Friday, 26 June 2009


“I can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous and I can’t relax
I can’t sleep ‘cause my bed’s on fire
Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire”
- “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads

Almost 2 weeks of working from home and the restlessness is building up. I just can’t seem to get enough work to do and the assignments are not coming to me as fast as I am completing them. I have updated my CV and will be sending it out to suitable prospective employers if such opportunity arises, in the event freelancing for just one paymaster isn’t providing me with the financial security I need.

Perhaps my impatience and irritability could also be attributed to the state of things in the country right now. Parliament is in session again, and imbeciles of all political persuasions have been rearing their ugly heads. PAS was considering ‘unity’ talks with UMNO, which of course, means only Muslim unity to the exclusion of all other faith groups. So where does this leave all of us non-Muslims who have worked so hard in the nation-building process? Since June is the month of World Environment Day, there is also enough greenwashing going on in the mass media to repaint the entire country with, while the illegal wildlife trade is doing a roaring business and our islands and marine parks are suffocating in trash and sewage. I just don’t know if there are any sides left to be on anymore.

Saturday, 20th June 2009 – Sunday, 21st June 2009: Fathers’ Day at home and the Wild Asia Tree Party

I cannot deny that it feels awesome to be able to sleep as much as I need, work the hours I want and carry out my volunteer work or community projects on weekdays and do my (paid) work at night if I so choose to.

Due to my family’s various commitments on Sunday, we decided to celebrate Fathers’ Day on Saturday instead of Sunday, with a home-cooked dinner. I spent Saturday cleaning the parental home, spring cleaning the spare rooms, tending to Amber’s needs and helping out in the garden.

Amber looking worried about having her photo taken.

My parents’ colourful and flower-filled porch.

Cactus flowers in full bloom.

I was up and out of the house by daybreak on Sunday, as I had promised to conduct a Photo Scavenger Hunt at the Kota Damansara Community Forest in conjunction with the AMP-Wild Asia Tree Party. I have always been very passionate about sharing nature with others, and I hoped that by organising outreach activities for the local community, it would increase their appreciation of and for our wild spaces and green lungs. I hope the people of Kota Damansara realise how privileged they are to have a suburban forest (now finally re-gazetted as a forest reserve) in their midst.

As most outreach activities are typically targeted at children or special interest groups (such as photographers, birders and cyclists), I try to develop outreach programmes that are suitable for the general adult public. A photo scavenger hunt is perfect for novice photographers and tenderfoots whose natural history knowledge is not sufficiently wide to enable them to participate fully in more challenging nature activities. In addition, there is always a conservation awareness section to the activities I organise, and for this particular photo scavenger hunt, I had set the requirement that teams had to list energy, water and resource conservation measures upon having correctly identified and photographed the clues listed in their Hunt Sheet.

I parked along the side of the road upon my arrival and lugged the heavy box of prizes (goodie bags of organic products) to the event grounds. A Girl Scout came up to me and helped me carry my things. 2 other Scouts from the local school helped with the registration of participants while I briefed my volunteer Hunt Marshalls for the day. I had a powwow with my friends from other environmental NGOs while waiting for the participants to be corralled.

We flagged off the Photo Scavenger Hunt at 1130 hrs, and boldly the participants ventured into the trails in search of the items they believed answered the rhyming riddles I had drafted. The first team, consisting of Emily and Mike, returned within half an hour, gabbled off their proposed conservation measures and were placed first. The other teams were not as efficient, and I had a snack while waiting for their return.

We finally had our 3 winning teams and I marched off to the podium to announce the winners. The organisers were less than accommodating and decided to postpone our prize-giving ceremony until after the capoeira performance, despite the fact that a prize-giving ceremony would take less than 2 minutes.

I finally got to announce the winners and hand out their prizes almost an hour later, after the capoeira performance, and there were cheers and applause all around. There was a little appreciation ceremony after that wherein the organisers gave out tokens of appreciation to their sponsors, exhibitors and partner organisations, and I represented both MNS and Green Living to receive the gifts.

Visitors and volunteers signing the Pledge Board.

A tree-planting activity going on somewhere along the trail.

Kayaks on the lake, before the arrival of the kayakers.

I had initially planned on going to the SPCA for my weekly 5 hours of volunteering after the Tree Party, but it was late in the afternoon when I was done, and I was tired and parched from being out in the sun for too long, so I decided to go to the SPCA some other day during the week.

