Thursday, 18 May 2017

Bentos for World Book Day

April 23 was World Book Day,and I observed it by creating a series of book-themed bento lunches based on my favourite books and authors. Many people have asked me about the illustrations. It's really very easy and quick to do -- I painted the illustrations on flat tortilla using a fine paintbrush dipped in natural black food dye, and then cut out the shapes using a small sharp blade, and baked the illustrations to set the dye.  The blue, red and green tints are done using food writing pens.

World Book Day Bento #1 is inspired by Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird".
World Book Day Bento #2, inspired by E.B. White's 'Charlotte's Web'. Favourite quote from the book: "You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die. A spider's life can't help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven knows anyone's life can stand a little of that."
World Book Day Bento #3, inspired by 'A Raisin In The Sun' by Lorraine Hansbury. There's a little 'potted plant' in the top left compartment because gardening is a leitmotif in the book/play.
World Book Day Bento #4, inspired by 'War of the Worlds' by H.G. Wells. I am a fan of old-school science fiction, in particular, the works of John Wyndham, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. My original intention was to feature Wyndham's triffids, but I forgot what triffids look like and ended up illustrating something that looks like the toothy plant in Little Shop of Horrors, so I scrapped it and did the Martian Tripods from WotW instead.
World Book Day Bento #5, inspired by Iris Murdoch's "The Sea, The Sea." Iris Murdoch is an incredible novelist, but she is also first and foremost a philosopher and ethicist. I love her protagonists because they are flawed, in particular the protagonist in "The Sea, The Sea", only he doesn't know how flawed and mistaken he is, which of course gives the whole story its element of dramatic irony.

World Book Day Bento #6: And finally, we arrive at the original inspiration for World Book Day... Good ol' Bill Shakespeare. Shakespeare is still considered one of the greatest, most popular and most influential dramatists in history for good reason. His themes of heroism, justice, political intrigue, friendship, loyalty, love, betrayal, prejudice, human fallibility and complex family relationships remain relevant to all generations and across cultures. Shakespeare wrote for the masses, and that is why his plays lack pretension. They weren't moralising or instructive plays, and yet we never fail to learn something from each play. Shakespeare's popularity lies in the fact that his plays are bawdy, ribald, witty, accessible and oh-so-human. So here's to old Will S., one of the greatest philosophers, psychologists, social commentators and writers to have ever lived.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

March 2017 in Pictures

2 March: We had a huge team of vollies, many of them first-timers, for Kedai Jalanan, our pop-up street 'store' for the homeless and urban poor, at the Homeless Assistance Centre (Pusat Bantuan Gelandangan) at Medan Tuanku despite the rain and traffic. So good to see so many young people volunteering!

 4 March: Attended Petra and Junior's joint birthday poolside party and things got a little wild.

5 March: Green Living partnered up with the Turtle Conservation Society of Malaysia for the screening of Racing Extinction. I set up an outreach booth and conducted a quiz for which I had sponsored the prizes in order to encourage attendance and participation. We had a full house.

11 March: Paddleboarding at Putrajaya Lake with the gang on the occasion of Hari's birthday.
11 March: Attended the overrated and underwhelming hot air balloon fiesta at Desa Park City with Nicole. There were just a handful of balloons and huge crowds. I'll give this a miss next year.

11 March: Fireworks at the hot air balloon fiesta.

12 March: Bath and tickwash time for the dogs at the PAWS Animal Welfare Society shelter.

15 March: So this sorta kinda happened and I was featured in The Star in conjunction with International Women's Day. They had a series on women activists and I was one of those interviewed:

16 March: This particular week's creative writing and service project for my teens at the Beacon of Hope -- writing postcards to senior citizens.

17 March: My very handy and light bento for St. Patrick's Day. I call this composition "Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow".

17 March: Fair warning. Spit constitutes a weapon of mass destruction.

19 March: Well hey there, cutie-patootie! Spotted this vintage charmer at the parking lot of my friend's apartment.

19 March: Cos sometimes you just feel like baking individual vegan upside-down pineapple cakes at 4 a.m.

19 March: Two big sillies. Lulu is back at the SPCA for boarding. She is a former office dog.

19 March: Many Thanks to Karen Michaela Tan, Ng Geok Chunn, Alicia Ling Horsley and Cindy Yap for the toys, games and preloved books for the Sabah village school adopted by Ecocentric Transitions.

