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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fun Outing to Marina Barrage - WW

Look ! I'm not wet!

My day out with some overseas friends to the Marina Barrage which is Singapore’s 15th reservoir and the first in the heart of our city. They were awed by this stunning attraction which offers panoramic views; and were impressed by the innovative displays in the galleries........ and it is free!

Entrance to Marina Barrage

water playground for the young and old!

On a hot day, visitors can have a splashing good time at the the central courtyard's water playground.

My friends and I had a great time snapping pictures as we were splashing in the water playground. We were soaking wet but our clothes dried fast as it was a hot sunny day. :P

The Barrage /Marina Bridge

The barrage has 9 steel crest gates, each measuring 30m long, built across the Marina Channel It separates the seawater from freshwater and acts as a tidal barrier to keep out high tides. The steel gates are lowered during heavy rain to release water from the reservoir into the sea.

View of Singapore Flyer from Marina Bridge

Stroll along the Marina Bridge and take photos with spectacular view of the city skyline as backdrop or rest at one of its eight pavilions.

View of the central courtyard from the roof top

Making use of the sun's energy ....

Let's go fly kite!

You can have a picnic on this beautiful green roof. The rooftop offers 360-degree unblocked views of the Singapore Flyer, Benjamin Sheares Bridge, central business district and the South China Sea.

Have a cold beverage or a quick bite at one of the waterfront eateries. The famous 7th Storey Hainan Charcoal Steamboat restaurant has relocated here.

Admire local and international art works located around the facility.

Learn about Singapore's effort towards environmental sustainability by taking a walk through the Sustainable Singapore Gallery. It also has free guided tours through 6 interactive multimedia galleries with information on water and environmental issues.

Marina Barrage
Free Admission

Free shuttle bus service from Marina Bay MRT Station to Marina Barrage.
From Mondays to Fridays
Every 15-minute intervals
From 8.30am-7.15pm
* From 11.30am-12.30pm (30 minute intervals)
Last Bus from MRT: 6.00pm
Last Bus from Marina Barrage: 7.15pm

Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays
Every 10-minute intervals
From 9.00am-9.00pm
Last Bus from MRT: 8.00pm
Last Bus from Marina Barrage: 9.00pm

Enquiry: 65145959 (10.00am – 6.00pm)

First Commenter - Health Nut Wannabee Mom

The Entirely Legitimate Encephalon #67

(Updated! New post from Channel N -see below.) Welcome to the 67th edition of Encephalon, the regular neuroscience and psychology blog roundup. In honor of the recently revealed hilarious petty corruption in British politics, I demanded a hefty bribe to do this post... Wait, did you just read that? I'll give you £50 if you keep quiet about it. Ok, £100. I've got a reputation to uphold.
Anyway, in no particular order - certainly not in the order of the sum they paid me - here are your links for this edition:
  • New! Channel N features a talk by MacArthur Genius and neuro-robotics pioneer Yoky Matsuoka. If you ever want a bionic limb, she's the person to call.
  • In honour of old St Paddy, PodBlack Cat deals with the psychology of "luck", superstition, and Irish movies. Apparantly, there are now breeds of clovers which always have four leaves - where's the fun in that?
  • Neurophilosophy's Mo writes about a pair of fascinating neuroimaging studies about limb amputation and the brain's construction of the body image.
  • Ward Plunet of BrainHealthHacks has three recent posts looking at possible links between obesity and cognitive ability - could be controversial.
  • Ouroboros discusses an interesting discovery which reveals another piece of the puzzle about the genetics of familial Alzheimer's disease.
  • Hesitant Iconoclast of the NeuroWhoa! blog presents a well thought out two-part post about the search for the brain's "God Spot", and what it might mean if there isn't one.
  • The Neurocritic is, as ever, critical, about lie detection and about the latest potential weight loss pills.
  • SharpBrains, the homeland of Encephalon, has a useful set of links to the best brain health articles from the past month, and also discusses the deeply unhealthy goings-on at JAMA regarding conflicts of interests, an antidepressant trial, and some impressive academic fisticuffs.
  • Neuronarrative discusses two fMRI studies which are rather topical in the current economic climate. One is about what happens when we take expert's advice when making decisions and the other about the "money illusion". Finally, there's a post featuring four expert responses to the Susan Greenfield Facebook-destroys-the-brain controversy (which I wrote about previously) which are rather enlightening.
  • BrainBlogger provides a typically accessible write-up of a small but exciting study about the possible utility of lithium in Lou Gherig's disease, and a large study of the possible cognitive consequences of the metabolic syndrome.
  • Finally, The Mouse Trap's Sandeep has an extensive and very thought provoking two part series of thoughts on the psychology of pleasure, pain and bipolar disorder, and to round out this issue, discusses an imaging study about how we know the difference between reality and fiction. Did I really accept bribes to produce this issue?
That's it for this issue! The next Encephalon is slated to be hosted over at Ouroboros, so get writing and e-mail submissions to encephalon{dot}host{at}gmail{dot}com by April 13th.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Warning! Stereotypes Ahead! - RT

