Leave Diary D12 – Converting My Car in Singapore from Normal to Off-peak (And It Was Tedious!)

Ever since we have moved to near town, our driving pattern has changed. We don’t drive during the weekdays and we struggle to find reasons to drive during the weekends. It is that convenient to stay in our new apartment.

Yesterday my wife and I hiked at Mount Faber here in Singapore (and it is more like a hill). I overheard one tourist from China commenting something like, “For such a small country, why is there no traffic jam?”

The answer is pretty straightforward. Because cars in Singapore are outrageously expensive. When I bought a new car three years ago, it cost around US$100,000 (with a 10-year car license). It is a regular Japanese salon car with 5 doors and a 2-liter engine. Because we no longer have the need to drive to work, converting my car from a normal car into an off-peak car makes sense. The savings in road tax and from rebate received per year are S$503 and S$2,200 respectively. Should I need to drive during peak hours (7am to 7pm on a non-public holiday), I just need to pay S$20 per day for a day license.

To convert the car into an off-peak car turns out to be a rather tedious process. In order for the authority to tell between a normal car and an off-peak car, off-peak car displays the front and rear number plates in red versus the black color plates. In order to deter people from switching the name plates and to trick the systems – yes, we humans always succumb to temptation since the days of Adam and Eve, figuratively speaking – the authority has derived a system whereby it is almost impossible to switch the plates at will. To do so, a new industry is born. You will see why.

  1. First stop obviously is to visit the Land Transport Authority (LTA). There is only one office in the entire country that processes this sort of request. Administrative cost is S$100. Waiting time was half an hour. I have to submit a form at the counter. The staff at the counter has to call upon an officer inside the office to verify and sign-off the transaction. Very much like most of the offline government services I have seen.
  2. Then, I needed to change my car number plates from black to red. The workshop fortunately was just opposite LTA office and it did not take long to hunt for one.
  3. The cost to create and fit a set of car number plates is $130 (inclusive of a front bracket that my car did not have). Could I do it on the spot? No I could not. I needed to buy two pins from the Inspection Center behind the workshop.
  4. What are the pins for, you may ask? Well, the front pin has to be welded onto the front part of the car. The rear pin pierces through the car door at the back. Once the front pin is secured and the rear pin hole is prepared, the staff at the Inspection Center would secure the pinheads onto the car number plates. Each pinhead comes with an engraved serial number for tracking purposes! The cost to create and fit a set of car number plates is $130 (inclusive of a front bracket that my car did not have). I drove from the workshop to the Inspector Center and bought two pins for S$22.
  5. I returned to the workshop and was told that the process may take up to one hour.
  6. So we had a cold drink at a coffee shop nearby. Today was a very warm day.
  7. The workshop called and yay! We picked up the car and drove to the Inspection Center for “sealing”.
  8. The staff at the Inspection Center took a look at the front pin and has commented that it should have been welded deeper into the car. If he was to put the pinhead now, the car would look ugly as the pinhead would protrude unnecessarily.
  9. I took the car back to the workshop and expressed my ‘personal’ opinion (the staff has asked me not to mention that the comment came from the Inspection Center). The mechanic reworked the welding. It took half an hour.
  10. Finally, I drove the car with the brand new red number plates into the Inspection Center so that the staff can seal the pins with the serialized pinheads (around 1+ cm in diameter and in depth).
  11. Are we done? No! The staff at Inspection Center has to make further inspection and to create more paperwork to ensure that the number plates are secured according to the standard set out by the authority. (As a side story, I saw an Audi R8 sports car thoroughly inspected by the staffs at the Inspection Center and the driver was a young girl whom at first glance I thought she was a boy).
  12. After received the certificate that my number plates are done up to the standard, I took the car back to the workshop so that the mechanic can install the bits and pieces of plastic taken out from the door at the back (remember, a hole was drilled so as to fit the rear pin?). By the time we were home, I was exhausted from the heat and from how tedious the conversion process is. It is indeed an industry on its own.
My wife took this picture at the workshop because she was … bored.

Leave Diary D1 – A Day of Recovery and Into the Hellgate Abyss

Since I am not taking an oversea holiday during my 2-week long holiday, I thought it is a good idea to start a journal. Otherwise, two weeks would go by and I would have done … nothing.

Since last Monday, I have not been feeling well. Doctors said it was viral fever. That is to say, no antibiotic required.

I am not a fan of antibiotic. But I have to admit the last time I was sick – not too long ago – and I was given antibiotic. I had recovered within days.

