Tuesday, 10 August 2010

How to speak New Zealand

Many of my good friends are Australians and they take much delight in the accent of New Zealanders.  Here then is a quick guide to the NewZild language (as interpreted by an Aussie) :

Milburn - capital of Victoria
Peck - to fill a suitcase
Pissed aside - chemical which kills insects
Pigs - for hanging out washing with
Dog language
Pump - to act as agent for prostitute
Pug - large animal with a curly tail
Nin tin dough - computer game
Munner stroney - soup
Min - male of the species
Mess Kara - eye makeup
McKennock - person who fixes cars
Mere - Mayor
Leather - foam produced from soap
Lift - departed
Kiri Pecker - famous Australian businessman
Kittle crusps - potato chips
Ken's - Cairns
Jumbo - pet name for someone called Jim
Jungle Bills - Christmas carol
Inner me - enemy
Guess - vapour
Fush - marine creatures
Fitter cheney - type of pasta
Ever cardeau - avocado
Fear hear - blonde
Ear - mix of nitrogen and oxygen
Ear roebucks - exercise at the gym
Duffy cult - not easy
Amejen - visualise
Day old chuck - very young poultry
Bug hut - popular recording
Bun button - been bitten by insect
Beard - a place to sleep
Sucks Peck - Half a dozen beers
Ear New Zulland - an extinct airline
Beers - large savage animals found in U.S. forests
Veerjun - mythical New Zealand maiden
One Doze - well known computer program
Brudge - structure spanning a stream
Sex - one less than sivven
Tin - one more than nine
Iggs Ecktly - Precisely
Earplane - large flying machine
Beggage Chucken - place to leave your suitcase at the earport
Sivven Sucks Sivven - large Boeing aircraft
Sivven Four Sivven - larger Boeing aircraft
Cuds - children
Pits - domestic animals
Cuttin - baby cat
Munce - usually served on toast
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Monday, 9 August 2010

Happy Birthday Singapore

This will be the first national day I have missed in four years but at least I had the pleasure of watching the air force going through its practice maneuvers from Fort Canning Lodge, on the eve of our departure back to New Zealand.

I have fond memories of the visual displays of patriotic fervour - the red and white flags fluttering from the HDB windows and the fireworks.

The theme this years is Live Our Dreams Fly Our Flag and the main events on the Padang will be webcast.

And while I know such events are carefully orchestrated and somewhat foreign to western eyes, I enjoyed them.  It is sad to reflect that in the broad based "democracy" of my own country this type of patriotic display is a very rare occurrence

New Zealand's Waitangi Day, which is meant to be our national day, is a divisive joke.  The nearest we get to the Singapore example is Anzac Day where the country pulls together to remember our war dead.

So Happy Birthday to my favourite republic and to the many close friends that I made while living there. I shall be with you in spirit.
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Sunday, 8 August 2010

Seeing Red

Fresh TomatoOutside our kitchen window is a self sown tomato plant from last season's crop.  It is struggling to survive the winter, a bedraggled reminder of a more glorious summer past.

Adding to its misery are the predation marks of a caterpillar but it has luck on its side.  This winter has been mild by all accounts and thus far there have been no frosts to kill it off.

I have an empathy with this tomato plant as I too look somewhat bedraggled after being cooped up in the house for three solid days as the winter rains battered Auckland.

Dishevelled might be a better term, as I have not had a haircut since leaving Singapore in a vain attempt (pun intended) to have my hair longer during the winter months.

It is also interesting how hair behaves differently in tropical climates.  In my own case while we were in Singapore it sat well and grew with alacrity. Here in New Zealand it does just the opposite, sticking out in all directions and proving almost unmanageable by brush.  This I think is largely to do with the dryness of the atmosphere.

One thing about tomatoes is that they are good for you.  This wasn't always realised as they are a member of the deadly nightshade family and were originally considered toxic, causing many conditions like appendicitis, “brain fever” and cancer.

According to a web source, tomatoes were not even eaten in the US until the early 1800s, when an eccentric New Jersey gentleman Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson brought them back from a trip overseas. Always one to take advantage of a dramatic opportunity, he announced an amazing display of courage would take place on September 26, 1820. He shocked his hometown of Salem by consuming and entire basket of tomatoes in front of a crowd of spectators, expecting him to keel over any second.

Maybe the longevity of the Japanese is due to a diet rich in tomatoes?  Mind you, the supposed long life of the Japanese is now proving to be more myth than reality.  Local authorities there are currently searching for the centenarians in their records as no one seems where they are?

