I have stopped updating this blog, please head to http://xiwenwendy.wixsite.com/xiwen-lunaticus ! :D

Friday, 28 March 2014

I Proudly Announced That, I Am An Environmental Volunteer

Under this azure sky I shall proudly stand. 
If people ever asked me have I worked before, if it is to fill in forms I will answer 'student' (plus extra information such as 'Bachelor of Environmental Science and Technology, Faculty of Environmental Studies, University Putra Malaysia upon request); I will say no in the sense that I have not become a promoter or clerk or temporary teacher or waitress as those are holidays-based and are short-termed, but I will say yes in the sense that I am currently a volunteer in environmentalism as a blogger, writer, motivator and participant since 2013 (after a few years of hesitation and loss of direction), and the journey will be still going on and on without the end unless the day after tomorrow comes too soon (haha).

I consider volunteer as a job, a professional one. It requires passion and sacrifices to keep going just like any other jobs in the world (unless you really dislike your job and you do it just to make both ends meet). Honestly it is not easy. Most of us have our own career (mine as student), we do not get paid in return (no salary and nothing at all), we work over time (besides office hours or even during weekends and holidays), we sacrifice leisure time for work (less entertainment for some periods of time), we spend our own money on volunteering (on transportation etc.), we are often discouraged by people around us (but we still motivate ourselves to hold on) and the list goes on. There is no need to own a cert or degree to be a volunteer but that does not make it a non-professional job. A piece of paper does not prove anything in the world today with so many higher education institution mushrooming almost everywhere. You need knowledge to be a volunteer, knowledge that is not naturally possessed by every human on Earth. That knowledge is piled up through countless hands-on experiences, researches, readings and attentions towards the environmental issues worldwide.

My volunteering journey began during my high school time when I took part in the making of EM mudball for Sungai Rambai. At that time I was just a participant who followed what people did, contributing that very little but meaningful effort towards the environment. So maybe I can consider that as a flag off point of this long long journey. However, there was a very lengthy period of time when I just talked about it A LOT without taking any real action (feeling ashamed about this). Anyway, I slowly picked up the pace to be a green volunteer as an article contributer for Malaysian Environmental Sustainable Youth Movement  (MESYM), then a participant for Shah Alam Tree for Life 2013 by Eco Warriors last year and now a volunteer for Malaysian Environmental Non Government Organization (MENGO) H2O Hunt 2014. Although I get nothing realistic in return, but it's an achievement for me seeing my contribution built up little by little, making impacts bit by bit and inspiring surrounding people one by one.

It's not late. Maybe what you need is just some courages to make the first step, or some information about where and how to start. Do not hesitate to approach any of the green leader or random dedicated volunteer to voice your doubt. They are very nice people who place environment in front of their priority list and they will give you useful advices based on their past experiences and future views towards this journey. All of them are unique individuals who have the same heart, the heart which is determined to do something for the Earth, for our future.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Mad Father Review (18+)

(Google image)
Ok this week is the test week for most of us in University Putra Malaysia so I am completing this post (which was forsaken months ago, haha) to distract my focus on stresses that I had these few days (usually my stresses are not about exams, it's more to assignments, lab reports, events and relationships with people). This time I don't recommend you guys to watch Pewdiepie playing it because his series is not whole which left me confused about the whole game as he skipped a lot in the videos. Since there are a lot more youtuber-gamers out there, I chose Markiplier (I like his accent, haha) after randomly browsing through youtube without having the idea which one is better. No comparison was made.

Mad Father, it the second best 2D horror game after The Witch's House, in my opinion. I think a good 2D RPG game should be detailed in every little things in the scenes and also the story. I have played some games which is not detailed enough to make me attach to the game causing me to give up not even half way through the game. Mad Father is the most detailed 2D horror game I have ever seen (yes I didn't play this one too, it's too tough for me). You get descriptions from every objects that you encounter (I think this is important as we know whether the object is useful for us in the game or not, or else we will be easily confused and eventually stop playing it, just like me). Descriptions make the game looks real and alive. Compared to The Witch's House, there are more 'behind the scenes' in the as you play the game, with a lot of minor characters with unique background stories behind them.

