Friday, 25 July 2008

See, No Straws!

We practised what we preach so we told the hawker "no straws for everyone".
He thought it was a little strange

I brought a small group of students to the tree-planting ceremony at the Esplanade in conjunction with Listing of George Town as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was over in 30 minutes so we walked to the hawker complex to have a drink. Man, the number of people taking orders (10) was more than the customers (9). It was quite irritating.

Here's a picture fo the USM Team at our own Penaga Laut.
Staff are me, Pauline, Mashhor, and Zolkifli
The students include Yin Wey, Chin, Elaine, Kah Hing, Asiah, and Nasri. Abe is behind the camera.
On my left is the Director Of Forestry Penang

Am killing a bit of time because the bridge and the road at Batu Uban is clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Friday, 18 July 2008

The Beautiful Walk

Finally, I managed to attend a Qiqong lesson conducted by a Master. And he is no other than Dr. Amir Farid who's article in a local Sunday Tabloid I have been reading for sometime.

The short clip you see is the anti-cancer walk and it really is a beautiful walk. There are variations of this walk to recharge your cells for various parts of the body. Qiqong is about recharging your cells to heal yourself.

We learnt from the simpliest sitting exercise to the more complex including stretching and twisting the spine to make it more supple. Ah, we even did the exercise to charge up your virility (sexual prowess, lah). Still haven't got the hang of it yet. Come back here if you really want to know if I managed to master the hip swing.

This is my first lesson and I probably forgot three quarters of what was taught this morning. Practice, practice, practice. That's how we will get it right. Thank you to the Alumni Office from bringing the expert. Coincidentally, my students wanted to work on their own so I could escape studio to attend this session.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Teo Chew Opera in my backyard

You can never know what will end up in your backyard. Right behind our house is a huge open space overgrown with long weeds and "forget-me-nots". A few days ago contractors started cutting the grass and we said, finally the developer is doing something after our complain. Then one day after work, to our surprise temporary sheds and a stage had been set up. And right now the Teo Chew Opera is in full swing despite the brief shower. At the same time the repetitive monotonous drums and cymbals for the other concurrent activity is going on. Yes, it is the season to celebrate the birthdays of dieties. And it is happening right in our backyard.

We are not too upset though. So far, not too loud and no Karoake singers screaming away. In fact, I have been having fun, shooting the opera actors. I am pure Teo Chew but I can't follow the story. The troupe is from China and look really professional. I particularly had fun watching the facial expressions during the show. Here's a selection.

Huh, you didn't expect this one, did you?
This was taken this morning right after the Penang Governor's Birthday Honours Award Ceremony.
That's our Squash Queen, Dato Nicol David, youngest Dato at 25 years of age.
Seen here with a fan, sitting down 'cause her feet hurt ... guess from what? High heels, of course.

That's me and my partner all dressed up, after the Award Ceremony.
Notice I am not the one with the medal.

It was a Black Tie event and all males are supposed to wear black, and I mean really black from top to bottom. I had to get the ready-made coat and had the matching pants made in 24 hours. But I noticed that one of the Penang EXCO members was not even wearing a dark suit, must less Black. I guess the guards had no guts to stop the VVIP - double standards just like Parliment with the short-skirt fiasco. Sorry don't have a photo to prove it but the organisers planted spies in the audience and tell people to not take photos. I don't understand this stupid rule - same thing with the USM Convo. This is my first time at such a ceremony but the veterans (they have been there 4 or 5 times) tells me that the Chief Minister spoke too much (too long lah) they got a little bored. This time around, the Penang Government I am told has slashed the number of awards drasticly. The various associations had submitted more than 200 names for Datukships and most of them were rejected. How do you get Datukships? The sceptics say that these awards can be "bought" but I know personally some of these are community leaders who have put in 10 or 20 years heading School Governors Board and spent a lot of time and money raising funds for schools, associations and communities. Congratulations to all the deserving recipients.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Say NO to Plastic Bags

Yes, I know, we can't live without plastic. Some of us will die without plastic. No, we are not trying to get rid of all plastics from the World. That would be impossible and probably quite stupid. What we want to do is to reduce waste and consumption.

