Thursday, June 23, 2016

Zwitterion Watermark.

On the photos I take on my camera, I usually have the JonChan watermark on them. I would like to think that my JonChan photos are some sort of "semi-pro" level.

For the "less-pro" or candid type of shots, I have created a watermark to go with the photos I choose to publish on this blog. Since the blog's name is Life is a Zwitterion, I thought of making a zwitterionic molecule as my watermark.
The 3-D model of aspartic acid, also known as aspartame, from Wikipedia. Credit link in body text. The white represents hydrogen, red oxygen, blue nitrogen, and black carbon. Around pH 2.8, the right side of the molecule is negatively charged while the nitrogen part of the molecule is positively charged.
I found a really nice 3-D model of aspartame on Wikipedia and used Inkscape (for the first time) to draw a 2-D of this zwitterionic molecule. Check out the most childish watermark you have ever seen in your life:
You will see the debut of this watermark on some of my photos I shared in my previous blog entry about Gunung Raya.
I did ask my super talented best bud, Kenneth, to help me with this. I bet it will be nicer and I may choose to use his instead of mine. Haha. (Check out what he helped me made for a project.)


Kenneth showed me his version of his 2-D rendering of the aspartic acid and wow, way more sleek than mine.

This guy got skills. Thanks, Kenneth!
I like so much that I think I will be using this watermark for my "candid" shots from my cellphone.

Kenneth's Life Is A Zwitterion watermark on a photo of a relatively small Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko) chilling outside the boardroom at work. Ain't it a beautiful lizard? I wanted to place a coin or a pen for scale but I was afraid it will bite my finger. They have sharp teeth
If you think Kenneth should start a blog to show off his creative designs, leave positive comments in the comment section. Come on, Kenneth. Embrace your creative side!

Stairway to Granite Heaven.

Standing 881m above sea level, with visible radio towers sticking out on its peak from below, is Gunung ("mountain") Raya, the tallest mountain on Pulau Langkawi, I think the tallest also in the Langkawi archipelago. This is a granite mountain, and its intrusion in the late Triassic pushed Langkawi out of the water to become an island (I could be wrong about this, please correct me if I am wrong). Pulau Langkawi has a rich geological history and is a UNESCO Global Geopark, though not known to the majority, this designation actually covers the ENTIRE Langkawi archipelago, hence the reason why some people may now refer to this group of 99 islands (annoying ones will tell you it is 104 when the tide is low) as Langkawi Geopark.

Anyway, I used to live at the foothill of this mountain near a granite quarry (naturally) and have been to the top of Gunung Raya a handful of times as it is easily accessible by car since there is a really nice paved road (one lane for each direction) up to the peak where the radio towers sit with an old, but newly reopened tea house on top. The last time I drove up to the peak it was free, but a friend who visited Pulau Langkawi last week told me he had to pay a fee to drive up the mountain and he got a cup of tea at the tea house. So I am not sure if you can choose to not pay the fee or not.

It is a slight windy road and has little road hazards during the day, but night time please be extra careful. There are nocturnal creatures running and gliding about, like some species of civet "cats" which I ALMOST ran over a couple of times while travelling up and down the mountain at night. (I was not speeding, I promise!) Plus someone's herd of cows roaming along the road can be quite a fright while driving in the dark. During the day, you will be able to see different species of birds, which is a very big reason why birdwatchers and "twitchers" (the photographers of birds) love to visit Gunung Raya (duh!).

The view of Gunung Mat Cinchang (sometimes "Chincang", sometimes "Chinchang", sometimes "Cincang"), another peak on Pulau Langkawi where the cable car sits. I think this is Mat Cinchang, someone correct me if I am wrong, please.
Beware for wild pigs too!
That is Sungai (River) Kilim by Tanjung Rhu side in the background and me being a tourist in the foreground.
The view of Pantai Cenang or Kuah, I cannot make it out from Gunung Raya at night. Not much stargazing on Gunung Raya because of the orange streetlamps by the tea house and radio tower.
I personally like to go up Gunung Raya to enjoy the view and look at the hornbills. There are three species of hornbills on Pulau Langkawi, the Great hornbill (Buceros bicornis), the Oriental-pied hornbill (Anthracoceros albirotris), and the Wreathed hornbill (Rhyticeros undalatus), and you can find all three of them on Gunung Raya. I get to see the Great and Oriental-pied hornbills at my workplace, but not the Wreathed. And for a very long time, possibly only after 14 months of living on the island, I finally managed to catch a glimpse of a pair of Wreathed hornbills. When I took this photograph, it after I heard them "bark" in while driving down the mountain with my windows closed. Wish I had a larger lens.

