Showing posts from 2008

Rather amusing



What's the point of enduring a 17 hour car ride down to "sunny" Florida to be met with chilly gusts and cold cold nights? Gah! No respite from the colder waters of winter when I'm blasted with frigid winds upon popping my head out of the water. And though I brought my Goretex (thank heavens), I sorely miss my fleece sweater, and maybe even fleece pants and a beanie. No pay-off at the end of two weeks of tolerance too. Back to frosty Wilmington and scraping ice off car windshields in the morning...Pffff...

Well, I don't want to complain too much. Though it's gusty out, and there are white caps at Conch Reef, we have been getting our (cold) dives in, and getting work done. The vis at Conch has been pretty too, and I miss having my camera with me. I think I shan't fuss about the heat and humidity once I get to S'pore. Best to soak up all the warmth I can.

According to Singapore time, I'm...

Yup ladies and laddies, today I bid goodbye to a tumultuous and eventful decade. and herald a new one. Though as I expected, it kinda feels just like any other ordinary day, like I should wake up, read (scientific) papers, and perhaps pop into the lab to measure coral skeletal linear extension in the afternoon. Something to ponder while I'm 50ft under at the Liberty wreck. Yeah, my little birthday present to myself. Crossing fingers for a shark sighting. Damn, what am I going to do without a camera???

Pumpkin Soup

Haven't done a food update for some time, probably due to a lack of a camera (away in S'pore, sniff), and the fact that the people I cook for have been inhaling the food faster than I can think about recording images, hehe.

Anyway, I've been making pumpkin soup on and off for a few years now, but have always been strangely dissatisfied with the final outcome, thinking the soups lacking in depth. Today though, I think I got a winner :). Yay for blenders! Erm, it's a beautiful orange colour, but no photos due to no camera. Here's the recipe though:

1 butternut squash, skinned, seeded and cubed
5 small redskinned potatoes, cubed
1 medium white onion, cubed
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
Generous amount of black pepper
Dash of dried thyme
Dash of dried oregano
Salt to taste
2 dashes of heavy cream
1 tbsp margarine
For stock, I used ~1/3 cup leftover chicken stock and 2 chicken breastbones + 1 mug water. If possible, use good stock or make your own!

1. Place squa…

treading on new ground...

Being frustrated with the way my unit trusts are going and the rather dismal interest rates available (though still better than the ones in S'pore), decided to take the plunge and buy a tiny tiny minuscule stake in Apple computers! Haha. Why Apple? At least I use the brand and I'm interested in their bloody fortunes, don't really have the time and interest to check out the portfolios of xx unknown companies just to invest my savings in. As of today, my shares would earn me $100 if I sell now. Exciting I know :). Should I hold? Hehehe...Is it considered bad luck to talk about the fortunes of my stock holdings on the internet? Who knows.

In other news, it seems that I can't keep advocacy out of my life, despite moving to another country, heck, a whole new continent! Attended a public meeting yesterday about improving a major road artery in Wilmington and lobbied for bike lanes along the road. Will talk more once the plans are out!

Post-race reflections

After many years of coming in dead last, or at the very best, second to last, I finally won a MTB race, hehehe! Too bad there was only 2 persons in my category...oh poo...can't always have everything. Briefly considered the Beginner's Women category, but 2 laps unprepared is a bit of a torture :). Well, the organisers were kind enough to give us both prizes for competing, and picked up a sweet pair of Schwalbe road tires (though edged with pink...but I can deal with that). A came in first in his category, and more impressively for him, he actually beat more than one other person. Probably at least 16 other guys. Also won a pair of downhill goggles in the raffle, which made me briefly consider getting into the whole downhill scene...Nah...Rode my little heart out yesterday, so am rather content, but now I have mountain bikes riding through all the convolutions of my brain!


I think it's the clipless system after all. Fell off a log pile on BC's inner loop today, which should have just resulted in a couple more bruises and contusions, but rather unfortunately landed on a stake, plus broke off a bamboo-ish plant on the way down, resulting in another fixed vertical object with a pointy end. For a small-ish scrape on my left flank, the pain is amazing. Was so blinded by pain I literally lay on the ground for a few minutes, squeezing tears from my eyes. Plus try as I may, I couldn't unclip my right foot and had to reach over my bike to remove my shoe. Just then, a couple of bikers came across me and lifted the bike off me so I could sit up. They made me promise I was going to be ok before they took off again, which was rather sweet. After some patch up work courtesy of A and Greg's 1st aid kit, hit the Juvenile Detention side again, but man, the sting of perspiration running into the scrape was killing me. So rather than bike to work today, wr…

Quote of the day

"The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community." -Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895

Bicycles are on my mind a lot these days. Can you tell?


