Tuesday, March 31, 2009

where can you find this shadow pattern?

a certain building or structure will cast this shadow on the ground. i remember taking this photograph in the morning, at around 9.00 a.m.

you see, when i go for my walk, i not only look up and look around, i also look down. that's very important because there had been more than one instance when i could have stepped on a snake or a scorpion.

but, these days, i have to learn to look far. look at the horizon. look for mountains in the distance.

so, where can you find the structure that casts a shadow with this pattern?

Monday, March 30, 2009

tea for the thirsty and weary travellers

at the corner of boon teck road and balestier road, there is this stand with two aluminium containers of warm tea. at least, it was warm that morning when i felt the sides of the containers. i did not take a drink because i did not feel the urge.

i remember during my younger days, when i walked back to my home from moulmein road, i would sometimes stop outside the kuang chee tng temple to quench my thirst from a container of tea. it did not matter that the tea was not warm. i was just grateful for something to drink on a warm day. i do not know whether that temple still provides free tea.

these chinese temples are just adhering to two of the taoist doctrines - distributing medicine to the sick and those in pain and giving tea to refresh the thirsty and weary. at the boon teck road temple, they not only provide free tea, they also provide free medical consultations by both traditional chinese medicine practitioners (tcm) and western-trained doctors.

however, i would like to suggest to them that they provide disposable plastic cups rather than those porcelain cups. there does not seem to be any facility for washing the cup after you have drunk from it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

women are more health conscious than men?

from my casual observations, i tend to get the impression that women look after their health better than men. i meet more women walking at the parks than men and whenever i come across a group doing some workout or organised exercise, invariably, the women in the group will outnumber the men. in quite a number of cases, it is an all-women group, like the one above.

men tend to gather at coffee shops, void decks and pavilions, like the one above, to talk shop. if you listen in on their conversations, you may be forgiven for thinking that they should be the one earning the millions because they appear to have more solutions to our woes and financial problems than our millionaire ministers.

that is not to say that women do not talk shop at coffee shops or food centres. i have also seen groups of housewives gossiping away, usually after the have finished buying their groceries.

this may be the reason why women generally outlive men. however, in terms of participation in sports and games, men appear to be more involved, especially among those in the youth age group.

my perception may be wrong because i have not checked out places like the gym and the swimming pool. however, from what i have heard, more and more women are signing up for fitness courses and more women than men have personal trainers.

from focusing on fitness to reading food labels, women are more interested than men when it comes to health issues. a new study by experian simmons research shows the gender differences.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

shaw malay studio at jalan ampas

today, i went exploring the side roads of balestier road with a very interesting young man who shows a lot of concern for the environment. i have got to know him through my blogging. tony had commented on my postings on my old kampong and on balestier road. he had memories of trudging along some narrow lane that led to his uncle's house in the kampong.

i was supposed to show him around. instead, it was he who pointed out a lot of interesting finds to me. besides looking up a number of chinese temples and a burmese one, we also looked for the shaw malay studio at jalan ampas. we found the place but could not see much as the gate was locked. i managed to take the two pictures of the buildings through a gap in the gate.

after the war, the shaw brothers spent about a million dollars to rebuild the studio facilities at jalan ampas. it set up the malay film productions (mfp) in 1947 to produce films in malay.

the studio produced over 160 movies, making it the most prolific in the history of singapore's cinema.

the first film produced by the studio was 'singapura di waktu malam'. it was a comedy drama directed by b s rajhans and it starred siput sarawak.

no account of mfp is complete without the mention of p ramlee. he was spotted by rajhans during a performance in penang. p ramlee acted in 42 films and directed 16 films at the jalan ampas studio. the last film he made in singapore was 'tiger abdul'.

the last film produced at 8 jalan ampas was 'raja bersiong'. it was directed by jamil sulong.

the people who made the movies used to live in some company quarters located in the next street, at boon teck road.

Friday, March 27, 2009

searching for sleepers and girders

our start and end points

this morning, three clean-cut retirees set off from sunset way in search of sleepers and girders. our start point was the abandoned rail bridge across sunset way and our end point, the bukit timah train station. at the end, we were transformed into three dirty old men, after having gone through a lot of sleepers and girdles girders. some of the sleepers are still in good shape.

victor, the oldest among us, referred to the trek as 'exploring the angkor wat of singapore'. angkor wat in cambodia are ruins covered by vegetation whereas the angkor wat of singapore is an abandoned railway track covered by trees, grass and all kinds of plants. some sections of the track seem to have disappeared. jason, the youngest among us, was intrigued by the bolt with the '3v' impression. he noticed that this was the only part that had resisted rusting.

as we moved along, we saw kingfishers and parakeets and heard the flutey calls of the orioles. we were also fascinated by some of the plants that we encountered, like the passion flower, the yellow mimosa and one plant with purple flowers and seed pods. however, the most captivating was this rather unusual spider with two sharp horns. we spent about fifteen minutes trying to get a good shot of it.

as it had rained the past two days, our pace was hampered by the soggy ground. that was how the state of the three (dirty) old men came about. we tripped, fell and waded through very wet and muddy ground. we also had to wade through a short tunnel which was flooded in most parts. jason made a check and found that the tunnel runs under clementi road, near where maju camp is located.

when we reached this section, the track again was missing. soon, we found out the reason. the malaysian railway authorities have been dismantling the track. they are in the process of filling up the sections where they had removed the metal rails and the wooden sleepers. we saw a mountain of the ironwood sleepers quite close to the existing track.

while we were walking towards the bukit timah station, a northbound goods train came along. at the station, we struck up a conversation with the attendant. he told us of his encounter with a huge snake in the tunnel. as he was alone at that time, he took the wiser move of not proceeding and so he turned back.

