Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monkey on ST Digital Life

"Enjoy Tech the Eco Way"
Be a techie and still save the earth; THAM YUEN-C gets tips from two greenies
Straits Times Digital Life
20 Aug 08

Read the full article here.

A few days ago, Ria emailed me saying that Digital Life is interested in doing an article about how to be "green" with tech-related lifestyle. I thought that apart from talking about the usual "save electricity, reduce carbon footprint" spiel, I can talk more about what we have been using technology for in terms of "eco social media". I just want to clarify that my quote was edited and "advocating conservation and environmentalism" can be fun too! Here are some fun things that didn't manage to get fitted into the tiny newspaper column!

1. Reduce your carbon footprint
Well the most basic of being "green" is to reduce your carbon footprint. That's the buzzword in this globalized world these days. How can we do that? Switch off your gadgets, blah blah blah. But how about less gadget upgrading? It just wasn't possible to include this in press as all their advertisers would be quite upset. Honestly I've resisted upgrading my phone for the last 5 years. And trust me, it takes a lot of effort! Resist resist. resist the iphone. resist a pda phone. resisted the nokia n-series with GPS! It's not easy but it's healthier. When they say I have a long list of gadgets, I meant I travel with all of those (except PC) perpetually. Not forgetting peripherals! How do I make sure I don't die from overexposure to electromagnetic frequencies?

2. Get away from your computer more often!
Go out and be with nature more. If you have followed my "lights out" project, I really tried doing that. Lights out is not just about switching things off but reacquainting yourself with life away from gadgets. I don't sit in the dark. I go out and be with nature, be with family, friends and people instead of sitting in the dark! Savor the sweet scent of tembusu as it blooms in the dark. Listen to the hooting of the resident owl beside my office. Chat with friends! Read a book at a library. You get the idea! Very fun one. Confirm, guarantee plus chop!

3. Offset your carbon footprint.

If you cannot reduce your carbon footprint, offset with something more meaningful! I've mentioned this in the article but the idea is that since you are using the gadgets already, use it for something meaningful that will help to do something that will offset the gadget's consumption footprint! There are of course so many ways to do it. :) But please don't just try to buy your way out of this. I think there are many more meaningful and actual tangible ways we can do it. Sometimes we do it without even knowing. For example, by clicking or passing on a message in facebook re: environment, like telling your friend about the I want to go Cyrene Reef facebook group, you are doing something indirectly for the environment!

4. Be self-reflexive!
Interestingly, in a recent AAG Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group mailing list, an academic pointed out to the group that if all of us are studying about environmental issues, what are we doing ourselves to offset or reduce the carbon footprint of our own research's travel? We jet around the world to do fieldwork but think of the fuel consumption! It's really important to be reflexive and it was just great to hear that from professors :)

5. Make the most of what you have!
If you read the full article, Hang Chong said something really true too. With gadgets comprising of more tools these days, you can have a universal machine that does everything. But as long as something works, it's good enough too! I constantly catch myself saying to others, "can use can liao lah!". For example, I have a very old nokia phone that doesn't even have a built in camera! But it has GPRS and I can surf twitter on it! I bring my laptop almost everywhere and can use it to skype and call people even when I forgot to bring my phone! Yes it's heavy but one laptop means less gadgets!

6. Embrace the concept of Sharing.

Recently I am in need of a 3G phone to use in Japan when I visit in September. But instead of succumbing to the temptation of buying a new iphone, I decided to crowdsource for a phone to borrow. I posted on twitter and facebook asking if anybody has a spare 3G phone to lend me and voila! Reply within the day. This is great! Playing with gadgets without increasing the footprint. Sharing also includes ride-sharing, carpooling, etc. And the good part? You get to make more friends and appreciate your existing friends more :)

7. Engage your friends!
I must say that I really have a lot of friend "advocating conservation and environmentalism. The so-called "spending a lot of my time online is for spreading the message" include, for example, writing this blog post! Or posting a link on facebook, or chatting with people about it! Actually devising ways to "harness" social media for environment is challenging and fun. But the best is really engaging people. Starting conversations and getting discussions going on twitter when I saw otters was more fun than just the satisfaction of knowing the "message was passed". I enjoy reading the replies from twitter followers whenever I talk about what green things I have (or have not!) been doing.

Remember, it's not just about the environment. It's really about the people.

Read full article here

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Geographers and their (cyber)space

Geographers and their (cyber)space
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

A new blog is born! Geographers and their (cyber)space ( is a product of persistence and a tad of prodding from Kenneth Pinto and his wonderful efforts at CIT with the new NUS Blogs. Yes, if you are from NUS, you can actually get your own blog (academic related of course) hosted on

To quote the blog's about page:
"This site aims to feature the research, publication, presentations, seminars, modules, fieldwork and other news of, on and by the postgraduates in the NUS Department of Geography. Hopefully in the near and eventual future, the site will be able to include the work by other researchers and faculty in the department as well."
So far I have managed to "recruit" 2 other contributors. Looking forward to a productive time on this blog.