Went back to the BOQ, showered, asked Jess if she wanted Swedish food as badly as I did, went out again to Ikea for Daim cake, and stopped by the night market for fresh food to last us the week. Spent the rest of the night tidying and cleaning the BOQ, translating a proposal paper as a favour for a fellow volunteer and doing a product review of the Bio-Home Dishwashing Liquid for Terra-Cin’s blog.

I am glad that going to work on Monday for me now means walking all the way from my bedroom to the computer workstation in the dining room sometime at midmorning. It’s not bad, this brand new life.

~ Charlie Mike, CO78! ~

Friday, 19 June 2009

Autopilot Mode

It has been a little over one week since I left my former workplace. I took a calculated risk in leaving, but I know I made the right decision for myself. Things have been going well for me as a freelancer. Of course, not everything went swimmingly. There were delays in getting the contract signed and having the assignments emailed to me. But once the initial hiccups are sorted out and I begin receiving a steady stream of work, the advantages of working from home will far outweigh whatever benefits I used to derive from working in a firm. Freelancing suits me, as I only have to concentrate on producing results, and not on office politics, endless bureaucracy and tedious meetings and dinner sessions. Doing away with the daily commute is not only easier on the pocket and on my conscience as an environmentalist, it also means I have an extra 2-3 hours a day just to focus on generating deliverables. I cannot say for certain yet if this will be a long term arrangement, but I will continue to be on the lookout for job opportunities that will capitalise on my passion for humanitarian work and working with people and the community at large. In the meantime, it is good to be able to take a break from the insanity of legal practice in the City.

Friday, 12 June 2009: Green Living Talk at the UNHCR and Blood Donation Day

World Environment Day Message: Use Less!

A UNHCR staff member had contacted the MNS and asked if they could send a representative to the UNHCR office to speak on the topic of recycling to the staff, asylum-seekers and refugees. Since we (Branch volunteers) could not trust the MNS HQ staff to get anything right (especially if there is no payment involved), I volunteered to deliver a presentation on basic environmental responsibility. I shudder each time someone requests that I render a ‘talk on recycling’. The trivia that I will deign to give out on recycling are that it takes more energy to recycle a plastic bag than to make one from scratch, that polystyrene packaging are virtually impossible and needlessly expensive to recycle, and that less than 1% of the plastic you dutifully dump into recycling bins are eventually recycled. I would prefer to deliver a talk, instead, on reducing consumption and waste.

I arrived at the UNHCR office in good time. My good friend and fellow volunteer Pasupathy and her daughter Sumi were already there to see if they could be of assistance. We proceeded to the waiting area where approximately 250 refugees/asylum-seekers and about 15 staff and interpreters were assembled for our presentation. With the help of the interpreters who translated my speech into Burmese for the refugees from Myanmar, I talked about the impact of environmental transgressions on the lives of the people and the importance of being environmentally responsible even in times of adversity and economic uncertainty. I am comfortable with working with marginalised peoples, due to my many years as a legal aid and Pink Triangle outreach volunteer, and so I understood my audience and their background enough not to patronise them. I think this was the key to why my presentation was well-received -- I was not condescending or pedantic.

Later, we met the staff in their office to hand over some Green Living booklets and factsheets, a recycling directory and Green Living’s Reduce, Reuse and Recycle checklists. Pasu, Sumi and I then adjourned to the canteen for lunch, where Pasu insisted on buying me lunch. We parted ways after lunch as I wanted to go to the National Blood Centre in Jalan Tun Razak to donate blood before going home.

The cool interior of the Blood Bank was a welcome respite from the heat and haze of the city. My haemoglobin count this time is only 13.2, but it was sufficient for me to donate my usual 350ml of blood, which I accomplished within 2.56 minutes, a personal best. I was given sandwiches, coffee, cake, biscuits, an apple and the usual iron pills after donating. I cleared my own tray since the matron was not around.

My goals for the earlier part of the day accomplished, I returned to the BOQ to attend to other matters.

