Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Resolution


Every New Year’s eve, I make a list of New Year’s resolutions that will supposedly better my life, and every year I break them. These are all achievable promises, mind you, I just never put my mind to it for longer than 2 months. Don’t give me that look, I know you have done the same thing before.

This year, I asked myself what does turning 30 this coming year mean to me. I can blame a million small things for my laziness but the bottom line is that my health is suffering and I have yet to have anything significant going for me in my life. What am I doing wrong?! Well I’ve had a year to think about this and this is what I have come up with.

I need a mantra. A few days ago I saw the Jim Carrey movie, The Yes Man. I’m not a big Carrey fan and I particularly hate his later works, the movie was barely so-so, but I liked the concept. Not to give too much away but Carrey’s character is a guy who avoids life. Then one day he starts saying yes to everything and his life is dramatically changed. Now I’m not suggesting you go that far but maybe a key word could be used to trigger an alternative response to a negative action.

FRIEND – Organize at least 1 event per week and make new friends
READ – Read a book per week (Instead of all the wasted nights of bad movies)
EXERCISE – Substitute the couch time by going for a run or exercise
MUSIC – Master 2 songs every month

You get the idea. Nothing big, but if I keep reminding myself with these words everyday when I am indulging in sloth, I might actually accomplish something this year.

Here is to the end of 2008, a fun and eventful year.

Good luck and Happy New Year to all!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

LG 3G Watch-Phone


LG’s new watch phone (model LG-GD910) is a fun gadget that LG claims is the first 3G HSDPA phone in the world. This gizmo has a number of interesting features including the ability to hold video chat conferences at wrist level (sounds Inspector Gadget like), offers Text to Speech (TTS) to read incoming email and also comes with MP3 playback and a 1.43″ color touchscreen LCD display. The new GD910 is expected to hit retail markets in Europe and Korea just after it’s launch at CES 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sick and almost recovered


What a dreadful Christmas to be confined to bed burning up and coughing my lungs out. A week of heavy flu coincided with a week of heavy snow and thankfully, everything is a little better now. There is a lot of work piled up as I took 2 days sick leave off work. Time to start clearing the To-do list one by one.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Scent of a Woman

(From Wikipedia)

Scent of a Woman is a 1992 film which tells the story of a preparatory school student who takes a job as an assistant to an irascible blind, medically retired Army officer. It stars Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell, James Rebhorn, Gabrielle Anwar, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

It won the Academy Award for Best Actor (Al Pacino) and was nominated for Best Director, Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.



Sunday, December 21, 2008

Under the weather


So we are going to have a white Christmas in Vancouver this year. But at -10 or so degrees, the cold bug has been strong and active leaving many feeling under the weather. Meanwhile, I think I have a fever, sore throat and probably flu. It aches all over making it hard to ignore. I have never been a fan of medicine, but I will probably take some Tylenol and hope to make it through the night.

On another note, lately I have been missing a lot of my piano practise and I am not going to make excuses. Since I am going to be resting at home a bit more now especially with two days of Holidays, this is a real good time to get back on track. Two hours of practise everyday or more. I hate it that my fingers are so stiff nowadays......

Friday, December 19, 2008

What is constitution?

To answer "What the hell is the US doing?" as can be exemplified from the Madoff mess, here is a scene from a great movie "With Honors".

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Simon Wilder: You asked the question, sir, now let me answer it. The beauty of the Constitution is that it can always be changed. The beauty of the Constitution is that it makes no set law other than faith in the wisdom of ordinary people to govern themselves.

Prof. Pitkannan: Faith in the wisdom of the people is exactly what makes the Constitution incomplete and crude.

Simon Wilder: Crude? No, sir. Our "founding parents" were pompous, white, middle-aged farmers, but they were also great men. Because they knew one thing that all great men should know: that they didn't know everything. Sure, they'd make mistakes, but they made sure to leave a way to correct them. The president is not an "elected king," no matter how many bombs he can drop. Because the "crude" Constitution doesn't trust him. He's just a bum, okay Mr. Pitkannan? He's just a bum.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Not meant to be


She stands in loneliness, drenched in the rain of emotions that come with age. Some things in life tattoo themselves onto you. They may be beautiful, but they leave you scarred for life. You can see it on her face and in her eyes - listless, restless and soulless. I understand. I do because we are haunted by the same story that was not meant to be.

When did it all start? My memory is kind of fuzzy. But something keeps singing in my ears, “Why do I think of you deeply every time the rain floats by?” The rain has its own story. There is a child of dew in envy of the birds. He prays to fly freely in the sky. An angel, touched by his purity, granted his wish. For a short while, he was happy. But with each thunder roar and lighting flash, he misses the calm and peaceful life more. Then a drizzle turns into rain and the rain turns into a storm. They all have their has their own story. She has hers and I have mine.

It is funny. How our timing plays these jokes on us. When I have an umbrella, it never rains. Then when I least expects it…. Timing, oh thou a cruel bitch. I would catch her tear with my finger and leave that sparkle in her eyes. Know that even though the letters stopped, my heart never did. I never wanted to say goodbye, but I did. Maybe I always believed we will meet again at the crossroads and everything will be different in a good way. The hellos, the how-are-yous, the eyes on eyes and a million other things tattoo themselves in my soul every day, every minute….. every second. And I still believe.

Until I cannot write any more words of pride and the thirst for words have dried. Until the reason is no longer enough for me to live in self delusion, life still goes on. She still stands in loneliness, drenched in the rain of emotions that come with age. But so do I.

Nutrition of love


Inspired during Danny's party, I searched around and found an article with a compilation of common foods and their metaphysical associations. The Magic In Food - Love.

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Apple: Draws a lover, erotic experiences to you. Increases attraction. Apple compote with cinnamon is thought to speed up the arrival of a lover to you or encourage a reluctant lover to make a cerebral relationship physical.

Apricot: For flirtation or light hearted romantic experience.

Avocado: To make yourself appear younger to others or increase personal beauty or attractiveness. Avocado is the love apple of Venus.

Banana: Eaten by males - increases fertility and heroism. Eaten by females - draws a lover.

Beets: Increases virility, passion, erotica and fertility. It is a root so it grounds a relationship and binds the lover to you.

Blueberry: To eliminate obstacles or rivals that may come between you. As you swallow each blueberry, imagine the things that come between you falling away or disappearing.

Butter: To eliminate hostility and arguments. While smoothing it on a piece of bread, hopefully with a little honey too, think of things smoothing out.

Cardamom: This herb is thought to amplify a love that is already there or strengthen existing relationships. Drink a cup of Chai tea with cardamom in it for this purpose.

Carrot: Helps bring masculine energies to a woman. For a man strengthens virility.

Celery: Increases libido and passion. Encourages reluctant lovers to take action

Cherry: Eat for love, health and to boost sexual attraction.

Chocolate: An aphrodisiac. Lifts moods and attracts sensual experiences. Binds lovers.

Clove: Add clove to curry dishes, baked dishes and hot chocolate for fun, love and erotic experiences. This is also the bud of stolen kisses so it is good for mistresses to spike their lover's meals with it.

Coriander: Add to curries and salads to attract your soulmate. It represents a high spiritual love combined with wisdom.

Cucumber: Eaten for sexual stamina, beautiful skin. Chop with extreme prejudice if you are into revenge on a certain philandering male.

Eggs: An ancient symbol of conception: Eat for fertility and fidelity.

