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Higher aspirations, higher cost of living?

The 11 May 2014 article from Today newspaper
The 11 May 2014 article from Today newspaper

In recent years, I’ve been hearing this line “Control what you can control” more and more often. I think it’s a very useful line for time management and job prioritization but it is increasingly used when people are handed a lousy situation not of their own doing, and asked to “just deal with it”.

That thought came to mind when I read this news story in Today where our Defence Minister insists our cost of living here has become more expensive because of our personal aspirations in life:

SINGAPORE — Having higher aspirations in life is a reason why Singaporeans find the cost of living here expensive, despite real wages having gone up, said Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen yesterday (May 10).

But Singapore has to ensure that opportunities to get out of poverty must not be priced out and remain abundant to fulfil the dreams of younger Singaporeans, said Dr Ng.

The Defence Minister was speaking at a Singapore Medical Association dinner and responding to a question from the audience concerned over the rising cost of living in Singapore.“If you look at household goods, per household, what people have – handphone, TV – has actually gone up,” said Dr Ng. Unlike the past, mobile phones are almost an essential item for children, he added.

That Singaporeans find costs of living expensive due to higher aspirations is a reason that will not please people, including himself, said Dr Ng, as the reason is “objective” and does not address “issues of the heart.”

Dr Ng added that while the Government makes sure that nobody should have their potential stunted just because their family cannot afford it, this is “difficult argument” to sell as some parents pay large sums of money to provide tuition for their children.

Before writing this post, I’ve actually spent the past three days mulling frequently on the story and on my personal situation.

I’ve asked myself – so is this true? Have my aspirations led to the increasing costs that we’re all experiencing around us? I’ve always respected Minister Ng (hey, he’s an old ACS boy, so he can’t be that clueless right?) so I kept asking myself if it was me and not him. Continue reading

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The art of weight maintenance

The Pandan Cheese Roll from Bengawan Solo is a constant temptation that I resist.
The Pandan Cheese Roll from Bengawan Solo is a constant temptation that I resist.

Losing weight is a science, but maintaining your weight is an art.

I coined this phrase on Facebook a few months ago as I realized that it was actually more challenging to keep one’s weight constant than to lose weight.

You see, as I’ve found out and written in my book Anyone Can Lose Weight, as long as you stick to some simple calorie counting, you will lose a predictable amount of weight.

The science is rock-solid reliable as long as you don’t give up - every 7700 kcal that you remove from your food intake over time, will result in approximately 1kg of weight loss. (Read my book to better understand this simple science that nobody teaches in schools)

But when you’ve finally reached your desired weight, it gets very tiring to keep counting calories, and your body is telling you that it deserves better than the minimal calories it has been enduring for weeks or months.

The risk of lapsing back into one’s old eating habits is extremely high.

There is also no fixed diet anymore to follow, as I have to eat just my daily requirement of calories to maintain weight. So what dishes should I eat today?

At the same time, your weight can never remain absolutely constant like a non-living object – your body’s fluid and mass is constantly in flux daily as it goes through hormonal changes, water retention, illness, responses to weather conditions and so on. That’s why some diet plans advise you not to weigh yourself daily, but perhaps once a week.

That’s why I believe maintaining weight is an art – it requires a lot of flexibility and there is no hard and fast rule to follow. There are some general guidelines to remember though. Here are some of my personal findings and opinions after maintaining my weight for the past six months. I’m still figuring this out every day, but here goes: Continue reading

Singapore Dollar cropped

Please stop wasting our public money

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For a couple of years now, I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the poor use of taxpayer dollars by the Singapore government for frivolous or impractical things, while cost of living continues to shoot up and everyone is unhappier than ever with the state of things.

Today I read a news story which really took the (50th birthday) cake. Continue reading

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Should I Ride A Motorcycle In Singapore?

In recent months, I’ve seen more people considering taking up motorcycle riding lessons in response to the dismal Certificate of Entitlement (COE) situation for cars.

It’s a natural outcome, given that riding is always going to be a cheaper transport solution than cars, even though the motorcycle COE premium is now hitting new highs of over $4,000 (nearly three times of what it was last year).

But I’ve also heard many people express doubt and uncertainty, because motorcycling is seen as an undesirable and dangerous form of transport. I’m writing this to help shed light on some important things before you make the decision to go on two wheels.

