Thursday, 7 July 2011

A Year On - Pandan Thoughts & Hot Soup

This week marked the 1st anniversary of our departure from Singapore and arrival back in New Zealand; for me a moment of sad reflection.

Being one of those people who did not go to Singapore to live an Expat lifestyle, I found myself welcomed by colleagues and made good friends over the four years of our stay - most of the time living in Queenstown.

I admired Singapore before I went to live there and I admire it still.  It's not perfect but no place is.  It is a safe and there are no winters!  The sound of night birds and the lushness of tropical foliage even goes some way to mitigate the omnipresent heat and humidity, although I confess July in the Republic can be very trying.

By contrast, here in Auckland it is the season of porridge and hot soup.  Prices of good quality, tinned soups such as the Watties brand are great value; two servings for $NZ2.50 and these keep us fortified.

It is also the season for multiple layers of clothing and a quick sprint across the cold bathroom tiles first thing each morning.  At least as I write there are patches of sun between the strong westerlies and showers, which meant that I could get out for a walk.

It remains somewhat of a challenge to circumvent slowly pacing pensioners, their dogs on leash, as they hog the pavement and force one into the muddy slush on either side of the concrete.

Quite a change from my walks to the Queenstown library in Singapore where I hugged each patch of shadow under the HDB's to avoid the cranium-boiling sun.  A bottle of water was always in my carry bag as was my small umbrella, its silver side upwards to deflect the worst of the rays.

One of the more distinctive and welcoming smells of Singapore is that of the pandan leaf, which is used in a variety of kueh kueh and gives kaya toast its sweet aroma. Now these same leaves are being used in Asia's first aquatic science centre to filter out nitrates and phosphorus which promote algae growth and effect water quality.

While the NEA has problems stopping people littering their condos and HDB's to their credit they are on the ball when it comes to water quality.
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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

150,000 Air Miles Of Fame

In April I wrote an article in TheDigitalConsultant blog about an innovative, promotional campaign by the airline KLM.

Put simply, one had to choose an inspiring phrase and submit it online, as a 'delft tile' portrait in the period costume template provided. 

The campaign was promoted heavily using social media and was a clever cross fertilisation of online promotion and advertising creativity.

I chose to adapt a line from one of my poems and duly sent it off, only to learn later that I was one of the 4,000 people chosen to have my tile adhered to a new aircraft.

My win may of course put would-be passengers off for life and I am not sure what routes the plane will fly.  Suffice to say, I am unlikely to see it in person as KLM does not fly to New Zealand. 

Maybe by friends in Singapore will spot my beaming visage on the fuselage as they prepare to board at Changi?

It was Andy Warhol who said that everyone has 15 seconds of fame.  I seem to have achieved 150,000 air miles of self promotion, or (to put it another way) my poetry seems to have reached greater heights!

The video of the tile application can be viewed here.
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Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Singapore SAF's New iPad

From November, recruits doing Basic Military Training (BMT) will be armed with one more 'weapon' - a handheld touchscreen device such as an iPad - to sharpen their fighting skills - The Straits Times

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Luck Of The Draw

You cannot help but feel sorry for the people who are victims of the recent US Green Card fiasco. 

In yet another example of a 'computer error' 22,000 people around the world were mistakenly informed last month that they had won the immigration lottery.

50,000 people a year get a chance to win permanent residence in the U.S. and a ticket to the American Dream when they enter the Green Card lottery

The technical glitch means that the lottery will be re-run according to the State Department.  The computer had made a 'unilteral decision' to select 90% of the winners from the first two days of the application window instead of the full 30-day registration period.

Take the example of poor Mr Kuate from Africa who sold off some of his family land to pay for his application fees and medical examination on the basis that he had been accepted, or another man who rushed out and proposed to his girl friend on the basis that they would be able to start a new life together in the USA.

There hasn't been a satisfactory explanation as to why the computer developed its glitch; perhaps human error with the programming was to blame?

Or maybe there is a more bizarre reason such as recent changes to the US power grid which apparently can make your clocks run 20 minutes fast.
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Friday, 24 June 2011

A Forgone Conclusion?

