Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What's Wrong With Singaporeans?

I mean honestly? Everyone in Singapore knows that you have to exchange your old ez-link cards for the new CEPAS-compliant card by 30 September 2009.

On the radio, in the newspaper, on television, in all languages the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has informed everyone to do a 1-for-1 replacement of the card. Since you need the ez-link card for public transport, you would think Singaporeans would know that it’s important to change their cards.

Yet today you can see long queues at almost all the Transitlink Ticket Office as Singaporean rushed to replace their cards on the last day. I mean this despite LTA and Transitlink giving them 9 months to change their cards!

However the lines are so long today that LTA felt they have no choice but to extent the replacement deadline till 7 October 2009. What the hell is wrong with Singaporeans? When the one-for-one card replacement program began on 9 January 2009, you can see people queuing for up to an hour to replace their cards. Singaporeans seems to be spilt between those who want to be first and those who do things at the last minute.

I replaced my card in Feb or Mar and there wasn’t even a queue. Wouldn't it be so much easier for Singaporeans to just change their cards somewhere between the start and the end of the exchange program?

Unfortunately for the LTA, that's a logic Singaporeans do not seem to have.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Strange Vista

I just got myself a new PC last week. Everything is fine about the PC…so far, but I got Windows Vista instead of Windows XP.

Now I was offered either Vista or XP by the shop. Since Vista is newer (and only about $20 more) than XP, I chose Vista. I heard that Microsoft had patch up Vista from the numerous problem it faced when it was first launch, and it is working fine now.

Vista is working fine. No crashes or the other problems I heard it had but having said that, I find Vista to be a strange, strange beast. Now I used XP for a couple of years already so I’m more used to it than Vista, but even accounting for that, I found some parts of Vista to be very strange.

I used AVG 8.5. It’s free and I allow it to update once the system is on. For some reason, Vista blocks the automatic updates. I have to manually click on AVG to update it for new anti-virus. It’s a minor thing but I don’t understand why it keeps blocking AVG when I told it to allow the automatic update.

Also Vista always updates itself. I was playing a game when the game just shut down and Vista says that there are new updates available. I have no problem with Vista updating itself but to shut down a program I am using just to tell me there are updates available? This after stopping the AVG automatic updates which I allowed!

Maybe I am doing something wrong, or maybe I’m not doing something I should be doing (since I haven’t done anything to Vista yet). Could some experienced Vista users please advise me on what I should be doing?

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Race Is Over!

F1 is over. Hooray!

After a boring race which all overtaking take place in the first corner (okay, maybe there’s 1 or 2 overtaking after that…if you can stay awake watching it), the road blocks will the lifted. Traffic will flow as usual and we won’t see police every 5m in the City Hall MRT (it will now be back to the usual police every 10m).

F1 is over. Hooray!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's Not Climate Change?

I’m sure you have all seem the pictures. The pictures of how the Sydney skyline turned red due to a dust storm that swept through Sydney a few days ago.

Guess what? It’s back. Eastern Australia was hit by another giant dust storm that has turned Sydney's air yellow and orange, causing breathing problems for certain residents. The storm did not approach the doomsday red glow of a few days ago but visibility was sharply reduced. The storm was so bad that it is believed dust from the storm landed in New Zealand, 4,000 km away.

Despite this, people are still refusing to accept that climate change has something to do with the dust storms. After the first dust storm a few days ago, experts in Australia say that it is too early to blame climate change for the dust storm as turning Sydney into a scene from a disaster movie. Now that’s two large dust clouds within a week, the hottest August on record in Australia, which is also in the midst of a decade-long drought.

Climate change anyone?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Comics this week

Nova #29- An old Nova starship came through the Fault and Richard Rider moved in with his team to check it out. Things go downhill from there. My feelings for this issue are mixed. I like the fact there is a new Nova coming on board, this one an old veteran but this is not the time to add to the Nova Corps. I mean I hardly know any of these Novas on probation now and you want to add another one? Good idea, bad timing.

Guardians of the Galaxy #18- After last issue’s back-to-the-wall action, this was a disappointment. I can understand the need to show the adventures of Starlord, Jack Flag and company, but a time travel story is not the way to do it. Yes, I’m one of those who hate time-travel stories; I mean do we really need to see half of our Guardians of the Galaxy joining up with another Guardians of the Galaxy group to fight War of the Worlds tripods? Just writing that up seems stupid!

