Tuesday, September 30, 2008

They What?

It’s amazing; it’s crazy but it’s true. The U.S Congress failed to pass the $700 billion bailout package that is suppose to lift the US economy and sweep up all the bad debts in the US credit market.

My jaws literally dropped on the floor when I heard this. I mean I know the bailout is unpopular and the U.S election is just in 5 weeks, but how in the world can they reject this! Is there another plan out there in the U.S that I haven’t heard of yet? As Wall Street had a historic sell-off of 777 points in one day, including a decline of 400 points in 10 minutes, the answer is a big ‘NO’.

The historic carnage on Wall Street hit everyone as stock markets in Asia fell sharply after the news. The stunning news left almost everyone speechless and in shock. If U.S lawmakers don’t want to do this, then they must come up with another plan…fast!

Anyone out there who is playing the stock market, here’s a piece of advice: Sell, Sell, Sell!

Monday, September 29, 2008

It’s not about the racing

The first F1 race in Singapore is over. The first night race in F1 history was incident packed as there were crashes and accidents all over the place. The safety car has to be activated twice during the race.

As expected, the race was won in the pits. Ferrari's Felipe Massa went from first to last after a pitstop blunder, while Renault's double world champion Fernando Alonso won his first race in more than a year sent him as he had made his pit-stop before the first safety car came out.

Image wise, the race is good for the image of Singapore. However, I think they must work on the race track before the race next year. First thing is how narrow the track was. Before the race, a driver said that Singapore will be a crash-fest. He wasn’t wrong. While I can remember all of 5 over-taking moves in the whole 55 lap race, there were just too many crashes, too many laps under the safety cars. It spoilt the race for me.

I also think they need to look into the heat of the race. When you see the drivers after the race, all of them were sweating like crazy and most looked shattered by the experience. They don’t look that bad even after the Malaysian F1 race which is held during the day-time. Maybe it’s the fact Singapore is a street circuit or it’s the heat from the floodlights, but I think that’s something that must be looked into before the next race.

There wasn’t much too crow about the racing but F1 Singapore was always more about selling Singapore than the racing itself. On that part, I believe F1 Singapore has to be counted as a successful

Sunday, September 28, 2008

F1 Singapore

F1 Singapore is well on its way. Good news is that the lighting seems to be NOT a problem for the drivers and the track looks good on TV. Also it looks like there will NOT be rain tonight, so thats good news for the image of Singapore.

Good news for the city of Singapore, but bad news for racing fans. The track has 23 corners and drivers seems to dislike it. World championship pace-setter Lewis Hamilton and two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso hate each other but both agreed that there would be virtually no chance of overtaking at the Singapore Grand Prix. The 5 km street circuit is narrow and bumpy and both drivers (and others) feel that over-taking is impossible.

That means that the race will be won at the start and in the pits. Too bad for racing fans.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Comics this week

Reign in Hell #3- The war for hell go into high gear. Heroes and villains choose sides as everyone is finally in hell. Lord Satanus and Neron both show that they have no qualms about using the heroes and I foresee a lot smackdown between the different heroes and villains. As good as the story is; I will have to say the artwork is even better. Dark, dirty and gloomy; the look for hell was prefect. A truly under-rated series, comics fans would be better serve picking up this series than say…Secret Invasion?

Avengers: The Initiative #17- Without question this is the only series Marvel has right now that has actually improved due to the Secret Invasion tie-in. This issue jumped between the Skrull Kill Krew on their road trip across America to kill Skrulls and the Shadow Initiative in Camp Hammond. The jumping around spoil things for me but Ant-Man saved the day. I liked the way the writers make him so ‘un-heroic’ but at the same time so perfect for the team. He would fit the Shadow Initiative team perfectly; maybe he can replace Mutant Zero (who I hope is not who I think she is).

Nova #17- Damm you! Damm you Secret Invasion! Nova was a great series showing Richard Rider flying across the galaxy from one crisis to the next and what happened? Secret Invasion happened! The sooner this arc, and Secret Invasion, ends the better it will be for Nova. BTW; isn’t Darkhawk part of the ‘Loners’? What is he doing here?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No Answers to Good Questions

The 700-billion-dollar rescue plan is suppose to lift the US economy, stop the bad debts choking the US credit market and prevent the world from going into a financial crisis. Too bad no one knows how it’s supposed to do all that.

