Sunday, February 28, 2010

Singapore Sleep



At this time of my writing, I should already be sound sleeping, or at the very least, be preparing for sleep.
However, I could not sleep. The weather was simply too hot. It did not help that I have no air-conditioner in my room to help me cool down the bristling heat! My bed was like burning as the heat trapped inside my bed emanated slowly while I slept, burning me alive!
What? I was actually forcing myself to sleep! I needed to sleep to have enough energy for the next few days. Was it really the heat of the extremely hot February that caused me not able to sleep or was it simply that I could not sleep? I did not know as memories flashed back many years ago when I was serving my national service. Then, after few days of not sleeping during jungle exercise, I actually doze off intermittently on one hot afternoon while waiting for some ‘enemies’ during our exercise. The condition then was so tough and hot, but I was still able to sleep. I came to a conclusion that if one really is very tired, he would sleep no matter how tough the conditions are. On the converse, if one is not tired at all, give me a most luxurious bed and bedroom, he will not be able to sleep!

So I am now here, tapping on my keyboard, hoping that this little mental activity of composing my thoughts, looking at the screen will make me more tired to be able to sleep. Yes, I am trying too hard, I suppose.
Anyway, while surfing the internet just now for some tips to facilitate my sleeping, I chanced upon an up and coming annual event: Singapore Sleep Awareness Week 2010, organized by Singapore Sleep Society in celebration of World Sleep Day on 19 March 2010.This campaign is intended to celebrate sleep, highlight the importance of sleep and to call to action for problems relating to sleep such as various forms of sleeping disorders.
Sleeping disorders? Yes, there are people suffering from sleeping disorders! Be happy that you are able to sleep, though you may, like me, not have the privilege to enjoy the recommended 8 hours of sleep.
With this post, I think I can see someone calling me now. It is Uncle Zhou (Zhou Gong), a figure in Chinese legend whom one meets when one is going to sleep.
Good night!

Yuan Xiao Jie

Today is the 15th day of the lunar Chinese New Year, which marks really the end of the Chinese New Year celebration in Singapore.

Over the past two weeks, Singapore reveled in the many great celebrations over the island as I have shared with all of you in this blog before.

I really missed Chinese New Year as it may be the one of the very rare times when Singaporeans like me can let our hair down.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

NATAS Fair 2010

Marina IR Opens Apr 27

The headlines of today’s newspapers reads: “Marina IR Opens Apr 27”. Indeed this is one of the news that Singaporeans are awaiting for this year, even more eagerly so, after Resort World in Sentosa opens its door to the public on Chinese New Year day.

Coincidentally, today’s newspapers also reported how a man was arrested for cheating the Resort World security officer to gain entry into the Casino using his brother’s driving licence (he faces a similar charge of stealing his brother’s document) and trying to cheat the casino officers there of winning $190. There are really some crime cases which are fortunately being cracked and the perpetuators arrested since the opening of Resort World casinos. Will there be more crime in the offing and social problems when the Marina IR opens Apr 27? Possibly so, but I believe the Casino Regulatory Authority as well as our police will do their best to contain these social fallouts arising from gambling at the casinos to the minimum.

The opening of Marina IR will be carried out in phases, with the casinos, integrated resorts and entertainment centres opening in phases.

The other few events this year which Singaporeans are highly anticipative are, in my opinion: the opening of phase 2 of the Circle Line, the General Election, the Youth Olympics and the Singapore F1.

However this is really an event which is happening real fast: TOMORROW when the nation will be highly anticipative! Singaporeans will be checking whether they are the lucky winners to win the whopping Singapore $10,000,000 (10 million dollars) in the TOTO Hongbao draw tomorrow!

If you have bought the Hongbao draw tomorrow, I wish you all the Best!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

River Hongbao 2010


My wife and I visited the River Hongbao 2010 yesterday night. This year, River Hongbao was held at the floating platform beside the Singapore Esplanade as alike of last year. The floating platform is now commonly used to stage mega events and exhibitions and the brilliant night skydrop of the skyscrapers in the Central Business District serves as a dazzling backdrop for the River Hongbao event.

Compared to River Hongbao last year, this year, all the exhibits were quite well spread out, which gave generous amount of walking space to visitors at the event. The usual theme of River Hongbao however was not missed this year. Most of the showcase were from China, and there were the familiar animal horoscope models, Chinese lanterns, god of fortune, stage performances, stalls offering China delicacies and more.

River Hongbao is a great event to visit with, together with your family, relatives and friends. River Hongbao will end tonight, so if you have not visited River Hongbao and would like to go, do come down to the floating platform tonight!

Last year River Hongbao was also good and if not, slightly better. If you would want to read about my experiences in River Hongbao last year, please click on this link.

I wish you a Happy Birthday as today is the seventh of the Chinese Lunar month. ‘Ren Ri’ as we Chinese calls today.

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Chingay 2010

What a night! Chingay 2010 is one of the most beautiful Chingay parades I have ever witnessed! The sight, the sound and the most amazing floats revved up the moods of Chingay 2010 to its highest ever!

Chingay 2010 is held this year on both dates: yesterday and today. My wife and I caught the glimpses of Chingay Parade 2010 at the Pits building at Singapore Flyer yesterday and I must tell you that it is a truly spectacular show!





Thousands of performers were on the road, strutting their stuff! Floats were aplenty. Dancers were really engrossed and professional in their performances. And of all the dozens of floats this year, one float which stood out this year was a huge giant panda sashaying and greeting everyone of us down the road! This float made its debut in Chingay this year and it was one of the very last floats! Together with this panda were other truly amazing and cute creatures which will become more and more familiar to Singaporeans as time goes by! What are these animals and creatures? I am not going to tell you right now as I will be updating either this post or blog soon about Chingay 2010 with all the other dozens of videos I have taken of this event!

