Friday, 30 March 2007

A Sure Bet

Singapore recently awarded the Sentosa Integrated Resort (IR) contract to the Genting group. It will be a Theme Park but mainly a Casino and it's hard not to be cynical about the motives for the latter. Gambling is heavily regulated in all countries and up till now, Singapore has been notably under-served. Genting run the only casino in Malaysia (well, it is a Muslim state) and awarding it to them (against heavy competition from Vegas-related consortia) certainly doesn't hurt relations with their neighbour.

This is about money. Specifically, bringing in more external revenue. Locals either won't be allowed in, or at least will be heavily controlled. The government doesn't want to feed the local gambling habits. Oh no.

What is stunning is just how much money is at stake. For comparison, Hong Kong punters basically are stuck with horse racing at Happy Valley. The HK Jockey Club distributes HK$1bn (£65m) annually to charities and is the largest single taxpayer in Hong Kong. It paid HK$12.4bn in 2005-06, that's about 8.6% of all taxes collected by the government - on turnover of HK$98.9bn.

Singapore celebrated over 7 million foreigner visits last year (a record) and as tourist attractions go, big casinos deliver big result$.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

The Fog of War

Today was chute fogging day again. This is when the council come round and use their neat fumigation machines (a cross between a leaf blower and a strimmer) to kill the vermin in the vertical garbage chutes. They do this every 6 weeks or so and let you know a couple of days in advance with a slip in the letterbox.

I prefer to be at home for this as the roaches crawl out of the chute into the kitchen and try to clear their heads of the chemical. So you end up with woozy roaches running around and it's hard not to feel panicy. Knowing they are going to die is no consolation. Immediate dispatch and clearance is. They are disgusting and scarily hardy creatures.

For the birds, it's rich pickings as the void deck is covered with fleeing insects. Not sure the chemical is healthy for them but the council guys must breathe it in all day and they seem fine with it.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Nancy, New York, November?

I'm smug that I can remember most of the (NATO) phonetic alphabet useful for spelling out names, call signs, IDs and so on. On calling SingTel to discuss a technical matter arising from their web site, I had occassion to need it for clarity's sake, so off I was with November Foxtrot.... It worked a treat, and the call proceeded efficiently.

Things took a strange turn when the CSO (that's Call Service Operator) took a turn and said he was going to use "Capital Cities", to spell out the next bit (something I've heard many people use in these parts). He started well, New York, Washington, then started to lose his way France, Russia, Zulu, Osaka, Australia.

He could have used Christian names (Nancy, Wendy, ...), random words (Mother, Fencepost) or even the Cockney version (A is for 'orses, B for Mutton, C for Miles, M for size, ...). The plethora of choice and the resulting mish mash is why I bothered to learn the 'proper' one; you don't sound like you are making it up as you go along.