US President George W. Bush is in a tight spot. He needs to convince wary US lawmakers to adopt his administration's 700-billion-dollar Wall Street rescue plan, but he has no answers to their very good questions. Pressing urgently for a massive financial bailout, Bush has no idea how much debt the US government will take on, how they will then unwind their position, how long will the government hold onto the debts and what will they then do if the rescue plan fail.

Now if you think this is another anti-Bush bashing rant, you are wrong. I feel a little bit of sympathy for the man. Here he is about 1 month before the next US Presidential election, and he is facing the biggest mess in his reign. Yes, I think this may be bigger then the Iraq/Afghan mess the US is in right now. The thing is that Bush is not an economics guy. When I saw him on TV explaining the mess, I can’t help but think, “He look blur.”

He look like he has no idea what he is saying and it can’t be help because the problems is just so complex, he has no idea what the problems are, much less how to fix it. All he can do is to ask for $700 billion and give it to people who will know what to do with the money.

Unfortunately for Bush, he is the president and the US lawmakers are asking some very good questions. The sooner he comes up with the answers, the better it will be for everyone.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

GC Asia 2008

Over the weekend, I went to the Games Convention Asia 2008 at Suntec City. The convention seems smaller than what it usually is but I liked it as the area was full of demos and games for you to try. The way I like my games conventions. I mean what’s the reason for games convention if it isn’t to entice customers with demos?

Of the many games on hand there, there were 2 which really interest me; Warhammer: Age of Reckoning and Spore. I did look at the other games there but these 2 are the ones that I really try out.

First off was Warhammer: Age of Reckoning, better known as WAR. The game itself seems nice enough. Graphics and gameplay were good and solid. There’s a good range of races and class for you to choose, and the Warhammer setting is always interesting. Unfortunately, WAR is also a shameless rip-off of WoW (World of Warcraft).

In fact, I would even call WAR ‘WoW Version 2.0’. The gameplay and overall look of the game is similar to WoW, which I guess isn’t a bad thing considering how successful WoW is, but more refine. The graphics is slightly better, the PvP is much better, and the Tome of Knowledge was great. But after playing it, I can’t help but think of WoW. If you in for PvP, then WAR is the game for you; if not, you can flip a coin and decide between WAR or WoW. There’s no real difference.

I was much more impressed with Spore. The reviews of the game were decidedly mixed but I enjoy the game. Granted I only tried parts of the game, but I liked it. The game might be over hyped, but it’s fun. The cell stage was a blast and when your spore comes out of the water onto dry land…Hooray!!!! The creature, tribal and civ stage isn’t much to shout about but the space stage looks huge.

It was a fun game. I think I’ll buy that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Internet is down...again

Starhub sucks! That’s right, I’m a Starhub user. I have the mobile, the cable and the internet. I have everything and they suck!

The story is that I am having problems with the home internet for a couple of months already. I have called them for service and did everything I was asked to do. Change the splitter, change the wires, switch the wires, direct connect from the modem to the wall socket; I did them all and I still have problems with the internet!

I finally told the guy to send someone down to my place earlier this month and after that, the internet was fine…for all of 3 weeks! Now it’s down again! After a repair just 3 weeks ago! So I can say for certain; Starhub sucks!

The problems started after I had renewed my 2 year contact with them so now I have to pay a penalty if I wish to drop them. I suspect it maybe due to my online games as the problems started only after I went online heavily for the games. Even though I have an unlimited plan, I believed I may have exceeded the limit given to me due to my heavy usage. So much for unlimited if that is the case.