There was a sprinking of fireworks here and there throughout the Chingay show and I am sure that the best fireworks will come tonight, at the culmination of the finale of the Chingay show and all the Chinese New Year celebrations in Singapore from the Chinese New Year light up at Chinatown, the Chinatown Chinese New Year countdown, River Hongbao and Chingay 2010 (you can read about most of these event and my experiences there at my blog).

So when the Chingay show ends tonight, it will be back to usual for many Singaporeans… all the holiday mood from December to February will come to a short hiatus as Singaporeans will await patiently for another round of holidays! However all is still not lost when Chingay ends tonight. There will be City Alive 2010, Singapore’s largest street party (you can read the details in my earlier post today). So you may want to head down to Pits building and dance till your limits before coming back to work and another ‘dry spell’ of non-holidays!

These are some of the exciting videos taken yesterday of Chingay 2010:















I will upload more videos in this blog or post, so stay tuned to Singapore Short Stories! To savour the best of Chinese New Year in Singapore, Singapore Short Stories proposes the following itinery today for your consideration:


a) 6pm to 7pm: Thrill yourself at Uncle Ringo next to River Hongbao
b) 7pm to 8pm: Visit River Hongbao
c) 8pm to 9pm: Head down to Marina Square for Dinner
d) 9pm to 10pm: Watch Chingay Parade at Singapore Flyer
e) 10pm to 5am: Dance non-stop at City Alive 2010
Happy Birthday to You! (Ren Ri today!)



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City Alive


How time flies! Today will be the official Chingay 2010 parade. And what comes next after the Chingay parade will be none other than the largest annual street party in Singapore: City Alive 2010!

Join in with thousands of party-goers as they grooved to the beat and rhythm of the latest hip-hop music spun by the famous DJs in the region!

Singapore's biggest street dance party returns this year, this time to a new party venue at the Pit Building. City Alive! 2010 promises party-revellers yet another night of pumping action as they witness the transformation of the tracks in front of Pit Building into an out-of-this-world party venue!

Party-revellers will expect a night of adrenaline rush as they party the night away with international acts such as Space Cowboy (Digital Rock Star - UK), DJ Sarasa a.k.a Silverboombox (Japan), Singapore’s very own DJ Andrew T and DJ Inquisitive dishing out Hip Hop/R&B/Electro-pop grooves. Also expect a host of exciting activities, such as the ultimate B-boys battle between All Area Crew from Japan against Singapore's own Radikal Forze., UV stilt walkers and many more, to bring the party anthem to the heart of the city! The minimum age of entry to City Alive! 2010 is 18 years old. Advance tickets are available at all Sistic authorised agents at www.sistic.com.sg and the Sistic Hotline via (+65) 6348 5555 at $15 for PAssion cardholders and $20 for general public. Event day tickets will be priced at $28 at the door. All ticket prices include one standard drink. If you are interested in the event and have not bought the ticket, I hope there is still remaining tickets left for sales as the street party is a truly exciting mega-disco party as my wife and I have experienced it last year.

City Alive last year, or City Alive 2009 was held right at the doorsteps of the old City Hall! And it was really fascinating to witness thousands of party-goers sashaying right at the doorsteps of the seemingly-contradicting august hall of city hall.

Catch my videos of City Alive 2009 right here:












If you are really interested, log on to www.cityalive.sg for more details! If you have bought your details, I wish you all the fun tonight!

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Ren Ri

Happy Birthday Everyone! Yes, I am no kidding! Today is the birthday of both you and I ! Yup, in fact today is the birthday of everyone!

How time passes! Chinese New Year has just entered into its 7th day today. According to Chinese tradition, the 7th day of the first lunar month is the day of man, hence today is our birthday!

According to the ancient writings of Tung Fang So, censor to the Emperor Wudi under the Han dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), the first eight days of the year are dedicated respectively to the rooster, dog, pig, sheep, bull, horse, man and grain.

And how can Ren Ri go without Yu Sheng? Yu Sheng is a Teochew style raw fish salad. Partakers of Yusheng will toss the Yusheng high up to signify prosperity and progress for the coming year ahead!

Definitely, I will be sharing my celebrations of Ren Ri, my birthday as well as yours later in the blog, so stay tuned!

Happy Birthday to You, once again!

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tai Sui

Some days ago, I have blogged about ‘Fan Tai Sui’ in my post . I belonged to one of the animal signs to offend (‘fan’) Tai Sui, as such, I dutifully went to ‘bai’ (pray to ) Tai Sui yesterday afternoon to seek blessing and forgiveness for the year ahead.

I visited a temple off Joo Chiat road and by the time I arrived at the temple, there were already three long queues of worshippers waiting for their turn to ‘bai tai sui’. This was my first time to ‘bai tai sui’ myself as previously I came with my parents, however this year, our schedules could not match, and hence I went ahead alone to pray.

I asked a man who seemed to be the one of the ‘in-charge’ how I could proceed with the prayer. I went to the reception counter as instructed by him and told the receptionist what I was there for. The receptionist immediately produced a slip of paper and instructed me to write my Chinese name on the paper. She then asked for the date and time of my birth as well as my horoscope. Within minutes, she completed writing the details of the slip, handed me a tax invoice after I have paid her $10. There was also another service on offer: if you would want to have your whole family blessed on behalf of you, you could also write their names on the slip of paper for an additional $5 to be blessed too. However, I did not know how doing so would affect those family members not of the 4 animal signs offending ‘Tai Sui’ hence I proceeded with praying for myself only.

The sight was interesting. 3 long queues, however, one of them was longer than the two others. Despite the same old man asking the worshippers to join the two shorter queues, they refused to oblige. It turned out that the old lady assisting in the chanting for the worshippers in the longest queue was the most experienced. Hence I believed more worshippers would prefer to wait in the longer queue so as to ensure more ‘comprehensive’ and ‘value-for-money’ package.

