Monday, 23 June 2008

21st -22nd June 2008: Monsoon Melancholy

It’s been a rainy week. The landlord has come to check on the leaking roof at the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters and the contractor will soon start work on it, for which I am grateful.

My cousin, Boy Scout, came over and bunked at our Bachelor Officers’ Quarters for 3 days as he had to sort out some matters pertaining to his college registration. The rowdies behaved commendably and did not try to assert their claim over the spare room, although I suspect that Daisy and Chloe slept in his bed while he was out.

My mother had intuited that I’ve been going through a rough patch, and decided that a break from all my care provider duties is in order. We had talked about going on another mother-daughter mall-crawl, and it was decided that she would take the rail transit over to my place on Saturday morning, and I would pick her up at the station and we will then spend the day at Sunway Pyramid.

And so we arrived at Sunway Pyramid around 1100h on Saturday morning, happy to be in each other’s company and looking forward to spending 2 weeks’ worth of transport allowance that I had saved for this occasion. Mum was hungry and so we made Subway our first stop. After a midmorning snack of sandwich and coffee, we proceeded to go through all the shops and laugh at things we would never wear. I encouraged Mum to try on some shoes that we both liked. I was in the process of deciding on a pretty pair of Scholls that we both fancied (yes, Mum and I can and do share clothes) when two belly dancers in full dance regalia walked into the shoe store. I nudged Mum and she pulled me to the seat next to hers, both of us under the assumption that the belly dancers were about to start performing right there in the shop. How we laughed at our own silliness when we realized that they were also there to try on shoes! I paid for the shoes and we went to look at bags.

Boy Scout turned up at the mall to meet his favourite aunt. I asked him to join us at Pancake House for lunch and he was happy to be given a treat. He had the roast chicken set meal while Mum and I indulged our sweet tooth with mango crepe with ice cream and ice cream waffle foldover.

Our mall-crawl resumed after lunch. Upon Mum’s persuasion, I finally bought a handbag that really looked good on me:


This sets a dangerous precedent. I hardly ever spend money on myself and here’s Mum telling me “to buy yourself something nice when you really deserve it”. We bought some snacks for Dad and treats for the dogs and called it a day at 1730h.

Went back to the parental home, had tea, took Amber and Cody (also known as: Buster/Cody/Little Big Dog) out for walks and mopped the floor. Mum was too tired to go out for dinner and so I brought our food containers to the food court and had our food packed to go. Cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, tidied the parental home and retired to my room with the newspapers and the latest copy of the Malaysian Naturalist.

Woke up early on Sunday morning. Cleaned up after the dogs and gave Amber a bath. Cleaned the living and dining rooms and polished the furniture, and then I took the recyclables out. Had a quick lunch, gave Amber and Cody their lunches and waved goodbye to the parents.

Arrived at the SPCA in the early afternoon to see Rose still there and hard at work. Halle had been duly neutered and Dr. Pushpa reported that 3 of her kittens had been adopted, which is excellent news, although I am still sad over Little Chip. Rose and the other volunteers had bathed and tick-washed most of the dogs, and so there were only a few new arrivals left to do. We bathed and tick-washed the dogs and I took them out for a run to dry off. After returning to the shelter and letting the dogs into their enclosures, I started soaping and disinfecting the shelter. I scrubbed the Maternity Kennels, Puppery, Hospital, Food Preparation Area and let Linda hose it down. Then I cleaned the Cattery, Reception/Admin areas and Front Kennels while the dogs were out playing in the compound. I soaped and cleaned out a stack of litter trays and water bowls, put away the donated newspapers and took out the trash. Finally, I rinsed off the shelter floor, cleaned myself up, transferred Halle into her carrier and then into the Battletank and drove on home.

Swung by the night market to pick up fresh vegetables, fruit and sandwich bread for the coming week. I’ve managed to save a lot of money over the years by bringing my own lunch to work. Cleaned up the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, fed and cleaned up after the cats and watched an hour of popular culture bullshit on the telly with the housemates. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I don’t have to be a douchebag to be able to sit through “Psych”, “Eureka” or “Ghost Whisperer”.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Visiting the Klang White House

The Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery

I visited the Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery in Klang after attending mentions in the Klang lower courts on Thursday, 19th June. Locally known as the “Klang White House”, the building was constructed in 1909 and once housed, in chronological order, the British administrators during the colonial period, the Japanese Armed Forces during the Japanese Occupation of the then Malaya and the Klang District Office, Royal Malaysian Police Force and Klang Municipal Council post-independence.