Garlic: Eat to banish the "other woman" or a rival who may be in the way.

Grapes: Grapes are a symbol of a happy marriage and many children. Eat to increase fertility and emotional security. Can also be used to increase your popularity with opposite sex. As you eat each grape, picture another lover coming your way ? known or unknown. Red grapes are best for this purpose.

Guava: Relieves heartbreak, attracts new romance, revives the erotic imagination.

Honey: The nectar of the Gods. Sweetens up a relationship. Attracts positive love and attention.

Lemon: Marriage, joy, fidelity, pure intentions and longevity in a relationship.

Mushrooms: Eat raw to make yourself beautiful and increase your feminine mystique.

Orange: Health, fidelity, love and joy.

Peanut: Crack these open from the shell and attract more male energy into your life.

Peas: Used to attract love, positive Goddess energy into life.

Pineapple: To attract a wealthy lover.

Pomegranate: For fertility, erotic imagination, a long line of descendants. Also eaten sometimes to attract numerous partners or a wealthy partner.

Popcorn: For popularity and fun. As each corn pops in the microwave, picture another positive romantic event.

Pork: Eaten for fertility.

Quince: Are traditionally eaten for happiness between lovers.

Raspberry: For sexual stamina and amplifying love that is there.

Sweet Relish: For enhancing sexual passion.

Rice: For childbearing and fertility.

Sausage: To bring kinky sexual partners to you, a variety of partners or social excitement.

Strawberry: To attract a lover, to increase sexual intensity and stamina of a lover. To make a lover think of you eat a strawberry every day.

Sweet Potato: To attract a well grounded, emotional secure, gentle wise love.

Maple Syrup: To assure a positive "first meeting" or that a blind date goes well.

Tomato: The original "love apple". Eat to attract a partner or increase the love that is already there.

Tangerine: Health, fidelity, flirtation, love, joy and childlike qualities. Banishes heaviness

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Home Theatre


Man, I was checking out one of my client’s house yesterday and I totally fell in love with his 4 by 8 foot home theatre with 9 foot tall ceiling. I would have taken pictures except that it was inappropriate to share his design without his consent. So you will have to make do with my descriptions and see if you can picture the place. The picture above is Gregg Schwartz's home theatre system which was in another review and considerably smaller.

The room is soundproof with a 1 pound per square foot sound barrier material behind each wall. The three colors color scheme consists of black, red geranium and white. 12 black wall panels hang with varying heights on each side and work to absorb any echoes. There is a huge white panel at the back with blocks of different sizes and length.

All the corners are curved to allow for a smoother flow of sound. They also use an eight-piece in-wall speaker system which utilizes patented M3D for realistic surround sound. I particularly love the Cannas five-piece sofa set with cupholder seats just like the movies theatres. Two sofas sit on the lower end with steps on the sides to a 1 foot raise to the higher end with three sofas. Mind you, these seats can cost up to $5,000 each. When the lights are turned off, the floor lights around the room and steps will come on. Just like the cinemas.

They use Epson PowerLite Full HD 1080p 3LCD Home Theatre Projector on a 100" 16-9 electric screen which made the Celine Dion’s Las Vegas Concert we were watching come to live. It was like she was in the room singing to me. Simply magical.

The whole project cost about CDN$30,000 in a 2 weeks period which included combining two rooms into one and rewiring. Reasonable cost for such a masterpiece.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Looking at the US Dollar


The US dollar enjoyed a rally for several weeks peaking around October 27th and then flirted around many fluctuations stirred by market news. While some may mistake the dollar rally as an indication of the US economic crisis stabling out and moving towards recovery, others like me would stay wary of the strength of the dollar until the damage of the now defunct financial structure is fully comprehended. Now it seems like the US dollar has peaked out, let us examine if there are any factors that can be future stimulation.

  • Drum roll please. And our winner is……. The main factor for the rally is the payoffs of death contracts or transfer of toxic financial products under the false security of guarantees from a crippled government. All these transactions involve US dollars thus pushing it higher.

  • The government rescue packages basically dumps money into the market but what is more important is the consensus among other countries to simultaneously buy US dollar to help the US economy.

  • The market is undergoing liquidation. People understand that “money is king” and is sitting on as much cash as they can. Of course, the smart ones understand that the US is past tense and play to exit quickly. You can interpret the market fluctuations as reactions to the good/bad news or you can see it as part of the game where the players are trying to cover their positions using false movements of the markets as bait.

  • How many times have we seen the US stock market go down, non-government bond yields rise, the US dollar rise and the US Treasury Bond yields fall? The US economy cannot afford liquidation and constricted credit amidst falling confidence, more bank distress measures, more job loss and more home foreclosures. These seem like danger signs more than anything.

  • Next big shoe to drop? Credit cards. Cash only please.

  • We all love Obama for what he symbolizes but let’s face it. He is not God and nothing short of a miracle can restore order. When questioned recently how long this economic crisis will last, he was dumbfounded for an answer.

  • Economic indicator numbers coming out in January and with interest already sitting at near 0%, it is hard to foresee a stronger US dollar any time soon. But, rest assured there will not be a huge drop in US dollar value any time soon either. My question is if people are losing their jobs, what good is 0% financing to promote spending?

Enough talk about parking in gold stocks or what’s not. Do you realize that the gap between physical and paper gold market is widening. The more massive the paper manipulation, the more violent the coming correction. The paper-physical arbitrage is at the brink of losing control. Then again, I have never been a dedicated fan of gold seeing as to how unpredictable it is.

Expect more fluctuations in the US dollar but it is going no where soon. I think we are at the stage of the crisis when you know, I know and the government knows that we can only drag this crisis out and hope for a long and slow recovery.

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Meanwhile news of the US interest cut to at least 0.25% exploded. The following were found for comments....

Joe V from Canada writes: "If the problem was caused by excessive debt, what makes him think that letting people borrow money for free is going to fix the problem? Even elementary school students could tell that such a plan is insane. It seems like these brainwashed Keynesian economists are the only ones stupid enough to believe their own garbage, and the tragedy is that they are in control of economic policy.God help the USA."

truth betold from Canada writes: "It's a terrible idea. Savings = Wealth. Spending is not wealth. The lower interest rates go and the more money gets thrown from helicopters, the less the colorful paper in your wallet can buy. Therefore, the only prudent response is to buy things. i.e. convert your increasingly worthless paper into hard goods: gold, paid-for real estate, work vehicles, tools. And when hyper-inflation kicks in: toilet paper, canned goods and heating fuel. See you Keynesian sheep on the other side. "

Ryan Lemay from Canada writes: "Well there you have it! Socialism for the rich! "Okkkaaay, sir lets see everything on your application looks good. You stole from investors, cooked the books, borrowed beyond your means, come from a ivey league background, friends of the Republicans. Everything looks in order. Application approved. How much do you want for your bail-out?" "Next application please... Okay, I see here you are penniless, been living on the street for 6 months, you have a full-time job but it pays minimum wage so you can't afford rent, you work hard, seems your record check confirms you are a fairly honest individual, no criminal record came up as well, says here on your application you wish to better yourself with education and hard work? Sorry sir, I don't think you fit the criteria for 'true need'. Application denied!! Security get this undeserving guy out of here!" "

Monday, December 15, 2008

Relishing that mushy feeling....


