About Grace Tan

Grace owns the award-winning business and lifestyle blog, WorkingWithGrace.wordpress.com. She is also the author of the best-selling book 'Blogging For A Living'.

Nam Kee Pau’s Amy Yip Pau (葉子楣大包)

Nam Kee Pau

I don’t think the cash register at Nam Kee Pau (at Waterway Point) has stopped ringing since they first opened for business. These days, I have to queue for a good 10 to 15 minutes if I want to purchase one of their pau for breakfast. Today’s no different though we did get the Amy Yip pau instead of the regular-sized Big Pau or char siew pau. The monster-sized Amy Yip pau costs S$4 and they’ll put it in a box for you, instead of the usual plastic bags.

We did wonder why it says “malaysia Boleh!” on the box. Turns out Fei Siong Group (which runs Nam Kee Pau) also has 12 other F&B brands that it’s managing – from Encik Tan to London Duck (which I suppose is not to be confused with my favorite London Fat Duck which is under the Akashi Group). Malaysia Boleh is located on the 3rd floor of Jurong Point 2. It is a foodcourt featuring Malaysian street hawker fare. I guess Nam Kee Pau simply uses their food boxes as they are all under the same management anyway.

Nam Kee Pau - Malaysia Boleh box

Truth be told, I think the Big Pau ($1.80) gets my vote. It’s just the right size (hur hur) versus the massive Amy Yip pau. I don’t really know who Amy Yip is so I speculated that this pau, modeled after her substantial cleavage (so I’ve heard), must mean she’s a double D at least? Googled her and found she has a H cup. ‘H’ probably stands for “How is this possible”?

I think Nam Kee Pau makes really good pau. I like their Big Pau and Char Siew Pau. Though the Amy Yip one is way too big, it’s moist and the filling is tasty. It’ll just put you into a food coma straightaway.

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Flight Simulator Review: Flight Experience – Singapore

Flight Experience Singapore review

I’ve never been in the cockpit of a plane before so this ‘Flight Experience’ was a nice introduction to the world of flying… as a pilot. From the get-go, you’re addressed as “Captain”. 😉 I took a while to get used to it because… Captain, you’ll need to watch a 15-minute pre-flight briefing video first before you’re allowed to fly. 😀

flight experience simulator

The video is just so mind-boggling that at the end of it, you probably won’t remember a thing. It’s better to just listen to your co-pilot (i.e. instructor’s) directions. People train for 2 to 3 years before they become pilots so don’t expect a 15-minute or even a 30-minute video to do you much good. 😀

Sidetrack: I found it interesting that pilots are trained to escape from the flight deck in an emergency situation by breaking a window (a really small one) and climbing down with the help of a rope. No wonder most pilots look pretty fit. If they don’t watch their weight, they’ll most certainly get stuck. I don’t even think I’ll be able to get out of the window easily.

Landing the plane is not quite simple either. Often, I’m horrified when the plane lands “badly” when I’m on one of those commercial flights. I wonder why the pilot can’t brake gently and just land the plane like a leaf gently drifting down to the water surface causing barely a ripple. But when I’m the one “behind the wheel” (so to speak) I find that it takes both skill and luck. There are things like wind which the pilot cannot control, but which can greatly affect how the plane lands.

The great thing about this simulator is that where you’re seated doesn’t move or else someone’s going to throw up (either you, your co-pilot, or the unlucky person(s) seated behind you two). The sound effects, though, are pretty realistic.

At some point, I got so bored I took my hands off the controls, but everything seemed to be going well. I turned to the instructor and asked if it auto-pilot mode was on, but it wasn’t. So, ladies and gentlemen, do not trust me to fly the plane you’re on, ok? 😀

~

If you’re raring to go, just note that prices start from $175 (for a 30-minute flight). Yup, and effectively, you don’t go anywhere. 😀 Would I do this again? Probably not. Also, I think it’s a better idea to let the instructor pick the route. We had selected (1) Grand Canyon National Park and (2) Tokyo Haneda to Narita Mt Fuji. Both were rather boring.

Still, it’s a great opportunity to ask a trained pilot any questions you may have about flying. 😀 And you’ll also get a Certificate of Achievement when you’re done.

