Monday, August 31, 2009

Enhancements To Confusion

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore just announced that it has completed its review of the Off-Peak Car (OPC) scheme and will implement some initiatives to ‘enhance’ the OPC scheme.

I would like the LTA to explain its definition of ‘enhance’ because from what I read their new policies just cause confusion.

First off, LTA will implement an e-Day License to replace the current paper license which OPC owners need to put on their vehicles if they want to use the vehicles during peak hours. So there’s no need for owners to put on the day license 23 Nov 2009 as long as they have applied for it online.

Here’s the thing; owners do not need to apply for the e-Day License beforehand. They can use the OPC and then apply for the e-Day License online the following day. LTA say this is to offer greater flexibility for drivers. I say it just offer more confusion for everyone.

You want to use the OPC during peak hours, then apply for the license first then use it. What’s wrong with that? If you don’t have the license, you can’t use the OPC. That’s simple right? LTA is allowing owners to use the OPC, and then apply for the license on the following day? Wouldn’t that be more confusing for everyone?

And don’t even get me started on the cash rebates for conversion of normal cars to the new OPC scheme. The payment of $1,100 every six months' registration as an OPC is sheer madness.

Right now when you convert normal cars to the OPC scheme, it’s relatively straight forward. When you de-register the car, you get the PARF/COE rebate and an extra rebate based on how long you drive as an OPC. Now when you convert normal cars to the new OPC scheme, you will get a payment of $1,100 for every six months you keep your car as an OPC.

I think a lot of owners will go ‘YES!’ when they hear this news but since you will get less money when you de-register the car; there’s not much difference really. Any money you get now is deducted from the money you will get at the end. However if you just imagine the sheer amount of cheques LTA will be issuing out every 6 months, I will say that unless LTA suddenly hired a lot more people in their finance department, some owners will have a hard time getting some of these cheques.

That is when LTA start issuing the cheque! To add to the confusion, LTA hasn’t given a date on when the new OPC conversion scheme will start. The new OPC conversion scheme is an idea LTA have but they are, seemingly, still unsure about the scheme and have not stated when the new OPC conversion scheme will start.

Minister for Transport Mr. Raymond Lim said that LTA are studying how to make the OPC scheme more convenient and attractive to car owners. Maybe he should add to it and find a way for it to be less confusing for everyone else.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Roots of Philanthropy

In Singapore, social welfare are dirty words. The Singapore government has made a proud point that Singapore does not have a minimum wage, there’s no social security, and the only worker union we have is shall we say…easy to talk to.

Since the Singapore government is so against social welfare of any kind, I find it hearting that private agencies are willing to take up the slack for the government. A survey on 46 different grant-making entities in Singapore show that over 80% of them offered financial assistance directly to the needy or supported the social welfare programmes run by charities.

Philanthropy doesn’t really have much of a history in Singapore and most Singaporeans, including myself, don’t really bother about philanthropy but it’s good to know that there are some roots being grown here. Now if the Singapore government will only follow suit…

Friday, August 28, 2009

Comics this week

Nova #27- Richard Rider prove his mettle as Nova Prime as he found a way to diplomatically led his small team to safety as well as keeping Blastaar on his side. It was interesting to see how much Rider has grown into a leader who can take control of a potentially explosive situation and turn it to his advantage by talking instead of blasting. He then setup the foundation of the Nova Corps by allowing some of the Nova Corps members to stay behind for training. Yes, Richard Rider has turned from a green daredevil into a veteran leader.

Guardians of the Galaxy #16- “So how do we get a fifty-zillion ton inter-dimensional space-squid to let go of a self-propelled interstellar city? Note to self…sometimes I know exactly how Jack Flag feels.” Yes! After a few issues on cruise control, Guardians of the Galaxy is back! At the start it was hilariously funny (Groot is a genius who only Maximus can understand), but in the end it turn into a mammoth tragedy as members died and Warlock turned himself into the Magus to save the universe. Some good might just turn out from the disappointing War of Kings as the Guardians of the Galaxy now has a firm enemy in the Universal Church of Truth. Great story, story art; regular service is back!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Crisis is...Over?

