Friday, 23 January 2009

Same old, same old.

Sat 17 Jan 2009 – Sun 18 Jan 2009: Not the greatest weekend

It hasn’t exactly been the best or most interesting of weekends. Even the fact that PAS won the Kuala Terengganu by-election did not come as a surprise. Anti-BN sentiments are still running high and this has buoyed opposition candidates to an easy victory since the March 8 elections. I see this as a positive sign that there will be better check-and-balance and greater accountability in Malaysian politics.

Initially, my plans were to attend a barbecue-yee sang-camping pre-Chinese New Year party with the 4x4 gang at the Sungai Sendat waterfall on Saturday evening, but our plans had to be called off due to the weather.

As an alternative plan, I had informed Lillian that I would be able to assist her on Frogging Night as a sweeper, as I was quite familiar with the trails at FRIM. However, my plans again fell through. The Battletank had a leak which caused the radiator to overheat. Fearing that there might have been damage to the other parts of the engine, I had to send the Battletank to the workshop for service and possible repairs in the afternoon.

I went back to the parental home in the afternoon to give Amber a bath and to clean the parental home. Covert Mum had been hankering for a musk lime plant to grace our front door for the Chinese New Year, so I took her out to town and bought her a lime plant and a pot of ornamental chillies, which made her very happy.

Back at the parental home, I tended to the Battletank and added water and motor oil. Then I started the engine and lubed the fanbelt with Nano-K. The Battletank seemed none the worse after the ordeal on the highway, and I was glad I didn’t have to pay for any expensive repairs.

Later, I cleaned out the parents’ kitchen cabinets and refrigerator and tidied the rest of the house. Then I cleaned the venetian blinds and the bedrooms. By then, it was too late to attend Frogging Night. I was uncertain if the Battletank could take the strain of another journey so soon after the last one, anyway.

The news of PAS’ victory in the Kuala Terengganu by-elections reached me by text message, which gladdened me because it is a good sign that democracy is alive and well in Malaysia.

On Sunday morning, I took Amber for a walk, dismantled and cleaned the parents’ cookerhood and did the laundry before leaving for the SPCA.

At the Indian-Muslim provision store across the street from the SPCA, I found legit milk crates for sale, which means I didn’t have to
flickswipe‘borrow’ milk crates off back alleys anymore. I got to work at the Shelter and started shampooing and tick-washing the dogs in Kennel D, as Rose and another volunteer had washed the dogs in Kennels G and H earlier in the day.

My friend Pauline arrived at the shelter with her daughter Natalie while I was washing dogs. I showed them around, and then Pauline made a cash donation to the SPCA.

Puppies awaiting adoption at the SPCA shelter (Photo by MingChien Ng)

We foresee that the surrender rate will be rising due to the economic recession. We are only 18 days into 2009 and the number of surrenders so far is already 247, while only 61 animals have been adopted.

I finished washing and tick-rinsing the dogs in Kennel D and joined Dr. Lim and Thean for tea at the warong . Thean is now the Veterinary Assistant and I think he is better suited to this position than as an Inspector.

We returned to the shelter after tea and I offered to assist Dr. Lim and Thean in the Clinic. We did heartworm tests for the dogs in the kennels behind the Office and updated the medical records. We led each dog out on leash to the Clinic, took a photo of each dog using a digital camera, updated the vaccination and deworming records and weighed the dogs. We then had to record the dogs’ ages by inspecting their teeth (for signs of wearing down of the canine incisors and tartar buildup), which I seem to have been doing by intuition for much of my life. I held the dogs and gripped and extended their right forelegs so Thean could find the vein and take a blood sample to be put on a glass slide. Dr. Lim would then check the slides under the microscope for signs of heartworm larvae. Thankfully, all the tests we did came out negative. The dogs were duly given their vaccination booster shots and deworming pills and returned to their living quarters.

