Sunday, February 25, 2007


Tried to do some uploading of photos today. I'm still torn between Flickr and Picasa and trying to figure out how to manage both the offline and online photo management. Any advice from experienced parties would be mucho appreciated!


We'd actually meant to eat at Let's Clap but they were packed! Ah well, Rail Mall has plenty to eat, their loss! We headed onwards towards Ramen Ramen Ramen but got waylaid by this store menu!

Another Fish and Co clone? Well, the store decor is very well done. I liked the facing wall especially, check out all the fish!

The place is also very spacious - lots of space between tables, not like Manhattan and Fish n Co which are normally quite packed together.

There's also a very cute kids meal served in a plate the shape of a fish... Here's a picture of the smiley potatoes.

The sides were also pretty good, with scallop pictured here (though the pic looks a little disgusting, no? But it tasted quite nice, very fresh!) as well as fried mushrooms, jamba wings and other goodness.

On to the main course, fish n chip! In general, sis felt that the food was much less oily than Fish n Co - more healthy, less gelat. Key felt the same way, but actually we like the oily, buttery taste of Fish n Co...

The fish n chip comes with a choice of fish - dory, shark, or (more expensive) snapper. I went for the shark, since Key was getting the dory. Also because I'd recently been having some conversations with people where they tell me its cruel to cut the fin off the shark and let it go. So let's eat the whole shark?

Not much to look at, and frankly I'll never order this again. There was a weird powdery aftertaste which no one seemed to have - might be the shark meat itself. Not enjoyable.

And finally, waffles! Fruit was like the fish, very fresh and in large portion, and it was served with a generous helping of maple syrup. A bit toasty, but otherwise delectable.

Verdict: Price is probably very close to Fish n Co, just a bit cheaper perhaps. It'll be interesting to come back and see how their fish tastes like when they've mastered their craft.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

No-give, no take

Marginal Revolution highlighted that Israel was considering legislation which would give priority for organ transpant receipt to people who had opted into organ-donation.

Previously I had written on this in two posts, one on the sale of organs, and one on enforcing against illegal brokers for organs. In general, I'd assumed that there was the ban on sale of organs meant that the price of organs was effectively zero. Alexander Tabarrok argues:

Economists argue that anytime the price of a good or service is held below its market demand, a shortage develops. Just as government-mandated rent controls imposed in New York and other cities have led to a shortage of housing, government rules that outlaw buying or selling organs on the open market hold the price of organs at zero and make an organ shortage inevitable.

Tabarrok goes on to suggest a "no-give no-take" rule. Reading the article, I felt a tickle of a reminder and went to read up the Human Organ Transplant Act FAQs and found that we already have such a system in place.

People who opt out of the existing HOTA, as well as those who are not covered under the existing HOTA, will receive lower priority on the organ transplant waiting list, in the event that they should require an organ transplant in the future.

Does Singapore still experience shortages of organs for transplant? I believe so, but I'm not sure. If we do, it might imply that the no-give no-take rule is not enough to ensure that there is no organ shortage. One reason why, might be that people tend to be optimistic and place little value on the possibility of receiving transplants in future. That would still put the price of organs at a low level which leads to organ shortages.

Drugs, Women, and Love

Yup. it's economics which links all these together!
Interesting read at Marginal Revolution.

Customer Service is a Mindset

A commentary over at caught my eye. I'm well aware that it's expensive to train a competent, courteous customer service officer when the cheaper alternative is to have customers visit your webste and read your FAQ, or find the answer using an automated telephone answering system - "If you are asking about ABC, press 1. If you are asking about CDE, press 2... "

That works fine for something straightforward like ordering movie tickets online. However, when you have a problem you're trying to resolve, then it's far more likely that your query will be complex and would require human assistance. Even if it's not, the mere fact that you're experiencing difficulties should mean that you would like to hear a sympathetic voice at the other side of the line.

