I admit I haven’t been following my schedule of putting up a post once a week, and that is because, lately, there are hardly any materials for my blog. Not sure the reasons why, but there aren’t that many new designs for cheongsams. So far, I have taken a look at Shanghai Tang‘s autumn/winter collection for 2015.
For this season, ST has gone for the simple and uncluttered look. Check out these dresses.
An A-line dress with leather trimmings. Reminds me of the 60’s mod fashion.
Trimmings and pleated skirt.
A pretty pleated dress in a beautiful sapphire blue color.
For those who prefer the straight fit cheongsams, here are a few options.
Joli Pretty launched its 15th collection a couple of weeks ago, which is amazing since it seems to be pushing out dresses every month. There are some new designs this time, which I think will appeal to the office ladies (OL), and the collection is also a showcase of simplicity.
I took pictures of a couple of cheongsams from Hana recently, and you can see that they are also in line with the simple theme.
If you ask me what I think of these dresses, I have to say, sure, it’s good to be simple. However I find them looking a little boring and even bordering on stale. Unfortunately the staid-looking prints are not helping to liven up the dresses. The only designs which look somewhat interesting are the A-line black dress and blue pleated dresses from ST. I’m afraid it looks like there won’t be much of anything to gush about in the next couple of months, and we’ll have to wait till December when we’ll get a fair dose of exciting designs in anticipation of Chinese New Year.
I have mentioned in an earlier post (dated 21 July “Being dino-mad”) that Buddy loves dinosaurs. The other day, I suggested to him to form a dinosaur parade just like in the book of the same name by Shari Halpern. He agreed excitedly, and this was what we did. I lined a few of the big ones up front but he wanted to have the rest in pairs (maybe inspired by Noah’s Ark). Rounding up at the rear is Rex, the T Rex soft toy (hence the name).
If you’re wondering about the size of the leading dinosaur, yes it is really big at 34cm tall and 40cm long.
This is a Brachiosaurus by the way, and one of the biggest dinosaurs ever discovered. It’s made by the French toy model company, Papo, and is very well sculpted and sturdy. Buddy even tried to ride on it. There were a couple of times he wanted to take it out (which would have caused a sensation among other kids), but my husband stopped him, “Don’t take brachio out! It’s too big, unless you’re going to a bad neighborhood.” Yes, it’s heavy enough to be a weapon!
I first bought Buddy some mini dinosaur figures for his birthday this year, and they were from Bullyland, a German toy maker. As his interests in dinosaurs grow, I want to get him a couple of bigger ones and Bullyland was a natural choice. The mini ones were bought from Natures Collection, at S$5.50 each, but the bigger ones are retailing for at least S$25 each. Being someone who likes to arbitrage (my husband can testify to that), I decided to go online to see if I can get them cheaper.
It was during the search online that I found a couple of pretty useful websites. One is Dino Dojo which provides a guide to building a child’s dinosaur collection. The author is rather critical of Bullyland figures, citing that those bought have peeling paintwork, and he/she highly recommends Papo figures instead. After checking them out at The Better Toy Store (which seems to be the only retail shops selling them in Singapore), I understand the raving reviews they received: they are pretty realistic with amazing details and beautiful paintwork. In fact, I’m not even sure if they should be considered as toys, particularly the dinosaurs.
I also found out that there is a group of people out there who are avid dino figure collectors, which brings me to the site of Dino Toy Blog. This site provides a treasure trove of reviews of various dino figures which also guide what I get for Buddy, like the Stegosaurus figure from Papo below. Look at how amazing it is, with its mouth opened in a silent cry. Buddy sometimes wants to take it to bed with him. But I don’t recommend it, because being hit by one of those horns around the frill can be rather painful.
If you’re wondering, yes I bought the Papo dinosaurs online, from Everything Dinosaur, a British online store which has a wide selections of dinosaur merchandise at reasonable prices. The service and delivery are pretty good, and the owners are friendly and helpful. Mike, the owner expert, even provides data sheet on each of the dinosaur purchased. (Please note that I am not paid to write this, and instead this is based on my pleasant experience buying from the store.) I first bought a baby Pachycephalosaurus and a baby T Rex for Buddy because he asked for them.