Meanwhile, this leafmonkey has been listed on the links for GE2221, Nature and Society IVLE page! So if any students are reading this, Hello!

wild shores of singapore
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Speaking of new blogs, Ria of WildSingapore has a new blog (! Looking very snazzy and elegant a the same time. From HTML to RSS and XML all in the span of one year. Congrags to Ria for moving on the a new level of expertise in blog/web designing in our ever evolving technoworld! She's definitely surpassed mediocre me. Kudos!

Read full article here

Media Socialists at the Social Media Breakfast

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

[blogging LIVE!] The media socialists are here! This is the 3rd social media breakfast hosted at the ACM!

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

They even serve pink drinks for the green monkey.

Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

And of course animal friends are here too! Lest animals feel that I forget them.

[Afterthoughts] There was supposed to be an agenda regarding bloggers and marketing but somehow that didn't come to pass. We managed to get a free tour of the vietnam exhibition at ACM and the little red books on display from Chairman Mao's post-cultural revolution era fervor. At points I wonder if I'm no different from the propaganda which calls for "learned youths to be one with the proletariat farmers". Isn't that what I advocate too? haha oops.

Back to the breakfast. I definitely don't recommend it for the unsociable monkeys out there. We were too busy just socializing with ourselves. Going as far as to skype with kevin (theoryisthereason) and giving him a spin of the venue before my battery died. I met a very interesting girl, emily and a TODAY reporter, alicia who turns out to be a recent CNM graduate with mutual friends. On top of that, I finally met uniquefrequency in person and saw some other twitter followers of mine. Somehow, I'm often greeted with "ohhh you the environmentalist". Well I definitely show more diversity than that on twitter! It was interesting none the less. Lots of cam-whoring going on as you can see. Well I did talk a lil bit about social media and its use for the environment, after all that is my specialty. Seriously milling about a journal article on that but currently constipated.

It was kind of sad that the agenda didn't take off. I was getting a little obnoxious with my constant asking of "so what happened to the agenda". Alas, ignored. As should be of course. As kenneth (acroamatic) mentioned, I'm not too good with PR :P There is only so far a monkey will go to be polite and politically correct. But one of the reason why I went was to check out this local social media scene and also to support NHB's valiant effort at hosting the event! It was a big move from a government stat board. In fact, Walter (coolinsights) announced that there will be a new position open in his department called social media marketer! That would be most awesome. In his word, probably the first of its kind in Singapore.

Read full article here

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Starry Starry National Day

I saw stars all weekend. Knobbly sea stars that is!

Blythe adopted a star and named it Star! Photo by Budak

For IYOR 2008 Singapore's launch at the Botany Center this friday and saturday, I was coordinating the booth for Be a Star: Adopt a Star. 100 stars from Cyrene Reef were up for adoption! No, you don't get to bring the star home but the star trackers will keep you updated every time they spot your star on Cyrene Reef! In fact, they will even email you the updates on your star and there will be individual blog posts up on their site - one for each named star! There's a patrick (as in spongebob's friend), dutchie, little strange and lots more! 25 in total were adopted and named :) The money goes to funding the Reef Celebration event as well the as the publishing of a Blue Plan by the International Year of the Reef committee. The money does not go to NHC or Star Trackers or me(!) but to the IYOR and Marine Rountable. We were lucky to collect a total of $1267 in donations for these stars.

Star Trackers @ IYOR 08
Sijie [right] of Star Trackers with a young adopter, Nurul, naming her star! Photo by Chee Kong. Thanks for all your hard work Sijie and Chee Kong!

Really special thanks to the star trackers for doing so much for the event as well as for the studies of the stars! Although the money donated does not go to the star tracker but they pledge to do all the hard work to ensure that all adopters continue to have a relationship with their adopted star. It is such a great program. They should most definitely consider making this a permanent part of their program.

Hantu Bloggers adopted Bibi! Photo by Budak

Did you know that each of these knobblies are actually unique? You can tell them apart by the configuration of their chocolate chips (the knobs on their surface)! It's kind of like our fingerprints and the markings on whale sharks and tail flutes for whales. It's all really cool!

The irony about having a seastar as a best friend for a sponge is that, sea stars eat sponges! *grin* These are just some trivia I learnt while having to "sell" these sea stars. I didn't know anything before but after explaining for 2 days how baby sea stars come into being and all other sea star trivia, I now know that there is no such thing as a starfish! A starfish is not a fish. It's a star! Thus we call them sea stars.

Staff from Surbana (the development company!) adopted a star too! Photo by Budak

It was also very exciting that I got my niece and nephew to visit me at the IYOR event! It was the first time they got to see me at work. They also love the nudibranch and coloring all kinds of rainbow colors on the nudis. Of course my niece's strong resemblance to her aunt also caused certain commotion. It was good to share one's work with family.

