Sunday, May 31, 2009

Anthurium Hybrids at Satok

These flamingo flowers ( Anthurium ) attracted my attention when visiting the Satok weekly flower market yesterday.  These beauties  grow naturally in our tropical climate and are best kept in shady locations and planted en masse or in groups to achieve the desired landscaping effect.   About twenty years ago, the only colours available were red and white.  But now there are various hybrids exhibiting colours of pink and orange. Today I saw one that has the spathe variegated in red and green which I consider uncommon (see inset).   
The good thing about anthurium is that they bloom continuously throughout the year.  Its colourful spathes are glossy , thick  and appeared as if they have just been varnished. One plant normally bears about 1-2 flowers at the time of flowering.    I find them useful as cut flowers.  Its heart-shaped spathe make it an ideal gift during special occasions like Valentine Day or weddings.  You need to water these plants daily because they require high humidity to flourish and be their best. I normally propagate them by removing the rhizomes from parent plants which is a very simple operation to undertake.  What happens when a person has a flaming red heart mixed with a greener heart? I wonder.  Or was it just a problem with men selectively breeding red hearts into pink, orange and green?  Or is variety a sign of a stronger heart? Guess will never know for sure.

Sunday fishes and rabbits

The ever popular Satok Sunday market is in my hit list today. Today's target are the tiny aquarium fishes and the beautiful 'koi' fishes.  You can buy tiny aquarium fishes of all colours and shapes at RM1.50 a piece. Some are sold in clear plastic bags or in small plastic containers.  I've never been a decorative fish enthusiast but decorative fishes amazes me by their gorgeously beautiful colours and shapes. 

On every Sunday at Satok, you'll get to see people bringing live puppies, kittens and birds for sale.  Like today I took a second, third and fourth look at rabbits that were left outside the cage apparently oblivious of passers by.  Rabbits are gentle creatures and even as I stroke them lightly they weren't complaining.  It makes me wonder whether people use them as theraphy? It's amazing they didn't jump away when left in the open.

Finally I ended up buying half a kilo of dried anchovies . My two cats love them especially when fried.  Anchovies are easy to store or keep stock of because in dried form they are very well preserved and can be cooked in various ways in short notice.   Once a 'poor man' fish they are today very expensive.  The highest quality sold now is at RM 34 per kilo.  In comparison fresh and big river prawns can fetch only between RM 20 - 30 per kilo, while many deep sea fishes of above average quality will cost around RM 26-30 a kilo.  I have a special liking for these minute dried fishes and could remember very well how my mother used to fry and pound them to be eaten with a bowl of porridge every morning or when we fall ill.   That was about 40 years ago when there were about a dozen mouths to feed in our family.  I still love to eat anchovies  while taking snacks like groundnuts.  Anyway I always believe that anythig 'fishy' is always good for the heart.   

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Satok ' Greens Market '

Late afternoon today, I went down town Kuching city.  I felt released from my self-imposed six days 'quarantine'.  Well, don't get me wrong.  It isn't the influenza.  It's just that after the exams last Sunday I had to finish 3 case studies and one major analytical paper for my Strategic Marketing course work. Dateline: Tomorrow!  After submitting the assignments this afternoon a day before due date , I felt like unwinding and decided to while away the time at the Satok 'greens market'. Feasted my eyes on the yellow and big 'Honey Dew' melons, fresh green pepper corns, leafy jungle vegetables for salads, light green cucumbers, red hot chillies, sourish young and unripe mango fruits ( for salads,too) and various species of jungle shoots.  Well, I think I'll do more weekend shopping tomorrow when the Satok market will be bustling with Sunday shoppers.
( Note: The middle picture above shows a plate of freshly harvested tiny green  Sarawak pepper corns which can be taken raw or in many instances are factory processed and  exported the whole world over as flavouring for steak, scrambled or half-boiled eggs, or any food for that matter that needs a bit of the hot and aromatic Sarawak umphh!). Happy weekend everyone.

