Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Hit The Road, Jack

~ Wishing all my friends a very Happy New Year, from my home to yours. May 2009 be a year of tolerance, love, compassion, understanding, progress, accountability and evolution for this troubled world of ours. ~

It has been another memorable and productive year for me, and I would say I’ve achieved around 75% of the targets I had set for myself last New Year’s Eve. 2009 is not going to be an easy ride, judging by the current economic and political climate, but we will all just have to do the best we can.

I’m probably overreaching myself here but I’ve made the following list:

50 Goals and Reminders-To-Self For 2009:

1. To get another 20 stray cats vaccinated, neutered and released/rehomed under Project Second Chance.
2. To volunteer at the SPCA animal shelter for at least 5 hours a week and invest additional time in government and industry lobbying work.
3. To submit another 10 letters to the Press/Press releases on relevant environmental issues.
4. To coordinate and conduct another 10-12 Green Living education and awareness projects this year for the Selangor Branch of the Malaysian Nature Society.
5. To donate blood another 3 to 4 times this year.
6. To bring household energy usage down by another 5%.
7. To bring household water usage down by another 5%.
8. To reduce waste to the extent that we only have to take out the trash once in 2 weeks.
9. To create a personal Key Performance Index for work in the interest of professional development and to try to meet all targets by the end of 2009.
10. To drive with at least one hand on the steering wheel if going over 30 kmh.
11. Not to eat complicated things like mashed potatoes while driving.
12. Not to make the cats do the moonwalk on the living room rug.
13. To get at least 4 hours of sleep each night.
14. To assist the SPCA in coordinating the Ampang Jaya stray cat neutering project under Mission Help.
15. To commence B-Boying in February and stick with it for at least 6 months.
16. To go skateboarding at the skate park at least once a month.
17. To read all industry newsletters and landmark decisions in the interest of continuing professional development.
18. To do my Basic Caving Course in April 2009.
19. To make my compost pit and trash receptacle macaque-proof.
20. To save up enough for a paint job for the Battletank by October 2008.
21. Not to take a single day of medical leave all year.
22. To take my parents on a caving vacation to Mulu Caves.
23. To keep a herpetofauna sighting log.
24. To update my birding log.
25. To coordinate the World Environment Day 2009 celebrations for MNS.
26. To coordinate the Earth Day 2009 celebrations for the Residents' Association.
27. Not to drive like a rally driver, if I could help it.
28. To go on my 4th Seahorse Data Collection and Monitoring trip.
29. To register as a stem cell/ bone marrow donor.
30. To come in to work sober without fail.
31. To leave milk crates well alone.
32. To get the Draft Water Management Plan and petition out to the State Government and relevant ministries by April 2009.
33. To resume work on the infernal Bar Council Secretariat Energy Audit.
34. To go camping backwoodsman-style again.
35. To do my bushcraft/woodcraft follow-up workshop.
36. To do the firecraft workshop again until I succeed in making fire by bow drill.
37. To complete my intermediate First Aid course.
38. To bring an animal first aid kit with me in the car or whenever I go on trips, just in case I encounter an injured animal again.
39. To start work on the book I am co-authoring with Mahendran.
40. To attempt the PJ Half Marathon again.
41. To actually work out on my chin-up bar rather than just hang clothes on it.
42. Not to punch, kick or headbutt anyone all year, even if he is a dysfunctional sexist b**t**d.
43. To keep the volume on my stereo unit / car radio down before I go deaf.
44. To support local theatre by watching and reviewing the better productions.
45. To save all my bonuses and increments by adding it all to my fixed deposit account.
46. To drastically cut down on credit card use.
47. To learn how to adjust the Battletank’s timing myself.
48. To grow my own wheatgrass and ryegrass.
49. To stop acquiring more books until I have read everything in my existing collection.
50. To have more adventures!

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Friday, 19th December 2008: “Oh My God” at the KL Performing Arts Centre

Oh My God

My old buddy Dorah had invited me to watch this local production, in which one of her friends is acting. It has been 8 months since I last watched a play, so I accepted her kind offer and made my way to KLPAC after work on Thursday.

Described as a ‘dark comedy’, the play touched on issues such as religion, guilt, redemption, hypocrisy, chastity and death. We (Dorah, Shanon, Faeizah, Rena and I) came away impressed with the originality, wit and courage of this play. The comic timing of the punchlines and kickers were perfect, and the characters were very well fleshed out, from the ditzy Tini to the bitter Joseph.

I guess this play has renewed my faith in young Malaysian playwrights and producers after the disappointment of having watched an insipid version of Pinter’s “The Dumb Waiter” and a ridiculous session of “Actorlympics” in the past.

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Saturday, 20th December 2008: Do the Animals Know It’s Christmas?

SPCA Paw-ty Poster

Ee-Tan and I with Jelly and Jojo at the SPCA Christmas Paw-ty!

I had organised the inaugural SPCA Christmas Paw-ty as a way to engage families, students and the local community in the SPCA and the cause of animal welfare, rather than as a fundraiser. Christmas can be a very sad time for shelter animals, as many animals are surrendered or abandoned during the festive season, and when the shelter staff goes away on holiday, the shelter can be a cheerless place for the animals.

We had relied on “Do the Animals Know It’s Christmas?” as our event tagline, to get the public to empathise with shelter animals. Toys and treats can do wonders to help unhappy animals feel more at home, and so guests were encouraged to bring gifts of food, toys, treats and pet supplies for the shelter animals.

On the morning of the Paw-ty, I arrived at the SPCA Bungalow with my friends Hui-Min and Beng Beng to clean up the Bungalow and put up the decorations. The caterers arrived early to set up the buffet table, and soon the guests began trickling in. My parents were the first to arrive, and I took them to see Angel and feed her treats. My parents were reduced to tears, as most people are when they see Angel for the first time, but I reassured them that she would never be euthanised and will always have a home with us here at the Bungalow.

Giving cookies to Angel at the back of the Bungalow after the Paw-ty. Zack's rump is in the foreground. Angel lost her eyesight and was lame in one leg following a senseless and brutal attack. It looks as though I am force-feeding her in this photo, but I was just trying to get her to smell the cookies so that she would know that it is food.

My favourite SPCA dog, Angel. Please don't look away when you see her, as she has the most beautiful personality ever (Photo taken by MingChien Ng).

Jake, Jess, Lillian, Jack, Kathleen, Liz Price and Selvanathan were among my friends who had received my event invitation via e-mail and decided to come and support our efforts. As it was a pet-friendly event, some guests came with their very well-behaved furkiddos. The guests were generous and our gift tubs could not hold all the gifts that they brought.

At 1530 hours, we all went down to the Shelter to distribute treats and toys to the animals. You could sense the excitement in the dogs when the visitors arrived with the goodies. It was a sight that tugged at the ol’ heartstrings.

We had a total of around 60 guests for the Paw-ty but did not manage to break even, as I had set a very low price for the lunch tickets to encourage attendance and participation. Meem and Jacinta tried to persuade me that we didn’t do too badly as the donations and gifts did make up for the costs of having the Paw-ty, but I was disappointed that I failed to do better. This calls for a post-mortem and another fundraising effort to put money back into the SPCA coffers.

We took a break from cleaning up the Bungalow and putting away the donated items to go down to the shops for tea. I left Meem, Nicole and Glyn (Glyn + Nicole = Glycol) after that so I could return to the Shelter to help out in the kennels.

Reve and Linda had by then let the dogs out to play and were already cleaning the cages. I went to work washing and disinfecting the cages, the front Reception/Admin area, Maternity Kennels, Cattery 1, Puppy Area and Central Area. I cleaned out the cat baskets and gave them clean bedding, and washed and refilled all the food and water bowls. Most of the dogs have had their baths in the morning thanks to Rose, Jane and a few other volunteers, and it did the heart good to see the dogs clean and parasite-free for once.

Finished cleaning the Shelter by 1930h, cleaned myself up, went back to the BOQ and later headed back to the parental home for the rest of the weekend.

By objective standards, the Paw-ty went well and the guests did enjoy themselves, and we did manage to make the animals very happy with all the treats, so maybe I should stop being so hard on myself about not having raised more funds for the SPCA.

