Saturday, May 22, 2010

Goodbye, 3rd!

After three years of living in 3rd College, I finally bade goodbye to what had become my second home and 'base of operations' during my undergraduate years.

But first, a couple of photos from my last ever written exam, which was Plant Diseases on 6 May:

"Sila berhenti menulis."

(Try to spot Chian Ming!)

Shannon, me and Thary. It would have been nice to have had How in the picture, but he didn't take this paper.

Photo by Chun Hen.

* * *

The following pictures were taken the night of the 6th, and morning of the 7th.


It rained heavily that night as Daniel, Alan, and I talked about cameras, lenses and photography. Mich dropped by to collect her photos.


The jambu air tree.


Weird things still exist in 3rd.

E300 corridor.

Window view of the college gardens from my room.

The first words I read when I entered the room (yes, I've been living in the same room since first year) in June 2007.

Sometimes graffiti is so good you just can't erase it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gombak reprise

I went to Gombak with Daicus last week. He was scheduled to conduct a few sessions at the Ecology Field Trip camp for Environmental Engineering students. He asked if I wanted to tag along and take some photos.

'Cave' centipede, Scutigera sp.

Close-up of a harvestman, a.k.a. daddy-long-legs.

Photographed using reverse-coupled lenses.

Huntsman spider by the water's edge. It rests the tip of its 'toes' on the water's surface, waiting for prey to swim by. When it senses movement beneath the surface, it lunges forward and grabs its prey.

Bufo asper and its shadow.

Ants finishing off our tea.

These were only about 2mm long, photographed using reverse-coupled lenses.

Dr Rosli Hashim briefing the group on birdwatching.

Junior birdwatchers.

(They were pointing at a bird in the trees, not at the rays of light.)

Cyber café at the Ulu Gombak Field Studies Centre.

These days students are very tech-savvy. My Ecology classmates and I never bring such gear into the field, except once in my second year, when I was rushing an assignment.

Daicus the Nikonian.

Daicus the herpetologist.

* * *

The Gombak area has always been special to me, not least because my first two field trips were in this area. The first, to the Klang Gates Ridge, and the second, at the Field Studies Centre.

View of the KL skyline from the Klang Gates Ridge. Ilford Pan 400 film, hand print by Eric.

View of the Klang Gates Dam, from atop the ridge. Ilford Pan 400 film, hand print by Eric.

And now this place is a major bone of contention because of a highway that is tentatively going to be built running through part of the ridge.

Much of the forested area in Gombak is classified as reserve forest, which means logging and other industries which require the forest to be cleared, cannot be conducted. Also, the Klang Gates Dam is an important catchment area which supplies a good deal of water to Kuala Lumpur. As if to make matters more complicated, the Klang Gates Ridge is the world's longest quartzite ridge, and there has been talk, now and then, about getting UNESCO World Heritage status for it.

Of course, the problem is that the highway, which will connect Rawang and Cheras, does not actually cut through the dam or the forest reserve. It supposedly just chips away at a fringe part of the ridge. The main ridge will apparently be unaffected.

If indeed a highway is built, the present draft must be heavily reworked. A slight miscalculation may well disqualify the ridge for World Heritage status.

Therein lies the second problem: most of the people who have a stake in the project, e.g. government agents/agencies, roadwork contractors and industries whose delivery will be sped up by the new highway, probably couldn't care less about the World Heritage status. There are no direct fiscal benefits of such a title, only the projected future overall well-being of the city.

And of course, these people have no ecological sense. Common ecological knowledge states that the health of the population/community depends on the health of a habitat. Polluted rivers don't house healthy fish, and likewise an unhealthy KL will not be very nice to live in.

I woke the world with bawling

One day I'll die, I'll pass away
But not today, no, not this way

I was of the feeling it was out of control
I had the opinion it was out of control

Tanah tumpahnya darahku
Where I was born

One day I'll die, the choice will not be mine
Will it be too late, well you can't fight fate

* * *

Just for the record, this is what the picture above looks like when scanned from the negative at a commercial photo shop:

Compare the difference in tone texture and contrast!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

April 2010

April was, on the whole, a stressful month, not least because it was exam season (my very last undergraduate exam season) and also thesis draft deadline.

But there were some truly uplifting and encouraging moments.

Professor Wu of the University of Guelph gave a talk during our Ecoparasitology lab session on the 9th. One of the things that resonated most with me was when he said that no time is ever wasted, be it time talking to someone, or listening to someone, or studying something that apparently does not contribute to your present direction in life.

If I might rephrase what he said, I think it would mean something like, there are opportunities to learn great things wherever you are, whatever you are doing.

That same evening, Juin and I took a walk in Bukit Gasing. She wanted to get away for a while, and was thinking of a waterfall. While there was no waterfall there, it was a pleasant trip... until we got lost!

