Monday, July 28, 2014

Places: My Queenstown Heritage Trail: The charms of the Queenstown

Tanglin Halt.


On the last Sunday of the month of July, I took part in My Queenstown Heritage Trail to explore parts of Queenstown, Singapore's first satellite town. Looking at the various types of public housing found in Queenstown, I caught a glimpse of the evolution of public housing in Singapore.



Here's a blog I have written after attending the guided tour: Places: My Queenstown Heritage Trail: The charms of the Queenstown

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Places: An exclusive roof-top access during the Ramadan Trail 2014 at Sultan Mosque

This year, the Ramadan Trail at Sultan Mosque is one of the more meaningful tours I have participated in that has enhanced my appreciation of the significance of Ramadan. This year, the Ramadan Trail include an exclusive roof-top access. Find out more about my experiences of this year's Ramadan Trail here:

Places: An exclusive roof-top access during the Ramadan Trail 2014 at Sultan Mosque.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Places: Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall Open House Weekend

The refurbished Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. Jul 2014.
This weekend, on 19 and 20 July 2014, the general public can look forward to free performances and guided tours at the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall. Here's an account of a visit to the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall during the Open House Weekend: Places: Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall Open House Weekend.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Read: Emotion-focused Therapy: Coaching Clients to Work Through Their Feelings

Title: Emotion-focused Therapy: Coaching Clients to Work Through Their Feelings
Author: Leslie S. Greenberg
Published: American Psychological Association, 2002

I had the honour to attend a seminar conducted by Greenberg several years ago and it took me a while to get my hands on a copy of one of his books from the local library. It took me more than two weeks to read this book.

This book illustrates Greenberg's ideas about the role of emotions in life and in therapy. Written in a systematic and clear fashion, the author drew references from his clinical experiences and insights to discuss how individuals, couples and parents can more effectively deal with difficult emotions in everyday life.

For parents who would like to learn to be effective emotion coaches for their children, there is a chapter in this book that discusses the topic of emotion coaching in parenting. It was stated that in Gottman's (1997) (The heart of parenting: How to raise an emotionally intelligent child.) study, emotion-focused mentoring of children's feelings was found  to have a soothing effect on children and led to a change in their parasympathetic nervous system responses.

A book to be added as a resource on the shelves of anyone interested to learn to deal more effectively with one's feelings.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Read: Nick Ortner's The Tapping Solution

Title: The Tapping Solution: A Revolutionary System for Stress-Free Living
Author: Nick Ortner
Publisher: Hay House, 2013

Through various sources and through a friend of mine, I have heard about Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). When I came across Nick Orner's The Tapping Solution at the library, the instinct was to borrow it. This book by Nick Ortner provides an introduction to Emotional Freedom Techniques especially in dealing with negative emotional state such as stress, trauma, phobias and more.

As best as I have understood, tapping seems to deactivate the brain's arousal pathway. The act of tapping on the meridian endpoints sends a calming response to the body.

The book offers several examples of how one could practise the Emotional Freedom Techniques for a variety of situations such as to relieve anxiety, release physical pain and more. This book may be an alternative approach to healing that is worth learning about.

For more information, you may like to refer to http://www.thetappingsolution.com

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

12 Jul 2013: Exploring Munich



12 Jul 2013: It was free-and-easy time in the morning and early afternoon. With the guidance of a few friends, I was able to tag along to visit the city area of Munich yet again. We visited Bauer-Hieber which essentially is a place to find various sheet music. I wondered why we could find musically inspired rubber ducks there too?

Another destination was the Neue Pinakothek Museum in Munich. The museum has a post-modern architectural style. For a distance, the museum blended very well into the surrounding picturesque landscape.

Neue Pinakothek Museum. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

In this museum, visitors would have the privilege to view Van Gogh's Sunflowers (1888) and Claude Monet's Water Lilies (1915). Van Gogh's Plain near Auvers (1890) is also a part of the museum's collection. These were the paintings that I had used to study in art-history class when I was a teenager. Somehow, I felt comforted to see the original works face-to-face. The flowers in Van Gogh's Sunflowers looked alive!

Van Gogh's Sunflowers (1888).

I was attracted to a sculpture, The Fallen (1915/16), by Wilhelm Lehmbruck. It seemed to connect with me at some level. It was also an interesting piece of art compared to a museum that was dominated by paintings.

