Breaking the Year (Part 1)

School break happens in June for us with kids going to school in Singapore (and some other countries as well). And while it should be a normal break where the kids are taken out on road trips and swimming and horse back riding, this year is different. PSLE.

Of course that shouldn’t really stop us from having a proper holiday. It is a shadow of what is to come in a few months and one has to accept it before one can move on. We did our best to squeeze in extra head banging in the first few weeks of the break. We’re not really sure how much it helped, but it is time to put that behind us for a short while. It is time for a break.

 The Crew

Matthew had always been about family. And the closest that we have are his cousins living on the island next door. We packed our bags and took the ferry to Batam and then a speedboat to Bintan. We drop our bags in our rooms at Nirwana Gardens and put our feet up to chill. It probably won’t be enough to cover the stress coming for us until the end of the year, but some is better than none.

The kids had a game of giant chess before we were up in our rooms. Then we hit the pool with the kids in the middle of a downpour. In the end, we couldn’t decide if we got wet in the rain or in the pool. Luckily it was just rain or else lightning would have put a stop to the fun. Everybody seems to be doing their own thing but everybody was having fun so that wasn’t really an issue. We realised that we weren’t the only crazy people there as there were a handful of us enjoying the rain (It’s not something you see much in Singapore, believe me). When the rain stopped, we stepped out of the pool and back into our rooms. We spent the rest of the night on a game of bowling. Let’s just not talk about who won and how. It was a friendly game after all (and those last two gutter balls were intentional). The boys had a go at shooting using airsoft guns. I heard it didn’t go too well.

Check mate
Check mate

Buffet breakfasts were the norm in hotels and resorts and that meant we had an hour or so to fill up before doing any more activities. The younger kids went on to horse back riding while the boys stayed behind to do their own thing. Andrae pretended that he was a sniper and did target shooting with an airsoft rifle while Matthew pretended that he was as good as Hawkeye and did archery on the field right beside rifle shooting. Neither one of them broke any records. After deciding to forego the ATV and buggy riding, the same boys decided to team up and hit the paintball skirmish course. It was father and son versus father and son. After laughing our heads off because of our ridiculous outfits (seriously, flip-flops with full paintball camo and armor don’t go well together). It was the most fun shooting someone else we had. Some of us died more than the others and we finally proved that paintball hurts. We’ve got the bruises to prove it. Nobody did capture the flag so there was no clear winner. What was clear though, was that the dads weren’t as fit as they thought. We were panting halfway through and judging by the way we couldn’t fully take cover on the low barrels shows just how fit our bodies were. There will be round two. Soon.

Paintball took the wind out of us and that was it for Nirwana. We headed back to Batam soon after checking out. Getting to and from the resort was smooth, but it did take close to an hour (one way) and then there was the speedboat (choppy waters, claustrophobic quarters, no seatbelts, yep, that was fun) that took us between Batam and Bintan. Back in Batam, we shopped and we ate. It was so much fun eating that we probably gained more pounds in the shortest span of a two days. Tired but full, we head back to Singapore to lull the last few days before school starts again.

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The Art of the Universe

Is there a relationship between art and the universe?

 

History tells us, yes.

Map of the stars
Map of the stars

It would seem that we, humans, have had a fascination with the universe from probably since the time we asked what those lights in the sky are. And some of our ancestors have tried to tell their stories and theories through drawings, scribbles, dabbles, poetry and music. While most people may not have understood what they were trying to say back then, it is amazing to see now that we still ask practically the same questions that our ancestors did. Thoughts about the universe has always been vague. Truth be told, we probably know only a fraction of what the universe is all about in the two centuries that we have been around.

Time space warp!

One thing that we can agree on is that we believe that the universe is mostly made up of space. Lots and lots of space. In fact, in some scenarios, time and space are used interchangeably. There are even arguments that time and space can be bent. And with this bending, unbelievable things can occur. Not that we actually have proof of it, but if the theories and dreams do come true, we may be looking at infinity. Would it have a price? definitely. But we also hope that whatever the shape of the universe turns out to be, they would be beautifully tangible as the art that it has inspired. And art is truly unbelievable as it gives our imaginations shape and form. It may turn out weird or downright bizarre, but in today’s open-minded (well, some anyway) society you may be able to get away with putting together utter garbage -err, recycled materials- and sell it off as art.

Sexy Robot

Now, if time and space are intertwined, are we living in the past or the future? According to our species, the so called human race, we are in the present. And if we look at it the way we are now, then it would make sense. But if we imagine for one minute that we are not in the present, then things would be much more interesting. Looking at how others interpret the future is both interesting and fun at the same time. Surely, at some point we have probably imagined the same thing or was in the same train of thought as the other people that have expressed in their art.