3 Cheap Snacks That Will Satisfy Mid-day Cravings

I’m finding it terribly difficult to work when the weather’s really hot, especially when it was around 32 degrees Celsius at noon. To fight the lethargy, I find myself munching on some of the snacks we’ve bought recently: the OREO soft cake, Tong Garden’s wasabi peas and Lotte’s Double Dip snack. Let me know if you’ve tried these, and whether you like them:

OREO Soft Cake

OREO soft cake

You can get a whole box of the OREO soft cake at ValuDollar stores, and one box costs around $1.65 or so. I’ve noticed it got sold out a couple of times at the ValuDollar store in Waterway Point. It’s OREO like you’ve never experienced it before. It’s so soft that it just melts away on your tongue, giving you an instant sugar rush. Resist the temptation to eat more than 1 at a time, though, for obvious health reasons. 😉

Tong Garden Wasabi Coated Green Peas

Tong Garden Wasabi Coated Green Peas

On a whim, I decided to get these Tong Garden Wasabi Coated Green Peas while shopping in JB. I thought the flavor would be mild but these actually pack a punch. After a handful of peas, my nose begins to run and I start tearing up. 😀 It’s a snack you won’t have to worry about eating too much of (and getting fat) because it has so much heat; you’ll be crying before you can finish it all. 😀 Get them at FairPrice for $1.75.

In unrelated news, the siblings running the business are back in court. The late Mr Ong, who founded the Tong Garden business, had 10 children and they seem to be taking turns to squabble over shares and how the company is run. Makes me wonder if having so many kids is a good thing.

Lotte Pepero Day Double Dip Gift Pack

Lotte Pepero Day Double Dip Gift Pack

There are two flavors: Yoghurt and Cafe Latte. I’m not a fan of coffee so obviously the yoghurt flavoured ones are my pick. Just $7.90 for a set of 4 from the Korean mart at Marina Square. Psst, there might be a 1-for-1 promo going on right now.

Omakase Dinner At Birders 鳥人: A Gastronomic Adventure Awaits

Birders Degustation Dinner Menu

If you don’t already know, Keong Saik Road was ranked 4th in Lonely Planet’s top 10 Asian travel destinations for 2017. But what do you eat there for dinner, apart from the pricey hor fun that I’ve reviewed previously? At the very instagrammable Hotel 1929, you can have an omakase dinner at Birders (鳥人), which I enjoyed together with my pal recently. We were not too surprised to find that it was a full house on a weekday because Birders has received extensive media coverage thanks to its creative menu and that undisputed celebrity factor: it’s co-owned by actor Adam Chen.

*Their new Degustation Dinner Menu requires advance booking of a minimum of 2 days.

Birders Keong Saik

The 8-course omakase Degustation Dinner provided a rollercoaster ride of flavors that showed just how much thought had gone into crafting this entire dining experience. Besides wowing with attentive service, I think it’ll be difficult to leave this place and not tell a friend about what was served up during dinner. You’ll see why in just a minute…

Birders Sashimi Moriawase

First up was the Sashimi Moriawase. It’s a delightful and aesthetically pleasing platter of salmon, swordfish and yellowtail sashimi, together with amaebi (sweet shrimp) and ikura. The beautiful plating and fresh seafood certainly heightened our anticipation (and expectation) regarding the next 7 courses.

After sashimi, which most people are familiar with, the next course is for the adventurous foodie. It’s called “Liver Mousse 2 Ways“. There’s chicken liver mousse and even liver chawanmushi.

Birders Liver Mousse 2 Ways

Paired with the yuzu marmalade, the chicken liver mousse actually becomes quite enjoyable. It’s also served up in what looks like a cute little sardine can. Spread the mousse generously onto the brioche sticks and savor the surprise it brings. The liver chawanmushi will make you wonder what sort of creative genius would come up with an item like that. And the person who came up with this menu is *drum roll* none other than actor Adam Chen!

We certainly seized the ‘photo op’ with a celebrity – this is just one of many pictures 😀

Adam Chen Birders

From left: Adam Chen, our new friend Felix, yours truly, and Bosco Lim who took all the pictures for this blogpost 🙂

Birders French Onion Soup

Next, we had the savory French Onion Soup, which we found a tad too salty. But I’ve been told this item is not a permanent feature in the menu so you may get some other dish or soup when you dine here. It’s omakase after all.

If you haven’t already guessed, the next dish will be one that’s out of the ordinary. And it’s the “Birders Beef Katsu Sando“. According to Adam, beef katsu is quite the rage in Japan now and one of Adam’s friends has a business selling $120 Beef Katsu sandwiches. *gulp* Thankfully, prices at Birders are much more affordable, and this Beef Katsu Sando is truly delicious.

Birders Beef Katsu Sando

Although the beef looks almost raw, this sandwich is undeniably one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It’s also paired with lotus root chips which are very addictive even though they don’t come with copious amounts of salt. Birders should start selling these chips as the healthy alternative to salted egg chips. I’d certainly purchase a few packs.

