Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Reply Needed

The biggest news in Singapore these few days is an interview given by Minister Mentor of Singapore, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, to the National Geographic magazine.

In it, Mr. Lee say that the ruling party’s liberal immigration and pro-foreigner policies is ‘good’ for the country, and is quoted as saying, “Over time, Singaporeans have become less hard-driving and hard-striving. This is why it is a good thing that the nation has welcomed so many Chinese immigrants.” He then went on to say “if native Singaporeans are falling behind because the spurs are not stuck into the hide, that is their problem.”

Needless to say, Singaporeans who read this are up in arms about the interview. However you’ll never know it reading the Strait Times, because the interview was never mentioned. Correction: you’ll never know it if you read any of the mainstream newspapers in Singapore, because not one mention of the interview was ever mentioned by any of them.

Now I don’t agree with what Mr. Lee said in the interview about new immigrants from China being more “hard-driving and hard-striving” (they are cheaper, not more hardworking), and about “if native Singaporeans are falling behind because the spurs are not stuck into the hide, that is their problem” (what’s the government for then?). It is also kind of funny reading the interview at the end of the year when the government just lost billions of dollars in failed overseas investments. All without blinking an eye I might add, because the one in charge of the investment company that lost the money is now back in charge of the said investment company.

However say what you want about the interview but I for one will not criticize someone for giving his honest views, but what I am truly surprised at is how nothing about the interview is said on Singapore news. It is as if the interview never took place at all!

Now the Strait Times has always been known as a pro-government newspaper and a government mouthpiece but really, sometimes they do themselves no favors. This is an interview in the National Geographic magazine! You know how many people in the world read National Geographic? Common sense would tell you that some Singaporeans will read about the interview and will be unhappy about it. So how does pretending the interview never took place help the Singapore government?

It doesn’t. What the Strait Times should be doing is giving space for ministers (or better yet, the MM) to explain why Mr. Lee said what he said. They need to explain why Singapore’s Chinese immigrants are ‘good’ for the country (after the case of that Chinese PR who got her PR and then took part in the Chinese National Parade) and I think they need to especially explain/rebut the views of Mr. Siew Kum Hong, the former NMP who believed he was passed over for another term because he voted no against the government. If possible, maybe they can give an example of how he was NOT the first NMP to vote against a government bill. (Like I said, “if possible”)

The interview is done, the article is written, the National Geographic magazine is published and out there; pretending that the interview never took place help no one, and that includes the Singapore government.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You Ask Why?

So the third edition of Singapore Idol is now over, and 22—year—old Sezairi Sezali has won and became the third Singapore Idol.

Sezali is the third Malay male singer to win Singapore Idol (after Taufik Batisah and Hady Mirza) and his win generated mixed reactions. The runner-up, Sylvia Ratonel, was the hot favorite and even I, who only watched like 1 episode in the whole season, know that she was the one the judges wanted. According to a friend who did watch the show, the favoritism was as bad as America Idol where the judges were blatantly for Adam Lambert.

Supporters of Sylvia are in shock, and various fans are complaining about gender and race bias. Here’s a suggestion to all the whiners: next time vote.

Sezairi won; Sylvia lost. Get over it people. To all those who say they have no idea why Sylvia lost, here’s a simple reason. She lost because she got less votes!

Simple as that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Combat Sports

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Starhub regarding the Sports & Football Channel. Now with Singtel MioTV having the rights to the EPL next season, fans are expected to leave Starhub or at least get rid of their Sports Channel, so to prevent this, Starhub is offering 2 new sports channels for free and promise to revise their Sports Group pricing from July 2010.

All good and well but if Starhub want to keep their sport viewers, I have a suggestion for them. Currently as it stands, I probably will not be renewing my Sports Channel because Starhub is not offering anything different.

I think the best, if not the only, way for Starhub to keep sport fans is to offer something different. And by different, I mean something other than say Spanish football, German football, Italian football etc. Singaporeans are fed on English football so offering football from other European countries just will not work, especially when it will be up against the EPL from MioTV.

What I think Starhub should do is to offer sports that few Singaporeans had seen before. Take for example the recent Lion City Kickboxing program. Yes, it was cancelled at the last minute, but the idea was good.

Starhub was offering something a sport that is both new and different from anything currently showed on their Sports Channel. Instead of entering a bidding war with Singtel in football, tennis etc, I think Starhub should consider niche sports or more specifically combat sports.

Combat sports like kickboxing (K-1, Muay Thai) and MMA (UFC, DREAM) are not shown in Singapore and Singtel has not shown any interest in showing them. So instead of entering a bidding war for programs, Starhub should concentrate on sports which are not shown in Singapore.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Comics this week

Guardians of the Galaxy #21- The Fault seems to be new “Big Bad” for Marvel’s cosmic line. This time an entity from the Cancerverse piggyback its way back to our universe and killed several people. Moondragon stopped it by accepting it into her body and discovered more about it. It seem very out of character for Moondragon but I found it interesting that when asked to describe the Cancerverse, Moondragon said that is was a universe where “life has won”. Who knows; maybe the Cancerverse is more interesting than I thought.

Irredeemable #9- After the revelations of why Plutonian went rouge, I thought it would pave the way for the future in this series. I was wrong because writer Mark Waid seem determined to go into Plutonian’s past. This issue is a flashback to when the Paradigm was formed. Sorry but as interesting as it was to read how Plutonian went into a nervous breakdown, it’s been 9 issues already. Enough with the flashbacks already!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Singapore!

Merry Christmas Singapore!

For OPC (Off-Peak Cars) owners, remember you can only drive for free after 3pm today.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bak Kut Teh

In a bid to promote a well-known ethnic Chinese soup, "bak kut teh," the Malaysian Tourism Ministry has introduced a halal version of the dish that fulfills Islamic dietary rules.

The problem? They still intend to call it bak kut teh".

Already some Muslims are planning to send a complaint to the Tourism Ministry, urging it to find a new name for the halal version. I totally agree with them.

I don’t care that this halal "bak kut teh" contains chicken, seafood or vegetables instead of pork because when you say "bak kut teh", I think pork ribs soup. "Bak kut teh" is made with pork ribs and frankly it MUST have pork ribs.

If it doesn’t, then you can’t call it "bak kut teh". It’s that simple.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Low Expectations Met

Following China, the U.S and almost every other country, it is now Singapore’s turn to try and put a good spin on the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Singapore says it supports the "sentiment, commitment and above all, good faith" of the Copenhagen Accord even though it is “not prefect”.

Personally I think it’s just a polite way of saying the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen was a total failure and the Copenhagen Accord isn’t worth the paper it is written on.

People who read my blog knows that I have low, low expectations for the summit and sadly it made all of my expectations. People are blaming China (true), Russia (true), the U.S (true), the developing countries (true), the protestors (true) and everyone else for the failure.

Fact is there is plenty of blame to go around as everyone was more concern about their own national interest and there were no heroes in Copenhagen.

Monday, December 21, 2009

World Cup Fees

Of all the sporting events next year, the one that most Singaporeans are looking forward to is the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Unfortunately for Singapore, it seems that Singaporeans may not be able to watch the matches from South Africa. There are only 2 television stations in Singapore and both SingTel and StarHub had put in a joint offer to FIFA. Now they’re not doing this because they like each other but because the televised rights to the football World Cup had risen 3 times from the last World Cup in 2006 and neither company believe it would be viable for them to telecast the World Cup alone.

When Starhub and Singtel are forced to work together, you know the fees must be incredibly expensive. Frankly if that is the case, I cannot see how it can still be worth it to most Singaporeans. In 2006, I paid around $25 to see the World Cup in Germany. If it’s up 3 times, that means I may have to above $75 to watch this World Cup.

$75 for a channel that would only last 1 month? Even for a football fan like myself, that’s a steep price to pay.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chiam's Last Hooray

Politics in Singapore is exactly a pretty boring affair. Every election Singaporeans knows a few things; the ruling PAP (People’s Action Party) will win, some seats in the election will go uncontested, and opposition leader Chiam See Tong will retain his seat in Potong Pasir.

However things are expected to change in the next general election. As Mr. Chiam celebrates his 25th straight year as a Member of Parliament, he has made known that he intend to step out of Potong Pasir and lead a team to contest a GRC (most possibly the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) in the next General Election (GE).

Reactions to this have been mixed. Some had applauded Mr. Chiam for coming out of his comfort zone while others believed Mr. Chiam is making a mistake. Not only is there no guarantee he will win in the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, there is also a danger of his party losing the Potong Pasir seat. The danger is actually quite big. Although Mr. Chiam had held the seat since 1984, most Singaporeans don’t think of Potong Pasir as an opposition stronghold. They call it Chiam See Tong's stronghold. There is a question whether the voters there would continue to support the opposition (even if she is Mr. Chiam’s wife) if Mr. Chiam is not there.

However despite the questions, it seen very likely that Mr. Chiam would be going after bigger fish in the next GE. The reasons are simple. Already 74 (and in poor health), this would likely be his last GE. Mr. Chiam had almost openly admitted this as he said that he has nothing to lose in contesting a GRC in the next GE.

Personally I feel the move may have come too late to make much difference in the overall Singapore political scene, but I do support Mr. Chiam’s move to a GRC. Win or lose, this will be his last hooray so might as well try to make a big splash as he leaves the scene.

Here wishing him the best of luck!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Comics this week

Street Fighter II Turbo #10- The long awaited fight between Sagat and Ryu was the main action this issue. It did not disappoint. The fight went back and fro and the duo showed great respect for each other. At the end, Ryu came out tops as expected and it setup the action for Ryu vs Bison next issue. Good action but Udon really need to do something about the back-story. Usually it’s a hit-and-miss affair and the back-story on Q was just terrible. If you don’t have something good for the back-story, then don’t do it.

