Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Relevance of Ratings Agencies

Do people still look at rating agencies "wonderful recommendations"? To put yesterday's market into perspective, the KLCI lost about 1% while Nikkei lost 1.4% ... did Japan go through a downgrade too? Rating agencies nowadays only affirm what the market already knows. But just to be fair to them, we will fall a bit in sympathy.
Truth be told, foreign funds held a lot of Malaysian bonds and last month they were already exiting based on the turmoil in funds being pulled back. The ringgit did not fall just over night, it was weakening for the past few weeks.
The Malaysian ringgit closed slightly higher at RM3.2455 against the US dollar and RM2.5529 against the Singapore dollar today. The local currency slipped to historic three-year lows of RM3.2934 against the greenback and 15-year-low of RM2.5862 against the Singapore dollar yesterday on fears of capital outflows from bond transactions.
The ringgit has dropped 2.7 percent since June 30 to RM3.2463 per dollar, a loss second only to India’s rupee among 23 other emerging-market currencies. The decline pushed the ringgit beyond the limits of the Bollinger band, signaling a reversal may be imminent, data compiled by news agency, Bloomberg said today, adding that was the biggest deviation in developing markets. Stochastic oscillators also showed the ringgit is oversold.
The ringgit’s 5.2 percent loss this year would be its worst annual performance since a 35 percent plunge in 1997, during the Asian financial crisis. It closed at RM3.2379 to the US dollar yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, the weakest level since July 2010.
Yet we are not denying that there is a problem with our deficit. There is. We need to implement the GST but that seemed to be delayed pending the outcome of another mini election end of the year.
Bloomberg reported today that Morgan Stanley has predicted that Malaysia’s economic growth and current account surplus which is more than twice China’s relative to gross domestic product, will help the ringgit catch up with regional peers.
The central bank can use its US$138 billion war chest to prop up the ringgit, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The GDP is forecast to grow 5 percent this year, after a 5.6 percent gain in 2012, the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of 21 analysts shows.
The ringgit could underperform as US$2.9 billion of sovereign notes mature today, raising the prospect of capital outflows. The currency slid this month on concern global investors, who owned 33 percent of Malaysian government bonds in May, the highest proportion in Southeast Asia, will pull funds out as the U.S. outlines plans to rein in monetary stimulus. 
Malaysia’s debt-to-GDP ratio of 53.5 percent is higher than the 25 percent in Indonesia, 51 percent in the Phillippines and 43 percent in Thailand. It is also approaching the government’s 55 percent threshold.
While Malaysia’s current-account surplus will narrow to 6 percent of GDP this year, from 6.1 percent in 2012 and 12 percent in 2011, it is higher than the average 2.8 percent in Asian countries and 2.4 percent for China.
Malaysia’s “fundamentals of a current-account surplus and sustained growth should warrant a correction in the recent weakness in the ringgit,” according to a July 25 report from Morgan Stanley analysts. Bank of America strategists including Christy Tan recommended their clients use options to buy the ringgit, saying the central bank will sell foreign reserves to shore up the currency should the decline worsen.
Will this derail the active local equity market? My view is no. The current run is not that dependent on the influx of foreign funds. There has been a willingness for local investors to parlay liquidity to stocks as they take money off the property side. 

Here, Now, Before, Used To ... The Temporariness Of Life

This posting by Tom Hussey reveals so much about so many things. The main takeaway for me is not just to look at someone and not give due what he/she has been through.

young man old man images

Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were

My eye recently got pulled towards “Reflections”. A photo series by Tom Hussey, where he portrays the elderly as they reflect on their younger selves in the mirror. This is a wonderfully done series that gives you pause to think, about the passage of time and the lives we are living.

 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were
 Reflections: Portraits of the Elderly as They Once Were

Thursday, July 25, 2013

If The Beatles Did Not Exist

The adage about people only remember the winners, those who came in second or third do not get enough credit. In the world of modern music (i.e. stuff churned out popularly over the last 100 years), we can debate it to death but The Beatles would probably come out tops again and again. So much so that their music and the band members (even the pathetic Ringo Starr) are always revered no end.

