Thursday, November 19, 2015

Brené Brown's Rising Strong

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Title: Rising Strong
Author: Brené Brown
Publisher: Penguin Random House, UK (2015)

This is the second book by Brené Brown that I have read. I realized that it was relatively easier to get a copy of her books in Singapore. Perhaps this had to do with the TED Talk Phenomenon that she had been known for?

Brené Brown has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is now using the work to explore a concept that she calls wholeheartedness.

While I often still struggled to fully appreciate the essence behind her ideas in the book, Brené Brown is skillful in weaving her real-life personal experiences and accounts into the book to illustrate concepts from her study with stories that clearly demonstrates her ideas.

I am wondering if it would help to reread the book again. Then again, I shall possibly be happy with the many quotes that she had placed at the beginning of each of the chapters.

This book is about getting back. The quote that starts on the cover page of my edition of the book goes "If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall." This is such a liberating quote!

Rise strong, the brave ones!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Read: Scott Rao's The Professional Barista's Handbook

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Title: The Professional Barista's Handbook: An Expert's Guide to Preparing Espresso, Coffee and Tea
Author: Scott Rao
Copyright by Scott Rao
ISBN: 978-1-4675-0371-6

Scott Rao is a world-renowned writer, consultant and trainer with over 20 years of experience in the coffee industry.

Scott Rao will be conducting two coffee-related workshops in Singapore this November. I was recommended to hear from Scott Rao on his ideas in preparing espresso, coffee, and tea. I managed to get myself a copy of one of Scott Rao's books, The Professional Barista's Handbook.

Scott Rao's writing is clear and systematic. He discussed key issues in preparing espresso and coffee in a clear and systematic fashion. In this book, there is even a chapter on brewing tea. His style of writing is very engagin, and it was quite a page-turner to read about his views on preparing espresso, coffee, and tea. Some of the issues discussed were a bit too technical for me and I foresee I would have to re-read those sections to better appreciate the technicalities involved.

I am happy with this handbook. Scott Rao has in many ways distilled the essence of brewing great coffee and attempted to summarize the essential ideas into this book. The author also gave insight on how to produce more consistent results in preparing quality espresso drinks and brews. I would say that so far, this is the most authoritative and comprehensive guides I have read to date on coffee preparation, especially preparing espresso. The book that is worth reading and I will be even more keen to meet this brilliant mind in person. Special thanks to Scott Rao for writing the book.

For more information on this book, please refer to:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

25 June 2015: The journey to Lynn and Oceanview Bed and Breakfast

Oceanview Bed and Breakfast.

25 June 2015, Thu:

Oceanview Bed and Breakfast was my destination to head for when I get to Lynn, a city in Essex County, Massachusetts.

I have a couple of people to thank for providing me with leads to find my way from HI Boston to Oceanview Bed and Breakfast. Thanks to them, I found out that when travelling in Massachusetts area, one of the best ways to figure out how to get around Massachusetts was to refer to the website of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to obtain the relevant information:

To get to my destination in Lynn, the following are the directions I had taken:
1) Take the subway to one of the stops along the Blue Line.
2) Take the Blue Line towards Wonderland. Alight at Wonderland.
3) Take bus service 442 towards Marblehead via Central Square and Humphrey. The journey would take about 21 minutes.
4) Alight at Stop ID: 15795, at Ocean Street at New Ocean Street.
5) Walk about 1 minute to reach 11 Ocean Street, Oceanview Bed and Breakfast.

It took slightly more than an hour to reach Oceanview Bed and Breakfast from HI Boston.

The view from Wonderland subway station.

Along the way, I was treated to the lovely scenery at Wonderland and beyond. I hope the scenery were positive nudges to remind me that I was on the right track. Being prepared with the directions to get to the destination has helped feel assured that I would eventually reach the destination safely.

