Friday, August 31, 2007

Charity Preview of Arctic Tale

"ARCTIC TALE is a story of unsinkable family devotion, unfolding courage and extraordinary survival. It takes audiences of all ages on an epic adventure inside an icy kingdom at the very top of the earth where a polar cub, Nanu and a walrus pup, Seela, are about to tackle the brave new world that confronts them as their ancient ways of survival are about to change"

Date: 11 September 2007
Venue: GV Vivo City Hall 3
Time: 7.00pm
This charity preview of Arctic Tale is organized by the Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) in a bid to fundraise for the building of its Wildlife Rescue Centre which is also the first of its kind in Singapore.

The wildlife rescue centre will help save and improve the lives of wild animals that have been smuggled into our country. $575,000 has been raised and another $516,000 is urgently needed to complete the centre. Come watch the charity preview with family and friends! Tickets are at $80, $50, $20 and $10. ACRES urgently needs YOUR help!

Book your tickets now, contact Andrew Tay at:
Email:, Hp: 985 62262

Read full article here

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ubin Wayang after dark

Lots of after dark photos of Pulau Ubin recently. For somebody who has never been to Pulau Ubin after 6pm, this is definitely a first for me. I do feel quite bad for dragging my parents to drive 100 of kilometers on a Monday evening (27 Aug 2007) just so we could go to Ubin to see a stage performing to empty audience. It was very sad to see such a lonely sight. But remember never to take the empty seats for granted as some may have been left there for the "good brothers"!

The good news was that we apparently went on the wrong day and the crowd promised for the next day was supposed to be bigger thanks to the auction. But I wouldn't know since nobody I know was free the next day.

More photos on my flickr set and more stories to follow on Ubin Stories.

Read full article here

Monday, August 27, 2007

The value of feedback

I must admit in advance that my feedback today came about 15 days too late. When the 7th lunar month swung around 15 days ago, my family noticed that a large number of people in my estate were burning the joss paper on the floor and the grass instead of the usually-provided metal drums that serves as joss paper burners. I should have called the town council as I promised my dad 15 days ago but alas, I hope it is not too late!

We discovered that the phenomenon is due to the fact that after upgrading, the usual ratio of 2 burners to 1 block has now been reduced to something like 1 burner to 3 blocks. As such, many people were met with little choice but to burn as and where they can. [update: a detailed count is needed. I think the problem is one of unequal distribution]

This is seriously bad as I recall that this Chinese New Year, we had to queue up for the miserable 2 or 3 burners in the entire estate and the burners were so filled to the brim that things were spilling out. I guess as people become richer, the things they wish to offer to the gods and to the dead also increases. Naturally, we need more bins.

Today, being the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, is the "peak period" of the hungry ghost festival where chinese people believe the gates of hell are opened and the dead gets to roam the earth for a month. Coinciding with the full month, getai or staged variety shows and traditional chinese opera are performed for the dead as well as banquets, auctions for fundraising, prayers and lots of burning. Although my mom has no idea what is the reason for offerings on the midpoint of the month but there will be yet another offering ritual at the closing of the festival month.

As I was coming to school earlier, I noted that the problem of paper burner shortages has not been solved and 3 freshly burnt patches along the sidewalk was seen. As such, a quick call to the town council had them promising to send people to increase the joss paper supply in my estate! hurray! I hope they will call me back as they promised with update on the status of burner provision soon.

So what is the value of feedback?

Why did I bother recording down such a trivial call of "complaint" to the town council? There are positive feedback and negative feedback. Usually we are familiar with negative feedback, or "complaints". However, we seldom hear of positive feedback or "constructive feedback". Had I called to complain about the users being irresponsible, that would have been rather negative. However, I simply asked for more bins as a constructive solution at possibly, and hopefully, solving the problem.

How does feedback help? Feedback to the right places can mean
1) solving a problem permanently
2) giving support to people fighting for cause
3) express your opinions to decision makers who did not know of such feelings amongst the public before, and
4) propelling change, improvement and progress.

Feedback begins with the littlest things. It could be identifying clogged drains to Otterman's famous example of requesting for speed humps on a road. It is all about getting into the habit of providing constructive feedback. Eventually, when we are in such a habit of offering feedback and comments whenever and wherever needed, we will not even hesitate or procrastinate the phone call or email.