Spoiler Alert!

So here is my interpretation regarding this story. The 'mad father' is a character in the game who is referred as 'doctor' named Alfred. He is Aya's (the main character which you control in the game) father whose wife died when Aya was young. He has an assistant named Maria (she is his lover too) who works with him in preserving the 'beauty' of human beings, which means preserving human corpse to retain the beauty seen. Mad father had the habits of killing small animals since childhood and eventually he killed his parents. The background of mad father is really psychotic which leads him in doing all these things. There are lots of dolls which looked real in his mansion and all sort of bloody things in the basement where he does the 'experiments'. He tries his best in avoiding Aya from getting hurt and eventually he wants to turn her into one of the dolls to preserve his beautiful daughter.

(Google image)
The game started when Aya heard his father's scream at midnight and found that the mansion was cursed. She had to find ways to rescue her father, her only relative in this world after her mother's death. There were dead body walking everywhere which would chase after you. You will encounter a lot of the mad father's experimental subjects each with their own stories (there are really a lot, so I can't mention one by one here) and try to help them by fulfilling their wish or solving their problems. There was one special character named Dio, a boy (also an experimental subject) who was sent by Aya's mother to help her to escape from all the mess her father created. Of course he was sacrificed at the end of the game with the burning mansion although most people hope that he would live happily ever after with Aya. He is a corpse anyway, that would not happen.
(Google image)
There is something strange about Aya's personality. She seemed calm throughout the game where there were blood and gores everywhere. Besides some 'yucks' or yelling, she gave normal response to the living deads as if they were quite normal to her. Besides, a little girl like her could operate a chainsaw. This is really...umm...I don't know what to say. After all she grew up under her father's care and influence.
(Google image)
Just like other similar 2D RPG games, there are three endings. The good one, the bad one and the secret one (which appears if you collected all the gems hidden in the game). Ah, I have forgotten what are the endings (procrastination kills memories!!!!!!!!). I remembered that at the end, Aya lived happily ever after with Maria, as a 'doctor' just like her father. I was like 'WHAT' when I saw the ending. Ok, no one said that she became a doctor like her father, but what she did indicated that she was doing what her father did, the way she complimented the patient's eyes.

P/S: This is the download link. I did not expose much about the information in this game but I wish that you guys can try playing it on your own. Plenty of violences but with a story that would last long in your head. You know, I do not normally watch or play violent games, but when I do...there are only a few. Hahahahaha...

Dio. (Google image)

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

MENGO H2O HUNT 2014 - Trailer

Hey guys! It's another publication of a green event which is just around the corner on 13rd April 2014 at the Square, Publika! This is the first MENGO H2O Hunt 2014 held by the Malaysian Environmental Non-Government Organizations (MENGO) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia which is open for all age groups no matter how old or how young you are as long as you are fond of activities like the Amazing Race and you want to know more about water issues which are so closely related to our daily life!

Oh hang on, you have no idea what MENGO is? MENGO is made up of 24 Malaysian environmental non-government organizations including Biji Biji InitiativeBlue Life Ecoservices, Borneo Resources Institute Malaysia (BRIMAS)Camp Borneo, Ecocentric Transitions, EcoKnights, Environmental Research and Management Association of Malaysia (ENSEARCH), Environmental Protection Society Malaysia (EPSM),  Global Environment Centre (GEC) Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)Malaysian Karst SocietyMalaysian Nature Society (MNS)Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences (MSMS)Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS)Penang Institute Reef Check MalaysiaSabah Wetlands Conservation Society (SWCS)Sustainable Development Network Malaysia (SUSDEN), Tatana Roots, TRAFFIC Southeast AsiaTreat Every Environment Special Sdn Bhd. (TrEES)Wetlands International (Malaysia)World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Malaysia, and Water Watch Penang (WWP). When I saw the website about MENGO for the first time, I was like wow I don't know that there are so many environmental organizations in Malaysia, this is awesome! So basically MENGO is a grouping of the organizations above under the (Danish International Development Assistance) DANIDA-supported programme for environmental assistance to Malaysia towards the direction of sustainable development.

