Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Are you an everyday superhero?

Are you an everyday superhero?

I picked up this free ZO postcard from one of those free postcards dispensing racks yesterday and was very intrigued. It is 1 in a series of 4 postcards that is spreading climate change awareness. Organized by SEC and supported by NEA and the Climate Change Organization, it has program partners like Sembcorp and Shell. On its website, it gives tips of reducing electricity, in order to reduce fossil fuel consumption, thus reducing CO2 emission and in doing so, reduce global warming and climate change.

One of my favourite tips on the website is as follows:

"Turn off the TV. Leaving it on standby mode sucks up 85% more electricity than turning it off at the wall."
This is something that I have been trying to practice ever since I learnt about it in the US. But somehow, most people seems quite resistant to the idea. Well 85% is almost double the amount!

Did you know that it's the same with water heaters? Most of the time our heaters are consuming energy while it maintains your water hot. I can tell this is especially so for my heater because the pipe for hot water is scorching hot even when nobody is using it. If you do not wish to turn the heater off, you could at least leave it at 'cold mode' so that the heater does not anticipate your requirement of hot water perpetually and generate excess heat to keep the water warm throughout theh day. This of course only apply for some heaters. It's always good to switch off any electrical applicances and not leave it on standby!

On the back of this postcard, it also says:
"Fellow citizens travelling by public transport for one year reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 4,2000kg, which is equivalent to planting 355 trees. Incredible isn't it? Help reduce global climate change by becoming an everyday superhero."
That sure is some food for thought. Reading that makes all the squeezing on buses and MRTs during peak hour seems worthwhile.
You can even battle harmful CO2 emissions and save the planet on the Everyday Superhero website by playing the game on the website!

Sure is a great way to create climate change awareness. Kudos! As the superhero on the postcard says:
"Save the planet, one day at a time"
You can do it too!

Read full article here

Religion in the news

Seems like Singapore's getting it's very own case of the "exorcism of emily rose" or is it a scene out of "Holy Smokes" where the protagonist, Kate Winslet, is surrounded and an 'exorcism' (of sorts) forced upon her.

Priests, helpers at Novena Church sued over alleged exorcism
By Rita Zahara, Channel NewsAsia [source]
29 August 2006 2100 hrs

"In the writ, Amutha Valli claimed that on 10 August 2004, she went to Novena Church to pray with her son, daughter and a close friend. But she fainted. She is alleging that two priests from the church, Father Simon Tan and Father Jacob Ong, claimed she had been possessed by a spirit, and then performed an act of exorcism, helped by seven others.

The ritual is said to have lasted two-and-a-half hours, during which time Amutha claimed she had resisted furiously. She claimed she was strangled, pinned down and verbally abused."
Or is this one of those Da Vinci Code, Stigmata portrayed church scandals-cover up?
"When contacted, Father Tan claimed Amutha Valli did not faint in church. In fact, he said, she had walked in asking for help, saying she was possessed. Father Tan also denied any act of exorcism. He said he, Father Ong and another seven helpers only performed prayers over her."
So who's right and who's wrong? Will we ever know the truth? Who do you believe? One thing for sure, this is the first case of its kind in Singapore.

Anyways, all in one day, another 'religious' group also hit the news. This time it's the persistent falungong members. The interesting bit about this article is that I have no idea how the Chee siblings are involved with this cult(?).
"More than 80 Falungong members crowded the narrow corridor outside the courtroom, awaiting their turn to go in. Singapore Democratic Party chief Dr Chee Soon Juan also attended the hearing with his sister and party colleague Chee Siok Chin. "
On another hand, the falungong members are being accused of displaying "insulting writings" at the Chinese Embassy thus resulting in a harrassment charge.
"SI Ooi testified that the three were sitting under a blue banner that read "On hunger strike in protest of the Chinese Communist Party's inhumane persecution of Falungong practitioners."
So does this mean I am harrassing Macdonalds if I go on a diet in protest of their inhumane treatment of the world's forests, small farmers, wastage of food and evil influence on the global food supply?

See: Falungong members back in court, 29 August 2006, TODAY

Read full article here

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Ways to be truly green

People always talked about the 21st century having a paperless society. But instead, people print out their emails and their ebooks (if they can get a chance to they will!).

Even in the university, even though powerpoint slides are available online and students bring their laptops to school, people still tend to print out the notes before the exam to mug.

This semester, being my 2nd last in university, I have decided to be as paperless as possible. Other than minimal handouts from lecturers, I have yet to print out any notes or readings.

Yes, I did do some photocopying at the beginning of the year since that's unavoidable with the RBR (restricted borrowing for just 2hours from the NUS libraries), I compile some tips to be as green as possible as a student in university.

1) Scan and pdf your readings instead of photocopying.
If you can get any books from the library on normal loan, scan them into pdf instead of photocopying. That is what I'm doing with some readings where I managed to borrow the book home. This requires Adobe Acrobat Professional and a scanner. Most people have these facilities available to them. Even though the NUS library provides service to lecturers to digitize important or recommended readings but they are often overworked and turnover rate is very slow.

2) Download your notes and bring your laptop to school

There is a notes function in powerpoint that allows you to insert notes and that way when you revise you can go through the notes and slides at the same time

3) Recycle old exercise books
I am sure all of us have old exericse books from previous semesters or even from primary or secondary school! Usually there are lots of unused pages at the end. Either tear the free pages out or use the whole book! That's what I am doing now. Recycling old note books.

