Friday, 30 September 2016

Beatles Bento

The KISS bento I made last week motivated me to create more band-themed bentos.
Of course, The Beatles, being the band that changed my life, was the natural and obvious choice next.
A Beatles fan very pleased with her Beatles bento, while wearing a matching tee :) Nothing to see here, folks, move along, move along.
How many Beatles references can you spot? (There are 3)
I think I am getting better at this. My nori-cutting skills have improved with experience, too. I can think of so many other bands and themes now.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Rock Band Tribute Bento: KISS

When my friend Pyo posted a photo of a Gene Simmons bento on my Facebook timeline last week, I saw it as a challenge to come up with one of my own. I have been a KISS fan since my teens and I think this bento, which I made last Monday, did them justice. It's gonna rock and roll in my stomach all night and party every day!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

National Day Week

When I was 18, I signed up to be a Territorial Army Reservist (Askar Wataniah Kerahan) because I felt that if there were a crisis in this country, I want to be part of the solution. When I grew older, I realised that one does not have to take up arms to defend and protect one's country. We defend and protect our country and society every day by choosing to act with integrity, responsibility, justice and moral courage. We can try to be part of the solution every day without ever having to put our lives on the line. 
(P/S: In retrospect, I would have been absolutely rubbish as a soldier anyway.)
I had a busy National Day week. Wednesday proved itself to be a wet, chilly and blustery one. Met up with my good friends Rudhra and Angela for an early banana leaf lunch at Usha's in PJ Old Town before heading to Section 52 to explore the back alleys and photograph street art before the thunderstorm broke.
... And then it was off to the National Blood Bank in Jalan Tun Razak for my National Day tradition of blood donation.
A short rest and some refreshments followed, and then I was off to the SPCA to help out in the Cattery, since it was too wet and cold for bathing dogs. I cleaned the cats' ears with ear mite solution, administered Frontline tick and flea prevention spray on every cat, checked each cat for injuries, overgrown/ingrown claws and other irregularities, and cleaned out the Cattery. This took several hours and since it was a wet, cold night, I went home afterwards and spent the night doing housework instead of going out for coffee and a movie as I had planned earlier.
The following day was a workday and just as rainy. Traffic in the evening was frightful and it took me close to two hours to get to the Homeless Assistance and Service Centre in Lorong Medan Tuanku 2, where Green Living is having our annual collaboration with Kedai Jalanan. Thankfully, our other volunteers did not have such a great distance to travel as I did, and managed to arrive in good time to assist Lin Idrus and her students with setting up the store. There were puddles everywhere, so it was a good thing the clothes were hung up on racks and there were tarps to line the ground with.

The volunteers helped me unload the remaining donations from The Stinkbug and we arranged the goods while our homeless clients queued up for dinner. We opened our store for 'business' as soon as some of the clients finished eating. We were kept happily and busily on our feet attending to clients, helping them try on clothing, putting things into reusable shopping bags (we had stacks of those donated by volunteers) and managing the crowd. Our Green Living committee members Shannon and Zhang Hui were fantastic as usual.
A group photo of the volunteers for posterity. Well done, Kedai Jalanan!
We finished around 10 p.m. and packed up. I loaded a rubbish bag full of dirty, stained and torn clothing for recycling into the Stinkbug to be dropped off at the recycling bins later and went out to supper with the other volunteers at the Naan restaurant nearby.
It has been a fulfilling week. Often, patriotism means appreciating and accepting the people of all strata of society who make up this vibrant young nation. It means putting our time and energies into improving our country and community. It means taking the time to appreciate all that is beautiful and quirky about our country and doing our best to keep it beautiful, safe and clean.
... And in honour of things that are beautiful and quirky, I leave you with a photodump of the street art in Section 52, Petaling Jaya, around the PJ State Cinema and Menara MBPJ.

This one is a really cool interactive one. It's an adult-sized merry-go-round made of steel and bungee cords.
Seats and tables made of reclaimed steel drums and pallets for the public's use.
Bamboo windchimes in the darkening sky.

I love the "suddenly something" effect of street art. I love their incongruity. I love the way they encourage interaction and participation from passersby.

