Monday, 11 May 2009

Storm Over Bangkok

Yesterday afternoon there was a tremendous thunder storm over the city. I am staying on the 28th floor of the Pathumwan Princess Hotel and used my mobile phone camera and photoshop to capture the the mood of the scene.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Old Friends At The Point Of Departure

I have just caught up with an old friend in the departure lounge of Changi airport. This was not a planned arrangement but both of us naturally gravitated towards the free internet access and we met again.

It reminded me just how pleasurable catching up with friends can be. In this case we had shared and survived the meltdown of UNSW Asia in Singapore.

He has now been reincarnated as a Regional Director for DELL, based in China and I am working for the British Council, also with regional responsibilities in Asia.

A shared coffee and a 'catch up', albeit for half an hour, has been most enjoyable. Mutual acquaintances were discussed and the prospects looking ahead in the economic gloom of 2009 also dominated our thoughts.

He has since departed for Shanghai and I am about to board a flight to Bangkok. It feels like only yesterday when we worked together and I was delighted to see how successful his life has become.

Like many Singaporeans he has had to leave his family behind in Singapore while he plies his trade. While this is far from ideal for the family unit he makes a point of having quality time when the family reunites.

Old friends are to be treasured. Even the heavy deluge of a tropical rainstorm outside cannot dampen my spirits.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Homily Heaven

Willow - Roger Smith


There's nothing like a good slogan to motivate the troops. In Singapore this is adopted with an almost Confucian fervour.

Most buses are equipped with television and when Channel News Asia is not the active channel, there is a subtext of sayings and pearls of wisdom that play across the bottom of the screen. I think these are contributed by viewers but I cannot be sure?

There are similar motivational moments enshrined in public campaigns to fight off complacency and I noted during my tenure at NUS that they were also quite prevalent in the university world.

It is something that simply would not work as well in the West I would suggest. There is a residual cynicism that has crept into the minds of the electorate in these countries that would rebel against the practice.

Personally I do not have a problem with these homespun homilies but I wonder just how effective these rallying calls really are?

When Singaporeans really get motivated as has happened in recent weeks with the AWARE saga, they are a force to be reckoned with. I was hugely heartened to see the womenfolk of this country rise up and eject a small religious clique who had engineered themselves into the upper echelons of the organisation.

Secularism is one of the mainstays of this country and long may it remain so.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Matters Porcine

Saturday, 25 April 2009

The Chicken's Revenge

"Don't finish all of the gravy"

These where the instructions I received last Saturday as we sat in SUNTEC's food court finishing a meal of Vietnamese chicken curry.

As the shard of bone embedded itself in my throat my wife's instruction was still ringing in my ears. There are few words to describe the feeling when you instantly know that you have ignored sensible advice and are about to suffer the consequences.

So began my week. For the first couple of days I was of the opinion that the offending shard would make its own timely exit. By Tuesday I was not so sure and on Wednesday I took myself off to the company-designated doctor.

Waiting in a Singaporean doctor's is an interesting experience - very efficient and if you have three hours to spare you could try for a walk-in appointment (which isn't an appointment at all).

My first visit resulted in a the classic probing by spatula and a packet of strong medicinal lozenges. I have been anticipating that the medico might assault my larynx with a length of flexible tubing but this was not to be. An X-ray was suggested but I declined.

The next day I returned saw another doctor at the same clinic and took the X-ray. No bone fragments were in evidence but just to be sure you recommended I visit an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist at Mt Elizabeth hospital.

As this second consultation had taken most of the morning I decided to press on with the specialist appointment mid afternoon. At least I would have piece of mind.

Punctually at three o'clock I arrived at the E&T clinic. One can always spot the difference between a doctor's and a specialist clinic.

The doctor usually has one online machine to extract payment from your credit card, whereas the specialist will often have up to four at reception to make sure that they can extract their fee from what ever card you choose to use.

The other thing about specialists' clinics is that they are often small and have their walls festooned with graphic charts and diagrams of the body parts that are about to examine. My specialist had these illustrations in 3D extruded plastic.

The half hour examination was nowhere near as unpleasant as a colleagues had predicted it would be. The laryngoscope is a miniature camera attached to a very fine cable which was fed down my nose.

As the patient in the chair you are able to watch this 'Journey to the Bottom Of My Throat" on a large screen at the same time as the specialist soothingly describes the procedure. I have to say that normally the last thing I want to see on any screen is an operation. I prefer to channels but this was not going to happen.

No chicken bone was in evidence so we can assume that what I was feeling was the after effects of the bone - a phantom effect which is not uncommon.

Having carefully extracted the wafer thin tube the good doctor then proceeded to burn me a disk of the investigation for my personal record. Thus far I have resisted the temptation to share it with others on YouTube.

$300 poorer I made my way to the surgery door. Full of assurance he said that it would appear the offending object had departed, but he couldn't be totally sure as sometimes small bones get covered by skin very quickly.

I could always come back and see him if need be........

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Cramping One's Style

Here in Singapore the sport of choice is soccer, or football as it is termed by all concerned. Coming as I do from a rugby loving nation, the term 'football' applies to the New Zealand national game and that is not soccer.

It is the S league that dominates in these parts and it is about the only thing worth watching on local television.

There has been a bevy of scantily clad young women that have recently appeared on our small screens mid week, but I expect their tenure will be short lived as their 'show' S factor has been universally panned.

I digress. The S league is lively and it is noticeable that there are large numbers of imports in all teams; aging Europeans, wiry Koreans and the odd Australian (and I do not mean this in the literal sense). There are a good smattering of Malay and Indian players but very few Singaporean Chinese.

Inter country rivalry is also to the fore when Singapore plays other countries such as Myanmar or Indonesia. It is not uncommon for players from the opposing team to violently object to a refereeing decision, manhandle the Ref and watch off the pitch en masse.

Playing at altitude is not a problem in Singapore, although the same cannot be said for a local Brazilian team. Their team doctor has decided to prescribe viagra for all players in the belief that the little blue pill will improve blood circulation.

One can only imagine that this well meaning prescription would very much cramp their style and their stride.

The other thing that is cramping everyone's style here in Singapore at the moment is the return of the heat. The past week has brought brain-curdling heat with little respite. We must just hope for a refreshing thunder storm or two to drop the temperatures a couple of degrees.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

There's Money In Muck

.... or more precisely in old sewing machines.

According to a story on the BBC today there has been a collecting frenzy in Saudi Arabia.

The item of choice, old sewing machines. No doubt the Saudi populace were placing enormous bids on EBay for these items as well.

If the details are to be believed the asking price for these vintage treadles has gone as high as $50,000.

Why might one ask has the humble Singer suddenly become so collectible? The answer is simple; they were victims of a hoax.

A mythical substance called red mercury was believed to be present in these old machines and the lucky owner could make a fortune as it purportedly can help with the discovery of old gold or the making of a nuclear bomb.

How do you know if your machine has this substance? There is a simple test. If you place your mobile phone next to the machine's needle and the line cuts off, that proves the existence of the substance.

What this story actually proves is not the existence of 'red mercury' but just how gullible people are. I doubt very much that President Ahmadinejad has been stockpiling sewing machines but one cannot be sure.

Could this whole story be a CIA fabrication to divert attention away from plutonium?