Happy Chinese New Year!

This year, Chinese New Year comes early. A few hours more to go and we will be leaping into the lunar new year of 2014. Hereby wish all chinese friends and readers 恭喜发财, a prosperous new year ahead!

It is our Chinese’s tradition to have our reunion dinner on the eve and everyone in the family, no matter how far you are, to return home and have a sumptuous meal together. I feel that this is really a good tradition that should continue by the following generations. I do believe that such tradition do exist for a reason.

It is a good time to remind us that in life, while we are fighting for our careers and accumulating wealth, we should never forget to spend time with our family and our parents.

Cheers~

Germany: Berlin Part 4

Ok Readers, this will be the last post on my work trip to Berlin in year 2013 after a few series of coverage, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Unlike the first three posts that covers on the shopping areas, this post will be showing you a few famous monuments in Berlin. So let’s start!

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Brandenburg Tor

The iconic monument in Berlin will be the Brandenburg Tor. It is located in the western part of the city centre of Berlin at the junction of Unter den Linden. Passing through the gate, you will enter a garden which is well-known for its rows of linden trees. The Tor or gate has a significant to the cold war that divided Germany and separated it from the rest of Europe, as shown below:

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Spot for Brandenburg Tor in the picture. Somewhere in the middle~

On the road you will able to spot a line of bricks that traced the original Berlin Wall.

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Brick-like Tiles laid along the road

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Artist’s work on wall remains

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The original wall

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The original wall part 2 – look how high it is!

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Checkpoint Charlie – Cars and People used to pass through this border to get to the other side.

As you walk down the Brandenburg Tor, you will get to see the soviet soldiers memorial monument to commemorate the 80,000 soldiers who were sacrificed during the battle of Berlin in April 1945.

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Soviet Soldiers Memorial Monument in Tiergarten

You walk further down you will get to the famous Germany’s parliament house also known as Reichnstag in german. It is famous for the reconstruction work done by Norman Foster after it had been badly damaged during the world war, especially on the glass dome that sits right on top of the building.

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Reichstag

The parliament dome is opened for visitors and is free of charge. However, I would advice you to do a pre-booking through here 3 days prior to your visit. Oh ya, do remember to bring your passport along for personal identification purposes.

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In the glass dome

That’s all folks! Many thanks all for those who follow through my Berlin Series. 🙂

My Views on Video ” Why I am not proud to be a Singaporean”

On social media, there is a sharing on a video of a K-POP Hunt 3 finalist, Stephanie Koh listing the reasons on why she is not proud to be a Singaporean. It started with her recent interview with RAZOR TV when she commented on how she don’t bother to represent Singapore  as she doesn’t feel proud to be a Singaporean. A video was then recorded by herself to elaborate on her reasons why she feel so.

The reasons that she mentioned in the video were as follows:

1. No place for an artist

She mentioned that there is an over emphasis on glorious careers such as being a doctor, lawyer and engineers that Singaporean has been thinking that this is the only way to success. What happened to the people who take the road less travelled? They are most likely to struggle and failed miserably.

2. Singaporeans are narrow-minded

She mentioned that Singaporean tend to believe whatever it is stated in the headlines. She illustrated her point using an example of minimum wage system article appeared in news last year. She also mentioned that Australia is much cheaper to live in than in Singapore.

3. Singaporeans are not creative

She mentioned that Singapore’s education system has no room for creativity. Singapore students were described as “homework robots”. Parents has the mentality that there is only one route to success to be book smart, no one does art and craft. Creativity is being slammed down as university entry is based solely on academic results and not other talents.

4. Singaporeans are submissive

In this point, she mentioned that no one thinks out of box, we are obedient people and will only do as what we were told to do. In other words, Singaporeans are all yes man and yes woman.

5. Singaporeans are not happy

She use the example of service industry that staff regard it as just a job rather than having a pride in what you are doing. She mentioned about our high suicide rate in a small country and how safe can Singapore be if people are all killing ourselves more than killing other people.

