Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Pirate King by RA Salvatore

After a poor performance in “The Orc King”, R.A. Salvatore is at it again. “The Pirate King” is the second book in the Transitions trilogy and as usual features Salvatore’s and Wotc’s cash cow Drizzt Do'Urden and company. Picking up a few years after “The Orc King”, an uneasy peace has settled in the North and taking advantage of the situation, King Breunor Battlehammer sends Drizzt and Regis off to find Wulfgar, who left Mithral Hall for Icewind Dale in the middle of the last war.

However with a title like “The Pirate King”, you would expect a lot of pirates to show up right? You will not be disappointed. In their journey to Icewind Dale, Drizzt and Regis pass through the port city of Luskan. There they met up with Captain Deudermont who has teamed up with a Waterdeep noble to try and save Luskan from the Hosttower of the Arcane. Naturally the Archmage Arcane, Arklem Greeth, does not take kindly to the whole venture. However Drizzt has sailed with Deudermont before as a pirate hunter and agreed to join him, and his right hand wizard Robillard, to liberate the city.

After a very impressive battle, Drizzt and Deudermont freed Luskan from Greeth’s rule but the devil is in the details. While Drizzt and Regis continue on their way to find Wulfgar, Captain Deudermont now becomes Governor Deudermont and discovered how ill-suited he is to the job. His noble aim to put together a government that will benefit everyone just can’t work in Luskan. In the past Greeth ruled the city by using five pirate ship captains to maintain order. While Greeth was evil, he was a necessary evil that kept the city from falling into chaos. Without Greeth to keep them in check, the five pirate captains rebelled against the rule of Deudermont and caused Deudermont’s quest to free Luskan to end in tragedy.

Although this is supposed to be the 18th book to feature Drizzt, it is not actually a Drizzt book. “The Pirate King” is a book that spilt between Drizzt and Deudermont, with Deudermont playing the more important part. Drizzt did some fighting here and there but doesn’t play a full role till the end of the book. Even then he was relegated to fighting the dwarf Athrogate, with the main battle all but decided already. The main story is on Deudermont. His quest to free his beloved Luskan from the Hosttower, and his rule of the city after.

Salvatore made some smart decisions in this book. After 18 books, the cast of Drizzt is great and Salvatore wisely cut out some waste here. Catti-brie and Bruenor Battlehammer are but footnotes in this book. They (along with Obould Many-Arrows) have a few lines in the early chapters and then disappeared from the book. Wulfgar show up late in the book but didn’t hang around after 1-2 chapters and Artemis didn’t show up at all. This allows the story to concentrate on Deudermont, Drizzt, Greeth, the five pirate captains, even Robillard (who was much more interesting than I though he would be).

However with good decisions, Salvatore also made some bad ones. The journey of Drizzt and Regis was a drag at times. There was an unnecessary visit to the Harpells, another unnecessary visit to Ten Towns, and finally Drizzt and Regis sudden urge to talk morals. I say it’s sudden because this has never happened before. A drow born in the Underdark talking morals with a rogue? What happened to these characters?

I was never a fan of Deudermont but Salvatore managed to flesh out the character very well in this book. He was a noble man caught in a place, in a situation where nobility is a minus and not a plus. He was a hero but a flawed one. Too proud and noble to bend, in the end the city broke against him. In short, Salvatore made Captain Deudermont believable. That more than anything is why “The Pirate King” is in my humble view much better book than “The Orc King”.

Not great by anyone’s imagination, “The Pirate King” is still a book worth reading. Pick this one up for a fun time.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Everything is Relative

You guys heard the new rules for smokers in Singapore? Now there is a rule in Singapore which state that not only does smokers cannot smoke in buildings, they can only lit up 5 metres from the building entrance.

Even to a non-smoker like me, that rule look harsh. But everything is relative. I realise that when a man was given three days in detention for breaking a non-smoking rule in China. The man was caught smoking in the toilet on a high-speed train. The smoke triggered an alarm which caused the train to stop.

The punishment for the man was 3 days in jail. Like I said, everything is relative.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Comics this week

Reign in Hell #6- The war for hell take a turn as Neron has clearly beaten Satanus and Lady Blaze. Doctor Fate add to the duo's misery as he injured Lady Blaze. With their forces nearing defeat, Satanus issued out a challenge to Neron. His ego being what it is, Neron accepted the challenge. That's when Satanus came out with his trump card of a magical virus that help him defeat Neron. A WHAT? That's my reaction as well. What virus? Never in the last 5 issues was there ever any talk about a magical virus that could turn the tide of battle, now there's suddenly one? Bad move Keith Giffen.

Nova #20- I said last issue that Nova works best in space. We are still on Earth, so that's not good. Firestar and Justice are guest-stars; that's bad as well because the last thing Nova need is a remainder of what a joke the character was before Annihilation. Dear Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, please send Nova back to space ASAP. Thanks

Street Fighter II Turbo #3- I have a problem with this issue. Although the issue is pretty well-done, I always have a huge problem with Fei Long. This issue is nothing more than a Fei Long/Bruce Lee tribute issue. Not what the series need after a solid start

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cutting no ice with Singaporeans

"(During) this tough and uncertain period, I hope there will be no increase in transport fares." So asked a resident to Singapore's Transport Minister Raymond Lim during a dialogue session with MacPherson residents on Sunday.

It seems like a fair question. The resident hope that there will be no increase in transport fares, and I believe another asked if the government will consider subsidising public transport fares. Fair, legitimate questions in my view. So how did this became a question of whether Singapore public transport becoming completely free?

Transport Minister Raymond Lim revealed that it would take a further 1.5% hike in GST if bus and train rides were to be made completely free. The thing is that no one is asking for free transport! Singaporeans understand that there is no such thing as a free transport service; the question isn't that but if
A) will there be an increase in transport fares
and B) will the government consider subsidising public transport fares

How did those questions led to completely free public transport? Mr Raymond Lim also made another mistake when he said that the public transport fare is not directly linked to the oil prices. The fares now seems to be linked factors like the inflation level in Singapore, and the wage level in the whole of Singapore.

This despite the fact that the rise in oil prices is the reason given for all those fares increases these past few years. Even if the public transport fare is not directly linked to the oil prices, the other reasons Mr Raymond Lim gave cut no ice with Singaporeans. Wages in Singapore are going down due to job losses and inflation is hardly a problem with a global financial meltdown in the works.

If Mr Raymond Lim want to say that he cannot confirm that there will not be any increase in transport fares, I suggest that he just say so in the future.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Transparency and Accountability

I haven't said anything about Town Councils Losing $12 millions of Singapore Public Funds so far because I find it kind of understanding. With the credit crisis, the Town Councils are not the only one so far to have lost money in the market, and they will not be the last.

In an interview published in The Straits Times, Minister of Health Mr Khaw Boon Wan came out in defence of the PAP Town Councils. Mr Khaw, like every other PAP leaders so far, said that Singaporeans should be more understanding towards the Town Councils’ investment policies and the delay in the Town Councils announcing the losses to the public.

He is half right. I understand them losing the money, but the delay in announcing the loss is another matter. Now I have no problem if the Town Council want to invest to make more money, but I have an issue with the delay in announcing the loss. This is public money right? The money came from, and belong to the public. Surely we should know if the money is gone?

In recent weeks, there's been a clear backlash from the public on the loss. What I think the PAP should understand is that the anger is only partly about the loss, the anger is also because the loss was hidden for so long. There has been no transparency or accountability in the handling of the loss, and that more than anything is what the public is angry about.

Mr Khaw want Singaporeans to be more understanding towards the Town Councils, however the same thing must be done on the government's side as well. The Town Councils must improve on the transparency and accountability of the investments. If they do not, the anger will continue to simmer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Back to the Drawing Board

After an undeserved draw in Hanoi, Singapore’s luck ran out. Vietnam’s Quang The Nguyen came off the bench and scored in the 75 min to kick Singapore out of the Southeast Asian championship.

The shock 1-0 win mean that Vietnam will face Thailand in the finals, and I think Singapore has to go back to the drawing board. The Singapore team was vastly outplayed in Hanoi, and like I said earlier was lucky to escape with a draw. This despite the fact that half of the Singapore team were foreign talents.

A defeat and an undeserved draw despite our foreign talents; yes, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Comics this week

Avengers: The Initiative #19- The final Secret Invasion tie-in of them all is perhaps rightfully an Avengers: The Initiative issue. Although I think you can say this is more of a Skrull Kill Krew issue than an A:TI issue as the issue is basically about the team jumping all over America to kill Skrulls, Skrulls and more Skrulls. That’s it, that’s the whole issue. A lot of fighting (some of them very confusing), a lot of Skrulls getting killed, and that’s the end of the tie-ins. Thank God for that!

Stormwatch #17- Stormwatch is having problems with over-crowding as their base, Skywatch, just isn’t big enough to house everyone they’ve been saving. A set-up issue for the meeting between Stormwatch and the Authority, this issue is passable but Stormwatch need to kick it up a gear. They seem to be treading water for the pass few issues and that’s not good.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Suggestion for all Illegals in Singapore

As I watch Singapore taking on Vietnam in Hanoi on TV, I'm struck by one thing. Half the team is part of the foreign talent scheme!

Half of Singapore's defence are foreigners, half the midfield are foreigners, and one of our strikers is a foreigner. The thing is that I was watching the match on ESPN, and the commentators felt that they had to explain to their viewers why Singapore has several players with such funny names. They then tried to put in an excuse for Singapore, something about how Singapore is merely trying to boost their local talent level with this foreign talent scheme and that there are many new local-born players waiting to take over from these foreign players.

I don't know which was worse; listening to the lame excuse, or trying not to laugh at the suggestions of new local-born players for our 'national' team. Let's admit it, the reason Singapore has the foreign talent scheme is to strictly to win medals. Like our silver medal in the Olympics, you are not going to see too many Singaporeans celebrating in the streets if Singapore do win the AFF Suzuki Cup for the 4th time.

