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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Friday, 10 September 2010

Prints From The Past

Posters - Malacca ................................................................ Roger Smith  1982

I first travelled through South East Asia in the early 1980's and this print reflects and celebrates the exotic (to me) textures, sights, smells and sounds the enveloped me at that time.

The prints are scans of old 35mm transparencies which now only exist in this digital form.
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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Meals On Wheels - Singapore Style

Foodcourt 313@Somerset
I doubt when the Segway was invented that Dean Kaman envisaged that it would be used as a mobile drinks trolley.

The Food Republic eatery on the 5th floor of the mall  does just that, as this photo shows.

More NZ Quakes - Interactive Map

This map shows the earthquakes in New Zealand on a daily basis and is a tool developed in collaboration between the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science.

If you left click your mouse and hold it down you can reposition the map.

It graphically demonstrates why and where earthquakes occur, along the major fault lines.

An even better interactive chart with specific reference to the Christchurch quake has been developed by the University of Canterbury.

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Sunday, 5 September 2010

Boxing On

Boxing On
They say that every picture tells a story.  This image demonstrates how I write this blog while I wait for the computer desk to be delivered and assembled.

Thankfully we are now fully installed in our new house and away from our rental unit where we endured the rampaging sounds of our landlord's children in the house above, for the past two months.

It was a great pity he couldn't have taken his children with him when he went off in his electrician's van each morning.  At least we would have got some sleep.

The US Postal service had the right idea as this old photo (right) demonstrates.

The Shaky Isles

Yesterday was a black day for New Zealand and more particularly the South Island.  The first inkling I had that their was a calamity was a report of a major earthquake when I switched on the bedside radio to hear the BBC.

A 7.1  quake hit Christchurch just after 4:30am in the morning and flattened a lot of the city.

As the Prime Minister stated later in the day "Parts of the city look like they've been put in a tumble dryer and given a damn good shake. You look at certain parts of the city and down town, it's essentially a ghost town. You can see utter devastation",

The city was lucky on two counts.  Firstly it was early in the morning when the streets were relatively deserted and families were together.  Secondly there appears to have been no fatalities at time of writing.

I rushed to turn on the television but at that time of the morning there were no special reports.  Once again it was the Net and in particular Twitter that kept everybody up to date.  Real time updates from citizen tweeters and bloggers provided excellent coverage while the main stream media struggled to keep up.

As the map shows the country is a mass of active fault lines and the forces generated by the collision of the Pacific and Australian plates are massive.

It is only a question of time before our capital city Wellington is devastated as it sits on more fault lines than any other NZ populated conurbation.  It was therefore a surprise to most, including the geologists, that it was Christchurch that experienced this  major event.

It should however be no surprise at the scale of the damage, as the shingles on which a lot of the city sits are perfect transmitters of energy. Therefore the force of an earthquake spreads easily and causes greater damage and also liquifaction.

Now twenty four hours on, we have comes to realise that this will be a billion dollar cleanup exercise and one of our most serene and English of cities has been changed forever.
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Saturday, 4 September 2010

Rivetting Flying And Flying Rivets

The DC3
Where we live is near the flight path of Auckland International Airport; not I hasten to add on the flight path but near enough for me to spot the insignia of departing aircraft.

I like to imagine myself in a forward seat in business class, sipping a welcome drink and nibbling on a hors d'Ĺ“uvre. The joy of leaving for a a far flung destination  has always been with me and this wanderlust hasn't dissipated with age.

It has always been this way.  In earlier days the trips from New Plymouth to Christchurch, with fuel stops at Ohakea and Blenheim were looked forward to with pleasure.

Of particular fascination was the  motorised vacuum cleaner that regularly swept the Ohakea runaway clear of rivets, shed by DC3 aircraft such as ours. 

I was too young to associate these shed metals parts with metal fatigue and the potential catastrophic failure in those days.

The Douglas Dakota DC3 was quite an aircraft and the workhorse of New Zealand's domestic aviation in the 1950''s. Even the Queen arrived in one at New Plymouth airport during her visit there in 1953 and if it was good enough for her........

There was something magical about the throb of the propellers and counting fleeing livestock as we flew overhead at low altitude.

Only once has the joy of flying been replaced by stomach-clenching terror.  This was a white knuckle landing at Wellington airport into the teeth of a southerly storm. 

Flying in old Twin Otter aircraft in the highlands of Papua New Guinea was a doddle compared to the Wellington approach, where the horizon bucked and dipped as we made a shortened landing through a cloud of sea spray.  At one stage just before touch down we were careening sideways to the runway.

I rediscovered the mint in my clenched hand only when we were safely inside the terminal; it was that sort of landing.

Flying in and out of Asian airports in recent years has had its moments including racing a typhoon into Taipei, but nothing compared to Wellington.  I haven't flown for two months and am missing the welcoming warmth of Changi already.

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Friday, 3 September 2010

The Delivery Man Cometh...Sometimes

Waiting for a delivery
Delivery guys drive me nuts!

As per usual we itemised the morning time of delivery on the docket and equally true to form the van was nowhere to be seen by midday.

The frustration of trying to track down the elusive van reached a crescendo at noon and finally..... after calls to the shop where we bought our appliances..... a call.

"We are lost" said the driver. "Can't find your house on the map"

"Have you read the  very carefully composed direction we left on the payment docket?" I asked. "If you had done so you would have realised that this is a new property and won't appear on any postcode"

A pregnant pause.

"It's not on our delivery docket" was the reply.

There then ensued a rather terse conversation, the upshot of which was the van arrived half and hour later.

In preparation for the delivery we had vacuumed and mopped floors to make sure that when appliances were in place, they were on a clean base.

The items which included a refrigerator were offloaded at lightning speed.

Would they mind slipping off their dirty boots when the entered the house was my polite request.

"No, we can't take off our boots, it's an Occupation Health and Safety requirement that we keep them on"

"Then do you have any drop sheets to cover our newly cleaned carpet?"

 Of course they did not and one of them even  managed to cut his finger while installing the washing machine leaving red smears on the wall.

Today we are having another delivery; furniture, so at least we will have something to site on while we wait for deliveries in the future!
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