If The Beatles did not exist ... who do you think will take over that mantelpiece? Its a great topic for bar talk. It is also very good to bring up the achievements of the runner ups ... many whom we will casually write off or be forgotten even though their contributions were just as enormous.

The Beatles had a different sound, its not like Presley's rock n roll (basically a white man doing a black man singing rock n roll, and tons of charisma). It also helped enormously that they came out of UK to conquer the US of A. Fair to say, the best progressive sounds almost inevitably came from the UK over the past 40 years, except for the period where Seattle contributed enormously.

So, who would we be lauding if there were no Beatles?

Top of my list would be The Beach Boys, the lacked the pull of The Beatles largely because they did not really conquer the rest of the world like The Beatles. They were categorised as beach-Californian-happy-go-lucky music, but OMG the immense talents of Brian Wilson rivaled Lennon-McCartney for sure. Just listen to the melodies and lyrics of these two songs. The inter layered melodies, harmonies and instrumentation all guided to a crescendo.

We can name tons of hits which many do not even know were The Beach Boys but when put together its massive: Help Me Rhonda, Surfin USA, Wouldn't It Be Nice, Don't Worry Baby, I Get Around, California Girls, ... the exquisitely beautiful God Only Knows.

The Beach Boys had a reunion tour last year and even stopped in Singapore, not much fuss was made, but can you imagine if The Beatles had a reunion tour today ... why the huge difference ... to me The Beach boys were sooo good too but now they are widely perceived as just another great rock and roll outfit of the past ... sigh. Much like how everybody under-rates how important Rush is to rock music history and evolution. (Probably cause they are Canadians). Next to The Beach Boys, other worthy contenders would have been The Monkees, CCR and The Hollies ... though I wasn't around to hear them, I am not that old but to be around in the 60s would have been wild with the emergence of such musical talents.

What's you pick ...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Its Official, It Is Possibly The Best Sandwich I've Had

You get very cynical when you see advertising like below. I think Dave's Deli do wonderful stuff with simple food. I believe the father son team opened Dave as a more upmarket dining place at 1U. Its pretty decent.

Then I saw this banner for a couple for months already. Seriously??!!

Basically its good roasted pork belly, but its the accompanying veggies and condiments that make the sandwich sparkle. I kid you not, once I had it, I immediately order one to takeaway.

Don't play-play ... the bread is imported from France OK...

Shan't describe too much about the taste, go and try it yourself ... somehow it goes very well with a hot cup of Americano.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cooking With Dali - Pasta Baby!

The beauty about pasta is you can invent endlessly, hence I am not terribly keen with the normal pasta dishes unless they are done using fresh ingredients and sauces made from scratch. Here I present 3 pasta dishes that I cook for myself frequently. They have a running theme ... lol...

The first I named it Decadence ... you will know why soon enough. You can buy cheaper whole truffles (I mean for RM150) which can last you for sometime. I use Plantin Delices truffle oil.  The other ingredient is tobiko (flying fish roe) which is widely available at supermarkets. 

Break two eggs, shave some truffles, whip it and fry. Finish with a drizzle of truffle oil. Use angel hair pasta for this dish. Fry some chopped garlic in low heat with olive oil, throw in cooked pasta, season with sea salt, switch off gas, drizzle truffle oil. Shave some truffles and wahlah ....  probably casy me RM30 per serving but its money well spent I think.

The second is Anchovy Baby! A dear friend bought some premium anchovies from London recently for me. Immediately a simple yet very tasty pasta dish in less than 20 minutes. 

Ingredients: two anchovy fillets, two table spoon extra virgin olive oil ... mashed together in pestle and mortar; chilli oil (or chopped chilli padi). Olive oil in pan low heat (as you shouldn't use olive oil in high heat) with chopped garlic. I use fettucine for this. Then put in paste  and fry for 30 seconds, put in pasta, drizzle with truffle oil to taste. Simple but oh so good, you can throw in some veggies (snow peas or broccoli).

