My Rambling Thoughts

Dedollarization is on the table

US/EU did 4 things to sanction Russia over the Ukraine invasion:

  • SWIFT ban
  • Freeze overseas currency reserves
  • Freeze overseas assets of Russian citizens
  • Force Swiss banks to disclose Russian bank accounts

As the next big target, China is obviously not seating still. It is actively promoting the use of Yuan for trading.

It is not a surprise that Russia is on board (they are forced to), but Saudi Arabia, Brazil and India are also on board this time round. India does not want to use Yuan, of course, but it wants De-Dollarization nonetheless. These countries are usually pro-USA.

The problem when you weaponize the Dollar is that people wonder when you will use it against them. In the past, the US has invaded countries that try to switch away (witness: Iraq, Libya).

Why do countries need to use US dollars at all? If Russia trades with China, why don't they use either Ruble or Yuan? There are two reasons. First, you may have something to buy, but you have nothing to sell. Let's say China received a bunch of Rubles for its goods, what can it buy in return? Second, if it cannot be spent now, will it keep its value in the long run? You don't have control over it.

So China will want Russia to pay in Yuan. Russia has to convert Ruble to Yuan first (i.e. pay market price). It prefers not to do this unless it does not have a choice (like now).

Unlike Ruble or Yuan where they are used primarily in one country, US Dollars are universally accepted. So you sold some goods to a country but have nothing to buy in return? No problem, just spend it in another country.

For a currency to be used as the trading currency, there must be a "loop" where the countries can trade self-sufficiently within themselves. The currency is just used for convenience. It is consumed, not stored.

The country whose currency becomes the reserve currency will get a 'free pass'. It can print as much as it wants and devalue the holdings of other countries. USA has been doing this for decades and other countries are tired of it. No one will trust another country, so the talk is about using a gold-backed currency. In the end, gold is the only thing that can be trusted — because no one has found how to make more of it.

China Yuan6.881.000
Russia Ruble81.6611.869
Saudi Riyal3.750.545
India Rupee81.9811.916
Brazil Real5.070.737

What is needed is a way for the currencies to be converted frictionlessly from one to another, and if they cannot be consumed immediately, stored in a "value-retaining" currency (i.e. backed by gold).

It is said that China is paying in Yuan to Saudi Arabia for its oil. Which is then used by Saudi Arabia to buy (Chinese) gold — paper gold — with it. It remains to be seen how liquid this is.

What's the dealer's margin?

I heard the article How Much Does The Government Make On Each BMW 7 Series Sold In Singapore? from Dollars and Sense. The focus is on how much the Government earns on each BMW 7 series car, but the article purposely avoids the other elephant in the room.


The car is sold at $636,888. The dealer's margin is $165,728, 26% of the car price.

If you want to own, you got to pay.

When you see a high-end car in Singapore, just remember that it is a 4-room HDB flat on wheels. $600k used to be able to get you a nicely-sized condo, but housing prices have gone up so much that you can only get a 4-room HDB flat...

Breaking point this year?

News: High rent, stiff competition: Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar stallholders struggling to turn a profit

Date: 6 Apr 2023. Source: CNA.

Stallholders said there are too many competing bazaars in other parts of Singapore this year.

Kebab seller Mr Hasan said on Wednesday (Apr 5) that he regrets taking up a stall at the Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar this year.

Pointing to the stalls next to his, the owner of Hasan Istanbul Kebab told CNA: “We’re all losing money. (We) cannot cover costs, cannot even cover rent.”

Over at the neighbouring stall selling Ramly burgers, a worker who declined to be named echoed that sentiment.

“We regret taking it this year,” he said. “It was okay in previous years.”

Mr Hasan is forking out about S$25,000 (US$18,860) in rent, while his neighbour is paying S$20,000.

Non-stop complaints from stallholders. :lol:

Bazaar is good business. No wonder everyone wants to organize one. But they still want to charge the old rate despite the increase in supply. Well, it's the "greater fool" theory. They managed to pass the cost to the stallholders, who now find it difficult to make back their money and cry foul.

These bazaars don't really offer anything special. You go to one, you have gone to them all. Heck, there is much duplication within one bazaar. Of the 150 food stalls, how many unique food choices are there?

Originally, the takeup rate was only 71% — 200 empty stalls! It was increased later to 95% for F&B and 80% for retail. Perhaps they were offered a better deal.

Also, 2 million visitors? Really? Just pluck a number from the sky and claim there is no problem. Very typical "everything-is-well" response. They didn't even stop to think if this number is plausible. 2 million over 20 days so far = 100k per day. Unlikely, I say.