The search was triggered when authorities in Tokyo went to visit a man they believed to be Tokyo's oldest at 111 years old, only to find he had been dead over 30 years.  He is now listed as Tokyo's youngest mummy.
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Thursday, 5 August 2010

Today's Print

Deco Roof - Buckland's Beach

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Supermarket Blues

I have come to the realisation that matching the relative prices of boxes of tissues in the supermarket could become an excessively boring activity.

It is now several weeks since I was gainfully employed in Singapore and it will be a few weeks more before I test the waters of the NZ job market.

My day is spent making purchases of the domestic variety.  I have noticed, as I did today, that most of the shoppers  are greying at the temples and seem to know all the lyrics of the sixties music which is piped around the supermarket's sound system.

The fact that I too knew every word of the songs was  rather sobering. One white headed orthodontically-impaired spinster was tunelessly gumming to Little Eva's Let's Do The Locomotion (video) although clearly in her case it was a dream too far.

Even the food demonstrators are become wary of me as I circle with the homing instinct of a Great White around their pizza stand. The urge to refill my toothpick with some dainty morsel is a primary motivation.

The origins of the modern supermarket are not wdiely known.  In 1916 one Clarence Saunders opened the Piggly Wiggly store in Memphis.

He provided astonished shoppers with baskets and sent them through the store to pick what they needed.  Pior to this self-serve revolution such activity was a task reserved for store clerks.

According to another source on the web, the invention of the car ignition switch also had a direct impact on the growth of supermarkets.

"Previously, housewives had to limit their shopping to store within walking distance; it was too difficult and dangerous to turn the starter crank to get the car started. But once their was an easy way to start the car, housewives were set to travel miles to get a bargain".
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Friday, 30 July 2010

Today's Print

Bucklands Beach                                                                            Roger Smith 2010

Click on image and then click again to see larger version

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

New Car Smells

I could never understand why people bought aerosol cans of pseudo "new car smell".  The smell of rubber, solvents evaporating, plastics out-gassing and carpet are a combination that is far from edifying.

This is noted with some feeling as we have just brought our new car home from the showroom.  The Volkswagen Polo is the 2010 car of the year in its class and while driving it is a pleasure, the smell is something else; although this will subside.

What particularly impressed me was the customer service of the Continental Car Services team and in particular our salesman Patrick, who arranged a free courtesy car for use for a fortnight while we awaited the ship carrying our vehicle. 

He consummated the sale with a lovely bouquet of flowers which he presented to  my wife.  These appeared with a flourish when we went into the yard to collect the car -  a nice touch and good service at its best.

More sobering is the news that the suicide rate amongst young people in Singapore is on the rise.  Last year more than 400 Singaporeans took their own lives.  This rate rises and falls in direct correlation with the effects of a recession or similar financial crisis.

The suicide rate in New Zealand has fallen in recent years but as with Singapore, the rate is highest in people aged 15–24.

The youth of Singapore are under tremendous pressure to succeed within the education system and places in the best universities are much sought after. In New Zealand the pace of life and education is more subdued.
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Monday, 26 July 2010

Fauvist Fervour - Lucky Plaza

A tropical deluge, a 2 megapixel phone camera and a taxi queue outside Orchard Road's Lucky Plaza were the starting point for this image. The "wild beasts" of the shopping belt in action!
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Saturday, 24 July 2010

Car Pumping Power

Auckland University of Technology
New Zealand technology is about to be deployed in Singapore and by all accounts it is a nifty device they are testing.

The university I worked for, before heading to Singapore, (AUT University) has developed a PowerTread system, in which "tubes that are compressed by vehicles and pump hydraulic fluid to turn a turbine and generate electricity".

Powertread has already been successfully trialled on the Causeway providing lighting for one of the border booths for a couple of days.

The Singapore government is getting behind the product's further development and commercialization and one of the country's malls is going to be the next test bed..

They might have been best to put a unit on the road leading to the Integrated Resorts as the volume of gamblers making their way to Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa would give Powertread a real work out.
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Half A Mo

There are a few moments in one's mortal journey when a life altering is decision takes place.  I had one such epiphany two days ago.

Staring at the mirror on a cold winter's morning I decided to shave off my moustache.  This carefully cultivated zone of self indulgence first sprouted on my upper lip some thirty five years ago.

It has also survived and flourished in its various manifestations over 26 years of marriage despite suggestions to the contrary.

I blame this sudden and rash decision on my change of diet after leaving Singapore.  Soup and porridge have now become staples and a moustache is not the best item of  body adornment in such circumstances.

