Category Archives: AntiAlvin

Life is…

mr shit

Life is shit.

Which couldn’t be more true for Alvin right now, as he’s guarding a tower close to a cesspit that churns every hour or so and belches a stench that could only be 99% butane.

But I guess it can’t be, because his comrades can afford to light the hourly cigarette without blowing up the entire place. Butane is flammable, right?

So it’s probably ammonia. Every molecule of air within 10m radius of that sewer is permeated by ammonia.

But Alvin doesn’t live by the cesspool, and with any luck, the sewer won’t leave any permanent damage to his well-being when he finishes reservist. Yes, he’ll be coming back to real life, and guess what, continue to live in the churning pit of crap that is life itself. What better way to learn why, than to have a sobering one-on-one one-hour lesson with one’s insurance agent?

I met with mine on Monday. Let’s call him Casey for convenience’s sake. He had wanted to update me on a few developments, most significantly involving the Government’s decisions on our Central Provident Fund.

He said, from 1 April 2008 onwards, unless you have more than $20,000 inside your Ordinary Account, you won’t be allowed to use those savings on investment plans.

Of course, if you have $25,000, it means you can only use up to $5,000 on investments.

Bottom-line: Come 1 April 2008, anybody who wants to invest their CPF Ordinary Account money must have $20,000 as minimum retainer.

My curiousity was piqued. There has to be a reason why the Government is passing this new rule, right?

Yes, Casey said, because in case you need to buy a flat, $20,000 would definitely come in handy for part of the down payment.

Ahhh.

So, if I put my money in an investment plan, I can’t drag and drop it back inside the Ordinary Account and buy a flat, right?

Right.

There it was. The catch.

Casey explained, if I wanted to have my cake and eat it too, I could calculate how much I needed for flat-buying, leave it inside the Ordinary Account, then use the rest for investments.

Was I planning to get a flat soon? What sort of flat am I thinking about? We had no exact figures, but say I’m thinking of a flat that costs $300,000 – you need to put 15% as downpayment – which meant –$45,000 – which translated to –

$22,500 that my spouse and I would each have to fork out – which worked out to, for me –

44.47 months/3.7 years of work, not considering increments and bonuses.

Thinking about this gives me a bellyache. I’d only worked for about, what – a year at most?

Without looking at my CPF Statement of Account, we calculated that I was definitely in deficit. Of at least, um, I forget how we actually arrived at the figure: $10,000.

Although I was obviously unable to invest any Ordinary Account funds, Casey was unflappable. How about investing the money in the Special Account, then? And how about a sound financial plan to manage my salary?

I laughed. I couldn’t believe there was anything to manage at all, my salary being so meagre, as the astute reader would probably have guessed by now. (If you need help, 22% of our gross salary goes to CPF per month.)

We briefly evaluated my monthly expenses and I told him that I’d been out of work for half a year before I got employed recently, so the current breakdown was not accurate, having to catch up with loans and all. He said he understood and said we should probably give it three months, as a regular spending pattern should be apparent by then.

As for the Special Account, only 5% of one’s gross salary goes into it. If my Ordinary Account were in deficit, I shuddered to think of the dregs inside my Special Account. The minimum amount required for investment planning is $1,200.

Before we parted ways, I promised to check how much there actually was inside my CPF accounts, and let him know by the end of this week whether I had the gumption to invest my Special Account funds.

I learnt from Christopher Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness that the American IRS has long hands that will reach into your bank account and deduct income tax owed to the government if you don’t file your taxes. In Singapore, likewise, the Central Provident Fund has insidious hands.

You think the moment you receive your first paycheck is a time to celebrate. You feel CPF’s firm handshake and mistake it as a congratulatory gesture, for in truth, it was really saying, “Welcome to the Circle of Life. Welcome to the Circle of Shit.”

After struggling to clear your tertiary education loan for about four years, you heave a sigh of relief, only to discover, to your chagrin, that you have to empty your CPF in order to buy a living space as attractive as a shoebox. Then you pay, pay and pay to repay the housing loan, and then you pay some more when –

When your own kid goes to university.

