Archive for October, 2004

Today’s Hometown URL

Sunday, October 31st, 2004

I look at the Marblehead Reporter every week. The highlight of the online version is the Police Log. I have just discovered this link to highlights of the year in Marblehead (I believe it was 2001, judging from the flurry of suspicious Middle-Eastern-looking men reported after September 11). It’s well worth a peruse, and a laugh.

Marblehead is proud to be the Birthplace of the American Navy and the Yachting Capital of the World. I left for the Big Apple and never came back, but there are lots of nice people there still, including some of my relatives.

We’re back in London

Monday, October 25th, 2004

Well, we’re back. I tried to post once more from Singapore, but the maid was ironing at the time and, apparently, the iron has developed a short that trips the circuit breaker. So, the entire post was lost. I hope I can resurrect it.

We went to see a Korean movie called “Old Boy” on Friday. It’s very interesting visually, but extremely gory and violent. The IMDB entry for it is here. It was recommended by many of HWMBO’s friends, but I found it very disturbing. I don’t deal well with screen gore. We had dinner in the food court underneath the cinema complex. I had Vietnamese spring rolls and beef pho supreme. Very good. It’s interesting that, almost without exception, food courts and hawker centres in Singapore are clean and provide very tasty food at a reasonable price. Hardly anyone cooks in Singapore: it’s too tempting to go out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The prices are reasonable: probably about 1/6th of what you would pay in London for comparable dishes.

After dinner we went on to Mox Bar and Caf

While I’m waiting for the diuretic to stop working

Wednesday, October 20th, 2004

I have time for a report on yesterday.

The Eames (now called the Windsor) Report was issued. As I predicted, the bishops who voted for or consecrated +Gene Robinson are to be ostracised (voluntarily). The Anglican Communion is to become a more rigid organisation internationally, with an “Anglican Covenant” to “bind us together” that basically keeps individual countries from going their own way and dooms the institution to glacial movement along with the slowest and most conservative provinces.

I suspect that there will be lots of studying but that nothing will be done concrete about it. The +Genie is out of the bottle^Wcloset, and no one can put him back. However, this is not cause for inaction. The conservatives are furious that the Episcopal Church wasn’t immediately thrown out of the Anglican Communion, and will probably try to do something in the next year or so. We need to be ever vigilant.

BK, HWMBO, and I went to see the Esplanade (the new concert hall/arts centre) downtown. It looks like two half durians (qv) lying on the shore. Had a nice Thai lunch, then on to the Duck Tour. You may have one in your own city (I do). They are amphibious troop carriers, that can operate as trucks or as boats. They were surplus after Vietnam, and were bought by various private individuals and now are osten used for these tours. We went through the harbour (no splashing, thankfully) and saw the Esplanade from the bay, as well as the famous Merlion, the symbol of Singapore.

The land tour was an anticlimax as the overhanging roof of the duck was such as to block out any possibility of taking a reasonable picture. We discovered that locals get a 40% discount and those who use their Citicards to book get 10% off. Still, BK thought it was worth about SG$10 (around GBP3.30, or US$4.44). I liked it, though.

I will post pictures on my website when I get back to London.


Monday, October 18th, 2004

Anyone who’s been to Southeast Asia knows what durians are. If you don’t, read a bit at this link.

Durians are the source of a foul smell that pervades the immediate area where they’re stored or eaten. They are about the size of a large pineapple, green, with spikes all over. When split, there are about 6 segments (like orange segments), each of which contains one or two seeds covered with a creamy exterior. You don’t eat the segments nor do you eat the seeds. You suck the creamy exterior off and discard the rest. Think pomegranate seeds, about 500 times the size.

Durians are not allowed on the subway system, nor in most taxicabs, nor on buses or in elevators. The first time I was here, we went to an Indian restaurant which was on the second floor of the building. As we waited, I noticed a sign “No durians in elevator”. Not knowing at that time what a durian was, I enquired whether durians were some discriminated-against group in Singapore. It took my ex a few minutes to stop laughing.

For years, during my first three trips to Singapore, my ex threatened to introduce me to durians, but never came through. Yesterday my host decided he would give me a treat.