If you are interested in adopting a sea star as well, we are considering offering the possibility of adoption even after this event. Originally it was for this event only but because of requests from public, we may consider extending it. Please leave a comment if you would consider adopting and support the idea of us offering adoption online. If you want to know more about the adoption, where the money goes to and what you receive, read the full article.

To explain a little more about what the adoption is about, I'm reproducing the little "speech" I gave during the launch to introduce the program. After hearing the "speech", we got a queue at the booth to adopt! The next 15 minutes, we got 8 stars adopted! It was amazing. I must have said something right... so here goes!

"One of the special activities at IYOR 2008 Singapore’s launch is the “Be a star: adopt a Star” program. 100 unique stars living on Singapore’s Cyrene Reef off our southern shores are up for adoption. Each knobbly sea star is a uniquely Singapore star. Every individual has a unique number and arrangement of knobs on it which works like our finger print. While you may not be able to bring these sea stars home, you could be helping to conserve its home through supporting the marine conservation efforts here at our home.

The Knobbly Sea Star is listed as a locally endangered animal in Singapore’s Red Data Book as many of its habitats here are rapidly disappearing. Cyrene Reef is one of the last remaining marine habitats for the Knobbly Sea Star. This habitat may be the only sustainable population of knobbly sea stars left in Singapore today.

We hope that through adopting and naming these Knobbly sea stars, more Singaporeans will come to care for our shores. Hopefully these sea stars will no longer be mere statistics in our books. This is also an excellent opportunity for Singaporeans like you and me to share our hopes and wishes for these stars as well as Singapore’s reefs.

Thus to help us kick off this activity as well as to launch International Year of the Reef 2008, we would like to invite Professor Tommy KohChou Loke Ming, up on stage again, to name the first star for Singapore. Professor KohChou please."

Unfortunately Prof Tommy Koh couldn't make it. But it's ok, one prof for another prof!

Cyrene Star Adopters also receive a Star Kit containing:
- A limited video CD by ASEAN waters (while stocks last)
- A NatureWatch magazine featuring IYOR (while stocks last)
- An eco-friendly bag (while stocks last)
- A Reef Celebration badge (while stock last)
- A Reef Celebration sticker
- A Southern Shores guidesheet
- A Singapore Shores information sheet
- An electronic (paper free!) adoption pack which includes
(1) an adoption certificate with biodata of your adopted star,
(2) a photo of you and the star you named as well as,
(3) information on Cyrene Reef and Knobbly Sea Stars (Protoreaster nodosus) sent to your designated email. Whenever the star is spotted in the wild again, updates will also be emailed to them as well as updated on the Star Trackers blog.

Read full article here

Friday, August 01, 2008

Sharing session with science teachers

About a month or so ago, a very nice rep from the publishers Marshall Cavendish contacted the leafmonkey via this blog. They asked if I would talk to a group of science teachers about how science is applicable in our daily lives. The publisher gave me a list of science textbook content that I may be able to apply to my presentation since my talk is suppose to correspond and complement the syllabus. The talk's objective is to help science teachers, give them ideas on how to make class more interesting. I think. The talk before mine is by a forensic pathologist! How cool. I've been overdosing myself on CSI in Cameron since one of the only channels we get is AXN.

Anywho, I got ideas from various friends (mainly Ria, thanks! the whole first section is courtesy of Ria's creative juices) and finally decided to try to do everything - as greedy as I usually am.

I organized my talk in 3 parts - learning about nature (using interesting analogies from daily lives), learning from nature (how we can find nature in daily life - ripped from the talk I give the biomimicry class) and finally, living together with nature. The last part is so huge but I've decided to talk about how our daily life affects the environment and specifically, a debut of my freshly experienced research data. Seeing as how I just arrived back from the field highlands less than 12 hours ago, this is really fresh off the oven.

Right after finishing my slides a few minutes ago, I suddenly got gripped with fear. After all, these are science teachers that I will be speaking with. What more, there will be ONE HUNDRED (100) of them! *gulp* I will be talking about biological functions when I've never ever taken biology (except for a general biology module) and last time I studied science was at 16! I will be sure to disclaim in the beginning that what I speak is from field experience, from guiding... and of course, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. We're all about sharing and exchanging right?

Having said that, do share and comment on my slides. Let me know what you think and if you can think of more interesting analogies, do share. If you're wondering at the lack of text from the 3rd section of my talk, it's because no time to really flesh it out. I've included it in the notes but I doubt slideshare allows people to access that. Sorry, download not available. Apologies and thanks to the people (and animal friends) whose photos I rippedused.

And yes, I recycled slide template. ack. Meanwhile, I shall try to make an attempt to take photos and blog my experience after the talk. Hopefully I'm not too smashed by the end of the day from lack of sleep!

Read full article here