Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Queenstown Compositions

Queenstown #1
Roger Smith - August 2012

These two compositions are based on the sights, colour and textures of the old Queenstown Bowl building in Singapore.  I use to walk past it regularly and the patterns of decay always fascinated me.
Queenstown #3
Roger Smith - August, 2012
Copies of the above for sale here and here.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Asian Compositions - August

Taipei #1
Roger Smith - August 2012
I have spent a productive day developing a few surrealist interpretations of Asia, in particular the area around Taipei.  The above is one example and a few more can be seen in the video below.

I have placed larger versions of the video images on my photographic / digital art site - worldlense.
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Crowdsourced Veggies And Laundry Poles

Lee Yi Shyan - Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living
I like the idea of crowdsourcing; to use the parlance of the Tech world.  The collective wisdom of the masses is harnessed to reach a satisfactory solution through the suggestion of creative ideas that will be of benefit to all.

"Cool Ideas for Better HDB Living" should be seen in this context.  If you ask the residents of these estates what it is they need and want to make their living more pleasurable you will get some good ideas thrown into the cerebral arena.

Far better to adopt this approach than attempt to impose a solution or set of solutions from afar.  Singapore HDB's (Housing Development Board estates) are a model for many other countries, as they too grapple with the problem of housing  a large population within a small landmass.

The HDB concept from the beginning is one of ownership rather than renting accommodation from the government.  This engenders a greater pride and encourages self-sufficiency rather than relying on government handouts, as often happens in countries such as New Zealand with its State Houses.

But the HDB's, especially the earlier ones, are not perfect as they were primarily designed for the able-bodied. For those suffering a disability, mobility in the older blocks has been a problem.  With a rapidly aging population these challenges are multiplied.

I was particularly impressed with one of the innovations suggested in the Cool Ideas competition. The "iStepup" is a retractable three-step stairs which flatten into a ramp to make it easier for those in a wheelchair to move around, according to the reports.  It was designed by three polytechnic students which clearly shows their design education is already paying dividends to society.

Domestic servants falling out of windows has been problematic over the years.  Washing hanging our from the windows of HDB's on long bamboo poles is a a very practical solution, as they capture the sultry breezes of Singapore.  However leaning too far out to retrieve the load has proved fatal for many.

Therefore another competition winner; a retractable laundry pole invention which promises to make hanging clothes out to dry easier should prove a winner.  It is already being user-tested in four households.

I should point out that washing on bamboo poles is a feature throughout Asia, not just Singapore. Flying into the old Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong entailed running the gauntlet of public housing with its flapping washing, on the final approach to landing.

Another idea submitted involves the use of multiple plant containers to water and grown one's own vegetables on the tiny HDB balcony.  Not sure of the dengue fever implications with this one as we were always actively discouraged from keeping pots with sitting water for fear of encouraging the mosquitoes.

Once these prototypes have passed the testing process then the government will facilitate the next step to commercialisation of the product or idea.  Of the eighty eight ideas submitted, fifteen have been selected for the prototype phase.  You can see some of the ideas and the participants on this Facebook site complied by Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry & National Development, Lee Yi Shyan.

Speaking of urban development and HDB's, here is the photographic portfolio of Sam Kang Li, one of the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 nominees. His work neatly captures the atmosphere of the residents in his HDB block and the friendliness of Singaporeans in their multiracial environment.

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Friday, 17 August 2012

Ramen Romps

Who cares about the Olympics and gold medals when there are much more important feats to celebrate. Take the Singapore Ramen championship for instance which was won by Ikkousha Ramen who have sold 100,000 bowls of the stuff in the past twelve months

The gentle art of noodle pulling has apparently become a 'fine art' under their tutelage. Ramen might well be regarded in the West as student fodder but in Asia they take it very seriously.

 And on the subject of matters culinary spare a thought for the FEDEX workers in the States who redefined the meanin of "some like it hot". 

A 19 litre container of liquid capsaicin, a chili pepper component destined for hot sauce was accidentally punctured by a forklift. resulting in a sudden evacuation.  I wonder what the health authorities made of this mishap?

Speaking of health, Bloomberg has just ranked Singapore as having the healthiest population in the world. It nudged out Italy, Australia, Switzerland and Japan for this honour. The country has a very strong healthcare system which means that residents are living longer and death rate is lower than it has been in the past. Get rid of the endemic cigarette smoking by new migrants and the result will be even higher.

