Deadline chicken

I saw a tweet about playing chicken with deadlines – finding other, non-urgent things to do as an important deadline hurtles towards you. I have been guilty of that for the past couple of of days: meeting clients, arranging more meetings and discussing future projects, sorting out expenses, bills and administration – all instead of writing. Even now, when I have an important piece to edit, I am anthropormorphising the deadline.

 

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Singapore impressions from a great height – and underground!

One reason for starting this blog was to be able to write around my work – to broaden my coverage from the legal, technology and business issues that I write about professionally and journal some of the interesting places I visit in connection with my business. Last week I was in Singapore on a research visit for the Legal500 law firm directory. Although I visited 27 law firms in five days, this did not stop me getting acquainted with Singapore. 

I have promised my twitter friend, legal IT/e-discovery guru and fellow blogger some Singapore stories when we meet up at the ILTA Annual meeting in Nashville in August (more to come on that). Meanwhile, Chris, after my Singapore trip and before yours, here are a few thoughts, and for fellow travellers, some observations around business and leisure and a couple of recommended places to visit. I am not focusing on tourist attractions as I had precious little time for sightseeing; rather, these are my random impressions of a fabulous city. I have uploaded a very small selection of the many photos I took.

Basic

You can get an EZ-link card that you can top up for travelling around – the MRT or underground train is fantastic – efficient, air-conditioned and makes it easy to find your way around. Best of all, it is clean. Unlike London Underground, where the seats are regularly covered in fast food wrappers, in Singapore it is actually illegal to eat on the train! This sign made me happy (and I promise I do not have OCD) 

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Even the tunnels and stations are clean. Here are some (arty?) photos I took from the train.

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Taxis are cheap, plentiful and air-conditioned. Drivers are helpful even though they don’t always know their way around the city. The iPad2 with Google Maps helped a lot!

This is not their fault – the Singapore landscape is constantly changing – there are enormous building developments in progress everywhere with old skyscrapers being pulled down and new ones going up. Many of the offices I visited were brand new.

Although Singapore is a techie city, connectivity can be intermittent. This is because of a combination of the weather – very hot and humid – and the large number of very tall buildings very close together. Hopefully this will change as the Singapore Government plan to pipe broadband internet into every building.

Shopping

There is no recession in Singapore although there is some caution in the financial markets in response to the European crisis. Shops and restaurants are crowded and there is a general feeling of optimism. So although shopping is amazing, with a huge network of malls and stores, it is not especially cheap. Clothes sizes are different and I found nothing fitted very well whereas in the UK, I can buy clothes without trying them on.

But this geeky girl found plenty to look at and buy. There is an abundance of technology and because Singapore uses the same electricity and plugs as the UK, it is easy to buy technology and bring it home. I was recommended two technology malls: Funan Centre and Sim Lim Square. I visited both, of course. Sim Lim Square is the one for hard-core techie geeks – five storeys of gadgets.

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Food

Malls are great places to eat and many of them have excellent food courts. Unless you go to a smart restaurant, eating out is relatively inexpensive, especially compared with London. There is a lot of choice as people eat out a lot. On my first day I was invited to lunch at Pierside Kitchen http://www.piersidekitchen.com/html/press.html  a stylish waterside restaurant . I ordered tempura, which I don’t make at home followed by a superb miso cod, and my companion – an ex-pat from the UK – told me that he hadn’t cooked since arriving in Singapore. When I asked him how long he’d lived there, the reply was, “Eleven years”!

Singapore’s cultural diversity means all kinds of oriental food is on offer. In a popular food court in Little India I was particularly impressed when an enormous pot of biriyani – big as two of our English buckets (not a conventional measurement, but you know what I mean)  – completely sold out in the time it took to eat a plate of it. There are plenty of coffee shops – great for a caffeine addict like me as the coffee is very good (much of it comes from Indonesia; some of it comes from Starbucks). But you have to watch out for the variety of ingredients – fish is a surprisingly common flavour in biscuits and pastries, and you can find a tuna doughnut next to a raspberry jam one – below, the line-up is tuna, jam and strawberry icing – so it is important to look before you buy!