There have been a lot of talk but the financial crisis being over and that worldwide recovery is just around the corner. Personally I don’t buy it, and it seems that I’m not the only one.

The reason I say this is because a pawnshop has just been opened along Orchard Road. Orchard Rd is the premier shopping belt in Singapore, a place where tourists and rich Singaporeans go and spend money. Jewellery company Aspial, decided to open the shop as it feels ‘there is business potential in the industry’.

Yup, sound like a ringing endorsement of the economy to me!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fire Hazard?

I have been living in the same HDB flat for the past 20 years. For almost all of those years, my mother has always had a few potted plants outside our flat.

Now these are small potted plants placed along the common corridor, and not once has there been any problem whatsoever on those plants. Suddenly we received a notice from the town council stating that these potted plants are a ‘fire hazard’ and we have to get rid of these potted plants.

Sorry but has fire suddenly became more dangerous recently? How is it that for over 20 years these small potted plants were perfectly okay, but suddenly they became a fire hazard? In fact I dare say that if our potted plants are not allowed, then HDB might as well ban all households in HDB estates from having potted plants. This is because my mother only has 3 small ones now. If those are a ‘fire hazard’, then all potted plants are ‘fire hazards’!

We’re still awaiting a reply but maybe some Singaporeans out there can help me understand just what the town council is thinking.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What's the Big Deal?

When Nominated Member of Parliament Mr Viswa Sadasivan came up to make his maiden speech in Parliament, I don’t think he was expecting such a response from Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

MM Lee came up and defended the position of the Singapore government. Since then, the internet in Singapore has been buzzing about how Mr Viswa was destroyed by MM Lee. However to me, I fail to understand why this is such a big deal.

Mr Viswa came up to make a point and criticized the Singapore government for certain policies; MM Lee came up and defended the Singapore’s position. What’s the big deal? Isn’t this what Parliament is for? So the MM decided to walk up to defend the Singapore government instead of giving the job to some unknown or lesser known MP; what’s wrong with that?

Yes I know that Mr Viswa is a newcomer while MM Lee is a veteran (talk about an understatement), so it look like a case of a lion eating a mouse but there’s nothing wrong with it. MM Lee is a Member of Parliament, a member of the PAP (People’s Action Party), there’s nothing wrong with him coming up to defend the government.

To me this is just a case when 2 Members of Parliament has a disagreement with each other and argued about their stands in Parliament. Frankly, I hope for more of this in the future. What’s the big deal?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

2 Billion People With Swine Flu

Just when the global threat of swine flu seems to be dying out, the World Health Organization (WHO) has come out with some startling predictions of the threat.

Also known as H1N1, the WHO predict that there will be an explosion of swine flu cases worldwide in the coming months with as many as 2 billion people becoming infected over the next two years. So far the percentage of people dying due to swine flu is low, but even if 1% of infected people died due to the H1N1; that is 1% out of 2 billion people!

I don’t know if the WHO is just trying to scare governments into preparing for the worst (I hope they are not but in a way, I also hope they are) but if this is the predictions of experts, then governments throughout the world need to step up measures to find a cure for H1N1. All the talk of measures to combat swine flu is good and fine but it’s not of much help if there is no cure to the disease!

I hope the experts at the WHO don’t take this the wrong way but I am hoping that they are totally and absolutely wrong here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Comics this week

Dark Reign: The Hood #4- Juggling so many hats will take a toll on anyone but the Hood is not going down a fight. Parker Robbins seems to have taken a leaf out of Norman Osborn’s playbook by trying to constantly keep his own people off their feet. The scene at Safehouse 3 between him, his men and the Controller was great looking. However his reputation with women is growing and it was kind of cute to hear that he might have a ‘weakness’ with women. And this is not a reputation he wants! Just like last issue; Some guys just got it tough.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Beating on a Dead Horse

Nominated Member of Parliament Mr Viswa Sadasivan made his maiden speech in Parliament and called for it to ensure that national policies be founded on the principles such as racial and religious unity.