When I was at Ocean Street, I was greeted by a lovely view of the beach. Oceanview Bed and Breakfast greeted me too with its lovely Victorian style decor. It was one of the places for accommodation that was recommended to me when I asked for information on where I could stay when I wish to visit the neighbouring town of Nahant.

My stay at Oceanview Bed and Breakfast was pleasant. I felt I was at home when I was actually away from home. What has made Oceanview Bed and Breakfast stood out were the hospitality of the hosts and the lovely view of the ocean.

To make a reservation, it would help to give a call to enquire. I love the idea that it is within walking distance from the shoreline. Each day I was treated with fresh air and the view of the ocean. This would be a place I will be happy to stay when I visit the area again.

Near Oceanview Bed and Breakfast.

Continental breakfast at Bed and Breakfast.

Oceanview Bed and Breakfast.

Oceanview Bed and Breakfast
11 Ocean Street

Massachusetts 01902
Tel: (781) 581 3760

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

25 June 2015: Boston Pizza Kitchen

25 June 2015, Thu:

The time came for me to leave the Hostelling International Boston. Checking-out was a breeze. I could simply drop the access-card into the check-out box if I do not need special attention with checking-out.

My plan was to head for the place called Lynn after lunch. I thought it would be great idea for me to feed myself with lunch so I went to the Boston Pizza Kitchen that is within walking distance from the hostel.

The portion of the pizzas here are huge. I ordered a slice of Bostonian pizza which was topped with honey garlic glazed chicken breast cooked in soy sauce, crushed peppers, white vinegar, green onions, sesame seeds, mozzarella cheese and a touch of Romano (no sauce). It was my first time eating a Bostonian pizza! A taste of Boston that I recalled had a bit of pleasant acidity to it. It tasted good enough to make lunch a lovely treat.

After lunch, I was ready to head for the city of Lynn in Essex County, Massachusetts. Read more about Lynn here:

Boston Kitchen Pizza
1 Stuart Street
Boston MA 02116

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

25 June 2015: A visit to Boston Public Library and beyond

Boston Public Library.

I had intended to travel to Lynn in Massachusetts before 10 a.m. yet there was a temptation urging me to visit the Boston Public Library. Therefore after breakfast, I headed for the Copley subway station. The Boston Public Library opens at 9 a.m. and I was arrived at the neighbourhood too early for its opening.

New Old South Church.

Opposite the Public Library is the Italian Gothic building of the New Old South Church.

Prudential Center. Back Bay, Boston.

As I was early and wanted to look for a public toilet, I decided to head for the Prudential Center. I did not know how to get there. I did not have the information that the Prudential Center was one of the tallest skyscrapers in the area so navigating my way took longer than expected. Admittedly, I did not like the feeling of being lost and uncertain. I had no GPS and no Google Map to assist me. I relied on directional space and a train that got me to the next station. Eventually, I found my way unexpected into the South Garden of Prudential Center. It was a tranquil space to visit. A timely experience to calm my nerves down. It took me a while to find a Ladies.

South Garden, Prudential Center.

After visiting the Prudential Center, I made a quick trip to the Church of Christian Science. This church has a dramatic basilica-like structure. A beautiful place to visit. There is a Mary Baker Eddy Library and Mapparium within the vicinity of the Church of Christian Science.

Church of Christian Science.

Eventually, I found my way back to the Boston Public Library. The murals there are impressive. In the centre of the building is a lovely court-yard that reminded me of an Italian-style court-yard. It was a lovely place for a nice retreat.

One of the murals in the Boston Public Library.

The court-yard in the centre of the Boston Public Library. A lovely place for a retreat.

So this post summed up my brief visit to Back Bay of Boston. I learnt that I did not enjoy feeling lost, yet I could survive the ordeals of not exactly knowing where every step that I was taking could lead me to. Thanks to the angels who were watching out for me? Life wants the best for me.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

24 June 2015: My final night in Boston for the month of June 2015

A feeling of loss caught up on me on 24 June 2014. It was my final night in Boston, at least for the month of June 2015. My feet were tired from extensive travelling yet my heart wanted to explore as much of Boston as I could.

