Friday, April 29, 2005

Redang... the Nudibranch

Nudibranch grazing on a coral head

'Nudus' is Latin for naked. 'Branchia' is Greek for gills.

Marry these two, you get Naked Gills.

Why the need to marry Latin with Greek, I don't know.

In more down-to-earth lingo, these creatures are sea slugs, or sea snails, without the shell.

They don't really breathe through gills, but rather through that protruding opening that looks quite a bit like a flower bud about to open.

Unlike those ‘uninteresting’ terrestrial slugs that chew up your garden vegetables, these guys are some of the most colorful creatures you can ever find in the oceanic realm.

I love to seek them out because they don't swim away when I shoot them; not like those coral fishes that can't keep still even for a 10-second photo session.

Most nudibranches have rhinophores (tentacles, or horns) that are sensitive to touch, taste, and smell.

They are hermaphroditic (meaning that, they contain both the male and female sexual organs at some point during their lives), but cannot fertilize themselves.

So, they still need to look for a willing partner to 'do' it.

And can you imagine that these tiny fellows are also carnivorous? With their diet focusing on sponges, hydroids, tunicates, and even barnacles? (More pictures of these later, if I don't forget)

Why the colors? One theory: self-defense.

The color camouflage makes them blend into the environment as well as to warn potential predators that their meat is distasteful or even poisonous.

This nudibranch that I shot at Redang is called Chromodoris bullocki Colingwood. Quite a mouthful of a name.

Although this family of nudibranch comes in several color variants, this particular specimen is light pink and has a thin white marginal line on the sides.

The gills are whitish while the rhinophores are yellowish.

They dwell openly in shallow reefs and their size ranges from 4 mm to 60 cm.

I once saw a bright yellow-blue colored 'pajama' nudibranch (another specie of the larger Chromodoris family) while hunting for mussels in the Japan Inland Sea near my home. Right on the pebbles at the edge of the sea.

So, if you are lucky, you don't need to go diving to see them.

The guy in this photo is about two centimeters.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Redang... the Triggerfish

Triggerfish munching on a sponge barrel (C) Lrong Lim

The Titan Triggerfish is the largest of the triggerfish species.

This guy at Redang is about 50 cm, but records show that it can grow up to 75 cm in length.

Divers know this fish as highly territorial.

They are very aggressive especially when guarding its nest, supposedly found in open areas of sand.

Although not poisonous, divers have been bitten by them for being too curious.

I have yet to be attacked by the titan although I like observing them feed on corals.

So far, I have not seen their nests yet.

Still, I have taken care not to be too much of a busybody to these guys.

This fish is a rather common sight in the East Coast as it usually hangs around coral reefs in the tropical waters.

The sponge barrel (one of its food) used to be the raw material for the sponge used for cleaning.

Traditionally, the people around the Mediterranean Sea used to harvest them.

But due to over harvesting, most of the sponge we used these days are made from artificial material.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Redang in the off-season

Pasir Panjang with Pulau Lima in the background (C) Lrong Lim

Was at Redang for the first time last month. Had been avoiding Redang in preference for that little paradise, Lang Tengah. The crowds had not arrived yet, so Pasir Panjang was really quiet.

Heard from the hotel staff that during the peak season, about 2000 visitors throng the beach. Stayed at the Laguna Redang. New solid buildings, lots of wood fixtures, good and plentiful food, friendly staff, and a magnificent view of the sea from the restaurant.

But I wished the staff could do away with the fake ‘Malalaysian’ way of salutation each time we walked up the stairs towards the restaurant. Has anyone actually seen any Malaysian greeting someone by putting the palms on the chest?

Walked the whole stretch of Pasir Panjang and it made us glad that we chose Laguna. Most, if not all of the other resorts seemed shabby: some not so; some really crappy.

We have read many a time that Redang offers the best of diving on the east coast although some may claim Tenggol is the one.

