Wednesday, September 10, 2014

On which Superhero TV Series to watch for Fall Season 2014.

This coming fall season is a season of superheroes on network TV with a gamut of offerings such as Arrow, The Flash, Gotham, Constantine, Agents of Shield and Agent Carter. Now I know that we are all busy people with not enough time to watch all the shows on TV so I have prepared this blog entry to give you a quick review of these shows and to provide an opinion on what is worth watching based on various qualitative and quantiative criteria with qualitative being personal opinion and quantitative measures by rotten tomato ratings.

Starting with:

Tomatometer: 100%
Audience Rating: 95%
Season Premiere Date: Oct 8, 2014

Starting this fall in it's 3rd season, Arrow is without a doubt the best superhero movie this decade. Based on DC Comics hero Green Arrow. Season 2 saw an epic showdown between Green Arrow and Deathstroke the Terminator in an epic finale that rivals any others on TV. Season 3 promises greater action sequences with much hinted appearance of Ra's al Ghul, that will keep looking forward to Wednesdays every week. Also promised is a crossover with potential hit series, The Flash which will see two 1 hour episodes screened depicting a crossover between the emerald archer and the scarlet speedster.

Great action sequences
Compelling storyline
Strong emotional attachment to characters
2 hour crossover episode with the flash!

Presence of some cheesy one liners

My verdict: If you can only watch one of the 6 shows, this show is the definite number 1.

The Flash
Tomatometer: N/A (Not yet aired)
Audience Rating: 96%
Premiere Date: Oct 7, 2014
From the same creators as Arrow, the Flash brings to screen the Scarlet Speedster and forensic scientist, Barry Allen who acquires super speed through a freak accident and becomes known as the Fastest Man Alive. The birth of the Flash was featured in a crossover episode in season 2 of Arrow and it is promised that this will be a faithful adpation of the DC Comics character. With the much anticipated crossover event, this show has is likely to take off running at a pace that will put you on the edge of your seat.
Crossover event
Faithful adaptation to the comic book character
Great choreography and compelling storyline
Some cheesy acting expected

My verdict: A definite must watch along with Arrow. This show is a number 2 on my list.

Tomatometer: N/A (Not yet aired)
Audience Rating: 100%
Premiere Date: Sep 22, 2014
Airing on Fox, Gotham is an origin story of the great DC Comics Super-Villains and vigilantes, revealing an entirely new chapter that has never been told. Gotham follows one cop's rise through a dangerously corrupt city teetering on the edge of evil, and chronicles the birth of one of the most popular super heroes of our time.
Great Casting
Unexplored period within the Dark Knight's timeline with focus on James Gordon rather than the Dark Knight
Bruce Wayne's still a kid so no this will be a Gotham without Batman

My verdict: Potentially worth watching. Number 3 on my list.

Tomatometer: N/A (Not yet aired)
Audience Rating: 89%
Premiere Date: Oct 24, 2014
Airing on NBC, Constantine is based on the wildly popular comic book series "Hellblazer" from DC Comics, seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult John Constantine specializes in giving hell... hell. Armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and his wickedly naughty wit, he fights the good fight - or at least he did. With his soul already damned to hell, he's decided to leave his do-gooder life behind. But when demons target Liv, the daughter of one of Constantine's oldest friends, he's reluctantly thrust back into the fray - and he'll do whatever it takes to save her.
Trailer looks good
Series aims to bring back the charm of Buffy the Vampire Slayer of the 90s
Intelligent Storyline
Might not live up to the hype of Keanu Reeve's Constantine (2005)