4) Recycled paper?
People asked me what if I need paper to submit for tutorial and so far, I know my professors to be very open to recycled paper or just tear a page out from your exercise book (#3) or use the back of the handout given. Finally, I am sure we still have paper from JC or secondary school. Use the little bits and pieces floating around your home. I also have a paper recycling box at home to the brim with paper. once in a while those come in handy.

5) Printing doublesided
I am sure many do this already. Now the NUS central library copiers are very advance and double-side friendly. Feeders easily do doubleside too. Printers at the central library also do doubleside with ease. Look in the printer setup before you print! At home, do print doubleside manually. If you must print your powerpoint slides, print 6 slides in 1 page and if you are printing your readings, do print 2 page in 1. Some friends even print 4 page in one but that does make reading rather difficult.

There are so many ways we can all help to cut down the amount of paper we use. If you already do some of these, why not proceed to the next level?

If you never thought of any of these before, why not start from the simplest?

If you have any other ideas on how to go paperless, please share!

Read full article here

I love my trees

Mighty Dipterocarps
Few of our remaining dipterocarps heritage trees in Changi.

Monkeys love trees of course but it's especially heartening to see others love our trees too.

Yawningbread posted an insightful photo essay recently about our trees in response to an horrid and shallow suggestion by an ST journalist in May 2006 to cut down the trees in Orchard road because it made our prime shopping district look dark and gloomy.

"In May this year, Ignatius Low, a Straits Times journalist, wrote a column in which he mentioned that Orchard Road wasn't as bright as some other cities' premier shopping streets at night. He attributed it to the thick canopy of trees. To give Orchard more buzz, he suggested that we should cut down some of the trees, replacing them with species with less dense foliage."
As YB showed, it is definitely not the case.

Read Yawningbread's photo essay on "Our Trees".

Read full article here

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Ubin Stories down

If any of the readers here are followers of Ubin Stories, I am sorry to announce that Ubin Stories is down. I have been unable to upload my post for weeks and honestly it's driving me nuts.

I have been unable to move it elsewhere either and blogger is not cooperating. At the same time I do not have the password to the server so there is nothing I can do.

There are many posts just waiting to be read. Unfortunately it seems that they will not be seeing the light of day for... gosh I don't know how long.

Sorry again.

Stressed out monkey.

Read full article here

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The history of Singapore

Earlier this year, Discovery Channel released a series called The History of Singapore which was shown on cable here in Singapore. At the same time, some clips also were shown on channel 5 if I'm not wrong.

Unfortunately, monkeys don't have cable in their trees so I was unable to catch this series.

Recently, I caught a commercial on TV that advertised the release of the series on DVD. 2 days ago when I was at Borders, I decided to look for the series.

It would appear that the DVD was either not selling very well or it's been out for a while already. There was even a 3 dollar discount for the item. You can now get your very own copy at just $33.95.

Of course I'm not going to argue with low prices. In fact, had it been any more expensive I wouldn't have gone for it at all!

I haven't even taken it out of shrinkwrap yet but the synopsis proves to be very promising.

Disc 1: Episode 1 - Raffles' Little Child
The first episode chronicles the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles, and tells the story of Singapore's birth and growing pains through to the high noon of Empire. With a vision of Singapore as a trading port in its own right, Raffles attempted to shift the centre of the trading network to Singapore with the promise of free trade. But money-making schemes, monopoly of the opium and alcohol supplies, secret societies and other vices plagued the tiny nation, and the city grew more squalid and violent as there was no government to speak of. However, with the opening of the Suez Canal, Singapore became a truly international port, no longer having to rely on regional trade. With this transformation, Britain began to be more concerned about Singapore and granted it colonial status. By applying some governance and sorting out the social problems, Singapore became more stable and Raffles' vision was becoming reality. But the seeds of Singapore's downfall were also being sown as the arrival of new goods and people also brought new ideas which would convulse Singapore in the 20th century.

Disc 2: Episode 2 - Accidental Nation
Nationalism arrived in Singapore in 1901 with Sun Yat Sen. Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s further fueled this, triggering a nationalist outpouring. Japan soon attacked the small island and Britain surrendered Singapore in February 1942. After the war, it was clear that the British no longer had the funds for the Empire and it was time for Singaporeans to fill the political vacuum. A new professional class of people like Lee Kuan Yew became the first Singaporean nationalists - they regarded Singapore as their homeland, not China or India. This episode follows the political changes that took place in the mid 1950s, in particular the struggle between Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong. Viewers learn of the threat of communism, Singapore's relationship with and separation from Malaya, and the eventual formation of an independent government and nation.

Disc 3: Episode 3 - Lion City, Asian Tiger
Singapore's journey did not have a promising start, and few believed it could survive as an independent nation state. After its separation from Malaya, Singapore had lost its industrial and emotional hinterland, was surrounded by potentially hostile neighbours, and was beleaguered by political unrest. This episode shows how Singapore turned yet another weakness into strength under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, political opponents were neutralized, trade union activism was discouraged and the nation was re-educated with a series of public campaigns. With the influx of multi-national corporations, Singapore's programme of state capitalism flourished. But even with a hard-working and efficient population, the nation lacked entrepreneurial or political energies. It needed to re-invent itself to continue to flourish in the 20th century. The challenge for Singapore as it moves from youth to middle age is to be a nation that can draw on its past as an inspiration for its future.
Reading those words in bold reminds me of my favourite national day song, "There was a time, when people said that Singapore won't make it, but we did..." For some reason they have axed this song from the songlist in recent years national day parade. What a shame. We do need to remember our past afterall. But the DVD seem to have missed out on changes in the 21st century.

I suppose I wouldn't know till I watch it. Hope I find the time soon.