Saturday, 13th June 2009: SPCA Shenanigans

It was a good day for washing dogs. Wonder Boy was back and was helping Rose groom and wash the dogs when I arrived. I got to work helping them tick-wash the dogs. When I ran out of Tactik EC, I went into the surgery to mix up a fresh batch in my spray bottle. There was a puppy with a severe case of diarrhoea placed under observation in the surgery, and I cleaned out his cage so he wouldn’t feel so miserable. The surgery waste bin was full, and I decided to help clear it.

As I lifted the garbage bag of waste from the surgery, something small, pink and covered with blood fell out of the bag and onto the shelter floor outside the storage cabin.

Muniandy, Samy and I stared at the object with what can best be described as a mixture of reverence and revulsion.

"What's that?" I inquired, pointing with my rubber-gloved hand.
"It's... a chicken heart", ventured Muniandy, who was as mystified as I was.
"No it's not," I countered. "Chicken hearts don't come out of the surgery." I had a moment of epiphany. "It's a dog's testicle!" I blurted out.
"Aaaiiiieeee!" The three of us shrieked in unison.
"What do we do?" asked Muniandy.
"I'm not going to pick it up," I announced with a grimace.
"Why not?" Muniandy wanted to know.
The cogs in my head spun at top speed. I had to come up with a good excuse.
"I can't pick it up because I am not married. If I were to pick it up, I won't be able to find a husband. The men... the men would be able to tell, and they... they would stay away."

I am glad we Asians are a superstitious lot, because Muniandy seemed satisfied with my explanation and proceeded to use a scrap of newspaper to pick the testicle up and dispose of it.

I suppose if I were assisting the vets in the surgery, I would probably not think twice about handling and disposing of animal organs, but I was just too taken aback to want to handle that boldly glistening, bloodied testicle on the shelter floor.

In retrospect, putting biological wastes like animal organs into garbage bags for disposal in landfills probably isn't the best way of dealing with it, but there aren't many waste management options in Malaysia. There are no landfills dealing specifically with organic waste and with sufficient termophilic activity to promote the rapid decomposition of organic matter such as animal parts. There are no incinerators, and in any case, incinerators are constructed not to deal with potential biohazards, but to reduce the mass of garbage by 70% in land-scarce countries. The toxic ash generated by incinerators is highly polluting and presents problems of its own.

What should we do, then, with animal parts that are removed from living animals? I do not think that animals would have a practical use for preserved body parts in jars like humans do. This is not to say that my former office tea lady Katherine had any use for the appendix the hospital removed from her either, except to keep it at her bedside to scare us with when we went to visit.

I went back to washing dogs and cleaning kennels after our little scare. Wonder Boy led the dogs back in from the Dogs’ Playground while I scrubbed and washed the enclosures. I cleaned out the cats’ litter trays and baskets, repaired scratching posts and scrubbed water bowls and troughs. I cleaned and disinfected the Cattery, Maternity Kennels, Puppy Kennels, Front Office/ Reception/Admin area and Hospital while Sugendran cleaned the Kennels, Sick Bay and Central Area. We finished cleaning the entire shelter around 1930 hrs. I showered and changed at Mazni’s house next door, had dinner at the stalls and went back to the parental home in Rawang to spend the rest of the weekend in the company of Amber and Chocky and cleaning the parental home and garden.

Tuesday, 17th June 2009 – Thursday, 19th June 2009: 3-Day Diet

Not having to go to work means finally having time for TV, and so enamoured I was after 2 episodes of “The Biggest Loser” that I was inspired to go on the 3-Day Diet again after achieving some success with it approximately 10 years ago (although I couldn’t remember what I was dieting for then, either). I didn’t have an utterly compelling reason to want to reduce my weight from 48 kg (106 pounds) to a svelte 45, except that I would perhaps like to have some stamina and muscle tone back, and losing weight could be an incentive for me to get back into my football kit, shin guards and boots.

Within the first day, I realised that Garfield could be right: “Diet is a Die with a T”. I normally eat 8 square meals a day just to stay alive, and in amounts that would make a sumo wrestler proud. Finding myself restricted to 5 measly cheese crackers or 1 slice of toast was torture, but I bore it with characteristic good humour. When the 3 days were up, I weighed myself to find that I had lost a grand total of.... 0.5. kg. That was it. All that effort for nothing. I could lose more weight just playing Pick-Up-Stix. I didn’t see the point of giving up pretzels and frosted doughnuts for an entire 3 days just to lose a paltry 0.5 kg.

