Thursday, December 31, 2009

yesteryears' playgrounds

picture from national archive of singapore

sometimes when you want to know or remember how things were like in singapore in the 50s, 60s or even the 70s, it can be done by visiting one of our own off-shore islands like pulau ubin or by visiting one of our neighbouring countries. when i visit places like sungei rengit in johor or seniawan outside kuching, i will describe to my buddies that 'it is just like s'pore in the 60s'.

i was in kuching recently when i saw these pieces of equipment at a playground, then memories of playgrounds where i had played and where i used to take my children to came flooding back. even up to the 80s, the old type of swings and see-saws were still around. i remember the see-saws and swings at farrer park and at dhoby ghaut, just across from the rendevous restaurant.

at some playgounds, the chains attached to the swings were quite long which meant you could swing frighteningly high. these days, you find modified swings at some parks and playgrounds and they do not go as high as the height has been much reduced. are today's children less adventurous or are we more safety conscious these days?

to get the initial momentum on the swing, some of us stood on the seating board of the swing, bent our knees and straightened them and did this repeatedly to get it going. others needed help from some 'pusher'. yet others could get into the swing of things by just flexing their legs while seated on the board.

in both the primary schools where i studied, we had a monkey-bars in the school-field. it was a popular spot with the boys during recess. girls were rarely seen playing at or on the monkey-bars. we would swing from one end to the other. those who were new to it usually ended up with blisters on their palms to show to their parents and friends.

the present day's playground is so much more colourful and attractive and safety is a paramount consideration in the design and built of these facilities. slides, see-saws and swings are still around but they are not as accident prone as those in the early days. they have even incorporated exercise stations, meant for adults, and very popular with the elderly, at some playgrounds.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

dirty dancing - time of my life (final dance)

what fruit is this?

i just came back from kuching, the capital of sarawak. while there, i was treated to a banquet, local dishes, kueh kueh and fruit.

when someone bought these spiky fruit back from the market, i shied away from eating it because it was my first time seeing such a fruit. but when they pried open the rind, i realised that it was a tropical fruit which i am quite fond of.

i remember seeing quite a lot of this type of fruit on some trees by the roadside and in the compound of some houses when i went to kukup many years ago.

what is this fruit?

quite a number of people are not convinced that the fruit is mata kucing. i hope this picture of the seeds will be convincing enough.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

oh peh som

'oh peh som' is a method we used as children when we had to decide who should be eliminated or which team one should be allocated to. 'oh peh som' is not a traditional game but rather an efficient traditional way of picking the members for two teams. in fact, it can be tweaked to pick members for more than two teams.

my friend dick (the wise old owl) had asked me sometime back to blog about it but i did not get around to doing it until now. what finally prompted me to do it was when i saw four boys using this method to decide the pairs to play each other in badminton. but, they have a different name for this way. they call it 'black or white'.

in 'oh peh som', the palm and the back of the hand come into play. participants begin by placing one hand - usually the right hand - behind their back. they will stand in a circle or a semi-circle. anyone of them or all of them can shout out 'oh peh som'. at 'som', they have to bring the hidden hand to the front showing either the palm or the back of the hand.

say, like in this case of the four badminton players, two of them display their palms and the other two display the backs, the two 'palms' form one team and the other team members will comprise the two 'backs'. if one shows palm and the other three show back or vice versa, then it goes into another round of 'oh peh som'. the same thing happens when all four end up showing the same side of the hand. it goes on until it is two palms an two backs of the hand are shown.

'oh peh som' can also be used to decide on something you, as a group, want to do. for example, if you cannot decide on whether to go swimming at farrer park swimming pool or mt emily swimming pool, you can always 'oh peh som' to pick the venue for your swim. it is not actually a majority decision; it is more like the luck of the draw. i do not ever remembering any quarrel over a decision made in this way.

here is one overseas singaporean who still remembers oh ah, peh ah, som.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

two common types of monitor lizards

all along i had thought that the monitor lizards that i have encountered during my nature walks actually belonged to the same species. i have come across monitor lizards, usually of a smaller size, during my walks at forested areas and the larger ones are usually found in the water or near the water edge at mangrove swamps or water bodies.

