Monday, 16 August 2010

Of Cabbages And Kings

Bracken fern, Pteridium esculentum, Rangitoto ...Image via WikipediaThe is nothing less edifying than a grown man indulging in a bout of cabbage wrestling in the local supermarket.

Cabbage wrestling for the initiated, is the activity of attempting to bag an over large cabbage into a plastic bag torn from the dispenser.

It is Murphy's law that the bag in question is always a centimetre less in circumference than the cabbage.

Yesterday I watched a a large middle aged Russian mouth Slavic obscenities as he attempted this feat.

The highlight of the performance was when his second finger got trapped between the cabbage and the inside of the bag.  His wife watched with disdain as she moved on to the nuts section.

The Russian was in the act of "helping", a singularly male pursuit; something I have often been guilty of myself.

"Helping" has been known to engender a truly terrifying display of feminine angst especially when the male spots "specials" which are not on the shopping list.

Today is not a shopping day and there has been a break in the weather.  Our morning consisted of a drive around old haunts only to discover that there has been changes since 2006. 

The large Asian warehouse that we bought foodstuffs from is no more and has been replaced with a warehouse full of cheap Chinese tat.

Oyster and hoisin sauces have been replaced by racks of women's undergarments in a mind boggling range of hues.  Floor to ceiling stacks of sand shoes and mass produced tin toys are everywhere.

A half an hour later and we were sitting in our car on Mission Bay's waterfront, looking at the volcanic cone of Rangitoto.  The Spirit of Adventure's schooner motored past on the horizon and there was a squally blow coming from the direction of Waiheke Island.

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Sunday, 15 August 2010

Today's Print

     Dustpans                                                                                                                             Roger Smith 2010

Living Inside A Drum

This picture was taken on a snare drum.Image via WikipediaWe are temporarily renting in Auckland's Bucklands Beach and move to our own new house in a couple of weeks time.

A major  part of the decision to quit our condo in Singapore was the noise emanating from our neighbours, especially the Japanese tenants directly above us.

We found them a most inconsiderate race who refused to discuss any issue with their neighbours.  The staccato clack of their wooden footwear (geta) on the marble above our heads drove us to distraction at times, as did their propensity to chain smoke and flick their cigarette detritus into the apartments below.

So you would have thought we would have learned from our experience in Singapore.  Regrettably not, as the small one bedroom flat in which we are temporarily domiciled is directly below that of our landlord.

With two active children below school age their lifestyle is clearly not ours and the children running back and forth above us produces an effect similar to living inside a snare drum.

Singaporean children  are brought up to respect the rights of their neighbours and it rare to have their noise upsetting the social equilibrium of the condo or HDB community.

Perhaps this difference in attitude is these children are brought up to respect the rights of others?  There is no doubt that the lifestyle of children in New Zealand is a more active one and the climate is more conducive to hyperactivity.

As children in  a rural service town we were always running around outside on the grass lawn, playing games of rugby on the verge between the road and the house, riding bikes at breakneck speed up and down the pavement and generally causing mayhem.

But this activity was never allowed to upset the neighbours and  ceased once we were inside the house.  This style of parenting has regrettably been lost.  Respect for others is a learned skill, not a genetically pre-programmed attribute.

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Friday, 13 August 2010

At Dawn

Tui (Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae)Image via Wikipediathe ethereal wail of a ferry captures the dawn,
fog in the channel towards Rangitoto.

stirring the white throated tui,
who by ten will sweeten the neighbourhood
with tones sublime.

there is a subtle stirring
of a nor' easterly in the pohutukawa,
crimson crowned awaiting summer.

nothing stops the tide
before sunrise yachts made ready,
the race and day begun.
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The Joys Of Facebook

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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