Immortal Weapons #3- The Fat Cobra story was great; the Bride of Nine Spiders story was not. Dog Brother #1 is somewhere in the middle. Though nowhere as interesting (or as funny) as Fat Cobra, the origins of Dog Brother #1 was a welcome from the disaster of last issue. This dark story was one of pain and growth and how the current Dog Brother #1 took over the position from his hero, the previous Dog Brother #1. However this issue has a big problem the Bride of Nine Spiders issue had also; at the end of the issue, we know nothing about Dog Brother #1. We see the origins but we saw nothing of Dog Brother #1 right now. That’s a problem that has to be fixed in a hurry.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Strange One

Yesterday, The Strait Times just published an article that not only insist that housing in Singapore is affordable, it also state that home buyers are creating problems for themselves because they buy bigger places than they can comfortably finance.

It then went on to say Singaporeans also want to live in 'mature' towns or to be near their parents for the selfish child-minding convenience. It then added; “If they choose to be obstinate about quirks, they should not be hectoring the HDB for impossible concessions.”

Now almost everyone knows and accept that The Strait Times is the mouthpiece of the Singapore government, but even by that standard this is a strange one. I have argued a few days ago that houses in Singapore are more expensive than it was 10 years ago and that I know of no Singaporeans who would say that property is more affordable now than 10 years ago.

Now I can understand The Strait Times wanting to defend National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan’s statement that property in Singapore are still affordable, but this article The Strait Times put together make no sense.

First off, don’t the Singapore government want children to live near their parents? Because if I read the article right, it doesn’t. The Strait Times seems to be saying that we shouldn’t and that families should be spilt apart, the further the better. Maybe it’s back to the idea of throwing old parents to old folks home in Malaysia.

Also I want to know what’s this “homebuyers creating problems for themselves because they buy bigger places than they can comfortably finance.” Most Singaporean I know are just aiming for a 3 room flat; is The Strait Times arguing that Singaporeans should just aim for a 2 room flat and give all 3 room/4 room flats to foreigners?

Because that’s the real reason why property prices are so high now isn’t it? Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has said that for the past few years, Singapore has accepted more than 100,000 foreigners per year. Now there are 100,000 new foreigners each year. Even if you squeeze them 10 to a flat, that’s still not enough because HDB only built something like 8,000 flats per year. That’s not even counting our own Singaporeans!

And that’s why property prices are sky high now. It’s simple maths. Maybe The Strait Times can try it sometimes.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What US$1 Can Buy You

That’s the price Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov is going to pay to buy over NBA club New Jersey Nets.

Wow, I know the financial crisis has hit America harder than anywhere else but US$1? Okay, I get that it’s a symbolic sum with the Russian tycoon footing the bill in the building of a new playing arena for the Nets but US$1?

When a certain Russian tycoon took over Chelsea in the English Premier League, he paid hundred of millions for it. US$1? Wow, things must be worse than I thought.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Numbers Game

With opinion polls showing that the Americans and European publics turning against the nearly the Afghan war, U.S Army General Stanley McChrystal has called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

To boost his case, General McChrystal said that failure to sent more troops could risked an outcome where defeating the Taliban insurgency is no longer possible. The problem for U.S President Barack Obama (and McChrystal) is where the troops will come from.

General McChrystal already commands more than 100,000 Western troops in Afghanistan, and over two-thirds of them are American. Even if President Obama want to send more troops there (and there are hints he don’t), where would he find the numbers needed?

A lot of people say Iraq, but the situation in Iraq is still fluid and you can’t move troops from one war zone to another without time to rearm, retrain and re-assess the troops. No help will come from Europe as thousands of Italians just packed the streets of Rome to call for Italy to pull its troops out amid a state funeral for the 6 Italian soldiers who were killed last week by a bomb.

General McChrystal said that “under-resourcing” the Afghan war could make America losing it. However I think the question is not a matter of “under-resourcing” but a question of whether there are adequate resources now to conduct the Afghan war.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley

Winterbirth is the first book in the Godless World Trilogy by Brian Ruckley. I actually read that it had received pretty good reviews and pick it up to see for myself if it is worth the hype.

My impressions were mixed at best. Winterbirth isn’t the best fantasy book you’ll read, but it would be the worst either. However there were some parts of the book which were very strong.

The Godless World setting was very interesting. The book starts off with a heroic stand by the Black Road who stood in the face of certain death so that the rest of their cult could escape. Nothing special except the fact that the Black Road are the bad guys in the book.

