My Rambling Thoughts

Transformers buying roadmap

My collection has shifted from Masterpiece to Legends. I'm not abandoning Masterpiece entirely, but I will be much more selective.

I still plan to get these:

  • FT-21 Berserk (Blitzwing)
  • FT-30D Viper (Fireflight)
  • FT-30E Jester (Slingshot) + combiner parts (Superion)
  • FT-31E Bandit (Deadend) + combiner parts (Menasor)
  • FT-61 Inquisitor (Scourge)
  • FT-62 (Chromedome)
  • XTB Constructicons (1/5 completed)

I plan to complete FansToys Aerialbots. It'll be my one and only Superion unless there is a much better one — which I doubt will happen.

I'm not that interested to complete FansToys Stunticons. I already have DX9 Menasor — one is enough. It may seem like a waste with 4/5 completed, but that 1/5 costs ~S$350.

I may not continue with XTB Protectobots — it is 2/5 completed. XTB took their own sweet time that I'm not really interested anymore.

I don't plan to get FansToys Constructicons (much less MMC) — hey it is Devastator Wars again. There was a time I couldn't imagine not getting a FansToys figure if it existed. Times have changed.

Will I buy Masterpiece Combaticons? Let's see.

Buying FT-62 implies I'm interested in the other 3 Autobot Headmasters. I doubt I'll be interested in Autobot Targetmasters, though.

FansToys showed off their Ultra Magnus. I'm not certain if I will get it. Their UM is a white "Optimus Prime" wearing armour, so it implies they will do OP too. Will I get it? I'm not sure — I already have 4 Optimus Prime!

I'm also getting more selective with Legends figures. I'll skip them if they are not up to expectations. No placeholders! :lol:

Some recent examples:

  • NewAge H55 Hughes (Powerglide)
  • Dr Wu MS-36 Sand Leopard (Sandstorm)
  • XTB-mini Fuzz (Streetwise)
  • DX9-mini Vasili (Doubledealer)
  • DX9-mini Murphy (Chromedome)

NewAge Powerglide was too panel-ly.

Dr Wu Sandstorm had a disappointing buggy mode and was a little too short. Dr Wu is coming out with Broadside, another long-wished-for Autobot triple changer. Let's hope it is better.

XTB is releasing Protectobots in Legends size — even though they have not finished it in Masterpiece scale. I'll take a wait-and-see approach and see what Magic Square and NewAge come up with first. I don't intend to get more than one set.

DX9 is coming back! Their first release was Doubledealer. I skipped it because it was post-S3 and most post-S3 designs don't appeal to me.

Their second release Chromedome is decent in bot mode, but the car mode is terrible. I still prefer the age-old MFT Chromedome. There is also a preview image of Brainstorm in plane mode and it looks very stylized. This implies I will skip the entire series. Sorry, DX9!

I'll skip KOs, especially OSKO (Oversized Knockoff). I somewhat regretted getting the OSKO of MST Stunticons, especially at its initial price of 75% the MST set. It later dropped to 50%!

The KOs are cheap (if 50% of the original figure), but their quality is one notch down and their size don't fit in my collection. They are fine as one-off figures.

Masterpiece purge 2024

I managed to sell all the Transformers figures I put up except for two:

  • MakeToys MTRM-11 Meteor (Starscream)
  • MMC PS-01A Sphinx (Mirage)

Selling on Carousell is like fishing. You got to wait for an interested party to come along. Selling cheaply does not help much, unless we are talking about 75% off — everyone loves a deal.

I've re-listed them at rock bottom prices (they were already the lowest in the market). Let's see if they sell this time.

I sold off LG-10 too — I don't need so many Arcee.

I've put these up for sale:

  • MP-28 Hot Rod
  • MP-30 Ratchet
  • DX9 WiP Dinobots set

XTB has announced their version of Ironhide. I may get that. For Ratchet, I may wait for FansToys.

When I got the DX9 Dinobots in 2019, they were "good enough". I thought I would keep them even after MS or NA released their versions. However, the engineering has improved by so much! The DX9 versions look so dated now.

The elephant in the EV

There are three selling points of EVs. First, they are green. No tailpipe emission, so no pollution!

But that's just one side of it. It turns out it is extremely polluting and hazardous to mine the materials that make up the battery. But that's someone else's problem.