In another article, the MP also said some stallholders told him they had turned in a profit after a week! Talk about hearing only the good things.

Are bazaar organizers just money grabbers?

I don't really pay much attention to bazaars, but in a bazaar held near my place last year, there were 3 Ramly stalls in a space of roughly 20 stalls. That's a lot, but I also thought it was normal.

This time, I paid attention to the bazaar held next to Woodlands MRT station. There are around 50 food stalls. To my surprise, there are almost no duplicates — even for drinks! There is only one Ramly burger stall and two kebab stalls. Quite a number are Taiwan-based food, so there is some cultural mismatch. But then there are only so many kinds of Malay food.

So, a bazaar can be well-planned. The Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar organizer is either too greedy, too ambitious or too optimistic.

Up and up, no end in sight


COE prices are high, but they are high because people are willing to pay.

There are 3 kind of buyers, I think:

  • People who can afford it
  • People who must have a car "at all cost"
  • People who can pass the cost along

People who can afford it. The cheapest car is around $150k, this works out to be $1.25k/month, or $42/day. This is downright affordable if you look at it this way. Even if you get a $300k car, it is only $2.5k/month. If you earn $15k/month — and this is a sizable group — what's $2.5k? Note that car expenses are not considered. They typically add another 50% to 100% to the monthly cost.

People who must have a car "at all cost". Everyone has their own reasons. They will only give up when they are priced out.

People who can pass the cost along. PHV, car rental companies. It is said they make up a large portion of cat A bidders. Cat D (motorbike) COE is also very high cos it can be monetized.

Car prices are high because the cost of using a car is low. ERP and parking are too cheap. $1 ERP is useless. Make it $3 at least. Hourly parking needs to be $4 instead of $1.20.

On a separate note, cars are at record low prices in China from heavy discounts to move sales.

Not yet past breaking point

News: Geylang Serai bazaar rental costs ‘within market rental rates’, say organisers

Date: 5 Apr 2023. Source: TNP.

Organisers of the Geylang Serai Ramadan bazaar said the rental costs of its stalls are within market rental rates, in a release late on Tuesday.

Organised jointly by S-Lite Event Support, TLK Trade Fair and Events, and Enniche Global Trading, Bazaar Raya Geylang Serai 2023 will end after 36 days on April 21, as compared to others that last between three and 30 days, the consortium said.

The release said that the organisers had announced on Jan 26 that the base rental for all stalls at the bazaar would be from $2,000 to $19,000. Retail stall rentals ranged from $2,000 to $12,000, while food stalls rentals ranged from $14,000 to $19,000, except Ramly burger and kebab stalls.

Those who wanted to sell Ramly burgers would have to pay a $4,000 premium on top of the $14,000 to $19,000 base rental, while stallholders selling kebabs were charged a base rental of $25,000. The organisers had deemed Ramly burgers and kebabs to be premium products, with 20 of the 150 food and beverage stalls selling such products.

This is not a new issue. Rental for a food stall was $17k in 2017, when it was just $10k in 2015. Now it is $19k + $4k (for Ramly burger) + additional for utilities.

$23k over 36 days = $639/day. A Ramly burger now costs $5 and they need to sell 128 to break even. On its own, it is doable, except there are some 15 Ramly burger stalls to compete for sales!

The rental will only go down if the hawkers make a big loss and decide not to rent next year. It is not happening yet, but there are signs consumers are finally balking at the high prices.

It will be interesting to see if there is a price war near the end of the bazaar when hawkers try to reduce their loss. If that happens, then we know it is finally peak-rental.

Rental prices are through the roof

News: 'Crazy' rental hikes for condo units drive some expats to rent HDB flats instead

Date: 4 Apr 2023. Source: Today.

Rental prices for private housing shot up at the fastest pace in 15 years last year

After being laid off from his job at a technology company here early this year, American expatriate Eddie Rivera was hit by a double whammy of income loss and skyrocketing housing rents.

The 38-year-old, who is living by himself, is paying S$6,500 a month to rent a two-bedroom condominium unit in Marina Bay.

But when his two-year lease ends in Jan 2024, Mr Rivera will have to pay S$9,500 a month — a 45 per cent increase from the current rate.

You know prices are crazy when even expatriates can't afford it. I think people are willing to spend 1/3 of their pay on rent and will bulk at 1/2 their pay.

Are there so many HDB units to rent out? HDB needs to investigate if these are legal. There is a housing crunch. They need to go after people who live in condo and rent out their HDB unit.

