Thursday, April 30, 2009

Idiotic Decision in F1

After the disastrous start to the new Formula 1 (F1) season, you would think that Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Max Mosley would be doing everything within their power to right the boat.

You would be wrong! The greatest scandal this season has been ‘Liegate’ where defending champion Lewis Hamilton lied to the race stewards (twice) on a racing incident in Australia. The punishment for lying is a 3 race suspended ban for McLaren. The punishment is a 3 race ban but the ban is suspended. In case you are wondering what that means; it means that nothing will happen to McLaren!

Now McLaren’s sporting director Dave Ryan and boss Ron Dennis has both fell on their swords for the team but what about Hamilton? He was the one who lied to the stewards and that is clearly something you cannot do. Hamilton has been screaming that it’s all McLaren’s fault and he was just following orders. That’s total bull! He’s been racing for years and don’t know you can’t lied to the race stewards (twice)? It just proved that not only is he dishonest, he is a lair; he’s a dishonest lair who can do so with a straight face in front of the cameras.

I’ll love it if Hamilton managed to win the F1 title this year, just to see the egg on the face Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley. Seeing those two trying to defend this idiotic decision now is great; just imagine how it would be at the end of the season if Hamilton wins the title!

Go, Go, Hamilton!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Outbreak

Chances to contain the swine flu outbreak in Mexico dropped from small to nil as over 66 cases of swine flu are confirmed in the U.S. Swine flu are now confirmed from Canada to Spain and the Middle East.

The swine flu outbreak is suspected to have killed 159 in Mexico and experts believe that it’s a matter of time before it kills people outside Mexico as well. Mexico has shut its pyramids and closed restaurants in a bid to stop the spread of the swine flu but it seems too late for such measures. Countries around the world are stepping up checks of people entering their country and the U.S is warning Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico. Cuba went a step further and suspended all flights to and from Mexico.

What’s worse is that Mexico has another 2,498 suspected cases of swine flu and over 1,311 of the patients are in hospital. Here’s wishing a speedy recovery to all the victims of the outbreak. Good luck.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Steer Clear

A few days ago, I commented on the AWARE saga. One thing I will say about the saga is that the Singapore government did the right thing by not intervening in it; it is a policy I think they should continue.

Despite some internet chatter that the New Guard is a political conspiracy, anyone with half a brain knows that it is nonsense. Why would the Singapore government bother with AWARE when they can just ignore them? So I’m quite perturbed when I read that Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan had commented on the AWARE saga as he warned the two warring groups "keep religion above the fray of petty politics".

Although he interjected that the Singapore government has no intention of intervening in the AWARE saga, as a government minister his words will still represent the government. As I said earlier, I do not believe the Singapore government should get involved in a strictly internal matter within AWARE. To me, this is an issue between 2 groups of women with vastly different views. Despite what people may say about the New Guard stealth takeover of AWARE, I think everyone will agree that their stand against homosexuality is more in line with Singapore society than teaching homosexuality as ‘neutral’ (whatever the hell that means).

The AWARE saga is something that only members of AWARE can clear up and I strongly believe that the Singapore government should steer clear of the whole mess.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Singapore In A Good Position

As funny as it is, SARS might actually be a good thing. With a new strain of swine flu breaking out in Mexico, world's governments are racing to avoid both a pandemic as possible swine flu cases are surfacing from the U.K to New Zealand. The United States, who has a few confirmed cases already, has declared a public health emergency.

As countries are putting checks in place, Singapore is surprising in a very good position to handle the potential crisis. The SARS epidemic a few years ago has equipped Singapore, and various other Asian countries, with the skills to handle a similar outbreak like the swine flu. To proof the point, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) has implemented precautionary measures at Changi Airport such as deploying thermal scanners there. All pork imports from the U.S are also being tested for the new strain of swine flu virus as a precautionary measure even though currently there has been no reported case of people contracting swine flu from eating pork or pork products. In light of the outbreak in Mexico however, I agree with this ‘better safe than sorry’ policy.

I hope they manage to find a cure to the flu fast, not likely but one can always hope, but no matter what happen there, Singapore is in a good position to combat any outbreak. SARS might actually be a good thing.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Advice for the New Guard of AWARE

For overseas readers of my blog, AWARE is a Singapore social service organization offering counselling, legal services, and programs to raise womens' awareness about their status and rights. Basically AWARE is Singapore’s best known women’s group and feminist movement.

