Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Money does not solve some problems

I was talking to some people in Dorchester, the poorer parts of Boston, and many were complaining about the "clean up" of the area. I was initially puzzled by their anger after talking to them about social innovation, many claimed that the city (Boston) actually did more harm than help.

The area was cleaned up, some of the sidewalks were widened, street parking removed. Seems nice and new, so what can be wrong with that?

I was looking at the areas near Uphams Corner and Dudley, and speaking to some Police Officers, I could not believe that building more housing (lower cost) and clearing up some stores could do harm. However, when I walked around the area, I realized that most of the people were from out of state (or recent immigrants) and they were not working. And after talking to some of them, this is what I came out with.

1) Lack of Public Transportation Infrastructure. The population density of the area was increased by the taller and more densely packed public housing, but the number of buses passing through the area was the same. The trains serving there was pretty much the commuter rail which cost significantly more than subway, and the wait is longer as well. The buses were very packed as that is pretty much the way to get in and out of the area besides driving.

2) Lack of convenience stores and supermarket. Perhaps I'm not from the area, however, I do not see a lot of supermarkets and convenience stores or simply shops in the area. Business owners say that the area was dangerous and parking was hard as the city just removed street parking. (seems to have negative effect to businesses) Most of the buildings in the area were non-profits and community centers.

3) Lack of jobs. Yes, there are a lot of low income housing there, but if there are no jobs, and you need to travel far to get to your job, many people with jobs will probably find a better place to stay. However, people from out of state do come and most of them are home at 3pm in the afternoon, on welfare. There may be jobs in other parts of Dorchester, but the area that was cleaned, most shops are closed.

4) Many people were unhappy because the money from the urban renewal, went to union workers from out of state. No local workers were used, and in a time when these people needed jobs, there was none.

5) People from not around the area find it almost impossible to park, just in the corner of Hancock and Dorchester Ave, more than 10 parking lots were removed, and parking was hard to come by, there was a wide walkway, however, no buses run around that corner and surrounding the area was the "projects" and some people did not feel safe walking past to the corner. The people who previously drive there avoid the area now, and business was bad.

Without engaging the business owners, and the local residents to hear about their needs, best intentions may have adverse effects. With millions spent, there are now less businesses and possibly higher crime.


Similarly, I just read a post on Facebook on Jazz and music artists.

Yes, there can be $$$ and funding for more art and music schools.

Yes the government can bring in more art shows, musicians to inspire our young about the arts.

Yes money can be poured in and some of the artists can gain local exposure from shows.

But the fact is still, Singapore is getting too expensive to live in. Many bars now do not even have a stage for performances, and people in Singapore do not support their local talents. There is a lot of support on Facebook, lots of talks about it, but when it comes to paying a cover charge to see a gig, many don't shell out the money.

As a photographer and and artist, I realize that no matter how much the government spends on art and music, it is hard to be a full time artist or photographer. People do not want to pay for images, and even Samsung and other organizations takes free images and pretend its theirs (until they are caught)

For artists, no one buying art in Singapore understand that it takes a long time in creating a complex art. There is also raw materials cost and various costs. Print a large Canvas photo can cost more than $500 and camera equipment do need maintenance or replacement.

Musicians need time to practice and their equipment is subjected to wear and tear as well. Performing a gig, preparing the stage, costumes, all of which are not free as well. Going to a Jazz Bar, or any other live performances, paying a cover which the venue probably gets most of the money, part of which goes to the musicians and performers.

If artists cannot make a living, it will be hard and almost impossible to have a vibrant local arts scene. Many people forget that the government can charge ERP, GST, COE, and Singaporeans will pay half a million or more to lease an apartment for 99 years, but when it comes to paying for live music, many will shun and not go.

So next time when you support the arts, PAY FULL PRICE for art, pay cover charge to see your favorite local bands. Don't just Like their Facebook Page and posts.

The government can spend $$$$$ to bring in world renounced artists, however, with an occupation (musician or artist) that does not pay enough for the bills, it will be hard to attract new local talents.

-- Iron Bowl

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Reasons for reaction of Singaporeans to the haze.

This is based on my observations.

I am referring to this post, "Dumb and Dumber Singaporean Reactions to the Haze" by Sgthinker (who seems to have no name)

In times of crisis, how a country reacts speaks volumes about its people and its character. I am sad to say that many online reactions to the unprecedented haze does not bode well for the country’s future.

Why isn’t there a stop work order? Gahmen only care about economy and not its people!

-- I do see a lot of calls for stop work order, for the workers who work outdoors without protection during the haze I don't see any problems with this, if the air quality is labeled Hazardous, shouldn't these people who are working outdoors be allowed to work in safe conditions? Most workers are not wearing safety breathing masks and it is not fair for them to work in Singapore to earn $$$ and return later to their countries with more respiratory problems.

If the AQI exceeds 300 in the USA, the Environment Protection Agency says that while outdoor activities are not recommended, it is still ok for kids to occasionally go out and play. This is because “even though dirty air is bad for kids, most kids won’t be hurt by playing outside, once in a while, when the air is dirty.” The EPA backs up its claims through studies on the effects of particulate pollution on health.

All around the world, 150 PSI is unhealthy, only bad parents will allow their kids to play outside when it is at Hazardous levels. I don't see anywhere in the link to support this. I personally have spoken to people who are involved fighting the Arizona Forest fires, and their advice is always to stay indoors when PSI is above 150, and put on a breathing masks.

