Monday, 11 October 2010

Another Icon From Childhood Passes On

Rest In Peace Norman Wisdom, who brought so much laughter into my childhood.

Trips to the cinema with my parents in the 1950's made me really appreciate British humour, slapstick and the vaudeville tradition

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Don't Worry Be Happy

In Today's online edition there is a report confirming that being happy prevents mental ilness.

On the basis of this basis of this Singaporeans must be one of the most mentally fit around.

Their sportsmen and women have excelled at the Commonweialth games in Delhi which is the cause of much jubilation.

Five gold medals (thus far) puts them ahead of sports-mad countires such as New Zealand in the medal tally.

The lesson being learnt from this is that Singapore is at last concentrating on sports where skill counts for more than physique.

Let's face it, they are never likely to challenge for the rugby sevens crown but at precision sports such as shooting they are proving to be world class.

The shooters have a haul of 3 gold, 4 silver and 5 bronze medals.

This success even has Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports saying  that the Government will put "serious thought" into providing the shooters with better facilities, as it is a sport that Singaporeans excel in.

The current Singapore range still uses the old pulley system to haul the targets back and forth, a far cry from the electronic system in Delhi that flashes immediate results to competitors.

In any sport though there is a time to retire.  You have to feel a little sorry for the 57 Australian shooter who scored a perfect zero in a round; he had mistakenly shot five rounds into a competitors target instead of his own.

Maybe Kiwis last the distance longer than  Aussies even if we don't get as many gold medals!

One of our NZ shooters, Greg Yelavich, has now won medals in seven Commonwealth Games, his latest being a silver in the pairs event for pistol shooting.
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Saturday, 9 October 2010

Croatian Sausage & Weekend Markets

We have just returned from a Saturday morning visit to Howick Village centre which is a ten minute car ride from our home.

The rediscovery of the Saturday market was a very pleasant experience with samplings of fresh goat camembert cheese and a wonderful range of Croatian salamis and cured meats, the latter produced in New Lynn.

Howick Village reminds me very much of small town New Zealand, the way it was and it is to the resident's credit that the historic buildings are cherished and maintained.

Howick is an old pioneering settlement with missionary beginnings circa 1836, although local Maori, Ngai Tai, had occupied sites for several hundred years before this date.

It is named after the third Earl Grey, formerly Lord Howick, who was Secretary for the Colonies in the British Parliament and was responsible for the Royal New Zealand Fencible Corps immigration scheme. His family home is Howick Hall, Northumberland, England.

There were about 250 Fencibles in Howick. The word 'Fencible' comes from the word 'defence' which this detachment of retired soldiers were required to do as opposed to a unit of fighting men.

The is an active living history museum called the Howick Historic Village which, while not in Howick Village, is situated nearby.

Howick once has its own borough council before being merged with Manukau City.  Today Aucklanders vote for councillors for an even larger, merged, conurbation the Super City of Auckland.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Howick is also a new Super City ward with the highest concentration of immigrants, where nearly half of the population (48.1 per cent) is overseas born.

With the median family income of nearly $73,000, Howick residents are financially better off than others in New Zealand.

I should also add that today we bought and consumed some of this season's fresh asparagus which is grown in the market gardens nearby.  At $1.99 per bunch it was good value and I had forgotten after four years in South East Asia, just how memorable fresh asparagus is.  We microwave it with a little sesame oil and oyster sauce - delicious!
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Perchance To Dream

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Light Left Behind

When a great woman dies, for years the light she leaves behind her, lies on the paths of men
(paraphrasing) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Today, and with considerable sadness, I record the passing of one of Singapore's greatest pioneers, Madam Kwa Geok Choo.

In his autobiography, Lee Kwan Yew acknowledged her enormous contribution and support.  She was his sounding board and intellectual equal.

As Minister Mah Bow Tan records: "She was so much a part of our history, our progress, development as a nation. And yet she chose to stay out of the limelight deliberately.

"She was always behind the scenes; I will always remember her every time I see her with (Minister Mentor Lee); she's always next to MM.

"She will be talking to him, advising him, guiding him, sometimes she would gently chide him. But she was always there to support him, always loving him." 

The condolence letters from the President of Singapore S.R. Nathan and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong are particularly poignant.

Ordinary Singaporeans have taken time out of their busy lives to queue and pay their respects as this photo gallery and video record.   

Madam Kwa Geok Choo's dedication, sense of duty and the manner in which she conducted herself will always be cherished by the Nation.

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Saturday, 2 October 2010

Alonso never had a chance

I thought this image in the Straits Times summed up the competitive urge of motor sports, or in this case "motorless sports".
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Thursday, 30 September 2010

Seeing is Believing

I have returned from Singapore to a country that takes people at face value; at least we take their qualifications at face value it would seem.

