Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Earthquake and Stratus clouds

If you look at the clouds in the sky, you should realised that the clouds are at very low altitude.  Those are Stratus clouds.
A colossal swathe of numbing Arctic air is expect to sweep across the northern hemisphere from April 23 to June 23 under the influence of Mercury and Venus.

Arctic air is uncommon during the summer, but when it does occur it may bring heavy showers or thunderstorms and unseasonably low temperatures. This cold front caused the formation of Stratus clouds.
Stratus mostly develop under the influence of wind streams where moisture condenses in the lower layers of the atmosphere. Wind changes during the summer months often lead to the development of stratus as the wind evaporates moisture from the ocean and condensing as turbulence mixes the surface air with the cooler air above. In these conditions, stratus develop in patches and gradually may become widespread forming into stratocumulus.
Stratus clouds may form only a few hundred feet above the ground. Over hills and mountains they can reach ground level when they may be termed fog. Conversely, fog that "lifts" off the ground forms a layer of low stratus clouds.

Stratus clouds can form when very weak, upward vertical air currents lift a thin layer of air high enough to initiate condensation of the excess water vapour, if air temperature falls below the dew point.

 Precipitation rarely falls from true stratus clouds since the upward vertical motion needed for precipitation is very weak, but light mist and drizzle can sometimes accompany stratus clouds. When heavier rain falls from them, they are called nimbostratus clouds.
Being closest to the ground, stratus clouds normally move fairly rapidly in the direction of the wind depending of course on the wind speed. In stronger wind conditions, stratus develops in patches, similar in appearance to stratocumulus. Both the direction and appearance of stratus can change rapidly with changing weather conditions. It can clear and redevelop several times during certain conditions usually appearing when rain approaches, and clearing as the rain clears. Being the lowest cloud layer, it obscures at least partially the view of stratocumulus or other types of clouds above.
Normally at high altitude, the temperature is low.

Clouds are made when air is cooled to a temperature where water in the air becomes visible. This temperature is called the dew point. When you see stratus clouds, it mean that the temperature of the dew point is at lower altitude.

As the atmospheric temperature decreases, atmospheric pressure decreases too. This always happened in the year of Dragon or Dog. This become worst when Venus rules the sky. This year according to ancient ephemeris calendar is the year of Golden  Dragon, the year when Venus rules the sky.

When the atmospheric pressure decreases, the likelihood of the formation of cyclones increases. It also increases the likelihood of earthquake.

In meteorology, a cyclone is an area of closed, circular fluid motion rotating in the same direction as the Earth. This is usually characterized by inward spiraling winds that rotate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere of the Earth.

Before earthquake occur, there is always a stratus cloud similar in appearance to stratocumulu.
The sea surface temperature should be anomaly high too.

Lower atmospheric pressure will produce a higher surge of tides. Higher sea surface temperatures are expected to raise sea levels at an accelerating rate, further contribute to higher surge of tides.
 These warm waters are needed to maintain the warm core that fuels tropical systems.
The tides can cause a very strong whirlpool and turbulence to shake the earth.
If I am not mistaken, it is the failure to release the energy in the form of cyclone to the atmosphere that caused the earthquake.

This is the ancient explanation of Earthquake by Buddha. I am probably the only living modern human being on planet Earth inherited this ancient knowledge of meteorology and astrology.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


      元旦节         丙子月甲戌
        小寒          丙子月戊寅
     丙子月丁亥  氐土貉
         大寒         丙子月癸巳
  世界麻风日  丁丑戊戌
        腊八节      丁丑庚子

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Rapid loss of agricultural land to housing raises alarm in Penang

