Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bukit Timah Fourth Avenue

The answer to my earlier quiz is: Bukit Timah Fourth Avenue. It is located just a few hundred metres from where I live but once you get into this road, it feels as if you are into a different country because it is so quiet and peaceful here. But it will not be so for long as the government has recently announced plans to build an MRT station here as part of the Downtown Line.

Fearing that this place will be transformed beyond recognition soon, I decided to take some photos recently. I share some of them with you here.

1) This is photo is taken from the direction of the main road. Do you see a fence building complex on the right? Do you know what building complex this is? Hint. I used to see traffic police cars and motor-bikes here quite often. Now it is vacant.

2) Here are a few more photos of this place.

3) This photo is taken in the direction of Bt Timah Road (opposite to picture 1). Notice the huge empty fenced compound on the right side of the road? Do you know what it was used for?

4) Here is the answer; It’s the Police Logistics Department (Automotive Engineering and Management Division) Hope you can make out the words from this dismantled sign board.

5) This is a shot of the location where the Sixth Avenue MRT Station will be built. Below that is a sketch of the planned station which Peter emailed to me.

6) I noticed a couple of other interesting old buildings here. But I don’t know what they are. I think Peter should be able to throw some light.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Time for a break

Here's wishing all readers a blessed Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Untouched by time

Can you identify the place shown in this photo? It is one of those few places that has not changed much in decades. You can be forgiven if you mistook it for some place in Malaysia. But it is actually right here in modern Singapore.

There are few places like this around. But it won’t remain like this for long. Big changes are coming to this place soon ….. and that’s the hint.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Roundabout Quiz 4

There are very few roundabouts on Singapore’s major roads nowadays. Most of them have been converted to traffic-lights controlled junctions; some with flyovers and underpasses. Besides the famous Newton Circus, I can only think of 3 offhand. There are 2 below the Tuas and Pioneer flyovers and one at West Coast Road called Buroh Circus. The rest are mostly small roundabouts in residential areas such as the ones at Hillview and Seranggoon Gardens which I have blogged about previously here.

Over the past few months, whilst driving around Singapore, I came across four more. Let’s see if any of you can identify all of them.

No. 1 should be easy. It is a very old roundabout and located at a very busy place where most Singaporeans would have visited one time or another.

No. 2 and No. 3 are small roundabouts located in residential areas.

No. 4 is interesting. It is very new. Previously this place was a cross road junction. Apparently there had been some near-accidents and so it was converted into a roundabout just a few months ago.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Marlin Derby At Cabo San Lucas, 1986 (by Peter Chan)

Cabo San Lucas is often described as the "Marlin Capital of the World ". Cabo lies in Baja California Sur, Mexico. This would be my first fishing trip and the second the following year in the Gold Coast, Australia.

Plate 1: In a clockwise direction. Blood dripping from a striped marlin and the fish bait used, marlin struggles in the sea, marlin reeled to the side of the boat, and seagulls hovering close to the boat.

After two days of sales meetings, we traded that for the fishing trip. My initial thoughts were about white sandy beaches, sipping pineapple juice and Latinas in thongs. I must have read too much about the Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. It was the start of the Seagate Marlin Derby.
The fishing trip demanded patience. One could sit for hours cruising aimlessly in the deep Pacific Ocean off Baja California. Most times, the boat went on cruise mode but on some occasions, it went “high speed,” breaking over every wave like a fast patrol craft. The ocean had 2 colors, the green color indicated shallow waters but a dark blue indicated the end of the Continental Shelf, which meant we were in 6,000 feet of water.

Plate 2: Left Photo – Minstrels singing in Spanish “South of the Border”. Right Photo -The dinner buffet-table spread

The epic battle was over when the marlin was reeled to the side of the boat and clobbered on its head with a club filled with rusty nails. After tying up the marlin, the boatman washed away the blood on the deck with buckets of seawater. I later found out the smell of blood attracts sharks.