Apparently a Nigerian drug dealer has been successfully posing as a hospital psychiatrist in one of New Zealand's southern cities.

His patients apparently had no complaints about his diagnosis, which either tells us something about psychiatrists in general, or the state of mind of the patients in his care.

It was only when he applied for full residence that his bogus quailfications for the job were exposed.

This is not our first fake 'shrink'.  A Polish transvestite and fake doctor worked in a regional hosiptal and was belatedly exposed when one of her released patients decided to decaptiate his girl firend.
NZ's recently departed Chief Scientist

Our chief scientist, a Stephen Wilce, laid claim to working for the British Intelligence services, being a Royal Marine combat veteran and a member of an Olympic bobsled team.

The Brit (pictured), lived a Walter Mitty life in New Zealand and conned his way into one of the most sensitve defence roles we have.

He got away with it for five years before being outed.

Our defence allies including Singapore will no doubt be reviewing their arrangements, especially those to which Mr Wlice has affixed his signature.

He clearly has a mental or fantasist problem and I believe know just the psychiatrist to examine him!
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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Curse Of A Million Dumplings

Diagram of Singapore Street Circuit.You have go to feel sorry for competition winners in Russia; they end up with the most unusual prizes.

A recent karaoke contestant has the singular misfortune of winning 1 million Russian dumplings as first prize.

According to the organisers this amount is enough to last you 27 years if you eat 100 a day.  Not that you would still be eating them in your 27th year of course; obesity would have claimed you long before then.

Spare a thought also for other winners, such as the Englishman who won three months use of a tractor and another who won a a 10 minute accompanied drive of a 20 tonne demolition excavator.

There are now competitons for everything including one for Rotten Sneakers.

The biggest prize in Singapore these past couple of days has been the top podium finish by Fernando Alonso in the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix.  This is raced around a street circuit that some claim is a financial noose around unfortunate shop keepers.

The Chinatown merchants say that they lost 60% of their business over the event whereas the Singapore Tourism Bureau claims that it brought in additional revenue of $S100,000.

The Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, S Iswaran, is refusing to be drawn as to whether the current race contract of five years will be extended. He has pormised a "robust cost-benefit analysis" which would seem to suggest a renewal will be anything but smooth sailing.

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Sunday, 26 September 2010

Save Me From The Daylight

Time change at the start of Daylight Saving Time
"If daylight needs saving, throw it a rubber ring!"
Roger Smith

Most of new Zealand woke up grumpy and disorientated this morning as daylight saving time is upon us once again.

Cows who had planned to yield their milk an hour later were in for a rude surprise and there was the usual frantic scabbling around the house to change all of the clocks.

It's not even that there is even a universal timing for this event.

Israel for instance adjusted their clocks on September 6th, two months before the US and a month before Europe.  In their case it was nothing to do with the advent of summer and is tied in to a religious festival.

Egypt chops and changes and this year suspended daylight saving during Ramadan.

Meanwhile our bio-rhythms have Benjamin Franklin to thank for dreaming up Daylight Savings Time back in the 1800's.

Bizarrely he was attempting to increase productivity although there is some medical evidence that this practice has a positive benefit for those who suffer from SAD, seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression that is caused by lack of daylight in the fall and winter.

On the downside, the US reports a spike of 5% in heart attacks during the first week of daylight saving time as "the loss of an hour's sleep may make people more susceptible to an attack", some experts say.

Not that these changes will be bothering recaptured terrorist Mas Selamat (pictured) who is now back in his old accommodation, Singapore's Whitely Road Detention Centre.

He had spent a year on the run after limping his way out of prison, swimming to Malaysia and hanging out with his old mates.

I suspect that only the Home Affairs Minister will be losing any sleep over the possibility of a repeat performance, as Singpore doesn't even have daylight saving.

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Saturday, 25 September 2010

New Zealand's Answer To The MRT

Monorail wins $1.3m from Google
News today that a New Zealand invention has won sponsorship from Google to undergo further development.

This injection of capital will reportedly elevate it from a  them park ride to "a "mass transit" system for use in traffic-clogged, skyscraper-strewn cities".

I can visualise this being deployed from Jurong to JB.  A couple of hours exercise in the hot sun to get across the Causeway, do some shopping, and then return without the need to fill up on cheap petrol in Malaysia!
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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Delhi Debacle

I can now confidently predict that India will scoop the medal pool in the forthcoming Commonwealth games being staged in Delhi this October.

There is a very simple reason for this calculation; nobody else will be there to compete.

