Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - F for Flyer

So, Singapore wanted its own EYE. Much like London. Some even say the island wanted to compete with Britain. Thus came about the Singapore Flyer.


So this gigantic wheel is located along the Singapore river, overlooking most of the traditional tourist places of Singapore - like the famous Marina Bay Sands, Gardens By the Bay etc.

Airconditioned capsules that rotate as slow as an ant can accomodate close to 30 people and an entire round takes about 40 minutes. The idea is, as your capsule rotates, you get different views of Singapore, but since it rotates very slowly, that isn't always the case. Although, I must admit that it is definitely a feast for real photographers and self-proclaimed ones as well.


One must definitely get to see the Flyer at night. Towering over the skyline, the blue lights of the flyer are a visual treat and makes you wonder how brilliant these Singaporeans are, with construction. 

What's interesting is one of these capsules has a small make-shift restaurant which can be used for "romantic dates", as a friend puts. I haven't had the chance to go on such a date, but if I do, I would definitely share my experience.

Until then !!

-Prashanth Ashok

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Modern Healthcare - touching lives

Over the last two decades, the healthcare industry has undergone radical transformations. Just like any other field, medicine has been no exception to adapting to technological drive. Indeed, the usage of technology for medicinal purposes has just risen manifold. The latest addition perhaps is open-source medicine where open source software tools are used in hospitals and labs. While it is no surprise that the US and Europe are leading this race, Asian countries - particularly countries like India, Singapore and China are catching up pretty fast. Of course, for these countries, it is only natural to be part of the race, considering their stronghold on Information Technology and its services. Apollo Hospitals in India certainly is one of the pioneers to tackle complex medical problems with the effective use of IT. 

My post on this topic comes out of personal experience. Five years ago, I visited Germany as part of an internship program. I worked in a biomedical research company there, where I was part of a team that developed an application to detect the presence of cancer. So, this lab treats cervical cancer among women. Until then, tissues and samples were processed onto a microscope and analyzed manually by experts. Needless to say, this was prone to human error. The lab, thus decided to automate the whole process.

So, the idea was to take these slides, digitize them by transferring onto the computer. These cell images would then be subject to various image processing algorithms. On level one, all background information would be removed, leaving only the actual cells. On level two, cell borders would be identified. Moving further, a split algorithm would be applied to try and separate individual bunch of cells. After this, a watershed segmentation would be applied to separate individual cells among a bunch. This is very tricky, since no part of the cell image (that being actual samples from the body) should not be lost, as this would then prove to be utterly pointless to analyze. The last level is sending these processed images to a system that uses Neural network and Artificial Intelligence techniques to actually detect the presence of cancer.

I was involved in the first four phases of the project, the most critical ones. This involved a lot of research on the Internet about both Mathematical/computer related algorithms as well as biological concepts. Now, that proved quite difficult, but was informative nonetheless. More than anything, it made me realize the actual potential of such a vital aspect of medicine.

What I have explained above is merely one particular idea being explored. Tons and tons of such research is being carried on worldwide even as I type. Scientists and technologists are working in parallel to expand the reach of IT into medicine to ensure effective treatment. This gains prominence in the wake of the emerging medical tourism industries.

The purpose of healthcare is quite simply to ensure everyone's wellbeing. Gone are days when primitive or not-so-developed facilities actually resulted in lack of healthcare welfare for the needy. I personally have experienced losing a really close family member due to non-availability of the right treatment. I have also heard of successful treatments which have saved a person's life. Critiques always argue about the demerits of the use of technology. However, breakthroughs are proving them wrong. Everyday, we read of success stories about how a patient's life was saved due to timely use of technological expertise. Such stories are always heartening, at the same time, putting faith in the use of technology in the healthcare industry.

