Sunday, October 26, 2008

Off again

I'm off to Hanoi, Vietnam on a four-day junket. I never put my name in the hat for junkets because they tend to be very businessy affairs, hosted by chambers of commerce who want to drum up investment or a company wanting to show off the production lines in a spanking new factory. The last junket a reporter went on just a couple of weeks ago involved a long-haul flight just to admire a new transit train.

The days you're absent from work when you're on the trip comes out of your vacation time. And worse, you're sometimes expected to write an article on the trip when you get back. So thanks but no thanks. I can just about sub business-type stories but I can't write them.

And then this Hanoi junket came up, and the chief sub did let on that it was hosted by a hotel. Which means it's hardly a business-type thing but a lifestyle thing. You know, nice resort, good food, maybe even a spa. I could live with that.

On top of that, it came at a time when I had just returned to work after a month away on holiday. I wasn't in a mood to knuckle down and get to work so I put my name in the hat for the junket draw. And I got it.


Saturday, October 25, 2008


This is the first time that a recalled product has been sitting in my pantry. The recall has gone beyond dairy products to food products that have been made with China-sourced dairy ingredients. I don't buy Chinese if I can help it, and these recalled crackers weren't even China-made, just that the Malaysia manufacturer used ingredients of China origins.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Food for thought

I could hardly believe the news story I was subbing last night. Singapore Food Industries, a government-linked company is going to develop a "food zone" in Jilin province, China. It will start up a pig farm, and process and export pork. This is part of Singapore's attempts to ensure long-term food security, explained the prime minster, who was in Beijing to sign a Singapore-China free trade agreement.

Oh right. We're ensuring food security by processing food in a country that poisoned its milk. And pet food.

I need to ask the reporter who's there covering the China trip if the PM drinks his coffee black and what he eats his cereal with when he was there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fact and fiction

Because I work nights, I watch quite a bit of daytime TV (well, I don't always watch but L leaves the TV on) and the afternoon 3pm slot has gone through the gamut of drama series from the 80s -- The Scarecrow and Mrs King, The Fall Guy, now you know where old TV series go to die.

Only lately, that slot has been taken up by The West Wing and not only is it fairly recent, they're showing the season where Jimmy Smits runs for president. We know he wins it of course. Some programmer must be timing this for the run-up to the US elections.

Funny how fiction points to the future (well, let's see if this one turns out that way) -- brown Democrat candidate wins over old white man. With the other scenario mapped out in Commander in Chief -- woman VP from nowhere becomes president when old white guy in charge dies.

Do Hollywood scriptwriters know something that we don't?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sometimes, you gotta look a gift horse in the mouth

On Thursday, I happened to pass by a pet shop so I went in for a packet of dog biscuits. I don't always go there, which means the staff don't know me, and I didn't even flash my discount card since it was such a small purchase. Still, they gave me a free gift -- a plastic squeaky toy.

It's lurid Day-Glo orange and there's no label on it about where it was made but I bet you that cheap toy came from China.

Yesterday, the pet shop that I usually shop at, ie they know me there, sent me a flyer advertising a massive discount on a brand of rubber toys. This brand, I know, is made in China. I'd thrown out several of its products after the lead in paints in children's toys scare.

I think quite a few retailers are having trouble moving their China-made inventory.

Maybe they should just send all the toys to the ministers and the business leaders who keep going on how wonderful it is to do business in that country.

Even Hardy Amies, dressmaker to the Queen of England, are calling in the administrators because no one is buying their clothes as even rich consumers cut back on their spending.

Then small retailers, with warehouses full of cheap Chinese toys, haven't got a chance.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Who's laughing now?

In times like this when cash is king, the only thing that is stopping me from keeping money under my mattress are two dogs who would probably find it and chew it all up.

So I did the next best thing. I put the money that I had taken out of a foreign bank and put it in a local bank that's noted for its ringfenced conservatism and low leverage, in a plain vanilla fixed deposit.

Normally, when you try and open a fixed deposit there, some financial advisor tries to sell you an investment product. This time round, they didn't even try. I guess they knew nobody would buy. And the most amazing thing wasn't even that, it was that I had to wait 2 hours to open a FD account. You used to be served straightaway or maybe wait just 10 minutes or so.

There's that many people throwing money at Big Local Bank.

One of the professors at the NUS Business School has been giving a series of lectures to my organisation. He said that in his opinion, Asian banks aren't as severely affected as US banks by the subprime contagion because they were unexposed to sophisticated products. Basically, their ignorance saved them, he said.

And now, these dumb local banks are laughing all the way to the err, bank.