It wasn't a very productive day today, work-wise. My favourite season of the year is upon us here, and the slight nip in the air makes me yearn for open spaces, tree canopies and singletracks. So I took A's Trek Fuel (thanks A!) out to Blue Clay today. Felt tremendous to spin hard on the trails, slog up the hills, scoot downhill without skidding for once and barrel my way around the corners and berms. Threw caution to the wind today and tried to maintain an average speed of 8-10mph. Surprisingly enough, I didn't even fall off the bike today, and cleared all the log piles that have been causing me much pain and contusions the last couple of weeks. Maybe it's because I wasn't wearing clipless shoes today, being too lazy to swap out pedals. Maybe I should just relax more, enjoy myself more and give myself more credit on the trails! Sunday seems far away...

I'm a mussel!

According to the molluskan zodiac anyway. My advice for the week is not to let the bastards grind me down. Or avoid moon snails possibly...

one of those days

Was caught out in the dark tonight, staying later than I thought I would. Speeding home with a borrowed rearlight for the bicycle and straining to see potholes and rough spots on the ground while clutching my bars tightly everytime a car whizzed by (almost went headlong into another cyclist who was going against traffic on the shoulder with no lights as well), was relieved to finally roll into my driveway. No sooner have I taken off my socks and set my foot down in the garage, did I impale my heel on a piece of wire. Cursing and hopping with pain in the half light, managed to pull something out of my foot, thankfully nothing barbed.

Lesson? Never assume the day will go according to plan, and my lights go into the backpack tomorrow. A head full of roiling thoughts lead to nothing but injuries and trouble. Not much I can do about that though.

Just so you know guys...

Just returned from a rather..ahem...eventful field trip from Bocas del Toro, Panama. So was rather relieved to be home in familiar and comfortable surroundings. A was starting to tell me a funny story about the evening he spent with friends, who asked about my tshirt size, only to get a response from him that I'm one size up from him...

"Wait, wait, told them I'm a MEDIUM??? I'm a SMALL! I wear the same size as you!!!"

I don't even need to squeeze into a small! Arrrr.....(chews head off)...


My Powerbook screen is on the blink, causing me no small amount of anguish. In the meantime, I've hooked up the laptop to Tim's monitor and am in the process of transferring all my files to the external drive. Currently in a quandary- should I get a new MacBook, given that I have an educational discount and will get a free iPod touch (by Sept 15th) and printer that I can sell off to get a further discount, or 2), buy a $5 monitor and use this laptop as a desktop at home, plus switch to using a WinDoze machine in the lab for the next few years?? There's a laptop in the lab I can use for field trips too, but it's also a dozy machine, sigh.

IYOR National Day celebrations!


Improve Your Car-ma!

Okay, I can't take credit for that corny phrase. Came across an ad in the Sierra magazine (yeah yeah, I'm a Sierra Club member, make of that what you will) for another auto membership club offering roadside assistance. And I always thought that AAA ran the whole show. Anyway, checked out the Better World Club, and it's pretty neat, actually offering bicycle roadside assistance (will even change your flat tire! Though I could probably do it faster on my own than wait for the help), and assisting any car their member is in instead of the member's personal vehicle only. It doesn't hurt that 1% of their revenue goes to environmental cleanup and advocacy efforts. Plus the recognition of same-sex domestic partners and an offer of a free membership to all couples (no discrimination against heterosexual marriages) getting married this summer. Cute!

Well, it's starting to sound like I'm running a free advert for them. But came across a nifty link on their website for…

Next MTB race


New River 17 July 2008

I've been on the move a lot the last month or so, and was anticipating a return to the daily grind of graduate life, but an offer came up yesterday that was hard to turn down! And so I decided not to run my PCRs yesterday and go for a field trip to the New River instead, to help a student with coring sediment samples from the seagrass beds and sieving them for molluscs. Turned out to be just what I needed, plus Troy decided that it was a good time to start my boat driving instruction! No, I did not hit anyone or any pilings, and I even backed the van with the boat trailer back into the parking lot. With lots of step by step advice of course, hehe. Got myself immersed in muddy water, was terrorized by a frisky scallop, and it almost felt like a vacation. Next week I try docking a boat in strong currents next to a bridge with pillars. Sounds like fun :P. Okay, back to writing...

