4th week of internship

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Google, Wikipedia, Baidu, Wiki Chinese etc have been my best friends for the past 2 weeks since I have been tasked to find out relevant info about China's airports and compile them into a spreadsheet. And guess what, some of the airport only has Chinese web site #$*(%#)(*%#. Among my best friends, Google Translate has been the closest to me so far cause I have spent tons of time on it.

Luckily the pantry and canteen food here ain't bad. The best is still the airport staff discount we have and we are able to go into transit as and when we like :)

And it is 12pm on a Sunday morning. Why am I blogging at home? I should be out there in the sun to kick some ball!!! stupid rain.


Baby Elephant Sneeze

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Foreign Nations Offer Gulf Spill Aid to US—for a Price

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When other countries are in help, US gave free aid. But when US are in trouble, countries offer help... but for a price?

At least 22 nations—including Britain, home country of beleaguered oil company BP—have offered oil-collecting skimmers, boom, technical experts and more to help the U.S. cope with its worst-ever environmental disaster. But their generosity comes with a price tag.

Foreign countries around the world have offered to help the U.S. battle its worst spill in U.S history, but only Mexico has offered anything free of charge.

The State Department confirmed that nearly every offer of equipment or expertise from a foreign government since the April 20 oil rig explosion would require the U.S. to reimburse that country.

The offers reveal a hard truth about the United States' international friendships: With the U.S. widely regarded as the world's wealthiest nation, there is a double standard regarding foreign aid after a crisis, especially with offers from relatively poor countries.

U.S. disaster aid is almost always free of charge; other nations expect the U.S. to pay for help.

"These offers are not typically offers of aid," said Lt. Erik Halvorson, a Coast Guard spokesman. "Normally, they are offers to sell resources to BP or the U.S. government."

Only Mexico, with wide swaths of poverty among its population, offered the U.S. anything for free. It said it would give the U.S. government some containment boom. BP separately purchased 13,780 feet of boom and two skimmers from Mexico in early May, according to the State Department.

The stingier countries include:

—Britain, America's closest ally and headquarters to London-based BP, said it would sell chemical dispersants and containment boom for use cleaning up the spill. London's mayor, Boris Johnson, has previously complained about what he called "buck-passing and name-calling" in the U.S. against BP.

—Russia, which received $70.5 million in U.S. aid last year and $78 million in 2008, said it could send boom, oil containers and ships if the U.S. paid for them.

—China offered containment boom for a price. When a major earthquake struck in northwest China in April, the U.S. quickly gave $100,000 for relief supplies, and after another major earthquake in southwestern China in 2008, the U.S. donated $500,000 through the U.S. embassy in Beijing to the Red Cross to buy and deliver emergency supplies there. Congressional researchers estimate the U.S. spends roughly $30 million on foreign aid to China each year, including educational exchanges and health programs.

—Israel, which receives roughly $3 billion in U.S. military aid and other assistance, also said it would send containment boom, if the U.S. paid for it.

—France offered to send chemical dispersants and equipment to clean oil off birds but only for a price.

—Kenya, which received more than $24 million in U.S. aid last year and $11 million in 2008 for humanitarian aid, offered to send fire boom but only if the Obama administration paid.

—Vietnam offered a ship with oil-collecting sweep arms if the U.S. paid for it. The U.S. spent $102 million in all types of aid to Vietnam in 2008. When Typhoon Ketsana hit that country last fall, affecting 3 million people, the U.S. spent $100,000 on relief operations.

—Romania made a "general offer of support" but asked the U.S. government for payment. After heavy rains sent in July 2008 sent four major rivers over their banks and killed five people, the U.S. gave $50,000 for emergency supplies.

—Croatia offered to send technical experts and plans, for a price. The U.S. gave Croatia $50,000 to buy local firefighting equipment in 2007 when more than 800 wildfires broke out during an unusually hot and dry summer.



Honey, is the Bentley okay?

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Justify FullAn interesting article about the recent flood in Singapore.

ANYBODY outside of Singapore who saw photos of submerged cars, rescue workers carrying people to safety and other scenes of chaos and devastation caused by Orchard Road's mega washout on Wednesday would be forgiven for not believing their eyes. A natural disaster sweeping through Singapore? After all, a lady interviewed on TV hit the nail on the head when she disbelievingly said that she never thought something like this could happen in a first world country.

It's true that such scenes are more likely to be associated with developing countries but if you look closely enough, you would be able to see the tell-tale signs that such a disaster has taken place in Singapore. How can you tell? Easy. Just check out our list of the top 10 differences between a flash flood in a developing country and one in Orchard Road:

10: In Orchard Road, the only bodies you see floating in the water are the mannequins from Massimo Dutti.

9: Anguished men rush home to their families, crying, 'Oh my god, is the Murcielago/ Bentley/Ferrari all right?' or 'Check the cable TV reception - can we still watch the World Cup?!'

8: Singaporeans do not really know how to loot. Instead of taking whatever beauty products they can find floating in the water, they wait to see if something more valuable will float by, such as a camera or a leather iPhone cover. Other more enterprising looters will insist that rescue workers carry them to the Hermes boutique, just in case a slightly soiled Birkin floats by.

7: Rescue workers have trouble carrying out submerged patrons from Starbucks or Wendy's because they won't leave until they get a voucher for a replacement meal.

6: People are taking photos to upload on their Facebook pages.

5: Rescued victims will lodge complaints that their rescuers took their umbrellas to help other people and did not return them.

4: Firefighters have to counsel drivers still in their cars half submerged in water, muttering to themselves, 'I can make it, I can make it. . .'

3: Bystanders are watching the same drivers along the sidelines, placing bets on whether they will make it.