Our four days there was spent mostly scuba diving, and we had the services of the dive masters all to ourselves.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

MPs higher pay associated with better service

KUALA LUMPUR: A 10% pay rise for MPs and Senators will help them serve the people better, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. He said the proposed increase for wakil rakyat was also in line with the Government's plan to increase the allowance and pay of civil servants. Sometimes people ask for donations for unforeseen circumstances like deaths and accidents, and the MPs have to fork out their own money, he said in Parliament yesterday. Asked why he had to brief the MPs on the pay rise, Abdullah said: because they want to know why. (As reported by The Star, Wednesday April 20, 2005)

I say, 'in line with the Government's plan to increase the allowance and pay of civil servants'?

What is this?

The government, for that matter, can put anything under the sun to be 'in line' with their whatever plans.

Better to just decree, 'the government wants to increase the allowance and pay of MPs and Senators because the government wants to'.

And why did he have to brief the MPs on the pay rise?

Another pea brain statement: 'because they want to know why'.

Just imagine: the 'honorable' MPs and Senators were caught surprised with this unforeseen pay rise!

They did not know why they are receiving the pay rise and they did not know what to do with the extra money.

So, the man tells the MPs and Senators: I am giving you this pay rise so that you can 'serve the people better'.

Eh? 'Serve the people better'?

But, how???

'By giving the extra money you got from the pay rise to the people when they come to you for help'.

So much on 'better service' for the citizens .

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Three poppies

Three poppies (C) Lrong Lim

Poppies are normally the first flowers to pop out in early spring. These orange poppies are 'semi-wild' as they are found all over the place. Don't think we can get any opium from them, but may try to harvest the poppy seeds, sprinkle them over my breakfast yogurt, and check out its taste. Olympus C5050, aperture priority, F2 at 400, ISO64

Got up at five this morning.

These days, the air is so dry that I wear a surgical mask to sleep.

Still, I wake up with my nose and mouth feeling 'super-dry'.

Took my usual morning stroll in the mini plot of flowers and vegetables down from my apartment.

It is so refreshing to look at the flowers, especially when the morning sun is shining at a low angle.

This morning, I could not help running up the stairs to grab my camera for some shots.

There are 17 blocks of apartment inhabited by government officials, but almost none, besides me (ahem...) took the 'trouble' to use the empty plot of land that lies in front of every block.

Three times a year, we congregate to cut the grass in our respective plots.

It is a pain in the butt, actually.

Been cultivating the flowers and veggies on a portion of the plot for a while now.

Last Sunday, decided to extend the size of the plot.

The other guys in my block must be secretly cheering me on, for the simple reason that there is now less grass for them to cut.

Am planning to plant a bunch of carrots and white turnips there.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Gmails, anyone?

Any Gmails here? (C) Lrong Lim

One thing that I really, really can't understand about my countrymen is the tendency or the need to perpetually refer to the prime minister when they attempt to put forward their views.

A latest example is a letter to Malaysiakini.

It goes, 'The headline on the destruction of the forest reserve at Bukit Beruang in Malacca shows that Barisan Nasional leaders do not seem to heed the call by our prime minister to preserve the remaining green areas in this country from wanton destruction.'

You can check for more instances when you read the papers.

My question is, why the perennial need to refer to the man?

Is it that we can't drag ourselves out of that feudalistic frame of mind?

Can't we institute systems and procedures that, regardless of whoever sits on that chair, life will go on?

Well, just letting off some occasional steam... must be that guy who can't stop pestering me for a recommendation letter.

Ok, ok, before I get carried away any further...

I have a bunch of Gmails idling around in my garden.

If I were a 'sleek' businessman, I would put them on ebay and make some roti.

I have a friend who once asked for posters from a well-known camera maker.

He got the posters for free, and then he sold them for a clean bundle.

If he reads this, he'd probably say, 'eh, don't want to friend you already, ok?'

So, anyone who is keen in having one, please... don't ape that gentleman up there.

The consequences may be too intolerable for you.

Just drop me a line at

Monday, April 11, 2005

A Kedahan-Malaysian in Japan, I remain...