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Tuesday, 23rd December & Wednesday, 24th December 2008: Glyn’s Birthday and Christmas Eve at the SPCA Bungalow

Glyn turned 40 on Tuesday and so I went over to the SPCA Bungalow after work to celebrate with the Inspectorate and MarComm team. I brought drinks and munchies and CDs to dance to, and we made short work of the chips and nachos. Dinner was at Naan Corner, as usual, and Glyn insisted on paying for the meal despite our vehement protests. We walked back to the Bungalow for the cake-cutting ceremony and to take dodgy photos of each other. The novelty candles took ages to light and dripped wax all over the lovely cake. After dinner, we decided to give the Bungalow animals some of their Christmas presents. There were chew toys for the dogs and glitter balls for the cats. I gave Glyn and Nicole their gifts, and they gave me one in return. Although the initial understanding was that we would try to have a non-consumer Christmas as much as possible, useful gifts and gifts for animals would be graciously accepted. While the dogs were playing with their toys, I discussed the pet-sitting arrangement with Nicole. Almost everyone would be away for Christmas and so we agreed to take turns to come in and feed and clean up after the animals. I left the Bungalow around 2300h, having declined to join in a boisterous game of UNO as I had to go to work the following day.

I was on pet-sitting duty on Christmas Eve, and so I was back at the SPCA Bungalow the following night to feed the animals. I had expected the Bungalow to be in darkness, but it wasn’t. Our Inspector, Thean, was in the hall mopping the floor when I arrived, and the dogs swarmed to the front door to greet me. Thean had already fed the dogs, and I merely had to let them out to play for a little while. I collected the empty food bowls, did the washing up, cleaned the kitchen and cleaned out the cat cages.

Thean informed me that he was going to give the dogs their Christmas presents from him, and produced an assortment of brightly coloured collars. We put collars on Poodley, Girlie, Boobie, Zack, Angel and Tesco. What a difference it made to the dogs! They didn’t look like strays anymore with collars on.

Jacinta and Moses arrived after their Christmas Eve dinner to pick up Poodley, who had been unwell and needed home care, and I took the opportunity to bid everyone goodnight and make my way back to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters. The roads were congested and bad drivers were out in full force, and I couldn’t help thinking what an irony it is that Christmas is said to be a time for sharing and goodwill.

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Thursday, 25th December 2008: Christmas with the family

Gave the Rowdies a Christmas breakfast of mackerel, cod liver oil and Hi-Vite drops before taking the LRT downtown to meet the Parents at Corus Hotel, where I had booked us a table for the Christmas Day High Tea.

I believe all festive holidays should be celebrated like the special occasions that they are, and have made it a point to include the Parents in the festivities. Covert Twin and his girl arrived at the hotel when I was well into my 4th helping of dessert. There was a good spread, and we enjoyed the meal very much. I would rate the food and service at 4 stars out of 5, and the ambience at 4½. A magician, a clown and a goon in a Santa suit entertained the younger guests with games and performances at the other end of the coffeehouse, which left the dining area peaceful enough for us to dine and converse civilly. I had made reservations very early in the promotion period, and so we were entitled to a discount. The bill was lower than I had expected, which necessitated a movie treat after our long lunch.

We walked over to KLCC to catch a movie at the cinema. Being dog lovers, we chose “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”.

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

I can’t appreciate all the negative reviews given to this movie. Of course scenes like that of the dogfight kennels had to be sanitized to a certain extent – this is meant to be family fare, not a PeTA documentary! The movie was humorous and had a sufficient element of suspense and surprise to keep even the adults guessing, and imparted values such as loyalty, courage and responsibility. The spoilt niece and pampered puppy shed their prejudices and become better persons at the end of the movie, and there was even a message from Disney on behalf of the American Humane Society about pet adoption at the closing credits. The dogs just evoked so much of your love and empathy (Yes, those are real dogs with computer-generated mouths) and the message on respect for and responsibility towards animals was so clear, you really couldn’t ask for more. I’ve always detested breed-specific animal movies because of the way it increases demand for pedigree breeds that most people have no idea how to care for (Think “Snow Dogs” and the consequential rise in the abandonment of Siberian Huskies in animal shelters after 1-2 years), but Beverly Hills Chihuahua had a strong pro-mongrel, pro-shelter/pound adoption message, which I find commendable.

It was drizzling when we left KLCC, but the streets and shops were still full of revelers. I saluted Covert Twin and the Parents goodbye, returned to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters and spent the rest of the evening cleaning the house in the company of the housemates and the Rowdies.

So this is Christmas, and we did have fun.

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Saturday, 27th December – Monday, 29th December 2008: SPCA Jumble Sale Weekend

My friends and I manning the Books & CDs stall.
From L-R: A 17-year-old Girl Guide with very little common sense and who could hardly speak a word of English or Malay, me, Mun Yee and Hot Rachel

Drove back to the parental home on Friday evening so I could help the parents with the spring cleaning on Saturday. Spent Saturday cleaning out the laundry and storage area after giving Amber and Chocky their baths.

The SPCA had our quarterly Jumble Sale on Sunday, and I managed to recruit Mun Yee and Hot Rachel to assist us. It was a little more organised this time around, as a team of volunteers had come to the shelter the day before to set up the stalls and get things ready.

We were put in charge of the Used Books & CDs stall, and 2 17-year-old Girl Guides who were supposed to be assisting us as part of their project in order to earn their merit badges were assigned to our stall. The girls were slow-witted, completely incapable of communicating in anything other than Mandarin, and thoroughly exasperating to work with. They kept disappearing from their station every 20 minutes and displayed no initiative or leadership qualities. Mun Yee and Hot Rachel worked hard at making sales, bagging up purchases, collecting cash, making change, rearranging goods and keeping order at our stall.

The Girl Guides reappeared like rabbits out of a hat when the Sale was over and while we were in the midst of bagging up the unsold books and magazines for other charities. I made the girls help to bag up the books and wipe the shelves. I cleaned the bookcases and returned the bookcases to the Charity Shop.

The Charity Truck arrived around 1330 pm and we got them to collect the unsold goods to be redistributed to other charities or sent for recycling. I urged my team to take a lunch break while the workers loaded the items into the Charity Truck. After lunch, Mun Yee and Hot Rachel helped with the remaining tidying up. I swept the floor, bagged up the garbage, scrubbed and disinfected the Sale area, cleaned the Cattery and the Maternity Kennels and cleaned the Front Reception/Admin area before having a shower and going back to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters.

We made only RM7,500.00 from this Jumble Sale, which is disappointing, considering that we made over RM12,000 at the last Jumble Sale. Still, we managed to clear out the storeroom and Charity Shop, promote the reuse and recycling of many items that would otherwise have been landfilled, and help out other needy charities in the process.

Went back to the parental home after feeding and cleaning up after the Rowdies at the BOQ. Monday was Awal Muharram, another public holiday, so I spent it at the parental home cleaning out the rest of the laundry and storage room and the hardware cabinets. Repaired to the BOQ around midnight after an utterly boring and exhausting day with the parents and spent the next 4 hours cleaning the BOQ, which looked like a disaster site due to the fact that my housemate was on a long Christmas break. I hope it will be a long time before I have to spend a long weekend cleaning up after everyone else’s messes again.

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Tuesday, 30th December 2008: Final Blood Donation for the Year.

Nothing much to report, so I’ll just post the statistics:

Date & Time: Tues, 30th December 2008, lunch hour (1300h – 1400 h)
Venue: National Blood Bank, Jalan Tun Razak.
Whole Blood Donation No: 26
Haemoglobin count: 13.9
Amount donated: 350 ml.
Time taken: 3 minutes 56 seconds. (I failed to break my own blood donation speed record :o( My personal best is 3:02 minutes).
On the Blood Bank cafeteria menu today: Nasi lemak, tuna sandwich, sesame bun whotsit-thingy (I haven’t eaten mine yet so I have no idea what’s inside), pear, coffee/tea/Milo. Oh, and the ubiquitous Iron and Folic Acid tablets.
Hot factor of nurses: Absolute Babes! W00t!

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Gung-Ho, Commando!
Covert Operations, Over To You!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

30th Birthday - Saturn Return

“There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands
That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,”
- “A Thunderstorm”, by Emily Dickinson

Judging by the number of transgressions the Malaysian government has committed against the environment, we’ve been let pretty lightly off the hook so far. As you can tell from previous blog entries, it has been raining incessantly for the past few months.