Even if there are new Singapore-born players ready for the national team, they will have to fight for places in the team with all the foreigners currently playing in the S-League. The management of the national team clearly has no problems with issuing out passports like candy and I'm looking for the day when all 11 of the first team are foreign-born.

So for all the illegal overstayers in Singapore, here's a suggestion; Learn some football skills

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Starting a new industry in Singapore

As a fan of video games, I was glad to hear that the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore is now offering grants to video game developers in Singapore to create games for Xbox LIVE.

The amount MDA is offering will be up to S$50,000 for every successful applicant under the MDA-Microsoft XNA Development Initiative. Considering the number of Xboxes in the world, this is not a bad idea. However, I suggest that MDA expand the grants to cover all other platforms including PC, PS3 and the all-conquering Wii. I will agree that the newly launched Xbox Live Community Games Channel make it a good idea to start with the Xbox, but PS3 is more popular in Asia; PC has money-spinning MMOs; and Wii outsell Xbox and PC3 combined!

Offering grants to budding video game developers is a good idea but I feel MDA need to be more ambitious. Starting a new industry from scratch is hard and budding video game developers in Singapore need all the help they can get.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Financial Problems from America

As if the global credit crisis isn’t bad enough, the world economy is now left reeling through one of the greatest financial fraud in the history of mankind. Wall Street heavyweight Bernard Madoff is accused of running a pyramid scam that cost his investors US$50 billion.

US$50 billion! Not only is that a lot of money but the list of victims are some of the biggest, most respected banks in the world. Europe's biggest bank, HSBC, lost around US$1 billion; Santander, the second-largest in Europe after HSBC, has an exposure of more than three billion dollars; Fortis Bank Netherlands stood to lose up to a billion euros. Even banks in Asia are affected; Japan’s Nomura loss is at 303 million dollars and various South Korean financial institutions has a total exposure of 95 million dollars. Singapore’s Great Eastern is also affected, but as is usually the case in Singapore, no word yet on how much they are going to lose.

Funny thing is that almost no one is blaming these banks for losing the money to Bernard Madoff. Bernard Madoff is a trusted name, so trusted that he was once the chairman of the Nasdaq. A former chairman of a stock exchange who running a pyramid scam undetected for decades? If there were still any doubts that the US regulators were sleeping on the job, they are all gone now.

Which bring me to an earlier post on this blog. I suggested that America need to fix the structural fault in their economy; now it seems I was underestimating the problem. America not only needs to fix the fundamentals of their economy; they will also need to fix their financial regulatory system as well. More work for everyone!

Monday, December 15, 2008

No Victory in Iraq for Bush

Since he will be out of the job next month, current U.S. President George W. Bush is on a mission to play up the achievements of his presidency. Now I find this very understandable; it’s very normal for a departing president to want to leave a good impression.

Which is why I cannot understand why he would even dream of visiting Iraq! As I had stated often on this blog, I do not believe America and her allies (including Singapore) can win in Iraq. The war was supposed to be a short, glorious war to take out the hated Saddam Hussein. Nearly six years after the U.S. invasion, U.S. troops are still in the country whose devastation has been largely due to the American-led invasion.

The Iraq war is not a victory for America, and it never will be! By bogging America down for six years, the Iraqi militias had scored a moral victory if nothing else. It’s not quite a quagmire for America but a victory is out of the question. Even if the fighting stop tomorrow and American troops has a victory parade out of Baghdad; who in their right mind will call it an American victory?

Even today, Iraq is a country with almost daily bombings, kidnappings and shootings. Even Bush wasn’t safe in Iraq! At a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, he had to dodge a pair of shoes thrown by an enraged Iraqi. That’s at his own press conference!

If Bush want to tout his successes, then he need to avoid even a mention of Iraq and without question, avoid Iraq at all course.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Failed Bailout

The GOP did it again. After all the talks, another bailout in the U.S. has collapse due to Republicans tanking it.

With the failure of the U.S. bailout, the three American car giants Ford, General Motors (GM) and Chrysler are officially dead companies on life support. So far only GM has admitted to hiring lawyers with a view of bankruptcy, but I suspect they are not the only one.

I have to wonder why the Republican Senators did not pass the bailout, because it almost guarantee that at least one of the 3 car giants will have to go. The demand that wages paid by the car giants to their workers must be brought into line with those at foreign firms seems quite a silly (and minor) thing when compared to the danger of the collapse of the bailout! I mean with sweeping job losses all over the world; why would they want to add on to the problem now?

When there are layoffs at Bank of America, the second biggest bank in the world, surely job losses in America is more important than economic principles? When a US banking giant like Citigroup just cut 50,000 jobs last month, does America really want auto-workers to join financial workers in the unemployment line at the same time? Is the dive on the stock markets after the last bailout failure not enough? Do they want another 777 points loss on the market? Yes, I admit that's unlikely this time but is any dive on the stock market a good thing at this point of time?

Like it or not, that's what going to happen now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Of Course the Law Favor the Rich

There is no such thing as one law for the rich and one for the poor, so says Singapore’s Attorney-General Walter Woon.

Now I know of some people who laughed when they read Mr. Woon’s comments, but I think Mr. Woon meant well when he said this. After all, he can’t actually say that there is a law for the rich and a law for the poor right? Yes I know that’s the true of the matter but you can’t expect the Attorney-General to say so. To be realistic, this can only be expected. When you are rich, or well-connected, the laws work differently for you.

A prefect example of my view is the case of a rich man who tried to buy an organ from Indonesia. The man in question only spend only hours in jail; while the middleman and the seller of the organ got far longer sentences. I know I’m not the only one who felt that the sentences were wildly different due to the money that can be thrown around. And mind you, the family of the rich man was unhappy even with the 1 day jail sentence. The family was so confident about the power of money that they were unhappy with nothing less than total victory.

That’s the way it is, the way is always has been, the way it always will be. From ancient times to now, Singapore is no different from any other country out there.

So for those who laugh and smile at Mr. Woon’s comments…oh please; what do you expect him to say?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Comics this week

Final Crisis #5- Darkseid is here! As the remaining DCU's heroes make their counterattack against the evil God's forces, other forces are entering the fight. The Green Lanterns Corp rushes to Earth, while Checkmate (and the Question) organized their final options. All these forces against Darkseid and you know what; it's just not enough. The feeling of doom is just all over this issue. You just feel that without a doubt, Darkseid will win. Hell, even Lex Luthor can't think of a way to save the planet. All bow to Darkseid!

Secret Six #4- Our misfits villains are on their way to Vegas. Along the way, they will piss each other off; stab each other; and Scandal Savage will sleep on Bane's lap like a baby (the face of Deadshot was priceless). All while driving in a ice cream truck! What's there not to like; Collect this series NOW!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

British Leaving Iraq

With America’s President-elect Barack Obama's taking office next month, the U.S Army is getting ready to get out of Iraq. The Iraq war has been nothing short of a disaster for America and her allies, and the pull-out has long been overdue. The Americans has a date somewhere in 2011 for a full pull-out (just in time for Obama’s reelection campaign), but it seems that Britain is not waiting.

Reports in British newspapers say that British forces will start withdrawing most of its 4,000 troops from Iraq in March and plans to leave only 400 personnel by mid-2009. Of course, this withdraw is also just in time for the British election Prime Minister Gordon Brown will need to call by 2010.

Whatever the reasons, I think it’s’ about time. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair 45,000 troops to join U.S. President George W. Bush's in the invasion of Iraq and both countries suffered for it in lives and prestige. Getting out sooner rather than later is a welcome move.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sky is falling on Singapore

How do you know when times in Singapore are bad? The answer: ask car dealers.

Singaporeans are well-known car crazies but this year seems to be different. Car dealers in Singapore are reporting a 50 per cent drop in business as the global financial meltdown make Singaporean hold back from making deals.

Singaporean who shy away from buying cars? At the year—end holiday season? With low Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices? Look out, the sky is falling!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Why the world can't spend itself out of the Crisis

With the global economic downturn affecting everyone, countries all over the world are grasping for ways to avoid, or at least cushion, the blow from the crisis. One of the favorite methods from what I see is the shopping voucher.

The idea is simple; issue out shopping vouchers so that people will go out and spend. Taiwan is doing it, and the Germans want their government to do the same. The Singapore government isn’t doing it and I have to say I agree with them on this.

The problem I see with shopping vouchers is that people will only spend if they are confident in the economy. That is not the case now. Would you spend your money if you are unsure if you will still have a job next month? Already hundreds of thousand of workers around the world have lost their jobs and more will follow. Workers from America, China, to our own Singapore are looking at the clock and wondering if they will be next on the chopping block. Will shopping vouchers get these workers to the shopping centres? I think not.

That’s why I believe it is an error to think that we can spend our way out of this recession. The world cannot expect consumers to get them out of this economic downturn because there was never a lack of demand by consumers. The downturn came because of a flaw in the sub-prime industry in America; this global recession came from a structural fault in the world economy.

Fix that and we can get out of the global economic downturn.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Comics this week

Secret Invasion #8- After 7 disappointing issues, Secret Invasion come to a close. I have to wonder...that's it? The big battle was I believe the showcase of the series, but if it was, it was poor. It was over quickly with the death of the Wasp, and I found it to be very unsatisfying. One death to the Skrull Queen and that's the war? Come on Marvel, you can do better than this! I didn't go through 7 issues for this. Brian Michael Bendis, you needed 3 issues to show 15 mins between issue 1 to 3; if that held true, the big fight would have lasted all of what...15 seconds? Even the final scene which show the new status quo didn't make much sense to me. Doctor Doom, Greeen Goblin willing to share power? Why did that happen? Poor

X-Men Noir #1- While not actually a fan of Marvel's various lines, I do find most of them to be extremely fun. Their new Noir line is no different. While I don't really follow the regular X-Men books anymore, I found X-Men Noir to be a fun reimagination of the X-Men mythos. Setup as a 1950s crime story, I like the various reimagined X-characters. The setting, the concept are totally different but writer Fred Van Lente did extremely well putting in several elements from the X-Men world. Black Tom as a Irish gangster, Gambit as a casino owner, Quicksilver a track star; you can't help but chuckled at such brilliant use of the characters. The art by Dennis Calero also suit the book to a T. A surprising good story with excellent art.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Giving GTA IV PC a Pass

Why, why does it have DRM? I have played all the GTA (Grand Theft-Auto) games since GTA III (Vice City is, in my view, one of the best games ever created). I was looking forward to GTA IV on pc, but why must it be on DRM?