Mr Viswa then made several suggestions such as examining the current emphasis on racial categorisation and encouraging political associations to better reflect the tenets of the Pledge. This is an upshot against Parliament as most people believe Mr Viswa is criticizing the Singapore government for policies that discriminate against minorities like the Malays.

A whole host of government MPs came out to defend the Singapore government, including Singapore’s Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. MM Lee said that the Singapore government has been accountable in its actions and has worked towards ensuring that no race is discriminated against in Singapore.

Now I’m not saying Mr Viswa is wrong and that there is no discrimination against minorities in Singapore, anyone who has been through national service knows it’s much harder for a Malay to go up the ranks than a Chinese, but he is beating a dead horse here. Most Singaporeans knows there is discrimination, and most Singaporeans could not care less.

I will admit I’m one of them. I’m Chinese and if Singapore has a policy that will discriminate against a Malay or an Indian but will benefit me; do you think I will care? Yes it is unfair but it is to my advantage, so why would I in my right mind protest against a policy that either will or may benefit me in the long run?

Is there discrimination? Yes.
Do Singaporeans care? No.

That is why I say Mr Viswa is beating on a dead horse.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer

Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures (AoC) got a bad rep due to the terrible launch it had. However, over the past year, Funcom had being trying to fix the game (mostly successfully).

In it's latest effort, it has a new expansion for the game called Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer. It even has a nice trailer for the expansion; see it here.

The new expansion will be set in Khitai where Conan is a villain who brought the country into chaos due to his actions in the old Conan story "The Tower of the Elephant". I like the fact the game is willing to make Conan more than a normal hero whose actions is always for the better good; I like the fact we can get to play as a Khitan; I loved the look of Khitai in the trailer; but no level cap increase?

Funcom is not going to increase the cap of AoC which will still be at 80 for the expansion. I don't get that. Personally, I'm one of those players who have a hard time killing stuff and not get xp for it. It just seems wrong.

I like the look of the game but Funcom should really increase the cap. I mean every big expansion from every other MMORPG do, why not you?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Are You Kidding Me?

Most people consider America a little crazy at times but I read something that may just bring America out of the ‘crazy’ category right into the ‘insane’ category.

About a dozen people were openly carrying guns as they joined protesters outside a convention center where U.S President Barack Obama was giving a speech. Evidently, this is not an isolated case as protesters have openly displayed firearms near the president before.

What’s stranger is that they are allowed to do so! Police said that no crimes were committed as no permits were required, and so no one was arrested. Something about their American constitutional right to bear arms and protest.

Sorry but in America you are allowed to bring a gun near your president? A group of men bring guns outside the building where the country’s president is at, and law enforcement officers cannot arrest them? That is just unbelievable. If someone just bring a knife anywhere near our Prime Minister, the Singapore police would catch the guy and throw the keys away.

And you know what; that’s the way it should be! It’s amusing (and a little ridiculous) what is allowed in America.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Well-Played National Day Rally

National Day Rallies are a little like a company’s annual D&D. Everyone show up for a little back-slapping to boost morale and at the end of the day nothing much will change.

This year’s National Day Rally is no different. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong hit all the normal notes this year. How Singapore is in its worst recession in recent memory but we have seen the worst of the current recession; How Singapore must stay cohesive to overcome challenges in the coming year; and how Singapore’s religious harmony must never be taken for granted.

It is at this last part where this year’s rally is slightly different from normal. Due to the leadership tussle at AWARE, a non-governmental organization focusing on women’s issues, PM Lee has a ready-made example of the need for religious tolerance.

