“A respect for all life” – ST 27 Mar 2011

A heartwarming editorial from The Sunday Times last week. I dug this up for a friend who’ll be up all night.

“A respect for all life”
Editorial, The Sunday Times, 27 Mar 2011.

The Japanese have always had a special relationship with their animals. There is that famous story of Hachiko, the faithful Akita Inu dog that waited every day for its deceased master at Tokyo’s Shibuya station for nine years after he died. Then there is the Maneki Neko, or the ‘waving cat’ figurine displayed in many stores, the symbol of the special reverence the Japanese have for cats, which they consider to be wise and lucky spirits. So it is no surprise that in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami, and perhaps more so than in other similar tragedies, there has been a fair amount of attention paid to animals and their welfare.

Last week, an Akita Inu or Japanese breed of large dog, named Shane, reportedly swam through chest-high water for six hours before managing to find its owner in an evacuation centre. There have been reports of people who have refused to be moved from homes without their pets, and pictures of families at evacuation centres hugging and feeding their pets, even checking them for possible radiation exposure. A YouTube video of a dog fiercely protecting its injured friend garnered more than seven million views in less than a week. And the concern among netizens over the fate of Tashirojima, a small island off Sendai with more cats than humans, again reflects the love for animals. Underpinning all this is the work of the Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support, which has raised more than US$250,000 (S$316,000), according to its website, to provide shelter spaces, coordinate animal rescues and reunite pets with their owners.

While sceptics may question the importance paid to animals in the face of human destruction, the Japanese people’s concern for animals, even now, is heartening. It indicates loyalty and a respect for the dignity and life of all living things, including smaller and weaker creatures. That is a quality that should not be underrated, especially now.

Crepuscular emissary

Xylo becomes alert as dawn approaches. He silently sidles up to my hand and examines me. Eventually he will mew, bump my head and paw my face and it’s breakfast time!

I walk to the kitchen and the other two, Mr Bats and Tiger are waiting. It seems they know Xylo is a persuasive cat and the outcome is inevitable!

The New York Times – still free for link redirects and infrequent readers


An important announcement from
the publisher of The New York Times


Dear New York Times Reader,

Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our Web site and on mobile applications.

This change comes in two stages. Today, we are rolling out digital subscriptions to our readers in Canada, which will enable us to fine-tune the customer experience before our global launch. On March 28, we will begin offering digital subscriptions in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

If you are a home delivery subscriber of The New York Times, you will continue to have full and free access to our news, information, opinion and the rest of our rich offerings on your computer, smartphone and tablet. International Herald Tribune subscribers will also receive free access to NYTimes.com.

If you are not a home delivery subscriber, you will have free access up to a defined reading limit. If you exceed that limit, you will be asked to become a digital subscriber.

This is how it will work, and what it means for you:

  • On NYTimes.com, you can view 20 articles each month at no charge (including slide shows, videos and other features). After 20 articles, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber, with full access to our site.
  • On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.
  • The Times is offering three digital subscription packages that allow you to choose from a variety of devices (computer, smartphone, tablet). More information about these plans is available at nytimes.com/access.
  • Again, all New York Times home delivery subscribers will receive free access to NYTimes.com and to all content on our apps. If you are a home delivery subscriber, go to homedelivery.nytimes.com to sign up for free access.
  • Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.
  • The home page at NYTimes.com and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.

For more information, go to nytimes.com/digitalfaq.

Thank you for reading The New York Times, in all its forms.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
Publisher, The New York Times
Chairman, The New York Times Company

Imbibing architectural insights of NUS campus

This afternoon, I stole away for two hours to join Lai Chee Kien’s class (SSD2213 Singapore Urban History and Architecture) for a quick insight into the architecture of the Kent Ridge campus of the National University of Singapore. I intercepted the group who had walked over from SDE at the bridge over Kent Ridge Crescent and walked with them from the environs of Central Library to Yusof Ishak House.

For two hours, I had the pleasure of listening to and asking questions of Meng Ta Cheang, the planner and architect of the NUS Kent Ridge campus design, and Lim Pin Jie, a former grad student of Chee Kien’s who wrote about the architectural history of the campus*.