Back to the main topic! So now we are calling for online registeration of participants for MENGO H2O Hunt 2014! The main purpose of this event is to create awareness of our people about water conservation through this 1.5 kilometres water-based challenge. Before you register for this event, you have to form a group of maximum four members with one leader and at least one of the members should be an adult. You are encouraged to wear blue or green Tshirts (this will contribute 10 points for your team) but you are required to bring 4 litres of water in used mineral water bottles (to avoid your team from being deducted 5 points, haha). This challenge is open for only 50 teams which would stand a chance to win cash or gift vouchers up to RM 500! So be quick! The registration fee for each team is RM 100 and IF you bring along 4 kg of recycable papers or books you can get RM 20 of refund on the same day. You registeration is confirmed once you pay the fee through bank in or cheque.

No more hesitation! Hover your mouse pointer over the link provided above to register with your family and friends! I bet this would be fun! I am really looking forward to your participation and hopefully we would meet there at Publika (remember to look for me among the volunteers there yeah, haha). See you real soon!

Location: Publika Shopping Gallery, No 1, Jalan Dutamas 1 Solaris Dutamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

An Inconvenient Truth - Extracted Information

The movie ''An Inconvenient Truth'' was released in 2006 in United States when I was in standard six (who was still unaware of anything about global climate). I first watched the movie during a leadership camp in high school (and I was in half-asleep state due to the tiring schedule) when I was in form three but I barely remembered the informations embedded in the movie, not even its name. Now it's 2014, and I rewatched this very informative and motivating movie with my fellow coursemates during our Chemistry class. I tried to absorb and write down as much facts as possible that was mentioned by Al Gore throughout the movie but did not pay much attention to the travelling parts.

So before I introduce the movie, let's see who is Al Gore. Most of us (or maybe all of us) had never heard this name. Albert Arnold Gore was actually the 45th Vice President of the United States from 1993 to 2001, under President Bill Clinton. Now he is still an active environmentalist who has contributed a lot for the environment (for more information you guys can utilise Google, haha). In 2007, this movie was awarded an Academy Award for Best Documentary and Al Gore was given the Nobel Peace Prize with Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). There are a lot of criticism on this movie as it was produced by a politician but I am just going to focus on the issue of global warming by breaking information I extracted from the movie into a few parts (plus some of my elaboration):