Monday, May 25, 2009

May Flowering Trees ( Part II )

Yesterday I took an afternoon off to visit the Sarawak State Library ( Pustaka Sarawak ) and lucky I did. I rushed to return the books I borrowed earlier albeit with a fine of 5o cents for not having returned them yesterday.Hmmm...But better things to see outside the library.
I came across two flowering trees just around the library building. At the inset is a cu view of the inflorescence of the Rain Tree ( Enterolobium saman).
A ideal tree for car parks and big open spaces. There are home to a lot of wildlife and a wonderful host to ferns and orchids. Observe how the leaves curl by late afternoon. Over here the tree is sometimes referred to as 'Pukul Lima' ( Five O'clock Tree) to depict its particular habit of folding in its leaves as evening comes and will stay asleep in that mode throughout the night till the next early morning sun when its leaves slowly opens up to a new day. The inflorescence are in clusters, forming a gossamer web of delicate pink feathery flowers. The rain tree can reach a height of 20 m and its wide canopy can have a diameter of 20 m too. ( Please click at the inset to enlarge the photo)

Long Shot view of the Rain Tree ( Enterolobium saman ) outside the Sarawak State Library.

A few yards away from the library I saw a line of Tembusu ( Fagraea fragrans) trees in full flower. What differentiates the flowers of the Tembusu to the Rain Tree are in the strong fragrance that they exude to the atmosphere all around. Walking past the trees is like walking through a long corridor of perfumes. The inflorescence's are in clusters of sweetly scented long-tubed flowers that will appear white initially and will fade to cream as they age . I find these trees very prevalent in Kuching but not in other towns of Sarawak though there are native to this region. They are splendid ornamentals and wonderful trees to grow in big parks and open spaces as they can reach a height of 30 m.
LS View of flowering Tembusu Trees around Sarawak State Library park compounds, Kuching.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Forever Learning

This weekend was a celebration of sorts. Two days in a row I sat for the final exam on 'Strategic Marketing' and 'Organisational Leadership' subjects as a first step in my next learning adventure. I'm glad I said 'next', not final. To forever learn is to make oneself forever young. That's a principle I believe in.
Thus I finally made it this far. The Doctor of Business Administration programme (DBA) I'm taking right now will last for about 4 years and I'm just past the first semester. For those keen to know about the module and the open university, can have a glance here. I feel much relaxed now that the exams are over. Soon, I'll be driving back to Bintulu and could have some rest there before the next semester start sometime early July. I've been away from Bintulu for almost a month and miss it for its fresh fishes, jungle, farm and gardens.
I have not 're-drafted' myself into academia since 2005 when I completed my MBA with the Curtin University of Technology (Australia), Sarawak Campus in Miri. That too I did part-time over a two years period. Thus from 2006-2008 I was kept busy developing my eco-farm in Bintulu. I have decided to take up the DBA course this year because the farm 'has borne fruits' ( oil palm), literally and materially and thus could assist in financing my studies.
While the oil palm trees are my pension, my penchant for life long learning is a passion that I'll live forever.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Growing Heliconia Collection

After about a year plus of actively adding to my collection of heliconias at my Bintulu and Kuching gardens, I realise that for the purpose my 2nd Solo Art Exhibition there would be enough quantities for use as displays or floral arrangement during the occasion. Of course one of the highlights of the show would be a live demonstration by me on the different styles of daily cut flowers based on heliconias among other plants.
Heliconias have a unique tropical aura and exotic look to them since they are native to the deep rainforests of Amazon and Borneo. Commonly called 'Bird of Paradise ' or 'Parrot Flower', they are indeed long lasting as cut flowers mostly about 2-3 weeks with cut tips in water. The duration speaks volumes of its economics. I grow them for their very colourful bracts ( false flowers). My latest collection is the Rainbow Heliconia (Heliconia wagneriana ) as seen below. Other ideas I have for the show are; sketches, paintings, batik and abstract, photography, binders, post cards all based on the subject of heliconias.

Rainbow Heliconia ( Heliconia wagneriana )

Heliconia latispatha

Parrot Flower (Heliconia psittacorum)

Lobster Claw ( Heliconia spp)

Heliconia psittacorum spp.