2: After the same drivers are finally extricated from their cars, they can be heard muttering on the side of the road, 'The weather forecasters did this. That dummy from Massimo Dutti did this.'

1: Stranded commuters insist that rescuers send them to their workplaces in their civil defence vehicles.

And so ends an exciting week in Singapore. So if you ever thought that the only interesting thing happening during this World Cup season was learning a new African word, vuvuzela, think again. Yes, it took a clogged drain in Tanglin to create this nationwide calamity, but well, the next time it happens, we'll keep you updated on the most worthwhile looting locations.


Trying comparing to this.


5023 Ang Mo Kio Industrial Park 2 569526

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Left: Hotplate Deer Meat
Right: Samba Chilli Lala

Left: Kang Kong
Right: Mee Goreng

Including 3 flower crab, total cost of meal is $63. Not too expensive and their food taste good too!


D.I.Y Pasta

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Of course the person making is not me. Maybe will consider doing it when I retire next time. Can see that he enjoy it very much (if you cannot see, just listen to the music :))


Dread wearing tie

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Starting internship tomorrow at Changi Airport International. Attire requires tie! So uncomfortable and I realise most of my office shirts are too exotic for the common ties!


Chicken Chop

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New stainless steel WMF fan courtesy of Kuah Wee Hian

Marinated with thyme, rosemary, olive oil and garlic


Voice from an insurance agent

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Dear Mr. Tan,
As im currently a new agent with one of the big insurance companies in Singapore, im finding its a lot different from what I was told or expected.
For example at the start we were told to emphasize needs based selling in order to meet the needs of our clients (basically what the MAS regulations said). Later I found out that nobody does needs based selling and all we do is get clients to sign on empty forms so we can go back to the office to fill them up later. End result : Client is clueless about what their needs are and how we are meeting them, if at all. Instead of talking to them about what THEY want, we spend our time giving presentations about interest rates and talking about how our relative racked up a huge hospital bill without insurance to pay for it.

The commission structure is also highly flawed and contributes to the high turnover rate of agents in the industry. There is absolutely zero incentive or point for agents to recommend products with lower commission rates. In fact, meeting a client to sell a term plan actually loses an agent money(unless it is a very big term plan) because the commission rate is simply not high enough to pay for the time + bus/MRT fare involved.

In my case, neither I or my colleagues were ever given product training on anything but the products with the highest commission rates. Also, this is actually a job that requires you to spend money in order to make money. The problem is that for most new agents, they will not be able to set sufficient appointments or close enough cases to make money for the first 1-2 months at least, unless they have a lot of contacts who are interested. The end result is they spend hundreds of dollars in food and transport expenses, and in the end all they keep hearing is “I’m not interested”, and quit because they are heavily in the red and still can’t find people who wants to buy insurance. It would be better if new agents were given a basic allowance of $400-500 for living expenses till they are seasoned enough to close cases on a regular basis.

With the high turnover rate of agents in the industry there is a high incentive to simply not train agents properly since a manager is spending too much time training someone who, according to statistics, will quit in a month or two anyway. Simply give them basic training, send them on whatever appointments they can make, and see if it works out. If not, oh well, go recruit more people. I was given a few days of training total, only a few hours of which was product related, and was told to go to my first appointment with the aim to do a presentation and simply convince him to buy and not ask questions. I ended up making stuff up when the client started asking about things I was not taught about. I felt pathetic.

As it is I am currently in the unenviable situation where I spend money travelling back and fro my office, making phone calls, doing surveys, doing coldcalls, mainly to hear phones ringing that people never seem to pick up (I never had any idea how under-utilzied handphones were in Singapore before) and I am not even able to set a single appointment because people keep postponing or simply dissapear off the radar and never pick up their phones again. All of this is costing me money and worst of all I cannot see a way to improve my situation. I do not have any senior agents I can look to for guidance since they are all busy rushing to meet quotas and my manager just keeps telling me to go out, do more surveys, make more phone calls, find and meet people, etc, but it is simply not working.

I have no clue where, exactly, I am supposed to find people interested in buying insurance or doing investments since almost everyone i meet simply recoils in horror at the mere mention of “savings” “investments” “protection” or any other key word that you can possibly use.

A scary amount of middle aged adults still believe themselves immortal and that they cannot possibly get hospitalized or worse, affecting their ability to provide for their family. Most young working adults simply go from paycheck to paycheck, saving $0 every month and heading straight for disaster the moment a situation calls for usage of emergency funds which do not exist, or they just dump a token amount into their bank account every month that dissapears into the newest xbox or ipod the moment they get enough. Most young working adults do not even have a clue what medishield or medisave is, other than that it is something CPF related.

I feel like im constantly rolling dice and seeing if I can get a lucky combination just to find a single interested person. I would like to continue on in this line of advising people on financial planning, but I do not see how as most people simply want to go through life without any financial planning or insurance protection at all. And actually I don’t even know whether what im doing can be considered financial planning anyway.


This is a very typical but unheard of voices among the insurance agents in Singapore where the commission structure present a conflict of interest. Its an open secret only to the minority who belongs to the financial savvy group. We often heard of people having no time to do their own research and planning, hence they just leave it to the financial planners thinking they have the knowledge and skills necessary. This might be true but in reality, it is hardly the case if the adviser is skewed towards making enough money just to put food on the table. In this scenario, they would be more likely to recommend products (Whole Life, Endowment, ILP etc) that are not in your interest because the commissions are huge; imagine 90% of your first year premium goes to the pretty/handsome adviser.

My advise is to at least read up what insurance you might need and ask your adviser for comments. I favored IFA (Independent financial adviser) over tied-agents as the former has more sources; however whether he/she has the expertise to filter out the bad ones is subject to individual.