1) According to the world map, we can see that most of the land on Earth locates on the North Hemisphere. When the North Hemisphere receive more sunlight (which is during Spring or Summer), the plants on land take up the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for photosynthesis, thus the level of carbon dioxide would be lowered. On the other hand, when it is Autumn or Winter for the North Hemisphere, less sunlight will be received by the plants, so the rate of photosynthesis decreases, leading to a higher carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is actually fluctuated, going up and down each year. However, it is getting higher and higher despite the normal up and down trend.  
(Graph taken from ''Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis'' by IPCC)
2) Glaciers on mountain top are actually our precious fresh water source (even though we do not have glacier in Malaysia). During spring, glaciers on mountains such as Himalaya will melt slowly and contribute to the streams flowing down the mountain. So if the glaciers melt faster than normal, our fresh water source will deplete pretty soon. When the glaciers (which reflect the sunlight) melt, the rocky surface of the mountain will be exposed to direct sunlight, thus absorbing more heat which in turn speeding up the melting process.
(Google image)
3) The carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere hundreds or thousands of years ago can be measured by analysing the air bubble trapped within the glaciers which formed long long time ago. Scientists drill ice cores to extract information about the atmospheric composition or even temperature from these tiny air bubbles preserved by the glaciers. We can see that the ice core consists of layers of ices, each ice band represents the condition of the snowfall during that season. Sometimes it trapped particles such as volcanic ashes which would tell us more about the climate of those previous years.
(Google image)
4) As we know, temperature is proportional to the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. In Malaysia this fact is accepted widely by students but I heard that there are some arguments regarding whether global warming is caused by carbon dioxide or not. So here is the evidence of the relationship between carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere and the global temperature.
(Google image)
5) The increase in ocean temperature contributes to the increase in the evaporation of sea water. Thus, this raises the humidity in the air, speeding up the wind velocity and eventually elevates the intensity of hurricane (for some places we call it typhoon or cyclone). Hurricane takes up its speed as it moves through warm ocean, gaining more and more water vapour and getting bigger and stronger. That's why hurricanes today bring more destruction than ever.
Hurricane Katrina (Google image)
6) Extreme weathers happen everywhere where droughts and floods could happen at the same time at different places. As more sea water evaporates from the ocean, more moisture on land is also being 'sucked' up into the atmosphere, resulting in dry parched land. Precipitation (rainfall) relocates and focuses on a particular area. Higher temperature means higher rate of evaporation, there would be more rainfall which could be very destructive as the amount of rains is too large at one time.
(Google image)
7) Permafrost is the layer of ice on the land surface that never melts throughout the year, previously. Now due to the melting of permafrost, there is a phenomenon called the drunken trees where trees having their roots buried deep down in the permafrost are tilted as their roots have nothing to grab on. So the trees lean to one side in an awkward position, indicating the melting of the once-would-never-melt ice.
(Google image)
8) As the Earth gets warmer, falls and winters become shorter. So spring arrives earlier than usual causing caterpillars to hatch earlier. However, birds are warm-blooded animals whose biological behavior do not follow the change of environment. By the time the birdlings hatch, most of the caterpillars have turned into pupae that there is no food for the birdlings. This has caused a huge disruption to the ecosystem where the caterpillars will have less predators, destroying plants that they feed on. It is really an ecological disaster.
(Google image)
9) The floating ice cap in Artic has become so thin that even a submarine can penetrate and emerge from the ice. Usually submarines cannot penetrate through the ice without damaging their bodies. The thickness of Artic ice even varies up to 1 meter 'thin'.
(Google image)
10) Ice acts as reflector of sunlight on Earth. It can reflect as much as 90% of sunlight reaching the glaciers. But when the glaciers melt, less sunlight will be reflected. More than 90% of sunlight will be absorbed by the ocean and even though ocean has a large heat capacity, heat is being stored and piled up slowly in the ocean, causing a rise of temperature.
(Google image)
11) Ocean and wind currents are responsible in distributing the heat absorbed by the Earth surface from the equator to the poles as equators receive more sunlight than the poles. Today, as the equator obtains much more heat from the sun, causing the poles to gain more heat from the currents as the heat is brought to the poles. Thus, the poles will be heated up faster than the equators, speeding up the melting of glaciers. The circulation heat works this way: The surface of the ocean which directly receives sunlight becomes warmer. As the current goes northward, sea water evaporates and ice forms and the current becomes colder and denser (saltier as water evaporates and the formation of ice, leaving behind salts in the current) when it reaches north pole. The denser and colder current will sink and moves southward back to the equator which is warmer. The theory of thermodynamics can be applied here where heat comes from warmer area to colder area.
(Google image)
12) Assuming that there is a frozen lake near the north pole. As our Earth becomes warmer, ice in the middle of the lake melts until the ice at the border of the lake breaks and the cold water rushes into the sea. This can immediately lower down the temperature of ocean current at the north pole and completely stop the circulation of heat carried by the ocean current. Heat cannot be distributed evenly on Earth and we can imagine the consequences that follow. Of course this is just an assumption as there is no such large frozen lake near the North pole.
(Google image)
13) The distribution of species on Earth mainly depends on the climate of the habitats. As climate changes, invasive species begins to infest and thrive at the area where it does not exist previously. Many parasites grow well at warmer temperature. For example, pine beetles which are usually being killed by the cold of winter. But as the period of winter becomes short, pine beetles destroy the pine forest more severely, damaging the habitat of other animals. Another example of invasive species is mosquito. Mosquitoes begin to move to higher altitude as the temperature rises. This causes the re-emerging of diseases such as Dengue fever among our population.
(Google image)
14) Sea creatures are really sensitive towards the surrounding temperature where any fluctuation in temperature can easily lead to death. One of the most affected species is the coral reef. Coral reef is the habitats for lots of sea creatures, providing shelters besides reducing the speed of strong ocean current. However, the rise in temperature causing the bleaching effect of the coral reef, leaving behind lifeless and stone-like structures. The loss of habitats and natural ramparts indicate the danger of massive species extinction underwater.
(Google image)
15) At the ocean, basically there are two types of ices: sea-based ices and land-based ices. Sea-based ices are ices that float freely on the ocean surface which will not contribute to the raise of sea level when they melt (if you place a ice cube in a glass full of water, after the ice cube melts, the water in the glass will not overflow). On the other hand, for the land-based ices, the melting will cause a rise in sea level, flooding all the low-lying coastal areas.
(Google image)
16) In Antartica, a pool of water will be formed in the middle of the ice shelf which slowly penetrates through the thick glaciers (we call the structure 'moulin'), causing the ice shelf which was formed centuries ago to break into half, creating a deep shaft reaching the land surface of the Antartica. As the pool of water which is slightly warmer than the surrounding ice, after it reaches the bottom of the ice shelf, it starts to sip through the bottom of the ice shelf. Eventually the whole large piece of ice shelf which is located seaward would slide and fall into the sea. In this case, we would immediately lose a huge chunk of glacier which contributes to the rise in sea level.
(Google image)

