Floating Platforms to house foreign workers? I also want!

You’ve seen the news, the authorities are thinking about housing foreign workers on floating platforms liken to the one at Marina Bay because there is nowhere and nobody on mainland is willing to accommodate their presence.

I don’t know about you, but now I’m definitely envious and even jealous that these foreign workers who toil for our nation’s development are getting the ultimate upgrade! Why? This is waterfront living at its best lor!

Think about it, the rich spent millions just to get that sea-facing apartment in places like East Coast, Tanjong Rhu and Sentosa Cove. But now, foreign workers now stand to get the equivalent without paying a single cent!

Living on the floating platform, the inhabitants will be so much closer to the water compared to the mainland counterparts where they can only see and not touch the water. For recreation, the inhabitants will undoubtedly improvise and develop new fun activities that will have us mainlanders exclaim, “Hey! That’s so cool! I wanna try that too!”

Their monthly mass swim around their floating platform could well become the iconic pastime of this innovative solution.

Subsistence would be well taken care of as the floating platform would become a kelong on steroids. The inhabitants would live on the freshest catches which are larger because they feed on the additional “nutrients” from the floating platform. Or perhaps to make fishing easier, a dedicated kelong module can be attached to harvest the fish that the inhabitants will grow to love.

Speaking of modular design, facilities can be added and removed easily! If the inhabitants want a playing field for cricket, it can be attached to the west wing of the floating platform! They could even start a floating platform cricket league and perhaps even discover a world class cricket team that will win Singapore an Olympic medal or two.

Bored of cricket? Just replace the attachment with a sports hall with ping pong tables and voila! A place to tap into another pool of potential medal winners. Better yet, both recreational facilities can co-exist as a statement of harmony. Of course, there will also be the grass patch module that emulates the open fields that the foreign workers love to frolic in on weekends.

On top of it all, the floating platform will have no risk of typhoons, hurricanes and the impending rise of the sea level, thanks to global warming. This should have forward thinking property developers enthusiastically proposing projects with taglines like, “The final frontier of waterfront living.”

Such projects will be marketed as the ultimate waterfront luxury that is sought after by the rich, glamorous and powerful. The people will lust after it for the prestige and security.

Mainlanders will inadvertently get into a panic buying mode to buy their little plot of a floating platform as they observe the sea encroach into the land. Yes, floating platforms will become the ultimate real estate investment. So much so that we will then probably need to displace the first floating platform of foreign workers, probably back to the less valuable mainland.

Zorbing!

Once upon a time, 2 guys in New Zealand had too much time decided they should come up with something fun to do. So the idea of a human hamster ball was conceived. Zorbing was born. Then they decided it was too fun an activity to keep to themselves and decided to franchise the experience so that people outside of New Zealand can have a dash of insanity in their lives too.

Is it dangerous?

Absolutely. Jackie Chan featured this insane activity in his 1991 movie, Operation Condor, so we can be assured of the unnecessary risk involved. It is a wonder how I managed to come out of that spinning ball of death alive, let alone unscathed.

My Vitruvian Man Inpersonation - FAIL!

Vitruvian Man impersonation – FAIL!

Ok, I kid. Zorbing is just about the safest thrill ride ever and it is now available in Singapore. So you don’t have to fly off to some other more fun loving country to live out that mandatory moment of insanity. Singapore has now got one more interesting and crazy thing to do!

The Experience

I got there a little earlier to check out how the guys operated this huge ball. So there were the guys inflating the 3 metre zorb ball. Ok, it is just slightly more interesting than watching paint dry. At least you see the ball grow from flat to round, firm and bouncy, right?

Inflation

The Zorb guys inflating the Zorb ball

The giant spheres are intended for 2, so it is recommended to bring along an “unsuspecting victim.” First, the counter-balancing weight from both parties in the sphere makes for a better tumble down the slope. Second, it is great mutual entertainment watching each other’s expressions in the sphere, particularly if both are screamers.

All strapped in for the ride

"unsuspecting victim" and I strapped in the zorb ball

After jumping into the zorb through the little opening on either side, my “unsuspecting victim” and I were strapped against the insides of the ball. We found ourselves at the mercy of the zorb guys as they rolled the ball around with us in it. And the next thing we knew, they went “3… 2… 1…” and pushed us down the slope with all their might.

Zorbing with a little assistance

The sloping field at Old Holland Road is probably the best place Singapore has to offer for zorbing, but even then we needed a fair bit of pushing to get up to speed. So it turned out that the zorb guys’ main job there was to give the balls the extra push from start to finish, and to stop them at the end of the ride, which pretty much explains why they looked so much in shape. Talk about being “on the ball.”