That's why I like the ING Direct advertising that is mentioned in the article:

“To Speak to a Person, press 1 then 800 ING Direct.”
It's also why I try to be nice when a member of public randomly calls me at my desk. There's definitely a reason why the person gave up on the call centre, and I'm just trying to make that person's life infinitesmally better...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Where's the next Mobile MMORPG!

Communities Dominate Brands posted this article, highlighting a report that 70% of subscribers play paid mobile videogames at least weekly, and 38% daily!

I had been talking about the previous article about how musicphones were outselling iPods, and Zeal asked me, so what's the next thing after cameras and music that was going to get integrated into cellphones. So I was stream-of-consciousness thinking, what would we want next on phones? And one thought was, MMORPGing - not in the hack and slash way, maybe more in a Sims or Second Life way. Allowing people to, in their moments of boredom on the train or wherever, send their virtual avatar on a useful errand. Allowing people to live their virtual life away from the shackles of their desktop or that light-but-pricey laptop which could be dropped, stolen, or forgotten.

And of course, since it would be difficult to hack and slash on a handphone where your attention span is only ten minutes on the commute or while waiting for a friend, gamers would need activities which fit that shorter span. So not raiding in the World Of Warcraft manner, but then, what then?


Just saw the word "trenchant" on Greg Mankiw's blog, and realised I didn't know precisely what it meant. But it's a good word! Read about what it means here.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Marvel horror flick

I still haven't watched Protege! But apparently the show is doing well at the box office. Lol. Instead, I watched Ghost Rider on New Year's Eve. Nicholas Cage show, but not all that enjoyable - even he couldn't save the show. I wasn't expecting a lot, so you can't call it a letdown, but the cutting was quite bad, more reminiscent of a horror flick than a superhero movie. And the plot had so much to say and so few bad guys that the bad guys had no chance to show off their powers at all. I mean, these "nephilim" were angels! Shouldn't they be slightly more powerful?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Resolving inequality using global competition

Again, a disclaimer : this is just some personal thought, nothing to do with work!

This commentary by Dean Baker (written two months back) suggests that growing inequality is because workers at the top of the economy are getting more of the share of wealth creation. He goes on to argue for
trade policies that would make it as easy for hospitals and law firms to hire doctors and lawyers from India and China as it is for Wal-Mart to buy cheap shoes from the developing world.

I'm guessing that that means that if the lower-skilled workers' wages are being depressed by global competition, then exposing the highly-skilled to the same level of global competition should reduce inequality. So, if the doctor can opt to buy TVs which are manufactured in factories where wages have been diminished by global competition, then the factory workers should have the choice of getting medical care in clinics where the cost of consultation and medicine has also been similarly diminished by global competition, from e-consultation and internet pharmacies.

Seems a bit extreme, but I can see the logic...

Bicycle Helmets put you at risk?!

Yup! A researcher did a study by riding with and without helmets and found that drivers passed closer to him when he was riding with a helmet - plus he was hit twice! He believes that
Motorists regard a helmet as a signal that the cyclist is experienced and thus can be approached with less caution.

Hmm. Natural flow of thought - does putting on a P plate on your car make you less prone to accidents? (Because people tend to be wary of your driving?)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Uramaki at Waraku

If you happen to have the discount coupons for Waraku, one of the deals involves 8 of these for just $5.80... it's really good!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Valentine's at Wala Wala

We didn't have a plan to celebrate Valentine's - it's expensive and Key's got class till 9. But it all turned out well. First, we agreed gifts were not necessary but went out and got them anyway. Then, stopping by at Holland V for dinner, we had a good chat while walking around looking for a decent restaurant that didn't have a long queue - a chat which I felt was very open and honest, almost essential for our common understanding of life ahead...

