Friday, October 19, 2012

Auto gearboxes a cause for bad driving

A colleague of mine TW recently made a remark that the prevalence of cars with auto gearboxes on Singapore roads has resulted in driving standards getting worse.

His logic was that drivers using traditional manual gearboxes would be more in tune with what the car was doing. Also having to operate a manual would mean that behaviours such as using a mobile phone while driving would not be possible (not taking into account contortionists who are able to hold an iPhone between their shoulder and neck ;).

I tend to agree with his theories. Drivers are getting lazier nowadays. Even signalling is become rarer on Singapore roads. Alas, with the demise of manual cars (you can't actually buy a manual car anymore unless a special order is made) this theory is a moot point.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hitting the foreign talent (FT) wall in Singapore

Desperation or despair kinda sneaks up on you in mid life.

When you are young, and if you are a graduate, you have the feeling that the world is your oyster. You feel that you are able to get a job in any company, get a good job and start enjoying the feeling of making money. You have plenty of headroom to climb - or so you think - to the upper echelons of a corporation.

Where I am now - solidly in mid-life - middle aged, mid career, life doesn't look or feel so rosy anymore, especially in this place called Singapore.

You see my friend, companies are typically top heavy creatures. Lots of entry level jobs doing the real work, a moderate number of middle level jobs for people to middle manage others and then, a tiny few top level positions. In the company that I work for, a software product company, it is no different. 

In a typical homogeneous society like Japan or Europe (this is slowly changing however), this would still bode well for mid career managers. You should have similar thinking similar background people above and below you in the organizational hierarchy. Your bosses should understand you, know that you are aiming to move upwards, and also understand the societal norms i.e. what holidays mean in terms of importance e.g. never scheduling project deadlines near Chinese New Year, for example and other responsibilities that parents face e.g. taking leave to accompany children during exam periods (admittedly a Singapore idiosyncrasy).

In Singapore, however, if you are working in MNCs and not a government organization (which is pretty homogeneous i.e. typically all Singaporeans) or are pretty lucky, this situation will not typically happen. "Foreign talents" fill the upper spots of the company hierarchy. They also fill the middle slots and the lower slots but the upper spots are typically all FT territory. They live a rarefied upper class life in Singapore, living in posh places, drive the Lambos and Ferraris, send their children to expensive private schools and don't know (or give a rats ass) what problems Singaporeans face. It probably wouldn't feel so bad if these FTs are smart and capable, fair and respectable but it sure stinks when they are nearly all stupid (cunning), lazy etc ones.

As a mid-career worker and in a middle level position in Singapore, you feel stuck. I feel that there is no way that you will rise further in a corporation as the FTs are entrenched there and will never give up their positions to others anymore. Its like a glass ceiling however it feels more like a brick wall. So this is what the future looks like. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Moving from the iPhone to an Android

iOS and Android don't mix, its quite clear about that. On the other hand, I also think iOS is for dumb or lazy people and Android is for the nerd. After using an iPhone for three years, its pretty hard to move. But move I must.

One of the tasks I am doing during my planning to switch smartphones i.e. from my current iPhone4 to a Samsung Galaxy S3 is to make a small inventory of things that I need to migrate and how I will perform the migration.

  • Favorites (on Safari) - pretty easy, just type these in

Apps (now this is where it starts gets tricky)
- Bloomberg - I pretty much have to recreate my stock entries
- Watsapp (messaging app) - there is no easy migration path, your best bet is to export each message trail by contact to a txt file and archive it)
- Runkeeper (my exercise app) - not sure.. does Runkeeper migrate?
- Squeezebox Touch app - yes there is an equivalent on Android

Now you know why Apps are so important to phone companies. They lock you into the platform and make it difficult to unstick yourself from it. They are the main reason why a smartphone is great though.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Taxi drivers in Singapore don't drive in the rain

A recent study of 80 million GPS record recording Singapore taxi driver driving patterns shows that taxi drivers here are afraid of rain. A large proportion of taxi drivers will just sit out the rain by the roadside or seek a hidey-hole.

This is in line with my previous post about the professionalism of the Singapore taxis driver.

Singapore taxi drivers are in a limbo state. They aren't salarymen like the bus drivers here and they don't own their own taxis. Instead, they rent their taxis from the taxi companies at a rate of 80-200 SGD a month. This explains why they have no incentive to drive on days when they don't need to. Either when they have already met their quota or exceeded it. Even though taxi drivers here are not supposed to reject fares, it is a fairly common occurrence, often with the reason that they are changing shifts.

Which brings me to the possible methods to curb this unprofessional behaviour of taxis drivers. First of all, there are too many taxis on the road. Singapore has over 28,000 taxis plying the roads here compared to 18,000 over taxis in Hong Kong covering a much larger area in Hong Kong. Eliminating 8,000 taxis would still mean Singapore would have more taxis than Hong Kong. Make taxi drivers fight for the right to drive by setting high standards.

 Which taxis to remove? Obviously the taxis that have poor record in terms of serving the community (put a happiness meter in every taxi for passengers to rate each ride and allow the public to easily rate or mark any taxi on the road based on its driver's good or bad driving) should be fired and prevented from driving ever again. Taxi drivers who loiter and do not put in a sufficient time on the roads should be fired. Make taxis the responsibility of their drivers by making taxi drivers own their own taxis with a low repayment rate. This way, the drivers will be incentized to drive more and more safely.