Personally, providing feedback comes as quite a task for me. It is not second nature for me to make feedback. Perhaps you like me feel that having to find that phone number or email address or even composing the email is just too much work, too much hassle. Perhaps you are worried of being a "nuisance" for civil servants.

In answer to that, I must say that feedback can be just a click away via If you are unsure of who to call or where to email, just use the form provided on the website.

Like me, because I know the town council is involved, I go directly to their website! In fact, each town council in Singapore now have their respective and individualized website. It's all very "connected".

And sometimes, feedback does not have to go directly to the agencies involved. There are many non-governmental organizations and even individuals who offer you a chance to express your views! For example, the Sentosa Reclamation EIA or the petition to save the Kranji countryside. If you have no idea what to say or how to express your opinions, you could simply say "I agree" or like a petition, sign your name!

There are so many ways we can express feedback and the only thing stopping us is our inertia. Break your inertia today! It took me 15 days to act on an issue I noticed. How long will it take you?

Read full article here

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Chek Jawa after dark

This is my million dollar picture. One of those photos that make me feel so happy and accomplished despite going on a night walk and not seeing anything exciting. In fact, I'm happy to have this photo even if it made me miss the opportunity of seeing a Civet Cat on the Chek Jawa Boardwalk at 10pm at night!

These were taken yesterday night on the Chek Jawa Boardwalk after a BBQ at house number one which made us all feel the ingenuity and thought of General Surveyor Langdon Williams when he built the house. It was the life. The view of the sea, breeze in the hair, a glass of wine and a good meal at your patio.

After which we walked around the mangrove trying to look for owls and personally it was a wish to meet the banded krait up close and personal in the dark. No such luck for me. Not even a pit viper! Then I started wishing for an encounter with a dugong but other than a creaking pontoon at high tide, we heard no other sounds.

Which of course is a good thing considering we're right in the middle of the lunar 7th month also known as the Hungry Ghost Festival!

For more photos, zip on over to my flickr set!

Read full article here

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mainstream Media meets Citizen Journalism

Mainstream Media (MSM) and Citizen Journalism have never been happier bedfellows in all the talks I've been to than the talk on Journalism 2.0 by CNN's news anchor Kristie Lu Stout.

Unlike what I've previously speculated, this talk was organized by NUS' Communications and New Media Programme as part of its exposure module, NM1101E, lecture series. You can imagine my surprise when I entered the lecture theatre filled to the brim with fresh undergrads.

Usual talks on the topic of Journalism 2.0 in Singapore have always been a congregation of bloggers and tech geeks littered with familiar faces amongst the crowd. The last of such talks I attended was by the local vlog and social media evangelist, Kevin Lim or more popularly known as theory.isthereason, on "Youtube and Beyond". Most of these talks are usually chaired by citizen journalists or social media advocates. Of course, there were talks by Jennifer Lewis, editor of Straits Times' during Nexus 2007 on crowdsourcing the media.

Apart from the difference in audience, what made Kristie's talk particularly different was her background. Although it would appear that her examples of MSM integration with citizen journalism were very CNN-centric, she did mention other examples like Korea's ohmynews which was said to have influenced the election of the current President of South Korea. She did mention Straits Time's Stomp but personally, Stomp is a far cry from CNN's I-Report which operates on similar principles of engaging citizen journalists to contribute videos, photos and news to CNN. However, I do wonder why CNN credit these I-reporters as "amateurs" rather than I-reporters if they truly wish to integrate the two medium.

A key point which she mentioned was the need for more fact-checking, editorial and rigour in the writings and reporting by citizen journalists. This has always been the achilles' heel of journalism 2.0. She admits too that this requires a lot of resources and that CNN goes through great amount of double-checking and calling on sources which would not usually be available to citizen journalists. However, many journalism 2.0 websites which I admire like Wonkette, Ecorazzi and some Metroblogging cities usually have big team of contributors and resources. Sadly, they also set themselves up to appear as "gossip" sites which may do nothing for their credibility. Others like ohmynews work in an office no different from a traditional newsroom which says a lot on the amount of resources needed for a credible citizen journalism outfit.