Quest for the perfect Arcee

SS86, Legends, Earthrise

Arcee used to be a holy grail. It was never released as in the original '86 toyline, although it was prototyped. The first mass-produced transformable Arcee was probably Valkyrie (mid 2010) by Impossible Toys followed by Delicate Warrior by iGear (late 2010). An official transformable G1 Arcee was finally released in 2014, the Thrilling 30 Arcee. TakaraTomy released it as LG-10 with more toon colors (shown above) in 2015.

(Thrilling 30 refers to the 30th anniversary. It will be Thrilling 40 next year.)

The next official Arcee was WfC: Earthrise (2020). It was re-released in the Kingdom line (2021). A new mold was created for SS86 line in 2022.

I got LG-10 a few years back, despite not collecting CHUG figures. It looked really G1! I overlooked the "birth-giving hips" cos it was the only game in town — I thought so then. I did not intend to collect any more CHUG figures.

I was very interested when ER Arcee was revealed. Wow, it looked even more G1! But something felt off and I did not get it. That "something off" was that she was a complete shellformer. Her car mode were a complete shell. None of it made up her bot mode.

Last year, someone compared LG-10, ER and SS86 Arcees in a forum post and only then did I realize there was a new Arcee. And it looked good! It improved upon the T30 mold. I decided to buy it, though it would be a few more months before I saw it in retail stores.

At the same time, I found there was an upgrade kit for ER Arcee. It was possible (though somewhat difficult) to remove her car shell and install a smaller screen-accurate backpack. I was sold. Just nice, I managed to find a customized ER Arcee with painted face for 20 yuan (S$4) more.

That's how I have 3 CHUG Arcees. Do I need all of them? No. I'm considering selling LG-10. It was the first G1 accurate Arcee, but it has been superceded by better figures and there are now many choices across different scales (Legend, CHUG, Masterpiece). As such, it is not worth much these days.

The picture that sold me Legacy Blitzwing

Blitzwing is a triple changer. Its two alt-modes are a Japanese Type 74 tank and a Soviet MiG-25 plane (though it may be hardpressed to recognize).

But here we see the two modes side-by-side from a single toy? :???:

This is Legacy Blitzwing, a Voyager size figure priced as Leader class.

Its tank mode is good (except for one thing) — the plane parts all fit inside the tank. But its plane mode is terrible. The tank parts just sit below the plane! It doubles the height of the plane and looks like a display stand. Someone found that it could be separated easily and hence the picture above. Notice the tank is hollow.

This means Legacy Blitzwing fails as a triple changer. But I like it! I like that the tank and plane modes can be displayed together. I must have gotten this from Arcee, where she is usually a shellformer and she can be displayed together with her car mode.

What is the one wrong thing with Legacy Blitzwing tank mode? The plane cockpit is protruding out too much. The animation model is wrong in the first place. The plane cockpit is supposed to be at the back of the tank, not the front. But that is water under the bridge.

Maybe because it is a terrible figure, it went on sale for almost 40% off and I got it for S$60.94. (The discount is not as fantastic as it seems, it is usually 20% off.)

Best of Transformers SS86 line

Jazz, Cyclonus, Hot Rod, Scourge

I decided to get some mainline Transformers figures on a whim. I would not have imagined doing so a few years back. They were too stylized and too "dumbed down". It changed with War for Cybertron: Earth Rise (2020). That was the start of G1 toon trend. Two figures caught my eyes: Smokescreen and Arcee. I kept them in my cart for a long time, but in the end I did not click the "Buy" button.

Fast forward to mid-2022. Studio Series 86 Arcee was revealed. It turned out that ER Arcee was widely derided for her "shellforming". SS86 Arcee was based on the Thrilling 30 Arcee from 2014 — a better figure by all accounts. I decided to get it and that opened the floodgate to a number of Arcees. This was a special case, though. I did not intend to get other CHUG figures.

The next figure to catch my eye (admittedly, I wasn't paying much attention) was Legacy Blitzwing, but that's a story for another time.

Looking back at 3 years of figures (since ER), quite a number of them were G1 looking, but most of them were too greebled or too hollowed-out (*) for my liking. Only a handful were decent, and most of them were from SS86 line.

(*) There is a cottage industry of third-party add-ons to fill in the gap — literally.

Figures that met my criteria (G1 toon look, well-done, iconic, discounted):

  • Kingdom Cyclonus (2021)
  • SS86 Hot Rod (2021)
  • SS86 Jazz (2021)
  • SS86 Sweep (2022)

The first figure I got was Scourge. Only, I got Sweep instead as it was heavily discounted (S$43.95) and I actually like the lighter blue more.

