I have been hesitating for the longest time to take my CMFAS exams. I felt that there was no need for such qualifications in my current job, but also mostly because I doubted my own ability after graduating for more than 8 years, I haven’t been using my brain much since.

Some time early last year I thought of putting myself up for this challenge but the start of the covid-19 pandemic changed the dynamics in how things were operational. I decided to give myself more time and when things got better this year, I signed myself up.

It was a big leap of faith because I was unsure of what to expect and also, instead of having physical textbooks to read, we were just given e-books to download. The 4 basic/main papers to complete were the M5, M9, M9A and also Health Insurance (HI).

There is no particular order to complete them and also there are no limits to the number of attempts. However each exam is about $100-$120 so unless your pockets are really deep, it will be better to sufficiently prepare yourself before the exam day.

I know people who crammed several exams within the same week but my personal experience is that I took the exams a week apart from each other. This allows me sufficient time to go through the entire textbook from cover to cover, and for me to take note of the key concepts for each module. Some modules have online lectures in the SCI website but as I went through the textbook, I realized that I can actually skip some of the chapters for the online lectures. However to truly test your understanding, for the final step of your revision, you will need to go through the mock papers.

I spent about 3-4 days for my M5 and M9, averaging about 5-6 hours a day, so that probably gives you a gauge of how long you will need to prepare. For M9A and also HI, I only spent 2 days because they are relatively easier. (HI is super easy if you already know the key concepts of Singapore’s healthcare, it’s only all the numbers and limits that you need to remember.) On average for each module, it took me about 8-10 attempts for the mock papers before I felt confident enough, and even so, for my M5 and M9 exams, there were questions in the actual exams that weren’t in the mock papers. Those will shake you off a little because the answer choices are closely similar to each other.

I am not sure how efficient my studying strategies are, but at least they worked well for me. I passed all my papers on my first attempt. I will eventually go on to take the other exams such as M8 and M8A, but for now I am done with the main 4.

La Maison Du Chef

During my reservist call-ups over the years, besides going through all the trainings, it is also a good time to catch up with fellow commanders and men.

We come from all walks of life, and among us, we have Chef Firdaus. Whenever we have a conversation about food, he gets very passionate and would share with us everything about what he knows.

This year’s reservist is no different, we were talking about food again, in particular: onion soup. I have never had onion soup so I don’t know how it tastes like, but the rest of the guys were debating on where to get the best onion soup.

Firdaus then recommended this French cuisine ran by a chef who operates from his own home. We made a reservation with the chef directly, and due to social distancing measures, we also had to minimize the number of participants. As a result, there was only a handful of us present.

First on the table was the much anticipated onion soup. I am not quite sure how to describe this dish but from the taste of it, I could tell it’s beef broth with a generous serving of onions. The garlic bread adds a little sweetness to it. I am not sure if this would be considered the best onion soup, but it was really appetizing and I enjoyed it.

Next we had this toasted goat cheese salad. I know that goat cheese typically smells a bit funky with a sour aftertaste, but this didn’t have that particular strangeness that comes with it.

Then we had the pan-seared foie gras and escagots. The foie gras came with 2 different sauces for pairing but I think it was already good on it’s own.

I did not expect what was going to hit us next. We had 2 servings of beef bourguignon, and while it looked just like rendang, the beef is so soft that it literally just melts in your mouth. The chef explained that this dish is slow cooked for at least 4-5 hours.

I ordered a 200g ribeye as a main to fill up the rest of my stomach. Honestly there was nothing special about it as you can get good steaks in a lot of places. However the potato gratin that came with the ribeye and beef bourguignon is amazing. Potato wasn’t mashed, yet was soft enough to just swallow, and together with some salt, cream and cheese to make it extra flavourful. If this particular potato gratin was to be sold as cafe food, it would definitely sell.

It was an amazing experience to dine at the home of the chef. Thank you Chef Nordin for the awesome dinner and for passionately explaining to us what goes behind every dish.