There must be something omniscient about CPF, for when I reached home, I received notice that, as at 31 Dec 2008, not only did I still owe more than $22,000 for my education loan, but also more than $500 worth of interest.

I need to take a shit. Maybe, if I could clear my system, I’d be able to decide whether or not to invest those funds.

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Why did Miss China win?

Miss China Zhang ZilinPR photo from Miss World website
Picture from AP (R); Zhang Zilin’s PR photo from Miss World website (L)

Miss Zhang Zilin (张梓琳), native of Hebei Province, China, has won this year’s Miss World crown. Why do you think she’s won?

Flatchested Miss China
Picture from AFP

This year’s Miss World 2007 beauty pageant was held at the beauty crown cultural center in Sanya, Hainan, China, Saturday, Dec. 1, 2007. Do you think it was because she stood at advantage on home soil?

Check out runner-up Micaela Reis of Angola (L) and second runner-up Carolina Moran Gordillo of Mexico. Third World countries may not have the highest GDPs, but boy they have beauties. Check out Miss Angola’s boobs!

On the other hand, Miss China has almost none.

No boobs

Why would the judges favour a flatchested girl?

She is very tall though. Standing at 1.83m, Miss China dwarves even the other contestants.

Speaking of which, here are some of the other finalists:

The other Miss World contenders
Picture from AFP

“Miss World contestants from left, Jennifer Guevara Campos of Puerto Rico, Vivian Charlott Burkhardt of Grenada, Christine Reiler of Austria and Deborah Priya of Malaysia applaud after they nominated into top 16 semi-finalist during the Miss World 2007 beauty pageant. -AFP”

And here’s our Miss Singapore. Sigh. Poor thing. I’m sure she’s a cutie that guys at the gym or the bar would make a beeline to chat up, but she ain’t ever going to win.

Miss Singapore Roshni Kaur Soin
Miss Singapore Roshni Kaur Soin

And here are the Miss World champions from years 2006 and 2004.

Miss World 2006Miss World 2004
Miss World 2006, from Czech Republic (R); Miss World 2004, from Peru (L)

It’s often the Aryan (blonde hair, blue/green eyes) look or the exotic Latina look that has won over judges. But why Miss China this year? Could it be because –

Beijing Olympics 2008
Beijing Olympics 2008!

China’s a rising superpower and will crush your country if you don’t let their baby girl win?

For the past 57 years, China has not even come close to championship at a global pageant such as this. Could it be a sign of World Domination? First Miss World, then the Universe.

Remember the days (those were also the days we believed no Singaporean would ever make it to the stardom in the pop music scene) when we would watch a pageant like Miss World and sigh, “We Asians are not tall enough,” or “Look at those cans on Miss Georgia, she’s a shoo-in,” or “That Latina has gorgeous eyes!”

But this Zhang Zilin girl seems to glow. Beside her, everybody else looks pudgy, listless and insecure.

Beach babe

Before the pageant, this Beijing Technological University graduate was a secretary and part-time model. She has catwalked with supermodels on designer fashion shows and had a part to play in the very high-profile Fendi show at Beijing’s Great Wall this year in October.

Fame has its price though. Her contract with her agency has it in black-and-white that she’s not allowed to get attached, and that she must handover every cent she earns from modelling (and I’m guessing the prize money from the pageants as well) for them to manage. (Now you understand why she has two jobs.)

In an interview after the contest, she said that she will brush up on her English and start on her (token) Miss World visits to parts of the Caribbean, Europe and South Africa. With the Beijing Olympics coming up and China in the centre of attention for all the right and wrong reasons, I don’t think she’s going to be forgotten as soon as the other Miss World champions.

A beautiful walking propaganda machine. How convenient, China.

Why do you think she’s won?

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Who is Oscar the cat?

Lianhe Wanbao 《联合晚报》 caught my eye yesterday as it published the most darling picture I have ever seen (Homer Simpson: “so far”) grace its front page. Oscar the psychic cat! Have you heard? Have you seen?