We had a lovely day. First, BK took us to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant which was absolutely lovely. Real Chinese vegetarian food is renowned for the fact that each dish has one, different, subtle flavour. Then we went to the Botanical Gardens and particularly to the National Orchid Garden. It costs SG$5, but is well worth it. I have some pictures and will see whether I can get some on my website. They have an orchid named after Margaret Thatcher (among many others named after public figures). However, it didn’t live up to its namesake: it was pretty, thriving, and colourful.

Afterwards one of those tropical thunderstorms came by: they sneak up on you with only a few minutes warning (usually thunderclaps), last for about 20 minutes, and then stop. Everything is dry within a few minutes. We took refuge in a caf

To Indonesia and back

Sunday, October 17th, 2004

HWMBO and I decided that we should take a three-day holiday during our holiday (what I just wrote sounds like “Who put pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?”). We booked one at Angsana Resort and Spa on Bintan Island, Indonesia.

It’s an hour hydrofoil ride from Singapore. However, one thing that I’ll have difficulty getting used to is Southeast Asian immigration. Most countries have an entry card that you have to fill out when entering their country. It consists of a few questions and boxes to tick. When you live in Singapore, however, you get used to immigration queues up the wazoo. To travel anywhere is a foreign destination. Every country I’ve ever visited in SE Asia requires a relatively long questionnaire to be filled out before disembarking. It’s usually a three part questionnaire with the usual questions about who you are, but also asks questions about your travel history and the like. You memorise your passport number pretty fast here.

Then you go stand in a queue for the immigration people. They stamp your passport and the form about a thousand times, then one section is torn off to stay in your passport until you leave. Always remember: put a paper clip in your passport so that you can clip the card into it so you don’t lose it.

I state all this to set the stage for the surprise of this trip: when we arrived at the ferry terminal they already had immigration cards for Indonesia printed for both me and HWMBO! There were only a few spaces left for us to fill in. This was a first for me.

The hydrofoil ride is fairly glum, with nothing but canned TV to entertain and virtually nothing to look at out of the window but -sam, both the flot- and the jet- kind.

British citizens have visa-free entry into Singapore and Malaysia. However, we (and USans) have to pay US$10 to get into Indonesia. They won’t take SG$ or UKP or anything else. The money changers at the ferry terminal do a land-office business in US$.

So we queued up separately (HWMBO, being Singaporean, doesn’t require a visa) and I paid my US$10 and got a receipt, which I then took to the immigration counter, at which three solemn officials sat. The first one took my receipt, passport, and immigration card, and indicated that I should join the queue to my left. He passes them on to another official, who apparently stamps all the necessaries, and passes it on to the third, who produces a lovely page-size visa, complete with holograms and the like, pastes it into my passport, and lo! I’m in Indonesia. Holograms, for a three-day stay!

The resort is wonderful! We got on a bus marked “Angsana” and were driven to the hotel. Coconut palms all around and other lush vegetation surrounded a low-rise hotel built in the colonial style (large verandas, ceiling fans, Sidney Greenstreet^W^W). The staff were a lovely group of people: they greet you in the Thai manner (hands held vertically pressed together in front of the chest, with a slight bow). The colour scheme is tan and lime green–fluorescent lime green (especially the staff trousers).

There were hitches: they thought I was a Danish Christian Hansen who’s stayed there before, and I said “I’m British!” Then they finally decided I meant “British Overseas Territories” and I didn’t have the heart to correct them a third time, so I just crossed it out and wrote “UK”. Our room wasn’t ready; we were sent to another room which was quite nice but a bit small, with a double bed. However, while HWMBO and I were debating whether to ask them to let us stay in that room, we got a call: our room was ready.

The room was spacious, but with twin beds! So much for a dirty weekend…We got ourselves dressed appropriately and went out to the beach. What a lovely site! The beach was wide, relatively clean (they have sweepers, not wearing lime green, constantly at work), and waitrons running around putting orange-tinged icewater in your glass. I just sat, read a book, and enjoyed it, as did HWMBO.