Mother Nature is angry, and it may be too late for us to heed her warnings. Two sleeping sisters lost their lives when a landslide buried their house in Ulu Yam on 30th November. Hardly a week later, a landslide at Jalan Semantan buried and wrecked at least 11 cars, on 5th December. There were, fortunately, no casualties.

The very next day, a massive landslide at Bukit Antarabangsa destroyed at least 14 houses, killing 4 people. For years, concerned people including environmental action groups have warned of the dangers of hillslope development. The government and local authorities must have found the prospect of receiving kickbacks too attractive, because permits continued to be issued for hillsides to be cleared and logged and for homes to be constructed in patently dangerous locations. The recent landslide tragedies are a frightening reminder of what can happen when one puts profits before people. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of the landslide tragedies.

You can read the news report here: The Star, Dec 6

The SPCA Inspectorate has moved in to rescue the pets left behind at Bukit Antarabangsa when the people were evacuated. It is sad that some people did not think their animal companions were important enough to bring along. For the others who did not have access to a shelter where their pets would be welcome, the SPCA set up a temporary shelter nearby to house, feed and care for the pets until things return to normal and the animals’ caregivers could come back to get them.

I was on standby duty last week to assist the SPCA team in the event the animals had to be removed and brought to safety at short notice. Some of my friends had registered as volunteers and had been manning the SPCA’s Missing Pets booth that would enable worried people to report missing pets and request that our team rescues or feeds and cares for the animals they had to leave behind.

You can read about the SPCA’s animal rescue efforts here: The Star, Dec 8

As at the time of this blogpost, we are optimistic that the worst is over and that the animals will be reunited with their people soon.

Saturday, 6th December 2008: Eco Kids Preschool Programme

Playing the Green Living Guessing Game: Learning the advantages of using cloth shopping bags over plastic bags.

Getting the kids to help pick up litter wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated.

(For more photos of the Eco Kids Preschool Programme, please go to: my MNS activities photo album)

The Principal of a kindergarten had contacted our MNS Branch Chairman in November, requesting that our Special Interest Groups assist in conducting a half-day nature appreciation programme for their pupils. Nature Guides and Green Living accepted the challenge, although I have never conducted a programme for children this young before.

Due to my hectic schedule, my preparations for the preschool camp were entirely last-minute. My wards are obviously too young to be challenged with the 3R Game, which requires sophisticated knowledge and reading skills. I decided to improvise and create a new game instead, so I tweaked the Blindfold Guessing Game to include environmental lessons, and with Serina’s help, I managed to get a large variety of items for the game.

Serina and I arrived at the Kota Damansara Community Forest Park early to set up.

The children arrived by bus with their parents and teachers. We got them to assemble and then divided them into 2 groups. The first group followed Mariam into the forest for their nature walk, while we conducted games with the second group. First, I talked to the children about littering and showed them pictures of landfills and got them to empathise with the trees and living things. Then we got the children to pick up litter, accompanied by the parents, around the Park. We then bagged up the litter, congratulated the children, and had them disinfect their hands with water-free hand sanitiser. We followed up with a Circle Time where we analysed the rubbish and discussed what could be recycled, what packaging was unnecessary, and what alternatives we have.

Our next game was Water Savers, for which I had to use coloured crystal beads because a good-for-nothing-so-and-so whose identity I do not yet know has borrowed and misplaced by entire bag of Green Living – Eco Kids games equipment and Water Savers tokens. The anklebiters did okay on this one, although I am amazed by the difference in the level of ability in children of the same age group. There were 4-year-olds who could confidently tell me that “we should use low-flow taps and showerheads”, and then there were 6-year-olds who would stand mutely in front of me with inscrutable eyes, palms out, asking for a game token without proposing a home water conservation solution. Serina wisely advised me not to give out any prizes for the games to avoid the tears and tantrums that come easily at that age.

Our third game was the Green Living Guessing Game, as a substitute for the 3R Game. We put various objects including a bulb of garlic, a stuffed dog and empty cans in a cloth bag, seated the children in a circle around us, blindfolded each child in turn and let them take an object out of the bag and try to guess what it is. Once the blindfold is off, we discussed the environmental lesson to be learned from the object (E.g.: Rubber lizard: “Lizards eat insects such as flies and mosquitoes, which carry and spread disease. We should not kill lizards because they are providing an important service. Lizards do not carry disease. Pollution and pesticides can cause frogs and lizards to be born with deformities.”)

Once the first group returned from their nature walk, we swapped groups with the Nature Guides and conducted the second session for the kids. When it was all over, we handed out gifts to the children and thanked them for helping to clean up the Park. Serina and I packed the things up and waved goodbye to the KDCF Park until our next nature programme.

Sunday, 7th December 2008: My 30th Birthday Pawed-Luck Paw-ty!

Paw-ty guests signing the Universal Declaration for Animal Welfare.

Pawed-Luck Paw-ty: Mun Yee emerged the winner of the Dog Biscuit Guessing Competition!

(For more photos of my birthday party, please go to: Stepping Into My Third Decade)

My thirtieth birthday would mark the end of my Saturn Return, and I felt it fitting to celebrate my birthday with my family and friends both to welcome my third decade and to mark a new chapter in my life upon my departure from legal practice to serve in the legal team of the Regional Centre for Arbitration.

I decided to celebrate by organising a benefit birthday barbecue-cum-potluck party in aid of the SPCA animal shelter, and so I booked the Taman Mayang Jaya Community Hall up the street from the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters for 7th December and invited approximately 50 of my friends using e-vite. As it was to be an environmentally friendly party, we tried to keep waste down to a minimum and declined gifts for the hostess. Even the party favours were those left behind by the revellers at our usual pub after our last New Year’s Eve countdown there.

Over 35 of my friends and family members turned up, and I like to think that we had a good time. Guests were encouraged to bring presents for the cats and dogs of the SPCA animal shelter, and my donation baskets were soon full of goodies, thanks to my friends’ generosity. In addition, we managed to get over 30 signatures for the UDAW Petition.

Some friends helped me get the food ready and the barbecue going. I had invited 4 people-friendly dogs to my Paw-ty, but only one could come. Jacinta and Moses brought Gizmo over, and Gizmo became the second attraction of the night after Cerys, Cindy and Teck Wyn’s baby.

Covert Twin and his girl set up a root beer float station and delighted everyone with rich root beer floats to go with the barbecue. Lillian and Jack were kind enough to buy me a cake, and I got Covert Twin to join in our cake-cutting ceremony.

At 2000h, I started the games. I played a list of songs with animals in their title, such as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” and “Eye of the Tiger”, while guests had to guess the songs and the artists. The first ones to answer correctly received “No More Homeless Pets” folders that I had purchased from the SPCA.

The next game was “Animal Idioms”, and we pushed the whiteboard out to the middle of the hall so guests could illustrate idioms and proverbs such as “Till the cows come home”, “Dog in the manger”, “Wild goose chase” and “Cock and bull story”. If the artist is successful enough in rendering his or her drawing that someone manages to guess it correctly, both the artist and the guesser gets a prize.

Throughout the evening, I had also invited guests to guess the number of dog biscuits in a transparent jar. To end the Paw-ty in a subtle way, we went through the answer slips and announced the winner. Mun Yee guessed the number of dog biscuits correctly and won herself a limited edition World Animal Day t-shirt with a “Champion Dog Biscuit Guesser” medal that I had made.

Li Li, Eugene, Jess and a few others stayed behind to help me clean up. It wasn’t difficult, as we had supplied takeaway containers for the guests to bring the extra food home in.

Jess, Yi Hwa and Jake helped me sort through everything when we got home and I ended up with a carload of goodies for the SPCA animals. What a blessing it is to have friends like mine! I feel happy and truly blessed that my family and friends came together to help me usher in my third decade with so much love and laughter.

Tuesday, 9th December – Wednesday, 10th December: Birthday Week

A large bouquet of roses from Covert Boss, and a pet mouse from the colleagues.

Looks like the celebrations weren’t entirely over yet. Covert Boss (my new Covert Boss) was away on my birthday but she had a huge bouquet of purple roses delivered to me instead, and 2 of my colleagues gave me a white mouse coin saver because they thought I was such a kitty cat.

On Wednesday, my colleagues threw a surprise tea party for me (all the more surprising for me, as I have only been working here for 5 weeks) and gave me a gold-plated and engraved Parker pen because they know how much I love my luxury fountain pens and how much pride I take in my penmanship.