Parrot Flower ( Heliconia psittacorum)

Parrot Flower ( Heliconia psittacorum spp)

Fire Crackers ( Heliconia rostrata)

Lobster Claw ( Heliconis stricta )

Heliconia 'Sassy Pink'

Monday, May 18, 2009

Progress Towards 2nd Solo

The show is scheduled 14.10.09 which is about 21 weeks from now. The adrenalin rush creeps in slowly. This last week I was busy with checking out possible venue for my 2nd Art Solo. A few organisations have expressed willingness to allow their buildings/rooms as venue. Seems that venue is not that critical now.

The progress so far:

# Checking world art sites, artist blogger sites, photographer's sites - 70%

#List of songs to be recorded/rehearsed - 10%

#Framing of paintings - 10%

#Conceptual layout of exhibition space - 20%

# Marketing Plan for Exhibition - 20%

# Updating of my relevant blogs for the show - cats (current), floral arrangement (catching up), photography-Bintulu and Kuching (current), landscaping ( catching up), history (behind schedule), poetry (current), eco-farming ( behind schedule)

( Note: Next Review Date : 1 June - 1 July - 1 August - 1 September - 1 October )

Over the many trips to Kuching, I have managed to transport about 14 big paintings from Bintulu, with more to be transported in near future. The above are some of the collections already in Kuching and framed.

Above is CU of my painting in mixed media entitled 'Door of Life' which is inspired from a short poem I wrote in 1974 called - 'Doors of Life '.
Doors of Life

The doors of life are always open

But it is to open our mind and heart

To be self-concious of Life and Existence

That remains a task.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

If a bird must be, she must be

Today I decided to have plenty of rest. I've been very busy the whole week that made me feel stressed but all for a good reason of which I'll speak about in later postings. Since we came to Kuching last week the front garden has given us much delight unceasingly greeting us with its colourful blooms . It has now become a popular spot for birds to perch and sing. Today Inul, our cat caught a chick from the garden and brought it in the house to show me. Before letting it free I took a close up view of it and reminded of a poem I wrote a long time ago. If a bird must be, she must be.

Windswept Lawn
Like a bird one day
I was out in the open air
rested on a tall casuarina branch
and looked onto the ground
It was a small garden
recently mown
the grasses were dense
dry and brown
The place was quiet
a little breeze blew
moved the silent leaves
and branches too
The house looked firm
friendly and warm
so I flew
to a lazy rattan chair
sat relaxed and heartily thought;
Here's indeed a place to rest
to seek a peaceful mind
a mind that will
remember and recall
this windswept lawn
the trees and house
I wish to be my own.

Monday, May 11, 2009

May Flowering Trees ( Part I )

I have been chasing after colours of the rainbow recently. I guess today would be a good time to show the results. About two days ago while shopping at Mile 7, I was lucky to come close to a drooping branch ( see inset) of the Golden Shower tree in the town's small park which was surrounded by rows of car parking lots. The Golden Shower tree ( Cassia fistula) is sometimes called the Indian Laburnum. It is deciduous to semi-evergreen in habit. During flowering the bright yellow flowers will drop or get blown by the wind forming a thin spread of golden droplets on the tree below which is most pleasant to see. If you walk past the tree you'll certainly be alerted by the drooping clusters of fragrant yellow flowers. A beauty to behold.

Golden Shower trees at Mile 7, Kuching.

Medium Shot of the Goa Tree in early flowering stage with beautiful lavender to light purple colours.

A full grown Goa Tree ( Andira surinamensis ) along a dual carriageway at Petrajaya, Kuching.
Goa Trees grow to a maximum height of about 20 m and are excellent roadside trees for the shade they offer. The flowers change colours to a darker purple when past their full blooming stage.
As a matter of fact, this morning news over the TV mentioned that the hot season in West Malaysia was reportedly hitting 36.5 degrees centigrade. For the life of me this is indeed very extreme. The temperature in Kuching ( East Malaysia) today is just around 33.5-34 degrees at its hottest. Indeed this steamy and dry month of May has induced flowering to many of the roadside trees here. This phenomena hopefully keep me busy for a few more weeks chasing after more colourful bursts of flowering trees throughout Sarawak's towns and countrysides.
The above picture was taken last week in Bintulu, showing the wide crown of the Yellow Flame tree ( Peltophorum pterocarpum) in flames of yellow.