Problems started when AWARE held its AGM (Annual General Meeting) on March 28. Usually no more than 40 members would turn up at its center to rubber-stamp a prepared slate of candidates into office. This year however over 100 women came, with the vast majority only having joined Aware only in recent months.

By the end of the election, nine out of 12 executive committee spots went to the newcomers with every position challenged by a new face winning by a wide margin. Mrs Claire Nazar, one of the few remaining old guard, was named president during the AGM. However barely a week into her new term, she quit suddenly over differences with the new members.

From then, all hell break loose with the Old Guard claiming that this was a leadership grab by some unknown group of women. Rumors swirl around the new members who took over AWARE because, well, no one knows who they are! Weeks pass before the New Guard of AWARE finally gave a news conference on why they stage the takeover.

The new group, led by lawyer Thio Su Mien, stated that they were alarmed that Aware had lost sight of its original purpose and become a pro-lesbian and pro-homosexual organization. The story has been played out over Singapore for weeks and no one expected a resolution any time soon.

I have not commented on the AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research) saga so far because frankly I have no interest in it. I am barely aware that AWARE existed and what they stand for (which is more than you can say for some Singaporeans, including women). Frankly I couldn’t care less who is in charge of AWARE.

However I have a piece of advice for the New Guard; whoever is in charge of media relations in your group, you must sack her.

The New Guard is getting slaughtered in the press and rightfully so. First off, if you are going to hold a press conference, for god sake do NOT summarily fired staff on the same night. Worse you girls don’t even have a reasonable explaination when the fired staff demanded to know why she was fired. Also do NOT change the locks of your office on the same night as the press conference.

Another thing is why it took so long for you to hold a press conference. When a group of unkown people take over a group like AWARE, surely you should know that a lot of questions will be asked. Thio Su Mien also stated that she was the one who organized the takeover as she was unhappy with the direction of the group. If she was unhappy, why didn’t she start a new group, but had to get outsiders to help her take over the group. These are questions she must answer or the media will continue to kill you. The religious aspect of the story must also be answered as at least 3 of the New Guard attend the same church. No one is going to believe that is a coincidence.

Outside all the public mud-slinging, now death threats have been made against members of the New Guard and the police even had to be called in on a few occasions.

Like I said earlier, I don’t care who is in charge of AWARE but the New Guard need a better PR manager and need to answer some questions fast. Both groups need to settle their differences ASAP because right now, the one getting hurt the worst is the AWARE name.

And I think none of the women want that.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Comics this week

Street Fighter IV #2- With none of my issues in last week, I was looking towards this week's shipment and...half of the shipment did not arrive! So I am left with only this one issue this week; if this continue next week, I may go into withdrawal. Continuing the theme from last issue, Udon has the story evolve around the new fighters in the Street Fighter universe. That means there is still no Ryu, Ken or Chun Li. Outside Abel and Crimson Viper however, the other 2 new characters are also on show. Rufus destroyed the always useless Dan while El Fuerte met up with Sakura. I love the parody of Ninja Warrior. It's a comedy issue but a well-done comedy issue.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An Alien Ocean

I have stated on many occasions that I do not believe we are the only planet in the universe that has life. So I’m quite excited when astronomers in the U.K said that they found two places that look promising in the search for Earth-like planets.

Astronomers said that Gliese 581d, was in the prime habitable zone for potential life. This means that the planet is in a region around its sun that would allow water to be liquid on the planet's surface. Even more exciting was the possibility that Gliese 581d may have a "large and deep" ocean.

Unfortunately Gliese 581d are located in constellation Libra (which happen to be my sign also) so by the time mankind get there I be dead and gone already. Oh well, guess no aliens for me!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Graduates Are Wasting Their Time

At a dialogue session with Young NTUC, Singapore Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong was recently reported advising Young NTUC (Singapore’s only so-call union) members that in a downturn, one has to be flexible when job-hunting. He urged the people to “take up any job that is available”.

