Oh Look, Krill!

Oh don't worry. Whales don't eat clownfish, they eat krill.


My Plans For The Weekend

This weekend will be different from the last few. There will not be adventures or fun things to do. Instead, it shall be a working weekend.

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Just disregard the two DS consoles on the table. I have no idea how it got there.

It’s that time of year again when I get down to the grind and start studying for exams.

It’s 2 weeks to exams and I have not started revision. I have an assignment due tomorrow and another due next week, both of which, I have yet to finish and start, respectively. Can you say, procrastinator?

It’s not that I didn’t want to start but it’s been a little hectic this last few weeks and by the time I do get home, most of the time, I’m too tired to hit the books. There fore, I’m making up for it this weekend. I’ve also applied for some off time to study. I hope it’ll pay off.

Wish me luck.


Weekend Adventures: It Was All About The Seafood

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Weekends are usually for me to do something that I’ve never done before and last Saturday wasn’t all that different. I’ve been meaning to try prawning and Saturday, I got that chance.

As I had school in the morning, the Adventure Crew had to wait for me to finish before we went for our adventure. The day started wet and early for me, having to reach school by 10am since I had a lab and lecture session by a guest lecturer. We covered the toxicity biomarkers for shore crabs and then did some feeding rate of mussels.

After all that was done, we said goodbye to the lecturer and I went home to drop off my school stuff and grabbing my gear before meeting my crew.

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It had been raining the whole morning and fortunately, by the time I arrived at Khatib MRT station, the rain had let up to only a slight drizzle. Sarah and Raven Silvers were there waiting for me and a few minutes later, Avariel turned up. Once all of us were there, we set off to Bottle Tree, the destination of our prawning expedition.

It was just a 10-minute walk from the train station. With most of the path directly under the train tracks, we were sheltered and didn’t need to break out the umbrellas. Of course, seeing that the track that we were on was a cycling track, we had to get out of the bath of oncoming bicycles a few times but we managed to reach the place unscathed.

The prawning pond was some where towards the back of the compound and there were quite a number of people there with their rods in the water and their nets hanging off the side of the platform. We scoped for an empty spot around the pond and found a newly vacated spot. While Raven protected our spot from poachers, the rest of us paid ($14.50/hr) for our prawning slot and collected our rods. Avariel, having gone prawning before, brought her own rod.

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We took some of the bait that was provided and settled down to set up our rods. Avariel taught us how to hook the bait (I still have no idea what it was that we used) and how to cast the line into the water. The only experience that I had regarding fishing was in my early teens, when I helped my cousin dig up earthworms for his fishing trip.

I was mildly disgusted by the bait because it was bloody but the whole point of going for adventures was to try new things, so I sucked it up and picked a piece of what ever it was and carefully put it onto the hook before casting it into the small prawn pond. Then the waiting started.

The waiting started to get old, ten minutes in. We watched as the other people around the pond caught a prawn within minutes of casting their line. I was starting to think that the prawns on our side of the pond was really smart because they stole my bait off the hook four times without getting caught. Those on the other side were stupid enough to get caught; those lucky people.


Video courtesy of Seriously Sarah

About twenty minutes in, Sarah got a tug on a line and after a few seconds of struggling, she pulled up her line and there was a prawn attached to the hook. We caught our first prawn! It was then, that I realised why people loved fishing so much. Even though the waiting was deathly boring, the adrenaline pump when you have something tugging at your line and the fight to pull it up, was addictive and you want to feel that again after your catch.

Avariel caught a prawn about five to ten minutes after Sarah and I caught a prawn not long after. I would have caught another one, a bigger one, but the thing wasn’t even biting on the bait. It had just wrapped its pincers around the line and when I brought it up, it just let go and plopped back into the water.

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At the end of the hour, our total catch was just three prawns. Noone wanted to take home just three prawns, we barbecued it on the spot and had the freshest prawns that I’ve ever had. Even the prawn brains were good, and I don’t usually eat prawn brains.

