anyone.

Rather, I exhort you to love another human being. It may seem odd for me to tell you this. You may expect it to happen naturally, without deliberation. That is false. Modern society is anti-love. We’ve taken a microscope to everyone to bring out their flaws and shortcomings. It far easier to find a reason not to love someone, than otherwise. Rejection requires only one reason. Love requires complete acceptance. It is hard work – the only kind of work that I find palatable.

Loving someone has great benefits. There is admiration, learning, attraction and something which, for the want of a better word, we call happiness. In loving someone, we become inspired to better ourselves in every way. We learn the truth worthlessness of material things. We celebrate being human. Loving is good for the soul.

Loving someone is therefore very important, and it is also important to choose the right person. Despite popular culture, love doesn’t happen by chance, at first sight, across a crowded dance floor. It grows slowly, sinking roots first before branching and blossoming. It is not a silly weed, but a mighty tree that weathers every storm.

You will find, that when you have someone to love, that the face is less important than the brain, and the body is less important than the heart.

You will also find that it is no great tragedy if your love is not reciprocated. You are not doing it to be loved back. Its value is to inspire you.

Finally, you will find that there is no half-measure when it comes to loving someone. You either don’t, or you do with every cell in your body, completely and utterly, without reservation or apology. It consumes you, and you are reborn, all the better for it.

Don’t work. Avoid telling the truth. Be hated. Love someone.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Life in monochromatic hues

I'm having some difficulty adjusting myself to a more relaxed pace. It's quite interesting because when I was having such a hectic schedule, all I wanted was to have nothing to do. But as I am currently in this slower pace of life, what I wanted was to be busy again. It's hard to please, don't you think? I recognise that I'm complex and sometimes, certain mood takes over me and I'm self-contradictory. Occasionally.

How do I know that life is slowing down for me?

1. My handphone battery suddenly lasts much longer than normal. I used to charge it everyday because of the amount of sms that I sent and the data roaming that uses up a fair bit of battery life. However, as of now, I haven't charged my handphone for nearly 2 days. It's coming to 38 hours of no-charging already and the battery life is still a good 50%. Even my handphone is slowing down.

2. I no longer had to scan my emails. I get many many emails a day from brokers, roughly 100 per day on weekdays. I cannot physically check every one of them because I don't have the time to do so. But recently, I am checking more frequently than my emails are coming in. I haven't really got down to reading each and everyone of them but it's getting there.

3. I'm blogging much more often than in the past. When I'm not occupied by normal routine, I think a lot and reflect a lot. I think because of this, I had much more things to say than in the past when all I'm occupied was to get home and have a good night's sleep. This is, of course, not necessarily bad. To be able to indulge yourself in your own thoughts is quite an enjoyable thing, every now and then. Everything in moderation is good.

we all have our down and vulnerable moments

I'm not really complaining that I've nothing to do. It's just that perhaps this is the first time I noticed that things are slowing down for me. I can't remember why I didn't have this feeling earlier because the life of a private tutor is like a farmer - there are times that you work like crap and after harvesting your work, you plant the seeds and then...you wait. And this is only less than 1 week of rest and relaxation and I'm feeling like this, which is weird. I will definitely ride through this lull period, as I always have. I'm highly experienced in this kind of boom bust cycle because technically, I'm always retrenched towards the end of the year and when the next year starts again, I'll have to work my way up to the previous year salary and perhaps more if I want some bonus.

I just want to encourage my bro to take things in stride, don't fall into depression and we'll take care of you in what ways we know. So, cheer up and I'll do my best to help out :)

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A rose by any other name smells as sweet

** "BIAS" is a special feature in my blog where I get to say whatever I want with scant regards for your feelings. I'm not politically correct in this feature, so go ahead, judge me."

During my wedding, I put up a portrait of a rose à la beauty and the beast instead of the usual picture of me and my wife. It had attracted quite a fair bit of attention and even the banquet manager asked me about it. Actually we wanted to bring it up to the stage to talk about it but I thought it's just too troublesome, so here I am to blog about the origins of this mysterious portrait, haha! I can't remember exactly the date but I did remember the year in which it all happened. It was in 2006 when I first decided to do up this project.  We loved beauty and the beast and the ideal behind the whole story and I promised my wife that on the day of our wedding, we would have this picture of beauty and the beast out there for everyone to see.

4 years had passed and I didn't do much about it until the start of this year 2010. I started conceptualizing the idea in 2007 and had a good idea of what to do. I wanted to re-create the glass stain effect but using cut pieces of coloured paper and pasted onto a black cardboard.  The end result should look somewhat like the picture below. However, I can foresee the difficulties involved and decided to do a scale down version of this, so I just took out the key and central idea of the picture, which is the rose, beauty and the beast.

The original idea is like that, but I realised it's too difficult to pull it off

I bought the piece of black cardboard in 2007 (I kept the receipt!) and bought the materials needed, but it wasn't till earlier this year before I actually started doing it. All the while I was procrastinating because I'm not confident that I can pull it off. That was before I even had the idea of marriage so I think it's understandable. But as I'm more sure of our eventual marriage, I can't delay it further. I sketched out the general outline of how the whole project should look like:

Sketched out onto the cardboard. Decided to just focus on the central idea of the picture.

I decided to do up the rose part first. It's quite screwed up, on hindsight because I was experimenting with how to actually cut pieces of paper and paste onto the outline sketched onto the cardboard. I finally decided on using tracing paper to trace out the outline again, then transferring the lines onto the coloured pieces of paper, cut it out and paste it. In a way, I'm creating my own carbonated paper by using tracing paper. Here's a few pics of the rose part. I loved the brilliant colours!

Thereafter I went to reservist... it took me quite a few more months to get my ass back to work on the project again. I think having done the rose part is itself a motivation for me to continue. I've no idea on how the overall project would look like because I'm doing section by section and deciding what colours to use based on the overall feel of the colours combination. As I continued to the beauty and beast section, I screwed up again. This part of the project requires a different skill set from what I did for the rose part. The cut pieces of paper are so tiny that it's very difficult to cut properly (I can't even hold it using 2 fingers). I don't even want to think about how to paste it since I can't hold it properly. In the end, I've to make do with a toothpick to position the cut coloured pieces of paper onto their proper places on the cardboard.

Having done the hardest part of the project, the rest is smooth sailing. I agonized over the choice of colours to be used for the backdrop on the rose section to give overall compatibility in colours, and eventually I settled on this particular olive green colour. Quite pleased with myself :)

The final look of the project looks like this:

My mum helped me to select the colours for the frames and the margin around the picture. This is what is seen on the wedding night itself, displayed on an easel.

How's that for a 4 years project? haha :)