Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Singapore Through The Eyes (& palate) of Grace Koshida! (Part 2)

Ovidia-every other Tuesday
Thank you to Grace Koshida for sharing Part 2 of her Singapore experiences!

To recap, Grace Koshida is from Ottawa, Canada, and will be Fan Guest of Honor at Left Coast Crime 2025. An eclectic reader of all crime genres (with a soft spot for P.I., police procedurals and culinary cozies), Grace is a Netgalley reviewer with over 600 reviews to her name. Over to you, Grace!
Here are the Singapore dishes I ate during my trip to Singapore:
Duck noodles, Hainanese chicken rice (twice), bak chor mee, fishball noodles, wonton mee, satay (twice), laksa, fried carrot cake, ice kachang, BBQ stingray, char kway teow, hokkien mee, oyster omelette, chilli crab, roti prata, prawn mee, nasi lemak and kaya toast (twice) - not named kaya toast graphic is under red MAKAN-MAKAN.

April 29: Spent half a day visiting the Singapore Botanical Gardens. Free admission. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the extensive gardens cover 82 ha (200 acres) and has over 10,000 species of flora and some wild fauna. I was so excited to see my first big lizard in the wild!!

The National Orchid Garden (separate admission ticket required) was a highlight. WOW, so many beautiful hybrids, over 2,000 orchid hybrids grown on site.

It's been a great morning but I am getting hot & tired, walking outside for 3 hours in the heat & humidity. It's 34C/95F feeling like 44C/110F at noon. I went to ADAM FOOD CENTRE, which is accessed by walking on an overpass pedestrian bridge from the Singapore Botanical Gardens.
This smaller hawker centre focuses on halal food and Indonesian food.

The large steamed Hainanese chicken rice plate (6 SGD) came with fragrant rice & a small bowl of soup. Both grated ginger and chili sauce were condiments. I also had a mango soursop juice 3.5 SGD.

April 29: evening. Gardens By The Bay Supertree Grove free sound & light show was amazing. Tonight's theme was retro night. ABBA, Grease, Beatles music.
I bought a cute MAKAN-MAKAN SINGAPORE EATS melamine plate in Chinatown (see above!)

April 30: I visited Kampong Glam, another ethnic enclave easily accessible by MRT. First highlight was visiting the Sultan Mosque, built in 1824.

Then I explored the shops on Arab & Bussorah Streets. There were many fabric stores and shops selling beads, buttons as well as rugs and pashminas. As for food, there were Turkish, Lebanese and Middle Eastern restaurants. I had a tasty lamb kofta lunch with homemade lemon ice tea,

There were murals and eclectic art on Haji Lane
and dinner was a steaming hot bowl of fish lor mee for 5 SGD at Hong Lim hawker centre.
Egg noodles coated in a thick gravy, topped with 7 pieces of battered fried fish, a half boiled egg and green onions.
May 1: Labour Day in Singapore.
Was not sure what was opened on this holiday, so I spent a half day at Changi Airport's JEWEL.
The rain vortex is the world's tallest indoor waterfall, 40 m/130 ft high. There are 7 levels of shops, restaurants and attractions.
On L5, the top level, I visited the canopy park, hedge maze, mirror maze and canopy bridge!
For lunch, I had my first laksa (see plate dish!) Yummy, and not too spicy!
May 1 evening: Night hawker walking food tour
First stop at Lau Pa Sat/Satay Street.
Our group of 10 ate chicken and mutton satay, fried carrot cake, hokkien mee (seafood noodles), fresh sugarcane juice, and a peanut pancake.

We then walked to the Esplanade and caught part of the MBS Spectra light show

before heading to Gluttons by the Bay hawker centre where we ate chicken murtabak with curry sauce, and banana fritters with a pandan dip.

DELISH!! Very glad that I had a 20 minute walk to the closest MRT station back to Chinatown.
May 2.
After doing a load of laundry Thursday morning, I spotted some more murals by Yip Yeo Chong.

