Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gift from Pandora

"So who am I? I'm a neighbor, a friend, the enemy. I am anonymous. I am invisible. I am everywhere. I shuffle past you in a dense crowd, shoulder to jammed shoulder, unwashed because of the water shortages, stinking and sickly-looking from the bankrupt diet of cheap carbohydrates and synthetic proteins that are all we have left. Like you, I'm trapped in a rat warren of dusty gray concrete; tracked by the omnivorous, all-powerful net; sucking in sulfurous air; badly outnumbered; mostly numbed. I'm scarred, scared, hunted, and all too human."

Did you think it was me? Na... That was an extract from James Cameron's Avatar - An Activist Survival Guide book written by Maria Wilhelm and Dirk Mathison.

Strangely today, my colleague and I were talking about the Avatar movie and I mentioned how I was almost in tears when the Hometree was brought down by the homosapiens.  Later, I found a package in my office's pigeon hole. Guess what?

A James Cameron's Avatar - An Activist Survival Guide book all the way from London, UK. Thank you for the coolest gift, Mr and Mrs Martin Bromfield. Mr & Mrs Bromfield were my guests for one of my nature excursions. I was indeed fortunate to have met them and got to know that Mr Bromfield has a role in part of the production in this Movie of Year (voted by the Environmentalists and Tree Huggers of Planet Earth) - AVATAR.

To the fans of Avatar, this is a cool book. It tells you from A-Z about AVATAR from the air of Pandora right up to its flora and fauna. Having to have read some parts of the topics, the authors were actually warning us about what we are now doing to Mother Earth. Yes, us the homosapiens.

To my friends, if you want to have a look at this book, you got to be extra nice to me ;) As  what Gollum used to say, "My precious..."

To Mr & Mrs Bromfield, thank you very much once again. I didn't expect that you would remember this and it is an honour. As an appreciation, I will buy an original AVATAR DVD for myself when it is available in the market. That will be a small tiny weeny fraction to pay for your next vacation to Langkawi, ya?

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mystery of Langkawi's Missing Forest

Ai spotted the hill burning last week. It was a huge fire according to Ai and she contacted the bomba (fire department). Unfortunately at that time, she didn't have the camera with her. The team went back to the scene on the next day to monitor the burning.

The picture below shows the burning site at 4:30pm. The faint smoke was above the huge bungalow. Notice the bungalow on the hill?

The picture below shows the white smoke grew larger and more obvious at 5:00pm. We decided to call the bomba once again. In order to boost up their sense of urgency, we sounded panicky and told them that we were at the scene.
Ai knew how to get up to the bungalow on the hill and we drove up to find the burning site. We went all the way to the end of the tarred road and the burning site was no where to be found. It was a beautiful road that cut through the rubber plantation. Then I recalled another turn off and we turned back to check. And then we found it.
From the above picture, I zoomed into a single tree which was still burning. See the following picture below

This was zoomed 20x optical and 12x digital zoom

Jalan Kampung Ranggut Besar, Mukim Padang Matsirat; Langkawi

Langkawi's forest is being taken away illegally for planting of rubber trees, perhaps? The culprits were also taking advantage of the dry season to expedite the burning process. However, these idiots were ignorant about the safety of the neighborhood should a strong wind helped to spread the wildfire. 

During our search for the site, there were conversations between the bomba and us on that day and the day before. There were some ridiculous responses and funny remarks from the spokespersons. We were asked if the smoke would spread and become fire. Huh? Are we the experts or they are? I will not publish the rest of their comments here. If you are keen to know more, let us sit down for a teh tarik.

Where and whatever happen to the Jabatan Perhutanan (Forestry Department)? <sigh>

As expected, we did not get the results we wanted, however, as a reward for Ai, we spotted the Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps indica) on our way down. It was Ai's lifer.
I used a slow shutter speed because my flash was not working well

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Box Jellyfish Existence In the Sea of Langkawi?

Secret is secret. Even the nearby eatery shops were not aware of it. Or were they told to hush-hush about this?

No matter how well a secret is kept, the internet distribution is more powerful. It is very sad that someone had to die in her vacation here and yet, was there any action taken to warn the public and to be vigilant? How many of such incident went unreported? This would probably serves as a wake-up call to the authorities.
This picture was taken from National Geographic on Box Jellyfish

This is the news taken from Local Sweden's News in English:

A 45-year-old woman from Småland in southern Sweden has been killed by a jellyfish while on holiday in Malaysia, writes the Aftonbladet newspaper.

The incident occurred in the beach resort of Pantai CenangLangkawi in January when the woman opted to take an evening dip together with her family.

"It took five-six seconds, then she fell unconscious," her husband told the newspaper.

