Category: Family

Washing Your Own Car


Wow! What a topic to write on? Amazing. I know what you are thinking – “this bloke must have run out of things to write”. I don’t mistake you. I also thought the same thing.

But then, I thought that it is an important thing to write upon – it is very important that you wash your own car. I am sure most of you don’t – you either have a maid at home whose SOW (Scope of Work) includes washing of your car, or you will drive into a car-washing facility at a local gas station. But I do neither.

For me, washing my own car is an important bi-weekly action to be undertaken with my own hands – sometimes, I miss the schedule and the car looks really dirty during the third and fourth weeks. It happened today for me – the trigger for me was the ugliness of the car with some bird sh** on the bonnet. I told my wife that it has now become very critical for me to go down and give the car a thorough wash.

The interesting thing is the assemblage of multiple liquids and wiping clothes in preparation for the washing of the car. In my case, it takes a good 5 minutes to put together the car washing liquid, the wiper cleaning liquid, the glass cleaning liquid, and the tyre-blackening liquid, along with a plethora of some 5 different yellow wiping clothes and two buckets, etc., I then triumphantly set out after intimating my entire home that I am going to wash the car. Everyone says bye and they all know well that it would take not less than 75 minutes.

Here I go, and what do I see – atleast two maids washing their owners’ cars. No owner in sight. There are some 200+ cars parked in the parking area of our condominium. Since the owner is not available, the maid cannot move the car to the washing area, and so washes with water from a bucket and no advanced fluids except for a liquid detergent. No polishing either.

I got my favourite place to wash however, and started setting up my “equipment”. Following are the steps I used for washing my car today:

  1. Since no hosing is allowed for washing cars, I used small buckets of water to throw on the car and wash it adequately. My estimate is that I used some 15 small buckets (10 litres capacity) of water to remove the dirt and grime accumulated over the past 3 weeks.
  2. I mixed the liquid soap wash in a bucket of water and lathered it up. It was thick and creamy with thick soapy feel. I thought it was of the right mix and density, and proceeded to apply the same using a high quality wiping material (like a hand brush) all over the body of the car. This is the most time-consuming action, as one needs to ensure that almost all areas of the car are well soaped over and rubbed using the soft clothes brush.
  3. Once step #2 is completed, then the major work is throwing water with some force all over the car to clean off the soap. Sometimes, the soapy foam is still there, and it takes some repeated effort to get it off the surface of the car. This will probably required some 20 small buckets of water. One has to be reasonably sure that all the soap is gone completely from the car’s surface.
  4. Now comes the next tedious part – wiping with soft cloth all over the surface of the car and the inside edges of the doors, the boot and the bonnet, apart from the top surface (roof) of the car and the windshields. It is tough and takes time, but this is essential before any further cleaning is tried upon. Also, clean the tires with lots of water and soap, and then again with lots of water to remove all the dirt.
  5. Now, open the bonnet and wipe off any residual water along the edges. Then use the wiper cleaning liquid to fill up the container with 1:10 ratio with water. It should fill up to the brim, and once done, it will be ready for atleast the next 5 to 10 wiper washes. Most people don’t do this and just fill up with plain water. I recommend a wiper cleaner.
  6. It is now time to use the glass cleaning liquid to spray on the front and back windshields as well as the glass windows and side mirrors. This would make visibility 100% and is an essential action that car drivers need to take up, as the weather conditions make all glass areas dirty, with visibility reduction.
  7. Finally, use the tyre-cleaning spray on the tyres (generally this is a whitish liquid) – you should spray only on dry tyres. This liquid will make some mark on a clean surface or road, so ensure that the spraying is done around the washing area, and wash off any marks from the area on which your car is standing. Upon further drying, you will have fresh-looking black tyres, and I can tell you that you would surely like them. Tyres should look shiny black and not greyish black, as you would agree.
  8. Once all this is done, take a smoother cloth (like a vest cloth) and wipe off the entire body of the car. Now, the car should be entirely dry with no residual water on any surfaces.
  9. You have achieved a total car washing phenomenon, and your car should be looking great now, irrespective of its age!

It is very important we do the above all by ourself. I used to get help from my family members long time ago when my kids were young – they were eager to learn how to wash a car. But now, nobody wants to join the experience. I am sure that the children would prefer to go for an auto-wash facility and save time and effort. But I feel that it is a great experience to wash one’s own car (no need to wash others’ cars, though I felt that the drivers in my car park wanted to stop by and ask for my service!!!).

Learning to do something and self-help are the best things life has to offer to us.

Enjoy car washing and the weekend!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

6th May 2017

The “Magical” Kingdom


I was taking a walk along the MacRitchie reservoir this evening along with my wife, as part of my weekend walking exercise regimen.