However, even without tailpipe emission, EVs are heavier, so they wear out tyres and road faster.

The second plus point of EV is their simplicity. This is from the point of the manufacturer. No engine, no gearbox, no messy oils and fuels. They just need a motor, a charger and of course a super big battery.

The third plus point is low cost per km! Generally, it costs 25% (per km) if you charge at home, 50% if you use a commerical charger, compared to petrol. But this advantage is negated in Singapore due to the high EV road tax — to make up for the loss of petrol duties.

The cons of EV all come from battery limitation: big, heavy, range, charging.

First, there are just not enough charging points. There will never be enough. If you have a dedicated charger (i.e. landed property), it works great for daily commute. Shared charging? Not so much — you got to move the car after charging.

Second, it takes too long to charge. A super fast charger can charge to 80% in 20 minutes, and that gives you around 300 km. It takes 5 minutes to refuel an ICE car and that gives you 600+ km.

Waiting while charging is one thing. As the EV population grows, waiting to charge will become common. You have to be in the car and cannot go elsewhere.

One thing that is coming up is of course battery lifespan. All batteries degrade. The usual claim is 80% capacity after 10 years. It sounds pretty good, until you realize it does not start at 100% — it starts at 110% or 120%. Yes, manufacturers over-provision. After 10 years, there is no more buffer and battery capacity will seem to drop very fast.

As a result, an old EV (above 5 years) has little second-hand value as the battery needs to be replaced and it is a huge expense (> $10k).

The biggest problem with batteries, specifically lithium batteries: fire.

Lithium battery fire is impossible to put out.

Lithium batteries are susceptible to fire at two times: charging and puncture. It is rare, though never say never, for a battery to ignite on its own.

So there are 3 things to look out for:

  • Don't park near an EV
  • Don't park near an EV charger
  • Accidents may puncture the battery

Even if the battery is not punctured, its structure may be compromised and needs to be changed.

Finally, for EV, it is crucial to learn how to open the car door mechanically — in case power is lost. If not, and a fire breaks out...

A warning for all directors

Goh Jin Hian has been found liable for US$146 million (S$196 million) in losses as director of now-insolvent marine fuel supplying company Inter-Pacific Petroleum (IPP).

Mr Goh JH is the son of ex-PM, Mr GCT.

Generally, directors are not liable for their company losses, but not when they breach their directors' duty.

What happened?

In June - July 2019, IPP drew on its US$156mil trade financing. However, at this time, it was already "insolvent". The claim was that as its Director, Mr Goh should know its financial situation and stop the transaction.

They had to mention two points:

  • Mr Goh showed a lack of knowledge about the business
  • He held 36 concurrent directorships during that time

Why was Mr Goh sued alone? Was he the only director? Did he "sign off" the loan?

Moral of the story: you can be a sleeping director until the company wants to take on more loan!

Crystal gold taels

I saw crystal golden taels for sale at a CNY bazzar. They looked like suitable gifts for my son's class, since I forgot to prepare presents for his birthday.

The problem was, he has 40 classmates, so costs quickly add up.

TaoBao to the rescue!

These taels vary from 1 cm to 12 cm in length. The smallest ones (1 - 2 cm) are normally sold in bulk (say, 100) and are used to fill up crystal treasure bowls for Feng Shui.

If you want a standalone tael, it needs to be at least 4 cm. Too big is also unwieldy, so a good size is 4 - 9 cm.

A quick search shows that they are sold in lots of 10 up to 6 cm only. Bigger ones are sold individually. A single 6 cm tael costs 3.5 yuan (cheapest one that I found), but a lot-of-10 costs 28 yuan.

3 cm7g0.6 yuan (**)
4 cm22g1.2 yuan (*)
5 cm34g1.8 yuan (*)
6 cm63g2.8 yuan (*)
7 cm92g5.5 yuan
8 cm154g8.5 yuan
9 cm205g12.5 yuan
10 cm292g17 yuan
11 cm402g20 yuan
12 cm537g23 yuan

(*) In lot-of-10. (**) In lot-of-50.

There is a sharp jump from 6 cm to 7 cm. It is partially because they are no longer sold in lot-of-10.

Their weight add up quickly — shipping doubled the price. In the end, each 5 cm tael (x40) costs me ~$0.65 and 6 cm tael (x10) ~S$0.85. If I had time, I could have shipped by sea and saved 2/3 on shipping — each 5 cm tael would cost ~$0.50.