A bouquet glows in the evening sun (C) Lrong Lim

I was quite tickled when a 19-year-old anime enthusiast who goes by the name 'Silencers', said that he likes my photos. And suggested that I take more pics of the sakuras.

While I have to wait for the opportune moment to capture that white carpet of wilted sakuras, I managed to shoot a sakura pic that I like. It was taken late yesterday evening, just before the rain clouds moved in.

On a more mundane note, I decided to dispose that corny and meaningless term 'janggueberry' as the blog name.

Now, perhaps my readership may increase from one to two with this self-explanatory 'new' name.

Throughout my eighteen years in Japan up until this year, I had always entertained the idea of returning to Malaysia.

After Form Six, I left my kampong armed with clothes loaned from my (future) brother-in-law.

Hoohaa-ed in Manila for over a year, and then slogged for two years in Singapore.

Headed for the US with a bunch of goondoos to further my studies.

Somehow, a big group of us congregated at Texas Tech University (must be the cheap tuition), a university located in the middle of nowhere.

One summer holiday, three friends and I rented a car and drove up north.

At one the stops, a mat-salleh lady asked us 'so, where are you guys from?'

And my friend who grew up in a pomelo & chicken farm in Ulu Perak responded cheerily 'oh, we are from Texas'.

I jumped. 'Hey man, we were here for only a year!'

And the sneer on the lady's face was like, 'Haah! I mean, where are you originally from?'

Over the years, we sometimes talk about returning 'home', and one of my pals said 'I have better things to do with my life'.

Presently, almost all of us have 'cut off the umbilical cord' with 'home'.

I was one of the remaining two or three people who still talk of returning.

The question was 'when'.

But no longer...

After numerous discussions with my missus, family, and close friends, and switching plans back and forth repeatedly, I am pretty sure that I shall be staying put in Japan.

A big factor, as anyone reading Malaysiakini or Jeff's blog should know, is the political and social situation of Malaysia.

It boils down to one single word: 'accountability'.

While everyone has his/her own opinion, let me list two points as to what I call accountability.

1. If you are trusted with a job, be responsible and do it right, godammit. No cheating or goofing off business here.

2. If you screw up on purpose (that is, you cheated or you goofed off), apologize 1002 times, compensate the people 120%, and then have the decency to get lost.

Malaysia is a beautiful country, and I remain proud to be a Malaysian.

But until 'accountability' gets sufficiently instituted into the political framework and social landscape, it will be rather difficult to make the move back.

While I hope things in Malaysia will improve, let's see what happens.

So, as long as there is work for me to do here, which I am enjoying (most of the time though), I shall choose to remain in my present occupation.

If and when the university decides to kick my butt, adoooi... then we shall head southwards to Okinawa prefecture (near Taiwan) to set up a farm in the countryside.

I had always dreamed of setting up a mini integrated farm, combining gardening (of vegetables, roots, herbs, citrus and other fruits), poultry farming (of chickens, ducks, quails), and fish rearing (for the stomach as well as for the eyes).

And since I can't live without honey, I might even try my hand at apiculture.

In between weeding and cleaning the fishpond, we may head to the nearby ocean for some gooooood scuba diving...

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Sakura in full bloom

Somei-yoshino sakura in full glory (C) Lrong Lim

As usual, the Japanese are going nuts over the sakuras.

Each year, the whole country seems to be gripped in high suspense as to when the first flower will bloom.

Predictions of the first bloom are generously made in the mass media and when the first petal opens, pundits will deliberate the 'sakura front', detailing the wave of blooms from prefectures in the south to the north.

As if on cue, the Japanese would dash to the parks, jostling to secure the best spot to place their ground mats to party deep into the evening.

It normally takes about a week to reach full bloom after the opening of the first petals.

This year however, due to the somewhat unusual rise in temperature, it took just about three or four days to full bloom.

My favorite lunch spot in town is a Japanese restaurant that specializes in seafood from the Japan Inland Sea.

The shop refers to lady customers as 'sakuras', to differentiate them from greedy men like me who are normally served larger portions of rice.

Initially, I was curious.