Dinner was a beach-side barbecue. The price was US$24 per person, and we sat next to the beach and enjoyed the very good food on offer. It was buffet-style, and at buffets I usually go around and pick small amounts of lots of things that I think I might enjoy, then go back for large portions of things I really did enjoy. There was quite a stiff breeze coming off the ocean: no wonder they chose this place for a resort: evenings are very cool for just north of the Equator. Here endeth the first day.

Second day was also lovely. Sat by the pool getting somewhat tanned and watched HWMBO swim. What a life! Dinner was at the neighbouring resort, the Banyan Tree. It is a posher resort, but the food wasn’t as good as at Angsana and it was much more expensive. Plus, they had a DRESS CODE at the Thai restaurant! In the tropics? That’s a first for me. So dinner wasn’t as good.

Third day we lazed by the pool in the early morning (after partaking of the breakfast buffet). Buffets in this neck of the woods have to cater for lots of different tastes. You have the Chinese from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and the mainland, who usually want congee (rice porridge). You have the angmohs from everywhere who want eggs, bacon (in a Muslim country, no less!), sausages, and toast. You have people who want lots of fruit (that’s not hard around here). There are Swiss and Germans who want ham and cheese for breakfast. French people want croissants. So, the breakfast buffet had all that, and more. We were stuffed. The first full day there we ate no lunch to speak of as the breakfast was just right for the rest of the day.

Going back to Singapore, reverse the process. The hotel had our Singapore arrival cards printed out and ready, and then gave us the bill. If we paid in US$, the price for all our meals and drinks was about $250. However, if we paid by credit card, it was in rupiahs, and the price was more than 2 million of those. We paid by credit card, and got back to Singapore in one piece.

Unfortunately, I chose a pricey cab, and HWMBO was very miffed. Tried to apologise, but no dice. Sad end to a nice holiday. My host will be working on him today to cheer up and come on the duck boat tourist ride through Singapore that we had been counting on. If he doesn’t go (his method of making me feel like an overspender was to refuse to go on the trip) then I won’t either. No fun by yourself.

As HWMBO was dining with his parents and brother, I changed hurriedly and went out to dinner with a blogger (on a different system) whose blog I read but had never met. Kevin is really sweet, very shy, and fun. We met up with BK and went to Vincentz, which is the successor to the oldest gay pub in Singapore, Vincent’s Lounge in Lucky Plaza. Quite a drag: I know Vincent and Roger (his partner) slightly as my ex was their lawyer. They weren’t there. So we had one drink and went to Tantric, one of the new pubs. Very nice d

Johor Bahru

Wednesday, October 13th, 2004

We went to Johor yesterday. It’s a poor version of Singapore, but the exchange rate to the pound is quite good so bought some sandals and shirts. The trip starts with an MRT trip to Kranji, then a bus ride to the Singapore exit hall, where they take your passport card and send you on your way. Then back on the bus to the Malaysia end of the causeway, where you get off, go to the Malaysian entry hall, give them your passport and a Malaysia entry card, which they stamp and you’re on your way again, usually by taxicab. Reverse the process returning to Singapore.

They stamped my passport with a fourteen-day visa this time, rather than a 30 day one…why, I don’t know. I hope that our trip to Indonesia tomorrow doesn’t result in a seven-day stay. At that rate I’ll have to leave a week early!

HWMBO went with us to the shopping centre to buy CDs and DVDs, but came down with a pre-migraine and had to leave almost before he’d entered. He called this morning and is better now, thank goodness.


Tuesday, October 12th, 2004

I have some amazing friends here in Singapore. The Singapore premiere of Wong Kar Wai’s new flick “2046” was last night, and we all had tickets. I liked his “In the Mood for Love”, and hoped that after the tremendous hype, the withdrawal from film festivals and “non-final” cut at Cannes that it would be tremendous. Alas, it’s not (IMHO, of course).

First, it was much too long. It started late (9:30 was the Future Attractions, then the movie started about 9:45) and went for two hours. My jet-lagged brain lost about 20 minutes in the middle from a sudden urge to close my eyes and sleep, to which urge I quickly succumbed.

