Tuesday, July 21, 2009

40th Anniversary of lunar landing

It's been 40 years since man first set foot on the moon. I remember well asking my mom to wake me at about 10pm so I could watch it on TV. Not leaving anything to chance, I slept on the floor of my bedroom with my head in the hallway lest she forget. Truly the greatest voyage ever.

Next time anyone complains about the sorry state of American technology, crappy cars, etc., just remind him of July 20, 1969. People talk about China and India sending men to the moon--which would be great--but it fails to impress me because, if it happens, it will be about 50 years late. How much technology has been developed in that time? During the Age of Apollo there were no personal computers, mobile phones, or internet, and we had only three channels on TV. It's a lot harder going to the moon with only transistor radios. By the time the second place finishers reach the moon we could be on Mars. Assuming we have any money left.

Speaking of moonshots and pissing money away, Ion Orchard, Singapore's new super high end luxury mall has just opened. The big news is not the super high end luxury shops there, but the VIP restrooms (or toilets, as they are known here). According to the Straits Times, these johns boast chandeliers, black and gold wallpaper, marble flooring, and toilets with lids that open automatically when someone approaches and close afterwards. God forbid some tai tai should chip a nail while lifting the lid!

Unfortunately, most of us will never get to use these fancy crappers because they are solely for VIP guests. The concierge will escort the VIP to the locked holy of holies and open the facility. I wonder if the concierge will wait until the VIP is finished and help "clean up" afterwards? I also wonder how they will determine who qualifies as a VIP? Imagine the scene when someone who feels deserving of this honor is told he or she does not make the cut! How will they keep the VIPs happy and keep out the riff-raff at the same time? They are just begging for trouble!

For the peasants and common folk, there are public johns that are also said to be quite posh. They no doubt even have soap and hand towels. But almost every men's toilet I've been in here--even in most fine hotels--has urine on the floor. Which is not at all pleasant, even on marble flooring under the glow of chandeliers.

One more thing. Among the super high end luxury shops is a Chinese sportswear brand selling mostly badminton apparel! I had to read that paragraph three times, because I couldn't believe my eyes. Most badminton players here are school children, who don't have that kind of budget. And the handful of pros have team uniforms, or perhaps endorsement deals. Who the heck is going to drop big bucks on badminton togs? Time will tell, and probably soon.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Just one lemon

I've had a hard time buying a lemon at the super-gigantic-mega-hypermarket. They only sell them in threes, and when I go to buy a lemon I only want one. I'm not the type you see in home decor magazines, with a huge plate of lemons sitting on the table, like someone who lives in a house that looks so pristine it's uninhabited is about to make five gallons of lemonade. I usually buy one lemon and a couple of cans of garbanzo beans when I want to make hummus, and I don't really need extra lemons rotting in the bottom of the fruit drawer in my fridge. Anyway, the cashier always tells me I need to buy three, we call the manager, and after some debate I walk out with my orphan lemon. It's gotten to the point where, to save time, I tell the cashier to call the manager before we begin our routine.

On my penultimate (love that word) plus one encounter, the produce manager explained that the terminals were programmed to only accept lemons in threes, but after arranging a special dispensation told me he would give feedback to the top brass. They didn't get the message, or chose not to implement it, because the next time I went there we replayed the whole sorry scene. However, the manager made a special label with a bar code for single lemons and told me that from then on each cashier would have one in her little book of price labels that she scans.

Finally, I got that craving for hummus again, grabbed my two cans of garbanzos and a lemon, and girded myself for battle. Predictably, the cashier started in on her you-have-to-buy-three-lemons spiel. I told her to check her little book, and bingo! I got my lemon without the intervention of top management. Who says you can't fight city hall? I've got my own special label!

But another battle looms. Bing cherries are in season. They sure are tempting, but I quickly lose my appetite. The cherries are loose, and a swarm of kiasu shoppers are fingering and examining each one, making sure that they choose only the BEST from this mass of nearly identical little orbs. They spend an inordinate amount of time doing this. These cherry bins could be the main launching pad for an H1N1 outbreak, but they don't care. So long as they get the best cherries, they'll take the risk.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


In my last post I made a joke in poor taste. I compared Miami politicians with prostitutes. It is grossly unfair to make such generalizations and comparisons which portray an entire group in a negative light. Therefore, I offer my sincerest apologies to any prostitutes I may have offended with this insensitive remark.

Marina Barrage

Went to the Marina Barrage with the extended family Saturday night. This is a recently completed dam that separates most of the harbor from the sea. Over time, the water within will gradually become diluted until it is essentially a reservoir of drinkable water.

There are a few restaurants on site, with a grassy park on the roof. I suspect no one goes there during the day due to the intense heat, but at night there is a cool breeze and people hang out. Mostly young couples on cheap dates (nothing is cheaper than free) and some kite aficionados. These kites are high tech, with blinking lights. They look like UFOs.

There is also a great view of the Singapore skyline. Always a few new office towers going up, but most noticeable now is the casinos, I mean, "Integrated Resorts." A couple of years ago the projects were just being put up for tender, and now they're almost done.

In fact, it's amazing how fast things get built around here. In my old stomping grounds of Miami there are major expressways and airport projects that have been under construction for years and appear to be comatose, with no sign of completion. My guess is the local politicians are trying to figure out more ways for themselves and their cronies to gorge at the public trough. Kind of like when you're at a buffet and you've stuffed yourself, so you wait a while and then go back for more because it's there, so why not take it?

Which reminds me of a political joke: What's the difference between a Miami politician and a prostitute? Answer: The politician wears a suit. Alternative answer: The prostitute is more forthcoming about what she is going to do to you.

Which reminds me of another political joke: Sarah Palin. Good strategy, resigning--can you imagine how many blunders she would have made between now and 2012? For someone with such a modest track record, she doesn't seem too eager to build one up. Now she can snipe from the sidelines without getting dirty. My sources tell me she was last seen having lunch with Dan Quayle.

Now I've got myself all riled up, so I'd better stop for now.