The roll down pretty much feels like being in a spin drier. Both of us were pressed against the inside thanks to the centripetal force created from the rolling. It was pretty cool to see the horizon spinning before my eyes, almost like the view from a cockpit of a fighter jet. And I was having a ball of a time laughing as I watch my “unsuspecting victim” scream her lungs out, occasionally stopping to catch her breath for even more screaming. I liked the soft and cushy feeling as we bounced lightly down the slope.

Countless revolutions later, the zorb guys brought the sphere to a stop for us to get out of the harness. That marked the end of the first part of the ride. Then came the tiringly fun part – bringing the zorb ball back up the slope! I think it is best to just show you this picture…

A Hamster's Life

Rolling the zorb ball back to the top of the slope

Yup, we made like hamsters and rolled the zorb ball back up to the top of the slope. Suffice to say, it was a darn tiring and rather disorientating process. Whenever one exerted a little more force to push, it caused the other to trip in the ball. The zorb ball hardly kept in a straight line as we pushed from inside, so the zorb guys were guiding it from the outside as they generously dispensed encouragement to keep us going. It definitely had me think twice about putting hamsters in those hamster balls and exercise wheels.

A Hamster's Life

Taking a photo break from hamster role playing

It was a sigh of relief once we reached the top of the slope and we couldn’t wait to get out of the zorb ball. Thereafter, we needed a brief moment to readjust to walking on the ground thanks to the air-cushioned interior.

How safe is it?

Apart from a possibility of getting a sore throat from screaming, Zorbing is pretty safe. The sphere is made of a strong, high grade plastic which is about a centimetre thick and can withstand the surface abuse that occur during the roll down. No risk of knocking into each other inside since everyone will be strapped in harnesses. Also, the thick cushion of air softens the impact of any knocks and bounces during the ride.

Excitement and Fear

Cool~! What else can I do in the zorb?

Try pouring 3 buckets of water in the zorb and riding it without the harness! Hydro-zorbing likens to being inside a front-loading washing machine. The water allows for the person inside to glide along as the sphere rolls. Unfortunately, interested parties need to bring their own water as there aren’t any public taps around Old Holland Road.

Of course, there is also freeform zorbing or what I like to call the hamster experience where you can mess around in games involving the sphere. Zorb sumo wrestling, maybe?

Zorb Wars Zorb Wars

How much does it cost?

2 rolls down the slope will set you back by $50 per person, $35 if you are below 16 years of age. It is significantly cheaper compared to doing it in other countries. Not mention the manual labour the zorb guys do by pushing the ball from outside. Plus, you get that additional hamster experience, which is quite a fun work out.

An advance booking is required and you can contact the zorb guys at their website to have a go.

The Zorb Guys

Our politicians are way behind time

I was pretty peeved that Mr Teo Ser Luck was credited for the ideas that a group of youth volunteers had conceived and spent time and effort to execute. But as I read on, I can’t help but identify the embarrassing loopholes in the article from Today. In response, here are my thoughts and some clarifications on the article that was published on Today.

Anyway, I wanted to put it on record that it was part of the criteria for hosting the Youth Olympic Games was the use of new media to publicize the bid and garner support for the country’s bid. The truth is that the ideas, conceptualization and planning of the online marketing strategy was conceived by a small group of youth volunteers, most of them still schooling.

Reading on, I am surprised that Minister George Yeo revealed his fear of technology is so great that he needs the help of “some youths to set up his own Facebook profile”. Social Networking Sites has always been self service. If you need help setting up a Facebook profile, you better not be telling the mass media.

Next, the generalization that the we are a “Youtube generation” is a belittling statement that assumes the population is frivolous. I would have given more credit had Dr Vivian Balakrishnan used terms like “digital natives” or “digital generation”. It is grievously incorrect to suggest that the population will only consume information in the form of an online video. Claire McCaskill and Barack Obama have been immensely successful with their online campaigns not because of rich media platforms but because they were able to engage the people with content. Barack Obama even has a dedicated site that lists down rumors along with evidence to disprove them one by one. Nevertheless, I do enjoy the consistently intriguing episodes of SDP antics posted on Youtube.