My friend who is flying in from Singapore is really lucky. He had let on of his intention to visit Whistler for some snowboarding except that there was very little snow. Then two days before his arrival, it happened - consecutive days of snowing.

Yes, it is freeeeeezzzzing outside. Being a Cancer, normally this is the perfect time for me to hide in my shell and hibernate, but my friend, Danny, was hosting one of his delicious potlucks and many of my friends are showing up. So I ended up plowing through the snow with my mom’s chicken pies on hand. But it was alright because the party was really a blast and gave me quite a few insights.

For one, a few of my so-called friends at the party have criticized my blog quite vigorously. While I enjoy constructive criticism, I must say I feel offended when stigmatized as mushy. I admit that my romantic pieces are as they call it, but hey, do I have to explain that they are meant to be soaked in romance which in essence is sugar-coated dipped in extra sweet sauce. Don’t eat the dessert if you don’t have the tooth for it. There is a reason why I categorized my posts so you have the option of picking your preference.

Then again, it is not that they find anything mushy. But they are uncomfortable displaying their affections as it leaves them vulnerable.

The night finally ended. Did I mention it was freezing like hell? Ok, bad metaphor. Anyways, we did decide to have the next party at my house on New Year’s Eve.

Did I mention that it is a swimwear party?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Half Empty, Half Filled


Even with the suffering economy, restaurant businesses have been thriving. At least, my favourite ones are. As I walked in, the bustling restaurant immediately gave a huge greeting. “How many, Sir?”. I raised my finger (No, it is not the middle one) to indicate that I am alone. Lately, all my meals have been in the quiet company of solitude.

As I was directed to a table, my eyes met another’s, someone also resting alone. Her half empty orange juice and almost empty plate of bread suggest that she had been at her table for a while. Then I did something I have never done before, waved away the waitress and walked up to the lady, “May I join you?”

Usually, fear of failure would have paralyzed me before words exited my mouth but I had a strong feeling that she would not turn me down. Before my seat got warm, we were sharing a nice lunch together. Nothing fancy - a little calamari to indulge in, surprisingly fresh fish and chips and the most delicious cheesecake to finish. By sharing I mean we ordered one and shared. The ambience was anything but romantic and sitting across her, half the time I had difficulty hearing. Then again, the laughs and constant flirting of the eyes were fun, very fun. If anything, this was a different kind of lunch, almost like a date.

The half filled orange juice suggests that she has been here a while.

“You haven’t touched your drink”, I said.

“Oh, it isn’t mine.” Her smile hinted a bit of naughtiness.

“Oh?” Not quite what I have expected. Then again, today is just one of those days.

“Imagine what you did except that when you sat down, I left.”

Our laughter was simultaneous.

“Oh, sweet irony.”, I waved for the waitress. “One order of orange juice in two half filled glass, please.”

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pessism + Cynicism = Global Crisis


I finally squeezed in 10 hours of sleep yesterday and I did it by forcing myself to forget everything and just rest. This is no easy feat. Similar to how everyone is talking about the economy every chance they get, my mind is set on constant analytical mode by default.

So I had a chance to re-evaluate the situation this morning with a clearer mind. Many still think that the Canadian economy is strong and the recent government reactions are purely a response to the pessimism of those who suffered in stocks and real estate. Let me just point out that with lower interest rates (US expected to cut 0.5% in January to 0.5% and Canada to follow), the government is forcing people to spend. In a well regulated and moving cycle, the money that is drawn from savings in Banks will eventually flow back into the Bank. But this is not the case now.
What will people spend on? There is no way to know how deep in the hole public companies are, therefore stocks and financial instruments effectively lose their appeal. The safest bet is to go into real estate especially commercial which still has a 6-8% return and the risk of vacancy and non-recoverables. Now with banks unwilling to lend or more accurately with nothing to lend (no deposits), the only ones who can afford to buy real estates are those who can fully finance their own purchases. This easily leaves the majority of people at home with their money on their hands and not knowing what to do.

Maybe they are right - I should be more optimistic and less cynical. After all, Canada was voted to have the soundest banking system in the world by World Economic Forum. Then again..... There is no way to go back in time to when US has $1 of gold in the reserve for every $1 they issue. There is no way to eliminate all the greed or stupidity. There is no way for the poor and rich ratio to remain close, no way to solve world hunger, no way to not have crimes and wars…….. Should we just accept it, embrace it and by God pay our tribute to it, and hope by some self-fulfilling miracle, our lives will all be better?

Optimism is like an ego-stroker, the more you milk it, the more deluded you become. Sorry, I've tried and failed, the poison of pessimism and cynicism is simply too deep in me. Just leave me to die.

Match Made In Snow


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Vancouver is finally experiencing the long awaited snow. Life is full of surprises.

After seeing Nophy yesterday, the first time in months after her engagement news, she was distinctly more beautiful. Is it love or marriage that has that effect? Or both? Maybe it is how she has overcome adversity and dozens of heartbreaks to finally find the special someone. Yes, she is strong and probably even more stubborn to live her life her way which accounts for all the unnecessary failures she had. But they are all bygones now, she is happy and that is all that matters.

Suddenly, it dawned upon me, it seems like every single friend or acquaintance of ours has at one point or another been a victim of matchmaking manifested by my dad. Not one has ended in success and not for a lack of trying. Sometimes all you can do is laugh about it because they are so obviously wrong for each other.

Then as I walked to work in the pile of snow today, I tried to match the pile of footprints of those before me. And it is kindda fun.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ephiphany


I was struck by an epiphany. Yes, it is the sort of revelation that feels like a warm hand on my cheek keeping me tethered to the surface of a world I have just began to understand. It brings to me many trivial things – such as last night’s drizzle which was supposed to be snow – just because at a time, when my thoughts were dry and nothing seemed to matter, she sent me a caring greeting. Sometimes, a little is enough.

My epiphany tells me a story. It speaks of a land of year long Christmas and people in constant bliss. They celebrate each day with earnests no matter what it might bring. They have a perfect, romantic or even fantasy view on love, the kind few ever find. They work, but never feel worn down, with purpose on their mind. Contented and happy. Sometimes, it is that simple.

She did not come with a bang or a sudden click of mind. I think she has always been around; I just never looked to see her there.

I was struck by an ephipany - The days are getting colder but there is warmth if you just know where to look.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Waiting.....


She had a perfect life – loving and rich family, brains and beauty, even her grace is unsurpassed by time. But no man has ever made her heart beat, she has never been in love. Still she believes destiny has something special in store for her, that one day, her prince will come.

One fine day while praying at a temple, she saw in a distance a man and her heart went wild. She knew then and there that he is the one. Before she could steal a closer look, the man vanished into the crowd. Determined to find him, she searched all over the temple until the night tells her to stop. Dejected, she went to the temple and prayed that she might see him again.

A Goddess, deeply moved by her sincerity, broke the silence of the night and asked, “Do you want to see him again?”

The answer was obvious. "Yes"

“Then you would have to train for 500 years.”

Her mind was set. 500 years is way shorter than never.

"I will. Please let me see him again."

That night, she was turned into a rock, made to withstand the cold of a winter’s night and the heat of a summer’s day. But through it all, she felt happiness never felt before. 500 years flew by, she has been molded into the size of a pebble sitting on a pave way. But finally, the day she has waited for has arrived, nothing could contain her excitement, years and years of hardship cannot hide the glow the little pebble had that day.