It was a good thing we had a torch with us, and I can still hear what the Uncle said when he saw my parang; "Eh, it's very good, yes!" and as he continued downwards, "I also should get."

Dusk over KL.

Two roads diverged in a quickly darkening wood.

7th April: enter the 'blowpipes' and 'darts' of Lab B1.2, Institute of Biological Sciences. I suppose the stress was getting to all of us.

On the 8th I attended the Theatre Elective class's performance of E.N. Dorall's A Tiger is Loose in Our Community at the PJ Live Arts Centre in Jaya One. Mr Dorall was a teacher at the VI in the 60s, and it was then that he wrote the play, which was first staged by Victorians.

It was Yesterday Once More at PKV for the last time on the 9th, though this time around we had much fewer graduating seniors than before. Still, it was good listening to Ann Gie, Chian Ming and Rachael.

That same night I had dinner with Michelle at the Six-to-Ten Grill, Happy Mansion. Nice place.

The 10th was Tim's 22nd birthday. Ann Gie, Ruth, Shannon and Tim had a dim sum brunch at SS2; sorry, Chian Ming, that it was a little too late for you to join us!

And then, in the midst of study week, I did one of the most spontaneous things this side of the adventures with Kaun back in first year: I followed Juin back to Terengganu for three days. She decided that she wanted to see her family, and there was the convenient excuse of being able to bring her sister home instead of having to take a bus.

I figured it might be a good change in environment, especially since the thesis wasn't really going anywhere in my room in college.

Juin, if and when you read this, thank you very much for everything. Please convey my thanks to your parents, your grandmother and your sisters also. Sometimes it happens that as one is about to graduate, one no longer expects to be surprised by great and unexpected things. Thanks to all of you, my final weeks were that much more colourful!

On day one of exam week, three days before my first paper, I attended a dinner with Maura Pally, the U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs) and some alumni members of the various exchange programmes between the States and Malaysia.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Professor Datuk Dr Khaw Lake Tee there. Turns out she once visited the States on an Eisenhower Fellowship, and continues to work closely with the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia.

This is a picture I took of How's ginger, Alpinia galanga.

The story goes that all his gingers failed to grow properly, because they were planted in pots. Gingers, being rhizomes, need much space. As to why his thesis supervisor did not warn him of this earlier, I have no idea.

But what was interesting was that the ginger started to grow quite well when he merely left the rhizome on his desk in the room. There it lay, with no soil and hardly any water, and it sent shoots out.

I decided to try to make the ginger look good, to make it look better than any of our theses were going to be; you might say it wasn't a particularly encouraging time for any of us. So I propped it on my chair, resting somewhat on my belt, with my blazer for a backdrop.

April was a stressful month, but not without its silver linings.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Easter Season

I owe it to a handful of people who made all the difference in my life this Easter season.

Tse Hwei and Shannon.

Ruth Cheng, Eun Chong, Ivy and Jon Tew.

Ruth Vinoth, Hyma, Emily and George.

Alan and Rachael.

* * *

Maundy Thursday was spent with dear friends over a pleasant dinner, and on a journey into a dark wilderness of sorts. (Mirrors the actual Maundy Thursday a little, if you think about it!)

Clockwise from top let: George, Yen, Emily and Alan. At Decanter P.J., Section 17.

View of the sky from the U.M. Field Studies Centre at Gombak.

* * *

Pictures of performers and group by Yen.
Pictures of Maundy Thursday people by George.

Alas, I lost my very precious Faber-Castell TK-Fine Executive 0.7 mm mechanical pencil.

Ahead, it is Pentecost. And I shall celebrate it twice this year.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cameron Highlands 2010

The Ecotourism field trip to Cameron Highlands (19-21 March) would be our last as a whole class.

It happened during a busy time, in the midst of the last few laps of thesis work, as well as preparations for An Easter Thingy. And yet, it was a good retreat of sorts, with ample time to breathe and explore the highlands.

This horrible abomination stood across the road from our apartment. It drew sharp criticism from a German tourist I interviewed.

Taxis and their drivers wait at the bus terminal in Tanah Rata.

Exposed slope at risk of erosion.


The tea fields at the Bharat Tea House, en route from Tanah Rata to Ringlet.

Left to right: Azlan, Thary, Yani, Bob, Johanna (of Sweden, whom we met at Tanah Rata) and Khar Yi.

On our first field trip (to Ulu Gombak for Insect Biology) Thary spotted a giant millipede, and this time we came across a millipede also.

Trigona bees at the entrance of their next, Highland Bee Farm near the Boh Tea Estate.

Lakeview chalets, where Camp Cameron is happening right now.

Pigeons and boys, early Sunday morning.

The contact print, done by Eric.

