Ngan Kee and the hons students at Sungei Buloh

Aisyah and Joanne were at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve to present their research results to staff there. Their supervisor Ngan Kee and classmate Weiting were there for support and to hear the first version of their talk.

I had to run off to join Peter Ng at Chek Jawa and missed the session. By all accounts it was well-paced, coherent with concepts explained. The gals threw in a couple of jokes, personal stories and questions too. Yaay! I will look forward instead to their public talk.

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Scribble, Runkeeper and answering questions on the Southern Ridges trail

Kevin invited me onto when we set out along the Southern Ridges trail on Vesak Day. It is a collaborative blogging tool useful for event reporting. With iPhone galore these days, it’s even more useful. So he chronicled the entire trip with a series of snap shots and comments, getting no help from Kenneth or myself! It was nice to see the end result and imagine the possibilities.

Scribble - Southern Ridge Trail | Liveblog live blogging

On Friday night, Kevin used scribble to report form the Dragon Kiln Firing.

During the walk, Kenneth was more passively tracking his route via the iPhone GPS and letting it generate a nifty map at the end of the session, courtesy of runkeeper

My RunKeeper 8.27 km Walking Activity

Without the iPhone, I was the slackest of the lot, simply enjoying the walk. However, besides grappling with ideas about practical class design, I stopped once to answer the great questions about Simpoh Ayer (Dillenia suffruticosa) offered by a fellow hiker. She had the makings of a volunteer guide.

More stuff this year at our stall for the Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day

We have a very big pile waiting for us at the Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day this year and I am quite sure it is much larger than our loot from previous years. There is also a larger diversity of stuff: kid's tpys and clothes, baskets, women's clothes, DVDs, kitchen wear, porcelain, toy aircraft kits, backpacks, books, etc. 

The morning shift has its work cut out to sort and arrange the items at the stall. They will have to work without me in the morning. I will be over at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve for a meeting and my student's presentations before rushing down to join the mid-day. 

It's going to be a tough but fulfilling day.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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Aisyah and Joanne share their research findings about tree-climbing crabs at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve

Aisyah and Joanne - 006sbwr-high_tide-21aug2009[siva].jpg (RGB)After thesis submission and the exams, my research students are required to make presentations to relevant agencies about their work. They have to shake off the post-exam inertia to communicate research findings in an enjoyable way to staff and volunteers who manage and support these areas.

During these talks, the audience get to discover the story behind the students’ frequent presence in the area for six months or more! “So that’s what you were up to” is a common refrain.

In preparation, students go through storyboard drafts and dry runs with me in order to communicate effectively. I take critical notes during the talk about their style, content, delivery etc., which we iron out during the debrief. By the 4th version of the talk, they are quite good – mind you, audiences are generally happy with version 1.

So the research students learn to grapple with their fear of public speaking, communicate and discover an appreciative and interested audience beyond the boundaries of their lab and allow their personalities and thoughts to bring unique perspectives and ideas to issues.

The second debt they have to pay is a public talk. This requires a different approach so there is work to do for this as well. If it is possible to coincide with an event on the biodiversity calendar, we will wait and thus the deadline for this can extend to over a year (ahem, Trina Chua!)

Last month, Weiting and Yiteng set the record for the earliest possible date – before their exams! This was quite stressful for all of us but a great experience nonetheless. Still, I will be sure to avoid this timing in future!

This Saturday, after the Working Group meeting at Sungei Buloh Wetlands Reserve, their fellow-honours students in the lab, Aisyah and Joanne, will share their research experience with staff and volunteers of the reserve. This session was a little sudden but the timing fit many of us and there never will be a perfect time.

I am looking forward to this very much and hoping I will not have to take too many notes!

Assisi Charity Fun Day, Sat 29 May 2010: send me your high-grade clutter or help me sell!

N78-311The Assissi Hospice Charity Fun Day is a day to find great music, really lovely food and drink, fruits galore, games, performances and loads of cheery people who all come out to contribute and support a worthwhile cause. Stalls are setup by large corporations and regular folk amidst a strong atmosphere of community spirit which which is an enjoyable experience.

An assortment of friends of friends led by Lekowala will set up our books, bags and trinkets stall for the 3rd year running. It begins with a desperate list and somehow friends of friends who have not yet decluttered chip in and things work out somehow. We also meet pre-event do compile stuff and it’s also a chance to catch up – and try out Lekowala’s baking which is pretty impressive these days!

We seem to have cornered a niche market and will be at stall numbers C11 and C12 this year. We do however, make coffee and in the morning it’s a hot sell. Otherwise most of our other endeavours are limited by strict rules about food handling!

We aren’t just there to raise money but help donors declutter, interact with the people (you WILL meet old friends, especially the Catholics) and help some people find things, all amidst a very genial atmosphere. We also battle the wafting aromas as selling good food is a common place strategy, so do come with an empty stomach!

Sometimes, we even buy our own stuff! Each purchase is announced loudly to cheers from the rest (any sale is a good sale) and added to the Sucker List! Once you show sign of weakness and start justifying why you might need something, everyone chips in to encourage you to make a purchase. And then laughs at you later. My personal sucker list from last year included three books (I read one) and a WWDC bag which the cat sharpened his claws on. There was a globe for honours students to shake and calm down but I guess I must have given that away.

Nat and me with an addition to her Sucker List!

Rambling Librarian, who will be helping out for the third year too says,”

” I found that participating in this charity sale quite cathartic – seeing donated stuff find new owners. I feel like Santa Claus for a day, giving away stuff at bargain prices and delighting some people in the process. And sometimes you have to remind the die-hard bargainers that it’s all for charity. “


Time to declutter! Donate the good stuff you’ll never use!
If you are not using it, you’ll probably not start.Get rid of the clutter in your life! We will take books, bags, trinkets, original DVDs – all must be in good condition. If you can provide a reasonable valuation, it will help guide us about prices at which we can release items. We do try to find pre-fair buyers for the more pricey items such as expensive handbags and carpets.