For those people who do not know what DRM is; it stands for ‘data rights management’. It’s a measure that games publishers use to prevent game piracy. The strategies are numerous; games with DRM require you to go onto the internet to activate the game (no internet, no play); games with DRM only allow you to have a number of installs (go beyond that and the game can’t be played).

I just think DRM is stupid. Here’s my experience with DRM. With no experience with DRM before, I bought the game Spore. Another highly-anticipated game, I found that I can’t play the game. It requires me to have an internet connection to activate. An internet connection to activate a game that is NOT online! The stupidity of that still amazed me and the thing was that my internet was down at that time. So I had to wait 3 days to play the game while the Starhub technician fixed my internet problem.

That is nothing to the real problem of Spore. Spore only allow 3 installs! So right now, Spore is in my pc and I can’t uninstall it because if I do, I can only install it another 2 times. Brilliant! A game that is taking up disk space on my pc and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t uninstall it even though I’m not playing it now, because of the stupid DRM.

So DRM not only make me wonder whether I can play the game I buy; it also makes sure I won’t be able to get rid of the game once I install it! Brilliant! So brilliant in fact, I think I will give GTA IV a pass.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A question for all the MPs in the Singapore Parliament

While reading Mr. Tan Kin Lian’s blog (http://www.tankinlian.blogspot.com) yesterday, I came across an article that state that the Lehman Brothers minibonds saga is more widespread than anyone in Singapore originally expected.

A former lawyer from Singapore now residing in Brussels says that the Lehman Brothers saga has even affected parts of Europe. Angry clients of Citibank and Deutsche Bank held demonstrations in Brussels by marching to the HQ of Deutsche Bank, and then to Citibank.

The demonstrators say they were sold investments to their clients that were managed by Lehman Brothers, but were not informed that they will lose the money if Lehman Brothers went bust. Now they are demanding compensation for the money they lost and want Deutsche Bank and Citibank to reimburse their loss in full.

Nothing special there; it’s almost a carbon copy of what is happening in Singapore as well. Two things stand out however; one is that a number of other banks such as Fortis and Swiss Life who had also sold Lehman Brothers investments have guaranteed the capital of their clients. Another is that the demonstrators were received by Economy Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne.

Demonstrators that were received by a Minister of the Cabinet, not just a member of parliament but a Minister of the Cabinet! Compare that to the no sound response of our MPs, it’s night and day.

Like I’ve said in an earlier post, I feel that our MPs need to let Singaporeans know their position on this Lehman Brothers fiasco. If you agree with the protestors that are gathered every week at Hong Lim Park, say so. If you don’t believe the protestors has a case, say so. Singaporeans like me want to know your views! It’s been almost 2 months since this problem started, surely all of you have reviewed the problem already. Add to the fact that the Lehman Brothers minibond holders are now told that they will not be getting a swift resolution for their investments, maybe for years, what their views on this latest development as well?

So a question for all the MPs in the Singapore Parliament; what is your position on the situation?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

2009 Write-Off

The last week of November gave us hope. After 2 months of slaughter, the last week of November gave us hope that the worst was over and there is light at the end of this dark tunnel.

We really should have known better. Just when we had hope, Wall Street plunged another 680 points on Monday and the rest of Asia follow suit. It was the fourth-steepest loss the history of The Dow Jones Industrial Average for the blue-chip index and bleak economic news from around the globe looks like things are going to go bad again.

Technically, this is not a surprise. Most have already got confirmation of a recession in the United States and everyone expects bad news from Europe and Asia. The thing that worries people is that there will not be a year-end rally this year.

No matter how bad things were in the past, there is almost a guarantee rally at the end of the year. This not only window-dress the books of the companies, it also serve as a lunching pad for the next year.

It seems that this will not be the case this year. People are writing 2009 off as a loss year, one month before 2009 even starts; we can safely say goodbye to the annual year end rally.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Batman R.I.P-OFF

A trick Comic Books Companies has learnt is that if sales are down; a death is the best way to boast sales in the short term. We’ve seen this with Superman, Captain America, and X-Men; now count Batman to the list.

Now I’m not against comic heroes dying because some of the characters needed a boast and some of the best stories out there are the death stories of the characters. I remembered Captain Marvel battle with cancer, Silver Surfer’s body breakdown, more recently Steve Roger’s assassination. All death stories, all of them great.

Batman R.I.P is not one of them. One thing I hate about death stories is the resurrection of the said characters. Sabretooth had a great issue showing his death years ago, but it was spoilt by his almost immediate return. What’s the use of a hero dying if you are going to leave an opening for him to come back later?

That’s what I hate about Batman R.I.P. Grant Morrison is a great writer but maybe he’s too busy with Final Crisis to come up with a decent story here. R.I.P is a mess and the final climax wasn’t up to par. I won’t spoilt it for people who haven’t read it yet, but I will say that there was no dead body. Unlike Steve Roger’s death, there is no definite proof that Bruce Wayne is dead! How can anyone take the upcoming “Battle of the Cowl” seriously when no one believes Bruce Wayne is dead?

At least readers take Winter Solider seriously as Captain America now because they know Steve Rogers is R.I.P. Unless Marvel come up with a stupid, crazy clone/time-travel/alternate dimension/body double story, that’s the way it’s going to be! The next character to take over as Batman will have no chance because everyone expects Bruce Wayne to pop-out sooner or later.

Neil Gaiman is supposed to take over Morrison as writer of Batman; he is a great writer as well but DC is giving him a hell of a mess to deal with. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. That's my thinking for all fans of Batman.

Monday, December 1, 2008

EPL this month

2008 is almost over. With only 1 month to go before 2009, these are the noteworthy teams this month.

Top Teams this Month
Chelsea- It seems that this year instead of the Big 4, there is just the top 2. Chelsea and Liverpool has opened up a lead on Man Utd and Arsenal at the top of the EPL, and of the two, I’ve been very impressed with Chelsea. Outside a few hiccups at home, Chelsea has being playing (and winning) in style. If they keep this up (especially their 100% away record), they will win the title.

Liverpool- Like I said earlier, the Big 4 has turned into the top 2 this season. You expect Chelsea to be one of the top 2, but Liverpool? The reason for this is all down to manager Rafael Benitez. This season he has finally seen the light and stopped his crazy rotation policy. Good news for all Liverpool fans, now they just have to keep Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard healthy and they will have a chance at the title.

Aston Villa- Manager Martin O'Neill has a team that is young and fast. Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young form a good team with John Carew in attack. Garth Barry in the middle of midfield and Martin Larsen in the middle of the defense, Villa got a good spine to the team. If Carew can avoid injuries, and O’Neill can keep Barry, Villa can challenge the Big 4 this season.

Surprise Team this month
Manchester United – Of all the teams in the EPL, Man Utd would be the team you least expect to have a problem scoring goals. However that’s the problem they have and I believe it is down to the inclusion of Dimitar Berbatov. He is a good, skillful player but I’m not convinced Berbatov is right for Man Utd’s style of play. He is just not that mobile of a player and that’s the kind of striker Man Utd needs. Sir Alex Ferguson needs to change striker or change their style of play.

Disappointing Teams this month
Arsenal- Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger may have stripped William Gallas of the captaincy and gave it to Cesc Fabregas, but I feel he is missing the point there. A lot people agree with Wenger that Gallas should not said those things in the press, they say that these things should be kept indoors, but the thing is that I have yet to hear anyone say that Gallas was wrong. The thing is that nothing Gallas said was really that new. Robin van Persie has got problems in every club he played in and it’s no surprise he’s a problem in the Gunner’s dressing room as well; the youngsters at Arsenal lack steel and do not seem to have the hunger needed to strive for the title; the midfield lack bite…what’s was new? Reports say that Gallas is kind of wondering why he is made the villain in the piece; he’s not the only one.

Hull City- After the great start, Hull City has come back down to Earth. 5 losses in a row have threatened to derail their season and other teams in the EPL seem to have figured them out. Phil Brown has some work to do and will have to change some of their tactics but their great start will probably mean that they are safe this season. And survival is all Hull will ask for.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Comics this week

Reign in Hell #5- For all the talk about Final Crisis and Secret Invasion, I think Reign in Hell is the best mini-series event put out by the big 2 this year. Mainly due to the fact that all the characters here are B/C/D-listers, Keith Giffen can go crazy on them. The war turn as Neron now has the upper hand against Satanus and Lady Blaze's forces. The various heroes or villains caught in the middle are now all in the mix as they try to survive a war in the bowels of hell. Blood and casualties on all sides coming up.

Guardians of the Galaxy #7- With all the 'Secret Invasion' tie-ins over, Guardians of the Galaxy has went back to their own stories...just in time to implode as the team spilt up in disgust at Star-Lord's methods. The diverse cast splits and there are no less than 4 different plots going on at the same time here, and they are all interesting! Adam Warlock taking over his church; Moondragon still alive; Rocket Raccoon taking over the main team; Star-Lord in the Negative Zone...what's there not to like?

Nova #19- Nova works best in space. That's what I think, I mean the Novas are the Green Lanterns of Marvel right? So I'm not happy seeing Richard Rider being struck on Earth. The return of the Nova Corps is welcome but writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning need to sent Nova back into space. The 5 new Novas looked unique (Fin Fang Foom's cousin?) and are different from Richard Rider (which is also good) but as long as they are on Earth, it's going to be problems in the long run.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

More Help Needed

With the winds of recession turning into a hurricane, Singapore is facing the problem of money flowing overseas. The main reason for this is the fact that for years, Singapore’s economy was based on attracting foreign investments from multi-national companies (MNC). Now that there are problems in their home countries, these MNCs are rushing money back to shore up their finances back home.