I cannot tell you how amazing this simple dish can taste. The saltiness from the anchovy is so natural.

The third is my usual pasta dish for parties. I called it False Vegetarian. Ingredients: lots of cherry tomatoes, fry in low heat with oil till almost breaking up. Secret ingredient: chu yau char, can get from your butcher, get loads, fry with normal cooking oil that's the secret, you shouldn't allow the pork fat to fry in their own fat, it lacks taste.

I use tons of snow peas (blanched) and seared zuchinni (lightly grilled) for this. Use also loads of chopped garlic, fry in oil. For presentation, I use two tone pasta, fettucine again. Throw in veggies and half of the cyc, fry for a while, then in goes the cooked and drained pasta, toss in half a bowl of veggie stock, toss till dry. Thorw in remainder cyc, drizzle truffle oil and toss.

To serve, I use loads of tobiko and black caviar ( there are those that are not so expensive), scatter rocket leaves liberally, cherry tomatoes on top and the dish looks amazing.

Previous cooking postings:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The "Kong Lui" Debate Revisited

Not much to post, thought I repost a popular one, and see the females react:

In recent years there have been a huge backlash and debate on the Internet and even mainstream media on the unacceptable attitudes of some HK girls. Girls who fit the description are called "Kong Luoi" (short for HK girls but with a derogatory sideswipe at them). Its a generalisation and not all girls will have all the attributes, but you will recognise them immediately.

"Kong Luoi" (KLs) phenomenon started as the 63.8 incident. What started as a first date went horribly wrong when the couple went into a store, and the girl bought some stuff and it came to HK$63.80. The girl expected the guy to pay but he did not, and she ended up paying HK$63.80. That was not the end of it. The girl recorded a video and uploaded it on You Tube ranting and bitching what an asshole and how cheap the guy was for not offering to pay HK$63.80. Her berating video pissed a lot of guys off and started the HK guys compiling things that they find unattractive in certain HK girls.

Some of the common traits:
1) "ying fun" - girls who think that they are doing guys a favour by allowing the guys to date them, hence the guys should appreciate the opportunity, thus do not expect them to go dutch or pay for anything during the date. "ying fun" = deserved to be treated well. Did you know that the trend is for girls to never even bringing their wallets with them when they go on dates.

2) "ying koi" - girls who think that it is good manners and politeness for the guys to foot everything on a date just because they are girls. Very close in meaning to "ying fun" but has an element of "should have" - i.e. guys should do those things without having the need to be even discussed.

3) "tiu tik" - the girls are great critics on what the guys have, what he does not have, how he carries himself, whether he is a good conversationalist, not good looking enough if they don't like anywhere close to Andy Lau, making a summation of his prospects as a future boyfriend and provider by just looking at appearance, making a minor thing into a big character flaw, etc... thus relegating all guys as also-rans.

4) "hau but thoui sum" - what she says never ties in with what she really wants. Ask her what she wants to have for dinner, she will say "Mow sor wai, see tharn le" (I don't mind, anything will do), but when you suggest Japanese, she will say too much raw stuff, you suggest Indian, she will claim its too spicy, you suggest Cantonese, she will say its too oily.. and still say "kei sart, ngor mow sor wai ke, mutt yeah thou tak" (Actually, I am quite easy, whatever is OK)... you suggests steamboat, she will say it is heaty and make her have pimples ... naturally for these kind of girls, I will tell them, "lei sick chee kei le" (Go eat yourself bitch!).

5) control - she always want to be in control of the relationship, once you move from dating to a steady relationship, one of the first question she will ask is, if you would mind to give her all your pay for her to manage the finances when they get married. I think its only ok in Korea and Japan, but to even entertain such a question to me shows a complete wanting of control and to see how "far they can manipulate the guy to her liking". "Kong Luoi" justifies that line of questioning as that would allow them to see how much the guy sees them as a partnership and how much he trusts her. In my words, Bullshit Baby!!! Its a control issue.

