Friday, April 27, 2007

Registration for Pedal Ubin 2 June now OPEN!

Have some spare time on the first Saturday of June and want to get back to nature? Consider joining the Pedal Ubin ride on 2nd June, where you'll be guided around the less-known areas of Ubin, and get to know more about the history, culture and nature of the area. I kinda miss barrelling down the bumpy clay slopes of western Ubin!

If you want to sign up and stuff, here's more info on the Pedal Ubin homepage.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

I've got GGDD....

Watched the Goo Goo Dolls LIVE in concert last night!!! What's more, I won free tickets to see them!!! How sweet is that?? Squeeeeee!!!

And it was an AWESOME show..... Song delivery- spot-on, guitar playing- kick ass, crowd interaction- very personal, sound mixing- you could hear each individual guitar!, screaming fanatic hijinks- till I became hoarse, hehehe... I almost felt like I was fifteen at my first rock concert again :).

The downside? I kinda obsessed with the Goos now. Just spent a good hour reading all the bios and meanings to the songs, and playing the songs from the new album ad nauseum, instead of working out the correlation between river discharge rates and sea chlorophyll levels....Also persuaded the Salted Fried Tempeh to book tickets to their show in UK! ....Ok, that didn't take much persuading, haha.

They'll be playing in North Carolina again in July (4 days after the Manchester show! We can squeeeee together!!)! In Raleigh, 2 hours drive away! Should I go? Should I go??

Monday, April 23, 2007

There are alternatives!

Saw this article in the Dallas Times today. Something that gets my goat to no end in these conservation debates is how people are so limited in their thinking! It doesn't mean that to go green, you have to suffer, lose money, spend more time at the sink, sit in the dark, or throw rubbish unwrapped down the chute! There are alternatives!

Now, the root of the issue in this article is how convenient disposables are right? Not very possible to wash dishes for 100 people each week (well, unless EVERYONE is damn 'on'). There are BIODEGRADEABLE disposable tableware out there, made from materials like rice husks (yeah, you could even eat them if you wanted to, but not recommended ;)). Solves your landfill problem and the matter of inconvenience doesn't it? We just need to support such green initiatives and companies when they start-up! Get the products in the stores. Have choices!

We have brains don't we? We can solve problems and be innovative with them! Think people, think!

Plastic tableware still wrong

12:00 AM CDT on Thursday, April 5, 2007
Amy Dickinson askamy@tribune.com

Dear Amy: You are wrong to suggest that families shouldn't use disposable plates, cups and utensils for get-togethers!

Our families gather at least two or three times a month. We help to prepare and eat huge meals after church.

No one likes doing the dishes, even with a dishwasher!

Our solution is that we eat using disposable plastic plates with plastic forks and spoons.

The young folks argue about taking out the trash, but the cooks sit down with the menfolk and enjoy the event.

Paper goods are on the list for people who don't cook when we do "potluck."

We may fill in the landfill, but what a ride!

Joyce in Nashville

Dear Joyce: Thank you for giving me another opportunity to advocate against the use of disposable plates and cutlery for family get-togethers.

As a churchgoer, you should recognize that being a good steward to this planet is a spiritual issue. According to the World Resources Institute, the average person in an industrialized country generates 4 pounds of garbage each day.

Now that it's almost picnic season, let's try to take our own plates, cups and cutlery to gatherings, packing them up and bringing them home afterward. I have a set of tin plates, mismatched cutlery and plastic cups that reside permanently in the picnic basket for this purpose.

Common-sense ways to reduce waste are available from the World Resources Institute at www.earthtrends.wri.org.

I welcome suggestions from readers on how to be more responsible and Earth-friendly while still enjoying ourselves.

Write to Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Salsa night

Went salsa dancing at Club Vida with Susanna, Wendy and Crystal last night, and realised I was waaaay out of my league man! Time to go back to salsa school... It was very fun though, we stayed till the club closed at 2.30am, and unlike other places, you constantly get people asking you to dance, and more importantly, teaching you how to dance. Wendy said it was just amazing that the guys continued to ask us at all, after seeing how much we suck on the dance floor, hahaha.

Next time though, I'm going in running shoes.....oooh my feet......

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

sad day...

Was really sad the read the news yesterday, about the shooting massacre that happened on the Virginia Tech campus Monday morning. I guess what was eerie about it was that it started out like any typical morning, students going to school, grumbling about assignments and tests, blearily shaking off the weekend's partying, and in a matter of minutes, their world turned upside down as they were plunged into hell, a lone gunman relentlessly stalking them down the hallways of their class building, shooting to kill as he moved along.