Tony Tan Keng-Yam - World Economic Forum Annua...Image by World Economic Forum via FlickrJust how "independent" can an independent candidate be?

I was not surprised to see one of the leading PAP stalwarts shedding their party affiliations to run for President.

A former deputy PM of Singapore, Dr Tony Tan, has until recently been part of a small group responsible investing Singapore's reserves through the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC).

As well as holding on to the purse strings he has also headed the agency controlling Singapore's media - MediaCorp.  Clearly a very influential and faithful servant of government and one would have to think he remains so.

In an earlier article I mentioned the belief that an overtly PAP endorsed candidate would find such support a 'poison chalice'.  So it is not surprising that Dr Tan is trying to project his candicacy as truly independent, and I do not forsee him having any problems securing his Certificate of Eligibility.

Prior to the recent GE he would not doubt have been the candidate that received the government endorsement for the Presidential post, should he have wished it.

The MediaCorp coverage of his candicacy announcment is also to be expected, although it is notable that his opponents have achieved considerably less column centimetres thus far.

Now that such a PAP heavyweight (make that 'ex-PAP heavyweight') has thrown his hat into the ring I don't fancy the chances of the other candidates in the race, although I would like to think that they too will have no problems in getting their Certificates of Eligibility.

Dr Tan has stated that he was not approached by the government to run and it was entirely his own decision to do so.  The voters of Singapore will now need to make their own decision.

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Monday, 20 June 2011

Changi Compost

It may be difficult to envisage compost heaps at a future Changi airport but the notion is not as far fetched as some make think.

No content with wrapping their sushi in nori, the Japanese are now working on plans with Europeans to use the green stuff to save more 'green stuff' - money.

According to those who follow developments in aviation, a seaweed-powered space-liner will be able to fly from London to Tokyo in two-and-a-half hours, at a cruising altitude of 20 miles and generating no significant pollution.  The time frame is by 2050.

The Zehst - or "Zero emission hypersonic transportation" pictured left will fly twice as fast and twice as high as Concorde if all goes to plan. The technology remains largely secret as one might expect with such a radical development but the two large blue tanks in the illustration suggest a bio-gas component.

I am not sure that this is so reassuring, given that the current gas tanks of the on board toilets always seem to fail or block on a long flight.

Meanwhile in a small apartment in Tanjong Pagar a Singaporean enthusiast is tackling history at the opposite end of the time continuum.

Calvin Chu collects fossils and has an abiding passion for dinosaurs.  According to the media article, Calvin also has a degree of secrecy around his pet project:

"Just like actual dinosaur remains, the study in Chu’s apartment where the fossils are kept is not easily found. It is hidden behind three large bookcases, and revealed only by pulling out the middle one, which acts like a door to the study"

Hopefully the 2014 opening of the new Natural History Museum at NUS will allow him to indulge in his passion more openly.

And, as most of the 335 kinds of dinosaurs ate plants its a sure fire bet that at least some were partial to seaweed. Given the gas that apparently produces maybe global warming isn't such a recent phenomenon after all.
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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Friday, 17 June 2011

Looking over the Fence

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  A young gi...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeI have just been listening to a BBC programme "Growing Up In Poverty" detailing the sorry lives of Britain's urban poor; bright children going hungry in one of the world's most developed economies.

This comes hard on the heels of similar television programmes from the UK where poor families are sponsored by rich ones.

Meanwhile the newly wedded Windsor Royals are 'cutting back', by taking less servants on their first trip as a married couple to the USA.

Last week Britian announced that it would continue to send a billion dollars of aid support to India, a country that now has more billionaires than Britiain itself.

There has to be something fundamentally flawed and unjust about such decisions.  If the investment was channelled to the UK disadvantaged instead of overseas (or on royal visits) the country's disadvantaged would have a chance to rise within society, social problems would be alleviated and the country would progress.

This sort of approach is not restricted to Britain; it happens in New Zealand and other western countries where aid would be better spent internally than trying to curry favour in  areas of potential returns outside the country.

Its about time we looked on our own side of the fence rather than over it and fixed our own problems before trying to fix other peoples.
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