That ended the day’s fishing trip and we adjourned to our rooms for a good bath before heading out for tonight’s dinner. You guess it right; the main course was stripped marlin steak. Next year it would be blue marlin steak and entertainment at the Conrad Jupiter Casino on the Gold Coast.

Plate 3: In a clockwise direction. Photo-shoot at the Weighing Station, seated at the rear of the boat, and the battle with the marlins.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Our Trumpet Plants

If you were to walk past the garbage bins in front of my house at night, you are likely to be greeted by a sweet fragrance. Do you know why?

It’s because we have planted a flowering shrub called the Solandra Longiflora next to our front gate.

Trumpet (1)

Solandra Longiflora

This is the Solandra Longiflora. It is also called the Trumpet Plant (光梭朗茄) or Chalice Vine. It has huge beautiful light yellow flowers which give off a sweet fragrance at night. As you can see from the photo below, it flowers quite profusely. As such, we occasionally have passers-by ringing our door bell asking for stem cuttings.

It is a very easy plant to grow. We grew ours from a stem cutting given by a neighbour. Another attraction of this plant; especially for oldie bloggers like me is that it attracts the leaf spider which I used to catch as a kid in my kampong days.

Trumpet (2)

Trumpet (3)

Datura metel

Besides the Solandra Longiflora, we have another trumpet plant called the Datura Metel or Angel’s Trumpet (洋金花 , 曼陀罗) according to this website. But I also came across another website which gave its common name as Devil’s Trumpet or Thorn Apple. Very confusing. Anyway, this one has purple flowers. It is also quite easy to propagate. After the flower dies, it leaves behind a big fruit with lots of seeds which can be used to propagate new plants. We bought a pot of from a nursery some years ago. And today, we have several of them growing in our garden.

Trumpet (5)

Trumpet (4)

Trumpet (6)

A third trumpet plant

Recently, we acquired yet another trumpet plant. This one was a gift from one of my son’s pitcher plant forum buddies. We planted it in a pot and it grew quickly. The flower of this one is even bigger than the other two. Interestingly, the colour of the flower changes from white to a tinge of orange after a few days. Now with three species of trumpet plants in our garden, I suspect we have the largest collection of trumpet plants in the street where I live -:)

Trumpet (7)

I leave you with a quiz question. What is the name of this third trumpet plant? Answer is found here.

PS – This article was originally submitted to Garden Voices more than a month ago but for some reason they have not published it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My recent fishing trip

Last week my son’s IB exams finally ended and the two of us headed immediately to the kelong for a time of father-son bonding. Next January, he will be packed off for his National Service, and I don’t know when we will get the chance to do this again.

We went to a kelong in Malaysia called “Ah Ngan”. This is one of four kelongs between the east coast of Peninsula Malaysia and Pulau Sibu. Starting from the north, the first is Ah Fatt, the second is which is supposed to be owned by Singaporeans, is called Hot Boys, the 3rd is Ah Ngan and the last is Ah Yew. We have been to Ah Fatt twice and this time we decided to try out Ah Ngan. I think they are more or less the same.

We had a great time. Compared to the ponds in Ipoh, there were much more fishes to be caught, especially if, like me, you are an ‘amateur’ and are satisfied with small fishes like Selar. For those who are interested to go, let me give you some details.

1) How to get there?

You need to first get to the jetty at Tanjung Leman which is about 120 km from the causeway. You take the route to Kota Tinggi and Mersing. About 90 km from JB you will see a big sign to turn right towards Tanjung Leman and Sibu Island Resort. After that it’s another 27 km through deserted oil palm plantations. About 11 km from the destination, you need to make a left turn. We started from Singapore at 7.00 am and reach Tanjung Leman at 10-something. We chose a weekday to avoid the traffic and the crowds. The boat came from the kelong to pick us up and 11-plus. The boat ride took about half an hour and we reached the kelong just in time for lunch. (I hope I've recalled my figures correctly)

The 3 days 2 nights package costs RM225 per pax. It used to be only RM195 before. We departed from the kelong after lunch time on Day 3. Parking at the jetty car park is quite safe. It costs around RM14 – can’t recall exactly.