You might think that my immediate answer to the question “Should I ride a motorcycle in Singapore?” would be “Yes”. Actually, serious bikers focus so much on safety, that you should be asking “Am I able to commit to being safe on the roads if I want to ride a motorcycle?”.  Many inexperienced bikers think that the Traffic Police is too preachy when it comes to road safety – well, you wouldn’t think that way if you know more about road riding.  Continue reading

The humble 125cc scooter may soon be an endangered species on our expensive Singapore roads.

The COE system is now hurting motorcyclists too

This letter was published in Today, 22 Mar 2014. Note that the COE increase for motorcycles was 240%, but was mistakenly edited to 140% in the printed letter.
This letter was published in Today, 22 Mar 2014. Note that the COE increase for motorcycles was 240%, but was somehow edited to 140% in the printed letter.

Most people may not know that between 2003 and 2013, the car population jumped from 405,328 vehicles to 621,345 vehicles, a staggering 53% increase, according to official Land Transport Authority data.

In the same period, the motorcycle population only increased from 134,767 vehicles to 144,307 vehicles, a 7% increase.

Private cars now form 64% of the total vehicle population, while motorcycles make up 15%.

A 125cc scooter like this Yamaha Zuma may soon be an endangered species on our expensive Singapore roads.
An affordable and efficient 125cc scooter like this Yamaha Zuma may soon be an endangered species on our expensive Singapore roads.

Despite the minimal impact of motorcycles on road congestion and pollution, in the past four months, the Certificate of Entitlement premium for two-wheelers has increased 240% to $4,289 as the LTA has applied its one-size-fits-all formula to capping vehicle population growth in Singapore.

While the LTA is doing the right thing in correcting the over-supply of COE in the past decade, it may not realize how its myopic approach in severely restricting the release of motorcycle COEs  is hurting the motorcycling population and intensifying a growing social equity problem. Continue reading

Image from Wikipedia

How to drink to lose weight and save money

There is one common thing that I’ve frequently observed among people who find it difficult to lose weight and those who wonder why they don’t seem to be able to save much money – they’re simply not very self-aware of their own habits, and they often complain that it’s hard to lose weight or save money.

This post is more on our drinking habits, so I won’t talk much about how to save money because it’s different for everyone. Some people have big necessary bills to pay, some have big unnecessary bills, and some people find it tough to get a good job. (What I do each month is to simply carve out my forced savings the minute my pay cheque gets deposited into my bank and transfer it into another account.)

Now to jump to my conclusion about healthy, economical drinking – just drink plain water all the time (duh).

People know that plain water is beneficial to the body, but you need to look at the economics of commercialized water – you may not be aware of how much money you are literally pissing into into the urinal and helping to fund the huge advertising campaigns of beverage makers to get you to drink even more sugared water. Continue reading

The Fitbit Zip activity tracker

Thoughts on Fitbit and activity trackers

I recently started using a Fitbit Zip activity tracker because I was intrigued by this whole idea of doing 10,000 steps a day to keep fit. At S$78 (before the Challenger member 10% discount), it’s not cheap but it’s not expensive either for a tiny pedometer that comes with Bluetooth wireless capabilities and built-in user account.

To be clear, it’s not like I need a pedometer, because I already jog regularly two to three times a week and I watch what I eat most of the time. I weigh myself daily now with a Fitbit Aria scale that logs my weight to my personal account and I can always study my weight variations anytime on my phone or PC.

But once you pique my curiosity and it involves tech and fitness, I just have to try it out to gain an understanding of what other people are raving about. Continue reading

Upper Peirce 4 Jan 2013

Gorgeous Skies at Upper Peirce Reservoir

Upper Peirce 4 Jan 2013

I often wake up early about 6am to go for jogs or to wait for the sunrise, and today I decided to go to Upper Peirce for the first time at such an hour to check out the sunrise. I was stunned by what I saw, and here are some photos all taken within a few minutes of each other. God truly creates beautiful things we cannot fathom.

Please feel free to download these images for your own desktop and smartphone wallpapers, and I’m not going to spoil them with watermarks because my ego isn’t that big. But if you’re going to share them or use it on your own site, please remember to credit me and the date with location (Ian Tan, Upper Peirce Reservoir, Singapore, 4 Jan 2014).

Upper Peirce 4 Jan 2013 B

Upper Peirce 4 Jan 2013 C

Upper Peirce 4 Jan 2013 D

Monster at Upper Peirce 4 Jan 2013
And of course, I won’t forget to have a shot of my Ducati Monster 1100 Evo when the sky is so beautiful. This is the only photo where I had to use the HDR mode on my camera so I could bring out some details of the bike’s form.