Steve Vai and the Stick of Destiny

The stick came tumbling in the air and it was the last one that the drummer tossed into the crowd. Finally all those years of playing catch with whatever objects was going to prove itself. It rolled, it yawed but my eyes were fixed on the axis of the spin. My hand shot up and the stick surrendered itself to the gravitational and destined grip of my pentadactyl limb. I could hear people behind me gasp in awe that I could make that catch with nary an effort. It was the stick of destiny, thrown by Steve Vai’s drummer – Jeremy Colson. I bequeathed the battered pola to Josh and in that moment passed down to him the love of the music of Steve Vai.

What a concert and what showmanship he engendered in the concert. The climax was really at the end of the show, after the encore when the lights of the hall were turned back on and he was on stage without a mike and talking to the crowd. There he was – one of the best guitarists of our time and immediately made everyone feel the camaraderie that was the love for his music.

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20140322-082336.jpgThat’s one battered Vater drumstick with Vater grip tape. 

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A place for recollection

This path is lined on both sides with this very gentle looking tree Leptospermum brachyandrum. It’s easily the most favorite place in the gardens for me. It looks like a nice place of repose and recollection.

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Garcinia nigrolineata – The beaked kandis

This is a wild mangosteen in cultivation at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Mangosteens belong to the family Clusiaceae (or formerly Guttiferae).  Some characteristics:  Opposite leaves without stipules, yellowish sap, branches emerging almost at right angles to the trunk.  More curiously is the “beaked” end of the fruit.  The bark is quite dark and makes this plant very distinctive. 

It is native to Singapore.

 

Garcinia nigrolineata

Garcinia nigrolineata

 

Garcinia nigrolineata

 

Garcinia nigrolineata

 

Garcinia nigrolineata

Garcinia nigrolineata

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Riding the Bishan-Kallang PCN to Gardens by the Bay

Today I cycled the Bishan-Kallang PCN from Bishan to Gardens by the Bay.  It took me about 50 mins to reach the destination.  Not too bad considering how its all the way in Marina South.  The pictures say it all and since I am going to work, I need to think about the alternative routes there.  Its either I cycle and enjoy the quiet park connectors (there was no need to go on the road at all).

Bishan-Kallang PCN

Or hère below are the alternatives.

Crowd in MRT stationBishan-Kallang PCN

 

After the entire recce trip, I wondered why I haven’t been cycling more.  I really felt great and could feel how happy my circulatory system was.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

I was pleasantly surprised that I was on the PCN most of the time.  For some stretches, due to repairs, I had to go on the pavement for just a bit.  The nicest stretch of the PCN was by Kallang River.  There were a few turns to note but the home stretch to GB was sweet.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

Bishan-Kallang PCN

Bishan-Kallang PCN

One can navigate using the Singapore Flyer.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

Kallang Riverside Park is really quite peaceful.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

I will get to see the new stadium being finished.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

 

The stretch from here on is nice.  It skirts the F1 track and the Flyer and leads to the DNA bridge.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

 

The DNA bridge – lovely…

Bishan-Kallang PCN

And finally to the eyes of the dragonfly that is the Flower dome.  Very picturesque welcome.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

As a treat, I bought 30 sticks of satay and put it in my bike bag that is attached to the front.  The satay peeps were curious and enjoyed looking at my Tern P18.  I forgot how nice the bike looks.  I told them the bag was waterproof and ideal for transporting satay.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

The ride home seemed faster as I was familiar with the route… I think I could easily do this route in 45 mins.  The distance I travelled today was about 27km.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

 

There are 4 bridges to cross.  Two of them have narrow slopes for the bike to roll so no need to carry.

 In reference to the overall map, 

The place mark 1 is a bridge across Braddell Rd and has  narrow slopes at the sides so you can roll your bike up. 

2 is a monster bridge across Jln Toa Payoh, PIE, Woodsville Flyover and PIE slip road into the CTE!

3 is the bridge across Serangoon Rd.

4 is the bridge over Bendemeer Rd - it has a slope on one side for bikes to roll.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

The monster bridge is this one near St Andrew’s.

Bishan-Kallang PCN

Satay in the bag!

Bishan-Kallang PCN

 

 

 

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Beautiful blue fruits of the Lasianthus shrub

Lasianthus attenuatus RUBIACEAE from Macritchie

Lasianthus attenuatus RUBIACEAE

Picture taken by Lim Cheng Puay, Sunday 20 Oct 2013

This is a shrub found in Macritchie.  It belongs to the coffee family Rubiaceae which has opposite leaves and interpetiolar stipules on either side of the stem.  The striking metallic blue fruit is a drupe (a fruit that is fleshy and surrounding a pit or stone which has a hard shell with a seed inside) and is crowned by the calyx which shows that the ovary is inferior.

It’s challenging to identify plants from a tropical rainforest as diverse as that found in Macritchie but knowing family characteristics can help narrow down the identity. Its a pity we don’t know the forests we have better as they are much more diverse than many forests elsewhere.  But the diversity can be overwhelming and limit our understanding if we do not try to get to know it better.