I got Kingdom Cyclonus next. It was an opportunistic buy as I found him for cheap (S$40). He looks like he belongs in the SS86 line due to his clean look (i.e. non-greebled). Unfortunately, he has a yellowing problem. Some/many batches were known to yellow, including mine — I got a pre-yellowed figure because I failed to check carefully.

An unintended buy was Jazz. He looks just the part — and this is without license! Most importantly, he was available at a decent price (139 yuan; S$27 excluding shipping).

Rounding up was Hot Rod. He is truly a "mini-Masterpiece". He is Deluxe size, but priced as Voyager. This is an increasingly common trend — intricate figures are priced one level up. I got him for S$42, but had I shopped more smartly, I could have gotten him for S$28+ (if meet $100 total) during Hasbro's Lazada 3.3 sale! I was wondering how sellers could price him at S$40+ (MSRP S$62.90). Now I know.

I would like to get Blurr too, but SS86 Blurr is one ugly dude!

Will I get more CHUG figures in the future? With the precedent set, yes, but they have to be "flawless" — and heavily discounted! I don't expect to buy many. :lol:

The SS86 line has Dinobots. They are pretty well-done, but not to my liking as they are quite greebled. There is recurring speculation that their S1 arch-enemy Constructicons will be released too. Perhaps in 2024 or 2026? (40th anniversary of TV and the movie.)

I hope the Constructicons are Voyager size, non-greebled and non-hollowed. Come to think of it, it is almost 10 years since Combiner Wars Devastator (2015, re-issued in 2021).

Masterpiece purge 2023

Continuing my purge of unwanted figures.

Round 5:

  • MP-5 Megatron
  • BadCube Insecticons
  • MakeToys MTRM-11 Meteor (Starscream)
  • MMC PS-01A Sphinx (Mirage)
  • MMC PS-12 Saltus (Springer)

I used to want multiple sets of Insecticons, just like Reflector, for "army-building". Now, for Masterpiece, just the FansToys one will do.

For Starscream, I have DS-01 (Crimson Wings). It is as toon as it can be — it is even better than MP-52.

For Mirage, I have TE-03 (Speedstar) and FT-49 (Phantasm). Soon after I got PS-01A, TE-03 was announced. If I had known, I would have skipped it.

For Springer, I have MX-10 (Virtus) and RH-02 (Airwolf). These two were not released when I got PS-12. Otherwise, I would have skipped it.

3P figures are hard to move. There is little interest in them.

Round 6:

  • MP-12 Sideswipe [sold]
  • MP-19 Smokescreen
  • MP-25 Tracks
  • UW-04 Devastator

I'll keep the rest of my carbots (MP-17 Prowl, MP-20 Wheeljack, MP-28 Hot Rod and MP-39 Sunstreaker) for now. Not that sure about Hot Rod, though, with his massive backpack. :lol:

I decided to get rid of UW-04 Devastator too. It is hard to say if it can be sold, since I'm asking a rather high price together with the DK-01 upgrade kit (it has long been sold out and can command a good price).

Masterpiece purge 2022

Note: this entry was written in Aug 2022.

Round 1:

  • MP-10 (Optimus Prime v2)
  • MP-11 (Starscream v1.5)
  • MP-22 (Ultra Magnus)
  • MP-36 (Megatron)

I have THF-04, which is KO of MP-22, and IT-01, KO of MP-36, so in a way I still have them. If there are better figures in the future, I will get rid of them too.

Round 2:

  • MP-13 (Soundwave and Laserbeak)
  • MP-15 (Ravage and Rumble)
  • MP-16 (Buzzsaw and Frenzy)

The ironic part is that I waited a long time for a reissue of MP-11 and MP-13, and now I get rid of them because they are not "toon enough". At that time, I thought they were the best possible representation. That was before the rise of "Third-Party" makers and the switch to toon aesthetics.

I still want Laserbeak. The cheapest way to get it is a 6-tape KO set (~$26).

Round 3:

  • MP-18 (Bluestreak)
  • MP-21 (Bumblebee)
  • MP-28 (Ironhide)

Round 4:

  • MP-3 (Starscream)

I sold MP-3 at a rock bottom price ($35). It was pretty dusty and had some discolouration after being on display for 15+ years. I also didn't have the box/instructions with me. I'm surprised there were takers, quite a few, in fact.

I'm thinking of selling MP-5 (Megatron) too. Of the "first gen" MPs, I will keep only MP-1 (Optimus Prime) and MP-8 (Grimlock).