And then we stopped by at Wala Wala. It's not a romantic place, but the music is fantastic and the atmosphere was perfect for us to cozy up after such a chat. Plus the beer and the calamari, hawaiian and carbonara was pretty darn good!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Protege signing show

Protege is a Mediacorp Raintree production, about the drug industry. Local company but a HK cast! And Daniel Wu and Leo Ku came down for a promotional signing. Key's a big fan, so I was requested to join her in queuing for the signing.

Huge huge crowd, but very messy crowd control. I wasn't there for the early part, but it seems that there were two separate queues for buying shirts and getting the autographs. However, the queue for autographs collapsed when the event got started. Three main factors, I think:
(1), a very unconventional queuing system where the queue started at the back of the pavillion and then wound inwards. Which means some of the people later in the queue were actually much closer to the queue entrance than their predecessors and had both incentive and low barriers to cutting queue.
(2) speaking of barriers, no barriers to form the queue, so it's an honour system and you knowhow singaporeans are with that.
(3) The stars were only going to be there for an hour before having to attendthe gala premiere at Vivo.. So there's very large incentive to cut queue because it seemed some people wouldn't get the autograph.

That, plus the radio host (who shall not be named) obviously didn't know the queueing system and confused the crowd with his initial instructions.

In the end, Key got her autograph and then went for the gala show with her cousin (left me behind, boohoo...) She was soooooo happy with her seat, where she got an upclose and personal view of Daniel Wu.

Me? Managed to qsqueeze in for a pre-CNY haircut at Chapter Two.. Lol

What would you choose?

Take a look at Newcomb's Paradox, and tell me what you would choose through the comments here, please!

Monday, February 12, 2007

More Organ Donation

Related to my previous post on organ donation, Wired has popped up more information on organ donation in India.

Main conclusion from reading the article:
1) Stiff enforcement against organ brokers seems to be key, whether or not organ sales are legalized, since the incentives for organ sellers, organ buyers, and possibly even doctors seem to generally be in favour of facilitating the use of sold organs.

There's also a statement on competition with the international market which I don't understand, I'm looking for a good economist to explain it to me!

"Free health care sounds good on paper, but the problem is that when a country goes legal then it enters into competition with the international market in organ transplant tourism," says Scheper-Hughes. "When the state offers incentives along with a lesser pay scale, but a broker from another country offers slightly more cash without the medical benefits, most people opt for the cash and you run into the same problems you had before legalization."

Lowering of income limit for credit

The income minimum for unsecured credit has been lowered to $20,000 per year. Maximum credit is still capped at twice the monthly salary..

On the one hand, I think that salary doesn't dictate whether a person knows how to handle their own finances. However, easier credit does make it easier for people to mess themselves up, even while it enables some of those people to change their lives for the better.

For instance, one friend I have used several credit card facilities to get enough cash to start his own business - a venture which was successful, thanks to his hard work and acumen. People should control their own destiny - it's not really anyone's role to protect people from their own folly. I mean, consider this news story from Wired, "Law Would Ban IPods When Crossing Street". So you're not allowed to listen to your iPod, talk on the phone, play PSP or check your BlackBerry while crossing the street - all in the name of protecting your life from yourself.

But there's a side of me that tells me that people may not be aware that how fast or how much they actually are spending, including whether they are spending above their capacity. Especially in the case of buying things they can't afford! I can buy something worth $6k on a credit card, but would I be able to put that much away while making all my other obligations? Especially if I need to make house payments, for instance. 7 years back I had to work my way out of a credit hole on a student credit card, and it was a heck of a miserable experience - and then the only person suffering was me!

But despite my misgivings, the perils of credit cards are a lesson probably best learnt by experience - after all, not everyone is as financially dumb as I was!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Kim Gary

Ate with darling Key and friends at Hong Kong Kim Gary at VivoCity, on Qianhui's recommendation... Custom utensils! The queue at this place is hugely long but I guess turnover must be quite quick since the queue actually moves quite fast.