23 March: Meet my latest adoptee, Chantique. Her rescuers -- good friends of mine -- could not keep her due to allergies and health reasons, so I welcomed Chantique into my home two weeks ago as I have experience caring for differently-abled and medically vulnerable animals. Chantique is settling in nicely and not so feral and skittish anymore. I think she likes having me as a mum.

24 March: Friday lunch at my favourite taco place, ThymeOut Sunway, with one of my fave people, Ellen. I had the El Gandhi vegan burrito and it is so, so good! Not easy to find good southwestern food here but dang this place is the ish!

25 March: Doggie-Doos Washing Day at the KL Pooch Rescue.

25 March: Doing two shelter shifts today. Second shift (after KL Pooch Rescue) at the SPCA, cleaning cages and taking care of the Quarantine kittens and cats.

26 March: Shelter sweetheart Soda says "Hi! Notice anything different about me today?" Two of the volunteers took her out for an event at a pet café and painted her nails as a treat.

26 March: Completed the BRT run at 3 a.m. together with LiLi and my friend Ee Koon's partner Chris. We did the charity wave at 2 a.m. to raise funds for the National Cancer Society of Malaysia. The event was very well organised, with the exception of the emcee, who is a blathering halfwit. Chris was super fast, we thought he was going to end up coming home with a trophy, but alas, he didn't.

27 March: Decided to make futomaki at midnight without ever having rolled a sushi in my life, so obviously everything came out oddly-shaped. I used brown rice and quinoa and it was fine and the ingredients (kyuri, sweetcorn, tomato, cucumber, celery and spicy floss) still held together. Vegetarian cupcake on the top right came from my awesome kindergarten teacher Mrs. Balendran because she loves me!

28 March: Still Life with Kitten. (Model: Harriet, 5 months old)

29 March: Logan says: "Hello, I'm here to sit on your apron and prevent you from getting any housework done!"

31 March: My sister Amber is finally discharged after two long weeks at the vet for an infection that took a long time to heal due to her age. Can you tell we were both very glad to be reunited and going home?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

(2006 - 27 April 2017)
My quiet and sensitive little Daisy left us last night. Her health had never been stellar and we didn't think she would survive kittenhood.
I gave her the best care and food I could afford and loved her every second of every day. She was a special, empathetic and sensitive little old soul. Food allergies and mouth ulcers meant she was continuously on a special diet and medications for the final three years of her life. I'd like to believe the medications kept her reasonably comfortable and pain-free, because she really enjoyed eating and playing.
I know I am not supposed to play favourites but she always got twice the amount of treats as everyone else and always got to open the Christmas and birthday presents first, maybe because I knew her time with us would be short. She led the way in my Easter Egg hunts and got the best boxes that I brought home from the office. She and Mini-Me were the only cats who knew how to massage (i.e. knead) my back on request. She was so smart that she learned how to switch off the alarm clock so I would lie in bed with her a little longer (and she made me late for work). She would read books with me every night and make suitably intelligent "hmmm...hmmm" sounds.
Her decline was rapid and sudden even if not unexpected. One day she was climbing on furniture and playing with a rediscovered toy and the next day she was listless and had no appetite.
I would like to think she had not suffered very much or very long. I would like to think she enjoyed being my daughter as much as I enjoyed being her mama. Goodbye Daisy-Meow, I love you more than words could express. If reincarnation or Heaven were real, I would like to be reunited with you someday.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Close call for Heckle and Jeckle

I was about to leave my office to attend my friend Eddin's jazz performance at No Black Tie on 21st March when my good friends Rudhra and Angela sent a message to our Whatsapp group informing me of two glue-covered mynahs they had rescued.

There was no question about what I should do next. I was there within half an hour.

