Thursday, March 29, 2007

Websites that impose their password pattern

Some websites insist that the password must fit their pattern, such as:

* must be at least 8 digits.
* must be more than 8 digits
* must be exactly 8 digits
* must have both numeric and alphabetic characters.

The designers of these websites forget that the ordinary people, like me, have to deal with more than 10 different websites and passwords. By insisting on a password that fit their pattern, they force the user to create an unfamiliar password that they are likely to remember quickly.

Singpass insist that the password must be more than 8 digits. I keep forgetting my password. I must have asked for it to be re-set at leat 10 times.

Income Tax Returns for 2007

I filed my income tax returns for 2007 through the internet.

The portal is well designed, but still too complicated. As a taxpayer, I have to read a lot of irrelevant details, just to learn that they do not apply to me.

I had a lot of trouble with the IRAS password. They insist on exactly 8 digits. I had to create a new password just to meet this requirement. I am likely to forget this password, when I need it.

Invest in fixed deposit for one month

Hi Mr Tan,

I have some cash which I need to use for the down payment of my house in May. I have left this in the savings account which gives peanuts.

Is it still worthwhile to put this in the money market and take out after a month or so?


My reply:

I suggest that you put the money in 1 month fixed deposit. You should be able to get 2% p.a.

If you put in the money market, it can earn 3% to 3.5% p.a, but you are subject to some risk of fluctuation.

As you are investing for 1 month, it is better to keep things simple and invest in the fixed deposit.

How to cope with the next recession

I expect the next recession in the USA to happen in one year's time, maybe in 2008.

If it happens, it will affect the rest of the world. We will feel the impact.

We should take the economic cycle in its stride, and not worry too much about it. When the economy is slow, we will have more leisure time, and time for the family. We can adjust to the slower pace and wait for the economy to recover. We can draw down on our savings.

If we have mortgage payments, we need to work out some arrangement with the bank to defer the payments. If we have some spare savings in the CPF, they can be used to pay the mortgage installments.

Many centuries ago, most people were involved in farming. In good years, their keep some of the harvest. They draw down on the stock during the bad years, eg drought. They accept the cycles are part of the farming life.

Security check at Changi Airport

I find it quite troublesome to go through the security check at Changi Airport.

I am asked to remove our laptops, mobile phones, watches and other metal devices. When I walk through the metal frame, it still beeps. This is followed by a body search. If this is the case, there is no need to ask me to remove all the loose items.

In most airports, I am able to walk with ordinary items. But, not at Changi Airport.

I hope that the security at Changi Airport can be set at a more practical level. After a few years, it is time to review our security arrangement.

Court fines

Larry Haverkamp has posted an interesting story about court fines in South Africa. Read his blog.

Pays 20 years for a whole life policy

Mr Tan,

Income has introduced a whole life policy where the premium is payable for 20 years only.

What is the difference, compared to a critical year policy?

I find the premium to be quite high for Income's policy.


My reply:

Under the Income policy, you are contratually required to pay the premium for 20 years only, and enjoy the coverage for the whole of life. It does not use the future rate of bonus to pay the future premium. In fact, the future bonus will add to the cash and protection value of the policy.

A "critical year" policy use the future bonus to pay the future premium. It makes a bold assumption on the future rate of bonus to have a shorter "critical year". This is not guaranteed.

Some people find the premium under the "limited payment" policy to be expensive. It could be more than twice of the premium under a whole life or living policy, where the premium is payable until age 85.

If you wish to enjoy a lower premium, you should take a whole life or living policy, with premium payable for life. You can stop the premium at any time, and convert the policy into a paid up policy for a reduced sum assured.

What's wrong with the "critical year" policy?

The insurance agent project a high rate of bonus and tells the customer that the premium will be self funding after x years. When the rate of bonus drops, the critical year is extended for many more years. The customer enjoys a lower premium rate, but is not guaranteed that the premium will actually stop at the critical year.

Conclusion: To enjoy a lower premium, take an ordinary whole life or living policy. To enjoy a "limited premium", be prepared to pay a higher premium.

Sudoku fan enjoys birthday gift

Dear Mr. Tan,

I am the mother of J, a Guest Service Manager at H Kuala Lumpur.

Yesterday was my 53rd birthday and she presented two of your Logic9 (Vol 4 & 5) to me. I just love it and keep doing it on the bus journey from K.L. to Port Dickson (on a day trip with some senior citizen).