Read full article here

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Endemic to Singapore

Last month, when I was bringing a group of american students and professor from Semester at Sea to Pulau Ubin, somebody asked me if there were any species endemic to Singapore. Afterall, it's an island and island biogeography always speaks of endemic and rare species, unique only to the island.

However, due to our proximity to Malaysia and the fact that we were part of the Sundaland continental shelf, the evolution and distribution of species on Singapore is very similar to the rest of Sundaland which includes Malaysia and parts of Indonesia, such as Sumatra.

Although intellectually and logically, I know that there should be endemic species on Singapore, I couldn't think of a single one. Of course, since I didn't know of any and knowing that most species are shared between the two political entities, I said that "I couldn't name one of the top of my head".

Indeed, I was very glad today when Prof Peter Ng in his Natural Heritage class talked about the endemic species of Singapore! One particular crab leaves a lasting impression - the Reticulated Swamp Crab. In fact, after chasing after many people for an idea of the crab's scientific name (Parathelphusa reticulata), I finally found it mentioned on the RMBR website.

In fact the story he told in class today was more or less printed in the Royal Geographical Society's publication, Geographical, in May 2000.

"Ng's "all time favourite" discovery came in 1990. In 1988 he wrote a book on the freshwater crabs of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore in which he recorded five true freshwater crab species from Singapore, including two endemics. "I was pretty confident I had found all the freshwater crabs there were to find on such a small island with so little forest," Ng says. "But in 1989 a student showed me a photograph of a crab from a small patch of swamp forest in the centre of the central catchment, from an area I had sampled before.

The animal looked rather odd, with a rather unusual colour pattern, but I was rather sure of myself then and dismissed it merely as an extreme variant of a common species found there, Parathelphusa maculata. Some months later, I got a specimen of this 'variant' myself, and doubts began to surface in my mind about its presumed identity. But the specimen was a juvenile, and I had to get an adult specimen to be dead sure that it was a new species. The student and I subsequently visited the swamp many times, often in the middle of the night, to find this elusive animal; we even sacrificed our New Year's Eve in 1990 in an attempt to find specimens. They are so secretive. By day, they hide in deep burrows in soft mud and are virtually impossible to dig out. The adults only come out in total darkness in the middle of the night, especially during moonless nights, and even then, they crawl slowly in shallow streams, underneath very dense leaf litter. This behavior, coupled with their well-camouflaged colour patterns, make them almost impossible to see. We finally learned how to catch them, though, by grabbing any clump of submerged leaves that moved. As it turned out, I had been wrong. It was a separate species after all, and to beat everything, it was new to science. I named it Parathelphusa reticulata for its beautiful carapace pattern. Moreover, this species was endemic to Singapore. As later studies showed, it is found only in a five hectare patch of swamp in Singapore, and nowhere else on this planet. This is a reasonably large crab, about 35 mm in carapace width. So if something like this could have been missed for so long, heaven knows what else we are still ignorant of in the catchment. This experience was a humbling one for me - I'll never again be complacent about biodiversity, even in Singapore."
Unfortunately, no photo of the reticulated swamp crab of Singapore could be found online but the image in class today will always stay in my mind.

Edit: Duck informs me that the banded leaf monkey (Presbytis femoralis femoralis) which I am named after is actually an endemic subspecies to Singapore! How embarrassing that I did not even know this about myself. *sniffles* I must say though, we do much better on the endemic plant species front with a total of 38 (or possibly more) endemic plant species in Singapore!

To find out what other endemic species or species named after Singapore, check out this ST article by Chang Ai-lien in 2005.

Read full article here

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

National Youth Environment Forum

"Global Citizens and the Environment:
A Youth Perspective"

Date: 2nd September 2006
Time: 8.30am- 3.30pm

Venue: Singapore Management University,
School of Accounting Auditorium
Guest of Honour: Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources

Registeration is free.
Sign up at:

ECO (Singapore) and the SMU Verts will be organising the National Youth
Environmental Forum 2006.

As part of the national strategy in raising awareness in youths on environmental matters, ECO Singapore will be organising the National Youth Environment Forum 2006 together with SMU Verts.

The inaugural National Youth Environmental Forum (NYEF) provides an interactive platform for youth age from 17 - 25 years old to discuss and engage in global and local environmental issues and policies.

Focus will be on the realities of sustainable living, with the intention of encouraging youths of today to begin leading greener lifestyles today for a sustainable tomorrow and to challenge youth to rethink existing policies on environmental issues.

The forum also provides a platform for Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) to showcase their existing initiatives.

The topics for discussion includes:
  • Energy and Climate Change
  • Biodiversity and Nature Conservation
  • Sanitation and Water
  • Pollution and Ecosystem Management
  • Poverty and Population
  • National Youth Environment Forum 2006

    There is also a pre-forum seminar for the Biodiversity and Nature Conservation discussion group titled:

    "What happened at Chek Jawa?"
    Date: Saturday, 26th August 2006
    Time: 9am - 11am

    Venue: Lecture Theatre 25
    Faculty of Science
    National University of Singapore
    See map at

    The program for the pre-forum seminar is as follows:

    1.“What happened at Chek Jawa.” An overview – N. Sivasothi
    The events surrounding Chek Jawa mark a significant milestone in nature conservation and spontaneous consultation between the public and thegovernment of Singapore. Many individuals and groups came forward to participate in the discovery, study, public education and feedback exercises during this time. This overview highlights some but not all, of the main efforts and elements that contributed to the deferment of reclamation there and comments on volunteer management lessons from that experience.