These are the facts that I am able to extract from the movie, hoping that those who could not understand or catch up with the pace of the movie (as it has no subtitle) can get some ideas from this post. For those who have not watched this movie after 8 years the movie was produced, watch it! Maybe you can just ignore the political components in the movie if you do not like it, but the facts are precious.

P/S: I might miss out some points in this post. Correct me if I am wrong in any of the information yeah. ;)
(Special thanks to Dr. Kannan for correcting me in some points!)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

My First Fieldwork in University - Forest

What a beautiful morning for fieldwork.
Finally we got to do what a future environmental scientist will do which is getting close to the Nature and get our hands dirty! Of course fieldwork will not always be pleasant. We might have to hike, climb, lift heavy things, deal with insects, wild 'things' etc and all those labour work to collect samples and data. So this was our first time during last two weeks where we went into the forest for our first hands-on practical in the Nature.

Our fieldwork location.
This forest which was being replanted locates somewhere near the Faculty of Veterinary and Faculty of Medicine and Health Science. It is going to be developed by the IOI company and at the end all the trees will be chopped down despite the efforts of our lecturers to protect that piece of land for conservation and preservation purpose. Hence before the developer gets rid of all the trees, our Biology lecturers, Prof. Dr. Makmom and Dr. Normala take us to the forest to carry out 'destructive sampling' where we took down the whole trees and brought back for further analysis besides doing some in-situ measurements. Although deforestation is strongly not encouraged as trees are important asset of Nature, it does sound 'cool' to 'take down' trees, haha. We had to chop down one tree per group, in total there were 12 trees of different sizes. Our group was lucky enough to get a smaller tree which was 10m in height and with a circumference that you could hold with both your hands.

Me and Erika. As the location is quite isolated, there was a hardly-noticable sign to remind us that that is the place, haha. We cycled to our faculty early in the morning and waited for the bus to go to the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences and walked for about 500m along the roadside to reach the destination. Phew~
Into the wild! (In fact it is just a reforested forest, haha)
This fieldwork was carried out for two separated days in two weeks. For the first day, two groups were combined and given a 5m x 5m plot to measure the diameter of each tree within the plot at breast height. To measure the diameter we faced some problems. For trees with very small diameter we should use vernier callipers and we forgot how to use it!!! No one knew!!! But finally we figured it out and managed to get the readings. Secondly we did not realise the real purpose of the 'diameter tape' until the second day of fieldwork. It should be a very easy measuring tape to be used but silly us, haha. By using it the way we measure the circumference of the tree trunk, we can straight away know the diameter of the tree without any calculation. It's awesome, right? We also measured the chlorophyll content of leaves there using a very unique and convenient electronic device which I couldn't recall its name (I found that most devices we used in analysis and measurement for the environmental parameters are really cool, haha)! Besides, we measured the light intensity under the canopy which required the cooperation of many groups to collect the most precise data. The process was quite hard to describe here and as I was not involved so I can't really tell you how it works. What I know is just the theory.