I started cleaning the shelter at 1730 hrs. I cleaned and disinfected the Mummy Kennels, Office, Cattery, Puppy Cages and front Reception/Admin area. Reve and I finished cleaning the shelter by 1930 hrs. As the shelter bathroom was still out of order, I went up to the SPCA Bungalow both to shower and to bring a treat for Angel and the other Bungalow dogs.

The SPCA Bungalow. Photo taken by Meem on the morning of our Christmas Paw-ty on 20th Dec 2008. See the huge old jalopy of a Nissan Vannette in the picture? I could drive that monster pretty well.

Angel, all smiles and wags despite her disabilities and her horrific history of abuse (Photo taken by MingChien Ng)

After I had showered, I doled out treats to Angel and the other dogs, and played with Meem’s fostered cat while waiting for Thean to finish work so I could buy him dinner. We walked over to Studio 5, where Thean had rice, and I had mushrooms and chips, which must be the unhealthiest vegetarian dish ever invented.

Stopped by the night market in Taman Megah on my way back to the BOQ so I could stock up on Chinese New Year confectionary. I had a Peppermint Nescafe Bubble Tea Shake that was so sweet and cloying that I almost thought that I had been given the drink concentrate by mistake.

Once home, I tidied up the BOQ, washed the Battletank, swept the floor, arranged Jake’s DVDs and junk in my recently acquired legit milk crates, and went to bed after reading poetry to the Rowdies.

It hasn’t been the most exciting of weekends but I can’t really complain.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Sun, Sand, Surf and other Distractions

31st December 2008 – 4th Jan 2009: Sun, Sea, Surf and a Horse named Apache!

On 30th December, when we were all busy with our New Year’s Eve plans, I received a text message from Mahendran to inform me that Aravind’s mother had passed away. The news of her untimely demise saddened me, and my heart went out to Aravind. Aravind and I were thick as thieves in college, and even after commencing legal practice, we would still meet up at the court cafeteria for a cuppa. I attended his mother’s wake that night after work, and was puzzled to find my buddy calm and somewhat inscrutable. At any rate, his wife and sister-in-law were looking after him and his Dad rather well, so at least that was one worry off my mind. I went out to supper with Mahendran and Irene before going back to the BOQ.

New Year’s Eve should have been a quiet affair for me as a sign of respect, but since I was still in the city anyway, I strolled over to Sunway Pyramid to watch the fireworks display at midnight. It was chaotic and messy and the crowd was rowdy. I couldn’t even hear the countdown. The only thing I liked about it was the Mardi Gras-style stilt-walkers. I knew I should have gone to the pub instead.

Mardi Gras-style stilt-walkers at Sunway Lagoon on New Year’s Eve

Drove up to Cherating with a couple of buddies on the morning of New Year’s Day for a 3-day beach vacation at the budget chalets.

It was still raining like the clappers when we arrived, so we proceeded to their Beach Bar for nasi dagang and drinks. A few other friend joined us later that evening, and we had a grand old time watching surf videos, listening to rock music, drinking and playing poker until the wee hours of the morning. We somehow survived the night and woke up without a hangover.

Diq was supposed to give me a lesson in surfing the following morning, but he had to take his son Didaqt to Mersing to compete in a surfing competition at short notice (Didaqt is 13 and already securing top places in the men’s category of international surfing competitions, and has secured sponsorship from Billabong). We had breakfast at Mak Bedah’s warong and met Mahmat, who relayed the message that I could borrow Diq’s other surfboard.

Rhodomyrtus tomentosa (Aiton) Hassk., MELASTOMATACEAE, local name: Kemuning

Unidentified coastal flora

Tetracera indica (Christm. & Panz.) Merr. DILLENIACEAE, a common climber on waste land..

A Changeable Hawk-Eagle drying its feathers in the sun.

Although it was drizzling (as it is wont to do in the East Coast much of the year), there was no lightning and it was therefore safe to be out in the open sea. There were dozens of other surfers on the beach despite the chilly air. I watched them surf for a few minutes to see how they did it so I could teach myself to surf. I took the board out to where the waves were bigger, positioned myself on the board and practiced finding balance and steering the board. It was harder than I expected but an enjoyable challenge nevertheless. I paddled out towards the waves and waited for the big waves to come so I could learn to ride on them. I spent an entire morning teaching myself to surf in the freezing rain and foamy sea.