What kind of world do we live in these days, that the first solution to spring to mind for life's problems is the use of lethal force? And the ready access to efficient killing weapons here is frankly terrifying. I know, guns don't kill people, people kill people, but people without guns would kill fewer people than otherwise. Sure, the assailant could have picked up a kitchen knife to go on a rampage, but he would definitely have been stopped before hitting a body count of 30. As for the argument that owning a gun protects families and saves lives, what about some stats here? How many people's lives have been saved because they own a gun, vs. lives taken away because someone had a gun?

Dark thoughts on a sunny day indeed...

Sunday, April 15, 2007

My first chi-chi top

I realised today that I've never bought a girly-girl top for myself before! Always relied on fashion-savvier Mum, who walks down the Orchard mall strip everyday on the way to the MRT to go home, or 'borrowed' clothes from my sister's office collection (heh..). That left me with experience only with buying dri-fit tees, outdoor/biking gear and tank-tops.

Decided a little retail therapy was in order today, seeing as how I
couldn't get the motivation to analyse nutrient data, the Azalea Fest
was cancelled due to bad weather, my head was still a little fuzzy
from last night's festivities, and I was supposed to go salsa dancing this Friday...

So here's the top I bought!


What do you think? It's not as red as it turned out in the photo (sorry Jani :P), a bit more burnt orange. If you have negative comments, just be sure to tell me within 30 days, so I can bring it back to the store for a refund, hohoho.


Atlanta Ahoy!

Okay, so I'm blogging my posts in a seemingly random fashion. What happened to the posts from Charlotte, Singapore and Berkeley you say (don't even mention East Africa)? That's what you get when I can only blog in between rotavapping sponge extracts.
So last month, shortly after Spring Break, my lab headed to Atlanta, Georgia for the 36th Benthic Ecology Meeting. I was pretty excited as it was my first national conference, plus imagine meeting a whole bunch of scientists who are psyched about various spineless creatures! Try telling a dolphin researcher why you find boring sponges so interesting! I jest, dolphin researchers are actually very nice people :). We managed to loan a vehicle from UNCW to drive to Atlanta, and I picked Steve up early in the morning to go pick up the MPV. When we got to the holding area, lo and behold, someone had snuck in at 6am and taken our vehicle! Fortunately, there was another MPV available and we didn't have to squeeze in a sedan with all our luggage. 6 hours and 2 Sudoku puzzles later, we reached downtown Atlanta. We were supposed to stay at the Holiday Inn Express, but couldn't seem to find it, and even ventured into the shadier parts of town...hmmmm.... After tracking the street numbers, we found out that the hotel's name had been changed to the Midtown Inn, and we had passed it twice while driving up and down the street. Quite an exciting start to the trip eh? The lobby was being renovated, but our rooms were pretty posh! It's nice to travel on conference :)

That's Susanna's and my room! Doesn't it look posh?

View from the room

Our conference was held at Georgia Tech, just across our hotel. The campus is HUGE though, we had to walk 15min just to reach the conference venue!
Our conference venue was the Ford Environmental Science Building. Really posh huh, with all the giant glass panes.

More in a bit!



Atlanta part II


Of course it wasn't all work work and work. In between attending talks and networking (something I desperately need to work on...), we found time to have some fun too! Tim's very momentous 30th birthday was on the first day we arrived, and we made sure he was properly sauced up by the end of the evening. Free flow of free beer provided by the conference organisers during the welcome reception didn't hurt too. After a night out at the local brewery (on the street that will soon become very very familiar to us- Peachtree...), we persuaded him to come to Susanna's and my room to help with Susanna's and Steve's presentation rehearsals...and surprised him with a cake!



I'm just surprised and mildly impressed at how we can go out at nights, and attend talks (plus pay attention) in the day. Kinda reminded me of the glorious Okinawa ICRS days. Really enjoyed the talks at the conference, even though the rooms were too small most of the times, and I spent a lot time standing throughout the day. Also the first time that I spent all 2 hours in front of my poster entertaining a steady stream of people asking me questions about my work. It's like what James said before about attending meetings with researchers other than those working exclusively on corals. You get to see a variety of research and techniques on similar aspects that you might not get to see otherwise, like trophic cascades, larval biology, chemical ecology, competition, invasive mechanisms, etc. Plus most of the people, even the professors were pretty down to earth and easy to talk to. We ended late most days, and I hardly had time to even go for aikido. Finally managed to squeeze in one session on Friday at Dogwood Aikikai :).

It was nice to walk through campus- the weather was nice and sunny, and the trees were mostly blooming- so pretty!