6. Singaporeans are not nice people

She compared her experiences with Australians and Singaporeans and come to the conclusion that Singaporean are not kind people. In her opinion, we do not greet each other nor concern about each other.

7. Everybody just follow the rules 

She felt that freedom of speech does not exist in Singapore. She feels that no one ever speaks up, like we do not have a brain of our own and just go with the crowd.

My thoughts

Wow, that’s a plenty long list of unhappiness. Is Singapore really that bad?

My take is that, there is always pros and cons living in anywhere. Be it in Taiwan, Australia or Singapore (the 3 countries she used as comparison). What she just did is perhaps putting the spotlight on the ugly side, as a result the cons get magnify and it is making Singapore seemed really bad.

But hey, take a step back, look at the broader picture and you will discover there are as many or even more good things about Singapore. Besides the old repeated reason of Singapore being a country with no natural disasters, I felt there are much more. Let me just mentioned 2 strong reasons.

1. Stable and Peaceful Living Condition

Just look like the state Thailand, specifically – Bangkok is in currently – Riots and strike to overthrow the current government. The country has remain divided for many years and riots has became part and parcel of their life each year.

Living in Singapore, I do not take our peace we are having for granted. Everyone work hard and accommodate each other despite we have 4 major races (+now all the foreign workers and new citizens). I can’t help but say that we are very different yet we choose to live with each other in harmony. As a result, we get to enjoy and appreciate each other culture, food and festivals.

We should really count our blessings.

2. Our Youth has pretty much opportunities

Have a look at Italy’s unemployment rate and their graduate employability ratio, you will be glad how well we performed. The most cruel thing that could happened to a young graduate is to find himself without a job yet plenty of debts waiting to be repaid. I couldn’t imagine how despondent a young adult could be, having his/her dreams dashed without even a chance to strive.

As a result, the country’s security is bad. People have no choice but to live by stealing. You get numerous warnings from friends and family members that how careful you need to be in order to avoid being pick pocketed in Italy.

It just keep me feeling pity that such a beautiful place has to reach to this current state.

Conclusion

Yes, I do agree that we indeed have the flaws that Stephanie mentioned. We Singaporeans aren’t as creative nor as vocal as other country. We do lack of the common smiles and greeting to strangers and passerby. But I do see things are starting to change for the better. For example in education, we are slowly moving towards less emphasis on looking at just grades but to more on the overall performance of a student. Arts schools such as NAFA and SOTA have been built and in the midst of churning out talents.

Hence, I hope we could just give our home a bit more time? After all, we are still relatively a young nation, perhaps facing its own life crisis?

So let’s just love our country a little more and complain a little less? Let’s stay proud to be a Singaporean and work hard for a better future as I believe it definitely will be! 🙂

For those who is interested or miss the video can watch it here.

Seeking an Answer to Myself

I guess what I’m afraid the most is here. It is not a bad thing though. It is just that I feel this is a good time that I am going to face myself and answer the very fundamental question on what is my real passion and purpose in life in order to excel forward. It is not that I do not have goals, but it is about going deeper into life. It Is about harnessing the inner strength that going to aid me to success. Success doesn’t have to be always monetary, it could be fulfilment or a sense of satisfaction.

I think I am really a fortunate young chap with good bosses both past and present, and through them I am given plenty of  opportunities. For friendship wise, I have a group of close friends who are enterprising and never fail to motivate me to strive harder and further. Romantically, my fiancé is always as supporting in whatever I chose to do. I am thankful for having all these great people around me! In order not to disappoint them, I will urged myself to work hard and do my very best.

加油 and stay positive!! 🙂

And I found the following cartoon illustration that brighten my day.

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If you are currently feeling the same way as I am, I hope it cheer you up too~

Percentage Spending – Explained Using Half-Life Idea

Last week, I attended a course on radioactive safety and was introduced to jargons and calculations. Being a graduate with scientific background enabled me to understand the topics discussed with ease but not some of the course mates whom I spoke to. Those who are from engineering, business did find themselves grappling with the theories and concept. Some of them did not see the connection between what was taught with their educational background and their scope of work back in office.