Incorruptible #1- After turning the ultimate hero into the ultimate villain in Irredeemable, writer Mark Waid now decide to reverse the situation in Incorruptible. In this reverse Irredeemable series, Waid is going to reform the world’s ultimate villain, Max Damage, into the world’s greatest hero. Now Mark Waid always has a knack for writing interesting and entertaining stories but I can’t help but feel the gimmick in this series. The comparison between Incorruptible and Irredeemable is inevitable and I don’t know if that is a good thing. Still, it will be interesting.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Group of the Decade

Now I never consider myself a huge music fan. I listen to it on radio but I don’t have any favorites except for Melissa Etheridge. However even I take issue with Billboard magazine naming Nickelback as the group of the decade.

Billboard released a list of the top music stars of the 2000s based on their chart success and while Eminem, followed by Usher, Nelly, Beyonce and Alicia Keys grabbed the top 5 spots, Nickelback came in 7th; making it the most successful band this decade.

Now I’m not a Nickelback hater because they do have quite a number of good songs. Their song ‘Rock Star’ was very good in my view but “Group of the Decade”? What about Green Day, The Fray, or even the criminally over-rated White Stripes? In the 90s, the group that defined the decade was Nirvana; in the 2000s, it is…Nickelback.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Useless Conference

At the useless waste of time and money called the U.N. Climate Conference in Copenhagen, former would-be president of the U.S Al Gore said that under new projection, the Arctic Ocean may be nearly ice-free in the summertime as early as 2014.

Now news that the Arctic Ocean will be nearly ice-free in the future is not new. The Arctic has melted to such a degree that there is now a shipping lane open from Russia to Canada; bypassing Alaska through the Artic ice. Shipping officials are rubbing their hands in glee because if the Artic melts at the same pace, they believe that there will be a shipping lane open from Russia to the EU in 5-10 years. This will help them bypass North America, cut down shipping times, and open new trade routes.

What is surprising is that the Artic will be gone as early as 2014. Previous computer models suggested that the ice cap will only vanish in the year 2030. Some scientists had already said that the new prediction was too pessimistic but it really just a matter of semantics. Whether it is in 2014 or 2030, researchers agree that the Arctic is going to go.

So what will happen now? Nothing! Delegates at the U.N. Climate Conference are bogged down in disputes over issues like how much rich/poor country should cut greenhouse gases, who should pay how much for these cuts, the idea of "carbon tariffs" etc.

And as the delegates continue to waste their time, global emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise and the Artic ice continue to melt. Moral of the story: humans are unable to solve the global climate crisis and save the Earth.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Safe...for now

With a deadline to repay Islamic bonds issued by Dubai coming up, Dubai’s oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi has finally bit the bullet and pumped $10 billion into Dubai to starve off a default. The bailout send Dubai’s stock market soaring but don’t hold your breath.

I believe all the bailout did was to buy Dubai some time.

Frankly, Abu Dhabi was always going to help its indebted neighbor. Failure to do so would be like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Abu Dhabi may be angry with the dirty bathwater that is Dubai but if they threw the water out, they would do great damage to the baby that is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). That was never going to happen.

However $10 billion is a long way from the $80 billion Dubai will need to need all its debts and I question the willingness of Abu Dhabi to throw another $70 billion into the mix. Before the crisis, most investors had “assumed” that the Dubai government would guarantee debts amassed by its chief growth engine, Dubai World. However when the crisis hit, Dubai government said that it would NOT guarantee debts by Dubai World. Would Dubai have done that if they had confidence the Abu Dhabi and the rest of the Emirates federation would back them?

No so don’t hold your breath, the Dubai debt crisis is a long way from being settled.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Change Your Argument (Part 2)

Property is an emotional issue in Singapore. I mean when a group of guys in Singapore get together, inevitably something about property will worm its way into the talk. That’s how important property is in Singapore, and it’s so important in Singapore that Singaporeans are willing to put yourself in debt for the next 20 to 30 years just to buy a flat in Singapore.

However in recent times, even that might not be enough. Anyone who read this blog before knows that high property prices are a bugbear of the Singapore government and government ministers have been lining up talking up the “affordability” of homes in Singapore. In the previous months, it was National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, then Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, now the latest to step up to the plate is Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said that public flats will continue to appreciate in value as long as the Singapore economy continues to grow and if the country is doing well, property prices go up. However when the Singapore economy go down, unemployment will go up but incomes and property prices will decline. You know the Singapore government has a problem on its hand when even the Minister Mentor has to talk about the prices of property in public.

With a general election coming up, the government is doing all it can to talk up the “affordability” of homes in Singapore. It’s no surprise because public anger about the prices is widely expected to be a hot topic in the election. MM Lee probably has this in mind because he was speaking while launching The Pinnacle@Duxton, a 50 storey HDB development in Singapore.

Now let’s ignore the less than correct assessment that when the Singapore economy go down, property prices will decline (didn’t really happen in the recession) and focus on the more important aspect of what MM Lee said. That housing prices will continue to go up (because the economy will do well), but prices are affordable to Singaporeans.

As I said earlier, high property prices are a bugbear of the Singapore government and there is public anger about property prices in Singapore. Now MM Lee is considered a sage here in the region (and with his track record, he deserved it) but even he has a task on his hands if he want to convince Singaporeans that property prices are affordable. The Singapore government really needs to stop with this line of argument. Singaporeans are angry about the housing prices now, and you go say that housing prices will continue to go up, but prices will still be affordable?

I’m sorry but talk like that will just get Singaporeans even more pissed off than they are now. Right now, Singaporeans are already 20-30 years housing loan so what’s next? 30-40 years housing loans? And they still would be affordable? Seriously, does anyone know of anyone else who would willingly put themselves in debt for 20-30 years if they can help it?

The fact that Singaporeans are taking such long-term loans on their houses shows the “affordability” of homes in Singapore. Isn’t saying “housing prices will continue to go up, but it is still affordable” adding fuel to fire? It is and if the Singapore government continues with this line to defend the housing prices, then we will be in for interesting election next year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Ultimate PS3

Now I like to think of myself as a gamer. I understand some people’s need to get the latest games, the latest console, and the very best console immediately. I understand these people, but Sony has just one-upped everyone. The ultimate PS3 collector’s edition is a 24-karat gold-plated Playstation 3 that comes complete with two matching controllers and a one-year warranty.

The price: starts at $4999. You read that right; that’s the ‘starting price’.

Now if we all ignore the fact that no one, absolutely no one, need a gold-plated Playstation 3 console, this is quite a gift. However just imagine what will happen when the warranty runs out. You probably need to hire security guards just to send it for repairs or maybe even an armored truck (or two).

A 24-karat gold-plated Playstation 3 console that is priced at $4999? Let the bidding begins!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Comics this week

S.W.O.R.D #2- I admit; I only intended to pick up the first issue of S.W.O.R.D. The idea behind S.W.O.R.D was great but I had concerns about how long it would last. No big-name writer; no big-name artist; no big-name characters; even with an interesting concept, in this day and age that’s a death sentence. However Marvel may have hit on a hidden gem in S.W.O.R.D. After the first issue where everyone was introduced, S.W.O.R.D #2 showed what delicious stories are available to it. I don’t know much about writer Kieron Gillen but he got his characters right. Abigail Brand (tough but funny), Beast (witty and funny), Henry Gyrich (funny because he is heading towards a car crash and he don’t even know it); all rang true to their characters and the story itself was delightful. The scenes where all the aliens were rounded up showed the sheer amount of stories available to S.W.O.R.D. Hopefully the series will last long enough to make use of them.

Secret Six #16 – After Savage Scandal got herself addicted to Venom, Bane promptly kicked her off the team and took over leadership of the Secret Six. Writer Gail Simone waste no time filling up the open spot with Black Alice joining the team. The issue starts with Deadshot and Catman breaking a child molester/killer out of jail and then delivering him to one of his victims’ father for torture. When the father started to break down, Catman then gave him advice on how torture should be done…correctly. After that they talked about dinner and went to a strip club. Having a young girl joining this group of hardened criminals will open up some interesting dilemmas as this issue showed. However what I found most interesting was Bane’s leadership. The way he handled the Black Alice situation and the fallout from the other members was different from how Scandal would have done it and it would be interesting to see how he would handle the group in a battle in the future.

X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain #1- Of Marvel's Noir line, I found the X-Men to be the most interesting. Whereas the other Noir series were mostly rethread Marvel heroes in a bad world without superpowers, X-Men Noir turned everything on its head. X-Men as psycho criminals? X-Men with guns killing enemies in droves? I love stuff like this. However as much as I liked X-Men Noir, X-Men Noir: Mark of Cain was another matter. Picking up after the last series, the surviving X-Men are now Madripoor, hunting the very valuable Crimson Gem of Cyttorak under the command of Marko Cain, the Juggernaut. Once again, writer Fred Van Lente took a chance and set Thomas Halloway/Angel as the main character. In itself that’s not a problem because I found him to be interesting but the action was a different matter. There were 2 main battles in this issue; the battle to get the gem, and the getaway from the Madripoor police. In both sequence, the action was disjointed with jumps in the action. In the previous series, Fred Van Lente was able to strike a balance between action, atmosphere, and X-Men lore. He didn’t manage to do it here. Eugenics, a side-note in the previous series, now become an important plot as the prison of Genosha Bay is introduced. Having Emma Frost as its warden was cute but the portrayal of Xavier as the criminal mastermind was not. I can see Xavier as a villainous father figure but this is totally at odds with his portrayal in the previous X-Men Noir series. In the previous series, he was the creator of the X-Men, now he’s out of prison and gunning for Angel and the X-Men? What happened? Still there were a lot of interesting ideas in this issue (almost too many), so I’ll be staying for the ride

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Ghost King by R.A. Salvatore

The Ghost King is the third book in the “Transitions” series by R.A. Salvatore that is suppose to show the characters moving from D&D 3.5 to D&D 4th edition. As with most of The Forgotten Realms books showing the change, there are a lot of deaths in this book.

The story happened as the Spellplague raged across Faerûn and Drizzt with his wife Catt-brie were caught in the worldwide chaos. With Catt-brie badly damaged by the Spellplague, Drizzt and Bruenor Battlehammer decided to seek the help of the priest Cadderly who like most magic-users during the Spellplague has some problems of his own to deal with.

