Downtown Line’s Little India Station

This greeted me when I exited the train at Little India station.

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The artwork and design on that wall and ceiling are pretty spectacular. I couldn’t help walking around in awe for a few minutes admiring it all, and snapping a few photos.

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I love it. At each of the different angles I saw it.

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It’s like topography, and a flock of birds, and there is whimsy and magic in it. And a Christmas winter wonderland that’s more Tron City than Narnia.

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My new Pinterest

Every so often I would think of how this site needs pictures of some gorgeous hunks to liven it up a bit, or sometimes I want to share some images of some interior design that I like. But to write a post around a photograph that’s not even mine (by the way, the three photos below were taken by me), well I guess it’s okay once in a while, but I think it’s better to just use another platform such as Pinterest and just put the address of the site at the sidebar here if anyone is interested.

I should mention it now so as not to waste anyone’s time: To view the things on Pinterest, you have to join it by creating an account by providing your email address and creating a password. Anyway, my site is at: www.pinterest.com/simplehal

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Thistle Hotel, Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Pinterest is a photo sharing website. It had proved to be useful for my work but I mainly use it as a way to relax. It’s like being sprawled on the sofa lazily leafing through a glossy magazine, but even lazier that that. Because if you come across something nice and you want to file it for whatever reason for later, it just takes a few clicks as opposed to ripping out a page or scanning it.

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Park Royal Hotel, Singapore

I enjoy using it as I get to file ideas, or just images that just strike me as interesting, in neat little folders. They call these folders ‘pinboards’ over there, and the images are the ‘pins’. The first time I used it was a few years ago when a friend asked me to design a shop he’s setting up. I was busy with work commitments, but still wanted to help in some way. I got the idea to start a Pinterest website to compile lots of ideas I thought would be relevant to him, and e-mailed him the address of the site so he could have a look anytime.

And then some time later when we were proposing the supply and installation of terracotta floor tiles for a client, she didn’t quite fancy what she saw in the few catalogues I had in the office. So again I turned to Pinterest to gather images to better relay to her what I think would work for her. The ideas were neatly divided into different pinboards like finish, layout, and pattern. Pinterest is useful and convenient like that.

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Rati Lanna Riverside Spa Resort, Chiang Mai, Thailand

You can also pin images you come across on other platforms, including Tumblr, which I’ve also used on and off for some time as a way to compile images. I used to have 2 or 3 Tumblr sites at any one time. One would be for work, for example design ideas and solutions. Another would be fitness-related for example fitness tips and motivational quotes. Another would serve as inspirational eye candy (let’s just call it that). Also for things like, you know, recipes, things like that. Then it got tedious, having so many sites. I barely use my Facebook as it is.

When I started this latest Pinterest, I thought I would painstakingly bring over all the images that I had collected on my Tumblr sites and previous Pinterest sites, but I decided that would be boring and tedious (read: I’m too lazy to do it). I’d rather just spend the hours idly looking at new images and ideas.

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Related:

  • sheknows.com – Pinterest: What it is, how to use it and why you’ll be addicted

Galaxy Cat

I came across this beautiful mural art at one side of Holland Village Market & Food Centre, the side that faces Haagen Dazs.

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Gorgeous, isn’t it. I find it fascinating, even as I feel a bit uneasy as I study it. It rekindles a suspicion deep inside me that I thought I had long banished.

That cats first came from outer space thousands of years ago, landing on our planet to enslave us. Cunningly working their way into our hearts with their fluffy cuteness and by pretending to be hopelessly derpy ever since. But we all know they are forever slyly plotting away in those pretty little heads of theirs on how to finally beat us into total submission. I have frequently caught my cats staring at me with a startlingly evil expression.They came close to domination with the ancient Egyptians, but all their effort backfired when they ended up being mummified along with the very masters they were seeking to destroy after seducing them. Progress has been slow ever since because they kept getting distracted into playtime by glittery things and puking out hairballs.

The designer of my keychain not only agrees with me, but thinks the situation is far more grim than I had thought.

Cats now rule the world

Anyway, back to the mural art.