You can make a similar booking by sending him a message on WhatsApp directly. (Note: He uses a Malaysian number but he is based in Singapore.)

Star Wars Identities

I have been looking forward to attend the Star Wars Identities exhibition because the past few months have been pretty uneventful. I was really quite thrilled because my first thought was, “Finally there is something to see and somewhere to go.”

But I guess, expectation always leads to disappointment.

The exhibition started very promising with a video at the gate, introducing you to the various steps of this interactive journey. Every attendee is given a wristband where you can tap at the various stations to customize your character.

I wasn’t that interested in the character customization so I just followed through the motion, but I spent quite some time admiring the life-sized exhibits they had on display.

It gets pretty dark inside so it’s good to have a camera that works well in low-light setting.

I set aside 2 hours for the entire exhibition and I am quite disappointed to say that it is actually quite underwhelming. I went on a weekday afternoon so it wasn’t crowded, and I was pretty much done in under 90 minutes. That’s also considering I spent quite some time checking out the various souvenirs on sale which can be a little heavy on the pocket.

Hedonic Adaptation

I had this conversation with someone recently and she said, “I would love to be happy more frequently.”

It reminded me about this book I read many years ago that discussed about happiness set points. I recalled enjoying the book a lot because of how it explained that we tend to find happiness by improving our circumstances.

I will be happy if/when _____________.

I will be happy if I can get off work early today. I will be happy if I can have a really good dinner tonight. I will be happy when I buy a new car. I will be happy when I can marry the girl of my dreams. I will be happy when I can move into a new home. I will be happy when I win the lottery. It is an endless list of possibilities.

But the important truth is,
What we think will make us very happy for a long time,
Will only make us a little happier for a short while.

The author explained this effect is known as hedonic adaption.

Circumstances that change our lives and make us happy, helps us to achieve that desired effect of happiness. We are happy when we start to drive around in our new car. We are happy when we wake up everyday in our fully furnished new home.

However, because humans adapt both physiologically and sensory into their new environment, our lifestyle and habits shape around the new circumstances and then our happiness level returns to the same set point as before.

And now we are back to the cycle of seeking greater happiness again because, what we have now doesn’t make us as happy as how we think it would, and then we are not satisfied with what we have.

I think the key point here is that, we keep trying to find what will make us happier, and we don’t spend enough effort to hang on to the happiness that we already have.

The biggest lie we can tell ourselves start with,
I will be happy if _________________.

I think what the author wants us to understand is that,
if you’re not happy today, then you won’t be happy tomorrow, because happiness is not out there for us to find. Happiness is inside us.

My copy is more than 10 years old. I bought her a new one and I hope it helps her find happiness as much as it helped me.

Dyson Pure Cool Link TP03

I was looking around for air purifiers to use in my room. After reading reviews online, I decided that Novita and Xiaomi are the best wallet-friendly brands for the budget-conscious. You can get a really good one for just $100 to $200. However after heading down to Courts and Best Denki, and surveying the various units available, I realized that they might not be too ideal due to their bulky nature. Their box-shaped body takes up too much space and my room isn’t that big to begin with.

I have walked past the Dyson booth many times but it has never crossed my mind to even consider such luxury product. I personally feel that their vacuum cleaners and hairdryers are overpriced even though some of my friends swear by the brand.

All of that changed when I did a simple search on Carousell and saw multiple accounts trying to sell their brand new, sealed units of Dyson TP03 purifying fan. Apparently there was a Robinsons promo/sale last week and many of them got it for free after spending more than $1500 at the departmental store.

You know when too many people want to sell something that isn’t in demand, you can try to find a desperate seller and use some persuasion skills. I managed to convince a seller to deal with me for $380 and therefore I headed down to his place to collect it. True enough, it was still sealed like it just came out of the store.

I compared the TP03 to other air purifying fans and a lot of reviewers commented that the TP03 fan power is really weak and it gets noisy when switched on at higher speeds. To be fair to the reviewers, the fan noise is indeed really loud if you were to blast it at the maximum speed of 10. I use it at around speeds 6 to 7 and there is a little bit of noise but it is at a very bearable level. Normal fans also have sound when oscillating so it is impossible to expect the Dyson to be silent.