The rationale for my earlier decision to wear a moustache are now lost in the mists of time. No doubt the influence of Hollywood's leading men such as Clark Gable had something to do with it, but more likely it was the 1970's rock scene where long hair and a droopy moustache were de rigeur. 

I may have been no Rhett Butler I but I did have a passing resemblance to Ringo Starr on the Sgt Pepper Album's cover art.

Historical evidence suggests that the mosutache has been worn for thousands of years.  Eighth Century Latin refers to the "mustacium" and Hellenistic Greek to "mustax".  The Pazyrik horseman pictured (circa 300 BCE) sports a pencil thin moustache.

My morning decision had no such historical context. The sobering reality has been that no one actually noticed I had shaved off the offending appendage! 

Even the pair of eyes that can observe a sock out of place in the tallboy at forty paces failed to notice the physical change as she passed me by.

Either I have become as superfluous as the furniture, or the colour of said moustache has now changed to such a degree that it matches the skin colour of my upper lip - I suspect the latter.
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Friday, 23 July 2010

Hype Over Substance

Behold the iPad in All Its Glory
There is something almost biblical about the tablet - not the Moses variety, the one that Steve Jobs has been touting.

The Straits Times has a report about the launch of the iPad tablet in Wellington today and the frustration experienced by those in the grip of "iPad mania"

Why people bother queuing overnight for a piece of technology that will be superseded within the year by a later version, is beyond me?

Evidently Apple have gone to the extreme with the latest launch of not wanting to reveal in advance where  people can buy an iPad.  Surely a basic tenant of marketing is that a sale can only take place when one can discover the product?

The launch seems a classic case of hype over substance and I for one will not be beating a path to my local retailer to purchase an iPad.

Singaporeans are  into the latest techno-fads as this video demonstrates.

Not that I am opposed to technology, far from it. Since returning from Singapore a couple of weeks ago we have been busy buying a house lot of electronic wizardy.

One such purchase has been a Samsung full HD television.  I was surprised to discover that thanks to the recession, the prices for the latest sets here in New Zealand compare very favourably with those in Singapore.

Within three years New Zealand is moving completely to high definition and away from analgue television so it makes sense to get full HD now.  Coupled with a simple UHF aerial, this new set will allow me to pick up all of the free to air channels.  We made sure we did not purchase an "HD Ready" model which is not full HD and needs a decoder box.

When we left in 2006 there were fewer options but now the channels seem to have spawned several more.  The content is a lot better than what was on offer on the Mediacorp free channels and of course the global news broadcasts are far more comprehensive and less controlled.

There is even a dedicated Chinese Channel which is Auckland based so Cantonese dramas and variety shows will be on the menu.

Prime Television is my personal pick and is Australian controlled.  It has good sports coverage (albeit often delayed) and old favourites such as the Antiques Roadshow.

One free channels I will be giving a miss is the parliamentary channel which is about as exciting as watching paint dry.  Watching the PAP MPs answering prepared questions on Singapore's Channel Five of an evening was enough to put me off for life and our parliamentarians are no better.
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Thursday, 22 July 2010

Up The Creek Without A Paddle

Yaacob Ibrahim (born 3 October 1955), a Singap...
It is not uncommon to see young Singaporeans getting on the bus or MRT clutching a paddle.

I was of the belief that this item was to do with dragon boat racing or some other water sport, but given the recent spate of flooding in Singapore perhaps mine was an incorrect assumption?

Maybe they are simply preparing for the Great Flood?

In the above video MM once again makes an astute observation; it is simply not possible for Singapore to become flood free.

One only has to look at the enormous volume of water that roars through the canals during a heavy tropical rainstorm to realise that it is impossible to engineer for every eventuality.

Environment Minister Yaacob Ibrahim (pictured above) is getting a lot of stick in the blogosphere regarding his previous statement that Orchard Road flooding was a "once in 50 year" event.

If you think things are bad in Singapore spare a thought for China where more than 6 million people have been displaced by recent flooding.

No doubt the authorities are keeping their fingers crossed that the next deluge does not coincide with the soon to be staged Youth Olympics. The highways are already being prepared for the YOG and motorists will be expected to be especially observant of blinking lights and YOG number plates.

There is evidently a Plan B according to the chairman of bus operations at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (Syogoc). Here's hoping they won't need to use it.

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Monday, 19 July 2010

For the Love Of Durian

Stanley Ho
News today that Stanley Ho (whose joint venture failed to get a casino license to begin operations in Singapore) has flown his private jet from Macau to Singapore to pickup 88 durian and fly them back north.