While Mr Lam Pin Min commented that the PAP values feedback, it would be more refreshing to see MPs and particularly cabinet ministers take up the role of a strong voice for the people. So far it has been a case of dispensing workaround advice instead of tackling true underlying issues. Recent oil prices have spurred Mr Bae Yam Keng to pen this post. While every avenue of energy conservation counts, the substantiality of his suggestion remains in question. How about choosing a bicycle over a car for commuting? Wouldn’t that have been the win-win-win solution that would reduce our consumption and dependence on oil, address the inevitable carbon emissions issue that will come and even improve the general health of the people? Yet, queries and suggestions of adopting bicycles as a means of transport seem to have been conveniently ignored. One’s imagination need not go wild to infer that the government might be unwilling to become less dependent on oil.

It is surprising that our young leaders are still grappling with questions about the new media, such as whether a high number of hits on a webpage translates to any substantive impact.
Of course the answer is NO! You can have all the firepower, (web traffic) but if there are no aimed shots, (vote-winning content) the target (votes) won’t be hit. The utmost importance is to ensure that the people who visit the webpage will leave knowing that they have been spoken for, that people in leadership are working to make sure the people’s problems and difficulties will be addressed in an up front and succinct way that targets the origins.

Agagooga is most incisive when he said, “Given the PAP’s efforts so far, like the P65 blog, it seems to be utilising the medium but not communicating a clear or substantive message.”
Putting up a blog does not equate to engaging the people online. More needs to be done. So far, the posts I’ve seen on the P65 blog has been very pro-government, somewhat templated and lacking in strong views. For all I’ve seen, they seem to be sitting on the fence, without a clear stand for their own personal beliefs. Most of the time, the entries suggest that they have more questions and/or problems than solutions for the people the are supposed to serve. I believe the netizens’ perspective will change if the P65 displayed impartiality and their understanding of the ground they serve. They need to show that they are truly in tune with the people they serve.

I almost fell of my chair when Mr Yeo listed self-deprecatory humour as a something helpful in this digital age. Just because Mr Brown is popular online with his satire doesn’t mean that politicians should follow suit. Are you implying that Singapore should be run by jokers and entertainers, Mr Yeo? Of course that was just being sarcastic over a harmless suggestion. On a serious note, political candidates will thrive online only if they can harness and exploit the connectivity of the Internet to understand the sentiments on the ground and bring about change.

As for engaging detractors online, it will become a necessity. How it is possible to claim that there is a desire to engage the people online, but yet avoid the detractors? Inaction will only serve to amplify the detractors’ messages and suggest that an undesirable tactic of avoidance. Engage them head-on. Debate for solutions and resolutions. While you are at it, win them over if possible. Exploit them as a channel to display competence and fairness and build trust. Definitely take a leaf from Barack Obama’s dedicated site to Fight The Smears.

From Today, 9 July 2008 (http://www.todayonline.com/articles/263972.asp):

SEE YOU ON FACEBOOK
Ministers and MPs step up presence with online profiles
By NAZRY BAHRAWI

HE FIRST used Facebook to gauge public support for Singapore’s bid to host the Youth Olympics Games in 2010, and was impressed that within a few crucial weeks, membership for the group formed on the social-networking website swelled to over 5,000.

And while his own activities on Facebook are of a personal rather than official nature, Senior Parliamentary Secretary Teo Ser Luck can’t help but wonder: “If translated into a political strategy, Facebook could be a powerful tool.”

Certainly, the signs are that the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) — or at least, some of its elected representatives — has been stepping up its online presence of late. Foreign Minister George Yeo, who blogs at two sites, told Today in an email interview that he is working with some youths to set up his own Facebook profile.

Cabinet colleague Dr Vivian Balakrishnan already has one. And last week, the Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports spoke on how the Internet was changing the way politics is conducted, especially given this “YouTube generation” that demands multimedia soundbites.

Could this be a signal that the party — which has long preferred to focus its energies on its vast grassroots machinery, national and community events, dialogues and traditional media — will be intensifying its outreach online?

Some among its cadre think it should, and with some urgency.

THE WEB AND THE NEXT GE

While tight-lipped on whether a taskforce within the party is looking into the Internet specifically, Mr Teo did say “the party leadership” is taking the Internet seriously.

It’s clear to see why, when more than eight in 10 households are on broadband, and such wired Singaporeans will make up the bulk of younger voters in the next General Election, due by 2011.

Said PAP MP Lam Pin Min (Ang Mio Kio GRC): “The power of the Internet as a political tool must not be underestimated as demonstrated by the experience of the recent elections in our neighbouring countries. The party understands this and takes the feedback from netizens very seriously.”

On the Malaysian ruling coalition’s historical loss of its two-thirds majority at the March polls, MP Charles Chong (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) — who believes that Internet forums are a gauge of ground sentiment — said: “Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had acknowledged that they misjudged it (the Internet) and were worse off as a result.”