Technically there’s nothing wrong with this advice, but everything must be taken into context. Mr. Gan’s remarks came after a question from a participant in the audience. The question the participant asked was whether as a fresh graduate, he really has to accept a blue-collar job?

Mr Gan’s suggestion was basically yes, as there would always be “opportunities to upgrade later on”.

Personally I feel this is very bad advice. I mean why would anyone go to a university if they have to take a blue-collar job upon graduation. What image are you projecting to young people if you say that all a degree is good for is a blue-collar job? Why would anyone study for years to get a degree if it’s not a path to a better life?

A fresh graduate who read what Mr. Gan said must be cursing his luck and wondering what the hell he was doing for the past few years. According to Mr. Gan, he may just have been wasting his time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Most Singaporeans Just Don’t Care

Recently in Singapore there is a case of food poisoning where over a hundred people suffered food poisoning when they ate at a famous Indian rojak stall along Geylang Serai. The case of food poisoning was so serious that several victims had to go to the hospitals with deaths and one miscarriage recorded.

With this high profile case, Members of Parliament are falling over themselves stating the need that food sold to the public must be clean and safe. The latest to get into the act is Jalan Besar MP, Ms.Denise Phua, who said that food sellers have a moral duty to ensure this. There is also a ‘suggestion’ from the Singapore Health Minister that renewal of licenses for hawkers should be tied to how clean their stalls are.

I’m afraid they faced a small problem on this. Most Singaporeans just don’t care about how clean the stalls are. I mean when Singaporeans go to eat at the hawker centre, they don’t look at what grade of cleanliness the stalls has; I know I don’t. Most Singaporeans, including me, also feel that this is a one off incident. The Geylang Serai Indian rojak stall involved in the incident has been in business for over 20 years and there were no problems before.

I’m not saying that food cleanliness isn’t important but there’s no need to over-react on the matter. I don’ think Singapore has a problem with cleanliness and hygiene and I disagree with tying renewal of hawker licenses to how clean the stalls are. That’s just an over-reaction.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Too Many

If you have read my blog before, you would have known my feelings on foreign workers in Singapore. If you do not, here’s my thought on them: There’s too many of them.

I feel that Singaporeans are losing out to foreign workers in Singapore as there are too many foreign workers in Singapore and the foreign workers are taking away jobs that can be taken by Singaporeans. The latest example is the 10,000 jobs at Sentosa's upcoming integrated resort (IR).

The Philippines President Gloria Arroyo has been quoted by 2 of the country's newspapers that half of the jobs on offer at the IR will be going to Filipinos. Singapore has of course denied this and said that the bulk of the jobs will be going to Singaporeans. 2 problems on the denial; one is that the President of the Philippines was the one who said this and she didn’t deny the quote. So if the bulk of the jobs are going to Singaporeans, it means that she was either wrong or lying. Two is that while the President of the Philippines was quoted saying that 5,000 jobs will go to Filipinos, you don’t hear any Ministers on Singapore’s side saying that the bulk of the jobs will be going to Singaporeans.

My latest personal experience on Singapore having too many foreign workers is when I know of a real estate agent working in Singapore…and she is from Japan. It seems that there are many real estate agents from foreign countries working in Singapore. There are Chinese, Indonesians, and evidently at least 1 from Japan. I am sorry but is there really a need in Singapore for foreign real estate agents? I can understand if they are providing service to other foreign Japanese, Indonesians etc foreign workers in Singapore (see, even more foreign workers), but are they providing a service that can’t be done by Singaporeans?

I know this is like talking to the wind but with the jobless rate climbing, maybe it’s high time that the Singapore government actually put some restrictions on the amount of foreigners working in Singapore like you know…every other country in the world right now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Water Reclamation in Singapore

A little announcement in Singapore caught my eye today. Singapore’s largest water reclamation plant will open on June 22 during the International Water Week.

I never knew about International Water Week till now. With climate change and a growing human population, water is expected to be a valued commodity in the near future. Since asking humans to conserve is like asking for rain in a desert (possible but not likely), water reclamation is the right way to go. Singapore’s largest water reclamation plant will costs S$3.65 billion and will process 800,000 cubic metres of water once it is fully functional. If it goes well, there are plans to build another major water reclamation plant in southwest Singapore.