The 8th Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Alhaj, had the building reclaimed and converted into the Sultan Abdul Aziz Royal Gallery to house and display royal paraphernalia, artifacts and memorabilia. The building was incredibly well-kept and exuded an old world charm, and I spent a highly enjoyable hour going through all the exhibits and learning more about the Selangor Royal Family.

Although I was, as always, fascinated by the military paraphernalia, I had greatest context for the Selangor Silver Jubilee (1985) memorabilia collection. Schoolchildren in the state of Selangor each received a commemorative exercise book and a pewter pin. Being all of 6 years old in 1985, I was thrilled and believed that we would get presents from our kind Sultan every year. I learned with disappointment when I reached home that Silver Jubilee meant it was the 25th anniversary of an occurrence - in our case, the installation of the Sultan. It was impossible that there would ever be a silver jubilee again in my schooling years.

Strangely enough, although the exercise book was displayed, the pewter pin wasn’t. Perhaps the curator did not know of it, or did not have a sample of the pin. I believe I have 2 at home (mine and the Twin’s), and if I manage to find them, I might want to donate one to the Gallery to complete their collection.

Monday, 16 June 2008

14th – 15th June 2008: Farewell, Dear Chip

Halle’s babies, being almost 3 months old, were supposed to be ready for adoption, and I had accordingly made arrangements with the SPCA to have the babies put up for adoption and Halle spayed on Saturday, 14th June.

Sometime during the week the cats were living with my friend who was assisting with fostering, something strange happened to the white kitten, Chip. He was perfectly fine and active on Wednesday morning, but whenthe fosterer came back from the shops, Chip seemed paralysed and unable to move his hindquarters. I was duly informed and that evening, after feeding Amber and the Rowdies, I went over to check on Chip. He didn’t seem to be in any pain although he could not move his hindquarters. We arranged to have him brought to the vet in the morning.

The next morning, however, he was crawling and even attempting to stand up. There were no signs of fever or an infection, and his appetite was hearty. By afternoon, he was walking again. By evening, he was hopping in and out of the litter tray and playing with his siblings. We then concluded that he must have been a little rough in his play and must have hurt his back or legs. In retrospect, perhaps we should have erred on the side of caution and taken him to the vet. But you see, we have given him the best of love and care, and he wasn’t exposed to other cats or animals that could spread disease, and he had been vaccinated and dewormed and showed no sign of illness or injury, and so we believed, in good faith, that he was alright and we had no reason to believe that he would suffer a relapse.

On the morning the cats were to be put up for adoption, I gave them warm baths and dried them with a towel. I gave them a special meal of fish with vitamin supplements and cod liver oil before putting them into the carriers.

When I reached the SPCA and began transferring the kittens into the big viewing cage, I realized with horror that Chip was not moving. He looked lifeless and his limbs were askew. I massaged his little heart and put him next to his mother for warmth. Chip leaned against Halle but made no attempt to suckle. I began crying for him to wake up. “We’ve come this close to finding you a home, Chip”, I begged. “If you are not adopted, I’ll bring you home and look after you. Please, just wake up.”

By 1300 hours, Chip’s vital functions stopped, and fluids flowed out of his tiny body. He was hardly breathing. Dr. Pushpa euthanized him to end his suffering. I cried because I missed him very much already and felt a great sense of loss and regret. Dr. Pushpa said that Chip could be suffering from a congenital problem with his circulation or some other matter, and treatment and medication may not be sufficient to cure him or help him live longer anyway.

Our general worker Maran helped me dig a grave for my little Chip at the animals’ graveyard behind the shelter. I buried Chip with a handful of longifolia flowers and prayed that he will find peace at last. I let him know how much I love him and how sorry I am that I didn’t do better by him.

Resuming my duties at the shelter was difficult. I didn’t feel capable of walking the dogs just yet. In any case, we had a new volunteer that week, a wholesome young man who did a great job of assisting Rose with bathing and tickwashing most of the kennel dogs. I cleaned and disinfected the cattery because I could be alone in there with the cats, without having to speak to any other person. Next, I soaped and disinfected the E and F Kennels while the dogs were out playing in the Dogs’ Playground. Some of the dogs squeezed up against the gate in the hope that I would take notice of them, so I stopped to pet them and talk to them. Rose helped me hose down the soapy enclosures so I could take the dogs out for walks, 2 by 2. Rose and I de-ticked 2 of the dogs that had a particularly resistant strain of ticks. Wolfhound came to help us, and when we were done, we put the tickcide and flea comb away and resumed cleaning the shelter.

