Monday, November 29, 2010

Hi! Honey!

I am doing some sweet talk here, literally.

Many people know honey comes from bees but few know much beyond that. Interestingly, despite that brief understanding, many think that honey is good for them, somehow.

If you have always wanted to know a little more, this post is for you.

What is honey?

Honey is a gift of nature: The flowers offer their nectar and the bees make the honey. This manufacturing process is nothing short of amazing. (Read 'How do honeybees make honey?')

The secret of honey is long known and mankind learnt how to produce it more than 2000 years ago. It was used as food, medicine and preservative for the dead. (Read 'Honey as a natural cure')

Honey never goes bad and many believe it is the only food that does not spoil. It was reported that archeologists discovered honey in a 2000-year old Egyptian tomb and found it to be as good as new.

Types of honey
  1. Comb honey - This is honey found in beeswax comb in the same way bees would have stored it.
  2. Liquid honey - The color may vary depending on the variety of flowers.
  3. Creamy honey - This is also known as granulated honey.
  4. Chunk honey - This is comb honey in a jar filled with liquid honey.
Beware of 'the best deal in town'

Naturally, consumers are attracted to 'good buys'. When you find a cheaper option, do not be trigger happy. Some honey contains substance other than the pure stuff made by the bees. More often than not, when you pay less, you actually get less.

Read the label

When the jars says 'pure honey', the contents usually turn out otherwise. It is always advisable to read the nutritional label. Honey sold in the stores is often added with substances such as corn syrup or starch.

You can test the 'purity' of honey by dissolving it in water. As a rough guide, it takes more effort to dissolve pure honey compared to syrup. However, other factors such honey varieties could affect the results too.

Go for trusted brands

This does not sound like a clever advice. However, when all else fails, this gives you the best bet.

Not pure? So what?

It is alright to consume honey with added substance. It usually does not make you sick. It just brings you less nutritional benefits.

How to store honey?

Even though honey does not spoil, it is given a shelf life for commercial reasons. I believe no one feels easy eating honey that is decades old.

Honey tends to absorb moisture from the air and that will reduce its quality. Consumers are often advised to store honey at room temperature. That is not so helpful because room temperature varies from place to place. Wherever you are, just remember that honey prefers to be kept between 21°C to 27°C. Cap the jar tight and keep it at a dry place away from direct sunlight.

Finally, take a simple quiz and see how much you know about honey.

'Honey' in Wikipedia

You might also want to read an earlier post:

"Life is not merely to be alive, but to be well." 
~Marcus Valerius Martial~

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Farewell to Multitasking

I can multitask and I am not sure if I should be proud of it.

One of the main reasons why I am not fond of iPhone or iPad is the lack of ability to multitask (iPhone4 attempted to but in a rather halfhearted way). I can almost hear all the Apple fans laughing and telling me, "You don't know what you are missing" and I feel I need to put the record straight: I have nothing against Apple. I just like to multitask.

To some, multitasking may sound like a great skill. Not quite, actually.

I multitask because there are so many demands surrounding me. As I toggle between many tasks, I derive a (false) sense of achievement as if I have accomplished much. The truth is, I end up completing many tasks below the quality level I desire.

Multitasking is also one of the main killers of productivity. Instead of completing many tasks, uncompleted ones are left dangling everywhere. Besides, many believe that it bumps up stress level.

I have many completed jobs credited to my name but I derived little satisfaction. I want to be honest, at least to myself that, many of these jobs could have been done better.

I have found several ways to stop multitasking and I am still learning to do it well. If you share the same sentiments, learn along with me:

1. Keep out of sight

I used to organize my tasks in such a manner so that I could do many of them at the same time. Now, I put those to be done later out of my view. This helps me to focus on the task on hand.

2. Write it down

I write down the 'now' task and place it prominently on my desk. It serves as a reminder of what I am supposed to do and bring my strayed mind back.

3. Park new thoughts

My mind wonders a lot and I think of a wide range of matters while working on one. There are many ways to settle it down and one of them is to write down any new ideas that come along. In this way, I will not lose these new ideas. Most importantly, my 'now' task is not disrupted.

4. Use a timer

I allocate time for a task based on my concentration span. Each time I have an urge to switch task, I just look at the lapsed time. In this way, I will not feel the 'sense of eternity' especially when I am working on not so exciting tasks.

5. Alternate tasks

With this, I mean toggling between tasks that requires different amount of effort. By putting smaller tasks between taxing ones, it helps me to 'rejuvenate'.

6. Draw boundary

Naturally, everyone wants to work with me based on their priority, not mine. I would have to give them time but without cutting off my 'now' task. By drawing up my boundary, I divide the 'now' and 'later' space. Most people are reasonable and by saying 'I will come back to you 10 minutes later' usually will not hurt anyone.

7. Think end point

A job can be boring and the urge to switch to something else can be strong. I remind myself of the satisfaction at the end of the task and I push on.

Having said all the above, I do have a confession to make.

As I am writing this article, I occasionally turn to the TV, toggle to a different window, play a game or two and check some emails. In short, I did not do everything I said I should be.

I am not about to slam myself for failing to be perfect. Learning is a process. The whole idea is about doing it again and again and watch our conscious effort gradually turn into a habit. No one can flip himself over and become someone new overnight.

I hope you have been reading this article without switching to something else intermittently.

"Being busy does not always mean real work." ~ Thomas Edison ~

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Monday, November 15, 2010

When The Earth is Unhappy

We do not own the Earth.

You can say that we are merely tenants on this planet. No one is certain when we began our occupation but we do know that the number of occupants have swollen tremendously since then. 

In 1800, the world's population reached one billion. Today, we are pushing near seven. At this rate, we probably see the eighth billion in 2025 and the ninth, 10 years after that.

