Friday, July 27, 2007

Has American Culture Ruined You?

This is something I clicked on, while browsing through a friend's blog. It's an online 'test' to see how influenced you are by the American culture. I am glad to say I am still un blemished by it, although I am sure wityh all the CSI and Heroes that i watch on a weekly basis, I might not stay that way too long. Good thing they don't ask what my fave entertainment programmes are.

Here's the result I got:

You Have Not Been Ruined by American Culture

You're nothing like the typical American. In fact, you may not be American at all.
You have a broad view of the world, and you're very well informed.
And while you certainly have been influenced by American culture (who hasn't?), it's not your primary influence.
You take a more global philosophy with your politics, taste, and life. And you're always expanding and revising what you believe.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The break-up

I've recently received news that two very good friends of mine have decided to break up after a four year relationship. Being a hopeless romantic, I felt very sad for them, primarily because this (ex-)couple was an inspiration to me. They gave me hope that it is very possible for a relationship to sustain, and even flourish despite the odds.

I suppose I am rather naive in that sense. I grew up in an environment where people meet, fall in love, get married and live happily ever after; indeed, up till I was twenty five, I knew of no one who was divorced or had family members who were. Then, like a veil lifted from my eyes, love suddenly seemed impotent as couples I knew of started failing, either breaking up or embattled in bitter divorces.

And in that messy fog of love and heartache shone Teddy and Kris like a lone lighthouse shining out onto a bitter sea. For four years, they were a beacon of love, prevailing under the harshest conditions that the vagaries of love could throw at them. Unwanted attention by third parties, commitment anxieties, career upheavals and unacceptance by family members; they've gone through it all. And came out stronger and seemed even more in love with each other.

Then came the final challenge. Ted was to be transferred to a foreign country for a three year stint. They both knew that this would be in the cards eventually, and as such, were ready for it when the offer finally came. Soon, cross continental flights were arranged and taken, long holidays were spent in Europe and the US, and bittersweet sessions of telephone conversations were had in the long months in between.

Everything seemed fine or so I thought. After months of speculation and miscommunication, they decided to have a final heart to heart talk which resulted in a mutual break. Goodbyes were said, and tears of sadness (and relief) were shed on both sides. As I heard about it from Teddy, I could sense that even though he was putting a brave face about it, he was quite torn up inside as he kept blaming himself for not having done enough to save the relationship and regretful about the things he didn't say.

Here was a relationship that started out so improbable, both parties not looking, and yet, despite all the odds, came together and grew stronger each day. Then, just as things were looking up, the pressures of a long distance relationship began to gnaw at its very foundation. The protracted intervals in between didn't help things and finally, the introduction of a third party was the straw that broke the camel's back.

In the end, I know that they still do love each other, even when their relationship had been an unlikely one.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Lost In You

I recently downloaded Faith Hill's new single from iTunes. In the words of Simon Cowell, I absolutely loved it. Sorrylah, I am a sucker for lovesick tunes. Hope you guys like the lyrics.


Is it obvious to you
When you walk into a room
Your face is all I see
And my heart races so fast
I never knew a rush to feel like that
Every time you're touching me

I never did believe in anything
I couldn't hold between my fingers
But the way you make me feel
It's just so real the way it lingers

I get lost inside your stare
Lost when you're not there
When everything I have doesn't mean a thing
If it's without you
If it's a dream, don't wake me up
I'll scream if this isn't love
If bein' lost means never knowin'
How it feels without you
I wanna stay lost forever
I wanna stay lost forever with you

No, this feeling doesn't end
It's with me everywhere I am
Hope it never goes away
It's like defying gravity
Losin' all control and bein' free
And I always wanna stay

I never thought that I'd let go
Long enough to fall for someone deeply
Who had the power to erase my fears
And find me so completely

Don't tell me where we're goin'
I don't wanna know
I like the mystery
I can't believe we've come this far
So far away from where we started off
You found me when I wasn't lookin'
You found me

And now I'm lost inside your stare
Lost when you're not there
And everything I have doesn't mean a thing
If it's without you
Without you
If it's a dream
Don't wake me up
I'll scream if this isn't love
If bein' lost means never knowin'
How it feels without you
Yeah, if bein' lost means never knowin'
How it feels without you
Oh, if bein' lost means that I'm never
Gonna be without you
I wanna stay lost forever
I wanna stay lost forever with you

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Redang'07: Dive pics Part 3

This is the resort where we stayed, Pelangi Redang Resort. It's got an outdoor pub/karaoke bar/disco which provided lots of nighttime 'entertainment'. Volumes are very loud and there really is no escape from the pulse of the disco beats. Not so fun if you are trying to sleep or worse, nursing a headache after being in the sun for too long.....