Of course, it could also be that I did not adhere strictly to the diet. I could not find beetroots or cottage cheese. I ate vanilla ice cream in a sugar cone. I didn’t see the sense in eating “½ banana” or “½ grapefruit” and ate the whole thing instead. I had such a hunger for carbohydrates on the second night that I ate a boiled potato with brown sauce. I had a lemon-lime snow cup on the third day. I ate 2 hardboiled eggs instead of just one. I drank a glass of 7-Up. I ate a bowl of Special-K cereal. You get the idea. I needed sustenance in order to be able to focus on work, and the 3-day diet was just too restrictive.

I realise now that it wasn’t weight loss I was interested in, but staying active, supple and strong. I have been really remiss when it comes to exercise. Sure, I love doing housework, yard work and volunteer work, but it isn’t for the purpose of getting exercise. I also enjoy cycling, skateboarding, ice skating, swimming and football, but that is for fun and I don’t have any structure to my leisure and outdoor activities, not since lymph node infection left me at death’s door in 2006.

Perhaps setting aside certain days for swimming and cycling are in order. But as of now, it is 0628 hrs, and my frosted doughnuts and coffee beckon to me with their siren songs.

~ CO78, Over! ~

Friday, 12 June 2009

World Environment Day Weekend and Other News.

Saturday, 6th June 2009 – Sunday, 7th June 2009: World Environment Day celebrations at FRIM

Went back to the parental home in Rawang on Saturday morning after collecting Magic Mutt Balls from Meem for Amber and Chocky. The air quality in the Klang Valley is deteriorating, but in typical political doublespeak, the Director-General of the Department of Environment made the official pronouncement that “it may look hazy, but there is no haze in Malaysia at the moment”.

The Air Pollution Index reveals the current level to be 131, which is dangerously unhealthy, but of course, according to our bureaucrats, if it is ‘merely’ ground level ozone, it doesn’t count as ‘haze’ and it is therefore acceptable for us to carry on coughing, wheezing and itching. If this is classified as “hazy but not haze”, I just am glad that the haze is not back!

I spent Saturday cleaning the parental home and giving Amber and Chocky their baths. Chocky is beginning to be a little easier to handle on walks. It used to be that he would ruin my reputation as a dog lover each time I took him out for walks because I would be telling him off the whole time: “Look out! Mind the car!” “No fighting! Heel, boy, heel!” “Drop it! Open your mouth and drop that!”. Although Chocky is still nowhere near as manageable and compliant as Amber, at least taking him out for walks is no longer as excruciating as it used to be.

I left the house by 0700h on Sunday morning to set up our MNS Green Living booth at FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) in conjunction with The Star’s World Environment Day celebrations. Pasu and the rest of the Nature Guides were already there registering participants for the Keruing Trail Walk when I arrived.

I must say that the event was quite a disappointment this year in terms of vendor/environmental group participation and visitor turnout, compared to the previous years. It seems like we (MNS) were the only non-governmental organisation to participate in the event this year. Of course, The Star’s youth group, BRATS, had their own little activity booth, but they were only selling balloon sculptures and popcorn in plastic cups, so I didn’t see what relevance it had with World Environment Day. It was just another opportunity for the appropriately named BRATS to sell refreshments, play games and have fun. There wasn’t a single element of environmental activism in what they were doing. In fact, there wasn’t anything remotely related to environmental conservation in most of the booths. Most were just merchants trying to pitch the sales of their purportedly ‘green’ products, like novelty water bottles and cellular phones.

Attending to visitors at the Green Living booth.

I attended to the visitors at our booth, answered the usual inquiries about everything from balcony composting to household appliances, sold most of the pre-loved books and played a few rounds of the 3R Game and Water Conservation Board Game with youngsters who didn’t have any companion to play against. Teck Wyn dropped by with little Cerys and we had a chat about finding a successor for the position of Green Living Coordinator so I could move on to the branch Committee to focus more on advocacy, corporate liaison, and media relations work for the MNS.

Having a sugar fix during a rare quiet moment at the booth. Sigh. And I had wondered why my teeth are in the horrible state they are in!

Finally decided to call it a day by 1400h and started tidying up the booth. Bade goodbye to the Nature Guides, (who similarly complained that the visitors were only here for a good time and were not in the least interested in conservation. The Keruing Trail was quite ‘rubbishy’ by afternoon, so I guess all the lessons on protecting Mother Nature was lost on these folks) and drove over to the SPCA. I put the remaining books from the Green Living booth up for sale in the SPCA Charity Shop and tidied the shop a bit.