This is not surprising. When there is a fire, its natural instinct to save your house first before worrying about other people’s house. This is why this finance crisis is so crippling for an export-driven economy like Singapore’s. All the years of work trying to attract foreign investments seems to have gone down the drain as credit is drying up and companies no longer has money to expand overseas. One of the ways Singapore is fighting this is to pump more money into our own SMEs. If you can’t attract money from others, then you must invest in your own companies, make goods to sell to people overseas.

The idea is sound and correct; but I’m afraid it’s too little, too late. Singapore’s SMEs has been neglected for years Singapore has been busy chasing money from overseas. For years Singapore has been trying to be an education hub, a finance hub, even a regional convention hub. Notice that all 3 are in the services sector. The main problem is that Singapore does not actually make things nowadays. There’s not really a manufacturing sector in Singapore anymore outside the shipping and oil refinery sector.

The recent move of $2.3 billion in loans to help local firms gain access to credit is a move in the right direction, but it will take a lot more than that for the long-neglected SME sector to come back to life. If the Singapore government want the SMEs to save the Singapore economy, they will need to send more help to them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Too Much Info

Sometimes more information is good; in fact more information usually is great. However, there are times where it’s better to keep quiet about some stuff. Your salary is usually one of them; I mean who go around talking about how much you are earning?

The same rule should apply for the salary of our Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. There’s been big talk in the papers about how the salaries of the PM and his Cabinet will fall due to the bad economic times. Now I think this is info Singaporeans do not need to know. You see; I’m one of those rare Singaporeans who are not actually against paying high salaries to our politicians. However I know most Singaporeans are and the fact that our PM’s salary has dropped to $3 million a year is something I think the papers should keep to themselves.

The problem is that current U.S President Bush is only paid about $400,000 per year; U.K PM Gordon Brown is paid around $375,000, the French President Nicolas Sarkozy around $346,000. Is Lee Hsien Loong 10 times better than the French President? Actually the answer is yes because I think Sarkozy is a joke, but that’s beside the point.

The point is $3 million a year is still a very high salary. The fact that all increases in our PM’s salary after 2007 revisions is being donated to good causes is something lost to most Singaporeans. It’s like when John McCain said that you are only rich if you have more than $5 million, it just made him sound out of touch.

All this talk austerity is lost on Singaporeans as $3 million is well…$3 million. When it comes to our PM’s salary, my thinking is this, “The less talk there is about our PM’s salary, the better it is for him”.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No Endorsement for Tiger

Times are bad. No surprise there but times are going to get much, much worse. How do I know that? I know it because even Tiger Woods has to find a new sponsor.

Tiger Woods, golfing superstar and a living legend, just had his nine-year endorsement deal with General Motors cancelled as the automaker is cutting expenses due to the economic downturn. Poor Tiger’s endorsement deal is worth about $7 million a year and was to end in 2009. GM is ending it a year early.

When even the world's No. 1 golfer has his endorsement deal cancelled by America’s No. 1 motor company…u know the world is in trouble. Times are bad.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why He Should Not Run

Yesterday, the Strait Times reported about Mr Tan Kin Lian’s political ambitions and that he was mulling a bid presidency of Singapore. This announcement was kind of unexpected mainly because Mr. Tan had never announced any intention to run for public office, and the man was a member of the People’s Action Party for 30 years. Bidding for office means that a PAP stalwart is now going against the party’s leadership.

However what really surprised me when reading the article was that Mr. Tan indicated a sense of disappointment at the current leadership of the PAP. Mr. Tan said that the PAP is now too far from ordinary Singaporeans and no longer in touch with the ground.

Now I think Mr. Tan is somewhat right on this. The current leadership of the PAP is filled with scholars and people who got their education overseas. How much do they know about ordinary Singaporeans? Mr. Tan is also quite popular with Singaporeans nowadays as he was the lone PAP voice who stood up for the investors in the ongoing Lehman minibonds saga.

So why do I think he SHOULDN’T run for presidency?

I think he shouldn’t run because chances are that he would not be ‘qualified’ to run for the presidency. Mr. Tan seems to know this and is trying to offset this by collecting 100,000 signatures from Singaporeans. He is clearly trying to indicate that he has genuine grassroots support to contest the presidency.

I highly doubt that it will matter. If the PAP doesn’t want you to contest the election, then chances are that you are not ‘qualified’ to run for the presidency. So unless Mr. Tan get an okay from the PAP leadership, I think he has no chance to contest for the presidency. If Mr. Tan has any political ambitions, I think it would be more viable for him to join an opposition political party and contest in a General Election. That way at least, he can be certain to be on the ticket.

Considering his popularity nowadays, I believe Mr. Tan can make a big splash on the Singapore political scene but that’s only if he can stand for election. And the chances of Mr. Tan being a candidate for a Presidential Election is low at best.

That’s why I think he should forget about the Singapore presidency and concentrate on the next General Election. The chances for him will be much better there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Showy Ban of Yoga

Stupid. That’s the first thing that comes to mind when I heard that Malaysia's top Islamic body, the National Fatwah Council, banned Muslims from practicing yoga.

The official line is that the National Fatwah Council is worried that yoga may cause Muslims to deviate from the Islamic faith as elements of Hinduism are part of the physical aspects of the exercise.

Now I know yoga comes originally from Hinduism, but nowadays, yoga is something that is practiced the world over by countless people. I know of Buddhists, Christians and Muslims who practice yoga and they are usually more worried about keeping in shape than religion. A ban of yoga will just show off to the world that Malaysia is intolerant about religious practices.

Not only that, I have to wonder what good will a ban do as it is unenforceable. The Council’s decision is non-binding for some states in Malaysia, and you can’t expect the Malaysian police to raid yoga classes to see if any Muslims are taking part in it. This ban seems more for show than anything else.

A show that will cause more harm than good for Malaysia and Islam. That is just something you don’t need.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Comics this week

Street Fighter II Turbo #2- One of the best thing about Udon's first Street Fighter series was how the company mix in the new with the old. The story remained the same but the SF series add in scenes that help the story stayed fresh (Ryu's meeting with Gen in the first series comes to mind). After a so-so first issue, Udon is working the same magic again. With art from Jeffrey "Chamba" Cruz as it's solid backbone, the writing is now on the coming SF tournament. The plot remains the same, the start of the Street Fighter tournament, but you can see that Udon is trying to add depth to the story and I did enjoy that. I can't say this is a great issue, but they did enough for me to come back for more. And that's a good thing.

Stormwatch #16- Action begins now. After a few issues of Stormwatch facing off against rag-tag whatever, they finally has to face a force worthy of them. In this case, it's a doomsday machine that is over 30 years old. Ok, not that worthy but still better than a few survivors with guns! I'm glad to see the whole working together for once; I don't think there is enough of that, and how different Jackson King is now. Before the Worldstorm, he would have never made a call that endangered his team's lives unnecessary but he no longer has that luxury after the world has gone to hell. You need to be tougher if you want to put the world back together, and Jackson King show that he is up to the job.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not Freaky

When the latest result came out yesterday for the COE bidding, the Cat A COE is valued at only $2. Today, there's reports that car-dealers and the LTA are surprised at this and that this is nothing but a freak result.

Sorry but I don't think so.

Everyone expected the COE to go down, not to $2 but it was going to go down. There are various problems in Singapore right now ranging from the deficit, the minibond saga, the credit woes, and lay-offs; the COE price was going down. Couple all these with the fact that Singapore has an excellent public transport system (despite all the bitching by Singaporeans), a car in Singapore is more of a luxury than a necessity. In tough times, luxury are the first to go. So sorry LTA, $2 is not a freak result.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Not that bad

Since news came out that Singapore's budget deficit for the year may be around $2.4 billion, there is a sense of panic in the air. This amount is three times larger than initially projected S$800 million deficit this year, so I guess a certain amount of tension can be expected; but I think Singaporeans need not worry too much.

We are in the midst of a global economic downturn with turmoil in almost all sectors of the world economy. Almost no country in the world is immune to the turmoil, and Singapore is no exception. With the tough economic climate, I think Singaporeans need to look at the big picture.

Singapore has a reserve of over $70 billion and our surpluses in 2007 are about $6.4billion. Compare to all that, $2.4billion isn’t that much. It is definitely something Singapore can handle. As such I think the Singapore government (and Singaporeans) should not worry so much about the deficit but more about helping Singaporeans in these tough economic times. Cost of living in Singapore is still high with a recent increase in power supply bills, the STI sliding down weekly and there is news of job cuts almost everyday.

The people will need help and the government will need to spend money to stimulate growth. All in all, a deficit of $2.4 billion isn’t all that bad. In fact, things will probably get worse before it get better.

There’s no need to panic.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

IRs in Trouble

Any doubts anyone has that the two integrated resorts (IRs) in Singapore are in trouble have been dispelled. Both firms building the IRs have requested the Singapore government to allow them to open their projects in stages.

Singapore Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran (a seemingly busy man nowadays) told Parliament the government is ‘considering’ the requests. To put my two cents in, I have to say that the government should let them open in stages.

Although a lot has been said about how the two sites are ‘resorts’ but everyone and their uncle know that these two are there for the casinos. If Resorts World and Marina Bay Sands are having problems finishing the projects; let them open their casinos first then. It’s what they are there for.

That is, to me, a far better idea than to let the projects falter, or even worse; letting the Singapore government bailing them out. That is something we should avoid at all cost.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Deafening Silence

For years, the Singapore government has been touting the Singapore model of government as the most effective for a small country like Singapore. The theory goes that a small country like Singapore cannot afford an opposition in parliament. Unfortunately the flipside of not having an opposition has been on full show for the past 5 weeks.

After 5 weeks of protests at the Speaker’s Corner at Hong Lim Park, petitions bring sent in to the government, there's still been no action at all by the Singapore government. What’s more has been the total lack of presence by Singapore politicians. And in Singapore, that means the People’s Action Party (PAP).