    2. “How we shared Chek Jawa” - Ria Tan

    Ria was heartbroken when she first saw Chek Jawa about six months before it was due to be reclaimed. Already a volunteer guide at Sungei Buloh, she decided to bring as many people as she could to see Chek Jawa before it was gone forever. Friends, family, total strangers, people who happened to be hanging around Ubin jetty. Anyone was fair game! She joined the Raffles Museum’s Public Education Walk effort as an executor, organising the logistics for the walks, working on the Chek Jawa website, managed registrations, uploaded her photo galleries and organised a roving public
    exhibition of photos of Chek Jawa. She also supported other efforts, including Joseph Lai's transect. It was a huge surprise to her when reclamation was deferred! Ria learnt from this experience, the importance of guiding and a personal introduction to the habitat. She also realised the power of the internet in raising awareness. It is only when people feel something for the habitat that they will feel moved to do something for it.

    3. “From research to education” – N. Sivasothi
    Staff and volunteers of the Raffles Museum are amongst the last to see many sites in Singapore which has seen a long history of development of coastal sites since the time of the British. The function and importance of a museum’s work in salvage surveys is explained and why an island called Pulau Seringat led to the large scale public education exercise at Chek Jawa.

    4. “Answering the call” - Zeehan Jaafar
    Recruited to help with the salvage operation at Chek Jawa, my task was to collect fishes using a beach seine net, a method I frequently use to study coastal fishes. It was surprising that the waters at Chek Jawa were very rich indeed, and unlike no other site in Singapore. With the closure of Chek Jawa approaching, I was one of the marine guides who shared stories about marine life with the public. It was heartening to see Singaporeans genuinely interested in our natural history and the encouragement they gave to their children as well. In 2004, I co-led a team of 60 volunteers for the Chek Jawa Transect 2004 and now participate in the annual coastal clean-up of the
    mangroves there.

    5. “Chronicles of Chek Jawa” - Chua Ee Kiam
    Ee Kiam was fascinated by Chek Jawa the moment he set foot on the site. He photographed it tirelessly but with time running out, he brought individuals to Chek Jawa to help them discover a jewel in Singapore’s midst. He was featured in a ChannelNewsAsia broadcast about the site, talking about the importance for Singaporeans to get to know their land and heritage. He worked hard at a book about Chek Jawa, thinking it to be an eulogy, but with news of the deferment of reclamation there, it turned into a celebration! Special about this book was a partnership with students of Tanjong Katong Secondary School, with help from the Raffles Museum, to celebrate the launch of the book

    6. “A partnership with stakeholders” - Wong Tuan Wah.
    Wong Tuan Wah watched the events fold at Chek Jawa unfold perhaps with some disbelief. The National Parks Board provides scientific input to government decision about nature sites and in this case, he was witnessing a growing possibility of deferment of reclamation at Chek Jawa. He has since been discussed the process with other senior civil servants and also chairs the Chek Jawa Working Group which provides news and receives feedback from stakeholders. He will share how NParks has balanced public’s interest and impact at Chek Jawa and how development there is being handled.

    7. "A partnership with stakeholders" - Wong Tuan Wah.
    Wong Tuan Wah watched the events fold at Chek Jawa unfold perhaps with some disbelief. The National Parks Board provides scientific input to government decision about nature sites and in this case, he was witnessing a growing possibility of deferment of reclamation at Chek Jawa. He has since discussed the process with other senior civil servants and also chairs the Chek Jawa
    Working Group which provides news and receives feedback from stakeholders. He will share how NParks has balanced public's interest and impact at Chek Jawa and how development there is being handled.

    8. Final Words - Leo Tan

    Leo Tan watched the events of Chek Jawa unfold, compared it against previous experiences and offered words of wisdom and experience to those who came to seek it out. He has a holitic prespective of the issues and able to put things into perspective. He has always encouraged young people, whether marine biologists, teachers or naturalists and will provide a personal and holistic reflection of the morning's proceedings.

    Read full article here

    Monday, August 21, 2006


    Today in class, prof mentioned that in his field work at Bukit Timah, he hardly ever encounter leeches in our streams. But in Malaysia, there are tons of leeches - something I can attest to, having had leeches raining on me in Fraser Hill.

    "What happened to all the leeches in Singapore? Did they get banned by the Singapore government or something?" - Higgitt (2006)

    Gosh, I would like to know too. So I did a search online and guess what I found?

    They've all been turned into 100% pure leech oil!

    But seriously I am sure there are some kind of biological reasons for the lack of rampant leeches in our forests. But definitely, we do have leeches. You should just be glad you haven't encountered them yet!

    Read full article here

    Friday, August 18, 2006

    Speak up for our shores

    Here's an email from Ria of WildSingapore about giving feedback to MEWR about its National Climate Change Strategy. Having taken Prof Wong's Coastal Management module, I feel a strong urge to put my lessons to practice. But you don't need geography lessons to tell the government how you feel about the protection of our shores. Even without threat from sea level rise, we need to ensure that our shore is resilient as it is. Ria makes some interesting suggestions in her email.

    Sea Wall
    High erosion on ubin shores led to need for extensive sea walls along the coastline. Much of the erosion is due to aggravated waves by the large shipping vessels that pass by along the shipping route between Ubin and Changi/Punggol. Photo by monkey, taken near OBS jetty.

    Actually, being a small island state (SIDS), we are actually highly under threat by climate change and sea level rise. For some island states like the Maldives, already people have to evacuate islands due to land loss from continuous annual sea level rise. Whole islands have been lost!