I would like to say thank you for the gift, which I really appreciate very much.

Where can I get the rest of the volume after I have finished these two, and how much it is in Malaysian Ringgit?

Once again, a big Thank You and all the best in your future.

Yours Sincerely,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

My name, Liang

My father gave me the name, Liang. It means "bright". The Chinese character is shown on the right panel of this blog. It is not common for males to have this name.

I was delighted to learn, recently, that there is another personality in Chinese history, that has this name. He is Zhuge Liang.

Here is a short description, taken from Wikipedia:

Zhuge Liang was one of the greatest Chinese strategists of the Three Kingdoms era, as well as a statesman, engineer, scholar, and inventor.

Zhuge is an uncommon two-character compound family name. His name (or even just his surname) has become synonymous with intelligence and wit in Chinese culture.

Some books rumored to be written by Zhuge Liang can be found today, for example the Thirty-six Strategies of Zhuge Liang, and Mastering the Art of War are two that are generally available. Supposedly, his mastery of infantry and cavalry formation tactics were unrivalled.

Know a city through its train system

I have visited Kuala Lumpur many times in the past. But, I did not get to know the city well.

On this trip, I decided to learn the commuter train system. There are a few lines which travelled through different parts of the city.

I begin to get to know the city better, by recognising the train stations. It is quite interesting.

Tip: Learn a city through the train system. You can get to know the most important places in the city, as the train stations will be located there.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Alvin Soong's Blog

I wish to introduce you to the Soong family - Henry, Michael, Wendy and Alvin. Henry and Michael are twin brothers. Wendy and Alvin are Michael's children.

They are dedicated insurance advisers of NTUC Income. They served their customers with dedication over the years.

Alvin has written a blog. I like you to visit his blog. You may find some useful insights and advice.

Alvin Soong's blog


There is another famous Soong family in recent Chinese history. They are the Soong sisters. They married Sun Yat Sen, Chiang Kai Shek and a rich businessman.

Thomas Phua's Blog

Last week, I recommended my blog visitors to contact Thomas Phua, through his blog, if they are interested in motor insurance.

Many people visited Thomas' blog. Initially, there were a few enquiries, but no buyers.

Recently, some of the enquiries have turned out to be business for Thomas. He now wants to invite me for lunch.

I recommend Thomas, because he takes good care of his motor insurance clients. Many of them stick with him loyally for many years.

Better to invest in the Money Market

Dear Mr Tan

I am looking at investing in bonds. How do I go about it?


Reply from Dr Money (Larry Haverkamp):

I recommend money market funds instead -- since the interest rates are the same and you can withdraw your money at any time -- (with no penalty and no cost).

You can check out the best 4 money market funds at < Best Bank Depost Rates


I agree with Dr Money. I invest my spare funds in the money market, instead of a bond fund.

The return from the bond funds available in Singapore, after deducting charges, are not attractive.

Taxi service in Singapore

Someone posted this comment.

Basically all the additional charges we have to pay for taxi has escalated to a ridiculous situation. In addition, it is also causing a lot of confusion to tourists. I have many overseas friends who have complained about the confusion they have on taxi surcharges, ERP charges, peak hour charges. I don't blamed them because I get confused too.

I think the authorities should look into simplifying these charges i.e. build these into fare structure. I also agreed that some charges should be lower to prevent abuse by taxi drivers. Take for example, the situation with midnight surcharge. I remembered it used to be impossible to get a cab between 10.3o pm to 12 midnight.

Some of these surcharges are killing the business of taxi driver slowly but surely. To call for a cab during peak hour in the city will cost you at least $9 before the journey starts. This certainly puts me off from using the service as taxi fare has become exorbitant.

The ERP gantry at Plaza Singapura. I cannot believe that I have to pay to get out of city.


Importance of values in our life

Someone sent this comment on the blog posted by Dr. Lee Kum Tatt’s wife:

“With the present trend of couples (or may be juz ladies) in Singapore not wanting to have children, furnishing the excuse of “career”, I am surprised and amazed at Mrs. Lee’s credentials.

Not her academics, but her life. 4 children?! With a successful career, and a supportive wife. I am interested in her views and thinking. Is there anyway to obtain a copy of her books?

Here are the answers given by Mrs Lee Kum Tatt.


Tan Kin Lian

Commuter train service in Kuala Lumpur

I wish to share my experience with the commuter train service in Kuala Lumpur.