Since Raven didn’t manage to catch any prawns, we decided to go to The Manhattan Fishmarket at the nearest mall to make up for it. However, we’ve got to see what else was there at the Bottle Tree Park, since we were there anyway.

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The park was named after, well, the Bottle tree. It was big but I’m not an arborist so I don’t really know if the bottle tree that they have is as large as it would go. It was interesting though.

We walked around the park and saw other interesting things, like fake dragon bones and fake bulls pulling a stationary, somewhat derelict cart. They had a sign on the fake bulls saying, climb at your own risk. From the state of the worn down wood, I think only crazy people would climb it. My crew and I are nuts but we’re not crazy enough to do that.

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So we left and went to check out Red Dynasty Paintball arena that was within the same park. We didn’t have enough members to try the real paintball team game as they needed a minimum of 6 people and there were only 4 of us. So we ended up doing the shooting gallery instead, $10 for 30 paintballs to shoot at targets.

It was satisfying to hear the ping of the bullets hitting the metal plate hang from the beam. It was so fun that before we knew it, we ran out of balls (hur hur hur). The guns used at here were different from the ones I used when I tried it out at the Singapore Discovery Centre. The ones at SDC were a little more high tech and easier to aim.

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Photo courtesy of Seriously Sarah

Anyway, having promised to actually eat prawns to make up for the lack of catching them, we headed down to The Manhattan Fishmarket at Northpoint for flaming prawns and other seafood dishes.

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Photo courtesy of Seriously Sarah

We totally had our revenge on the prawns by eating a lot of them.

So what did I learn from this adventure? We sucked at prawning but it’s still fun. Prawns can be smart, tricking you into thinking that you have them but all that they were doing was to steal your bait. Bastards. Would I do it again? HELL YEAH!


Things I Want To Achieve in Life # 2

1. Getting a diving license

2. Get certified to rock climb and belay climbers

3. Do the outdoor Via Feratta

4. Shear a sheep

5. Get better an a bow and arrow

6. Learn how to shoot a real gun

7. Learn how to sword fight

8. Learn armed combat with a knife/dagger

9. Learn how to sew.

10. Learn enough martial arts to protect myself and loved ones.


Book of the Week: Urban Shaman by C. E. Murphy

Urban Shaman by CE MurphyUrban fantasy is one of my favourite genres to read. Mercedes Lackey got me hooked to it with car-racing elves series. Then there was Kelley Armstrong and Patricia Briggs, both authors I’d picked up by chance at the book store and I immediately fell in love with their story telling.

The latest author that I’d randomly picked up is C.E. Murphy. I was hanging out at the fantasy section and was just browsing when the cover of Urban Shaman caught my eye. I flipped through it and I thought why not. The blurb was interesting enough.

From the back of the book:


Joanne Walker has three days to learn to use her shamanic powers and save the world from the unleashed Wild Hunt.

No worries. No pressure. Never mind the lack of sleep, the perplexing new talent for healing herself from fatal wounds, or the cryptic, talking coyote who appears in her dreams.

And if all that’s not bad enough, in the three years Joanne’s been a cop, she’s never seen a dead body—but she’s just come across her second in three days.

It’s been a bitch of a week.

And it isn’t over yet.

Joanne Walker, the protagonist of the story, was believable and realistic, especially when she had to come to terms with her powers. Any rational person, when faced with what she did would be in denial before grudgingly accept the new, unwanted powers that she was saddled with.

The book was fast paced, moving from scene to scene like an action movie; only with words. Maybe it’s just my way of picturing things when I read but it really felt like I was watching an action movie with sword fights against gods, in my head.

I could barely put the book down and I had to try very hard to not spoil the ending for myself. Up to the last page, I enjoyed every nail-biting, edge of the seat, gripping bit of it.

As the book is the first in The Walker Papers series, I had to get the rest if the series because good books are like drugs and potato chips. You can’t just stop at one. I’m currently reading the second book, Thunderbird Falls. That will be another entry for another time.

Do check out this series if you like strong, stubborn female protagonists in urban fantasy novels.