Getting out of the office to be a student on campus was a real treat – it was a chance to listen, learn, ask questions and reflect. Several questions I have had in my head about NUS’ design were answered and a few things I had not thought about were raised. This is a trigger for subsequent reading but not all is written down.

On the tour with me from Science was Yap Von Bing from Statistics and Applied Probability (also a naturalist and who will be speaking about sampling next week). The two of us tried not to edge out the actual students since we were simply interlopers! We enjoyed ourselves and thanks are due to the speakers and Lai Chee Kien who gave me a holler about the tour in February.

Architect Meng Ta Cheang addressing the group. Photo by Lai Chee Kien.

View of the group outside Central Library, from the central valley.
Photo by See Weiqiang (LSM2251 student on a butterfly hunt).

The group included several former NUS students and current staff who have experienced a couple of decades on campus. So it was easy for us to make comparisons of building design then and now and comment on the changes – enough to make me decide I’ll have to spend a morning around campus with a camera to document some familiar aspects of design which are fading away.

The architecture of the NUS campus has played a role in shaping our experience here. The insight into the thought behind the design which I learnt about today will fuel and integrate with several stories we tell during the regular Pasir Panjang/Kent Ridge tours.

We have actually already begun, for during the past two years during the Battle of Pasir Panjang anniversary, Lai Chee Kien has joined us to contribute architectural perspectives during the walk. In fact Chee Kien and I have been itching all this while to revive an old tradition of campus walks for NUS staff and students.

Well, I’ll include a few morsels from today during next week’s plant tour. Oi Yee, myself and a few Toddycats are helping out as plant guides for small but unique small tree-planting ceremony in campus, coordinated by NUSSU SAVE’s Campus in a Rainforest (CiTR). Since we are Pasir Panjang guides, it’s inevitable that history will get its fair share as well. The group we are guiding are part of the NUS community and I’ll see from their response whether they think it’s a good idea!

Lai Chee Kien introducing the architectural thought behind the NUS campus
design during the Battle of Pasir Panjang Anniversary Walk, 13 Feb 2011.
Photo by Andrew Him.

*Lim, P. J., 2009. Positioning the role of the state in the Kent Ridge Campus Masterplan: an architectural history of our university.. Dissertation submitted to the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Architecture. Supervisor: LAI Chee Kien. 108p.

What mountain and river was that?

This morning I went for a recce and once again, borrowed Ladybug’s iPhone 3GS and activated Runkeeper. When the trip was over, I screen-grabbed the relevant part of the image and annotated it with Skitch. The plot of the walk is indicated as a red line on an underlying Google Map.

I usually make a note of the direction of prominent landmarks to register details of the landscape in my mind, and there are unknown points, they can be identified later with the use of a paper map or by zooming out from the Runkeeper layer above Google Maps.

So the river we were looking up into and the mountain towering above us during the recce in the north-west were Sungei Skudai and Gunung Pulai in Johor, Malaysia.

There is no need to wonder that long with an iPhone handy, really, since calling up Google Maps will reveal your current location and orientating yourself will reveal names of these prominent points.

I am sure there are apps which track GPS more effectively, but for now, RunKeeper!

Update – Wari, an avid cyclist who has been plotting his rides for quite awhile now, recommends Motion-X GPS for the iPhone, which I have just downloaded:

“My fav app for doing real actual work with GPS is Motion-X GPS, @ $0.99, gives you an extensive utility on the phone. On top of that you can pre-download tiles of OSM maps for those areas you know you don’t have coverage. Give it a shot, the features are just too extensive to fit in a reply post.”

A lot of plastic at Kranji East Mangrove

Five of us were at Kranji East Mangrove today for a recce in preparation for the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore. We saw lots of plastic amongst the marine trash there and I just blogged the session on the News from the ICCS blog.

There was A LOT of plastic trash at Kranji East!

Although I’ve seen worse at some other sites in Singapore over the past two decades, I still feel appalled. We’ll taking a stab at this repressive layer over a healthy mangrove and who better than with our long-time volunteers, Kate Thome, Martha Began and Steve Early from the Singapore American School.