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I am inspired by this artwork to call the next cat I adopt ‘Galaxy’. Or Gal, for short.

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Related:

Depressing signs

I’m putting here pictures of three that I came across and snapped in the past few weeks.

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The first one below was taken at Ikea, and it just cracked me up when I saw it.

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Probably laughed way more than I should, but I was just so tickled by it. I was thinking, why the hell is such a sign necessary? Why would anyone think that a toilet bowl in a showroom is a functioning one, and why would anyone there want to use one in the open in the first place?

Then I thought, ahh okay, it’s for those crazy parents/grandparents of young kids who I’ve seen before letting the kids relieve themselves in public, like into a drain. And hey, these days, even in Singapore it’s not just the kids anymore, going by the stories in the links below.

So, yes, that sign (complete with acrylic sheet covering the whole toilet opening so nobody can insist on peeing or shitting into it! haha!) in Ikea is sensible, I guess. I shudder to think if such signs were originally brought on by any smelly messy incidents, whether in Singapore or in any of their hundreds of stores elsewhere in the world. Eeww. Poor cleaner.

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A blogger I follow, Laura of Texas on Thames, who is an expat in Singapore, featured a similar Crime Alert sign in a post just recently where she wrote about staying attentive in Singapore even though we have a low crime rate. I was just commenting on her post about how such signs seem to be appearing with more frequency, which is worrying.

So when I came across this yet another new one just last week or so, it’s such a bummer. I mean, these signs themselves are great because they serve such an important purpose, but at the same time when they start to seem more common to me, it does seem to point to an increase in crime, generally. And, ugh, ‘obscene act‘. What is that, like a flasher? How rude. My sympathies to the victim, and I hope the authorities apprehend the offender soon. I think usually I see the alert for ‘shoplifting‘ or ‘housebreaking‘ or something like that.

By the way, this Crime Alert sign was placed outside Botanic Gardens MRT Station, Exit A. (for if by any chance anyone reading this was at the time and place and saw something,)

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The third sign I snapped made me sad too. It was captured on a public bus.

“No assault on bus captain.”

(Perhaps for another post on another day, but by the way why are bus drivers in Singapore called bus captains? To give the occupation a fancy name? If so, why? And would that mean we look down on bus drivers, so much that we need to give them a fancier sounding name, to make the job look better? I just think that would be friggin’ ridiculous. Driving a bus is not just an honest and decent living, but honorable. The safety and lives of hundreds of passengers are in your hands every single day.)

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There must have been some ugly incidents for the bus company to deem such a sign necessary, and the thought is just depressing.

Just a couple of weeks after I saw the sign above and wondered about it, I read about how in Penang, Malaysia last week, a bus driver was stabbed by a female passenger, for not acceding to her request to stop by the roadside. Please be warned that the photo of the victim contained in the following linked article is graphic, showing blood: Rapid Penang bus driver stabbed by a passenger.

Damn. Imagine being attacked and injured so seriously, but as the driver you still need to think for everyone’s safety, so you have to struggle to stop the bus safely even as you’re struggling to fight off your assailant.

Looks like Malaysia should follow Singapore’s example and put up “No assault on bus driver” signs to remind passengers to control their temper if riled up by the drivers, if they haven’t put up such signs already. How bloody screwed up, that all these signs are necessary.

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Update 17 October 2014: Related: Unemployed man jailed for punching bus driver (Stomp.com.sg – 15 October 2014)

Children’s books featuring gay families to be destroyed

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Update 19 July 2014 – Some good news. Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim has stopped the National Library from destroying two of the children’s titles, specifically ‘And Tango Makes Three’ and ‘The White Swan Express’, issuing the order that they be moved to the adult section instead, where parents can borrow them for their children. However, a third title, ‘Who’s In My Family?’ has sadly already been ‘pulped’.

To read more on this development, click on this link to go to the AFP News article I got the information from, via Yahoo! News Singapore.

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I’m deeply disappointed by the news I came across on Yahoo! Singapore that our National Library are going to destroy some children’s books that depict families with gay parents.