My verdict: Potentially worth watching. Number 4 on my list.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Tomatometer: 86%
Audience Rating: 71%
Season Premiere Date: Sep 23, 2014
The show premiered on Sep 24, 2013 with much hype but later proved to be a disappointment as the choreography, storyline and acting were very much sub par. It starts off in the aftermath of the battle between invading aliens and the Earth's mightiest heroes, the Avengers, but doesn't manage to tap into the vast MCU to propel its storyline forward. The show also relies on verbal story telling to add an enigmatic feel when a flashback could have done a better job. Furthermore, the fight choreography is limited considering the size of the budget for the production. AoS tries to redeem itself by connectiing with the events on Captain America, the Winter Soldier but it is a case of too little too late.
Connected to Marvel's Movie Universe
Zero connection to characters on the show
Only good actor on the show is Clark Gregg
Fails to tap into the vast MCU
Relies on verbal story telling instead of flashbacks

My Verdict: Wish I could take back the hours I spent watching Season 1. Number 5 on my list

Marvel's Agent Carter
Tomatometer: N/A (Not Aired Yet)
Audience Rating: 50%
Season Premiere Date: Unconfirmed

Airing in 2015 is Marvel's Agent Carter, which will see Agent Peggy Carter appearing in the second season of Marvel's Agents of Shield this fall. However, there is little news out there on whether we will be seeing younger Peggy Carter from when S.H.I.E.L.D. was formed, or a slightly older Carter in a flashback with Coulson, or the dementia suffering Carter from ‘The Winter Soldier.’ It’s easy to assume that they could be using flashbacks to make parallels between Peggy putting together S.H.I.E.L.D. originally with Coulson trying to rebuild it in modern times. Offhand, also in the episode will be TV Host George Stephanopoulos who will be playing himself.

Likely to be connected with Marvel Cinematic Universe
Likely to be sub par version of Marvel's Agent of Shield with a focus on an even less interesting character.

My Verdict: Not worth your time. Number 6 on my list


Friday, July 4, 2014

On S.R. Nathan's 90th Birthday.

So, yesterday was former President S.R. Nathan's 90th birthday. Our Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong gave a good tribute to Former President S R Nathan, highlighting his role as a "tree planter", building up young nascent organizations into mature institutions like NTUC, SID, MFA, etc.

Although, people are generally divided in their opinions over whether S R Nathan had been one of our better presidents, one thing we can be certain about is that S.R. Nathan is a national hero.

Wait, a minute. Some of you might be re-reading that last sentence and wondering, since when was S.R. Nathan a national hero?

If you are one of these people then I guess it's story time...

On 31 January 1974, four men armed with submachine guns and explosives attacked the Shell oil refinery complex on Pulau Bukom. The half of these men were from the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and half were from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). They planned to disrupt the oil supply from Singapore to other countries, especially South Vietnam.

 At the beginning of their operation, the terrorists' boat ran aground on a coral reef. They managed to reach the shore of Bukom after convincing an unsuspecting boatman to tow them towards the island. As they headed towards a gate of an oil tank installation, they fired shots at two passing vehicles although no one was injured. A sentry at a security post managed to escape and raise the alarm.

The terrorists were able to detonate 3 of the 12 explosives they were carrying, but they caused little damage. To escape, they then hijacked the ferryboat Laju at the Bukom jetty and held 5 crew members hostage. This led to a chase and Laju was quickly surrounded by navy gunboats and marine police boats at the Eastern Anchorage.

So this is where S.R. Nathan's role comes in.

Back then, S.R. Nathan was the Director of Security and Intelligence Division at MINDEF and he led a 13 men party consisting of 4 commandos from the SAF and 8 other government officials. Following a few days of intense negotiations, during which 2 hostages managed to escape by jumping overboard in the middle of the night, the negotiation party managed to convince the terrorists to release the remaining 3 crew members in exchange for a party of "guarantors" for their safe passage to the Middle East

S.R. Nathan was among the party of  "guarantors". Essentially, he volunteered to take the place of a hostage so that the hostage could go free.

On the night of 7 February. The group was transferred from Laju to the Marine Police Headquarters and then to Paya Lebar Airport where the terrorists surrendered their weapons. After they freed the remaining three hostages, the four terrorists left Singapore on 8 February at 1:25 am,

Accompanied by Nathan’s team on a specially arranged Japan Airlines flight to Kuwait. After reaching Kuwait, the 13-men party flew back and reached Singapore on the following day.