2) What to do there?

Besides fishing, there is really nothing much else to do, although I saw some people watching videos and some mahjong tables. I understand that the kelong can arrange for you to visit Pulau Sibu or go snorkeling; but mostly people are just interested in fishing. It rained on both nights and I took the opportunity to catch up on some reading.

Conditions, as you should expect, are quite rough; but I did see some kids and young girls. You sleep on wooden double-decker bunks. Of course there is no hot water baths. Because of the rain, it was quite cold to bathe at night. With the cool rainy weather and the incessant sound of waves below us, I slept like a baby on both nights.

The food is surprisingly good.

3) What to bring?

Besides your fishing gear, you should bring along a big ice box to keep your catch. Ice is provided free-of-charge. Be sure to bring a big hat and long sleeves shirt to provide cover from the sun.

4) Photos

This is what the kelong looks like close up.

This snake-like fish is called a Todak. Some girls wanted to take pictures with our todak. I told them it will cost them only RM2 per shot :) Last year, my friend who introduced us to these kelongs, caught a big corbia which weighed more than 8 kg.

In one of my previous posts about kampongs, some readers asked about attap houses. For those who have never seen an attap roof close-up, here are few photos. I am really impressed that in spite of the heavy rains, no water seeped through the attap roof.

The attap leaves are arranged in an overlapping pattern like this and the water flows into a gutter and is drained away.

Do you know what these men are doing?
They are banging in a stilt into the water. It is 100% human power. They latched a cross beam to the vertical pole and then in unison they called out the timing and ‘piled’ the stilt into the sea bed taking hours to do just one stilt.

5) Contact details

I am afraid I only have the name cards of these two kelongs; Ah Fatt and Ah Lam (aka Ah Ngan). But if you do a search on the internet, you should be able to get details. Don’t worry if you forgot to bring along the contact phone numbers - they are prominently displayed on the wall at the Tanjung Leman Jetty cafeteria.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I am a ‘Silver Ambassador’

As some of you may already know, I am one of 3 so-called Silver Ambassadors appointed by Infocomm123 to encourage senior citizens to “get onto the infocomm bandwagon. The other two ‘senior bloggers’ are Mdm Laozhabor and (Unker) Dick Yip.

Launched on 21 February this year, Infocomm123 is “a one-stop resource and community portal for all your infocomm answers”. It offers a wide array infocomm-related content, FAQs, walk-through guides, articles and so on. Supported by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), this new site has attracted more than 3,700 members to date.

Last Thursday, Infocomm123 launched a new quarterly contest called The Silver BlogContest. It is a blog contest whereby senior citizens aged 50 and above in Singapore are invited to submit one blog entry on the theme, ‘Family’. Attractive prices are up for grabs. So why don’t those of you who qualify give it a go?

As Silver Ambassadors, our role is to share our experience at an interview and appear on a Video Ad Jingle. For the period 20 November to 10 December 2008, we also have to do some blogging at the website.

My fellow Silver Ambassadors have already blogged about this project in their blogs and so there is no need for me to go into details; accept to direct you to the relevant sites as given below;

1) The Infocomm123 Website
2) Dick Yip, The Wise Old Owl’s posts about this project here, here and here.
3) Mdm Laozhabors’ post about this project here.

All in all, I am quite happy to be given this honour. My only complaint (as a true blue Singaporean, must always complain right?) is the silly head-jiggling image they put up of the three of us for the whole world to see. Frankly, I think it is quite inappropriate to use this type of gimmick to attract the attention of mature people. Anyway, that’s only my view. The people behind this project are all quite young and they have their way of doing things.

Maybe I am just too old fashioned :(

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Age of Film (Part 3) – Slides

There is one type of photo that I often took during the 1980’s and 90’s because of my job as a management consultant. These are slides. I suspect many of my younger readers do not know what is a film slide. To them the word ‘slide’ probably conjures the image of a Powerpoint slide.