I will not miss to plant this tree for our parks or bigger gardens here. The clusters of yellow flowers have crinkled petals. Like the Goa Trees they can stand tall to about 20 m high and provide much shade and beauty too. After each flowering season the Yellow Flame tree produces a multitude of rust-red and flat seed pods.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Apple Blossom Tree

We arrived safely in Kuching this late afternoon ( 6.30 p.m.) after a 10 hours journey by road from Bintulu. The weather was hot and sunny throughout except for a brief shower lasting for about 10 minutes before we reached the town of Sri Aman. With this trip Inul & Daisy ( see inset) would have chalked up another 600 km in their cumulative record to be the most travelled cats in Malaysia.
Along the Roban stretch of the Pan-Borneo Highway, I purposely made a pit stop at a primary school compound that has this beautiful Apple Blossom Tree or Javanese Cassia ( Cassia javanica) in early stages of flowering. Time flies. The last time that I wrote about this tree was here.,18th June,2008. With this observation, I can safely say that this tree flowers once in a year because I've been watching this tree ever since I had a picture of it taken approximately a year ago. Today I was keenly interested to have close-ups of the blossoms which I didn't managed to capture before.
Despite being native to South East Asia ( especially Malaysia and Indonesia) this tree is seldom planted in urban parks , roads or open spaces. I wish that more of these trees could be planted in future for its extremely lovely pink to red flowers that are heavily clustered. Propagation is through seeds that are borne in long pods after the flowering season. Note the ferny pinnate leaves and the prominent yellow stamens.

Another breathtaking view of the blossoms.

Daisy is alerted. She's got another 30 minutes to reach home. In the background slightly above her head are two 'durian' fruits in cement-ferro sculpture as icons for the town of Serian. Durian is known in Malaysia as the' King of Fruits'.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Things Bintulu # Tamu

Sunday is a great day to do shopping at Bintulu's 'tamu'. At the 'tamu' ( local jungle produce market) one can get very exotic about things. Try eating 'sago worms', tiny fresh water turtles, frogs, rare jungle herbs and ferns, shoots of rattan climbers, bananas of all sizes and varieties, mangrove crabs, wild pigeons, ripe and unripe wild fruits...the list is endless depending on the seasons, geographical location and accessibility to the rural countryside.
Thus on every Sunday the sellers' repertoire is forever wondrously changing. This Sunday was no exception.

You need to skin off the frogs before consuming them in styles of your liking. Grilled, curry or deep fry.

The thick skin of rattan shoots are peeled off exposing a soft core that are best served roasted or sliced into smaller pieces as cooked vegetables in curry, boiled or salad. Most popular rattan species harvested for its shoots are what the local Ibans here call 'Upa Lalis' ( Plectocomiopsis geminiflora)

These huge bananas ( Musa sapientum L.,)called 'Pisang Tanduk' literally meaning ' Banana Horn' in Malay, are not eaten raw but are normally sliced and done as banana fritters
(Note:In front of the jungle produce seller are yams.)
Banana fritters from 'pisang tanduk' are my favourites for afternoon tea.