Oscar the psychic cat
This picture of Oscar was taken from FOXNews.com

After hearing why people say Oscar is psychic, you’re most likely to not wanna meet him. Other than that Oscar lives a thousand miles away in a hospice on Rhode Island, USA (actually I don’t know exactly how far Rhode Island is from Singapore, so I’m just being figurative here k), this two-year-old shorthaired moggy can predict which patient will die within the next two to four hours! According to the Associated Press who interviewed Dr. David Dosa, a doctor working in Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Oscar will curl up next to a patient who is about to pass away and will stay there until that person breathes his or her last!

He’s already successfully predicted 25 cases of death. At his 13th case, a nurse working there who had been observing him for a few months was thoroughly “convinced of his talent” when he beat a doctor at predicting the time of death of a dying patient. The patient had exhibited signs of impending death: not eating, breathing with difficulty and a bluish tinge at the legs – but Oscar turned tail from her bedside. The nurse thought Oscar’s winning streak had been broken, but it turned out that the doctor’s prediction was 10 hours early – Oscar indeed joined the patient just two hours before her last moment.

Interestingly, everybody I have met face to face (so far) expressed their horror and shuddered at this news, saying that it’s terrible to have a harbinger of death like Oscar the Cat prowling the premises of a hospice. I’m wondering if it’s because Lianhe Wanbao re-interpreted the story into their freaky Grim Reaper angle.

As a cat lover, Oscar is totally rad news to me. I’d love to meet Oscar. I mean, if time’s up, time’s up, right? (Ever tried to prise your exam paper from your invigilator’s hands before? I haven’t. Not for more than five minutes.) Anyways, furthermore, seeing as I won’t be able to bring my own cat to the hospital (and why can’t I if I am dying!?! but more on that later), it’d be nice to have Oscar to snuggle with when I go to the place over the rainbow.

The nurse also said that since Oscar is highly accurate, the hospice is able to call up family members of the dying patient so they can ask them to rush down and spend the remaining two hours with their loved one. That’s another plus why Oscar is good to have around. That is why he recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his “compassionate hospice care.”

On icanhascheezburger.com, a US-based website that – okay, I haven’t fully figured out its real purpose of existence other than provide a platform for cat lovers to speak silly cat lingo (again, more on that in a later post, perhaps) and amuse themselves with edited cat pix – many users expressed their fondness for Oscar, saying that he’s “an angel in disguise” or a “Bodhisattva kitteh”, and like me, they’d be pleased to cuddle up to Oscar in their darkest hour. You can click on the image to access its 228 responses.

Is psychic, you're next
Taken from icanhascheezburger.com

One of them also referred to another news story about a psychic cat.

Superstitions and scientfic speculations of Oscar’s uncanny behaviour aside, I’m fascinated by his story because we don’t have a similar animal-loving environment in Singapore. 😦

In Japan, seeing-eye dogs are allowed to accompany their owners almost everywhere. In Germany, commuters can bring their dogs to commute in the subway, just as long as it has a ticket (half price of adult fare). In some Russian restaurants and Japanese cafes, customers can bring their cats. In Hogwarts Castle, the janitor’s (Filch’s) cat, Mrs Norris, patrols its vast corridors. And apparently in US, hospitals keep cats and they proudly roam its hallways, collared and cared for.

Why can’t we be more permissive here? Yeah, yeah, racial sensitivities. But aren’t we supposed to consider society as a whole? What about the animal-appreciating community?

So if I have the luxury of owning a pet and need to bring it to the vet or someplace else, fine, I’m not allowed on public transportation vehicles like the MRT and bus – I need to pay more and take cab or drive. But what if I am blind and can get around better with my seeing-eye labrador? You think most of us are kind enough to stop and help (without being asked) a blind person to cross the road and whatnot? I need my labby to maul any potential molesters or pickpockets, okay.

And if I know I am going to die and choose to be warded in a hospice, I can’t bring my cat along, I’ll bet. Dammit, we can’t even legally keep felines in HDB flats. It’s time we stopped treating domestic pets as if they were a complete nuisance and start appreciating them as domestic helpers.

Anyone with me? 😀

Oh by the way, AntiAlvin here. 🙂

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