Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Category: Singapore (page 1 of 8)

Night thoughts in Singapore

I made it to Singapore in one piece, with all my stuff– I love Singapore Airlines, I truly do– and am now in my dad’s apartment. After 20 hours flying, I cannot begin to describe the psychic dislocation that comes from being in a gated community called the Caribbean that is popular with expat Australians and Americans.

On the other hand, I hear that the Olympic-sized pool and weight rooms are world class, and the steam bath is not to be missed. So I plan to stretch and lift and cardio all the food that the flight attendants kept trying to serve me. I said no to a lot, but the problem is, when you’re being offered things like tuna sashimi, chilean sea bass, and lamb satay, it’s easy to rationalize having just one. And maybe just another one.

I’m not used to flying business class

As I mentioned, I got a business class ticket for this trip. Singapore Air’s economy service is pretty notoriously good, and the business class is outrageous. This is my seat (and yes, I did have to use Photo Stitch to capture the whole thing):

My seat on SG 0015

However, much as I appreciate the luxury, I find myself a bit disquieted. The crew seems much-better mannered, and more knowledgeable about etiquette, than me. Whenever they serve something, they rearrange my tray, put things back in their place, and generally return everything to the Approved Ground State.

As a result, I approach every interaction with them with a little anxiety. Will I live up to the steward’s expectations? Will I put the dinner roll on the wrong plate?

Hello from Incheon Airport

Stopping in Incheon to refuel and change crews. I’m hanging out in the Asiana lounge, which is very nice. Naturally I was drawn to the “library.”

The wonderful Asiana lounge
via flickr

The hilarious thing about it is that the entire library consists of these three books:

Asiana lounge library
via flickr

Not that I’m complaining. I mean, the logic of repeatable elements and mass production is adopted in lots of good interior design, why not book titles?

Back on to the plane in a few minutes, thence to Singapore!

On my way to Asia

I’m in the Singapore Air lounge at SFO, on my way to Singapore and Malaysia. I’m spending a day with my dad and stepmother in Singapore (after 40 years as a professor in the US, Pop decided it was time for a new career challenge, and so took a gig in Asia), then on to Malaysia, where I’ll speak at a futures conference. I wrote an article [pdf] about the futures scene in Malaysia a year ago (it’s one of the most forward-looking countries in the world), and some of what I talked about is starting to brew. It’ll be interesting to see it first-hand.

This is an insane trip. My wife had to get up at 4:30 for the San Francisco Marathon, and the kids and I ran the 5K this morning, so we all bundled into the car before dawn, and fought out way to the Embarcadero. Miraculously I found street parking.


The kids enjoyed the 5k, though I think for them it’s not the running that they’ll remember but the number and variety of snacks, samples, juices, and smoothies that they were able to try at the end. When you’re 8 pain is temporary, but the memory of getting a Jamba Juice from a guy in a banana suit is forever.


Then it was back in the minivan, across town to Golden Gate Park, and to the finish line for the half marathon. We got there a minute after she finished, got some food, then headed back to the car and to SFO. Dropped me off, into the loving embrace of Singapore Air.

There are times when you’re made very aware of just how much your family makes your life possible. Exactly two months ago I was in London and Cambridge; now I’m headed to the other side of the world. Most spouses who have to deal with such schedules or who find themselves married to travel addicts take to drink. Next time, she comes with me. The kids have also adjusted well to having a parent away (heaven knows they’ve had plenty of experience), but I think it’s time to take it to the next level. They can find us on Facebook if they need instructions about how to use the stove.

I’ll be in Malaysia until Friday, then I fly back here, and the next day turn around and head for another gig in the Rockies. When it rains it pours.

Naturally I’ve got the mobile version of my life set up. And now that I have a 500 gb hard drive, I can carry pretty much my entire movie collection with me. Not like I need the distraction. It’s just nice to have. I think many travelers have one indulgence of this sort: my dad carries five times as many ties as he could possibly need, other people carry books, yet others pack extra clothes.

In many ways I love Singapore Air, but the one complaint I have about them is the absence of common space: on SAS or United you can get up and stand, which is essential for my sanity; Singapore doesn’t really have any public space, and they’re happiest if you’re just confined to your seat the whole 20 hours. This time, my patrons have put me in business class, which means I essentially have my own cabin. My hope is I can do some calisthenics in it without disturbing other passengers. Seriously.

