IMAX Under the Sea Exclusive Screening

The folks at the Upperroom were invited to an exclusive screening of IMAX Under the Sea at the Omni Theater at the Science Centre on Tuesday. What happened was that the good people at Mead Johnson who by the way are the guys behind the Enfa milk powder brand has tied up with the Science Centre where every purchase of Enfagrow A+/EnfaKid A+/EnfaSchool A+ will entitle you to a complimentary ticket for one child into the Science Centre. In addition, the voucher includes discounts for other attractions such as Snow City and Omni Theatre. So the bunch of us (including Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, a group of kids from Gracehaven, lots of children with their parents) trooped into the theatre from 6.50pm onwards for the screening of Under the Sea.

After we were seated, I was bombarded by questions from the girl as I told her we would be watching a movie about fishes, she kept asking me where was the movie, where were the fishes? To pacify her I told her that the fishes were inside that large dome in the middle of the theatre and she spent the next 10 minutes or so of waiting peering suspiciously at that dome.

When it started, the boy was enraptured! Pointing excitedly at the bigger-than-life marine life swimming right in front of him! The girl on the hand was concerned as to why the theatre seemed to be moving (because the screen goes all around, right down to the ground, if you focus your attention at that point, it would seem that you are revolving), that I had to constantly remind her to look in front instead of down.

As expected, the pace of the IMAX movie was slow but there were some really amazing scenes that I have not seen before. There was one particular scene of tens and hundreds of eels with their ends stuck in sand and their bodies sticking up and their mouths trying to feed on whatever that was adrift in the water. That was both goosepimples-raising and fascinating.

Standing eels
Something like this
(Photo taken by Jan Messersmith, a missionary in PNG)

There were also many scenes of bigger marine animals preying on small fishes and Talia was actually scared. She covered her eyes and said she didn’t want to see. There was a scene of a sea turtle chomping parts of a jellyfish off and she was so upset!

The movie was 50 mins and I could only honestly say that the boy enjoyed himself more. As we were walking down, the girl suddenly exclaimed to me, “Mummy! there are no fishes in there!” as we were passing the dome! I had a hard time trying to explain that away. Remind me not to say something for reasons of simplification and have to dig a bigger hole to explain that later!

Monopoly Deal and Rummikub

We recently got our hands onto 3 board games published by Hasbro – Monopoly Deal, Rummikub and Risk.

Our family has always been a fan of board games and not just the usual ones but the Euro ones. We have Settlers of Catan, Citadels, Ticket to ride, Puerto Rico, Ark of the Covenant and St Petersburg. Euro games are very different from your usual American ones. It normally needs you to strategise, downplays luck and conflict and is highly interactive. Board games are such a great way for a family to spend time together. Anyway back to our three new games, we thought we will give Monopoly Deal a try first.

Monopoly Deal

It wasn’t nothing like monopoly at all, I mean monopoly isn’t really the most exciting game to begin with but monopoly deal is a lot more fast moving. Here’s how you play. To win, collect 3 complete property sets. Each player starts with 5 cards and you draw 2 more cards when its your turn. Then you can play up to 3 cards by either putting money/action cards into a personal bank, putting down properties, and playing action cards from your bank into the center. There are a lot of action cards. Some examples are steal an entire set, force a property swap, force rent, double the rent etc. This would be the perfect little game to bring with you when you go out for a picnic or even on a trip.

Next we tried Rummikub! Oh boy! this one is even more fun. It involves a lot more thinking though. There are many tiles of different numbers. To win, you have to throw out all your tiles but you can only throw out your tiles in a set of minimum 3 tiles and rules are the if the numbers are the same, they must be different colours and if they are running numbers, they must be the same colours. To throw out tiles for the first times, all the tiles must add up to at least 30.

The fun begins when you start to mess up and reshuffle the tiles already thrown out so that you can somehow throw out one or two of your own tiles,

We played and had such a good time! And we were glad that these games were as fun as the Eurogames that we loved to play.

(Kevin: That was Talia’s little hand in the last pic, picking up a ONE for daddy )

Luxurious living in Scottsdale, Arizona

My sister & I invested in a landbanking project managed by Walton International in 2001. It was a plot of 160 acres on the northern border within the city of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

When I received my land title, I recommended some friends to invest in various other projects. Some people were very sceptical and gave all kinds of reasons/excuses against it without doing any due diligence themselves. Others seize the opportunity and invested. Last year, a few of them exited from their investment when developers made offers for their land and they collected handsome profits. My project exited in Feb this year and the money should be coming in the mail soon.