The Black Road is a cult who wishes to cleanse all life on the world so that the gods can come back and reset life on their world. And the way to cleanse all life on the world is to kill everyone.

They are the bad guys and the book starts off with a self-sacrificing stand by the bad guys. Not something you see very often and that is one of the main strengths of Winterbirth.

The book and the world it is set in is new, fresh and different. Even the elves in the world are different. Elves are almost a guaranteed presence in fantasy books but Ruckley’s version of elves is more akin to the desert elves of the Dark Sun setting than the normal happy good elves of most other settings.

If anything the Kyrinin elves are the most brutal elves I had ever read. They have no problem killing each other, any humans, or any half-elf they come across and they seemingly prefer to kill you only after heavy torture. They are a truly savage race with a hard to understand alien culture. That’s what makes them so interesting!

The book is packed with action and Ruckley move the story along nicely. When the bloodletting slow the intrigue begins as all sides try to move the situation to their advantage. If this means betrayal, sneak attacks or insults, so be it.

Both the Black Road and the Thanes has a shade of grey to them and each side is totally convinced they are fighting for the right cause. These are hard people who make hard decisions in a bleak world and make no apologies for their decisions.

As good as the setting was, Ruckley’s novel has some problems. The Godless World is fresh but the story isn’t. A young noble who accidentally come into power, has to escape from hostile lands and then lead his people to safety is a pretty run-of-the-mill story.

Another problem I have is the characters in the book. The best fantasy books have characters which draw you in to their lives. Sometimes they are good guys like Rand Al’ Thor (Wheels of Time), sometimes they are bad guys like Jamie Lannister (Songs of Ice and Fire), but there must be character or characters that interest you.

Despite the big cast in Winterbirth, no one here fit the bill. Most of the characters are bland, fitting strictly into their assigned roles of faithful bodyguard, wise doom consul, double-dealing king, loyal sister etc. It doesn’t help that the main character, Orisian, is a boring character. Think of him as Guo Jing in the Return of the Condor Heroes. A young man who will always try to do the right thing despite his desires otherwise.

Winterbirth is mixed bag but there is enough here to make me come back for Bloodheir, the next book in the trilogy. So in the end, I will have to say the book has more ups than downs. Definitely worth a look

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Singapore Property Prices

Reading the papers today, I saw a full page article on the affordability of property in Singapore. Now the ability to own a house is something that strikes deep into the hearts of most Singaporeans, and the article state that Singaporeans are debating on whether property is more affordable now than 10 years ago.

There are charts in the well-written article but I have a problem with this suppose debate Singaporeans are having. Everyone I know will to the man say that a new house in Singapore is now more expensive than it was 10 years ago. Even when you count inflation and the supposedly wage increases over the past 5 years, it’s hard to even imagine that property in Singapore is more affordable now than 10 years ago.

I believe it is saying a lot when a housing loan of 20 years is consider short and a loan of 25 years is consider normal nowadays. In fact outside the Singapore government ministers, I am hard-press to remember anyone even arguing that property in Singapore is still affordable for ordinary Singaporeans.

Like I said, it was a pretty well-written article but Singaporeans are not debating about the property prices. They can’t afford to.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Comics this week

Blackest Night #3- Of all the various company crossovers I had read, I must say that Blackest Night has cemented a place in my heart. It has to be the most effective horror-based crossover I have ever read. I was never a fan of Firestorm, either Ronnie Raymond or the current Jason/Gen combo, but I may have been missing something good because Firestorm was the emotional heart of this issue. Yes I know everyone will look at the debut of The Indigo Tribe as the most important part of the issue, but nothing beat the pain and horror of Jason as his would-be girlfriend was killed in front of his eyes. Ivan Reis really outdid himself this issue as the art was nothing short of brilliant from front to back. The sorrow of Jason was shown scene by scene and it would not be nearly as heart wrenching without the brilliance of Reis. With non-stop action and solid character development, Blackest Night has the making of a true classic.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Singapore Chili Crab

With tourism being a big industry in South-east Asia, I can understand why Malaysian Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen launching a campaign to promote the country's cuisine.

Part of her strategy seems to be laying claim to ownership of certain dishes and proclaiming them as Malaysian. I have no problem with that in general but some of the dishes she wants to proclaim as Malaysian are well…not Malaysian!

