The past two weeks have been exceptionally challenging. My re-entry into legal practice had been really demanding on the old noggin, even when assigned nothing more exciting than document reviews and legal opinions. The learning curve here is so steep that I’m going to need metaphorical pitons, carabiners and nylon ropes to keep up.
We seem to be in no danger of running out of bad news anytime soon. A dear friend lost her 2 loyal dachshunds to a cobra last Sunday (You can read her post here: New Angels: Sonya and Sasha). An elderly friend in Australia had just undergone surgery for prostrate cancer. Yet another close friend had just been wrongfully dismissed from her job, which is infuriating because I know her employer well enough to impute bad faith on the part of the employer. My own little boy, Pixie, had to spend the night at the veterinarian's for urinary tract infection. He is now on ruinously expensive special food which he petulantly refuses to eat.
Oh well. Nothing else to do but to soldier on and do the best we can. Shakespeare says it best in Henry VI: "Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course."
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22nd March 2009: SPCA Saturday
Adorable Adoptables Looking For A New Home
I wish to reserve comment on the carrying-ons at the SPCA this week, as it may prejudice certain parties. Suffice it to say that I seriously question the leadership of those entrusted with the duty of managing the organisation and the animal shelter.
I arrived at the animal shelter around noon to find Rose attending to some visitors. I got the shampoo and leashes ready and mixed a pail of Taktic EC for use on the pound dogs. I washed the dogs from Kennels G and H and the new arrivals and let the tick-wash dry on their fur. Some of the dogs had minor wounds and I administered Ilium Dermapred on the sore areas. I wasn't in the mood to talk, so I finished my work in silence and with efficacy. At least now the clean and parasite-free dogs would have a better chance of being adopted.
Started cleaning the shelter after the last of the visitors had left and Reve had let the dogs out to run around and socialise in the SPCA compound.
Someone had given the SPCA a few bottles of homemade plant enzyme to use as a natural cleaning solution, so I mixed the rank-smelling liquid with soap and water for cleaning the Cattery and Maternity Kennels with. I swabbed and washed the Cattery, Maternity Kennels, Puppy Kennels and Front Reception/Admin areas. I was not convinced that something that smells like backwoods moonshine could have a disinfectant effect, so I scrubbed the cages and floor with a hard broom for good measure -- just in case the enzyme isn't as good at killing germs as its producer claimed it to be.
Went up to the SPCA Bungalow to shower after I was done with animal shelter work for the day. Glyn was still in a meeting, so Nicole and I attended to the Bungalow animals and discussed some of the recent events while we waited.
New van for the SPCA Inspectorate – finally!
Glyn, Nicole and I met up with Meem for dinner at Coca Restaurant in One Utama. We were horrendously late and were the last customers there. I was sorely tempted to have a beer after all the insanity of being an SPCA volunteer, but cautioned myself that I had more than an hour of driving to do after dinner. We enjoyed each other's company but there was always a slight sense of foreboding during dinner.
We parted company around 2300 hours, having reassured each other of our support and concern for each other. The next few weeks will be even tougher than this one.
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Saturday, 28th March 2009: Earth Hour Potluck Party
Caught up as I am in all my duties as a Malaysian Nature Society volunteer, I had not considered organising a special event (car-free and zero-waste, of course) for Earth Hour. I am not quick to dismiss such events as 'mere publicity stunts'. Earth Hour, like Earth Day and World Environment Day, can be a time for introspection, reflection, resolution and revolution.
Earth Hour isn't about sloganeering, and need not be an exercise in hypocrisy. It can be a time for Lights-Out participants to pledge to break out of wasteful and ecologically unsound habits, and to make lifestyle changes that will reduce one's use of energy and natural resources.
So when an MNS member, Dr. Ong, invited me to speak at her neighbourhood Earth Hour potluck party, I jumped at the opportunity to do environmental outreach work. Here are 15 upper middle class families willing to switch off all electrical appliances for an evening, and learn how to reduce their environmental impact. Their 30 children had laboured over weeks to conduct research and produce educational posters on topics (covered by our Green Living column) such as "Reducing Food Wastage", "Cooling Your Home Naturally", "Battery Use and Disposal" and "The Greenest Man On The Planet". How could I let them down?
Not only would I speak on living a greener lifestyle, I responded, I would cheerfully arrange for a video screening and organise an Eco Hunt for the young'uns as well. In return, I would encourage the families to use their own tableware, generate minimal waste, switch off all appliances (not merely the lights) if practicable and not drive for the entire evening unless absolutely necessary. They agreed to my criteria with an admirable "Can Do!" attitude that rivalled my own.
My very capable volunteer/subcommittee member Mee Hong joined me as a fellow speaker and guest judge (for the children's eco-poster contest) upon invitation, as we both lived not far from the township.