What happened:

Two children’s books ‘And Tango Makes Three‘ and ‘The White Swan Express‘ were removed after a member of the public, a Teo Kai Loon, had e-mailed the National Library Board (NLB) voicing his concerns about them.

A Yahoo! News Singapore article reported that:

… In supposedly two days, NLB responded to Teo’s e-mail complaint, stating that the books have been withdrawn following his feedback. NLB emphasised that it “takes a strong pro-family stand in selecting books for children” and “when library visitors like yourself [Teo] highlight to us any conflicting content within books, we review such books thoroughly and withdraw them from circulation”.

The response was signed by Tay Ai Cheng, the assistant chief executive and chief librarian of the NLB.

A member of the Facebook group “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore”, Teo then posted NLB’s response to him on July 8. He did not include the contents of his original e-mail complaint in the post. In the post, Teo called other members of the group to “continue to scrutinise the catalogue and not allow such children books to go under the radar screen”. He also encouraged people to email NLB if they had any concerns, saying that the NLB takes swift action, “all within 2 days”. However, Teo’s Facebook post in the group has since been removed.

What disturbs me:

That the books are to destroyed, instead of simply being given away to people who want them, which would serve the same objective of not having them on the library’s shelves anymore.

I simply don’t understand why the books must be destroyed. To me this reeks of a book-burning exercise, which is shocking and extreme. As a gay person, heck as any thinking and feeling human being, to me it’s like making a damning statement, in this case against gay parenting and therefore gay people.

I don’t care to ever be a parent myself. And so when I read or hear of condemnation to the idea of gays being parents, I admit it’s something that just whizzes by me as just one of the many injustices that is part of life. But not before it slashes me up inside in tiny painful cuts in ways you will never know or understand, unless like me you are a gay person who grew up with straight parents, in a ‘straight environment’, not to mention religious even, but who still suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of people who considered themselves straight, who led straight lives. It happened over a number of years in my childhood.

I’m not traumatised anymore, I function alright. But to be a grown adult already in my 40s and still be weighed down with malaise and sorrow by vivid memories of those episodes that still hit me out of the blue every so often, there is always a bitter smile or laugh in me when I read or hear ignorant and prejudiced people thinking that the safe wellbeing of children depends on whether the parents are gay or straight.

Anyway, whatever, these are just my own scars, from my own experience of my own childhood, which of course also contains happy memories as well. The opinion I want to express here is just that: if we don’t agree with something, that’s fine, but why to the harsh extent of ‘pulping’ such books that are sympathetic to what we don’t agree with?

And what a sad waste of books and money too. I wish they would just give them away to the adults who want them.

Why my grief

My sadness and disappointment stems mostly from that I was very fond of our National Library. I have always loved it and never took this noble public service for granted, even before I started travelling especially to some of our neighbouring countries, where even the most basic public infrastructure like proper pedestrian pavements can be messed up, let alone luxuries like public libraries which are practically non-existent. (After travelling, I consider our libraries a luxury.) I think I have mentioned in this blog a few times how I love and appreciate our National Library, for example in this post here.

Hence the deep disappointment. Now It’s like the love is suddenly tainted or something. It’s like now I feel I might have to reluctantly let go a friend I’m actually fond of. Because how do you remain friends with someone you can’t respect.

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The books in question:

The three titles to be pulped are:

1. And Tango Makes Three, (2005) written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole.

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A photograph of parent and blogger Joyce reading ‘And Tango Makes Three‘ to her daughter. Added here 14 July 2014, with her kind permission. From the excellent review of the book from her family blog TOT: HOT OR NOT. Click image to go there.

From Wikipedia:

The book is based on the true story of Roy and Silo, two male Chinstrap Penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. The book follows the six years of their life when they formed a couple and were given an egg to raise.

The book has won many awards but also been at the center of numerous censorship and culture war debates on same-sex marriage, adoption, and homosexuality in animals. The American Library Association reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most challenged book of 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most challenged.

The following video is a wonderful narration of the moving story, from YouTube user John Mark Johnson.

 

2. The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption (2002), written by Jean Davies Okimoto and Elaine M. Aoki, illustrated by Meilo So.