While Singapore’s ruling party already has the Young PAP online forum — one of the party’s earliest attempts to engage cyberspace — as well as the blog maintained by its post-1965 MPs, Mr Lam felt that the party should “step up our tempo in double-quick time” to “set the stage right” for the next GE. But while it would seem reasonable to keep a finger on the pulse of the wired citizen, just how much of the “flash and bang” of the Internet translates into real life — particularly votes?

Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong pointed to his experience as a voter in the 1998, 2001 and 2006 GEs, where the online buzz was filled with anti-PAP rhetoric and sentiment. “If you lived your life on the Internet, you would believe that the opposition would sweep into power on an unstoppable tsunami of voter outrage,” said Mr Siew. “The reality, of course, was completely different in all three GEs.”

While he does see the Internet eventually becoming critical to any successful campaign, “I don’t know if that day will come by 2011”, he said.

MP Baey Yam Keng (Tanjong Pagar GRC) agrees on the latter point. “There is still a big proportion of Singaporeans who do not rely on the Internet as a source of information.”

What’s the strategy?

For now, according to Mr Teo, the younger MPs are still grappling with questions about the new media, such as whether a high number of hits on a webpage translates to any substantive impact.

Whether the party will take up a concerted online strategy remains to be seen. Asked if the PAP was rethinking the Internet as a political tool, Minister Yeo alluded more to a “natural” move online by individual MPs and Ministers.

Some observers, however, feel that simply jumping on the bandwagon does little. Said Mr Gabriel Seah, an editor at tomorrow.sg: “Given the PAP’s efforts so far, like the P65 blog, it seems to be utilising the medium but not communicating a clear or substantive message.”

Mr Siew — one of those who believes the PAP is changing its tack to engage the Internet on its own terms, not simply “manage” or mitigate its effects — argues that a good strategy is crucial, because “a poor strategy can be worse than no strategy”.

Mr Yeo thinks “new skills” will be needed in political candidates to thrive in the age of the podcast or vodcast: “It always helps to have a good voice, a pleasant face, a way with words and self-deprecatory humour.”

So, in future, one might see a YouTube-style video on the PAP? Or ministers and MPs more active on forums, including those not under the party or government banner?

While the PAP government has desisted from engaging detractors online, Mr Baey sees no harm in party members debating on non-party or non-government websites, “as long as parameters are set, and the forum is a neutral and credible one”.

Most of those Today spoke to agreed the ruling party would, and should, continue to tap holistically
on all sources of feedback, including meet-the-people sessions and public forums. Mr Seah called the Internet “an outlet more for the young, educated and/or disaffected”.

Some also hope that with an incumbent party more willing to engage voters and opponents online, the strict laws on cyber-campaigning and party political films will be relooked.

But Nominated MP Thio Li-ann drew the line at politics conducted on YouTube. “Serious issues should be seriously debated”, she said, while YouTube “is all flash and image, and people need to learn discernment and not be swayed by stirring music, strings, harps and whatnot”.

In the same vein, Mr Yeo emphasised, politics – whatever the medium – was “about human beings… After all the rah-rah, it still boils down to trust, competence and fairness”.

The view from Fullerton Hotel

At night…

The night view of Fullerton

In the morning…

The day view of Fullerton

It is literally a thousand dollar view. (because it costs that much for a night there.)

By the way, I have been nominated for ping.sg’s blog awards, running for The Best Photoblog and Best Photo Post. If you liked what you’ve found on my blog, please take a moment to vote for bLog by Pixels. Thanks!

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Trioon Fashion Shoot

Well, sort of.

Helped a friend to shoot her own line of clothes.
So I guess while I am at it, I should promote it as well.
Go to www.trioon.com.
Besides clothes, Trioon (pronounced “three on”) also carries plenty of accessories for the total package as well as homeware to light up your abode.

…And back to a little bit of technical info of how these shots were taken:
No fancy set up of muslin backdrop, just a plain wall and a speedlight flash bouncing off from the ceiling. And I conveniently cropped the shots around the knees to hide the ugly convergence of the wall and floor.

Camera setup: D300, 18-200mm VR, SB600

Trioon

Trioon

Trioon

Trioon

Trioon

For more photos from this shoot, visit: http://kormmandos.multiply.com/photos/album/200/Trioon_Fashion_Shoot

By the way, I have been nominated for ping.sg’s blog awards, running for The Best Photoblog and Best Photo Post. If you liked what you’ve found on my blog, please take a moment to vote for bLog by Pixels. Thanks!

Best Photoblog
Vote Me

Best Photo Post
Vote Me