I was reeling already from all the attention and good things which I have done nothing to deserve, and my cup of happiness overflowed when Vegan Eugene took me out for a birthday dinner at Tian Yan Cafe . The food was amazingly good and Eugene was pleased when I told him that I could eat the tempura mushrooms every night for the rest of my life and never get tired of them.

I feel so loved, and I know, as I always have, that I am fortunate beyond measure. I hope that I can love my friends as much as they love me, and be as good to them as they are to me.

Saturday, 13th December – Sunday, 14th December 2008: Another SPCA Weekend

Chinese New Year is a month away, and realising that I could not cope with spring cleaning the parental home all on my own with my busy weekend schedule, I decided to pay my parents’ weekly domestic help to come in on Saturday morning to help me with the cleaning. In the space of 5 hours, we managed to turn out and clean all the kitchen cabinets and storage cupboards. There were many things to be disposed of, donated, given away or sent for recycling, and the domestic help was quite pleased to go home with a new travel trolley suitcase that we never got around to using because it was too small for my parents’ bulky winter clothes.

Gave Amber and Chocky a bath on Sunday morning before going to the SPCA. Nicole and I were excited about putting the goodies for the animals (from my Birthday Pawed-Luck Paw-ty) under the Christmas tree, and we distributed dog biscuits and cat toys to the cats and dogs at the Bungalow.

I then went down to the shelter to assist with the animal care work and the cleaning. There was a slightly-used cat tower at the Charity Shop which was in good condition, and I bought it as an early Christmas gift for the Rowdies. Only the week before, I was a little disappointed when I relinquished the covered litter trays to Jane and Rose, who wanted the trays for their own cats. Now karma had brought the cat tower to me, for which I am over the moon, because I have been spending so much on vet bills and premium pet food that I can’t afford such a lovely huge cat tower otherwise.

Rose and a few volunteers had been washing the dogs at the Sick Bay, but we had to stop around 1500 hours because it began to rain torrentially. I mixed a pail of soap and disinfectant and started cleaning the Cattery. I removed all the cat baskets and litter trays for a good scrubbing and then washed the rest of the Cattery.

I gave the cats fresh bedding, clean water and more food before I proceeded to clean the Maternity Kennels. It was in a terrible state because so many dogs were infested with ticks during the rainy season that the ticks had adhered themselves to the kennel walls like swarms and hives of red spiders. It was horrible having to kill the ticks, and I left a note for the vets to get the general workers to give the dogs a proper tickwash ASAP.

Later, I cleaned and disinfected the Hospital, Cooking Area and Central Area. When I was cleaning the Front Reception/Admin area, a lady came in with a cocker spaniel with the worst case of demodectic mange I have ever seen. The poor little dog was hardly a year old and had previously belonged to someone else. When the dog was found to be suffering from mange, the original caregivers had given the dog to the lady’s cousin. The said cousin had been caring for the dog since August. Although she had been taking the dog to the vet for treatment, she had not changed the poor dog’s diet or shampoo. This caused Ruffus’ (for such is the dog’s name) condition to deteriorate until he was soon a semi-bald dog. The cousin then went into hysterics and claimed to be unable to cope with Ruffus’ worsening condition. The lady who brought Ruffus in was the cousin of the adopter, and had decided that surrendering Ruffus to the shelter to be put down was the most humane thing to do.

I pleaded with her to change her mind, as Ruffus is still a young and otherwise healthy dog and does not deserve to die. I listed all the things that they should be doing to help Ruffus’ condition improve, as I have successfully brought Amber and MJ’s demodectic mange under control using the same methods. But the lady had given up hope and would not consider giving good-natured little Ruffus a second chance at life. She cried a little, signed the surrender form, made a cash donation and walked out of the shelter with Ruffus oblivious to his fate. Ruffus jumped up and down and yapped excitedly, tail wagging, assuming that she would be taking him with her. I held Ruffus and said to him, “I’m so sorry, Ruffus, I’m so sorry. I wish things could be different”.

I could not afford to adopt and look after Ruffus, but I know the lady and her cousin are people of means and would be able to afford the expense, but they were just too preoccupied with their own sorrows to consider that Ruffus’ life is in their hands. I wish people would stop despairing and moaning about how sad they feel to see their animal companions being unwell, and try out every option available instead. In Ruffus’ case, they could change his diet to a lamb or vegetarian-based diet, bathe him twice a week with Malaseb or Triseb, and douse his fur with any anti-parasite solution such as Tickcide or Tactik once a week. Some people recommend dousing the affected dog with a mixture of sulphur, hydrogen peroxide and Borax, but I haven’t tried that and would not recommend it.

I just wish that everyone would put themselves in the place of their animals. How would you feel if following an illness or disability, you were taken away from the only home that you have ever known by the master/parent you have always loved and then left behind in a strange place full of hostile dogs, and you learn later that dogs that are taken to the Surgery never come back out alive, and that any day soon, it would be your turn to be executed? How would you feel if you were losing your eyesight or hearing, or suffering from a tumour or an incurable disease, and then abandoned outside the home you have depended on for love, food and shelter to fend for yourself because you are no longer healthy or attractive? If we don’t subject our aged parents or young children to such callousness, what have our faithful, loving pets done to deserve such cruelty?

I was feeling really down by the time I finished cleaning the rest of the shelter. I went up to the Bungalow to shower and change my clothes, and then joined Nicole and Glyn for dinner. We went to Kim Gary at the Hartamas Shopping Centre for a Baked Cheese Rice dinner. Ended the evening with some confectionary from a Japanese specialty shop.

Returned to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters around 2230h. Jess came to help me get the massive cat tower out of the Battletank. I brushed the hair and dirt off the cat tower, cleaned it with disinfectant and brought it indoors. As I was lugging it in, I felt the cat tower increase in weight. I looked down to see all 5 of my Rowdies clinging on to the cat tower – they were that impatient to start playing on it! Cleaned the BOQ, did the laundry and got my things ready for the coming workweek.

~ Semper Fi ~

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Do The Animals Know It's Christmas?

Dear All,

The SPCA Animal Shelter in Jalan Kerja Ayer Lama, Ampang will be having a Christmas Paw-ty on Saturday, 20th December 2008, from 12.00 noon to 3.00 p.m.

The prices for the buffet lunch is RM20 per adult and RM10 for children under 12. Guests are required to bring a non-gift wrapped gift (pet food, toy, treats or pet supplies) for the shelter animals, to help offset the costs of operating an animal shelter.


Please e-mail me at wongeelynn@yahoo.com if you are interested in attending the said event, and please spread the message to your friends. Well-behaved pets are most welcome to attend this function and will not have to pay for the lunch.

For the month of December, we are also collecting pet food and supplies, old towels and blankets and old newspapers for the animal shelter as part of our "Do The Animals Know It's Christmas?" campaign.

For your information, the SPCA has a Charity Shop selling pre-loved goods and we also hold Jumble Sales at least twice a year to raise funds for the shelter. If you are spring cleaning your house and have unearthed lots of old clothes, books, knickknacks and electrical appliances to give away, or simply have old newspapers and old towels for reuse, please donate them to the SPCA for its very worthy work of helping animals that cannot help themselves.

To tie this back in with environmental and green living issues, the SPCA performs an important environmental service by vaccinating and neutering pets, surrendered animals and stray animals, thus reducing the risk of zoonosis, disease and stray overpopulation.

Thank you and please help us spread the word.

* Please think about the environment before printing *
* Print only what you need, and whenever possible, on once-used paper *


Friday, 5 December 2008

Two Cents’ Worth

The MNS Branch e-group forum has seen a significant amount of traffic lately. Some of the threads on the forum require a peacemaker to placate the offended, and some others require suggestions on making holiday parties more environmentally responsible.

Below are my contributions to 2 threads that I felt obligated to respond to, as the Coordinator for Green Living.

1. Thread 1: An observation made by a Swiss expatriate on the state of the environment in Malaysia.

Original Message, with typos included:
“Malaysia is getting dirtier and more untidy each year. The beaches are so full of rubbish that no tourist dares to go near them. This is due to the fact that a high percentage of people are lazy and don't care. As long as there is an apartheid policy with privileges to one class of people there will never be any progress. It's like the Abos in Australia who get a weekly handout; instead of improving their education they waste all money on booze and their villages look like a battlefield. Fortunately Islam brohibits alcohol but unfortunately not lazzyness. Look at Singapore, no discrimination, just meritocracy. The Malays there are better educated, cleaner and a valued part not only of the economy but also of higher education and government. Stop pickering and concentrate on what is important for
the improvement in quality of life of the entire population.”