Storm clouds gathering in the darkening sky.
CovertOps78, Out.  

Friday, 2 September 2016

Turtle Volunteer Programme 2016 and another Jonker Jaunt

As we have been doing for the past 4 years, Green Living again coordinated our annual Turtle Volunteer Programme at the Turtle Information and Conservation Centre in Masjid Tanah, Melaka, during the turtle nesting and hatching season. This took place last Saturday, 27th August 2016. 32 participants turned up for the event, including new MNS members and families with young children. This is a good 'tenderfoot' programme for new volunteers and those who are unable to take long breaks from work to volunteer at turtle sanctuaries in Pulau Redang and other conservation sites. It's good for members of the public to be able to volunteer for one day and still be able to see the enormous difference they have made.

I managed to persuade my parents to join me on this trip so that they would be able to see a little of what I do as a volunteer. Besides, neither have released turtle hatchlings before. This turned out to be a good decision because we all enjoyed ourselves immensely and we have come a full circle of sorts. When my brothers and I were children, our parents taught us about wildlife and conservation and took us on trips all around the country to learn more about historical sites and places of natural interest. Now it is my turn to take them on trips and get them involved in my conservation work.
We arrived at the Centre in the afternoon and sat through the usual educational talk and briefing in the auditorium.

Then it was time to clean out the turtle holding pool. There has been changes to the Centre and the smaller pool at the side of the building has been closed up and the turtles have been transferred to the large pool at the back.
The volunteers put a lot of effort into scrubbing the pool and polishing the carapace of the turtles. It was especially encouraging to see how hard the children worked 'to make the turtles clean and healthy'.

The hatchery did not need any cleaning this round, as there had been another group of volunteers who had spruced and tidied up the hatchery, so we proceeded straight to the beach for the beach cleanup.

Everyone worked hard at picking up litter. Most of the litter consisted of cigarette butts and styrofoam food packaging. There has been some heartening developments in the state. The Melaka state government has implemented a styrofoam ban and is taking steps to phase out foam food packaging. Hopefully this will translate into less foam packaging on beaches and in the sea.
Look at my parents, working hard. I am so very proud of them.
Green Living's youngest committee member Zhang Hui and I climbed into a deep, stagnant drain to fish out all the horrible plastic bags, bottles and foam cups and clamboxes clogging up the drain. It was awful but necessary work. This girl didn't even flinch one bit. She really is a dynamo. Her sense of responsibility and discipline set a good example for the other young participants. I really could not have done without her help.
Earth Heroes, each and every one. We managed to collect a remarkable amount of rubbish, which is quite outstanding considering that approximately 12 out of 32 volunteers are young children, and 2 are senior citizens. I am glad they dived into this task so enthusiastically and understood the importance of beach cleanups.

We then had our usual souvenir presentation ceremony. The Turtle Information Centre presented each participant with a turtle-shaped keychain made of polished coconut husk, while Green Living presented each family with a stack of turtle postcards packed with natural history information. The children were especially thrilled with the physical acknowledgements of their hard work.

By then the sun had gone down and it was time for the highlight of the programme -- hatchling release! We went down to the beach and squatted or stood in 'V' formation for the release. I invited the first-timers to tip the boxes gently to release the hatchlings.

We bade the turtles goodbye and good luck as they made their way to the sea. It was, as always, an emotional experience.
My parents got to witness their first turtle hatchling release.

When the final turtle hatchling entered the sea, I announced the end of the Turtle Volunteer Programme 2016 and thanked all the participants for their time, effort and resources. Hugs and handshakes were exchanged.

Then it was time for me to tidy and pack up, thank the staff of the Centre, and drive my parents and myself to our hotel, Baba House, in Melaka Town.

This is my third stay in Baba House and I haven't grown tired of it yet. My parents were positively charmed by the quaintly decorated and restored hotel.

We had a lovely supper of street food in Jonker Walk. I had no idea my stomach could hold so much coconut ice cream and fresh pineapple.
Breakfast the following morning was at the courtyard / dining area of Baba House as usual. My parents loved the old photos and architectural details and of course a photograph for posterity is in order.
We had a nice walk around Jonker Street in the morning, bought durian crepes and other treats from Durian Cottage and admired the architecture of some of the older buildings.