Of course, as always, the main attraction for this kind of trip is the chance to get some serious thinking and writing done. I need to work more on my talk, but I’m also going to try to finish “Paper Spaces 2: Revenge of the Fallen” before I return home. I’ve really got all the material I need to get it done, and I can only re-watch Mission Impossible 3 so many times in one 24-hour period.

[To the tune of Pat Metheny, “Holding Us,” from the album A Map Of The World (a 3-star song, imo).]

Giant babies

This is the kind of thing lifeblogging and Flickr make possible: comparative studies of giant babies!

changi airport, singapore, 2008, via flickr

times square, new york, 2009, via flickr

Greetings from Changi Airport

I’m in the magnificent Terminal 3 at Changi, waiting for my flight to San Francisco. I’ve got two hours before we start boarding, and I plan to do some work before I get on the plane. I doubt I’ll have a power adapter at my seat, the way I did on the way over.

via flickr

The flight home leaves around dinnertime, lands in Hong Kong around 9:30 local time, then gets into San Francisco around 8:15. So while I was in perpetual early evening on the way to Asia, I’ll be in about 20 hours of darkness on the way back. Actually, I expect it’ll help me get more done.

I was supposed to go to Malaysia today for a meeting, but fortunately we were able to do it over the phone instead. I think I would have collapsed if I’d had to get on two more planes today.

After that, I went to Raffles City, grabbed some sushi at Jason’s Market (my favorite easy lunch), then grabbed the MRT out here.

cool fountain at raffles, via flickr

I’ve got a ton of writing and about 5000 e-mails I need to take care of. Workshops generate a lot of follow-up.

Japanese Dining Sun

Last night I had dinner with a few people from NUS and Oxford at Japanese Dining Sun (or Sun Japanese Dining, or even possibly Japanese Sun Dining), in Chijmes, a former Catholic convent turned entertainment destination (I hope it’s all deconsecrated).

The restaurant itself is high minimalist, with some really nice touches. It’s a chain, with other branches in Hong Kong and Shanghai, but still I quite enjoyed it.

Dinner at Japanese Dining Sun
via flickr

I had the seafood kamameshi, a kind of hot pot with seasoned rice and vegetables cooked together, then topped with roasted eel, squid, and other things. It was outstanding.

Dinner at Japanese Dining Sun
via flickr

The raw salmon and roe appetizer was also really, really good.

It was also really good to get these different people from various parts of my professional life together: a couple Oxford students interested in technology transfer, and NUS people in the new media program.

One of my good friends has the admirable ability to put together terrific dinner parties, and it’s a skill be able to mix up people from different backgrounds or places who’ll get something from each other’s company. Another on my long list of things to learn to do!


I’m back in my hotel, after the workshop at NUS. The workshop went quite well: it was an excellent group, and we got some very good ideas and scenario work out of them.

For me, these things are exhausting. Not only does each one require several days of prep but they demand a full day of being ON, which is pretty draining. In the room you have to be hyperactively engaging, listen carefully to everyone, draw people out, convince the skeptics, synthesize the conversations, etc., etc.. Plus beforehand you’ve got to think like an events planner (should these tables be moved? do we have enough water? will the air conditioner make too much noise?) and roadie (how do I move these tables?).

And before that, you’ve got to plan out every step of the day– not so much with the expectation that you can operate the day with military precision, but to give you a clear enough sense of what you’re doing to make it possible for you to successfully improvise when something unexpected happens (like when you’re scheduled to restart at 1:30, but the waiters only bring out the main lunch course at 1:20).

Even for me, who was described by a college housemate as having two emotions, on and off (she later added a third, strobe), it requires a lot of energy.

But I really like doing these workshops– not because they’re easy, but precisely because they’re hard work, and several different kinds of work. The technology for supporting them is changing rapidly, and there are some huge opportunities to do interesting new things. And a good workshop has some of the best of teaching, which I think I’ll always regard as the noblest of activities.

I’m going to rest up for a bit, then go have dinner at a Japanese restaurant in Chjimes.

View from my hotel room this morning

I woke up around 5, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I often wake up early the day I’m running a workshop.

Singapore this morning
via flickr

I know it looks the same as last night. I expected it to be raining, but it hasn’t rained since I bought an umbrella yesterday morning.

One last picture

And off to bed.

Obligatory Singapore skyline picture
via flickr

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