i only realise that there are two common types of monitor lizards - the water monitor lizard and the clouded monitor lizard - when i saw an information board, similar to this, at the lower peirce reservoir boardwalk.

the two species of monitor lizard are similar in appearance. those found in forested area, away from the water, have yellow spots on a brown-grey base. they are usually smaller in size. the one distinguishing difference is that the nostrils of the clouded lizard lie midway between the eye and the snout; whereas, in the case of the water monitor lizard, the nostrils lie near the tip of the snout.

incidentally, while searching for more information on the two species, i came across this very informative nature blog with very good pictures.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

free parking car parks

whilst some people chose to blog about car-park wardens, i choose to blog about places where you can avoid an encounter with them.

sometimes we make sweeping statements like: the bottomline of all government organisations in singapore is to make a big profit so that they can boast of a huge surplus in their balance; and all government agencies are out to make money. so, i was pleasantly surprised to find out that the land transport authority (lta) has actually expanded the car-park at sherwood road, behind the st george's church, and that these lots are not numbered, which means there is no intention to levy a charge.

the two mornings when i went to check out the car-park at around 7.30 a.m., there were hardly any vehicle at the newly built extension. however, the lots at the 'old' car-park were all taken up. the extension has space for more than 70 cars/vehicles. the trouble with some singaporeans is that they are too lazy to walk the 50 metres from the proper car-park, so they leave their cars parked 'illegally' by the side of the road leading to the car-park.

so, where else can you find long-term free parking. most nature parks and nature reserves have provision for free-parking except those near to housing estates or near to a paid parking area. for example, at west coast park, free parking is available at parks 2 and 3 but car-park 1 is coupon parking. why? because car-park 1 is next to the pasir panjang wholesale centre.

usually where there is a restaurant located within a park, parking charges are levied and the restaurant is roped in to manage the car-park. over at punggol, clementi woods and choa chu kang parks, parking is not free. at admiralty park, free parking is available at the north entrance. however, at the west entrance, where there is a restaurant, it is paid parking the whole day.

some car-parks have barriers that are de-activated after 7.00 p.m. in other words, after 7.00 p.m. the barrier is immobilised and it stays down until the next morning. the barriers at venus drive and dairy farm road operate in this way. this is done to prevent overnight parking by people who are not genuine park visitors.

whenever i have to go over to pulau ubin, i usually park my car at halton road, just outside the former changi hospital. many people, especially army personnel, seem to know about this free parking spot.

we can also take advantage of park-and-ride car-parks to save money on parking charges. a few car-parks that have this provision for long-term parking charge either $3.00 or $4.00. some motorists going on cruises or staying overnight at sentosa or batam choose to park their vehicles at the seah imm car-park, opposite harbourfront, where they pay - in the form of parking coupons - $4.00 for parking a whole day.

not all park-and-ride car-parks are fully utilised. the one located at the junction of alexandra road and lower delta road - where you pay $3.00 for whole day parking - has available lots on most days. i was told that some motorists avoid this car-park because it is a flood prone area.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

where can you find these sculptures?

i learn - not copy, hor - from this blogger that you do not need significant landmarks to get your readers to guess the location (of a place). just show some bolts and nuts or some patterns on a building.

so, i am showing you three sculptures; three whole things and not just bits of them.

just one question:

at which tourist attraction are these sculptures displayed?

Friday, December 18, 2009

those toothbrushing days

those who are in their late twenties and early thirties may not be aware that in the early days, 'darlie' toothpaste was known as 'darkie' toothpaste. the change of name came about in the 80s, after the company was acquired by colgate.

this video clip (for hong kong viewers) shows the simple change of name - just by substituting the letter 'k' with the letter 'l'.

in the 50s and 60s, people were apparently not so sensitive about racial and race issues. the word 'darkie' is used to refer to black people in the united states. although the new english name 'darlie' has no racial connotation, the chinese name for the tooth paste remains unchanged - black people's toothpaste.

in those early days, the choice of brands of toothpaste was rather limited: in fact, it was between colgate and darkie.