If you buy a coconut (drink) from the fruit stall next to the resort, they charge you RM5 a piece. So some of the more nimble (and frugal) guests actually took to the trees to pluck their own coconuts. Me? I'll stick to my favourite mango smoothie, thank you.

This is our divemaster, Jan Shir. He was also the dive instructor for Erwin and Meng who took the opportunity to take up the Advanced Open Water certification.

I stumbled upon this flatworm almost by accident. It was lying about an inch from a rather large nudibranch (below) which was, of course the focus of my attention then. It was only after reviewing the pic on the LCD screen that I noticed it, and so made my way back to the site to take a close up of it in all its ladylike lacey glory.

This nudibranch caught my attention, not for its unique pattern (indeed, it's quite a common species in these parts) but for its size. It was about five inches in length, positively a giant in the world of sea slugs.

I reached my 100th dive here in Redang and while it's not exactly a very impressive number by any standard, it has afforded me multiple opportunities to catch this critter (the blue spotted sting ray) in action, so much so I am no longer as fascinated by it. That doesn't take away the fact that this is a really interesting (and dangerous) creature that most of us take for granted.

The following few pics were taken at a spot called, of all things, Sharon's Stone. It's a sandy bottom site where there aren't any corals nor were there many fish. In fact, i would call it the marine equivalent of a desert. And, not unlike a desert, it also has its share of inhabitants, that are quite literally out of this world. Like the above, my first sighting of a sea hare, named after its 'ear'-like frontal projections.

Asther and co. also did a couple of dives here but due to the strong currents, were unable to enjoy the dive, let alone spot anything of interest. Which is why I am dedicating this really unique once-in-a-lifetime sighting of an extremely rare nudibranch to her. Hehe.

I know what you're thinking. NO, this is not a bulls-eye that accidentally fell from somebody's breakfast buffet and dropped into the sea. It's actually a type of nudibranch whose evolution from the sea snail family cause it to retain remnants of a shell. Evidently the shell (the brownish 'eye') has become too small or insignificant to provide any real form of protection for the organism.

Millions of years ago, this sea snail and the nudibranchs shared the same ancestor much like the evolutionary connection between human beings and gorrillas. I think the nudibranchs were smart to ditch the shell.... seems kinda silly to be lugging your house everywhere you go.

Ok, this has got to be the absolute wierdest sea-creature I have ever seen. It's about a foot loong, has 3 - 4 pairs of 'legs' on each side, and a pair of air-sacs where its head is supposed to be which it flings forward and then contracts to pull the rest of the body forward.

I was not expecting to see sea horses here in Redang, so to actually find one was quite a welcome treat. This little fella looked a bit incapacitated though, as it wasn't very active and was content to just be blown about by the strong currents.

I came across this lone sea-pen while drift diving along the seabed. It was only after reviewing the shot on the LCD that I realised that there was actually a small lobster hiding behind the purple fronds (you can see its small claws sticking out).

This is side (and front) view of a really weird nudibranch. Still trying to figure out what species it is. Asther?

And this is the backview of the same critter. You will notice that it seems to have a very interesting red patch at the end , almost like a baboon's famous red butt.

Ah, I love this shot. Look at the little clown fish swimming so happily, smiling, without a care in the world.....

This is the leng-loi of the group, Sharon. An independent and sporty young woman, she is an avid diver who's game for just about any activity.... and the one responsible for dragging me kicking and screaming into the night dive!

Lest she kills me with her death stare, this is the other leng-loi of the group, je présente ma soeur , Wendy.... seen here with Nigel, both of them beaming like silly puppies coz they've just completed their Open Water Certification and are now certified scuba divers. Congratulations guys and welcome to the club!

And this was our group photo, taken just two minutes before we were supposed to board the boat back to the mainland. Bryan commented that I look fat in this pic.... Sigh.... Guess the diet hasn't worked.

Ah... another holiday has ended, another memory to be cherished. Au revoir Redang, till we meet again.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Redang'07: Dive pics Part 2

Catch Supergirl and Superboy in action as they glide through the ocean depths in search of the elusive Intelligence Crystals so that they can become smarter and not pose like silly dorks while scuba diving!