PM Lee noted that this was an attempt by a religiously motivated group to take over an NGO it disapproved of and impose its own agenda. In what could be the Singapore’s government clearest stand on the matter, he noted his disapproval without criticizing anyone in particular. Most people in conservative Singapore are against the homosexual stand of AWARE but disapprove of the way it was taken-over. It was a fine balancing act which I thought PM Lee did very well.

PM Lee said that government stayed out of the tussle, and he only spoke to religious leaders after everything was settled. I’m not Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s biggest fan but he poach this sensitive subject in a clear, careful matter that state the government’s stand without offending anyone too much. I have to say “well-played” by PM Lee.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Myanmar Wayang

Who says wayang is a Malay art? Myanmar’s military rulers show that they know the art of wayang as well as anyone when they announced that they will release American John Yettaw.

John Yettaw’s swim to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s home in May led to Aung San Suu Kyi’s further detention and after a meeting between U.S. Senator Jim Webb and Myanmar's junta leader, Than Shwe; Myanmar’s military announced that they will release him.

Senator Jim Webb favors engaging the junta and ASEAN will no doubt use this as proof its better to talk to Myanmar instead of putting more sanctions on the country. Of course the fact that ASEAN has been talking to the wind for past few decades in Myanmar is something ASEAN will not bring up.

It obvious that Myanmar’s military rulers are using John Yettaw as a pawn in their quest to keep Aung San Suu Kyi out of politics and no one is fooled by this wayang.

But who know; maybe this time the Singapore’s Foreign Ministry will say Singapore is ‘delighted’ and ‘delirious’ with the release of John Yettaw.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Comics this week

Blackest Night #1- Blackest Night blew out of the gate last issue and the momentum is not lost here. For a series that came out of the Green Lantern Corps, it has become a truly epic story that has engulfed the whole of the DCU. The scope and plot of Blackest Night is great. It is horror-based and a lot of the characters returning as Black Lanterns are truly scary. I could feel the horror of Mera and Tempest as they battle Aquaman, Tula and Dolphin; the shock of Barry Allen and Hal Jordan as they faced the Martian Manhunter, Hawkman and Hawkgirl. I have to say Ivan Reis is to thank for this. His art in this series could be what will propel him from being a respected artist to a superstar on the level of Jim Lee and Todd MacFarlane. It is that good. I was wrong in my last review; if Geoff Johns and Reis can keep this up, Blackest Night will be better than Sinestro Corps War.

War of Kings #6- From the get-go, I had some problems with the ‘War of Kings’. Although this was billed as a Shi'ar/Kree war, the main characters were the Inhumans and Vulcan. I have said enough on my feelings on the Inhumans taking over the Kree Empire, and Vulcan taking over the Shi’ar just before the war. What’s worse is that both Nova (easily the most popular cosmic character Marvel has at the moment) and the Guardians of the Galaxy had little to do with the war; Nova didn’t even show up in the main War of Kings series. At the end of the mini-series, the problems I had are still there. Instead of a Shi'ar/Kree war, it became a war between Inhumans and Vulcan. That was a mistake. To be fair, there were a lot of political background to the war with Ronan and Crystal objections to the T-Bomb, and Gladiator’s defection to the side of Lilandra, but in the end the finish was a mutually-assured destruction fight between Black Bolt and Vulcan. A disappointing finish to a series that should have been much better than it was.

Street Fighter II Turbo #8- I never thought I will see the day. The SF tournament is finally underway. All the fighters are here as Bison announced the start of the fights, and the usual suspects are through to the next round. I like the brackets for the fight; it was true to the game as the winners face one of the henchmen before facing Bison directly. As long as the fights keep coming, this series will do well.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

City of Heores/ City of Villains

When World of Warcraft (WoW) hit the big time, it spawned numerous duplicates. Suddenly the MMORPG market was filled with elves, orcs, all set in different fantasy worlds. What WoW did for fantasy MMORPG, City of Heroes/City of Villains is currently doing for superhero MMORPG.