However the Spellplague also return/broke Crenshinibon, the crystal shard (don’t ask how, it made no sense at all). Teaming up with the undead dragon Hephaestus and Yharaskrik the illithid, Crenshinibon transformed into the Ghost King (again don’t ask how, it made no sense) and attacked Spirit Soaring, home of Cadderly Bonaduce and his family.

Now there are some readers out there who like to read reviews of books without spoilers. If you are one of those guys, turn away now because that’s not how I review things.

First off, I like the fact that Drizzt has a much smaller role in this book. Much like The Pirate King, book II of the “Transitions” series, this allow more space for other characters to shine.

I especially like the scenes when Athrogate and Thibbledorf Pwent were together. Very funny and very destructive, unfortunately their time together on paper was too short and I am left with only the hope that we can see more of duo together in the future.

I also like the surprises in the book. The death of Catt-brie at the end was a shock. I thought the reason Salvatore turn her into a mage was to prolong her life, not shorten it. However with her gone maybe we can finally see Drizzt back into “Hunter” mode where frankly he works best in.

Despite these good points, I found some parts of the book to be very poor. The pacing in the book was off because everything felt very rushed. The scenes with Jarlaxle spring to mind because the rogue turned into a pure hero in this book. I don’t get it. Since when does Jaraxle do anything good without some returns for himself? Did something get canned in the editing process?

I also question the need to re-introduce Cadderly Bonaduce’s family. His wife Danica and their kids hardly had anything to do outside taking up space in the book better suited to other characters. Ivan and Pikel Bouldershoulder were fun but again they didn’t have much to do. Ivan especially spent much of his time in the book injured in one capacity or another and by the end of the book I still don’t quite get what the Bonaduce children were in the book for.

Some of the magical changes that occur in the book also make no sense. I understand that Salvatore was trying to put it across that the characters have no idea how magic had changed but that’s no excuse for leaving readers clueless! I also can’t help but feel that the reason Salvatore didn’t explain the Spellplague properly was because he didn’t quite understand the changes himself. Just a feeling but did WotC explain the 4th edition to their writers?

However from a story perspective, this book is a winner. There were major changes for the characters and the Companions of the Halls was truly destroyed at the end as both Catt-brie and Regis were laid to rest. In my view, the ending was what saved this book. Despite the rush job, Salvatore handled the ending beautifully and changes were eloquently installed for the time jump.

For Drizzt or Forgotten Realms fans, this book is a must.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For Peace & War

As U.S. President Barack Obama arrive in Oslo, Norway to collect his Nobel Peace Prize, I am wondering how he would approach the little touchy subject of ordering over 30,000 more troops into war.

Now I have said before that I do not think Obama deserved this award and this is one of the reasons why. He has been president for less than a year, just ordered over 30,000 more troops to war, and he is collecting the Nobel Peace Prize the week after.

It’s funny and at the same time highly ridiculous. However the Nobel committee has no one to blame but themselves for this laughable situation. The award to Obama was unexpected and many people have been critical of the award. To his credit, Obama admitted that he did not deserve the award.

So as he collect his Nobel Peace Prize, Obama will have to justify how he could receive the award after ordering over 30,000 troops to war the week before. I don’t envy his position and he will get stick for it but I don’t blame him either.

The blame lies solely on the shoulders of the Nobel committee who gave the award to him way too early for anyone liking.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Dubai Getaway

A week after Dubai ask creditors for a "standstill" on paying back about $60 billion debt till May 2010, Dubai is trying to restructure $26 billion worth of debt from Dubai World but at the same time, it is now ring-fencing prized assets from their creditors.

In case you are confused on why the debt had suddenly lowered to $26 billion because you heard that Dubai has about $80 billion in debt and the "standstill" was for $60 billion, this is because the Dubai government is getting away with murder. Dubai is basically saying that Dubai World is an independent company and the Dubai government does not guaranteed Dubai World's debt, even though Dubai World is a government-owned company.

So Dubai is saying that it is only liable for the remaining $20 billion worth of debt, and not the $60 billion owned by Dubai World. In a bid to avoid economic meltdown, this move is seemingly being accepted by their neighbors. Regional support, or at least acceptance, for the move has been strong as no one want to see a collapse in Dubai. This means that if you are one of those who owe part of the $60 billion debt of Dubai World, you are not going to see your money ever again.

That is nothing short of bloody murder. First off, if the debt is truly $26 billion, Dubai's oil-rich neighbor, Abu Dhabi, would have ridden in as the white knight long ago. In fact, if the debt is truly $26 billion, Dubai wouldn’t have to ask for a standstill. Their assets are valued at around $50 billion, so they are more than capable of paying $26 billion. The fact that they ask for the standstill means that they know they are liable for the $60 billion. Why else would they ask for a standstill?

Does that matter now? Not really, especially when you can get away with it like Dubai.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A $1000 Note

Over the weekend, I read a most ridiculous incident in the newspaper. A man had to pay 80 cents for a cup of coffee. He had the correct change on him, but instead of paying for the coffee, he changed his mind and decided to use 5 cents coins to make the payment. Quite naturally, the cashier asked the man to pay using the correct change he had as he was holding up the line behind him. The man was angry and then pulled out a $1000 note and paid for the coffee using the $1000 note.

He received $999.20 in change.

What I truly do not understand is the tone of the article which suggested that this incident is a case of falling customer service level in Singapore. What fall in customer service level? I mean he had the exact change he needed, then decide not to use them, and then pull out a $1000 note? In what context is that the correct thing to do? The man was an ass! I don’t care about this ‘customer is always right nonsense’, customer is not always right, especially when he pull out $1000 to pay for a coffee that cost $0.80.

In fact, I’m shock that they accepted the $1000 note. Now, that’s good service.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The World Cup Draw

The draw is done and the groups for the World Cup are now known. This is the first time it is held in Africa, South Africa to be exact, and this is my breakdown of the groups.

Group A- 1. France 2. South Africa 3. Mexico 4. Uruguay
Yes, I know France was lucky against Ireland but with the players they have, you have to fancy them topping the group. As the host of the World Cup had always gone into the second round, I will give the second spot to South Africa. However both teams will have to be careful because Mexico is capable of springing a surprise or two.

Group B- 1. Argentina 2. South Korea 3. Nigeria 4. Greece
Argentina's coach Diego Maradona has made a total mess of the team but this is one of the easier groups in the tournament so they should top it. The second spot will be a toss-up between Nigeria and South Korea as I’m not that impressed with Greece.

Group C- 1. England 2. United States 3. Slovenia 4. Algeria
"BEST ENGLISH GROUP SINCE THE BEATLES," was the headline in England's The Sun. The English were overjoyed with being in arguably the easiest group of them all. The second spot is a total toss-up as the Americans, Slovenia and Algeria are all confident about their chances.

Group D- 1. Serbia 2. Germany 3. Ghana 4. Australia
Although most people would pick Germany, Serbia was very powerful in qualifying. Their defense was rock-solid and I personally think this current German team is a little over-rated. Still, both teams should on paper go through to the next round.

Group E- 1. Cameroon 2. Holland 3. Denmark, 4. Japan
I think this group is more difficult than most people thinks. Holland has a well-deserved reputation for choking on the big stage and while Ivory Coast may be the most talented Africa team, Cameroon is arguably the best African team in the draw. However both Demark and Japan are no pushovers and I think we might be in for a shock in this group.

Group F- 1. Italy 2. Slovakia 3. Paraguay 4. New Zealand
The Italians are the defending champion so they should go through. New Zealand is the worst team in the tournament so they are out. The second spot will be between Slovakia and Paraguay, and I have to pick Slovakia because of their good qualifying run.

Group G- 1. Brazil 2. Ivory Coast 3.Portugal 4. North Korea
The dreaded ‘Group of Death’ with Brazil, Portugal, and Ivory Coast all capable of having a good run in the tournament. All 3 teams have players who can turn games on their heads but I have to go for Brazil and Ivory Coast because Portugal was just terrible in qualifying. North Korea will need a miracle to have a chance in this group.

Group H- 1. Spain 2. Chile 3. Switzerland 4. Honduras
Spain has a reputation for choking on the big stage like Holland, but that was before they won Euro 2008. They have shown they are capable of winning a big title and barring injury, I pick Spain as my favorites to win the World Cup. Chile cruised through the South American group which is never easy, so they are my pick for second place while Switzerland and Honduras do not have the attacking threat to make much impact.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Comics this week

Siege: The Cabal- After the disappointing ‘Civil War’, came the slightly more interesting ‘Dark Reign’. However whatever interest I had in Dark Reign had disappeared long, long ago. To me, ‘Dark Reign’ had lasted way too long and wore out its welcome long ago. For this reason, I am looking forward to ‘Siege’. Norman Osborn's (in)sanity and grasp on reality are showcased again as the Cabal officially breaks up. I have to say I never knew Dr. Doom to be such a firm allay of Namor, although his later comment that a war against Asgard was unwinnable was perhaps his real reason why he broke with Osborn. To me, this was an okay one-shot but the main ‘Siege’ series need to be a lot better to get me to buy it.

Nova #32- For the past few issues, Nova had been a little lost. A lot of this was due to the number of mega cosmic events that come one after another. The latest one is ‘Realms of Kings’ and Nova #32 is the tie-in. Yes, it’s another tie-in. After last issue, Nova and Darkhawk have been pulled into the Fault and now find themselves in a version of Egypt. They were led there by the classic villain, Sphinx, who also captured Mr. Fantastic, Black Bolt and Namorita. Yes, some of these guys are dead already. Nothing makes sense but it is intriguing. Hopefully, there will some good answer to all the questions.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made the announcement that there will be an extra day of non-campaigning just before Polling Day. The deal was that this would act as a cooling-off period ahead of the General Election. The ‘proposed’ extra day of non-campaigning will also apply to a presidential election.