I strongly believe that water reclamation technology is something Singapore should focus on. Not only is it good for Singapore, chances are that water conservation technology is something that will be in big demand in the future. Instead of being an education hub, convention hub etc, the Singapore government should focus on the water technology trade

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gaming Ideas

Recently on Gar’s Random Ramblings, Gar wrote an article about gaming. About RTS, RPG and how he got lots of ideas on new games.

Nothing surprising there. It’s my belief that everyone who has picked up a joystick, a pad, a mouse…whatever to play a game has at least one idea in his head about a game he wants to make. I know I do.

So without further ado, let me tell you about my top 2 ideas;

1) A RPG/City Builder epic called “Dynasty”. You first start out as a low level wandering warrior/mage/thief/monk who stumbled into a small village. You sleep at the small village inn when bandits came to sack the village. You can choose between saving the village from the bandits or join the bandits in conquering the village. This will set you up as either a great hero or a great villain for the game. Once that is done, you will help the village headman or the bandit chief in securing the area around the village. You will be sent to several nearby villages to convince/force them to join the villages together to form a town. Once that is done, you will be promoted to the town magistrate by the village headman or you will kill the bandit chief to take over his position. You will then rename the town to your liking. The RPG section of the game will end here.

You will have a long reign before you die in an accident and then your son will take over. You will then play as the son who will build the town into a city. Think of it like Majesty or Stronghold where you build town facilities like mills, leatherworks and farms. Of course, you must build defenses as well to protect the town from bandit attacks. You can also decide which gods to pray to; the good or the evil, the healer or the strong warrior. You decide if you want a warrior school, a mage academy, a thief guild, a monk temple in your town; you cannot have all. Once you managed to build the town to a certain size, the town will be proclaimed a city and you will be titled the Governor of the city. You will marry, have children and then when your son grows up…you will be assassinated.

Civil war has erupted in the country as chaos reigned. You will now play as the grandson of the original hero. Whereas the first character was a lone fighter, and the second character was a city planner, this character is a general. You will gather armies to defend your city as well as launched attacks against other cities. You decide what kind of troops to buy, from which temple and which faction. You also decide what to do with the conquered cities. Once you have conquered enough cities, you will have enough land and proclaimed that you have a country of your own. You will be crown king and playing from 3 generations, you would have started your own Dynasty!

*Note: this is the short version. My idea is far more detailed than this*

2) A stealth/shooter action game called “I am a Mutant Monster”. Have you ever seen movies like The Hills Have Eyes? I’ve always found it so unfair that some stupid humans unknowingly stumbled into the monster’s territory, they killed the humans to protect their territory and the next thing you know the monster is facing the police or the army who has the monster heavily outmanned and outgunned.

You will start as a mutant monster that is called by your father (another mutant monster) to go to the nearby town and kidnapped a few young women and carry them back to your home in the forest. This is to “ensure there is a next generation of mutant monsters to protect the forest”. You choose what kind of monster you want to be. An invincible but slow monster like Jason (Friday the 13th), a stealth killer who can disappear and appear like Freddy (Nightmare), or a super agile monster like…some monster I can’t remember right now.

Part 1 of the game has you sneaking around the town to kidnap the women and you must avoid the police and bring them each back safely to the forest. In Part 2, the town will launch their search for the women and you must take them out despite been outmanned and outgunned. If you managed to do that, Part 3 will start in which the army is called and you are really outmanned and outgunned. If you still managed to survive this, the army will call in a nuclear strike on your forest and you will then have to take all the women and bring them to the safety of the tunnels in the nearby mountains. With a time limit, you will need to bring them to the tunnels. All the while you must fight the soldiers still in the area as well as prevent the women from running away. If you still manage that…you deserved all the joy of the women and you are now the protector of the mountain instead of the forest.

As a mutant monster, you need to be flexible about such things. Yes, this game is a comedy.

These are my ideas for games I like to see. What’s yours?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Not Aggressive Enough

Singapore has an economy that is run by its' exports. Like all the export-oriented economies in Asia, this recession has hit Singapore especially hard. So it's no surprise that the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has announced that they will be shifting the centre of the trade-weighted band for the Singapore dollar down lower. In case you are wondering, it means a devaluation of the Singapore dollar.