I will let Rudhra tell this story in his own words:
"I was about to begin my run yesterday evening when a man walking ahead of me stopped in his tracks and beckoned. By the wall of the TTDI primary school, amidst a heap of rubbish, leaves and branches lay a mynah. It didn’t look injured although its movement was inhibited -- upon closer inspection, we discovered that its body and feathers was coated in a sticky substance. I suggested bringing it back to Angela (my wife’s) house to get it cleaned up and just as we were leaving, out popped a second and larger mynah from under the branches. Unfortunately, it was in a similar state so we gathered both mynahs and left.

By the time we got home the mynahs had become rather distressed. After a while, the man (whose name was Paul) had to go and wished us the best. Angela and I spent the next half hour trying to clean them (or find them) as they hopped and hid all around the garden, behind pots, plants and in the drain.

I decided to contact my friend Ee Lynn for advice -- Ee Lynn has a lot of knowledge and experience in caring for and rescuing animals so if there was anyone I knew who could help, it was her. She gave me a list of things to do (and NOT to do) but feeling a little overwhelmed and uncertain of my ability (I feared causing them further distress or worse, injuring them) I asked if she would come over. Despite having plans to attend a show later that night, she said yes – she’d be right there and boy, was I relieved.

Ee Lynn arrived about 20 minutes later and spent the rest of the evening just being Ee Lynn. With unreserved patience, care and compassion she set about the task of cleaning and comforting both mynahs. After over an hour of oiling and scrubbing, she had gotten nearly all of the gunk off so we placed them in a box with water and food to dry off over the night. Ee Lynn was late for her show of course, but it did not matter – making sure the mynahs were OK was her priority and thankfully, they were.

This morning, Angela and I released them in the park. They hopped around, flew a bit and made for the bushes and trees. Their wings were still a little damp but it’s a hot day outside and I imagine they’ll be ok once they’ve dried off completely. Thank you Ee Lynn for saving these mynahs and, as always, for being an exemplar of kindness and humanity. You rock."
(All photo credits: Rudhra.)
I named the mynahs Heckle and Jeckle, even though I know that in the animated series, Heckle and Jeckle are magpies, not mynahs.
This is the state that Rudhra found the Jeckle in.
First, I carefully rubbed talcum powder onto the bird's feathers to make the glue less sticky and easier to handle. From its viscosity, texture and appearance, I think the birds have gotten themselves stuck in a glue trap. They must have also tried to free their feathers from the glue using their feet and beaks, which were all covered in glue as well.
I massaged each bird carefully with lots of olive oil and gently rubbed the glue off.
Each bird was then shampooed and rinsed off and the cycle of oiling and shampooing was then repeated 3-4 times until there are no traces of gunk left.

Angela and Rudhra put the exhausted, wet and frightened birds in a ventilated box with some uncooked rice and drinking water so they could rest and recover overnight.

The birds were still a little wet but looked much healthier and stronger in the morning.
Goodbye and good luck, Heckle and Jeckle! Take care! We love you!

It helps to remember these very basic things to do when you find a bird covered in glue from a glue trap:
1. Switch off all ceiling and table fans to prevent the birds from getting themselves killed while trying to escape.
2. Close all windows, toilets and anything that a panicking bird could fall into or out of, and get killed or injured in its attempt to escape.
3. Use powder or flour on feathers to make the glue easier to handle. Avoid getting any in the bird's eyes, nostrils or beak. It may be easier to apply the flour/powder if you pour the flour or powder into your hand first.
4. Now use oil and massage it into the feathers gently. Use your fingernails to GENTLY and LIGHTLY scrape off the glue.
5. Lather the feathers with shampoo. Again, avoid the eyes, nostrils and beak.
6. Rinse.
7. Repeat steps 4-5 until there is no stickiness left.