My fellow group members under Dr. Normala. From the left: Zira, Erika, Verma, Fatin and me.
Working with another group under Prof. Makmom.
With the help of lab assistants (or do we call them science officers? I am not sure), we learnt a lot in doing the fieldwork that time and it's really eye-opening. I realised that cooperation is very important in a team to get the job done correctly and efficiently. So the leader who gives order should make everything very clear so that there is minimum misunderstanding which would affect the whole progress for the fieldwork. For labour work like this, more hands make lighter work and of course, good communication is the key to ensure everything goes smoothly. The collection of data must be done systematically too as we are having lots of data and it could be a big trouble if we mix up any of the information. So it is really a knowledge and experience and skill in doing fieldwork (don't look down on people working in Nature, kay?)
The leaf castle of these red furious-looking red ants! They are really tough and will do anything to protect their home. If you disturb them with a stick they cramp their jaws on the stick and will not let go. You can even feel their force pulling the stick between you and them. Horrible~ Imagine if they bite your finger.
Crunchy leaves after weeks without rain. When we were walking on the forest floor all we could hear is the crunchy and crispy sound of dry leaves and branches. There was no way to move soundlessly there.
Thanks to the thick canopy. We were free from the scorching sun.
It was so thick that you couldn't see the road outside the forest.
Our chopping-down-the-tree work was on the second day of the fieldwork. I guess it was the most interesting part in the fieldwork as all of us had never cut down trees that tall in our life. After measuring the diameter at breast height, we chopped the tree at its bottom and brought it down. Then we measured the diameter of tree trunks just bellow the first branch we encountered from the bottom of the tree. Then we chopped the tree in half and measured the length above the chopped part. It was a coincidence that we actually cut the tree in half equally. As it was impossible to drag the whole tree back to our laboratory. So we chose tree branches, counted the diameter and number of leaves, next picked 10 leaves from each branch. The leaves and branches were then weighed to get the wet mass and were put into paper bags to be brought back to the laboratory.

This was the tree we were going to chop down, I mean, take down (playing with words so that what we did sounds cooler, hahahahahaha...)
This was the thorny vine that coiled around the selected tree. It was so so dangerous! (Ok maybe this is just a hyperbola but it was really painful when we accidentally grabbed it, boohoo...)
I feel sorry to the residents of the forest including these tiny ants as their habitat was being removed. (cannot see the ants? Watch closely and you will see their shiny butts, haha)
This is Mr. Monday who helped us in chopping down the tree using a Parang. TIMBER!!! (Yeah yeah, the tree looks small, I know, but still it was not an easy job!)
Our lab work was held today for getting the dry mass of the samples and the surface areas of the leaves. It took us three hours to put all the samples into the oven as we had to cut the samples into chips for easier drying. Oh yea, the electronic device used for measuring the surface area of leaf is awesomely invented! We do not have to count the boxes on the graph papers anymore! Just trace the device along the outline of the leaf drawn on a piece of paper and we can immediately obtain the results. Less work! Yay!
The victim of our group.
Can you see the difference between these leaves with the last last week's? Yes they were moist after the rain! No more sound when walking on them!
The tree stump.
We call this 'cookie', sounds cute right? It is actually part of the trunk that we collect to bring it back to the laboratory.
I think that's all for my 'report' for our first fieldwork. I have been busy lately with all sorts of non-academic stuffs. How I wish I could spend more time and energy on environmental studies which I really enjoy. Hopefully after March I can fully get back to be a full-time undergraduate student, haha. All the best for all my teammates!