Scarcity of land has always been an issue to Penangites, but the rapid conversion of agricultural land for housing of late has added to the concerns.
Many people are alarmed that the rich agricultural belt of Seberang Perai Selatan is being defaced in the name of housing development.
In recent months, the local media seems to have awakened from its long slumber to alert Penangites to the rapidly disappearing farmlands, no doubt caused by developers.
Indeed if the current trends continue, by 2020, Sebarang Perai Selatan alone will have lost essentially all its prime farmland to development.
Such wasteful patterns of land use are attributed to bureaucratic inefficiency, but in reality they reflect the intense pressures applied on local councils by developers and the state government.
These parties are out to obtain what they regard as prime sites for their development projects, regardless of how unsuitable these sites might be in the context of a sensible policy for preserving as much agricultural land as possible for feeding people.
In the last three years, land has been alienated for housing development at a phenomenal rate, aided partly by the fact that land is more valuable for housing than for agriculture.
On Aug 23, 2011, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng announced that Penang Development Corporation (PDC )has allocated a 200-acre site in Batu Kawan for a mega housing project.
It entails the building of at least 7,300 affordable housing units over a period of five to seven years at a density of 55 units per acre.
On Oct 10, 2012, Silver Setup Sdn Bhd entered into a joint development agreement with Batu Kawan Development for the proposed development of a piece of land in Batu Kawan, Mukim 13.
The project is expected to comprise mixed commercial and residential development with a gross development value estimated at RM3.8 billion.
On Oct 12, 2013, PDC signed a purchase and development agreement for the construction of a retail outlet on a 16ha plot in Bandar Cassia, Batu Kawan.
On Jan 10, 2014, Lim announced IKEA's entry into Batu Kawan with the sale of 245 acres of land for the purpose of development of an integrated shopping mall.
In 2013, Mah Sing Group bought about 76.38 acres of freehold land in Jawi for RM42.59 million. Tambun Indah was reported to have bought a total of 45.1 acres at Pearl City of Bandar Tasik Mutiara. IJM Land also bought 70 acres of land in Jawi. Ecoworld also bought about 60 acres of land at Simpang Ampat.
More land is lost in such areas due to farmers “reclassifying” their holdings in order to get them approved as development sites.
If successful, such a move can earn a farmer more in a single transaction than he could ever hope to earn in a lifetime of farming.
This craze in land acquisition is raising fears of speculative residential projects that will add to Penang's 82,620 units of overhang properties.
The Housing and Population Census showed that in 2010 there were 385,658 households and 468,278 housing units in Penang. Obviously there were 21.4% more housing units than there were households.
It is noted that Penang is heading towards an oversupply of residential properties, especially high-end properties which are beyond the affordability level of the middle-income group.
More importantly, by pursuing grossly irresponsible housing policies like there is no tomorrow, the state government is inflating dangerous property bubbles. 
Quite apart from paving over agricultural land, the wanton housing development also leads to a loss of constant streams of revenues from agricultural commodities and jobs.
How long that shrinkage of Penang’s agricultural base can continue before its food producing capacity is reduced to zero is hard to tell, but it cannot be for many decades more.
Commonsense dictates that given Penang’s size, population density, commitment to sustain a reasonable agricultural base, and other considerations to maximise return of scarce land resource, any approval to cut up prime agricultural land should be deliberated on with the utmost care.
Unfortunately, the state government has failed to provide and maintain policy, legal and organisational frameworks that promote responsible governance of tenure of land, particularly agricultural lands.
Responsible governance of tenure promotes sustainable social and economic development that can help eradicate poverty and food insecurity, and encourage responsible investment.
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Monday, September 15, 2014