The perk of being sick – if I could even say it is a perk – is that I get to sleep a lot. My work is demanding (whose isn’t in fact here in Singapore?). The hours are long. There isn’t much time to unwind. And even in the middle of the night, I would wake up stressing over something at work. Since I am not feeling well and I am on a 2-week long break, I get to sleep a lot. So much so that my head it aches.

And that feels so good.

Long story short, I woke up in the morning feeling terrible. I went to bed at night feeling fine. So it was a day of recovery, a reminiscence of that feeling of feeling hopeless when you are in a tough situation and when you get out of it, you don’t even recall the hard time.

My summoner has taken down Oculis in nightmare difficulty.

Last entry I have talked about Hellgate: London getting a release in Steam. It is a 11-year old game – one that I was used to play in between jobs. I did not get to finish the original game. Since its recent release, I have spent close to 90 hours playing it. For a game that I have paid less than S$10, it is money well spent.

This version of the game does have it issues. But by and large, it runs. And it is perhaps the best and the most complete version that this franchise has, which includes:

  • Hellgate: London – completed.
  • Stonehenge – almost completed.
  • Second Attack – completed.
  • Abyss – completed.
  • Hellgate: Tokyo – not started.

So I Asked David Brevik What He Thinks of Hellgate: London 2018 (Steam Version)

I hope this is not an out-of-season April Fool’s joke. In two days’ time, Hellgate: London will be relaunched in Steam. Or at least a form of its previous incarnations.

Hellgate: London was released back in October 2007, a game developed by the ex-Blizzard team including David Brevik. I had a lot of fond memories with the game even though it had a really rocky start.

I remember having bought the game on day one, eager to get into “London” and to witness hell breaking loose. The game was buggy back then. I have made some progress and within days (or hours?), they have to deploy a patch (was it 1.04?) that wiped off all the progress. I kept playing for quite a while. When was it? What was I doing back in October 2007?

To answer that question, I looked up World of Warcraft in Wikipedia.

The Burning Crusade was launched back in January 2007. I vividly remember introducing the game to my wife thanks to the beautiful blood elves being introduced in that expansion. That was after my wife has passed the Financial Risk Management examination. I was pretty much addicted to WoW and I would imagine playing Hellgate: London as a filler. Because by then, I might have well been leveling my “alts” in WoW. Or doing some mindless dailies.

What did I like about Hellgate: London?

In a strange way, the realism of venturing into a lifeless city (which is kind of the plot as the city was overrun by demons). There was danger everywhere (yup, lots of death). I got to control the left and right guns with the left and right mouse buttons. The big demons were scary. Their number could be overwhelming. And it was satisfying just to survive, perhaps with a few good loots as souvenirs.

They say third time is a charm. I sure hope so. The first time Hellgate: London was launched, it has failed. Then a Korean company bought that over and turned that into an MMO with microtransaction. That didn’t work well. Now, the same Korean company is reviving it into a single player game. I do not know how much of its former self still lives in this latest iteration. I will have to wait for two days and see if it is not an April Fool’s joke.

Back to the title of this entry. I am in the Discord channel of It Lurks Below, the latest game created by David Brevik. And I asked him how he feels of his game coming back to life through Steam.

And he responded as follows.

I’m pretty excited about it. I’m happy that people will be able to play it again and a new generation of gamers will get a chance to experience it, but I am not sure how it stacks up to what I made vs. the changes they made once it was made for Korea/Asia. I don’t know how grindy/mtx/etc it will be now. I’m still happy though!

Mr. Brevik has a point. Rest assured that I will report back in after I have experienced what at best would be a fragment of my fond past in two days’ time.

Mylène Farmer’s “Timeless” Concert Recording

Mylène Farmer and I have come a long way.  When I first started working as a management consultant, I was posted to Paris and worked at my client site. At times, for months. I would stay in a hotel, which contrary to what some may think, it is not really that much fun to stay for long. There is a home. And there is a hotel. The two are distinctly different.

Every morning, before having my shower, I would turn on the TV and listen to the latest music videos. Mylène Farmer was on MTV all the time! I did not know who she was but I like her music. I love her videos. Whenever I hear of her music many years from then, I feel as though I am being transported back in the late nineties, Paris, La Défense, Société Générale, champagne and cheese, and more.

And more.

And that breakup. It was Paris. La Défense. Long story short, my then-girlfriend sent me a letter informing me of a breakup. There was heartache. Sleepless nights. And there was Mylène Farmer.