Then I spent several hours at the Peranakan Museum. I wanted to learn more about the melding of different ancestral cultures of Chinese, Arab, Indian, European and others in SE Asia.
There were 3 floors of exhibits focusing on ceramics and food culture, batik, beading and bridal jewelry and FUKUSA, a temporary exhibit of Japanese gift covers. I liked seeing the hairpins that were described in the Aunty Lee book that I was reading.
I found a Michelin recommended Nasi Lemak stall near the museum and ordered a chicken wing plate with a side of mackerel otah for lunch.

Another MAKAN-MAKAN plate dish.
May 3:
Breakfast with a kopi o for only 0.90 SGD and a Michelin award-winning handmade curry puff for 2 SGD.

Then met Ovidia for a bak kuh teh lunch at Song Fa. The queue was long at 10:45 am for this Michelin-award winning place.

I was still looking for an ice kachang dessert. No luck at Chinatown so we travelled by MRT to Koufu at Commonwealth MRT.
That was a refreshing cool treat and another MAKAN-MAKAN Singapore dish.
We then traveled to Holland Village to visit iconic Thambi Magazine Store which was closing after 80 years in business.
We both bought some magazines and gave the family our best wishes.
May 4:
Thunderstorms with plenty of thunder, lightning and heavy rain from 7:00 am.
Flash flood warnings. I traveled by bus from Chinatown to Tiong Bahru Market which is supposed to popular on weekend mornings. One positive about this heavy rain was a temperature of 26C/78F.It was the coolest morning I experienced while in Singapore; Queue was in place for Michelin award winning prawn mee stall. My medium prawn mee plate (6 SGD) came with large prawns, squid, pork and 2 types of noodles.

I squeezed the calamansi juice but avoided the red chile paste. DELISH Still hungry, so I ordered a small oyster omelette for 5 SGD.
Both dishes were MAKAN-MAKAN Singapore dishes.
And I still needed a hot kopi o (1.20 SGD)!
Dishes to try on next trip: Yong tau foo, chendol, nasi briyani, thosai, char siew rice, rojak!
[Back to Ovidia: Thank you, Grace--and I hope you come back real soon!]

Monday, May 20, 2024

XX vs XY

 Annamaria on Monday

All of my siblings are XYs. I, on the other hand, am an XX. Having grown up with three brothers (one 16 months older than I, one 9 years younger, and the third 15 years younger), I have always had a perfect observation point from which to study the males of the species. I also had a wonderful dad, and a gaggle of sometimes nice, but sometimes pretty nasty uncles and mostly boy cousins. I think this is why I have always had easy friendships with boys and men.  I got used to them at an early age.

I am telling you all this because I am concerned that some readers may take what I have to say today as misandry. It is not. I do not look down upon, much less hate men.  Not at all! What I am reporting on today are scientific facts. 

But before I get into that, I do confess that I have been joking for many years about the comparison of people with XX chromosomes versus XY chromosomes.  Whenever women friends complain about the shortcomings of the males in their lives - husbands, boyfriends, bosses, etc. - it has been my habit to point out that we have two X chromosomes, and they have an X and a Y. I then postulated that the so called Y is really an X with a piece missing. Consequently, males of the species do not always react to the world around them with the wisdom of a woman.  Hahaha. I got a lot of laughs with that line.  All of them from women!

Then, I heard about the book The Better Half, subtitled On the Genetic Superiority of Women, by  Sharon Moalem, MD. PhD.  Dr. Moalem is a geneticist and in his book, he reveals in detail how that Y in men actually is, so to speak, an X with a piece missing.

He noticed, at the beginning of his medical career, that challenged baby girls were much more likely to survive their difficulty than boys who were similar in all other ways.

Eventually his research went deep into questions of why and how having a woman's immune system or having two X chromosomes give women an advantage.  As it happens, damanged chromosomes cause a lot of the problems that crop up in human lives.  In the book, Dr. Moalem uses the metaphor of a hybrid car.  "In some situations being gas powered is better; in others electric works better.  When the damaged gene causes a disease, a little girl's body can reach out to the spare and heal itself, where the boy child often has no such option.

