Last week's odd proposals by the Travel Industry Council for a 'foreigners-only', Las Vegas-style casino resort on Lantau island were certainly bold and brassy - but they didn't come at the most appropriate moment. In a matter of days, Hong Kong is playing host to the 1998 Asia-Pacific Casinos and Gaming convention. The topic of the conference: 'Is Asia still worth betting on?' The conference's agenda seems to raise some question marks on that one. It is littered with words like 'challenging', 'troubled', 'difficult', 'reposition' and 'worsening'. Questions to be asked include whether the Asian junket business is coming to an end, if troubled times translate to worsening business and - horror of horrors - whether the Asian high-roller still even exists. Right. Sounds like a boomer of a time for us to have our own roll of the dice on reeling in the big punters. Cable cars? Casinos? Things seem to be getting out of hand. Next thing, someone might even suggest providing remotely affordable hotel rooms in Tsim Sha Tsui. Some Peregrine Investments creditors had the distinct impression the company's former chairman Philip Tose would rather have been anywhere but at last week's creditor meetings for the collapsed group. Word is they weren't too far wrong. Reliable sources have informed us Mr Tose was all set to meet up with the King of Sweden last week - presumably on behalf of his new employer, Templeton Franklin Investment Services. However, we're told Mr Tose's presence at the creditor meetings was pretty well non-negotiable. We tried to confirm the details with the man himself at last week's meetings - but, alas, he appeared to be keeping a low profile. Let's hope Mr Tose gets another chance to meet up with his Swedish pal for a spot of roast reindeer and schnapps. A colleague was given a free sample of something called 'Seasons Safe Oil' not far from Revenue Tower last week. He was amazed to see the list of ailments the medication boldly claims to cure, which we reproduce verbatim here: 'headache & toothache; apoplexy & epilepsy; colic & stomache [sic]; mental tiredness; sea-sickness; giddiness; contusion; swelling limbs; burns & scald; cust [sic] and wound; cough & phlegm; cold & fever; rheumatism; sunstroke; dropsy; scrofula; eczema aulcers [sic]; mosquito bites; flea bits [sic]; drunkenness; wheeziness; spasms; fits; freckles & pimples; ringworms and boils; measles.' Sounds like just the pick-up you need after a close encounter with the taxman. A reader of this column picked a brief respite in last week's meteorological atrocities as the moment to head for the Peak. Believe it or not, for five minutes she was able to enjoy an uninterrupted view of Hong Kong below. Then reality set in, with the fog rolling in and unfortunate view-seekers barely able to see 10 metres. She headed for the Movenpick Marche restaurant for some respite. Background music was playing. The song went: 'I can see clearly now the rain has gone . . .' Hmmm. Not much in the way of 'bright sunshiny days' around the Peak last week. Still on the subject of tunes for the times, a friend was wandering through all of the '50 per cent off' signs in Pacific Place on Friday. In hoisting up the discount signs, shopkeepers in the complex appear to have acknowledged the economic realities of the moment - giving shoppers with spare shekels the chance to cash in. It was perhaps appropriate, then, that Ode to Joy was playing on the centre's music system. Have you noticed how getting out of MTR stations seems to have become a Herculean feat during the past few days? Crowds of loiterers have been glued to the specially erected screens in any MTR station - just to watch the highlight packages of World Cup soccer matches from the night before. By comparison, screens showing stock-price figures around town have been deserted. Perhaps punters have decided that watching their favourite team lose is far less painful than - although equally predictable as - watching their personal wealth plunge. A colleague picked up a can of Asahi beer in Shanghai, where apparently it is considered hip to buy the Japanese beer at the moment. He was intrigued to see how the name of the beer was translated into Chinese on cans. In Chinese characters, it translated as hsu bo lok - which can be interpreted as meaning: 'The joy of losing the ball game'. Sounds like something the supporters of many a national soccer team should be buying up over the course of the next few weeks.