Now this isn’t new. A lot of countries have blackout days before the election itself, so it’s no big deal for Singapore to have one also. That unfortunately is my biggest gripe about the new rule. I am meeting this new rule with puzzlement because I fail to understand why this rule is needed in Singapore. For the past several elections, the Singapore opposition had been under the self-defeating by-election strategy (which doesn’t work by the way) so in over half of Singapore, there’s no voting!

Why do we need a cooling-off period when there's no voting in over half the country? PM Lee say the extra day “would give voters time to reflect rationally on issues, after the emotional high of election campaigning”. What emotional high? In other countries, elections are exciting; in Singapore, it’s boring.

With almost every Singaporeans believing this new rule is unnecessary, some had said that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) are putting in this rule to give them an extra day of campaigning. However I do not believe this to be true. Like I said earlier, most Singaporeans don’t care that much about elections that one lousy day of campaigning will make any difference. The PAP will not benefit from the extra day.

So in the end, how would this cooling-off period affect the General Election? It would affect absolutely nothing!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Debt That No One Owns

Worries over a possible default by the conglomerate, Dubai World, became a real possibility when the city-state said that while the conglomerate was government-owned, it was "established as an independent company" and the Dubai government does not guaranteed Dubai World's debt.

That has to be one of the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard from anyone, and when you consider the amount of nonsense sprouted by everyone since the financial crisis hit the world, that’s saying something. For nearly a decade, Dubai has been crowing about the success of their city-state and Dubai World was used as an example. Saying that Dubai has nothing to do with Dubai World now is like saying Temasek Holdings has nothing to do with Singapore. Absolute total nonsense!

What’s worse is that no one has a clear idea of just how much debt there is. In hindsight, that should not be a surprise. For months officials from Dubai had been telling investors that Dubai ‘do not have a problem’, then they released the debt news on the eve of Thanksgiving and Haj holidays, so why should anyone expect Dubai to come clean now?

Dubai has about $80 billion in debt with Dubai World holding about $60 billion of them. However it seems that even Dubai's oil-rich neighbor, Abu Dhabi, has been unable to get a clear picture of the amount of debt Dubai truly has and they are unwilling to step in to foot any bills until they do.

For the sake of Dubai, the U.A.E, and the world, I wish Abu Dhabi the best of luck.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

EPL this Month

As we edge closer and closer to the January transfer window, there are some teams that are desperate for reinforcements. The winners and losers of the month;

Top Teams this Month
Chelsea- This was what I wrote last month. “Like an unstoppable machine, Chelsea had taken over the top in the EPL. There had been a few bumps along the road but it will take nothing short of a miracle to stop manager Carlo Ancelotti’s men from claiming the title.” Nothing has changed!

Manchester United – Ryan Giggs got his 100th EPL goal, Wayne Rooney is scoring, and Antonio Valencia is finally coming good, but Man Utd are still 5 points behind the runaway train called Chelsea. Man Utd is winning but Sir Alex Ferguson must be praying that someone start taking points from Chelsea.

Tottenham. Hotspur- A 9-1 win and suddenly even the normally cautious Harry Redknapp is openly wondering if Spurs has what it takes to finish in the Top 4 this season. A lot depend on whether Jermine Defoe can keep putting away chances. If you go trough his history, there are times when he can run ice-cold. But this is a World Cup year and Defoe may be playing for his place in the England squad so Spurs’ fans can only pray.

Surprise Team this month
Man City- Played 7; Game Drawn 7. Manager Mark Hughes has made his team difficult to beat, but Man City is not winning. It’s amazing but drawing 7 straight games is ridiculous. They’re not playing badly, they’re not winning games; they’re not losing games; they’re just drawing games. It’s funny but when you consider that they got 7 points out of a possible 21, I don’t think Mark Hughes is laughing.

Disappointing Teams this month
Portsmouth- You got to feel for Paul Hart. As a manager, he was fired after his team failed to gather points in the league but it’s hardly his fault when the club has no money, the takeover of the club turned into an off-the-field saga, and his keeper David James got an injury. It seems nothing short of a miracle will keep Portsmouth up this season.

Arsenal- Just when it looked like they were coming on strong, Robin van Persie had to get injured. With their main striker out for the rest of the season, Arsenal has went 2 games without scoring; this after scoring in every game in the season before the injury to van Persie. Arsene Wenger can’t wait for the January transfer window to open.

Everton- Yes, I know the Joleon Lescott transfer saga did not help but manager David Moyes must be wondering how in the world is Everton hovering just above the relegation zone. Even with the bad start they had, with the players at their disposal, Everton has no business being as far down as they are in the league.

Monday, November 30, 2009

No Logic Involved

Ask any Singaporeans, and most of them will tell you that the ultimate status symbol in Singapore is not a house or jewelries, but a car. Owning a car is the ultimate symbol of having made it in Singapore and many car owners in Singapore pay a high price for owning their cars.

Recently there had been a huge outcry among car owners in Singapore because various insurance companies decided to increased the price of car insurance in Singapore, some up to 30%. Car owners in Singapore naturally cry foul but the insurance companies ignored the outcry. You know why? Because they can afford to! Singaporeans will continue to buy cars no matter how high the price (and the insurance) of the cars are in Singapore because Singaporeans are buying cars for ‘face’.

I knew of a guy who proudly showed me his new car once. When I discovered how much he paid for it, I was like ‘how are you going to maintain it?” He said that he would be able to afford the car. This despite the car loan, road tax, parking fees, petrol, car insurance coming to about 70% of his monthly pay! Did he care that he was spending so much on the car despite living in Singapore which has one of the best public transport systems in the world? No, because in his mind it was ‘worth it’.

When I ask what will happen if he gets into an accident and had to repair the car, he said, “Be more careful lah. No accident, no problem right?” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that just because you don’t hit other people, doesn’t mean other people won’t hit you.

The moral of the story: Singapore is one of the most expensive places in the world to buy and maintain a car because Singaporeans dump their brains when it comes to cars. For those car owners crying foul at the insurance companies…please, if you can’t afford the insurance, SELL YOUR CAR!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Another Financial Tsunami On The Way?

Just when it looked like the financial crisis is slowly becoming a memory, here comes another reminder of how fragile the global recovery truly is. Everyone knew Dubai was in trouble due to the global downturn, but still no one expected them to ask for a "standstill" on paying back about $60 billion debt till May 2010.

The global downturn had derailed Dubai's explosive growth and the city was in trouble since the start of the year. Dubai woes were so bad that in February, it had to arrange a bond sale to the United Arab Emirates central bank for $10 billion. The hastily arranged bond sale was a bailout by Dubai’s oil-rich neighbor Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. However it seems that even Abu Dhabi is getting worried about the debt of Dubai as in total, Dubai state-backed networks (called Dubai Inc.) are about $80 billion in the red.

Dubai is now so swamped in debt that people are wondering if even a six-month reprieve on paying its bills would be enough. Despite saying that Dubai's move to suspend payments on its Dubai World conglomerate's debt was "carefully planned", there is an air of desperation in the announcement. Dubai's ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, had continually dismissed concerns over the city-state's liquidity since the start of the year and even assured reporters in September that Dubai is not worried about their debt situation.

So much for that.

The only thing "carefully planned" was the timing of the announcement, on the weekend of Thanksgiving and the Haj but even then the sudden ‘standstill’ order shook world markets with Europe dropping 3% after the announcement and America opening 2% down after the Thanksgiving holiday. Now everyone is waiting for Sheik Mohammed to come out with a recovery plan to salvage Dubai World; if he fail to come up with a recovery plan that will be respected, we might be in for another financial tsunami.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Comics this week

Blackest Night #5- First off I will say that Blackest Night #5 is a fun read. Right off the bat, when you read all the corps saying their oaths to charge their rings…GOLDEN! Geoff John’s epic continues its great run by being well-executed, well-plotted and highly organized. The art by Ivan Reis is as good as the previous issue and the mixture of comedy and action was superb. However I have a huge problem in this issue. If you hadn’t been reading the Green Lantern or Green Lantern Corps comics (or flipping through it in the comics shop like me), you may have a hard time in this issue. The issue starts with all 7 corps together, something that happened in the GL books. So there is a jump in the plot that took place off Blackest Night, and that's a problem for me. Outside that, everything else is great.

Immortal Weapons #5- The last issue of this miniseries ends like it started; with a bang! The Prince of Orphans story in this issue was great. A kung-fu master alone up against 10,000 spirits of dead noble soldiers; what’s not to like about it? I especially like the way the Prince hint that he find Iron Fist to be slightly annoying…which is slightly true. This issue along with the Fat Cobra story in issue #1 show what great stories there are in the Immortal Weapons. Too bad about the middle 3 issues, but #1 & #5 were great.

Guardians of the Galaxy #20- After the destruction of the team in the last issue, what remains of the team tried to move on. Dealing with their pain with work, Guardians of the Galaxy investigate the Fault but the meat of the issue deals with how the team deals with the loss of their friends. Moondragon mourn Martyr; Rocket Raccoon deal with Cosmos’ death; and Starlord mourn the loss of everyone. After the action of the past few issue, this was a welcome change of pace.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No Need to Worry

In terms of time, most experts agree that a vaccine for H1N1 was achieve in a very fast time. However in the rush to get a vaccine for H1N1, there are now questions about just how safe is the vaccine.

In Singapore, there are 27 reported cases of people having adverse reactions to the H1N1 vaccine with at least 1 serious case. While all the cases in Singapore have been non-serious, there had been reports all over the world about people having side-effects from the vaccine. A particular batch of the swine flu vaccine has been suspended from use in Canada while at least 2 deaths in China are suspected to be due to adverse effects to the vaccine.

Still I don’t think Singaporeans should be too worried. Currently there are at least 65 million doses of the swine flu vaccines around the world and for every 10,000 doses of vaccines administered, there had been only one report case of adverse effect. By any standard, 1 in 10,000 is a pretty record.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

PSLE Results

In Singapore, the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) results will be out on Thursday. Every year, students aged 12 will take the PSLE exams to decide which secondary school they will enter. The results of the PSLE will decide the rest of their lives.