A flying Great hornbill on Gunung Raya.
I had to stop in the middle of the road when I heard the call of the Wreathed hornbill to take this photo. This pair was wayyyyy up high so forgive me for the blur picture. The husband has a yellow gular pouch, while the wife has a blue one. Check out better photos in the Wikipedia entry.
A male Oriental-pied hornbill eating a fig from a strangler fig tree at workplace.
The resident Giant hornbill pair at my workplace on the same strangler fig tree as the Oriental-pied hornbill. The wife is in the top photo, while the husband is in the bottom photo. Beautiful pair!
Another more challenging way to get up the mountain is by walking. Yes, you read that right, WALKING. There is a staircase of 4,287 steps up to a viewing point, and then a few hundred more metres of walking on paved road to the peak from there. This staircase is called Tangga Helang Seribu Kenagan, in terrible direct translation would be "a thousand memories/experiences of eagle staircase" and the start of this staircase is located at Lubuk Semilang, "catfish hole" in another terrible Jonathan direct translation.

A part of the staircase to the top. Forgot which part. Haha.
The walk is amazing because the staircase is built to lead you to the top through the rainforest and the flora there is beautiful! Large dipterocarp trees and lianas. Some of the trees are labeled with common names, probably the good work done by legendary traditional Malay medicine practitioner, Dr. Ghani.

Not sure what tree is this in English. Sorry.
Possibly a type of meranti tree (Shorea sp.). Super tall and large!
Not much wildlife to see while walking along the staircase but I have seen some "flying" lizards (Draco sp.) resting well camouflaged on the tree trunks, some butterflies like the Malayan tree nymph (Idea hypermnestra) that looks like paper fluttering in the air, Great hornbills, and Jumping spiders (Salticidae). And if you are a fan of mushrooms, you will be able to see plenty of this fabulous fungi about. (Check out my Gunung Raya Staircase album here.)

Another well camouflaged animal, the flying lizard (Draco sp.). So many camouflaged animals! It is as if they do not want to be found! Oh... Right...
Camouflaged fungi.
This is a type of Lantern bug (Pyrops sp.). Very beautiful.
The first time I did this was with two friends. We walked up and down, then went for a nice dip in the creek/river at Lubuk Semilang at the end. It was quite scary because one of them almost fainted because of the lack of calories in the morning. (I asked them if they wanted to consume anything before but they declined. Noobs. Love them still.)

Sebastian and I. We completed the walk up and down in about three hours.
The creek at Lubuk Semilang. There are deeper spots to swim in, where we swam.
The second time I went up the staircase was for BDB's Triple Challenge Climb and Run event. I never joined a run before because I thought it is such a waste of money to pay to run on trails that you can normally do for free. But wow, my colleague who joined me on the run was right; once I start I am sure to do it again. I suppose it is because of the feeling of achievement at the end. But I digress...

The Climb and Run track started from Lubuk Semilang, then a run up the Eagle Staircase of Sweet Memories, before running down the mountain on the road, then a run on the main road back to Lubuk Semilang. I enjoyed this event. I thought it was well run (no pun intended). I had no problems going up the stairs (done in roughly 52 minutes) but the run down, gosh, painful. No problem on the run on the main road. I finished the event in two hours and 39 minutes, not bad for a newbie. (You can find the results of the event here.)

Me at the end waiting for my colleague. Selfie taken using my Nexus 6P.
Other than battling the pain from running downhill, I had to do some last moment maneuvers to evade funky looking caterpillars descending using their silk from the trees above the road! Not sure what lepidopteran this is yet, but my boss tells me it is a type of moth. I am still awaiting the answer from one of the authors of the photo guide book on Butterflies of Langkawi.

Here is the funky looking caterpillar. Some people are calling it "Trump" for its uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump's hairstyle!
Anyway, if you do visit Langkawi, check out this magnificent granite of a mountain to enjoy the rainforest and the view.

Friday, June 17, 2016

A Tiny Little Haiku.

Tiny (Sir Tiny Tinyton), and I. See you in a month!

Tiny Bean Curd Boy,
Tiny Little Bean Bean Boy,
Tine Tine Bean Bean Boy.

A haiku of affectionate names of Sir Tiny Tinyton.

A TIMID Public Service Announcement.

Man, I am awful at this blog updating thing. Anyway...