There he was. Tall, handsome and radiant, just the way she remembered. He walked along in big commanding strides. Suddenly he came to a stop, quickly surveyed the area and stole a moment's rest before hurriedly continuing his journey.

The moment was brief but to her, it was eternity. There is nothing sweeter but as he walked away, there was pain and disappointment worse than anything these 500 years can ever bring.

The Goddess saw it all. Picking up the pebble, she asked, “My dear child, I can help you if you want to be closer to him. Do you want to touch him?”

“Yes!!” She suddenly saw a glimpse of hope. There was not a moment of hesitation. He has been her every thought since she saw him and she knew what she wanted.

“Then you have withstand another 500 years of training.”

And just like that, she got turned into a tree. If she had not experienced 500 years of waiting before, the ensuing wait would have been unbearable. But 500 years later, she has proven her sincerity and she believes that she will soon be rewarded. When a familiar face appeared in a distance, the leaves were rustling in excitement.

This time, he strolled along, taking it slow and stopped by the tree. It is an unusually hot morning and he was full of envy of the warm shadows sitting under the tree. Then he chose a spot, sat down and laid back against her. Under the her protection, he closed his eyes and rested.

Seconds crept into minutes and minutes into hours. The day met with the night as a chilling breeze broke his slumber. Standing up, he gave the tree a little pat as if to thank it for the warm shelter. Then he was gone.

“Well, are you satisfied?” The chill asked in ever so familiarly kind voice

The branches and leaves quivered with raging emotions.

“Well, if you want to be his wife…”

“No." The rustling of the leaves cut in "That’s alright. This is enough.”

“Enough? Don’t you want to be together with him?”

“I do. I know be it another 500 or 1,000 years, I can definitely wait it out. But just now as he laid in my arms, I finally understood that I have been chasing a dream, the idea of a perfect love. I have found it and that is... enough.” A sudden refreshing breeze ran over her as she turned back into a lady. A thousand years of waiting have made her realized she has wasted too much valuable time.

As the chill weaved a smiling face and kiss her, “Maybe this is for the better……. You know, someone has been waiting over 2,000 years for you.”

YUPRE gathering


Mistakes upon mistakes and sometimes that is the only thing that makes sense. Why? Because it is always hard to admit that you are wrong, even with the power of hind sight. Maybe that can explain why even with all the evidences laid out in front, some can still live in denial that the world is not in recession and Canada have immunity. At least a handful of young professionals I met in a meeting last night at the YUPRE gathering expressed optimism in the Canadian market much to my bewilderment.

Perhaps they are attempting to spread the optimism to avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy of impending recession. In any case, it felt like a complete waste of my time listening to them preach that this financial crisis will pass in time and people will soon forget.

Then in another group, they were debating what really caused the collapse of Capitalism -the real estate crisis or credit crisis. They obviously haven’t read the Prince Sultan University article on “Credit Crisis – The Worst Is Yet To Come”, which discusses that abstract value instead of hard value has created a vortex of speculation distorting the whole value system and greed takes over. In any case, this debate does nothing to elevate the situation unless one of them actually can isolate the problems and tackle them individually.

Sometimes I do pity those who lack rationality in their thinking. Seriously, I do.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Canadian crisis


"Three years ago we were told that if all the condos that were planned were built, here in the Greater Vancouver area, we would have a 20% oversupply. Now throw in a credit crunch, a tanking economy, depleted savings and investments and we have ...... ??"

"Don't you just love those stories about the car salesman who sold 8 in the morning and another 8 or 12 in the afternoon - before he even had his coffee break. He must be one heck of a salesman given that BMW corporate head office released their sales statistics which showed sales down by over 25%. Gosh without that one fictitious salesman they would have been down by 30%. Now can we please get back to some reality in the discussion of this economic slowdown? Lots of people are going to get hurt financially. Lots of people are already hurting. But no worries really - Stevie will be back on the job come Jan 26. And that's fiction too."

"I think this is even more reason for us to shoot off a bunch of populist nonsense, put on top hats, and see if we can repeat every mistake made in the great depression letter for letter. No sireee, no stimulus, nah ah, no auto bailout, it's better to lose a million jobs and be able to wag smug fingers and have everyone go on holiday in parliament then to pull together as a nation in a pragmatic way and face this crisis. And as everyone from the West, East, Central, English, French, Aboriginal and Northern parts of our country knows it's those dummies in the East, West, Central and Southern, Aboriginal, French and English parts fault. I told you so."

Funny, funny stuff I read on a forum. I have been patient thus far waiting for the Canadian government to be truthful about it all. Our economy is not that disintegrated from the US and as much as we want to believe that our financial structure is sounder, our financial sector is not immune to global recession. This is the biggest financial crisis in 70 years. Canada has been in a recession for over a year. There has been turmoil in the markets since 2007. The housing crisis in the states is as old or older. What is obvious to everyone seemed to be impossible for the Canadian government to understand. Lehman Brothers failed in September. That was when the critical patient (the global economy) went into cardiac arrest. Almost all the major central banks, including EU, China, and USA have all announced counter measures and tackling the problem (regardless of how much effect they actually have).

The feeling I am getting is that the Canadian government thinks that by ignoring the problem or denying it, it will just go away. Self correction, orderly market correction or whatever you want to call it, they are nothing more than highly publicized self delusions. It is not too much to ask that our government at least has a detailed plan by now. It is not too much to ask that any political party has a detailed plan by now. Today, the Bank of Canada cut their key interest rate by 0.75% to stand at 1.5% which is at 1950s level. We'll see how that goes.

Let’s think about it. With a growing class of unemployed especially in the construction industry, sound infrastructure and job creation has climbed to top priority on the list. At this point no amount of stimulus as I see it can restore order and public confidence globally. You have to let them rebuild in a slow and painful process. For the time being, let us all concentrate on being more independent and resolving whatever domestic problems we can. In doing so, we may cut our connections from the rest of the world and may end up killing the trade industry and foreign relations but it also slows the bleeding spreading over from the rest of the world.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Another Cinderella Story

This is quite a cute teen flick to watch. I especially love the two dance clips below. The one with them in a dance studio dancing with a two-way mirror separating them is simply classic.



Santa vs the Snowman


I can’t even remember the last time I had such a long stretch of waking up by 8 in the morning. Pure torture I tell you. It gets increasingly difficult to drag myself out of bed while I try to squeeze every second out of the little sleep time I have. As if having not enough sleep is not bad enough, I have been suffering from these sleep cycles which keeps me consciously unconscious. It is a weird feeling when you know you are sleeping yet very much awake - weird and very, very tiring. Maybe I need a break.

Yesterday, Sunday morning, I found myself attending a RBC IMAX event featuring two shows “The Nutcracker” and “Santa versus the Snowman”. Being no big fan of Holiday flicks, I wasn’t looking forward to this event especially after sitting through the “The Nutcracker”. I swear…. A little longer and my head will crack. Anyways, "Santa vs the Snowman" turned out to be quite funny and entertaining at least. With clever humor and an epic battle scene, I would have to give this short flick two thumbs up.
A TV special first aired in 1997, "Santa and the Snowman" makes the 3D IMAX scene and brings with it loads of fun and laughter. As the lights of the Santa's workshop lured the lonely Snowman in, he is soon consumed with jealousy of the love and goodies that Santa has. The Snowman sets out to take over Santa's job and triggered the story of "The Christmas That Almost Wasn't". I am not sure if the kids can get all the cynicisms involved but what the heck, they all enjoyed it.
By the time we left, the theatre was filled with children’s laughter and you can just feel love in the air. Maybe Christmas won’t be that bad (except for the picking out gifts part).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Feminism - Now and then


I consider myself pretty liberal and open-minded but it still surprises me what some would consider art these days.