Yes, all this at age 12!

A man in Singapore can live till he is over 75, our retirement age is 65 and the rest of these students lives will be decided at 12! I have always been against PSLE as the kids are way too young to have their lives decided at this age. Frankly I find it incredibly unreasonable to expect children at age 12 to know how important the PLSE is to them. I remember at 12, I thought of the PSLE as another exam. An important one but I don’t remember thinking of it as life-defining. However that’s what the PSLE is; a life-defining exam…at age 12!

Since there’s nothing I can do about it, all I can do is to wish all the children taking the PSLE the best of luck on Thursday.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Weird Creatures of The Oceans

With a huge meeting on climate change in Copenhagen next month, it’s great to see how diverse our world thoroughly is. An update on a 10-year census of marine life showed creatures like tentacled transparent sea cucumbers, primitive "dumbos" that flap ear-like fins and tubeworms that feed on oil deposits.

Tubeworms feeding on oil! Wow! Is that weird or what?

These creatures live in the oceans depths below 656 feet, the point where sunlight ceases. In the past, it is thought the few life-forms lived in the depths of the ocean, but about 17,650 species has now been recorded there. Once the census is done, three books will be published with one of them on the biodiversity of the oceans. With a binding agreement in Copenhagen between slim to none, books would be the only place we would ever see these weird creatures again.

I’ll be looking forward to the books.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Beyond My Understanding

I will fully admit there are some things in the world I just do not understand. Sometimes, these are things I also know I have no chance of ever understanding. The feelings and thinking of women is one, and now it seems the law is another.

That’s what I believe when I read that the ex-CEO of Ren Ci Hospital, Ming Yi, has been sentenced to ten months jail. Ming Yi, a monk, and his former assistant Raymond Yeung were convicted last month of falsifying Ren Ci payment vouchers, involving an unauthorized loan of S$50,000 made in 2004 to the Mandala Buddhist Cultural Centre, a religious artifact shop managed by Yeung.

The district court sentenced Ming Yi to ten months jail while Raymond Yeung got nine months. I just do not understand this. Raymond Yeung was the one who falsify the records; he was the one who took the money. When Ming Yi found out, he covered up for Yeung in return Yeung was to return the money back to Ren Ci Hospital. Ming Yi never took any money, so how come he got more jail time than the guy who took the money?

The prosecution even said that Yeung put the money to "frivolous" use to renovate a friend’s flat in Hong Kong and Ming Yi’s lawyer argued that Ming Yi did not personally profit from the loan to Yeung. So Ming Yi didn’t take the money, he did not profit from it, but he got more jail time than Yeung?

I have no chance of ever understanding the law.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Comics this week

Realm of Kings- Straight after the ‘War of Kings’, the next space opera from the minds of Marvel cosmic gurus Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning is ‘Realm of Kings’. The ‘War of Kings’ series was disappointing and I hope this new series would do better. As a one-shot prologue to the main series, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning seem to be going back to the story of Annihilation. At the end of the Inhuman/Kree war, a Fault was created in time and space, and no one knows what’s on the other side of the Fault. To find out Nova, Guardians of the Galaxy and…Project Pegasus (?) sent Quasar in to check. On the other side of the fault is another universe who intends to invade Marvel universe. I’m not a fan of Lovecraftian horror, but the mixture of horror and space worked surprising well here. I thought it’s kind of cute to use Cthulu-like monsters as space beings that are devouring space. However I think the biggest reason why the whole thing work is the art of Leonardo Manco. A fan of his since his run on HellStorm & Druid, his work is perfect for horror, even cosmic horror. If horror is the direction Dan & Andy want to go on Realm of Kings, then Leonardo Manco will be perfect for the whole series.

Irredeemable #8- Mark Waid finally revealed all this issue. The final nail in Plutonian’s psyche was the disillusionment of his sidekick that his mentor was responsible for the deaths of thousands. The revelation made Plutonian think enough is enough and went rouge on the rest of the world. After 8 issues, it’s good to clear the mystery of how he turned bad and now the heroes are actually making some headway on how to stop him. Now instead of looking at his past, we can concentrate on the future as the world is open for Plutonian to tear apart.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Higher Yuan

Like the presidents before him, when U.S President Barack Obama met China's President Hu Jintao this week, he asked that China stop controlling the price of its currency and allows the yuan to float on the open market.

To the surprise of no one, the Chinese ignored the calls. I can understand why because the reasons are simple; by fixing the value of its currency against the dollar, the Chinese ensure low prices for Chinese-made exports, and for an export economy like theirs, that is important. What I don’t understand is why America is the only one shouting about the yuan.

Personally, I feel that other countries should join America in protesting the level of the yuan. Yes, it’s a little bit like the pot calling the kettle black but when you considered the position of China in the world’s economy and the fact that China holds more than $800 billion of U.S. government debt, there is no question that the yuan is ridiculously undervalued.

I feel it strange that other export countries in the region do not question why the yuan is so low. The level of the yuan directly affects the exports of countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and our own Singapore. I mean even the Chinese no longer argued that their currency should be higher than it is now, so I fail to see why other countries shouldn’t put China to task on the yuan.

It’s in the interest of everyone expect the Chinese that the yuan goes higher, and if you look at it in a purely economic viewpoint, it should be higher! The Americans are right and frankly other countries should join America in calling for a higher yuan before another currency crisis hit all of us.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Bow

When you meet a king, you bow. I thought that was not only common sense but common courtesy as well. So when I saw pictures of U.S President Barack Obama bowing to the Emperor of Japan, it seems pretty normal to me.

However I’m not an American so there’s nothing I’m missing because I read that Americans are unhappy that Obama is bowing to the emperor. Some reports even said that critics are “incensed” about the bow as US leaders should stand tall when representing America overseas. I don’t get it because I remember various leaders even U.S presidents bowing to kings and queens before (Queen Elizabeth of England comes to mind) with no problems whatsoever. Has Obama become so hated over in his home country that even a simple bow can cause him problems?

What’s even stranger is that most people in Asia considered Obama’s trip to Asia a success! Strange that people in his home country do not think so; and it’s all because of common courtesy.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Better Than Nothing

For years, there’re warnings about man overfishing the oceans. For years, the world had ignored the problem. Finally there’s hope as the European Union (EU) is going to cut bluefin tuna catches by 40% in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean regions.

This international agreement is a breakthrough but unfortunately it may also be a case of too little, too late. Environmentalists warned that the bluefin tuna is on its way to extinction and want a total ban in the fishing of bluefin tuna. The agreement by the EU was a compromise solution as a total ban would make thousands of people jobless. However environmentalists warned that the cut may not be enough as the population of bluefin tuna is already at very low levels. Time even did an article on it a few months ago.

I’m afraid that the environmentalists will just have to make do with what they got. When caught between jobs/money and saving a fish from extinction, I’m pretty sure jobs and money will win every single time. 40% is better than nothing.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Engineering Disasters

Discovery Channel has a show called “Engineering Disasters”. The show showcased man-made structures which either collapsed or did more harm than good.

Coming soon to that show is China's massive Three Gorges dam! Even before construction started, there had been warnings about environmental impact of the massive project as well as how the dam would destroy the legendary Three Gorges and displaced more than 1 million people. The Chinese government ignored all warnings and now the problems are coming hard and fast.

The environmental impact of the dam had caused landslides as the raised water level had eroded the soil near the dam, and prompted a “postponement” on plans to raise the water level to full capacity.

I had never been a fan of the Three Gorges project. I always believed it to be a vanity project as I never bought the stated aims of the Chinese. The 2 aims of the dam were to end centuries of floods along the basin of the Yangtze River and to provide energy to fuel the country's economic boom. The Chinese people had been lining along the Yangtze for thousands of years and China did not need the amount of power a $23 billion, 660-km long dam would provide.

Now you have geological risks like landslides, serious soil erosion and seismic instability; and a changing eco-system which result in less water coming from the upper reaches of the Yangtze and drought in the lower reaches of the Yangtze. Producers of “Engineering Disasters”, please take note.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Powerboat vs Fishermen

Last year a futuristic powerboat called "Earthrace", managed to go around the world in just under 61 days. It was a new world record.

The super-fast, space-age vessel is going to go from world record holder to… harassing Japan whalers? As unbelievable as it sound, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. It seems that “Earthrace” will be used to pursue Japanese shipping boats and stop them spearing whales during their annual hunt in waters off Antarctica.

Now I’m all for saving the environment but to use a multi-million dollar powerboat against fishermen? So on one side, you have fishermen trying to make a living; on the other, you have a multi-million dollar powerboat. Uh…wonder how that’ll look on TV?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Comics this week

Batman/Doc Savage Special #1- One of the strangest things to come out of the great 52 weekly series was the lack of stories about the 52 worlds. I mean if DC was going to return the multi-verse back to the DC fold, you would expect DC to have some stories lined up about the various 52 worlds right? Better late than never I guess as Brian Azzarello's First Wave series is going to see print in 2010. As a kickstart, Batman/Doc Savage Special was the right vehicle to introduce readers to the new world. I enjoy how they manage to get Batman into a world without superpowers. In most instances, Batman would be nothing but a way to put readerships; however in this case it worked beautifully. I enjoyed the way Azzarello tweaked the Doc Savage character into the superman of this world. No superpowers but he is the perfect man thus making Doc the Superman to Bruce Wayne’s Batman. It was a cute move. The story itself was nothing much but Azzarello did a good job introducing the world…which is what the issue is mainly for. I must say I was very surprised at how enjoyable this one-shot was; a good intro issue for the First Wave that will leave you asking for more.

S.W.O.R.D. #1- S.W.O.R.D. is an agency that defend Earth from threats from outer space. The idea was great and it clearly deserved a series of its own. Agent Abigail Brand has always been an underused character. I mean she’s a half-alien, half-human ice queen with a heart of gold. What’s there not to like about that? What I don’t like is the introduction of Beast into S.W.O.R.D. I never bought the relationship between the two and I feel the series would have been better if we had less Beast and more of the other supporting characters like Henry Gyrich and Lockheed. Good start to a series with potential.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Reason Why

Later this week, the Singapore national football team will play Thailand in Singapore. There is an article in the Strait Times today that wondered whether Singapore (the home team) will become the away team as Thai fans may outnumber Singapore fans at the match.