Now, how many people can claim that their president once risked his life to save a hostage. If you aren't impressed by this, I don't know what will.

On the day before Independence Day, let's also remember the 13-men party who risked their lives to save the hostages in the Laju Ferry Incident.


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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On CDL Chief Calling on Gov't To Ease Property Curbs

For the second time in five months, the executive chairman of Hong Leong Group Singapore and City Development Limited (CDL), Kwek Leng Beng, has called on the government to review property restriction measures here

He told the press on Tuesday that “foreigners were choosing to plough their investment dollars into countries like Britain, Australia and the US over Singapore, while Singaporeans have been investing abroad.”

Image from theonlinecitizen

Now, anyone who has an iota of common sense will know that advice from a property developer to the government to remove curbs on property speculation is prone to bias.

Kwek Leng Beng goes on to state that, “We are losing these investments to other countries even though these foreign properties have a higher risk profile,” Mr Kwek told The Straits Times. “It is unlikely these investment dollars will return to Singapore.”

Although there is probably some truth to Kwek Leng Beng's statement, the bigger question is whether foreign investment in property is desirable for the country.

Yes, investments in properties create jobs and contributes heavily to the GDP. If party A buys a Condo from the developer at $1M and sells it to party B for $2M within 1 year, the GDP for the economy increases by $3M. After factoring for agent commissions, lawyer's conveyance fees, the contribution to the GDP is slightly higher. Add to that the various taxes, stamp duties and fees which contributes to the government's coffers, it is easy to see how attracting foreign investments in property can be a lucrative business.  After all 3 out of the 10 richest persons in Singapore have their source of wealth derived from property, with the top 2 having their wealth derived almost entirely from property

However, the jobs created in this industry are few and the technological advancements, even fewer. This is exacerbated when it is just the same property exchanging hands, multiple times without any new product or services created for the society.

Despite all these, foreign investments in property might do more harm than good to a society with scarce land space and an increasingly densely populated population. Encouraging property speculation results in runaway property prices that prices out many locals from home ownership. Although, Singapore has managed this well by providing government housing through the HDB, the very high difference in land sales prices between land earmarked for HDB development and land earmarked for private property development gives the government a lot of incentive to prefer one type of land sales over the other. Furthermore, it discourages upwardly mobile locals from owning private property, leading them to compete with "less upwardly mobile" locals for government property.

Instead of encouraging foreign investments in property, we should encourage foreign investments in businesses which creates jobs, technological advancements and products and services which benefits the society at large.

Compared to US, where none of the top 10 richest persons derive their richest from property, we can see a very glaring difference between the 2 countries. This is one reason why despite strong push from the government, a solid infrastructure network and a highly intelligent workforce, we do not have breakthrough entrepreneurial companies like Facebook or Google incubated on this island. After all, who wants to take the risk of entrepreneurship when rents are sky high and you can easily make a lot of money as a property agent. Why would any foreign investor, invest in a local start-up when investing in property gives much better yield?

To add insult to injury, our tech entrepreneurs, Sim Wong Hoo and Tan Min Liang. have to run off to California to find angel investors willing to invest what would later become the world renown companies, Creative and Razer.

End of the day, we do want foreign investments in Singapore. We want foreign investments in business that creates jobs for Singaporeans. We want foreign investments in technology to create technological advancements in Singapore. We want foreign investments in arts, culture and sports to make Singapore a vibrant city. But we do not want a repeat of the Tulips mania by having foreign investors exchange overly priced property around like a game of musical chairs.

Back in the 70s, Dr. Goh Keng Swee laid the foundation stones for Singapore's economy by promoting foreign direct investments by multi national companies to Jurong Industrial Estate and not by building thousands of condos for foreigners to invest in, because he knew that this was the kind of investment that would lead to Singaporeans developing more skills, create jobs and improve standards of living. Let's move away from speculative property investments and direct foreign investments to projects that will have better positive externalities for the society.


