Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Dark Angel of MAHA - 27 Nov 2012

The Malaysia Agriculture, Horticulture & Agrotourism (MAHA) Expo in MAEPS Serdang, Selangor is a big scale event held once in every 2 years in Malaysia. It's something we look forward to go as a family outing. It has a comprehensive overview of our nation's resources, how we manage them and what we are capable of doing. 

The theme this year - Agricultural Transformation Through Innovation may seem a mouthful, but in essence you can see what the nation is capable of doing - "a hybrid goat with wings" - is this innovation or a crossbreeding monster?

Price tag @ RM9,999!!

This is something I'd like to see more in shows like MAHA or similar ones - recognising the value of our resources, maximising the use of our resources and creating value from waste. Some of those stuff we consider as waste like wood chips, leaves, stems, straws, hays can turn into beautiful and premium products.  We saw fibre from pineapple and banana turned into fabric, papers, art deco; paddy straw into papers, leaves into natural dyes and many more. Maybe the next show we could see a transformation, from  a simple machine to crush the fibre (picture) into something more innovative.

Consider getting one of these to open durians - pretty simple and fast, and we got to eat them too! If you feel heaty after the durian, we've even a machine to open up the coconut for some cooling coconut juice! Technology could make our lives easier!

We saw young, healthy and strong livestock that look pretty normal at first. But these were crossbred species through artificial insemination. Are these where our meals really come from?

A new crossbred specie from the grouper family.

Great atmosphere at the Livestock Auction.

Highest bidder wins! Going cheap - RM3,500 for 10 goat kids!

First time watching an auction for the boys, also for me!

Interesting exhibit @ the Fisheries of a 40-feet Bryde whale skeleton, which was found dead on a beach in Kedah last year. Also on display was a 8.5 feet pygmy sperm whale skeleton.

Saw this live spiny-tailed lizard all the way from the Egypt desert in the Agrobazaar. Tis is a natural specie, not hybrid. Claimed to heal many ailments, thus they're hunted for food, medicine and even as pets. My boys were so thrilled to see it - alive...

At last, saw something encouraging that we're allocating some money to do research and study on the turtles.

There're just too many things to cover in MAHA, took us 2 visits to cover Hall A, Agrobazaar, Fisheries, Livestock and Machinery, less than half of the expo.

The MAHA staff in cowboy outfit to give a carnival-like atmosphere. Sheriff Brandon was here!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Stop Motion Homemade 'Race!' - 20 Nov 2012

"Race!" - the boys' first experiment in stop motion after their visit to Rhythm & Hues. They did it on Windows Movie Maker and found their way to incorporate the sound too. This software was not so smooth and the computer hung many times. They took more than 150 pictures for this video. Enjoy...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Book Reviews

Reviewed by Xian Jin

The title of this book is Frindle. There are 105 pages in this book. 

This story is about a boy called Nick Allen. He was full of brilliant ideas but most of them got him into trouble. However, that did not stop Nick from thinking of more ideas.

When Nick was in fifth grade, everything was different. He had to face Mrs Granger, his English Language teacher. He learned all about words and wanted to invent one himself. One day he bumped into his friend and dropped a pen. This gave Nick a new idea. He decided that he would not use the word pen. It would be “frindle”. The word soon passed on and the whole school began to use the word. Students were punished for using the word “frindle”. Mrs Granger became enemies with Nick.

Soon the world used the word frindle. Nick became popular. The  newspaper reporters and journalists came to interview him. As Nick grew older, he became a rich man. Frindle soon became a normal word. One day, a man came and gave Nick a parcel. Nick opened it and found the parcel was from his old teacher… I recommend this book to all who love to read.

Reviewed by Xian Wei

The title of this book is Tornado. There are 49 pages in this book.

This story is about a dog called Tornado. It was given the name Tornado because it was found in the doghouse after a tornado. It was a very special dog because it could play card tricks and save a turtle’s life. One day, it was brought to a hardware store where Pete worked. On his way back, a girl saw Tornado and thought it was her dog so she took it back. A few days had past, Pete was in the barn and he saw something. It was Tornado! It stayed with him for seven happy years. This is a very touching book.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The Perfect Zoo Enclosure - 9 Nov 2012

Posting by Xian Jin

We joined a homeschooling group to the Zoo Negara for the Malaysian endangered animal programme. The endangered animals included the orang utans, tapirs, Malayan tigers, elephants and hornbills. This programme explained the unique physical characteristics of animals. The zookeeper also told us of the animals' diet, behaviour, the habitats they live in, the population of the animals in the wild and the conservation efforts to save our endangered friends.

The Malayan tapirs are black and white in colour. A tapir has a large stocky body and a flexible proboscis (nose). A young tapir looks like a watermelon for camouflage, after six months they will be like their parents. Did you know that tapirs sleep in the day and are active at night? 

The hornbill has a casque above its beak. The male hornbill hunts food for the whole family. Therefore if a poacher kills a male hornbill, it is like killing the whole family as the female hornbill does not go out to hunt for food. An interesting fact is that the female hornbill actually sheds its feathers to warm the chicks. 

 There are no more elephant shows now because the zoo wants to educate us about animals and conservation rather than using animals like in a circus to entertain us.

We fed an elephant with sugar canes. The elephant swayed its legs side by side to attract our attention to feed him. He ate it in one gulp.

The zookeeper told us that the population of certain animals were decreasing because many human activities are destroying their habitats. Many organizations are helping conserve these animals before it is too late.

The snare trap is a popular trap for tigers. The animal's leg gets stuck in the trap but the animal does not have hands like us to release itself. The more it struggles, the more the trap will hurt the animal. The animal will either die of dehydration, hunger or pain. This is a cruel way to hunt for animals. One of us tried out the trap and it was painful. This was just a replica of the real trap because it's against the law to use it.