Some time later, Buddy got interested in Velociraptor. After doing some research, I found out that the Bullyland figure is highly rated. (In case you’re wondering, those figures which are high on scientific accuracy and beautifully sculpted are favored by the collectors.) Firstly it has feathers (apparently Paleontologists think it did), unlike figures from other toy companies which made them with reptilian skin (like the one from Papo). Secondly it is a beautiful model with an animated feel about it. Buddy likes it a lot, and of course he plays with it rather often. True to what Dino Dojo said, the paintwork started peeling within a month, compared to those from Papo. (Even the mini Bullyland dinos are starting to get a little scruffy too.) Like figures from other toy companies, these are hand painted. But I don’t know what type of paint the company uses or how many costs are given that caused the colors to peel off so easily. I guess the adults don’t handle their figures roughly and so they don’t experience this, but with kids, rough play is par for the course.
In addition to the Velociraptor, I also got a Utahraptor (below picture) for Buddy. There are not many options for this dinosaur, and other than the gimmicky movie tie-in, the only figure in production is this from CollectA (surprisingly, a Hong Kong-based toy manufacturer). This is actually a pretty big dinosaur, but unfortunately, the figure size is not to scale, and the model is smaller than the above Velociraptor (which in reality is only 1 meter tall). The figure is also not as detailed as those from other companies, but at least it has feathers. There are very few Utahraptor models in the market and this is the best I can find, since the better ones have been retired and may be available only in eBay at a premium.
However, I found out that this year CollectA has launched a number of really interesting dino models, including obscure dinos. One figure that I want to get my hands on is the feathered T-Rex, which Buddy has asked for (to be exact, papa T-Rex). Yes, contrary to popular belief, scientists have concluded that T-Rex and perhaps all dinosaurs are actually covered in feathers. (Now you know why the birds and chickens are descendants of the dinosaurs.)
Then Buddy was fascinated with the Parasaurolophus, and naturally I gravitated to the Papo figure. It turns out that the Schleich version is a better choice because it’s more accurate. (Schleich is another German toy maker.) According to the collectors, Papo didn’t mold its figure accurately, for instance it has front teeth which is not in line with the fossil findings. Unfortunately, the Schleich model, launched in 2012, has been retired by the company, and ED doesn’t have any stock. So I had to search in Amazon, and managed to find a seller who ships to Singapore.
At the same time, I bought the below dino figure of Dacentrusus from Amazon as well. This is from the American toy maker, Battat, which retails its model figures under the Terra brand exclusively at Target. I found out from collectors that the Battat dinos are highly sought after for being scientifally accurate, and the company doesn’t launch many of them. Apparently those older models launched in the 1990’s are highly prized.
But too bad Target doesn’t ship to Singapore and not even going through vPost helps. ED doesn’t carry it, and even the online store at Dino Toy has no stocks; in fact I have never seen them in Singapore either. Thank God I found the Dacentrusus figure in Amazon, but I had to pay a premium compared to the bargain basement prices Target is selling them at. (Looks like Target regards them purely as kiddy toys.)
I also managed to arrange for my brother-in-law to get the Cryolophosaurus figure, and this time round from Target online store, after I found out he’s coming.
Not everything I bought for Buddy is considered collector’s item. This Ankylosaurus figure from Hasbro is a merchandise tie-in for the Jurassic World movie. This was one of the first dino toys I bought for Buddy (from a department store), before I started doing serious research on the figures. You can see that it’s not as sophisticated compared to those featured above. (Well, what do you expect from Hasbro?) I later found out that this toy was reviewed in Dino Toy forum as well, and received a mixed review. Main reasons being inaccurate armour and a suspicious resemblance to the Papo’s Ankylosaurus but a poorer form (see below it). Also the toy has screw holes, which made the collectors dissed Hasbro for not trying to make it look better. According to a comment, it’s suspected that Hasbro took a digital scan of the Papo figure and so able to dull the details and reduce sculpting time.
Another kiddy dino toy is this Styracosaurus, that we initially thought was a Triceraptops (but Buddy pointed out it doesn’t have 3 horns on its face). My father-in-law bought this for Buddy’s birthday, and so I don’t know which company made this. It’s battery-operated and able to move and make sound, but this scares Buddy. My husband tried using Blu tack to cover up the holes to dampen the noise, but since Buddy doesn’t like it moving, it suits us just fine. Anyway it’s not a favorite of his, and so he doesn’t play with it much.