Mylène Farmer and I have come a long way. I was used to listening to her music on my Sony Discman. Paris metro. Singapore MRT. Hong Kong MTR. I don’t understand the lyrics. But I am drawn to the emotion. While I was working in Paris, I even bought her music videos on LP’s (Laser Discs) knowing very well that I did not have an LP player (back then, no YouTube I think). My ex’s family had one though. But because of the breakup, I had the LP’s but I could not watch them. Years later, I bought the DVD version of the LP’s. I have no idea why I bought the DVD’s back then. They are still unwrapped, I think. That sense of owning something tangible.

Fast forward to today, there is YouTube. I did not expect to find her 2013 Timeless concert on YouTube but I have. The resolution isn’t that good and I was prepared to import a Bluray version of her concert from France to Singapore. I was hoping to find a trailer. I did not expect a full concert.

Mylène Farmer is 57 years old this year. At the time of recording, she was 52 years old. She looked young and radiance. She put up a stunning performance well connected emotionally with her music and the audience. I don’t know all the songs she sang. But I know enough to hum along. The stage was amazing. There were dancing robots as well. She arrived at the stage as though she has stepped through a time machine. And she left as though she was on a rocket leaving many fans at awe and in tears.

 

At Dimbulah I Saw A Staff Cutting Lettuce

Dimbulah serves the best coffee in Singapore. On the ground floor of my office, there is one. I often visit because, with staff discount, it seems slightly more ‘affordable’. Just under five dollars. It is still way more expensive than the Spinelli served inside my office building. Between the two, it’s a no-brainer.

Very often, there is a long queue at Dimbulah MBFC, though the queue does move pretty fast. While queuing, most browse their phones. I … I often observe what’s going on behind the counter. One at the cashier taking orders. Two making coffee. One bringing rounds of coffee to the customers at the tables. And one more behind the kitchen counter preparing food.

The other day, as I was observing the staff behind the kitchen counter preparing lettuce. She would take a fresh lettuce out from the wrapper, lay it down on a chopping board, and then take out the core. A rather large piece of core, much larger than what I would have cut out from a lettuce. She would then examine the leaves one by one and toss out the imperfect ones. Only the best leaves would make it to the plastic containers.

No wonder a bowl of salad costs so much in Dimbulah! Quality doesn’t come cheap.

While the staff was going through lettuce by lettuce, discarding cores and leaves, I couldn’t help but think – if I could collect these discarded close-to-perfect leaves from Dimbulah on a daily basis, I could have a free vegetable dish every evening. Oh yes, I would eat that. The leaves did not look old or bad to me at all. Just less than perfect. I may discard a few. But I can eat the rest.

For the cores, I was thinking of my old rabbits back in Hong Kong. Poor rabbits, rest in peace. Had they still alive, I am pretty sure they would be happy eating these large and generous pieces of discarded cores.

Season of Gfriend – What a Treat for Fans

Confession. I am a huge fan of the Korean girl band Gfriend. It took me a while to tell the girls apart, remember their names and roles, and to recognize their voices. But after many nights of watching Gfriend on YouTube, I am there. I love their story. They came from a small recording company. I don’t think they have done that well during their debut. There had been setbacks. Online comments, some were rather mean. But they kept going. Three years later, they are one of the top girl bands in Korea with a good number of hits, won a good number of awards. Hardworking does pay off, for some. And for Gfriend, I love their choreography the most.

I have been wanting to watch them in concert. Sadly there isn’t one from where I live. The next best thing would be a Bluray recording.

There ain’t many stores in Singapore that sell Bluray discs anymore. Those that do don’t carry Season of Gfriend. In my desperation, I searched online and came across Kpopmart.com. My friend Yudha from Google+ is a fan of Korean music. I wasn’t too sure about the legitimacy of Kpopmart.com – after all, plenty of online scams these days – but he reassured me that the site is legit.

Season of Gfriend (Bluray) cost me US$53.50. There are several shipment options. I went for the ‘cheapest’ express one that cost US18. The cheapest normal shipping would be $9.20 but that would take more than two months.

Two months?!

Total damage was more than S$100. The package arrived at my condo’s concierge in less than a week. It was worth it. I am so glad that my friend Yudha has nudged me into buying it. He is right. This product is selling out fast. For the fans, this is a real treat, a must-have. It is a recording of day 2 of Gfriend‘s very first concert back in January early this year. Both concerts were sold out in minutes.

Now, onto why this recording is a must-have for fans:

  • It has a good selection of their hits.
  • The recording is divided into sections or themes, each is introduced with a short video clip.
  • Great dancing. Great costumes.
  • There is a section on solo performance! I love all six of them. All of them awe me in a different way. I am much impressed by a side of them that I have not seen.
  • Some songs have a different rendition.
  • They do tease each other in prerecorded video clips – which I find entertaining.
  • English subtitles! There is a fair bit of talking. Plenty of emotion tears towards the end. I am so glad that I can understand what they say.
  • The entire concert + video clips + talking on stage lasted more than three hours!
  • The package does come with photocard and postcard too.