My labbies and I also decided to take off a little earlier on Saturday to visit the world famous Georgia Aquarium. Parking here costs $10! And the crowds! I felt like I was part of a cattle show....we bought our tickets ($24!!!), and had to wait till a pre-determined time to enter, cos of crowd control I guess....so Susanna, Raphael and I visit the Olympic Park nearby-




And took pictures of the CNN building!



Once inside, we pushed through the crowds to reach the various exhibit areas. Skipped most of the window displays, as I didn't feel like squeezing under people's armpits to get a short glimpse at some fish or other....Pffft.... The belugas were really cool though :)




This one looks like it's smiling, no?

Was also very fascinated with the weedy seadragons....



Makes me feel like going diving to see them for real!



Tired after a hard afternoon's visit


Friday, April 06, 2007

So the story goes...

I've been telling this story so many times, I figured I should just blog it... So here's the sad tale of how I got into a car accident.

The story begins a few weeks ago, when I was trying to leave my previous auto insurance company (I decided not to name names, but let's just say the company mascot is a certain green reptile...). Unfortunately, it seems like leaving the company wasn't as simple as letting the insurance policy lapse, and not paying for a new term. I was charged for an additional two weeks without my written consent, AFTER I had switched to another company. So I've been wrangling with them for sometime about removing the charge. I'd just faxed over some documents and was notified that all charges would be dropped. Then on Saturday, I received another bill extending my policy for a single day for US$60. Feeling quite fed-up, I called customer service again, and somehow wound up in a shouting match with the rep. She said they never received the fax, and magically, my bill was changed to a cancellation fee which is particular to the state of North Carolina.

After I put down the phone, I was literally shaking with anger. Then my friend called, and asked if I wanted to go out for dinner. Initially, I declined as I already had my veggie shepherd pie on the stove, but then, I thought it would be good to go out and release some of this anger, plus, it was a very nice day.

So I got into my car, still muttering about 'damn insurance companies and whatnot that harass poor graduate students', and didn't do my usual checkout while inching out of the lot. I glimpsed a pickup in my rear-view mirror, and in a moment of panic (though Matt says it's anger), stamped on the accelerator. As you can imagine, I thus accelerated into the rear of the pickup, causing an awful grinding sound that indicated I just collided with someone...sighs...

Fortunately for me, the driver didn't come out of the vehicle waving a crowbar and threatening to disembowel me. In fact, she was pretty nice about it all, and took the time to comfort me too. So my rear hatch got hooked onto the rear bumper of the truck, and wrenched off its latch as we were trying to pull free from each other, and it's definitely a goner. The truck had two red stripes on its rear and a misaligned bumper, so now you know who wins when a VW hits a truck.

What're the updates? Well, right now, the rear of my car is plastered all over with black duct tape (have to still be matching you know?), to keep the rain out as the hatch doesn't close too well, while I wait for a replacement hatch to be found. Also waiting for insurance to tell me whether my premium will go up, and by how much :~(. I'm still considering whether my car is a good candidate for 'Pimp My Ride'!

Take me to see the Goo Goo Dolls

I always liked the Goo Goo Dolls, ever since waaaay back in my long past teenage years, so I was pretty chuffed when I found out that they'll be playing at Myrtle Beach on April 24th. My first impulse was to go and get a ticket, but then I started thinking....is it very 'loser' to go to a rock concert alone (okay, there'll be about 600 people there, but you know what I mean)? Not only that, but I would have to drive 3 hours roundtrip to and from Myrtle Beach... Alone! Jeez...I started feeling a little anti-social.

Times like this I wish the Significant Other was around. So he doesn't like rock music. In fact, he seems to hate it with a passion, e.g. he once yelled at me to lower the volume while I was blasting Linkin Park 'cos it was giving him a terrible headache. Still, you know he would accompany me to the concert just because, even if I have to stuff ear plugs in him before we enter the venue. It just seems a little weird to jump up and down excitedly and holler by myself, and I don't know anyone here who might like to attend as well.

What to do? Should I go?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

So I wrecked my car...

How quickly fortunes change. One moment I was paddling along a tree-lined river, enjoying the warm sunshine and the scenery, floating along in bliss, and thinking about how energised I'll be for the coming week's work. The next moment has me standing outside my car in shock, looking at my crumpled rear hatch hooked on the rear bumper of a truck that I just backed into, and receiving a ticket from the cops for 'unsafe backing'. Now, instead of rotavapping sponge extracts in lab like I wanted to do, I'm at home playing rock music really loud to drive my depression away while my car sits in a garage awaiting repair.

All I can say for now is....don't drive when you are really really angry... Sigh