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Archive for October 2007

A Coy Hotel

Have you heard of a ‘Coy Hotel’ here near NTU?

You haven’t?

Like you I wondered whether it was some unofficial version of a hotel, in the way that ‘private tuition’ is unofficial. The ‘coy hotel’ incident came about when I visited a fish farm at the Agro-Technology Park in Sungei Tengah, a 10-minute drive from NTU.

When the fish farm manager said he operated a coy hotel I thought to myself, “Is this man doing some fishy business besides his legitimate fish business? Anyway, what on earth is a coy hotel?”

When we walked to the ‘coy hotel’ section of the farm and I saw many koi fish happily swimming around, I then realised that ‘coy hotel’ meant koi hotel. [If you are leaving Singapore for some time, you can have your koi accommodated in this place –Nippon Koi Hotel.]

This ‘coy hotel’ confusion shows I have an imaginative mind, I think. Of course, the more puritanical among my friends may say it shows I have a ‘imaginative, but dirty‘ mind.

And, if any of my puritanical friends call me a DOM (Dirty Old Man) I would have to say that statement is a half-truth. Anyone can see I am not old.

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

31 October, 2007 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Year 2001

Money – a note about it

Now what was I going to say about money? Notes come in $1, $2,$5, $10, etc. but have you ever seen a three-dollar note. Bet you haven’t.

In fact, you are probably going to bet a cup of coffee that there is no such thing!

Well, there isa three-dollar note. It comes from Cook Islands. I will show it to you when I come and drink your coffee.
Cook Island bill

Why would anyone want a three-dollar note?

I don’t know why. Perhaps it is to make people say, “Incredible, isn’t it?“instead of, “Crazy, isn’t it?”
Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

30 October, 2007 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Year 2001

Carnivorous plants -The Venus Flytrap

One of my interests is carnivorous plants. I am frequently asked, “Are there carnivorous plants in Singapore?” The answer is Yes -Pitcher plants (Nepenthes)** and Bladderworts (Utricularia).

The carnivorous plant that most people have heard of – the Venus Flytrap (VFT) -is, however, not a native Singapore plant. It is, in fact, a native of South-eastern USA.

One can buy the plant from local flower nurseries between $5-$10 for a potted plant. Although the VFT is so famous, for a long time only Laos had issued a stamp of it. A few weeks ago the USA issued a stamp of its VFT.

Incidentally, the common name Venus Flytrap (VFT) is usually regarded as a translation from its scientific name, Dionaeamuscipula. It seems this translation may not be correct. Some language experts have hypothesised that Dionaea should be linked to Diana, the goddess of hunting, rather than to Venus, the goddess of love.

More interesting, though, is that muscipulashould be translated as mouse-trap rather than fly-trap as ‘mus-‘ is the Latin word for mouse. So the plant that is known world-wide as Venus Flytrap should be called Diana Mousetrap! In which case, its initials will
change from VFT to DMT.
Frog and Pitcher Plant stamp

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

29 October, 2007 at 10:37 pm

Posted in Year 2001

A True Musician

On one occasion at a gathering I was playing “Beautiful Dreamer” on my simple pocket-harmonica. I remember Mr Chia Wai Hon saying, “That’s good. I didn’t know you were a musician”. I told him I could only play the harmonica by ear and therefore I was not a true musician.

So, what is a ‘true musician’?

Here it is: A true musician is one who, when he hears a lady singing in the bathroom, creeps quietly up to the door, feels for the keyhole and then puts his EAR to the keyhole.

Got that? Put the ear, not eye,to the keyhole.

I wonder how many of our Music Department colleagues can pass this test? I don’t think I can, even though I play the harmonica by ear.

Talking about bathroom singers reminds me of another story about another lady singing in the bathroom. Oops! I better stop here; I can sense the disapproving looks of my hard-working colleagues**.

Anyway, if you are not so puritanical and still want to hear the story about this other lady who sings in the bathroom, treating me to a cup of coffee will loosen my tongue.