res ipsa loquitar
res judicata
pro bono
ex parte
audi alteram partum

How many of these latin phrases do you understand? These are widely used in the practice of law and legal documents. I'm having a hard time pronuncing and memorising them.
*wails at long list*

Meanings of the phrases :
res ipsa loquitar - the thing speaks for itself

res judicata - the matter already judged

pro bono - for the public good

ex parte - from one party

audi alteram partum - hear the other side.
It is most often used to refer to the principle that no person should be condemned without a fair hearing in which the accused is given the opportunity to respond to the accusations against him.

Gavel, buzzer and bell

The gavel and bell are no longer used in a court proceeding.

Do judges and lawyers still wear white wigs in the court room?

Judges in Singapore do not wear wigs during court proceedings or on any ceremonial occasions. In 1995, the cumbersome ceremonial robes for Supreme Court Judges were replaced by lightweight robes which are more practical for our tropical climate.

The above are a few common myths and misconceptions that people often have about the courts and the law.

First Commenter - JL

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cosmic Ordering, CAM and the NHS

A while back, I argued that it might not be a good idea to encourage the use of therapies, such as homeopathy, which work via the "placebo effect". (I've also previously said that what people call "the placebo effect" very often isn't one).

But there's more to say on this. Let us assume that homeopathy, say, is nothing more than a placebo (which it is). Let's further assume that homeopathy is actually quite a good placebo, meaning that when people go to see a homeopath they generally leave feeling better and end up experiencing better health outcomes - for whatever reason. This second assumption is exactly that, an assumption, because to my knowledge no-one has done a study of whether people who use homeopathy actually feel any healthier than they would if they had never heard of homeopathy and just got on with their lives. But let's assume it works.

Now, does this mean that homeopathy is a good thing? Well, sure, if it makes people feel better, it's a good thing. However - it doesn't follow that homeopathy, or any other form of complementary and alternative medicine which works as a placebo, should be available on the NHS. Many have argued that if CAM works, even if only by the placebo effect, it's still a useful thing which the NHS should support if patient's request it. I disagree.
A while back, South Bank University in London was widely mocked for getting a psychic to give a training session on "cosmic ordering". Cosmic ordering is the belief that you can get what you want in life by placing an order with the universe in the form of wishing really hard and then some quantum stuff happens and - I can't write any more of this. It's all crap. Anyway, the head of South Bank defended the session on the grounds that the staff requested it, liked it and found it useful.

Now if I applied for funding from my University to pay for a night down the pub for the whole of my Department I'd get the beaurocratic equivalent of a slap in the face. This despite the fact that people would enjoy it, it would help with team-building, and reduce stress levels. The point is that despite a Departmental night down the pub being, probably, a good thing in many ways, it's just not the kind of thing a University is responsible for. It would be incredibly unprofessional for University money to be spent on that kind of thing.

Likewise, it was unprofessional of South Bank to pay for a psychic to give a training course, even though the attendees liked it. Sorry to sound anal but Universities don't exist to give their staff what they want. They exist to pay their staff in exchange for their professional services & to help them carry out those services.

Likewise, the NHS, I think, doesn't exist to make people feel good, it exists to treat and prevent medical illnesses. So people like homeopathy and find it's helpful for relieving stress-related symptoms. Does that mean the NHS should be paying for it? Only if you believe that the NHS should also be paying for me to take a holiday to Thailand. I don't believe in homeopathy, but I do believe that a week on a Thai beach would do wonders for my stress levels. Or maybe I'd prefer a sweet guitar - I find playing guitar is great for relaxation, but it would be even better if I had a £700 model to play on. My well-being levels would just soar, if only until the novelty wore off. You get the point.