Finally, we have Rex, the Gund soft toy T Rex, which is perfectly safe to bring it to bed.
Initially I wasn’t sure if we should get Rex since Buddy has sensitive nose. But the toy is machine-washable, and my husband suggested that we could wash it regularly to prevent dust accumulation.
How time flies, it’s General Election time again. I still remember 2011 when I was a big supporter of Worker’s Party. I was dazzled by Chen Show Mao’s credentials, and thought we finally had a potential future PM or minister from the opposition party. There was much euphoria when WP won Aljunied GRC, and I thought WP would develop into a viable alternative party for us. How wrong was I! WP did not even bother to put up any alternative policy papers at all, other than an ill-thought out population white paper, not worthy of parliament, in response to the one published by the ruling party. (At least Singapore Democratic Party, SDP, made the first step in proposing well thought out alternatives to healthcare, education and housing etc, despite not being in parliament.)
So, over time, I became more disappointed with WP for its passiveness. Then came the Aljunied Hougang Punggol East Town Council (AHPETC) saga. I had written my thoughts about this in an earlier post dated 26 February this year “A follow-up to Unsupporting You – It’s worse than I thought”. Basically WP has shown very poor corporate governance and terribly weak financial management.
I want to state here that I will not mention any numbers, as I did not analyse WP’s audited statements, which by the way, have never been unqualified since 2011. Instead I read the opinions given by their appointed auditors to get an overview of the corporate and financial governance.
Since 2011, the auditors have not provided any opinion on the TC finances in the annual reports. Basically they couldn’t say if the numbers were a fair representation of the financial status within the town council – as a result there can be no assurance that public funds have been properly spent and accounted for. The reason they couldn’t verify the numbers is because the TC management could not (whether voluntarily or otherwise is open to question) provide documentation evidence to back them up. There were repeated mentions of AHPETC not putting money into sinking funds, as a result millions are owed to the sinking fund. In the FY13/14 report, the auditors also raised the concern of conflict of interests because the employees at the TC were shareholders of the company that provided services to the TC. These TC employees were signing off payment vouchers issued to their own company (or basically themselves). As of today, remarkably, all AHPTEC’s financial statements since 2011, continues to be qualified, accountants and investors will tell you, is not worth the paper it is printed.
If I am an investor and looking at AHPETC, I would drop it like a hot potato since I do not know what the hell is going on within the TC. AHPTEC is also fighting in the High Court to avoid a definitive forensic audit with more legal powers to follow the money trail unlike a normal audit. Why would they want to prevent an audit which could clear their name, if they had nothing to hide? So far, because AHPTEC is governed under the Town Council Act, the High Court judge had to disallow the audit; the Ministry of National Development is appealing the judgement with HDB. Let me quote the judgement of the presiding High Court judge, Quentin Loh, on the mismanagement at AHPETC:
“…travesty for AHPETC to have ignored their duties and obligations imposed on them by the Town Councils Act and Town Council Financial Rules.”
“They owe a duty and a heavy responsibility to their constituents to run AHPETC properly and it is incumbent on them to put their house and finances in order.”
“If AHPETC was a managing corporation … I have no doubt that AHPETC or its officers will be exposed to to the possibility of civil liability or, in an extreme scenario, criminal liability,”.
Let me try a Q&A here to answer the confusion over the whole saga.
Q: What did Justice Loh mean by “If AHPETC was a managing corporation”?
A: Town councils function similarly to private condo managers called “management corporations” that manage the operations of private estates. Also, like the TC, the management corporation has to manage a sinking fund for capital projects. But there is one big difference between them; the management corporation is governed under the Companies’ Act whereas the TC is governed under the Town Council Act. Contraventions of the Companies Act by condo managers are very serious offenses and will result in investigations by the enforcement agencies, sometimes leading to civil and even criminal prosecutions.
Q: If that’s the case, how come there is no investigation into AHPETC?