Still we should not be disheartened. Kristie predicts that the future of Journalism 2.0 is moving towards greater social consumption of the news where people prefer to discuss with others about the news than to just react to it alone. She also advocates a greater integration between MSM and citizen journalism which in her words would be like a "CNN version of ebay live". An example is the recent CNN Youtube-debate where people film the questions they want to ask USA republican presidential candidates. In turn these questions are directed to the candidates for their response on TV.

I believe Singaporeans have simply not reached that level of online-social activism where they will make video responses to videos on Youtube and our local mainstream media have also not yet embraced all possibilities of citizen journalism in their reporting. Of course, trivial things like waterspouts and fires in shopping centres dominate the videos that eventually get on TV. One thing I cannot deny is that mainstream media still get more reach than online medium. No matter how quickly the internet is expanding throughout Singapore and the world, there are still more people watching television. If the two medium can be effectively combined, we can reach a greater audience with more effective news coverage.

In response to a question from the audience about whether the rise of citizen journalism hints at the weakness of mainstream media, Kristie made a point which I particularly liked.

"Mainstream media thinks of themselves as the watchdogs of industry and government and citizen journalists are in effect the watchdogs of MSM. [It's always good] to keep everyone on their toes."
While I am not able to reproduce every point that Kristie made at her talk, the take home message at the end of the day is the need for further integration between the two. MSM can take citizen journalists to a greater audience while MSM needs the additional inputs to evolve and expand. As citizen journalists, we should look into different ways of harnessing other mediums to broaden our reach.

And of course, to embrace the essence of citizen journalism, this monkey did not fail to report LIVE from the talk via twitter, the latest up and coming web 2.0 tool where you can subscribe updates via phone and RSS feeds.

Related Reads:
Here are some websites that were mentioned during Kristie's talk
  1. In The Field Blog
  2. CNN I-report
  3. CNN Youtube debates
  4. Youtube Debates
  5. CNN's Impact Your World
  6. Ebay Live

Read full article here

Sunday, August 19, 2007

One of those moments #190807

Spotted on its usual pedestal at the GVN Green House on Pulau Ubin - Monkey turns Shrek ape! Seems like its the trend now to embrace pop culture as the new way of attracting green volunteers *grin*

Read full article here

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Stormy Chek Jawa

The Naked Hermit Crabs and SEC's Green Volunteer Network did a joint recce of the Chek Jawa Boardwalk for upcoming guided walks at Chek Jawa on the morning of Saturday 18 August 2007.

A pleasant and cool morning was soon met with dramatic and stormy clouds that soon brought with it a rainstorm that the naked crabs and gvn volunteers waited out together at Ubin's House No. 1.

Meanwhile, it gave the monkey various photo opportunities to present nature in natural grayscale. No colours were tampered with!

For more photos, see my flickr set.

Read full article here

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Journalism 2.0

Encountered this poster plastered all over NUS recently. It would appear that there is going to be a talk on Journalism in this new connected world of web 2.0.

The poster reads:

"Thanks to youtube, camera phones, podcasts and blogs - any ordinary person can report the news. Technology has empowered millions of citizen journalists to file scoops, fact check and expose mistakes. But it's also harder to know who and what to believe. Kristie Lu Stout navigates the promise and pitfalls of Journalism 2.0.

Venue: LT11, National University of Singapore
Kent Ridge Campus, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Arts Link Street
Date: Monday 20 August 2007
Time: 12.00 - 13.30"
I find it interesting that they got somebody from the traditional media to talk about Journalism 2.0 but hopefully it would provide a more objective perspective rather than either evangelist or detractor-mode.

What is more interesting that it is sponsored by Singapore Tourism Board. This could be because of the CNN Future Summit. It's all quite confusing. Future Summit is a television series aired on CNN hosted by Kristie Lu Stout, a CNN anchor based in Hong Kong. Of which, if I am not wrong, some of the Future Summit TV episodes were filmed in Singapore so it would definitely fall under STB premise of promoting Singapore as the backdrop of media programs like attracting movie producers to shoot in Singapore, etc. There is also a Future Summit Student Challenge for students in asia pacific but I think it is over already.

