Monday, 28 April 2014

SA Garden Catalogue: Polyscias Guilfoylei

Polyscias guilfoylei (CNB 2011)

The Polyscias guilfoylei is a shrubby plant with soft woody stems. This species (one of four of Polyscias or the Ming Aralias) 'has leaves mostly bipinnate, sporadically tripinnate. The leaflet bases are tapered and the leaflets are incised at the margins like celery or parsley. The size of the leaflets varies between cultivars, and some forms are variegated'.

Grow this plant in full or partial sun and propagate by cuttings. I only have one container of this and the plant grows well with very little maintenance. Origin: South West Pacific.

The April rains and thunder storms during this inter-monsoon period have been quite heavy, usually in the late afternoons. The humidity is high but bearable, although at night it is more comfortable to sleep with the air conditioning on.

Despite the rains, water rationing continues - we have running water for two consecutive days and then the taps are dry for two. I guess we in Selangor are now paying for the 'free' water we had been getting, by having to buy plastic containers to store water, disposable tableware, more food from outside and even water for drinking! C'est la vie!

Ref: Tropical horticulture & gardening / Francis S. P. Ng. MPH, 2006.
Ex Libris CNB 1866

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Snapshots: Manhole Covers

Manhole covers are quite interesting to look at, in some countries more than others. I usually take a photo if I come across a 'pretty' one in the course of walking around cities during my travels lately. I have yet to spot a 'nice' one here in Malaysia. I never really thought much about manhole covers but I know they serve a very important function. Ypma believes they are potent symbols of change ...

"The manhole cover is a potent symbol of the changes brought to society by the Industrial Revolution. With the increased pace of life, modern necessities such as power, sewerage and drainage all had to be organised, preferably out of view. The 'utilities' would issue their own 'manhole cover', cast in the graphic style of the company." - Herbert Ypma in London Minimum*

1. Georgetown, Pulau Pinang

A Georgetown manhole cover (CNB 2014)

2. Wellington, New Zealand

 A Wellington manhole cover

3. Kurashiki, Japan

4. Osaka, Japan

5. (Pic) Berlin, Germany

* Ref: London Minimum/Herbert Ypma. Thames & Hudson, 2010. Ex Libris CNB 2036

Note: President of the US, Barack Obama is now in Malaysia from 26-28 April 2014 - described as a historic visit. I don't remember Lyndon B Johnson's first visit of an American President to Malaysia in 1966, except for the fact that one Felda settlement Labu Jaya was renamed Kampung Lyndon B. Johnson after him on the occasion of him dropping by there.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

About Book Clubs

Today is the International World Book (and Copyright) Day, so I thought I would write about book clubs and my experience of them. First some definitions I'd put together, gleaned from online information and my own observation. A book club is a reading group who meet (usually once a month) to talk about books on an agreed-upon reading list. Book 'clubbers' are "the people who have combined the solitary pleasure of reading a book with the joy of sharing, discussing, and debating it in a social setting". Members of the group usually discuss the theme, character, plot, style and what they got out of reading the book. Usually books selected are English fiction of not more than 400 pages. Some even specify 'no chick lit!' (But I say, why not? Some chick lit is not so baaad.)

Anyway throughout my library career I had taken part in book discussions, usually in very formal situations. But on retirement and my move to Shah Alam, I frequented the bookshops in the Klang Valley so often that it was inevitable to join the Borders Book Club. The group was interesting, and usually led by a Border's staff member (read: avid reader) and a English Literature teacher. It helped that the books up for discussion were discounted (usually 10%). During my active participation with this book club, we read, among others, How Starbucks Saved My Life, The Book Thief, Life of Pi, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, The Alchemist, Eat Pray Love, The Twelve, and The Indigo Children. Numbers at our meetings varied from five to twelve, and over tea/coffee it was all pretty interesting to opine about the book being discussed. But ... I stopped going after nearly two years when I could no longer adhere to the inconvenient timing for the meetings. Ces't la vie.

I also tried the better-timed MPH book discussion meetings. But my first foray at their 1-Utama venue was a one-to-one session! There was only me and the one who led the discussion. (I shall mention his name here if I ever remember it, sorry). I remember though that we discussed The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee. Anyway that was my one and only time with the MPH 'book club'. But I still do buy a lot of books at their shops. Sometimes I feel like joining a book club again. Maybe the Bangsar Book Club or The Paperback Book Club. Maybe ... In the meantime I will continue with the solitary pleasure of reading the books in my home library.

*How Starbucks Saved My Life / Michael Gill (Ex Libris CNB 1783) *The Book Thief  / Markus Zusack (Ex Libris CNB 1784  ) *Life of Pi / Yann Martel (Ex Libris CNB1908 ) *The Curious incident of the dog in the Night time / Mark Haddon (Ex Libris CNB 1781) *The Alchemist / Paulo Coelho (Ex Libris CNB 1521) *Eat Pray Love / Elizabeth Gilbert (Ex Libris CNB 1782) *The Twelve / William Gladstone (Ex Libris CNB 1799)  *The Indigo Children / Lee Carrol & Jan Tober (Ex Libris CNB 1798) *The Piano Teacher / Janice Y. K. Lee (Ex Libris CNB 1786)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Quisqualis Indica

This picture of Quisqualis indica or Rangoon creeper ('drunken sailor') I took at dusk in the family garden in Pulau Pinang last year in spring March. I'm still looking for one I took in the neighbourhood in bright daylight. So this post is in progress till I find it ...