I wish that my favorite track Time for Moon Light was in the song selection list. But that wouldn’t be possible because the song was released in April after their first concert. I am looking forward to their second concert recording for sure. By then, they better add that into the list!

At Times I Think I’m Talking Too Much

If someone is to ask me what are the main differences between working in my current team and my old team – besides the people in my current team are super nice, helpful and supportive – would be that in my current job, I speak a lot. Throughout the day, I talk to a lot of people. Meetings. One-on-one. Random catch-ups pondering upon work and life in general. Casual meet-ups – coffee, lunch, etc. Phone calls. More phone calls. I hardly have the time to sit at my desk for long. To stay quiet doing my work could only happen after eight or nine in the evening. Even so, someone may also be in the office at those late evening hours. Two tired souls seeking solitude from one and other.

Talk.

At times I think I’m talking too much. At times I am tired of talking, tired of hearing my own voice.

That’s why I treasure those quiet moments when I take a train to work – alone – with my Spotify. That’s why I treasure those quiet moments walking side-by-side with my wife, hand-in-hand as I enjoy her presence. Or as I quietly blog here at home, in my study room as my wife is playing Diablo 3, solo.

There is a slight problem with this picture though, is that my wife would very much prefer us to talk.

We talk, of course. Just not enough perhaps from her perspective. I think there is an overall bandwidth for our brains to facilitate oral communication. When I am talking too much at work, I am not talking enough outside work.

Work. Life. Imbalance.

We’ve Moved to Tiong Bahru!

23 years of relentless hard work here in Singapore, I would say that this is well deserved. My wife and I have moved to somewhere near town. From our new home, we can see the central business district. To reach the office is a mere four train stations away. I am still living the dream. Right now, it still feels unreal.

We don’t have children – God’s plan, not ours. We don’t have someone to pass our worldly possession to. My wife and I just have each other. We could keep on saving. Or we could do something nice to ourselves.

My wife has picked the location and the property. I have refrained from making any investment decisions. Because so far, I have been pretty bad at it.

While this new home is more than twice the cost of our old home – comparing square meter to square meter – I am happy with my wife’s decision because Tiong Bahru reminds me of my birth town Wanchai in Hong Kong. It is so convenience. Everything I can think of is just within either walking distance or a very short drive. Traveling to Orchard is just 6 to 8 minutes’ drive. To be honest, I am still struggling to justify the need of a car. Perhaps I shall convert it into a weekend car and save some money.

I have always enjoyed blogging. I am not sure since when I have stopped. Now that we have sorted out this big milestone of ours, I am looking forward to rekindling my old hobbies – one by one.

On Your Wedding Day – A 2018 Korean Movie That Made Me Fall in Love & Heartbroken Once Again

I am a big fan of the Korean actress Park Bo-young. I don’t have access to many Korean TV-series here in Singapore. But through Netflix, I have watched Strong Girl Bong-soon and Oh My Ghost. She is by far one of my most favorite Asian actresses of the recent time. So when I read that her latest movie On You Wedding Day was out in August this year, I hit the local cinema websites every now and then in anticipation of a Singapore release. Happy me, I have managed to catch it yesterday.

It is a love story that spans from teenage to adulthood. There is a bit of flashback here and there. The movie has four parts to it. Each part tells a story of a particular period when the two lovers fall in love only to realize that timing always gets in the way. From the audience standpoint, it is so obvious that the two are fated to be together. Yet, circumstances always draw the two apart.

Watching On Your Wedding Day has drawn out many of the past fond memories from within me. It has also temporarily opened up old wounds too. In any given relationship, timing is so important. On a hindsight, life is full of could-have-been. Unfortunately, when we are in a relationship living the very present, there is no hindsight. So we fall in love, make some stupid mistakes, perhaps say or do the wrong thing, perhaps do not say or do the right thing, etc. We hurt someone emotionally, may have even scared the one we love physically. All of a sudden, you find yourself on your knees, begging for that one more chance. And you and him/her and the people around all think that this love affair has to continue. It has got to. It is destiny. It is meant to be. Fated.

And then he/she says, “No. It’s over” with a sense of finality.

You wonder why.

The people around wonder why.

We stop breathing for just a bit, taking in this new twist in life. Surely, a decision can be reversed, can it not?

On a hindsight, if we could erase out a few episodes of life, perhaps move the timeline around just a little, things would have turned out so different.

But we can’t. So we find ways to heal and we move on.