This was followed by 3 days’ worth of irate replies accusing the author of racism and ignorance.
My response was the final one, after which the thread was laid to rest:

“Dear friends,

I am positive that Nirmala did not mean to offend anyone by relaying what a friend of hers said. It is just an error of judgment that such a message was even disseminated to the e-group. As people who care about the biosphere and all living things, we must be very circumspect about the views we express lest we cause harm or offence. I have in the past inadvertently made tongue-in-cheek comments that did not go down well with some members in the e-group as well, so the best we could do in such circumstances is apologise and make a sincere effort not to make inflammatory jokes or thoughtless remarks in future.

I was initially amused when I read the original email, because I recalled that when I first visited Pulau Ketam at age 7 and witnessed how all waste was just cast into the sea, and later realised how filthy and disorderly Chinese new villages were in comparison to the neat, flower-filled kampungs in Serendah and Sg. Choh, I had felt ashamed to be Chinese because I thought that the Chinese must be the dirtiest people in the country!

I learned later that cleanliness has very little to do with ethnicity, and everything to do with education, socio-economic power, the community one lives in, enforcement (or lack thereof) and the existing mindset of the people.

I observed, for instance, that most litterbugs in Malaysia fall within these categories:

1. Those living in semi-permanent housing and rural areas that do not have the advantage of waste collection services;

2. Those living in the coastal areas or near rivers who earnestly believe that throwing rubbish into the river/sea is the correct thing to do, because running water will carry the rubbish away and therefore is 'self-cleaning' ;

3. Children too young to know any better;

4. Senior citizens and rural dwellers who deal with plastics and other non-biodegradable waste the same way they do with biodegradable waste -- by just casting them away, burying them, or burning them;

5. Drivers who consume food or drink or smoke cigarettes in the car and lack a proper receptacle for the waste they generate and could not be bothered to hang on to the litter until they get home;

6. Those from the educated classes who believe that it is not their duty to keep the country clean, and that by littering, they are actually providing jobs to those who are employed to clean up after them;

7. Young people out with friends who, strangely enough, find it embarrassing to pick up after themselves, but not embarrassing to litter in front of others;

8. Campers, picnickers and trekkers who find it difficult to carry their rubbish out with them;

9. People attending festivals, parades and public events who believe that there are others paid to clean up after them;

10. Just about anyone else, as long as they think they can get away with it!

All of the people in the above categories are motivated mostly by chronic apathy, and to a certain extent, also laziness and ignorance, but it has little to do with race. The solution here is much simpler than that of revising affirmative action economic policies -- it's to ensure enforcement. I would advocate a carrot-and-stick approach: Fine / punish those who are caught littering; and create a recycling deposit system or 'manufacturer take-back' system that will charge people extra for things such as PET bottles and aluminium cans, but will give them an attractive refund of, say, 50 sen, for each unit they return to the shops. A gradual ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam products is also in order, and the way to wean the public off plastics and foam products is to start by creating attractive incentives for those who carry their own grocery bags and takeout containers and decline packaging. I believe we will see this happen in our lifetimes, so take heart!”

2. Thread 2: Request for ideas for an Eco-Friendly Christmas Office Party:

Original Message:
“It's the time of the year when offices, societies, groups of individuals will gather to celebrate with a party. It is almost always that some form of gift exchange will be included. Although the idea is in the spirit of giving but most often than not we end up buying frivolous trinkets that the receiver doesn't really (or want). Over the years, I have received many of such gifts and more often than not - I have no use for them and they end up being junk in my storeroom. Talk about unnecessary consumption of goods (and additional trash too).

This year, I hope to make that change in my office. How can we celebrate in the spirit of giving without further harming poor Mother Nature unnecessarily?

Any suggestions on party programs/games that we could have instead of gift exchange, secret santa or kris kringle?


This is my second reply to the original message:

“More ideas from me:

1. Each employee contributes RM5, and the office adopts a nest of baby turtles under SEATRU/STOP. The certificate of adoption can be framed and hung in the office lobby.

2. Make inquiries with MNS and FRIM to have trees planted in the company's honour. Each employee to contribute a small amount of money towards this end as well.

3. Employees help to make up a list of (approx. 5 - 10) charities that need one-off volunteer help. Examples: Community centres, animal shelters and welfare homes might need a new coat of paint and a big clean-up job. Employees draw lots from a raffle tin containing names of charities. Then they form teams according to the charities and arrange for a day to volunteer for at least 2 - 3 hours (until the job is done).

4. Obtain permission from General Hospital or University Hospital for a team to visit and distribute gifts. Many of the aged or long-term patients do not have visitors. As hospital air can be unhealthy and drying on the skin (due to humidity control), gifts can include towels, hand lotion, lip balm, scented soap and powder, sugar-free mints etc. I've done this before on Mother's Day, to distribute gifts to mothers staying with their children in the cancer wards.

5. Find out from WWF or MYCAT or that Save Our Sumatran Rhinos project if they have a wildlife adoption programme. Then each employee contributes some money to adopt an animal and the certificate of adoption gets to be put up in the office lobby.

6. Have a non-consumer Christmas party: Have games where employees play Secret Santa by writing something nice about someone else in their department. The final result can go into a binder, company newsletter or special festive email.

7. Find an impoverished Orang Asli community (trust me, there are many!) and speak to the Tok Batin about what they need most. Employees bring gifts like clothes, new sarong, kitchen utensils, woodworking tools, farming tools, seeds etc and a team delivers it directly to the community and take photos for posterity and to show to the rest of the office.

8. Play a game where employees write their personal resolutions/pledges for a better world (e.g. "I will stop wasting food and will buy groceries for a welfare home" or "I will stop killing bugs and insects with pesticides") on snowflake or star-shaped cards and then hang them on the staff Christmas tree. Cards can be anonymous and employees can have fun guessing who made which pledge.

If any of this is too BND/leftist/earthy-crunchy for you, then feel free to improvise and not exclude the element of receiving small prizes for games.

Seasons Greetings,
Hippie Ee Lynn.”

May the lines of communication always remain open and the exchange of ideas remain prolific.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Walk With Us In The Seagrass Meadows

Saturday, 15 November 2008 - Sunday, 16th November 2008: 3rd Seahorse Monitoring and Data Collection Expedition

Mum and I crossing the suspension bridge at the Kukup Island National Park.

A motto at the Kukup Island National Park that Dad and I really liked.

A thorny sea cucumber: Another one of those things that both fascinate and repulse Mum.

A huge-ass sea cucumber that Mum spotted and I picked up.

Mum and Dad at the Kukup Jetty

(For more photos of our trip, please go to: my MNS activities photo album)

My first two trips to the seagrass beds at the Pulai River Estuary had been deeply gratifying and wondrous ones, and I thought it fair to afford my parents the opportunity to visit the seagrass beds with me on my next trip to see the marine fauna there.

And so I renewed the parents' Malaysian Nature Society membership and registered them for the November trip as a wedding anniversary gift to them. It was an occasion of great excitement for them even though I had reminded them that they may have to rough it out a little.

After a long drive down South with numerous breaks in between, we finally arrived in Nusa Bestari and checked in to our rooms at Euro Hotel before meeting up with the others in the lobby and driving in convoy to the SOS (Save Our Seahorses) Research Station in Pendas. We offered a lift to a particular Mr. Soh, the only other senior citizen in the group, who coincidentally turned out to be a retired schoolteacher as well, and he and Covert Dad bonded quickly and became firm friends throughout the trip.

While the tenderfoots were being briefed on their duties at the Research Station, Serina pulled me aside to inform me of a hostile presence at the seagrass beds, and we discussed whether or not to confront this person head -on or to go to the press to correct any misinformation later. There has been much commercial interest in the seagrass meadows and the profiteers discovered that the most compelling way of persuading the State Government that the site should make way for development was to tell the authorities and media that there was nothing of value living at the site. Our job as conservationists was to present evidence to the contrary and state our case categorically.

We took the boats to the seagrass meadow around 1745h and helped the volunteers off the boats. Covert Dad and Covert Mum were thrilled to find themselves standing on solid ground in what seemed like the middle of the sea. Covert Mum's sharp eyes detected movements almost immediately and picked out horseshoe crabs, thorny sea cucumbers, large tiger-striped sea cucumbers, pincushion sea stars and sea squirts. It filled me with warmth inside to see them marvelling at the unique marine fauna and express amazement at the experience of being at such an ecologically sensitive and little-known marine habitat.