We have a partial list – partial because we stopped keying in things, the items built up. Let me know if you can offer things up for sale for charity at – I can arrange for a pick up of items. on Thursday evening or Friday afternoon. We have a storage point in Bishan and will troop down to SJI International on Friday afternoon.

Stomtroopers will put in an appearance once again.

Are you good at driving a bargain? We need you!
If you are good at driving a bargain, come down to help! We make the most money for the charity when prices and competition for items are higher. earlier in the day.

Sometimes its not entirely about making money – I remember a young couple who finally decided to buy a single volume of a kid’s encyclopedia only to be told they could take the whole stack. And a young kid whom we gave two stuffed animals for the price of one.

We do get reckless about clearing our stock by the end of the day, but thankfully people get into the swing of things and are quite reckless with their coupons and cash by then too!

Last year we had to contend with the H1N1 scare, contact tracing and what not. We got that all sorted out and everyone did better than 2008. This year Oi Yee is away while Lekowala and Ladybug must leave early for the Sundown Marathon. Peck Wai will be around and is as energetic as Oi Yee. And I’ll try roping in some additional hands to come down, help hold the fort and soak in the atmosphere.

Re: Assis Charity Fun Day 2009

Assisi posts, photo albums:

Come enjoy the atmosphere at the Assisi Hospice Charity Fun Day on Saturday 29 May 2010

This will be our third year at it: Lekowala, Rambling Librarian, Ladybug and some of the Zendogs, some biology alumni, Stromtroopers and other friends. We’ll be sweating it out at stalls C11 & C12.

Also there: Harley Rides, Fruit stall, Kebab, Prata, Vegetarian, Satay, Kopi etc, etc, etc., Scooter Rides, Henna, Vadai, Rojak, Yoghurt, Macaroni, Laksa, Bengawan Solo, Ben & Jerry, Pan Pacific & Park Royal Hotels, Chicken Rice, Kopi, Bak Chang , Thosai, Fish & Chips, Chicken Wings, Hotdogs, Mee Goreng, Mee Siam Tent, Trishaw Rides, Massage, Kiddie Craft, 2nd Hand items, Photography, Dunking Tent, Bossaball and Games.

You get the picture, it’s a fun fair! We love the atmosphere of this special event, everyone who comes is in a lovely mood. Come down and have a fun time while donating to charity.

Assis Hospice Charity Fun Day 2010 - Flickr Photo N78-306

Flickr Photo Download: 026assisi_charity-02may2009

About the Assisi Hospice [webpage]

“The Assisi Hospice is an outreach service of Mount Alvernia Hospital established in 1969 by the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM) Catholic Sisters. Here, we dedicate ourselves to the care of patients with life-threatening illnesses. We provide an environment of compassionate and holistic care that understands the challenges faced by such an illness. We are here for all, regardless of financial status, age, race & religion, respecting their faith, culture & values. We envision to be the leader and centre of excellence for compassionate and personalised palliative care.”

Location of the fair

  • Map: (490 Thomson Road, S(298191), after SLF building).
  • Carpark at SLF/MCYS – $1.07 per entry.
  • IRAS Building opposite Novena Square Car-park – Per Entry Charge @ $1.07 (Shuttle Provided)

Free 40 seater Shuttles

  • From Novena MRT Bus-Stop to IRAS Building to SJII Bus-stop and back to Novena
  • 8.00 am to 3pm – Shuttle 1
  • 10.30am to 4.30pm – Shuttle 2

Yet another office shift

Over two decades at NUS, I have shifted from the department’s “Zoo Museum” (S1) to Ecolab (S2; 1990) and once within the lab, later to a visiting researcher’s room (S3; 1999) to the Raffles Museum (S6) and back to the department to an office on the second level (S2; 2007) to the S1A carpark (?2008) and now to the fourth level of S2.

My office @ DBS
My office map location updated on Google Maps

Later last year, some planners threw their dice and our irradiated, smokened space behind the glass door in the S1A carpark was scheduled to become a seminar room. The time to move thankfully changed from mid-semester to semester-end. The last act in that show is marking, calculation, entry, verification, re-verificaiton, submission and approval of module marks and grades. It would be easy for inertia set in after that exercise, but a stimulus was provided in the form of terminating the aircon supply.

Since pleas about suffocation were met with ‘he said’, ‘she said’, everyone started packing. I deferred to deal with ICCS, the IMD MIA trail, honours student exit interviews and new research student interviews amongst other things. In the meantime, I mentally configured my stuff into boxes.

The squeeze into a smaller space meant abandoning some decade-old material – a metal, 4-drawer cabinet,  a HP1200 printer and a Macintosh G4 dual 1Ghz with its four hard disks containing my Master Archive of digital images.  I double-layered my books into available shelves so my online list of books needs better location details if I am to find anything again. Anyway that book list needs updating.

This time, my declutter quantity was limited to a single trash bag. PDFs take most of the credit for cutting down on paper accumulation. I leave most academic book-buying to the NUS Science Library and have been steadfast about refusing goody bags, commemorative material and the like.

Office moves are usually dreaded, grimy, sneeze-inducing moves to often less rewarding locations. The sliver lining is the reward of a fresh, clean start. And the inevitable examination at some point of the exercise, of the bundle of notes and letters from friends accumulated over the years.

And the good news? From my current location, I can see a bit of the ridge and the sky through a gap in the window.