Better think twice about lighting up…at least in Singapore

Better think twice about lighting up

I remember my rucksack trips through Europe, back in the smoke-filled days of the ’90s, when it seemed as if EVERYBODY smoked EVERYWHERE. Now most buildings, restaurants and even bars ban smoking in many of the European countries. Much of Asia, however, reeks of smoke, as U.S. tobacco companies have shifted their aggressive marketing campaigns from here to there.

I can’t remember exactly where I took this photo (my memory must be affected from all that second-hand smoke I inhaled from too many rock concerts in my youth), but its hefty fine – 1,000SGD- identifies it easily: Singapore. Smokers beware: Lighting up in Singapore can be very expensive.

In light of the recent smoke-related news, the legalization of marijuana in several U.S. states, it will be interesting to see what the next generations decide about the decisions made today. Will marijuana smoking also become a fading fad as future generations discover something we do not yet know or understand, or will it gain more substance and last longer than the Mona Lisa’s smile?

Better think twice about lighting up…at least in Singapore

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Amuse bouche, I worship thee

amuse bouche in Alba, Piemonte

amuse bouche in Alba, Piemonte

Is it your petite, bite-sized sweetness, your unexpected appearance before my hungry lips, or the gentle way you prep my eager palette for what is yet to come – more scintillating surprises and morsels of enticing deliciousness just around the corner -that keeps me addicted to you and coming back for more?  I am a willing slave to your demands.

And, to keep our affair fresh and enlivened, a suitably aged bottle or two of wine from the cellar?  Is there a better threesome than this?

Vintage bottles from Ca roma

Vintage bottles from Ca roma

Amuse bouch, I worship thee

History outside my doorsteps

Walking across the stone bridge over the Neckar River, I shot this view of the Heidelberg Castle, one of many medieval buildings, fortresses, and ruins that enrich Germany.

Reflecting on my youth I wonder if history, one of my least favorite subjects in school, could have been one of my favorites, had I been born and raised in Heidelberg or in any of the ancient cities of Europe, where history is not relegated to the pages of a thick and boring textbook, but evident everywhere you look. Could this be the reason why most Europeans are knowledgeable about history, politics, and geography while most Americans can barely pinpoint Germany on a map?

History outside my doorsteps

Pointillism in Borneo

Pointillism in Borneo

“Drawing a line”, oft used as an ultimatum between feuding sides, reminded me, instead, of this strange, natural art work I stumbled upon on an island in Borneo. Instead of lines drawn on the sand, these clearly deducible images would make Monsieur Seurat smile with pride. And then one has to wonder, did the creators of these wonders come first or did George-Pierre Seurat really invent pointillism without any other influences from nature?

Is there a sense of order, logic and purposeful intent in these abstract images. I see a bird in flight, a maple leaf, etc. What do you see?

The individual spheres of sand, no more than a few millimeters in diameter, are the artistic equivalent to the dots created by Monsieur Seurat’s small paint brush. However, to the creators of these drawings, the minuscule crabs, their elemental dots are as big as their entire bodies. And with these tiny balls of sand, the crabs create complex compositions that fascinate me with wonder and curiosity.

Pointillism in Borneo

Moebius

Moebius Circle?

Because I am energized by learning new things, I was immediately fascinated when I stumbled upon the Moebius knitting cast on developed by Cat Bordhi. Instead of the traditional cast on, her technique follows the Moebius principle, where you start from one point on a circle that has only one side and return to the same point by running along twice the circumstance of the circle. “What?” you may wonder quizzically, as I did when I first read the instructions from her book.

It’s really quite simple in practice. Take a long strip of paper, twist one end before you tape the ends together, and you will have a twisted circle. This is the Moebius concept. Then, if you take a pair of scissors and cut along the middle length of the ring, you will end up with a ring that is twice the length of the first ring and half the thickness. If you keep repeating this exercise, the circle gets bigger and bigger until you end up with a very very large circle.

I remember knitting this scarf many years ago from the middle out, something I had never done before, and I was fascinated as it developed into a Moebius scarf, without a seam, and with only one edge. Pretty darn cool, I thought. Admittedly I am a science nerd.

When I contemplated the daily prompt focusing on circles, I immediately thought of the moebius as the circle of life. With each experience and encounter, we have the opportunity to enlarge our circle of life and influence, by expanding and growing, with intent and surrender. Although there are days when it isn’t so easy to achieve, the long journey along this circle only requires one step at a time.

Moebius

Broken pots required

Broken pots required

Reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, I quickly learned that 10,000 hours of practice is the necessary requirement to achieve excellence and mastery in any endeavor. However, the hours of practice are not relegated to iterations of the same routine over and over again. In fact, to become good at anything, it requires thousands of hours spent making mistakes, learning from the mistakes and then having the ability to change and redirect. I often think of this when I am trying to perfect my hand at pottery, a losing battle thus far. Often the clay wins, but in the mistakes I see the potential for future perfection and excellence.

Broken Pots Required

Rotterdam Gesloten (Monday mornings)

Imagine if more countries would be like the Dutch, who do not dub foreign movies. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to watch movies in their original language but with subtitles instead of dubbing? I am convinced that that is one of the reasons why EVERYBODY in the Netherlands speaks perfect English. And that makes my travels through the Netherlands easy and very enjoy. However, with the good comes the not so good: Mondays in Rotterdam are a rest day for plenty of businesses including museums, restaurants and shops. However, if you do find yourself in Rotterdam on a Monday, as I did, here are a few things you can do:


1. Walk across the Maas Tunnel, the oldest traffic tunnel in Netherlands.
The tunnel was built right before the second world war. As I rode the escalator down into the tunnel, I marveled at the wooden escalators and the fact that cyclists could take their bicycles on them. After you arrive at the bottom of the escalators, about 20 meters below sea level, notice that there are separate tunnels for cyclists and for pedestrians. The tunnel for the pedestrians are below the tunnel for the cyclists.


2. Walk around the Old Harbor and emerge at the curious Cube Houses Rotterdam, by Dutch architect Piet Blom.

3. Stop for a delicious lunch break at Spirit, an organic and vegetarian cafe, not far from the Cube Houses. Spirit is flanked by a whole-foods supermarket on one side and a lovely home/lifestyle shop called Vanbinnen on the other.

4. Sleep in and, after noon, go shopping along Meent.
I made the mistake of getting up early and going out, only to realize that Monday mornings in Rotterdam is like a ghost town. Most shops’ signs announced “maandag gesloten”. And the few that are open on Mondays open around or after 1300. Thus shopping on Mondays is possible only between 1300 and 1700 or 1800, if at all.

If you’re looking for unique, independent designers’ wares, head to object trouve, on Pancake Street. I was thrilled that the shop was open on Monday. It’s exactly the type of shop I seek when in a new city; but I am not always successful finding such treasures in the sea of chains, boring brand names and same-same, that is our current consumer market.

5. Walk along the many waterfronts and eventually end up on Witte De Withstraat, an artist area with museums, art galleries and cafes.
By the late afternoons, some shops and stores will be open. By evening, more restaurants will be open. If you’re craving good Italian, try Oliva, where delicious, seasonal dishes are prepared and presented by a team of attentive staff. Although only in Dutch, the wine list is easy to understand and reasonable. Even if most things are “gesloten” on Mondays, Rotterdam has much to offer, if you know where to look.

Rotterdam Gesloten (Monday mornings)