More pictures and info from the websites below:

http://floraofsingapore.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/lasianthus-attenuatus/  (Flora of Singapore)

http://www.efloras.org/florataxon.aspx?flora_id=2&taxon_id=117649 (Flora of China)

http://wikis.wheatonma.edu/rainforest/index.php?title=Rubiaceae (Wiki page on Rainforest plants from Wheaton College, Norton MA.)

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Biku biku – Bhesa paniculata

A common tree of secondary forests and primary swamp forests.  Here it is flowering in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, spectacularly.  The panicles of flowers are eye-catching and no wonder its other name is the Malayan spindle tree.  I wonder if these trees are from the original forest that was the gardens.  Plant family – Centroplacaceae

Bhesa paniculata

Bhesa paniculata

Bhesa paniculata 

Bhesa paniculata

The plant has characteristically long petioles that are swollen (looks like a knee) where it holds the leaf blade.

More about this plant at the following websites

http://florasingapura.com/Bhesa_paniculata.php

http://floraofsingapore.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/bhesa-paniculata/

 

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Book review – The Element by Ken Robinson

My rating – 9/10

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It’s chocked-full of inspiring stories of people like Matt Groening, Arianna Stasinopoúlou – founder of Huffington Post, musicians like George Harrison and many more who found their element. Robinson defines it here -

“The Element is where your natural aptitudes meet your personal passions. It could be playing the guitar, basketball, cooking, or teaching, working with technology or with animals – anything for which you have a natural feel.” Many of these people did not do well in their schools and often had to overcome serious adversities in life. A lot of them had someone who believed in them.

Some of the stories are impossibly inspiring, for example, the story of John Wilson – blinded in both eyes at age 12 thanks to a chemistry experiment gone wrong but went on to eradicate river blindness in Ghana through an organisation he set up.

I found the beginning and the end of the book a bit more engaging. The middle part expounds on what it means to find the element and becomes academic so requires more focus. I certainly will have to re-read that part. Overall I thought it was well worth the read, very thought provoking especially if you are an educator to someone who is stuck in a rut – it does speak to humanity as a whole actually. If you have seen and heard Ken Robinson on TED, you will understand his educational standpoint and where he is coming from. To the book’s credit, and I think it’s a good book, almost groundbreaking, it did make me feel like I needed to rewind my 8 years as a teacher, start all over again and be bolder in reforming the education system in Singapore. It’s true that schools do kill creativity and that teachers and administrators should lighten up and become more innovative. I don’t think our school system isn’t innovative but it is sometimes innovative in an odd way, adding to workloads and yoking the students with more pressure. I have got lots to say about the A levels and how we drill our students with the correct answers. We say they can’t understand and are not motivated to learn and so we drill and practice… I sometimes look at some of my students and feel a deep sense of pity. They either have forgotten to learn or find the whole exercise pointless – and these are to my own judgement, bright young kids. Any kid is bright – until we start educating them! :( This book gives some hope but I know some will say such bottom-up change and moving away from standards-based assessments is impractical. So it was good that there were some seemingly impractical solutions exemplified in the book – like a school that set up near an old folks home. The retirees volunteered to mentor the students resulting in improved grades and engagement by the students and interestingly the need for medication by the older folks also dropped significantly.

I think educators need to take this book seriously and try to get a sense of what it’s trying to say – personalise education and look at each student, child as someone with potential and harness that with encouragement, mentorship and a validation of their personal gifts.

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Terminalia subspathulata

It’s easy to see why this is a heritage tree.  It’s been here as a tree since 150 years ago – which must make this tree older than that by quite many years.  Such big trees evoke awe and some kind of wonder.  To imagine scenes that have changed around its existence is evocative.  It is one of the tallest trees in the gardens.

Terminalia subspathulata, Combretaceae

Josh and Matt in the foreground and tiny people on the left of the tree for scale.  This tree just makes you stop and stare – if you don’t, then perhaps you’ve missed having a moment of awesome sauce.

Terminalia subspathulata

A vertical panorama didn’t really do it justice but it did highlight its tall buttresses.  How does a tree get that tall, all 47 metres of it?  Imagine a forest full of trees these tall.

 

Terminalia subspathulata, Combretaceae

The crown is spectacular and the photo doesn’t do its massiveness and scale any justice.

Terminalia subspathulata

Here is a picture of the fruits, one-seeded, woody and 2-winged from the same tree which I took in 2005.

 

 

 

 

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Dyera costulata – the Jelutong

The jelutong is a very handsome tree.  Funnily enough Tony also says its “handsome” at Flora Singapura.  Then again, any big tree would be!  Here it is in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a few trees lining the path.  It belongs to the Apocynaceae and characteristically bears whorls of leaves and contain latex.  The tree looks a lot like Alstonia with its layered and pagoda like branching.  Its said to be light demanding, no wonder it regenerates easily in logged-over forests.  Its latex was used to make chewing gum in the past (1920s-1960s) and its a well known timber plant.

 

Dyera costulata, Apocynaceae

 

Dyera costulata, Apocynaceae

 

 

 

Dyera costulata, Apocynaceae

 

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Photogenic prata

I can almost smell this again.  This post is dedicated to friends and ex-students who are overseas.   You know you are a true blue Singaporean if this triggers some hunger pangs.

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That’s Josh waking up to the eating of a prata.

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