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Surprisingly there are a lot of excellent Italian restaurants. After a particularly long and arduous meeting, the marketing team from one of the Singapore law firms took me out to a restaurant called ‘No Menu’ http://www.nomenusingapore.com/nomenu_singapore/Welcome.html  It did have a menu and offered authentic Italian fare – the wife of the owner comes in early every morning to make the delicious deserts from scratch! The marketing team, plus one gorgeous lady lawyer who introduced us to this very popular and fashionable venue, were excellent company and I really hope to meet them again.

My final going-out recommendation is thanks to a contact I first met in the UK who took me to the world’s highest alfresco bar, 1-Altitude http://www.1-altitude.com/ which has breathtaking views, excellent cocktails and chill-out music. I was tired after nearly a week of meetings and watching an oriental sunset over Singapore – and Malaysia and Indonesia in the distance while listening to Astrid Gilberto’s ‘Girl from Ipanema’ was a wonderful way to end a hard day. From this vantage point you can see three countries: Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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Business meetings

Singapore skyscrapers are huge and it takes ages to get in and get to the office you need – sometimes you need to take two or three different lifts! This made me slightly late on more than one occasion and I can only thank the Singapore firms for their patience with me. Most large buildings have a security policy where they need to see – or retain – a piece of photo identity. This is ok for people who have an identity card, but I only had my passport (which I wasn’t prepared to surrender to anyone) or my driving licence. Most of the time, I managed to convince them to copy my licence and give it back to me, but one one occasion I left it with security because I was in a hurry, then rushed away to another meeting and had to run back to reclaim it, which was tough in 100deg heat. There is no consistency to these security arrangements – some building security staff make a fuss, whereas others just wave you in. My notebook is covered with security stickers. 

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Finding your way through the long malls between buildings mean many journeys in the centre of town can be almost completely underground, so it is worth making a note of the exit number nearest your destination.

Leisure

I cannot claim to have done much sightseeing, though I did see some of Chinatown, Little India and the harbourside area. Looking around, one significant impression was that the Singapore skyline is dominated by the Marina Bay Sands Skypark, which looks as if a spaceship has landed on three skyscrapers. 

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You could even see it from the hotel swimming pool – they play music in the water.

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The majority of my photos are taken from tall buildings and my lasting impression is looking out over the world and down from a great height and also spending a lot of time travelling underground – on the MRT, but also walking through long series of malls to get from building to building. You can easily walk for 30 minutes underground. The explanation for this is that Singapore is land poor, but growing very fast, so has built upwards and downwards.There are also specific areas for different cultures – Chinatown reminded me of Hong Kong; Little India reminded me of Delhi. It is well organised and compartmentalised and in some ways its many different dimensions made me feel that I was running through a sci-fi novel or movie. Here are a few more photos I took in the hotel that underscore the abstract, futuristic theme.

Looking down the stairwell

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Looking up from the lobby

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Looking down at the swimming pool from the 22nd floor business centre

 

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If anyone is interested, I stayed in the Pan Pacific Hotel at Marina Bay which was excellent. Looking back at my week, I am grateful to all firms and individuals for taking the time to see me and fitting in with my packed schedule. Also for the warm welcome, coffees and lunches. I feel I have made some lasting contacts. I came away with the feeling that Singapore is a great place to live – no-one wants to leave. I was sorry not to have had the time to get to know it better.

A life in lyrics – and sanctimony

As many on Twitter and Facebook have pointed out, the brilliant, troubled Amy Winehouse has joined the ’27 club’ of rock musicians who died at the tragically young age of 27. Its members include Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain, who sadly shared Amy’s lethal combination of remarkable talent and self-destructiveness. Amy’s official website now shows nothing but this lovely photo of her – a simple and fitting tribute http://www.amywinehouse.com/ 

Amy’s life is reflected in her lyrics, ‘Stronger than me’, ‘Back to Black’, ‘You Know I’m No Good’ and, unfortunately, ‘Rehab’, which has also been much mentioned in connection with her passing.

The combination of popular music and substance abuse is nothing new, but the number of postings with an ‘I told you so’ tone leads me to wonder whether social media has made people more sanctimonious and  judgemental? Or is the perceived anonymity of the internet simply bringing out the worst in people? 

 

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