The minister wants to proclaim chili crab, Hainanese chicken rice, nasi lemak, laksa, and bak kut teh as Malaysian. I can accept Hainanese chicken rice, nasi lemak, laksa, and bak kut teh (even though bak kut teh is a Chinese dish and I believe nasi lemak is Indonesian) as Malaysian, but chili crab is not Malaysian.

Singapore has more claims to chili crab than Malaysia. I can understand there is nothing but bragging rights on the line here but Malaysian Chili Crab?

Sorry but that I do not buy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Did I Miss Something?

While speaking to1,500 students at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the Singapore government would now review the government’s long-standing pro-foreigner policy.

In recent years, Singapore has accepted more than 100,000 foreigners per year into Singapore. Considering Singapore’s population, that is a ridiculous high numbers that maybe only countries in the Middle East can beat.

From blue collar to white collar, you will see foreigners working in Singapore in all types of work. For about a year or two, Singaporeans have voiced their disapproval at this foreign influx only to be routinely ignored by the Singapore government. Now that has changed as the PM said that “the nation cannot expect to continue booming as in the last few years”.

I must have miss something because I thought Singapore was in a recession for the past year. I thought Singapore was expected to have –10% growth this year. In fact, I thought Singapore was doing badly ever since the financial crisis hit the world a year ago. Where did this “the nation cannot expect to continue booming as in the last few years” come from?

I never heard of any lesser influx of foreign workers for the past year. Did I miss something?

Yup, sound like an upcoming election to me as well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Bill With No Bite

In Singapore’s desire to be a regional education hub, there are now about 1,000 private schools in Singapore. Considering Singapore’s size, that’s a lot. However with reports about private schools closing down in Singapore and the operators of these schools disappearing with student’s money (in one case, private school offering fake foreign degrees), the Singapore government has now implemented more stringent rules for Singapore’s private schools.

The Singapore Parliament has passed the Private Education Bill which I had blogged on 12th March 2009 (Voluntary?). I wasn’t burning with enthusiasm on the Bill then, and I’m not burning with enthusiasm on the Bill now. And I’m not the only one! Members of Parliament Christopher De Souza and Halimah Yacob had come out to criticize that the Bill has no bite. They are right.

I especially agreed with MP Christopher De Souza especially that a maximum fine of S$10,000 is no deterrent to anyone. He said that a maximum fine of S$100,000 would be a more robust deterrent. I’m not sure about that because I think the maximum fine should be even higher than that but he’s on the right track. Mind you, these are PAP MPs. If members of the ruling party do not agree with this Bill, this tells you a lot about the new Private Education Bill.

I also don’t understand why the Singapore government has put EduTrust on a voluntary basis. Senior Minister of State for Education, S Iswaran, said that not all private schools will apply for EduTrust. He’s right because it is not necessary! Why should private schools register for EduTrust and put themselves under more scrutiny when EduTrust is voluntary? How many people and companies you know would willingly put themselves under government scrutiny if they can help it?

So the Singapore government has now implemented more stringent rules for Singapore’s private schools; more stringent rules that has no bite in them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Comics this week

War of Kings: Who Will Rule- Outside the horrible title, this one-shot from the ‘War of Kings’ series is exactly pretty solid. With the Inhuman/Kree war over, there’s the big problem of who should rule the 2 galactic empires whose people just hate each other. As expected, Medusa and Gladiator took over the jobs from the deceased Black Bolt and Vulcan. There are some character developments especially on the new leaders. Medusa is mentally unstable due to the death of her husband while Gladiator took job solely because it would mean civil war if he didn’t. There’s also a nice bit on the Ronan and Crystal marriage but still no Nova or Guardians of the Galaxy. The next big bad in the cosmos seems to be Magus and his Church of Universal Truth which is something I like. It’ll be interesting to see how the cosmic heroes deal with a religious threat after all the outright warfare.

Secret Six #13 – Catman was all for working for the slavers when a throwaway threat from the bad…worse guys changed his mind. Savage Scandal was fighting when outnumbered and remember a birthday surprise she got from her father. Bane has tears in his eyes just remembering the good old prison life. Super-villains are such strange people, and that’s why it’s so interesting to read about them.

Stormwatch #23- Fuji is back looking like a handsome dude with godlike powers. Really, does the Wildstorm world need another godlike being? Between Max Faraday, Tao, Majestic and a fully-powered Spartan, there sure a lot of gods like beings in the world. Do we need one more? Nope, I don’t think so either.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Report and Two Rejections

So a US-based rights group, almost five billion US dollars in the two Singaporean banks released a report that said that the Myanmar's ruling junta had deposited billions of dollars with two Singapore banks, DBS and OCBC. According to the report, almost five billion US dollars are stashed in the two Singaporean banks. Both DBS and OCBC have come out to reject the report and both claim that there was no truth in the report by EarthRights International.