Get A Clue books was where I found The Adventures of the Black Hand Gang.

Interestingly, the second entry, Get A Clue, is a series of books written by Julian Press — son of Hans Jurgen Press (author of the above book). Only four books were translated into English.

They were published in 2008 and were long out of print. I managed to find two "new" ones on Amazon and one "very good" one on Amazon UK at sane prices (i.e. ~S$15 each before shipping).

(For the Amazon ones, I should have shipped them to ezbuy warehouse. Shipping doubled the price of the books.)

I didn't manage to get the second book, Operation Golden Scepter. It is available on Amazon, but it is either too ex (> US$100!) or the condition states "Pages can have notes/highlighting".

A long lost book

The Adventures of the Black Hand Gang

How do you find a book you don't know the title of and you don't remember anything about it other than a few illustrations inside?

It's impossible, that's what.

My brother borrowed this book from the library and we liked it very much. This is a "find-the-clue" style book. There is text on one page and an illustration on the other page. The text will ask you to find a clue in the illustration.

The problem with the library book was that someone already marked the clues. I vaguely recall I skipped much of the book to avoid knowing the answers. This book can only be attempted once. Once you know, you know.

I was planning to find a pristine version of the book in the future, I guess? But I quickly forgot the name of the book. :lol:

For a long time I thought I would never be able to find the book.

It turned out I was not the only one looking for "long lost" books. Many people are searching for books they read when they were young, and others offered suggestions. After a few false leads, one of them matched.

The key thing was that most of the books people were looking for were from the 90s (these young punks...). This book is from the 80s at the least. It turns out this book (the English edition) is from 1977.

I managed to buy one in "good condition" from Amazon UK for 28 pounds (~S$49) including shipping. (From experience, 'good condition' for used items on Amazon means acceptable.)

Is the book worth $49? No really. But for nostalgia, yes. It has been a long 40 years... this book is back in my hands once more.

I finished the book in less than an hour. There are 60 puzzles spread over 4 stories. Some are disappointingly obvious, but some are "challenging". I put it in quotes because this book is meant for 8 to 12 years old. Adults will have no problem solving the puzzles — just think logically and take your time. As I went through the puzzles, long lost memories surfaced in me. The puzzles felt familiar. I had gone through the entire book before!

One downside of the book is that if you are stuck, you cannot proceed. The reason is that the answer is written on the next page.

The SimplyGo..stan fiasco

It was so ingrained in me that the Ez-Link card readers do fare deduction that it did not dawn to me that it simply do not work that way for SimplyGo.

SimplyGo simplifies the card readers. They just send the card id and tap location to the backend server. The backend server does all the calculations.

This vastly simplifies deployment, because now you don't need to download the latest fares and logic into all the units — which can take days to roll out.

The problem is that the reader is now unable to show both the fare and remaining amount, because it does not know the fare, nor is the remaining amount on the card!

After a huge public backslash, LTA backtracked and will allow ez-link cards to be used. I believe they are looking for a solution that can show the fare and remaining amount, i.e. match existing functionality.

Of course, they must mention that it costs $40 million to maintain the old systems and is our fault for not embracing new technology.

So, is it possible to display the fare "instantly"?

It changes the game totally. Right now, the taps are sent asynchronously, probably in batches. This can be seen by the fact that it takes a few minutes to update in the app. That is when the server receives the info and processes it.

During peak hours, the server can take 10+ minutes to process. It is not a problem.

To change from an asynchronus batch-mode operation to a synchronus real-time operation? (Real-time as in end-to-end processing must finish in 0.5s or faster.)

It changes the game totally.

A batch-mode server can clear, say, 1k transactions per second. Even if there's a rush of 10k/s for 10 seconds, it'll eventually clear them. For a real-time server, it must handle the peak with some spare capacity, so perhaps 20k transactions per second. The hardware and infrastructure needed is entirely in another league.

I don't think it can be solved with reasonable cost.

One mitigation is to install displays that show the card value as well as the trip history.

Update: someone wrote in the press to ask why he was able to tap out with a different SimplyGo card and that he was charged max fare twice — one for the card he used to tap in and the other for the card he used to tap out.

This shows that there is no local processing for SimplyGo at all. It just captures the card info. All processing is done at the backend. It cannot even tell if the card has been tapped in.