Just had a meeting with all the canteen operators in the Main Campus to brief them on this follow-up to The White Coffin in our effort to green the campus. And this is what we told them :
  • Don't give out the thin plastic carry bag too freely. In fact, they should tell their clients that it is now policy not to give out the bags. But they still have discretion - I told them to use their judge when it is appropriate to provide their clients with a plastic bag. Meanwhile, we have talked to a manufacturer this morning and will be making cloth bags for sale and distribution on campus.
  • Plastic bags and plastic sheets for wrapping food and keeping drinks and curry will no longer be allowed. The earlier policy is being reinforced. Eat and drink at the canteen. If the customers want to takeaway, bring own food container or tumbler (or mug). For drinks, if customer don't have a tumbler, then we will allow the use of PP (Polyprolene) plastic cups which can be reused and recycled. Paper cup is the last option.
  • Straws are also discouraged. They should not be given out freely.
  • Mineral water or drinking water in plastic bottles can still be sold. But it will not be distributed at USM events and meetings.
We are also encouraging the canteen operators to take an active part in recycling, especially plastic wares (e.g. bottles).

If you want to know more, you can download the PDF files from the Health Campus website (look under Publication).

Meanwhile we have been engaging the campus community on their views on our effort to reduce plastics in USM. Up to this moment we have distributed a very simple questionnaire to 32 staff (during our green office briefing with the USM Library) and about 200 new students (as at 2 July 2008). You will see diverse opinions on the issues raised. We will continue to engage the campus community in meaningful dialogue leading to a change to a sustainable lifestyle. (click on the image for the larger version)

If you have an opinion, suggestion, comment, you are welcome to leave them on this blog.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Cycling towards sustainability

Did you know that cycling is even more efficient use of energy than walking? I heard that once at a seminar. Yeah, well yes, cycling is good for the environment and good for your health. And lots of people have been bugging me to do something to encourage cycling on the Main Campus. We bought two bicycles at Kampus Sejahtera and I tried cycling around. I can tell you from personal experience that cycling around on the hilly terrain in campus is very, very tough. I figured out that it would not be easy to encourage cycling for getting around for meetings or lectures - you will be sweating profusely by the time you get to your destination if the route is uphill.

So we adopted a different approach for the Main Campus. We will increase the presence and visibility of bicycles on campus. Get people to pick up cycling for leisure and exercise. We already had 20 bicycles donated by the then Deputy Minister of Health. So, I offered the Sports Units another 30 bicycles, courtesy of Kampus Sejahtera. They finally took the offer and today various Heads of Department and Hostel Wardens took to the streets with the Deputy Vice-chancellor (Student Affairs) leading the pack and the new students in tow (oh, they were walking and cheering, well shouting, all the way). The route was not very challenging, really more symbolic to get students' attention that there are now 50 bicycles they can borrow for free. Just go to Tasik Harapan in the evenings.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

2,700 New Undergraduates Pledge to Go Green at USM

This maybe what you see when you are in a hall with 2,700 fresh young faces in front of you.
How do you get personal to get them involved with your message?
How do you touch them to stimulate their imagination?

It was the first time in my entire academic career talking to almost 3,000 undergraduates in a huge hall.

Even when you speak to a small audience, you may find it hard to keep some of them awake.
Not this crowd. They are all energised to take on a brave new world.
All eager to see what USM has to offer.

Above and below : The student leaders in USM who made it all happen yesterday night.
It was all about going green. About sustainable lifestyles. About global warming.
About taking small steps for a sustainable future. Syabas!

I was asked to speak for 15 to 20 minutes to the new undergraduates in my capacity as coordinator of Kampus Sejahtera (or Healthy Campus). But I had about 100 slides with me! Well, some of the slides were just flashed on the screen - a sort of subtle effort to reach the audience's subconscious.

I spoke mainly on the effort at USM to go green including our now famous The White Coffin effort and our next push this coming semester to ban certain kinds of plastic bags and to discourage others. I expected some to just fall asleep because orientation is always very tiring. Well I was wrong. Maybe it was the promise of a surprise gift. But I would like to think that I was in my element last night. I think I moved the crowd. They were energised. Abe (USM senior) told me that he can feel their energy. A new female student told me after my talk that she love it. So I am pleased. If we can mobilise these 2,700 students to support our ban on plastic bags on campus, I am very sure we can succeed.

So what was the surprise gift? Tupperware (yes, the real one, not those "tipuware") offered USM a deal we could not refuse and USM ALO (Alumni Liaisons Office) sponsored a tupperware (GoFlex) food container for each of the new students. There will be no excuse for not having a reusable container for "TauPau" (takeaway). The new students were quite shocked and very pleased. I told a few of the students "See how precious you are to USM?"

And they also signed The Green Pledge (pledge for a sustainable world). I told them they don't have to sign it if they don't want to. That pledge is a very personal thing. I think they all bought the idea, especially after they got the surprise gift.

Congratulations all round to MPP (Student Council), the student affairs division (HEPP), ALO, VC's Office, student volunteers, Tupperware, Kampus Sejahtera and everyone who made it a night to remember.