There is no plot; if you hadn’t read online synopses, it would be difficult to discover what the movie’s about. This is a problem.

The movie is lush–the music’s lush, the scenery, the makeup, the cast of many who are famous Chinese and Japanese stars were turned out to perfection (most of the movie is set in the 1960’s, with costume to match). The male lead, Tony Leung (star of In the Mood for Love”, with a pencil-thin moustache for most of the film, reminded me of a Chinese Humphrey Bogart. The female leads, of whom there are several, are stunningly costumed (no pants suits for these ladies; all shimmering gowns except when they’re in bed). There’s no nudity to speak of, BTW, at least in the Singapore cut. I wonder if there will be more when it opens in Western cinemas.

But the comparison that I made immediately (about 10 minutes into the movie) was with Last Year at Marienbad. It’s a movie that is continuallly satirised, mocked, and parodied. HWMBO and I sat through it on cable and were bemused. That’s how I felt when the lights came up after 2046. I wonder if anyone else connected the two movies. I suppose you could call it “22 years in Hong Kong” or perhaps “80” if you go by the movie’s ostensible dates.

Other random factoids: the subtitles were in English and Mandarin. There was some discussion in the car afterwards about the subtitles and the Chinese speakers (everyone but me) felt that the Chinese ones weren’t accurate. There was also discussion about whether the film was shot in Cantonese rather than Mandarin. The English subtitles seemed to be OK; I only caught one grammatical error (which is good for subtitles, in my experience). Also, the media were out in force and it’s possible that Singapore TV viewers today will be surprised to see the angmoh (Hokkien slang for white person–it means red-hair, I think) standing around outside eating peanuts before the showing. I hate it when people only bother to take your picture when you have a glass at your mouth or in your hand, or are eating something.

(Some satire on angmohs and Singapore.) Also, the definition of angmoh vs gweilo is here.

Anyway, the real pleasure in last night was the wonderful Chinese meal we had–a fusion restaurant with Western-style Chinese food and Chinese-style Western food. It was great (Thanks, Leslie), and of course being able to be with HWMBO for the evening, even though while he’s here he really belongs to his parents and I only get an occasional daily look-in. We’re off to Johor Bahru (across the strait in Malaysia) for some shopping and R&R this afternoon, and off to an Indonesian resort on Thursday, returning Saturday. All expensive, but worth it to have him to myself for a couple of days.

Being white and a minority

Sunday, October 10th, 2004

One of the things that’s best about visiting Singapore, for a Caucasian, is that you are immediately a minority. On the streets, in restaurants (except perhaps in the very centre of the city), and especially if you’re living with friends in a housing development board project, you’re the only white face around.

Every Caucasian should do this at least once. I’ve been here 4 times, and I relearn the lesson every time I come here. White privilege doesn’t exist here. I can’t claim the support of the majority anymore.

This helps to reinforce anti-racism within you, and gives you a fresh perspective on the world. Fighting racism starts internally, within each person. Only when people themselves come to the knowledge that they have to fight their own racism, constantly, forever, will things improve.

For those who can’t come to Singapore (and you should if you can; it’s a lovely place to be and it also is a good jumping off point for other destinations in Southeast Asia and Australasia) try going to Harlem, or Chinatown in your nearest big city. Find a park bench and sit there, and look around you. You’re different from everyone there, visibly. The colour of your skin and your features are not like those you see. Then imagine what it’s like for someone who is not Caucasian but who lives in a town or city where there are few people of colour. It’s the same feeling–unease, a bit of panic sometimes–that you’re feeling.

Of course, being in another culture but one that speaks English (in the main) is also a very good thing. Singapore’s strength is its cultural and linguistic diversity.

We’ve arrived!

Friday, October 8th, 2004

Well, we got here, in one piece (really, two pieces I suppose). I got everything packed, HWMBO came home at about 4, and we got out of the house a few minutes past 5 pm (on Thursday). The Underground was a mess, of course (I was trying to get my bag, a modest-sized one, past the queue to get to the ticket office at the Elephant and Castle Bakerloo Line station and a clerk, trying to be helpful, told me to go to the gate (which I was already making for). I was a bit snippy to him, I’m afraid.