After the high from eating a mouth-watering sandwich, it’s back to the familiar with Ribeye Steak (about 70grams worth). And it comes with brussel sprouts (one of my favorite veggies), nagaimo (mountain yam) and mushrooms.

Birders Ribeye Steak

I found the brussel sprouts a little dry. And the ribeye could do with a bit more seasoning though I have to say that this cooking method retains the juices well. The slightly taller chunks of Nagaimo (mountain yam or chinese yam) prevent the dish from looking too flat in pictures, but it doesn’t taste like much despite being packed with vitamins and minerals.

Then there’s what we’ve been waiting for: the Yakitori Platter. I’d initially thought Birders was famous just for yakitori and sake. So the other dishes really came as a surprise.

Birders Yakitori Platter

On this platter, we had thigh, tail, tsukune (chicken meatball), heart, ginnan (ginkgo nuts), and tomatoes. I’m not a fan of the ginkgo though the chicken skewers are really good. After all, this place is called ‘Birders’. I like how just about every part of the chicken is used in the food. And, of course, with the onsen egg, which coats everything with that golden goodness, it’s certainly a treat.

I think the skewers are best enjoyed with some sake. And it’s a bonus that the sake comes in really cute 180ml glass bottles. I even took the bottles home! 😀 Of course, you can enjoy some wine, whiskey or any of the other alcoholic beverages at Birders.

Birders Restaurant sake

In all honesty, I was surprised by this next dish: Mentaiko Chazuke. It’s a very comforting dish, no doubt, yet I was already bursting at the seams from the 6 courses preceding this dish and you serve me RICE?! 😀

Birders Mentaiko Chazuke

As usual, there’s dashi broth and tea, with mentaiko and other toppings. Diners with bigger appetites will certainly appreciate this dish (you won’t walk out of Birders still feeling peckish after the 8-course dinner, for sure). Ladies who are feeling full already, just surrender the dish and let the gentlemen have it. 😀

However, for some strange reason, I always have space in my tummy for dessert. And how important that is! Dessert makes or breaks a meal. And Birders serves delicious Matcha Crème brûlée. It’s made in-house so you definitely have to give it a try. Also, it’s so pretty – a riot of color – and reminds me of the first dish featuring sashimi. And we’ve now come full circle and can head home with happy bellies.

Birders Matcha Creme Brulee

~

Birders is located at 50 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089154. Tel:
8748 4585.

*To book the S$68++ Degustation Dinner, send a message to the number listed above.

 

{ Giveaway }

Head over to my facebook page to take part in my giveaway. You stand to win a $50 voucher to dine at Birders. 😀

May 2018: Paradigm Mall, Sutera Mall, Buying Durians In JB

JB Paradigm Mall Sutera Mall

He said we’re really lucky to be able to “earn in SG and spend in JB” as it’s such a short trip over the Causeway. I agree. It’s really convenient to pop by JB even without a car  – just take public transport. During this trip to JB, we visited our current favorite – Paradigm Mall – and also Sutera Mall which we used to frequent. And although I cannot stand the stench of durians, I did take a few bites of the pungent fruit this time. GASP. (@_@)

They seem to have ‘upgraded’ the bus – from rickety to rather plush:

JB bus to Paradigm Mall

The bus ride from JB customs to Paradigm Mall cost just RM2.20 per pax. Once you reach the bus terminal, there’ll be people ushering you to the right bus. Just state where you want to go.

Only 1 thing I want to eat at Paradigm Mall:

Once again, I ordered my favorite Tuna Mayo sandwich from LIANG Sandwich Bar. This item costs just RM7.90. It’s like a super crispy prata enveloping the fresh veggies and tuna. For just RM2, you can add a drink. And we had the Iced Peach Tea, which was surprisingly good. He went with ‘Jay Chou’s Favourite’ as his choice of sandwich and it turned out to be something like chicken ham and honey – I found it tasted so odd. Sure wouldn’t put it on my list of favorites.

LIANG Sandwich Bar Paradigm Mall JB

Also ordered Gong Cha’s Earl Grey Milk Tea with Ai-Yu Jelly and White Pearl which cost just RM 11. I’m someone who isn’t very adventurous when it comes to food. If I find that something tastes good, I’ll just order it again next time, without bothering about the other items on the menu. Makes life simpler, no? Too many people stand in front of extensive menus and seem to get paralyzed when confronted with so many choices. And then regret this new choice if it isn’t as good as the previous one. I cannot understand this sort of people. Just stick to what’s tried and tested!