** About hard-working colleagues, once one such person wanted to be kind to me and introduced me to NIE visitors as, “This is my hardly-working colleague, Dr Tan Wee Kiat…”. Well, as the saying goes, “With friends like you I can’t afford any enemies”.

God bless you and may you keep singing in the bathroom!

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

28 October, 2007 at 10:35 pm

Posted in Year 2001

NTU Staff Digest newsletter

The last 2 issues of NTU Staff Digest had NIE colleagues on the front page. The August 2001 issue featured Dr Lee Sing Kong and aeroponics vegetables. This September 2001 issue highlighted Dr Diong Cheong Hoong and baby turtles. Cute, aren’t they? [I am referring to the turtles.]

The September issue also had 3 pictures in the article, “The Perfect Partnership” about couples working in NTU. The 3 couples mentioned did not include our NIE people and you may think we do not have any of such partnerships in NIE. In fact, we have several:
Goh Chor Boon and Leong Lai Kuen
Gan Leong Huat and Yap YikY uen
Leslie Sharp and Pamela Sharpe
Kevin Blackburn and Tan Swee Ngin
Tan Tai Wei and Chew Lee Chin
John Wang and Liu Woon Chia

Incidentally, do not read anything extra into the fact that I mention the husband’s name first, before the wife’s name. It could just as well be the other way round. I, too, strongly believe in equal treatment of the sexes.

You know that old story about the man who said, “Of course, I strongly believe in equality of the sexes. I just wish that my wife would treat me as her equal”.

Poor man! He is probably the one who, when filling the part of the personal particulars form that asked about “Marital Status”,wrote down, “Henpecked!”.

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

27 October, 2007 at 10:33 pm

Posted in Year 2001

When someone calls you, “Sir“

One lunch time, after I had finished eating at the Food Centre in Street 52, Jurong West, I decided to work off some calories with a bit of window-shopping.

I had hardly walked past the first shop when a neatly-dressed Indian man with a young boy called out to me, “Hello! Sir! How are you?”

Of course, if someone asks how you are, the reply is: “I am fine. Thank you. And how are you?”

[Self-thought: If he calls me ‘Sir’ he must be one of my old students.]

Indian man: I am okay, Sir. How come you are eating here in Jurong?

Yours truly: Oh. Our NIE has moved here to JurongNTU Campus.

Indian man: No more at Bukit Timah?

Yours truly: No more. By the way which year were you at Bukit Timah?

Indian man: I was there for 6 years, Sir.

[Self-thought: Strange! 6 years in NIE? Our BA/BSc programme doesn’t take that long. Poor fellow must have repeated two years of his studies.]

Yours truly: You were in NIE for 6 years?

Indian man: Yes Sir, 6 years. Ah! I see you forget, Sir. I was selling Roti Prata there in the canteen.

Yours truly: Yes, yes. [Trying to be diplomatic.] I remember your Roti Prata was very good. And is this young boy, your son?

Indian man: Not my son, Sir. My grandson!

Yours truly: Your grandson! You are a grandfather? How time flies.

Yes, time flies and we grow old. How nice to be remembered and recognised.

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

26 October, 2007 at 10:32 pm

Posted in Year 2001

Lion Dance, Dragon Dance and Line Dance

Well, about a month back I met my youngest sister and her husband at a function. I had not met them for some months and my sister and her husband were noticeably slimmer. Teasing her, I asked, “And what diet are you on?”

Her reply was, “No diet but we do regular exercise”.

Me: Regular exercise! That’s good. And what do you do?

Youngest sis: Dancing. We join a Lion Dance group and dance twice weekly.

Me: Lion Dance! Wow! Isn’t that a bit too demanding?

Youngest sis: Not really! We only participate in the less vigorous kind of Lion Dance steps.

Me: Oh! I didn’t know that there is a less vigorous form. I guess you are the ‘Lion Tail’ and your husband is the ‘Lion Head‘.

Youngest sis: Head? Tail? Our Lion Dance doesn’t really have a Head or a Tail. We all stand in a line.