I read this and I have to ask why? I’m not in the banking industry and even I believe the Myanmar's ruling junta has money stored in Singapore. Is this supposed to be a secret? If that is the case, then the Singapore government should stop trying so hard to defend the junta from international condemnation. Just last month, the Singapore government said that it was “happy” about the 18-month house arrest term given to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. Before that, the military regime refused international aid from Cyclone Nargis and crackdown on protesting monks; did Singapore say anything?

Nothing EarthRights International had said is new and if DBS and OCBC want to claim the Myanmar's ruling junta has no money with them; they will need to provide some strong evidence of that

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Circus is Back in Town

In 2 weeks time, the Formula 1 circus will be back in Singapore and I think it’s fair to say most Singaporeans are NOT looking forward to it.

Why should we? Heavy traffic jams due to the road closure, can’t get to the waterfront side due to the race, heavy police presence in the area and high-sky prices for the race itself; it’s no wonder most Singaporeans find the race an inconvenience.

However don’t expect to read this in the Singapore papers. The Strait Times will probably say what a great success the race is, just like last year when they said the race was a great success. This is even though retailers situated around the F 1 track reported a 40% drop in business during the F1 period last year and hotels were reported to be fully booked when they were not.

And that’s not even including the terrible F1 season this year. Even the most die-hard F1 fan will have to say that this season has been nothing short of disastrous.

The list of disasters this season is long and between ‘Liegate’ (when defending champion Lewis Hamilton lied to race stewards (twice) in Australia), the loophole in the rules found by 3 of the teams which allow them to modify their cars, and (the latest) Renault begin accused by their former driver of ordering him to crash; it’s hard to remember a worse F1 season.

Yes, the F1 circus is back in town and it is a circus in more ways than one.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

We Thought We Knew the World

With all the technology we have on hand, it’s no wonder that some humans believe that there are no more natural wonders to discover in out world.

They are wrong and a team of biologists has just proven it. A team of scientists from Britain, the United States and Papua New Guinea climbed into the deep volcanic crater of Mount Bosavi in Papua New Guinea and discovered a lost world populated by strange creatures which had never been seen before. Among their discovery are fanged frogs, grunting fish, a camouflaging gecko and kangaroos that live in trees.

The team of experts found more than 40 previously unidentified species in the pristine jungle that has grown in isolation since the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago habitat and they hope that their finds will add weight to calls for international action against the destruction of the world’s rainforests.

No chance of that happening, but it is still a great discovery that makes you wonder what other secrets our world is hidding.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

H1N1, HIV and Cancer

With the world in uproar over H1N1, people have a tendency to miss the big picture. Despite the uproar over H1N1, the biggest medical issue affecting the world is still HIV and cancer.

A few years ago, Asia was hit by SARS. A friend and I were talking about it and he said that SARS was even more dangerous than HIV. I replied that he was being nonsensical. With SARS, you have less than 10% chance of dying, with HIV it’s a 100% death sentence.

I admit I could have handled that better.

The incident came to my mind when I read that there were 218 people in Singapore who were diagnosed with HIV in the first six months of this year. Despite H1N1, HIV and cancer are still bigger problems for Singapore and the world. I had lost a relative to cancer and an aunt of mine is currently battling cancer as well.

The world is rushing for a cure or vaccine for H1N1, maybe after the H1N1 scare is over the world can then concentrate on HIV and cancer again. Because in the long-term, HIV and cancer are still more dangerous than H1N1.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

WoW too Expensive for Me

In Singapore, gamers who play MMORPG come in 2 groups. Those who are willing to pay online subscription fees, and those who are only willing to play free online games.

I belong to the first group. However one of the stranger things about this group is that almost everyone who belong to this group in Singapore has a World of Warcraft (WoW) account. I have to be one of the maybe 5% in this group who do not have a WoW account.

The reason is simple; WoW is just too expensive to start. In Singapore, the WoW Battlechest cost around $65, and a 2 month subscription cost around $45. That’s $110 and then you need another $60 for Wrath of the Lich King. A total cost of $170 at least for 3 months of play.