Despite several attempts by relatives and ambulance personnel to revive the woman, she never regained consciousness.

According to 
Swedish marine biologist Lars Henroth, the woman was probably stung by a so-called box jellyfish, named for their cube-shaped medusae. It is a small, transparent creature which is known to carry a deadly sting.

"A heart attack is the most common reason for death when you are stung. It often occurs swiftly."

According to the marine biology centre in nearby 
Phuket the box jellyfish has become more common in recent years in the waters off Malaysia and Thailand - popular winter destinations for hordes of Swedish tourists.

The centre issued an official warning last winter when an unusual number of the deadly jellyfish were found off the coast.

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson

This is my first time knowing the existence of box jellyfish in Langkawi. I yet to come across any documentation on box jellyfish sightings here. I had only heard from what people have said. Sometime ago, I was told by the locals on how some water buffaloes died from crossing the sea to the nearby islands due to jellyfish stung. I pretended to be surprised and quietly thought that they were just joking. Sadly, this current incident may probably confirmed that the locals' stories were real.

Such incident is very rare because most jellyfishes in Langkawi are not fatally dangerous. The above report said that it is probably a box jellyfish. Could the woman died of heart attack from panic and shock? Was there a detailed biopsy or post mortem done to detect any venom from the box jellyfish? Was there any other witness and any other evidence to blame the box jellyfish?

Should box jellyfish is the main suspect, it is the duty of the local authorities to take immediate action by:
1) Collaborating with the Marine department or relevant NGOs to do a research and study  on Langkawi waters for any potential dangerous jellyfishes.
2) Warning the public by putting signboards on the beach and educating them on taking vigilant steps.
3) Cordoning an area by placing netting for safe swimming during the jellyfish breeding season.

Was a standard procedure of CPR done properly to revive the victim? How much time did the local ambulance arrive at the scene? The general hospital to Pantai Cenang would take about 15 minutes and 10 minutes would be the quickest. Also, was there any beach lifeguards on standby during that time? Hmm... questions, questions..

Having said that, I strongly believe that the local authorities are fully responsible for this incident.  Is it worth generating great revenues in the tourism industry at the expense of the public's safety? 

We all should learn from Australia. The world knows Australia is a home to the most dangerous snakes, spiders, jellyfishes, crocodiles on earth and yet the country is able to attract millions of tourists annually. Why?

Read more:

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who is this Pretty "Roachie" Roach?

Is there any relationship between this pretty "roachie" roach 

and this picture below?

I am not too sure. My guess would be the patterns on the cockroach and the dress the painted man was wearing have some similarities. The image was an artist's impression of a Harlequin painted by Maurice Sand in 1761. The image above was taken from Wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlequin

Who and what is Harlequin? According to dictionary.reference.com and Online Etymology; this is what it has written as:  
1590, from M.Fr. harlequin, from O.Fr. Herlequin, Hellequin, etc., leader of la maisnie Hellequin, a troop of demons who rode the night air on horses. He corresponds to O.E. Herla cyning "King Herla," mythical character sometimes identified as Woden; possibly also the same as the Ger. Erlkönig "Elf King" of the Goethe poem. Sometimes also associated with Herrequin, 9c. count of Boulogne, who was proverbially wicked. In Eng. pantomime, a mute character who carries a magic wand. His It. form, arlecchino, is one of the stock characters of commedia del'arte. From his ludicrous dress comes the Eng. meaning "particolored" (1779).

In the Oxford dictionary, harlequin means either in various colours or pantomime character in mask and parti-coloured costumes. Hmm... I had learnt a new word.

So, the mystery of this pretty "roachie" roach has now been identified. It is a Harlequin Cockroach (Neostylopyga Rhombifolia) and unfortunately it is a domestic pest. It is believe to be originated from tropics of Asia. The female carries her ootheca (egg case) for a certain period of time before depositing it. I wonder if she will glue the egg case on an object like the female of American cockroach (Periplaneta americana)??

Professor Joseph Kunkel of University of Massachusetts Amherst directed me to Dr George Beccaloni, a curator of orthopteroidea from The Natural History Museum, London who had helped me on the identification and confirmed the facts on this species of cockroach.  

Many thanks to this two cockroach experts and their interesting articles website revealed the true facts of these wonderful cockroaches (well, some). After reading some of the facts, I now do have some respect to these primitive creatures or pests. However, my feelings toward the American Cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) remain unchanged. 

For anyone who is curious on varieties of cockroaches, you may find these interesting facts from:

2) Professor Joseph Kunkel's Cockroach FAQ 

Happy reading and cockroach hunting. I will still think ten times about holding a cockroach with my bare fingers.

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