Monday, 25 October 2010

2011 Art Calendar To Share

For the past four years I have produced an annual calendar of my images.  Please feel free to click on the image above and download a copy of the 2011 version.

It is in A3 pdf format so you can print it off on an office or personal colour printer

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Systemic Failures

We have been experiencing very strong winds these past few days, or to put it more precisely, equinoxal gales.

As a result of these events our newly installed clothesline has developed the unpleasant habit of lifting like a jet foil, disengaging its support arm and lowering itself against the fence.  Ours is not called the Supafold for nothing!

While this is technically not supposed to be able to happen it has done so nevertheless, the last time coming down on my wife's shoulder and leaving quite a graze.

The Hills clothesline has been the dominant brand in New Zealand for many years but in recent times the solid steel has been replaced by a much lighter weight of metal and there has also been a significant increase in the amount of plastic used.  This means that the frames are no longer rigid and flex alarmingly.

It doesn't help that these lines are no longer manufactured in Australia as, with most products nowadays, they bear a stamp "made in China".

Today the clothesline installer paid us a visit, the obligatory half an hour late as all New Zealand tradesmen seem to be.  

He was clearly skeptical that the wind would actually blow a clothesline down but after we had introduced to our neighbour whose wife had been cracked on the head in a similar rig malfunction, he got the message.

We shall be replacing our retractable support arms with the fixed variety.

During the course of our conversation it transpired that the installer had lived in Bali for several years before returning to New Zealand.  The topic of Indonesia inevitably led to comments on the rife corruption in that country.

I was also reminded how Singapore is experiencing yet another serious cloud of haze pollution from Sumatra, as bad as that which we endured in 2006.

Despite all of the previous promises by the Indonesian government, expensive dinners and friendly ASEAN handshakes the reality is that Indonesia goes its own sweet way, burning off land whenever it feels like it.

Neignbourly considerations do not enter into the Indonesian equation and money given by Singapore in the past to monitor haze and educate farmers has made little or no difference.  I would suggest that the majority of farmers probably never even saw a dollar of the aid money.
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Thursday, 21 October 2010

Swan Lake - The Great Chinese State Circus

Chinese acrobats and contortionists are in a class of their own, unlike their Russian State counterparts who have resorted to live fish swallowing and regurgitation
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Monday, 18 October 2010

The Ravages Of Time

The Teochew community in Singapore will no doubt be delighted that one of their oldest temples is fully being restored.  It has a long and important history.

Yueh Hai Ching temple owners, the Ngee Ann Kongsi foundation have committed $5 million to restore it over two years, beginning in 2011.

Artisans from China will be employed on the project as I suspect the necessary skills are no longer available in Singapore.

According to National Library records, in 1826, a group of Teochew settlers from Guangzhou, China, established a wood-and-atap shrine dedicated to Tian Hou, the Goddess of the Sea.

This was on Philip Street which was a coastal area in the times before reclamation of the swampy areas where it stood.  The temple faced the sea and was a place where newly-arrived Chinese immigrants as well as sailors and traders travelling between Southern China and Singapore came to offer thanks to the goddess for their safe journey across the seas.

Its name Yueh Hai Ching means "temple of the calm sea built by the Guangzhou people".

Yueh Hai Ching Temple holds a special distinction in Singapore as the Chinese Emperor Guang Xu presented a plaque to the temple in 1907.  Only one other temple in Singapore, the Thian Hock Keng Temple received similar recognition from the Emperor.

It is to the credit of the clan associations and private philanthropists that they are prepared to save these heritage landmarks.  The climate of the tropics ravages such structures and many of the former architectural glories have also been lost to the bulldozer.

Temples have fared better than most and Singapore in recent decades has been very active in conserving heritage buildings.
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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Today's Print

Howick Halloween 2010  ............................................................   Roger Smith

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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