Check in wasn’t too bad, but the queue for the scanner was quite long. Of course, when we got there my belt buckle (webbing belt, metal buckle) set off the reader. The handheld scan was quite thorough, and it even picked up my nipple ring. The security guard was a bit puzzled, and I had to say, “Body jewelry” twice before he got it. I’m glad that I took my PA ring (7mm gauge, 22mm diameter) out beforehand (as I always do) as explaining the squeal that would make would be quite annoying.

We then had a bit of a wait, and HWMBO was hungry. I wasn’t, in particular, and we spent a while in Terminal 4 trying to find a McDonalds or other recognisable fast food joint. No luck–we ended up at a Pret.

Boarding was delayed because the crew was late…I made a small joke about them having a last beer in the pub before takeoff. The plane was stuffed full of Aussies returning home (the plan is flying on to Melbourne) after 6-8 week holidays. Also, screaming babies were the order of the evening.

BA really needs to pull its finger out if it wants to survive. They served the first meal after about 2 hours (on a 12-hour flight) and said that there was chicken and beef. By the time they got to us, it was beef or some of the extra vegetarian meal. I took the beef (which was traditional British beef: stewed until it was tasteless) and HWMBO took the vegetarian (leek and mushroom pie). We then composed ourselves for sleep, in between the children screaming. I got about 6 hours sleep, and woke up in time for breakfast (at 3 pm Singapore time!). They had a choice of egg and bacon, and cheese and tomato. Of course, by the time they got to us they only had cheese and tomato. I decided to skip the sandwich, and only ate the tiny muffin, the raspberry “smooth” yogurt that may have had a raspberry waved at it, from a distance, and drank the orange juice.

Embarcation was OK, and the customs and immigration was very efficient, as Singaporeans are. HWMBO’s parents were there to greet him, so I got to meet them. He looks so much like his father. Our friend BK met me and I’m now typing this entry in my air conditioned room complete with computer. He’s a great host: thanks BK!

I’m surprisingly un-jet-lagged…I suppose it will kick in tomorrow. Something to look forward to.

Off to Singapore tomorrow

Wednesday, October 6th, 2004

Well, HWMBO is all packed, and I’ll be packing tomorrow. We’re off to Singapore. I’ll try to keep up contributing (I’m told there is a dedicated computer in my room at our friend BK’s place, waiting for me.) and posting pictures if appropriate.

Had a job interview this evening, rushed in before I left. It went well–I can be very articulate about software testing, test management, QA, and the like. The interviewer thought that I did well (and said so), and discussed salary, availability, and times for 2nd interview (by phone in Singapore if necessary). So that’s all to the good.

I will then, if offered the job, have to choose between going contract (and possibly not having a large income for a while) or continuing as a permie. I may not have the opportunity to make the choice, but I’ve got 2-1/2 weeks in Singapore to think about it.

Today’s Florida Ballot URL

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

Somewhat scary…I’ll probably have nightmares. Here.

Today’s Unfortunate URL

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

is of a blog on Typepad called “CTA Blogger”. A thread on other lists I see has been talking about behaviour on public transport. The ne plus ultra of this is here.

Enjoy, er, or not.

Another good blog

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

A blog that I’ve followed for a long time is boyshapedbox . Dicky is a good site designer and a gay man going through interesting times at university. He’s currently looking for site update suggestions and looking at some of his previous postings will show his real talent and stick-to-itiveness.

I’m getting ready for Singapore, and otherness

Tuesday, October 5th, 2004

We’re about to leave for Singapore Thursday night. I haven’t been there since 1997, and haven’t been to Asia since September 1998, when I had an absolutely wonderful trip to Hong Kong. Anyone who wants to go to Asia should go to Hong Kong first, via Singapore.

Singapore is about a 3-day trip. After that, you’ve seen everything. The shopping is quite good, and various items such as the MRT (subways/Underground), light rail, and Sentosa Island are well worth a visit. A sombre visit to the war memorial cemetery is also worthwhile. Singapore suffered during WW II, first from neglect by the British (who wasted time defending Singapore from a naval attack while the Japanese were hastening down the Malay Peninsula on bicycles to attack their backs), and then from a brutal Japanese occupation. Changi Jail has a display of wartime artifacts and a replica of the chapel that the prisoners built during the occupation. Very touching.