The article then went into the regular monologue about how successful the current Singapore team is and that fans should come and support the team. The reason the Strait Times believe for the lack of support is due to Singapore fans remembering the glory days of the Malaysia Cup. Now, I’m not saying that has nothing to do with the lack of support by Singapore fans but it’s not the main reason why Singapore fans are keeping away from the match.

The main reason Singapore fans feel nothing for the current Singapore national football team is because half the team are from overseas! To be fair, the Strait Times did say the current team a “hybrid” team, but that’s the main reason why Singapore fans are keeping away. If you remember, when Singapore first left the Malaysia Cup, fans kept on supporting the team, fans still packed the National Stadium, and the Kallang Roar was still in full cry.

However it would be very strange to cry for the Singapore team now when half the team are not from Singapore right? Now before anyone say stuff like France winning the World Cup with Zidane who is also not fully French, I remind you that Zizou went to France at a very young age and he was a product of the French youth system. All the foreign players in the Singapore team were given PR status when they were in their late teens, in their 20s, or even in their early 30s. It’s hardly the same to compare the two.

As for the match between Thailand and Singapore; I hope not but I for one will not be surprise if Thai fans outnumber Singapore fans on matchday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Coming Out of The Woods

One reason to believe the world economy is starting to get out of the woods is the rise in oil prices.

Oil prices has been hovering near US$80 for the past few weeks despite a stew of bad news like rising U.S. oil inventories and poorer than expected corporate results from companies. The main reason for the rise seems to be the weaker US dollar which makes it easier for foreign currencies to buy the commodity but oil prices are usually a good indicator of sentiment in the overall economy.

Guess it’s time for another bull run on Golden Agriculture on the STI.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

If Only...

Oh, now you want peace talks!

With Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, saying that he would not run for election scheduled for January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suddenly called for an immediate resumption of peace talks with Palestinians and pledged more steps to improve economic conditions in Palestinian areas.

Netanyahu went so far as to send Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Washington with a message that Israel will do all it can to renew peace talks with the Palestinians. Of course Netanyahu still refused to freeze Jewish settlements in the West Bank as is required in the Oslo peace talks but the open “and very public” begging for immediate peace talks is something new for Netanyahu. Desperation sure can make people change their speeches in a hurry.

Now why can’t he do this in the first place? He and U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cut the legs off the peace deal last week when they argued Israeli restraint is as good as a settlement freeze. Now the politically wounded Abbas has decided to throw in the towel, and Netanyahu is faced with the prospect of war or a new more radical leader than Abbas. Suddenly there’s activity for peace talks.

Unfortunately, it seems this is too little too late. If only he would have done this in the first place. Another miss chance for peace in the Middle East.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Change Your Argument

I’ve said a lot about immigrations in Singapore already, so I was thinking of avoiding the topic for awhile. However when Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke on the issue twice in three days, what the hell!

SM Goh said that new immigrants help sustain and enrich the quality of life of Singaporeans and that Singapore needs new Permanent Residents (PRs) and new citizens, or Singapore will not be able to expand the population.

All good, fine and well. However when he said that “it is possible for new immigrations to become loyal to Singapore, to Singaporean values, and to contribute to Singapore society”; that’s when I have a problem.

It is possible; that’s without question, but when you have a Chinese PR who went back to China, took part in the Chinese National Day parade and then openly said that she is unsure if she want to return to Singapore, that’s a little rich. The vast overwhelming majority of immigrants are here strictly for the money and they own little loyalty to Singapore, which is fair in my view because Singapore is NOT their homeland. I can understand perfectly why that Chinese PR above felt more loyalty to China than to Singapore.

SM Goh also said that he understood how Singaporeans felt crowded out by all the new citizens and PRs, whether in housing, jobs or schools, and that new immigrants were perceived as "taking advantage" of better opportunities here.

I do not understand why the Singapore government continues with this line of argument. First off, the sheer number game tells you there’s not enough new housing of all the new immigrants. Singapore has accepted more than 100,000 foreigners per year while HDB only built like 8,000 flats per year. What else is there left to say on that?

As for new immigrants being perceived as coming to Singapore to take advantage of better opportunities here; of course they are here to take advantage of the better opportunities here! Seriously, why else would they be here? If Singapore didn’t have better opportunities, these new immigrants wouldn’t be here.

SM Goh is right when he said that this is an emotional issue for most Singaporean. That is why the Singapore government needs to come up with better excuses/reasons for the Singapore people. The Singapore government also needs to be honest about the problems the new immigrants are causing. Our housing market is over-heated yet we have a government minister saying “HDB figures showed that eight in 10 first-timers could get a flat on their first try if they were not choosy ; the success rate was 96 per cent for the second try”.

The other problem the Singapore government has is that most Singaporeans believed the government is only saying this stuff now because there is a general elections coming. Once the elections are over, the government will go back to its old habits.

Now that’s a view the Singapore government do not need.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Comics this week

Nova #31- This issue was quick and the lack of quality shows. Nova’s meeting with Darkhawk was disappointing and a waste. The biggest problem was that Richard Rider went in fully convinced Darkhawk was not a murderer, despite all evidence to the contrary. That doesn’t sit well with me because up to now Richard Rider had been trying his hardest to be a good example of a true Nova Centurion. One meeting with his old friend and suddenly that’s all out the window? And what the hell is wrong with the art? At the end, the art looked like something a kid would draw. I don’t usually mind the art that much, but it was just horrible. Terrible issue!

Secret Six #15 – After the multi-part story of the past few issue, John Ostrander guest-write with a character origin story of Deadshot. The result is a mix bag for me. We have a history of Deadshot's origin from his first meeting with Batman, to an overview of his dysfunctional family, and his guilt as the one who killed his brother. As a origin story, the issue worked very well. However in many ways, it’s kind of anti-climatic after all the crazy stuff that came before. Not bad, but not great either.

Immortal Weapons #4- The series started great with Fat Cobra story; since then it had been downhill and unfortunately for fans, Tiger's Beautiful Daughter continue that downward trend. The biggest problem I have is that Iron Fist is a martial art series. The greatest joy of the series was seeing all these trained martial artists kicking the shit out of everyone. Unfortunately in Tiger’s Beautiful Daughter we didn’t get a trained martial artist but a natural warrior who kick shit without training or any battle experience. Aka, we got another Amazon. I can understand why but if I wanted to read about an Amazon, I'll go read Wonder Woman, not Immortal Weapons. That is sad because the back-story was great. A nation of Amazons attacked their neighbors but was roundly defeated. Facing certain death, they still wanted to fight but their men wisely step back, drugged the women for their own safety and sued for peace. Now the new generation of warrior women had grown up and they want to fight despite the history and odds against their people. That’s a great plot but too bad about the Amazon angle.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Pursuit of Gold

In Singapore, there is a legendary swimming club called the Chinese Swimming Club. The club is responsible for crutching out swimming champions for decades in Singapore. At the Chinese Swimming Club’s Centennial Charity Dinner, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng was the guest of honor and he said that the Singapore government will continue to invest heavily in sports.

Personally I feel this is a good thing, but one question I have is what kind of support will the government give to the various sports associations? The Singapore government has been giving money to the various associations, and they demand good results in return for their investments. In theory, this is fine. However in practice, it’s a different situation. Fears of losing government grants, some sports associations have taken short cuts to produce results. Basically, certain sports associations are now so focused on producing results that they are ignoring Singapore youth development.

When there is youth development, certain associations are transporting youths from China instead of training promising young Singaporeans. I have no problem with the Singapore government demanding good results in return for their investments, some accountability is always good, but maybe the Singapore government should also look into not just youth development but Singapore youth development.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mass Effect

Mass Effect is a shooter RPG hit by Bioware. The game came with a good reputation with solid reviews all around and it was a hit with a sequel coming out next year.

After playing the game, I can see why it was a hit. First off, Bioware did a lot of work in the setting of Mass Effect. It is a sci-fi setting and Bioware went wild with it. The background of all the alien species; the different spaceships; the detailed history of the races; all made for a very interesting world to play in.

I also found the voice acting to be very good. The game uses a system for conversation that takes a little time to get used to. The game shows you not what your character will say but a short idea of how he would response. It was a little strange at first but fun.

The story was top notch. Although short, the story was tight and it interweave with the history of the setting beautifully. The mysterious story had enough twist and turns within it to satisfied most RPG players.

However Mass Effect is also one of those games which I don’t know if I should recommend to friends. Despite the great many good things Bioware got right, they got one thing wrong. This is a seriously short game.

I hit all the side missions and visited all the planets and systems, and I finished the game in about 20 hours! If you go short through the story without doing any side missions, I’ll be surprised if you can go beyond 10 hours. That is seriously short, even discounting the fact that Mass Effect is supposed to be a RPG.

I went through the game twice and I don’t think I clock in 50 hours on the game. That’s half of one game of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion (first time I finish Oblivion, I hit 100 hours). 2 Mass Effects = half of Oblivion!
If I didn’t get the game at a discount, I would feel seriously ripped off.

Another problem is how easy the game was. I hit all the side missions and when I finally tried the final missions, I was at such a high level I walked through the missions. I think I only have to reload the game once at the final mission. Whatever happened to the good old days when games were so tough, you felt like throwing your computer out the window?

Mass Effect is a good game, but way too short and too easy for a RPG.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

APEC Rejections

This is why I don’t understand why Singapore bothered to hold summits like for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). With only a few weeks to go before the summit, Singapore has again turned away potential protestors from entering Singapore.

This is no surprise as everytime there is such a summit in Singapore, the Singapore authorities start rejecting people from entering the country for no reason. This time 2 Falungong followers were denied entry into Singapore despite the pair having made frequent trips to Singapore before. Now they may say that all requests to enter the country would be treated fairly, but it is something no one believed and the evidence is against it.