That average out to $60+ per month, expensive to anyone’s taste. And this is before we even count in the cost for upcoming expansion WoW: Cataclysm.

So of course I’m not a WoW player; it’s just too expensive to even begin.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Useless Taiji

Last week, an airstrike by U.S. fighter jets in Afghanistan killed over 70 people, mostly civilians. Taliban militants stole two tanker trucks of fuel and nearby villagers gathered to siphon off gas. Then the U.S. fighter jets attacked.

When I first heard of this, I felt that it was sad but it’s not that unusual. Civilian collateral damage has been going on ever since the war first started in Afghanistan, and this is just the latest (and probably not the last) in a long string of mistakes. However, this latest incident is turning out to be a major dispute for NATO.

It seems German forces were the ones who ordered the attack and now both the both German and U.S. officials are trying to deflect blame to each other. The United States is blaming Germany for ordering the attack, while the Germans say that a pilot can refuse an order to drop the bomb if he sees that there are civilians in the area.

In Singapore, we call this ‘taiji’. Each party pushing the blame to the other and standing by their version of events. Frankly I find this taiji kind of stupid. Who cares if the Americans or German forces are to blame? They are both from NATO, so you are both guilty.

And that’s my view, a Singaporean. So guess what the views of Afghans will be? NATO should worry less about who is to blame and more about how to prevent this from happening again.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blame Them for Everything

Blame them for everything! That’s seems to be the new motto for the Chinese government. Several hundred police officers swarmed the Chinese city of Urumqi after a protest drew tens of thousands of protesters.

The protestors took to the streets after many residents, mostly from the Han Chinese community, were attacked in the capital of restive Xinjiang region in a series of mysterious syringe attacks. No one had been infected or poisoned in the attacks and it is a mystery what is contained in the syringes. In fact, most people think that the reports of hypodermic needle attacks were overblown. That does not matter!

At least not to as China's security chief had blamed Muslim separatists for the attacks. Despite having no evidence to back that up, the Chinese government seems determined to cause the guilt on "ethnic separatist forces." This bring to mind the July 5 ethnic riots in Xinjiang when the Chinese government put the blame on "ethnic separatist forces" despite evidence that the riots broke out after a mishandling of a brawl involving factory workers.

Emotions are running high but wouldn’t blaming "ethnic separatist forces" enflame tempers instead of lowering them? I mean most experts on China even think that the reports of hypodermic needle attacks were overblown, a result of overblown fears due to the July 5 riots. That does not matter!

Blame them for everything! Evidence is secondary! Those seem like the new motto of the Chinese government.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Comics this week

Immortal Weapons #2- In Immortal Weapons #1, I said that if the other Immortal Weapons are as interesting as Fat Cobra, then Immortal Weapons deserve to be an ongoing book. The major word there is ‘If’, and unfortunately for fans of the Immortal Weapons and Iron Fists series, Bride of Nine Spiders is nowhere near as interesting as Fat Cobra. The biggest problem for this issue is that Bride of Nine Spiders is not the main character. At the end of the issue, I still know nothing about the Bride. I’m not even sure what her powers are; I think it is a combination of martial arts and man’s natural fear of spiders. However it’s only a guess, so I could be wrong. Such uncertainly about the Bride of Nine Spiders is not good for when most fans do not know anything about the Immortal Weapons.

Irredeemable #6- Isn’t this a 6-part mini-series? Maybe Mark Waid has something on his sleeve because it is still going. It was interesting to see the superheroes in action against the Modeus robots (finally doing something other than dying or getting knocked out) and it seems we are finally going to see the reasons for Plutonian’s rampage. Not a moment too soon because Irredeemable is wearing out its welcome a little.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Meaning of Bonus

As I had said before, there are many taxi companies in Singapore. One of them is called Prime Car Rental & Taxis.

In Singapore, taxi-drivers need to sign an agreement with the taxi company for rental of the taxis as taxi-drivers are not allowed to own their own taxis. The taxi companies have various incentives to attract taxi-drivers to rent taxis from them. Prime has one which states that they will give a $11,000 bonus to their taxi-drivers if the taxi-drivers rent taxis from them for 5 straight years.

The taxi-drivers signed the agreement in good faith, fully expecting this bonus to be paid to them. However, there seems to be a catch the taxi-drivers do not know about. Taxi-drivers renting taxis from Prime Car Rental & Taxis have to pay a fee of $6.03 per day on the taxis. As the amount is small, the taxi-drivers paid it, thinking it was part of the rental.