Me: Oh! A line of dancers! Then it is not ‘Lion Dance’ but ‘Chinese Dragon’ Dance!

Youngest sis: Chinese Dragon Dance! No, it is American Lion Dance.

Me: Amercian Lion Dance? Oh, I see [Eureka!]. It is American Line Dance you are talking about! Okay! Okay! So my hearing is not as good as it used to be. Apologies!

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

25 October, 2007 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Year 2001

A ‘Green Fingers’ story

A Singaporean couple moved to England. The wife was a keen gardener. At the first opportunity she went to a flower nursery and bought a beautiful bushy potted plant for the balcony. She dutifully watered the plant and added diluted fertilizer weekly as recommended. As a result the plant thrived.

After a few months in England she decided to take a 2-week holiday in Europe and so she left the care of her precious plant to her husband with strict instructions for its well-being. When she came back from her holiday, the leaves of the plant began to turn yellow. As expected she suspected her husband had not taken good care of the plant. Anyway she hoped, with her return and her loving tender care, the plant would recover.

However, the leaves went on from yellow to brown and dropped off. Thinking that the marital relationship was more important than the health of her precious plant, she decided not to confront her husband. So, she called the owner of the flower nursery to make a ‘house call’ to examine the plant.

One look at the plant and the nursery owner knew the reason for the leaves turning brown and dropping off.

Nursery owner: I know the problem. However, there is no cure.
Plant owner: No cure? And what is the problem?
Nursery owner: The problem, dear lady, is called “Autumn”.

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

24 October, 2007 at 10:28 pm

Posted in Year 2001

Durians and the Law of Gravity

Yes, durians are fruiting all over campus. For NIE folks the nearest durian trees are near the Admin Building side facing the student hostels.

Talking about durian season raises the old story about how Sir Issac Newton discovered the law of gravity. Apparently he had been sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell on his head. This led him to wonder why objects fell down rather than up or sideways.

Some Singapore scholars have claimed that Newton was not the first person to discover the law of gravity. The honour of this discovery should have gone to a Singaporean instead! These Singapore scholars claim that the Singaporean had discovered the law of gravity when he sat under a durian tree and a durian fell on his head. Unfortunately, this Singaporean discoverer did not survive long enough to finish his dissertation on the subject of gravity.

Another version of this story has the Singaporean discoverer sitting under a coconut tree.

Well, the moral of the story is “Don’t sit under durian trees or coconut trees”.

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

23 October, 2007 at 10:26 pm

Posted in Year 2001

What is the oppposite of a bargain?

Some more stuff about Breadfruit. Its scientific name is ‘Artocarpusaltilis’. From this scientific name you can see it is related to 2 other well-known tropical fruits, the Jackfruit (Artocarpusheterophyllus) and the Chempedak (Artocarpusinteger). Unlike the Breadfruit, which has no smell, the Jackfruit and the Chempedak will announce its ripeness with a strong aroma. The aroma of the Jackfruit and Chempedak is not as strong as that of Durian. I thought I should tell you that in case you avoided Durian because of its overpowering aroma. Well, ‘swindle’ is not quite the word I want. My experience of a non-bargain happened this way.

A month back I called Borders to ask them whether they had the book, “Mutiny on the Bounty”. They checked their stocks and replied positively.

So, on a Saturday afternoon I went down to Borders in Orchard Road and bought the book which lightened my pocket by $28. After reading the book I was interested in the 2 books that chronicled the follow up, “Men Against the Sea” and “Pitcairn Island”. So, again I called up Borders and they checked their stocks and they again replied positively. When I went down to Borders, I was told that these 2 books were part of a Bounty Trilogy, i.e., 3 books in one and the price was $44.

You’ve guessed it -the first book in it was “Mutiny on the Bounty“. If I had known about the Bounty trilogy the first time I asked, I would have saved $28. Ah, well, you win some and you non-lose some.

Re-trievia recalled: Excerpts from Year 2001
Tan Wee Kiat

Written by Ivan Chew

22 October, 2007 at 10:25 pm

Posted in Year 2001