After shopping at Paradigm Mall, we decided to get a cab and go to Sutera Mall. It was raining when we stepped out of Paradigm and headed to the taxi stand – thankfully I had an umbrella in my bag. Why the taxi stand is located so far away, I do not know. (@_@)

Taxi touts outside Paradigm Mall wanted us to pay RM20 for a ride to Sutera Mall, which is really not very far from Paradigm. By “touts” I mean taxi drivers who drive taxis with prominent messages on the cab doors stating that these are metered taxis and haggling is not allowed. The audacity. Previously, we even tried to bargain with one such driver and his retort was “What’s 5 ringgit to you Singaporeans?!” I simply turned and walked away. It’s money, that’s what. I’m sure there are many other Singaporeans who would be willing to part with any sum these guys state, but I believe we (or rather, I) shouldn’t be encouraging these drivers to forego metered fares and start stating whatever price they want. (Don’t encourage such behavior, ok?)

You’ve just got to be really patient and wait till a taxi driver who is willing to switch on the taxi meter appears. Our ride cost RM10.50, almost half of what the other drivers wanted us to pay. Bless this good man’s soul.

We had lunch at EverGreen Restaurant located at L1 of Sutera Mall, and next to the mall’s Aquarium with REALLY BIG fish. I think the biggest fish might be at least 1.8m long.

EverGreen Restaurant Sutera Mall

EverGreen Restaurant Sutera Mall JB

We had the Specialty Curry Fish Head (RM37), mantou (RM6.80), Fried Mee Suah (RM9.50), coffee (RM3.20) and (fresh) Pineapple Juice (RM5.80). The bill came up to RM69.30, just over 20SGD. The fried mee suah was delicious while the mantous were much bigger than expected and served warm and fluffy. The curry fish head was decent, though we wondered where the claypot had gone – the fish was served up in aluminium foil on a plate.

To our surprise, Sutera Mall has a public library within! And it’s gorgeous inside. It’s certainly as attractive as our libraries here in Singapore.

my library Sutera Mall

We also wandered around the area near the mall, which has lots of coffeeshops, pubs, specialty stores, etc.

Inside Scoop JB

We chanced upon this ice cream shop called ‘Inside Scoop’ which apparently has many branches in Malaysia. They were totally out of waffles and ice cream cones, and almost out of ice cream as well. Because of the public holidays after the elections, there were no deliveries.

I like the decor:

Inside Scoop ice cream JB

We enjoyed the Valrhona chocolate and another something-Tango flavor. The double scoop of ice cream cost RM13.50 and we also had to top up RM3.80 as we had selected the premium flavors.

My first taste of durian in decades:

JB Durians outside Sutera Mall

There are 2 durian stalls along the main road, which you’ll see as your vehicle is turning into Sutera Mall’s carpark. We found that the stall on the right (when facing the main road) had a lot more customers so we picked this stall. He had 2 durians for a total of RM10 while I had the fresh coconut for RM4.

Mistake: Ordering 2 durians at the same time. One tasted good while the other was rather lousy. There was a mother-and-daughter pair at the table next to ours and they ordered durians one at a time, taking their time to enjoy each fruit. So the boss always made sure they liked each durian they were served so they’d order more.

From Sutera Mall to the JB customs (Woodlands checkpoint, not Tuas), the metered taxi fare was close to RM30. Not sure how much the touts would have asked us to pay but I’m glad we found a Chinese uncle who was not only friendly and chatty but also willing to turn on the meter. According to him, 4pm to 7pm is when traffic jams can be expected, but there’s also a second ‘peak hour’ from 9pm to 10pm. So heading home between 7pm and 9pm is best. You’re welcome. 😀

Tiger Sky Tower: Children Ride For FREE (15 May to 12 Aug)

Tiger Sky Tower Sentosa

[Image courtesy of Sky Tower Pte Ltd]

Tomorrow, we’ll celebrate the International Day of Families (15th May). For 3 months starting from tomorrow, the Tiger Sky Tower will be offering children free rides and only the adults need to pay (*bummer*)! I know my pal with 5 kids will certainly enjoy this promotion because going anywhere with 5 children is going to be costly. At the Tiger Sky Tower, each full-priced adult ticket ($18) is entitled to 5 complimentary child tickets. <-That’s pretty generous as the usual price for a child ticket is $10!

If you’re someone with many kids, bring the young ones to Sentosa and get on board the 360° revolving cabin to marvel at the breathtaking sights.