Meanwhile, the monkey and I were spending some quality time together. Ok... that didn't come out right..... Anyway, it was quite tame and very human-like in its behaviour and mannerism. Not surprisingly as humans and primates share more than 95% of the same DNA.

A lot of the guys in our diving company were quite excited and at the same time apprehensive about entering an underwater cave. It was a swim-through that presented quite a challenge to some of the newbies as they kept bumping their tanks on the roof of the cave.

It actually is quite exhilirating to see stalagtic formations in a dimly lit underwater setting where the only light is coming from the reflections of the bubbles that you exhale as you squint your eyes to follow the shadowy silhouettes of divers further in front of you.

Yet another nudibranch, this is time its a stringy millipede like fella called... (to be filled in by Asther, hehehe)

This spotty critter measured about three inches in length and is the largest flatworm I have ever seen.

There seemed to be more jellyfish in the water this time around. I wonder if it has anything to do with increased pollution, changes in sea temperature or perhaps even La Nina/El Nino?

I was dragged kicking and screaming into doing a night dive with the guys. I don't quite like it not because of the darkness and the possibility of swimming headlong into the gaping mouth of Jaws without even realising it till it's too late... no, I don't like it much because it's usually when the dinner bell's just been rung. There you are stuffing yourself into an uncomfortably cold wet suit when you could be stuffing yourself silly with barbacued chicken wings and slabs of crispy fried squid.....

This is a crab. It could have been on my dinner plate, doused in a delicious sweet sour broth, hot and spicy, just waiting for me to deftly suck out its sweet meat from within its hard shell.... But no, I have to be content with just sitting there holding my camera and shining a torch at tiny little crevices under 15m of seawater.

I find the cuttlefish such an amazing creature. It glides effortlessly a few inches above the seabed, without making so much as a flutter on the loose sandy , like nature's hovercraft. Also makes a nice supper snack too..... Can you tell I'm hungry?

Ok, the sight of this little scorpionfish just killed my apetite. But after having looked at it for a while, it does look kinda cute, doesn't it?

There was a colony of almost invisible little cleaner shrimps on this clump of hard coral. My S80 couldn't get close enough to catch a good macro shot so I had to make do with just zooming in as much as I could from about half a foot away. Hmm.... maybe it's time to change to the G7.... or better yet, a DSLR!....

I was having a bit of trouble positioning my strobe lights for much of the dive.... it just kept flooding an area either just beyond or in front of the focus point.

This is not a shell fish. The shell has actually been hijacked by a small hermit crab to be used as a shelter and camouflage from predators.

And have I saved the 'best' for last. This is a starburst pufferfish (Asther, correct ah?) that Erwin almost collided into while trying to work out his buoyancy. Big, and ugly. Kinda reminds me of my highschool chemistry teacher, especially with that gaping mouth and huge belly.

Redang'07: Dive pics Part 1

Last month I organised a diving trip to Redang for a few of my church buddies, as well as for my sis and her bf to go for their open water scuba diving course. I also met Asther there as well who had gone there with her fiance for a well earned holiday.

I love diving in Redang because of the beautiful and exotic corals, fish and other sea creatures that lends an otherworldly quality to the diving experience.

Even the simplest of creatures, like this jellyfish, if you just take the time to appreciate them, will reveal wonderful shapes and patterns that are a testament to Nature's creativity and beauty.

The idea of scuba diving quite suddenly struck my sister's fancy a week before the trip. So she persuaded (read: demanded) her bf to come along and take the course with her. Ah... such is the labour of love. ;)

I showed a friend of mine recently a picture of what I thought was a very beautiful specimen of nudibranch, and what was his comment? "Urgh!.... sea slug!" Sigh.....

Finally managed to get a semi-clear shot of this squiggly "urgh... sea slug!" ... actually it was a two-for-the-price-of-one shot.... they were clearly in the midst of the labours of ...ahem... love?

I think I remember seeing this fella from the last time I dived in Perhentian.... Flabellina rubrolineata .... stop following me!

Another type of jellyfish just happily floating along with the sea current.... while its stinging tentacles wreak havoc on those divers who were 'smart' enough to go diving in 'shorties'.

This juvenile lionfish was left all alone in its lair by its parents. We found it looking quite dazed and confused in a lone coral-filled old tyre on the sandy banks just in front of the resort.

This is... erm.. I think, a variety of sea fan..... I like its multihued fronds, the way it turns from a core of deep magenta into a heady yellow mess at the tips.

Lest you complain of the lack of nudi pics, here's one for the road. Erm.. Asther, I a bit malas lah.... what species is this ah?