Some search engines have switched to “Google Custom Search”, yaay!

In January this year, I lamented about the existence of “Enhanced Singapore Government Online Search” on sites. I wrote in and an unnamed MICA Webmaster asked for examples on 30 Jan 2012, which I provided. An acknowledgement about taking it up with IDA, then silence.

This search engine sucks! Instead of IDA’s “Enhanced Singapore Government Online Search”, just google. « Otterman speaks…

Happily, while searching a webpage today, I realised they were using Google Custom Search. A check with a few other sites indicated the switch too – LTA, SPF, MOH and NParks:

National Parks Board - search engine

Google Custom Search

The public will enjoy the change and I am sure glad this was fixed!

Happy New Year everyone!

Update: a little bird said, “they dumped the stupid project [Enhanced Singapore Government Online Search] and asked agencies to go find their own search engine. Most went with google custom, which is a fraction of the cost and actually works.”

This explains NHB and MEWR’s non-IDA, non-Google search engine. Glad this happened at least.

Flickr Pro subscribers – three free months of subscription

I dropped in at my Flickr account to be greeted by this:

Flickr Holiday Gift

Nice, thanks Yahoo!

Flickr was great with high-res photo uploads, albums, keywords, finding archival material quickly, sharing and for searching Creative Commons photos by other users for my lectures and for others to find my material.

While Picasa (now with Google) might be comparable, or even better for some, I had switched to Flickr in 2007 as primary cloud storage for photos after it eased my workflow for coastal cleanup albums. I have two Pro accounts, my personal account and the Habitatnews account for the International Coastal Cleanup Singapore and Raffles Museum Toddycats events and activities.

These days, photos for this blog are hosted on my Flickr account via Skitch 1.0.12. I use this old version of Skitch for screen grabs, annotations and copy-paste transfers from original photos, and the shared photo is uploaded to Flickr. The Flickr page appears automatically, and provides the html for 500-pixel width photos making the process relatively quick.

While Facebook is great for casual sharing, it is not an alternative for it is primarily geared to be ephemeral. Many have been a little nervous about Flickr’s plodding pace especially and have a mile-long wish list – if the service decays, we’d all have to shift our photos, no easy task. So we greeted with great relief Flickr’s recent iPhone App, a long-awaited sign of life .

Hopefully this three-month subscription gift is another.

Honours thesis deadlines

After the euphoria of the end of exams, this is a precious time free of lessons and assignments. So the honours students have to make the most of this time to make significant strides in field work. However, the north-east monsoon is a period of heavy rains and frequent storms, during which branches fall in the forests, water levels in streams are elevated, and salinity plunges along the coastlines. Still, there are sunny days.

Setting deadlines
Draft of honours thesis schedule. Will check against official deadlines later.

It is easy to lose track of time, so as soon as I was done marking exam papers last week, I had a chat with my honours students to ensure they keep an eye on the calendar. At this point of time, I get to terrorise them with deadlines, but eventually all this will all boomerang back to me during Semester 2 with lots of easing to do.

This time the work is concentrated on small mammals, squirrels, civets and mangrove horseshoe crabs. Lying in wait at this time will be a leopard cat thesis and two science communication dissertations.

Pet Lover’s Foundation Dry Food Donation Drive in aid of cats and dogs, 14-30 Dec 2012

Friends posting the Dry Food Donation Drive flyer on Facebook had me look out for this when I visited Pet Lovers Centre at Holland Village just now. I was there to pick up dry food for my three cats and looked for the poster. I need’t have as counter staff were alert and helpful, had all the details and the transactions were completed in seconds.

I thought this co-sponsorship is pretty neat. The animal welfare groups receive their preferred feeds and delivery is settled.


From the PLC webpage: Pet Lovers Foundation is celebrating Christmas through its fifth Dry Food Donation Drive from 14 – 30 December 2012 in benefit of cats and dogs with Animal Lovers League (ALL), Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and Cat Welfare Society (CWS). The CWS donations are directed to cats at Metta Cats, Lily Low Shelter and OrphanCats.

Altogether 6,664.50 kg of dry food was donated last year and the target this year is 8,000 kg of dry food. The purchase of dry food you make is co-sponsored and donated to the care of stray and abandoned animals.

Make the purchase at any Pet Lovers Centre stores or call 1800-PETFOOD (1800-7383663).