Angus was in love with Fay. Fay left and married another man. Devastated, Angus went to an island trying to forget everything. Angus met Beth. Fell in Love. And the rest is written in this book.

I was heading to the departure hall to catch my flight back to Langkawi after an awesome time in Penang and then at home. I walked pass a Lejen Press bookstore that sells books written by local authors. I remember reading a collection of shorts written by local authors compiled in a book called KL Noir (it is a series of books with four installments after checking out the Facebook page, I read the first installment, Red) and thought I could find something as good as KL Noir to pass time while waiting to board my flight. I made a short u-turn and entered the bookstore, hoping to support the creative minds of Malaysia. Being woken up by a silly dream of me being not ready for my SPM Bahasa Malaysia exam in the morning, I asked the storekeep to point out an English novel to me. Dutifully, he showed me the only two books written in English, by author A.B. Hashim.

A.B. Hashim was born in Alor Setar, Kedah on February 15, 1979… briefly attended Universiti Malaya before dropping out… publishing his short stories and poems online… from a small room in the town of Tronoh, Perak… moved to another small room he rented in Damansara… mixes up … about young women and booze… dishing out truths in ways unexpected… this writer is most sober when drunk… randombabblingsfromtronoh…

To women of my life, booze and sexy legs.

After reading the description of the book and the author’s short introduction of himself, then the super badass dedication, I started Timid with some expectations that it was going to be an entertaining indie novel. I read the first few pages and I was like YES! First person point of view, the story is going to be engaging!

Angus, a writer who loves to drink and have one night stands frequently, on an island trying to write a book so that he can earn enough money to live his simple, alcohol fueled life. But he meets this drunk lady, Beth, who is on the island to attend her cousin’s wedding. They had a good night, had fun together the next few days, fell in love, blah blah blah, made him forget about his ex-partner who he loved but broke his heart by leaving him to be with another man.

Angus never fails to remind me that he is in love with Beth, and foreshadowed a new life with Beth when he moves back to the city. After Beth left the island and before Angus moved back to the city, he sleeps with this Hilda lady. Then he moves back to the city and sleeps with cougar Rita and never called Beth until after sleeping with Rita. He calls Beth, lovey dovey, then sex (of course). While Beth is working, his former sex-for-hire friend, Sara, comes to visit and sleeps with him after little to no seduction. Angus wins the lottery twice, once while still on the island and once in the city. Anyway, he starts a new life with Beth. And then in the end, Angus "began to write this story". The end.

That's it?





I bet I know how Beth would have felt if she found out about Angus’ promiscuity. She would have been confused, betrayed, disappointed, upset, sad, and angry. I know this not because of experience, but because when I closed the book, I realised I have been cheated of my RM20.00 and my time (I could have read a Sir David Attenborough book my baby girl bought me instead). I am confused because the preamp to this book was so good, betrayed because I thought publishers would sieve out terrible stories, like Timid, before agreeing to publish them, disappointed because A.B. Hashim has stopped me from wanting to spend my own money on other Lejen Press books, upset because I actually finished this book and did not stop halfway, sad because I wasted RM20.00 on this, and angry because of the wasted resources in printing this turd.

This book had no conflict, no climax (though Angus did multiple times in Timid, so no pun intended?), no message, nothing. It reminded me of yesteryears when I had to construct sentences using words given to me by my teacher - they were just sentences. This book is just a collection of this sort of sentences. And I am not a grammar nazi but gosh, I became one while reading this piece of shallowness.

The sex scenes… even the sex scenes are terribly described! You would think that an author who dedicates a novel to women and sexy legs would be able to transcribe hot sex fantasies but nooooooooooo. A.B. Hashim failed at that horribly, like Angus failing horribly to keep his member in his pant (yes, a published novel had this small typo in it, pant) every single time a woman walks up and speaks to him.

To conclude my one and only book review, DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK. If you really think I am shitting you, I shall loan you Timid. Consider this blog entry as a PSA to NOT purchase or read this book.

Part of me wants to check out this guy’s blog to gauge who he really is, to understand how and why would he write something this bad, but I fear reliving the experience of Timid.

PS: If somehow I am missing something important like this book being written as a satire, let me know.

PPS: Turns out that the reading of Timid is not a total negative. I have decided to try creative writing and poems and to be courageous enough to share them on the interwebs. Because if something like Timid can be used to earn money, I am damn sure it is alright for me to delve into the realm of simple creative writing and poems. This is going to be fun.