I don’t know what the problem is and I don’t really care. All I know is that the repair did not work and now the repair guy is coming again. Hopefully this time it will work for more 3 weeks.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Comics this week

Guardians of the Galaxy #5- The 'Secret Invasion' tie-in issue continue. Just like the last issue, the Skrulls are almost totally ignored and again it turn out to be a good decision. The main thing about the team is that it has a a lot of different personalities in it. Adam Warlock and Phyla-Vell are heroes, Groot and Gamora have mostly been villains, while Drax is somewhere between the two. And these different personalities have different ways to deal with things. It showcase itself here as the teams splits and everyone go and do their own thing. Can this team hold together? I'll be here next issue to find out.

Stormwatch #14- How do you deal with old enemies in a world that has been destroyed? In a cute about-turn, the writers has turned North Korea into a country that has came out of the 'Number of the Beast' intact. But old habits die hard as Jackson King is unwilling to let the country has power even if they have not misused it yet. Stormwatch launched an attempt to kill the country's top 3 heroes "just in case" they have any ideas of conquering other countries. Just like what Majestic is doing in Hawaii, the fact that having a dictatorship in power might be better than outright anarchy does not matter. In a world that has been destroyed, is Jackson King right? Hard decisions for hard times.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Once Bitten, Not Shy

On the day when shares of financial stocks in America went on a roller-coaster ride, Singapore proved once again how taken they are with America’s economy. Singapore Investment Fund (GIC) is one of a number of suitors for Morgan Stanley, the No. 2 U.S. investment bank in America.

As CNBC report that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is thinking of creating a new Resolution Trust Corp. to soak up bad loans and defaulted mortgages of banks, Morgan Stanley was reported to be in talks with a number of potential suitors such as China's sovereign wealth fund and state-owned bank Citic Group about a possible cash infusion

Now after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the mess in Merrill Lynch, most people will wonder why Singapore is entering the America market again but I think this might be a good deal. Morgan Stanley is a strong brand name (of course so was Merrill) and more importantly, it’s not in trouble.

If the news about the Resolution Trust Corp. is true then markets will rebound in the short term, so Morgan Stanley is worth thinking about.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

No Calm Yet

A day after U.S. authorities rescued American International Group (AIG), more bad news loom on the horizon. HBOS, currently U.K's largest mortgage lender with 20% of the market, is set to be taken over by Lloyds TSB.

More bad news; ailing U.S bank Washington Mutual Inc. appeared to be up for sale and stock in the last two big investment banks, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, were pummeled as the Dow dropped another 450 points. Rumors also have Morgan Stanley in merger talks with Wachovia Corporation and Chinese bank CITIC.

So much for the calm after the storm. People has already called this has the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and things seems to be getting from bad to worse. I wonder how long it will be before Singapore gets badly affected by the markets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Calm after the Storm (we hope)

Two days after U.S. authorities refused to rescue investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings and forced it into bankruptcy, they have now rode to the rescue of insurance giant American International Group (AIG).

The $85 billion rescue package is good news for Singaporeans who has insurance with AIA as it helped AIG stave off bankruptcy. The bailout calls for the U.S. Federal Reserve to lend up to $85 billion to AIG for two years in exchange for a 79.9 percent equity stake.

This plus the news that British bank Barclays Plc is going to buy over several parts of Lehman for $1.75 billion gave a measure of calm for Wall Street and the shell-shocked global markets. The measure of calm is a great thing after the fall of Lehman and the sale of Merrill. Perhaps now the shell-shocked markets can go back to normal.

Or at least as calm as it could be after the bloodbath.

(On a related note, I am wondering why in the world did Bank of America offer to pay US$29 per share for Merrill because I just saw that Merrill’s share price is only about US$17-US$18. Bank of America’s shares are dropping ever since news of the deal was announced and I can understand why. Strange, strange decision)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Merrill Fire-Sale

As the dramatic collapse of US investment bank Lehman Brothers caused global stock markets to plunge, one piece of news overshadowed by Lehman Brothers is causing Singaporeans much more discomfort.

As Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, it will be the fire-sale of Merrill Lynch that will worry Singaporeans. For those people for don’t know, the Singapore government investment firm Temasek Holdings is the single largest investor in Merrill Lynch with investments totaling about 8.3 billion dollars in Merrill Lynch.