Update 28 March 2015
Well, I still have not found what I was looking for... but I have better... these are recent pictures of the Rangoon creeper that I came across in the garden near the auditorium at the DBKL (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur). Such beautiful flowers! So cheerful! So colourful!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Books I Love: The World's Greatest Architecture

My copy of 'The World's greatest architecture'

Architecture is a fascinating subject. Although I have had the privilege of visiting some of the wonders of built structures in the world, yet there are just so many to be awed by. So to enable me to enjoy great buildings at the turn of a page, I bought this book of "The World's greatest architecture; past and present" by D. M. Field. As the cover promises, it is 'an illustrated celebration with over 600 photographs'.
The book explores buildings from the earliest times to the 20th century. The contents cover: 1. The Ancient world  2. The Classical world  3. The Medieval world  4. Renaissance to Baroque  5. Baroque to Revivalism 6. The Far East  7. South Asia  8. Islam and 9. The 20th Century.

The author describes each of the buildings with helpful details for the lay person (including moi). The photographs as well as the history of the landmark structures make for very interesting referencing. I am constantly reading this book whenever I feel like visiting a country (often times, vicariously only, heh-heh).

The World's greatest architecture; past and present / D. M. Field. Hermes House, 2010. 
Ex Libris CNB 1988

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Retro: The Botanical Gardens of Pulau Pinang

The Penang Botanical Gardens was a favourite place for us when we were living in Pulau Pinang. It was also the best place to take friends to, especially friends from overseas.

A by the cannon ball tree (CNB 1999)

A, B and our Iranian friend Ziba Qanum (CNB 1999)

(In progress - I am still digging up more old photos to re-photo. Please bear with me, tqvm.)

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Eating out in SA: Restoran Tasik Indah

Restoran Tasik Indah in Section 14 (the Shah Alam city centre) is the place we usually take our outstation or overseas visitors when they come by to visit us. Sometimes to celebrate an occasion. Like we did for my recent 88th birthday. Nah, I'm not that old, just two decades plus five years younger.

About the restoran (restaurant) which came about in 2002; it is 'floating' on a tasik (lake) and you could say that both tasik and restoran are not bad, maybe even quite indah (pretty). Anyway we have always enjoyed the food during our dinners here. Some favourites are Assam steamed fish, Szechuan hot & sour soup, Lemon chicken, Dried chilli & cashew nut cuttle fish, Butter prawns, Kangkong belacan, Claypot bean curd, Fried rice any style, and Mixed vegetables.

Restoran Tasik Indah may be classified as a seafood restaurant, but other dishes they serve are equally good. It used to be easy to access this restaurant, what with a big car park area in front of it. But this is no longer so. Some long ongoing construction nearby has made parking (on the nearby roads) a hassle.

*Update 27/10/14* Recently we found an alternative of parking on the other side of the lake, where if you are lucky, you might find a spot.

Monday, 7 April 2014

World Wonder Architecture 2: The Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is the largest man-made structure in the world and has a total length of about 4000 miles/6400 kilometers. It stretches across northern China into Central Asia.

In 221 BC the Qin emperor Shih Huang-di united China and had early sections of the wall (made of rammed earth) linked and rebuilt into a single system. The purpose being to defend settled communities from nomadic invaders. The 15th-16th century Ming dynasty saw to the present structure - a complex of fortified walls and constructed of masonry (though the original was sometimes faced with bricks). In general the wall is about 30ft/9m high, and the towers about 40ft/12m. The wall is up to 12ft/3.75m across, enabling a column of ten men wide to march along it. The wall did deter raiding parties but did not prevent large-scale invasions. After the Manchu conquest of 1644, the frontier moved farther north and the Great Wall became redundant. It deteriorated over the years but then large parts have been restored now to cater for international tourism.

We visited the Great Wall in 2007, at the Mutianyu section just north of Beijing. I managed to climb up to the Juyong Pass and it felt like a great feat, even if it was only a teeny, tiny section of the Wall. My fascination with this world wonder continues to this day. In 2011 I bought a book by John Man, "The Great Wall"*, and on and off I have been dipping into it to read about 'the extraordinary story of China's wonder of the world'.

* The Great Wall / John Man. Da Capo Press, 2008. Ex Libris CNB 1914
Ref: The World's Greatest Architecture; Past and Present / D. M. Field. Ex Libris 1988

Saturday, 5 April 2014

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building & Merdeka Square

The Sultan Abdul Samad Building may be the most photographed colonial building in Malaysia. And deservedly so. This very beautiful building by A.C. Norman was built in 1894-97 during the British administration and named after the then reigning Sultan of Selangor. This Moorish style building of Mughal architecture serves as the backdrop for many national celebrations, including Merdeka Day on the 31st August and Malaysia Day on the 16th September.

Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad (CNB 2013)

It is located in front of the Dataran Merdeka (Independance Square) and together the buildings and grounds are witness to historic moments of the country, the most momentous being the declaration of independance in 1957. Merdeka Square before independance was the cricket ground for the colonial administrators, and fronting the Royal Selangor Club which was Malaya's most exclusive whites-only club. Merdeka Square was officially opened in 1990. A 95 metre flagpole, one of the tallest in the world, is at one end of the square.

The Royal Selangor Club (CNB 2013)
(In progress)

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Sultan Abdul Halim Airport, Kepala Batas

The Sultan Abdul Halim Airport in Kepala Batas, looks still rather new (2006) when we had the occasion to take a flight from there back to Subang early last year. It is 15 km away from the capital of Kedah, Alor Setar.

The architecture of the exterior porch and facade was rather interesting. We also found the interior interesting as well, with branch-like columns. Rather similar to the ones found outside the building though of a different colour. I know I have not described the airport well, so may be these two pictures will help.