Like the others, when my turn was up, I was treated to a segment of the mandarin oranges which have been peeled by another lady and put into a large basket. Next came the actual prayer. It was simple ceremony: I knelted down on a small stool, prayed to the ‘Tai Sui’ statue while the old lady began chanting for blessings for me. At the end of the ceremony, the old lady dished out a red packet from her pocket and put it in a container in front of the ‘Tai Sui’ statue and as usual, ‘chopped’ a red stamp on my neck as a mark of ‘Pass’ (I suppose). After leaving, I was also given a small hamper consisting of small snacks for my family and I to eat for health and prosperity.

To conclude, aforementioned was my session of ‘bai tai sui’: a simple but important ceremony!

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Joke

This is a joke which came out from my head some days ago. I hope you will like the joke. Once upon a time, a couple who have just given birth to their son, would like to give his son a name which would give inspiration to others around, so they settled on a simple name: Hope.

Like any other man born into a rich family. Hope grew up into a fine young man. Being rich, his family never had any problems in giving Hope only the best in life. Hope had the best life any young man could dream of. He indulged in food and drinks and never watched his diet, becoming a fat and obese man. Being rich, he soon grew complacent and arrogant. He soon lost touch with reality, with society, being raised in any ivory tower and instead of being an inspiration to others, he soon became scornful of people poorer than him and even at times mocking at them.

One day, his parents asked one of Hope’s friend, David, whether Hope has inspired him in life as what his name has set him out to be. David replied “What hope? He is so arrogant and fat that I and my friends knew that he inspired only FAT HOPE for us for the things that we do not have!”


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Iphone

Iphones are no longer new anymore in Singapore. Since last year, the major telecommunication companies (Telcos) have been offering special iphone packages one after another to capture their bite of the cherry. Many Singaporeans have bought iphones and this trend is understandable and inevitable as we all know that Singaporeans are creatures of the latest IT gadgets.

So what happens after you have bought an iphone? Well, it is pretty obvious, many iphone buyers will seek to maximize their iphone packages by utilizing all the applets, internet time and applications as much as possible.

As such, we will see nowadays Singaporeans, New Citizens, Foreigners, Permanent Residents living in our island and who are owners of iphones whiling away their time during their public transport commute on their iphones. Worst, I have seen employees whiling away their time on their iphones while working and I believe too this is the trend.

It is really very difficult nowadays to catch employees idling with iphones! Imagine if an employee whiles away at his workstation on his iphone the whole day, he can always justify to his boss that he is replying his SMS when caught. And how often will a boss really walk and supervise his charges?


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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chinese New Year after-effects

The number ‘8’ is an auspicious number to Chinese during Chinese New Year. Today is the third day of Chinese New Year and according to Chinese customs; it is not very good to visit relatives and friends on this day of the Chinese New Year. As such, I stayed at home today and was busy doing something for 8 times (an auspicious number coincidentally too!)

What was that thing I did 8 times? Well, I visited the toilet for a total number of ‘8’ times! Sorry, in this case, my visit to the toilet did not mean that I paid a visit to the toilet and exchanged greetings with the toilet bowl and water cistern. In actual fact, I played host to the toilet bowl though I was the ‘guest’ in the toilet as I treated the toilet bowl for a sumptuous diet of soups and chocolates for a total of eight times!

Blame it on that stupid laksa I ate last night which I have mentioned in my post yesterday! Haiz, though Singapore is a food paradise, all it takes is one hawker selling contaminated and unhygienic food to spoilt your diet for days!

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Total Defence Day

Sirens rang islandwide at 12 pm sharp yesterday while many Singaporeans were still busy visiting their relatives and friends. I believe many Singaporeans do not understand the significance of the siren. Worst, they might not have heard the shrill of the siren while enjoying the festive mood and food of Chinese New Year.

Similar to other years, yesterday 15 Feb is Total Defence Day. 58 years ago, Singapore was invaded by the Japanese and was occupied for a total of 3 years and 8 months. Under the Japanese rule, Singaporeans led a life of hell. Thousands of men were massacred, thousands of women were raped with many being shot in their vaginas after being raped, children were not spared as the Japanese soldiers flung infants high up towards the skies, only to have them dropped to the heart of their bayonets, with their blood smeared across the faces of their Japanese devils. I have heard somewhere that these Japanese soldiers believed the blood of infants smeared across their faces was auspicious for them.

That fateful day 58 years ago was also Chinese New Year! In 1942, there were two lunar months in the Chinese calendar and urban legend has it that if there are any two lunar months in the Chinese calendar, there will be war!

Chaos and fear reigned during the Japanese Occupation. Untold and unbelievably cruel stories were too many to be told. It was such a grave period for Singapore and I believe older surviving Singaporeans who have been through the world would bear compelling testimonials of what happened during the dark 3 years and 8 months.

My late grandmother who survived the Japanese Occupation had told me how she has to dress like a man to prevent being picked up by the Japanese soldiers. My late grandfather also led an uneasy life during the Japanese Occupation bringing up the family.

Fast forward to today, Singaporeans seem to have lost touch with history. How many younger Singaporeans know the significance of the ringing of the siren and the significance of Total Defence Day?

Possibility of war aside, the prospect of our society breaking up into chaos is always present. The recent case of Pastor Rony Tan and the posting of racist comments by 3 youths underscored how easy it is for an individual or two to spread racial and religiously insensitive remarks to the masses under the cloak of anonymity afforded by the internet. The government has acted fast to contain and mitigate the negative effects of their acts. The episodes also once again reminded Singaporeans the importance of religious and racial harmony.

Countries elsewhere are also in turmoil. In Thailand, what used to be a peaceful country has now become restive after the former Premier Thaksin was ousted of government. In Malaysia, churches were set ablaze after the court’s ruling of the use of the word ‘Allah’.

Hence as Singaporeans live peacefully in our little country, we still need to note how social turbulences can be easily sparked and that it is still an existential threat, no matter how small the threat can be.