Here is Birdlife International's basic guide on what to do when you find a bird in need. If you live in KL/Selangor, you can also contact Dr. Jalila Abu of the Avian Vet Unit of UPM at 03 8946 8340.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Letter to the Editor: Protect Ulu Muda from Logging

The report of continued logging activities in the Ulu Muda forest complex (The Star, 9 March 2017) is a cause for alarm. The Green Living Special Interest Group of the Malaysian Nature Society supports the call of Sahabat Alam Malaysia and the Penang Water Supply Corporation to terminate all logging and quarrying activities in the Ulu Muda forest complex immediately.
The 160,000-hectare forest complex, covering 7 forest reserves, is a critical water catchment area for the northern states of Kedah, Perlis and Penang and supplies water to, among others, the Ahning, Muda and Pedu Dams. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia, the Ulu Muda forest complex supplies as much as 96% of Kedah’s, 50% of Perlis’ and 80% of Penang’s water supply.
The Kedah State Government has been aware of the logging activities in the Ulu Muda Forest Reserve for years, and the Kedah Water Supply, Water Resources and Energy Committee had assured the public since last year that it would look into the issue of logging permits and the possibility of gazetting the entire forest reserve as a water catchment area (The Star, 16 May 2016).
The 2016 drought affecting the northern states of Peninsular Malaysia is directly linked to logging activities in the Ulu Muda forest complex, which affected climate and water cycle patterns, resulting in a massive decline in dam water levels and a postponement of the paddy planting season.
In addition to providing water for domestic, industrial and agricultural use, Ulu Muda also provides vital ecological services such as climate regulation, soil erosion prevention, biodiversity conservation and maintenance of soil, water and air quality. Without the root system of this rainforest complex to absorb and slowly release rainwater, heavy monsoon rains would end up washing over the exposed cleared forests, resulting in soil erosion, landslides, flash floods and the silting of rivers.
Forest clearing releases stored carbon dioxide, which traps heat and contributes to atmospheric warming. A fully-grown tree releases 1,000 litres of water vapour a day into the atmosphere. The reduced ability of a cleared or decimated forest to absorb solar energy and release water vapour leads to higher temperatures and a decline in rainfall. One can imagine the ecological fallout if logging were allowed to continue in Ulu Muda.
From a human dimension, Ulu Muda provides economic and sociocultural services which include ecotourism, the harvesting of forest products and a home for indigenous and rural communities.
The preservation of the Ulu Muda forest complex is not a political issue and not merely the concern of environmental organisations. It affects the very survival and food and water security of a significant percentage of the population of Peninsular Malaysia. When the survival of present and future populations is at stake, apportioning blame to political parties and previous administrations is unproductive and downright harmful.
Malaysia stands to gain more economic benefits from keeping its forests intact and biologically diverse, than from issuing permits for logging, mining and road construction in forested areas. The economic benefits of logging are short-lived and can sustain only 1-2 generations at most. If the federal and state governments wish to cultivate long-term prosperity, they need to afford greater protection to rainforests, which are worth more alive than dead. There is little point in governmental and municipal initiatives such as recycling and tree-planting campaigns, which smack of environmental tokenism, if state governments and the Federal Government are unwilling to cooperate to conserve and protect the Ulu Muda forest complex.

Friday, 3 March 2017

February 2017 in Pictures

4th Feb 2017: Bathing dogs at the PAWS Animal Welfare Society shelter on a Saturday afternoon. This lovely dog's name is Christmas and he is super friendly.

5th Feb 2017: Acrobatic lion dance performance by the multiracial Shaolin Goh Chor troupe at Sunway Giza, Kota Damansara.

7th Feb 2017: My juvenile delinquents, Luna and Harriet. (Don’t worry, the whole apartment is screened in and cat-safe. This is just the storeroom window which looks out into the laundry room. It’s safe to jump and the window panes are covered in adhesive glass protection film.)

9th Feb 2017: My water supply pipe blew out on a public holiday eve, so there I was at the neighbourhood launderette at 2 a.m. washing away the evidence of the previous night's wild party, with Noam Chomsky for company.

11th Feb 2017: Behind-the-scenes shot of the photoshoot today, courtesy of Michelle Tam of The Star.

11th Feb 2017: Brunch and books at RGB The Bean Hive. Fuelling up with a broccoli burger before an afternoon of volunteering.

11th Feb 2017: Two teens, Liam and Joanna, helped to bathe and tickwash the shelter dogs under my supervision at the SPCA. Liam had just turned 13 and couldn’t stop telling everyone he is a teenager now, so I said he must be ready for more volunteering responsibilities and got him to bathe dogs with me.

