Saturday, 17 October 2009

Beatles To Bowie

As a 'child of the sixties' I am interested to learn that the National Portrait Gallery in London is featuring an exhibition of the decade.
A very good online gallery can be seen here.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Venturing Forth On Virgo

Cashew Factory - Phuket Roger Smith

Two days ago we returned from a four day cruise aboard the Superstar Virgo, on of the Star Cruises vessels and the largest of its fleet.

Having cruised on Superstar Leo several years ago our expectations were high. The newer ship did not disappoint. I would strongly recommend going Balcony Class as we did; it may cost a little more but one receives preferential treatment including boarding and disembarkation as well as seating in the Lido Theatre.

The cabin on deck 11 was clean, tidy and comfortable and the service we received from the cabin crew was very good. They consisted in main of stewards and stewardesses from the Philippines and China with a few Korean and Indian staff also in the contingent.

Our fellow passengers came from Asia and Australia. Quite naturally there were a large proportion of Singaporeans many of whom had cruised with Star Cruises more than twenty times.
Of the more than a thousand passengers on board about a quarter were from India. The latter were consistently late in boarding and returning to coaches during the day excursions in Penang and Phuket.

One matriarch whom we encountered on our Phuket day trip was exceedingly demanding and arrogant. She remained cast like a sari-ed whale in the bus instead of getting down at several of the stops, spoke loudly to her two spinster daughters when the tour guide was attempting to speak to passengers and did not endear herself to her fellow passengers in any way, shape or form.

Food - As with all cruises life consists of endless eating! We had our breakfasts and lunches in Bella Vista restaurant on deck six. The first lunch and dinner we had in this restaurant were excellent and set our expectations for the trip. Unfortunately the Gala night fare at Bella Vista and the subsequent lunches and dinners were not up to the same standard as our first experience; rock-hard profiteroles, less than warm fish dishes did not impress.

The highlight was using up our free $200 credit for food and beverage which one receives as a balcony class member. We chose to have an Italian meal in the Palazzo restaurant which was superb.

Entertainment in the Lido Theatre was of a high standard with the most impressive being the Brazilian dancers and a troupe of Chinese acrobats who performed atop a white grand piano. A classy production all round.

We would not bother with the day trips again in either Penang or Phuket and many of the 'regulars' stayed aboard the ship. The cashew factory in Phuket was of interest but Patong Beach, which received the brunt of the Boxing Day tsunami, was a typical Thai beach resort full of tatooed Expats and massage joints.

A selection of images from the trip can be seen in this online flip book.





Click on the flipbook to view

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Montage Mania

Singapore Montage
Roger Smith

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Thoughts From The Shaky Isle

One does not acquaint Singapore with earthquakes but judging on the results of the past week this perception could well change.

We have had two solid tremors felt in various parts of the Republic and all thanks to the major quakes in neighbouring Sumatra, some 530 kilometres away.

Coming as I do from the 'Shaky Isles' of New Zealand I am no stranger to these but the sensation of experiencing an earthquake does not get any more pleasant with age.

We were trained at a very early age to get under a door frame (or failing that a strong table) whenever the ground started to rumble and rock. My Singaporean colleagues however have had no such training, as the look on their faces clearly showed when we experienced the second quake one morning.

Several just sat at their desk with frozen expressions of uncertainty no doubt wondering why I had leapt from my seat and was heading for the nearest door frame.

Suitable door frames are hard to find in Singapore. For a start most buildings are not made with wood and secondly most have partitioned spaces so solid rooms are anything but.

Interestingly given the geology of the country not everyone felt the tremors. The first big Padang 'quake took place without us feeling it in our condo whereas people on the East Coast and Raffles Place felt the full effects and evacuated their buildings.

Another worry must be the reclaimed land upon which a significant part of Singapore is built. Liquefaction is a major destroying force during earthquakes and reclaimed land however well compacted is very prone to this.

The vision of the soon to be launched Integrated Resort (pictured) half submerged would give new meaning to the title of 'Marina Bay Sands'.

I expect through that most new structures have been built to withstand the earthquakes of the strength we might experience here. Fortuitously Singapore does not stand on a major fault line unlike its near neighbour, Indonesia.

