Wednesday, 30 April 2008

lots have changed since

I’m back in Singapore now after a Singapore-Hong Kong-San Francisco-Hong Kong-Singapore flight and a trip back to KL. Lot’s have changed since I was last in KL during Chinese New Year. New government, new politics, new media, new car, new homelessness, new ancestry!

The new socio-political scene of course I knew about. Who didn’t? What I didn’t know was that my dad bought a new car and sold off the older one. This car is by far the most far-removed from my taste among the many cars we’ve ever had (nauseating purple coat of a previous car aside). My parents have also sold off our house and have nowhere to move into just yet.

The most interesting piece of information I got was that my mum’s birth parents were apparently Hakka. This means that I could very well be of a hundred percent Hakka decent (since my dad’s Hakka too). For some reason, this new knowledge has a rather profound impact on me and what I perceive as my identity. Half of my biological heritage has always been somewhat of a mystery to me but somehow I’ve been quite comfortable with this uncertainty. This revelation has been rather unsettling. I’ve always been quite “connected” and fascinated with my Hakka roots despite not being able to speak it. I’m quite sure that my inability to speak Hakka contributes greatly to this perturbation.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

artistic pachyderms?

This is pretty amazing indeed. It’s sad enough that they’re in captivity, I hope no additional torture was involved in training them….

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

harowa, kl & sjørslev

IMG_4590a, originally uploaded by dckf_$êr@pH!nX.

I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to visit a friend in Denmark recently. It had been seven years since we last met in KL. She now lives in village called Sjørslev (pronounced something like "shars-lef") with her husband. We only had a few hours together but it was really good catching up with an old friend.

I never thought we would ever meet again after we first parted in Harowa, Bangladesh nine years ago, but she came to visit us in Malaysia and this time I visited her in Denmark. The four of us (me, her and two other Malaysians) spent almost a month together teaching English in Bangladesh and became pretty close friends as a result. It would be nice to have the three Chinese and the Viking at the same place at the same time together again.

Monday, 14 April 2008

go forth and fill every niche

The following sentence is taken from the article “10 Ideas That Are Changing the World: #1. Common Wealth” by Jeffrey D. Sachs which appeared in the 24 March 2008 edition of Time, also found online:

“Human beings fill every ecological niche on the planet, from the icy tundra to the tropical rain forests to the deserts.”

The article is supposedly taken from Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet by the same author to be published by Penguin Press. So it’s part of a book, not just an article in a periodical.

I really hate it when writers use words they don’t understand (or worse still, choose to misuse words) for the purposes of dramatic effect. The offending word here is “niche”. I’m no ecologist but I know well enough that the only way we humans can fill every niche is if we were the only species left on the planet and managed to evolve to the extent that we no longer depended on any other species to survive, being able to produce energy on our own through photosynthesis or some other parallel process and recycle our nutrients without the aid of other organisms. I can’t imagine how this is ever possible.

Perhaps, the word the author was thinking of was “habitat” or “ecosystem” instead of “ecological niche”, but even then, we humans do not fill every habitat or ecosystem. “Human beings inhabit almost every terrestrial ecosystem” is definitely a less exciting clause but….

Exercising artistic liberty is fine but not when it distorts facts in a piece that purports to convey factual information from a policy maker. Science is not art.
Succumbing to my wanderlust…
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