What will happen to Temasek’s shares now that Bank of America (BoA) has bought over Merrill Lynch for 50 billion dollars? Your guess is as good as anyone’s! Temasek Holdings has said that it had not decided on what to do with its stake yet, but no matter what their decision is, it’s hard to see anything good for Temasek (and Singapore) out of this.

Temasek Holdings holds about 13 to 14 percent of Merrill which made it the biggest investor in the US investment bank; now its’ stake will be much smaller. Not only that, since this is a takeover by BoA, Temasek has even less say in how its’ money will be run.

The price of the sale also has me worried. As reported earlier, Temasek Holdings holds about 13 to 14 percent of Merrill which totaled about 8.3 billion dollars, but BoA only spent 50 billion dollars to buy over Merrill Lynch. Makes you wonder just how bad things are in Merrill.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Climate Changes

As I see the images of Hurricane Ike sweeping through Texas just 3 years after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, I wonder what it will take for people to believe in climate change.

The reason I ask this is because Sarah Palin, who will be U.S vice-president if John McCain get elected, do not believe that climate change has anything to do with mankind. She admits that there is climate change (which means he’s already better than Bush), but say that it is a natural occurrence and do not believe man has anything to do with it. This view is directly against the views of the scientific community but sadly she is not alone.

Here in Singapore most people will give you a blur face when you asked them about climate change. Despite all the warnings and images on TV, they don’t know and frankly don’t care. They are wrong as climate change is something that will affect everyone.

I just hope it doesn’t take a cyclone to hit Singapore to change people’s minds here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another Problem in the U.S.

Embattled Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers is on the brink of collapse as the US government is debating whether they should save yet another company on Wall Street.

Problem is that the US government had already taken over Bear Stearns and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac earlier this year. It’s becoming a little bit of a habit isn’t it? As US government officials and company executives try to put together a deal to save the company, you have to ask if this will be the last of the bailouts.

The financial markets have been in total turmoil for the past year and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Despite all the talk about how the financial industry is dealing with the problem, there seem to be no stopping the failures and bailouts in America.

And the problems seem to be coming at a faster rate than before. The latest troubles for Lehman come just days after the US government took over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One wonder how long it will be before Singapore feels the full weight of the US slowdown.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Comics this week

World of Warcraft: Ashbringer #1- I am one of those guys who thought that the main World of Warcraft comic book was nothing but a gimmick to cash in on the WoW name. I admit I fear the same thing for Ashbringer. I wouldn't say that I'm wrong, but World of Warcraft: Ashbringer is a surprising good piece of work. The story is on the paladin, Alexandros Mograine, and the forging of his sword, Ashbringer. It shows Alexandros from the end of the second orc/human war to the fall of Arthas, and I must say they did it well. An effective story give the issue a fast pace feel which was good when there are so much history to go through. A good story and one the main series can hopefully learn from.

Secret Invasion #6- Finally! After 5 issues of people doing almost nothing, we are finally getting somewhere. Don't get me wrong, not much happen in this issue but at least the issue show us what we can expect for the next 2 issues. Characters still go through the motions (the new Captain America has all of 1 line) but anything is better than the no action, slow talk past 5 issues. Now if only Michael Bendis can stop if the "who do we trust" dialogue.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Please NOooooooo!

After a black Catwoman; a rumored white Prince of Persia; will Hollywood please STOP!

Marvel Studios is gearing up to produce a Captain America movie and rumors says that the role had been offered to….Will Smith! Not Brad Pitt or Matthew McConaughey, but Will Smith who’s black! Is nothing sacred in Hollywood? And I’m not even a Captain America fan!

A black man called Steve Rogers. Yeah, that’s going to work.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Life in Space

In an amazing experiment, researchers had discovered creatures that can survive in space. Researchers exposed tiny, six-legged critter called "water bears," to the open harsh vacuum of space, and amazingly many of them survived!

The hardy segmented creatures suspended all biological activity in extreme environments and survived the journey to space that would have instantly killed any human. Even with all the deadly radiation of space, it seems life will find a way to survive.