I did not share that before deciding to have dinner at the Union Oyster House, I was at a total loss of directions searching for the James Hook Lobster restaurant. I had wanted to sample its lobster roll only to realized that James Hook Lobster restaurant was closed for the day. After which, I decided to head for Union Oyster House yet I did not quite want to refer to the map too much. I ended up walking rather randomly near and along the Freedom Trail, feeling absolutely tired and directionless. Only when I found my way to Union Oyster House and sat down to order dinner, I felt a sense of relief that finally my feet could rest.

My learning points: When travelling alone, it helps a lot to take good care of myself and be extra kind to myself. If I take good care of myself, even if I only caught a few interesting sights, the positive memories will last for a longer time.

Perhaps I was doing too much to manage a sense of loss that had to do with bidding goodbye to Boston, after dinner at Union Oyster House, I roamed almost randomly and cluelessly up to North End, walked along Hanover Street, witnessed many people queuing at Mike's Pastry and wondered what I have missed. Maybe all I needed was rest?

Mike's Pastry in the evening.

On my way back to the hostel, I met a gentleman called John who was asking for a donation. After acceding to the request, I asked for directions to South Station and when he told me the way, my gut-feeling was that it was such a longer way back to the hostel. I would have been better off taking a train from North Station. In the end, I walked most of the way back to the hostel. The experience was a reminder to trust my own judgement more when it comes to navigating my way about. Even though I was a mere new visitor to Boston, my instincts had proven to be serving me quite well.

I wondered what my heart was urging me to do?

An evening without a clear sense of direction yet I saw some beautiful sights along the way. I learnt I do not like the feeling of navigating in uncertainty when I am physically tired. Yet with faith, I managed to see some interesting sights, kept myself safe and got to know Boston better. Maybe even if the journey felt challenging, the outcome could be better than expected?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

24 June 2015: Dinner at the Union Oyster House

The Union Oyster House which was established in 1826 is possibly a national historic landmark. In Boston, my impression is that it was necessary to eat seafood because Boston has a rich supply of seafood. Many reviews have indicate that the Union Oyster House is one of the best seafood restaurants in Boston. It has a Oyster Bar that looked interesting.

Ye Old Seafood Platter.

This restaurant attracts a lot of tourists. It serves both seafood and steaks. It claims the title of Boston's oldest brick house. The building is built in Georgian architecture and is a rare example of this kind of architectural style in the city of Boston. This restaurant dates from at least 1660 when it was owned by Boston's first town crier, William Courser. I liked the idea of visiting a historic landmark and enjoy good food in it. This is a restaurant whereby I was more fascinated with its history and then the delicious food complimented its interesting story through time. For this restaurant to survive the test of time, the food is pretty good!

A charm of the wooden floors and ceilings

I ordered a Ye Old Seafood Platter which was essentially everything fried. The seafood was fresh especially the clams. When it came to calamari, I would prefer the calamari from The Daily Catch at the North End. It was nevertheless a great pleasure to be enjoying seafood in possibly America's oldest restaurant in continuous service on the Freedom Trail!

I was told that an inexpensive way to enjoy a meal at the Union Oyster House is to visit it during lunch hours in the afternoon and order a cup of Oyster House Clam Chowder. I suppose the finest experiences in life can be made affordable.

Union Oyster House
41 Union Street
Tel: 617-222-2750

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

24 June 2015: One of the Super Duck Tours

The free shuttle that takes one to the Super Duck Tours departure point

The truth was that by the time I had completed my visits to Harvard University and the MIT as well as the Hatch Shell, I was tired physically so much so I could not quite wish to walk already. Then again, because 24 June 2015 was probably going to be my final evening in Boston for the visit to USA in summer 2015, I decided that I could push myself a bit more and see if my body could manage. Thankfully, my body welcomed the adventure.