The drive home was smooth and uneventful except for a coffee break. It has been another successful Turtle Volunteer Programme and I hope it has increased our appreciation of nature and the marine ecosystem.

For more information on visiting and volunteering at the Turtle Conservation and Information Centre, contact the Centre at:
Pusat Konservasi dan Penerangan Penyu
(Turtle Conservation and Information Centre)
Pantai Padang Kemunting,
Masjid Tanah,
Pengkalan Balak,

Phone/Fax: 06 384 6754

Facebook Profile:!/hawksbill.ecoclub.3

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Letter to the Editor: Halt Logging In The Terenggun Virgin Forest Reserve

The Pahang Menteri Besar’s statement disavowing responsibility for logging in the Terenggun Virgin Forest Reserve (VFR) in Kuala Lipis defies logic and the principles of accountability and transparency.
If, as the MB stated, no logging permits have been issued for the Terenggun VFR, then the tree-felling activities must necessarily be illegal, whether the logging is for the purpose of the timber industry or for road construction, as claimed in his statement dated 20th August 2016.
Based on observable facts and basic civil engineering practices, there are no instances in which timber is utilised in modern-day road construction in Malaysia. It follows therefore that the trees were felled to clear the way for road construction and the timber became just another source of income.
Either possibility is an alarming one, as neither logging nor road construction should be permitted in a forest reserve, especially one with such high biodiversity as the Terenggun VFR. Logging and road construction in Terenggun would affect air and water quality, destroy vital watersheds leading to the increased risk of flash floods, landslides and drought, fragmentise and annihilate wildlife habitats and hasten the extinction of wildlife.
There is no environmental or traffic impact assessment report to indicate that there is a necessity for a road to be constructed through the Terenggun VFR. Opening up a road in a forest reserve would simply create access for illegal loggers, hunters and wildlife poachers. Constructing a road through this ecologically-sensitive area would not alleviate any traffic problems or improve the quality of life of Pahang citizens in any way. It would instead cause both human and animal populations to suffer adverse effects from the reduced air and water quality and increased carbon emissions, human-wildlife conflicts and traffic fatalities.
It is clear from the ambiguous response of the authorities on the issue of logging in the Terenggun VFR that the forest-clearing was carried out in a highly irregular manner without complying with proper procedures or without any proper assessments or reports.
As a concerned citizen, I therefore urge the Pahang State Government and Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) to put an immediate stop to logging in the Terenggun VFR and other forest reserves, and take steps to protect forests and wildlife.
Tropical rainforests have more economic value intact than degraded, due to the ecological and sociocultural services they provide. Pahang 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. Pahang is well-known for, among others, its national parks and great ecotourism potential, and therefore there are economic and cultural incentives for conserving its forest reserves and promoting sustainable use of its forest resources. 
The state forestry authorities are entrusted with the honoured duty of monitoring and protecting forest reserves and gazetted areas. There are no defensible reasons why the state forestry department would condone or be ignorant of any intrusions of such degree.
There are countless concerned and civic-minded citizens and environmental organisations who are willing to assist the government and forestry authorities in monitoring and protecting our rainforests and wildlife, should the need arise. Civil society’s readiness to play its part in conservation efforts must now be matched by political will on the part of state and federal authorities and enforcement agencies to protect and conserve forest reserves.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