The group of us had lunch nearby the museum. Our meeting place was at the train station at Marienplatz. On my way to the train station, I met a local who had generously showed the way about Marienplatz and the nearby areas. That was an unexpected surprise.

Then time seemed to pass so fast and soon we would on the train that took us from Marienplatz to Haar, where the hotel was located. We were on the roads again to get to Munich airport. We were on our way back to Singapore. In the meantime, a number of the orchestra members chose to extend the trip.

Bye Europe.
A memorable journey.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

11 Jul 2013: An evening at Munich

Munich. Hofbrauhas. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

11 Jul 2013: After some travelling on the coach, we reached Hotel Acom Munich-Haar. Dinner was held at Hofbrauhas. The guests at Hofbrauhas were treated to a series of performances while having our meals.

At Hofbrauhas. Munich. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.


I did not get any alcoholic drink even though Hofbrauhas was possibly best known for its beer. In fact, I learnt that Hofbrauhas is the must-visit beer hall in Munich.

After dinner, I could not resist the temptation to treat myself to ice-cream. The ice-cream is delicious and much more value-for-money than those I could get in Singapore.


There was some time to explore the streets of Munich before heading back to the hotel. One of the mesmerising sights was the new town hall at Marienplatz. This building of Gothic Revival architecture looked magnificent. By the time when I was in Munich, I was possibly having over-stimulation of new experiences and was no longer taking information on the names of the buildings in Munich very well. Nevertheless, that did not stop me from admiring the beautiful architectural styles found in Munich.

New Town Hall. Marienplatz. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.

I felt grateful to be exploring a different part of the world, learning about different cultures and different ways of life. A mesmerizing evening it was.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Laksania, for Hearty Food made with Love



I had a memorable birthday treat to a delicious meal at Laksania a day before my birthday thanks to one of my very kind and generous friends, Belinda. We had an enjoyable dinner at one of the Laksania outlets located at Bugis+ at 201 Victoria Street.

It was my very first time dining at Laksania. What makes Laksania special is that it serves an innovative menu of dishes that are based on the flavourful herb that is commonly known in Singapore as the laksa leaf. I took a quick glance at the menu. Other than serving variants of laksa from South East Asia, Laksania also serves fusion dishes like Laksa Lasagna and Laksa Burgers at Laksania.



My friend and I ordered a regular bowl of Kelantan Laksa, a regular plate of Laksa Goreng and a serving of Chicken Satay (3 pcs) to share.

Kelantan Laksa.

The Kelantan Laksa is served with thick rice noodles and generous amounts of mackerel fish meat. For $4.90 for a regular serving of it, I think it was pretty reasonable priced considering that it is being served in a restaurant setting. As I ate it, I could tell that the food was made with care and love. The Kelantan laksa is not spicy and has a taste that is mildly gingerly with the fragrance of laksa leaf. Home-made fresh chilli paste was served on the side to compliment the Kelantan Laksa. I later learnt that the spices and herbs used at Laksania are free from preservatives. I am willing to come back for more Kelantan Laksa at Laksania in the near future. It is an interesting and novel alternative to the more common Singapore Laksa that we can more easily find in our tropical home-town of Singapore. I thought the Kelantan Laksa was pretty yummy and could be upgraded as one of the "Must Try!" items in the menu. Check this out if you prefer a mild yet novel type of laksa.


Laksa Goreng is one of the innovative dishes is served at Laksania. A plate of regular Laksa Goreng costs $4.90 excluding GST. My friend commented that it reminded her of the taste of Char Kway Teow. Then again, I beg to differ. This dish has a flavourful and distinctive laksa-leaf taste. In fact, it tasted like Singapore Laksa that is fried and served dried!

The menu suggested that the Chicken Satay is one of the "Must-Try!" dishes. It was priced at $4.20 for a serving of three pieces of satay. I was happy with it. I could not figure out yet what makes it so tasty. Could anyone care to enlighten please? Perhaps it was the way that the chicken meat was marinated with herbs which include the laksa leaf? The non-spicy yet flavoursome laksa cream sauce that was served on the side with the chicken satay made this dish completely delicious.


