W Singapore

We had a special occasion to celebrate and KB decided to splurge a little and booked a staycation at W Singapore. Being located in Sentosa island, its surrounding is quiet and peaceful, making it a nice escape from the busy town.





From the moment we arrive at the lobby, their service has been fabulous! While waiting in the queue at the reception, a staff approached us to help us check in from her office behind the reception. When that was done, another staff greeted us and walked with us all the way to our room. Along the corridor to our room, the housekeeping staff also greeted us too. I'm not too sure if it is because they are newly open and wants to leave an unforgettable and awesome impression, but I sure feel pampered.




The king-size bed comes with feather quilt and pillows, and the 40" TV is equipped with Bose sound system. KB would be happy to stay in bed and watch movies all day!


I love this butterfly lamp so much, I just had to take a photo of it.


The fridge, the whole mini bar, the complimentary tea and coffee and the kettle are all kept inside the cabinet.



The bathroom is really one of a kind... the glass door slides to close either the shower or the toilet.


We were given a room on the highest floor (7th floor). KB chose a room with a balcony facing the marina, so we had a pretty nice view.


After a hot day wandering around Sentosa, dinner at Quayside Isle and a stroll around the hotel, we came back to our room to find a cake and a card. This is a really sweet gesture from the hotel.

There really isn't much things to do at night over here, so we went around to explore the hotel.


Found in the middle of the round-about at the front of the hotel, is this W structure that changes its illumination colours at night. By the way, the illumination of the bed's headboard also changes colour the same way.


This is the sitting area that leads to the gym and the swimming pool.




We finally ended our exploration at the swimming pool and lazed at the hammock for awhile to enjoy the peaceful night-view.


I almost didn't notice this fine detail. The hotel actually changes its doormats as the day passes.

Haze Days

Woke up this morning and found this on my Facebook newsfeed: One-stop haze portal for S'poreans (see website). Seriously, is this really what we need? I guess, currently, the winner of the most surfed Singapore website will be NEA's PSI and PM2.5 Readings. Everyone is obsessed with the numbers now... watching it so closely like watching an exciting stock market go up and down... and sometimes even trying to predict the next number. But remember! It's not a measurement of the current condition, it's the measurement of 3 hours that had past.

Have you got your air purifier yet? If not, this piece of news on CNA could come in handy: 6 out of 7 air purifiers sold in Singapore pass performance test. But... really... what's difference between air purifier, air sterilizer and air ionizer? I'm the type of consumer who will want to make sure that the device I buy really works, according to their claims. I don't buy into groundless marvelous claim of "miracle" products, especially when it is a so-called Scientific one.

KB and I walked into Harvey Norman and Robinsons to take a look at their air purifier / sterilizer / ionizer products... and found two major brands that they carry: (1) Novita and (2) Sharp. From my memory, Maier is sold in Home-Fix... and I thought I only saw those ionizer for car, didn't see those for home. As for the other brands, I haven't seen them yet... they could be sold in other major electronic departmental stores.

Generally, air purifier (air filtering system) works because they have the HEPA filter. This is the most important part that is attacking the bacteria, dust and whatever nonsense. If the system does not have a HEPA filter, then it should have a UV (ultra-violet) lamp, which also kills bacteria, but it certainly have no effect on dust. Any kind of air purifier should have some kind of filter, but many US reports state that it wouldn't work without this HEPA filter... so it is important to check that it has HEPA filter.

Interestingly, Panasonic's SG and US websites do not have information about their air purifiers. According to their MY website, their purifiers consist of composite filter, not HEPA filter. In addition, they uses the nanoe technology to kill viruses... in which, their illustration doesn't make sense to me... how can an OH radical be wrapped in a water molecule, since they are almost the same size. (Special mention of Panasonic because this brand did not pass the test, according to CNA's news article.)

Then, there are some purifier systems that included the ioniser component after the filter, to generate negative ions. This is actually the air ionizer part. It's worth noting that Sharp's Plasmacluster technology works differently... it produces not just negative ions, but also positive ions. In their write-up about how this technology is developed (see link), they mentioned that ozone is not suitable because the ozone concentration required to kill bacteria and remove odour, would also be toxic to human. This claim is consistent with FDA's limitation on ozone generating devices (see link) and is also supported by Consumer Reports organization (see link). With these findings, I don't believe the "safe but effective level of ozone is emitted to purify / sterilize the air" theory.