On Aug 12 last year, 39 people were stranded in the Tiger Sky Tower for 4 hours. Ordinarily, I’d be quite afraid of taking the ride ever again. But the folks who were stuck in the Sky Tower were given food and water, and there was air-conditioning and a mobile toilet as well. Most importantly, no one was in any real danger as the ride also has “failsafes similar to elevators”. The ride has since been cleared by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), so you don’t have to worry, and can bring the whole family out for some fun and take advantage of this promotion.

Kids-ride-for-free promo:

Date: 15 May to 12 Aug 2018

Time: 9am to 9pm daily (Last admission: 8.45pm)

Venue: Tiger Sky Tower @ Imbiah Lookout

*Other terms & conditions apply.

Book Review: ‘Now That It’s Over’ by O Thiam Chin

now that it's over o thiam chin

I totally judge books by their covers and this one features a blurry image of a man(?) covering his face with his hands in what is probably agony (or shame), and the overall impression it gives is hardly attractive. If not for that little circle in the corner with the words “WINNER Epigram Books Fiction Prize 2015”, I’m not sure if I’ll pick up this book for a read in the first place. Anyway, I can totally understand how a book needs to be launched really quickly once it wins any sort of prize. So there’s hardly any time to obsess about cover design.

At first, I didn’t really appreciate the title, but after reading the book, I find that it’s a really good title – ‘Now That It’s Over’. Now that the relationship is over, how do you move on? Now that the tsunami is over, how do we pick up the pieces? It gets you thinking about how you’d respond to a situation that is unpleasant or has made you feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under your feet. Do you respond in a positive “let’s move on” manner, or do you think that when ‘this’ is over, there’s nothing else to live for?

The way the author, O Thiam Chin, writes about sex in this book will raise some eyebrows. While the sex between the heterosexual couple seems rather bland, if not entirely boring, the descriptions of homosexual sex acts are shockingly vivid. Please don’t blame me for being kaypoh. I found myself curious about whether the author is gay. Actually, I think I already have the answer. Also, I’m not sure if his depiction of the gay characters in this book as being quite promiscuous (cheating is common) will be appreciated by the community.

There are four main characters: Ai Ling, her husband Wei Xiang, her BFF Cody and his boyfriend Chee Seng. They are in Phuket during the devastating tsunami in 2004. One person doesn’t make it out alive. And one relationship doesn’t survive. Read the book to find out more. 😉 I like how the book toggles from character to character instead of being a rigid, linear narrative. This keeps me guessing who and what is next.

The part I love most is the one about the seagull ripping out the eyeball of the dead woman (Ai Ling)…

“It pokes at the eye, assessing its jelly-like texture. The half-shut eyelid reveals a brown-tinted iris. The seagull regards it for a second, and then in a sudden move, it strikes in sharp, precise thrusts until the eye pops out, restrained only by the optic nerve. Thick dark blood dribbles out of the socket and down the woman’s cheek. The seagull bends and holds the eyeball with the tip of its beak, giving it one last tug, freeing it. The eye catches the sunlight and seems to be taking in the seamless, thriving sea. In the next moment, the seagull jerks back its head and consumes the lifeless object.”

*jaw drop*

I really wonder if seagulls will actually consume human eyeballs but I found an article on the Internet about how seagulls eat the eyeballs of baby fur seals so as to make the blind seals “more vulnerable to further attacks”. (@_@)

The book has been given mixed reviews – check out Goodreads – but I’d rate it pretty well. The author scored C6 for both English and Literature at the ‘O’ Levels! But look at him now. This prize-winning book has made me feel shocked and also squeamish. Love it! Now that it’s over, I’ll go read another award-winning book. 😀

*Also, I really like the mentions about VCDs, Motorola and Nokia phones. Younger millennials probably won’t know what VCDs are. And how awesome Nokia phones once were – the battery life was incredible! Excuse me while I go charge my Samsung phone once again. *sigh*

Book Review: ‘Kampong Boy’ by M Ravi

m ravi kampong boy

[Image from ethosbooks.com.sg]

I truly enjoyed reading this book ‘Kampong Boy’ as it gives so many insights into what makes M Ravi the man he is today. And those personality traits which characterize him as a lawyer today were formed when he was a young boy, so reading about his childhood, family life, and the journey he took to become a lawyer has been rewarding. Why is he against the death penalty? Why is he so stubborn, so persistent when fighting for those clients (pro bono, mind you) ordered to be hanged? If they are involved in the drug trade (whether as a mule or not), why shouldn’t we just hang them as per our laws?