Unfortunately, due to the heavy rains in the afternoon, the sky grew dark rather early and visibility soon became a problem. As such, the team was not able to spot and tag any seahorses or alligator pipefish on Saturday. I was disappointed, but the parents were really good sports and were able to appreciate that Nature doesn't stay put just to oblige humans.

We adjourned to dinner at Saujana, a Malay seafood restaurant. The food was terrible and overpriced. We reached Euro Hotel after 2300h for some much needed sleep. Woke up on Sunday to tidy up, shower and proceed to Old Town Cafe for a sumptuous breakfast. We then checked out of the hotel and drove in convoy to the Kukup Island National Park.

After the preliminary briefing, we took a boat to Kukup Island, 50% of which was submerged right now due to the monsoon rains. We climbed up the watchtower, walked across the suspension bridge and walked along the boardwalk. We saw lots of sea snails, volutes, tree-climbing crabs, magpie robins, giant mudskippers, blue-spotted mudskippers, and dog-faced water snakes. Covert Mum got to see her favourite giant mudskippers, which both repulsed and fascinated her.

Just as we were arriving at the second watchtower, our park guide received a call from his office that the coastal water level was rising and that our cars, which were parked in the compound of the marine park office, were in danger of being flooded out.

Hui-Min and Bushcraft John gallantly offered to return to the marine park office to move all our cars to higher ground so that the rest of us would not have to cut short our Island trip.

We completed our trek of Kukup Island and returned to the jetty to wait for our boat, during which wait John messaged to inform us that all the cars were safe and have been moved to higher ground. We were very grateful for their help, without which we would not have any peace of mind.

From Kukup Island, we proceeded to one of the floating fish farms to look at more samples of marine fauna. We saw only oysters, horseshoe crabs and bamboo sharks at this one. We returned to the mainland for lunch. We had lunch at yet another shabby Malay seafood restaurant.

The food came in quite generous portions but was so poorly seasoned and cooked that it was far from satisfactory. The calamari rings were so tough, abrasive and dry that you could scrub pots and pans with them. When the prawns arrived in a lukewarm anaemic soup of salt water with shavings of pineapple and onions, I didn't know whether to laugh or to cry. Here was my anniversary treat to my parents and it fell completely short of everyone's expectations. We weren't forced to eat halal food on my first trip to the seagrass site, so I had expected to get good food again on subsequent trips.

I promised to take my parents out to high tea someplace else to make up for the disappointing meals we had in what was supposed to be Seafood Central. We started our long journey home after lunch with breaks in between so Covert Dad and I could take turns at the wheel. This trip may not have been a huge success but my parents enjoyed their unforgettable experience at the seagrass meadows and were happy with the thought and effort I had put into making their trip a special one.

Saturday, 22nd November - Sunday, 23rd November 2008: Deeply Boring Wedding Weekend.

After months of doing preparatory work for the Malaysian Nature Society's Open Day to be held at the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM), I had to delegate the job of coordinating the Green Living booth and activities to others and forgo the joy of being there to coordinate the event, as I had to be in Kuantan for my cousin's wedding the very same weekend.

I labelled all the boxes and bags of games equipment and educational and outreach materials, delivered them to one of my volunteers, and watched wistfully as my volunteers got ready for the Big Day.

I have nothing much to report about the wedding in Kuantan except that the Battletank performed really well on the road and that an almost-full tank of Compressed Natural Gas could last me 197 kilometres.

I would also add that with the exception of mindfully and deliberately green weddings, all weddings are wasteful, unnecessary and uninteresting to anyone but the couple. Let me clarify that my cousin and I drifted apart in our teenage years due to vastly different values.

As I have said, I have nothing to report on the wedding except that it was a waste of my weekend and I could have spent the 2 days doing Green Living outreach activities and volunteering at the SPCA animal shelter instead.

I was glad to be back at the parental home by 0300h Monday to tend to the needs of Chocky and Amber.

Chocky is happy to have his photo taken. Amber isn’t so sure.

Saturday, 29th November 2008 – Sunday, 30th November 2008: Ferrety Weekend

I have had a mildly challenging week dealing with the long-tailed macaques that come by to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters from the neighbouring secondary forest. Two alpha males have discovered that my compost heap was a veritable treasure trove of delights (we had persimmon, mangosteen, guava and mango this week) and had trashed my neat little compost heap.

As if the gratuitous mayhem wasn’t enough, they had also bitten through the bottle of Diarrid that I had left on the porch table and imbibed the contents, pooed in the driveway and flung Jake’s bike helmet clear off its storage space.

And so I’ve spent an unnecessary amount of time cleaning up after everyone all week.

Spent much of Saturday at the SPCA, as usual. Rose and Jane, our weekend staff, were present to assist in the animal surrenders and adoptions, so the staff and volunteers weren’t quite as overwhelmed with work. I came in through the shelter gates to find a ferret in a cage on the front table. Apparently, a man spotted the ferret running across the road while he was driving. He stopped the car and picked the very tame ferret up to stop the ferret from getting run over by moving vehicles or attacked by stray dogs and cats, and brought the ferret over to the SPCA.

I was sorely tempted to adopt the ferret for Jake, but was concerned that he (the ferret) may not get along with the cats. I asked Chelvy for Pearly’s number, as Pearly has a female ferret and this good-natured male ferret would make a great addition to her family. Chelvy and Dr. Pushpa were circumspect about letting me have Pearly’s number because they didn’t want the ferret to be used for breeding purposes. While I was trying to persuade Rose and Chelvy to give me Pearly’s number, a young couple who had come to bring their cat for a booster shot asked to adopt the ferret as they were enamoured by his endearing personality and appearance. The shelter officers decided that it was in the best interests of the ferret to authorise the couple to adopt the ferret as they have the means and time to look after an additional animal companion.

Before we bade goodbye to the ferret, Wolfhound and I had the opportunity to play with the engaging little ferret and have our pictures taken with him:

Before commencing animal care work, I moseyed around our Charity Shop and was delighted to find 2 almost-new covered cat litter trays. I have always wanted a second one to replace the Rowdies’ conventional litter tray. Jane came in and had me explain how to use a covered litter tray to her. Then Rose came in and wanted one of the litter trays for herself. In the end, I let the 2 ladies purchase the covered litter trays although I had spotted the trays first and wanted them for myself. The ladies are, after all, our animal shelter’s part-time staff and the savings would mean much more to them than to me.

I went up to the shelter Bungalow to collect copies of the UDAW Petition and to discuss the preparations for our SPCA Christmas Paw-ty with the officers. Nicole informed me that 2 of the dogs, Zack and Boobie, have ringworm, so I offered to give them medicated baths. And so Nicole, Glyn and I got down to work washing all the Bungalow dogs.

My favourite rescued dog right now has to be Angel, a victim of senseless brutality. Angel lost her eyesight and is lame in one leg as a result of an unprovoked attack by a mob who saw her as an easy target. The SPCA (prosecuting under the power of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the Dept. of Veterinary Services) lost the court case due to a lack of evidence as to the identity of the perpetrators, and the Dept. of Veterinary Services (“DVS”) had, after the decision was rendered, advised the SPCA to put Angel to sleep.

This was an easy directive from a party that was not the one responsible for the care of Angel since the day of the rescue. No one loved Angel as we did, or realised what a miracle it is that she remained such a sweet-natured and trusting dog despite her night of terror, or watched her progress as she learned to cope with her newfound blindness. It is easy to request the euthanasia of an animal you have not had the opportunity to love. The SPCA Inspectorate was adamant that we keep Angel, and care for her, and love her as a member of our special family.

(Photos of Angel to follow as soon as possible)

We washed and medicated all the dogs (Bailey, Poodley, Zack, Angel, Girlie and Boobie), towelled them off and cleaned their ears and treated them for ear mites. We had to stop by 1700h as it had begun to rain. The 3 of us walked down the hill to the shops for an early dinner. Glyn was disturbed by the number of stray cats in the area. There were dozens of pregnant cats, nursing queens and kittens. This reflected badly on the SPCA as it is an indication that we do not take responsibility for the stray animals directly beyond our shelter gates.