The airwaves in New Zealand have been dominated by reports of the disastrous state of the athlete's village with " bare wires sticking out of the walls".

The BBC reports "Delegates who visited the tower blocks where athletes will live during the games had described them as filthy, with rubble lying in doorways, dogs inside the buildings, toilets not working and excrement "in places it shouldn't be".

The conditions have been described as squalid by visiting officials.  In response defensive Indian officials have tried to shift the blame by intimating that westerners have 'different standards' than those in India.

There have been close ups on television of the dengue carrying mosquitoes sporting themselves in puddles and drains adjacent to this accommodation.

The much touted security has been proven to be totally ineffective as was proven by an Australian journalist who carried the compnents of a bomb in a large suitcase into a main venue, unchallenged.

All of this adds up to a very sorry picture of the preparedness of the country to host the games.

The latest news today is of the collapse of a footbridge near the main stadium which has injured 23 workers.

The Singapore contingent remain committed to the Games according to the Straits Times yesterday.  They hope to better their previous record haul of 18 medals.

Why such a large event was ever granted to a country with a known record of inefficiencies and corrupt practices is beyond me.  Now of course it is too late to find a satisfactory alternative venue.

Within a decade most of these sites will be overgrown with weeds and vines which is perhaps why they adopted the brand of "The Green Games" ?
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Sunday, 19 September 2010

I've go a lovely bunch of?

There are a collection of trees near my former place of work, the British Council in Singapore's Napier Road.  Amongst them are some very odd (to European eyes) varieties.

The one pictured has a mass of flowers which turn into these rather exotic 'fruits'.  Not I suspect that they are edible, as when they burst open they are particularly foul smelling.

But perhaps even more bizarre are those trees with deformed trunks which have become objects of worship.  Such is the case of the 'Monkey Spirit Tree'. After a car had collided with the trunk it split open to reveal a deformity that resembles a monkey with its infant.

Believed to be the harbinger of good luck, folks have taken to 'feeding' the tree with bananas.
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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Today's Print

Hooked   .....................................................  Roger Smith  Sept. 2010

This image started life as a scan of a spectacle case.  I always enjoyed the multiple image concept which was popular in the Pop Art era of the Sixties.

I found the colour of the tropics very liberating which probably explains why my colour palette changed so much after living in Singapore.
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An Economy Built On Solid Ground

A picture of the Singapore Skyline, early in t...The turn around in the Singapore economy is nothing short of remarkeable.

It is reported today that nearly 25,000 new jobs have been created in the second quarter and currently there is a 73% increase in job vacancies.

This means that for the first half of the year in excess of 61,000 new jobs have been created against a loss of 14,000 in the previous year.

What is less clear from the published statistics is the breakdown of citizens vs PR's vs those on work visas? 

The true test of success must surely be the growth of employment for the local citizenry as opposed to those who are transients in the labour market.

It is equally true that there will shortly be a general election in Singapore and so the good news stories are being pumped out.

Inflation in Singapore is at 3% which means that most can cope with the adjustment.  However we found there was often little apparent reason for the weekly increases in supermarket consumables.

Meanwhile in New Zealand inflation is tipped to reach 5% once the increased GST comes into force at the end of this month.

The NZ economy has received a further knock back with the recent Christchurch earthquake with most economists predicating that the quake will cut 0.8 percentage point from growth for this quarter.

Those Singaporeans (and there are a few) who snipe away at their country's performance would do well to consider that the grass is not always greener elsewhere.

The government is very 'hands on' which may not always appreciated, but it is the outcome that needs to be measured, not the emotions.
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Monday, 13 September 2010

When your time is up

Francis Bacon, From a PaintingDeath by hay bale seems an unlikely coroner's verdict but this is precisely what happened this week to a former member of rock band Electric Light Orchestra.

A quite drive in the countryside took a dramatic turn of events as the former cellist had a rolling bale land in front of his vehicle.

If this seems bizarre then spare a thought for the late Francis Bacon (not the painter, the earlier version) who died after attempting to stuff snow into a chicken.

According to this information source: "In 1625, whilst gazing out the window at a snowy afternoon, Sir Francis Bacon had an epiphany of sorts. Why would snow not work as preservative of meat in much the same way salt is used? Needing to know and unheeding of the weather, Bacon rushed to town to purchase a chicken, brought it home and began the experiment. Standing outside in the snow, he killed the chicken and tried to stuff it with snow. The experiment was a failure; the chicken didn’t freeze, and as a consequence of standing around in the freezing weather, Bacon developed a terminal case of pneumonia. Trying to stave off the inevitable, Bacon roasted and ate the chicken. That too was a failed experiment. He died"
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