A: As mentioned earlier, AHPETC (and other town councils) are governed under the Town Council Act which, unfortunately, is rather loosey goosey. There are only three offences listed under the law: a) misuse of town council funds, b) Contraventions of lift upgrading rules, c) wilful withholding of information from auditors. The first two attract fine of not more than $5,000, while the third has a fine of not more than $1,000. No jail terms, believe it or not. Note that it is not even an offense for not putting money into sinking fund. In fact, when I looked at the offences in the law, it doesn’t look like they are easy to prove. For instance, the Sinking fund can be used for a variety of projects, including “any other works… prescribed from time to time.” In other words, anything goes. The Town Council will work only if the managers are ethical as it gives them wide latitude. Having unethical people running the Town Council, no matter how nice, helpful and responsive they are to Town Council residents, will be like allowing wolves to guard the henhouse.
Q: If it is hard to prove to prove misuse or contraventions, why still harp on it?
A: There are actions which are unethical but not punishable by the weak law. Using an extreme example, say I make my parents sleep in the balcony or corridor. I don’t think there is any law that says I committed a crime, but you will certainly agree that my actions are terrible and morally wrong. Or perhaps the law states “children must let parents sleep in a sheltered area. Otherwise there is a fine of $1000.” I can argue the balcony or corridor is sheltered, and since it can be interpreted that way, the authorities will be hard-pressed to sue me. But I’m sure you will agree that something needs to be done about it, since it’s wrong of me to make my parents sleep in the balcony. So you see, this is the issue we have with the the Town Council act. Something needs to be done about AHPTEC. Lets hope MND and HDB succeeds in launching a forensic audit – it is in the public’s interest.
Q: What’s the big deal with the AHPETC’s accounts? So what if they didn’t put in money into sinking fund and the numbers cannot be verified?
A: The money belongs to taxpayers, yours and mine. Don’t you want to know that your money is properly accounted for? I certainly don’t want mine to go into wasteful projects, grossly overpriced projects meant for profiteering,or worse, disappear for no reason at all. The money in the Sinking fund is used for capital projects like upgrading works for HDB flats. If there is not enough money, how can the estate be maintained? Wouldn’t the estate fall into disrepair? Wouldn’t a taxpayer bailout be necessary eventually?
Managing a TC is a good little test of the ethics, management and operational skills of the people running it. Don’t forget it is much less complicated than running a country.
Q: But government service, stat boards, People’s Associations also have lapses. Why is the PAP targeting WP?
A: Please remember that the civil service is a big organization, and of course there will be some bad eggs around. We should be worried if such lapses are not reported with claims from the government that everything is fine. In fact, the audit reports on government service and statutory boards are tabled before parliament for debate. So warts and all are revealed to the public and the opposition MPs can demand for explanation from the government.
There is no government in the world that dares to claim it is 100% corruption free or lapse-free. There will be always be people trying to take short cuts or flout the regulations or take advantage of loop holes. What matters is whether the corruption/lapses are widespread or are mere exceptions. The fact that Singapore has been consistently ranked as one of the least corrupt countries in the world should tell you something.
Also, think very carefully before you say we should put in check and balance in every step. The bureaucracy will burden all of us, as well as kill the economy. For instance India has one hell of a bureaucratic system and it’s almost impossible to get anything sensible done. Does it help to reduce lapses? No, people will just grease the palms to speed things up, encouraging more not less corruption.
Besides, let me quote a wise adage “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Let’s say an opposition MP was caught having extramarital affairs. A short while later, a PAP MP was also caught doing the same. What would you say if the PAP gave the excuse, “the opposition MP also made the same mistake. Plus, he had affairs with more than one woman; and I only had it with one. So I am not as bad.” Does the argument make sense?
This is the same argument used by a number of WP supporters. Why are we resorting to pandering to the lowest common denominator? Why are we not aiming for the better party, which sets higher ethical and competence benchmarks? When we insist on the PAP having integrity, honesty and transparency, we should apply the same to the opposition parties. There should not be double standards here. If you insist on voting in opposition regardless, you are basically “cutting off the nose to spite the face”. As for those who think that since we have an efficient civil service, it doesn’t matter who is in power, that is a fallacy. The civil service requires direction and leadership to operate, and it does not have the mandate of the people. The political leadership is given the mandate to provide direction, and set policies. It is very important that we get the policies right because the civil service cannot change course for the country. Who is in the leadership role is vital to this country!