Most "complementary and alternative medicine" is medicine in appearance only. Just because homepaths hand out pills doesn't mean that what they do has anything to do with medicine. It's ritual. It's close to being entertainment, in a sense - which is not to belittle it, because entertainment is an important part of life. I'm sure there are many people for whom their sessions with their homeopath are really very useful. I just don't think the medical services should necessarily be paying for everything that people find helpful.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

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Earth Hour 2009 (Singapore) - WS


At 8.30 pm Singapore time on 28th March, many parts of Singapore were plunged into darkness as lights went off and remained switched off until 9.30 pm. Earth Hour is a global initiative by the World Wide Fund for Nature to raise awareness of climate change.

The Merlion, Singapore Flyer, Fullerton Hotel and the Esplanade participated and stood in darkness for one hour in support of the fight against climate change.

Singapore business district skyline before lights are off.

8.30 pm lights off!

Lights off for Singapore Flyer too.

Singaporeans and tourists came together in support of Earth Hour!

EastCoastLife supports Earth Hour

8:30pm Saturday 28th March 2009

Bloggers Care For The Earth Link Love Chain

Renny - Norway
EastCoastLife - Singapore
A Changing Life - France
Bill - Arizona, USA
Heart of Rachel - Batangas, Philippines
Life Ramblings - KL, Malaysia
Marzie - KL, Malaysia
Jean Chia - KL, Malaysia
LifeCruiser - Stockholm, Sweden
Sassy Mom - Manila, Philippines
foongpc - KL, Malaysia
Jade - Singapore
Lina - Malaysia
Gagay - Philippines
AGuthrieImages - California, USA
Photojournalist - Singapore

Join Bloggers Care for the Earth Link Love chain. Put it in your post for more links from all over the world!

Hawaii surfing

Hawaii, the most popular surfing destination.

Hawaii surf

Hawaii surfing picture.

Hawaii surfing wallpaper
Kona Hawaii surfing

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hands - PH

PhotoHunt theme : Hands

My girlfriends and I enjoyed a day of pampering at a spa. My aching hands and legs not only get massaged, they were groomed.

After a massage, I had my nails done too ....

Manicured hands .... ready for gala functions.

ewww..... Too pink!

Look at the deformed knuckles on the right hand of my masseur. The poor guy has been massaging tired and aching customers daily for more than a decade. He does a great Chinese acupuncture massage.

*ouch ouch ouch*

First Commenter - JL

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Encephalon #67 is coming...

ENCEPHALON, the regular psychology and neuroscience blog carnival, will shortly be arriving at Neuroskeptic. The last few editions were awesome, so don't let me down here - get writing, or get submitting things you've already written, about the brain, the mind, and all that kind of thing.

As always, please email submissions to encephalon{dot}host{at}gmail{dot}com by the 30th March.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Serotonin, Hallucinations & Psychosis

Serotonin, as every newspaper reader knows, is the brain's "feel good chemical". Of course, it's a little bit more complicated than that. A lot more complicated, in fact. But even amongst scientists who are aware of the complexity of serotonin pharmacology, the functions of serotonin are still generally thought of in the context of mood and emotion.
What everyone tends to forget is that serotonin has a wild side. There's a long line of research, stretching back to the 40s, on the role of serotonin in perception and hallucinations.

It all started on Bicycle Day - the 1943 day that Albert Hofmann first experienced the psychedelic effects of LSD ("acid") while riding his bike home from the lab where he first synthesized the drug. Serotonin was discovered in 1948. It was soon noticed that the chemical structure of LSD bears a striking similarity to serotonin - as does psilocybin, the major psychoactive ingredient in "magic mushrooms":You don't need to be a chemist to appreciate the resemblance. So it would be a very reasonable assumption that hallucinogenic drugs work by interfering with the brain's serotonin pathways, and therefore that the serotonin system is somehow involved in regulating thought and perception. Somehow, LSD inteferes with the serotonin system in the brain to cause profoundly altered states of conciousness. That's pretty important.That's also the easy bit. What's been difficult has been working out what hallucinogens actually do in the brain specifically, and how this produces their psychoactive effects. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences has a nice review article on this. To cut a long story short, we still don't know how LSD works, although since research has mostly dried up since the 1970s (everyone's studying happy pills now) this isn't all that surprising.

What has emerged is that LSD and similar compounds all activate the 5HT2A receptor. Interestingly, so do drugs which are chemically rather different, but with similar hallucinogenic effects, such as mescaline, favored by Native Americans and Matrix fans alike. The more potent a drug is at activating the receptor, the less of it you need to take to trip out.