The lecturers tried hard in explaining to them and I really admired their patience and professionalism in making sure everyone understand the concept. So as they repeated for the second or third time, I found time for myself to ‘think of out the box’ and linked one of the topic discussed to finance management. You might be thinking now – hey.. is there really such a link? I will try to explain and see if it makes sense to you.

1. Introduction to Half-Life Calculation

In simple explanation, radioactive atoms like money will decay away with time. What I meant by decay is that it the packet of money/radioactive atoms will get less and less if you do not add anymore into the packet.  Radioactive atoms decay through the process of giving off radiation whereas money ‘decay’ whenever you spend them for countless bills, consumer goods and daily necessities.

There is one important calculation of radioactivity call –  Half-life (t½). It is defined as the amount of time required for a quantity to fall to half its value as measured at the beginning of the time period. While the term “half-life” can be used to describe any quantity which follows an exponential decay. This is how it look like in graphical representation:

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It doesn’t rocket science to understand this graph. You just have to know that for every half-life, the original quantity will be divided by 2 (drop by 50%). It is as if the radioactive atoms has brain to think for themselves that making sure for every half-life they will only drop their quantity by half. Most importantly, do take notice that the graph will not hit zero. It takes infinite time for the whole packet of atoms to reduce to zero quantity.

2. Money Allocation Vs Half-life

So what has radioactivity and half-life got to do with money allocation? As I mentioned earlier that as you spent your money away you are decaying the quantity. But in everyday life, do you think of how you spend your money, do you do budgeting? Many people fall into the trap of consumerism in which they spend on impulse, without doing their sum correctly. As a result, the whole packet of money is gone without you being aware of it.

Learn to spend like radioactive atoms. Allocate a percentage to your spending. Tag to say a 20% to whatever you have for example to your saving etc. By saying so, I do not mean that you have to spend all the 20%! It is a maximum cap that we should set to ourselves. Especially for retirees who no longer has any income and has to live solely on his saving. As for us who are still working and have an income, it acts like controlling your budget. You only spend based on a percentage of what you have save. Once again, I do not imply that the more you save equates to the more you spend, although it really better than the notion of the more you earn, the more you spend!

By doing so, you will realised that you will never reach bankruptcy. It will require infinite of amount of time before you hit zero for your saving account.

3. Conclusion

Of course this is not the only money financial strategy that you can use on budgeting your spending. The intention is to  hope it can just give you an idea of percentage spending and its usefulness. You can derive your own money management ‘formula’ that suit you best. Feel free to share with me your own strategy that works well. I believe other readers will be just as interested as I am to know on what you practises.

Discover The Simplest Joy In Worst Situation

These few days, news have been reporting about US facing abnormally harsh winter which bring the mercury down to sub-zero level in many states. Indeed it gives the residents a lot of headache especially when schools are forced to close, trains service has to be suspended and many businesses urged their employees to stay home instead. It was also reported that more than a dozen people has died due to this record low cold (lowest -50 deg C with wind) that able to freeze flesh almost instantly. Indeed, the damage to the lives of people and the country’s economy is definitely beyond our imagination.

However, this morning i chanced upon an article published by The Straits Times that made my day. I find it gratifying that US citizen, despite the harsh living condition, still enjoy winter and their holiday season. The following activities are what they are doing for joy making (source – The Straits Times, Wednesday January 8):

1. ‘Fry an egg on ice

Crack an egg in a flying pan and placed on a bed of snow. Watch it go from runny to frigid in six minutes. Call it sunny side up minus the oil.

2. Use a banana as a hammer

Need to do some urgent home repairs but lack of tools? Take a banana, leave it out in the cold for an hour, and it will become hard enough to hammer nails into wood.

3. Make frozen bubbles – My personal favourite! 🙂

Blow bubbles into the air. Instead of popping on touching the ground, the bubbles solidify and roll around like marbles.