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Monday, February 15, 2010

Chinese New Year Hawker Food

The past few days have been really flying and I have been sleeping late and busy visiting. Though Singapore is not too big, traversing from one end of the island to the other via public transport can take its toll on many, mentally and physically including me. All these late nights, busy preparations, smacking of unhealthy food can really make one unhealthy!

Many hawkers were closed these two days during Chinese New Year and this is definitely understandable as stall owners still need a day or two to spend Chinese New Year with their loved ones. As I passed Bedok Food Centre interchange this evening after a busy day of visiting my relatives, I saw to my expectation many closed stalls but there were some stalls which were open for business.

I need some food to fill my empty stomach. Chicken rice? I saw a stall with an attractive signboard selling salad chicken rice. Mentioning that stall really boiled my nerves as the chicken rice was most expensive and the quality and quantity was the worst. Customer service was also horrible! I chose to eat laksa tonight at a stall which sold laksa and some fish ball noodles and located at the extreme end of the food centre nearest to the Bedok MRT station.

The stall holder actually increased the price of one bowl of laksa from $3 to $3.50 and the reason she gave was Chinese New Year. Alright, I thought and I ordered two bowls, one for me and one for my wife.

When she presented the bowls of laksa to me, I was shocked! The laksa was so dilute like plain water and the volume was so little! I asked her to add more laksa soup which she obliged but in the interim of doing so, she created some big fuss by shouting hysterically when she could not stop the fire in the fire stove in time. My wife and I had to endure our tastebuds to drink the terrible laksa soup and noodles!

Haiz, eating some rotten food and wasting money on Chinese New Year! I think those stalls doing well will afford to close shop during Chinese New Year leaving some stalls selling bad food to continue operating and affecting customers.

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Chinatown Chinese New Year Celebrations 2010 countdown

How time passes! At this time of writing, Chinese New Year has just entered into its second day! So what have I been doing these few days? The answer is obvious, I have been preparing for Chinese New Year!

I woke up early on Saturday, the eve of Chinese New year and after completing my routine errands for the day, I commenced my annual spring cleaning. The areas of spring cleaning are my study areas, computer areas as well as bedroom.

What is surprising about spring cleaning is that as you start to work through the list of paraphernalia to be cleared, you will bound to discover even more items to be listed on your spring cleaning agenda! I cleared my cupboard, threw out all the unwanted stuff, swept, cleaned, wiped off the grime and effectively detoxified and sanitized these areas.

It was such a chore. At the end of the day, I spent actually close to 7 hours clearing my stuff. After which, it was a sumptuous reunion dinner. Following the dinner, my wife and I went to Chinatown to feel the Chinese New Year festive atmosphere up, close and personal!

Chinatown was a sea of people. We caught the countdown to the Chinese New Year and jostled among the thousands of people there just to exit out from the streets. As videos tell a thousand words, check out these videos I have specially prepared for you readers:






Happy Chinese New Year to You!



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Friday, February 12, 2010

Motivation

Everyone knows how important it is to feel motivated in life. Only with motivation can one have the will and passion to ride through the hardships of life toward one’s own goals.

Life is not always a bed of rose, it is full of challenges and unexpected twists and turns. After having been through so much myself, I realize that life is not fair at all. We all have to accept that life is not fair, however we must not lose all hope and ambition on recognizing this very fact. Despites all odds, we must solider on to fight for what we believe and to achieve what we always want to do.

In life, there may not be justice at all as you see for yourself, seeing the injustice being played out in life, inevitably, we feel despondent and unfair. Self motivation is a skill we need to develop. Motivation and feeling motivated is not a easy skill to learn else there would not be hundreds of people paying few thousands of dollars just to learn to feel motivated from those so-called success coaches.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alexa ranking of Singapore ministries webpages


If you are into website traffic fraternity, you would have read about Alexa.com, the website which ranks all websites residing in the cyberworld according to the website traffic they garner. The lower the rank, the better is the score. The envious number 1 spot on Alexa.com is none other than big brother, Google!

Do not underestimate the Alexa rank! This Alexa rank can help to boost the fortune of several websites and blogs which reply on advertisements placed by other companies on their websites as form of revenues! To break into the top Alexa ranking of 100,000, according to my estimation, you would need to attract about 1000 pageviews per day on the average to your website!

We have heard about the Alexa ranking list of blogs and other websites,what about the Alexa ranking of websites of Singapore ministries? I trawl the internet but found no information relating to such an Alexa ranking made of the ministries here in Singapore. I believe that an Alexa ranking of the government ministries here would be beneficial as we would know which websites are most and least visited by Singaporeans (and maybe foreigners as the minority). From such a list, we can get a glimpse of what ministries that matter more directly or play a more direct and important role in the lives of Singaporeans for them to garner such high volume of traffic daily. So here is the ranking list (in decreasing Alexa ranking) I made of the 15 ministries, correct as of today:


1) Ministry Of Manpower (MOM) Website

53,519

2) Ministry Of Education (MOE) Website

60,882

3) Ministry Of Defence (MINDEF) Website

150,443

4) Ministry Of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Website

169,677

5) Ministry Of Health (MOH) Website

294,314

6) Ministry Of Community Development, Youth And Sports (MCYS) Website

453,337

7) Ministry Of Trade And Industry (MTI) Website

801,463

8) Ministry Of Home Affairs (MHA) Website

819,770

9) Ministry Of Finance (MOF) Website

880,771

10) Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Website

1,152,004

11) Ministry Of Information, Communications And The Arts (MICA) Website

1,343,432

12) Ministry Of Law (MINLAW) Website

1,501,067

13) Ministry Of The Environment And Water Resources (MEWR) Website

1,896,938

14) Ministry Of Transport (MOT) Website

2,158,728

15) Ministry Of National Development (MND) Website

2,165,622


It seems hardly a surprise that the ministry of education and defence websites come in second and third as they are two of the three areas Singapore spends the most of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in. Ministry of Manpower websites attracts the highest traffic as in my opinion, there are so many foreigners wanting to come to work in Singapore with our Singapore’s open door policy towards them. Hence many of them visit the website to find out more about the work passes issues, etc.