So, does this mean that 5HT2A = hallucinogenic effects? The problem with this nice simple theory is lisuride, a potent 5HT2A agonist with no hallucinogenic effects at all. This troublesome result might not disprove the 5HT2A theory, however, in the light of a 2007 experiment finding that LSD has different effects on target cells from lisuride, despite them both binding to the same receptor. Presumably LSD and lisuride do subtly different things to the same receptors (read the paper for a more detailed account).

There's loads more to be said about hallucinogen pharmacology, and I'll be covering some of it in the future. What's interesting - and frustrating - is how few psychopharmacologists are aware of the field. A lot of hallucinogen research is really groundbreaking; the finding that two different agonists of the same receptor can have quite different effects is a really important one. It's certainly a humbling result. After Hallucinogens Recruit Specific Cortical 5-HT2A Receptor-Mediated Signaling Pathways to Affect Behavior, it's impossible not to get to wondering whether other receptors in the brain might have equally complex lives. Hallucinogen research underlines how imperfect our current understanding of the brain is. Plus, hallucinogens are really a lot sexier than antidepressants. Given all of which, it's a shame so few scientists are studying them. Acid - it's not just for ageing hippies.

Link Erowid.org has made available Hofmann's personal archive of over 4,000 papers relating to LSD. A dream come true if that kind of stuff floats your boat & well worth a browse for historical interest.

ResearchBlogging.orgM GEYER, F VOLLENWEIDER (2008). Serotonin research: contributions to understanding psychoses Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 29 (9), 445-453 DOI: 10.1016/j.tips.2008.06.006

González-Maeso, J., Weisstaub, N., Zhou, M., Chan, P., Ivic, L., Ang, R., Lira, A., Bradley-Moore, M., Ge, Y., & Zhou, Q. (2007). Hallucinogens Recruit Specific Cortical 5-HT2A Receptor-Mediated Signaling Pathways to Affect Behavior Neuron, 53 (3), 439-452 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.01.008

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Real Love Works for Elderly Couples - WW

Mr and Mrs Ho celebrated their 45th Wedding Anniversary on 23rd March '09!

Marriage Central turns a mundane activity like shopping for groceries into fun couple races for senior citizens at Tampines Mall NTUC FairPrice Supermarket this evening.

NTUC FairPrice is the leading supermarket retailer in Singapore with a network of over 225 stores island-wide. On Tuesdays, there is a 2 per cent Senior Citizen discount.

What will the couple buy with a S$10 voucher?

The couples were given 10 minutes to shop with a S$10 voucher. This participant chose milk powder for his wife while she bought low-fat 3-in-1 coffee for her hubby. awww.... so sweet to see them caring for each other.

Mr and Mrs Yeo looking for things purple

Mr and Mrs Yeo have been married since 1965. Their eldest granddaughter just got married! They had to shop for as many purple things as they could with S$10. They picked snacks for their grandchildren. Such doting grandparents!

The couple with the most number of purple items won vouchers worth S$30. All participants received goody bags.

Couples won supermarket vouchers and had fun!

Tomorrow evening - Ang Mo Kio Hub NTUC Fairprice. Good luck to all couples!

24 March 2009, Tue
Venue: Tampines Mall, NTUC FairPrice Supermarket
Time: 6 – 8pm
Address: 4, Tampines Central 5, #B1-12, Tampines Mall, Singapore 529510

Monday, March 23, 2009

Chinese Wedding Must Have Red Colours - RT

A nephew had his wedding on 21st March which was the start of Spring, the season of love! We are Chinese with many elderly relatives in our family clan. Traditionally for the Chinese, there are many customs to observe and follow, but this young couple decided to celebrate the most important day of their life, their own way.

The parents and relatives of both families have no say over this wedding. They were told to 'just be present'. :)

Imagine the horrified looks on the faces of the elders when they stepped into the elegant wedding banquet room.

colour was predominantly every where!!

The tables and chairs were black. The menu was black. The napkin was black. And there were white candles and flowers every where. The elders shook their heads.

*For the Chinese, white and black are colours of mourning.*

Luckily the restaurant had scattered lots of red rose petals on the tables and floor. The relatives were arranged to sit at round tables (signify togetherness) while friends and colleagues of the newly-wed couple were seated at long tables.

The dishes were beautifully presented and tasted good. It cost almost S$100 per guest.

I asked my only son if he would do this to me ...... have a black wedding.

"Nooooo!" he assured me with a hug of my shoulders.

I was very comforted to hear that.

"I'll elope."


First Commenter - Writing in Faith