A slide is a film negative mounted on a stiff rectangular frame. To show the image to a group in a classroom or a conference hall, you need to mount the slide on a carousel and project the images onto a screen using a slide projector.

The film by the way is different from that for normal photography; although they looked just the same. You have to check the roll of film carefully. The method of processing is also different. I remember a very nasty incident with a shop located at Coronation Plaza. I brought my roll of slides there for processing but they mistook it for normal film. In the end the film was ruined and the images came out all black and yellowish. My precious effort in taking the photos at my client’s factory was all wasted. The shop was unapologetic and simply compensated me with a new roll of film.

In my work, I have to take a lot of photos of situations in the client’s premises that could be improved by 5S. (A Japanese technique for good housekeeping and workplace organisation. Please see my other blog to if you want to know what is 5S). But using slides was a very tiresome affair, and I am really thankful for the new digital technology. For one, not all the clients had a slide projector because it was very expensive. And, they are very heavy.

Using the slide projector can also give rise to many problems. If you placed the slide into the carousel in the wrong position, the picture would come up wrong; either upside-down or front-to-back. A trick I used was to draw a small stick figure at the lower corner of my slide. When the slide is positioned correctly, you should be able to see the man standing upright. Thus, at one glance, you can spot any slide that has been positioned incorrectly in the carousel. In 5S jargon, this is known as visual control (mede miru kanri in Japanese).

As a trainer, you had to get to the class early to set up the equipment and also to arrange all the slides properly and test the equipment. If possible, I would bring my own carousel with all the slides already pre-arranged. The carousel has a transparent cover and the slides won’t fall out. But some machines - usually the cheaper ones, used a straight tray instead of a circular carousel.

Another problem with slides is that they easily get jammed in the projector. This is especially so when you needed to tilt the projector at an angle to project your image upwards. Let me explain.

As I said earlier, the slides are arranged in a carousel with 80 slots. The first time you pressed the advance button, the carousel would rotate anti-clockwise by 1 position. The first slide would drop into a slot in front of the projection bulb. As you continued to press the advance button, the previous slide would be ejected, the carousel would rotate and the next slide would drop in and so on. If a slide gets jammed in the machine, you have to rotate the carousel manually to the beginning, remove it and eject the jammed slide and start all over again.

In the nineties, after I left the NPB to go into private practice, I did a lot of work in Malaysia. Can you imagine how tedious it was every time I went for an assignment outstation. Not only had I to carry along a heavy load of transparencies, I also had to remember to bring along my collection of 5S slides.

With a huge collection of film slides, I needed a good system of storing and organizing them. I used a special folder or album like this one. The slides are placed into individual pockets on a plastic page that can be filed in the folder.

So you can see why I took to digital photography very happily when the technology came along. But first I had to convert some of my slides to jpeg images. I remember paying a hefty sum for the service.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Age of Film (Part 2) – Photo Studios

It’s been many years since I last applied for a job. I don't know if people still pasted a passport photo to their application forms, or do they just email a digital form to their prospective employers nowadays.

This is a negative of one of my passport photos. I wonder if kids born in this century even know what a negative looked like.

I still have in my possession several small envelopes containing passport photos of me taken years ago. The youngest photo was probably taken in primary school. Growing up as a kid in Singapore, we needed to go to a studio every now and then to have our passport photos taken. The studio would hand over the photos in a small envelope like the ones shown below together with the negative; in case we needed to order more copies later.

1) Golden Palace Photo Studio in Queenstown. I blogged about it previously here. Notice that they specified, "Opposite Margaret Drive Queenstown Library"?

2) Peking Color Photo Studio at Balestier Road and Toa Payoh. Some readers mentioned this studio here.

3) Snow White & Co at Serangoon Garden Way. This one must be very old. The telephone number has only 5 digits.

4) White Mount Studio at 4½ milestone, Bukit Timah. I think it was at the row of old shops between Cluny Road and Serene Centre.