It is surprising that the website of ministry of land transport is placed second last as transport is the third largest area Singapore spends its GDP on. Also surprising is the last spot of Ministry of National Development which houses the Housing Development Board under its umbrella, as I thought housing is such a bread and butter issue for all Singaporeans. However, I can really quanitfy this by my belief that many visitors actually visit the webpages of the statutory boards placed under these two ministries. Look out for my Alexa ranking of the Statutory Boards in Singapore soon!

What has hair loss got to do with Chinese New Year?



With Chinese New Year arriving in just 3 days' time and all the festive mood of Chinese New year reving up and culminating in a sky-high (literally and figuratively) midnight of fireworks and firecrackers this Sunday 14 Feb 10, it seems completely irrelevant and daft (learnt this word recently from the news!) on how hair loss should come into picture at all on this festive season !

However, this relevancy is not all lost during Chinese New Year, let me tell you why.


One or two weeks before Chinese New Year: Spring Cleaning:

First of all, as we know, stress does play a factor in inducing hair loss. With the hustle and bustle of Chinese New Year, many of us, already busy with work and life, have to find time off our hectic schedule to clear our houses and do spring cleaning for that big day of the Chinese lunar year! The stress (of finding time and clearing the houses) can shed some of your precious strands of hair!

One or two days before Chinese New Year: Ang Baos:

Secondly, for those married couples, another whammy to their precious locks of hair: ang baos (red packets)! It is customary for married couples to give red packets to their juniors when it comes to Chinese New Year. With economy just on the mend, whatever money that could be saved is a bonus. Having to come out, fork out, cough out (select any of these terms depending on your circumstances) in preparing the ang baos can add to the stress of Chinese New Year and your hair loss!

During Chinese New Year: Questions

Chinese New Year is one of the very few occasions where families, friends and relatives get together. With Singaporeans hard at work, busy with family commitments, it can be more rare for more regular gatherings of family and relatives these days. Thus on these days of Chinese New Year, where families go around visiting friends, all these oft-asked questions which have long become clich├ęs will be heard once again. Hearing questions like “Are you married?”, “What are you working as”, “How is your children’s results?” ….and more will cause more stress and induce more hair strands to fall.

One last special question

To add to the whole slew of aforementioned questions that would be asked during Chinese New Year, this question is more targeted towards hair loss suffers: “What happens to your hair?” Friends and relatives who have not seen the hair loss sufferers for a year or so may be prompted to ask this!

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What to see in Sungei Buloh?

Continued from previous post ....

Navigating around Sungei Buloh is a breeze. There are a few trails one can take to explore the place. Each trail is graded as 'Easy', 'Medium' or 'Difficult' in the map and the duration for completing each trail is also indicated on the map. My wife and I chose a combination of routes that cut across the different grades of trails. There are observation decks built around the reserve for visitors to observe the rare birds on the lowlands. Yes, rare birds were the first sights that greeted us, along the way we were intrigued by the other sights of nature at Sungei Buloh.

First, the freshwaters. The freshwaters were at a height just some tens of centimetres from the wooden boardwalks we were trekking on. Surrounded by the freshwater at this height, the feeling we had walking on the boardwalk is surreal! It was unlike Singapore! It felt as though we were in Venice! If you want to experience something which is unlike the brick and mortar Singapore urban way of life, you should not give Sungei Buloh a miss!

Secondly, we came up, close and personal with the animals of Sungei Buloh. These animals were the aquatic animals from monitor lizards to eerie looking snails and mangrove crabs. Monitor lizards tend to lurk around the observation decks as warned by the signs in front of these decks. Though harmless, there could also be other animals like snakes who would want to seek refuge in the deck on a rainy day. Thus always be warned. I feel nauseous when looking at the mangrove crabs and thinking of the possibility of eating them like a normal crab! Similarly, the snails were odd-looking too.


I must definitely want to mention about the waters in Sungei Buloh. There are parcels of fresh and clear water as well as undisturbed waters. There are fast moving streams of water as well as still waters. The undisturbed waters are really stagnant, putrid and very very murky and dirty! There seemed to be layers and layers of petroleum in the water which comprises of mud and debris too! I could not imagine how many years the waters have been at this state! Withstanding the hot temperatures day after day for years and left unperturbed for years, these water bodies would sure become toxic over time?

Sungei Buloh is really a place for all Singaporeans to experience waterfront living at its primitive state before its modern day equivalent of Marina Bay and the up and coming Tanjong Pagar, though the latter definitely do not have the little creatures as well as the rustic charm of Sungei Buloh!


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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Housing Development Board Celebrates 50th Anniversary



My wife and I were at Toa Payoh yesterday when we chanced upon the Housing Development Board’s (HDB) exhibition at HDB hub. This year, HDB celebrates its 50th anniversary. About 90% of Singaporeans currently own a flat, with 80% of the population living in HDB housing apartments.

When Singapore gained independence, the majority of its population lived in slums and squatters set up haphazardly with little proper sanitation and hygiene. Today, Singaporeans live in houses which they are proud of, with great amenities and facilities in the neighbourhood.

However, these days, finding a flat here is becoming a Herculean task with the demand far outstripping supply! Many Singaporeans are looking for flat, be it resales flat or new flats. Housing estate agents are also having a field day with the boom in business.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve


Mention Sungei Buloh wetland reserves to Singaporeans, you will realise that though the name rings a bell to many, many Singaporeans might not have visited one of this last natural gems residing in our city. I am one of these Singaporeans who have not visited Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve until recently. The photos of bird watching on low land come to my mind whenever I think of Sungei Buloh, as such if I do not like bird watching, Sungei Buloh will be a boring place to me..this is what I have always thought until my recent visit to the place. Sungei Buloh has more to offer besides its famed watching of rare species of birds.