A great deal of female superiority comes from having an immune system boosted by the stuff in that piece the guys are missing.  The longer life-expectancy of women, which is universal among humans, generally speaking keeps us healthier longer.

Throughtout most of human history, men were considered the stronger sex.  Perhaps this is because they are generally taller and have stronger muscles.  In times of famine however, the females' storage of protein in fat is much more efficient and helpful than those big muscles, which cannot keep their owner alive.

There is downside to the strength of the female immune system.  We XXs are much more likely to have auto immune diseases, such as lupus.  I myself have two, and a ton of allergies.  I blame my hyper-active immune system for all that.  But I also credit it with the overall state of my health.  

The doc's book explains all this science in an easy, conversational style.  I highly recommend it.


When it comes to XX vs XY, I still can say vive la difference! I can also say I have always been glad to be a girl. Thanks to Dr. Moalem, I can now  tell you why.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Mountains Endure – all else is subject to change without notice - Guest Post by J.E. Barnard

Canadian author J.E. Barnard is a writer and editor of award-winning fiction. She’s won a CWC Award of Excellence and Alberta Book of the Year, and been shortlisted for the UK CWA Debut Dagger and the Prix Aurora. Barbara Fradkin, author of the award winning Inspector Green Mysteries, said of her first novel: "a compelling, intricate tale of love, community, and betrayal in the high-stakes worlds of big oil and pro hockey."

Her Falls Mysteries (Dundurn Press) tackle murder, marriage, friendship, and occasionally wild animals.

In todays guest post, Jayne tells us about the mountains she loves and the threats the people living there face - from both human and natural sources - every day.

The Falls mystery trilogy

Mountains form the spine of North America, from the Arctic down to Mexico. The Rockies, the Sierras, the Cascades and Coastals are vast and varied and apparently eternal.

Elbow Falls for which the series was named

he Falls Mysteries unfold along the Rockies’ Eastern Slopes—half prairie and half wilderness, gravelly foothills and dusty plains alike sliced by glacier-fed rivers. It’s tangled, forested territory in which people get lost with frightening regularity, fall off mountainsides, run afoul of grizzly bears, trap themselves in blind canyons. There’s hiking, mountain biking, mudding, camping, hunting, fishing… and logging, oil-and-gas drilling, coal mining that constantly threaten the watershed that provides for millions of Canadians and thousands of farms across the arid prairies. The region’s Indigenous inhabitants strive to sustain their ancestral lands against industrial encroachment that promises jobs and money and all their darker effects too. The Eastern Slopes might look like unchanging mountainsides but they’re subject to constant, conflicting pressures between inhabitants and industry, environmentalists and outdoor sports groups, rich urbanites and cash-poor ranchers. And the unforgiving climate itself: bone-dry for months both winter and summer, baked or blizzarded, at constant risk from fire and flood.

When the Flood Falls, first of the Falls Mystery series of Canadian wilderness suspense, centers on Bragg Creek, Alberta, a hamlet a half hour west of Calgary. With its toes in three different Rural Municipalities, Bragg Creek is barely within the screen of trees that mark the first shift from the flat, dry prairies toward the high, dry peaks. The Rocky Mountains rise abruptly from one bank of the normally narrow, glacier-fed Elbow River, while the other shore sees minimal elevation change from the town center to Calgary’s outskirts.

When the Eastern Slopes were pelted by a stalled sou’easter that June day of 2013, bringing down the winter’s snowpack in 24 hours, there was nowhere else for all that water to go but down to the valley floor, straight through the town, and headlong toward the plains. All night the people and animals retreated. By the following noon, the highway bridge upstream was gone; the downstream bridge was crushing million-dollar homes against its abutments. The waters went on across the prairie, wiping out farms and subdivisions, cutting roads and bridges, isolating the petro-towers of Calgary in an oily, reeking pond for much of the summer.  

Flood scour near the highway 40 bridge

In the aftermath, the whole river valley dried in a new configuration, its glacial till scoured to bedrock, its former shallow braids of channels abandoned for newer and deeper curves. Vast swaths of boreal forest were cast up in miles-long tangles far from the old riverbanks. And every spring since that day, the collective psyche tenses further with every thickening cloud. Every eye is on the milky turquoise rivers and creeks, scrying for the first threads of brownish silt that might herald another catastrophe.