A few visitors arrived after we had locked the gates and I was called upon to assist with surrenders and donations. The economic recession is hitting local charities pretty badly. While we still do receive donations from corporations for tax rebate reasons, individuals are less likely to donate cash and pet food to the shelter now that food and fuel prices are soaring. Adoption rates will continue to suffer in months to come, as fewer people will be able to afford landed properties, vet bills or pet food, and more people will have to work longer hours or take up second jobs just to make ends meet. I pray I will still be able to find homes for my little ones once they have been vaccinated or neutered and ready for adoption. I cannot even afford to repair my car or shoes and may not be able to afford premium food for my fur-babies unless I moonlight.

I soaped, scrubbed and disinfected the shelter Reception/Admin areas, puppy area and central area and got ready to clean myself up and leave as Reve had offered to do the rinsing for me. I left the shelter, returned to the Bachelor Officers’ Quarters, showered and drove back to the parental home in time for our early Fathers’ Day Dinner. I gave Dad a boxed fruitcake studded with entire almonds and glace cherries, the kind he loves. We went out to a restaurant nearby for an inexpensive dinner and came home for a dessert of fresh fruit.

Sunday was Fathers’ Day proper. I was up early to bathe Amber and clean the house. I mopped the floor before lunch. After lunch, I dismantled and cleaned the cookerhood, cleaned my Dad’s work area and polished the living and dining room furniture. In the evening, I washed the cars, cleaned the dogs’ cages, washed the driveway and porch and took the dogs out for walks. Went back to the ‘Quarters after dinner. It made me feel sad to see the kittens’ empty cage. I hope they all find good homes.

I’m feeling disproportionately sad and pessimistic right now. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Green Publicity Stunts May Threaten Ecology


SP Setia’s World Environment Day 2008 Celebrations
(Photo reproduced without permission from The Star, but in accordance with the principles of fair use)

While we should be sparing with our criticism of corporations that carry out token ‘green’ programmes in conjunction with World Environment Day on grounds that every action makes a difference, SP Setia’s act of releasing birds and butterflies at their construction site must have alarmed nature-lovers (“Stopping Work for Environs” June 6, 2008).

If the birds and butterflies had been captive-bred or purchased from pet retailers, SP Setia could have indirectly fuelled the illegal pet trade and the practice of trapping wild birds and insects. In addition, store-bought and captive-bred fauna are often unable to fend for themselves in an inhospitable new environment and die seeking food and shelter or fleeing from predators.

Whether the birds were store-bought caged birds or part of a free population trapped and transported from another location, the release of large numbers of birds could draw predators such as feral cats to the area.

Alternatively, introduced birds and other fauna or flora could multiply, compete with local populations for food and water, decimate local vegetation or spread disease.

The photo featured shows what appears to be rock or feral pigeons (Columba Livia) being released. Although a good bio-indicator, the Columba Livia is often considered a nuisance for its fouling of buildings and grain with its droppings and for spreading pathogens to humans and other animals.

I presume SP Setia’s act of releasing the birds was part of their campaign to repopulate their construction site in Sg. Ara with birds and butterflies. If that is the case, the best way to attract birds and butterflies is by planting local fruiting and flowering trees and maintaining good air and water quality in the designated area. Most types of fruiting Ficus plants are ideal in supplying bird, bat and insect populations with food.

Still, SP Setia is to be commended for their efforts in planting trees and creating awareness in their employees on the importance of good indoor air quality, recycling, fuel economy and energy efficiency. Perhaps they could further aim to decrease their energy, fuel and water consumption and reduce the amount of construction waste generated, and provide rewards and incentives for their employees when certain targets are met. I am positive there are many local non-governmental environmental organisations that are only too happy to assist corporations in taking practical measures to reduce their environmental footprint.