It comes only in one color so not much of a choice there, but what I love about it is that aesthetically it looks more appealing and also more compact. The TP03 comes with a built-in wifi feature so if you connect it with your smart phone application, you don’t really need the remote control anymore. On top of that, it shows you the current air condition, temperature and humidity levels in your room.

When I first started using it, it showed my room’s air as “fair” with a yellow background. It switched to “good” with the green background after about 30 to 40 minutes of usage. I am not sure if that’s because of the air purifier doing its job or is it just a gimmick, but having paid only $380, I don’t have much to complain about.

CTDI Singapore

I was told by Google online support that my phone was still under warranty, and no appointments were required, so today I made a trip all the way down to Kallang Avenue. I walked into CTDI, located on the third floor of the Aperia Mall.

The lady at the reception counter ran some online checks and asked me for my original proof of purchase. I told her that I have deleted the original email that Google has sent me, but I still kept a screenshot, to which she actually gladly accepted. What happened next wasn’t that pleasant though, she told me that the warranty for Pixel 3 is only for 12 months so that would mean that my warranty has already expired.

I explained to her that Google online support has assured me that my phone was still under warranty, otherwise I would have looked for more convenient options than to come all the way down. She insisted that my phone’s warranty has already expired and hence for them to fix my faulty power button, it would cost at least $300 for original parts and replacement.

It didn’t make any sense to me so I walked out of the repair centre, with my phone in the same condition that I brought it in.

I still love my phone a lot. The phone itself comes packed with features that are amazing, and the camera is still hella exceptional. I could probably continue using this phone for the next 1-2 years if both hardware and software work properly.

But, when it comes to product support and after-sales, I am sorry but Google falls incredibly short in this area.

18 Months With Pixel 3

It has been 18 months since I have made the switch from iPhone to Android, and Google has also released the Pixel 4 just a few months back. I was expecting the Pixel 4 to be a better version of the Pixel 3 but unfortunately I was left disappointed. There was no doubt that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way because Google didn’t do very well with the Pixel 4 sales.

My Pixel 3 is also starting to come up with several hardware issues, like a wonky power button. It seems to be a common issue as I searched for it online and there has been numerous reports. What happens is that the power button gets very sensitive, even a slight touch triggers it. I removed my case because of this because as the case wraps around the power button, it gets pressed for no reason at all.

Even so, sometimes I give the power button a slight push, maybe to take a screenshot, or when I really have to restart my phone, the power button still remains pressed even though I have already released it. I have had my phone in endless restart loops because the power button is stuck. I had to knock it really hard, like against the corner of my table, to get it back working again.

My phone is still under warranty so why don’t I just get it fixed, you might ask. Well, there is only one service centre in Singapore and reviews about them are quite mixed. Fellow Pixel users have highlighted that process to get your phones checked and repaired can take quite long even with minimal queue.

I tried contacting them once, hoping to resolve my power button issue, but they send me an email informing me to prepare my original proof of purchase. I bought this online from Google Store and I have deleted the email a long time back. I didn’t bother replying them but I would think that Google Store probably still have records of my purchase should I really need to retrieve it.

Other than that, the phone works fine. I am not a gamer so considering the small RAM, I really don’t know how fast can the phone go on a memory-consuming app. I hardly use the speakers but when I did, I was quite amazed that the front-facing speakers actually sounded great. The feature that I really love on the Pixel 3, that you probably can’t find on any other phone in the market right now, is the wide-angle front camera lens.

The latest iPhone 11 and Samsung S20 models do not come with it. Speaking of which, actually even the Pixel 4 does not have the wide-angle front camera lens. This is basically the only reason and also the best reason why I am sticking to my Pixel 3.

The Pixel 5 is expected to be announced later this year, and let’s wait to see what it will come with.