Two days ago, I attended a private banking function hosted by RBC at the Vancouver Art Gallery and was held hostage by the large collection of feminism art. Mind you, these are pretty sensitive if not offensive materials if you do not have the appetite for it. Nudity, lots of it, but not in any sense pretty. Maybe it is just me, but I seriously tried to comprehend some of these pieces, including a room build with mattresses with some clips inside, but while the bouncing around seemed fun, the art failed to form a connection with me.

This afternoon, during a lunch with some of my colleagues, we were contemplating how we were born 20-40 years too late. Back in the days, women had a less substantial role in society and men were the beneficiary. By strengthening women’s status, conflicts were created and their independence from men also dissolved many of the traditional family values that were instilled since young. Then divorces climbed and violence increased. People have less and less tolerance for differences and less and less patience to develop manners.

Don’t get me wrong, I have always been a supporter of feminism, at least till it shifted away from the struggle for equality to the battle for power with men. Maybe in many parts of the world, women are still far from equal with men, but let’s face it, we are of different genders and sex, we are meant to be different.

Equality is an ideal that works on paper and in theory but fail in reality. Feminism is not even an ideal, it is just an excuse. Be it for art or priveleges.

HELP UNWANTED - MORE JOB LOSSES




If you haven’t heard, Canada loses 71,000 jobs in November, most in 26 years. The news sent Canada’s Loonie falling to almost a four year low. Meanwhile, US has lost over half a million jobs in November, most in 34 years. So this effectively makes it certain that there will be subsequent rate cuts for Canada as expected in the first quarter of next year. Question is how much more rate cuts can you get before you realize that it is much too little, way too late?

Interestingly with all the rate cuts, the recovery when it comes will come with a sharp hike in the rates. What does this imply? At the moment, most banks are no longer offering floating rates. For term loans, starting position of all the institutional lenders are now 50% Loan-To-Value, with 5-year fixed rate at 7.5% - 7.9%. For operating credits, RBC & BMO are pricing and/or re-pricing with P+1.75% as the benchmark. Now consider a 5 year fixed rate, if historic peak to peak is 7 years, it will most certainly not take 5 years for the market to rebound (probably about 3 ½ years).

If you still need me to spell it out, for those of you who need to get a loan, negotiating a fixed rate will actually work to your favor in the long run. Sorry to say, things will get tougher for the banks and that is what worries me at the moment.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Science Solves the Credit Crunch


Today, I found an interesting and fun piece by BottleBlondSurfer on the GreatWriting Forum where I posts some of my works to sometimes.

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As the world wide credit crunch seems to have confounded the best economic minds around. Politicians have been turning their attention to science in the desperate hope of finding some answers.

After the scientists were briefed and told how economics works and what money is and what you do with it, they tackled the problem by applying well-known formulae to it.

"We have with us Dr Fortescue who will explain his theory”

“Thank you, well standard classical physics tells us that P equals E over t as you see on the graph.

P = E/t

In this equation P is power and E is energy and t is time, but economic law tell us that Time is money, and knowledge is power. So if we substituted these values in our classic equation we then get this, second equation

K=E/M

where k equals knowledge and M equals money. So then solving this formula we get

M=E/K "

“Yes doctor I can see the equation but I can’t see how this solves anything”.

“Well it might not solve the problem but is does explain one thing. If we look at the equation we see that as knowledge approaches zero, money approaches infinity ,regardless of the energy expended. Now this does go some way to explain the salaries of the bankers who caused this crisis"

"Thank you Doctor. It's reassuring to know that science will always come up with the answer"

For those, we forget to care for....


"My valediction left it short with wishful thinking the pain will linger a while.
With lights crowding around the spot,
I stood up high and shouted a mile.

As I wait for the echo that never came,
the light began to fade away.
My audience sits and only sits,
deaf, blind and restless to stay."

Sometimes, people just don't care.

No matter how hard you have tried, we still do not care.

Do we care that a kid committed suicide because he does not want to be a burden on his extremely poor family?

Do we care that the money we make are at the expense of hardworking low-classes that is struggling to get by?

Do we care that the food we cannot finish can feed a country of hunger?

Do we care when we lay in the comfort of our bed at night, others sleeps in the cold without a roof over their head?

Sad to say..... most of us don't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2008 November REBGV Stats

It is a slow November for Greater Vancouver. How slow, you ask? Put it this way, 90% of the realtors are not making money, 95% of the listings did not sell, sales are down 69.7% from a year ago and continuing to decline fast. Despite what some delusional marketeer by the name of Bob Rennie might say, Canada is not that immune to the same real estate and credit crisis which has sent US into disarray.

If you are sitting on a mortgage or two, you should probably start panicking. Truth be told, it is not a buyers or sellers market anymore, it is quickly evolving to a no market with the bottom no where to be seen.

No, this is not the chance of a lifetime. At least not yet. Whatever small knee jerk reactions the market have now and then are hardly any indication that we are reaching some floor resistance. The worst is yet to come.

2008 November REBGV Stats Release

Tough Times, Tough People


For the past couple of days, the bank office has enjoyed a saturnine silence. Meetings after meetings to discuss possible market outlooks and projections still lead us back to where we started. In this unpredictable storm, there is at best guesses on where it will hit next. This leaves us with no realistic analytical positions and preparations. One thing certain, most company will be under water this coming year.

Our high executives addressed the financial crisis in a board meeting today. The sepulchral tone sent chills down your spine as you listened to the list of red numbers and missed targets.

“The US credit crisis has led to the Canadian real estate market woes which have spread to the retail and trade sectors. While we has managed to limit our interim financing portfolio, with Bank of Canada rate cuts and fellow banks using high over-competitive interest rates to attract deposits, whatever profit we had made in the first half of the year has been wiped out. Though we are still in the green this year, with deteriorating market conditions, it will be hard to not break even in 2009.

Our only advantage at the moment is that while other financial institutions are either completely reluctant to offer loan facilities or that they are incapacitated in the amount they can offer, we are still sitting on a strong reserve and open to loan opportunities. ”

With further interest rate cuts expected from Bank of Canada, the spread will diminish even further. This means that for those who need loans, they would have to pay a rate approximate Prime plus 2% or more. Since the few corporate sources for loans will be extremely selective, less than preferred customers will have difficulties in securing a loan. And do not assume that if you are willing to pay high interest rates, there will be plenty of private lenders available. A majority of private lenders have their own equity intricacies and others will be more tied to the sidelines on a wait-and-see mindset.

The lack of lending will adversely affect businesses, both in operations and investments. Many will not survive and those that do will be considerably downsized. What will happen to all the jobless?

Things will get tougher, very quickly. Scary, isn’t it?

Then again, I am reminded of the saying,

"There is no tough time, just tough people."

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thankgiving - A man trampled to death


Jdimytai Damour, a 270 pound man, was trampled to death by rabid shoppers at a Wal-Mart in Long Island this past Friday.