Monday, 9 June 2008

7th – 8th June 2008: Thumb Troubles

Arrived at the SPCA around noon after a broody and despondent morning. I seem to have developed a very high threshold level for energy drinks. I can drink six cans and still crash into a snoozing heap on the floor. I may be suffering from the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome or low-level depression, but being me, if I don’t acknowledge it, I won’t have to do anything about it. Except maybe replace the Red Bull with vodka. That should make everyone very happy.

Another busy day at the SPCA. Washed, folded up and purchased one of the abandoned dog cages round the back of the shelter for Cody's use, as he is growing rapidly.

Started bathing and tickwashing some of the dogs. I wasn't even through with one kennel when it began to drizzle. Major bummer. Had to put all the dog-bathing gear away and wait for the rain to let up a bit so I could get the soap and shelter-cleaning gear instead.

Reve and I started cleaning the shelter early but we both did not want Wolfhound to be joining in and exerting herself as she sustained a torn ligament a few weeks ago. It is worrying to us that her recovery from the injury seems to be taking a rather long time.

Reve cleaned the maternity kennels and food preparation area while I swept and collected litter from the parking lot and the surrounding areas. Bushcraft Cindy, Teck Wyn and Baby Cerys saw me sweeping and stopped by to say Hello. We chatted about the horrible feature article on me and the pukka one of them, and other matters, and good ol' Cindy very kindly agreed to serve on the Green Living Sub-Committee.

Cerys was duly retrieved from wherever she was playing with the animals, and my friends then waved goodbye.

(Here's a good writeup on their green little family. Cerys is a darling!:
NST Environment Week Special )

Resumed cleaning the shelter after my friends had left. Soaped and disinfected the Hospital, Reception/Admin Area, Shelter Office, cages, kennels and cattery.

It was while I was cleaning the Quarantine Cattery that I noticed a mother cat in the process of delivering her kittens. She was skittish and defensive as all hell, and would not let me help her get into a nice dry cage where she could give birth in peace.

And so she ran from me, with her screaming kitten dragged behind her by its umbilical cord. The poor kitten was getting knocked around a fair bit, and I paused in my pursuit, fearful that the kitten might die.

When I finally caught up with the snarling and hissing mother cat, the poor kitten was no longer meowing. Her breathing was laboured and her tiny body was shivering. Her umbilical cord was severed, a piece of placenta attached to the end. I hollered for Reve and Sugen, but the poor kitten was beyond help, and had to be put to sleep. I cried because I felt guilty that I couldn't save her on time, but Reve said that I had done my best under the circumstances, and there was a possibility that the mother and her kittens, being feral, would have to be euthanised anyway. I found little comfort in that, but prayed for the tiny kitten that I may meet her again and make amends in another lifetime.

Now on to the recalcitrant mother cat. I managed to catch her and hold on to her as I put her into the cage, but she scratched and bit and fought valiantly until we were both panting and I was bleeding from numerous bites and scratches. There was a deep puncture wound in my left thumb that I cleaned with dog shampoo and water, but it continued to hurt long after I had finished the cleaning and left the shelter.

Went back to the 'Quarters, cleaned up, had a good wash, loaded Amber's things into the car and rolled on back to the parental home. Big Bro and Sis-in-Law were back for a visit and were full of stories about their new home.

I went to bed with a temperature and woke up to find myself covered in hives and my left thumb purple and twice its original size. Went to the clinic after breakfast to have a tetanus and an antibiotic shot. The nurse put a dressing on my thumb and dispensed the necessary medication and then I was home to bathe Amber and clean the parental home and chat with Big Bro.

Went back to the 'Quarters after dinner on Sunday night, and spent the rest of the night tidying the 'Quarters up best I could with only my right hand. I had to use a clean needle to prick the swelling in my right thumb open to drain the abscess out, but I sure felt better when I was done.

I got ‘dem old cosmic blues again, Mama. My world is pretty grey right now.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

5th June 2008: World Environment Day 2008

Today I had a welcome respite from work in the form of a CETDEM seminar on the topic of "Between Bali and Poznan: Concrete Actions on Climate Change".

The first part of the seminar consisted of a diplomatic dialogue on actions and policies executed by different nations to cut carbon emissions. Encouraging though the statements made by the ambassadors of the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, India, Singapore and Malaysia were, we must, however, remember that they are diplomats and it is their duty to accord their countries the highest praise possible.

It was during the first coffee break that the journo from The Star text messaged me to inform me that the interview in conjunction with World Environment Day had been published in the special pullout today.