4. Balloon boom and bust

Blow up a balloon and tie it out in the cold. Watch it deflate – the colder it is, the faster it goes limp. Then resurrect your balloon by bringing back into the house.

Conclusion

Don’t you agree that the above activities sound fun! It just goes to show us that even at the most difficult times of our lives, it is still possible to create fun and laughter out of the situation. It is really up to us – our mind, to perceive the challenges with a positive mindset, so as to be able to stay brave and strong amid any unfavourable situation.

Personally, not to say I would like to be stuck in harsh winter, but if there is really one day that I were to trapped in similar situation, I would definitely like to give these activities a try, especially for my personal’s favourite.

Cheers! 🙂

A New Year 2014

First of all, I would like to express my wishes to you, my dear readers, a happy new year and may this new year be an even better year for you. Many thanks for your support given to Spectra of Life in the past year.  As 2013 had passed us, I can’t help but to reflect on what I had done in the past year.

Personal Accomplishments

1. Climbed Mount Kota Kinabalu 

For this I would like to thank my friend, Raymond Koh for organising and coordinating this event for us. It has been almost impossible that I might go for a mountain trekking without his utmost effort in planning for us.  This trip has made me understand that we as human are born to do the great things. I don’t totally refer it to myself, I have seen the greatest human strength when the porters carry up gas tanks, food and tons of tourist baggage up the mountain. Looking at them, really make me wonder what’s our limit as human?

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2. Started Blogging

It has always been something that I wanted to start, but you know… procrastination… kills all. Hence I am glad that late last year,  I read a book written by Grace Tan,  “Blogging For a Living” that finally nudged me to put my intention into real action.  In her book, she provides lots of resources and encouragements on how to be a blogger, thus it does make the beginning step a lot more easier. Do read it if you are interested to join the blogging sphere too.

3. Travelled To Western Europe (Paris, Switzerland and Italy)

My girlfriend and I will try to plan for one long overseas trip for every year end (Dec). Vacation Trip not only helps to rejuvenate your soul but also open up one mind receptiveness to novel ideas and new people.  This trip to Paris, Switzerland and Italy was planned in June last year. The planning involves monetary budgeting. This is important because although there is nothing wrong with going on long holidays (I felt), it should not to the extent of burning a hole in your pocket. Proper financing has to be done in order to make this trip to be even sweeter. I share with you more about this trip with an exclusive cover coming up in the travel column. Right now please give me some time to arrange the massive amount of pictures taken from the trip k? 🙂

In overall, I am fully satisfied with the trip. Once again, we travelled with Boon Hwee and Cheryl, our travel buddies since year 2012 when we get to know each other through our Korea Trip that year.  We really enjoyed each other accompaniment along the trip. Really hope we will have many more trips in the coming years!

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Relationship Accomplishment

During our western Europe tour Day 1- Paris, I did my marriage proposal! After 5 years of courtship, I felt that it is time to bring our relationship to a next level. It was really a memorable moment! Many thanks to Boon Hwee and Cheryl for their help in safe-keeping my proposal scrapbook and helping us to picture/video down the moment.

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Financial Accomplishment

As for financial wise, saving target for marriage 2013 is achieved. Whereas personal expenses, except for an impulse purchase in Switzerland, is also under control.

As of 31 Dec 2013, My investment portfolio is mainly invested in REITs and a small portion of growth stocks.  Yes, I still believe that REITS is able to provide the necessary passive income that I aimed for. Hopefully 2014 will be a good year for me too! I will consolidate my portfolio and percentage in my investment column soon! Do stay tune!

Conclusion

2013 indeed was a good year for me. I really looking forward to a better year ahead. I will continue to strive hard in whatever I am doing in year 2014. Planning for wedding starts, conceptualize house renovation etc. This year definitely will be a more exciting year than 2013!

All the best to all you too! Once again may your new year be fulfilling and enriching as before! Cheers~ 🙂