the three dirty old men at the end of the trek. jason actually cannot qualify as an old man although he retired before me. i think he retired about 5 years ago, at the age of 45.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

flowering cactus

it is rare to see flowers on a cactus. i have these pots of cacti for more than thirty years and i have yet to see any flower on them. maybe, those that i have do not belong to the flowering species.

yesterday, i was walking down yuk ting avenue, off 7th mile upper bukit timah road, when i came upon these attractive flowers. most cactus species bloom at night, though there are some that bloom in the day. the flower of the dragonfruit, for example, blooms at night.

this website features many flowering cacti, especially the night bloomers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

inter-school cross-country c'ships 2009

this morning, i officiated at the schools' national cross-country championships 2009 held at the bedok reservoir park for the first time. the finish point was at the running track of the temasek polytechnic stadium. last year, the venue was the s'pore botanic gardens. my association with the organisation of this event goes back to the days when it was held at the macritchie reservoir.

there was much spectator support, especially from this school - victoria school. they had spectators on the terraces as well as on the field facing the terraces. they had loud banners strung all over the stadium. (they finished champions in the 'c' division for boys; however, they failed to capture the 'b' division title.)

my duty was to check and verify the results captured manually and electronically. if you look at the above picture, there is a length of black wire strung overhead across the track. this wire is equipped with a device that will capture the competitor's number as he/she passes it. there is a tiny chip embedded in each number.

these two 'officials' are equipped with a tablet each, with which they use to record the competitor's number and the time the runner has returned. no stop watches are used at this meet.

there are also two video cameras, one on each side of the track, to record the actions as the runners run towards and past the finish point. this recording is needed when there is a disparity, when the manually recorded result does not tally with electronically captured result. in today's championships, the recordings came into use twice.

there were two teams, each comprising three to four members, recording the results manually. the two teams did not duplicate the recording of results. as there were six events, each team recorded the finishing positions of three events.

with this procedure in place, you can be assured that the results will be nearly 100% accurate because there are four layers of check. the determining one is usually the video recording.

out of the seven retired teachers who were enlisted to help at this meet, six were at one time or another teaching at balestier hill secondary school. one of them jokingly asked: is this balestier hill's cross-country meet?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

$3.20 for a haircut

this morning, we took bus service 950 from woodlands interchange to johor bahru. the bus drops you off at the new customs, immigration and quarantine (ciq) complex in johor bahru where you can walk across the linkway to city square. you can also opt to catch the bus - the same one, if you can - to get to the bus terminal at kota raya. we chose to do the latter.

we alighted from the bus in front of city square and walked to jalan dhoby where the barber shop is located. while i was having my hair cut, my travelling companion victor samuel went to a nearby coffee shop for his smoke and a cup of tea.

i was the only customer and the barber took about twenty minutes to complete the job. in the barber shop, i saw a piece of plank. it reminded me of my younger days when i visited the chinese barber along thomson road. he had to place a plank across the arms of his barber chair so that he did not have to bend so much while cutting children's hair.

the cost of the haircut was rm$8.00, which is equivalent to $3.20. we had a bowl of noodles and a glass of tea each at a nearby coffee shop. we paid rm$6.00 for the noodles and drinks for two persons.

this afternoon, i was on the skype with my younger daughter, who is in melbourne, and when she noticed my new haircut. she asked if the barber had placed a bowl on my head to cut the hair. she commented that i looked so 'toot'. told her old people don't care so much about their look.

Monday, March 23, 2009

the syonan jinja shrine

today, i joined jason and his group of adventurers to locate the shinto shrine built by british prisoners and the japanese army during world war ii, deep in the forest of the macritchie reservoir. we were supposed to meet at 9.15 a.m. at the venus drive car-park but when i reached the car-park at 9.10 a.m., they were already there: jason and five ladies. according to jason, these are tough ladies who have climbed mountains and trekked in other countries.

jason's original plan had been to meet at macritchie's new car-park and then trekked to the terentang trail. i suggested to him that it would be nearer if we started at venus drive, one of the more popular meeting places for those going on the treetop walk.

i also told jason that i had a rough idea where the shrine was because in the 70s, together with two other colleagues, we used to take our outdoor activities club (oac) members on hikes around the reservoir, and i remember stopping at some stone steps. we used to cross the water, with the help of ropes, at the broken bridge. the broken bridge has disappeared but i think it was near this part of the golf course.

however, our plan would not involve any water crossing; we would start bashing from the terentang trail. although it is not a clearly marked trail, we had a lot of help, in the form of markers, left behind by groups that had gone before us, particularly one which had used tissue or toilet papers to mark their route.

team leader jason

the problem with following a trail left by earlier 'explorers' is that the earlier group's objective might not be the same as ours. we actually walked past the steps leading to the relics of the shinto shrine but there were still markers, so we followed on. our leader jason said that we had to look for a building which resembled a guard house.

we found the (guard house) building, we were told that the site of the shrine was at the top of a flight of steps. there was no more marked trail and no more markers (tissue papers), so we had to hack our way to higher grounds. after bashing for sometime and making little headway, our leader decided that we could be on the wrong track. i mentioned that we had actually walked past some steps further back. jason then checked the photos of the steps which guat had taken earlier. he confirmed that those were the steps leading to the shrine.

so, we backtracked and came to a place that resembled a platform. moving further in, we found a few more flights of steps leading to some kind of a hill. near the top was a water trough carved out of a solid block of granite. around it were some disc-like granite pieces which could have served as holders for some supports.

there was no shinto shrine to be found. at the top, we found slabs of granite strewn over an area overgrown by plants.

a typical shinto shrine in japan

the jinja shrine site has been designated by the national heritage board as a historic site. you can read about about it here.

if you go in by the terentang trail, you should be able to reach the site in less than an hour, provided you do not lose your way.