You can read the article here:
Green Every Day Pullout

(Photo reproduced without permission from The Star, but in accordance with the principles of fair use)

And sweet mother of dog, it was mortifying. There were so many errors that I didn't know where to start.

Here are a few of my complaints:
1. Being the Coordinator of the Green Living Group isn't my job. It's a volunteer position.
2. I have never exhorted consumers not to buy organic products or energy saving appliances. I spend a significant amount on organic products. What I actually said was: "Don't miss the forest for the trees. Don't, for a start, clean your house with lemons air-flown from Florida and olive oil shipped from the Mediterranean. That makes no environmental sense. Invest in a locally-produced, consumer-reviewed organic cleaning agent. There are many brands sold under multi-level marketing schemes like Amway, CNI and Cosway. Buy it in the largest size with the least packaging possible, and use it for all your cleaning needs. Don’t buy 10 cleaning agents to do 10 different jobs."
3. The reporter has listed all the piddling idiotic inconsequential actions I have done, but not the important ones. I actually recommended carrying out simple Household Energy, Water, Fuel, Waste and Food Wastage audits by listing areas and circumstances in which wastage occurs, and minimising opportunities for wastage until you find you have made significant savings.
4. I never uttered the words: "It's a constant challenge." Why should it be a fricking challenge? Conservation is fun and exciting and easy as all hell. What I said was: "Goals should not remain stagnant. Continue to challenge your own goals once you have achieved them to reach higher standards and attain greater good. For instance, if you have managed to reduce your electricity bill by 10%, keep at it, and add on the goal of cutting down your petrol/diesel use by 10%."
5. I was never so arrogant as to claim that my friends have started carrying cloth bags and bringing their own reusable takeout food containers because of me. I said that many of my friends are greener than I am, and we learn from each other and share information and resources. I also happened to mention that they take public transport, bring their own cloth shopping bags and takeout containers and audit their resource use as well.

I'm sure the reporter was very well-meaning and diligent, and they had to cut out a lot of superfluous information, but this article has caused others to question my credibility as the Green Living Coordinator.

What a game of Chinese Whispers this has turned out to be! I think I'll decline any offers to be interviewed in future and be incognito henceforth.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

31st May -2nd June 2008: Cosmic Blues

There doesn't seem to be very much I want to say these days, except that my career these days seems to be much like the climate change conferences -- full of good intentions and motivation, but stymied by many factors and not really going anywhere.

It's been another busy weekend at the SPCA. I finally got Halle's kittens vaccinated. I've renamed them Chip, Tigger, Java, Jewel, Jet and Gypsy. It's easier to identify them now compared to when they were named Heidi, Hayden, Heath, Henry, Harriet and Heather. The babies should be ready for adoption in 2 weeks.

Rose and I have been washing, grooming and tick-washing the kennel dogs each week, so we have fewer cases of parasitic infection at the shelter now. I'm sure the garlic works too. This week, we bathed the bow-wows from Maternity and Kennel E.

Spent the later 3 hours scrubbing and disinfecting the Cattery, Kennels, Maternity Kennels, Reception/Admin area and central area, after the gates had been locked and the dogs let out to play in the compound and playground.

Went back to the Bachelor Officers' Quarters at night and cleaned myself and the kitties up. Went back to the parental home to spend the rest of the weekend with the parents and Amber.

The parents were to go to Singapore for a few days to help Big Bro and Sis-in-law get their new home cleaned up and their things unpacked, and I was to bring Amber back to live with me in the 'Quarters for a week.

Spent Sunday cleaning the parental home, cleaning the venetian blinds and bathing Amber. Amber and I arrived at the 'Quarters at 2230h on Sunday and I proceeded to get her settled down.

Unfortunately, Halle was utterly hostile to Amber, and provoked my poor sweet doggie, which caused her to erupt in a frenzy of confused and frustrated barking. We had no respite from the barking that night, and so I arranged to have Halle, Keisha and Co. farmed out to a fosterer's house for a week to ease the tension. Amber was happy with the arrangement, as she gets along well with the indoor cats, Chloe, Pixie and Daisy.

Thankfully, my friend was happy to board the cats and had his spare room all cleaned out for them. The initial arrangement was for me to come over after work each day to clean up after the cats, but the foster family had gamely taken on that responsibility too, for which I am touched and grateful.

Here’s to another challenging week ahead.