The journey traversed is fairly small, the path sure has been difficult, but the journey ahead is going to be a lot more challenging and the path all the more difficult. Yet, the final goal is crystal clear. On that note, I would like to reaffirm my firm belief that modern day healthcare, with the usage of technology, would go a long way in enriching and enhancing the lives of people

- Prashanth

(This post is written as part of contest titled How does Modern Healthcare touch lives organized jointly by Apollo Hospitals and Indiblogger.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - E for East Coast Park

Located at eastern end of Singapore, the East Coast Park (or ECP) is a must-visit place in Singapore. A beach park built completely on reclaimed land, ECP serves as one of the "natural" wonders of Singapore.


The largest park in Singapore, it also has a man-made beach where it is possible to swim (not that we cannot in the natural one, of course). On one side runs the ECP expressway that connects to the city. It perhaps is the most ideal place to enjoy a quiet evening all by yourself, or for family picnics.

Numerous barbeque pits adorn the place all along its length (which is really huge). Considering that ECP is open round the clock round the year, many groups take refuge in these pits on weekend nights and drink all night long. I personally have done so with a group of friends where we drank till about 6 AM the following morning. The best thing is, many benches and shelters are found close to each pit that once you are sloshed, you can go flat on these; wake up the next morning and try to get the hangover off with sea water and head back home.

Cycle tracks can also be found, and it is possible to rent cycle on a per-hour or per-day basis. The tracks run for more than atleast 5-8 kilometers in length.

The ideal place to spend time with friends or family, ECP sure serves its purpose of bonding people together. And the view from the park is just absolutely breathtaking.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - D for Duxton Hill

Duxton Hill in Singapore has a long history. Going way back to the 1800s as a nutmeg plantation, it has undergone much transformation to right now consisting of colonial style buildings and some sleazy bars.

Duxton Hill
Popular among the rickshaw pullers back in the colonial times owing to its proximity to the rickshaw station, Duxton hill later transformed itself to an opium trading and gambling hub. Duxton Road, one of the few roads that have been built on the hill housed several cheap brothels

I personally have walked on Duxton Road every single day for about a month, when I was interning with a startup. Looking at the picture in B&W above, I realize that not a single building has changed along this road. Only the cars have.

Today, Duxton Hill & Duxton Road serve as home to a few commercial establishments and a fairly few number of sleazy bars as well. Atleast, that's what it looks like from the outside. What I really like about this place though, is that when you walk along it in the evenings and let your mind wander, you tend to get back to the colonial days and imagine which rickshaw puller would have parked his rickshaw here; which gang fight took place here etc.

Personally, I'd recommend this place to any visitor to Singapore, apart from the usual places of visit.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - C for Clarke Quay

The very sound of this place gives me such joy. A historic river side quay, CQ is a drinking paradise. Located along one of Singapore's rivers (that's a given, since it is a river side quay), CQ is home to scores of pubs and bars, some sleazy and some really worth the money.

So basically, you have the river in the middle and on either side, it is paradise. On one side is Clarke Quay, the main hub of alcoholic commerce and on the other side is River Side Point, where my favorite pub is located - Harrys ! And this whole place is an absolute eye-candy for both sexes. Everywhere you turn, one is bound to say 'Holy cow'. Just sitting along the riverside and staring at the people walk by gives such pleasure.

Depending on how much money we have, if we are rich enough, we head to Harrys. Their premium beer is the most amazing drink ever - brewed to perfection indeed. If we aren't so rich, we purchase a couple of tins of beer from the 7-11 nearby and sit by the riverside and drink our way out. That's the beauty of Clarke Quay - sitting on the footsteps of the riverside and make all the noise you want, do anything you please but as long as you are aware of the limits. You don't disturb anyone; no one else disturbs you. Not even the police, no. Sipping on a bottle of Long Island Tea by the river side is sometimes the best.

The bridge @ Clarke Quay is again an amazing spot. Weekend nights, the bridge would be full (not just by numbers). Friends, colleagues, partners, well just about anyone would be on the bridge, drinking away all night long. Sometimes, late in the night around 3 you can actually see people sloshed up and crashing on the bridge, too inebriated to even take a cab back home.
Overall, if you have sufficient money, and a great passion to get drunk, CQ is the place to be. How many of you are coming down here to visit CQ?