However it now seems that Prime Car Rental & Taxis is using this $6.03 fee to pay for the bonus of the taxi-drivers. $6.03 per day over 5 years comes to slightly over $11,000 and Prime Car Rental & Taxis is using this to pay for the 5-year bonus.

Naturally the taxi-drivers are up in arms about this and I can understand why. When I hear the word ‘bonus’, it is something ‘extra’ that is given to you. Prime Car Rental & Taxis is taking a daily fee from the taxi-drivers, giving it back to them in a lump sum, and then calling it a bonus.

I’m no lawyer so maybe that’s why I don’t get this but how in the world can this be called a ‘bonus’? At best, it is a savings scheme; at worst, a well-worded contact by Prime to cheat their own taxi-drivers from the very start; but how can they called it a ‘bonus’?

Is there any readers out there who can explain this to me?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mickey With Spiderman

When news came in that Walt Disney Co. has bought over Marvel Entertainment Inc., my initial thoughts were “oh no!”

As I thought on it, I went from “oh no” to “oh shit!” I can why Marvel was sold because US$4 billion is a lot of money but having Mickey Mouse alongside Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men is just wrong.

With the deal, I can just see the natural cross promotion. Theme rides showcasing Spiderman, Hulk and X-Men at Disneyland and comics books for Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Maybe if we are lucky, we will even see Mickey Mouse guest-starring in the X-Men comic books, or animations featuring Peter Parker alongside Scourge MacDuck.

Now you know why I said “oh shit!”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

EPL this month

The first month of the EPL threw up some shocks but the league is taking shape as the usual suspects are at the top, or near the top, of the league. Here’s the rundown for the first month of the EPL;

Top Teams this Month
Arsenal- I was one of the few people who said that Arsenal didn’t have a bad off-season and they will still be in the Top 4 at season’s end. The Gunners started the season with a 6-1 thrashing of Everton and suddenly everyone is saying what a genius manager Arsene Wenger is. As long as Cesc Fabregas and Andrei Arshavin are fit, Arsenal will be okay but until Arsene Wenger spend some money on a defensive midfield, don’t expect any titles at the end of the season.

Chelsea- New manager Carlo Ancelotti is a hard taskmaster. Chelsea has won all their matches so far with class, confidence and comfort, and still Ancelotti is not happy with the team. Of course Luiz Felipe Scolari had a great start last year as well and we all know how long he lasted, so maybe Ancelotti is on to something here by being tough on the stars.

Man City- Of all the teams in the EPL, none needed a good start more than Man City. Luckily for manager Mark Hughes, they have been getting the wins. They haven’t been impressive but they are winning and Emmanuel Adebayor is in good scoring form. The big test will come when they meet the big teams though.

Tottenham. Hotspur- Jermine Defoe is on fire and has almost single-handily fired Harry Redknapp’s side to the top of the EPL. I don’t think they will last long there as there are still questions on their defence and with Luka Modric out for a month, Spurs’ fans should enjoy the moment while it last.

Surprise Team this month
Burnley- Who would have thought Burnley could beat Man Utd? I said at the start of the season, I don’t know a single player Burnley has; now I do. Brain Jensen is called “The Beast” by Burnley fans and I can see why. He is a monster of a keeper but it’s not enough; I still think they are going down.

Disappointing Teams this month
Liverpool- Last season, Liverpool had a total of 2 losses. This season they had 2 losses in the first month of the season. Rafa Benitez is complaining about Liverpool lacking in precision, but if that’s the case why did he sell Xabi Alonso? His usual trick of blaming the American owners is not going to work this time as he was clearly the one, not the owners, who wanted to sell Alonso last year. Rafa has to take the blame for the poor start as he had clearly under-rated the influence Alonso had in the middle of the park for Liverpool. And his replacement, Alberto Aquilani, is still out for a month! It’s still early but it seems like another heartbreaking season for Liverpool fans.

Everton- Manager David Moyes has finally admitted defeat and sold Joleon Lescott to Man City. Not a moment to soon as Lescott has been a cancer on the team and the moment he was sold, Everton won the next match. However Moyes still has a big injury list to contend with, so there’s still a lot of work for him to do to get their season started.

Portsmouth- They can’t buy players because they are in financial troubles, they can’t score because they can’t create chances and worst of all their players are all looking to jump ship. When you lose Sol Campbell to Notts County, are you are in trouble or what!