Affordability an issue in Teluk Kumbar's affordable housing scheme

Under the Pakatan Rakyat state government, house prices in Penang have not only been rising in the past six years but houses have also become more expensive than ever.
Affordable housing means that people, including those with low incomes, can purchase basic home and pay for the loan, personal commitments and save comfortably without budget strain.
This generally means spending less than 25% of household budgets on housing and less than 45% on transport and housing combined.
Did Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng understand the notion of housing affordability when his administration rolled out the affordable housing scheme in Teluk Kumbar in 2013?
The Teluk Kumbar project consists of 348 units each of low-medium-cost and medium-cost houses, priced between RM72,000 and RM400,000 each.
The state government has also implemented a policy whereby the purchase of the affordable home is subject to the income eligibility level.
Under the policy, the income eligibility level for a RM200,000 home is not more than RM6,000 a month, for a RM300,000 home it is not more than RM8,000 a month, while for a RM400,000 home it is not more than RM10,000 a month.
Let’s take a detailed look at the expenditures of each household income group and identify the affordability index. The following scenarios depict situations faced by a household of four living in Penang.
Table 1. Monthly expenditure of high income group
Table 1. Monthly expenditure of high income group
This affordable housing scheme as you can see is totally unaffordable to household of any income group.
What about the low-medium-cost units?
Anyone with a basic household income not exceeding RM3,500 monthly is eligible to apply for the low-medium-cost units while those with income exceeding RM3,501 are eligible to apply for the medium-cost units.
The mean household income for Penang was recorded at 4,407 per month in 2009.
The housing and transport affordable index for average Penangites is 60.02% for the purchase of a RM200,000 medium-cost units which means the housing is not not affordable to majority of Penangites.
Table 2. Monthly expenditure of average Penangites
Table 2. Monthly expenditure of average Penangites
For those with monthly income not exceeding RM3,500, the low-medium-cost units of RM75,000 are only affordable to those with income of more than RM2,300.
With the low-medium-cost units costing RM75,000, those with monthly take home pay of less than RM2,300 are condemned to hell by the state government.
The state government should realise that transportation is the second largest expense for families, yet few of our policymakers consider these costs when planning a housing scheme.
The Teluk Kumbar housing scheme is sited in a place that requires automobiles for most trips.
The housing scheme ignores the need to travel; it ignores the cost of transportation; it ignores the need to provide alternative transportation options for the people.
When transportation costs are added to the housing affordability equation, the housing scheme becomes totally unaffordable.
How can Penang become liveable when the Lim Guan Eng administration fails to address the housing affordability issues with better transportation options to help reduce our monthly expenditures?
Table 3. Housing affordability of low income group
Table 3. Housing affordability of low income group
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Don’t be fooled – an RFP is not open tender