Thursday, May 9, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - B for Bugis

Bugis - one of the places in Singapore that never sleeps. No, I mean literally.

Bugis has a very long and dark history associated with it. Many years back, Bugis served as the red light district of Singapore where anything and everything was possible. Although, it is widely said to be flooded with people today referred to as "trans-women". Bugis also founded the city's "pub" tradition, which in fact goes way back to the 60s. Back in its days of "glory", the streets of Bugis attracted many a Caucasian men who had never witnessed "Asia" in its true spirit and color.

Ironically, this contributed majorly to the country's tourism economy and the whole area flourished in all grandeur.

And then, things slowly changed and Bugis became one of the commercial hubs of Singapore. Of particular significance is the Bugis street, which is one of the largest and busiest shopping locations in Singapore.
Much like our very own Burma Bazaar and China Bazaar, you can get almost everything imaginable and bargain your brains out. As for quality, well it sure isn't the best, but it is not bad as well, as long as you know what to buy.
On the other side of Bugis Street is the Bugis Junction Shopping Mall. One of the largest in Singapore, it is another shoppers paradise. The food court sure is one of the biggest, and smelliest ones I have seen in Singapore. But walking around the food court is surely a wonderful experience.

Alas, when I went yesterday, I wanted to take some snaps, but that is exactly when my phone decided to die down. But sure enough, I'd visit another day and make up for it.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A-Z of Singapore - A for AYE

Inspired by all the people who took up the recent A-Z blogging marathon, I decide to give it a shot too. Sadly, I couldn't take part in the marathon due to exams. But the whole purpose is to boost the spirit of blogging. So, anytime is good time.

AYE - Ayer Rajah Expressway

Most cities in the world owes its very existence, very survival to a landmark tourist place. Be it the Queen's Palace in London, or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. But Singapore is known for its uniqueness. The very survival of Singapore runs fairly long. It owes much of its daily life to the Ayer Rajah Expressway; or better known as AYE.

Singapore is supported by a few major expressways such as:
1. Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE)
2. Pan Island Expressway (PIE)
3. Central Expressway (CTE)
4. Kallang - Payalebar Expressway (KPE)
5. East Coast Parkway (ECP)

Of all these, one that is most extensively used is the AYE. During peak hours, the expressway gets clogged up with cars of different sizes, shapes and stature. You could find an Audi rarely a Chrysler zooming across, and you can also find a Chevrolet Spark, petitely driving by.

AYE has around 25 plus exits, each connecting different parts of the city. The logic being, you can get on to AYE from any part of the city within five minutes and drive along till you want to get to another part. Something like our Ring Roads, but only its a lot more sophisticated in its setup.

During peak hours, drivers are charged extra for the usage of AYE. This is to promote the use of public transport. Yet, affluent Singaporeans are ready to bear extra expenses, to the tune that during peak hours, there is a huge traffic jam on the expressway, only it is very orderly.
 All said, AYE sure serves as the lifeline of Singapore.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Miracle or coincidence?

Remember those times when you 'hope' for something knowing fully well the chances of it happening are very rare? Like if your music player is on shuffle mode and suddenly you are reminded of a song, but lazy to scroll down to it and out of nowhere that song plays? Well, is that a miracle? A coincidence? I believe there is a thin line between the two and one can never see the difference.

To most people, once is a coincidence, twice is somewhat of a coincidence, but beyond a point, it is more of a miracle. Of course, these numbers are absolutely relative

Our heritage is just jam-packed with such ambiguities. What might seem to be a coincidence might turn to be realized as a miracle much later. Imagine this. I am going to quote two incidents from my own life.