HWMBO is, of course, going to see the relatives (my in-laws). I am tagging along and staying with our friend BK, hoping to see HWMBO as often as possible. I also hope that his dad will refrain from suggestion that he go out on a date with the daughter of a friend of his. We are planning one or two excursions out of the country to lie on beaches and generally relax. I’d love to get south of the equator, given that Singapore is only 1.? degrees north, but probably won’t be able to this time around.

There is also a burgeoning gay scene in Singapore. When I first travelled there, in 1995, there was only one gay pub (Vincent’s Lounge, in Lucky Plaza) and one gay disco, once a week. Now there are many gay pubs, at least 7 gay saunas, and some gay karaoke places and discos. Gay Pride was held this year during Singapore’s National Day weekend (although they didn’t call it Gay Pride, but something else which I forget). Gay sex is still illegal, but the Government seems to have come to the conclusion (surprise!! surprise!!) that some of their brain drain (where young Singaporeans just out of university suddenly go abroad to work and never return to live and pay taxes) may come from the fact that some gay men and lesbians there feel threatened by the law and the culture. So, while the laws have not been repealed, officially, there seems to be a relaxation when sex between consenting adults is concerned.

I will endeavour to update the blog regularly since I can’t send you all (whoever reads this) postcards.

During my time there, the Eames Commission of the Anglican Communion will deliver its report on ways of ensuring that the different “communities” within the Communion can live together, considering the great differences between some and others over the question of ordination of gay men and lesbians and the blessing of same-sex unions. There was, for a time, considerable leakage from the Commission and its hangers-on–had the Eames Commission been the Titanic, it would be on the bottom of the North Atlantic today.

I’m going to commit myself to some predictions about the findings here.

1) The Commission will not expel, or call for the expulsion, of the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada over the gay ordination and blessings question.
2) It will, however, call for the banning of those bishops who have indicated their support for such events from the next Lambeth Conference (scheduled for 2008 in South Africa).
3) It will call for the Episcopal Church and the ACC to formally renounce (or perhaps, “repent of”, or both) their positions on lesbian and gay ordinations and same sex blessings.
4) Er…that’s probably about it. It may call for Bishop Gene Robinson to resign, but that happening is unlikely and I think the Commission, recognising that, will refrain.

I believe that the American and Canadian churches will not go back on their actions: in fact, the American Episcopal Church will find it quite difficult to do so since its canons state that no benefits or position in the church, including ordination, can be denied for reasons of sexual orientation.

So what will the reaction in New York and Toronto be? I believe that these Churches will “prayerfully” consider the results of the commission, and then continue doing exactly what they are doing. However, this will force the Communion to react to their non-reaction. Either the Communion will have to expel them from the Anglican Communion (and thus lose more than 30% of their funding) or the African and Southern tier churches will leave (effectively). It’s Hobson’s Choice, and the Archbishop of Canterbury will have to choose one. Rowan Williams is on course for being the worst Archbishop of Canterbury in 100 years (perhaps excepting Cosmo Gordon Lang of the “kick ’em when they’re down” radio speech after the Abdication). He must be going through difficult mental states: it can’t be good for your mind or your soul when you privately believe one set of things (such as the equality before God of all people, sexual orientation and all manner of other items notwithstanding) and have to publicly support another set of things diametrically opposed to the first set. I think that, if this continues, he really should resign for the good of his soul and his mental state.

I have a job interview tomorrow. Very quick on my part, very slow on theirs. I answered the ad about 2 weeks ago, thinking that if they were interested they would get in touch soon and we could arrange interviews (as I now have Mondays and Fridays free). Instead, they call me today, leaving me no free time to go to an interview during the day. I have to go at 6 pm. The job looks good, challenging, and calling on a lot of the facets of my experience. I shall keep the contracting and consulting up my sleeve, so to speak…