The upcoming Champions Online, DC Online, and the rumored Marvel Universe Online all have City of Heroes/City of Villains to thank for their existence. 5 years since it was first launch, CoH/CoV is still widely successful (because it is still the only superhero MMO in the market) and NCsoft recently upgraded the game (you got to love competition).

Having played it for 2 months, I can see why the game has being going strong for 5 years. Off the bat, the character creation is every bit as good as advertised. You get to pick your class and powers along with how your character will look. All pretty normal but the vast variety of powers and looks you can put in is just superb. Even at level 1, you will not see another character that look just like yours. Angels, demons, giants, dwarves, knights, heroic, sci-fi, monstrous; also every look you can think of is available for you to make. You can even make your character look like a normal businessman if you want to. I even saw a sword-carrying monkey once (the guy playing insist he is a chipmunk). The game does give you the option of making your character one-of-a-kind.

The game also did a marvelous job on the gameworld. It was pretty easy to immerse myself in the game as the CoH/CoV world was well-designed. Amid the various missions, there are some chain missions called story arcs. These are a series of missions which form a larger story, giving the player insights into the history and mythos of Paragon City and the Rogue Islands. This is a nice touch which I liked.

CoH/CoV also has a function called Architect Entertainment (AE). AE allow you to craft your own mission and story arcs for other players to play. Think of it as a mod in a MMORPG and you get the idea. Some players hate it, but I thought it was a cool function. I get to create my own mission, story and even characters. Considering the amount of player created missions in AE, I’m not the only one.

Seeing the upcoming competition they will be facing, NCsoft has also do away with the separate games you need to buy to play. Basically if you got either the City of Heroes or the City of Villains game, you can play both City of Heroes and City of Villains. So you only need to buy one to play both games. That’s like buying the original game and getting to play the expansion for free! Or in my case, buying the expansion and getting to play the original for free. And free is always a good price.

For all the good points of the game, there are a few faults. The first of which is the gameplay. Almost all the missions you get are instances, so there are times when CoH/CoV does not seem like a MMO. You seldom see players around killing stuff because everyone is either in their instances or in the AE. At times, I feel like I was in a solo game.

Another thing is the ability to get groups to take on the more difficult missions which has elite boss, arch-villains or heroes. Usually in other MMO, you can broadcast a call when you want to take on a dungeon. Other players who have quests or missions in the dungeons will response. In other MMORPGs, a dungeon usually will have several quests in it and players can join up to take on the dungeon together even if they have different quests. Not so for CoH/CoV. In CoH/CoV it is one instance, one mission. Every instance has only one mission and if you do not have the mission; too bad!

Most groups are together for the xp gain and they will usually only take on the easier missions. It’s one of the reasons why some players hate the AE. Some players would stay in the AE and keep on completing easy missions to power-level their characters. I have heard that some power players almost never step out of the AE building.

I’m not a big fan of crafting and that’s a good thing because the crafting in CoH/CoV is extremely bad. In the game, you can to craft enhancements to give an edge to your powers. Fair enough but the rarer inventions and the salvage needed to make these rare inventions are almost impossible to get. The only I see to get the salvage is through the auction which is also pretty bad. It has some sort of bidding/buying system that makes very little sense to me. The auction and crafting looked tack on and hopefully NCsoft can come up with a better system soon.

As it is a 5 year old game, CoH/CoV is also beginning to show its age. Although not a bad looking game, its graphics is nowhere near as good as some of the later games like Age of Conan. I have to wonder how it will fare against Champions Online and DC Online graphics wise when they come out. Another thing is that despite bring a 5 year old game, the game only has one expansion so far and that was 4 years ago when City of Villains came out. City of Heroes: Going Rogue was announced as the latest expansion and it was announced only because Champions Online is coming out in September. CoH/CoV has been resting on its laurels because it was the only superhero MMO in the market and the game has suffered for it.