For our beverages, I ordered the hot lemon-grass tea ($3.00 per glass) while my friend ordered the iced lemon-grass tea ($3.50 per glass). Each sip of hot lemon-grass tea tasted heavenly. I learnt that the lemon-grass tea was freshly prepared using hand-pounded lemon-grass and pandan leaves. The hot lemon-grass tea is a hearty and healing beverage to consider when dining at Laksania.

In summary, I have enjoyed the dinner at Laksania that evening. I was left with the experience that Laksania is one of the places in Singapore to enjoy delicious and quality laksa in a restaurant setting. The food there is considered value-for-money.

Service was generally prompt and friendly. Although there was an occasion when the waiter brought a bill which was meant for another table to our table, he discovered the mistake promptly with our promptings, and gladly sent the bill to the right table subsequently.



Laksania offers a range of interesting food that could cater to people with specific dietary requirements. It is a halal-certified food establishment serving quality laksa and other dishes. For the vegans, Laksania serves the Vegetarian Laksa that is suitable for vegans.

I have a lot of respect for the team at Laksania who takes pride in serving hearty food made with love and service from the heart. What impressed me more is that Laksania is a social enterprise that aims to create opportunities to provide employment for people with disabilities and for people from marginalised groups. Employment enables the people to earn a living using their own efforts. I think employment also gives these people the sense of achievement and belongingness to the community.

The next time you are nearby a Laksania outlet and crave for laksa-leaf inspired dishes, consider the option of walking yourself into the outlet to enjoy the food. Your patronage will not only reward you with hearty food that is made with love and served with pride, it will support Laksania in fulfilling its social mission to help persons with disabilities to earn a living using their own efforts so that they can become financially self-reliant eventually. A win-win situation for all.

***
Laksania
http://www.laksania.com

Bugis+
201 Victoria Street
#04-04
Singapore 188067

JEM
50 Jurong Gateway Road
#03-09
Singapore 608549

Note:
Laksania is a halal-certified restaurant.
Other than dine-in, take-away is available for most of the food except the Laksa Hotpot.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Read: Brene Bown's Daring Greatly



Title: Daring Greatly
Author: Brene Brown
Publisher: Gotham Books (2012)

A TEDX video led me to learn about the work of Brene Brown a few years ago. I learnt that she has spent years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame.

Daring Greatly is one of her recent books that I have read. A quote that resonated with Brene Brown eventually contributed to the naming of this new book. Here goes the quote by Teddy Roosevelt,

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.
In this book, Brown explains how "vulnerability is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief and disappointment and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation and creativity".

The concepts and ideas in this books stem from Brene Brown's research. Brown has written the book in an accessible fashion.

Admittedly, while I have found the book comforting, the concepts are rather overwhelming to comprehend through one single reading of the book.

The chapter on "The Vulnerability Armory" provided practical insights on the common shields used to protect oneself from vulnerability and insights to experience joy even in difficult times of sorrow. Brown shared three key lessons that she has learnt from the people whom she has spoken with:

1) Joy comes to us in moments - ordinary moments. We risk missing out on joy when we get too busy chasing down the extraordinary.
2) Be grateful for what you have.
3) Don't squander joy. Every time we allow ourselves to lean into joy and give in to those moments, we build resilience and we cultivate hope.

This is probably a book that is worth reading more than once. The concept of daring greatly, as best as I could gather from Brown's writings, is essential for us to connect with others and to live whole-heartedly. I was pretty surprised to realize that many major book-stores carry numerous copies of this book. Then again, perhaps her video on TEDX have moved many?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

11 Jul 2013: Hohensalzburg Fortress

The view from the fortress.



11 Jul 2013: The day to visit the Hohensalzburg Fortress. I learnt that a few of the orchestra mates had woken up early that day to hike up the fortress and enjoy the sunrise. The easier way to reach the fortress is to travel by the funicular railway.


Visitors to the fortress could join one of the walking tours with audio guide. I highly recommend it. It will take visitors to the interior area of the fortress, as well as the observation tower. The view from the observation tower is mesmerizing. The Marionette Museum is rather interesting and introduces visitors to the Marionette entertainment culture of Salzburg. The State Rooms in the fortress appear medieval in design.

At the Marionette Museum. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.


One of the exhibits in the Marionette Museum.

The view from the observation tower.
Musical instruments from the past in one of the rooms.

After exploring the fortress, there was some time to explore the nearby streets. Reflecting, I wish I had taken myself less seriously where observing time is concerned. While I would still like to observe punctuality, I learnt that I could be a bit more relaxed on sticking to it. That would have made life much kinder for myself and my friends around me.