6) KLs have a very strong penchant for branded goods and wouldn't want to be caught dead with last year's bags or shoes. They are never slim enough, even though guys keep telling them they are skinny enough. Its not enough for the guys to say so, its their fellow girlfriends that have to say that they are skinny enough, and baby, girlfriends will never ever say their fellow girlfriends are skinny enough. You are in a dead end cycle.

7) KLs are hard to court even though they do not come with great credentials. The usual 5Cs (car, cash, career, credit card, condo) as so basic that many girls would never ever consider going out with someone without at least 3Cs.

8) Places too much importance on outward appearances. Ever wondered why there are so many slimming clinics in HK, and also skin whitening, tummy firming, breast firming, blemish reduction laser therapy, cellulite therapy, cosmetic plastic surgery to have double eyelids, botox... The girls will claim that a large part of why they are doing this is for the guys. Eeerrr, bullshit again, maybe so if the guy is very shallow, all these things to make up for outward inadequacies stem from a dire lack of self confidence and self belief, and that is one big character flaw in KLs. It has a lot to do with the culture and upbringing values instilled, either deliberately or unconsciously.

9) Expect presents and celebrations with presents on these following days: her birthday, anniversary of the mundane kind, Christmas, Valentine's Day, some even chocolates during Easter, even New Year... and

In my view, its not just in HK but in many places as well. Its an equality issue whereby many females now can earn a good living and can dictate their own lives better. Before, girls grow up to be married off and thats that. However, with the desired equality status, in relationships, many still hang onto traditional roles of males and females. But the demands on those roles are so very different now. Everyone must come into a relationship knowing full well what each other's expectations are, if not they will never be met.

In HK, there is this quite silly phrase which sums up why girls in HK are generally very spoiled ("chung whai saei"). The phrase is "low pour hai lor farn lei sack" ( the reason to have a wife is to make sure she is well taken care of and loved). There does not seem to be much wrong with that phrase except when you think about it, its a passive thing for women, and it appears to be their divine right. My quibble is if I get married, am I marrying a loving partner or a passive piece of art for me to dust and vacuum and wipe. To take care as in taking up responsibility as a man of the house, yes, that I totally agree. Hope the nuances there are cleared up.

There is a limit to what is due care and concern by the guy, and what is absolutely reprehensible behaviour. Go to HK and you will see many guys carrying ladies purses and hand bags walking with their girlfriends on dates. I am ok, in fact I think its proper to carry the purses and hand bags if they have to go to toilets or have to go and try out some clothes when out shopping. But to have the guy carrying the stuff walking all over town, is demeaning. If a guy wants to carry a handbag, he should go and buy one himself. Its not a show of how much love and concern a guy shows the girl, its for the girl to show to everyone how much control she has of him. Why not make him wear a dress as well? Thats the crux, to the KLs, its always "if you love me, you will do it" mantra, always having to prove and reprove their affections.. "if you love me, you will buy it for me"... worse "if you love me, you will buy it for me without me having to tell you"... GAWD!!!

At the end, they morph into what I like to call "high maintenance" (HM) women. HM women are not just those who require a certain monetary sum to maintain their lifestyle. To me, HM women are HM because of how their minds torture you and in turn torture themselves. I will give you a classic HM woman, the wife will ask the husband just before they go to sleep "why did you give your 2nd uncle 3 boxes of mooncakes, but you gave my brother only 2 boxes"... that my friend, is HM!!!


Big Bad Wolf said...
Hahaha.. I think KL is catching up with the KL phenomenon, but thank god its not that widespread, yet.

Most of the girls in town are beginning to follow the trait, and they are squeezing the guy till no water left! I guess this is the price to pay when development kicks in.
This somehow reminds me of your past article on "why dogs are better tahn women)
KoSong Cafe said...
Dali, no wonder you are still not hitched. Thai hoi tit ler!