Still, the game is filled with content and there is a lot to explore. So for those who want to play a MMORPG not filled with swords, magic or orcs, have your adventures in Paragon City of CoH and the Rogue Isles of CoV. It is still a very fun game.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Singapore 'Happy'

Surprising no one, a Myanmar court convicted Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of violating her house arrest by allowing an uninvited American to stay at her home. The sentence is 18-month under house arrest which will remove Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi from the political scene when the military junta stages elections next year.

Surprising no one, worldwide outrage greeted Myanmar's decision to extend the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi. The 64-year-old opposition leader has already spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention and world leaders express disgust and contempt for the latest decision. Even China, Myanmar's key ally and benefactor, backed a call by the United Nations for Aung San Suu Kyi's release.

Surprising no one, ASEAN is Nato-ing their way through the mess. For those of you who are wondering, Nato is short for ‘No Action, Talk Only’. The European Union has already promised tighter economic sanctions against Myanmar's leaders and trade restrictions against certain state-owned companies for the sentence and the U.S is close behind. ASEAN is taking no such actions. ASEAN is expressing their ‘disappointment’ over the verdict with Singapore going a step further for Myanmar.

Surprising the hell out of me, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry expressed their disappointment over the trial but Singapore is happy the Myanmar government has half Ms Suu Kyi’s original sentence to 18 months, and that she will be given house arrest instead of imprisonment. You read that right; Singapore is ‘happy’ that Aung San Suu Kyi has been given an 18-month house arrest sentence!

Why in the world are we sticking up for Myanmar when even China is refusing to do so? Why are we ‘happy’ at anything regarding this stupid sentence issued by a kangaroo court in a military-ruled country over an idiotic incident? Now I know Singapore has a lot of money in Myanmar and we are their biggest supporter in ASEAN but we are ‘happy’ at Aung San Suu Kyi's sentence? Which idiot at the Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said this? The whole world is disgusted at the sentence but Singapore is disappointed but happy about it?

This is worse than shooting ourselves in the foot; this is blowing our face off with a shotgun. Whichever idiot at the Foreign Ministry who came up with Singapore is ‘happy’ about Aung San Suu Kyi's sentence need to be fired immediately. Such an idiot has no place in our civil service.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What's Next?

I know weddings are a big deal to a lot of people. I don’t really understand why but I understand that I am abnormal in this area, so I can understand most people would want their weddings to be exceptional.

Maybe it’s the information age but I am reading more about these exceptional weddings. Recently there was a big deal in the U.S about a couple who dance the aisle (in church) to the music of Chris Brown. I’m not too sure about the choice of music for the occasion but look it up on Youtube because it was very funny. Now I read that a bride in China has the Guinness World Records because she wore a wedding gown with a 2km long train. Not only that but the train had 9,999 silk red roses attached to it.

Now the funny thing is that it was the groom who came up with the idea (in a reversal of such cases) and his family initially opposite the idea as a waste of money (which is kind of novel because most of the time Chinese families want the wedding to be the bigger, the better). Dancing down the aisle and a 2km long train; what will people come up with next?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Comics this week

Irredeemable #5- After the highlight destruction of Singapore last issue, this was a let-down. Mark Waid has slowly fed readers on the reasons of Plutonian’s rampage across the world and this is the case this issue as well. However a failed affair with a married super-heroine is just too standard to get my interest. However the Modeus robots are finally going somewhere so hopefully there are better things ahead.

Secret Six #12 – Wonder Woman showed up on the scene and Deadshot went: “I heard Batman took her down once.” Catman: “I’m sure that’s how it went down.” And then they turn tail and ran for it. Now these are super-villains. When meeting a superior foe, they are not going to stay and fight the good fight; they will run for it and it was fun to read.

Friday, August 7, 2009

EPL Season Preview

With only a few days to go before the curtain riser of the Charity Shield, this is the preview of the new EPL season. With an off-season where almost all the major teams lost players, how will the teams fare this season?

The Big 4
Chelsea- In an off-season when all their biggest rivals lost players to bigger paying teams, Chelsea is the only team who managed to keep their best players. Not only that, they may have made the best buy of the off-season. New boss Carlo Ancelotti has replace the departing Flying Dutchman Guus Hiddink, and he bought with him a history of producing winning teams. If their main players stay healthy, I expect Chelsea to win the EPL title this season.