Brought up in a Jalan Kayu kampong, Ravi was one of seven kids in the family. His father was overly fond of alcohol, a spendthrift and had even been to prison three times. To make matters worse, one day the father even robbed his young son of the money meant for school expenses. M Ravi even went to the police station to try and lodge a report but the officers wouldn’t accept it as the accused was his own father.

His family seems to be the stereotypical Indian family full of drama. There was once when Ravi’s parents were fighting and his Dad was choking his Mom. Ravi’s older brother intervened and broke their Dad’s arm! Read the book for the full details.

Ravi’s mother also suffered from depression and she eventually committed suicide. That proved devastating for Ravi, who’d moved out with his mother due to her disagreements with other members of the family. I feel for this lady I’ve never met before – she had her first child taken away from her by absolutely cruel in-laws, and right from the start, she had been forced to leave her sweetheart and marry a man she didn’t love because his parents were rich from winning the lottery. Too bad that this man would squander away those winnings.

As you can probably guess, Ravi discovered he had outstanding oratorical skills and did well in competitions in school. He was also a very determined boy. He camped outside a Tamil teacher’s flat until the latter wrote him a speech for his competition.

He had a slipped disc as a result of the hard work during his time in the Combat Engineering unit while serving NS. He eventually took up the issue with MINDEF and was given $3,000. While in the army, he also went on a hunger strike because the food for vegetarians was deemed unpalatable and not nourishing enough. He eventually got his way and the meals he wanted.

He studied History, Political Science and Sociology in NUS but also went for evening classes to study Law (University of London’s external program). While he was preparing for his Law exams, the Government announced that this degree would no longer be recognized in Singapore. That’s when Ravi decided he’ll go to the University of Cardiff in Wales for 2 years of study. On 31st May 1997, Ravi was called to the Bar. In 2000, he started his own firm.

Ravi’s a really interesting character. He got around the rules and did a firewalk when he was just 13! He’s also a dancer, with a passion for Indian classical dance. He even had a short stint as a TCS newscaster – imagine how differently his life might have turned out if he’d stayed there!

~

Lots of lawyers take up pro bono cases because of the media value – there’s lots of media and public interest in the case, or they are doing it as a show of being concerned about the people so as to pave their way into politics. I know of at least one young lawyer who took up a case and then instructed his clients to meet at a location near the Courts so they could all walk together to the hearing, and the lawyer would be photographed together with his clients for the newspapers. <- He even decided who should stand where. (@_@) *And in this case, it wasn’t even pro bono. They paid him a princely sum for him to get featured in the media. Said lawyer was even extra friendly to journalists during the breaks, chatting with everyone like old friends. Perhaps he should have gone to TCS to be an actor.

Lawyers like Ravi are probably few and far between. He had offered to pay for the funeral expenses of Vignes Mourti and even slept next to the casket together with Mourti’s family because they were so afraid that the body would be taken away to be cremated as per the official instructions and the deceased’s friends and family won’t be able to pay their last respects. [Read the book and find out what happened]

“Some people here feel that a lawyer should never get too closely involved with his clients and their kin, especially in death penalty cases where the stakes are so high. But that’s not how I’m made up. It’s especially in those cases where the stakes are so high and where human pain is at its apex that I get drawn into the life and emotional distress of these clients.” – M Ravi.

And in the death penalty case involving the Nigerian Amara Tochi, Ravi flew around the world to rally support for his client. I’m guessing he might be the only lawyer in Singapore who does such things. I’ve met one other lawyer who admitted that he does all that pro bono work hoping to get into politics. He put it in no uncertain terms that he felt he was deserving of the MP’s paycheque. Thankfully, he won’t be elected into office any time soon.

~

Ravi mentions in the book that his licence to practise law had been suspended for 1 year in October 2006, but fails to explain why. I did a quick Google search and it appears that he had been disrespectful to a judge. Not sure what had happened though I’d certainly love to hear Ravi’s explanation. In all fairness, I think that in the heat of the moment when putting forth an argument in court, certain actions might be deemed rude or disrespectful so I really won’t hold it against the guy. Perhaps in the (near) future, lawyers will be replaced by robots which will obviously not let emotions come into play, seeing as how they have none. 😀 I’m looking forward to such a day! 😀

Though when it happens, we won’t hear of gutsy lawyers such as M Ravi who, during the Falun Gong case, filed a criminal motion against Judge Shumangam. Really, read the book and find out what happened! It’s nothing short of amazing.