11th Feb 2017: Bath and tickwash day for the shelter dogs. This lovely mutt’s name is Serena and she has yet to find a home :(

12th Feb 2017: Day out with my family toddler niece. Until she is old enough to volunteer and do data collection with me, the city aquarium will have to do!

12th Feb 2017: A pinecone fish looking decidedly pineconey. The Twin and I discussed its possible merits as a hand grenade. Cos we're both really grownup that way.

14th Feb 2017: Had a long Health and Safety Committee meeting. Look how comprehensive my meeting notes are! Wow, what a productive afternoon!

17th Feb 2017: Back in the groove of postcrossing after a long hiatus. These ones are going out to Belarus, St. Petersburg, Taipei, Pennsylvania, Brooklyn, British Columbia, and Hamburg.

18th Feb 2017: Another Saturday afternoon at the SPCA. Treating this puppy for a bad case of mange and hoping he will recover and be adopted into a loving home soon.
18th Feb 2017: “The name’s Stout. Guinea Stout.”
My friend Pyo brought Stout back to the SPCA for a visit yesterday and I got to hold Stout. Look how fluffy and fat he is now! Unreal. He looks like a stuffed toy. I was perfectly delighted. Too bad Stout didn't feel the same way. He was all "WTF?!?!"

19th Feb 2017: My idea of an 'experience gift' for my good friend Lin Idrus is to drag her through caves. Thankfully, she did not object and so we did the Dark Caves Educational Tour with our friends Ayu, Kyle and Dash.

21st Feb 2017: Turkish Delight on a Monday night. You can’t get a better combination than Yeni Raki with Orhan Pamuk.

22nd Feb 2017: Inflorescence, deconstructed. (Edible flower petals in ice cubes)

24th Feb 2017: Successfully repaired yet another burst pipe. Yes, it's 3 a.m when this was taken. I am a beast. At least now I know if this lawyering gig doesn't work out, I can go into the plumbing, home repair and remodelling business. And probably draft my own contracts while I am at it.

24th Feb 2017: This gorgeous huge reticulated python was crossing the road on our drive up to Frasers Hill. We stopped to let him/ her pass. He/she must have been at least 6-7 feet in length. Simply stunning.

25th Feb 2017: Our booths in the town centre on the occasion of the Frasers Hill International Bird Race 2017.

25th Feb 2017: I saw a Common Sun Skink run across the road and stopped a car so it wouldn't get run over, and my friend Steven rescued it. The skink, not the car, I mean. Cars don't need rescuing. Not this one anyway. I managed to overcome my fear of lizards enough to touch the skink.

25th Feb 2017: Quaint little government clinic up in Frasers Hill.

25th Feb 2017: Come to mama, you beautiful tarantula!

25th Feb 2017: Gorgeous little Tree Hole Frog.

25th Feb 2017: Wolf Spider. Good thing it was a moonless night or it might have turned into a Werewolf Spider.

26th Feb 2017: A table full of succulents and cacti in warm-hued pots.

26th Feb 2017: The boundary marker for the states of Selangor and Pahang. Also very quaint. I got a kick out of this.

26th Feb 2017: Just got back from a rather quiet weekend of volunteering up in Fraser's Hill. Felt rather restless so I went out again to clean up the forest reserve and park. The forest trails were okay but the picnic areas were dreadful. It was clear what happened -- the picnickers put their trash in bin bags and stuffed them into the ostensibly monkey-proof bins. But the bins were stuffed beyond capacity and the monkeys could reach in easily. The fact that the litter was all within a 2-meter radius from the bins and there were torn bin bags and cartons and tins with monkey teeth marks everywhere supports my theory. Managed to clean most of it up in 1.5 hours and drove all the rubbish home with me for proper disposal. Will have to write to MBPJ about increasing the frequency of rubbish collection, especially on Mondays after all the weekend hikers and picnickers have left.

28th Feb 2017: An odds-and-sods bento cos my Ikea falafels (I can neither spell nor pronounce Grönsaksbullar) were starting to get freezer burn.

28th Feb 2017: The Boomerang Kid who never did fly the coop. (These are our apartment pet chickens and they are our friends, not food.)