Now, stampedes happen from time to time. In a time of panic, when people are desperately fleeing to a new area, it makes sense that sometimes people get hurt. You hear about it occasionally on the news: pilgrims trampled in Ramadan pilgrimage. Nigerians tramped in riot. Religious pilgrimages are emotional events usually in a poor country with people at their wits end scrounging for food.

But bear in mind, this is in Long Island. In US. Over Wal-Mart merchandise. On Thanksgiving.

Cause? Shoppers eager to get their hands on cheap, chinese-made goods literally broke down the store's glass doors, running over Damour. Yet, as people after people stepped over a man lying in a pile of glass, they would not stop. They can not stop as the back current rushed them in.

Now, I know the economy is bad. But, there will only be a small group of shoppers that are depending on Wal-Mart's holiday's discount in order to survive. Most of this insane mob of shoppers are probably looking for slashed prices on electronics, outdoor gears and clothing.

Thanksgiving used to be a time when people gave thanks for what they were given. Instead, now it has become a time when a man's life is brutally taken. Let us remember that even in the worst times, human lives are still the most important.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Death of the gentleman


Definition of a good man:

"The man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe."

~ John Walter Wayland ~

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Kudos to the death of the gentleman. Manners are overrated, replaced by efficiency nowadays. The Media make their daily outcries at the loss of cultural grace and style while the ladies (what pass for one nowadays) stick up their complaints of the extinction of good men. Meanwhile, I am left with self-evaluation on where I stand on the gauge of class and social etiquette.

Class to me represents a level of dignity. As I have observed, dignity is a scarce commodity nowadays. I mean you find yourself either in the company of street punks, corporate wolves or political asses. Neither is a paradigm fitting of class.

Now there is a reason why women love bad boys. Bad boys are rushes of adrenaline, bursts of spontaneity and surprises or just plainly they make you feel alive. Gentlemen bestow upon others respect and courtesy, but leave you feeling nothing more than a little flattered. Yet after runs and runs of bad boys, after the adrenaline runs dry and all that is left is your broken heart, you will begin to yearn for that little respect that all humans deserve. By this time, you find that good men are few and usually taken. You cry a river and curse their death, but it is all too little too late.

Good men finish last. This is no longer just a saying, this is a fact. As men realize that they are losing out to be kind, sweet and loving, many deflect to the dark side. The few that are remaining either do not have what it takes to be bad to the bone or still possess inherent self-worth and pride. This means that it is either a since of weakness or seeking a person bearing similar values.

Forgive me if I am singing a little self praise. I will admit I have done my share of regrettable mistakes in my limited relationships which I constantly wish I can do over. Many a times, I still let my desires take the better of me only to recover in the nick of time. If I am a gentleman, I am by no means a typical one; I have forgone on many of the superficial manners which would otherwise make me hypocritical. In other words, I try to show respect not necessarily in traditional ways. Some may disapprove of my standards but who ever said respect is one thing and not another? Regardless, I am content to carry myself with a certain self respect and confidence which I hope I can transcend upon others. If all else fails, my conscience is still there to keep me in line. Maybe, that is enough to consider myself as a gentleman.

So my distinguished ladies, if you will lend me your ears. As a close to extinct species, I ask in the greatest humbility, that you will participate in the preservation of our gentle kind. We might be an embodiment of excitement and fun, but in our defence, we will provide you with warmth of constancy, the deepest appreciation of all your qualities and a love we will carry to our graves.

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A little humor to brighten your day, a little courtesy goes a long way.
  • Ladies are not ‘air heads’. They are ‘reality impaired’.

  • Ladies are not ‘bad cooks’. They are ‘microwave compatible’.

  • Ladies are not ‘bleached blondes’. They are ‘peroxide dependent’.

  • Ladies are not ‘cold or frigid’. They are ‘thermally inaccessible’.

  • Ladies are not ‘conceited’. They are ‘intimately aware of her best qualities’.

  • Ladies are not ‘dumb’. They are a ‘detour off the information superhighway’.

  • Ladies are not ‘too skinny’. They are ‘skeletally prominent’.

  • Ladies do not ‘gain weight’. They are ‘metabolic underachievers’.

  • Ladies do not ‘go shopping’. They are ‘mall fluent’.

  • Ladies do not ‘hate televised sports’. They are ‘athletically ignorant’.

  • Ladies do not ‘have a mustache’. They are ‘in touch with their masculine side’.

  • Ladies do not ‘nag you’. They become ‘verbally repetitive’.

  • Ladies do not ‘tease or flirt’. They engage in ‘artificial stimulation’.

  • Ladies do not ‘wear too much makeup’. They have reached ‘cosmetic saturation’.

  • Ladies do not ‘wear too much perfume’. They commit ‘fragrance abuse’.

  • Ladies do not get ‘drunk or tipsy’. They get ‘chemically inconvenienced’.

  • Ladies do not get ‘fat or chubby’. They achieve ‘maximum density’.

  • Ladies do not want to be ‘married’. They want to lock you in ‘domestic incarceration’.

  • Ladies do not wear ‘too much jewelry’. They are ‘metallically overburdened’.

  • Ladies have not ‘been around’. They are ‘previously enjoyed companions’.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sleepless


The moon lingers in anticipation, the night deep.

The city is bright as always, but surprisingly quiet. Sometimes cars roar by, blinding me with hazes of lights. A second later, all is quiet. Again.

The night likes hide and seek. More hiding than seeking. I like the night as it offers solace for the real me.

The night is cold, leaving loneliness bare and awake. And it is brave to look solitude in the eye and appreciate what it brings. Sometimes it will feel scarily unreal, but the real you thrives in the night. I learn the most about the real me at the darkest hours of the night.

Everything between the sunset and sunrise lulls me to a serene clarity of mind. It awakens hidden senses, amplifies intuition and induces thinking. Most of all, it leaves plenty of room for reminiscence. It is when the old me and new me lives in harmony. It is when the roads I have walked and yet to walk converge. It is when my mistakes know that they were wrong and move on. It is when I find courage while drowned in fear.

The night never sleeps. Neither do I.

Bankruptcy in the Cards


An email I have received lately talked about redemption of gift cards which ties in with my belief that the rate of bantrupcies and store closings will climb dramatically on or directly after January. Read more below.

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I wanted to give everyone a heads up that if you tend to give gift cards around the holidays, you need to be careful that the cards will be honored after the holidays. Stores that are planning to close after Christmas are still selling the cards through the holidays even though the cards will be worthless January 1. There is no law preventing them from doing this. On the contrary, it is referred to as 'Bankrupcy Planning'. Below is a partial list of stores that you need to be cautious about.
  • Circuit City (filed Chapter 11)
  • Ann Taylor- 117 stores nationwide closing
  • Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug ,and Catherine's to close 150 stores
    nationwide
  • Eddie Bauer to close stores 27 stores and more after January
  • Cache will close all stores
  • Talbots closing down specialty stores
  • J. Jill closing all stores (owned by Talbots)
  • Pacific Sunwear (also owned by Talbots)
  • GAP closing 85 stores
  • Footlocker closing 140 stores more to close after January
  • Wickes Furniture closing down
  • Levitz closing down remaining stores
  • Bombay closing remaining stores
  • Zales closing down 82 stores and 105 after January
  • Whitehall closing all stores
  • Piercing Pagoda closing all stores
  • Disney closing 98 stores and will close more after January.
  • Home Depot closing 15 stores 1 in NJ ( New Brunswick)
  • Macys to close 9 stores after January
  • Linens and Things closing all stores
  • Movie Galley Closing all stores
  • Pep Boys Closing 33 stores
  • Sprint/Nextel closing 133 stores
  • JC Penney closing a number of stores after January
  • Et han Allen closing down 12 stores.
  • Wilson Leather closing down all stores
  • Sharper Image closing down all stores
  • K B Toys closing 356 stores
  • Loews to close down some stores
  • Dillard's to close some stores
I thought you might find the following article from snopes.com interesting: Bankruptcy in the cards

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Back to Demand and Supply:


There are two types of demand for RE, physical and speculative. The former represents people who literally need a roof over their head. Most people either rent or own, so other than new arrivals we are looking at first time buyers and trade up buyers. Speculative demand includes all those who are buying with the expectation of price increase. This includes not only investors, but home owners who are only buying to avoid being priced out. What has happened to the demand causing all these undigested RE inventories?