    BBC reports that:

    "To the naked eye, the signs of climate change are almost imperceptible, but government scientists fear the sea level is rising up to 0.9cm a year. Since 80% of its 1,200 islands are no more than 1m above sea level, within 100 years the Maldives could become uninhabitable. The country's 360,000 citizens would be forced to evacuate."
    I'm quite glad the government is doing something about it but the impact to our islands and marine biodiversity can be quite severe as well. The usual strategy for coping with sea level rise is a) retreat b) attack or c) adapt. It would appear that Singapore has chosen the adapt tactic. It would make the most sense since we hardly have enough land to retreat to as it is. Read on to find out what the government has planned and what their strategy for Singapore is.


    Dear Friends,

    If you haven't already done so, you might want to contribute your thoughts to the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources' public consulation on a National Climate Change Strategy.

    Check out the portion on "Singapore's Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change" which includes
    =Land Loss and Flooding
    =Water Resource Impacts
    =Higher Energy Demand and Heat Stress
    =Public Health Impact from Resurgence of Diseases
    =Impacts on Island and Marine Biodiversity

    Here are the two issues that would be of most concern to those of us who care about our shores...

    Land Loss and Flooding
    A sea level rise of 88cm by 2100 could result in some coastal erosion and land loss in Singapore. In order to minimise the impact of this sea level rise, the Public Utilities Board (PUB) has been
    requiring all coastal land to be built to a level 40cm higher than the new sea level after an 88cm sea level rise.

    Impacts on Island and Marine Biodiversity
    A rise in sea level could also lead to loss of mangroves which could further aggravate coastal erosion rates. Increased erosion could impact recreational areas at the coasts, such as East Coast Park , Sungei Buloh, Pasir Ris Park , West Coast Park , and Sentosa. A rise in seawater temperature as a result of global warming could also have a negative impact on marine life e.g. coral bleaching.

    You CAN make a difference!
    Send your feedback to MEWR

    The feedback portion seeks YOUR views on "What other possible steps can Singapore take to adapt to the impacts from climate change described?" i.e., Land Loss and Flooding, Impacts on Island and Marine Biodiversity

    We can also use this opportunity to highlight other issues relating to the shores.

    For example, increasing the resilience of our natural shore habitats so they can withstand warming by reducing sedimentation, pollution, drift netting and unregulated over-use of natural shores. For a list of threats to our coral reefs (applies also to other shore habitats) see Tse-Lynn's Coral Reefs of Singapore website (scroll down to bottom of the page)

    More? ...
    For the latest global warming and climate change events and issues in Singapore, see today's daily wildsingapore e-newsletter posting...

    Read full article here

    Thursday, August 17, 2006

    Uncle, no straw please

    Earlier this year, the toddycats had a booth at the reduce plastics and use reusable bags launch at Parkway Parade. One of our panels for exhibition was titled the curse of plastics with a vivid photo of plastic remnants spilling out of a turtle's mouth. One of the ways suggested to reduce plastic trash is to stop using straws.

    Did you know that a human being stops requiring the use of a straw from the age of 4? From the moment you learn to control your motor skills to enable you to drink from a cup, you no longer require the aid of a straw.

    So ever since that exhibition, I made a pledge to myself to stop using straws and would always request for no straws please.

    Did you notice that drink stalls usually automatically give you straws without you asking for it? Only certain food courts require you to fetch your own straws.

    As a sign of good service, the drink stall of the NUS Arts Canteen always automatically issue you a straw before handing you your drinks. However, since the beginning of this year, I have been pre-empting them. So much so that now the drink stall uncle has actually recognized me and pre-empt my request by greeting me with a smile and saying,

    "no straws, right?"

    Even after 3 months of being away from school on holiday, the uncle has not forgotten me. Today when I visited the stall, as usual I said,

    "uncle, no straw please"

    And straight away he replied,

    "yes i remember! How come you haven't visited the stall for so long!"

    He remembers! I guess I must be a rare soul to actually try to stop those fast-moving uncles from slipping a straw into my cup before they try to sneak one past me. And sometimes they succeed too! But not if I get this particular uncle.

    He remembers.

    Latest Update: Just got an email from NUS informing that the Arts Canteen will be closed for renovation from October to July 2007. This is the last of the Arts Canteen as I know it before I graduate! There will be no more uncle who knows I don't want straws. There will be no more familiar stalls that has tied alumnis of all ages together when we talk about the char kway teow stall uncle who supported 2 sons to med school and serves a mean plate of CKT! *sigh* Memories.

    Read full article here

    Wednesday, August 16, 2006

    Recent Photos

    Have been uploading quite a bit of photos on Flickr but no time to blog about it so figured I'll share the photos first, stories can wait.

    View from Butterfly Hill Pulau Ubin @ Hungry Ghost Festival
    Includes visits to Butterfly Hill, otherwise known as Jelutong Hill or Jelutong Campsite. Looking more and more like ECP or Pasir Ris Park if you ask me. The hill is artificial. The area was a dumpground for Ho Man Chu quarry which it overlooks and the irony is that after years of creating holes on Ubin, now they're doing the opposite!

    Goodbye Pulau Ubin @ Plant Survey
    Includes pictures of baby wild boar, OBS land, Nparks officers, wayang stage, and angsana trees being cut down.

    Gaming Queen World Cyber Games @ Suntec City
    Didn't take many pictures but played xbox for the first time. That was cool! heh

    Thai 1 Class Outing Thai class outing @ Marche
    Photos of my thai class outing with my Thai teacher and her jap-thai son Toshi at Marche. Felt totally ripped off my marche because after trying to buy the cheapest food there (stirfry veggie with rice) they tell me that i didn't spend the min requirement of 10sgd and made me buy cookies. Shessh I could have gotten more food. After that went to archipelago breweries with duck and joe and we met singbrew because joe poured orange juice in her glass and it looked like beer turn bad. lol when are we going to paulaner? :P

    Budak at play MMM @ National Day
    It was pastries and board game day as the triple letter gang celebrated national day. We must do it again soon - especially since I bought new DVDs and somebody should invest in a set of Taboo!