i also remember my late grandmother and my mother using a metal scraper - i think it was made of aluminium - to clean the tongue. that kind of scraper appeared to have become obsolete. i have not seen it around after we moved into a hdb flat in the early 80s.

recently, however, i have come across a number of reports which advocate the use of the scraper as the most effective way of curing bad breath. the new scraper is usually made of plastic. it has a handle which makes it long enough to reach the inside area of the tongue. you scrape your tongue gently a few times and after that you rinse your mouth and the scraper.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

paid parking at macritchie reservoir

the days of free parking at macritchie reservoir park are numbered! looks like the nparks people are going to resolve the problem of insufficient parking space at macritchie reservoir park the usual singapore way - by making walkers and joggers pay to stay healthy. actually, the problem arises on weekends and public holidays only; on weekdays, there is no shortage of parking space.

so, when a park or garden, like the botanic gardens, gets too popular with health conscious people, the solution is to implement paid parking. in some parks, like the ones at punggol and choa chu kang, they outsource the management of the parking to the respective restaurants operating in the two parks.

over at the botanic gardens, concession of one hour free parking is granted between 11.00 a.m. and 5.00 p.m. however, not all popular parks charge for parking. over at bukit timah nature reserve, one of the most popular venues for excercise enthusiasts, parking is still free. at east coast park, it is not difficult to find a free-parking space if one is not picky.

before the macritchie car-park was upgraded and consolidated, it was never a problem finding a space to park at macritchie reservoir park but exiting was a problem because of the heavy volume of traffic at the former exit point. those days, i used to park at the private housing estate.

hopefully, they will implement a system in which paid parking is imposed during 'peak hours' only - that is, on weekends and public holidays. alternatively, there can be a system whereby the genuine park users are not penalised. they could devise a system which allows for complimentary parking for under three hours; beyond that (three hours), then the parking charges kick in.

one retiree has written to the straits times' forum page to make this proposal:

A PARKING toll gantry has been installed at the currently toll-free carpark at MacRitchie Reservoir Park, a favourite haunt of many elderly park users for their exercise routine.
As most users are retirees, I hope the authorities will consider two hours of free parking to allow them to continue to visit the park for their healthy routine.

To make up for the loss, impose a higher-than-normal rate for subsequent hours.

Friday, December 11, 2009

pink necked green pigeons

i first came across the pink-necked green pigeons at sungei buloh wetland reserve. they usually make their appearance on the trees next to the pond, near the entrance of the reserve. when they fly, they make a distinct flapping sound. most times, i will see a pair of them but sometimes i may see as many as five.

today, i saw as many as thirty of them on a single tree at the zhenghua park. they were not roosting but feeding on the same berries found on the tree. pink-necked pigeon are quite well camouflaged. there are about six of them in the above picture. can you spot them?

as with most other animals, the male pink-necked pigeon is more colourful (attractive) than its female counterpart. unlike the common pigeon, this species of pigeon normally do not come to the ground; they are always perched on shrubs and trees.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

pump prices in melbourne

i noticed that pump prices in melbourne follow a certain pattern that is unique to australia. in singapore, pump prices vary, but not day to day; in singapore, when the world's crude oil price goes up, after a while, this increase will be reflected in a higher pump price, with an announcement made of the new price. the adjusted price will remain the same for a period of time unless there are marked fluctuations in the prices of crude.

in melbourne, australia, the price can be, say, aus$1.13/litre one minute and then aus$1.16, the next on the same day. prices are usually lowest on tuesdays and wednesday mornings. so, it is not surprising to see queues of cars waiting to top up at petrol kiosks on these two days. prices tend to be higher on fridays, weekends and public holidays.

unlike singapore, prices are not standard: they not only vary from day to day, they vary from station to station and they vary from one suburb to another. in the rural and outlying areas, where petrol stations are few and far in between, you will definitely have to pay more for your fuel. in singapore, whether you fill up at changi village or pasir panjang, you pay the same price for the same grade of petrol.

another trend that i have observed in melbourne is the switch to cars using diesel instead of the conventional unleaded or leaded petrol. my friend chris who drove me to the yarra wineries drives a diesel powered holden captiva.