Mind you such healthcare doesn't come cheaply so it is essential to have some form of insurance. We found NTUC's policies were best value for money. The added advantage is that they can be paid for out of CPF contributions.
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Friday, 10 August 2012

I've Just Had A Mint Moment!

Apparently the post-coital cigarette has been replaced by the pre-coital mint in Singapore. A tongue in cheek (and I use this pun in the figurative sense, not the literal) has seen a mint confectionery company promote the idea of increasing one's family size on the night of National Day.

Appalled by the prospect of a plummeting birth rate the government has for many years been trying to coerce the population to breed; so far with little success.  Whether a sugar shot will add to the national libido has yet to be seen but it certainly added spice to National Day!

In honour of this innovative advertising promotion I felt  the very least I could was to come up with a range of congratulatory buttons, magnets and to top off the celebrations (an even worse pun!), a beer stein.

Click on any of the images below to go through to the products in question.




beer stein

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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Happy Birthday Singapore

It's August 9th and that means National Day in Singapore;thisyear is the 47th anniversary as it turns out.
As per usual there is a patriotic song around the selected theme. The socially binding statement for 2012 is "Loving Singapore Our Home".

What has impressed me is how each year the country makes increasing use of online media to engage with its citizens.

As well as a photo competition (my favourite from the winners - by Teo Yong Kang - can be seen below) people can now create and download an e-flag as well as an e-pledge.

And Singapore being Singapore i.e. a shopping paradise, no celebration would be complete without a range of discounts, coupon and offers. As the coupon site says "What is a birthday without presents, goodies and all things nice?". I note I can get a fish and chip set from Botak Jones and even D24 durian puffs are on special!
Photo:  Teo Yong Kang
So happy birthday Singapore.  I won't be there in person to see the jest whizzing past my condo window, but I will be celebrating in spirit from afar.
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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Little Green Glowing Men

For the past few decades New Zealand has been "Nuclear Free'. A bit of a misnomer really as there is nuclear material in the country in small research labs, but never the less a political position that had its genesis in the destructive nuclear testing in the Pacific, most notably by France and US.

While am not a rabid anti-nuclear campaigner, I think most New Zealanders are supportive of the stance. There have been& political repercussions, most notably the downgrading of our status with the USA from 'ally' to 'friend'. Only in recent times and administrations has there been a thaw in the relationship with the NZ Navy (what's left of it) rejoining strategic military exercises with the US. But nuclear-fueled& vessels are still not allowed in new Zealand ports.

This has not stopped the Americans putting their nuclear fuel rods to other forms of propulsion. The latest is nuclear-driven vehicle which has just been dropped on to the surface of Mars. If there is any life on the planet I hope it is staying well away from the batteries. Little Green Men might run the risk of becoming Little Green Glowing Men if they don't.

One of the first images taken by NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars early Monday, August 6.  The clear dust cover that protected the camera during landing has been sprung open. Part of the spring that released the dust cover can be seen at the bottom right, near the rover's wheel. Photo: NASA.

Frivolity asides, this is a marvelous scientific and engineering accomplishment.. To travel for 9 months across billions of miles (without accruing any airpoints) and to land on the surface of the Red Planet takes some doing.

Given the form of propulsion for the Mars vehicle (nuclear rather than solar) the life expectancy of the craft could be several years, yielding a wealth of scientific results. One hopes that the fuel rods powering the vehicle are using the latest technological innovations. Traditionally a 'spent' nuclear rod has only used 5% of its potential power.

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory now think they have found a way of utilising the remaining 95% of the uranium in the fuel rod. Their technique could produce hundreds to thousands of years worth of carbon free energy just by reusing the uranium that has already been mined, and is currently considered ‘spent’.

Mr Brown's Singapore version of the Mars Landing!
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Monday, 30 July 2012

A Bird In The Hand

Image from the Digital Nature Archive
When I worked at NUS on of my favourite lunch time activities was to eat at the Student Food Court on Lower Kent Ridge Road which was just across from the the then NUS Alumni office.

Walking in the other direction proved to be an equally enjoyable activity as it took me past the main administration block,en-route to the rather quirky Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, originally established in 1849 and relaunched in 1998. I wrote about this museum in an earlier article but in the intervening couple of years it has changed beyond all recognition.

The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research will soon morph into something quite spectacular and bear little resemblance to what it was previously, apart from retaining some wonderful natural history collections.

In two years time there will be a new Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum built at a cost of some S$46 million. 800,000 Southeast Asian specimens will be housed there and three giant dinosaurs fossils. The latter should certainly pull in the punters. The new museum will be adjacent University Cultural Centre and NUS Museum.
For those of use with an interest in the flora and fauna of Singapore and its tropical neighbours the wait will be considerably shorter as the RMBR has launched the The Digital Nature Archive of Singapore.