According to the brochures, Super Duck Tours pride itself to operate Boston's best Harbor Duck Tour! I had yet to take the Singapore's version of the Duck Tour, yet I think it was essential to check out Boston on both land and sea. The truth was, my legs welcomed a break in which I need not have to walk too much yet my eyes were keen to see more sights of Boston.

I was lucky to get myself a ticket to possibly the second last tour of the day from one of the ticketing counters near the Aquarium subway station. There was a free shuttle to bring visitors from the corner of State Street and Atlantic Ave, near the New England Aquarium and Long Wharf, to the Super Duck Tours departure point at Charlestown Navy Yard, 88 Constitution Road, Charlestown. Charlestown somehow made me feel transported to a time of Boston's colonial past.

When I boarded the unique amphibious vehicle, I was pretty thrilled simply to climb up the bus-like yet boat-like vessel. To add to the fun, everyone on-board the vessel was given a whistle that gave out sounds like a duck quacking.

During the tour, I learnt that 60% of Boston is reclaimed land. I learnt more about the history and economy of Boston while I was on the tour. The tour brought us to parts of the Boston city. From the vehicle, we caught glimpses of Charles River Dam, Faneuil Hall, the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge. I had caught a glimpse of the Bunker Hill Monument too. The guide was hospitable and I enjoyed myself throughout the tour.

I saw Bunker Hill Monument!

During the tour, I learnt about the challenging traffic situations in Boston. During peak hours, traffic jams are common. Therefore, after the end of the tour, I decided to choose to take a ferry ride back to Long Wharf, rather than take the free shuttle. Thankfully, I had purchased a 7-day CharlieCard LinkPass which allowed me unlimited travel on Subway, local bus, inner harbor ferry and commuter rail zone 1A. For US$19 for a 7-day card, I thought it was a handy travelling pass for a visitor in me who loves travelling using public transport.

As traffic condition was heavy that evening, our vessel spent a bit more time on water that evening than on land. Charlestown is an interesting place for me and I would like to visit it on foot if opportunities permit.

During the tour, I learnt about this place called the Ropewalk Complex. It was situated in the Charlestown Navy Yard and is the last remaining naval rope factory in the country. It was an operating rope making factory until 1971. I was attracted to its seemingly uniformed granite structure.


The guide on the tour gave us a lot of good recommendations of places to visit for some of the most delicious food in Boston that we ought to check out. His recommendations were pretty good, I have to say.

I took a Inner Harbour ferry to Long Wharf.

Concluding, I enjoyed the Super Duck Tours. It was easy on the legs because there was minimal walking about. The tour is family-friendly and the content is educational. I paid US$35 for the tour and I think it was value-for-money.

Super Duck Tours

Sunday, October 18, 2015

24 June 2015: Hatch Shell and the Charles River

Charles River and the Longfellow Bridge

After my visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 24 June 2015, I was mesmerized by the Charles River. I recalled that there is a famous concert venue called Hatch Shell which was situated along the Charles River. Since I was already along Charles River, it was justifiable to make a special visit to the Hatch Shell. I found my way back to the Kendall (MIT) station and then took a train to the subway station called Charles.

Charles River and a glimpse of MIT on the other side of the river.

Charles River is mesmerizing to walk along. Even though it was a day with a fairly scorching sun, I enjoyed the walk alone by myself along the Charles River from Charles subway station to the Hatch Shell. From a distance, I could catch a glimpse of the Green Building in Cambridge and MIT.

The Hatch Shell is known to be a venue for large outdoor performances and open-air events in Boston. During my visit, I saw that preparations were being made for Boston Pops' performance at the Hatch Shell on 4 July in celebration of Independence Day in Boston. I subsequently learnt that the  construction of the Hatch Shell took place 1941 with a trust of $300,000 donated by benefactor Maria Hatch to build a memorial for her late brother, Edward.