Speculative demand has taken a hit from the suffering global financial crisis which suggests that there will not be any price increases anytime soon (short jerks discounted). It may even be accurate to say that speculative demand will die off and would not get resurrected until prices trends have turned around accelerating upwards again. If you ask me for a timeline, cycles suggest that it may take 7-10 years from peak to peak with metropolitans like Vancouver taking shorter strides.

What about Physical demand? Let’s face it, average Joes do not and can not buy 2, 3 or 4 homes. They buy the one primary to stay in, and if the need arises and finances allow, they may upgrade (which means one sale, one purchase). This accentuates the fact that there has been excessive buying. The bases are full. Ownership rate is up because there has been borrowed demand from the future with people who would normally buy condos in their late 20's buying in their early 20's.

What can we do about all these RE inventories? They definitely are not conducive to a healthy real estate market. First we have to acknowledge that inventory is always a lagging indicator which means that it does not react immediately to the crunch of demand. By the time inventories start to become a problem, demand is almost completely dried up. Now, without a balance in demand and supply, there is simply no sensible way to stabilize the RE market let alone move towards recovery.

When talking about balancing demand and supply, the key lies in pricing. By pricing, I am referring to the value in which they can realistically sell for. Take British Columbia for example. 8% completed sales of the listed is hardly indicative of what is the price that balances demand and supply. As discussed above, demand is basically dead leaving the increasing supply undigested. If you think things are bad now, just ponder over the following

B.C. (or more specifically Vancouver) is heavily tilted to small companies and branch offices. Smaller companies also operate with tighter margins so when the going gets tough they cut jobs faster than big companies. Also, when big companies cut, it usually target their branches and secondary employees first. Certainly bad news for Vancouver, even if there aren't as many high profile layoffs as Ontario.

With increasing joblessness, there will be even less demand. Also, there will be an increase numbers of loan delinquencies both commercial and personal, which means that there will be an increase in foreclosures. No matter how the Canadian government chooses not to acknowledge this fact, this result becomes more inevitable with each day.

Somehow I find what's happening to Vancouver now a good thing. Money should go to R&D and other industries beside real estate. Vancouver for the past 3-4 years felt like Hong Kong before the 97 financial crisis: so much money, so many expensive cars on the road, city filled with a false notion of easy money and a severe lack of investments in infrastructure for the economy's future growth. This downturn is a bubble popped, for the collective good of the economy, the people and serious idea/innovation driven economy.

We still have a problem to solve. In midst of the looming supply boom and pricing collapse, what can we do? We have to find some way of stimulating demand. Lucky for us, Vancouver is still one of the best and most disirable places to live in the world. We always have the option of loosening our limitations on immigration (which would mean reducing health care and social services as well) so as to generate new home owner’s demand. New immigrants will also improve the business conditions in BC thus creating the much needed jobs.

So at the end of the day, what can we take away from this experience? I know I have learned to be thankful that I am residing in Canada. I have also gained a new found respect for the conservative approach my dad has always preached.

Understanding Pre-sales


Buying into a pre-sale development was a sure thing when the market was all hype. People were lining up for days just to be the first to buy the next hot development. Needless to say, many do not even have the time to clearly read and understand the terms in which they agree upon. Yet novice investors that had no idea what they were doing were looking and sounding like savvy investors. Self serving Realtors were pushing pre-sales as the gold standard of real estate investment, preaching about the 2-5-10* warranty, without really knowing what that the warranty covered. No one was complaining, at least not when new assignees were in abundance and so were profits.

Some investors thought they were above the game, choosing to cut out buyer’s agents and go direct to the developer’s sales people, many of which are not even licensed realtors. With fancy promotions and logos, buyers were tricked into believing that they were getting special offers. Suddenly, mega marketeers like Bob Rennie become epitome of the successful real estate investor. Many think that they can be like Donald Trump only to find themselves left holding the bag so to speak when they can’t assign their contracts. They will have to complete, and depending on how many pre-sales they wrote contracts on, their closing costs could be multiplied, plus they’ll be on the hook for GST on the purchase price.

With the exception of the few investors who knew what they were getting into, most pre-sale investors fail to see the associated downfalls. You enter into a two year or so contract with no certainty that the project will be on time or even completed. For late deliveries, all you can do is wait. If the project collapses, all you get is your deposit back(no interest). There is also no certainty that the product will turn out the way the showroom portrayed it to be with many developers cutting corners to save profits especially with escalating costs and slowing market. The only thing guaranteed in a pre-sale contract is the developer cannot change the agreed upon sale price. GST is payable on all brand new property. This is extra cost that is hard to get back in a flat or down market.

So, it is not surprising to see a lot of pre-sale buyers walk away and give up their deposits. They are basically in breach of contract and will be liable for any losses incurred by the developers as a result. However, in the case that it goes to court, the judge will ask for the actual losses incurred excluding lawyer fees and consider the deposit to be paying for the losses. Even if the developer does win, the compensation amount he receives will often be too meagle to make hiring a lawyer an option. So pending a market collapse of over 20% market value, it is actually advisable to walk away now instead of getting stuck with a property at the start of the down cycle.

* 2-5-10 Warranty was developed as the minimum home warranty insurance for new home constructions not being built by the home owners themselves. The two year portion covers the labour and materials of the home. In general, this includes electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, air conditioning etc. The 5 year portion covers the building envelope against unintended water penetration. The 10 year portion covers the structure of the home.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thriller Commercial 2008

Second bailout for CitiBank

If you are interested to see how the credit crisis is affecting the world, check out Reuter's map on Global Financial Crisis.
On Monday, Wall Street put aside its worries, at least for a day. Citigroup’s share price, which had plunged to a mere $3.77 on Friday, shot up to $5.95. Shares of its biggest rivals — banks which, with the government’s help, are emerging to dominate the industry — also soared. Bank of America jumped 27 percent, JPMorgan Chase leapt 21 percent and Wells Fargo gained nearly 20 percent.

In the short term, the latest effort(a multi-million dollar backstop) to steady Citigroup has removed the risk that a sudden failure of the giant bank would send losses cascading through the financial industry.

But longer term, the new bailout could haunt regulators and taxpayers. The move ultimately may encourage banks to take more risks in the belief that the government will step in if they run into trouble.

Below is a message delivered by Jonathan Larson, CEO of CitiBank Singapore Ltd.


November 24, 2008

To: Customers of Citibank Singapore Limited

Dear Customer,

In light of the recent and unprecedented volatility in the world's financial markets, I am writing to update you on Citi's continuing financial strength and our commitment to serve all of your financial needs.