The Mao Shan King variety of the fruit is the one that tickles his fancy.  The cost of the purchase was just over $Sing 2,000 but if you add in the jet fuel and pilot's wages the costs becomes prohibitive for mere mortals.

Stanley Ho is an interesting man.  He ranks 84th on Forbes rich list with a personal worth of $6.5 billion and rising. He is married and has 17 children.

His purported links to Chinese organised crime has meant that his daughter Pansy failed to get a casino license to operate in New Jersey.

No doubt Singapore authorities have inside knowledge about Mr Ho and his associations that they share with the US regulators, and this information is unlikely to be made public any time soon.
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Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Answer's A Lemon

It is not widely known that 'citrus limon', or the humble lemon to give it its common name, is an Asian tree.  It wasn't until the 15th century that it was cultivated in Europe and later still that Christopher Columbus took some seeds to the Americas.

Whatever the pedigree, lemons were synonymous with the New Zealand gardens of my childhood.  Even today most large gardens will have the obligatory lemon tree providing juice that provides a welcome respite in the heat of summer.

They are also very high in Vitamin C (citric acid) so are a winter stalwart to ward off the onset of colds and 'flu..  Kiwifruit are also very high in Vitamin C and in Singapore they were $1 each.  Here in NZ we are currently eating the golden variety for 95 cents a kilo.

The old fashioned lemon meringue pie remains one of my favourite desserts.

So it was no surprise that I discovered a fully laden lemon tree on one of my strolls to Bucklands Beach. I used this for the image below (click to see larger image)

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Saturday, 17 July 2010

Downpours and Dengue

We are experiencing winter rains for the second day running. 

These are not the torrential cloudbursts we got in Singapore.  They were usually preceded by a loud thunderclap or two.

The Auckland version is a cold grey drizzle which comes in  recurring flurries.  By comparison, Singapore has been hit once again by flash floods which has submerged cars much to the chagrin of the condo oweners and insurance companies - see Jeremy Chan's photo in the Straits Times (right).

While I prefer warm rain to cold the latter can be a plus.  The climate in New Zealand is not so conducive to tropical diseases, such as dengue.

The Straits Times reports that there has been a sharp spike in the number of dengue cases over the past few months.
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Thursday, 15 July 2010

Today's Print

    Towards Rangitoto                                                                                               Roger Smith

Bottle Blonds and Kim Chi

Nong Shim Big bowl Kimchi instant
The nearest I've got to Asia this past fortnight is through the copious consumption of instant noodles; a poor substitute I would readily agree.

We have been buying these pots at various locations and each brings back a memory.  Today's lunch will have kim chi noodles as a base with some added vegetables and fresh ham.  They remind me of the brief but very pleasant trip I made to Seoul a few months ago.

The weather there was brisk as it is now in Auckland at time of writing.

I found the streets of Seoul  to be clean and the city a bustling hub of earnest Koreans going about their business.

Our local supermarket is also bustling and pinched-faced retirees spend their pension money on the tantalising specials.

"Die Frau" served us again today.  She is a checkout operator who stands out from the crowd with her ample proportions overflowing the seat beside the till.

I confess that I have not yet got used to the bovine action of her jaw as she nonchalantly chews a large wad of gum, pausing briefly to to dab her finder into the sponge finger bowl as she counts out the change.

The Germanic appearance is largely due to bottle blond locks that are platted of either side of her parting. A brown centre streak breaks the peroxide monotony.

The visible body piercings and tattoos suggests that, as with icebergs, there is more below the waterline than visible above it. A collection of white plastic and faux silver jewellery dangles from her ears and neck but it is her movements that fascinates the most.

She displays the motive delicacy of a bull elephant in musk, casting produce from the counter into the shopping trolley with reckless abandon.

Not that she is unfriendly, far from it. 

After we have completed our payment the parting greeting of "You's have a great doy" rings in our ears as we head for the car.
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Tuesday, 13 July 2010

In Praise Of Porridge

A typical rice porridge complete with dried mi...Image via Wikipedia
It is 7:30 am and I have just finished a bowl of porridge for breakfast; the oatmeal variety with a dollop of honey stirred in.

This hearty fare sticks to your ribs and is a great starter on a cold winter's morning.  As a child we often had this for breakfast but in those days before the advent of dietary heath consciousness a sprinkle of brown sugar and fresh cream would accompany the meal.

I had a friend who lived on a dairy farm a few  miles away in the country and whenever I stayed with him we used to get pale gold cream fresh from the dairy which was an even better topping.

