Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Reply Needed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You Ask Why?

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

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

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

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

Simple as that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Combat Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Comics this week

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

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

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas Singapore!

Merry Christmas Singapore!

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bak Kut Teh

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Low Expectations Met

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

World Cup Fees

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chiam's Last Hooray

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

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

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

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

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

Here wishing him the best of luck!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Comics this week

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

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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Group of the Decade

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Useless Conference

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Safe...for now

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Change Your Argument (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Ultimate PS3

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

Comics this week

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

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

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Ghost King by R.A. Salvatore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For Peace & War

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Dubai Getaway

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 7, 2009

A $1000 Note

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

He received $999.20 in change.

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

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

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The World Cup Draw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

Comics this week

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

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Debt That No One Owns

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

EPL this Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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