Sorry, when AQI exceeds 300, it is called Hazardous for a reason. Please, don't let your kids out to play and think EPA allows this.

I feel that a stop work order for workers working outdoors is important because Singapore unlike other countries have "low paid" foreign workers which can be easily abused and exploited. If compared to any first world nation with their union workers, the unions would have already stood up and request the companies to stop work outdoors. In Singapore, NTUC does not really look out for the workers. In fact many workers who cannot really afford the masks are working outside without masks when PSI was above 400.

There are state of emergencies called when the smoke from forest fires reach areas in the US when AQI exceeds 300. You constantly get "Action advisory" in places where they have forest fires, which is more localized compared to the haze in Singapore, and in areas where AQI is bad, the workers can choose to stop work.

How Smoke from Fires Can Affect Your Health

The PAP wasn’t prepared for the haze!

I could see that there are claims of 9 million stockpile of masks, but no one could find them. Clearly, having a 5.3 million population + tourists, the 9 million number seems a lot, and yes, they run out in shops.

Nothing was heard from the government when the haze was the worst and masks were not enough. There was no advice or assurance on where to get or when new stocks will arrive. 

NEA was still updating their sites with a 3 hour average of the haze, even though the size was updated every hour. Having a 3 hour average in a time of crisis is not acceptable, no one wants to know how bad the air is 2 hours ago if they are going out NOW.

 If you are complaining that the Govt isn’t giving you free masks, then it is a sign of how unreasonable you are. Assistance has to be given to those who need it most, such as the poor, elderly and the vulnerable hospital patients. If you can read this message online, you can already afford a $3 mask. Don’t be a scrooge and pay for your own god-damn mask.

The PSI reading is inaccurate! Look at the sky, so much worse! Gahmen is trying to hide something!

Having a 3 hour average leads to speculation, this is a crisis when air is at a hazardous level, and people want to know if they should go out. 

There is hazardous air, it is a crisis, if NEA can have hourly updates, how hard is it to give hourly readings?

Singapore should do something to the Indonesians! The PAP is inept!
When Singapore donates $0.5 Million to "help" Indonesia combat the haze, is this the price that Singapore can offer? for 9 million N95 masks @$2 each, it is already $18 million.

If prevention is better than cure, should Singapore do more, and perhaps set up a haze prevention program to support the Indonesians to use other sustainable methods which does not include slash and burn.

If we were to suffer this haze every year, shouldn't we spend more to prevent this and perhaps "save" millions of lost revenue to the lost of tourism and health issues caused by the haze?

Singapore does not seem to be a good neighbor, and constantly have disputes and name calling of other nations. Perhaps having better ties with Indonesia would help and we may also reduce our defense budget?

Clearly total defense strategy failed as with our trillions in reserve and billions spent on military, haze can get to us, perhaps LKY was right, we need a dome over Singapore and be able to submerge underwater for long periods to escape haze or other hazardous air.

Shameless public behavior

Profiteering will happen, in any country, but if there is ample supply of masks as stated, how can this happen at all?

Perhaps everyone can collect their masks from an area like polling stations, and the cost of the masks be deducted from our Medisave? If there is such a guarantee, that EVERYONE WILL HAVE A N95 Mask, will profiteering still happen?

Shameless online critics politicizing the haze, instead of lending a hand.

Within hours of the PSI hitting 400, I saw a friend post about SG Haze Rescue. Friends are organizing mail orders from other countries or offering help in bringing masks in as they are flying back home, or mailing them back overnight.

I don't know where this person reads his stuff, by I may be lucky and blessed with helpful Singaporean friends? Online critics complain, and sometimes, I do see these complains seem to make the government work faster, and it does help in some way, and it is valid in many other ways.


From the whole disaster, I realized that the government should work with the Indonesian government to find solutions so it does not happen again. Haze seems to be a yearly one, and building up close ties should be for mutual benefit.

Yes, Singaporeans should complain less about Indonesia, and perhaps pity them as many people are suffering from worse conditions and they did not start the fire.

-- Iron Bowl

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Haze in Singapore - 3 hour average?

I don't get why is there a 3 hour average reading for PSI. Is it like we paying COE like 3 months moving average for 10 year old cars?

If the air is bad now, shouldn't I be allowed to know what is the PSI of NOW? or at least the past 30 mins or 1 hour?

Knowing the 3 hour average is like going outside in super fresh air, then going to a smoking lounge and taking the average and say, "that was 1/3 as bad as expected."

PSI, or Pollutants Standard Index is similar to AQI - Air quality index and in most countries, especially in situations which involve forest fires like in Arizona, they measure with quick updates to give you information. Information which may save lives.

If you have asthma, and PSI reading of 150 is bad for you. Even when you don't see the sky and according to the NEA reading 3 hours average of 90, say you are forced to exercise as 90 falls under the "still can do RT range" Then in Singapore where people don't look at sky or FACTs but follow rules and readings, would your life be at risk?

 It is currently 453

Average of say 25, 45 and 300 is 90... Oh wow, the PSI is 300 now, but 3 hour average is 90?

Who are you kidding when you use a 3 hour average.

NEA, the next thing you tell me is a 3 hour water level index which attempts to spot flash floods.

Come, I clap for you.

-- Iron Bowl