Masterpiece purge 2021

Note: this entry was written in Nov 2021.

I got rid of MP-10 (Optimus Prime v2), MP-11 (Starscream v1.5), MP-22 (Ultra Magnus) and MP-36 (Megatron) earlier this year, some sold at a substantial loss.

The purge continues.

FansToys has just released RP-01 Acoustic Wave under a new label Robot Paradise.

It comes with one tape, Rumble. Well, the red one. Depends who you ask, some say Frenzy is the red one.

Three other tapes, Frenzy, Laserbeak and Ravage, will be released as RP-01B. Buzzsaw (the orange recolor of Laserbeak) is missing.

I'm considering whether to get rid of MP-13 (Soundwave), together with the tape decks MP-15 (Ravage and Rumble) and MP-16 (Buzzsaw and Frenzy).

The ironic part is that I waited a long time to get the reissue, and now I want to get rid of them because they are not "toon enough".

Like the MPs I sold earlier, MP-13 and the tapes are not worth much due to direct KO (Knock Off).

More purges

I'm thinking about getting rid of MakeToys MTRM-11 Meteor too. Deformation Space DS-01 Crimson Wings just blows it out of the water.

MTRM-11 was my first Third-Party Transformers toy. It was the most "toon" 3P toy at that time (2017). How things have changed.

Should I get rid of BadCube's Insecticons? I just got the reissue set this year! I got the FansToys reissue set as well and am wondering if I need both sets.

BadCube set of 3: 790 yuan (S$167). FansToys set: 1,700 yuan (S$360).

Coffee price index

At a coffeeshop near me:


I can't remember the prices prior.

There's a NTUC Foodfare within walking distance (~100m?) that is maintaining their coffee price at $1, though they have been forced to increase their beehoon price from $1 to $1.20 this year.

$1.30 vs $1. To walk or not to walk?

I remember coffee used to cost $0.60 in the mid-90s. That's 25 years ago.

I've also switched partially to instant coffee. It costs ~$0.50 per pack.

Related to it is the "Waffles price index":


Previously, it was $1. Yes, it increased price twice in 2022.

I used to buy bread from this bakery where they offer $1 per bread after 5pm (normal price is $1.50). That was two years ago. Then it became $1.10 per bread. Last year, it became 3 breads for $4 ($1.33/bread). The crowd disappeared. At this price, people start to look for alternatives.

Unfair queuing

At around 9:30am, I started to wait for my turn to do eye check on Level 3, room 67. There was one person in front of me and she entered the room soon. I was the only person waiting.

At around 9:50am, another patient arrived and mentioned to the nurse she was sent here. The nurse entered the room to check and told her she was next.

At this point, my eyebrows was raised. Did she just preempt me? Surely she wasn't in the queue 20 minutes ago. (*)

After the current patient left (around 10am), she was next. Next, 2 more patients came and waited with me.

At about 10:25am, someone came by and asked a different nurse about his turn. The nurse entered the room and checked. Just nice, the patient was done, so the nurse told the new guy he was next.

Did he just preempt 3 people in front of him? That was when I had to ask the nurse for an explanation. Her explanation that the guy had been here since 8am did not excuse him from cutting queue at this station. I had been waiting since 9:30am and when it was eventually my turn, it was 11am. That's 1.5 hours for a single station!

When I brought this up to the Doctor later, he seeked my understanding for the slowness. That's not what I'm upset about. I'm upset about the blatant queue cutting.

(*) My first mistake was not speaking up at this point. My second mistake was not confirming my queue position.

It is not the first time I've encountered this, but it is too blatant this time. They just shuffled the order and didn't expect you to notice? Not this time.

The poor optometrist is going to get "scolded", because when 'confronted' in front of the Doctor, the nurse said the order must be confirmed with the doctor-in-charge. The nurse will give 101 reasons to change the order and the optometrist is just going to agree with her.

TaoBao spending 2022

YearTransformersQtyTransformers (Legends)QtyBricksToysAstroOthersShipping

Updated with some corrections. I split Transformers into non-Legends and Legends figures. I count figures, but not upgrade kits.

Spending was reduced slightly in 2022 because there were fewer Transformers releases. I expect 2023 to be a bumper year.

Despite wanting to wind down collecting MP figures, I still bought quite many of them in 2022. I expect it to be the same for 2023 (fulfilling prior pre-orders), but the number should come down in 2024 (higher threshold for new purchases).

I spent more than expected on Bricks and Astro stuff. My target is 0 this year. :-D