As there are only 2 opposition MPs in parliament (3 if you count Sylvia Lim which I don’t since she didn’t win her seat), no one in Singapore really expect much from the opposition. This means that everything, rightly or wrongly, has been put on the lap of the PAP. So far, I have been disappointed by the non-actions of them.

I’m not saying that they have to side with the protesters, but surely as politicians they got to have some views on the situation! There are over 70 PAP politicians in the Singapore Parliament, surely at least one of them has a view on the minibond fiasco. Even if that view is pro-government, as an elected MP for the people, they have a duty to make their views known to the public.

So far, it has been a deafening silence.

If this continues, I wonder whether it would be better for Singaporeans to have more opposition MPs in parliament.

Friday, November 14, 2008

An Unknown

Barack Obama is a relative unknown in the world. Not only are his policies unknown, we also know pretty little about him. I mean it’s only after he became America’s first black president that I know he collected comics!

Yes, the new Commander-in-Chief of America collected both Conan the Barbarian and Spider-Man comic books when he was growing up. Don’t know if he still collect them but the new president of America once collected comics! I feel a connection for him already.

Ha... but on a more serious note, this does show that Barack Obama still has an unknown quality to him. Here’s hoping he can be as popular as Spider-Man and as successful as Conan.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

He regret the banner?

I’m not the biggest fan of current U.S President George W. Bush, but sometimes the man surprises even me with some of his comments.

In a CNN interview, President George W. Bush told the world what he regrets about his term in office. With 2 wars, Hurricane Katrina, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden still out there, the drop in America’s standing worldwide, and the global credit crunch, there is no shortage of candidates. So what did the man says he regretted?

The display of the ``Mission Accomplished'' banner when he gave a speech on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln about a month after the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Bush says that it ‘conveyed the wrong message’.

Since the war in Iraq is still going, I would think it did ‘conveyed the wrong message’, but of all the things out of the list, he picked a banner as the thing he regretted? To be fair, he also said that he regretted some of the comments he said like telling Iraqi insurgents in 2003 to bring them on', and 'Wanted, dead or alive.'

But he regretted things he said and a banner from a photo shoot? What about the wars, Hurricane Katrina, Osama bin Laden…

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Singapore government will not bail out Marina Bay Sands IR…directly

When I heard Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry S Iswaran say that the Singapore government will not bail out the Marina Bay Sands IR, I was delighted. (See my post 2 days ago on my feelings on this)

However I was too fast in my happiness. Upon further reading of the news, I saw that Mr Iswaran put in a useful disclaimer. He said that he cannot rule out government-linked companies, which are commercial entities, saving the project if “it makes business sense to do so”.

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this. This is exactly my third point 2 days ago; the left hand giving money to the right hand. Does the Singapore government truly believe that Singapore’s reputation will not suffer if government-linked companies enter to save the IR? Now if that happen, the Singapore government will then go and announced that they did not use Singapore’s taxpayers’ money to save an American firm.

The question is this, “Who will believe you?”

I know I won’t.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A non-Chinese Prime Minister for Singapore? HA!

With Barack Obama’s success in the American presidential elections, Singaporeans are asking themselves if Singapore is ready for a non-Chinese Prime Minister. Everyone from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the guy in the coffeeshop say no. This answer is expected but to me...this is a non-question.

Why are we even asking about a non-Chinese Prime Minister for Singapore when I know of some Chinese who won’t even vote for the Malay singer in the finals of Singapore Idol? It’s true. In the finals of Singapore Idol, the finalists have been a Chinese and Malay, and I know of some Chinese Singaporeans who refused to vote for the Malay singer. On both occasions!

So for those who are asking about a non-Chinese Prime Minister; forget about it. It’s not going to happen anytime soon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why the Singapore Government should NOT saved the Marina IR

Last week, Las Vegas Sands was in the news regarding the building of the Marina Bay IR. It seems that Las Vegas Sands’ auditor in the U.S openly doubts their ability to continue building the casino, sorry resort, in Singapore.

As the world is in the midst of a global recession, I’m not surprised at this. What surprise me are the assumptions that the Singapore Government will step in to save the project if Las Vegas Sands cannot finish the project. Las Vegas Sands hinted as much in their press conference and as there has been no objection from the Singapore government yet, I think we can safely assume that this will be the case.

First off, I have to ask why the Singapore Government is even considering bailing out the project. The Marina Bay area is one of 2 IR projects ongoing. We have another project on Sentosa and that is going well. Why should the Singapore Government saved the project when there is another project just like it still ongoing?

Second, Las Vegas Sands is an American company. If the Singapore Government wants to start bailing out companies and their projects, they should start by bailing out Singapore companies first! Already, there is 1 Singapore company who has been affected by the global credit crunch, but I never heard of the Singapore Government coming in to save it. Why should the Singapore Government use Singapore taxpayer’s money to save a project by an American company?

Third, if I am not mistaken, the Singapore Government has a stake in the IR as well. Now most Singaporeans will say that this is the reason why the Singapore Government will step in to save the project, I say this is the reason why the Singapore Government should NOT save the project. As a stakeholder in the project, it will not be right for the Singapore Government to save its own project. It will be the left hand giving money to the right hand, and this will hurt Singapore’s reputation.

For these reasons, I feel that this is why the Singapore Government should NOT saved the project.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures

When Age of Conan (AoC) was first released, you can’t go to any gaming website without reading about it. I read about the amazing new combat system, the amazing graphics, and the fact that there is an actual story in the game.

I avoided it anyway. I’m don’t play MMO usually, and when I do; it’s only the free ones. I don’t like the idea of spending money on a 2 month subscription to a game that I may not like, and that’s not even counting the money I spent buying the game off the shelves! However about 2-3 months after the game came out, I found AoC on sale at a gaming convention. I thought why not, it’s on sale.

For those who have no idea what is AoC, it is a fantasy-themed mmorpg that brings players into the violent age of Conan the Barbarian. I have to say the game capture the world beautifully. It may be pretty but the soul of the world is correct as well. The world has a harsh beauty to it and it is both violent and chaotic. Even in the cities where you are safe from attack, there is still a dangerous feel to the world. Funcom did a brilliant job on the world of Hyboria.

As in most other MMOs, you start by creating a character in AoC. The character creation here is the best I’ve ever seem. There are 3 Races spilt over 12 Classes for you to choose. All are humans (in keeping with the Conan story), but you can choose between the Cimmerians, the Aquilonians, or the Stygians. The races you choose affect your class in a great way. For example, only the Stygians can be spell-casters. You can also mold the face and body to great details. Once the creation is over, the story begins.

The story starts when the slave vessel you were in is destroyed in a storm. You awake on the sands of an island and a cut scene. A strange old man tells you that you are a slave and that your slave master is on his way to town to report you as an escaped slave. Off you go to kill the slave master, and along the way you get to save a near-naked damsel in distress.

This section serves as a tutorial of sorts and is pretty well done. After killing the said slave-master, you will reach the city of Tortage. It is here that Age of Conan tries to offer something different from other MMOs. In Tortage, AoC is almost like a single-player game. There are plenty of cut scenes and even…voice acting. Gasp, voice acting in a MMO! The city of Tortage also has a series of quests called the Destiny Quests. When you enter the quest, you will be in an instance. This section is the story of the game and I thought it was very well done. The Destiny Quests you do is specific to the class you selected. In my first character as a barbarian (hey, Conan is a barbarian right), I had to steal a magical scroll from a witch, but when I was a demonologist doing the same quest, I had to complete tasks and become the apprentice of the same witch. This was a welcome change in the story which I enjoyed.

Once you reach level 19, you will be given the quest to get off the island. You can stay on the island till level 22 but I got off immediately. Once you are off the island, you will be transported to your homeland. From here on, AoC becomes more like a regular MMO. Vast maps to explore, lots to kill and quests to do.

So far, I enjoyed my time in Hyboria. The world is interesting and different from the other worlds out there in other MMOs. Other MMOs feel that they have to have a cutesy feel to it to attract the kids. That is not AoC. AoC is clearly a game meant for mature audiences, the game is littered with heads on spikes, naked women, foul language, betrayal and evil demons all over the place. I enjoy the fact that this is not a cookie-cutter game and that Funcom decided to take some risks. The magic system for one is totally different from other games. In AoC, magic is black magic. When a mage cast a spell, you are doing black magic and the game do let you forget it. I love it!

However, there are some weaknesses in the game. The beautiful deserts and gorgeous mountains in the game come at a steep price. The System Requirements in AoC are way higher than any other MMO I’ve played. If you don’t have a good computer, I suggest you forget about the game totally. Also different is that the world is not seamless. Every different part of Hyboria is separated and you must wait for a load before you can enter the next zone. This I just hate and I hope Funcom can do something about this. I also didn’t think much of the combat system. Most other MMOs has a standard auto-attack feature, but in AoC you have to press a key for each individual attack. There is Left, Right, and Forward, and then Lower Left and Lower Right. This system is used for combos. For example, after you use a combat power, you can enter Left or Right to continue the move and do even more damage. You press wrong the wrong key, and the combo stop. It’s a unique style that a lot of players in AoC seem to like but personally I don’t feel it’s that different.

However I will say that overall AoC is different! Whereas every other MMOs out there is trying to copy World of Warcraft (Warhammer Online is almost World of Warcraft 2.0), Funcom bring their game to a different direction. AoC may or may not be the game for you, but I strongly suggest you try it. No matter what, it is something different (especially at the start) and I enjoyed it immensely.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Comics this week

Avengers: The Initiative Special #1- Of all the original cast of Initiative recruits, I always thought Hardball was the most interesting. Not because of the relationship between Hardball and Komodo, but because of his ties to Hydra. The inevitable double-cross happen this issue and...it was anti-climatic. This issue isn't bad, don't get me wrong, but I was expecting so much more. But what we got was a mushy love-story and how Hardball chose Hydra because he don't want to 'drag down' Komodo. I know they are no longer in the main book but surely Dan Slott and Christos Gage can do better than this!