    Lucky Offspring Pedal Ubin @ 13 Aug
    The most recent trip to Ubin was rewarding as spring tide exposed some glorious sights of Ubin. I also met this lucky offspring that is the newest addition to the Jelutong Coconut Stall Auntie's household! Lucky had an offspring! heh It was also my first time riding to Kampong Melayu proper. Only time I went that far in was with the Cookery Magic class.

    Read full article here

    Tuesday, August 15, 2006

    Akan Datang: Ubin Stories

    Articles in the works for Pulau Ubin Stories:

    Baby Wild Boar
    Tree Down
    Butterfly hill & Jelutong Campsite
    Guide to Quarries
    Plant Survey @ OBS land
    Pedal Ubin 13 Aug
    Nipah Palm
    Snap Crackl and Pop, Snapping shrimps at Sekudu
    Satellite Photos of Ubin
    Ubin Volunteers Hub
    GVN office at Ubin
    Kelong and Fish Farms
    Ubin Experience website
    Village old photos (from the bike shop)
    Yachting around Ubin
    Different faces of the Wayang Stage
    SLA fence off ex prawn farm land
    Various Plants stories

    That is a lot of stories for one monkey to write in a very short time. This is what I get for going to Ubin 3 times this week.

    Please be patient with monkey.
    Monkey-typing in progress.

    Read full article here

    Wednesday, August 09, 2006

    Green Transport Week 2006

    Did you know that the Green Transport Week has been going on in Singapore since 2001? Yet every year the event seems to go by without us knowing it till we see it on TV. Or at least that is how I feel. So this year I made a pledge on the GTW website. You can do it too! Although I think for most of us who already take public transport everyday, it would not make too much of a difference. Maybe I can walk more or cycle more that week and pledge not to take any taxis at all! Gosh I really must try to stop taking taxis. In fact, they also encourage carpooling or carsharing as well. Read Mrsbudak's experience in carsharing.

    Make a pledge here.

    Bike to school!This does remind me very much of the Bike to Work Week 2005 that I thoroughly enjoyed in Santa Barbara last year. I went to cover the event for the Transport Alternatives for Livable Communities (TALC) newsletter and instead I got to know some really fervent and dedicated people to supporting alternative transport in car-crazy-california.

    Flags downtown Harley bike Aerodynamic bike Bike to work day flag

    Here are the events for this year's GTW. If you don't bike, there's always the option of walking or even just taking the MRT downtown and watch a movie indoors!

    Leisure Cycle & Scenic Walk

    Date: Sunday, 20th August 2006
    Time: 9am - Noon
    Venue: Changi Village Hotel
    Guest-of-Honour: SPS for Environment, Dr Amy Khor

    Green Transport Week (GTW) is a campaign to create awareness of the impact transport activities have on the environment. GTW seeks to encourage the public to reduce negative impacts by using public transport, alternative forms of transport, choosing fuel efficient vehicles, good driving habits, and keeping vehicles well maintained.

    At the launch Dr Amy Khor, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment will be flagging off cyclists on a leisure ride. Those not wishing to cycle can participate in a guided scenic walk instead. Both activities will be followed by an informal brunch. Bicycles will be provided upon request.

    Green Transport Week


    Date: Friday, 20th October 2006
    Time: 6:30pm – 9pm
    Venue: GV Grand, Great World City
    Guest-of-Honour: SPS for Environment, Dr Amy Khor

    Description: An Inconvenient Truth is a full length movie, which offers a passionate and inspirational look at one man's fervent crusade to halt global warming's deadly progress in its tracks by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it.

    SEC has been chosen as the sole beneficiary of the event.

    Update: Unconfirmed at the moment. There is an alternative event for schools listed below. Also, SEC informed me that the movie will be out in Singapore at the end of the year.

    Green Transport Week

    Eco-Chase Challenge & Carnival

    Date: Sunday, 27th August 2006
    Time: 9:30am – 11am
    Venue: *Scape (Opposite Youth Park, Nearest Somerset MRT)
    Guest-of-Honour: Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Raymond Lim

    To conclude Green Transport Week (GTW) a green transport carnival will be held. The venue will also act as the start and finish point for The Incredible Eco-Chase, an ‘Amazing Race’ type challenge, but integrating green(transport) challenges. The Incredible Eco-Chase will be played by teams of four with separate categories for organisations, schools, and an open category for the public.

    Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Raymond Lim, will flag off contestants.

    For more information about the Green Transport Week 2006, visit the SEC website.

    Related Article:
    Otterman speaks about the hybrid Toyota Prius
    Mrsbudak tries out carsharing

    Latest Update:


    Sunday Brunch Ride by
    Join us for a leisurely Sunday bike ride in Changi Village organized by bicycle portal and we’ll treat you to a complimentary brunch at Changi Village Hotel at the end of it. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon. So register early as places are limited!

    Date : 20 Aug 2006
    Time : 9-11am
    Venue : Changi Village

    “Spot the Fuel-Efficient Car” Decal Contest (21-25 August 2006)
    If yours is a fuel-efficient car, we’ll give you decal. Drive to Orchard Road from 4-7pm (21-25 Aug 2006) and be spotted with the decal. Stand a chance to win fabulous gift vouchers if your license plate number is announced over Power 98FM and Dong Li 88.3FM.