Hatch Shell

It was a very short visit to the Hatch Shell. I wondered if setting aside 3 days to sight-see in Boston was ever enough? I learnt that I enjoyed having space and the autonomy to explore on my end. Thankfully, Boston is generally a safe enough place to travel about on one's own especially in the day.

I was on my way to the next stop, the Aquarium subway station. I had wanted to catch a glimpse of Charlestown while taking one of the Duck Tours. With the help of a number of kind strangers, I found my way to Arlington subway station by foot, and then took the subway to the Aquarium station. I felt thankful for the help and directions of kind people while I was travelling.

Walking towards Hatch Shell from Charles subway station.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

11 Oct 2015: Symphony in the Park

You are cordially invited to this outdoor free concert.

Symphony in the Park
Performed by the NUS Symphony Orchestra
Date: 11 October 2015, Sunday
Time: 6 p.m. (till approximately 7 p.m.)
Venue: Singapore Botanic Gardens Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage
Admission is free
No ticket is required

Please feel free to bring along a picnic mat, food and lovely family and friends to have a picnic while watching the concert.

Here’s a link to the map of the Singapore Botanic Gardens:

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Places: I bid farewell. Goodbye 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive.

Places: I bid farewell. Goodbye 74 to 80 Commonwealth Drive.

Goodbyes are not always that easy to say. Then again, with a farewell occasion set in the context of a carnival stretched our emotions into a more ambivalent one. We come together as a community to commemorate, we come together as a community to grieve our loss.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Masschusetts Institute of Technology, a guided tour of it

Stairways leading to the Ray and Maria Stata Centre.

When I was visiting Harvard on 24 Jun 2015, it seemed very natural to make time to visit MIT, i.e. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If I had to summarize my impression of MIT in one single sentence, it would be "MIT is about design, design and design."

Thankfully, I met a very nice guide who allowed me to gate-crash into the guided tour that she was conducting. I had taken the train to Kendall station without checking out where exactly I could join a guided tour of MIT. Thankfully, life showed its way to me and I came across a large group of people who seemed to be on a guided tour of MIT. So I asked if I could join them, and I felt thankful that my request was obliged. On the side, more information about MIT's campus tours can be found here:

While I found my senses over-stimulated by designs everywhere around me when I was at MIT, it was a treasured experience that I was willing to subject myself to.

The tall building is the Green Building.

During the tour, I had the honour to see the Green Building by I.M. Pei. and Araldo Cossutta. It is, as best as I had understood, the tallest building in Cambridge.

One of the stops during the tour was the Lewis Music Library. The tour stopped by the entrance of this library. I was reminded that libraries like this were made possible because of the benefactors who had donated generously.

Maclaurin Building.
The Maclaurin Building at MIT was impressive in its scale. I was attracted to the sculptures that were placed within 10 minutes walk from this building.

Jaume Plensa's "Alchemist" (2010).

Julius Adams Stratton Building

I had the plesure to visit the Julius Adams Stratton Building which is essentially the Student Centre of MIT. This is a place where the Lobdell Food Court is located. After the tour, I ordered a chicken shawarma for lunch at the Lobdell Food Court. It was a place suitable for exchanges of ideas and a lot of conversations and dialogues.

At the Food Court.

The Chapel in the background.

Kresge Auditorium.

During the tour, we had a glimpse of the Kresge Auditorium from a distance. We also saw a cylindrical-shaped chapel that stood nearby the Kresge Auditorium. Another stop that the tour had brought us to was the Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center. Was that a reminder that health is precious for any kind of endeavours?

The Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center.

MIT fascinated me with its offerings of design everywhere I went. I had also fell in love with the beauty of the Charles River that was flowing next to the site of MIT. This is a place I would be pleased to learn for hours and hours in. Nature inspires, mankind aspires!

Charles River at a distance.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
77 Massachusetts Avenue
MA 02139
Nearest Subway stations: Kendall (MIT) - Red line