Air purifier isn't the only thing that has suddenly become an essential part of our lives. Face mask, too, has become an essential protection against the smoky air. This is the easier one to understand. Not N95 mask? Then, it's not providing enough protection. Adding on to this, it is also worth noting that a poorly fitted N95 mask does not provide good protection too! (See HBP's website on the Six Steps to wearing the N95 Mask.) Unfortunately, N95 had been developed for professional use, which means that there is very little research done to cater to children's need. Anyway, why the number "95"? Because it filters 95% of the bacteria and particles. Why "N"? Because "N" for non-oily aerosols ("R" for oil-resistant and "P" for oil-proof; see 3M's article).

A study was done to compare the effectiveness of various masks (see journal article). The surgical mask was found to have <50% filtering efficiency. But now that N95 is forever out of stock, using surgical mask is really better than nothing. As for the helpful note that everyone's circulating around, about putting a wet tissue in between two pieces of surgical mask, to help trap the dust... this seems to make sense, but until proven, I would assume that it might not work. I'm just wondering... doesn't the wet tissue makes it hard to breathe? Oh! Beware of mask that claims to be N95 too! It should be NIOSH approved! (Check your mask model against CDC's list in this link.)

By the way, have you seen this message passing around: "Please bring a huge umbrella out today and avoid rain water at all cost. Government is planning to seed the clouds to rain and according to my chemist friend, the rain water is harmful to human skin. So if you see rain falling, stay indoor and don't rain dance around." Now... seriously, who is this chemist?! Government need to hire this talented chemist to make official announcement to everyone! (And was there any rain at all today?!)

And here's another one: "(someone) who is doing PhD in Biochemistry said that these particulates (in the haze) are too tiny and they will bypass the hairy and mucous nose to lodge into the lungs. As these particulates are non-water solvent, they will stay in the lungs, will cause cells to mutate and potentially cancer cells can develop from there. So do take care and keep your children and elderly folks indoors. And wear N95 masks even though it's a short walk from home to car and office." Hmmm... this one seems to make more sense... (Our government really need to hire all these talents and give them some sort of award for their contribution!)


My Terrarium Workshop

After one year of exploring terrarium, I conducted my maiden Terrarium Workshop today (only open to my colleagues and students).

Terrarium was first created in the late 19th century, when Dr. Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward accidentally discovered that ferns grew well in glass case. Then, it was known as the Wardian case. By using his method, plants can be transported on long sea journeys.

Strictly speaking, a terrarium is an enclosed glass container, where plants can grow in a self-sustaining ecosystem. Splitting up the word: "terra" refers to earth and "-arium" means enclose (like in aquarium). In this enclosed system, it is important to ensure that there is sufficient light and sufficient water for the plants. However, direct sunlight will heat up the glass container and kill the plants. Also, too much water might cause the roots to rot.

Terrariums are often used as an indoor decoration for homes and offices. Thus, the plants selected should be indoor plants. Sun-loving plants would not survive because terrariums cannot be exposed to direct sunlight (as mentioned above). The main difference between an open terrarium and a potted plant is the absence of the drainage holes at the bottom of the container in the former. This makes terrarium a clean living decoration to keep indoor; water cannot seep out and make a mess of your home or office.

For open terrarium, it would need to be watered every few days, depending on the humidity of the environment. Check the soil to see if it is still moist to decide.

For enclosed terrarium, the water is kept within the container. Thus, there is almost no need to water the plants. Depending on the container, the plants would need to be trimmed (cut shorter to fit inside the container) and watered (small amount) every few months. After the container has been closed for a few hours, check that there is condensation on the glass (interior). No condensation means that there is not enough water in the system.

Here's a run through some of my powerpoint slides:
[Credit: Slides background was taken from Vector Clip Art.]


In an enclosed system, the plant takes in water from the soil, releases water vapour into the air as it transpires, the water vapour condenses on the glass wall, returns back to the soil and the whole cycle repeats itself.

These are what make up a terrarium, in general.

These are the materials required to make a terrarium (dried moss is optional).