I just don’t understand why the Singapore authorities are so afraid of a couple of civil groups. I mean everytime they start to reject people from entering Singapore ahead of events like the APEC summit, it make Singapore look very bad. Has everyone forgotten about the embarrassment a few years ago when Singapore rejected people from entering Singapore for the IMF meeting? Has nothing been learned about the incident?

I guess not.

Monday, November 2, 2009

EPL this month

October is over, and it had been a month of surprises. Here are the winners amd losers of the month.

Top Teams this Month
Chelsea- Like an unstoppable machine, Chelsea had taken over the top in the EPL. There had been a few bumps along the road but it will take nothing short of a miracle to stop manager Carlo Ancelotti’s men from claiming the title.

Sunderland- Forget the beachball incident! Sunderland deserved their win against Liverpool and even before that, they should have gotten more than a point at Old Trafford. The one danger I see for them is who will score for them if striker Darren Bent do not score. Outside that, manager Steve Bruce is enjoying life.

Man City- Who would had thought that of all the teams in the EPL, Man City would be the team with the least losses. Man City may have bought a lot of attacking talent in the off-season, but manager Mark Hughes has also made his team very difficult to beat. The biggest problem for Hughes is how he is going to keep everyone happy, already Robinho is making noise about leaving the club. If Hughes can manage that, Man City may just challenge for a Top 4 spot at the end of the season.

Surprise Team this month
Manchester United – The surprise of the season has to be how Sir Alex Ferguson had been getting away with saying the stuff he says. Sir Alex has been ranting and raving about referees and the league is allowing him to get away with it. Frankly, Sir Alex’s ranting has worked as referees had been helping Man Utd in certain matches (7mins injury time anyone?) this season, so I fully expect more of the same from him.

Disappointing Teams this month
Portsmouth- They got a new owner and went on a mini spending spree and then…things got worse. The new Arab billionaire owner turned out to be no billionaire at all, and he openly said he is in this only for the money. Manager Paul Hart has a sense of humor about the whole thing and his team is fighting for points on the field. Portsmouth is miles better than they were at the start of the season but until they sort out their off-field problems, they will be in trouble.

Liverpool- Yes, I know they beat Man Utd but before that they lost 4 in a row and I’m not convinced Liverpool is out of the woods. The depth of the team is in question and Rafa Benitez had to play an 80% fit Fernando Torres against Man Utd because Liverpool had no cover for him. Rafa need to get a striker to cover for Torres in the transfer window. Till then, Liverpool fans will need to pray Torres stay fit.

Hull City- Manager Phil Brown looked certain to get the sack sooner or later. The club is in great danger as they are not able to get wins and worse, they are unable to beat the teams around them. The poor finances doesn’t help and it’s hard to see how Hull could beat the drop if they are unable to get reinforcements in the transfer window

Friday, October 30, 2009

Comics this week

Blackest Night #4- As the undead rise, the various heroes of Earth tried to turn back the tide. The main character of this issue is the much-maligned Barry Allen. The returned Flash spread the word on how to fight the Black Lanterns and actually seems cool for the first time since his return. However as much love as writer Geoff Johns has for Barry Allen, the real star is Ivan Reis. The art of this series is going from strength to strength. At the end when the central Black Ring appeared in Coast City; that scene was nothing short of greatness! Brilliant!

Astro City: Astra #2- What happen after school? For Astra Furst, the choices are limitless and this issue showed why. I find it interesting that this series is the first real cosmic series from Astro City but the real meat of the story is Astra. The story was never forced and the smooth transition of Astra from a child to an adult was great. A short series but great nevertheless.

Nova #30- The Nova Crops officially grew by 1 this issue. As powerful and as experience Richard Rider is, he is not a veteran and new guy Philo will fill up that role in the Corps. I’m not sure about yet another new base for the Worldmind, they are moving a little too much for my taste. If the writers want a base for the Corps, then they should have a permanent one and not have the team moving every now and then. Outside that, this is a solid issue.

Guardians of the Galaxy #19- Wow! When I saw Kang the Conqueror on the cover, I went, “Oh no.” Luckily Kang only showed up for half the issue and his involvement exactly made sense. Starlord’s group finally got back to the right timeline (with the help of Kang), and confront Magus Warlock. By the end, about half of the Guardians of the Galaxy were no more and the rest were left picking up the pieces. Wow! Writers Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning hit a homerun here and if not for the poor art, this issue would have been perfect.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Agassi's Bombshell

Andre Agassi dropped a bombshell on the world of tennis when he admitted that he used a banned drug (crystal methamphetamine) while he was still playing, but escaped a suspension by blaming his positive test on the spiked drink of a former assistant.

Personally I don’t think much of this. I was never a fan of Agassi but he isn’t the first elite athlete to be caught using drugs, and it’s a recreational drug, not a performance enhancing one. Agassi isn’t even the first tennis player to be caught (Martina Hingis come to mind); however I have to question how in the world the ATP accepted Agassi’s reason.

I tested positive for crystal meth because my assistant spike his drink with crystal meth and I accidentally drank the drink. I mean that reason was ridiculous! How could they accept such a reason?

Don’t get me wrong. I admired and applaud Agassi’s guts for admitting to using the drug (his autobiography “Open” would have sold well even without the revelations) but I have to wonder about the anti-doping system the ATP has in place. Agassi’s excuse was ridiculous and I’m amazed the ATP accepted it.

In the end, what’s so shocking to me wasn’t that a tennis player used drugs but how easy it is to get away with it even when you are caught.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hardly LTA's Fault

A transport survey in Singapore of some 10,500 households has shown that despite efforts by the Singapore authorities to get more people on public transport, the percentage of Singaporeans using public transport has actually went down. The survey found that 59% of respondents used public transport last year, down from 63% in 2004.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) says that this is due to a lack of major infrastructural improvements in public transport during that period. Sorry but the LTA is wrong here. There’s no lack of major infrastructural improvements in public transport, just try driving along Cross Street and see all the MRT construction there. The biggest elephant in the room is the population explosion in Singapore.

Singapore’s population grew these past few years. For the past few years, Singapore has accepted more than 100,000 foreigners per year and much like the housing problems Singapore is currently having, the population growth has exceeded the public transport capacity and that’s why the percentage went down instead of up.

With all the new Masterplan by LTA, all the new traffic schemes like Mandatory Give—Way to Buses, or all the new MRT lines coming out like the Downtown Line, the percentage of Singaporeans using public transport should (in theory) go up instead of down. The fact that it went down instead has nothing to do with LTA and more to do with the Singapore government’s policy as a whole.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New NBA Season

It’s one of those things last year when the Los Angles Lakers won the NBA title last year. It was inevitable. Even discounting the fact that no one thought the Orlando Magic had a chance of upsetting the Lakers, you just know Kobe Bryant was going to win a ring without Shaquille O’Neal sooner or later.

Will the Magic and Lakers meet again this season? I doubt it.

In the East, I don’t think the surprising Magic will be able to match their run last year. The Cleveland Cavaliers may have taken Shaq to deal with Dwight Howard but I think the finalist from the East will be the Boston Celtics. They were the favorites entering the playoffs last year till Kevin Garnett got injured. Garnett is okay now and with Rajon Rondo, Ray Allan and Paul Pierce all in the last year of their contracts, it’s now or never for the Celtics. That desperation will see them to the finals this season.

In the West, I just have to go with the San Antonio Spurs. They have Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Michael Finley, Antonio McDyess, Theo Ratliff, and Richard Jefferson. That’s 7 current or former All-Stars on their team. As good as Kobe is, I just can’t see anyone beating against the Spurs this year.

A Celtics-Spurs finals this year with the Spurs winning.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Crazy Sport Fans

Sport fans can be crazy at times. Soccer fans are in general crazier than others.

We can now add to that; Liverpool FC fans are crazier than most soccer fans. Last week Liverpool lost a game to Sunderland 1-0 by one of the oddest goals in football history. In the 5th minute of the match, Sunderland striker Darren Bent fired a shot on goal, the ball hit a beach ball that was lying on the field, took a big deflection off the beach ball and went into the goal.

A 16 year old fan has been fingered as the culprit who threw the beach ball onto the field and has received death threats on the matter. I'm sorry but those fans are crazy. I saw the game and while I found the goal funny, I failed to see how this fan was the reason for Liverpool’s defeat. The goal was scored in the 5th min, Liverpool had 85mins to claw back the score and frankly I can’t remember the Sunderland keeper having a hard save to make.

Liverpool was poor, Sunderland rightfully won the game and I dared anyone who saw the game to tell me otherwise. Not only that, I didn’t remember the Liverpool players complaining too bitterly about the beach ball being a “foreign object” and that the goal shouldn’t be allowed to stand. Liverpool lost the game, and they deserved to lose the game. The fan was unlucky, but he wasn’t the reason Liverpool lost the game.

The ironic thing in all this; the teenager was a Liverpool fan and the beach ball had the Liverpool-brand on it. Sometimes it’s just fate.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Activate Laughter

In the fight against pirated games, game developers have come out with some pretty crazy nonsensical scheme but this one takes the cake!

IGN had just reported that legitimate early owners of the PC version of Borderlands can’t play the game. Reason is because Borderlands PC requires online activation…and that would work until its official release date!

I was laughing my guts out right now. Never a fan of online activation to begin with, this is just beautiful to me. To sell a game people can’t use because your online activation service is not working…where’s my pirated copy of Borderlands?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who is my MP?

Now everyone knows that the People’s Action Party (PAP) has crafted policies to better suit the ruling government in elections. A majority of Singaporeans accept that if you live in an opposition ward, then your facilities will not be as good as those in government wards.

However the official reply from the Ministry of National Development (MND) to justify why opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) should not manage the Government's lift upgrading program (LUP) in their wards had brought verbal jiu-jitsu to a whole new level.