The MAS also made a point of saying that there's "no reason for any undue weakening of the Singapore dollar." Of course this is total nonsense because with this move, Singapore is clearly on the slope of currency devaluation. Singapore is not the first to do so and we will not be the last.

I fully support the MAS move here. If anything, I fear they were not aggressive enough in the devaluation. Currently, the Singapore dollar will be devalued by 1.5 to 2 percent after this devaluation. Singapore just reported a 20% contraction in the economy between January and March, so a devaluation of about 1.7% does not seem enough in my view.

With external demand for our goods going down, I believe that the MAS must everything necessary to make Singapore exports as attractive as possible. For all the talk about Singapore's "sound fundamentals" and improved consumption in the United States, Singapore's economy is still getting worse.

If it means a further devaluation of the Singapore dollar to get the rebound, I say go right ahead and do it aggressively.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Good Tactics, Bad Strategy

As I was watching the news yesterday, I saw the section on "Today in Parliament". In it, the Singapore government was touting the conversion scheme for Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians Aged over 40 (better known as PMETs).

I know remember the number touted but there is a lot of conversion scheme for PMETs to go for retraining. The Minister look very pleased when he announced that a number of these schemes are good for PMETs so that they can be retrained in the several line of work.

I’m sure the government did a good job on the conversion scheme. They carried out their plan well but I wondered if they carried out the right plan. The big problem I have is the idea that Singapore can beat recession and job losses through retraining. I mean these people go for courses and when the courses are over, what happen then? Will jobs suddenly appear just because PMETs are better trained?

The simple fact of the matter is this; no matter how well trained PMETs are, they will not be able to get jobs as 1) the economy is still in the toilet and 2) they will be undercut by foreigner workers who are willing to work for less money than them. If you are PMETs who has a 20-30 housing loan, you cannot take any job on the table as your pay must be at a certain level or you cannot pay your housing loan. Foreigners working in Singapore do not have this problem as they pay rentals. Retraining will keep the PMETs busy, but outside that…

The Singapore government may have done a good job on the conversion scheme but it is a case of good tactics, bad strategy.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Thai Crisis

In a case of do as I say, not as I do; Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered tanks onto the streets as protests against his government continued. At least 68 people were injured, after Thai troops tried to disperse the protesters in the capital Bangkok. There are conflicting reports on whether any protesters were killed in the clashes but things are going to get worse before they get better as thousands of Thai anti-government protesters are continuing to rally against the government.

For anyone who is wondering why I say this is a case of “do as I say, not as I do”, this is because the current government headed by Abhisit Vejjajiva came to power after mass protests forced the previous 2 Thai government, allies of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, out of power last year. In those cases, the protestors shut down the Thai airport causing massive losses to the Thai economy. One of the ministers in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s cabinet even addressed the protestors then in support of shutdown of the airport.

In a replay of the crisis last year, the protestors this time have forced the cancellation of the Asian summit after storming the hotel where the summit was supposed to be held. Thai authorities even had to evacuate foreign leaders by helicopter. Considering that the leaders of China, Japan, South Korea and 10 Southeast Asian nations were all there, this is a major humiliation for the current Thai government.

The shoe is on the other foot and Vejjajiva has now ordered tanks onto the streets after issuing a state of emergency in Bangkok. Usually for these cases, the most direct method to solve the crisis is to hold new elections. However it is unlikely that Abhisit Vejjajiva will do that as the embattled Prime Minister will very likely get slaughtered at the polls.

With the government unlikely to call for new polls and the demonstrators not giving up the fight, expect more blood on the streets of Thailand before the crisis is over.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Comics this week

War of Kings: Ascension #1- War of Kings: Darkhawk has somehow morph into War of Kings: Ascension. Strangely this change in the title actually makes sense. War of Kings: Darkhawk is the title where readers are reintroduce to the Darkhawk/Chris Powell character. His back-story was given and in the end he was given the needed power boost before he was sent off to space. War of Kings: Ascension is on what he is doing once he is in space. This spilt is nicely done and War of Kings: Ascension show a direction that interest me. I can just see the goldmine of stories in having a group that almost the direct opposite of the Nova Corps. Despite my expectations, this was a very good issue.