Seriously, such girls turn me off too. Choice works both ways, not just KLs choosing what they want. We have a choice too, and that is, don't touch them with a ten-foot pole!

Many years ago, a relation related to me about how she was going through some clothes hanging from a stand. Must admit, she used to be pretty and petite but obviously rough doing so. The HK shop assistant commented sarcastically, "Yen chi er, mhou wart charn ke sau" (be careful, don't sprain your hand) Since then, my impression of HK girls are 'no go' in terms of relationships!
HappySurfer said...
*Sigh* The sad part is, the guys let the gals do that to them!! It always, always takes two to tango. Good post, though.
Kim said...
Well, the never-ending gender wars raises its ugly head again. Haha. Girls have just as much a bone to pick with the men as you do with us even if it is just focused on a portion of the demographic (Bring it ON). The occasional catty swipes at each other is fine... fun even.

If it bothers you that much about the way some girls act... just don't go in that direction. No need for spewing all that anger any reader can feel emanating from your blog post. In fact, the courting scene of today is bewildering with so many girls being focused on the short term thrills of a relationship rather than the long term goals.... although admittedly it does help.

Btw... dude.. what's with the pink background....? You just upped the notch of difficulty for reading your blog in the office.
Salvatore_Dali said...

If it bothers me then don't go in that direction... yea so??

No need for spewing all that anger any reader can feel emanating from your blog post.

Then I might as well stop blogging... is anger a bad thing... the entire New testament was based on anger and love... its ok to be angry when people behave badly or do stupid things... ITS RIGHT THERE ON TOP OF MY BLOG...
rants and rave, illusions and collusions

I hate ppl who uses the middle ground and say take the higher road by being above from the fray, when in fact they don't have an opinion and is blase about things in life, if you are a colour, u r very grey...
G said...
And you're telling me that guys do not drool after the porcelain smooth skin, skinny, sweet (on appearance) young thing? It's a price that guys have to pay to have a candy on their arm. They know how far they can push and they push it to the max.

For some guys, well, having an arm candy is well worth the trouble !

If you're expecting it all... the looks, the caring personality, the works, well.... you must be like me... living in the dream world.
K H said...
Spot on, Dali. My friends & I had a good laugh 'cos your article said what we were thinking but just couldn't put them in words like you do.
faizsani said...
This is a mean thing to say but I think that's why in the long run one will see more and more of these KLs becoming quite unhappy much later in life. Once their saham lose value, no way anyone, and I mean anyone is gonna give any sort of attention to them. Men are men. That's why the latest model cars fetch more value and the second hand one takda value.

I say, be kind and be reasonable. Things last a lot longer that way....

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Get Tough On Personal Loans & Property Loans ... PLUS Revamp Insolvency Laws Please

Bank Negara Malaysia’s (BNM) move last Friday to tighten consumer lending will be negative for loan growth but the impact will not be significant, CIMB said, as it urged investors to hold on to their holdings in banks. The three measures the central bank announced were 1) a maximum tenure of 10 years for personal loans, 2) a maximum tenure of 35 years for property loans, and 3) a ban on pre-approved personal financing products.
In a kind of related newsbite, Nancy Shukri has indicated that changes will be made soon to Insolvency laws, a promise made by Najib back in 2012. Its about time to change these laws as it is not befitting of a developing economy like ours.
While I strongly agree that our personal and property debt should be reined in further, ... we also need to know that there is a highly inequitable treatment of those who fall under bankruptcy in the Malaysian system.
Vivian Hsu no67167

I have written before on the dire need to revamp Malaysia's archaic bankruptcy laws. Let's look at hard facts:

a) Inland Revenue Board CEO Dr Mohd Shukor Mahfar is 'embarrassed' to explain clearer the issue of why five million people in the country who are eligible to pay taxes but only 1.7 million are active taxpayers.

b) As of October 2011, there were 235,908 (probably closer to 300,000 now) individuals who were still declared bankrupt, according to Insolvency Department's Datuk Abdul Karim Abdul Jalil. On average 51 new ones are added everyday.