Back from riding the waves

We drove up to Kemaman for lunch and sightseeing, and then returned to the chalets to practice surfing again. At 1600 hrs, Wan turned up, as promised, to take me horseriding. Diq has sold most of the other horses off to equestrian clubs but decided to keep Apache due to his sweet and affectionate nature. The paddock was waterlogged, so we decided to take Apache to the beach instead. I had brought carrots for Apache and he nuzzled me every few minutes to ask for more carrots.

Apache enjoyed his canter at the beach, and I gradually developed the confidence to guide Apache using my knees. Once I have found my rhythm, it wasn’t tiring at all. We rode for about an hour, and then we decided to bathe Apache in the sea. A few picnickers came up to Wan requesting horse rides for a small fee, and so we obliged because we could use the cash for Apache’s food.

Apache and I enjoyed our canter at the beach very much.

As with the night before, we gathered at the Beach Bar after dinner and partied until the break of dawn. It doesn’t get any better than this.

Saturday morning was grey and drizzly, but that did not stop me from taking the surfboard out to sea again. I met a surfer girl who helped me with my surfing technique and helped to push my board out further so I could practice pulling my feet up and assuming the correct position. It was awesome, despite the fact that the cold rain kept getting into my eyes and obscuring my vision.

All that paddling left me understandably tired and hungry. I gave Apache more carrots before going off for lunch. Spent a few more hours at the beach before we packed up, bade everyone goodbye, gave Apache the remaining carrots and headed back to the City.

Many of the coastal villages we drove past were affected by the monsoon floods, but the people seemed to take it in their stride, as it is an annual occurrence. Children played in the floodwaters and youths took the opportunity to fish. We made a pitstop across the road from the air force base in Kuantan to buy keropok lekor before resuming our journey back to KL. It won’t be long before our next visit to Cherating. Frequent sojourns to the beach may be just what I need to break out of the ennui of urban life.

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Saturday, 10th January 2009 – Sunday, 11th January 2009: SPCA Weekend.

Pixie looking not very pleased about having his nap interrupted.

While cleaning the Rowdies’ ears on Thursday evening, Jake and I found a cat mite on Pixie, under his fur. This calls for another bath. On Saturday morning, I caught hold of each of the Rowdies and gave them warm baths with herbal anti-parasite shampoo. The caterwauling that went on was terrific. You could hear it all the way down the street. I was drenched and exhausted long before I got to the SPCA. Still, it was worth the trouble because the shampoo dehydrated the little bloodsuckers and made them come up to the surface of the fur to die. With my exacting standards of domestic cleanliness, I wonder how the mites came in and survived in my disinfected home in the first place.

Arrived at the SPCA after lunch to find the weather still fair. I got the rubber gloves, leashes, shampoo and tickwash ready and got to work washing the dogs in Kennels G and H. I washed the dogs, 3-by-3. Rose came to join me later and together, we managed to get 25 dogs washed and free of parasites within 2 hours. I then soaped and washed the Kennels and put away the pet-washing kit.

Me washing the Mummy Dogs in Kennels G and H. Photo taken by SPCA volunteer photographer MingChien Ng.

Our erstwhile Animal Inspector Thean and General Manager Dr. Lim invited me to join them at the warong for tea around 1730h. I had knowledge of Thean’s change in job designation from Animal Inspector to Veterinary Assistant, but did not see it as a demotion. Thean has higher aptitude for animal care work than for paperwork and inspectorate work. In addition, he already spends most of his time in the shelter anyway. We discussed a few issues on the running of the shelter and our surrender and adoption rates before I went back to the shelter to help Linda and Reve with the cleaning.