We visited the well known orang utan. We compared the sizes of the young and adult orang utans' handprints. There was a huge difference. The size of our palms was just the size of a young orang utan. We tried out a coat which was a replica of the size of an adult orang utan. You could see that the length of our hands was not even half the length of the orang utan's hands. 

Like tigers, the orang utans are solitary animals, which means that they hunt and live alone. They can live up to 50 years. Did you know that the childhood of an orang utan is very long and the mother takes care of the young for 8 years? 

Along the trail, we saw bats. They looked weird hanging upside down. Bats are the only mammals which can fly. We saw the binturong, also known as the bearcat. It could balance itself on a long thin pole without any difficulty. There were also many other animals such as sea lions, birds, penguins.......

A beautiful pose by Mr and Mrs Pelican

There were hundreds of storks, pelicans, egrets, herons and many other birds around the lake in the zoo. These birds could fly freely in and out of the zoo. They would always come back during feeding time. Some of them even build nests there.

At 12.30 pm, it was feeding time. The zookeeper pushed out a wheelbarrow of small fish. We had a fun time feeding them. As we fed them, the zookeeper from the other side of the lake would blow the whistle and the storks would fly to the other side. The storks went to and fro the lake following the sound of the whistle. It was a fascinating sight.

On our way back, we passed by a deer enclosure. We saw that the food given to the deer was the same as the leaves outside so we took the leaves and fed them. I guess that the deer were bored so they ate them. We were tired but enjoyed every single moment of our visit.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

House of traditional craft - 8 Nov 2012

A free 'n easy walkabout at the KL Craft Complex, Jalan Conlay to visit the 'Craft - Inspired by Nature' exhibition. There were many activities lined up for the occasion including craft and traditional cuisine demonstrations, cultural performances, traditional weapon art carvings, sales of all sorts of craft products, art exhibition, craft fashion, craft garden decor and others.

Artisans demonstrating the wooden blowpipe with darts from Pahang (top) and traditional pottery from Sabah (bottom) - I was attracted to the small, simple kinds of earthenware pottery which could be made with very little tools.

Kids were quite intrigued by various traditional animal traps especially the quail trap from Kelantan (bottom). They were very exquisite. Also many types of carvings from wood, stone and bamboo and Sape, a traditional string musical instrument from the Kayan indigenous tribe in Sarawak.

Fun with coconut shell - I think we've to work much harder if we want to sell tis.....

Saw many types of weaving like the colourful traditional food cover (top). We met a very engrossed artisan, whose main expertise was carving 'owls', there were many interesting carvings and sculpture in his workshop - all owls - using very basic tools.

My helper couldn't help but join in the traditional food demos - rice packed in a cone-shaped banana leaf with fillings, a delicacy from Kelantan. We loved the pandan fried chicken and steamed rice flour cake (bottom) too.

This exhibition offered a big service to the children by letting them touch the materials and try their hands at making some of the crafts themselves. Indeed we could learn a lot from doing crafts that not so long ago were a way of life. As we observed the skilled artisans, their fine manipulation skills, attention span and dedication to their tasks were simply brilliant.

Claymation in Rhythm & Hues - 5 Nov 2012

We're privileged to visit Rhythm & Hues Malaysia, the multiple academy award-winning film production studio specialising in visual effects and computer animation for feature films and tv commercials. Maybe not many of us are familiar with the company name, but mention Narnia, Alvin & the Chipmunks, Golden Compass, X-Men, Yogi Bear, Mr Popper's Penguins etc etc and the coming movie, Life of Pi then it'll ring a bell. This company has been singled out as a leader by virtually all the major competitions that recognise excellence in computer graphics.

Chic office to inspire - with a soothing, spa-like setting and a tatami-style centre courtyard

Couldn't work on an empty stomach? Thanks to the generosity of the company, we've a great light refreshment and fellowship in the cosy kitchen. And more Q&A with a passionate Pn Sarini from the company.

All ears to an introduction of what the company is doing, what CGI (computer generated imagery) is all about, the makings of some feature films and what is "Claymation".

Claymation is a form of stop-motion animation; ie still pictures of slight movements of clay characters, assembled and played in rapid succession to create motion.

Kids were divided into 4 groups with a good mix of young and older ones - brainstorming to create their own Clay-mation Projects. The company even assigned one staff to each group to guide and assist the kids.

Xian Wei's group did a theme on Angry Birds' games. The younger ones happily coloured all the backdrops. Their props have problems standing upright on the chair, in the end, they gotta put their props on the floor for shooting.

To run a one-minute video, they have to take at least 120 pictures!! Imagine one whole movie!!! Watch the Angry Birds' Claymation video above. Don't miss the score. The video was more shaky than the rest cos the camera has to be held by hand from top for the shooting.

"The Avengers" from Xian Jin's & Brandon's group. They've the longest video amongst the rest, ie 18 secs and the most props. We would sure appreciate the making of a movie more after this experience.....

"The Avengers" - Bravo!!

Another Claymation on Spongebobs & friends. 

An educational tour of the office - Matchmoving for camera tracking (to match real life and CGI integration) and background preparation are common entry level jobs for new recruits. The animation department requires more skilled staff. Other departments include compositor, CG modelling and other technical ones. Most notably was a dedicated department to apprentice training, mostly college-leavers. Also the 'fun room' for the staff to unwind playing with a variety of musical instruments and even karaoke.

What did the children take back from this visit? More than the clay props, they gained greater appreciation and understanding for teamwork, focused effort and accomplishment!!

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