Secret Six #3- The story of the best henchmen in the DCU continue as the Secret Six make their play for the secret card that everyone wants. However, that's not what this series is about. This series is about how melting pot of characters in the team. The serious, the roguish, the perverted, and the tormented members of the team try their best not to kill each other while completing their mission. This time Cheetah and Bolt join in the fun as the team find out what the card is for. Boy, I can't wait to see how they will kill each other next issue.

Final Crisis: Resist- I haven't been too impressed by the various Final Crisis's tie-in projects so far. Outside Final Crisis: Submit, the others hasn't been too impressive. Resist isn't as good as Submit but it is one of the better Final Crisis tie-in so far. The story is about how Checkmate organized, or tried to organized, a resistance to Darkseid. I didn't collect Checkmate, but that didn't stop me from enjoying this book. Mr. Terrific showed why he is the smartest man in the world and I like the interaction between Snapper Carr and Cheetah. When heroes fall, it's up to the villains of the world to step-up and help. God help us all. The OMAC Project plot I can do without, never enjoyed it at all, but the virus zoo was great. First time I heard of it, but it was a brilliant idea. There's a certain tragic feel to the book which I also liked. Darkseid won, so the book should feel like a downer. Good feel, good story; good book.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hard to be Fair

Recently I had a pretty funny SMS conversation with a friend. In wishing me a belated birthday, he wished me luck and that my blog will become our government’s No.1 enemy soon.

Naturally, I am a little miff about this and told him so. Of course there are times when I disagree with them and said so here but I’ve always tried to be fair in my comments and there are times where I agreed with our Singapore government. Now just because I am not pro-government does NOT mean I am pro-opposition.

To be fair, my friend is not the only in Singapore to have such feelings. Personally I feel this is a trap most Singaporeans fall into as we have a tendency to put people into camps when there is no need to do so.

If you comment on Singapore politics, I think it doesn’t matter if you are either pro-government or pro-opposition as long as you are pro-Singapore.

And that is something I will freely admit to.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Will Need Time

Americans got their first black president as Barack Obama became America’s first black president in history as his Republican challenger John McCain conceded defeat.

Now I know Obama was always leading in the pools, but I admit to thinking that America will NOT vote a black in as president. Something like that only happens in disaster movies and TV series. What can I say, America surprised me!

However, I think people should not have too high expectations for Obama. As the 44th president, Obama (and his vice-president, Joseph Biden), will have a lot of messes on his hands. George Bush is leaving the White House with his country in recession, fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and America’s reputation is tatters.

As solid and cool as Obama has been in this election, he will need time and I’m afraid people are expecting too much, too fast. However, if he governs America half as good as he ran his campaign; we shouldn’t have too much to worry about.

Here’s one blogger wishing him the best of luck.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

1 in 4 is not enough

With a global recession on the cards, governments around the world are worried and taking steps to ensure employment for their citizens. That is unless you live in fair Singapore.

An article in the Strait Times yesterday state that Singaporeans must be serious and accept foreigners in Singapore. Now what I’m surprised at is the fact that the article seem to suggest that Singapore is open to accepting even more foreigners onto our shores.

Simple math: The number of Singaporean numbered above 3 million and the number of foreigners in Singapore last year numbered above a million. And that’s not counting the illegal workers. This means that 1 in 4 people in Singapore is a foreigner. That’s not enough?

I can accept that some foreigners is needed but with a record of 1 in 4, slower growth next year, unemployment expected to rise, and a global recession on the cards, does Singapore need even more foreigners?

Maybe the Singapore government should change their name to “Big Business Government” because they seem more worried about their companies’ profitably than ordinary Singaporeans.

Monday, November 3, 2008

EPL this Month

The shape of the EPL is being shown as the big 4 are climbing up the table, but there are a few surprises this October.

Top Teams this Month
Chelsea- Yes they lost their home record but they are still in the top 2 of the EPL. And that’s with a whole list of injuries to contend with! When those guys return, it’ll be interesting to see how manager Luiz Felipe Scolari will integrate them back into the team, but till then Chelsea is still one of the top teams in the league.

Liverpool- I admit, when Fernando Torres got injured playing for Spain, I thought Liverpool are going to be in trouble. However, they now have a new scoring machine in…Dirk Kuyt? Yes, after a disappointing season last year, Dirk Kuyt is coming good. Robbie Keane still doesn’t look like a good buy at $20million, but Torres is coming back from his injury, so Liverpool got a break this month.

Hull City- They are still there. 4-1 to Man Utd at Old Trafford, and Hull City still somehow made a game of it by scoring 2 goals to lose 4-3. Spirit is something Hull has and as long as they have that, they will survive.

Surprise Team this month
Tottenham Hotspur- I think firing Juande Ramos was a wrong move as he wasn’t given enough time to gel his players together. However the appointment of Harry Redknapp was a right move. Under Redknapp’s system, Luka Modric has the freedom to roam behind the strikers and both Darren Bent and Roman Pavlyuchenko has benefited. Not sure how long the new manager bounce will last, but Spurs fans finally has something to smile about.

Disappointing Teams this month
Arsenal- Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger may not want to admit it but the Gunners are lightweight in the middle of the park. Opponents are picking up on the fact that Cesc Fabregas do not have anyone beside him in the middle, so Arsenal are just losing too many midfield battles this season. Without the midfield, Robin van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor do not have a steady supply line, and since those two are not the most deadly of strikers, it’s important that Arsenal have a constant stream of chances for them. Arsene need to go buy a holding midfielder this January.

West Ham – The credit crisis engulfing the world right now has hit West Ham especially hard. The Icelandic owners of the club are in financial difficulties and manager Gianfranco Zola has to deal with poor morale. He also has no money to buy new players in January. Bad form, poor morale, no money; bad news for a new manager.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Comics this week

Reign in Hell #3- Neron return fire this issue as he destroyed one of hell’s province to show his power. I have to wonder, “Why the hell (pun intended) didn’t he do this in the first place?” That’s the danger when you have a few all powerful guys dueling it out for control. The surprise was in the end was unexpected, in a good way. The smackdown is just getting bigger

Avengers: The Initiative #18- Of all the Secret Invasion tie-ins, Avengers: The Initiative has done the best. The issue continues to follow the Skrull Kill Krew on their road trip across America to kill Skrulls and how they meet up with the first class of graduates of Camp Hammond. The Skrull sleeper agent was a surprise but it made sense, so that’s good and whoa, did Cloud 9 changed or what! In issue 1, she was a fun girl who uses her cloud powers to ride in the sky, now she is a cold-hearted sniper who uses her powers for cover so that she can shot enemies dead from the air. Tony Stark, you have a lot of explaining to do!

Nova #18- After a 1-2 issues of Secret Invasion tie-in hell, gears are changed and Nova is back! The return of Worldmind is most welcome by this reader as the super-computer again shows why Nova needs him. I’m not too thrilled by the return of Quasar (he had a wonderful death in Annihilation, why spoilt it?), but the writers actually tried to have a few throwaway lines on how he returned so that’s okay. As long as they ignore the Skrulls, Nova will go far.

Friday, October 31, 2008

New NBA Season

The Los Angeles Lakers/Boston Celtics Finals last season was the best advertisement the NBA could have hoped for after a year of scandals. It was the young, hungry Lakers against the seasoned Celtics and with the history between the two teams, it was a great finals.

Hope the NBA enjoyed it because it won’t happen again. Boston Celtics still have the Big 3 of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce but they lost James Posey and worse, they did not add to their bench. So in the weak Eastern Conference, LeBron James is probably enough to get the Cleveland Cavaliers back to the NBA Finals.

Unlike the Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers got stronger. Injured centre Andrew Bynum is coming back from injury, and with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, the Lakers has a very good frontline this season. Of course the main man for the Lakers is still Kobe Bryant. MVP last year, he will still the reason why the Lakers get to the finals this season.

A LeBron-Kobe duel in the NBA Finals? Uh…maybe the NBA shouldn’t have to worry at all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Less Jobs for Singapore

Here is proof that the worldwide credit crisis has hit Singapore. The Marina Bay Sands integrated resort is several months behind schedule due to higher construction cost and its opening will be delayed.

Awarded to Las Vegas Sands, the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort is supposed to be one of the new attractions for tourist entering Singapore and a new source of jobs for Singaporeans. So much for that idea.

With the unemployment rate in Singapore expected to rise, this is bad news for Singapore.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Safe Sanctuary for Ah Meng’s Cousins

Amidst the carnage in the world’s financial markets, it’s good to know that some people are still worried about things other than money. In Malaysia, conservationists are going to purchase land from palm oil producers so that they could create a forest sanctuary to protect Borneo's orangutans, pygmy elephants and other endangered wildlife.

The idea is to create a safe area for the animals and also help stave off the demise of the orangutans, whose numbers have dwindled sharply in recent years. Research show that about 5,000 orangutans have been lost every year since 2004 and the reason for this is mainly due to illegal logging and the rapid spread of palm oil plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. Conservationists believe that buying 222 acres of tropical jungle land in Sabah from palm oil operators will solve this problem.

I’m not sure if it will solve the problem, but I think this is a great idea. The purchased territory will link two sections of a wildlife reserve that is home to a vast array of other animals, including an estimated 600 orangutans. A safe sanctuary could be just what the doctor ordered for Ah Meng’s cousins in the wild.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss's debut, The Name of the Wind, is the tale of Kvothe. At the start, he was living under the assumed name Kote, an innkeeper at a small village in the middle of nowhere. As the story goes on however, you discovered that Kvothe isn't just an innkeeper, but one of the most famous wizard of his world.

After being discovered by a scribe called Chronicler, Kvothe starts telling his life story. His happy childhood in a troupe of traveling players; his years spent as an orphan in a big city; his daringly and successful attempt to enter the University of magic; and the friends and enemies he made in his early life.

It doesn't seems like much on the surface, and after the first hundred pages, I seriously thought I've made a mistake in taking this book. However as I read on...Kvothe drew me in.