Sakuras are pretty flowers.

So, I expected to see some sweet looking, petite office ladies, sitting demurely at the tables, waiting to be served quaint little dishes on mickey mouse trays.

But more often than not, I was disappointed.

Many of those 'sakuras' actually look more like 'dry flowers', or some, even, 'wilted flowers'.

The weatherman says the rains are coming late today.

Come tomorrow, sakuras will be no more.

What's left at the park will be a carpet of pinkish-white petals of wilted flowers...

Friday, April 08, 2005

A horse that refuses to go away

I thought that horse was shot dead by bloggers and duly cremated.

But no!

So, you can imagine my falling off the office chair when I read about Musa Hitam poking his nose into that dead horse.

Thing is, can someone just nominate one single Malay (choose your own definition) whom we can proudly call, oh no, 'towering'?

At the moment, zero, I'd say.

But no problem.

Up came Najib with this brainy formula: pioneering Malays + noble Malays + global Malays = towering Malays.

Oh my Lord, I thought I was confused enough with this... 'towering' nonsense.

Now, I have to go cracking my poor knucklehead wondering what the heck 'pioneering Malays', 'noble Malays', and 'global Malays' mean.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Under-ragged queen

Sourced from The Star, 31st March 2005

‘I am confident, intelligent and I have a great personality and that is why I should win’, were the words that clinched the Miss Malaysia Universe 2005 title for Angela Gan, 23, from Tawau, Sabah (As reported in The Star, 31st March 2005).

Woah... yaya izzzeeet?

Well, like it or not, that cocksure statement won this young lady the rights to represent Malaysia in the Miss Universe 2005 pageant in Bangkok on May 31.

Will we see her breeze through that statement again to rightfully clinch that Bangkok title for Malaysia?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A prison in the heart of Seoul

Some Korean selections (C) Lrong Lim

Got back from Korea a few days ago. Brought seven students from my university to visit our counterparts in a university two hours away from Seoul.

The Korean students and teacher put up a very warm welcome for us, despite the ongoing sparring match between Japan and Korea over a tiny speck of an island in the Japan (or East) Sea.

I adore the food and the chilies there. My hair stood on their ends whenever my tongue made contact with the condiments.

Hot indeed, but I could not stop my hands from reaching out for more.

Of all the places they took us to, the one that left the deepest impression was the visit to Sodeamun Prison in the heart of Seoul.

The Japanese army built this prison in 1907 to imprison and torture Korean nationalists fighting for independence.

The exhibits looked very real, coordinated with voices screaming from being tortured.

There were 'wall-coffins' which practically restricted any movement of the prisoner.

Once scene that made my skin crawled was the poking of the fingertips of prisoners with sharp bamboo spikes.

The execution house still stands, as it is, with the poplar tree still alive.

Prisoners walking toward the execution house for the last time grabbed the trunk of this poplar tree, refusing to let go.

I have not even been to Mainland China yet where I suppose there will be more similar displays of cruelty by the Japanese army.

But after seeing these exhibits, I guess that the Koreans will never be able to forgive the Japanese for what they have done to the Korean people.

The seven Japanese students observed silently while listening to the Korean interpreter.

Later, they wondered why the Koreans keep on harping about history.

I have no answer to that, but I believe that the Koreans have a point in preserving this inhumane slice of history.

The other side of the story lies in Hiroshima.

The Japanese people have constructed an equally terrifying range of exhibits to demonstrate and remind the world of US cruelty in dropping the H-bomb.

I actually wept (discreetly of course, and out of sight from anyone) when I first saw those gory exhibits years ago.

So here the Japanese are telling the universe that the US was evil in dropping the bomb.

Although I was emotionally affected, I never lost sight of the fact that the Japanese were the initiators of the conflict.

The Koreans are keeping the original prison buildings as they stood.

More Japanese people should head there to see for themselves what their ancestors had done.

As for me, I would love to make a return trip to Korea just to sink my fangs into a dish that eluded me, a chicken herbal soup dish called 'Sam Gae Tang'.