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Image as seen on The Online Citizen. Click image to go there.

The story is about children adopted by straight, gay, mixed-race and single parents. A description as seen on Amazon.com:

In China, the moon shines on four baby girls, fast asleep in an orphanage. Far away in North America, the sun rises over four homes as the people who live there get ready to start a long, exciting journey. This lovely story of people who travel to China to be united with their daughters describes the adoption process step by step and the anxiety, suspense, and delight of becoming a family. Told with tenderness and humor, and enlivened by joyous illustrations, The White Swan Express will go straight to readers’ hearts.

Click here for a sweet and delightful review of the book.

3. Who’s In My Family?: All About Our Families (2012), written by Robie H. Harris, and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott.

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An image from the book ‘Who’s In My Family?’, as seen on walker.co.uk, via Google Image Search. Click to go there.

A description of the book from Goodreads.com:

Trusted New York Times best-selling author Robie H. Harris continues her series for preschoolers with a look at the many kinds of families that make up our world.

Join Nellie and Gus and their family — plus all manner of other families — for a day at the zoo, where they see animal families galore! To top off their day, Nellie and Gus invite friends and relatives for a fun dinner at home. Accessible, humorous, and full of charming illustrations depicting families of many configurations, this engaging story interweaves conversations between the siblings and a matter-of-fact text, making it clear to every child that whoever makes up your family, it is perfectly normal — and totally wonderful

Click here for a review of the book. And here to go to the website of the author Robie H. Harris.

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Some of the voices defending the books:

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Other related articles:

 

 

Prego Restaurant

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I haven’t visited Prego for years, more than a decade. It used to be a firm favourite with me and Bert. We first came across it about twenty years ago I think, around when it first opened, when the space it occupied used to be under one of the Westin Hotels formerly there. Westin Stamford or Plaza, I forgot which. Now the hotel there is called the Fairmont.

So it brought back some nice memories when we went back with a couple of friends recently. To me, the fact that Prego is still there after all these years is remarkable for Singapore. But it’s pretty stunning that even the interior is the same. Now that’s incredible. Commercial space here like malls and restaurants get makeovers frequently, some every few years. From interiors to even entire building facades, it can seem striking even for locals how frequent and fast things change, let alone for repeat visitors like tourists.

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The shock of yellow is a tad gaudy to me but I guess it goes alright with the rest of the colour palette. I love the potted bushes of rosemary.

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I so love that they kept this travertino floor at the foyer, and the waves of happiness kept rolling over me when I realised they kept everything I remember about the place.

I don’t know why I was so darn happy. It’s just a restaurant. I think it’s just that I was so surprised because it’s so unusual for things to stay the same in Singapore, and for such a long time. Things keep changing here. To keep them appealingly fresh, I suppose. But the way I see it, the problem becomes: how do you really let sink in the memories that you can treasure by letting them take root, when the places these memories are crafted around seem disposable. At the back of your head you are already thinking that the place won’t last, that you would soon be forming new memories with the new things that will take over the space. After a while there are just too many of these ‘short-term’ memories, so you allow all these memories associated with the same space to be filmsy and disposable too.

So when I walked in again and saw that things were mostly the same as it were twenty years ago (except for some very few and very small touches here and there) Prego ceased to be just a restaurant. It became snapshots and voices and laughter from years ago, the food we ordered, what we liked and didn’t liked. The faces of the friends and family we dined with. The other people we brought there. I even remember a few of the waiters. Not their names or what they looked like, but some things that were said or done to earn smiles or frowns. Crazy, the amount of memories. And now imprinted even more deeply in me, to be cherished for many more years.

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I don’t remember the awning and similarly striped wallpaper, but the rest of the restaurant looks exactly the same as I remember it, including the chairs.

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We went for the ‘Sunday Semi-Buffet Lunch’

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Just a glimpse of the buffet line. There was actually a big and very tasty selection of appetisers and desserts. I was too shy to go around taking photos of the spread, and it would have been disruptive to the other people getting their food.