Liverpool- No one suffered more than Liverpool in this off-season. Manager Rafael Benitez managed to keep Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres, but the loss of Xabi Alonso is going to hurt. Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani is a good buy but he is not a direct replacement. Gerrard can move back to midfield but he is also not the playmaker Alonso is and if Liverpool lose anymore of their midfield (looking at you Javier Mascherano), Rafael Benitez will need to go into the transfer market again. They will be in the Top 4 again, but unlikely to be champions.

Arsenal- Despite what people may say, I don’t think Arsenal did too badly this off-season. Kolo Toure is a loss but $16million is a big price to get for a defender, and Emmanuel Adebayor is an over-rated player in my view so $30million for him is a good price. Unfortunately for Gunners fans, manager Arsene Wenger is refusing to spend the money. He still has Andrei Arshavin, Cesc Fabregas and a whole host of young players coming up, but until Wenger get a defensive midfielder I just cannot see the Gunners winning the title.

Manchester United – They lost Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, and got Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen in return. Even the most-die hard Man Utd fan will say that they got the raw end of the deal this off-season. Valencia is a good player but he isn’t worth $17million and the injury doubts of Owen is known to all. Sir Alex Ferguson needs his youngsters to come good this season or they will find it hard to win the title again.

The Dark Horses
Man City- With oil money, they have bought defender Kolo Toure, strikers Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz, along with midfielder Gareth Barry. Everton’s Joleon Lescott is also another target. With all these buys, 2 things must be answered. 1) What is their first 11? And 2) Can manager Mark Hughes keep egos in check in the dressing room? Seeing that this is the same manger that had such a difficult last year with just Robinho and Elano, I’m not betting on it. But if Hughes can do that, Man City will be the most likely team to break into the Top 4.

Everton- Manager David Moyes has always managed to get Everton to play above their ability. He is going to need every ounce of his ability because Everton is going to find it hard to maintain their position just outside the Big 4 this season. With Man City and Tottenham wheeling and dealing in the transfer market, Everton has been dead quiet outside Joleon Lescott upcoming transfer to Man City. Not likely to do any better this year.

Tottenham Hotspur- Darren Bent is off to Sunderland and Peter Crouch is in the team. I won’t call that an upgrade but Crouch will give Spurs an aerial threat that they were sorely missing last year. However the biggest question mark for the team is in the centre of defence. Michael Dawson and Jonathan Woodgate are injured (again) and Ledley King can only play once a week, so your guess is as good as mine on who Harry Redknapp will play in the centre on opening day. Sebastien Bassong will help but he has a ban for the first two games of the season. As usual for Spurs, it looks like a season when they must score more than they concede.

Aston Villa- Aston Villa pushed Arsenal hard for that all-important fourth place last season before falling away badly. With the loss of both Gareth Barry and Martin Laursen however, manager Martin O’Neill will have a hard time emulating the success of last season.

Likely Teams to Go Down
Hull City- How in the world did they managed to stay up last year is a question only the football gods can answer. Phil Brown’s side got like 5 points in the last 20 games of last season and still managed to stay up! They won’t be so lucky this season.

Burnley- Quick, name me one player from Burnley? Outside former Man Utd players Chris Eagles, Richard Eckersley and Norwegian international Gudjonsson, that’s it.

Wolverhampton- Quick, name me one player from Wolves? They are even worse off than Burnley in my view.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

One Thumping Isn’t Enough

For a history recap, last year Georgian armed forces attack the separatist region of South Ossetia despite the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the region. Russia responded by launching a full scale attack on Georgia; retaking South Ossetia and even threatening the Georgian capital of Tbilisi before retreating back to South Ossetia. The brief war may have tarnished Russia's image, but they came out of it as the overall winner. Not only did the Red Army destroy the Georgian forces, both South Ossetia and another separate province, Abkhazia, are now as good as independent countries. Georgia's push for NATO and EU membership are also dead in the water because, let’s admit it, no one in their right mind will anger Russia for the sake of Georgia.

