Friday, January 29, 2010

Google View of You (aka Me)

The venerable Spike of HonkieTown fame sent me an email, asking about rents in Singapore (suggestion of maybe a job here in Disneyland-WDP?) and so I called up a property website to send him the link. And I sat there, looking at all the apartments.. .


It's just like Googling your own name, isn't it, an irresistible urge? It's not even an idea or a thought, it's something from a deeper part of the brain, under some autonomic control that's operating so fast your hands have already started typing before you told them to, before you are even aware of what it is that you're wanting to type...

Yes, I drop my head in shame, I looked up my current apartment block! Was this a wise thing, I was wondering? It could mean pain and disappointment, or it could mean joyous exultation...

And yes - *punches air feels slightly confident* - the larger 2000+ sqft apartments in my building which were $8K two years ago are now less than $6K. However on a per/sqft basis, that means my place is only slightly overpriced at the moment.

That's maybe some positive info (for me) when the lease runs out at the end of August. I'll check again before then of course. If I remember. The landlord always used to be way below market price. He said all he wanted was to cover the mortgage and as I am an expat professional (aka Foreign Talent) I am presumably a good and reliable tenant (when I remember to update my automatic rent transfers.) However, the last few leases we "negotiated", the ogre of greed seems to have overtaken him. The property bubble in Singapore inflates every so often, and using Gordon Gecko-like rationalizations such as, "We've got to follow market trends!" he jacked up my rent to almost double what it was before. Well, following market trends, my smaller apartment should be a fair bit cheaper for my upcoming lease; maybe not as low as it was originally but I'll push hard when next we sit around the negotiation table with our spritzers and Caesar salads!

Yes, so there I was looking at the pictures of the apartment block they had put up on the website. They were small, oldish and not really representative of the place. Then I noticed the Street View Tab next to the Photos Tab. Is that the Google thing, I wondered?


A while ago, maybe a year, I heard that they were going to do the Google Street View thing for Singapore. Not long after that, one bright clear morning when I should have been at work, I was sitting at my overlarge desk in my huge study/library(no3)/bedroom/shagnest. For some reason, maybe I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye, I happened to glance out the window. The laneway outside my window is right on the nub of a dead-end, so I don't often see cars coming this far up. There in the lane was a van, I think it was white (or dark green) and it had (I hope I am not too far from remembering this correctly) a bubble thing on it's roof. The van may have had a small Google logo on the side, but I can't be sure, Officer.

Hey, I thought (like I knew what I was talking/thinking about), that's a panoramic camera. They're doing the Google Street View thing! Cool!

A few months later I tried to find something on Google Earth and thought I'd check the Singapore Street View but it wasn't there. Or I couldn't call it up. Maybe my GE was out of date. Maybe I'm an idiot. So, in harmony with my defining characteristic of late, I forgot all about it.


When I realized that there was another tab there called Street View, I clicked and WOW! There it was! My street! My very own street, where I've been living these last 5&7/12 years. It's awesome (not my place, though it's pretty good, but I mean Street View) but then so is Google Earth, awesome I mean, so that's only to be expected.

At first the view started a far way up my street so, once I figured out how to move forward (by reading the little tag that came up and read "double click here to move forward") I could check out my place and environs (love that phrase, so Joycean) from all over. You scan around left and right, you zoom in, fantastic. Much better for giving the ambience, the freaking zeitgeist of a place than those few outdated photos. Wonder if they did the back lane-way? And then, hey I'm hop-scotching up the road towards the dead-end...

"Hey", I call out to Izzy and Joyce the Supermaid (who is stitching together the old ironing board with left-over pieces of string), "come check this out."

I show them the back of the house and say, "There our apartment, and that must be my window. Check it out, cool, huh?"

That's when I remember about the van...

"Wow, there was some van that come up the laneway with a big bubble on it's roof. I saw it, a while ago. I wonder... Hey, I must have been looking out the window when it was there! I wonder if they took a photo of me?"

So I move the view down the laneway a bit further and swing the perspective around to get the window as close as it will go to front on, and I zoom in...

"Look at that dark bit there, it's my head. I swear, look at it!"

"Oh man," says Izzy.

Freaky mystic weird - isn't just so like that scene in Antonioni's Blow Up where David Hemmings keeps zooming up his photos till he sees the dead body and the gun... (the bit where he gets Jimi Page's guitar, or was it Jeff Beck's is cool too.)

Using my incredible powers of inference, I swear that's incontrovertible evidence of a mysterious murder!

But the one below, what do you reckon? Is that a picture of me looking out the window at the Google van?

Either it's me or it's..... not.


And in the end, getting distracted easily with this blog-post, grabbing screens and playing with the photos and finding the Blow Up ones (being easily distracted is my OTHER defining characteristic these days) I neglected to email Spike the link to the site I recommend. But as he reads my blog anyway and as he is fond of ALMOST everything starting with a small 'i', here it is: iProperty. Good luck finding something with a master bedroom as big as mine now that the town is exploding upwards with all these huge blocks of hyper-modern micro-apartments!

I recommend checking in Regions 9-12, those North and West of Orchard but close. Expat Heaven, or do I mean Haven?



savannah said...

are you a green glob now, sugar? i don't think it's you! ;~D xoxxxo

(by the by, i had thought about putting the street view of my house up, but then realized how absolutely insane that was here in the states!)

DanPloy said...

The JTC SHIFT scheme gets you an decent HDB apartment for less than $1000/month, or it used to.

You can go native. It's liberating.

marke said...

Nah, it's not you. I recognize that guy,.... you'd better ask Izzy about him.

Paul Lewis said...

You sound like a person who has not really used street view before.

That's not the case is it?

Have you not "street viewed" Geelong and Melbourne, Rome or Paris, London or Oxford, Tokyo or Taipei?

I love dropping into some place a world away from where I live in Hong Kong and walking along the street.

I saw a Google van about a year ago in Kowloon Tong in Hong Kong, and I quickly gave a wave as we both drove past each other.

He was probably not imaging the street at the time, but hey, if my pixelated face appears online, I'll have a laugh.

At least I'll probably see my car parked outside my office.

expat@large said...

Marke: was it YOU!

Paul: if you really think I am an expert in Street View, you might have missed half my jokes!

I have used it before though, when I first looked for Singapore. It's freaking amazing.

You *should* check for your face, you might be as handsome as me, as if you'd be that unfortunate!

I think that 'face' on my window is just a reflection of some leaves, then I look again and I swear I can see my goatee!...

expat@large said...

Sav: I was carefl to exclude my address on the screen grab there. Got to keep those stalkers bay.

Dan: If I go native, my company wold soon catch on and lower my 'hardship posting'! BTW $1000 is what I charge Izzy for the spare room ! Less "other favours" of course.

Dick Headley said...

That face! It's a miracle!

DanPloy said...

Oh, that is a shame. I negotiated cash for my apartment allowance and then rented an HDB instead of the expected condo.

We could have sub let a room from the HDB but we didn't want the noise from all that coming and going.

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