I'm so absent-minded

Biked a truncated version of Blue Clay on Sunday (was trying out a Trek Fuel, hehehehehe), and as we started packing up, raindrops descended on our heads. In the hurry to leave before we got too wet, I must have left my less than a year-old helmet and biking gloves on top of Wendy's car. Sighs. Went back to next day but no sign of either, not even crushed silver powder on the roads. Am severely bummed out!!

Seem to be deep in a flurry of bike-related purchases. Starting new baby!! That's right, I decided I wasn't going to bother with cheapo steel tanks or mess around with other people's bikes and just get the shiniest new bike that sets my heart a-flutter. And was with some trembling that I handed my credit card over at the bike shop on Friday and got myself a Cannondale Synapse (alloy, not carbon, I still want to afford to eat...)! Yay!!! Pretty new bike!! Some might think that I've betrayed my first roadie by getting this one, but sweetie, you l…

I guess I'm in

So I have unofficial confirmation that I'm accepted into UNCW's PhD program in Marine Biology, and just received an email from the Director of International Student and Scholar Services congratulating me on my acceptance and asking about the change in my I-20. So I suppose...em...Woohoo? Sorry if I seem a little understated right now, I think I'll get more excited once the official letters come in and the news sinks in. :)


After the exhilaration of obtaining positive results on the cruise, I'm back to Wilmington and back to reality. 6 months in, and I'm still struggling to optimise a reaction to amplify and sequence a gene of interest from the Mycale genus of sponges. It doesn't help that learning all these protocols and their steps require constant repetition and I'm always away this summer. Was happy to have amplified the ITS gene before Key Largo, but the cloning got stymied by a bum cloning kit. The next two attempts didn't succeed, and today, I couldn't even get the PCR reaction working, although I tried twice. What frustrates me is that unlike in ecological research, I don't really know how to proceed to troubleshoot all these problems. The protocol is like a giant black box, and when there's a negative result, I don't know if it's due to my error, insufficient DNA, annealing temperatures and what have you.

Just got reminded not too gently that I should start…

Bahamas, baby

So, first day of diving in the Bahamas. We didn't even reach Freeport yet when I realised I had left something pretty important behind. To Mumsy's credit I didn't flip out and have a total meltdown in the galley, not even a slight foaming at the mouth. Huh. Who knew I could be this calm about my f***-ups. Anyway, things to solve the problem are in progress, and I await the resolution to the whole matter in the meantime.

Woke up to good weather, and splashed in around 2pm, back to the old place we got to know so well at 4am last year. Supposed to catch a whole bunch of fish to run tank feeding assays with, but I must say the overall haul of the day was pretty abysmal. As for me, I caught 1 fish in 2 dives. Ah, how I have fallen from the goby catching days of yore. Nothing to do but console ourselves that the fish were satiated by late afternoon and not interested in the food bait. Will try again tomorrow first thing in the morning. This is why I kinda like working on sessile…

Beautiful nudibranchs

I dearly miss my colourful reef nudists here in the Caribbean. But what a wonderful gallery from National Geographic!


Back to texting with one hand, dammit! Re-injured my left thumb two weeks ago by jamming it against Sensei Keith's fist twice in aikido class, and my first thought was "Oh %#@%, I gotta dive next week..." Somehow managed to scrape through mountain biking shifting with the fleshy part of my palm and playing volleyball mostly with my right arm, and was just wondering to myself when it would stop hurting when I landed a hammer on my left thumbnail today. Hard. Resulted in 5min of tearing underwater, gripping my left hand between my knees and swearing silently but profusely. And did it again 10min later. Hurts like hell. Going to bed now so I don't hit anymore sensitive body parts with hard and heavy objects...

Critical Mass Ride April 2008


that fresh feeling

A good friend set off for his new life yesterday, by driving towards Minneapolis. After the hustle of packing, loading, farewell gatherings, last-minute item finding and him finally leaving, there was an unsettling solitude that blanketed my state of mind.

It's different, sending someone off, who's going overseas to study, or on work placement. There's a sense that they'll be back after their course is done, or least visit home ever so often. But when someone uproots completely and is actually moving away, there's really no future planning. No 'I'll see you when you come back over Christmas then!', and promises to visit are tenuous at best.

So I found myself sitting on the porch late yesterday afternoon, watching long fingers of sunrays stretch over the plants. Those who know me know this is my favourite time and light of the day. Everything's aglow, backlit with this soft-focus light. Cool breezes dull the harshness of the afternoon sun, yet there…
Passport gods, please allow for the safe and speedy return of my passport...

Just when you thought you could breathe a sigh of relief... throws another curve ball at you, and then sticks a rusty knife in your ribs while you lie winded on the ground. I love being Malaysian and all, but this passport and visa business is making me sooooooo.....frustrated.