While this book has convinced me that activists who are against the death penalty really have a legit cause (e.g. you can easily be caught with drugs placed in your luggage by someone else, and be sentenced to hang even if you are innocent), I’m not so fond of his clients who want a repeal of section 377A of the Penal Code. One of Ravi’s clients had sex in a CityLink mall toilet with another man. They got arrested and were each fined $3,000. And yet they still wanted to “take a stand against 377A”. There’s also been another case of two gay men arrested for having sex in a coffeeshop toilet. Seriously, guys. Sex in a public toilet of all places. And coffeeshop toilets?! Aren’t there more sanitary places to demonstrate your love for each other? (@_@) I’m quite sure they wouldn’t have gotten arrested in the first place (377A or no 377A) if they hadn’t done their hanky panky business in public toilets.

*Ravi also mentioned former NMP Thio Li-Ann’s statement (from a long time ago) about how anal sex is akin to “shoving a straw up your nose to drink”. *cough cough* I actually didn’t know about this statement of hers till I read this book. Ravi, like many others, found that statement offensive. And he has my respect because he isn’t gay (or, at least, that’s what I concluded from reading this book) but would fight for gay rights or human rights in general. Some lawyers out there are fighting for ‘human rights’ but are really, ultimately, just wanting to fight for their own gay rights. In all fairness, I think Singapore offers the middle ground – we’re not as liberal as the West (no gay marriage, etc) but we don’t dish out punitive punishment like some of our neighboring countries where gay men can be publicly caned.

As I’ve written in the previous book review post, about Misdirection by Ning Cai, let’s stop making a fuss about wearing pink or white. Let’s just stick with red and move on already.

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“While it is an established tradition in many other countries, lawyers here in Singapore are not at all comfortable with activism. But I have made it my mission and my calling card. I feel that all the advantages that have been given to me, and all the sacrifices my family made so that I could become a lawyer, can best be paid back when I involve myself in human rights activism and the cases that come out of this commitment.” – M Ravi

Book Review: ‘Misdirection’ (Book 1 of The Savant Trilogy) by Ning Cai

Misdirection by Ning Cai

I was looking forward to reading this book, ‘Misdirection’, as I’ve enjoyed the previous books by Ning Cai (and also her co-authors). Someone from the publishing house actually got in touch with me earlier on and said they’ll send a copy for me to review but in the end, they pulled a disappearing act on me, it seems. So I went to the library and borrowed a copy – NLB purchased so many copies that reservations aren’t even required! There are at least 3 copies in each library! And I’m done reading the book in just 2 days. And 1 thing I have to say is that I have a lot of respect for folks who write novels – it’s just so difficult to craft something so lengthy and keep the (modern) reader’s attention throughout.

Quick summary: Maxine Schooling wakes up from a 3-year coma to find that her parents and younger brother with Down Syndrome have been killed. She discovers that she now has a photographic memory which helps her (and the police) tremendously in tracking down a serial killer, a.k.a. ‘The Singapore Spectre’. By the end of Book 1, she still hasn’t gotten any idea of who had murdered her family members.

And this book succeeds in ‘misdirection’. It seems to sail along just fine without too many surprises and you might even guess correctly who’s the villain even though it might not be entirely obvious at the start. However, there’s still a right hook at the end to make you wonder how did I forget about this person?!

This book, ‘Misdirection’, is targeted at young adults, and I have to add ‘Singaporeans’ as well. The book is simply choke-full of references that probably only SG folks will pick out. And let’s not forget the Singlish terms: “bak chew tak stamp”, “sibei expensive”, “his magic very tok kong one”, “lembek”, etc. The author also tries to incorporate lingo that younger millennials (not me) will enjoy – “savage AF”, “Netflix and chill”, etc. But would the young ones also know who ‘Teresa Teng’ is? And The Backstreet Boys? LIME Magazine? And Ning also borrows family names quite liberally, e.g. ‘Anandan’, ‘Dr Wijeysingha’, and of course ‘Schooling’.

Also, there are references to what Singaporeans will be familiar with: 100Plus isotonic drink, 938NOW, Mandai columbarium, Funan DigitaLife Mall, Razer mouse, Books Kinokuniya, Katong Shopping Centre, among others. But the main one has to be the “controversial megachurch” called “Crossfront Family Church” with an accountant in jail for siphoning off millions of dollars from church funds. *cough cough*.

I feel ‘The Savant Trilogy’ seems to be fiction rooted in reality. There are so many names, places and events that Singaporean readers will be able to relate to, so the line between fact and fiction is blurred. If that’s the case, then I’ll want it to be even more ‘realistic’.