Reve was already scrubbing the Front Reception/Admin Area and I assisted her in removing the rubbish and putting things away. While the dogs were outside playing in the compound, I soaped and disinfected the cages and Maternity Kennels and Puppy Area. Next, I cleaned the Cattery and the huge tiled sink.

We returned the dogs to their living quarters around 1900 hours and washed the floor when the dogs were safely inside with their fresh bedding and water. I tidied my things up and walked up the slope to the Bungalow where I knew Nicole would be waiting. Felt more human after a shower and a change of clothes. Glyn and Nicole got me a lovely elephant hand towel from Bangkok and AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Blackhawk key tags. Played with the dogs and chatted with them a bit before going back to the Quarters.

Cleaned up after the Rowdies and fed them before leaving for the parental home. Spent Sunday being nagged at and picked on by the Parents as I spring-cleaned their house. Cleaned the storeroom, hauled out the garbage, cleaned the walls and turned out the towel cabinets. Bathed Amber and tick-washed Chocky. Took both Amber and Chocky out for walks, did more cleaning, and did the washing up and cleaned the kitchen after dinner. Was glad to go back to the Quarters for some peace and quiet. Washed the Battletank a little after midnight, tidied the Quarters, read a book and took half a bottle of cider to bed with me. This Chinese New Year, I am putting myself up for adoption by another household.

CO78, Out.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Critical Need For A Water Demand Management Policy


Your report entitled “Klang Valley heading for water crisis” (NST, 28th December 2008) was timely and necessary.

Environmental groups such as the Malaysian Nature Society have, for years, been urging the Government to take action to conserve our water resources and to protect the health of our rivers and watersheds.

The Selangor Branch of the Malaysian Nature Society has on 24th November 2008 submitted a Water Demand Management Plan to the Selangor State Exco for Tourism, Consumer Affairs and the Environment, but has yet to receive a response from the Exco.

The need for a Water Demand Management Plan is now more critical than ever. Malaysia has been dismally ill-equipped to deal with the problems of deteriorating water quality, losses caused by flood, substandard and obsolete water infrastructure, the destruction of vital watersheds and wetlands and other environmental transgressions. Our country needs a water policy that can clearly define developmental goals without sacrificing the environment. There is a vital need to coordinate efforts between states to improve the productivity and efficiency of our water use, as well as maintain the health of our rivers and watersheds.

South Africa's National Water Act of 1998, for instance, provides for, among others, environmental flow requirements for rivers to maintain downstream species, ecosystems and livelihoods before dams may be constructed. The said Act looks at river basins as important ecological systems, requiring that basic human needs and environmental needs are met before giving water to industry and agriculture, thus compelling the agricultural and industrial sectors to use water more efficiently.

Malaysia should likewise enact water conservation and demand management policies to protect our water resources. The solution to our country's water problems lies not in the construction of an infinite number of dams, or in water rationing for domestic users, but in repairing and maintaining the existing water supply infrastructure to minimise non-revenue water loss and to promote and enforce more efficient water use.

Measures and incentives such as differential water pricing systems and voluntary water reduction schemes should be put in place to encourage homeowners, developers, commercial property owners and managers of public facilities to install water-saving devices such as aerated taps, dual flush toilets and low-flow showerheads. While the public education efforts of non-governmental organizations can go a long way towards changing the mindset of the people, legislative mechanisms can be just the catalyst needed to promote water efficiency in a country that has always taken water supply for granted.

The agricultural sector would be the first to benefit from the implementation of more water-efficient technologies such as drip irrigation, which will translate into savings for all parties. Conventional irrigation systems result in huge water wastage through evaporation. However, since irrigated water in the agricultural sector is often heavily subsidised, there is, until now, little incentive for farmers to adopt water-saving technologies.

Dams are not the last source of water for a growing populace. Water-saving technologies, as well as an intelligent maintenance culture and the preservation of our wetlands and watersheds, make better solutions. It would therefore be timely and necessary for Malaysia to implement a comprehensive water demand management policy.

Green Living Special Interest Group
Malaysian Nature Society