Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Visit to Farmat @ Sungei Tengah

Visited FARMART today. Tour was conducted by Q-Man, William.

Some interesting facts gathered:
  • It takes 1 year for sugar cane to grow to 2m in length, and it sells for only S$2 to S$3. Taking into consideration the long time-to-market and the cost of land in Singapore, it's not profitable to grow sugar cane here. Hence, they are mostly imported from Malaysia.
  • The young of a pigeon is called a "squab".
  • 5 quail eggs = 1 chicken egg in terms of cholestrol content.
  • The size of chicken eggs increases with the age of the hen. Hence, first born eggs are the smallest in size.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Boards must bear blame for the crisis, says man who's seen it all

Business Times - 23 Dec 2008

S'pore will ride storm, says outgoing CapitaLand deputy chairman Owyang
(SINGAPORE) Outgoing CapitaLand deputy chairman Hsuan Owyang has been closely tracking Wall Street every day for the past 56 years, and so the current financial crisis came as no surprise to him.

But he remains confident that corporate Singapore will survive the onslaught - although it cannot escape unscathed, he warned.

And while many have been pointing fingers at bankers, the regulators and the management teams at the various failed (and floundering) banks for causing the current downturn, Mr Owyang - who in his time in Singapore has sat on the boards of the Housing and Development Board, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Temasek Holdings - holds the many boards of directors accountable as well.

'The entire crisis can be summed up in six words: greedy bankers, incompetent boards and complacent regulators,' he said in his final press interview before leaving Singapore to spend his retirement in the United States.

The 80-year-old Mr Owyang, who is a US citizen, should know. In addition to sitting on numerous boards during his more than four decades in Singapore, he has also helped to run Overseas Union Bank, POSBank and CapitaLand. He has also chalked up about 12 years of experience on Wall Street with a broking firm.

Mr Owyang has chaired the judging panel of the Singapore Business Awards for many years, and has been instrumental in building up the Awards' reputation over the years.

A director's job, he says, is to monitor and advise. It is with the monitoring role that directors fell short before the present crisis, he feels. 'The job is to check if the CEO (chief executive officer) is leading the company well. If not, something must be done.'

Mr Owyang also shared his belief that corporate Singapore will be able to survive the crisis, but only after taking many hits.

'We will all get through - America, Singapore and the world - but at a very high cost,' he predicted. 'We have seen many recessions before, but the financial system has never been challenged this way before.'

Mr Owyang has warned of the crisis in interviews before, as far back as 2000. The problem over the last few years, he explains, was that the bull market was running on ahead too quickly. It was only a matter of time before the pendulum swung the other way.

Right now, no one knows where the bottom will be, he said. 'But banks such as DBS are not going to collapse . . . CapitaLand, I think will come through this thing well. But when the storm is so big, everyone will be hit anyway.'

Smaller companies, on the other hand, are especially likely to suffer, with little reserves to call on. Singapore, he warns, has yet to feel the effects of the crisis as the wage cuts and layoffs have not fully kicked in.

'Eventually, when all the dust has settled, we will come out a better society,' Mr Owyang said. 'The new house we build will be free of all the handicaps of the past.'

But even after the dust settles, Mr Owyang expects the US to continue to lead the world on the financial stage: 'Asia's growth potential is there but it cannot lead the world. China cannot replace the US, at least not in the first 50 years of this century. And America has a tendency for self-renewal.'

Singapore's role, he said, is not expected to change that much. The country's strength is its political leadership's flexibility, which should allow it to recover fast.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wheatgrass The Green Wonder