    Movie Sneak Preview - “An Inconvenient Truth” (For Schools only)
    A hit at the Sundance Film Festival, this film features former US Vice-President, Al Gore as he fights to warn the world about the global warming crisis. United International Pictures will be organising a free sneak preview for schools and environmental education advisors. The film is directed by Davis Guggenheim, produced by Laurie David, Lawrence Bender and Scott Z. Burns.

    Date : 26 Aug 2006
    Time : 10am
    Venue : Prince Theatre @ Shaw Towers, Beach Road

    Green Transport Carnival
    Join us in flagging off the teams taking part in The Incredible Eco Chase and take part in our day-long program of activities. Build your very own green transportation from recycled materials and compete to see just how far it’ll go in the “Green Gravity Challenge”. Win attractive prizes if your winning green vehicle travels the furthest after being launched from a ramp slope.

    Learn how to unicycle at The Singapore Unicyclists booth and take part in activities organized by The Singapore Women’s Cycling Team.

    Green Transport Pledges
    Do your part in helping to save our environment by pledging to promote the use of public transport in your organisation and setting targets for reducing the number of cars in your office building carparks. Corporations, government organisations, schools and individuals can log onto the SEC website to make their Green Transport pledges and will be acknowledged for the efforts during the Eco Chase Carnival Closing Ceremony.

    Read full article here

    Sunday, August 06, 2006

    Evil Plastic Bags

    Yesterday I made my trip to make my kinokuniya purchases.

    Of course there were quite a substantial number of books and I did not want to squeeze them into my backpack in fear of dog ears and what not, I did not object to them bagging it for me.

    Since there were 8 big fat books, the lady asked me if I would like 2 seperate bags or just one, and I happily asked for just 1 bag since I did not want to produce excessive plastic wastes. So she cramped everything into one bag for me and I left.

    As I walked I found the weight to be annoying and decided to repack everything into my backpack afterall and that was when I found that the cashier has used TWO PLASTIC bags to contain the books! She took one bag to put everything and another bag to reinforce the first bag. A plastic bag to contain a plastic bag. ARgh! Imagine my anger, at her and at myself when I saw that.

    So the conclusion is that, A) I should have checked and B) I shouldn't have asked for any bags in the first place because it's always better to pre-empt than to be upset on hindsight.

    I guess the girl doesn't really read much environmental writings because she just bagged 8 books with titles like ecological footprints and 725 ways to save the earth into 2 plastic bags.

    I should have known better.

    Read full article here

    Saturday, August 05, 2006


    Attacking the carpet

    This is angel looking like an impish devil attacking her favourite comfort cloth.

    Progress report for the proud parents in Bali, taking a break from urban monkeys. Or maybe this is just me trying out the built-in camera of my new macbook. *grin*

    Read full article here

    Kakapo not Kickapoo

    I first heard of this highly endangered flightless parrot of New Zealand when I read Douglas Adam & Mark Carwardine's book "Last Chance to See", courtesy of Ria.

    Recently I discovered this blog, "Another chance to see" which follows up on the book that was written in the 80s. In the book, the two authors goes around the world looking for endangered animals and Adams writes about their peril and circumstances in his usual wit that makes it more poignant at points.

    When Douglas and Mark visited Stewart Island and Codfish Island of NZ in the 80s, the kakapo were seriously endangered because as endemic island species, they are totally defenceless. They are just like the birds of Mauritius, the dodo being one of the famous examples. As time went by, dogs were seriously endangering the species and they were hardly mating. Yes, dogs. Ironically, you would also need a kakapo-tracking dog to find a kakapo.

    Anyways, the good news is, of recent years, their species has seen some increase (like from 60+ to 86). Still under 100 unfortunately. Yes, in the world.

    From the blog, I learnt that now there is an opportunity to actually 'encounter' a kakapo. You see, even when they were writing the book and doing a series for BBC Radio at the same time, they almost couldn't get permission to see the birds! They are HIGHLY protected. No outsiders at all. This is to protect them from any disturbances, as they are so sensitive that the littlest thing will upset any mating chances. We won't even get into how these birds mate. It's too convoluted and painful just to think about. Let's just say it's part of the reason why they are almost extinct.

    Photo of Sirocco, taken from Ulva Trust, by Don Merton who was mentioned in the book as well!

    So there is this one male, named Sirocco, who is hand-raised, "human friendly" and most importantly, NOT BREEDING, who have been taken out of the conservation area and will be in an enclosure to be observed by humans. Or really, is it him observing you?

    "The encounter will be very much on Sirocco's terms, but given his consistant fascination with people, we are hoping he will find the experiance as enjoyable as you do."

    Of course there are a lot of regulations, rules and control. The birds are nocturnal so you only get one chance a night when sirocco's nanny comes to feed him.

    This chance of a life time is only from August to October 2006. Chances of me seeing Sirocco? None. First there's the cost of going to New Zealand, then the cost of going to Stewart island, then from there a flight or ferry to Halfmoon Bay and to Ulva Island! But apparently lots of people from UK and Japan have already booked their trip. Of course did I mention that one view is $80? We haven't even talked about accomodations in sub-antartic conditions. Still, it's cheap for a chance of a lifetime, isnt it? Besides, it IS for a good cause. Just that I would never have even a last chance to see.

    Of course, let's not forget the usual rule of visiting NZ, and more critically essential to remember on these ecologically fragile islands. No rats mice and pests. No foreign soil and seeds and potentially invasive exotic species. Bring your rubbish out with you and NO DOGS!

    Read full article here

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Waxing Lyricals


    There is no happier monkey on earth right now than yours truly. I am happier than the monkey that just dove into a peanut truck. I am happier than the monkey that just got itself ridden of fleas.

