Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

LYIN' WITH THE MERLION: The temporary Merlion Hotel, which has been built around the city's iconic Merlion statue at Marina Bay went up for bookings today at 10 a.m. It was sold out--for the period between April 4 and May 5--in a little more than an hour. This is an art installation by Tatzu Nishi, a Japanese artist who has developed this for the Singapore Biennale, organized by the Singapore Art Museum. The statue is enclosed now by the construction project (right) that will create this hotel room (see artist's rendition above). The room rate is $150 a night. We didn't try to call in. Not sure if the statue will be spewing water throughout the night.

BACK AT SCHOOL: I had a very nice conversation today with Gan Moog Chow, head of the Department of Materials Science and engineering at the highly regarded National University of Singapore. He has spent lots of time in both the U.S. and Singapore in his professional life and has one son at UMass Amherst and another who graduated at Lehigh and is heading toward medical school at Temple. Among his very interesting observations was his comment about how Singaporean students are doing in college. "By the time they get here [at NUS] they are battle-weary" from the push to succeed throughout their schooling. That resonates. You'd rather have someone who's battle-tested. There's quite a difference between the two. NUS and Yale are embarking on a collaboration that will bring in a healthy dose of liberal arts to NUS.

RAFFLES VS. KEPPEL: I know the name Raffles has quite a lock on Singapore. It seems to be everywhere.... Metro stop, famous hotel--rightly so. But I've lately been attracted to the name Keppel. Both Thomas Stamford Raffles and Henry "Harry" Keppel were Englishmen who flourished in the 1800s. Raffles basically founded modern-day Singapore; Keppel helped clear the nearby waters of Malay pirates. (The photograph at right shows the admiral in 1894 with the future King Edward VII.) The former is a much more "famous" name. A Google search combining Raffles and Singapore yields 3.46 million hits. Keppel and Singapore yields a measly 781,000. So, while the Raffles name permeates the city, Keppel's name lingers largely along the waterfront.
A harbor, channel, wharf etc. The fine-looking Keppel Club offers golf very close to the water just to the west of the center of the city. The club's site describes the naming this way:
"In the 1830s, the Straits Settlements (Singapore, Malacca and Penang) was a pirates’ haven. By 1832, Singapore had become the busy centre of government for the three areas. It was also at this time that Admiral Keppel came to Singapore. This famous British sailor helped to clear the Straits of pirates. The harbour was thus named after him. Keppel Golf Club, as it was originally known, was founded on November 15, 1904."

We took a photo of what we think is I think is Keppel Bay/Harbour (right) when our World War II tour took us to Labrador Point.
If you're so inclined, you can download his memoirs here.
According to the memoir, the harbor is aptly named for him. Concerned about the difficulty of getting coal at Singapore, he inspected the "new harbour," noted it was very suitable as a coal depot and wrote to the British Admiralty. He heard nothing for seven months, so he sent his analysis to the P. and O. Co. Responding by return mail, that firm took possession of the harbor, which, the memoir states, would have been "worth half a million" to Great Britain.

THINGS ARE LOOKING UP FOR THE CRANE INDEX: Here's the latest Singapore Crane Index Limited Economic Indicator, which seems to be totally ignored by the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal etc.:
Date: March 2
Time: 8:15 a.m. (Singapore time)
Cranes Up (bad): 8
Cranes Down (good): 18
CRANES MISSING (unknown degree of goodness/badness): 2

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