I understand that Walton International had invested and manages over 4,000 acres of land in Greater Phoenix Area, Arizona (most of them in Scottsdale). I decided to check out the properties there knowing that prices had soften as compared to the past few years.

When I saw what I found, I can’t help but marvelled at the luxurious living in Scottsdale. No wonder people living in the north east “migrate” to Scottsdale during the winter months.

(Click the image above for enlarge view)

The scottsdale luxury estates above is selling for US$6.9 millions. Not everything in Scottsdale are over a million, there are Scottsdale Condos going for US$200k to 500k.

The climate in the Greater Phoenix Area is ideal during the winter months, in fact most part of the year except summer. The greatest attarction is likely to be the easy access to great golfing facilities.

With condos prices soaring to $2,500 psf here, I should really consider taking a vacation to Scottsdale, Arizona and scout for potential investment in anticipation of the coming onslaught of baby-boomer retirees.

Be the VC

Those of you who visit this Blog often enough would have noticed my MIA for the last 2 weeks. I was busy at work and also took time off to attend a 3 days “Business Plan & Investor Presentation Workshop” organised by Expara and funded by Media Development Authority (MDA), Singapore.

It’s an interesting workshop. Douglas Abrams (MD of Parallax Capital Management) spent 2 days sharing pointers & tips in business plan writing, we also did some trial presentations. It was followed by a 5-day break to tidy up the actual presentation and finally half a day lecture on financial forecasts, Discounted CashFlow, valuation, dilution effect…etc. The last half a day was live presentation to 4 reallife VCs.

When we were not presenting, we get to role play as VCs shooting off tough questions to the start-ups or start-ups wannabe.

It’s fun playing the VC role. I was glad when Dan Rua, Managing Partner of Florida’s Venture Fund and author of Florida Venture Blog wanted to sponsor a post on VC roleplaying.

So, instead of sleeping with a VC at night, I shall be the VC for the day.

Some interesting ideas and actual business plans were shared during the workshop and over lunch. A few surrounded the recently over-hyped Second Life (SL), from events management portal, real estate portal, social networking site targeted at SL to SL news aggregator & credit card issuing bank (I refuse to name ideas related to the 2 biggest money spinner both in SL & Reallife – RL).

Personally, I like the SL Blog News aggregator business model. Yes, I’m aware of the few close competitors out there, but there are no real leader and serious player in the field. The main problem SL players faced in the huge world of SL is finding regions that they are interested in and seeking communities, events that attracts them. Due to campers (people paid to hangout in a place) issue, the “Popular” areas are always related to the 2 biggest money spinner thus turning away players who are not looking for those activities in SL.

Where is the money? Last month, 164 SL players spent more than US$5,000 in SL. Maybe a few rich kids, but how many people will actually spent over US$5,000 in a game within a month? The fact is, many of these spenders are Fortune 500 companies (Coke, Apple) and other innovative businesses hoping to grab a pie of SL eyeballs. If they do not understand SL cultures and the differences between RL & SL, most of their investment will turn into monuments, beautiful buildings with few visitors. The Blog News aggregator business model will serve the need of both the players and the business investors of SL.

The weak part of this business plan is the low barriers of entry. Success is based purely on execution. The internationalisation of SL also mean that the business must cater to the needs of Japanese, Koreans & French speaking residents who are growing in large number.

The credit card issuing bank is a cool idea, infact the development is already in progress and the company incoporated. First Meta Bank is in process of launching a credit card in Second Life to take advantage of the virtual capitalist economy there. The attractiveness of the business model can be easily seen based on the daily transaction of Linden dollars L$ (~ L$ 1.5 millions daily). Internationalisation posts a smaller issue. There are already people doing currencies speculation via L$ and a bank simply makes it easier.

To extend the First Meta Bank idea, if SL continue to grow and become an acceptable micro-payment currency for the web (outside SL), running a virtual bank is a neat idea, since it’s almost impossible to operate this business in RL.

Guess what, a virtual bank can avoid paying taxes to any govt no matter how much profit it makes. There are many ways to take out the profit to RL. Think about it. *wink*

Now, should I invest in a virtual bank or should I start one?