Wheatgrass is one of the so-called “green foods” that are valued by health-conscious individuals as a great natural source of nutrients Wheatgrass available in fresh Juice form or from tablets is high in chlorophyll calcium magnesium and potassium.
It is wheatgrass chlorophyll that is perhaps its most valuable asset. Chlorophyll the plant’s grass pigment that is often referred to as the “blood of plant” has been shown in studies to have a cleaning, detoxifying and healing effects on the body.
Wheatgrass is grown from wheatberries and is harvested after just 7-10 days growth. bue to its fibrous nature, which is indigestive by humans, wheatgrass must be liquefied through the use of a juicer before it can be consumed. The wheatgrass juice can then be drank (either straight or in mixture with another juice) or converted into tablets. When drinking wheatgrass, it is recommended to consume the drink in small amounts not to exceed 4 oz per day. Over consumption of wheatgrass juice can be cause nausea or stomach upset due to the strong cleansing effects of the juice.
Use of wheatgrass is said to help cleanse the blood, organs and gastrointestinal tract and it is also recommended as a way to stimulate metabolism and bodily enzyme systems. Wheatgrass reportedly stimulates and normalizes the thyroid gland, which may be helpful in correcting obesity and indigestion.
As a nutritional supplement, wheatgrass contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes. It has abundance of alkaline minerals, which is said to help reduce over acidity in the blood.Wheatgrass juice contains almost the same amount of vitamin C as citrus fruits and actually more that such vegetables as tomatoes or potatoes. It is as high in vitamin A as dark green lettuce or carrots and is additionally a good source of the B vitamins. Wheatgrass additionally contains vitamin E.
The mineral content of wheatgrass ineIude.s-calc iron,- sodium, -potassium, magnesium and a variety of trace minerals such as selenium and zinc. bried whatgrass juice is said to have as much calcium as milk. Wheatgrass juice contains about half as much iron as spinach, as much potassium as citrus fruit and as much magnesium as broccoli.
Some 17 amino acids can be found in wheatgrass including such essential amino acids (those that the body can only synthesize from food protein) as lysine, leucine, tryptophane, phenylalanine, threonine, valine and isoleucine. Some of the other amino acids found in wheatgrass are argine, glutamic acids, histidine, serine and tyrosine. One of the primary benefits for wheatgrass is its chlorophyll content. Research in Japan has shown that chlorophyll provides some protection from catcinogens. This protection is said to come from chlorophyll’s ability to strengthen cells, detoxify the liver and bloodstream and chemically neutralize pollutants.
While much of the medical research on wheatgrass has been conducted in Japan. U.S. scientist have also hailed this green food for its many benefits. For example, it has been praise for its role in preventing illness by Dr. Arthur Robinson, the director of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medical. Dr. Robinson, who performed a research project on wheatgrass in 1978 at the Linus Pauling institute found that wheatgrass and other “live foods” decreased the incidence and severity of cancer lesions in mice by about 75 percent.
In 1978, Dr. Chiu-Nan Lai of the University of Texas reported in Nutrition and Cancer that wheatgrass juice has an anti-mutagenic effect and also that it showed an anti-neoplastic ability. And in another study, performed at the Arthur Testing laboratory by br. Thelma Arthur, the consumption of wheatgrass juice was shown to detoxify the blood and strengthen the immune system.
Wheatgrass has also been shown to have beneficial external effects as well. Wheatgrass and /or chlorophyll ointment has been used to successfully treat such disorders as skin ulcers, impetigo and itching. Today, wheatgrass juice is in vogue at juice bars and health spas, and is becoming a popular supplement to the daily diet. Wheatgrass proponents claim that this green food can bring improvement in health, provide more energy and even aid weight loss.


1. The Roland Garros
  • 4/10 Perrier.
  • 2/10 Pineapple Juice.
  • 2/10 Grapefruit Juice.
  • 1/10 Apple syrup.
  • 1/10 Strawberry syrup.

2. Gin Fizz

  • 3/10 Gin.
  • 2/10 Lemon Juice.
  • 1/10 Sugar syrup.
  • 4/10 Perrier.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Need for speed on climate change accord

BT, 19 Dec 2008

Making a statement: A passer-by in Poznan donating money to a Greenpeace activist, dressed as a homeless polar bear trying to hitch-hike to Copenhagen

Can Obama fix the US economy after Bush's mess?

Business Times - 19 Dec 2008

Being centrist in helping the poor as well as the middle classes should do it

IT IS an old story when a bubble in real estate is followed by a crash. However, what caused chaotic meltdown in Wall Street and around the globe this time was an utterly new factor - namely that this bust in home construction and mortgage borrowing impinged on the new Frankenstein inventions of mathematical financial engineers.