Secret Six #8 – After the first story arc, it’s time for a little R&R for the Six. Only the problem is that the Six are a group of no-good super-villains! A double-date between Deadshot and Jeanette, Scandal and her new girlfriend (who has no idea what Scandal do for a living) was hysterical as all of them had to make a promise not to kill on the night and they found this promise was harder to keep than expected. Some philosophical discussions on the nature of life and love ended the night amidst more violence when they truly had to dump the promise. Hey, we tried right?

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I always find the desperate need for education funny. In Asia, especially East Asia, education is a must with higher education especially important. Places in the top universities are almost a national sport in themselves; highly competitive national events when roads can be closed and airplanes can be diverted to ensure that students has the peace and quiet needed for the exams.

China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, even Singapore are all guilty of this in various degrees. So it’s not surprise that heavy penalties are imposed on people who tried to cheat on these exams. However a case in China takes the cake. Eight Chinese parents tried to help their children cheat at university entrance exams by using high-tech communications equipment, like mobile phones and wireless earpieces. They were found out and have been jailed after being found guilty of illegally obtaining state secrets.

Yes you read that right! Exams are state secrets in China! That’s how important they are in China. They are STATE SECRETS! Say this out loud; Exams are state secrets. Laughing yet?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Sinestro Corp War

2008 was the comeback year for cosmic comic books. A series of solid series was put out by both Marvel and DC featuring characters on their space-faring adventures. For those of you wondering why cosmic comics are so in at the moment, look no further than Green Lantern.

For the longest time, Green Lantern was a second-rate title but now it is top of the pile. The reason for this change was “The Sinestro Corp War”. The series which ran in the Green Lantern & Green Lantern Corp regular series made a superstar out of Geoff Johns and put GL up there alongside Superman and Batman as DC icons. With a discount available, I went and bought all 3 TPB involved in “The Sinestro Corp War”. For the record, this is “The Sinestro Corp War- Part 1”, “The Sinestro Corp War- Part 2” and “Tales of The Sinestro Corp”. So how did I find the series that started the whole cosmic craze?

My overall view of the “The Sinestro Corp War” is that it’s good, it’s very good but it’s just short of great. I can see why many people liked it as Johns put in the right mix of action and characterization. Although the main character is the Earth GL, Hal Jordan, Johns did not ignore the rest of the cast. Sinestro was terrifying and scary and with Superman Prime, Henshaw and the Anti-Monitor, the Sinestro Corp looked like a powerhouse. You can see why they managed to stand up to the more experienced GL Corp. Supporting characters like Kilowag and Sodam Yat also shines as Johns showed that they are also Green Lanterns, powerful and important in their own right.

For all my talk of characterizations, ‘Sinestro Corps War’ is an action-driven epic. We have fights in space, on alien planets, on Earth, in the Anti-Universe, and there are many, many of them. We have everything from ones-on-ones, to skirmishes, to full scale battles. Everything is here. I especially like how brutal the fights were; GLs were taken unaware by snipers, Sinestro Corp members were overwhelmed by sheer numbers, and casualties were taken on all sides.

There are parts in the story which I thought could be avoided. I can understand the need to have a war on Earth and to involved Superman and gang, but the issue about Coast City was unnecessary. It was like a road bump in the middle of the expressway; you are going fine and fast when suddenly something knocked you of your stride. The whole world is in danger and both Parallax and Hal Jordan take themselves out of the fight for some family matters?

Still, this was a good series and a pretty admirable way to revitalizes the Green Lantern mythos. 3 TPB may be a little on the steep side but as I said earlier; this is a very good series and if you enjoy action epics, cosmic stories, or even war stories; this is the series for you.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Time for Hard Questioning

Words can mean different things when they are being said by different people. US President Barack Obama can say that the global economic crisis is far from over and he can make it sound like there are better things ahead. However when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned that the global economic crisis is far from over, I sit up and take notice.

Putin made his name when as the Russian President, he single-handedly turned Russia from a laughingstock back into a world power. He did it in a tough, no-nonsense way that remained everyone of the old Soviet Union. Whatever you want to say about his methods, it worked and no one is laughing at Russia now.

So when a tough S.O.B like Putin says that the global economic crisis is far from over, you should be worried. It’s an indication of the troubles facing the world when even the powerful president-turned-premier took heat from the Duma (the Russian parliament) on his handling of the crisis.