Most important, here is my darling Key, with her own dish - fish wrapped in egg!
As with any of the Hong Kong eateries which are opening up now, the thick-bread butter toast is one of the signature dishes. It's just dripping! (You can also see the peanut butter version behind, which I didn't quite like so much)

A simple dish for me - pork slices and egg. It's not gourmet, but it smells pretty good and tastes fine! Plus the egg is sweet!

Yuan yang - tea + coffee mix. Always see it on the HK television shows but is it really that good? It tastes different from either tea or coffee, not too bad, but I haven't become an instant convert.

Most importantly, here is Key with her own dish, fish wrapped in egg!

Final verdict: food's not fantastic, but it's not too bad either. Price was about $12 per head for one main, toast and drinks each...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Pickle King

Yesterday night I watched The Pickle King, a marvellous play by the Indian Ink Theatre Company from New Zealand, now playing at the Singapore Repertory Theatre / DBS Arts Centre.

The play is set in a (decaying?) hotel in New Zealand, with three main characters - a hotel receptionist whose loved ones all die, a porter who's studying for the qualification exams to be a heart surgeon, and an ominous, portly, guest at the hotel, G. Reaper. It's both hilariously funny and heartwarming. Some quaint little touches too, such as the use of masks with such cute expressions for the numerous supporting characters and anonymous guests who are also played by the three lead actors.

The show runs till Feb 16, and is quite affordable at $50, so catch it while you can! As for me, the quality of the writing and performance makes me feel like catching the previous two plays by the group, it's that good!

Mussels from Brussels (Sprouts)

We had dinner before the play at Clarke Quay, since it's so near the SRT. This is Brussels Sprouts, a new place that specialises in mussels and beer... The seating space is quite huge, though I would advise not to be seated outside exposed to the sky. Above the restaurant is the condo swimming pool and you get occasional splashes.

There were several very good starters. Steak tartare is raw beef, and suprisingly went very well with the toast!

I would say that I would enjoy the starters at this restaurant more than the mains. Not that the mains are bad, just that the starters/snacks are more unique, somehow. And the ambience of the restaurant seems better for a light meal with beer than a full course dinner. This was the crepe, which looked kind of like lasagna. This was for me the best dish!

Homemade sausages. Adequate as a main, though I must say the sausages are really different from your normal - the meat inside is chunky, not really ground to dust.

I don't have photos of the mussels and beer, both of which were excellent. The waffles were good too.

Overall I'd say the place is worth an eat, since the service was attentive and the food better than passable. But it's also quite pricy, at close to $50 per head for what we ate..

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Steeples's deli, the first deli in Singapore! Quaint place at #02-25, Tanglin Shopping Centre. It only has counter seating, and prices are quite high, about $8-10 for a sandwich, and $3+ for a drink.

I bought a honey-baked ham sandwich and a rootbeer float. Looks mouthwateringly good, no?

The sandwich is fantastic. A thick roll of tasty ham, an equally large portion of fresh and crunchy lettuce, and bread that is toasted to perfection. Only drag on the meal was the coleslaw, which tasted a bit old - but that may be the intention.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Organ donation?

Disclaimer: this post reflects purely my personal opinions. (All my posts do, but I thought I'd better emphasise that here). At the moment, I don't have a strong opinion on this topic so one good argument could swing me strongly either way. Going on:

Straits Times seems to have been running articles on organ donation. Of course, I can't be sure, since ST Interactive is gated and I can't check the archives! Bummer, right?

Anyway, according to the Ministry of Health website,

The Organ Donor Registry maintains registers of:
People who wish to donate their organs or bodies for transplantation, research or education upon their death, under the Medical (Therapy, Education and Research) Act (MTERA), and
People who wish to register their objection to the removal of kidneys, liver, heart and corneas upon death for the purpose of transplantation, under the Human Organ Transplant Act (HOTA)
Nothing about organ donation I can find here. I'm sure it must be governed somewhere, else it can't be illegal right? Anyway, one of MOH's FAQs says that

Living donor organ transplants are transplants in which a living person donates an organ (e.g. a kidney) or part of an organ (in the case of livers) to another person. The main concern in such transplants is that living donors face medical risks when donating their organs. For example, although donors in living donor kidney transplants have less than 0.1% chance of dying from the operation, donors in living donor liver transplants face a 1-3% chance of dying from the surgery, and a 25% chance of suffering a complication.