The water bears, known formally as tardigrades, are speck-sized things which are less than 1.5 millimeters long. They can resist heat, cold and radiation, and live on wet lichens and mosses. When their environment dries out however, they would just wait for a return of water. The tardigrades were aboard the FOTON-M3 spacecraft launched by the European Space Agency (ESA) in September 2007 and were then exposed to open space conditions. Upon return to Earth, they were examined and most had survived exposure to the vacuum of space. The survivors could even reproduce after their space trip!

Researchers are still puzzled on how the tardigrades did it, but surviving in space…that’s just amazing. Give a whole new meaning to life in space.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Time to Reclaim More Land

After all the protest and complains about foreign workers, the Singapore Ministry of National Development (MND) is now considering how to build townships for foreign workers. Foreign Minister George Yeo told reporters that the aim of these townships is that they will be “sustainable and self—contained". In short, Singapore aims to build ghettos for our foreign workers.

Will this work? I think only if they build these ghettos far from Singaporeans housing estates. In the furor on the foreign workers hostel at Serangoon Gardens estate, the one thing that made me laugh was the reaction of one the resident there. This guy was looking for housing for his company’s workers for the past 1 year but without much luck. Here is one chance for him to get rid of his housing problem yet he is totally against foreign workers in his own estate.

The irony of the situation was totally lost to the man but then what else is new? Singaporean treats foreign workers as something to be tolerated; a “out of sight, out of mind” kind of thing. So the proposed dormitory will work, but only if it is build far, far away with no Singaporeans within a kilometer or more.

Since that’s not really possible in land scarce Singapore…I guess it’s time for more reclaim land.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Comics this week

Secret Six #1- The Secret Six was one of the best thing that came out of Infinite Crisis. Before that, who had even heard of Catman? However, DC probably waited too long to come out with an ongoing. This series is 1-2 years too late but a series starring six super-villains is always fun to read. Writer Gail Simone has some love for these characters and showed a good, distinct grasp on these villains. Deadshot, Catman, Savage Scandal, Ragman and Bane all ring true to their characters and the scene with the stripper was actually funny. The only part I dislike was the unnecessary cameo at the end. As the first issue of an ongoing, I think it should avoid all unneeded guest-stars at least until the series managed to get their sea-legs. Outside that, a good solid issue.

Friday, September 5, 2008

No Layout?

With the Formula One drivers in Belgium this week for the Belgian Grand Prix, one innocent remark by a veteran F1 driver caught my eye.

Toyota's Jarno Trulli told reporters at the Belgian Grand Prix that drivers are still worried about Singapore's night race because the drivers don’t know much about it. Less than a month before Singapore's new street circuit makes its debut, the drivers say that the schedule, the testing times for the debut circuit, are still unknown.

I must say I am shock by this. Singapore will be the first night race in F1 history, we have never held a race before and there is no testing for the circuit? Testing of vital importance to the success of the race as the Singapore circuit is totally untested. We have never held a race before, so testing is necessary. Trulli say that he hasn’t even seen the circuit layout yet!

That’s shocking! Organizers of the race better get their act together because F1 is serious and dangerous sport. The last thing we need are rivers going 300km/h on our road without an idea of the circuit layout.

Give out the info ASAP to the drivers

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Make it Legal

Yesterday, Singapore’s retail magnate Tang Wee Sung was jailed for one day and fined S$17,000 by the Singapore court for agreeing to buy a kidney illegally and lying to the Commissioner of Oaths.

A lot of Singaporeans are surprised by the light sentence but to me, it wasn’t that surprising. He was sick and desperate to save his own life. If I was him, I’ll do the same thing. The fact that he was rich (very rich) helped as well.

What surprised me were the reactions of Tang’s family members. They were unhappy with the one day jail sentence. I can only shake my head at this. You have to say this show the clear difference between the rich and the poor in Singapore.

Considering that the poor guy who tried to sell his kidney got 2 weeks jail, one day is extremely light. What are they complaining about? If anyone is going to complain, it should be the guy who got 2 weeks jail! What are they complaining about? Tang only served a few hours, they should be happy about it. I would be.