This is a truly wonderful resource made available to serious researchers and the browsing public alike.
A site visitor is able to browse through a variety of multimedia and reference source materials: slides and print images, digital images, historical photographs from retired university professors, natural historians, experienced photographers, old local books, etc. video clips and sound clips.

The database makes good use of online technology including YouTube to host its videos. Here is an example; a caged Oriental Magpie Robin singing.

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

Singapore Heritage Festival Promises A Rocking Good Time

I never tire of visiting the Singapore Museums when I visit there, or during the time that I lived in the country.  As this video from the National Heritage Board shows, they are both numerous and diverse.

Today the Museum is staging an outreach exhibition in Jurong; a a collage-based art workshop with the NHB also supporting Our Museum @ Taman Jurong with a curator’s talk and a display on the project.

Another favourite for history buffs is the YesterdaySG History Channel, which I regularly consult on YouTube and from which the above video is taken.

I note that my old haunt' Centrepoint is getting into Singapore HeritageFest 2012 'groove' by staging performances and displays.  A 'Rocking Good Times' stage has replaced the usual jewelry and domestic appliance promotions on the ground floor which should make for fun viewing from the upper levels surrounding the atrium.

Centrepoint Display
Photo NHB
The full programme of HeritageFest events can be downloaded as a PDF here. My only regret is that I am too far away to enjoy all that is on offer this year.  It makes a pleasant change from the incessant media coverage of the London Olympics.
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Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Racial Harmony Day In Singapore

PM Lee: New citizens must embrace Singapore values

While new citizens may be of the same race as a Singaporean who was born here, PM Lee pointed out that they have different habits and attitudes. He emphasised the need to maintain harmony between new and old citizens on Racial Harmony Day.

Do I Smell A Plastic Rat?

Coming up for air?
I am not quite sure how I should react to the news that Caltech and Harvard University scientists in the US have bioengineered a "jellyfish" that can swim.

The 'creature' is made up of silicone polymers and rat heart cells.  That's a plastic ratus ratus to you and me. But unlike the often maligned Gunther Von Hagens variety, these plasticised animals actually have a life, but to paraphrase Star Trek, "Not as we know it".

The Medusoid, for that is its name, is designed to be a biological pump and to assist with heart surgery. 

The process according to my local newspaper, was to use a sheet of cultured rat heart muscle which contracts when electrically stimulated in a liquid environment.  It is the perfect raw material to create the jellyfish according to the researchers..

A silicone polymer was then used to fashion the sheet into a thin membrane that resembles a small jellyfish, with eight arm-like appendages.

Medusoid was then placed in container of salt water and shocked into swimming with synchronised muscle contractions that mimic those of real jellyfish

Kevin Kit Parker who was the project's bio-engineer has quipped that "The world needs less rats and more jellyfish, so I thought it would be cool to do a one-for-one swap".

Now he has his sights set on a different and larger animal to mimic using these processes -  perhaps a politician with a plastic brain or a banker with a plastic heart?  

Come to think of it, my banker already has one.

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Monday, 23 July 2012

Olympic Timing A Disadvantage For Some

For the last couple of weeks global media seems to have been solely focused on the Olympics, their security or lack thereof and the looming Heathrow strike.

This is never more so than in New Zealand where we have seen images and video of past glories, departing athletes and even the departing media themselves!

Singapore has pinned its hopes on the likes of weightlifter Helena Wong, the first woman to compete for the country in this Olympic event.  No doubt the table tennis team will be strong again but the real surprise might be a 17-year-old swimmer Joseph Schooling who was named Sportsman of the Year in May.

However it was another media report that captured my interest this week.

My Muslim friends in Asia and elsewhere are celebrating the most important religious festival of their year - Ramadan.  During this time strict fasting is observed during the day and I recall many of my Singaporean colleagues would practice this observance.

Unfortunately Olympics 2012 coincides with the ninth month of the lunar Islamic calendar this year, which as as the BBC reported, places athletes from Islamic countries at a serious disadvantage.  Fewer carbohydrates in means less energy out.  Not to mention the early morning / pre-dawn ritual and going without drink in the heat of a London summer.

Mind you in the latter case there hasn't been much of a summer; in the great British tradition there has been plenty of moisture and little sun.

Hopefully the next event in Rio will not clash with a major religious observance of any faith or creed.
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