As a natural reserve, Sungei Buloh is located in the far-flung end of Kranji and it is definitely not easy to get to this place by public transport. The reserve is not as open as any other parks where you can enter and exit at any point. One need to pass through the entrance at the visitors' centre, admission is free on weekdays but a $1 charge is levied on weekends.

Tranversing the natural reserves, a map is definitely useful and one can get the map from the stacks at the information counter. Upon passing through the entrance at the visitors' centre, you are on your own to discover this amazing low land natural reserve provided you hire a guide to walk along with you. My wife and I did not require a guide as the ample information boards at the different exhibitis are sufficient for our knowledge needs. (to be continued...)



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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Fan Tai Sui

So what is 'Fan Tai Sui'? Is it connected to Chinese Feng Shui? With the coming of Chinese New Year, it is timely to examine this topic a bit closer!

Chinese New Year will be here in about 9 days time. Whenever it is Chinese New Year, apart from the usual festive exchange of greetings, hongbaos and mandarin oranges as well as the visiting of friends and relatives, Chinese (Buddists and Taoists mainly) will go to temples to pray for a better lunar year ahead. Many Chinese will also check whether the Chinese zodiac animal signs they are born under will 'fan' (Chinese Hanyu Pinyin for 'Offend') 'Tai Sui' for the coming Chinese New Year.

So what is 'Tai Sui'? If you want something physical, 'Tai Sui' refers to the stars directly opposite the planet Jupiter. Chinese legend has it that the Heavenly Jade Emperor has a team of 60 generals who will rotate to help the Emperor govern the Heavens as well as the mortal world for the term of a Chinese New Year. It is further said that depending on the features of each general, there will be some implications for the human world related to the features. For example, if the general governing a particular Chinese lunar year holds a pen, it means that there will be some political unrest for the year. However all this is myth only. Fengshui practioners comment that those whom Zodiac signs clash with 'Tai Sui' can actually harness and leverage through some means to reduce their undesirable effects. The General or 'Tai Sui' for the coming Chinese New Year is General Wu Huan.

Last but not least, the answer you have been waiting for, whether your Chinese zodiac sign does indeed 'Fan Tai Sui' this coming Chinese Year. Animal signs in direct conflict with 'Tai Sui' for coming Chinese New Year are : Tiger, Monkey, Snake and Pig. If you belong to any of the above Chinese zodiacs, you can go to the Chinese temple, pay some tokens to seek a prayer session to Tai Sui till 15th of the lunar month.

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Singapore Farms

Despites being a modern city, Singapore still has within its limited land space, areas dedicated to farms for the growing of vegetables and rearing of livestock to contribute to a certain percentage of its food needs.

Many of these farms are located in Kranji and a number of these farms, mostly well-established farms have banded together to inject vibrancy and fun of farming by forming a group called ‘Kranj Countryside’. Some of the ways this group has explored to reach out to more Singaporeans include the setting up of the Kranji Countryside website, the establishment of shuttle services from Kranji MRT station to farms and as well as the construction of farm resorts for Singaporeans who wish to experience farmland living.

I am not a regular visitor to these farms though I love all things green and rural. I am a regular visitor to the parks in Singapore but I seldom go to farms for one reason: the farms in Kranji are difficult to access via public transport. Though you may argue that there is a bus 925 from Kranji and the Kranji Express, you may want to try waiting for them! Recently, my wife and I have tried waiting for 1.5 hours for Kranji Express just to get from one farm to another! It does not help though the express service costs $2 for a round trip to 7 or 8 farms, I mean with a waiting interval of 1.5 hours, how many such farms can you visit? For my wife and I, the answer is one as we came to visit the farms around 2pm recently. Of course, we do not know the shuttle intervals initially else we would have thought of alternative transport.

Being in a remote (‘ulu’) place like Kranji without your own transport like car, one will have to contend with waiting and waiting for either bus 925 or Kranji Express. One can call a taxi also provided the driver does not mind to pick you up in this far-flung location. Do not think of hailing a cab, there is not a single taxi in sight there.

If I have painted a somewhat discouraging picture of visiting farms in Kranji, I have to apologize that I do not meant to do so. I have just wanted to reinforce the message that you may want to think of planning your transport and access there else you will spend lots of time waiting for public buses and the shuttle.

The farms in Kranji make for a worthwhile visit if you are not there before as you would see how vegetables are grown and harvested as well as how fireflies, frogs and goats are farmed. AVA has now forbid the feeding, touching and being in close proximity of the goats at Hay’s Dairy by visitors thus I was very sad to learn that in my second visit to the farms as a part of the appeal in visiting the farms is now gone. It seems that there is now no place at all to feel goats in Singapore!

To many Singaporeans, unless they go to the farms regularly to buy farm produce, many would not revisit the farms again for the second or third time in my opinion as there are not really many interesting things to see which will get refreshed upon subsequent trip. That may be the reason why the frequency of public buses to these farms are incredibly long as there are not many visitors.

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3 youths arrested for posting racist remarks at Facebook



3 youths were arrested for posting racist remarks at Facebook. This is not the first time that a person here is brought to task for posting some remarks injurious to the common goodwill of our people here. Some months back, a blogger was also similarly caught for posting racist remarks in his blog.

I believe such cases do happen from time to time here in Singapore and other countries. I believe it is not that these perpetuators cannot tell right from wrong or deliberately post these radical comments on social networking media knowing the government’s stand here. The reason for them posting such comments is most likely due to the fact that social networking has become so intertwined with our personal life that it has now become our personal domain.

We witness this increasing trend of the invasion or integration of public social networking tools into our personal lives. Modern people spend hours and hours on Facebook, blogs, twitters, forums, MSN, Youtube among many other new media tools. Got an opinion to share? Blog it or post it on forum and Facebook. Got an interesting video or photo to share, do it on Youtube and Picasa. This is now the way of life. We spend countless of hours on all these new media so much so that now we cannot distinguish what is ‘public’ and what is ‘private’. The distinction between public and private self domain is now blurred. It is little wonder that people often vent their spleen on blog posts, forums and Facebook without little consideration, assuming that it is their right to do so on their supposedly private space.