In a confusing reply to a question by opposition MP Low Thia Khiang, MND press secretary Lim Yuin Chien argue that the MND should not work with opposition Members of Parliament on the LUP because 'The will of the people expressed in general elections is to elect a government for the country as a whole; and not to elect separate local governments for each constituency.'


If that’s case, why are there different constituencies then? I could have sworn that when people vote for their MP in Hougang, they are…you know, voting for their MP in Hougang! Is Mr. Lim arguing that Mr. Low Thia Khiang who won the seat of Hougang is NOT the MP of Hougang? Is Mr. Lim arguing that Mr. Low Thia Khiang is instead the MP of…Sembawang? Who is the MP of Hougang then if the will of the people expressed in general elections is NOT to elect their representative for each constituency?

I live in the Tanjong Pagar GRC, a GRC won by the PAP in the last election in a walkover. However if what Mr. Lim said is correct, then the PAP is NOT the representative of my constituency because we are not voting for our MPS! And yes, it’s a walkover to boot! Who is my MP then?

Note: The Tanjong Pagar GRC team is led by MM Lee Kuan Yew

Who is Ms. Singapore World?

Singapore has a reputation of being a nanny state. A country where the people will only do what the government tells them to do and expect the government to have a hand in everything.

Frankly, there is some truth in that. And frankly, Singaporeans can’t really blame the Singapore government for this. I mean which county in the world would exactly have a Member of Parliament (MP) suggest government supervision and regulation of beauty contests? For oversea readers, this year’s Miss Singapore World winner, Ms. Ris Low, was stripped of her title after it was revealed that she had a past conviction for credit card fraud. It was then revealed that the second runner-up will represent Singapore at the Miss World pageant as the first runner-up in the contest has a bad relationship with the contest organizers.

Now Mr. Baey Yam Keng, the MP in question, did not suggest this out of the blue. Ever since the beauty contest scandal broke, there had been public suggestion that the Singapore government has some regulations of beauty contests as the winners are representing Singaporeans.

My attitude to all this is, “Who cares?”

I mean this is a beauty contest and this is Singapore. We are not like say, Venezuela where beauty pageants are big businesses. Who care who the Miss Singapore World or Miss Singapore Universe is? Not only do I say that there is no need for the Singapore government to regulate pageants is not enough, I think there is no need for it to be a question in Parliament.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guinness Stupid Records

I know there are stupid world records for all sorts of things, but a world record for playing a video game non-stop?

In India, a 26-year-old man is now the Guinness World Record holder for…the longest play session of Grand Theft Auto IV. The Indian man played GTA IV for over 40 hours straight, with only 4 10-minute breaks during the record attempt.

Since Singapore is always desperate for world recognition, quick let’s have a world record attempt on every video game in history and we will break all the old records for longest play time of each and every game. I mean play GTA IV for over 40 hours straight? Hell, I can beat that.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Speak Singlish

Occasionally Singapore would go into a “Speak Proper English” campaign. Usually I ignored these campaigns as an absolute waste of time and money. I mean in Malaysia, I’m expecting the locals to speak Malay; in China, I’m expecting the locals to Mandarin; in Japan, I’m expecting the locals to speak Japanese; in Singapore, I’m expected to speak not only English but “proper English”.

It’s stupid but not my problem because I ignored these stupid campaigns. However the nit-picking of these “Speak Proper English” people has went to another level this year. Just yesterday there was an article in the newspaper which shows some wrong signs in Singapore. One of them is a “Wash Hand” sign at a sink and the sign was wrong because…the sign never said which hand to wash? The sign should read “Wash Hands” and without the “S”, the sign is wrong because it is not proper English.

I don’t know if I should laugh or cry at the stupidity of it all. You want to spend a few hundred dollars just to paint a “S” at all the signs in Singapore? I have a better suggestion; this is Singapore, so let everyone in Singapore speak the Singapore language: Singlish.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New OPC scheme is Not that good

On 29th Aug this year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that it will review its Off-Peak Car (OPC) scheme and will implement a few changes. One of the changes is that LTA will now give cash rebates of up to $1,100 once every 6 months after owners convert their normal cars to the new OPC scheme.

Now Singaporeans are jumping up and down in happiness at the news, LTA is paying you to drive your car, but frankly I don’t get why Singaporeans are so happy about the new scheme. Currently when a Singaporean change his car from a normal car to an off-peak car, he will get an extra rebate base on long he drives his vehicle as an OPC vehicle. He will receive this rebate of $2,200 per year, in one lump sum upon the de-registration of the vehicle provided the vehicle is below 10 years old and is eligible for PARF.

Under the new scheme, LTA will give cash rebates of up to $1,100 once every 6 months. So basically there’s no change! Only thing is that instead of giving it to you in one lump sum at the end, they are giving it to you piecemeal once every 6 months. If anything, the new scheme is worse because you don’t get the money in one lump sum but piece by piece.

So all those Singaporeans jumping in happiness; please sit down. LTA is not paying you to drive your car; they are just giving the money to you piece by piece.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

No More Ice Cap

Global warming now has another victim. A polar research team believe that the Arctic ice cap will disappear completely in 20 to 30 years.

The polar research team said that the ice cap will be largely ice-free during the summer months within 10 years, and in 20 to 30 years it will be completely ice-free.

Without the Arctic ice cap, temperatures will rise in the world and will mean even more powerful climate changes. This will mean higher sea levels and more powerful storms and heavier flooding.

Considering all the typhoons that hit the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan recently, I'm loath to think what damage even more powerful storms would do. However, would this report lead world leaders to curb greenhouse gas emission?

One can only hope.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Paying Students To Attend School?

Usually I am a person who is all for alternative ways to get students to study. To me, the most important part of a student is to study. Uniforms, moral education etc; everything else is secondary.

However the idea of paying students to go to school and get good grades is a step too far for me. Now I know parents bribed their children all the time (more pocket money if you get As; I’ll buy that Xbox if you get good results) but state-sanctioned bribery is just a step too far for me.

In France, there is a pilot program that is paying certain students, the ones considered most likely to fail and drop out, to attend classes and get good grades. The idea is that if the student maintained a good attendance record and reached performance targets agreed upon with their teachers, reward payments will be added to their class account which will then be used to finance a school-related project like a class trip abroad or even driving lessons to obtain a driving license.

Now I understand the French government's desire to increase the students’ motivation for good grades but for the government to actually pay the student to attend class and get good grades is just too much for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this scheme could work. Money talks no matter how young you are, but a financial motivation scheme is just plain wrong no matter how successful the scheme is.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Comics this week

Secret Six #14 – What was a pretty good arc went to pieces this issue. The story itself was okay; Deadshot was killing guys, Catman was slicing dead body parts, Savage Scandal made herself an addict to Venom, but everything was just so anti-climatic. Grendel lasted all of 1 scene the moment Wonder Woman showed up. Ditto for that traitor Amazon, and just about anyone else fighting against the Six. About the only interesting thing that came out of this issue is that Bane is now in charge, so that’s something good for the future. Too bad about the here and now though.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Exclusive Rant

Coming in October, Grand Theft Auto IV: Stories from Liberty City (featuring The Lost and Damned & Ballad of Gay Tony); exclusively on Xbox 360.

This ad just gets to me. What are all these exclusive deals game developers have going these days? I remember in the past game developers aim for their games to be on as many platforms as possible; Xbox, PS, Nintendo, even PC.

These days there are more and more of these exclusive deals and gamers are the poorer for it. Take Fable 2 for example. Everyone says that the original Fable played better on the PC than on the Xbox, but Fable 2 is Xbox exclusive.

Now I know game developers got some sweet deals going exclusive on 1 system but I can’t understand what good it does anyone making Fable 2 Xbox exclusive. Putting Fable 2 means lower sales because people without an Xbox360 can’t play the game while no one is going to go buy an Xbox360 just to play Fable 2. It’s Fable people, not Final Fantasy.

Gamers can’t play the game, developers get lower sales, and console sales get no boost. So what good are exclusive deals for?

Saturday, October 10, 2009


The announcement that U.S President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize drew gasps of surprise from around the world. Put me in that category as well.

I like Obama but I cannot understand how he won the Peace prize. The judges said that they found his promise of nuclear disarmament and diplomacy too good to ignore.

That’s the problem!

Obama has promise but he hasn’t done anything yet! I don’t even think it is a case of too much, too soon because the Nobel Peace Prize is given to people who has yield concrete achievements in peacemaking. Obama has not. The U.S is still in Iraq, they are still in Afghanistan, war is still brewing in the Middle East; why should Obama win the prize in front of say…the Dalai Lama?

The Dalai Lama has adopted a path of peaceful negotiations between the Tibetan people and the Chinese government. Despite the wishes of his own people who are tired of 20+ years of fruitless negotiations and want to start fighting against the Chinese, the Dalai still want peace. The moment the Dalai die (which will be soon), war will erupt in Tibet.

Obama? The guy couldn’t even solve the problems in Honduras.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Define Choosy

With rising housing prices hitting headlines recently, Singapore’s National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan has come out to say that “HDB figures yesterday showed that eight in 10 first-timers could get a flat on their first try if they were not choosy ; the success rate was 96 per cent for the second try”.

Unfortunately for the Singapore government, this is a figure few Singaporeans believe. A study by National University of Singapore economists Tilak Abeysinghe and Gu Jiaying published last year found that the buying power of people's lifetime earnings in 2007 was lower than it was in 1990 when it is tracked against the prices of HDB resale flats. Basically, prices of HDB resale flats have become less affordable for Singaporeans.

Not only that, the latest statistics by Minister Mah came in the midst of several complaints about the difficulty in getting a flat. So how do you explain the numbers by HDB?

When I read the statement by Minister Mah I think the important part of it is “if they are not choosy”. How do one define being “choosy”? I mean to buy a flat in Singapore means you will putting yourself in debt for the next 10 to 25 years. If you put that in the equation, would it be “choosy” if you reject a flat on the second-storey or in an out-of-the-place area? In either one of those scenarios, the resale value of the flats would be lower.

So would that be considered “choosy”? Maybe Minister Mah can explain what is considered "choosy".