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Part of the buffet is this long list of dishes you order ala carte. Just tick what you want and hand it to the waiter. Limited to one dish a person at a time. When you’ve had that, you can order more. This turned out to be a very good idea, as we found that we were beginning to be stuffed by the time our ala carte selection arrived.

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They even kept these Mediterranean-style plates I remember! If not exactly the same ones, they at least kept to the same design, which put yet another smile on my face. These four dishes are our first round from the buffet ala carte menu.

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Beer barrel tables! I want one, if only I have the space for it at home. And painted so prettily too. Cuteness overload.

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The windows used to look out to the street but not anymore, so I guess the hotel had claimed the space outside to expand its interior. The sayings above the restaurants are yet another thing I remember and remember liking. This one is “Troppi cuochi sciupano la minestra” which is “Too many cooks spoil the broth“.

‘Prego’, the name of the restaurant, means ‘welcome‘, by the way.

Dream garden in HortPark

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Of the many theme gardens at the park dubbed ‘the gardening hub‘, this is the one that makes me sigh and smile wistfully. Not nearly as conventionally pretty as the other more manicured gardens featured there, but I’ve always loved vegetable gardens, even before I came across the ‘Grow Food, Not Lawns‘ thing online.

So lovely to have your own space to grow some of your vegetables. Doesn’t have to be as big as this, not even by half, just a little bit of space. Doesn’t have to be your entire supply of vegetables if that’s not possible. Even the privilege of growing just a tiny bit would still be exhilarating and fun and fulfilling.

Some other photos from HortPark.

A few pictures from the Pinterest of Cristyane Lamastra-Conner that made me swoon. Click the images to go to her site.

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Not just a vegetable garden but a vertical vegetable garden. Wow.

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Day 95

Visitor Centre at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

I’ve always loved ‘traditional’ architecture. To me, it’s not only more beautiful but when it comes to low-rise buildings like double-storey houses, make more sense for example in terms of ventilation.

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I felt such happiness when I came across it at the beginning of my walk there with a friend. Even though it’s not a house. As indicated the above is the Visitor Centre at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.

In Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai, they are still making houses that look similar to this, and I think that’s so incredibly cool. I came across new residence that look something like that in recent years. It’s wonderful they still have an appreciation for traditional architecture even when it comes to constructing modern homes with all the modern facilities.

Maybe I’m wrong, but unfortunately this is not the case in Singapore and Johor Bahru. What I’ve seen are only typically modern architecture when it comes to the design of new landed properties, whether terrace, semi-detached or bungalows. What’s crazy is that the interior of these houses (the showrooms I’ve been to in J.B. in recent years) are so damn hot. You need to switch on the aircon almost immediately upon entering. There seems to be hardly enough thought for ventilation, for airflow. The logical solution is to have ceiling fans in every room, yet from what I’ve observed in some houses I’ve visited, some people don’t like the look of ceiling fans, so what happens is the aircon is often switched on for long periods of time when they are home.

Here are a few photos I took of some of the new houses I saw in Chiang Mai the last time I was there a few years ago. So amazing and wonderful how there are people there who still love and appreciate their traditional architecture, and take inspiration from it for their new homes.

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A residence that was still under construction.

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Day 87

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A stroll up to Mount Faber Park

At the very start of the Southern Ridges, a 10km walk of trails, bridges and walkways, is the Marang Trail, located right next to Exit D of HarbourFront MRT station. It takes about just 15 minutes to walk the trail, climbing some steps to reach Mount Faber Park, the equivalent of a 24-storey building, according to a guide from the National Parks Board. Perfect for lunchtime, if you happen to be in the area. Grab a sandwich and a bottle of water, walk up there, and enjoy the view and relative quiet while you eat. I enjoy this short walk when I happen to be in the area.

Marang Trail

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Cable cars from the station at Mount Faber Park which go to Sentosa Island. A return ticket costs $26 for adults and $15 for kids aged 3 to 12.

Related:

Related to cable cars in last photo:

  • Singapore Cable Car’s website
  • Trip Advisor reviews of Cable Car
  • The Jewel Card – according to website, the card offers unlimited cable car rides for $39 for individual, and $99 for ‘family’. Click link if you wish to find out more.

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Day 76