However, in doing so, they have forgot that everyone is responsible for his or her own actions, offline or online. If one is not able to defend his or her own words or actions, and what he or she has written or said cannot bear up to public scrutiny and are in public distaste, he or she will be taken to task like what the youths in this latest case found out.


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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Best and Cheapest Snack of Singapore

What is the Best and Cheapest Snack of Singapore? The answer is none other than the
Maxwell Food Centre's Hum Jim Pang!
Introduction:

After the 3rd trip to Maxwell Food Centre, (the 2nd trip with my Dear), Singapore Short Stories feels so inspired by the hum jin pangs he has partaken at the stall that he blogs what is believed to be the longest blog post till far in his Singapore Short Stories blog !

Singapore Short Stories dedicates this blog post to the old maestro of Maxwell Food Centre Hum Jin Pang stall, my Dear who is a fanatic of Hum Jin Pang (only from Maxwell Food Centre Hum Jin Pang stall !) as well as all lovers of Hum Jin Pang!

Enjoy reading, folks! Wishing you a Happy New Year!

Maxwell Food Centre Hum Jin Pang

Day after day, night after night, year after year, the relentless firm kneads of perfectly elastic and flawless dough, the adroit pulling and twisting of the dough into fine balls of a thousand shapes and sizes, the smooth rolling of these with an ancient roller, the sprinkling of rich tau sar into each dough ball, the deft re-kneading of these dough balls and finally the dishing of each dough piece with a modicum of white sesame seeds………..all this and more greet the patrons of a little humble stall selling Hum Jin Pang in Maxwell Food Centre, named aptly and simply as such: ‘Hum Jin Pang’. This is a stall, which has withstood the test and annals of time. This is a stall, which has also withstood the rising costs of inflation, with the sales of hum jin pang at an incredible 6 for $1 ONLY! (for both salted and sweet tau sar flavor). Customers can also request for sugar-coating of these hum jin pang at no additional price too!

The stall is ‘fronted’ by a timeless old man, characterized by his severely hunched spine; the contortion inevidently caused by years of incessant bending of his back, plying his trade. The old man and his famous stall has become an enduring feature as well as fixture for Maxwell food centre and its patrons. On this public holiday (Christmas 2008), my Dear and I visited the stall to satiate our craving for these special hum jin pang. Initially, we were doubtful as to whether the stall would open on a public holiday, when the world revel in merry-making; nevertheless we were not disappointed, the stall opened, for us and for Singaporeans who love ageless, timeless, tasty, handmade hum jin pang!

My dear and I found ourselves queuing behind a long snaky queue of equally fervently awaiting customers. The old stall owner was flanked and assisted by a lady seeming in her forties (presumably his daughter) helping out with the simple logistics of the stall. We watched in awe and were spellbound at the quick, nimble manipulations of a simple dough by the old maestro, transformed into a myriad yummies of a thousand shapes and sizes all within seconds (despites the advanced age of the old man)! His reflexes were swift while he trained his eyes, which are already reduced to a weathered pair of narrow slits over the years, on each and every dough piece. His sharp focus is admirable at his age. The father-daughter pair worked diligently, humbly, oblivious to the chorus of the customers and the passage of time around them. The chemistry between both father and daughter was fantastic; it was an exemplar of teamwork!

If customers to the stall deem watching the father and daughter at work as a great traditional and historical performance; a bonus, or a prelude to the ultimate rewarding meal later, they would be glad that would also share in this historical stage with the pair as customers in dishing out the hum jin pangs they would so delightfully gulp down later! For while the father and daughter prepare the dough to be fried, the customers will be in the thick of the action- yes frying the hum jin pangs in a wok of boiling hot oil, at their own pace, at a stall which is permeated by the rich aroma: uniquely and distinctly characteristic of frying hum jin pang!
The ‘modus operandi’ for the customer at this stall is simple: when it comes to your turn to order, give your request to the stall assistant and after the customer(s) ahead of you is done with his purchases, you will be greeted with the sight of the hot wok in front of you, two pairs of giant chopsticks, of white floury hum jin pang dough pieces being tossed into the wok, sliding down the smooth surface of the wok, entering into the hot, boiling cooking oil with a uniquely ‘hum jin pangy’ sizzling sound and of rich, creamy, crispy, aromatic, heavenly, fried hum jin pang floating on the surface of the oil, a sign which marks the end of a metamorphosis of the floury hum jin pangs into golden yummies.
There are no instructions given for you on what to do next, at this time and at this point; you are expected to simply, ‘automatically’ come into the ‘play’. ‘Don’t know what to do?’ then you deserve a beating for you should have observed what the preceding customers have done: just help to fry the floury hum jin pangs in the hot boiling oil la!

The old maestro must have garnered a reputation and a loyal following throughout the years of his trade as a hum jin pang seller for I saw old customers buying from his stall who seem more like his friends than customers. Who knows, some of these customers might have been eating his Hum Jin Pang for twenty years or more? It is not surprising if they did so as Singaporeans are reputed to be food lovers and to be precise, loyal food followers, who would resort to anything to hunt down their favorite food stall after it is relocated.

The old hum jin pang master threaded each and every piece of dough in his hands into a piece of fine art. Unlike machines, no two hum jin pang are identical. I wonder what the old man was thinking as he threaded and weaved each and every floury hum jin pang? Was he thinking about the rich and colourful past of his yesteryears? Was he thinking about his wife and family? (I am not too sure about the details of his family). Was he thinking about life, income or the future? The pieces of dough he has threaded and woven are of thousands forms of shapes and sizes, each was a product of his labor, wisdom, experiences and thoughts at the moment.