The Earth Hour party was a runaway success. The township's management corporation gamely agreed to turn all the streetlights out at 2000h, and most lights and appliances were out long before the stipulated Lights-Out hour of 2030-2130h. We had a candlelight potluck party at the tiny circular park in the middle of the street, and screened "The Story of Stuff" at 2000h. At 2030h, we flagged off the Eco Hunt, which lasted the entire hour. We judged the posters, gave out prizes, talked about conservation and had a green lifestyle pledge ceremony. The following photos bear testimony to what a great lights-out soiree we had.
(All photo credits go to Zuli Omar)
A zero-waste potluck party with homecooked food and non-disposable tableware: What a great way to get to know your neighbours!
The screening of "The Story of Stuff" took place before Lights-Out at the porch of one of the neighbours. The applause that followed the video credits took us by surprise - this was, after all, a video presentation and not a stage performance! We have no doubt about the positive impact this life-changing, mind-blowing video would have on the lives of the audience.
3 of the young'uns on the lookout for hidden clues. Mee Hong and I hid the clues for the Eco Hunt while they were watching "The Story of Stuff". I had spent the morning making clues. Each team was given a topic ("Fuel Economy", "Water Saving Measures" etc) on a slip of coloured paper. They had to look for 8 other slips of the same colour and rearrange the words written on the slips to form a sentence related to their topic (for example: "Set Computer Monitors To Go Into Sleep Mode").
Each family that had observed their pledge to use only permanent and not disposable tableware was given a pot of mint, coriander or parsley. This was a simple idea that I had suggested to the organisers, but the response was great! I was sorry not to get a potted plant. I didn't know that the organising committee had prepared a potted plant and other eco gifts for Mee Hong and me as a token of appreciation, to be given only at the end of the party.
Mee Hong and I were given the very tough assignment of judging the eco posters. All the posters were amazing and the standard was very high. The kids had done a lot of research and put in a lot of effort. I judged the posters based on the relevance, usefulness and appeal of the information, the attractiveness of the poster and their "pull" factor.
Thankfully, each child was given a small Earth Hour trophy for his or her effort, and to remind each of his or her pledge to put Planet Earth first.
Mee Hong and I were touched and surprised to receive a potted plant, a small Earth Hour trophy and a pair of salad tongs made of recycled teakwood each as tokens of appreciation for our participation. How very generous and thoughtful of the organising committee! Upon my suggestion, the children had also collected pre-loved books for Green Living. Whatever books not sold at our Pre-Loved Books booth will be donated to the children of Ulu Geroh.
We two volunteers, being no longer young, were completely flaked by the time the party was officially over at 2300h, but the energetic kids were still running relay races and playing with their skateboards and Ripstiks all over the unlit street. We thanked our hosts for a highly memorable Earth Hour party, and urged them to join us for the MNS Open Day celebrations in May.
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Sunday, 29th May 2009: World Water Day celebrations and MNS Open Day Recce
I had made arrangements to meet up with Vegan Eugene on Sunday morning so we could attend the World Water Day celebrations at the Puncak Niaga headquarters in Shah Alam. It would form part of our recce work for the MNS Open Day in May, as we have chosen water conservation & demand management as our theme for the upcoming Open Day.
We were fortunate to be able to network with a few other environmental non-profit groups at the event, and one had actually agreed to come and set up a booth at our Open Day. By a stroke of good luck, we also managed to meet journalist/environmental activist Karam Singh Walia in person and we exchanged ideas on creating awareness on freshwater conservation issues in Malaysia.
A simple yet effective postcard on the importance of repairing/maintaining water supply and transmission infrastructure.
We completed our recce exercise of the World Water Day celebrations around 1330h and proceeded to the Malaysian Agricultural Park (“MAP”), also in Shah Alam,
I am that blot in the distance trying to control the awful rented bike that came with calliper brakes that do not work. Vegan Eugene claims that his own bike at home is a thousand times better because it has cantilever brakes. I bragged that my T-Bolt has disc brakes, which makes it ten thousand times better. I wish the Park authorities would let us bring in our own bikes.
A view of the Mushroom/Hydroponics Garden, the alternative site for Open Day pending approval from the State Agri Dept.
A view of the bridge over a stream dividing the Mushroom/Hydroponics Garden from the rest of the Park. Eugene is trying to fix his awful rented bike's chain on the bridge, while I checked out the watchtower.
Showered and rested at Vegan Eugene’s bachelor pad before going back to the parental home to take Amber for a walk. I’ve been up at an ungodly hour on both Saturday and Sunday. Monday is not going to look pretty.
Vegan Eugene’s adorable furgirl, Pearl.
Messing with Pearl to see how much attention she could tolerate.
~ Semper Fi, Commando! ~