Anyway, to ease me to a more relaxed mode, I took out my sketch book and did one of the very few sketches that I had done during the trip. It was done in about five minutes nearby Mozart's Birthplace.


After reaching the hotel after a day of sightseeing, it was time to travel to Munich by coach. We would be taking a flight from Munich to Dubai and then to Singapore on the following day.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

At the Mercure Salzburg Hotel

10 Jul 2013:

Thanks to the organizing committee, dinner was arranged for the orchestra at Mercure Salzburg Hotel on our first evening in Salzburg. The rationale was that most of the affordable eating places would have been closed by the early evening.

The dinner at Mercure Salzburg Hotel was a three course dinner with soup, the main course and a dessert. A combination for dinner together with the lovely company of the orchestra mates.





The following day, when it was time for breakfast, I felt grateful for a simple yet pretty delicious breakfast. Generally, I would consider my stay at Mercure Salzburg Hotel to be a positive and pleasant one.


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

10 Jul 2013: Mozart's birthplace and more of the evening



10 Jul 2013: Salzburg is a beautiful place. I love the mountains and the skies. I heard that it generally has a relatively wet weather. Thankfully, on our first day at Salzburg, the weather was generally good.





After a leisure stroll along the streets of Salzburg, my friends and I reached Mozart's Birthplace. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in the house at No. 9 Getreidegasse, Salzburg, on 27 Jan 1756. He lived there until 1773. I personally prefer the exhibits in Mozart's Birthplace to those in Mozart's Residence. As photography is not allowed in the exhibition halls, it is best to check the Mozart's Birthplace yourself to see why it is an interesting place. Please allow at least 1.5 hours for the visit.

By the way, during our visit to Mozart's Birthplace, we learnt that the SPAR Supermarket that was just adjacent to the Mozart's Birthplace sells Mirabel Chocolates at a cheaper price than those found in the souvenir shops.



Salzburg has lovely streets. The horses on the streets reminded me of a time in the history when motorised vehicles were not even invented.

St Peter's Abbey.


As my friends and I approached the St Peter's Abbey in Salzburg, we heard a choir singing, and two trumpeters accompanying the choir. Near the back of the church was a cemetery. The St Peter's Abbey is considered one of the oldest monasteries in the German-speaking area. I felt a sense of peace at St Peter's Abbey.



On our way back to the hotel for dinner, we came across a bakery. What caught my eyes were the bread that were shaped to look like musical instruments. Fascinating, aren't they?

The bakery. Photo courtesy of Terence Low.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Read: Dance with Chance

Title: Dance with Chance: Making Luck Work for You
Author: Spyros Makridakis, Robin Hogarth, Anil Gaba
Publisher: OneWorld Publication, 2009

This book was on a list of recommended books to read. When I was at the library, I decided to borrow this book. It took me close to two weeks to finish reading this book.

I find this book quite interesting to read. My favourite chapter is that of "The inevitability of decisions".

In the preface, the authors stated that the goal of the book was to help people make better decisions in situations where accurate forecasting is just not possible. There is uncertainty and limits to predictability. When we can recognize what exactly can and cannot be predicted, can we manage realistically the uncertainty in our lives.

This book seems to discuss partly on risk management. The authors pointed out two kinds of risks: subways and coconuts. The former is predictable most of the time whereas the latter cannot be predicted and planned for. It seems like there are some things we cannot predict. The authors suggested a "Triple A" strategy to handling uncertainty:
1) Accept that there are things beyond our control in an uncertain world.
2) Assess the level of uncertainty that we are facing using the available inputs, models, data.
3) Augment the assessment of the level of uncertainty that we are facing. This can be done in two ways. One way is by exploiting the hindsight to imagine what could be a realistic-sounding situation if we were to fast forward into the future and look back at what had 'happened'. The second way is to obtain the data and double the range that is obtained.

For myself, the concepts of the use of sminking (for repetitive decisions), effective thinking (for unique decisions), using experts, blinking, use of emotions so as to make better decisions were pretty intriguing.

In a world filled with uncertainties, this book lends us insights on the illusion of control and the issue of how luck operates. I am pleased with this read.

Also read: The illusion of control: dancing with chance by Cynthia Owens, 4 May 2009