It is just a matter of time (and a short time at that by all accounts) that the pent up pressure of the Indian/Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates on the western side of Sumatra will be released in a major 'quake of nine magnitude.

Professor Kerry Sieh of Nanyang University's Earth Observatory has publically stated that the recent quakes are 100 times smaller than the big one when it comes; a less than comforting thought.

Some twenty years ago I saw a map of the faults lines that criss cross New Zealand's capital city Wellington. At the time I raised the question with a colleague "Could an earthquake somewhere else trigger an event in another location"?

"No" was the unequivocal reply, "Such events are very specific to the location".

It would seem now that his analysis was flawed as scientists have recently discovered that the major 2004 earthquake in Sumatra may have weakened the San Andreas fault, 8,000km away in California.

If this is indeed the case being a mere 500 kilometres away from the Big One when it strikes is not that reassuring.

I shall be stocking up on half price moon cakes to tide me over such calamities should they occur in the next fortnight. The Autumn Festival concluded last night and the cakes in question are always heavily discounted after the event.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The Bluest Skies You Ever See Are In Toh Payoh

Well hardly....!

Even though this song verse describes Seattle rather than Singapore I had hoped it might apply, but is not to be.

By the time I came to leave work this evening the haze had almost reached the levels we experienced three years ago.


Visibility from our condo window (above) is getting worse by the minute even though the official PSI Index seems to indicate the problem is 'moderate' 53 reading over the 24 hours.

I suspect that the next 24 hours will have a totally different reading and we can taste the smoke in the air. So much for Indonesian cooperation in combating burn-offs!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Today's Print


The Big Drop
Roger Smith. Sept 2009
(Click image for larger version)
A bulldog paper clip transformed using a close up lens and various digital imaging tools.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Every Home Needs One!

Demonstrator outside John Little's store in Orchard Road

Why Not Feature Locals?

I really don't know why a number of local organisations in Singapore persist in using blue eyed, blonde children in their adverts; when their audience are Singapore residents and their children?

The local children of Singapore are just as intelligent in looks and abilities so why not use them?

The above banner is outside an HDB housing estate in Queenstown and is just one example amongst many that I have seen. Note the images used (inserts).

Not Everyone Is Affluent In Singapore

Recycling Singapore Style - Queenstown
Photo: Roger Smith (Click image for larger version)

As the mega rich spend thousands of dollars on the Formula One event in Singapore this weekend spare a thought for some of the 'heartlanders' who are feeling the pinch.

The above is a not uncommon sight on the streets of Singapore where a few older folk stretch their savings further by taking on recycling activity.

Used drink cans are prised from rubbish bins, flattened under heel and added to plastic bag carriers. Clean cardboard and old newspapers are also much in demand.

Even in our condo the maids and ground staff regularly scavenge through the recycle bins to see if there is anything worth salvaging.

Given that many expatriate tenants dump perfectly servicable appliances upon their departure, this practice probably proves to be quite lucrative.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

A Sporting Chance

I enjoy sport, or at least I used to before the era of professional sport killed most of the codes I enjoyed.

Rugby was a much better game as an amateur code and I played a lot of it. It also used to appear on free to air television in New Zealand but rarely does so now.

Win at all costs seems to be the prevailing sporting ethic and it is a sad indictment on htose who play and administer games.

The South African Caster Semenya is the latest victim, with that country's senior track official now admitting he lied about gender tests being carried our prior to the runner's winning performance in Europe.

Then we have the Formula 1 fiasco which demonstrated that Renault cheated to ensure they won last year's Singapore Night Grand Prix.

This is not the sort of publicity that Singapore wants at this crucial time before the next Grand Prix, scheduled to start in a fortnight's time, as it takes the gloss off the event.

In the aftershock of a major recession event ticket sales have been hard hit and sports cheats make life even harder for organisers to attract support.

A few months ago Singapore hosted the Asian Youth Games.

Yes, there were a few teething problems and home support was disappointing. The refreshing thing was that it was about gifted amateur athletes doing their best - the true ethos of sport.

I expect next year's Youth Olympics will be held in Singapore in the same spirit and the country will the better for it.

Ultimately as the saying goes "Cheats never prosper" and long may this remain so.