It’s saying something about how bad the economic crisis is when an almost-legendary figure like Vladimir Putin face hard questioning from his people. I wonder if that will ever happen in Singapore.

Monday, April 6, 2009


The U.S., Japan and South Korea went to the U.N. Security Council seeking punishment for North Korea's launch of a test rocket over the weekend. The emergency U.N. meeting failed to come out with any agreement to Pyongyang's defiant missile test.

The reason for this is because any country not called U.S., Japan and South Korea treat the missile test with a, “Uh…ok.” The big problem U.S. faced is that no one really thinks of a missile test as a security crisis. How can they when U.S. has the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, Japan has nuclear reactors in their country, and South Korea is a firm ally of the U.S. And they are complaining about one lousy missile test from North Korea?

One also can’t help but think that this “international crisis” come at a very good time for the Japanese and South Korean government. With their tottering economy, a little international incident against the dangerous North Koreans seem like just what the doctor ordered to distract attention away from domestic issues. To be fair, they are hardly the only countries to do this. Notice how the Cambodian-Thai border issues only flare up whenever the Thai government has to deal with protestors in Bangkok. Most countries also think of sanctions for one missile test as a gross overreaction.

That’s why the U.S., Japan and South Korea are having so little success at the U.N. Security Council

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Disastrous Start to New F1 Season

As the new Formula One season get under away and our neighbor Malaysia holds the second race of the season today, I have to wonder what the hell is going on in F1 this year.

Only 2 weeks into the season and I believe everyone will have to agree that the season has thus far been a total disaster. Before the season even started, there were already mass complains and appeal when 3 of the teams found a loophole in the new rules and modify their cars to achieve more speed. One of the cars won the opening race Australian Grand Prix and the rest of the padlock are appealing the decision to allow the cars to race.

That however is nothing compare to the furor surrounding defending champion Lewis Hamilton. In Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton exchange of third place with Jarno Trulli while they were behind the safety car. You are not allowed to overtake when the safety car is on track unless the car in front of you went off the track. That’s what happened when Trulli went off the track to avoid the debris from the collision. Hamilton took over third place but later Trulli took over third place again while the safely car was on the track. Trulli said that he had no choice as Hamilton slowed to a crawl and allowed him to overtake. In 2 hearings after the race, Hamilton and McLaren racing team said that they never did so and that Trulli overtook them illegally.

The race stewards ruled against Trulli. He was out of the points and Hamilton was placed third in the race. Now a fresh stewards' hearing into the Melbourne race was held this week after they got their hands on new audio evidence of the team radio transmissions. That plus an amateur video taken by a fan at the Australian race made it clear that Hamilton did slowed down to allow Trulli to pass him and orders were given to him to that effect. The stewards realized that they had been lied to (twice) and promptly disqualified McLaren and Hamilton. Now there is talk about disqualifying McLaren and Hamilton from the rest of the season.

I fail to see the problem here. McLaren and Hamilton clearly lied to the race stewards (twice) and even the British press, faithful defender of Hamilton till now, has condemned him for it. McLaren has gone into damage control by suspending its long-standing sporting director Dave Ryan but no matter who masterminded the lie, one thing is clear. Hamilton was the one who lied! I fail to see the reason why he shouldn’t be kicked from the season.

Just suspend him for the rest of the season and hopefully we can get back to the racing.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Comics this week

War of Kings #2- After the excellent #1, I was looking forward to #2. Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning didn't disappoint with a issue that showcase the political aspect of the war. This is something most comics just ignore in favour of the action but they didn't and this made War of Kings more interesting. We saw that the Kree don't have that much love for the Inhumans and even among the Shi'ar, not everyone enjoyed working for a super-powered madman. Having said that, there were a few things I dislike. In all her appearances in FF, Avengers, X-Men etc; I had always found Crystal to be an extremely annoying character. This issue didn't change my view. Suddenly through luck, she became the "People Princess"? What she Princess Diana? The art was another thing. Some pages of this issue looked rush and I wonder if Paul Pelletier was on a strict deadline. Overall, this was another excellent issue.

