Month: December 2014

My mobile (UK), cell phone (US), Handphone (Malaysia), 携帯 (日本), Handy (De)

Like everywhere else it seems, mobile phones are hugely popular in Malaysia.  You see families of parents and children of whatever age, sitting in restaurants and the whole family is staring at their own individual mobile phone screen, and not communicating with each other.  I really try not to do that.

Before I had a smartphone I had a Windows phone – basically the same but with a Windows operating system. Smartphones back then were defined as those with other than Windows operating systems, e.g. Nokia (with a Symbian operating system), Blackberries etc. and Nokias were what I had before the Windows phones.  You got very slow and hard to navigate Internet back around early 2000’s.

Before that I had PDA’s which I connected by Bluetooth to a GSM (2G) phone which functioned as a modem, and thus I could get the Internet, if Bluetooth worked. Sometimes Bluetooth worked.  Or I could use WiFi for Internet directly on the PDA.  That was around 2002.

And before that the phone was analogue and not useful for Internet.  Just useful for calling – it was just a phone. ( I noticed back then that urban driving and talking on the phone was distracting, although legal at the time, and so not a great idea.  On long distance motorway drives, however,  it kept you awake and alert, and was useful. )

I notice that now the phone function is one of the least important for me. It is way down on the list of what I use the mobile for. So what this blog is really about is my favourite apps on my Android phone at the moment, and where the telephone function appears in order of use.  All are free, except for the first.

  1. Pocket Casts – the only paid for app I have,  is great for podcasts, and I usually listen to several podcasts a day.  It automatically downloads my podcasts and deletes them after I have heard them, and has quite a few useful tricks.
  2. Ankidroid – is a SRS (Spaced Repetition System) app for studying – in my case German vocabulary – which I use in conjuction and sync with my computer, as it is easier to add data with a normal keyboard than on the mobile.
  3. Dict CC – is a dictionary app I have on my mobile and I have downloaded the German and Spanish dictionaries, so there is no need to be online to use it.
  4. Facebook – this app is faster on my mobile than my PC.
  5. Camera – partly because my compact camera recently died I use the mobile camera a lot. Once it’s connected with Wi-Fi it automatically uploads to Dropbox and then downloads onto my PC, so it’s very handy for photos to upload to the Internet, but for higher quality photos I will have to get another camera.
  6. Email – for some functions this works better than the app on my PC
  7. Text app
  8. Phone – comes about 8th in order of use
  9. ES File Explorer – for moving files around on the mobile and on my home network this is great
  10. Airdroid – kind of the complement to ES File Explorer – for manipulating the mobile using the PC
  11. Evernote –  It didn’t quite make my Top Ten, but it deserves an Honourable Mention – I use it much more on the PC than the mobile, but when out I can check it for details.

These apps are the Top 10 for everyday life, but when travelling it would be a different list…

And what other app could I really use – how about a mosquito repelling app?

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in December

What’s growing in December? The answer – not a lot different to November..

Sadly the flood in early October has now claimed another victim – my only papaya actually producing fruit.  It took two months, but it succumbed.

almost dead

almost dead

roots no longer securing the tree

roots no longer securing the tree

sad death of the only papaya producing fruit

sad death of the only papaya producing fruit

Now only one out of more than 30 papaya survives after the flood.

only remaining papaya tree

only remaining papaya tree

maybe plumbago saved it

maybe plumbago saved it

My guess is that some chemical (s) or herbicide was washed away from its location and killed the papayas.  Did the plumbago somehow save this tree?  Naturally the ants and mealy bugs are trying to kill this one.  I removed the mealy bugs with water and a toothbrush, and then sprayed with garlic spray – that should keep them off for a few days and keep the tree alive.

Do you know about mealy bugs and ants?  Ants carry the mealy bugs onto and up plants and put them where the mealy bugs will have food – the nice juicy sap of plants.  And then the ants eat the sweet excretions of the mealy bugs.  But if you do nothing, the mealy bugs generally kill the plants. So you want to stop ants in the first place, and then remove any mealy bugs if they get through your line of defence.  I use ant poison near the plants, but this also washes away, and then the ants get through.

The garlic spray is crushed garlic, mineral turpentine and water.  1 litre of water, 5 whole garlic bulbs, and one tablespoon of turps.  That’s a lot of garlic to crush, so soak garlic for one hour in water to make it easy to peel. Another recipe is shown at the end – it’s easier as there is less garlic to peel.

under attack by mealy bugs

under attack by mealy bugs

I put papaya seeds directly into the soil.  They usually germinate easily.  But I did this last month and I saw them growing nicely – and then the snails ate them all.  This month I am using snail bait – which is an innocent chemical I think – and the little ones are growing.

growing new papaya

growing new papaya – with snail bait and dead snails

As an aside, I went to Ace Hardware to buy snail bait the other day – and the price is now double when I last bought it a few months ago.  I don’t know who doubled the price – the manufacturer or the store.

growing new papaya

growing new papaya

growing new papaya

growing new papaya

growing new papaya

growing new papaya

Papaya seeds are really easy to use – just take out of the papaya fruit and put directly into the soil.  Washing the seeds, taking off the protective skin of the seeds etc. doesn’t seem to be at all necessary.  But they don’t seem to produce fruit unless in the soil – in pots they look nice and will flower, but that seems to be it – at least for me.  Of course, you should grow several trees, as then chances are you’ll have one male – and you need a male for the flowers to be pollinated.