Take the two together, this is to say that nearly 5% of those working are bankrupts. Yes, I know some are not working. So we are still looking at 1 in 20 of our workforce.

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The trouble with our system is that bankruptcy runs in perpetuity (i.e. almost never ending till you die). Unlike in HK, Singapore and many forward thinking economies where you only have 4 or 5 years to pay down your debt and after that you are free from the debts.

Why is it so important to implement a limited period for bankruptcy?

1) Being bankrupt means you are also literally removing 5% of the working public and 5% of households from participating in the real economy. Cannot do business, cannot get loans, even job hunting may be a problem every now and then.

2) The Malaysian archaic system overly favours the banks and financial lending institutions. When its in perpetuity, the banks can clamp down on you for the rest of your life. We have to make banks and other lenders also responsible for their part in giving out the loans. Look, even creditors to EU give haircut once Greece is in trouble. That is why banks in Malaysia can be so bloody aggressive with credit cards, they know they have a very long recourse to make your life a living hell.

3) The 250,000 figure will jump exponentially soon. Why? Just look at the way they are dishing out the study loans under PTPTN. Look at the surge in personal loans by non bank institutions, look at the aggressive credit card schemes. When you give out RM30,000 or RM40,000 or RM50,000 to someone and their job is only likely to pay them RM2,000 when they graduate, if they graduate, and if they can find a job then, ... you are going to have huge problems. Plus, we haven't got to the credit card users yet.
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4) Even fuckers who end up in jail for a few years and come out, they are free ... not if you are a bankrupt, man, they will drag you till you go to your grave.

5) The onus needs to shift back to the banks and other institutional lenders for a more balanced and equitable solution. For far too long have the banks been operating giddily under such a protective umbrella in their favour. There has to be a fairer distribution of risk for lending and borrowing. I am not suggesting that debtors need not pay, I am saying you need to give them a limited timeline.

6) When you take out 5% of the household from the real economy in perpetuity, it has a lot of indirect repercussions: cannot get study loans for children, making it very difficult to reverse their position as their job prospects may be affected as some companies frown on their status, etc. Needless to say, these 5% will also NOT play a part in the real economy in an effective manner - talk about dropping an anchor on the economy, it weighs heavily especially if its in perpetuity.

7) We have NO UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE or other similar SAFETY NETS. If our economy tanks, or the industry we are in tanks, and we are suddenly out of a job ... it becomes very easy for us to spiral swiftly to bankruptcy if you have car loans, housing loans, etc... and no job.

8) Our current laws stifle entrepreneurship. When they try to start businesses, they usually have to take loans, sometimes they will fail, you do not want to punish a risk taker too much by literally barring him/her from ever being an entrepreneur again. We all know that to have a vibrant economy, we need more risk takers, not shut them down the moment they fail. Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you they needed to fail a few times before striking it.

9) It is also precisely these laws that causes many to go for the "ah longs" to make ends meet. No one will resort to these avenues if we have a saner approach to this mess.

10) In HK its automatic discharge after 4 years, in Singapore its 5 years. There are just as many genuine cases as there are people who deliberately do not pay there as in Malaysia. Taking away 5% of the working population from participating in the real economy is a travesty - it has enormous multiplier effects, each person probably affects the livelihood of around 4-8 other younger and older people dependent on that person for financial well being. 

And this is the most important reason of all, we need a KINDER, GENTLER society and government, that embraces all and not excessively punishes some.

p/s I know there will be many who will harp on bigwigs and connected individuals amassing huge loans from government linked banks and government linked financial institutions, and not paying back. That is a separate issue altogether, and should NOT be lumped into what I have written above. Heck, most of these connected people do NOT EVEN EVER get slapped with a bankruptcy notice, so they really do not count - theirs is a matter of poor government governance, lack of accountability, poor or no enforcement, running circles around regulations, the lack of political will to enforce or do the right thing, no checks and balances. So these are TWO related BUT almost entirely separate issues.