A Half-Assed Runner's Diary

I make no secret of the fact that I am lazy when it comes to exercise. I love outdoor activities and hard physical labour (housework, gardening, hands-on volunteering and home improvement/DIY projects), but running for running's sake just seems like such a mindless, tedious activity to me. I can't for the life of me see why I loved it so much in my schooldays.
This is probably how my friends (who are serious runners) prepare for marathons and road races:
Mon: Slow long distance run
Tues: Speed work
Wed: Recovery run
Thurs: Slow long distance run
Fri: Speed work
Sat: Social / group run
Sun: Sunrise hike up some hill or mountain or the other, where they will take fantastic photos of Broga Hill / Tabur East / Bukit Kutu / Gunung Nuang / Gunung Datuk and post it on Facebook with inspirational quotes about goal-setting.
Repeat every week until the week of the Race. Build up weekly base mileage over a period of 6 months.
Race Week: Carbo-load. Daily tempo run and strength-building exercises.
Night before a race: Get race gear ready, eat well, get plenty of sleep.
And this is how I prepare for half-marathons and road races:
Mon: Play silly buggers. 
Tues: Play silly buggers.
Wed: Play silly buggers.
Thurs: Play silly buggers.
Fri: Play silly buggers.
Repeat each day and each week until the week of the Race.
Night before the race: Go through collection of sneakers to locate pair with lowest number of duct tape patches. Download exciting audiobooks into MP3 player to listen to while running. Go to bed 4 hours before the race.
In spite of my lack of self-discipline and disinclination for training, however, I signed up to run a half-marathon (21km) for Hospis Malaysia in the Run For A Reason category of the Standard Chartered KL Marathon this year. I am a better fundraiser than I am an athlete, and thanks to the generosity of my friends, I managed to raise RM1,400.00 for Hospis Malaysia.
I participated in two road races in July and August, which means I have reached my personal target of running in 3 road races this year (the first one was the Turtle Conservation Run in March). It should have been 3 road races in 3 weeks, but I busted my left ankle during the Standard Chartered KL Marathon and could not participate in the Wild Tiger Run the following Sunday.
On 31st July, I participated in the Blood Donor Fun Run, which I had registered for during my last blood donation on 14th May.
This photo collage was made after my last whole blood donation at the National Blood Bank on 14th May. I had spent the morning observing and making notes on the SPCA's Pet Care Programme, and then went to donate blood during lunch hour. The National Blood Bank has a certain allocation of meatless meals for vegetarian blood donors these days, for which I am grateful. On that particular day, I was given fried kuay teow, a doughnut, an apple and a hot beverage. I then picked up a race form and signed up for the race on my way out of the blood bank.
I completed the Blood Donor Fun Run and picked up my Finisher's Medal despite arriving late (couldn't find a parking spot) and getting distracted several times by a flock of Painted Storks, a Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo and some Black-Naped Orioles.
Painted Storks around the lake at the Bukit Jalil Recreational Park.
Painted Storks ignoring me while I ignored the fact that I had a run to complete.
Completed the run and picked up my Finisher's Medal. What a way to reward and celebrate mediocrity. I get a medal for my half-assed effort. You get a medal, I get a medal, she gets a medal, everybody gets a medal. Wheeee.
Chilling out with Scar the Cat at the SPCA shelter after my run.
The following Sunday, I ran 21km in the Standard Chartered KL Marathon without getting distracted by birds or wildlife, because we ran in the middle of the city.
Truthfully, I hardly felt the boredom or fatigue of running for over 3 hours, since I had some good audiobooks on my little MP3 to keep my mind occupied.
I felt quite pleased with my Finisher's Medal, although my finishing time was less than stellar, because I managed to raise quite a tidy sum for a good cause.
I took the opportunity to have my photo taken at Hospis Malaysia's booth...
 ... and I received a special souvenir t-shirt for succeeding in raising more than RM500 for my chosen charity. I took this photo at home for the benefit of a friend who wanted to know what our souvenir shirts look like. The scowl, gun show and boxing glove are, of course, gratuitous.
I  had also registered for the Wild Tiger Run for tiger conservation, which took place last Sunday, 14th August, but found that I was still unable to put any weight on my left ankle on the morning of the run, and sadly had to bail out.
However, my ankle wasn't bad enough to stop me from going to the SPCA shelter to bathe and tickwash dogs.
 And as is my usual fashion, I made myself a lunchbox of little vegan medals on Monday, as a nod to the 2016 Summer Olympics, flawed though it may be, and to my recent small haul of finisher's medals in road races, mediocre though my performance may be.
I will probably never win any medals for speed and outstanding performance, but that won't stop me from participating in future road races and running for good causes. I may be a half-assed athlete but at least I know I am all heart when it comes to fundraising and volunteering.