Back to On Your Wedding Day, thank you for making me feel like shit again and to reminisce on what I should have long forgotten.

 

On Leave Today But I’m EXHAUSTED!

It all started with a dryer.

Our new home comes with a brand new washer-dryer. 7kg washer and 5kg dryer. Obviously, that isn’t going to work for a multitude of reasons. And since our awesome interior designer has managed to relocate our washer-dryer into the service bathroom, my wife and I have bought a dedicated dryer and have it stacked onto our washer-dryer.

Buying our dryer turns out to be a bit of a drama. The one we are using in our current home is a Bosch vented dryer. It has been a fantastic purchase. The clothes come out cupboard dry, nicely ‘ironed’ except work shirts of course. We wanted to buy a Bosch condenser dryer for our new home. But we were persuaded by the salesman to buy an Electrolux condenser dryer instead. It is cheaper and just as good – so said the salesman. At first, we bought an Electrolux. Then I checked the online reviews and was horrified by how bad it was. We quickly returned and happily paying extra for a Bosch. I hope that is a wise purchase. In any case, if someone tries very hard to sell you something – ahem … like the Samsung dryer in our last visit) – something fishy must be going on.

As it turns out, the team who delivers the dryer is not the same team who stacks the dryer on top of the washer-dryer. And the appointment for stacking was today between 1pm to 4pm. Since I am going to take leave today, why not … have my car serviced … have my teeth looked into by my dentist … have my balcony door looked into (again) …

This morning, it rained. Naturally and because today was a Monday, my wife didn’t want to get out of bed. By the time I dropped her to the office, it was 9.15am. My appointment with the car servicing company was at 9.30am. My next appointment with my dentist was at 10.30am. Though I was 10 minutes late, I was able to conclude my business at around 10am. Consider the fact that there was a customer making a huge complaint because he had waited too long, I was lucky.

As I stepped out of the service center ready to fast walk to the nearest train station 10 minutes away, a man stopped me asking me if I was heading to the station. He was a shuttle driver taking customers from the service center to the station. As far as I remember, the bus schedule is only twice an hour. So today was my lucky day. Next to the shuttle stood a woman with a tattoo on her back. I recognized her as a customer. I was wondering why the driver did not offer her a ride. Maybe he had.

From Queenstown to Tanjong Pagar, it was a four-station ride. I dashed into the plaza and as always, I got lost. The dentist is located somewhere on the second floor. I passed by a Thai restaurant that I didn’t notice before. There was a Thai woman having a meal outside and she smiled at me. She may work there, may even be the owner. I wish the locals are as friendly.

My dentist limped towards me as I entered the clinic. And he seems to have aged quite a bit. The last time I saw him was 18 months ago. The last time we have met, he has moved to Penang, Malaysia. We have chatted. He has sold off his apartment in Malaysia just before the market crashed, made a bit of money, and bought an apartment in New Zealand instead. My dentist really doesn’t want to retire in Singapore. Perhaps in New Zealand, he seldom meets people. We had such a good chat, look long lost friends.

My appointment with the team who stacked my dryer on top of my washer-dryer had been brought forward. So, after my dentist appointment, I rushed to my new home, which fortunately was only 2 stations away. The perk of living near the city center eh?

And of course, I have left my umbrella at the dentist’s office. I seldom bring an umbrella as I often drive. And that was not the only time I have forgotten to bring it along with me today.

In my new home, the carpenter and I presume his apprentice was working hard. It was rather noisy and dusty. The technicians arrived and have installed the bracket to the dryer. It was much simpler than I thought.

Woohoo! I am done for the day!

I ventured out looking for food, far. Then I remembered I still have one more appointment with the condo team to fix my balcony doors.

Ugh.

So I ran back to my new home – literally – and was 10 minutes late. The balcony doors were fixed in some unorthodox ways (that involved banging the doors hard onto a wooden rod … a couple of times). I doubt it was a permanent fix. But there was it for today.

Because it was 2.10pm – what’s up with all the 10-minute blocks today?! – I have decided to have Korean food opposite my new home.

That was the starter. And I had a beer. The restaurant’s name was Bigmama. Not sure if it is worth a return!

I was still having my beer when the cashier politely approached me at 3.10pm (no kidding, it was really 3.10pm) informing me that the restaurant was now closed. I downed my beer in one gulp and left. I felt being kicked out from the restaurant. But I guess the staffs would not get paid the overtime caused by one single customer taking his time enjoying his beer. The reviews at HungryGoWhere are spot on though. Service is pretty bad and the soup dish is so-so. A lot of tofu and onions. Not enough soup.

I was exhausted, still am. But it was a productive day.