Some hum jin pang look like rabbits, some look like clouds and one which my Dear and I ate was in the form of a heart shape! What each and every piece of hum jin pang means and resembles to the consumer is shaped by his own interpretations and thoughts at the moment. Amidst the thousands of forms and shapes, there is only one undeniable fact, which transpires as the hum jin pang melts in one’s mouth. Next time before you savor a hum jin pang from this stall, remember to look at each and every shape of the hum jin pang, you will be surprised what it resembles and your dining experience will be doubly intensified!

The simple preparation procedure of preparing the dough and frying them belie the untold labor of the trade. Do the work of the hum jin pang sellers once or twice, it is a cinch but to do it day after day, demands not only physical and mental strength, but also your passion… it is a perennial daily ritual! This job is just not suitable for youths of our times, who lead ‘air-conditioned lives’, embrace, live and breath new-fangled technologies, in terms of work environment, effort and pay. The old maestro earns a (what seems to many) paltry revenue of $1 for every 6 hum jin pang he sells and this is not even his profit! Yet we witness everyday some spoilt kids squandering their parents’ hard-earned money on entertainment like there is no tomorrow!

So much so for my thoughts about the hum jin pang trade at Maxwell food centre …. I jolted back to reality after tasting 4 hum zi pangs at one go. This is the real thing!


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The hum jin pang were so fantastic that as through in a trance, mesmerized by the sights of these creamy treats, engulfed by the unrivalled taste, I queued up again to buy some more of these hum jin pang!

This time around, the old maestro and his daughter halted for a minute in their operations, but not for a rest. They were merely changing the cooking oil in the wok and my heart went out for the old man as he physically dismounted the old wok and mounted the new one, the veins in his arms strained from such an exertion at his age and easily discernable from far. The old man is as fit as an ox! His strength will put many men half or even a third of his age to shame.

My Dear and I bade farewell to this stall we love after making my second purchase. We know that it would not be long before we and other Singaporeans would come back to the stall once more to savor its hum jin pang.

Each hand-woven hum jin pang of a different shape and size is a product of the old maestro’s labor, passion and love. Each such hum jin pang has a story to tell, a story of the old maestro’s life, his trials, tribulations and blessing. These, coupled with the intrinsic amazing taste are not something machine-made hums jin pang can offer to the consumer. Hand made hum jin pang is a fast vanishing trade as there are no clear successors to take over this physically drenching, non-lucrative and tough job in this modern day.

Once the sun rises again tomorrow morning, the stall would open again, without much fanfare for yet another busy day. The seamless ritual would commence once more, the flames beneath the wok would be reignited and sustained till night … and the deft fingers of the old maestro moulding the hum jin pang into different forms and shapes around the clock would continue…weaving a soon forgotten part of the Singaporean way of life.
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I observed the father-daughter pair, hard at work, churning out floury hum jin pang by the dozens in a highly efficient, orderly, systematic and almost robotic manner. The weather was cool on the day we visited the stall or else the little fan blasting a small wind at the two could not alleviate them from the sweltering Singapore heat ... at least that is what we thought. But we must have underestimated them, for the old man and his helpers have been plying this trade for so many years and they must have already ‘acclimatized’ themselves to the hard labor of this trade and the elements of the weather. The old man is made of steel, his steely resolve and determination exemplified in his every little move throughout my observation of him. With his palms and hands toughened (no doubt by the myriad number of counts of kneading), I surmised that he might be plying this trade since he was twenty: he must have been a rickshaw cart or mobile hawker before, plying his trade in the now historical zones, then moving on to the hawker centres (by the way a hawker centre is a misnomer for a hawker is supposed to be mobile!) and being relocated to food centres by the authorities... all these years without any inch of let up in his passion throughout the years, plying his trade, no matter how hard the circumstances was and where he was, perfecting his skills to a pitch and this is evident in the hum jin pang which we savored.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Ng Teng Fong dies

Singapore's Richest Man, Mr Ng Teng Fong has passed away today after suffering a cerebral haemorrhage 10 days ago. He is the founder of the Far East Group and his net worth is at a staggering US $8 billion!



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Monday, February 01, 2010

Beautiful Ladies



If you happen to read or stumble upon this blog post as a result of the picture of the lady above or you have googled for "Beautiful Ladies" and have hence arrived at this blog, then this just underscores the high premium society places on beauty.

Who does not want to be born beautiful in life? Being born beautiful is definitely an asset to one as society prides itself on looks. Just look at the revenues raked in by the beauty industry: we have laser therapy, slimming, hair treatments and more! It is partially true that people with good looks
tend to succeed more in life, a study I once read has indicated.

However, what is beauty to me lies in the beauty of the heart. Imagine if you encounter people with good looks but whose personality is terrible and have bad demeanour, whom you still consider them as beautiful. Beauty is often in society terms just skin deep, we should look further than this and look at the beauty of a person as encompassing both heart, mind and soul!

Even the most beautiful person will fall victim to age and soon his or her looks will soon fade away with time. Then stripped of all the good looks, can this once-handsome or beautiful people still be as beautiful? Yes, provided he or her personality is beautiful.

A beautiful person is not only beautiful on the external. A beautiful person is kind, caring, nice, considerable, helpful, fillial. It is really sad that most men in Singapore still love to oogle at pretty young things in the streets, especially with the influx of the China Chinese ladies here in Singapore. I really hope that those old married men whom the China Chinese ladies target do not fall victim to their shallow beauty and neglect their old wives, who have went through thick and thin, suffer hardships with him. To desert their old wives who are not as attractive as the young bitches, these Singaporean men deserve a beating.

Let us celebrate beauty from the heart and not to celebrate those artifical temporary beauty. I am always angered when our local TV channels choose to hype up those beauty shows featuring pretty women and now handsome men! Media is very important in shaping the opinions of the society. These shows should be disencourged but as people love to watch and see beautiful people, local channels will still produce such shows all to gain viewerships and revenue!


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