Glyn has since put forward a proposal to the shelter officers and committee to have a campaign to spay and neuter the strays and have them ear-tipped for future identification. As an added incentive, we would inform the shopkeepers that the cats would be dewormed, de-ticked and given medical check-ups. I think it is a capital idea and very much in line with the principles of Mission Help (SPCA’s initiative) and Project Second Chance (my own initiative), and Nicole and I were quick to offer our support and assistance. With a little dedication and proper organisation, this mass neutering campaign of street animals could be one of the SPCA’s greatest success stories.

I went back to the SPCA shelter after our dinner break, as Nicole and Glyn had some work to clear off, and I wanted to help Linda and Sugen with the cleaning of the shelter. Linda was cleaning the Maternity Kennels as I got back. I got to work soaping, scrubbing and disinfecting the Cattery, Central Area, Puppy Area and Front Admin/Reception Area. We finished cleaning by 1915h. I rinsed out and put away the mops and pails and took out the trash before cleaning myself up and heading home after sundown.

Reached the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, tidied the place up, fed and cleaned up after the Rowdies (Keisha included – she is back for a 2-week stay as Hui-Min is away at a Buddhist meditation retreat) and sorted out the work clothes that I had to iron. Stopped by Tesco on my way back to the parental home to pick up supplies for my birthday party next week.

Spent Sunday back at the parental home washing the dogs, tidying the parental home, polishing the furniture, cleaning the Battletank, doing the laundry and ironing and catching up on my reading and correspondence.

For my birthday, I would like to have 10 hours of sleep.

“Happiness is a matter of one's most ordinary and everyday mode of consciousness being busy and lively and unconcerned with self.” - Iris Murdoch.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Animal Capers, Bi-Fuel Retrofit and other news.

Thurs, 23rd Oct - Monday, 27th Oct 2008: Festival of Wings 2008

With less than a week to go before my departure from my firm, I had been spending most of my working hours completing status reports and conducting due diligence on the files for which I was responsible. The Human Resource Dept had requested me to complete an exit interview, and Covert Boss spoke to me about it and thanked me for my 'honest, fair and generous' evaluation of the firm. He invited me to dinner on Thursday, together with 4 of the partners and another lawyer who was also leaving at the end of the month, and we adjourned to a restaurant-cum-salsa-club at a hotel for dinner.

I was horrified by the menu. The main courses were listed thus: "120-day old veal calf..." and "milk-fed baby lamb". What do they expect, that we'd exclaim: "Mmmm, yummy! Just what I've always wanted!"? I plumped for an avocado and rocket lettuce salad instead, as it was the only bloodless thing on the menu.

On Friday, the firm had a little post-Hari Raya Aidilfitri party at the office. We had invited former staff and some of the other people we work with, and we spent the entire day eating and being unproductive.

I left work early to go to the Kuala Selangor Nature Park on Friday evening, as the Malaysian Nature Society would be having its annual birdwatching event, Festival of Wings, at the Park.


I was happy to meet Bushcraft Ashleigh at the hostel. It was too dark to do any trekking or trail clearing by the time we arrived, and so we had dinner and waited for the other volunteers to arrive. Despite our earlier plans to booze the night away in the Great Outdoors, I was out like a light by 0030h.

We would be assisting with the Tree Planting Project and the guided mangrove walks on Saturday. We greeted the local schoolchildren in the morning, did a roll call, handed out the day kits to the participants, and proceeded to the tree-planting site. We put on our gloves and Wellington boots and took up a planting pole each. The seedlings were already at the site and the site was marked with bamboo pieces to let us know how far apart the plants should be. I asked the teenagers under my care to plant at least 10 each, and to pick up any litter they see (mangrove forests act as rubbish traps for the waste that gets carried downstream). I set a good example by working hard and planting at least a dozen trees, and the girls did a good job of doing the same. The boys were far more playful and inattentive and made me laugh with all their grunts, groans and sound effects while digging the holes, which prompted Ashleigh to chide them for not taking their work seriously.

We finished around 1230h and got the children to collect all the rubbish to be loaded onto the truck. We cleaned ourselves up after returning the wellies and gloves, which were heavy and black with mud. We then had lunch and let the teens rest before proceeding with the mangrove guided walks in the afternoon. As with the tree-planting session earlier, the girls again outshone the boys. Ash and I were delighted by the girls' knowledge of mangrove ecosystems and natural history. I foresee that in 20 years, the number of female cabinet ministers, corporate CEOs, scientists, doctors and professors would outnumber males 3:1.

Festival of Wings 2008: The schoolchildren are hard at work planting the mangrove saplings.

Hui-Min and I returned to our Hostel to shower after seeing the schoolchildren off, and it was then that Hui-Min proposed visiting the Firefly Colony that night. We managed to round up 7 others who were interested and booked our boats through the Park officers and left at 1900h for Kampung Kuantan.

We didn't have to wait long to board our boats. We got into our boats and pushed off to the banks of the river where the Berembang trees are. I was sad to see the depletion in the firefly population. The fireflies are part of our natural heritage and are unique because they are probably the only specie (Pteroptye Tener) to synchronise their flashing. Erosion of the riverbanks has destroyed many Berembang trees, and light and noise pollution has affected the fireflies' reproductive cycles. I intend to draft a petition to the State Government and the Sultan to create a buffer zone for the fireflies. It takes very little cost and effort on our part, and requires only political will, but it would save the firefly colony from extinction.

Returned to the Park to find that our hungry friends who had opted not to go for the firefly outing were still listening to the closing speeches and dinner had not been served. We sat through the final 2 speeches and prize-giving ceremony with them and devoured our dinner after that. Dinner was followed by music and dancing led by girls from an indigenous community. And so Saturday came to an end amid much laughter and camaraderie.

We didn't have any specific duties on Sunday, as our young visitors from several orphanages were there with their teachers and carers and did not require our assistance in their programmes. During breakfast, Hui-Min and I noticed a Silver Leaf Monkey begging for the cucumber slices from our nasi lemak. I pointed out that the monkey was badly injured and that part of the skull at the back of its head had been smashed open, and it looked like the result of a catapult attack. I was very upset that I didn't have my can of Woundsarex with me. Alas, it was Sunday, and all the pet stores and vet clinics were closed, and would remain closed until Tuesday, as Monday was a public holiday.

I went to the pharmacy and bought a bottle of acriflavine solution, and improvised and made a spray bottle out of my plastic cologne bottle. I went back to where I last saw the monkey and lured it down from the tree using a bunch of bananas. The monkey ambled feebly up to me to take the banana and I sprayed the acriflavine directly into his wound. He did not flinch but looked at me with knowing eyes, as though he realised that I was trying to help him get better. I sprayed the wound a second time and a third, to make sure I had covered all surfaces to prevent further infection. Maggots dropped out of the wound. The monkey did not scratch or struggle but merely let me do my work. We couldn't take him with us as he was a protected species and besides, we did not have a cage with us, so we engaged the Park officers' help in calling for a vet as soon as possible. I left the bottle of acriflavine with one of them so they could continue to administer the medicine after we had left.

I went back to the parental home in the late afternoon as it is on the way back to the City. The dogs were happy to see me. I gave Amber a bath and cleaned up after the dogs. I couldn't help but wonder how the silver leaf monkey was doing, and if there'd be anyone looking out for him in future.

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Monday was Deepavali Day, and I spent the entire day visiting friends. I had two breakfasts (at Devaky's and Bala's place), one lunch (at Vimala's place) and 2 dinners (at Suresh's place and at the Vellurajans' next door).

I must say the festive mood was somewhat affected by the detention of the HINDRAF members/activists and the declaration of HINDRAF as an illegal society by our not-too-bright Home Minister. My wish this Deepavali is to see true participatory democracy in my country; that one day any concerned party could deliver a memorandum to the Prime Minister without being arrested and deemed subversive. Until that happens, Malaysian society cannot declare itself to be a compassionate and inclusive one.

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Wednesday, 29th October 2008: Compressed Natural Gas Retrofit

My final day of legal practice was effectively 28th October 2008, and I left the firm on good terms with everyone and knowing that I would always be welcomed back into the legal profession if I so chose.

I spent the next few days getting my affairs in order before I started my new job. I had the Battletank retrofitted with a Compressed Natural Gas tank for greater savings and fuel economy, and because CNG vehicles, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have the following advantages over petrol ones:
* they reduce carbon monoxide emissions by 90-97%;
* they reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25%;
* they reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 35-60%;
* they potentially reduce non-methane hydrocarbon emissions by 50-75%
* they emit fewer toxic and carcinogenic pollutants;
* they emit little or no particulate matter; and
* they eliminate evaporative emissions.