If this is really Rothfuss's debut, I can safely say that he is going to have a long career as a fantasy writer. The fantasy world he has put together is amazingly detailed. The port city of Tarbean, the University, even the small village Kvothe was hiding in were all beautifully written. Such details are seldom seem in fantasy books any more but that wasn't the end of it. The characters themselves were very believable. Kvothe's drive to learn magic and his need to find the Chandrian, the immortals who murdered his family, was superbly written.

Kvothe is a real character. He makes both good choices and bad decisions. He do clever things that were believable, and dumb things that you and I did when we were at that age. His story is riveting. He has huge talent but he is not without flaws. In fact, Kvothe's flaws match his gifts in size and the book hint that Kvothe's story is ultimately that of a tragedy. In Kvothe, Patrick Rothfuss created a character that could match the very best in the history of fantasy.

I am not usually a fan of books told in first person's view but I can see why Rothfuss did it here. Told in his own words, Kvothe's story became more powerful, more exciting, more rousing, and much more personal.

The book is not without its flaws. The writer literally beat it into your head that Kvothe is a Shakespearean tragic hero. If the various hints around the book still don't get you, the book is part of the "The Kingkiller Chronicle"; Kvothe is known as Kvothe Kingkiller; the cover name of Kote means disaster; and Kvothe is feared by the people of the world. A bit of an overkill, wouldn't you say? I also found the start to be boring, the book is a slow burn. However once the Chronicler came into the picture, you will not put it down!

That's how good 'The Name Of The Wind' is. My review cannot do it justice and I cannot describe how good it really is. I will tell you that Rothfuss will be a household name among fantasy fans if the other 2 books is half as good as this one, and you MUST pick this book up. It's great!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Comics this week

Final Crisis #4- Grant Morrison writing jujutsu lasted three issues of Final Crisis, keeping readers off guard by challenging the straightforward nature of good vs. evil. Say what you want about Morrison’s writing (I myself am not a great fan), but the mood is perfect. The mood and mystery pay off here as at the end of this issue, Darkseid and his gods kick the human race from pillar to post here. All that is left are 6 Watch Towers and the rag-tag heroes and villains who still have free will. However what is a Crisis without strange concepts that make your head spin? Barry Allen reverse-engineered to life out of faster-than-light particles? Darkseid picking Turpin as his new host? These strange crazy ideas make Final Crisis an extremely fun read.

Secret Invasion #7- There they go, the big showdown! Every hero and villain in the Marvel U against the might of the Skrulls. Good, because the sooner this series end, the better it will be for everyone. Secret Invasion has overstayed its welcome.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A False Dawn

After a month of crying and pleading, there is finally hope for the investors. Two rays of hope in fact for the investors of Lehman Minibonds,

1) The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) says two international financial institutions licensed to operate in Singapore have submitted proposals to restructure the Lehman minibonds notes so that they can run till maturity.

2) Hong Leong Finance is proposing to buy back Lehman Minibond Programme notes from some of its customers.
Don’t get your hope too high because Hong Leong Finance proposal comes with 2 conditions. The account holder must be at least 62 years old, with only primary school education.

I think we can safely say that Hong Leong’s proposal is due to criticisms that banks are taking advantage of their elderly and less well-educated customers. However I disagree with their proposal.

Most people who have read my blog knows that I am not for the banks returning the money when it’s hardly their fault Lehman Brothers collapse, however I have no problem if they want to buyback the minibonds. Thing is, Hong Leong need to either buy back all the minibonds, or you don’t buy back any. You cannot pick and choose who to pay back.

Of the 8,000+ investors that have sunk money into the minibonds, this ray of hope is more like a false dawn than anything else. I mean just how many of them are above 62 years old with only primary school education? What about the others investors? Nothing for them?

That I don’t agree with. Buyback all the minibonds, or don’t. You cannot pick and choose.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Even dogs...

After killing human babies with their reckless pursuit of profits, Chinese companies has now reached a new low. It is reported that about 1,500 dogs have died after eating feed tainted with melamine, the same chemical that tainted products that caused kidney stones problems in tens of thousands of Chinese children and led to the deaths of four infants.

As if human babies aren’t enough, dogs are also dying in China due to bad products. Just how bad is the situation in China when even dogs are getting killed by bad food. The worse thing is that these raccoon dog, who were bred for their fur, died of kidney failure; the same problem that affect those babies! Even a lion cub and two baby orangutans from a zoo near Shanghai are affected. The 3 baby animals were discovered to have developed kidney stones last month after they had been nursed for more than a year with milk powder made by the Sanlu Group, the company in the center of the tainted milk crisis.

It seems that China just cannot learn any lessons on these scandals. Just last year, there was an uproar over a Chinese-made pet food ingredient containing melamine that was linked to the deaths of dozens of pets in the United States. Then the human babies, and now this! No more China-made food products for me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More harm than good

After years of countless complaints from anxious parents and people who have nothing better to do, come 1st April 2009, all new small buses in Singapore will be required to have seat-belts on all seats. Existing small buses has a period of 5 years to convert the seating on their buses. Small school-buses carrying school-children must do this in 3 years.

Now, I am usually all for more safety on Singapore roads, but this new ruling will cause more harm than good. If you own a transport company and you are carrying school-children, you will need to spend money to convert your buses with this new ruling. Outside the cost factor, there is also talk about schools starting later next year. If schools start later, you will have to choose between carrying school-children or carrying workers who pay more than school going children. What will you do?

For me it will be a simple decision; I will stop carrying school-children. When I carry school-children now, I can squeeze 3 children in 1 seat. After the ruling with seatbelts, I can only have 2 in 1 seat. I spend money to convert the bus, and I have to carry fewer children with the new ruling. Why would I want to continue with school-children then?

LTA has some financial assistance for bus companies but if I own a bus company, I will choose to carry workers who pay more and who complain less. Once this rule comes into affect, I foresee a short of school-buses on Singapore roads.

Like I said; this new rule will cause more harm than good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Copycat Singapore

I know Singapore never had a reputation for being the most original of countries and we had always seen ourselves as a competitor to Hong Kong, but the recent copycat activities of Singapore is something else altogether.

Two days ago after Hong Kong guaranteed bank deposits, Singapore follow suit. Now the Singapore government seems to be trying to find a legal way to make DBS and other banks pay back investors on the Lehman Brothers minibonds fiasco. Again, this is after Hong Kong agreed to refund investors in Hong Kong.

The Singapore government has made no bones about the reason for the bank guarantee and it seems that the same apply to the minibonds matter. But Hong Kong is paying back investors about 50-70% of their investments, whereas the Singapore Strait Times say something in the region of about 20% for Singapore investors.

I say if you want to copy Hong Kong, do it all the way and better them. Hong Kong is paying back 50 to 70%; Singapore should aim for 80 to 100%! It’s no good just copying someone, you must better them.

Aim higher Singapore!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Comics this week

Guardians of the Galaxy #6- The 'Secret Invasion' tie-in issue continue...and continue and continue. Luckily, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning end the torture this week as Comos put the beatdown on everyone. The Skrulls are totally ignored again (thank God) and the the closing pages bring Starlord's secret out into the open. Can't wait for the team to start hitting one another.

Street Fighter II Turbo #1- Although not a big SF fan, I was very impressed with the old SF series by Udon. Udon's Street Fighter comics had my interest as they were good solid series which had tried to expand the SF story, the good artwork helped as well. For some reason which I still don't understand, the series went on a publishing hiatus. With the release of Street Fighter IV however, Udon is trying to strike gold again as they will release three new SF titles. Street Fighter II Turbo is the first of these three. #1 is basically a new set-up issue for all the new readers out there. For old readers like me...it was disappointing. The artwork is there, the story was serviceable but this issue did nothing I haven't seen before. An enjoyable issue to be sure, but Udon will has to do better if they want me to collect SF again.

Stormwatch #15- I don't know what's more surprising; the fact that Wildstorm actually kept to their publishing schedule, or that it took so long for a joke at Jackson King's stupid beard. This issue try to move things along for Stormwatch as various plots get started. We see what the High has been doing (trying to save the world one life at a time) and how old-world politics is still affecting the new post-Number of the Beast world. I'm very interested in the High story. He was one of the greatest heroes in the last century, but what role can he have in this new century when he should have been dead already? Interesting

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Comics this week

Secret Six #2- After a so-so first issue, the magic is back. Gail Simone showed why readers loved the Secret Six as Catman tangle with Batman and the rest of the group break into prison to break-out a prisoner who rather stay where she is. A misadventure in very sense of the word. And I loved it! Simone again show her masterly use of overlooked villains, this time showing Bane making a move on Scandal Savage, and it actually work! I'm no fan of Bane as I think he is just a gimmick character created for Batman (which he is) , but then again I'm no fan of Catman before Gail Simone got her claws in him. Bane as an interesting character? I like to see how that will happen.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Distasteful Logic

The stock market bloodbath shows no sign of stopping as the global credit markets steadfastly refused to move. Even a synchronize cut by central banks around the world cannot move the Libor.

As panic set in globally, governments around the world are wondering what can be done to calm the markets. With real fears that the global economy is heading towards recession, Yamato Life Insurance Co in Japan filed for bankruptcy protection because of market turmoil. So much for any thoughts that Asia's financial sector is anymore stable compared with Europe and the U.S.

With such brutal losses across the board, the one thing I believe the Americans and EU governments must do is that they must forced their banks to start lending again. Nationalized the banks if you have to, but make those banks kick-start lending. That I believe is a way out of this mess. Governments has been slashing interest rates and throwing billions into the market to do this, but it is just not working.

Some of you might say that taking over the banks and forcing them to lend is a panic response, but I disagree. The equity bloodbath around the world is panic, nationalizing the banks and forcing them to lend is the most logical way calm the markets. Trading around the world were suspended for excessive losses at one time or another these past 2 weeks, and the reason is that people are not confident that the credit crisis is over. For people to regain confidence, the banks need to start lending again. If the banks are not willing to do so themselves, then I say governments must force them to do so.