Some might remember the big hoo-ha last year, and the hoops I had to jump through to get a visa to enter Panama to take the Smithsonian sponge course. Next year, I vowed to myself then, next year would be different. Fast forward to this year, with me feeling pretty confident, having submitted my visa application in February, giving the consulate 3 months to approve my visa this time. Was overjoyed to see my return envelope sitting in my mailbox yesterday, and gleefully ripped it open, extracted my passport and flipped to the visa page. Was thoroughly deflated to find that my approval dates run from April 9th to July 9th! WTF! It's already April 18th, and besides the point, my fieldtrip is in August. To add insult to injury, my gender is listed as 'M'.…

It's not that weird what...

Was trying to work with high-resolution photos in Photoshop on Sunday, and it's very frustrating, because my (kinda old) laptop kept freezing, and it took FOREVER to force quit the programme and try again. Finally got so irritated with the whole process that I went to make steamed tau sar pau instead. And got 20+ paus out of the whole process (yum!). For some reason, people think that it's a very weird reaction to have to a computer problem...

No photos 'cos I ate most of them before my batteries could charge up :P


People frequently ask me here if I miss the food at home, and of course I do, but I think it goes deeper than that. Even if we find an authentic restaurant here that serves great laksa, there's still something missing. There's something about going to the corner Malaysian coffeeshop dressed in my faded t-shirt, comfy but crummy shorts and RM3 flip-flops, especially after a whole day of fieldwork, when I have just showered and my hair is slightly damp, and ordering a bowl of piping hot noodles, then sitting down on the plastic chair by the vinyl covered table, taking in the bustling noises of the various hawkers in the coffee shop, the attendant smells, and sounds of life passing by outside. I really miss that...
It's been eventful, to say the least. Never thought an Easter weekend could be so packed. Went for my second critical mass ride on Good Friday, and met the person who sold me my bike again. He seemed rather surprised that I was still riding it, causing me a small measure of concern for a brief moment...Also the day I got knighted, as my rear tire went completely flat on the return leg to the Mellow Mushroom (thus, Sir Rides-a-Flat). Had to walk the last three blocks back- told Wai to order pizza for me while waiting :P. But at least I had company, in the form of a fellow rider who had detoured into the fairground to get funnel cake. After wolfing down a medium pizza, headed over to the dance studio to learn some swing! After doing all the stately tango, salsa and whatnot, was a little hard to start bouncing around the floor like a battery-operated bunny, but had a pretty good workout.
Since my mega-night ride was foiled by the flat, had to make up for it by riding to campus on Satu…


Not because I feel science and reason is under attack and the foundations are crumbling, but to see such blind faith in spite of reason, logic and evidence.

It's not just male pride

Kena soundly thrashed two nights ago in pool, and even though I'm not a good player, that really stings. That will teach me to play 'just for fun' with yet another person who claims to be a 'bad player'. But at least I didn't play for cash :P. Still, having all my balls on the table with only the 8 ball left for the other side is terrible!! It stung so much that I briefly considered getting some secret training in, and probably would have today if my oxygen administration course didn't run so long. Not that I hate the thought of losing that much (yes yes, even if I'm very competitive by nature). I can stand to lose, just not in such a lau kui fashion.


I guess I literally ran myself into the ground last night. And now I have two small marks under my left eye to show for it. We were at Mike's house watching George Carlin, and thereafter he was showing us around. I remember the dizziness started as I looked out of the guest room window. Mike was telling me that was where he used to put the study table but the words seemed to be flowing through a fog of treacle. Felt really puzzled as all I had was a glass of wine, and I had eaten dinner beforehand. Blood was pounding through my head so hard it was all I could hear, and I could feel the veins in my neck pulsing with every erratic beat. Weird. Was about to find a place to sit down, and the next thing I knew, found myself on the floor, with the distinct impression of carpet imprinted on my left cheek. Apparently the first words out of my mouth were,"Did I just faint?". They said I was out for 2-3seconds, and of course got everyone really worried. Sighs. Felt really cold eve…

Jakarta Green Monster

It's nice to see initiatives to promote green (and natural) spaces within cities, showing that nature has a part to play even in urban areas. So I was pretty stoked to read about the Jakarta Green Monster program in Jakarta, one of the biggest and most sprawling megacities I've been to. That the program was initiated by a friend, Frank Momberg from Fauna and Flora International, makes these reports all the more sweeter. Well done guys!

Project website:

Make a stand for being backward

In between marking assignments and searching for differences between protostomes and deuterostomes, came across this really funny article by Carl Hiaasen in the Miami Herald. I've not read his books before, though I've heard good things about them, but maybe now I'll start!