Is it illegal to sell organs? I assume it is. Nevertheless, looking at whether it should be illegal, specifically wrt to such living donor transplants where the donor can continue to live a normal life afterwards, we should consider
1) If allowed, many people in need of transplants would be able to find them.
2) However, many poor people may not be able to find donors for free
3) Though, if that was a societal concern, we should be able to set criteria to help co-fund transplants for such people
4) And a person with some future economic value but no money now could borrow against his future income to provide for his donation
5) And if society was genuinely concerned, then concerned members could choose to make their donations only to poor people.
6) At the same time, it may lead to exploitation of poor people who are unaware of the risks involved or future health consequences (eg, the risk of losing their remaining kidney function)
7) though reasonably speaking, are bone marrow or blood donors (or other current, living donors) also fully aware of the risks they face? (and if you tell me there are no risks, you need some education)
8) And it's not clear that making it illegal to sell organs protects poor people from exploitation, since by driving the market underground you actually reduce the level of information in the market.

I'm not a big fan of "this is against social values" arguments, because if society felt strongly about a topic, they would act on their own, exercising their choices in the marketplace and the ballotbox.

The most pertinent questions are:
1) For people discouraged by the ban, would their lives be better without the ban? (Not sure. Some people would benefit, some may get cheated, see above. However, I'm not convinced we can protect everyone from their own stupidity).

2) For people not discouraged by the ban, would their lives be better? (Yes, definitely. For this non-marginal group, having it in the open and regulated by government beats black markets. For reference, you may wish to consider this story, Indian Organ Mafia Busted. If selling organs was allowed, these people would have some recourse).

3) Would lifting the ban negatively impact society as a whole? (Possibly - by accentuating the rich-poor divide).

So, would I sell a kidney, if it was legal? I'm generally paranoid about health, so there's very few people I would donate one to, and if donations go into a common pool I'm totally not going to donate! On the other hand, I'm not attached to health after death, so no objectives to the Human Organ Transplant Act. And lastly, if the price was high enough, I would. But because of my paranoia and risk-aversity I'm pretty sure my price is above the usual price others would accept, so the offered price would not be high enough for me - unless my financial situation changes drastically.

Would I buy? For myself - have to weigh whether I would be able to make back that money over my lifetime, and whether the price would crimp my happiness so badly that living was literally worse than dying. I'm probably far more likely to buy the organ for someone else rather than myself.

There are other solutions, including this suggestion that donors be paid by other means (eg healthcare credit) or by governments or insurers. That's a distinct possibility, since organ donation does seem to provide benefits for society as a whole...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Articles on carding, phishing, and other fraud

I'm pretty paranoid about shredding my credit card receipts and stuff - you'll be surprised how many of those receipts you throw away contain various combinations of
a) your name
b) your full credit card number's sixteen digits
c) your credit card expiry date.

Now I'm sure that visa and mastercard's fraud detection systems are elegant, but is it really necessary to capture all these things on receipts?

Anyway, this article from Wired, about a cybercrook working for the FBI, is only reinforcing my paranoia. Can't imagine, saving and saving so that you can invest for the future, and having that all taken from you like this...

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Great Podcast!

This is cool! A secondary school history teacher in the US puts up a series of lectures about the Byzantine Empire, and it zooms to the top of the podcast charts. I tuned in to 3 of the lectures on my way to work yesterday, and I think it's great. He is well-spoken and conducts the lectures in a conversational style which is very easy on the ears. Plus the way he tells the story focuses on the leading characters and the *ahem* byzantine plotting going around, which makes it much more interesting!

Catch the link here!