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 On Value of HDB flats at end of 99 year Lease 

 Property Valuation Tool



Thursday, May 15, 2014

On whether Singaporeans are Xenophobic

When I read news like how anti-foreign protesters are burning down factories in Vietnam, I question whether Singaporeans are really xenophobic. Despite our grouses against an increasingly foreign population crowding out our infrastructure and job market, we do not burn factories or murder foreigners or push aliens onto subway tracks.

In fact, Singaporeans are far from xenophobic. When Mainland Chinese, Huang Na was murdered by a Malaysian on local soil, we opened our wallets and donated enough money for her mother to buy a bungalow. When a Thai girl fell onto the MRT tracks and lost her legs, we donated money to cover her hospital fees and more. When disasters occur in neighboring countries, Singaporeans are always among the first to offer help and relief.

The people and government officials who accuse Singaporeans of xenophobia have taken our good nature for granted. For 40 years Singaporeans have never rioted or went on strike. The first non-sanctioned strike in modern times involved only Mainland Chinese bus drivers. The first riot since independence that resulted in many torched vehicles was committed not by Singaporeans but by Indian foreign workers. Another strike we had that involved SIA pilots was instigated by Malaysians who, subsequently got their PRs revoked by none other than Minister Mentor, Lee Kuan Yew.

Now, I am ranting here not to promote xenophobia but to remind Singaporeans and our critics about who we really are. We are the people who despite working the longest hours in the world and in one of the most unhappy workforce at wages that have not risen faster than inflation levels for the low income group, continue to do so without striking or rioting. We are the people who see our sons and brothers sacrifice their lives, sweat, tears and 2 years and more of their time for an increasingly dichotomous society where foreign talents appear to be able to enjoy this peace and security without any of the sacrifice.

When you think about it, it is almost impossible to find another culture that will take so much shit and sacrifice 2 years of their lives without violently protesting, especially when, every other day governments are being overthrown and heads of states being removed by court or by coup.

We have a lot of things to be thankful to our government for, such as strong administration and relatively low rates of corruption. However, our leaders also need to be thankful that we are an extremely cooperative and hardworking populace. Although we have many complaints. We do not create deadlocks in the streets, shut down airports or throw out the government when faced with growing income inequality and uncertainty for our livelihoods. Instead we try our best to eke out a living by working longer hours, or taking on more jobs. You don't even need to leave the country to see, that this kind of tenacity and behavior is unique to its citizens and not to its government. Compare this to all the times we had a strike or a riot in the past 40 years and you can see that if our government were leading the Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese or Malaysians, the situation will be very much different. 

We get that it is important to be foreigner friendly to attract investors and improve investor confidence. But where possible, we would like to ensure that policies that favors foreigners over locals be eliminated especially since it is the sons of Singapore and not the foreign population who will rise up to defend the country in times of need. If we claim that the reason why Singapore survived the separation from Malaysia is due to the efforts of the ruling party, then the reason why Singapore is the success story it is today must be due to the tenacity and virtues of its citizens.


Monday, May 12, 2014

L.A.M. on whether the Singapore Flyer is worth S$240 million.

Last week we heard, that the world's second tallest Ferris Wheel didn't manage to convince Merlin Entertainments, the British firm behind the London Eye and Legoland theme parks to acquire it for S$240million.

Singapore Flyer’s woes take a new spin after Merlin talks collapse

When I heard about this news, one of the first things that came to my mind whether the price tag is too high for a giant revolving shape that has a circumference that follows the properties of 2πr.

In order to answer the above question, I decided to do some back of the envelope calculations to find out. Based on 2013 numbers. Merlin Entertainments PLC had an net margin of 12.2% and an ROA of 5.6%

The ROA is the return on asset and is a measure calculated by dividing the Net Income over Total Assets. Since, the asset in question here is the Singapore Flyer and the price tag is $240m. In order not to dilute it's ROA of 5.6%. Merlin Entertainments PLC needs a net income of $13.44m annually to justify purchasing the Singapore Flyer.