Much has happened during the last year as the global financial crisis has unfolded. At Citi, we took decisive and early action to prepare ourselves to weather these tough times through significantly strengthening our capital and liquidity positions. Governments around the world have also responded to the financial crisis by providing explicit support to the banking systems. So you should rest assured that your deposits are safe with us.
  • Deposit Guarantee: In Singapore, the Government has announced that individual and corporate customers of licensed banks, including Citibank Singapore Limited and Citibank NA, Singapore branch, will enjoy protection of the full amount of their eligible deposits.
  • Our Capital: At Citi, while we have taken significant asset write-downs, we have also increased our capital by US$85 billion. Taking this into account, Citi's Tier 1 pro forma capital adequacy ratio is approximately 10.4%, which not only exceeds regulatory requirements but also makes us one of the most well capitalized banks in the world.
Citibank Singapore Limited is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and, as such, is subject to all prudential and other requirements applicable to banks in Singapore. The locally-incorporated Citibank Singapore Limited maintains S$1.5 billion in paid-up capital and over S$3.2 billion in shareholders' funds at the end of the second quarter. Its Tier 1 capital ratio is 15%, which is far in excess of the minimum requirement as prescribed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
  • Our Liquidity: Citi has a unique and diversified universal bank model with over 200 million customer accounts in over 100 countries, which gives us strong and stable operating income, US$780 billion in deposits, unparalleled access to funding, and, as a result, extraordinary levels of liquidity. In addition, like other banks in the United States, we have access to lines of liquidity through the U.S. Federal Reserve.
  • Our Balance Sheet and Ratings: Citi's balance sheet is in excess of US$2 trillion, and our credit rating is among the highest in the world for a financial institution or otherwise.
As for recent movements in Citi's stock price, the safety of your deposits with any bank is not dependent on its stock price. Rather, a bank's ability to meet its obligations is dependent on having strong capital and liquidity. We have carefully reviewed our potential exposures under a wide variety of stress scenarios and are highly confident that between our capital, liquidity and continuing strong operating cash flows, we will maintain our financial strength through these difficult times.

Citi has an almost 200 year history of leadership throughout the world, and we have been serving customers in Asia for over 100 years. We look forward to serving you in the years to come.

Driving your success is what drives us. That's why Citi never sleeps.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World. (Wii)


TOS2 is out barely a week and has been getting thumbsup all over the place. This is what I would consider a successful sequel.

There is a new monster system in place which will certainly keep players occupied trying to get their favourite pets to evolve to their most powerful forms. The pet monster system is very popular in recent games, so I find.

There are also very hilarious and interesting dialogues along the journey which help explain a lot of the histories and relationships with a few jokes here and there.

Adding the "Free Roaming" concept from Vesperia and Abyss nicely augments the already enjoyable, mash-happy combat system, and simplifying the multicharacter Unison Attacks will surely appeal to Chrono Trigger fans. However, I find it difficult at times because the target lock basically controls your character's movement directions.

TOS2 is not difficult but definitely offers many hours of fun. After completion of the game, there is the grade shop which will allow you to buy special upgrades with the grade points you accumulated through the game for your repeat. Trust me, you will want to repeat the game.

Since Wii is not particularly known for their RPGs, TOS2 is actually a Godsend probably only topped by Zelda. The hefty price tag however may be a damper for some. But I do not believe there have been any complaints that it is not worth every cent.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Buried secrets

This evening, the gloaming is punctuated by the reflection of orange and blue horizons. My heart flutters in deep anticipation. Finally, after all the sleepless nights waiting and countless days......

I never liked wearing a watch. Counting the seconds is as excruciating as strolling on fire or dancing on broken glass. Hardly anything is worth that pain. But today, I am wearing a watch.

5:06PM. 9 more minutes to go. My eyes are drawn to the diamond glitter flickering through the haze. I lay on the golden sands, take up a handful and feel them tickle through my fingers. Breathing. The salty air is heavy and refreshing. The cool wind sweeps by and caresses me softly. I close my eyes and let the serenity in.

5:10PM. My eyes open. Sitting up. From my bag, I take out my worn-out diary and flip to the last entry.

November 20th 2008

The minds of men hold dark corners, in which lurk our inner most obsessions, phobias and unutterable desires. These corners of our ego are cloaked from the ones we love lest they unearth facets beyond their conception. Indeed, we fear to probe deep within ourselves, afraid to find what skulks in these devil’s alcoves to be outside even our own reason.

They seep their poison into consciousness and constantly cry for satisfaction. Some find the strength to keep them in abeyance, below the surface, masked from all. Some will choose to be free of this burden by their own means.

Tomorrow I will find my grave. I will go to it not with fear of death itself but of what my mind will glimpse in the last moments of life.

I have witnessed great good but even more of great evil, all by great men. In the end, the evils corrupted my soul, infested and left it rotting. Deep inside, I know my life leaves regrets. Regrets feed on you, eating away till that moment when there is nothing left. This is my ever persisting losing streak. They will not go, the evil and the regrets, till I end this. Tomorrow, that moment will come.

Tomorrow, I will bury all my secrets and regrets. The concourse of my actions have left irreparable repercussions, damaged many and destroyed many lives. Nothing I can do can make it right. But tomorrow, I can stop it once and for all.

My final words as I will speak no more tomorrow.

“I am sorry. For everything.”

5:15PM. Book closed. I bury it in the sands. Standing up. I look at the raging waves welcoming me. A smile breaks out as I go and embrace their welcome.

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“Today at 6:45PM, a body has been found in the Marina Bay. The body was washed up to shore by the waves and discovered by a passerby. The body has been identified as Peter Walker. Walker has been seeing the headlines lately following police investigations suspecting him of being involved in a number of missing person cases. However, the police lacked sufficient evidence for prosecution.

After a sweep of the area, the police has recovered a diary believed to belong to Walker. When asked about the diary’s contents, the police has refused to comment.

The police has ruled Walker’s death as suicide with no cause for suspicion otherwise and his diary has been entered into evidence.

Hopefully, he has left us with some hope. ”

Greater Vancouver Real Estate Charts

Take a look at this chart to see what the growth of real estate in Greater Vancouver has been like. (Click on picture for a bigger view)

If you are looking for statistics in RE of Greater Vancouver, REALTYLINK is a good site to check out. I personally was quite intrigued with their listed vs sold graphs of detached, attached and apartments (click here).

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Now let's look at how Canada is doing.

The effect in the Okanagan on RV sales, and every part of the tourist economy is huge, forestry is in the toilet for interior cities. Alberta has already felt some pressure especially since the price of oil plunged dramatically. Alberta has been supporting a large part of the Canadian economy, now some of the oil developers are saying they will delay development in Fort McMurray and Edmonton. The effect has already been felt in B.C. as rich Albertans dump their recreational or investment properties.

At this point, with every country in a serious crunch, it has already transcended the state of "real estate correction" into a global correction. While there are reports of optimism (governments still in denial), fact be told, the Canadian economy relies heavily on foreign support, be it trade or tourism.

The collapse of public confidence is probably the worst crisis of all. It will be reflected on the real estate activities or the lack of. When the RE dies, so do the banks and then there will be people losing their jobs and before you know it, the domino effect will spiral out of control. So it is not that I do not understand why the government has to keep a positive outlook or instill confidence. However, given the circumstances, I seriously question if anyone still believes.