Virtually no pundit in Wall Street understood the strange things that were happening from week to week. Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, as well as huge ordinary banks such as Bank of America, suddenly discovered that their debts had soared way above their available assets.

Oddly, actions on Main Street, where people look for jobs and hope to earn enough income to both save for rainy days and eventual retirement, were slow to fall much in 2007 and 2008. But by now, as sure as the sun sets at night, Main Streets all over the world are hurting a lot. Their hurts are directly traceable to the Wall Street shenanigans. According to forecasters at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the worst is still to come; and it may last longer than anything since the 1929-1939 years of the Great Depression.

As a macro economist, I try to keep an eye on financial markets and on how central banks - the US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, as well as the centuries-old Bank of England - react to try to lean against the adverse winds of speculative markets. That occupies my mathematical mind.

But more importantly, what occupies my heart as a scholarly economist is what's likely to happen to families in the first years of Barack Obama's presidency. How will he repair the damage from eight years of George Bush's bungling?

I must agree that government bailouts were necessary to forestall a complete economic collapse. President Franklin Roosevelt discovered that in his first 1933 post-inauguration week. But as the New Deal leader who saved the capitalistic system, Mr Roosevelt learnt that those bankers, after being saved, firmly refused to venture into making loans to risky businesses and families. How then did the New Deal succeed in wiping out most unemployment by 1939? Today's economists under 60 years of age have forgotten the answer to that question - if indeed they ever did know the true answer. Even Fed chief Ben Bernanke, a prize scholar at Harvard and MIT, was unduly influenced by the late Milton Friedman's crude monetarism when he wrote his PhD dissertation on the Great Depression in 1979.

Actually, neither the Federal Reserve nor the Bank of England did the heavy lifting that restored high employment and healthy growth in real gross national product by 1939. Why not? Early on and for much of the 1930s, central bank interest rates had dropped to nearly zero.

The Wall Street Journal carried a story this week that US prime, safe, 90-day Treasury Bills cleared the auction market at a zero (!) rate of interest. That means that Mr Obama starts out in a 'liquidity trap' much like that which has been keeping Japan in a 1991-2008 slowdown. During a liquidity trap, the smart thing to do is hoard money and not spend it on labour or consumer goods.

Go back and read the 1987-2006 speeches of Alan Greenspan or governor Mervyn King at the Bank of England. Were they away from school the day that concept was taught?

Current evidence and past economic history suggest strongly that during the Obama presidency, it will be massive doses of deficit fiscal spending that will pull Europe, America and Asia out of the post-meltdown slump. Only after that will the Federal Reserve's normal tools begin to be restored to potency.

The new president will be splashed with contradictory advice. Here is my suggestion: Seek the middle way by being a centrist. That's not because you can't make up your mind. On the left are the failed notions of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Castro and Mao. All of these were like idiotic Keystone cops when it came to organising any large economy. On the right are the extremist libertarian views of the post-Reagan crowd. Yes, market systems alone can preserve this millennium's affluence and progress. However, unregulated markets will generate their own demise, as we have seen.

Centrists are doomed to have to make compromises. In good times, it can be folly to keep bumbling Detroit car companies in business. (Harvard's Joseph Schumpeter called this 'capitalism in an oxygen tent'.) When rates of unemployment swell to 10 per cent or above, a different decision might be justifiable.

Dropping newly printed greenbacks from helicopters can be one way to generate growth. Such new currency will get spent rather than being hoarded or saved. However, spending that new currency on roads to somewhere will be better than roads to nowhere. In Japan, construction industry lobbyists determined where public spending should be directed. In America, we can do better, provided that the old Bush gang has become only an unpleasant memory.

Moral: Be centrist in your decisions about helping the poor as well as the middle classes. Females and Hispanics and others who come late to the feast deserve justice in the centrist court. Those who presume to give advice become boring fast. Still, I will offer a final important caveat. A centrist must, of necessity, be a 'limited' centrist. A centrist can be successful only in a limited degree to lessen the inequalities that are inevitable in a market system. That's far from abolishing most inequality.