While discussing about the global economy in general and Singapore economic situation in particular, my wife mentioned that it is highly likely that the U.S. Federal Reserve would increase its interest rates 2 to 3 times next year. Given the recent increase of 0.25%, this might lead to somewhere around 1.0% in total over the next 12 months or so. The stock markets have taken a hit around the world as a result of the U.S. Fed rate increase earlier this week.

Given the growing strength of the U.S. Dollar, the drop in the price of Gold, the increase in the price of Oil, etc., it is apparent that the global economy is headed for more shakeups than ever in the coming 12 months. Combined with the uncertainty of the Trump Presidency, all this adds to the growing concern in Asia of the future of the world economy. Currencies in Asia are taking a major hit, the SGD has dropped to 1.44 to the USD already and is projected to hit 1.50 by the end of calendar 2017.

I made a remark to my wife that the Singapore economy is going to face major headwinds as a result of these developments, and the real estate will be a big loser. There will be auctions and loan foreclosures looming in the coming months and a drop in real estate values which will be a boon to folks waiting to buy an apartment (Singapore real estate is one of the priciest in all of Asia, second only to Hong Kong). Interest rates are set to climb up after a long sojourn of very low rates. Rental values have already been dropping over the past couple of years and recently took a further downturn. Given that the Government has been quite tight on employment passes, the demand is dropping from foreign population.

So, my conclusion was that the “magical” economic kingdom of Singapore is all set to take economic knocks in the next 12 months after significant performances over the past several years. The real estate had doubled between 2009 and 2013 and remained more or less at those inflated prices over the past 3 years (with minor drops of 5 to 10%). This obviously cannot continue for ever and finally the situation is all set to change for the worse for home owners who are planning to sell. The buyers are going to sit tight, despite some annual increases in the takeup rate of apartments.

However, Singapore has always found a way out of economic challenges due to the firm guidance provided by the Government. While real estate market prices are  something that the Government does not directly control, it has put in place some innovative policy mechanisms to curtail speculation and these seem to have, at least partially, worked.

So, if I were a home buyer, I am rather inclined to wait out for the next 6 to 9 months, see some interest rate increase, some significant price drops, some wait and watch games, before actually seeking out bargains. On the national economic fronts, there are going to be some big pains for the next couple of years before recovery can be made. The U.S. economy is bound to make gains, while the China economy is expected to decelerate. Singapore economy is highly vulnerable to external shocks due to its openness.

See – how much a walk around a reservoir (lake) can generate in terms of economic and real estate discussions! I enjoy such “active” walks which help to accomplish some brisk physical walking combined with energetic discussions with the most important person in one’s life – your spouse!!

Enjoy your walks with your spouse and talk economics, health, household matters, and what not. These are very important for relationships as well.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

17th December 2016

 

Beating around the Bush with the Internet


Well, I could not think of a better title to this blog post !

Our home had a 300 MBPS fibre internet connection for the past couple of years, and recently the contract ended. I was paying a price higher than that for 1 GBPS (1,000 MBPS) fibre connectivity for more than a year, as there was no point in upgrading during the contract or breaking the contract. This is always the case as the lock-in period deters people from much necessary upgrades, unless one is prepared to pay much more or incur a penalty.

So, once I was out of the contract, I decided to upgrade the internet speed to 1 GBPS. I was really salivating at the possibilities afforded by increased speed of access, and was hoping that the sales talk was for real – in the sense, that my access speeds will at least triple from where they were before the upgrade. Not an unrealistic expectation, I would say.

But then, reality is always different.

I got the speed upgraded and the provider installed a D-Link cylindrical router in the place of my much-loved ASUS router (which incidentally would be able to handle the increased speed as I found out later). It was a simple installation lasting less than 10 minutes and the guy from the service provider took my signature and left upon completion of his work.

Within couple of hours after the upgrade, complaints started from my household with regard to the speed and quality of the internet access – the speed was apparently lower than the previous lower speed of 300 MBPS! Further, there was “fading in” and “fading out” of the internet – it comes and goes type of complaint. I embarked on some serious testing and found that the complaints were true. I was upset that the provider could do such a shoddy job.

I contacted the service provider and some gracious technical person guided me through the troubleshooting and we jointly found that the old ethernet cable was the problem. I replaced the same with a new cable from the router box and the direct speed from the modem to the laptop increased by a huge amount from less than 100 MBPS to 700 MBPS ! After this experiment, it looked OK but then I found that the mobile broadband speeds and laptop internet access speeds deteriorated significantly after a distance of some 10 metres. For instance, I was getting less than 20 MBPS on mobile broadband just 10 metres from the router. This meant that my surfing from a slightly remote bedroom was impacted, and this was not the case with the previous 300 MBPS fibre speed. It became very clear to me that the service provider has not tested various scenarios within a normal household.