Still a blood donor

Turned out to be a surprisingly packed Saturday. Woke up at 7.15am to judge the SE Regional Science Fair for middle and high-schoolers in the Biology section. Gobbled down lunch back home before heading out to a secret riding location in Wilmington with Wendy and Morgan. Had a pretty beginner level washout on a sandy downhill but managed to brake and hop off before anything untoward happened. Ironically, all my blood-letting today occurred from hitting various soft parts of my right leg with the hard spiky parts of my pedal. Got lost as usual, but managed to find 90%(?) of the entire trail, and even did a creek crossing. Tried out the scary downhill section but didn't even get halfway on the impossible uphill climb following that. How did those guys do it? $%^%$^#%^$#%#@

Of course all that effort has to be replenished, and after washing all the grease, blood and sweat off, popped by Daisy's house for her annual CNY dinner! Yusheng, a whole casserole of char siew, chicken curry,…

(Mis)adventures in cycling

Just did a 2 hour lap of UNCW's trails and met my Clear Run ramp nemesis again. Since I got away from our last encounter with (only) a bruised butt, it was time to try again! Especially also since Wendy went off it a couple of times like nobody's business. I must say, the first time I went over the handlebars I did a beeootifooo forward roll and landed on my feet. I can't remember much of the second endo except that I landed in a pile of soft pine straw and got up unscathed. Then Wendy borrowed my bike and cleared the ramp a couple more times, so I have nothing and no-one to blame but myself. Oooh, just noticed a scratch on my left forearm...

Briefly considered jumping off a couple more times, but my bruises from last week (yup, esp the butt) were killing me, so I'll live to bike another day. Then towards the end of the ride we found a small ramp over some rotting logs. Oooh-er! Went over 3-4 times and stayed on my bike each time! for the Clear Run one!

To TD…

Philip Pullman on environmentalism

I am extremely fond of Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy (the movie does the story no justice, though the visuals were pretty darned good), so it's refreshing to read about his take on the environmental state of the world today.

Philip Pullman: new brand of environmentalism


Wendy takes on the UNCW ramp

Ride report - UNCW 18 Jan 2008

We started out at 3.30pm today, shrugging off sweaters and shivering slightly in the chill air. Still, despite the mostly overcast skies, the sun peeked out occasionally and the ground was dry and fast. Wendy took the lead as she rode here most recently, and it is easy to get lost in here. As we approached the 'Clear Run' ramp, Wendy went over like a seasoned fearless pro, and I thought,"What the hell, I don't need to dive till May." So I acclerated and went up the ramp before rational thought could kick in. Felt the exhilarating split second of air-time, and then the front wheel landed hard (I think), and before I knew it, I landed (hard, oh %$#%$@%) on the ground on my butt. Douglas Adams was right about flying being easy. It's the landing that's difficult. It was then a distinct pong assaulted my senses. Did I just run over fresh dog poo??? On both wheels, my fork and my down tube no less!!! ARRGGGHHHH I guess the silver lining is that I didn't LAN…

Singapore's reefs get a mention in Antarctica

One of my course mates, M, works on penguins, and was stationed on a cruise ship over our winter break. Aside from chasing penguins by day, he was the resident biologist for the Antarctic tourists, and met a couple from Singapore, who I think, work for one of the big oil companies in Singapore. They got to talking about coral reefs and voiced the common refrain that there are no reefs in Singapore. And M said that they had to check out BWV, that we do a lot of conservation work, bring people out to see reefs and all that. Except that he forgot the full name of Blue Water Volunteers, and could only remember our programme names like ReefFriends and ReefWalk. Still, a guy studying in Wilmington, advocating Singapore's reefs to a Singaporean couple in Antarctica. I think that's pretty neat!

LA Aikikai

One of the things I love about aikido is that I can visit a dojo in whatever strange new city and practise there with little fuss. Well, I'm sure that works with other martial arts as well (challenging the seniors in a new dojo to a sparring session?), but I've always felt welcome and had a really good time in all of my visits. It's kind of my perk whenever I travel. Some may say that you can't gain much from only one or two visits, but I'm keeping O Sensei's advice in mind, to touch 10000 hands to get a feel of the technique, and besides, it's interesting to me to see how different instructors interpret the various techniques. And it's fun lah, I get antsy after no aikido for sometime anyway.

So I have been kinda grumpy the past 2 days (for various reasons), and was contemplating not going for training and watching Wicked instead. The grumpiness was compounded by me waking up this morning with a head full of green snot, and having to blow copious amount…