The Net Margin is a measure of the Net Income against Total Revenues. At 12.2%, this means that assuming that the Singapore Flyer has a similar Net Margin as the Merlin Entertainments PLC, a Net Income of $13.44m translates to a Revenue of S$110.16m annually.

The Singapore Flyer is a 28 cabin ride which can hold 28 people and operates 16 hours a day. At 37min per cycle, the Singapore Flyer has a maximum capacity 21,952 persons per day or an annual maximum capacity of slightly more than 7.4 million riders. In order to meet the numbers, the Singapore Flyer needs to make $14.89 per person, assuming 100% capacity.

Now let's look at some assumptions. Realistically, attracting 7.4m riders is a tall order. The London Eye, the most popular Ferris Wheel attracts on average 4m visitors a year. Assuming, that somehow, through marketing efforts, synergies, etc, the Singapore Flyer can attract 4m riders a year, the revenues per person required increases to $27.54.

Now , the big question is how much would 4m visitors a year be willing to pay for a 37min ride in a flyer attraction. I did a quick survey and tried to rank various entertainment activities by price

Watching a Movie: $8.50.
Good for 2 hours of entertainment. $4.25/hr.
Universal Studios Singapore: $66. Good for 8 hours of entertainment. $6.60/hr
Marine Life Park: $38. Good for 4 hours of entertainment. $9.50/hr
Adventure Cove Water Park: $36. Good for 4 hours of entertainments. $9/hr

Now at $33 for the Singapore flyer, the pricing is definitely too high for 37min - 1 hr of entertainment value. A more reasonable price would be $5-$9. However, for the purpose of this analysis, I will be a little bit more generous and assume the reasonable price for adult tickets to be $12 and $6 for child tickets in order to attract 4m visitors a year.

Assuming a 2:1 adult to child ratio, the average revenue from Flyer ticket sales per person would be $11. And assuming that the Singapore Flyer on average can attract a dollar for dollar in peripheral revenues from gift shops, rental, special occasions, etc, this puts revenues per person at $22.

Working backwards from this magical number of $22, the ideal price tag for the Singapore Flyer is around $191.71m. As such, at $240m, the Singapore Flyer is overpriced. A more reasonable asking price would be $190m.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

L.A.M. on Grace Lee's Strait's Times Forum Note About Having Female Only Train Carriages

So I read this gem on the Straits Times Forum by Grace Lee about having female only train carriages. It is very interesting and all until I came across the following point.

"Perhaps the first two carriages can be reserved for females, and the last two for males with the middle two for both sexes. 
Posters of celebrities like Aunty Lucy and Gurmit Singh can be pasted on the train doors for easy identification of the cabins, and staff can help usher passengers during the initial trial period.""

There is only one problem with this suggestion. Auntie Lucy is a man dressed as a woman. If she is used for "easy identification" of the cabins, the first two cabins will be filled with cross-dressing men, the middle two with both genders and the last two with men only. The only reason this will reduce the incidence of outrage of modesty on trains is because less women will take public transport, since they can only occupy 1/3 of the trains.


Perhaps the first two carriages can be reserved for females, and the last two for males, with the middle two for both sexes.
Posters of celebrities like Aunty Lucy and Gurmit Singh can be pasted on the train doors for easy identification of the cabins, and staff can help usher passengers during the initial trial period.
- See more at:
Perhaps the first two carriages can be reserved for females, and the last two for males, with the middle two for both sexes.
Posters of celebrities like Aunty Lucy and Gurmit Singh can be pasted on the train doors for easy identification of the cabins, and staff can help usher passengers during the initial trial period.
- See more at:
Perhaps the first two carriages can be reserved for females, and the last two for males, with the middle two for both sexes.
Posters of celebrities like Aunty Lucy and Gurmit Singh can be pasted on the train doors for easy identification of the cabins, and staff can help usher passengers during the initial trial period.
- See more at:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