I took the Putra LRT Line from KL Sentral to Dang Wangi (3 stops). It is like the MRT in Singapore, but is less crowded and slightly slower. The ride is comfortable.

On my return, I took the KTM Commuter from Bank Negara to KL Sentral. The train is slow, but is air conditioned. The stations are sold (except for KL Sentral).

The disadvantage is that the commuter train system in Kuala Lumpur is not well integrated. If I have to change trains to reach my destination, I have to pay a separate fare for each line. This is not convenient.

Taxi service in Kuala Lumpur

It is easy to get a taxi in Kuala Lumpur. If you wait at a taxi stop outside a shopping complex, a taxi will appear soon. There is a queue of taxis waiting for passengers at the KL Sentral station.

I understand that the taxi service in Singapore used to be like this many years ago. But not any more now.

Some commuters complained that it is quite difficult to get a taxi during the busy period. You can wait in the taxi stop for a long time without any taxi appearing. The only way to get a taxi is to make a call and pay an additional fee of $2.50 or $4.

Some taxi drivers prefer to wait for a call, rather than pick up a passenger at the taxi stop.

To prevent this bad habit, some commuters have asked for the call fee to be abolished.

I think that the call fee should be allowed, but it should be reduced to $1. This will remove the incentive for the taxi driver to wait for a call.

Traffic congestion in Kuala Lumpur

I am now in Kuala Lumpur.

My friend complained about the traffic congestion. It takes him more than one hour to drive to the office and back, and the distance is quite short. He envied the traffic situation in Singapore, which he though was much better.

I told my friend that the many roads in Singapore are now quite contested. The situation has worsened in recent years. There are too many cars on the road.

It seems that many cities suffer from the same problem - inadequate public transport, too many private cars congesting the roads.

Technology for car pooling to an event

Here is my concept of a system, using technology, to facilitate car pooling to an event.

* the event organiser notify the guests to send a SMS to a certain number, if they wish to car pool

* the SMS message contains the event code (eg 1234), postal code of the pickup point (eg 80) and role (1=driver 2=passenger)

* the computer system match the people by event and date and send a SMS to notify them to contact each other.

* there is an understanding that the passenger should pay $3 to $5 for each trip, i.e. to help the driver to defray the expenses.

I hope that this idea can catch on. Or someone can come forward with a better, more practical concept.

My vision of the public transport system

Here is my vision of a public transport system:

* the MRT forms the backbone of public transport

* express bus services join the town centers to provide a shorter, faster way (if the MRT takes a long way)

* feeder services (using light buses or cars) bring passengers to the MRT stations or town centers (to take the express buses).

The express bus services should have few stops, maybe at the town centers.

It is easier for commuters to understand this system. They have fewer bus services to remember. They only need to be familiar with the local feeder systems.

Under my vision, there is a need to make one or two changes, from the feeder to the main line. This may be slightly inconvenient, but the commuter can get used to it. I talk from personal experience.

My childhood

A few people told me that they were touched by the story in Monday Interview. As a child, I frequently waited at the bus stop for my father to return home after a sea trip.

This was 50 years ago.

Each trip took three days. He went out to sea to bring food provisions to the Riau Islands and return to Singapore with a boat load of fish.

He usually returned at a certain time at night. I went earlier to wait for his usual bus.

Sometimes, he was late. I had to wait for two or three buses to pass by, before he alighted. Those times, I had to wait for one hour or longer.

But, it was all right. In those days, there was no television, and no computer games to occupy our time.


A few people have described me as being "sincere". I wonder, what gives them this impression?

Perhaps, I am willing to speak my mind, honestly. I also think in the interest of the wider community, and not for self interest. I also take a positive approach towards matters, and see the brighter side.

To summarise:

* be honest
* look towards wider interest
* be positive

I hope that many people can cultivate these qualities and join the "sincere" club!

High oil prices and the stockmarket

Someone asked me.

The oil price has increased above US$60 again. This should be bad for the global economy. Why is the stockmarket still going up?

My reply:

It is a matter of timing. Investors expect the high oil price to increase the profits of the oil companies and the oil service sector. They bought these shares, resulting in a higher market index.

The high oil price will result in lower consumer spending. The effect will be felt in a few months' time. When this occurs, then the stockmarket will come down.

