Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

So a few things happened…

Life has scrabbled forward since the last post. Shinkansen opened! The Secret Mermaid opened! American craft spirits are now flowing from bottles at Ocean Financial Centre. Hmm, no wonder it’s been a few months since the last post.

 

TSM GraffitiWhiskey at the Mermaid

California Don Brown RiceFeaturedTSM

TSM ExteriorWP_20140217_22_00_00_Pro

Tartar

Randomly I sit here browsing through photos of past trips to Europe.  Primarily Paris and Belgium.  What I think about is how I ate steak tartar every day.

I love steak tartar.

BelgiumParis

This would be better if I actually had pictures of steak tartar.  I will have more soon.  Opening a raw bar on Orchard Road in a month or so.  Steak tartar, raw oysters, sashimi and more.  My dream of eating a meal of raw food is near complete!

Next Windows Phone – Nokia Lumia 900

I feel like a charmed little princess.  Last week I got an e-mail from the lovely folks at Fleishman-Hillard letting me know that I was going to get my hands on a Nokia Lumia 900.

It came at just the right moment; the phone I’ve been using for about a year and a half (HTC HD7) was dying on me.  Spontaneously rebooting, broken proximity sensor, and a battery with only enough juice to move from plug to plug.

So I was in the market for a new mobile phone.  Was considering an iPhone because of how much I use my iPad and also the Lumia 900 since I was used to the Windows Phone 7 platform.  For a brief moment I considered dipping my toes into the Android territory, but I didn’t see any point in starting totally anew.

I’ve had the Lumia 900 for two days now, and I’ve been really pleased.  While I’ve been using the WP7 platform for awhile, the screen on the Lumia makes everything look so much better than on the HD7… leading to the live tiles and pictures popping out and making me want to stay engaged longer.

 

Picture from Lumia 900: How Nokia And Microsoft Become Disruptors

In the limited time so far (but long-time with WP7), this is what I like:

– Core phone functionality of SMS, Phone, E-mail (linked inboxes and separate inboxes… I have 5 e-mail accounts on this phone!) all work well and are easily accessible. I particularly like the integration of Windows Live Messenger, Facebook Chat, and SMS into one interface and an individual’s conversation history.

– For keeping-up-to-date with friends’ posts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn the WP7 platform is definitely the best. It’s surprising how much activity you can glean by looking at the live tiles.  Putting your friends in groups and then pinning the group to your home screen creates a tile that refreshes with display pictures, status updates, tweets, and photos posted.   This stuff flows through the phone in a well-integrated manner.

– Battery life. I turned on the phone, looked at the “Battery Saver” setting and it told me that there was over 1 day of battery life remaining.  AMAZING!!  I’ve never had a smartphone that could last more than a day, though I suppose I’m a “power user.”

– Screen.  I’ve already gushed about it but this is what is really making me love the phone. I like the vivid colors.

Lumia 900
Come on Microsoft, implement the ability to take a screenshot! (I had to use another camera to take this photo).

– Nokia Music + Zune.  The mix radio feature on Nokia Music lets you stream or download playlists of songs for many genres. Should be a good way to learn about new bands.  Combine that with the Zune music subscription (alas not available in Singapore) and you’ve basically got an infinite amount of music accessible on your device.

– Speed.  My HD7 was running on the same hardware as the HD2 (1ghz processor) which is 3 years old. The 1400 MHz processor on the Lumia 900 makes all the applications feel snappier.

– Office. Specifically the combination of OneNote and Skydrive.  I like being able to save documents to SkyDrive (7gb of internet storage – “the cloud”) and open them from anywhere. With OneNote it syncs anything you do back to your desktop / laptop machines too.  It’s like I can pretend to be productive!

I need more time to play with the camera.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to shoot some my way!

Systems and Service

I just got off a  phone call with Daikin Air Conditioning.  I’ve been a customer of theirs for many years (around 6, ever since they took over the aircon company that used to maintain my air conditioners).

In Singapore it’s a necessity to get air-con maintenance done every 3 or 4 months.  If not the air-conditioner starts choking up and becomes inefficient.  It also begins to leak water.

My service contract expired in December.  I didn’t get a call for renewal so I overlooked it and unfortunately this morning woke up to a leaky air conditioner.

I called Daikin and they told me my contract had expired.  Which is fine, I’m set to renew it and have someone come as soon as possible to fix the air-con.  Uh-oh… they say that it will take at least 2 weeks before they can get me a new contract and send someone.  I remark that each previous time they just sent a repair guy and I signed the contract on the spot.

It was explained to me that their new system does not allow this.

I asked the lady what kind of system is this?  It doesn’t seem to improve things for the customers.  She said, “Some things improved, some things not.”  So I asked her what part of this new system made any improvement for the customers.  She didn’t have a response.  I pointed out that while the system may have improved things for their internal workings, it made things more difficult for customers.

Looks like it’s easier to turn to another air conditioning maintenance company rather than wait two weeks for Daikin to figure out how to renew my contract.

Rule for business – if your system makes it harder for a customer to give you money, it’s probably a bad system.

Condo-flippers getting antsy?

I hope property prices plunge. Yes, I’m selfish that way.

From today’s Straits Times:

Bought last year
Stuck this year
Speculators paying the price of market cooldown as offers slow to a trickle
By Fiona Chan, Property Reporter

“BUSINESSMAN Alan Lim is a seasoned property investor, so he knows the value of not losing his nerve in testing times like now.