Despite such an overwhelming thumping, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili (who somehow still has the support of the West) has accused Russia of preparing for new hostilities and his government has issued an extensive report detailing its contention it had to launch an artillery barrage on Tskhinvali, the South Ossetia capital, because Russian troops had moved into South Ossetia hours earlier and because of attacks on Georgians by South Ossetian forces. The fact that not even Western countries believe that tale is of course not in the report.

It seems that one thumping isn’t enough for some people. As the first anniversary of the Russian/Georgian war approaches, the West and the Georgian people need to rein in this idiot Saakashvili before tensions in Georgia get out of hand again.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Floating Garbage Dump

Have you heard of the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch"? It seems ocean currents in the North Pacific had accumulated hundreds, if not thousands of plastic debris, in an area in the North Pacific that is hundreds of miles kilometers wide.

Most of the debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the water surface, and the debris zone move on a seasonal basis. It shifts as much as a thousand miles north and south, and drifts even farther south during periods of El Nino. It’s a floating garbage dump in the middle of the North Pacific.

As if mankind hasn’t done enough damage on land, now we are doing it to the oceans. Just imagine a garbage dump that is hundreds of miles kilometers wide! With pollution like this, there’s no need for a meteor to hit Earth. Humans will destroy the world long before that.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Review of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Why break with tradition you know. That’s the feeling I had when I troop in to watch the sixth film in the Harry Potter series. I’ve seen all the rest already, why stop now? I was doing the film a disservice because Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is in my view turned out to be the best film in the series.

For starters, Harry Potter films usually starts with Harry going to Hogwarts, have his adventure and ends the year the same way as he started. Despite his adventures, Harry always starts the year with all the major players in play. Not this time. At the end of this film, some things will change. A betrayal and a death change things for the future.

That is just one of the reason why I think this is the best film in the series. The beginning of the Half-Blood Prince was good and it was a visual treat seeing the attacks on both the Muggle and Wizard worlds. The characters also grow with age and the film is suddenly more than all about Harry. This is especially true for Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton). The film is also darker and grimmer than the films before it and director David Yates made a smart choice covering the film in blue and yellow. It gives the film a style that was sorely lacking in the previous films.

That’s not saying the film is perfect mind you. Some parts of the film didn’t mesh well. For a dark movie, the end when Harry, Ron and Hermione look at sunset was strangely uplifting. It was like they suddenly decided that they can’t end a movie like this and has to go search for a happy ending. It just didn’t suit the film at all. Also some parts of the plot were not explained. If Voldemort trust Snape so much, why did he give the assignment to Malfoy instead of Snape? I guess Snape is called the Half-Blood Prince because he was half Muggle; it’s a guess because it was never explained clearly in the film. Another thing is that the series of events make me think Severus Snape (Alan Rickman in excellent form again) might not be the villain he was made out to be, even after the finish. If this is the case, I’ll be sorely disappointed because it was too easy. It just seems too obvious to me.

Overall, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a good film which is clearly superior to the films that came before it. It’s not the greatest you’ll ever see but it is good and highly watchable.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Pink Rant

Waiting at a traffic light, I saw a London taxi pass by. Now a London taxi in Singapore isn’t surprising, but this taxi is in pink. PINK!

Now with the sheer numbers of taxi companies in Singapore, taxis now come in various makes, models, shape, sizes and colors. Usually I couldn’t care less what’s the color of the taxi or even what company it’s from but I draw the line at pink taxis. A taxi in pink is just wrong! There is just something fundamentally wrong with a taxi in pink color. It's just stupid, period!

I feel sorry for the middle-age uncle driving this taxi; just imagine the jokes he has to put up with! LTA should do something like ban pink taxis or something because a PINK taxi is just wrong.