For one, the protagonist, Maxine (or Max) Schooling, has been in a 3-year coma at the Parkway East Hospital. I did find myself wondering why no one pulled the plug during those 3 years – don’t they know we have a severe shortage of hospital beds in Singapore?! (Ok, ok, fiction book) By the way, a stay at the actual Parkway East Hospital in Singapore would cost $618 per day in their ‘Single Classic Room’ so a 3-year stay would easily cost more than a quarter-million dollars including all the other incidentals. And shouldn’t the vicious killer have returned to finish the job since he/she managed to murder everyone in Max’s family except for her?

Also, Maxine was attacked and fell into a coma sometime between 2015 and 2018 but when she wakes up and later uses her mother’s phone, it happens to be an iPhone 4 (which Apple launched in 2010) so I’m wondering why it’s not a newer model, e.g. iPhone 6 which her scientist parents would have easily been able to afford? Also, why would the horde of journalists appear at Mandai Columbarium because of her – someone who got out of a 3-year coma? We don’t really have a paparazzi culture here, and I can’t think of any journalist who would chase down a story all the way to the columbarium. Also, Snapchat was launched in 2011 but Max doesn’t know what it is because she slipped into a coma 4 years after the launch?*

*I have to admit that I’ve read this book only once, so maybe everything will get ironed out with a second reading. Pardon me if I’ve made any mistakes with this first impression from reading ‘Misdirection’.

Finally, I have to add that I feel a bit meh at the sheer number of references to actual people whether living or dead – this character looks like so-and-so, that character looks like this famous Korean singer, another character looks like a certain Korean actor, etc. Even the people who provided endorsements for the book (e.g. Neil Gaiman and Lang Leav) will find that they are mentioned within the novel. (@_@) When there are so many references to people, places and events we know, for me, it’s actually preventing me from getting lost in the book (something I enjoy, e.g. when reading the Harry Potter series which ‘transports’ me to a whole new wizarding world). That said, Ning demonstrates remarkable prowess in her use of descriptive phrases, especially regarding the weather. There are so many beautiful descriptions that just utilizing a handful in school compositions would make any English teacher very happy.

~ What I hope is not in the 2nd + 3rd book ~

I’m particularly concerned, though, about references to the LGBT community and supposed homophobic Christian churches. The Grindr app was also mentioned within the book. (If you don’t know what it is, it’s like Tinder for gays) I think that by and large, the LGBT community gets by unmolested by the rest of the population but for some reason, they can wear pink for Pink Dot but if churchgoers wear white, they’re up in arms. Can’t we just all wear red and be proud of our identity as Singaporeans?

I hope, too, that there won’t be anyone trying to flee from Singapore in a motorized sampan in the next installment. I’ve had quite enough of the CHC references, pastors dabbling in magic, and characters who apparently look like people we know.

All in all, the former ‘Magic Babe’ (now Mind Magic Mistress) managed to successfully execute a ‘misdirection’ in this 196-page book. Perhaps one day this book will be the basis for a movie and all the characters who look like famous people will be played by those same famous people. Now that would be pretty cool! 🙂

Nordgreen: Scandinavian Design Watches By Previous B&O Designer

Nordgreen watches singapore

Thanks to Nordgreen, I got to test and review one of their highly popular watches. If you haven’t heard about them yet, their January 2018 Kickstarter project was fully funded in 2 hours, and almost fifteen times oversubscribed, netting them about S$320,000 in sales when the campaign ended. I’ve found the watch to be incredibly lightweight and beautifully crafted. What impressed me most are the quick release straps – I’d no longer need anyone’s help in order to change my watch straps! 🙂

Nordgreen how to change watch straps

I can easily switch between the leather strap and the mesh strap to suit different outfits and looks:

nordgreen quick release straps

For me, the ability to change my watch straps to suit my outfits and moods is the main draw of these Nordgreen watches. For a lot of other consumers, it’s the fact that the watches are designed by Jakob Wagner, who has worked for brands like Bang & Olufsen, Alessi and Hay. Also, for every watch you purchase, you will get the chance to “give to one of three charitable causes – environment (preserve 200 sqf of rain forest in Latin America), health (two months of clean water to one person in The Central African Republic) and education (two months of education to a child in India)”.

Jakob Wagner nordgreen watches

If it’s time for you to get a new watch, or if you’d like to get one as a Mother’s Day gift for the most important woman in your life, pop by the Nordgreen website. (Link and discount code below)

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Use my affiliate code ‘GRACETAN’ and get 15% when you purchase a Nordgreen watch. 🙂