I again contacted them and insisted that their service person should stay on for atleast 30 minutes and prove to us that there was no problem with the internet. Surprisingly, the provider agreed and sent a technical person (who was much better than the previous person who just installed), and he modified some settings on the cylindrical router. I witnessed a massive jump in mobile broadband speeds on my Apple iPhone in the living room wherein the router was installed. It almost approached 292 MBPS on my cell phone, which I thought was fantastic. Further, the remote bedroom speeds more than doubled from the previous levels.

So, I thought all was good and signed off on this second visit from the service provider (within just 4 days of the original installation). I gave a strongly positive rating given the quality of the work done by this second person.

But then the real measurement of performance lies with the big users – my wife and the children. While the children were generally OK with the new speeds, my wife was not as she generally uses the internet from the remote bedroom.

I scratched my head. I thought this will pass and everyone will eventually be “OK”. That was not to be. My wife again complained and asked me why I have not implemented the WiFi range extender which has been under our consideration for quite some time, since we have 3 walls separating the master bedroom from the living room, and I had previously gone around looking for a suitable solution.

So, here I go !!! I went shopping yesterday, and bought a few items. I bought a rather expensive WiFi range extender (TP-Link) since there was a sales person at the Challenger Store who patiently explained that their expensive solution is better for Netflix Video Streaming as compared to their cheaper solution. I asked some questions and got satisfactory answers. I bought the more expensive solution which is basically a powerline internet range extender, came home and proudly installed it. I was worried if it would really work out for us, as I had the immense pressure of satisfying the lady of the house.

I did everything as per the book, “paired” the two devices of the TP-Link solution, and took one of these devices to the bedroom and inserted into the power point. It gave some initial troubles, but then eventually it worked…….we got some very good internet speeds for seeing movies in our bedroom. I am still continuing to test the product, not all done. However, I believe it is a good product. Basically, you connect an ethernet cable from your router to this TP-Link device and then pair it with a similar device. The second device becomes your bedroom range extender as it gives out WiFi signals of good strength via the electrical circuit.

Still testing, but looks good. Hope it is a good investment!

Experiments like these are challenging but good though somewhat expensive!!

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

02 October 2016

The Bistro Experience


Our family decided to go for a real “bistro” experience in Singapore recently over the past weekend.

We chose the Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro in Tanglin after some research. There are many bistros in Singapore, so choosing one is a tough proposition. One has to take a chance and try out a few.

The Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro experience was good, I would rate them good on the food and service. The ambience, while offering a decent environment, was marred by a lot of noise from a very crowded place on a Saturday morning, with many folks waiting to get in without making a reservation. I would not go for breakfast or lunch, but may be for a nice cup of coffee and pastries another time.

While my family members liked their respective food choices, I had some trouble dealing with an average spaghetti with mushroom meal (vegetarian) which was rather oily (a bit soggy) and defunct of a mushroom density that I had expected while ordering. I ordered the full or larger portion, but I got what appeared to be a half portion, so I checked with the waiter who confirmed it was a full portion indeed. I was surprised. In any case, this spaghetti was not on par with my other spaghetti experiences in Italian restaurants on the island.

The Truffle Fries was really good (better than the one at the famous PS Cafe), the Brownie Parfait and the Triple X Chocolate cake were simply outstanding. I would clearly vote for the Triple X spongy chocolate cake anyday – very well made and very delicious, though I had only couple of small pieces sliced off the big traingle of a cake.

I did not have the Erdinger beer (which I prefer while the choice of wine is limited) for two reasons – it was lunch time and I was driving. Almost everyone in the lunch scenario was having either a beer, a stout or a wine…….giving the impression that Singapore is fast approaching an European ambience at lunch, if only you care to walk into a tavern-based bistro like this one.

I was unhappy about the parking charges in the post office building in which the bakery bistro was located – they were overcharging……for a little over 2 hours, I paid SGD 7.81, which is rather criminal, given that outside the Central Business District (where this building is located, though very close to Orchard Road) it cost an average of SGD 2 per hour or even less. Unfortunately, such overcharging spoils one’s mood when one is exiting after a good lunch, though there may be no connection between the parking service and the bistro bakery itself. May be the bakery needs to advice the patrons to park elsewhere, may be at the cheaper Tanglin Mall across the road for instance.

In a nutshell, the Nassim Hill Bakery Bistro is a good choice for bistro lovers with a penchant for Western food, and eclectic drinks (such as the Berry Green which I tried out). Not inexpensive though. It was apparent many of the diners were there for the first time, as they were focused on taking pictures of the surroundings (the tavern experience), and taking selfies/mulfies, and even asking the waiters to take pictures of themselves.

Recommended.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

7th August 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant


My family was looking for dinner options, and my wife came up with this suggestion of a Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant – the Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant located at Quality Hotel Marlow in Balestier Street.