For more information, see the PLC webpage,

Pre-practical questions at the Raffles Museum (then ZRC), 1998

This is the practical where I was finally forced to adopt stations, as enrolment went up in the life sciences in NUS, even as the biodiversity group battled for survival.

The only way to cope on the crammed space was to create stations, and this would come in useful with NSS Guide training and the Chek Jawa public education walks in 2001.

I asked TAs to contribute questions (Station 4 is missing) based on their delivery and edited a compilation for a student handout before the practical which was conducted in the collection area, such a luxury.

We each repeated ourselves at our stations more than 10times. I was at Station 1 (only one with a clear grasp of the history) and it was tiring but mostly enjoyable. I recall a famous group which sucked the life out of me, though. They had some deadly group chemistry and the TAs shared notes later – everyone suffered.

We had not learnt of dementors as yet, nor of patronus’.

Pre-practical questions have to be revived, for sure.
Scanned with TurboScan.

Bukit Timah foothill map for 1998 practical

D H Murphy provided this sketch for his BL1101 practical at Rifle Range – Bukit Timah on 8th Ictober 1998 (earlier post).

Afterwards, Alvin Wong and I walked to MacRitchie Reservoir with a handful of students which included Zeehan Jaafar, who told us about pangolin roadkills she had seen, with the advent of the BKE.

14 years later, an ecolink is being built to reconnect Bukit Timah with the Central Catchment.

I think we had dinner at Longhouse.

Scanned with TurboScan.

Called the 1998 practical “the great cattle drive”

This was a Murphy-driven practical for which I created a written guide in recognition of a changing student awareness of biodiversity. This was just before leaving for a decade at the Raffles Museum.

Two pages peppered with scientific names. I use Kent Ridge for first years now and a reduced flora of just ten names. We can probably insist that students remember those ten.

Glad these schedules survived my many moves and decluttering. Food for thought.

Scanned with TurboScan.

Visited a malaria endemic area recently and intend to donate blood? HSA clarifies…

I’m going to donate whole blood, as usual, next week and was filling in the e-form at the HSA webpage. I suppose it is not that critical now, as pressure at this centre has been relieved by the opening of the new blood bank at Dhoby Ghaut. Still, if it helps.

The updated travel advisory published in May is integrated into the blood donation questionnaire. It comes up in the section on travel and you can check if you have been to a malaria endemic area, using this map at the CDC webpage:

CDC Malaria Endemic areas

This is not applicable to me at this point of time as I hardly move out of campus from August to November, except to local field sites. Malaria is not known to occur in Singapore, our burden is dengue.

The advisory is quite clear for travellers:

“Donors without any history of stay for least 6 consecutive months (in their lifetime) in a malaria endemic area but have travelled and returned from a malaria endemic area less than four (4) months from the day of screening will be asked to come back at least four (4) months later.”

“Donors without any history of stay for least 6 consecutive months (in their lifetime) in a malaria endemic area but have travelled and returned from a malaria endemic area twelve (12) months or more from the day of screening will be accepted for normal donation.

“Donors who previously lived or stayed for at least 6 consecutive months (in their lifetime) in a malaria endemic area and returned from a malaria endemic area less than four (4) months from the day of screening will be deferred and asked to come back at least 4 months after their return.”

If successful next week, this will be my 110th blood donation. I try to donate every three months, unless delayed by the flu which I was last struck by in late July. I had to wait to September before donating and I hope I will stay healthy to make my fourth blood donation for the year next Friday.

With the festive season coming, blood stocks usually take a dive. And right now, the Blood Bank is low on Group O blood stocks. Time to chip in, if you can, everyone.

13 Dec 2013 - Singapore Blood Stocks Indicator — Donorweb

Planning student movement for LSM1103 Practical Exam

We had 263 students taking a practical exam in three slots. It was getting tiring finding rooms on a weekday, so I shifted the operation to a Saturday. Then I worked out a plan to keep the groups isolated.

This was the back of the envelope dry run with Chicken Girl Amanda Tan, conducted before we briefed the Teaching Assistants. It required loads more planning as were keeping their phones and stuff this year, and had to ensure it was all secure and easily retrievable. We solved that with different coloured trash bags, trolleys and cable-ties.

Planning movement for the LSM1103 Practical Exam

This was much better illustrated on a Lab 7 white board, and we managed to simplify some parts. It’s all in written up, complete with announcements, on a shared document on Google Drive for use in Sem 2.

I miss the glass-topped table in the old meeting room at the Raffles Museum. It was a critical planning tool.