I’m looking forward to East Germany during the cold war and Life of a Scientist

The end of semester beckons and I smell freedom. In the horizon are two talks that look inviting. I skitched them, then twittered.

Those were separate actions. The title of the screen grab in Skitch was my usual seminar announcement subject lines so that made twittering easy. In the new Skitch, however, you can do this directly and it looks like a very fast way to handle seminar announcements with posters. Click image for larger posters on Skitch.

Tue 06 Dec 2010: 11am @ World Scientific –
Harald Fritzsch on “Escape from Leipzig”

Thu 09 Dec 2010: 6.30pm @ NUS LT31 –
Michael Rossmann on “The life of a scientist”

Teaching jobs in Environmental Biology

The arrival of the environmental studies degree to NUS means we will have more students. So this means job opportunities with a primary focus on teaching and this afternoon I had the pleasure of posting up a couple of adverts on “The Biodiversity Crew”:

The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

And all this just after lauding the postgrads who were awarded teaching excellence awards by the faculty. And while we’re in the midst of the exams. So the omens and what not are all good.

To see more, hope over to The Biodiversity Crew. One day I will change that dreadfully inappropriate banner image to one more suitable for a university in the tropics! One day.

Grace Chua writes about campus cats management in NTU, NYGH and NUS (The Sunday Times, 21 Nov 2010)

“Life’s good for ‘campus cats’.” By Grace Chua. The Sunday Times, 21 Nov 2010.
Students and teachers at some schools and universities feed and clean up after feline residents

At Nanyang Girls’ High School, the cats that roam the school
are fed once to twice a day, even on holidays and weekends,
and the teachers have rostered themselves for the duty
of taking care of feeding and sterilising the cats.

Photo: Nanyang Girls’ High School

There is one more ‘C’ on the minds of some students in Singapore, but this one purrs contentedly when fed.

Dubbed ‘campus cats’, a number of the felines that found their way into campuses and school compounds have found carers among the teachers and students.

Teachers at Nanyang Girls’ High School (NYGH) have long rostered themselves to feed and sterilise the four cats that roam the school’s carpark, and this year, a group of students there began to feed the cats and clean up after them during the school term.

At the National University of Singapore (NUS), two postgraduate students are trying to organise a programme to look after tame cats at the Faculty of Science.

While cats and their occasional feeders are not uncommon on school campuses, cat carers are getting more organised, drawing up feeding rosters and raising funds for vet bills.

The Housing Board does not permit pet cats in public housing. Caring for community cats in neighbourhoods and schools is one well-established way cat lovers get round that ban.

Mrs Marcella Do, 60, who is married to a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) faculty member, has helped put together one of the first organised campus-cat programmes there.

She explained that when NTU’s Cat Management Network started in 2004, campus felines were already ‘partially domesticated’. But their begging for food at places such as cafeterias was a nuisance.

A team of students and teachers then designated feeding spots – tucked away from human traffic – and made sure to clean up after the cats had eaten.

An organised feeding regime ensured a steady stream of student feeders after earlier cohorts had graduated.

This need for continuity is on the mind of NUS graduate student Keven Ang, 29, who is pursuing his doctorate at the university’s medical school. He and several others have fed the science faculty cats for three years, taking care of some since they were kittens.

He said: ‘We’re going to graduate in a year or two and are worried there won’t be regular feeders.’

Cat care does not come cheap. The NTU group spends $600 a month on cat food alone and is supported by a grant from the university each year.

At NUS, a group of staff and students based out of one of the science laboratories has sponsored sterilisations.

During school holidays, when campuses are all but deserted, NTU cat caregivers return to their Boon Lay campus from as far away as Ang Mo Kio and Woodlands. At NYGH, teachers feed the cats once to twice a day, even on school holidays and weekends.

Cat Welfare Society president Veron Lau commented that such responsible feeding and sterilisation cut down social problems that cats can cause, such as begging or scavenging for food, tipping over bins and dirtying the premises.

NTU’s programme has been so successful that complaints went down from 30 a month to half a dozen a year, Mrs Do said.

Still, campus cat caregivers face problems and resistance.

Mrs Do said irresponsible ‘ghost feeders’ who are not part of the team sometimes lure cats away and leave feeding areas a mess.

Worse, she said, outsiders dump cats at the university. But the dumped cats are often attacked by the university’s resident cats as the animals are territorial. Or they may not know where to find food, or be killed by traffic within the school.

At NYGH, there have been no complaints from parents or the administration, said teacher Sandra Teng. The cats now ‘have a home in our school community’, she added.

Breakfast at Changi, with a hearbeat!

After several months of late nights, little sleep, no exercise and a bicycle layoff, I celebrated a return to cycling with breakfast at Changi with some kakis. a few dyas earlier I prepared for this 30km ride by waking up my body with a ride to NUS – this had my heart pounding, myself feeling quite faint at the effort of the climbs and a great desire to snooze. Any semblance of cycling fitness was long gone.

Company was important for both safety now as well as motivation and I had a few ready souls respond – Kenneth (@acroamatic) on his foldable would wait at Bishan, Aaron would glide in from Sengkang and Adrian (@lekowala), well he bailed after midnight to RUN from Bishan! Ladybug planed to join for breakfast with Min Yee and haul my sorry self back as there was no way I could ride back in present condition.

We cycle, Adrian RUNS!

At 5am, the alarm rang and I dragged myself out of bed at a time I have ben going to bed. The body raged against this abuse but once I set off at 5.40am, the cool air and quiet roads made myself ask, why I had waited so long. After a 30 minute sprint to Bishan, I was late and Kenneth could see I was struggling on the Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 slopes already. Enough so I took a break at the Serangoon Park Connector where we waited for Aaron, unaware of the SMS he had sent me as I was too exhausted to even think about checking my phone.

We rode on after a 10 minute break only to find Aaron waiting ahead, having taken the new shortcut from Sengkang. He too was re-associating himself with the saddle and was muttering about his lack of form. Sadly we get this way often and it’s always a fight back to regain some form before the NTU Round Island 129km ride in the earlier part of the year.

Aaron and me riding towards Pasir Ris, photo by Kenneth

I was missing my rear-view mirror somewhat, which had broken of after the bicycle keeled over from a flat tyre during my preparatory ride. Happily, this early morning ride has little traffic so I could cope. At Pasir Ris, we passed rows of cars parked for the Haji ceremony and as I struggled up the slope before Loyang Avenue, Keneth pulled ahead and sprinted away. this rabbit action was great for my bike speedometer was registering an average speed of 18.1km/h and I was hoping to raise it to something decent. So remembering I was not riding back, I sprinted best i could and only saw Kenneth at Changi! By this time the speedometer was up to 19.0km/h which I could live with.

Borowed an iPhone and used Runkeeper – a lovely app.

In the end, we had hit Changi at 7.40am, a very slow ride. However, I was real happy I had simply made it. Adrian showed up some minutes later, looking as if his 21km run had been effortless! And finally two Zendogs drove down to join us for breakfast. It felt like that 2007 Top Gear episode for a moment.

Prata delight is everlasting!

“Kenneth folds it in 10 seconds.”
Photos by Adrian Loo

Eventually I got home and that night, I snored fit to wake the dead!