Oat porridge is an ancient food and has been found in the stomachs of 5,000 year old Neolithic bog bodies

My first experience with porridge in Singapore occurred in 1982 when I was returning from a week's holiday in Penang and was homeward bound for New Zealand on a 'red eye flight', with a day's stop over in Singapore.

Quite by chance the seat next to me was occupied by a very friendly Brunei business man who, on discovering that I was an art museum director with an interest in Asian art, invited me to join him at an exhibition of contemporary Chinese masters which as staged at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

First though would I  like to join him for breakfast in town?  The answer was of course in the affirmative and so off we went by taxi to the Mandarin Hotel.

Would I like a bowl of porridge for breakfast?  Yes of course.

The Book of Jook: Chinese Medicinal Porridges--A Healthy Alternative to the Typical Western BreakfastImagine then my surprise when instead of oatmeal, a bowl of rice gruel was placed before me.  The accompaniments of small dried fish, salty duck egg and pickled vegetable we at that time equally foreign but  enjoyed the experience nevertheless.

Over the years I have grown to love porridge or to give it its Singapore name, congee or jok.  There are various styles but my preference is for the Taiwanese variety. One can have it with braised duck, fish, century egg or shreds of chicken meat.

For the officianado there is even frog porridge which tastes sweeter and is a more delicate meat than chicken. Frogs take three years to grow to a size that is acceptable for the pot whereas chicken takes just three months.  It is therefore usually a more expensive variety of porridge.  Reportedly a pot with two frogs costs about $Sing 14.

There are online forums dedicated to the relative merits of Teochew porridge stalls which many people prefer to the Taiwanese variety.

According to the experts Teochew Porridge must have the "Mountain and the Sea", in other words the right proportion of water and rice.

"The Teochew Muay connoiseur can tell you immediately if a particular Teochew Muay stall is worth eating at by just eyeing the bowl of porridge. Firstly, what we want to see is the "Swa ga Hai" (Mountain and Sea) which basically means that the porridge is watery but not overly watered down. Secondly, the rice must remain whole and unbroken. The best Teochew Muay places throw away the pot of porridge when the rice breaks."

My favorite condiment is a fermented bean curd known as 'Chinese cheese' (fuyu) which is pungent and gives the rice a bite.  It is not to most westerner's taste but that has never stopped me.

Porridge of both western and Chinese varieties are very good for those in their dotage so it will no doubt remain a staple in the years to come!
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Monday, 12 July 2010

Famous Last Words

"Don't drain the pool......"

There is no way that the above could be confused for yours truly plunging into the wintry briny at Bucklands Beach in Auckland where I am now domiciled.

For a starter the water temperature in the rooftop pool at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore was probably in excess of thirty degrees when this swimmer ventured forth.

Secondly, I do not have a head for heights and the thought of a ride on the Singapore Flier or walking around the top of Marina Bay Sands holds no appeal whatsoever.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Winter - Bucklands Beach

Click on the flip book and then click again to see the larger images

This afternoon saw the temperature rise from an overnight 2 degrees to a 'balmy' 11 degrees in the sun!  

I took a stroll down the hill to Buckland's Beach which is a mere block away from the house we are renting in Auckland at the moment.

It was peaceful with the wading birds active in the shallows, searching for pip and other shellfish.  The old volcanic cones of Auckland were visible on the skyline.

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Passively Freezing

New Zealand national rugby union teamImage via Wikipedia
It has warmed up to 3 degrees centigrade as I write.  This is a degree warmer than it was just before dawn.  Even the brass monkeys have wisely stayed indoors with the heater turned up to maximum.

Talking of which, one of our first purchases upon our return from Singapore has been an upright column oil heater.

We had one of these before we left to go to Singapore in 2006 so we knew exactly what we needed to buy upon our return. It has been a life saver.

Our new home, which we move into in September, has double glazing, full insulation and underfloor heating in the en-suite bathroom which will mean no more icy cold feet when exiting the shower.

In the winter the home captures and retains any passive solar energy and in summer (which  I hope will come sooner rather than later) the house remains cooler.

Mind you, one can go overboard trying to be 'green' with solar heating.  I am reminded of the the man who has proudly constructed a soda can solar heater.  To do so he needed 100 soda cans which he then proceeded to paint black.  I suspect that he has now contracted diabetes as a result of the over consumption of soda.  At least he will be a few degree warmer in his garage as he contemplates his future health.

Last night I watched my first rugby match for four years on local television.  The All Blacks thrashed the South African Springboks.  I seem to be reverting to type very quickly.
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