The first one happened sometime around seven years back. Dad, mom and myself were on the way from Chennai to Trichy to attend the SASTRA counselling. That was also the time when I was waiting for results from PSG Tech as well, and I was really hoping to get there instead of SASTRA. But it seemed difficult. Legend has it that when you cross the Cauvery bridge between Srirangam and Trichy, you drop a coin into the river praying for something and it is bound to happen. So, the train crosses this bridge and dad asks me to drop a coin. I did. And trust me, moment the train crossed the bridge, I get a call from PSG asking me to appear for an interview with their admissions office. Miracle? Coincidence?
The second one happened a few weeks back. I was really clueless about my intern options and one particular week, was extremely dejected. So, I decided to visit a mandir which I used to go to regularly till end of last year (somehow, couldn't go for around four months). I go to the temple, sit and just keep calm for a while. Some fifteen minutes later, I had calmed down, so I left and took a cab back home. Two minutes into the cab, I get a call from one of the companies I applied to, asking me if I was available for interview the following day. Again, miracle? Coincidence?

Honestly, I find it very hard to separate the two, or point out at either of them. Perhaps, few years back, I would have called it coincidence, but now, I may not be so sure to call it one. Yet, I don't completely agree that it is a miracle. Like I said, there is a wafer thin difference between the two, and try as one may, it is hard to tell the two apart.

Yet, fact remains that some incidents in our lives are certainly way beyond our control and are destined to be so. The way universe operates in this aspect is really hard and complex, we cannot even think of trying to comprehend, let alone accept. The only thing we can accept is how events unfold and play along with forces beyond us.

What's your take on this?


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Netherlands -> Singapore - a tulip journey

So, last Wednesday, I wanted to celebrate. Well, I had just completed my exams (or hoping I clear each of them, to be precise) and wanted to rejoice after all the hard work. And a friend of mine wanted to go to Gardens by the Bay, one of Singapore's prime tourist attractions. His mother was to return to Chennai a few days later and he wanted to take her there. I was glad to say ok.

After reaching the Gardens, I was in for a happy surprise. Remember that old Hindi song Dekha Ek Khwaab where the erstwhile Bollywood heartthrob Rekha used to run along some Tulip Gardens? Or our very Sada dancing away to Vikram's Kumari? The tulip gardens of Netherlands? Well, the tulips were here, right in tropical Singapore.

 KLM, the official airline of Netherlands transports around 2000 kg of tulip buds each year across the globe for such garden shows in different countries. How can Singapore alone be left behind? The island is well known for going out of its way to bring in things that are not naturally available. And that is just what they did. Bring the tulips of Netherlands to the Gardens of Singapore.

And the whole setup was too huge, truly spectacular. Anyone out there in the gardens is bound to become a romantic, atleast for a while. I sure did. What was even more beautiful was, each tulip variety was accompanied by a fact about the world famous tulip mania of Netherlands. What I am going to do is, put up a picture with each fact I can recollect, in no particular order

1. Back in the Ottoman Empire times, tulips were extremely expensive for ordinary people to afford. Slowly, it thus became a symbol of perfect love where a Turkish boy would save up enough to purchase a red flamed tulip for the girl he loved
2. Tulips of different colors carry different meanings. e.g. Red - true love, pink - affection and care, orange - energy and enthusiasm, purple - royalty and wealth etc.
3. Tulips come in a vibrant variety of colors like red, yellow, purple etc., but never in blue

4. The months of April - May are the most ideal for flowering
5. Tulip is the national flower of Turkey
6. There are almost 3000 varieties of tulips, each with a different name. That's 3000 different names
7. Tulips generally have around 2-4 leaves only. Some rare species have upto 12
8. Most tulips have a life span of 3-7 days only
9. Tulips are best grown in climates having a long, cool spring and early summer
 10. Though Netherlands is the largest cultivator of tulips, the origins are traced back to Central Asia.

11. Tulip means turban in the Turkish language

 12. Certain varieties of tulips have medicinal value

So, how was your journey?