From time to time, planet Earth gets upset and many people vanish.

In 1400, the Black Death reduced the world's population from about 450 million to about 350-375 million. In more recent years, the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami claimed more than 200,000 lives. In Jan this year, 230,000 people died in the Haiti earthquake.

A Crouching Man, Pompeii [Pic]
A couple of days ago, I went to the 'Pompeii, Life in a Roman Town 79 CE' Exhibition held at the National Museum of Singapore. I walked through briefly how Mount Vesuvius erupted on 24 Aug 79CE and put the ancient city of Pompeii a few meters below solidified ashes. It was left intact and discovered only 1500 years later.

Many people died in the most agonized way, killed by hot ashes, toxic gases, collapsed buildings and tsunami. Pompeii disappeared from the surface of the Earth in a short span of two days. Archaeologists found more than 1000 victims but no one knows for sure how many lives were taken.

Mount Merapi [Source]
Life is fragile.

Today, our modern medicinal sciences have given many more years in average life span. However, we can do very little to fight the force of nature. As I am writing this, Mount Merapi is spewing in the nearby Java Island. It has been angry since 25 Oct and has already killed more than 200 people. It does not look like it is stopping there.

Further away in the Philippines, another volcano, Mount Bulusan, is issuing some stern warnings. Experts believe that it may not hold its temper for long.

We do not know what natural disaster is coming up next and we cannot do much to negotiate with mother Earth. However, when it comes to being a responsible Earth occupant, we can do a lot more. If all the seven billion people could be gentler to the Earth, this blue marble can certainly be happier.

See photos taken from the 'Pompeii, Life in a Roman Town 79 CE' Exhibition.

"The earth is what we all have in common." ~Wendell Barry~

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Picture Blog #15 : National Art Gallery Open House

I took a last look at the old Supreme Court building and City Hall last month.

These two prominent landmarks in Singapore date back to the early British Colonial days and have seen some of our turbulent past (see Singapore History). Since Singapore gained her independence in 1965, they continued to be homes to important governmental offices. The first National Day Parade was held in City Hall in 1966 and for many years after that.

In those days. [Source]
In 2005, the Singapore government decided to turn the grand dames into a new national art gallery. In 2007, A design competition was launched and that drew 111 entries from 29 countries. Five proposals were eventually shortlisted.

France's Studio Milou Architecture walked away with the task to turn the two historical buildings into a contemporary art gallery. I cannot wait to see it in 2013. (see winning proposal)

The Singapore National Art Gallery has this to say about the winning scheme:
"The design scheme by Studio Milou Architecture elegantly integrates the two buildings at the roof level, with the use of a linear draped canopy, supported by tree like columns. This is done while still respecting the fabric of the existing monuments. The scheme also respects the existing entrances and introduces new ones to make the building porous at street level...."
I visited the buildings during the National Art Gallery open house. As I walked into Singapore's past, the sense of nostalgia was quite inevitable. However, that was compensated by the anticipation of what is in store in a few years' time. Meanwhile, I can only imagine how the new National Art Gallery will look like.

Let's take a glimpse of the past and a peek into the future:

The old Supreme Court building
along St Andrew's Road.

The dome is made of copper and appearing green
due to oxidization
. [Pic]

Main entrance -
The old Supreme Court building was

built between 1937 and 1939
. [Pic]

Sculptures on the pediment representing
prosperity through law, peace and plenty (right) and

violence and deceit and two legislator
s (left). [Pic]

The old Supreme Court building was built on the site of
the former Grand Hotel de L'Europe.

A Corinthian column. [Pic]

Ornate facade of the
old Supreme Court building. [Pic]

Inside the old Supreme Court building. [Pic]

Holding prison cells within the old Supreme Court building. [Pic]

Inside a prison cell. [Pic]

A cup left on the bench in a prison cell. [Pic]

Toilet within a prison cell. [Pic]

Toilet cisterns were installed outside the cells
to prevent suicidal attempts.

Prisoners were led to the courtroom
via this long and dim walkway.

Trap door leading to dock in courtroom. [Pic]

Inside the courtroom. [Pic]

The circular law library in the old Supreme Court building. [Pic]

Column and dome roof inside the law library. [Pic]

Dome roof in the law library. [Pic]

A view of the courtroom as seen from
the Chief Justice's Chambers.

The Chief Justice's desk in
the Chambers of the Chief Justice.

Attached washroom in the Chambers of the Chief Justice. [Pic]

Steps in the old Supreme Court building. [Pic]

On this day, the foundation stone of the old Supreme
Court building was laid. A time capsule,
slated to be opened
in year 3000,
was placed beneath it.  [Pic]

Next to the old Supreme Court building is the City Hall. [Pic]

The old and the new: City Hall Building,
with Raffles City building in the background
. [Pic]

Majestic Corinthian columns at City Hall. [Pic]

City Hall was first known as Municipal Building.
It was renamed in 1951 when Singapore
was granted city status.

City Hall was built from 1926 to 1929. [Pic]

A good view of the Marina Bay Sands
across the Padang.

Lion head door knocker on
the front door of City Hall. [Pic]

Message wall for visitors
during the open house.

Vanilla was there. [Pic]

Artist's impression of the new National Art Gallery. [Source]

This will come alive in 2013. [Source]

Sectional view of the supreme court exhibition spaces. [Source]

Sectional View of The City Hall Exhibition Spaces. [Source]

"Bring the past only if you are going to build from it." 
~Doménico Cieri Estrada~

Construction for art gallery to start next month (TODAY 22 Dec 2010)

Groundbreaking ceremony for National Art Gallery (Channel NewsAsia 27 Jan 2011)

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