Last year, when the property market was scorching hot, he picked up a new condominium unit at Lumiere off Shenton Way for about $1.3 million, and another at The Inspira off Mohamed Sultan Road for more than $1.4 million.

He intended to ‘flip’ or resell them for a quick profit.

Property agents flocked to him with eager would-be buyers. But he rejected them all in anticipation that prices would keep soaring.

Now, the offers have slowed to a trickle and the prices buyers are willing to pay are falling, falling.

But he claims to be not too worried.

‘Of course, when the market was hot last year, everybody called me. This year, there are still agents calling, there are still offers but they are lower,’ said Mr Lim, who is in his 40s and lives with his accountant wife and three kids in a Clementi Park condo which he bought nine years ago.

He looks at property in the same light as the stock market: ‘If you have holding power, you’re all right. I think I can hold.’

While Mr Lim may be able to wait out the market cooldown, other would-be ‘flippers’ are not so lucky.

Agents say a rash of people who bought condos at the height of the property fever last year with the intention of offloading them for fat returns are now having trouble doing so.

Many are meeting an icy response in today’s fast-cooling market where collective sales have come to a standstill, new project launches are being delayed and once-ubiquitous record prices are few and far between.

A detached house in Kembangan, for instance, has been on the market for more than two months with no takers even though it is going for $2.5 million – well below the market price of $2.8 million to $2.9 million, said Mr Eric Cheng, executive director of HSR property group.

‘If you look at newspaper ads now, sellers are giving more commissions to agents because they want to dispose of their house quickly. Price may not be their greatest concern,’ he said.

A major property firm, which declined to be named in the interests of its clients, also said home-buying interest has dwindled in recent months.

‘According to our agents, the sub-sale market has been very quiet, in line with the cautious mood of the general market,’ said a company spokesman.

This has led to owners ‘not asking for sky-high prices. They’re more realistic and more willing to negotiate’, he added.

Sub-sales are when a person buys an uncompleted home and then sells it again before it is built, without ever living in it. They are often used to measure speculation, or ‘flipping’ in the property market.

‘Flipping’ is not a new phenomenon, having been around for as long as there were profits to be made in buying and reselling homes.

In fact, there has been much less speculative behaviour in this property boom than during the last peak in the 1990s, said industry players.

‘Those who have tried flipping before and were burned when the market crashed, either in the mid-1990s or the early 2000s, tended to be a bit more cautious this time round,’ said Mr Nicholas Mak, director of research and consultancy at property consultancy Knight Frank.

He added that most would-be flippers are well-heeled as they have to be able to pay for the property – usually high-end condos – in the first place.

Alternatively, some younger buyers may pool their money to target the mid-tier market, where properties cost less than $3 million each.

But one thing most flippers had in common now was that they probably did not expect the quick turnaround in the market, said Mr Mak.

‘Seven, eight months ago, no one knew that the United States sub-prime mortgage crisis would have such a great effect. Nobody expected the sentiment in the property market to cool so suddenly.’

But the spokesman for the major property firm noted that while transaction volumes have slowed, home prices are not exactly plunging.

‘At this point in time, we have not noticed any sub-sales done below the original sale price. Sellers are still making some margins though they may be lower than they expected,’ he said.

This is because most sellers seem unwilling to let go of their property below a certain price level. One agent is marketing a two-bedroom unit at Viz@Holland near Holland Village for $1.03 million, or $1,260 per sq ft (psf). This is below the bank’s valuation which she said is between $1,300 and $1,500 psf.

‘Last year, the owner had an offer for $1,240 psf but he didn’t take it. Now he’s willing to settle for $1,200 psf, but not lower,’ she said.

Soon, however, more sellers may find themselves squeezed for cash. Several projects, including The Sail @ Marina Bay and One Amber in Marine Parade, are scheduled to be completed soon, at which point buyers will have to cough up large payments for the homes.

Signs of strain have already appeared.

Three of the top five projects with the most sub-sales recorded slight dips in the median prices of such deals last month, according to consultancy CB Richard Ellis. These are Icon in Tanjong Pagar, Citylights in Lavender and One Amber.

‘Most sellers still think the market will pick up so it’s all about holding power now,’ said HSR’s Mr Cheng. ‘But a minority over-committed thanks to deferred payment schemes, and the lump sums are due soon, so they are in a hurry to sell.’

Deferred payment plans allowed buyers to put an upfront deposit for an uncompleted home and then delay the bulk of payments until the property was built, which could be up to a few years later.

Such schemes were exploited by speculators who would resell the property before completion without needing to fork out the bulk of payments. But the schemes were removed in October last year precisely to discourage speculation.

Those who bought under these plans could now have trouble reselling the homes as deferred payment may no longer be available for their would-be buyers.

On the bright side, this could present buying opportunities for home seekers, Mr Cheng said.

‘If the owners are desperate, they may ask for $700,000 but accept 10 per cent less. Some of these condos would be worth considering for buyers.’

fiochan@sph.com.sg

Jesus cosmetics

Singapore news made it onto MSNBC.com – regarding Topshop pulling the line of cosmetics that featured funny lines and images about Jesus Christ.

Now the world can continue thinking the country is prudish… until they visit and see the proliferation of karaoke lounges, “health” spas, and red light districts…