Although there may be arguments that choosing one fossil fuel over another is only delaying the solution (of finding cleaner, renewable, alternative fuels), alternatives are practically non-existent. Hydrogen fuel cell and compressed air vehicles are not yet on the market and public transport is largely unavailable at my new workplace. Having weighed all options, I made the decision to go for a CNG retrofit and I have been extremely proud of my little bi-fuel Battletank since. Having the option of a cleaner fossil fuel is better than having no alternative at all.

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Sunday, 2nd November 2008: World Animal Day Celebrations at the KL Tower

World Animal Day event announcement and poster.

Hui Min and I getting up close and personal with a white bull terrier. All white bull terriers remind me of Bodger from “The Incredible Journey” (remade as “Homeward Bound”).

For more photos of the event, please go to my SPCA activities photo album.

Eugene, Hui Min and I met up at the LRT station on Sunday morning as I had registered the 3 of us as volunteers for the SPCA World Animal Day Celebrations at the terrace of the KL Tower. This was to be the biggest World Animal Day celebrations in our country yet. The 3 of us were assigned the duty of Pet Marshals, to ensure that people cleaned up after their animal companions and kept them on leash.

A minor misunderstanding occurred between the SPCA people and the KL Tower management when we discovered that they had put up an exhibit of exotic animals in tiny, bare cages at the entrance to the event area. We stood firm on our stand that keeping such animals, even if captive bred, was wrong, and that it was against the very principle and objectives of World Animal Day. Thankfully, the KL Tower management was accommodating and agreed to remove the exhibits, although we could see that they were not entirely convinced by our argument and had no intention of doing away with animal exhibits in future.

The volunteers were given "Crew" t-shirts and assigned our posts. I was to lead the Pet Marshals. Nicole, Eugene and I briefed the other volunteers in our team. We had between us two pails, mops, disinfectant, toilet paper and pet waste bags.

While on my rounds, I was thrilled to find nature photos taken by our friend Andy Paul among the exhibited photos and called him up to ask him to come over. Andy came over with his lovely lady friend Maureen and bought us ice cream, and later I met some of my other friends from the Malaysian Nature Society and from college at the event as well. Hiphop dancers, capoeira exponents, goons in Star Wars suits and sponsors from the pet products and services industry made the event a colourful and exciting one.

The animal visitors were largely very well-behaved and their people were a responsible bunch, which made our work a joy. The people came equipped with their own paper and waste bags and picked up after their animal wards, and many insisted on taking responsibility for mopping up after any 'accidents'. Apart from a scuffle between 2 male dogs which left one with a torn ear (the SPCA vets were on hand to stitch up the poor doggie's ear) and 2 cats whose people did not realise that their cats were showing signs of heat exhaustion (I had to gently lead them to the misting fans, hold the cats up to the fans and give them water), everything ran as smoothly as you could expect.

It started raining around 1540h and we hastened to help the booths move their goods out of the way of the rain. The dog obedience and agility contests were still going on under the tents in the field, and Eugene, Hui Min and I commenced cleaning the Terrace area and putting things back in their boxes. All the visitors and most of the volunteers had left by 1800h, and I did not like to see the SPCA staff having to pack up on their own, so the 3 of us stayed to help clean, dismantle and pack everything and load them back onto the trucks.

We finished work around 2000h and were completely flaked. Nicole and Glyn gave Hui Min and I a ride back to our cars, and we were so tired we didn't even want dinner. It had been a backbreaking but utterly wonderful and rewarding day.

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Friday, 7th November 2008: SPCA Party Animals Night @ the Boathouse

Nicole and I helping Poodley and Mylo make friends at the SPCA Party Animals Night

I have always believed in everyday miracles and that good things happen to you when you least expect it, and last week I experienced one such Good Medicine moment. One of the Malaysian Nature Society senior volunteers, Kim, had asked for more information when I had forwarded e-mail announcements of the SPCA Party Animals Dinner. Kim then went to the SPCA office, paid for one ticket, and emailed me to inform me that she was making a gift of the dinner ticket to me, as she was not planning on attending the event anyway, but had wanted to support our fundraising efforts. "Enjoy yourself at the dinner," she had written, "You deserve it, for all the things you do for animals and the environment." I was very touched and grateful, and after Party Animals Night, I appreciated having been given the opportunity to attend it even more.

It was a pet-friendly event held at a restaurant whose owner has a rescued dog named Mylo. The highlight of the evening was not the food but the company of well-behaved, friendly and polite dogs. I had a great time in the company of cuddly animals and people who are as dedicated to their animal companions as I am. The food was excellent and in my opinion, really value-for-money and we were offered 2nd and 3rd helpings of everything, including dessert (brownies ala mode!).

It was good to be able to discuss animals for a few hours as a brief respite from political discussions and premature evaluations of Barack Obama, although I do enjoy reading and discussing politics very much. Whether or not Obama and the Democrats are able to deliver the promises made in their campaign manifesto remains to be seen. I would try to keep my expectations realistic.

Went back to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters at midnight, in Python Mode after my huge meal, too sleepy to do anything but thank Kim by text message for my wonderful night out.

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Saturday, 8th November 2008: SPCA Saturday

Feel the love! This little doggie was trying to give me a kiss while I was cleaning kennels at the SPCA. Photo taken by Mun Yee on 8th November 2008.

Dropped the recyclables off at the community centre and arrived at the SPCA at noon. There were 6 student volunteers from The One Academy helping out at the animal shelter today, and they were wasting a lot of water, time and energy just hosing the floor down and sweeping water all over the place. I prepared 2 pails of soap and disinfectant and taught them how to clean out the cat baskets, cages and litter trays and swab and scrub the Cattery floor and gutters. I explained to them that keeping the animal shelter clean is essential to the animals' health and safety, and it would encourage visitors to come more often and spend more time with their potential adoptees. The boys were hardly enthusiastic and showed no real passion for the work, as they merely had to complete 10 hours of required community service for their school credits, but at least they were doing the work, albeit sullenly and in slow motion.

Mun Yee and Hot Rachel (not to be confused with Pub Buddy Rachel or Dysfunctional Divorcee Rachel) arrived just as Rose and I were about to begin washing and medicating the dogs in Kennels G & H. They joined Rose, the Kindest Man in the World (a middle-aged Caucasian man who volunteers twice a week at the shelter but whose real name I do not know) and me in washing each dog and rinsing them with tick solution. I let Mun Yee and Rachel take over the dog-washing duties while I removed all the food and water bowls and washed and disinfected each enclosure.

Under normal circumstances, we would not have spent too much time with the Traumatised Dogs, a subgroup of abuse cases who have never learned to trust humans again. We would have washed those that allowed us to wash them, and not be too insistent on going into battle with those who either bit us or harmed themselves if we so much as stared at them.

But the Kindest Man in the World wanted to stay on in the kennels and talk to the Traumatised Dogs to get them to see that not all humans are bad. I brought him some kibbles in a saucer so we could sit on the ground and talk to the dogs and feed them kibbles one by one. I felt sorry that I could not come everyday to help rehabilitate the dogs. Coming in once a week isn't often enough to help the dogs learn to trust again. The Kindest Man in the World then informed me that he would be coming in more often from now on to help rehabilitate the abused animals. My sense of gratitude was palpable. So shines a good deed in a weary world!

At 1600h it began to rain, as it is wont to do during the monsoon season. Mun Yee, Hot Rachel and I tidied the dog-washing things up and proceeded to clean the kennels instead. We cleaned the B-Extension, the cages and the puppy area. As the student-volunteers had earlier cleaned the Front Reception/Admin area and the Cattery, I had less cleaning to do today. We went out to the shops for tea, and Mun Yee handed me 3 bags of cat food for Project Second Chance before leaving with Hot Rachel.

I returned to the shelter after tea, put away the newspapers and donated items, cleaned up the administrative area, cleaned the Maternity Kennels and Hospital areas, cleaned myself up and rumbled back to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters.

I've been quite the captain of industry these 3 weeks. This coming weekend I would be taking my parents down to Johor to join me on my third seahorse data collection and conservation trip. And so I bid you adieu.

Covert Operations, Out!
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