This locale for a restaurant is not usual. I was not even aware there was such a place as the “Quality Hotel Marlow” in Singapore. After finding the place, we located the Lotus restaurant on the second floor of the hotel, and it looked like a traditional Chinese restaurant [we came to know that they are from Taiwan].

The food was good – all 100% vegetarian. But the service was terrible. In fact, it is better not to expect any service at all. Everything is self-service anyway. The variety of the spread is very good, lots of dim sum, vegetables, tofu, et al. Ice Kacang, anyone ? Ice Creams as well, but not great. Salads, pastas, available from special counters. Desserts were good. You have soups and drinks as well included in the buffet price of SGD 26.

I loved the brown rice and the variety of fried noodles. Good quality food.

The crowd inside the restaurant mostly appeared to be tourists staying at the hotel. There were few locals and hardly any Indians. I am used to my almost daily Chinese lunch, so the variety at Lotus proved to be a great enhancement.

Some folks won’t like it though. The taste buds may not work after all !

I would recommend this place for an early evening dinner, but go with a reservation. And, do not expect great service of any sort. Take care of yourself, all by yourself. Then you won’t regret.

Good Chinese food.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

13th March 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my Readers


I am not that consumer-centric ! Ha Ha Ha !!

But I thought, sometimes it is crucial to recognize the few readers that I have who keep coming back for more. It is also that time of the year when we recharge our batteries, get together with our families and network with our friends as we herald into yet another exciting year.

I have always felt that this is the ideal time of the year for committing to do something new. Something more impactful in life. Something that will help one to recognize his or her importance and contribution to the lives of others. Something which creates new excitement. Something to look forward to.

It is a very important time for connecting with family and friend. I am planning to do exactly that. As I engage more in social and family conversations, I hope to get away from computers. Let me try !

I will be back to writing my blog from 2nd January 2016, which is the first Saturday of the New year. See you then. In the meanwhile, here’s Wishing You All a Merry Christmas and a Fantastic New Year ahead in 2016 !

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

19th December 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camera Shopping


For his birthday, my son wanted to get a DSLR camera.

I let him do all the research on such cameras, and eventually he came up with his choice: it was Nikon D5500.

Of course, quietly and parallely I was also doing my research. For one, I love that kind of product research – trying to wade through many websites and reviews to determine a short list of brands. I also love “speccing” meaning identifying specifications which would suit one’s requirements. The more the demand on advanced specs, the more the price ! On another note, I have not had such a camera – my preference was for the point-and-shoot type of cameras and over the years I have had a series of Casio, Panasonic, Canon and Nikon cameras. And many, many years ago I had a solid Canon EOS camera which used film. Also, I have had used a series of Camcorders – Panasonic, JVC and Sony.

Not surprisingly, I also came to the same choice conclusion that my son arrived at. I liked the D5500 for several reasons, the most important being that of light weight. A few other reasons are built-in Wi-Fi, touch-screen display, and the 18-140mm lens kit. In fact, my son selected the wide-angle lens as the telephoto performance was good and the differential price was very reasonable.

Then came the matter of selecting a shop to buy. We rejected the online shops as the personalized trial and evaluation aspect would not be possible unless you go over to a photo shop and try out the various brands / models. The prices at online stores were lower by between SGD 50 to 200. In any case, we decided to shortlist three shops and then attack the one at the top of the list. My research produced John 2:16 shop in Funan Mall and Cathay Photo at Marina Square / Peninsula Plaza. Then I came to know that John’s photo shop has been closed, so the choice became rather easy. Go to Cathay Photo at Marina Square.

So there we went yesterday and bought the camera from a nice sales executive called James. My son has done additional research, so he needed a series of accessories which kept increasing my investment overlay. We also bought LCD screen for the LCD Display of the D5500, a UV Filter for the Camera lens, an additional 64 GB SanDisk memory card for Ultra HD Video capture (apart from the 8 GB card which comes with the camera kit), an optical cleaning kit, a SIRUI brand tripod, and a small drybox to keep all the camera stuff. The drybox is essential as we live on an island with sea winds and high humidity levels.

Camera buying is always a complex purchase. We considered both Canon and Sony, and I even looked at Pentax. For entry-level DSLRs, there was a neck-to-neck fight between Nikon and Canon. We could have gone either way. A couple of factors swung the decision in favour of Nikon, plus my son was very clear with his strong preference for Nikon after his due diligence on such cameras. Given that he was spending from his savings for the most part of the investment, I decided to give him full leeway in his choice of his own DSLR camera !

Goov overall experience, and the D5500 has been in action for a day now producing some rather good pics. Let us see how it works out on many of its promised features and modes over the next few weeks !

Happy Birthday son and enjoy your new acquisition.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

22nd November 2015