How is this related to Journalism 2.0? The CNN website writes that
"CNN Future Summit brings together some of the brightest minds of our time to see how science and technology are shaping our future. With a landmark television event this June and weekly stories on this site, we're inviting you to take part in an on-going discussion of the technologies and how they'll change our lives."
I guess Web 2.0 is the hot topic now. I will definitely try to attend the talk if I can wake up in time!

Related Reads:
Web 2.0 is the buzzword

Read full article here

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Test your geography

Watch this vintage video of Yakko Warner from Animaniacs sing the countries of the world and see if you spot any errors.

Read full article here

Graduate Life

In light of my new career as a graduate student, I have started a new blog called "Monkey's Masterful Modulation" which records the joys, perils and challenges of graduate research and teaching.


Read full article here

Friday, August 10, 2007

Of Food and Wastes

As many of you may know, I am recently enrolled in the Masters of Social Sciences in Geography at NUS on a research scholarship. Not much different from undergraduate life except I take lesser classes, teach a few and have my own office space.

But most importantly, I share the same campus space and eat the same food. Food which I may add have been sorely lacking since November 2006 when the Arts Canteen "The Deck" was closed for complete overhaul.

Me and my favourite drink stall uncle on the last day of the old Arts Canteen

In fact, during my "last look" at the arts canteen, a chat with my favourite drink stall uncle revealed that the canteen has been flooded during heavy rains thanks to the leaking roof.

My last look at my favorite view from the outdoors deck in the old Arts canteen

According to the NUS Office of Estate and Development (OED):

"The upgrading and redevelopments work is necessary to meet current National Environment Agency’s (NEA) standards for food outlets. With years of usage and the increasing number of students, there are also problems like leaking roof, poor ventilation and limited power supply capacity in the existing canteen which require enhancement. It is therefore timely now to renovate and improve on the serviceability of The Deck (Arts Canteen)."

So for 1 semester, we had to suffer what we called the Funeral Tentage where a caterer operated the Megabites Cafe. Ironically, as much as we hated it, Megabites now has its own permanent cafe in the Science Faculty. Perhaps compared to the Arts Canteen which has always spoilt us with delicious food, the "Funeral Tentage" became bad in comparison. However, there seems to be no such complaints over at Science except perhaps of cold food but that's another story for another post.

Welcome to the Funeral Parlour. Photo by Kean Bon

But having been back in school for a week now, I have been dreading going to Engineering and Science, or god forbid the business school, for my meals! As such, a phone call to OED this morning brings good news.

A model of the new canteen, taken from OED website

The canteen will be opened from next Monday, 13 August 2007. I suppose this week has only been 0 week with no classes being conducted so fans of the Arts Canteen can be assured that once classes start, food will be served!

I cannot wait! Thinking of the chinese economic rice stall, ba chor mee (mince pork noodles) and the yong tau foo stall is already making me drool!

But speaking of food, there will always be wastes. Interestingly, in a sojourn at the Engineering Canteen, I came across this poster.

Food Waste Recycling

It would appear that NUS is now embarking on food waste recycling which is a fantastic idea! In Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM), Penang, they already have a strong vermiculture project on campus where earthworms to convert organic waste into fertiliser. In University of California Santa Barbara where I was at, a group from the Isla Vista and UCSB Worm Composting program, works not only within campus but also with the food outlets across town to collect their food wastes and feed it to the worm. In return the fertilizers produced are used to grow food! Talk about a closed cycle.

According to the poster, it seems that NUS, instead of an in-house campus compost, has tied up with IUT Singapore to send the campus food waste to their new Bio-Methanisation Plant in Tuas. Sad to say that this will probably not change the behavior of the students and staff much since the cleaners at the canteen does all the waste separation. But it is a good effort on the university's part to support food waste recycling by simply sending their food waste to IUT.

The IUT website has a comprehensive explanation for what happens during food waste recycling and I believe I might actually have passed by the facility before! In fact, according to IUT, they not only compost for fertilizer but also produce renewable biogas! For energy-strapped Singapore, the promised generation of 6 MW of electrical energy per hour at full capacity is enough to provide for 10,000 households. But this is only at full capacity so we should all send our food wastes to them! This definitely calls for a tour of the plant!

Read full article here