    I am a monkey with a macbook.

    Blogging from my macbook. click for full size

    After 7 years since my last Apple Macintosh LC575 running on system 7.6, I am now back with my kind riding on the forefront of OSX Tiger and what not. Coming fully equipped with a built in webcam and all that shinnanigans.

    So it cost a pretty penny but I think it's almost worth it.

    More or less gotten myself acquainted with my milkie.

    Yep, that's his name. It's beanie, cuppie and milkie.

    A cup of colombian latte anyone?

    Read full article here

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    Geotagged Flickr Photos

    While exploring geotagging photos on Flickr, I came across a pleasant surprise.

    I was going to geotag my Sungei Buloh photos but as I zoom in on Sungei Buloh on Google Earth, I find a little yellow spot in the vicinity. Turned out that acroamatic beat me to it!

    Though slow to catch on, I've tagged my photos. Try to look for them with this Google Earth Flickr Network file. You will need Google Earth to view it. Honestly I haven't found them yet. Maybe it takes a while to read the latest feed, need the system to refresh and all that. On another matter, I found pictures that acroamatic took of us at Ubin! I will try to tag my sekudu pictures now.

    Not only did I find acroamatic's photos, I also found lots of people's photos and the associated blog posts from the flickr photos! This is a great tool. Though I may be one year late in catching on but kinks in the system has definitely been worked out.

    Read full article here

    Book Spree @ Kinokuniya

    Duck revealed that Kino is going to have 20% discount for members and I'm going to whip out the remaining $160 book voucher and have a spree at Kino this coming week.

    A whole morning spent shopping virtually on the Kino online database helped me shortlist a reading list for the coming year.

    The finalists, selected for price and for interest are:

    1) Small is Beautiful, EF Schumacher - $37.31
    2) Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams & Mark C. - $24.94
    3) Gaia: New Look at life on earth, James Lovelock - $25.20
    4) Walden, Thoreau - $9.26 or $20.46*
    5) Song of the dodo, David Quammen - $39.62
    6) Our Ecological Footprint, Mathis Wackernagel - $27.85
    7) Save our Planet: 750 everyday ways - $28.02
    Total: $192.20
    After discount: $153.76

    *If I buy the cheaper book and then add in any of these books:
    1) How to shit in the woods - $16.75
    2) Who will feed China - $16.48
    3) The urban naturalist - $16.72
    Total estimated after discount: $167
    Amount spent: $7

    OR I could just buy the more expensive version of Walden and other writings.
    Total estimated after discount: $162
    Amount spent: $2

    So which should I choose?!

    Other titles that did not make it to the list due to cost includes:

  • Little food book: an explosive account of food we eat today - $20.48
  • Rethinking resource management - $71.21
  • Confessions of an eco-redneck - $32.49
  • Owls aren't wise and bats aren't blind - $30.11
  • Meaning of Liff - $17.80
  • Deeper meaning of Liff - $22.58
  • 50 Key thinkers on the environment - $30.45
  • Silent Spring - $28.88
  • Sustainable Cuisine - $29.25

    So if you ever want to know what to get me for my birthday or for christmas, here's my wishlist! :p

    Read full article here

  • Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Wheres University Hall?

    Click for full view

    While toying around Google Earth, I decided to map out NUS and guess what I found in the middle of the campus?

    Click for full view

    A great big bald spot that is to be the 2 wings of the University Hall!

    I guess this is a good reminder to all of the time when the sides of the ridge was bare and exposed for all to see. Poor kent ridge.

    Anyways, it does remind one that Google Earth is not exactly up to date. But such frozen-in-time treasures are hard to come by.

    I also found that NUS is too covered with trees and a lot of times the buildings, carparks or paths are covered by tree and I end up being disorientated. For some reason I cannot find the Arts Canteen. I did manage to find the now-ex law carpark and LT8 but cannot put my finger on the canteen. The shape and orientation seems to be wrong. Help!

    Read full article here


    Having seen the link from WildSingapore, I checked out the Gombe Chimpanzee Geoblog which allows you to read blog posts along with photos on Google Earth itself.

    It is rather tedious and requires you to first download a copy of the google earth software. Each time you read the blog, you are required to first download a .kmz file which will then open up in Google Earth. It flies you to the placemark and then a screen will open up upon clicking on the placemark and the blog post will be displayed.

    Still, if you're a person who enjoys google earth and toys with it regularly, have a fast enough computer, then surely this geoblog concept is brilliant.

    I will try it out with Pulau Ubin Stories and see how well it works out to be. I must say though, I wouldn't want to exclude more old-school users and if I do like the Gombe blog and only have the full post on Google Earth then I will lose a lot of readers. On the other hand, if I have the full post on both GE and the web then nobody would go on GE cept to see the fancy images.

    However, I will still try it because it beats static maps displayed as low quality size-constrained images on the blog.

    Read full article here

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    Trip to Sungei Buloh

    Bruguiera  flowers

    On Sunday, I brought my fellow BYEE representative from Indonesia whom I had the honor of knowing from Germany 2004 to Sungei Buloh for a quick tour of our wetlands. She was here for the 1 degree Asia festival and was very impressed that Singapore did have some blissful pockets of wildlife where calls of cricket can be heard easily over the din of traffic and where crocodiles can be seen idling after the afternoon shower to grace curious visitors with its presence by the main bridge.

    Bob the Buaya
    Let the photos do the talking.

    Sulky Duck
    If you prefer verbose descriptions, here's the sulky duck's account. Kudos to him for capturing Bob the Buaya's handsome eyes and for keeping the ladies company despite his attempts to sacrifice monkey to the croc.

    Read full article here