Don’t be fooled – an RFP is not open tender

Politicians and government officials are fond of using the term “open tender” to lend an air of transparency to their awarding of contracts. But do all so-called open tender projects satisfy the strict definition of an open tender?  
Let’s take a look at the controversial RM6.3 billion roads and tunnel project in Penang. Since March 2008, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng has been bragging about his implementation of open tender in Penang. What Lim has implemented so far is only a request for proposal (RFP).
What's the difference? An RFP is an invitation to enter into negotiations. When the successful party is chosen, it has been granted the opportunity to negotiate with the owner/developer for the work, but it has not yet been awarded the contract.
In contrast, a call for tenders is a more formal, detailed process that gives the bidders the assurance that if they put forward the best bid, judged according to the criteria set out in the tender, they must, in accordance with the law, be awarded the job.
On Jan 27, 2013, Lim unveiled the RM6.3 billion roads and tunnel project. The project comprises a 4.2km bypass from Gurney Drive to Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu, a 4.6km bypass between Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu and Bandar Baru Air Itam, a 12km paired-road from Jalan Tanjung Bungah to Teluk Bahang, and the 6.5km Penang-Butterworth sea tunnel.
Lim claimed that it was a call for tender.
It was reported in the press that China Railway Construction Ltd (CRCL) had initially tied up with IJM Corporation Bhd to bid for the tender but only proposed to build the 4.2km between Gurney Drive and Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu coastal bypass.
VST Cemerlang, on the other hand, together with China State Corporation submitted its proposal to build all four projects. The other company, WCT Berhad, a Shah Alam-based construction firm, tied up with Korean builder Daewoo Engineering and Construction to bid for the Teluk Bahang and Tanjung Bungah paired-road, and the Gurney Drive coastal bypass projects. 
The state government at a later stage asked CRCL, Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) and Consortium Zenith to form a RM2 special vehicle company, Consortium Zenith BUCG Sdn Bhd, to undertake the project for RM6.3 billion and a land swap deal of 110 acres.
It is clear that the whole exercise was not a call for tender but an RFP as all participants never competed on the same material terms. If it was a call for tender, why were VST Cemerlang and China State Corporation denied an opportunity for a fair and no-favour competition for tender?
The RFP was mired in controversy when Lim’s administration conveniently ignored the need to smooth out cash flow issues.
Without developing an explicit long-term transit project financing plan but hastily plunging into a mega project, the state is ignoring revenue mobilisation, off-budget financing as well as the earmarking of general tax revenues in establishing a secure and stable flow of funds for a transit project.
The risk of project failure due to cash flow problems cannot be ignored, especially when involving a project of this magnitude. More businesses fail due to lack of solid cash flow rather than from a lack of profit.
A capital budgeting risk is the likelihood of a long-term investment failing to generate expected cash flows. Such risks arise from imperfections in future cash flow estimates, especially in speculative property development, a situation that exposes the businesses to the possibility of embracing loss-making capital investments.
The prospect of a possible cash flow problem emerged when Part 1 of the feasibility study of the project was completed without any geological survey. Part 2 of the feasibility study is nowhere to be seen although it was supposed to have commenced in March 2014.
What is more troubling is the RM80 million payment to be paid to Zenith BUCG when no monetary payment or funding should be given by the state for the construction of the projects.
On Aug 1, 2014, the state government awarded a RM9.2 million contract to Public Bike Share Sdn Bhd to design, install, operate and maintain a bicycle-sharing system.
Lim once again claimed that the procurement was done through open competitive tender. Public Bike Share will undertake the project with full private sector funding, with no contribution from the state government.
At a press conference on the matter, Lim failed to reveal the terms and conditions of the project. He didn't disclose that the state needs to subsidise the first 30 minutes of bike usage.
As a matter of comparison, the operating income for the entire YouBike system in Taiwan was NT$123.93 million in 2013. Its operator Giant claimed more than 10 million ridership in 2013 with 5,000 bikes. By May 2014, Giant achieved another 10 million ridership.
The Commonwealth Magazine reported that the Taipei City government announced in July 2012 that it was going to invest NT$228 million (US$7.6 million) to turn YouBike around with the expectation of expanding to nine areas in Taipei City, adding 5,000 bikes and an extra 162 rental stations over three years.
With a size of 500 bikes, the Penang project has no economies of scale to make the necessary profit. Assuming Public Bike Share can perform as well as YouBike, the most the company can claim is one million ridership with only 500 bikes. With the subsidy of RM1 per ridership, the company will not be able to survive as the operating cost of RM750,000 will leave the net operating profit with only RM250,000 per year. Moreover the company needs to pay the Penang Island City Council (MPPP) a concession fee of RM1.5 million.
The cost per bike for YouBike is about US$1,520 or RM5,000 while the cost quoted by Public Bike Share is RM18,400 per bike which is clearly exorbitant. It will take more than 50 years for Public Bike Share to recover its capital investment.

What Lim never revealed is whether the offer of subsidy for the first 30 minutes of bike usage was made available to the other bidders.
Because this procurement is not a call for tender but an RFP, the state has no duty of fairness to let other bidders to compete under the same material terms.
Lim has conveniently ignored the business viability of Public Bike Share's proposal. The whole procurement process was neither fair and transparent nor cost-effective.
On July 5, 2014, The Star reported that the state government is looking for the Project Development Partner (PDP) to oversee the implementation of key components of an integrated transportation plan on Penang island.
Again Lim stressed that the state has decided to go ahead with its plan to call for an open and competitive tender to appoint a Project Delivery Partner (PDP) to help implement the RM27 billion Penang Transport Master Plan.
From news report, we all knew that Gamuda Bhd is the favourite to land the job. We knew for sure that it is not a call for tender but just another RFP.
By calling for an RFP, Lim virtually reserves the right not to uphold basic freedom of contract principles in the tendering context and not to be obliged by the duty of fairness.
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