Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bottle Tree Park

It had been a while since I'd eaten at Bottle Tree Park in Yishun, but I recently went there when some friends from China were here visiting. It was nice to see some changes at the place. The fishing has reopened (it was suspended when we were last there), and there were some cute little swan-shaped paddle boats on the pond near the train tracks.

The food is still good, as always, and the atmosphere is very pleasant. The last time I was there before this most recent visit (back in September, I think), we just had drinks and let the kids ride their bikes around the pond. Either way — whether eating or just relaxing, the place is a nice spot for enjoying a nice atmosphere and good company. And it's really nice to see that some of the old services have been resumed, and some new ones have kicked off.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Garage Sales Provide Relief

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Omega 3

There's been lots of talk over the past several years about why we need a good source of Omega 3 in our diets. For a long time, Singaporeans have taken cod liver oil as a good source of Omega 3, but it seems to have only come to the attention of Americans over the past 5-10 years.

The Omega 3 fatty acids, found especially in fish oils, have a lot of health benefits if taken on a regular basis. Omega 3 improves cardiovascular health, fights depression, prevents some allergic reactions, lowers cholesterol, and boosts the immune system. Some say that it can help you lose weight. But the most important benefit of Omega 3, I think, is that it helps brain function. That's the reason I've always heard Singaporean parents offer for why they give their children a daily dose of fish oil.

I don't know why it's taken people in the States so long to catch onto a practice that was never very secret in Singapore, but I am glad they have done so at last. My sister's family has become faithful takers of fish oil for its Omega 3's, and I have heard a lot of other Americans who have done the same over the past several years.

For me, it's a habit I picked up pretty early on in my stays in Singapore.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Neighborhood Watch - update

I recently mentioned that my neighborhood lacks and sort of Neighborhood Watch program. There's been some rowdy behavior in the area lately, but nothing that seems like worth reporting to the police. At the same time, it looks like enough that it would probably be wise to have someone keeping an eye on.

There is an office for the Residence Committee in my building. I didn't realize that, amongst other things, they serve as something like a Neighborhood Watch, only better. With the RC, they don't go around looking for trouble-makers, but instead serve as a communication center where residence can report inappropriate behavior without having to make a police report. If there seems to be a pattern of such activity, the residence council can bring it to the police department's attention. In this way, citizens can be involved in keep the neighborhood safe, but without having to go and waste the police department's manpower following up on every little disturbance.

I still don't like the idea of how we all in my neighborhood sat there and saw the fighting and other things going on a couple of weekends ago without doing a thing, but at least I know this is an avenue available to me for reporting such things.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Poetry and Writing Coach

I've recently begun offering a new coaching service for writers and poets.

You can have a look at my website to see how it works and what services are offered. I hope to add a series of online poetry courses in the next few weeks as well.

And now I'll let this particular blog go back to its normal work of discussing travel and the peregrine lifestyle.....

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Attacks on Churches in Malaysia

The other day, a friend and I were discussing the recent attacks on churches in Malaysia. It seems that the dispute is one of language. A Christian organization got itself into some trouble for using the term "Allah" in Malay when referring to God. This is a big no-no. All of the Christian groups I know in Malaysia and Indonesia use the term Tuhan (equivalent of Lord), as "Allah" in the Malay language is used exclusively for the Islamic God.

I am a bit torn on this issue. I would like to think that no one has a monopoly on any language or any word — that words and language belong to all in the community of its users, if they belong to anyone, and that the entire community has a right to shape the way the language is used. I really would like to believe that, in theory.

On the other hand....

The reality is that there is another option for the Christian workers in Malaysia. They can use the term used by pretty much everyone else in the Malay-speaking Christian community, Tuhan. When they know that the use of "Allah" is both offensive and illegal, why not use the alternative term and keep the peace?

It's not an easy issue to settle, and I am saddened by the turmoil it's stirred up. I understand 9 churches have now been attacked. What a pity.

Who says there's nothing in a name?

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Unearthing Aztec Ruins

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Friday, January 15, 2010

Neighborhood Watch

It was kind of disturbing over the weekend to witness two events — one violent and one potentially so — at the coffee shop in the building next to mine. On Saturday evening, I saw a group of 4-5 men fighting in the coffee shop. Nobody did much about it, other than scamper to a spot of safety. A chair was thrown, and one glass of beer. One man was left bleeding, though apparently not seriously injured. (He cleaned up his bleeding nose and ear, and then sat back down to finish his beer.) Nothing much seemed to come of it, other than giving me a good story to share over dinner with friends later that night — a little excitement on an otherwise mundane day. Things like this, after all, don't happen very often in my neighborhood.