Friday, May 1, 2009


Today I thought of just putting in words what I have been thinking (quietly) for the last two weeks. Its about creativity.
Why is creativity important for an organisation or any person for that matter?
The market place is fiercely competitive, you need to think of new products or services, new production methods and new procedures to ride the competition and stay ahead of the pack. It is in the interest of everyone to be creative. New ideas generation is possible at all levels of an organisation.
At the top level, existing competing ideas that are being re-modelled or re-packaged requires imagination. It's hardly that you need to re-invent the wheel every time you are faced with problems and finding solutions to them. That should clear off your mind from the insurmountable demands of being creative.
In many instances the manager or entrepreneur will need to juggle many types of thinking and leadership styles to suit different needs and situations at work. Though they appear eclectic or pragmatic in nature, it is creative at the same time because it is divergent thinking in action- where you look at different scenarios and many possible solutions.
Most of us are scared stiff to be an 'original 'thinker, to think outside the box ( who will pay for our 'craziness'?) because we are not adept at combining analytical thinking with creative thinking. Really its just a state of mind and more a question of the lack of creative thinking skills.
The science and art of creative thinking.
Very often we leave creative thinking to artists. As artists they excel in their ability to express our emotional, aesthetic , collective or our world view needs. It is for this main reason that we need art and artists. But should this mode of thinking be confined to artists? Like artists, scientists are also engrossed in their ideas till the moment of eureka. In hindsight, there is much logic required before the seemingly eureka fit. De Bono proposed that through lateral thinking we can indeed learn to recognise patterns of thought. Every valuable creative idea must always be logical to start with. Scientific papers are good examples of this. There are written in wonderfully logical fashion, but the progress of real science that precedes the papers depend on hunches, ruminations, accidents, imagination and luck. It just shows that scientists may need the heart of an artist to come out with new discoveries. Remember the falling apple.
Learning organisation
For many managers these days, the first rule is to break the rules. This is akin to Schumpeter's ' gale of creative destruction' philosophy. The goal is to imagine what you can make happen. We need to create the future. How do you embed this type of thinking into an organisation?
Organisations need to be a 'learning organisation' to survive the future. The competencies and skills involved are the ones we are already familiar with - empowerment, team leadership, continuous improvement, but should also include spiritual growth i.e. opening oneself to a progressively deeper reality and living life from a creative rather than a reactive view point.
This thinking discipline requires one to see current reality more clearly and ensuring the gap between vision and reality produces the creative tension from which learning arises.
The kind of leadership style suitable for this is transformational because it requires big changes in the mind to stay ahead in your business or industry. When called upon we should be able as individuals to excercise the free will to juxtapose the many intelligences we possess ( EQ- emotional and ecological ,IQ, SQ- social and spiritual) to solve whatever pressings needs we are faced with. This is our God given gift.
Globalisation - clash or collaborate
The only constant in life is change. I put it that conscious change can only be accelerated through creative thinking. For instance, in seeing today's globalisation it may be a good idea ( a creative one?) to see globalisation not as a clash of cultures but a collaboration of cultures. With this new paradigm we would then be able to see the world that's fast emerging from the meeting of new values, technologies, new lifestyles, new modes of communication in better ways by turning to wholly new ideas, analogies, classifications and concepts.
The future is uncertain of course and we cannot predict it perfectly. But learn to look at it from a creative angle and you'll be surprised at its novelty. Isn't it the best time for us now to come to terms with this deepest of social upheaval and a creative re-structuring of all time? Creative thinking will help us shift our existing paradigm by propelling it to creative leaps towards a more prosperous, peaceful and progressive future. It's never too late to be creative.
( Note: This abstract painting ( paint on board, 4'x8') done in 1995 will be showcased in my 2nd solo exhibition, scheduled 14.10.09 at Kuching)

Yellow Flame

While driving around Bintulu town this morning I saw lines of Yellow Flame trees ( Peltophorum pterocarpum) that were emblazoned with striking yellow inflorescence's . A considerable number of major roads in Bintulu were planted with Yellow Flame since 20 years ago. Next to the newly renovated Chinese temple in town I saw one very established stand that provided much shade and beauty to the surrounding area. Yellow Flame is also referred to as 'Batai Laut' in Malay and is a native tree to coastal areas of Malaysia, Bintulu included. It has a fast growing habit and mature tress can be planted as instant trees if you wish to enjoy its beauty sooner. Bintulu's sandy, well-drained clayey soils and sunny temperatures are ideal for its growth. Its golden yellow flowers are borne on terminal branches.
The leaves are dark green and its light grey bark is used to dye 'batik' clothes producing a dark brown colour by 'batik' makers in Indonesia especially on the island of Java.
Judging from today's excellent showing I wish more roadsides will be planted with Yellow Flame in future.