L.A.M. on the Relationship Between Religion And Various Social-Economic Factors

Pew Research has released data indicating Singapore as the most religiously diverse country in the world with a Religious Diversity Index of 9.0. Based on their research and data, Singapore's population is made up of:

Buddhists: 33.9%
Christians: 18.2%
Unaffiliated: 16.4%
Muslims: 14.3%
Other Religions: 9.7%
Hindus: 5.2%
Jewish: < 0.1%


Looking at the data and research from Pew Research, led me to question whether there is any correlation between Religion and various other Social-Economic Factors. Luckily for me, they uploaded excel based data of their research which I was able to transpose onto various other commonly available data for Social-Economic Factors to come out with analysis like:

Before you look through the data, please note that I am not trying to demean one religion over another and am not here to incite any religious or racial hatred, all I have done is to merely provide some statistics based on widely published numbers.

Concentration of Religion vs Birth Rates

For example, I downloaded data on Birth Rates per 1000 and compared it with the religious diversity data from Pew Research to obtain the following correlation between concentration of religion and birth rates

Birth Rate
Folk Religions
Other Religions

Interpreting from the correlation table above. Higher concentration of Muslims is correlated with higher birthrates, while having higher concentrations of people with no religious affiliations is correlated with lower birthrates.


Shown above are scatter plots of the concentration of Muslims vs Birth Rates and concentration of No Religious Affiliation vs Birth Rates.

Concentration of Religion vs Life Expectancy

Overall Life Expectancy
Other Religions
Folk Religions

Interpreting from the correlation table above. Higher concentration of Other Religions is weakly correlated with higher life expectancy, while having higher concentrations of Muslims is correlated with lower life expectancy.

Concentration of Religion vs Literacy 

Other Religions
Folk Religions

Interpreting from the correlation table above. Higher concentration of Christianity is correlated with higher literacy, while having higher concentrations of Muslims is correlated with lower literacy.


Concentration of Religion vs GDP (PPP) per capita

GDP (PPP) per capita
Other Religions
Folk Religions

Interpreting from the correlation table above. Higher concentration of Other Religions is  correlated with higher GDP (PPP) per capita, while having higher concentrations of Muslims is correlated with lower GDP (PPP) per capita. This is very interesting, some countries with high concentrations of Muslims like Qatar (67.7%) have very high GDP per capita. However the presence of countries like Niger (98.4% Muslim), Afghanistan (99.7% Muslim) bring down the overall correlation to a negative one.


Concentration of Religion vs Average IQ

Average IQ
Other Religions
Folk Religions

Interpreting from the correlation table above. Higher concentration of Other Religions is correlated with higher average IQ, while having higher concentrations of Muslims is correlated with lower average IQ.

So based on the analysis, there appears to some positive correlations between

1) Concentrations of Muslims vs Birth Rates

2) Concentrations of Other Religions vs Life Expectancy
3) Concentrations of Christianity vs Literacy
4) Concentrations of Other Religions vs GDP (PPP) per capita
5) Concentrations of Other Religions vs Ave IQ


PS: Feel free to reach comment below, if you would like me to analyze between concentration of religion against any other commonly available data. Full data will be available for download at the end of today.


1)  I would like to clarify that correlation does not equal to causation. Although there are some statistical correlation between concentration of religion and various factors, it does not necessarily mean that a particular religion results in higher wealth, literacy, birth rates etc. There could be many other factors involved that are not accounted for in the analysis.

2) I am not trying to demean one religion over another and am not here to incite any religious or racial hatred, all I have done is to merely provide some statistics based on widely published numbers.

3) Finally, there will definitely be outliers in the data, so although people can claim things like but XXX country is so rich and they have alot of people from religion YYY, the presence of these outliers do not necessarily disprove the data.

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