One more thing, I think maybe the Singapore government should change the law on the buying/selling of organs. What is $17,000 to Tang? I mean he was willing to buy a kidney for S$300,000; $17,000 is nothing to him. Since the fine and jail term is so light, why not make organ trading legal!

One guy was willing to buy, one guy was willing to sell; I mean no one forced anyone to do anything he don’t want to do right? Since this sentence is not going to deter anyone anyway…make it legal.

That way, we can at least save some lives.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It Will Not Work!

With enhanced maternity leave benefits in the pipelines, there is now some concern that women will face discrimination at work due to Singapore’s latest scheme to get more babies.

I wonder what the concern is. To me, there shouldn’t be any concern because without question there will be discrimination. I mean which businessman would want one of his employees to be off work for months to have a baby? For all the strategies of family-friendly workplace, there should be one thing no one can question. Having a baby is a sacrifice. It’s as simple as that. If you want to have a baby, that means certain sacrifices and one of them will be your climb up the career ladder.

Which is why I feel all these ‘have more babies’ schemes are all useless. Educated Singaporean women are not going to have more babies just because the government wants them to. If you studied for 15-20 years to university, would you be willing to give that up just for a baby?

The answer to that is a clear no. It’s not even a question! This ‘enhanced maternity leave’ scheme is dead in the water and unless Singaporean women are willing to put family first and career second, there isn’t a thing the government can do about it.

To me, it’s clear that Singaporean women are not willing to sacrifice their career (and lifestyle) for a family. So forget about all these scheme and save some money for other uses. It will not work!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Review of Cabal

As a free MMORPG, Cabal is one of those games which, as expected, has a lot of plus and minuses. After trying my hand at it, I’ll say there are more minus than plus.

Good news first. The game got a few things going for itself. First off, the music and graphics were excellent. Cabal is one of the better looking free MMORPG on the market with bright landscapes and beautiful characters. The world itself had an alien feel to it which I kind of liked. It is spilt between 3 regions with a portal room connecting all 3 regions. It was interesting to skip between the 3 worlds while doing the quests.

For all the pluses, the game has some serious problems. First off, you can’t download the game from the CabalSEA website. I first wanted to try out the game months ago when I saw it at a games convention but after 3 tries over a couple of months, I gave up on it (hear that Asiasoft!). However I got a free disc for the game and that’s when I finally managed to try it recently. Installing it is one thing, getting into the server is quite another. On 3 occasions I was either kicked out of the game or I was unable to login into the system. The unstableness of the game is a little surprising for me as I never had any problems with Maplestory before, another game under Asiasoft.

The game-play itself was pretty simple. If you had played other free MMORPGs before, nothing here will be a surprise. That’s the problem. The game itself is pretty to look at, but ultimately it’s run-of-the-mill. There’s nothing that really jump out to say that this game is different from any other on the market. Another problem I think the game has is the balance of the classes. Bane of many MMOs, I feel that some of the classes in Cabal are vastly overpowered. The balance felt very wrong. In some classes, I could just walk through enemies like they weren’t even there, while others require careful game-play…very careful game-play.

I also faced some problems with the NPCs. As NPCs are the main givers of the quests, I got into problems when I failed to do the earlier quests. As the NPCs give multiple quests, I found that the quests are stuck at the first lower-level quests. If you fail to do those, you can’t do the higher-level quests even when the quests has nothing to do if each other story-wise. No such thing has multiple quests for you to pick which one to do first in this game.

I won’t say Cabal is a bad game, it does have some points, but I feel it’s more like a work in progress. Nothing in it is really different, so unless there are some vast improvements…skip it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Singapore’s first Olympic medalist

As Singapore tried desperately to sweep the controversy surrounding the Singapore Table Tennis Association under the carpet, a sliver lining came out of this.

48 years after he won Singapore’s first (and some say still only) ever Olympic medal, weightlifter Tan Howe Liang has been awarded $10,000 by NTUC FairPrice. Tan took silver for weightlifting in the 1960 Olympic Games back when there were no cash reward schemes for sports excellence.

I think this is a great idea. Like Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, this was a good gesture and the man did deserve it. I’m not a big fan of NTUC but they got it right this time. Congratulations Mr. Tan!