Weekend Adventures: Lizards, Birds And Otters, Oh My.

Last Saturday, I finally got around to going to the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. It’s a shame that I’d never gone there before when it’s just a train station, a bus ride and a 10 minute walk away from my house. I’m an environmental science student who has never gone to one of the well known nature reserves, how shameful is that? Anyway, the wetland area was designated as a nature park in 1989 and was officially open in 1993 by the then Prime Minister, Mr Goh Chok Tong. Since then, there have been corporate sponsors for the park, including HSBC and even secondary schools too.

The day started extra early as Sarah and I were trying to get there early enough for the guided tour, which was at 9.30am. We met at the nearest train station at 8am, giving us ample time to get there and also some time buffer in case we got lost. The bus came five minutes later and off we went. That’s when the real adventure starts.

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Even with explicit instructions from a friend of mine who frequents the wetland reserve, we still missed our stop. We walked from the bus stop we dropped off at, all the way to the reserve since the only bus that would have taken us all the way in, was only operational on Sunday. It wasn’t that far of a walk, only about 20 minutes. You can see Johor from the path we took to the reserve.

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The road was mostly empty, except for the occasional vehicles going to the surrounding farms. There were feral dogs too, which made me stop in my tracks more than a few times and then speed up my walking pace. Dogs scare me. A lot.

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We arrived at the reserve just after 9am and was still early for the tour, so we paid our entrance fee (SGD1) and went to explore the galleries around that area. There were some tanks that had samples of the fish species found in the reserve and even showcases of the different nests of birds that make the reserve their home.

At 9.30am sharp, all the visitors who were interested for a guided tour, gathered at the information counter. Our guides were a nice, middle aged lady going by SK and a teenage volunteer called Robbie. They advised us to purchase the guide book for more information and after making sure that everyone was ready. They told us that we were welcomed to break off from the group at any time. And off we went.

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At the wooden bridge over the river, we stopped for a while so that SK could explain to us about the Little Egret. She told us to watch out for the crocs since the reserve had a resident croc and what ever you do, do not approach it. Further along that poaching is against the law.

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The guides told us that poaching was still a problem, with people entering the reserve illegally and fishing within the protected area.

On the trail, we so a lot more creatures that you don’t normally see in the city, like the little egret and the sunbird.

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Then there were the insects and arachnids. (Don’t click on the last two if you don’t like spiders.)

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Of course, the ubiquitous monitor lizards.

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Other than the animals, the guides also told us about the sea hibiscus. Unfortunately, the tree wasn’t in bloom, so we couldn’t really see how similar it was to the to the regular hibiscus.

The tour ended halfway through route 1 and the guide left us to wander around the area on our own. We tried to see if we could see any of the birds in the guide but due to it being the tail end of the migratory season, the only ones that we did see were the sea hen, the sunbird and the little egret. Well, that and the monitor lizards which were everywhere. You can’t go for more than a hundred meter without seeing at least one.

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We visited the aerie and rested there for a bit while we enjoyed a mid-morning snack and the view. I wanted to see if I could spot at least a raptor flying about but I couldn’t. After a rest and refuelling with apples and water, we headed back to the visitors’ centre for a well-earned ice cream break.

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I got myself a patch, just to say that, “Hey! I did it!”. It started to drizzle while we sat by the water, watching the red-eared sliders in the pond and catching our breaths.

Walking monitor lizard
Credit to Seriously Sarah for the use of the photo.

We even saw a monitor lizard calmly walking through the visitors’ centre.

smooth coat otters

On the way out, we were lucky enough to see otters frolicking in the sand. According to the guide, those are the Smooth-coat Otters. I didn’t know that otters came that large until that day. I’d always thought that were tiny, like the ones I always see in the zoo. Apparently not.

Pack of black dogs
Credit to Seriously Sarah for the use of the photo.