 

And finally, outer space. Our greatest achievement as Terrans. We imagined travelling to outer space, beyond the confines of our Earth. And truly, some of us (myself included) used to imagine flying off into the unknown in our spacecraft (mostly made of cardboard and other junk) and discovering alien worlds. I used to wonder what people out in space were doing while they were out there. I mean, you can’t just go for a run or a swim or even just chill by the pool. Some were doing scientific stuff and others were doodling. And thus we have the art that was inspired by the void of space.

Man on the moon

Where imagination soars, there is always a thought behind it. A thought that would want to change the imagination from a thought to reality. And it becomes a cycle of art becoming science and becoming art again. Obviously, not all art and not all science become successful relatives. But those that have are in front of us now and it is continually shaping tomorrow for us mere mortals.

 

The Universe and Art exhibition in the ArtScience Museum takes us to that journey. A journey centuries in the making. From the minds of artists and scientists is a plethora of thoughts brought to life by the sheer will of humanity.

We are Human

How fictional is Science Fiction in this day and age?

I see you
I see you

HG Wells, Jules Verne, Neil Gaiman. There are numerous influences that have fed our minds with stories and theories of what the future will be like. In the past few decades, we have already seen some of these come true. Maybe not what we expected or imagined, but you have to admit that it is pretty darn close (self-lacing Nikes? Hoverboards? Jetpacks?). Where have we come in terms of human evolution?

 

It is not that difficult to see that the future is now. We are living in a world with cyborgs and artificial intelligence. We live among people with mechanical limbs or otherwise augmented body parts. We are now being driven by driverless cars. Robots now assist in various medical sciences and are doing a pretty good job it. The possibility that we may be replaced with machines are as real as it gets. But let us not jump to conclusions just yet. As I mentioned earlier, it was science fiction that fed our imaginations and drove us to develop the things that we are seeing today. That means that we have the power to choose how the future will be.

Go faster
Go faster

We should already be aware of people with prosthetics that have augmented body functions such as Amy Mullins’ Cheetah legs. And then there is the antennae implanted on Neil Harbisson’s skull which allows him to perceive colors as sound waves. I couldn’t understand how and why he did it, but I respect him and his work. Being recognized as a proper cyborg by the British government has to count for something. The first section of the exhibition is dedicated to all of these things. And seeing how the history of prosthetics go far into our past, it could only mean that the gap between now and tomorrow is getting shorter and shorter.

 

The exhibition also teaches us how the technology we have now are changing the way we interact with one another. We sometimes take things for granted, but the way the things we use have evolved have all been because of our desire to communicate, to respond, to say something. We saw optics embedded in robotic eyes that follow a persons movement. A robot arm that responds to a baby’s voice and rocks the cradle. We saw devices that allow us to interact in such a way that a machine mimics what a real person would have felt. Beyond this, even the simple use of Skype or Messenger that allows me to connect with my family is already a big change from what we had when I was Matthew’s age.

When green runs out
When green runs out

And then there is the correlation between us, the environment and the technology of our time. Some technological advancements give us the jump in productivity and efficiency immediately when it is implemented. But what happens in the next few years? Or in the next decade? Is the technology that was introduced ten years ago still relevant today? Or is it sustainable and helpful to ourselves and our environment? Our survival pretty much depends on our relationship with the Earth. And we need to be smart enough and co-exist with the world around us to live on through the next generation.

 

If the future is now, is there still tomorrow? Well, duh!

I am

A new future awaits the next generation. And the future is weird and wonderful and scary. Imagine being able to choose a better future for your children free from a hereditary disease, free from a physical deformation, free from a life threatening condition? Life should not be toyed with, but there is a future where correcting “mistakes” and “malfunctions” become a ready solution for those who would choose to have it. Surgically modifying an infant to avoid a potential future problem. Engineering genes to make people smarter, stronger or faster. With all the Gundam movies that we’ve seen, this future will be flawed because of human greed. But who knows, the future is yet to arrive. And we have our free will to choose how it affects our lives. How far we live into our own future also becomes a subject of people’s imagination and with a rather comical presentation, it becomes light-hearted. And while it would be nice to be together for longer, it does have challenges of its own.

Nadine

We bid farewell to science and fiction with Nadine. An android construct that was made in Singapore. She was built to be a realistic humanoid social robot. She will listen to you and answer your questions as much as she can. And while her actions are still limited, it is amazing to see how she interacts. Think of Siri, in a humanoid body and you have Nadine.

 

In the end, the future is still ours to choose. Some of us are too old now to even be bothered, but our children and our children’s children all have the chance to be part of shaping that future. How much they influence that future will be a good legacy. And I do wish from the bottom of my heart that I will be alive to see that in my son, Matthew.