Anyway, the blue flower pea is growing well, as usual. I just throw the seeds where I want them and some comes up.

blue pea always seems to grow well

blue pea always seems to grow well

As mentioned elsewhere, the council has done a huge amount of fogging in our area to kill mosquitos.

fogging

fogging

No full size pumpkins are growing at the moment.  I get flowers, which the bees love.

pumpkin flower - the bees love them

pumpkin flower – the bees love them – there’s a bee in the middle of the photo

Then I get little pumpkins, but they just drop off if I leave them – none grow big.  So instead I pick them and cook them.

little pumpkin

little pumpkin

Until about three days ago we’ve had rain almost every day or night for two months, and it’s been cooler.  We’ve had a huge number of beautiful sunny days, with the rain usually falling in the later afternoon or night.  The passion fruit are happy about this.

passion fruit

passion fruit

But the main crop of passion fruit is over, and I only get a fruit now every few days.

passion fruit

passion fruit

As mentioned in earlier blogs, some animal – squirrel or rat I suppose – occasionally attacks a passion fruit and gets through its thick skin.  Usually it’s knocked to the ground as a result.  But in this case not, and a gecko is eating the fruit that’s left.

passion fruit was attacked

passion fruit was attacked

passion fruit being eaten by gecko

passion fruit being eaten by gecko

In the last week the passion fruit vines have been shedding lots of leaves – most of them green leaves.  I am thinking that perhaps I should prune the vines.  Anyway, the leaves don’t compost well,  but a day in the sun on some black plastic dries them out nicely.

passion fruit leaves

passion fruit leaves

And then I just put them directly onto the garden as mulch.

passion fruit leaves on garden

passion fruit leaves on garden

Tiny snails attack the leaves that are trailing on the ground.  So these smaller young passion fruit plants are growing more slowly as a result.  I try to lift the vines up so the snails can’t get the leaves.

21-2014-12-13 11.44.19 (Copy)

Passion fruit seeds germinated and growing.

baby passion fruit

baby passion fruit

And three weeks later they are bigger.  Why the other two pots’ seeds didn’t germinate I don’t know.  Not even one seed.

baby passion fruit a couple of weeks later

baby passion fruit a couple of weeks later

Mrs Tropical Expat’s hibiscus cuttings are growing.

hibiscus cuttings

hibiscus cuttings

hibiscus cuttings

hibiscus cuttings

And finally, there are some lime tree babies growing – they just grew up near the lime tree and we repotted.

assosrted

assorted

Garlic Oil Spray is a great, safe insect repellent. Simply put three to four cloves of minced garlic into two teaspoons of mineral oil. Let the mixture sit overnight, and then strain the garlic out of the oil. Add the oil to one pint of water, and add a teaspoon of biodegradable dish soap. Store in a bottle or jar, and dilute the mixture when you use it by adding two tablespoons of your garlic oil mixture to one pint of water.

That’s it for this month.

A whole lot of spraying going on

Fogging – spraying to kill (disease bearing) mosquitos is now an almost daily occurrence.  Yesterday a small vehicle drove down the street spraying.  This is quite ineffective.

small vehicle fogging yesterday

small (yellow) vehicle fogging yesterday

But this evening was the biggest operation I’ve ever seen.  They sprayed huge amounts at the condo construction sites.

construction site

construction site

construction site

construction site

And then they came down streets in front and behind spraying, and entering properties which had open gates.

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

spraying the whole street

Travel planning and a new rail travel forum

Just a quick note to mention there is a new rail travel forum.  It’s just been started, so there is not much yet, but it aims to cover rail travel worldwide:

http://www.trans-sibtraveller.com/

When planning any trip involving rail I check, of course, Seat 61 and the relevant railway company websites. Now I can also use this new forum.

And for general travel planning I also check:

  • A guidebook I can get my hands on free – e.g. at the library – Rough Guides, Lonely Planet etc.
  • Wikitravel
  • Trip Advisor
  • Websites of relevant countries if visas are an issue
  • Airlines
  • Couchsurfing to see if there is anyone interesting to meet
  • any relevant blog sites I can find
  • and sometimes Agoda or hotels.com etc. or hotel sites directly
  • Sometimes I also check Wikipedia for homicide rates and road accident rates to see if a country should be avoided or needs extra precautions. Wikipedia is so politically slanted I don’t generally trust it, but for these details is probably OK.

But I am not too much into planning, and don’t feel the need to see everything when I travel.  I prefer to chat to locals (thus couchsurfing), and sit around with a coffee or beer and watch what’s happening.  And then just wander around.

If I am going somewhere familiar or easy – like western Europe – I hardly feel the need to plan at all until I am there at a coffee shop, and then I might fire up a browser or peruse brochures picked up at a tourist bureau.  Sure, if I arrive at night I will possibly have accommodation already sorted, but otherwise I prefer the relaxed, spontaneous approach. And I travel very light, so I can carry my luggage all day if it’s easier that way.

If I have got it all wrong, or have missed anything, please let me know.

 

Big things

I like big things. There are not so many in Malaysia, but in Australia you can find a great many. Including the Big Pineapple in southern Queensland.

Thus I was excited to find a Big Pineapple in Gurney Paragon last week. It’s part of some Sponge Bob attraction there. As of yesterday it was still there.

Big Pineapple front

Big Pineapple front

Big Orange?

Big Pineapple back

2014-12-06 14.12.18

Big Orange? er strawberry?