Later, I joined Rose and Wonder Boy (I still don’t know the youngster’s name but I recognise him as a dedicated volunteer) to wash and groom the dogs from the kennels next to the Hospital. We finished grooming about 6 dogs and washed dozens others. I swept up the hair clippings, soaped and disinfected the Cattery and the area behind the office and cleaned the Front Office Reception/Admin area. Decided to clear off by 1800h as I had been up since 0630h and was exhausted.

Cleaned myself up and drove back to the BOQ. Tidied up the place, fed the Rowdies, grabbed my cloth carrier bags and reusable food takeaway containers and walked over to the night market in SS25 to stock up on snacks and fresh produce. Walked home, cleaned the BOQ and sorted out Green Living property before hitting the sack. It’s been another reasonably good weekend.

Tuesday, 9th June 2009: Jake’s Birthday Celebrations

As agreed earlier, Jess and I decided to take Jake out for dinner on the eve of his birthday. As the 9th was also Chloe’s 5th Gotcha Day, I gave all the Rowdies Addiction Organic King Salmon and Potato before we left for Chili’s in One Utama.

Bottomless Tostada Chips with Salsa!

Somehow the conversation veered from work, politics and the state of the economy and environment to a disclosure of all the terrible pranks we played in our schooldays. My best memories of school are always that of delinquency.

Our food arrived and met our expectations, as usual. We had bottomless tostada chips, Triple Play, bottomless fruit juices, cheeseburger (for Jake) and grilled Portobello chicken (for Jess), and the bill was still lower than what I paid at Jake’s Charbroiled Steaks the previous week, and we still had leftovers to doggie-bag.

We left by 2300h without having imbibed any alcoholic beverages as Jake had a midnight shift to attend to. We had a good dinner and a good weeknight, by any standards.

Wednesday, 10th June 2009: Final Day

When I first joined this firm, I had ambitions of excelling at my work and of succeeding. Within days, I learned that the work culture and range of work was completely at odds with my objectives and principles. I could take the long work hours, but I could not condone many other things. Had I been younger, I would have stuck my chin out and persevered at a horrible job because by quitting I would be “letting them win”.

As I grew older, I realised that some struggles are just not worth it. Even if I were to stick it out with this job, would it be worth my effort? Would it bring me any closer to any of my life’s goals? Once I have finalised Plan A and Plan B, tendering my resignation became the easiest thing to do. Resigning, as I have learned, is not about admitting defeat. It could also be about evolution, growth and positive change.

And so I tendered my letter of resignation and served my 30-day notice period. On my final day of work, I submitted my detailed status, billing and client contact reports and handed over the files to the associates who would have to take over my files. The partner-in-charge made a suitably ingratiating comment about how I was getting good at shipping work and what a pity it was that I had to go. I expressed my thanks politely and stated categorically that producing the results I did for the shipping files I handled could be attributed to nothing more than hard work and very long hours. I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, actually good at shipping law. I did not tell her that there was nothing I liked about the shipping industry. It is a nasty, polluting industry which benefits only the rich and corrupt few. I merely delivered the results I did because it was my duty to do so.

Mun Yee and gang took me out to lunch, and we spent an enjoyable hour having Vietnamese food at the Pavilion. I was packed and ready to go by 2030h. Mun Yee helped to carry my box of books to the Battletank, and we slapped each other’s shoulders goodbye. I informed her that I would be going to purchase groceries for Brian’s charities on the way home, and she gave me some cash to contribute towards the purchase of the groceries. I cannot adequately express gratitude for a friend like Mun Yee. She has been such a great buddy from the day we first met at football practice.

Swung by Bangsar on my way home, picked up breakfast foods for the 5 new charities that Brian was collecting for, delivered the goods to Brian (almost tripped over his very quiet dog Loki in the garage) and went home.

Tomorrow my life begins afresh.

~CO78, Over.~

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

In My Neck Of The Woods…

I thought the Penanti by-election was a big yawn. PKR’s victory was a foregone conclusion. I have nothing of consequence to report of the past week except:
Yes, I like Pina Coladas/
And gettin’ high on butane/
I’m not much into health food/
I am smashed and insane/

… write to me and escape.