Funny, then, that the next day when I was having lunch with friends at the coffee shop on the other side of the road (ok, perhaps I do spend too much time there), we saw a police chase. A boy sped off on his motorcycle, riding on the pedestrian path. Fortunately no one was walking there, as I am very sure he would not have been able to stop, given the speed he was traveling. The police chased on the road, but because of the way the car park is constructed, the boy was able to get into the car park while the police car had to circle around. A couple of minutes later, the boy ran through the coffee shop and went to hide. No one did anything to impede his run through the coffee shop. When the police circled back, there wasn't anything anyone could really tell them. The boy had disappeared amongst the buildings that are pretty closely packed together there.

As soon as the police left, the boy reappeared, again riding his bike on the walking paths. Everyone in both coffee shops noticed him, and the two fellows serving as his lookouts. It appeared that there were several other men in the coffee shop working with them. I don't know for sure what their specific racket was, but I suspect drugs (though it could be stolen goods).

I have no idea how to go about reporting what happened after the police left the scene. As I said, things like this don't happen in this neighborhood very often, and we don't have a neighborhood watch system at all. But as I started thinking back on these two events that happened back to back, I remembered that I've seen a bit of an increase of such events over the past few years — a couple of fights, and a few times that there were obviously gangs hanging out at the coffee shops downstairs, perhaps using the facilities as a place to work from (like I do, though I do different work).

I guess that's the problem of living in a place known for its peace and safety. No one knows what to do when things do go in a less than peaceful, orderly manner. Unlike my neighborhood in Shanghai, where I've seen people help stop a thief, all of us just sat watching the police get foiled by their man, just like we sat watching as a brawl began to unfold the day before. Nobody wants to see the neighborhood become unsafe, but nobody wants to get involved either.

The motto you see in a lot of ads in Singapore says "Low crime doesn't mean no crime." It's meant to create a sense of vigilance. But we are sadly lacking in that area, and easily caught off guard.

It worries me. Because if we don't watch our neighborhoods, who will?

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Money Talks, and Talk is Cheap

Over the past couple of weeks, two of my friends have been admitted to hospitals here in Singapore for major surgery. One had back surgery, and the other had a large tumor removed. One in Alexandra hospital, one in Glen Eagles. One had a private room, and the other was in a ward with 5 other patients.

Surgery is, obviously, never fun, and no one likes staying in the hospital. For most of us, we'd expect the best service for the patient in the private room at the private hospital. So far, I've been surprised. Her doctor did not even come out after her operation was completed to explain the situation to her husband and those of us who were waiting with him, despite the fact that it took considerably longer than was originally expected. The nurses were fine, but not especially gentle or attentive. Overall, I thought the staff at Alexandra, despite having a more demanding situation with 6 patients to a room, gave more careful attention to the other friend who was staying there than the nurses at Glen Eagles gave to the one in their care.

Usually we like to think we get what we pay for. In this case, it didn't seem to me to be true. It's something I'll keep in mind if I have a need for medical care any time in the near future.

*touching wood now*

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Saturday, January 09, 2010

not much has changed

My return trip to Kukup, Malaysia, revealed that nothing much has changed in the little fishing village. It is still a lazy, sleepy place to visit — just perfect for a slow-going time to relax, fish, and eat tons of seafood.

This was my second visit to the kelong in Kukup, the first being about 3 years ago. Both trips were for church retreats. The facilities are pretty basic. I would say they work nicely for a youth camp, but are not exactly ideal for older visitors. (In fact, the older the visitor the less suitable, I would say — especially considering how much fun the kids in our group had!)

There's not a lot to do but relax in Kukup – fishing, karaoke, and eating are pretty much all you'll find there. But it is a pleasant way to relax, especially with a big group of friends.

And of course, the seafood is really good, and plentiful1

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Tokyo Haiku Literature Museum

I was recently reading The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku, and was reminded of a place I've never been (yet), but would very much like to see: the Haiku Literature Museum in Tokyo.

In the museum, you can find collections of haiku in Japanese, English, and several other languages as well. There is a large collection there (more than half a million books), with loads of interesting titles, old and new.

Since a lot of haiku, such as the works of Basho, the master of the genre, is often centered on images of things encountered while traveling, I'm thinking a short haiku-tour of some parts of Japan might be interesting. The Sound of Water: Haiku by Basho, Buson, Issa, and Other Poets (Shambhala Centaur Editions) I've never actually been very interested in visiting Japan before, but I think that, with my own interest in haiku, it might be nice to make a haiku-based and haiku-oriented trip around at least parts of the country.

I'm not sure when I'll be able to make this trip, but I am considering whether it might not fit into a trip back to the US next fall, especially if I have to stop in Tokyo anyway to change flights. I will look into whether or not I can arrange to stop and see the Haiku Literature Museum and some other sites of interest to haiku poets.

The museum is run by the Association of Haiku Poets in Japan. Operating hours are from 11am until 4pm.

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