To pursue that unobtainable, quixotic goal would be a sure way to plunge the modern world into the past stages of stagnation. -- Tribune Media Services

The writer is considered a founder of modern neo-classical economics and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1970

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The original Ponzi scheme

Business Times - 16 Dec 2008

As the previous millennium drew to a close, The Business Times wrote, among other things, of the greatest investment scam it had witnessed. 'Ponzi' is now back in the news following the exploits of Bernard Madoff. Here are excerpts from our article on the fraud that spawned scores of copycats:

Charles Ponzi pioneered the scam that bears his name, through which he bilked US$10 million from thousands of investors in the 1920s.

Ponzi was an Italian immigrant to the United States, who hit upon the idea of robbing Peter to pay Paul. A former waiter, he set up a company in Boston grandly called the Securities and Exchange Company (this was before the US market regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission was established). The company would issue promissory notes which paid 50 per cent 'profit' in 45 days. Ponzi claimed he was making his money from arbitrage in international postal reply coupons, when in fact he was merely distributing capital, paying off investors who came later with funds collected from those who came earlier.

For a time in the summer of 1920, he was hugely successful, collecting about US$1 million a week.

Ponzi became the talk of the East Coast of the US and gained a reputation as a financial wizard. People would give him their life savings and even reinvest their 'profits' with him.

He would hold court with journalists, boasting about other great schemes to come, which he would operate on an international scale. Even seasoned bankers would quake in his presence. However, some people were suspicious. It was noted, for instance, that despite claiming to be an expert in postal reply coupons and high finance, he did not know how to transfer US$1,000 from Boston to his mother in Italy.

Moreover, he didn't invest his own money in his scheme, but kept it in the bank. Nevertheless, Ponzi was able to survive several runs on his scheme by adopting a posture of relaxed confidence.

Eventually, the law caught up with him, but not before he had bilked about US$10 million from thousands of investors.

Since his time, there have been hundreds of similar scams. But the Ponzi scheme was the original thing, and the term has become part of the financial lexicon.

In the future, the Net will undoubtedly produce the greatest scamsters of our time. But even then, Charles Ponzi will retain his dark little corner in financial history as one of the great pioneers of fraud.

Monday, December 15, 2008

VAM Dry Box

  • Costs S$75 at Cathay Photo (Marina).
  • Reddot Design winner.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Juicy Recipe

1. 2 green apples, 1 red apple, 1 celery stick, 1 small cucumber.

2. 3 oranges, 2 carrots, 1 celery stick.

3. 1 bunch of grapes, 1.5 celery, 2 carrots, 1 green apple.

4. 1 big cucumber, 1.5 celery, 2 carrots, 1 orange.

5. Bitter gourd, pineapple, green apple.

6. Bell pepper, carrot, red apple, orange (optional), celery.

7. Water melon, grapes, strawberry.

8. Orange, mango.

9. Orange, banana, milk.

10. Orange, strawberry, milk.

11. Green grapes, pineapple.

12. Star fruit, orange, apple.

13. Cucumber, apples.

14. Blender recipe: water melon, grapes, red apple.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

B&B's Brands of Choice

B&B's Brands of Choice

B&B's Watches of Choice

Where to go for Seafood in Singapore

Only the freshest seafood can be served steamed, so that you can taste the entire ocean! You will only agree with me if you are a food connoisseur. Restaurants always attempt to mask not-so-fresh seafood with different styles of cooking, especially through deep-frying.

This is my top choice for the freshest seafood at reasonable prices - prawns, crab & fish.

Hua Yu Wee
462 Upper East Coast Road
5pm - 11.30pm daily

My favourite Super Cars

Ferrari F430
Lamborghini Gallardo

Lamborghini Murcielago

Porsche GT3

B&B's recommended books on Motivation

B&B's recommended books on the English Language

B&B's recommended Books on Business

B&B's books on Investments & Finance - Part 3

B&B's books on Investments & Finance - Part 2