This fraught annual atmosphere greets traumatized ex-Mountie Lacey when she seeks shelter with her old friend Dee, only to find Dee has her own trouble: a midnight prowler who grows bolder with every visit. Each day the river, and the tension, creep higher until it all spills over. And just when the wreckage seems complete, the waters recede, exposing old secrets and new horrors.

 Looking west from Powderface Trail, a stiff hike NW from Elbow Falls

Where the Ice Falls, the second in the series, moves northwest of Bragg Creek for deep-foothills cross-country skiing and treacherous icefalls, past the Stoney-Nakoda First Nation. This too is transitional land: pebbly soil held together by the tenacious roots of prairie grasses, scrub pines climbing the mountains’ shoulders, the Ghost River flowing deep and largely unseen along its rocky bed until pressure brings it to the surface. Plenty of places to dispose of one’s enemies, especially in the deep dark of winter, when skin freezes in minutes of exposure to the bone-carving cold of the nigh-eternal west wind.

Why the Rock Falls begins high up in the Ghost River valley, amid the best limestone climbing of the Canadian Rockies, before penetrating the trackless forests of the Ghost River Wilderness Area. Trackless, that is, except for dead-straight cut-lines left by seismic crews, roads scraped in to isolated oil-well sites (increasingly solar powered these days), streambeds churned by off-roading ranchers and riggers, all claiming space from the cougars, wolves, and grizzly bears. It’s a land where petro-millionaires build their ski chalets facing away from the same oilfields that finance those vacation homes, and cement company execs tear down whole mountains to fuel Calgary building booms. Both sorts throw their wealth and power into endless propaganda wars against wind and solar energy projects, partly on the grounds of protecting the province’s ‘pristine view-scapes’.

I think anyone who sees this wild land must love it as I do, and since they can’t all travel here, I write my own kind of love songs – yes, murderous love songs – to help them experience it. 

Eastern front of Nihahi Ridge from PowderfaceEastern front Trail

Sadly, my next story may be of its destruction. Drought dries riverbeds that should be swelling with snowmelt now, draining the irrigation canals relied on by farmers and ranchers, the leisure and recreation areas of city dwellers, the tourism industry, the habitats of thousands of aquatic and land species, and the drinking water for rural and urban residents and industries across two thousand miles of open prairie. Yet Alberta’s present provincial government is busy resurrecting a vast zombie coal mining project that’s been killed by previous governments provincially and federally, mainly for the benefit of an Australian coal billionaire.

The Rocky Mountains endure. Every other aspect of life in the transition zone that is the Eastern Slopes is part of a never-ending struggle for survival.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Even Zoë was Laughing





Let’s start this off with a sincere bravo to Caro for her Friday post highlighting the inimitable and inspirational Cathy Ace.  Cathy and her husband Geoffrey (grand choice of name, spelling aside) are a gracious engaging couple celebrating their Twentieth Wedding Anniversary on a post-CrimeFest jaunt to Paris. Enjoy!


Now, on to the photo Ms. Ramsay chose to include as the ultimate bit of posting to her blog titled, “Pretty things and body parts.” 


Let’s just say it exemplifies Caro’s extraordinary eye for extracting the macabre from the most unlikely of places.  In this instance from the generally winsome face of the fellow sitting midway among a joyful panel of happy writers exploring how to bring thrills to their work. And yes, that’s Zoë Sharp in the audience, laughing widely.


But enough about this poorly misrepresented fellow. 


It was a blast getting together with so many old friends and finding new ones. That experience is what draws me to mystery festivals and conferences, foreign and domestic.  And no matter where I end up, one thing is universal—so much so that it seems a cliché to restate. But here goes: The crime writing community is unlike any other in the depth of collegial support and encouragement its members offer one another. Competition is rarely at play.


Which is my way of saying, Caro, I forgive you for posting that photo.:)


For the record, though, here are some other ones.