5) New Columbia Studio at Alexandra Road.

Studios like these played an important part in our lives. At key milestones of our lives, such as graduation, or wedding, we would go to the studios to have our portraits taken. Other times, it could be just to take a family portrait. But I recall that my sister and our female cousins did go to the studios occasionally to have their photos taken.

If you look at the words in the envelopes you would notice that one or two emphasized “air-conditioned”. This means that not all studios had air-conditioning in those days. Without air-conditioning, it could be quite uncomfortable for the customers. The men could be formally dressed in coat and tie whilst the ladies had their make-up. Such photography sessions could be quite long and the bright studio lights added to the heat.

Below is another of my negatives. This one was taken during my university convocation. It was held at the National Theatre and the university commissioned a studio located at Block 112 Depot Road called Ideal Colour-Photo Laboratory Pte Ltd to take all the shots of us receiving our scroll from the guest-of-honour. At that time, I didn’t even know where was Depot Road.
I doubt any of the above-mentioned studios are still around today. Would my readers know?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Age of Film (Part 1)

In his 2006 national day rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke about the ‘great digital divide’; referring to the big difference between the lifestyles of today’s youth and those of my generation. Recently, I discovered that one area where this divide was quite marked was in the way we dealt with photographs.

During the June holidays, I attended a church camp in Kuantan where our trigger-happy photographers took hundreds of high resolution photos. After we came back, I was put in charge of disseminating the photos to our members. In the old days, the way we would do it would be to first bring the negatives to the studio to print one set of the photos and then display them on the notice board or circulate them in an album. Members would then fill up a form indicating which photos they wanted to order, and then I would bring the negatives to the studio to get them printed. I would then sort them out, distribute them and collect the money.

But when the number of members runs into hundreds, this was obviously a very tedious affair. And so I wanted to do it the modern way, which of course is to upload the photos onto a photo-sharing website like Flickr or Photobucket, and then simply direct members to the website to view and download the photos for themselves. But to my surprise, I found that many of the older adults did not know what was Flickr. Frankly, I believe if I hadn’t taken up blogging, I probably would not know what was Flickr either. I grew up in what can be described as the golden age of film.

Up to 1970, all the photos my family took were black and white photos. You have seen many of them on this blog. But in 1970, I used my first roll of colour film which I blogged about here. The film I used was Kodak of course. At that time, Kodak was the dominant brand. I remember when I came back from my holidays, I brought my precious roll of film to the Kodak Centre in Alexandra Road (near to where the Performance Motors Centre is located) to have my film processed and printed. I think each print cost more than $1.

But soon another brand burst onto the scene to challenge Kodak’s dominance. That brand was Fujifilm. From the seventies onwards, the cost and speed of processing colour films came down rapidly. Two other brands of films also became popular. They were Konica and Agfa. At the same time, ‘idiot-proof’ cameras with auto-focus and built-in flash also made their appearance.

The demand for films and film processing sky-rocketed and many photo shops and kiosks sprang up all over the island. Some famous names that I can recall off-hand are Standard Colour Centre, Singapore Colour Centre and Joo Ann Foh.

Thanks to this technological advancement, my dad who was retired and who loved to travel, was able to leave behind several albums of photos after he passed away. Likewise, I was able to capture many shots of my children as they grew up.

This is my very first colour photo taken from a ferry to Penang in December 1970. At that time the Penang Bridge was not constructed yet.

This is a full-page advertisement by Standard Colour Centre in the 1993 street directory. They had branches all over Singapore.

This is my last film camera (left), which I believe is still in working condition. It’s a Canon EOS 1000F. I have placed it sided-by-side with my new EOS 400 for comparison. Many happy moments with my wife and kids were captured by this trusty, (and now dusty) Canon. The next shot shows the film loading compartment.

Related posts:

1) My cameras
2) Through the years
3) Gather moments while you may

Next time I will blog about the photo studios which played such an important role in our recording the key milestones in our lives.