Thursday, December 31, 2009

Once in a Blue Moon

Did anyone else catch it last night? "What?" you may ask. The Once-in-a-Blue-Moon phenomenon.

Apparently, the moon is not blue. It rather refers to the fact that two full moons rarely occur within the same calendar month, since a lunar cycle is ~29.5 days, and months average 30 days. With a full moon already having occurred 2 December, and one occurring last night (31 December), we will not see another Once-in-a-Blue-Moon for another 2 1/2 years (August 2012), and not another Once-in-a-Blue-Moon on New Year's Eve until 2028. Set your alarms now!

Apparently, according to my source, the expression comes from a 1528 book published in England, that had the following reference:

"If they say the moon is blue, We must believe that it is true."

Well, as you can see, the moon -shot out my back door- was blue for me.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

School Vacation. Visitation Time.

December is the major school break vacation and, thus, is one of the best times to visit people. In addition to June, December is when many weddings get scheduled, despite the rainy season being in full force. This particular December has been the rainiest that I can remember in my ten years of living on the east coast.

I was invited to the wedding of the sister of a former colleague of mine. It was fortunate in that that particular day was not raining, and the wedding was held outside under a canopy in the compound of my former colleague's house. I went with a Korean friend of mine, who after two years of living in Kuala Lumpur had never attended a Malay wedding kenduri before. In fact, this was his second kenduri, his first being in November when he visited me and I brought him to the wedding of a former student of mine. We had trouble finding the house because there were two other wedding kenduris occuring in the same neighborhood, and we started out attending one of the other ones first before realising, I didn't know anyone!

Since the bride's family was hosting this kenduri, the groom and his family came marching down the street at the appropriate time. Wedding couples always color coordinate their outfits, and the men usually have the ceremonial kris knife tucked into their wedding songkat.

I get on very well with my former colleague's children, and they call me Uncle as is the fashion of Asian children. The children were also color coordinated, with the three siblings in sea-green bajus while their cousins wore lime green. As the parents were busy being hosts, my Korean friend and I allowed the children to entertain us with their karaoke set. It is funny watching an 8-year-old singing songs above love found and lost!

Weddings are the not only excuses available for visitation, and I took the opportunity on December 25 to play Santa Claus and bring presents (story books) to the children of colleagues and former colleagues. Malays openly admit that theirs is not a reading culture so I, as a teacher, feel that giving story books is appropriate. The love of reading must be inculcated in children at an early age, and reading ability is the major factor in determining academic success.

Finally, this holiday season also found me visiting a Malay friend who had to spend several days in the hospital getting his feet cleaned. He is diabetic, and the rot has begun to eat away his feet. He feels fortunate, however, since the germs (kuman, as he calls it) have not yet infected his feet. In the bed next to him was an unfortunate soul who had to have his leg amputated below the knee, and then a few days later above the knee. I took photos for my friend to keep in case he wants to make an appeal to the welfare office, but felt that the photos would not be appropriate blog material. Lucky you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rained Out (East Coast Monsoon)

The August-December semester is over now, carry-marks given, final exams sat for, invigilation ended. I forgot to take photos of the invigilation exercise, but can do so again in May. Right now, I want to show what happens when a scheduled event gets rained out. Monsoon rained out, that is.

On Saturday, 5 December, our college's Student Affairs Department (Hal Ehwal Pelajar) had a scheduled event: the Annual Beach Run, with assorted activities for children. One may wonder why schedule a beach run for the middle of the monsoon season, since the Beach Run has been held in July or August in the past.

(Left: Breakfast buddies waiting out the rain; activity tents in background)

Well, you must realise that the school year is nearly over, and the HEP had little to show for activities for this year. Thus, they felt that they had to schedule something before 31 December whether it made sense or not. And, of course, lecturers were required to attend (diwajibkan). It didn't matter that 95% of the lecturers did not show up; as the resident white guy, I would have been noticed by my absence. So, on went the jeans (rolled up), rain jacket, flip flops and umbrella, and on through the swampy puddles slogged I to the park to find a group of male lecturers -my breakfast buddies- waiting out the rain in the nearby food stalls.

(Photo right: We were the only customers.)

As you can see over the top of the lecturers' heads, a group of tents covering part of the parking lot. This is where the activities for the school children were to be held. And beyond the tents, you may be able to see white ocean waves crashing up under the Casuarina trees. Yeah, that's the beach. Beach Swim would have been a better title this year.

After several cups of Milo, and checking with the female colleagues who had brought their children to the tents, things kind of drifted to a pre-mature close, and I slogged my way home. As a former hydrologist, and current civil engineering lecturer (including hydrology), it is rare for one to see what is called overland runoff (air larian permukaan). I got some photos of this phenomenon, with water running off the land and sidewalk, where it had been pooling, into one of the park's ponds. As can be seen in the photo, all drains were running to capacity.

Upon reaching home (I live within 5 minutes of the park), I took a measure of the rainfall intensity, which had let up quite a bit by that time. I measured ~16 mm/hour (0.6"/hour), which is not that impressive of an intensity until one realises that this is an intensity that can go on for hours, even days, at a time.