Thursday, 28th May 2009: Mel’s Wedding

One of my football teammates, Melissa, finally got married to Dinesh, who she had for years insisted is ‘just her best friend’. You really couldn’t blame some of us for being confused over the identity of her groom when we first received her wedding invitation via text message.

Him?” the gang and I asked each other incredulously. “But she said he was just her buddy!”

I appointed myself the shopper of gifts on behalf of the team (No, I didn’t get her Adidas Predator boots in the end. I got her bedlinen and kitchenware for her new home) and so a bunch of us – Mun Yee, Rachel, Priya, and I - trooped along to the Sri Mariamman Temple Hall after work on Thursday for the wedding ceremony.

It was good to meet up with the gang and to eat together at the Hall, although frequent inquiries of “So when’s your turn?” from well-meaning acquaintances soon became a persistent source of annoyance.

“When I’m finally out on parole”, I usually reply, just to give them something to think about. The Hall was full of our friends from law school, and the fact that many of them recognized and remembered me from our undergraduate years is nothing short of a miracle, considering the fact that I was truant from lectures 80% of the time.

Mel looked resplendent and we could hardly recognize her in her bridal getup. I said “Good catch!” conspiratorially to Dinesh, who, incidentally, was my A-Levels classmate, and made him laugh when he wasn’t supposed to.

We left the Hall after dinner and upon having congratulated the radiant and smiling newlyweds again. So here’s to you, Mel and Dinesh: May your happiest days be the ones yet to come!

Friday, 29th May 2009: Jess’ Birthday Celebrations

It’s been a week of celebrations in my neck of the woods. Jess celebrated her birthday with a dinner with Jake on Tuesday, 26th May, and so I took them out for a dinner treat on Friday night instead, as it would be easier on everyone’s schedules.

Jake recommended Jake’s Charbroiled Steaks (no relation to him) as I had suggested Southwestern food for dinner, and off we went to the Medan Damansara branch of the restaurant. The economy must be picking up, because the place was packed and we couldn’t find a parking space. We were finally ushered to a table upstairs. Jess ordered the Stroganoff, Jake had the Texan Burger and I had the vegetarian Mexican Nachos.

We did the general knowledge quiz questions on the back of the laminated placemats while waiting for our entrees to arrive. That, to me, was the highlight of the meal. I scored above average on all 6 quizzes. (Easy ones -- Q: Which British businessman & empire builder founded an African nation that was named after him? Q: What mountain range forms a natural border between France and Spain? Q: Which British musician wrote the rock opera “Tommy”? Q: In what year did World War I end?) In fact, I was a bit miffed to be interrupted when my nachos arrived.

Mexican Nachos!

The food was fairly tasty, but not exceptional, and the portions were rather small. Jake pointed out that for a burger that costs 1½ times more than Chili’s, it should taste 1½ times better than Chili’s, but it doesn’t. Jess and I concurred and added that at least we could get Bottomless Tostada Chips (with all the guacamole and salsa we could ever want!) and Bottomless Fruit Juice/Soda at Chili’s. So guess where we’re going for Jake’s birthday in June?

Our dessert of Pecan Pie a la Mode arrived and it was such a tiny sliver of pie that I could fold it up in my wallet and make it disappear. While we did enjoy each other’s company (that’s only natural – we’re housemates!), the food was reasonably good, but definitely not worth the exorbitant prices.

Saturday, 30th May 2009: Blogosphere Bulletins

I spent Saturday back at the parental home to attend to some housework and other matters. I had to get some Green Living activity boards and charts prepared and laminated before the Star’s World Environment Day celebrations next week, respond to some Malaysian Nature Society-related interview questions by e-mail and sort out binders of my published materials for an upcoming interview on Thursday. While I was at it, I cleaned the parental home, sorted out the recyclables, spring cleaned my bedroom, swept the compound, mopped the floor, gave Amber a bath, washed the Battletank and administered Rain-X to the windscreen.

Just an update on my IRL friends who have now joined the blogosphere: Green Cindy has started a blog on living an environmentally and socially responsible lifestyle and you can visit her here: Terra-Cin. I will be contributing from time-to-time as a guest. The Green Living and Eco Kids monthly columns will be posted in Terra-Cin (since the MNS website is playing silly buggers with me again), and I will be doing the occasional product review of locally available environmentally-friendly and fair trade goods.