Six steps to make a simple terrarium. The most difficult but also the most important step is step 5. Whether the plants survive or not, sometimes depend on how firmly they are positioned into the soil.


SUPPLY INFORMATION

Glass containers (both open and enclosed types) can be bought from nurseries, such as Hua Hng Nursery and Katong Flower Shop, or even from IkeaLau Choy Seng and King & King Wong. This is the most expensive part of the terrarium, costing about $4 to $140 (or even higher), depending on the size, shape and quality of the glass.

Stones / pebbles and coloured sand can be bought from nurseries, Daiso and many other places.

I could only manage to find dried moss at Katong Flower Shop; sphagnum moss (alternative to dried moss) at Hua Hng Nursery; expandable clay at Chin Ling Nursery and at Hua Hng Nursery. To use the expandable clay (in place of stones at the bottom of the terrarium), they have to be soaked in water first.

Charcoal used for BBQ can be used for terrarium, but do note that the pieces are usually too big; break them into small pieces before use.

Potting soil is available at nurseries and at some florist. Hua Hng Nursery even sells the more premium terrarium soil. Personally, I do not find it necessary to pay for more expensive soil. But do not go for the cheapest either! Soil need to be nutritious enough for the plants to grow well. Cost of potting soil: Chin Ling Nursery ($4.10 per pack of 5 litres), Hua Hng Nursery ($3.30 per pack of 6 litres), Katong Flower Shop ($3.50 per pack of 5 litres).

Fittonia can be bought from most stores that sells plants. Cost of each pot: Hua Hng Nursery ($4), Ikea ($3.90), Katong Flower Shop ($4).

Mini figuring decoration is the most difficult to find. To date, I have yet to see them being sold in stores. The mushroom seen in my slide (above) was made by me, using non-toxic polymer clay. I stick a toothpick into the clay mushroom and bake it in an oven.

River Safari


When we arrive the River Safari, we were disappointment to find out that the boat ride is not open yet. That's the consequence of not doing our "homework" beforehand. Since we were already there, we might as well go visit Jia Jia and Kai Kai. But before we can see the pandas, we'll have to make our way through the significant rivers of the world.

The Mississippi River runs through ten states in the United States of America - Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana.



The alligator snapping turtle showed us its backside.


Alligator gar



Mississippi Paddlefish


The Mekong River runs through six countries, namely China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.


Mekong giant catfishes swimming in the tank


The YangTze River (长江) in China is Asia's longest river.



Chinese alligator


After learning about the inhabitants of the rivers, we come to the Giant Panda Forest. This is where you will find the two famous pandas, Kai Kai (凯凯) and Jia Jia (嘉嘉).



Red pandas sleeping on the trees


Kai Kai's meal of the day


Kai Kai chewing on leaves


Panda pau (熊猫包) sold at the food stall just outside the panda view area.



We continue the journey across a bridge to the other area of River Safari - Wild Amazonia.


Squirrel monkey


The red-bellied piranha just keep staring at you.


Freshwater sea fishes and animals, such as pacu and manatee, swimming around slowly in the tank.


Giant river otter

Singapore History Gallery


As of 18 May 2013, all national museums and heritage institutions will be offering free entry to Singaporeans and permanent residents (see ST news and CNA news). Although it's free admission to the exhibitions at the National Museum of Singapore, we still have to show our IC and exchange for a ticket at the ticketing counter.



Dome-shaped roof at the center of the museum.


The museum is housed in a preserved heritage building.



There happened to be the Trading Stories: Conversations with Six Pioneering Tradesmen exhibition going on. It's a small exhibition about the different trades during Singapore's early years. There's a station illustrating the steps for folding the Samsui Woman's red headscarf.

To enter the Singapore History Gallery, we took the escalators to level 2. At the entrance, a museum staff hands out a tablet with earphones for visual and audio elaborations about the exhibits.


Singapore Stone


A reenactment of the life in Singapore long time ago.


World War II era


A rice consumer's purchasing card during the Japanese Occupation.


Japanese Occupation artifacts


The Mace of the City of Singapore

Items in a kampong house


Modern day household items in the 20th century.


Our national anthem - Majulah Singapura composed in 1958 by Zubir Said.