* * *

All pictures shot on Kodak Tri-X 400 black-and-white film, the legendary emulsion used by photojournalists past, and one of the most pleasant to shoot.

Ever since Eric started supplying it at RM11.50 a roll, it's been virtually a fixture in my camera.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Two Sundays

This morning at church, Pastor Michael Tan preached. He is one of the 'newer' pastors, and he hasn't had many opportunities to preach so far.

I don't know if it's a human thing, or if it's just me, but I respond differently to different speakers; if I like a particular speaker, I am more likely to pay attention during a talk or sermon, and vice versa if I'm not too fond of, or if I barely know, the speaker.

But this morning I was reminded of what Eric Peris said, about him kneeling before the monk. He said, "It is not the monk I to whom I am giving reverence, but the robe; the robe is the symbol [of authority]." I cannot recall his exact words, but it was something along the lines of how the robes a priest wears does not exalt him, but rather serves as a symbol of the authority and sovereignty of God.

And I believe it is the same with the office of the preacher. When a person stands in front of a congregation, whether he or she has been a pastor for 50 years, or just a layperson, I believe that person stands with the authority of God to preach. And if we open our ears, we will hear.

* * *

In conversation with Sivin last Tuesday, we talked about the Pentecostal church in the United States, and how many Pentecostals have become 'evangelicalised'.

At church this morning, as I was thinking about it, I realise there are many things about Pentecostalism that I neither fully understand or even endorse, but I think its mysticism is like a colour the spectrum of Christian heritage would be duller without.

* * *

Last Sunday, at KLCC, I saw these:

DSLR-man, leaving no doubt as to his identity or intentions.

The Leica-man, blending easily into the crowd.

* * *

On another note, I've successfully developed my first two rolls of film. (By 'successful', I mean that I have usable negatives, not that they are anything to shout about, but certainly usable.)

More on this new development (no pun intended, really!) later.

Friday, May 14, 2010

CNY 2010

At Chinese New Year this year I sought to immortalise my family on film, the good old way it was done in the good old days.

All pictures shot on Kodak Gold 200 with a warming filter, except for pictures of Shannon and Aunty Siew Khim.

Ang pow.


Surprise for Dad.

The family.

The family again.

Girls (and the uncle).

Big boys.

Ice cream.

Conversations in full swing.

After family dinner, day two of CNY.

Lunch with Li-Shia and Tim, 16 Feb.

Shannon and family came over for dinner on the 17th.

We visited Aunty Siew Khim and family on the 21st.

* * *

On another note, Eric has started making colour contact prints. So I sent him this roll to try it out.

He said he sensed in the pictures a certain warmth; I took it as a compliment!

What I'm excited about is that this provides a way to see what was actually shot. Black-and-white contact prints have been around for ages, and at any rate the negatives are easy enough to interpret. Colour slide film is even easier to interpret; what you see is literally what you get.

But colour negatives have always been a problem. Now with Eric's hand-printed colour contact prints, we don't need to have every frame printed at 4R or larger using a semi-digital process at conventional shops, in order to see what we shot.

* * *

Slides are still the ultimate, but their slow ISOs (Velvia is rated at 50, Provia at 100) make them quite impractical for anything other than landscapes or flash-assisted work. Also, with slide films becoming rarer and rarer, they easily cost nearly RM30 per roll, and developing usually starts at RM25 in most places (such as E-Six in Pudu and Photo Media in SS2).

Incidentally, Ken Rockwell, on day one of CNY (14 Feb 2010) shot this:

Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life, but digital is dull. Digital, like the Devil, is mostly variations on the same color.

Film, like Jesus, is The Way, The Light, The Power and The Glory Forever. (Matthew 6:13, loosely.)

On Film, I get the warm colors of sunset's last light, and I get vivid blues, right on the film and on my scans.

And he's right; only film retains both deep oranges AND deep blues.

Picture of Soo Tian, Pangkor, shot on Velvia 50.

(The bookshelf was actually slanted!)

* * *

But perhaps it is not quite fair to compare digital SLRs and colour slide film, because that's not what most people shoot.

Now I shall pit colour print film against a compact digital camera.

Digital, original.

Too dull, but that's not a problem; we can boost the warmth in-computer.

Digital, warmer.

Somewhat better.


What may not be immediately apparent is the colour of the wall. It has a slightly greenish cast in the film picture, and this is because fluorescent light appears greenish on film.

This, of course, is not desirable as a source of direct light, but when relegated it makes the background appear cooler, thus causing the warmer, window-lit subjects to stand out better.

When you look at the digital pictures, there is little difference in the colour temperature (i.e. warmth) of the light bouncing off the wall and coming in through the window.

Print film (which is what most of us grew up with) is readily available at supermarkets, 7-Elevens, sundry shops and the neighbourhood photo shops. They cost between RM7 and RM14, and developing is a mere RM5 at most places.