I admit the idea is distasteful, but the idea is also logical and it’s a better bet than throwing endless money into the market. Desperate measures for desperate times.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

To be fair to DBS

I think most of us in Singapore have heard of the investors stung by investments in Lehman mini-bonds who are now petitioning the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) for help to recover their money.

I’ve heard that these investors, frustrated with replies from financial institutions over their investments, are now trying to organize a protest at the Speaker’s Corner. Taking a leaf out of the investors in Hong Kong, the investors are claiming that they were wrongly sold the structured products and want MAS to ask DBS, the issuer of DBS High Notes 5, to return their principal.

I’m not too sure if this protest will take place but to be fair, I don’t think DBS should be asked to return money when it’s hardly their fault Lehman Brother are undergoing liquidation right now. It is very sad and unfortunate for the investors that their money is gone, but we have to accept that there’s always an amount of risk in any investment. A month ago, who would have guessed that Lehman Brothers would wind up?

I might be in the minority here in Singapore but the basic thing is this: You cannot ask DBS to return money when they are not the ones that lost it! It’s like telling your stock broker to buy stocks, and then asking the broker to repay your losses when the market turns against you. It’s hardly your broker’s fault this happen and that is the case here. DBS is nothing but the broker here.

It is unfortunate but the money was lost when Lehman Brothers went into bankruptcy due to the credit crunch, so it is Lehman Brothers the investors should be looking at, not DBS. When you put a deposit in Bank A and then the bank collapse, can you ask Bank B to return you the deposit?

I’m afraid the answer to that is clear to everyone.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tough Times Ahead

It’s as good as official. Singapore is headed for recession as the global financial crisis sweep across the world.

With the US economy wilting under its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Iceland on the brink of national bankruptcy and countries across Europe and Russia rescuing banks left, right and centre, the news isn’t too unexpected. After all Singapore is heavily dependent on trade, so when our export markets in the US and Europe suffer, so do we.

What worries me is the fact that some economists say that the slowdown could last 2 years. Almost all of them have written off 2009 but the fact that some of them have written off 2010 as well worries me. This shows me that there’s a lack of confidence that the U.S can solve their subprime mortgage problems. And given that more than two-thirds of our country's economy is driven by external demand; that is bad, bad news.

Just 2 months, the Singapore's government cut its forecast for economic growth this year to between four and five percent and recently Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam warned that we could be stuck in an economic downturn for "several quarters".

Bad news on the left, worse news on the right. Look like there’s tough times ahead for everyone.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What About the Economy?

With the world stock market in a nosedive, you would think that the economy would be first and foremost on the lips of anyone running for political office. Not so for the U.S of A.

In their bid to be the U.S President, character assassinations emerge as the tactics of choice in John McCain-Barack Obama race. GOP presidential nominee John McCain and Sarah Palin fired the first shot raising Obama's relationship with a former 1960s radical. Under accusations that he was "palling around with terrorists who would target their own country" Obama fired back, bringing up the past scandals of John McCain.

John McCain’ s role in a banking scandal and his past connections to a private group that supplied aid to guerrillas seeking to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua 20 years ago are all now on U.S news. In acts of supreme irony, both sides are accusing the other of a political smear campaign.

Here’s a suggestion to both of them: Talk about the economy and how you are going to fix the problem. That way neither of you needs to worry about any “smear campaign”. I am sure most Americans, and most of the world, are far more interested in the economy than your past scandals.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Asia Bailout Fund

A week after the U.S Congress reluctantly passed the $700 billion bailout package, it seems Germany and Europe has to follow suit. Germany just had to guarantee all bank savings and stepped in with the biggest bank rescue in their country's history, as the world financial crisis has moved from the US economy to the world at large.

Thus far, it seems that the massive US bailout package has done little to calm investor nerves with major stock markets dropping almost daily. I put the blame on those idiots in the U.S Congress who voted against the bailout the first time. Wall Street dropped 777 points after that vote and that increased the turmoil that has shook stock markets around the world.

Leaders of France, Germany, Britain and Italy now pledged to step up coordination on tackling the financial crisis, but refused to set up a joint bailout fund for European banks. They may not have a choice anymore.

The German government’s emergency rescue package of Hypo Real Estate (HPE), the country's fourth-largest bank, follow French Bank BNP Paribas agreement to take control of ailing finance group Fortis's operations in Belgium and Luxembourg. Saving banks seems to be the new hobby in the financial world now.

However after the bailouts in the U.S and Europe, maybe it’s time for Asia to wonder if this is the time to set up a fund for banks as well. After all, it’s only a matter of time before a bank in Asia is hit. Why not set up a bail-out fund beforehand?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Stupid Move by NTU

On the week when opposition figure J.B. Jeyaretnam died, a simple case from Nanyang Technological University showed actually what the man has been fighting against all his political life.

The Nanyang Technological University's broadcast network had ran a small news bulletin on Chee Soon Juan after he visited the school in late August to meet students and hand out fliers. For some reason that I failed to understand, school officials pulled the bulletin off the airwaves and stopped a planned news article about Chee's visit.

What is this "concern about school media airing "unsolicited views" from an "uninvited" person"? What harm can a small bulletin do? Isn't it more advisable and smarter for the NTU to just let the students run the bulletin? How long would people remember a simple bulletin from the university's broadcast? Hell, how many people/students actually listen to the school's broadcast anyway?

But in banning the broadcast, about 60 people now gather at Speakers' Corner to protest the decision and Chee Soon Juan now has more airplay than ever before. I truly fear for the students of the university when the officials of the school are so stupid. Talk about a decision that backfired. Chee Soon Juan may a vocal critic of the government but what harm can a bulletin actually do to the school or the PAP?

But a protest against the ban of the bulletin at the Speakers' Corner by the students and former students from the university in question, that's news! If I am part of the PAP, I will be less than happy with the school officials of NTU.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Too Late China

In a desperate damage limitation exercise, China has recalled all exported milk powder sold overseas before 14/9. As China continued to move to contain the scandal over tainted milk that has sickened thousands of children, I have only one thing to say, “Too little, too late.”

Reports state that the first case was reported last year, and the Chinese government knew about the tainted baby milk formula about 1 month before the Olympics. Everything was hushed up to protect profits for the companies and the image of image during the Olympics.

Meanwhile, babies got sicker and sicker. Then the first baby died and the scandal exploded. Right now at least four children are dead and 53,000 babies are sickened in mainland China alone due to the greed of the companies.

China’s food safety reputation was never strong to begin with and with this case, whatever was left of it has been destroyed. Countries around the world have announced steps to ban and recall products containing Chinese milk. If anymore of the sick 53,000 babies die…

I can say with some conviction that China can forget about damage limitation because no one is going trust a single word of what they say. What they need to do is overhaul the safety standards in China and have strict enforcement of those standards. Until that happen, forget it. No one will buy any food with ‘Made in China’ on it.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

EPL this Month

The month of September is over, and the season has only just begun. But this being the EPL, teams has already started to move and the league table is beginning to take shape.

Top Teams this Month
Chelsea- New manager Luiz Felipe Scolari has turned Chelsea into an attacking team faster than even I thought he would. With Deco in the middle, Chelsea has a true playmaker and things look good at Stamford Bridge. The loss of Micheal Essien is a big blow but Chelsea has a big enough, good enough squad to play through the injuries.

Liverpool- Manager Rafael Benitez must be thanking his lucky stars that he managed to get Fernando Torres. Torres is the reason Liverpool is at joint top of the EPL thus far. This is a good thing because it seems that Benitez got it wrong in the transfer market again. Robbie Keane looks like a bust to me, but as long as Fernando Torres keeps scoring, Liverpool will have a chance at the title.

Hull City- After 5 games, Hull City is sixth in the EPL? Hull City has had a dream start to their first EPL season and boss Phil Brown is the reason for it. Phil Brown has a side that is difficult to beat, full of spirit, and unafraid of the other teams. How many sides had beaten Arsenal at the Emirates? One, which was West Ham, Hull City was just the second. They keep this up and Hull may still be in the EPL next season. Who would have bet on that?

Surprise Team this month
Man City- After firing Sven-Goran Eriksson and hiring Mark Hughes, things look bad for Man City. Suddenly, Thaksin Shinawatra sold the club to the Abu Dhabi United Group, big money flow into the club, they signed Robinho, and they are the team everyone wants to beat. Just another month in Man City where the only certainty is uncertainty.

Disappointing Teams this month
Manchester United – Man Utd may have won the battle to keep Cristiano Ronaldo, but they have been struggling thus far in the EPL. I will be the devil’s advocate here and say this, “I think Dimitar Berbatov may be a bad buy for them.” Berbatov is a great player with silky skills and a great touch, but I think he does not fit into the style of play Man Utd has. Sir Alex Ferguson want a willing runner upfront who will run into the channels and create open space for his midfielders to run into. That is not Dimitar Berbatov. Unless Berbatov changes his style of play, Man Utd will have a problem upfront.

Tottenham Hotspur- Tottenham supporters must be wondering what the hell is going on with their team. After winning the Carling Cup, Spurs fans would have to be forgiven for thinking this is the season for them to push into the top tier of the EPL. Things have not turned out that way. Juande Ramos has to face a problem most managers faced when they are winning; bigger teams will poach your top players. 11 players left the club since the Carling Cup win with 7 new players coming in. His top 2 strikers, Dimitar Berbatov and Robbie Keane, both forced Spurs to sell them and the team now looked weak upfront. However I think if Spurs keep their cool and give Ramos time, things will get better. He has signed a couple of very good players and it is still a good squad. Give him time and things will get better.

Newcastle- I’m not a Newcastle fan so I may have a more unemotional view of things. I have to say this, “Why are the fans turning on Newcastle United’s owner Mike Ashley?” I can understand why they are unhappy with the departure of former manager Kevin Keegan, but Mike Ashley is true fan of Newcastle who has done good things for the club. Would they prefer their club to be in the hands of some Nigerian consortium who no one has ever heard of? Besides, it’s not like they got a bad deal on James Milner. The player wanted to go to Aston Villa anyway! How is that Mike Ashley’s or Dennis Wise’s fault? Sometimes, football fans are just crazy.