I’ve managed to help Meem get the Luv Thy Pet semi-commercial blog up and running as well and we welcome visits from animal lovers everywhere. Meem’s organic and/or homemade pet treats are irresistible and surprisingly affordable, so do drop by and see if you’d like to get your fuzzies a Bark-Day cake or some savouries -- you’d have them sitting up and begging in no time at all!

So do come on by and pay my friends a visit, and we’ll try to keep things relevant and interesting for all our visitors!

Sunday, 31st May 2009: SPCA Sunday, followed by a Musical Evening

The SPCA animal shelter had another mini Jumble Sale on Sunday morning, but did not receive the publicity it needed and the visitor turnout was pretty low. I was surprised that the shelter secretary and officers did not request my assistance in getting the event announcement out to the public via radio and the Press, but apparently it was all a bit of a rush job this time. They could have informed me a week or two in advance and I could still get the relevant notices out on time and paste fliers on the notice boards of all the low-cost flats and bus stops in the area days before the event.

Having slept only at 0400h on Sunday morning, I turned up at the Shelter at noon, because I realised that Chelvy would have enough school and college-age volunteers to assist with the Jumble in the morning. I was right. I went to the Central Area of the Shelter bearing a bagful of pumpkins and peeled garlic that Covert Mum had purchased for the animals and found the industrious youngsters already in the midst of bagging up the unsold items for disposal or to be handed over to another charity for recycling. I put the vegetables away in the freezer, helped the young'uns put away the trestle tables and got to work cleaning the cat cages and litter trays in the front of the Shelter.

I joined Nicole, Jacinta and Sashi at Studio 5 across the street for lunch and a long conversation about the training of companion animals before resuming work at the Shelter in the afternoon. Apparently, our general workers had tick-washed most of the dogs during the week, so I would not be required to do tick-washing this weekend. I cleaned out the Cattery and changed the bedding, litter and water for all the cats. I scrubbed, disinfected and rinsed the Cattery floor, shelves, baskets and cages and squeegee-d the place dry so that the cats would not have to deal with the damp.

Next, I cleaned up after the dogs in the Maternity Kennels and Puppery and removed the food and water bowls for washing. I let the dogs out to play while I washed and disinfected the cages and enclosures. Muniandy offered to put the dogs back in their enclosures later, so I proceeded to clean the Front Reception/Admin area and the Office. I left the Shelter by 1930 hrs to shower at the SPCA Bungalow and get ready for the concert I was to attend with Alicia.

Alicia had very kindly invited me to join her for a musical evening at University Malaya to hear The Canticle Singers in a performance called “Be Our Guest”, described as a ‘feast of lush choral music and other selections’.

And what a feast it was! The choristers sang classics from Broadway, the West End and Disney musicals, among others. Their rendition of ‘September’ by ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ and Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ had us bopping in our seats, and their interpretations of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, ‘The Winner Takes It All’ and ‘Pareiso’ were simply too exquisite for words.

My only bugbear was that some of the songs left me feeling as though I had inadvertently wandered onto the set of Sesame Street. I have never been partial towards Disney and children’s music theatre, so numbers like ‘Hola, Lola!’ and ‘Be Our Guest’, though cheerfully rendered, failed to move me. Speak to me about musicals, and I can expound all night on the artistic merits of ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ and even ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’, but Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ doesn’t come across as a musical to me.

My favourite performance of the evening had to be guest tenor Tan Wei Han’s solo rendition of ‘Bring Him Home’, which was heart-achingly beautiful to listen to. That has always been my favourite song from ‘Les Miserables’, and tenors like Colm Wilkinson have set the bar very high. It is not an easy song to sing by any standards, yet Wei Han delivered it magnificently.

I am charmed by the performance of the Canticle Singers, and slightly regretful that it took me so long to have the opportunity to appreciate them. It is admirable to me that they are volunteer singers as much as I am a volunteer for all my various causes, and that they display so much discipline and dedication in practicing their music. If their reason for making music is to bring others pleasure, then they have unequivocally achieved that objective.

I drove Alicia home after our utterly enjoyable evening and went back to the BOQ to clean up, wash my stinky SPCA clothes and get ready for the coming workweek.

~ Whiskey-Echo-Lima, Over. ~