This is only my guess. Generally, I do not like the high stockmarket prices. I think that it will correct downwards, but it may take a few more months.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Good experience with Wireless@SG

I used by notebook PC to access Wireless@SG at Starbucks in Raffles City and in Changi Airport. I was able to get connected easily in both locations. The surfing speed was quite fast.

My experience with Wireless@SG has been satisfactory. You can have access at many hotspots in Singapore. It is free for the first three years.

This is helpful for me, as I intend to work outside an office. If I visit town and have to spend a few hours there for the next meeting, I will bring my notebook PC to do my work at a coffee place.

This is my new lifestyle. It is a mobile lifestyle. It is fun. Wow!

Monday Interview in Straits Times

I received this e-mail from a friend, very early in the morning.

Kin Lian,

I saw your story in Monday Interview in the Straits Times. It is interesting to read about your childhood days and your values that shape your character. There is a lot of mention about your blog. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Woman behind Dr. Lee Kum Tatt

Behind every successful man there is a woman. Dr. Lee Kum Tatt’s woman is his wife of more than 50 years. Mrs. Engeline Lee herself is quite a unique lady. I encouraged her to share some of her philosophy and experiences with us under her husband’s blog. She can complement what her husband does. She can give her views on what motivates her husband, how he responds to his own fantasies and produced the results.

Mrs. Engeline Lee, who has contributed much to the development of the famous RISIS orchids, tells us her story and her feelings on this project.


Tan Kin Lian

A better transport system

There is a complaint that the buses, MRT trains and taxis are very busy during the peak period. Of course.

It does not help if more people buy private cars. The roads will be congested as well.

We need to find more practical solutions, including:

* stagger the office hours
* have more buses and MRT trains, so that more people are encouraged to use public transport.

Shuttle bus to an event

Someone suggested that the organiser of an event (eg wedding or corporate dinner) should arrange a shuttle service to a nearby MRT station, and encourage their guests to take public transport. This will reduce the congestion on the road or insufficient parking spaces.

I agree.

We should also look for a practical way for people to car pool to the same event.

Market Salaries for Top People

Sent to two newspapers.

25 March 2007


I believe that most Singaporeans accept the rationale of paying attractive salaries to government ministers and top civil servants, and adjusting their salaries to reflect changes in the market.

Perhaps the concern is the use of the current benchmark, which is based on the top 8 salaries in Singapore. This is a small sample and is likely to produce highly volatile results that are affected by exceptional factors.

I wish to suggest a modified formula:

* calculate the benchmark based on the top 100, 500 or 1000 salaries in Singapore
* calculate the salaries of the office holders at certain percentages (could be more than 100%) of the benchmark according to their level of responsibility
* this will result in a more stable benchmark that will reflect changes in the market for the top people in Singapore.

For the younger top civil servants, the benchmark can be computed based on the top 100, 500 or 1000 salaries for people below 35 years.

Tan Kin Lian

Google Mail

I use google mail. It allows me to keep all my previous mails in the server. I can search for any mail by entering the search words.

I find this feature to be very useful. For example, if I serach for "Kuala Lumpur", I get all the e-mails with this name in the message. This allows me to look for the relevant e-mails.

I find it easier to keep my mails in the server and to call for them when needed. If I print and file the papers, I may not be able to find them. Electronic filing is more useful.

Active use of PDA

I make active use of a PDA (personal digital assistant).

It provides the following functions:

* mobilephone
* contacts
* calendar
* notes

I have some programs in the PDA, including:

* bus guide
* digital street directory
* logic9 puzzles

My PDA can be synchronised with my personal computer. If I lose my PDA, the data is still available.

The digital street directory is very useful. I can enter a street name or postal code, and the map is displayed immediately. This directory is developed on my specification and will be made available to distributors of new PDAs.

Active Blogs

My blog has 400 visitors a day. I used to think that it is very active.

I asked a friend to search for the most active blogs in Singapore. She found the following:

They have much more visitors than me. Wow!

An excellent ballet, Coppellia

I watched the ballet performance of Coppelia at Victoria Theatre on Saturday night.

It was an excellent performance. The sets, customer, dancing and story line were very good. The show was enjoyable, one of the best that I have seen.

The theatre was nearly full. They gave a resounding applause throughout the show. One third of the audience were children.

The show will be performed for one more night, ie Sunday. Tickets are still available at $28 to $58.

Here are some tips:

* Buy the program and read the story line. You will enjoy the show better
* Bring your children. They will like the show.
* Do not miss this show.

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