Secret Warriors #3- You would think that an issue whose main scene is a dinner date between an old spy veteran and his old flame would be a bore. However Jonathan Hickman made it an interesting experience to say that least. Who else could get away with telling Nick Fury "you're a poor little boy who's gone and lost his flag"? Intertwine the dinner date were the Secret Warriors who were soundly beaten by Gorgon, making Nick call for reinforcements. Look like there will be more warriors next issue.

Irredeemable #1- The idea of a Superman-like character gone bad is interesting but if you are expecting an action-pack issue showing the main character destroying everything in his path, you will be disappointed. Irredeemable is really an investigation series by Mark Waid showing a group of heroes trying to find out WHY the best hero in the world has gone bad. It's a slow burn but it was interesting and there was enough in here to get me back for issue 2.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

EPL this month

Last month, I said that the title race looked over and that Sir Alex Ferguson would not allow Man Utd to screw it up. I spoke too soon.

Top Teams this Month
Liverpool- They beat Real Madrid, they slaughtered Man Utd at Old Trafford and they destroyed Aston Villa at Anfield. They are without question the team in form right now. Two things were answered in this run. One; Liverpool is a title contender. Two; Steven Gerrard's best position is as an attacking midfielder playing behind Fernando Torres. Manager Rafael Benitez need to maintain this position till the end of the season and Liverpool will drive Man Utd all the way till the end of the season.

Arsenal- New signing Andrei Arshavin has come good and not a moment too soon for Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. Arshavin has been scoring goals and creating chances, so much so that you can hardly notice the absence of Cesc Fabregas. With the return from injuries of several key players (and the implosion of Aston Villa), the Gunners seems to have 4th place sewn up.

Fulham- Roy Hodgson had his team playing good solid football for a few months already but no one notices. Then Man Utd came to town and Fulham promptly beat them 2-0. Suddenly everyone stood up and took notice. Good for them because Hodgson and Fulham deserved some pundits for their good work this season.

Surprise Team this month
Everton- I seem to have a habit of underestimating Everton. After an off-season in which they did almost nothing, I thought it would be very hard for manager David Moyes to get them to 5th again this season. For most of the season I was correct, but now at the business end of the season they are there again. They are still the effective, hard to beat, and slightly boring team of last season but there they are challenging for a place in Europe. Now that is a surprise.

Disappointing Teams this month
Manchester United – They were 7 points in front with a game in hand. 2 straight losses later and suddenly the title race is wide open. Personally I’m not that surprised as Man Utd had been getting results without playing very well for the past few months. What is surprising is how Man Utd lost it. They were beaten 4-1 by Liverpool at home and had 2 players sent off at Fulham. Despite what Sir Alex Ferguson said publicly, both Wayne Rooney and Paul Scholes deserved their red at Fulham and they were NOT the better team against Liverpool. I still think they will win the EPL title but it’ll be a lot closer than I thought it would be.

Aston Villa- A lot of people said that the international break came at a good time for Man Utd. I disagree. As bad as the results were for Man Utd, they are not in freefall like their next opponents. Aston Villa are in horrible form right now and manager Martin O'Neill will be even more grateful for the break than Sir Alex Ferguson. A lot of the blame has been put on Gabriel Agbonlahor for the poor run but I think the bigger problem for Villa was the loss of John Carew. I’ve said earlier this season that for Villa to challenge the Big 4, they need Carew to stay healthy. He didn’t and now they are now in a slump. The break couldn’t come at a better time for them.

Hull City- Nothing is going right for them right now. Hull City can’t buy a win and things are getting desperate. Pressure is also getting to them, how else can you explain Phil Brown’s spitting accusation against Cesc Fabregas, and amazingly they are in real danger of dropping back into the Championship. After the great start they had, who could have guess that?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

17 out of 21

Rugby is a fringe sport in Singapore. Some people in Singapore don’t even know that we have a Singapore national team. The latest news is that we don’t.

The TODAY newspaper had reported that nine local players from the Singapore rugby squad had missed training due to unhappiness within the team. The Singapore Rugby Union is investigating the case. Nothing special there except that I notice that there are 17 expatriate players in the 30 member team. Wait, 9 local players are gone so that’s 17 foreign players out of a 21 player team.

It’s official. Singapore does not have a national rugby team.