After watching the otters to our hearts’ content, we decided to walk out to the bus stop to see if we can catch a bus out to the train station. This plan was thwarted by the appearance of a pack of black dogs that may or may not be feral. So we ended up walking back to the visitors’ centre, where we found that there’s a shuttle service right outside the gates of the reserve. For SGD2, we get a ride back all the way to the train station.

It was an entirely adventure day. I was hot and sweaty afterwards but it was worth it. I’m going to go back again and hopefully, right smack in the middle of the migratory season. That way, I might be able to see more birds than I did that day.

For Sarah’s account of the day, head over here.


It’s Only Wednesday And Yet…

The tiredness I feel is as if I’d gone through the whole week of work, non-stop.

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I’m back in the lab again, after not doing an real, hard-core lab work in months. While part of me is groaning at how little time is left for me to hang out in front of the computer, most of me is exhilarated and excited about being back in the lab. I’m running around a lot, looking through my protocols, carrying ice, dodging people as I rush from one end of the lab to the other.

It’s tiring but this is what I live for; to do lab work but not necessarily my project. I’m actually happy being a lab drone. I actually feel like I’m in my element. As long as I can do my own thing without having to interact with too many people, I’m very happy.

Not being in the lab made me forget a few things. No, nothing to do with the science and the using of science equipment. I just forgot how my body reacts to long hours in the lab. I forgot how hungry I get after two hours in the lab, even if I did have a big meal before that. Also, frequent hand washing with harsh anti-bacterial soap dries out my hands badly and makes my nails brittle.

The experiments that I’m currently running will take about a few weeks to finish and I hope that I can finish it without incident, seeing that it’s my first time with this new protocol.

It’ll be interesting for sure. I just hope it’ll be a good kind of interesting.


Currently Reading: In 5 Easy Steps by Lum Kit-Wye

In 5 easy steps by KW Lum (small) Some time last year, I heard that Marshall Cavendish was organising an Asian based chic lit competition. The winner will then have his/her manuscript published. I’d initially wanted to join the competition but I needed to revise my plot completely to suit the theme and I had to do it in two months. So it is suffice to say that I never got around to doing that (even though the manuscript has been hanging out in my hard disc for at least two years).

A few weeks back, at one of my monthly book store visits, I came across In 5 Easy Steps by Lum Kit-Wye, the winner of the contest. I’d already reached my quote of book purchases that month so it took me a few more weeks before I got it. I started reading it while on the way to work today and so far, I’m enjoying it.

From the back of the book:

All Elaine Chan has ever wanted is a loving husband and a houseful of children. But when her almost-fiancé unceremoniously dumps her after a humiliating episode involving childhood enemies, condoms and puking, Elaine realizes that a change is in order. Armed with an article promising to show her how to re-invent herself in just 5 easy steps, Elaine finds herself on a one-way coach ride to a new life, a new future, a new her.

But the complete makeover of Elaine is an arduous process, and is threatened with derailment by distractions like the mystery of the neighbour’s vanishing Indonesian maid, with which Elaine finds herself strangely obsessed. Her efforts to keep all the balls in the air as she plays glamour-puss, model girlfriend (to Evan, a hotshot young lawyer form work) and sleuth extraordinaire all rolled into one enticing depilated package, frequently lead her into situations that verge on the bizarre.

Thank heavens then for her neighbour Kai, her mainstay of reason and humour through all the perils that seem to dog her evolution, and whose relaxed attitude to life reminds Elaine of how she used to be.

As Elaine struggles to emerge as an elegant butterfly from the dowdy chrysalis that was her former self, she cannot help asking if these five steps are taking her to where she really wants to go.

Sounds interesting, isn’t it?

The beginning itself had already gotten me hooked, just like Undercover Tai Tai, another Asian chic lit briefly mentioned here, and Tales of Saffy & Amanda. I like my chic lit funny and even though I’m only on page 46, Chapter 4, it seems promising. I didn’t want to put down the book actually but what with work and all… I’m looking forward to what else Elaine has in store for herself.

The book is available at Kinokuniya. There’s even a Facebook page for it too. Check the book out and let me know what you think.