Total Lunar Eclipse Over Kuala Belait, Brunei

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10 December 2011. A few photographer friends had begun, from 7 p.m., posting images on Facebook and I wasn’t even aware the lunar eclipse had started. What was I distracted by? Two things: I had to close shop at the end of the business day, and there were massive dark storm clouds in the western sky. I thought it was not going to happen.

Until about 9.15 p.m.  I went out and gazed into the clear, night sky… the moon was already progressively covered in shadow. You should know my next reaction.

The longest lens I have is the Sigma 50-500mm f4-6.3 APO HSM (fondly known to others as the Bigma). It quickly got married to my trusty Nikon D3. Loaded with a CF card, this union of gears was promptly mounted on a sturdy tripod.

First shot, was a tad overexposed by one stop. I yanked it to F11. That worked, on a setting of ISO3200 at 1/800s. This fast shutter speed was necessary to prevent shake because not only is the Bigma a very heavy lens, it was locked at its longest reach at 500mm.

This total lunar eclipse would be the last until 2014, sources say. And, this was my first lunar eclipse capture, actually. A few months ago, I captured some moon photos during the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, so I was quite confident the exposure parameters would work. It did, thank goodness.

Lunar Eclipse Over Kuala Belait, Brunei 10 Dec 2011

The moon was in total eclipse from about 10.28 p.m. local time. It would be about 50 minutes before light peeked to illuminate it again, so I took the opportunity to put together the composite image above, almost showing a time-lapse record of the events.

When the moon was in total eclipse, it glowed a little red. It was a beautiful spectacle to behold. I knew I would not be able to capture the scarlet hues if I shot it at 1/800s. So, I placed all trust to the sturdy tripod and dialed down to 1/30s, pushed ISO to 6400 and open the aperture to f6.3. While the lens was still zoomed to its extremity, I exposed the red disc using the camera’s timer release function. This, shown below, was the red moon.

The Red Moon during total eclipse. I adjusted saturation and added contrast.

From 11.15 p.m. onwards, I was out in the courtyard again, recording the stages of the passing shadow. Full moon returned at about 12.30 a.m., according to my camera’s clock. During this phase, exposure setting was different for each image because the moon was getting brighter and brighter. Aperture values changed from f11 to f16, f22, f25, f32. It was a fun experience, all in all. The image below illustrates this progression.

Part 2: Lunar Eclipse Over Kuala Belait, Brunei

I am well pleased with these composites.  And, I thank Providence for giving me this opportunity to capture one of nature’s wonders in the night sky.

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2 good movies: Kings of Pastry (2009) and Patisserie Coin de Rue (2011)

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UPDATE (20 Dec 2011): I’ve finally got around to watch again The Kings of Pastry and write a review about it.  Thanks all, for your patience waiting for my delayed review. Click here to read it.

Here is a quick synopsis about the two movies I watched. I plan to watch them again, to give you a detailed account and my review of these films.

Meilleur Ouvrier de France 2009 (a film by D A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus) is known by the English title, “Kings of Pastry.”  It is about the pursuit of excellence to become recognised as Best of the Best pastry chefs. An honour awarded by the French body, Meilleur Ouvrier de France. This movie rivets with edge of the seat passion and excitement as it documents the trials and challenges for obtaining the coveted collar. 16 finalists, 3 days, 1 chance. Only 5 are successfully crowned from this once-in-4 year competition. Those who attained this highly acclaimed honour are called henceforth called MOFs, and they are easily distinguished by their blue, white and red banded collar. It is said one could be jailed for imposting a MOF.

The second movie, Patisserie Coin de Rue (2011), directed by Yoshihiro Fukagawa, is a charming story which evolves around a country girl who comes to Tokyo in search of her boyfriend and her dream to become well trained as a pastry chef. As luck would have it, she gets an apprenticeship at a corner pastry shop, Coin de Rue, owned by an American and his Japanese wife. As she grows in acquiring skills, she becomes acquainted with two well-known customers who themselves are/were “kings of pastry” of their days. This is a story about achieving excellence and about never giving up. A good family oriented movie, and about patching up old wounds and moving forward for attaining greater successes.Image © http://www.dramastyle.com

Stay tuned. I shall write reviews for these two films within the week. If you come across these, go to the movies, or rent it from your local sources. It’s worth watching.

Please subscribe to this blog and you’ll be updated when the review is written. Stay tuned. Thanks for visiting.

RELATED POSTS:
1.  The Kings of Pastry (2008) Movie Review

2. Patisserie Coin De Rue (2011) Movie Review

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RECORD BREAKING PATISSERIE ARTISTRY ~ MrBakerBakeshop Delivers On Promise

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First, I am writing this out of my admiration for MrBakerBakeshop. I am particularly impressed by the leadership of its owner, Eric, and his team of committed, well-trained pâtissier and staff.

The cakes, pastry and breads are made of best and fresh ingredients. While there are many other cakeshops making nice pastries in and around Bandar Seri Begawan, I am just simply impressed by the skilful artistry of the head pâtissiers and the rest of the 20-strong team.

Did you know that the pastries and breads are so good and healthy that MrBakerbakeshop was specially invited to open an outlet at Jerudong Park Medical Centre. A very rare honour indeed.

In the paragraphs below, I want to share with you, in verbatim, how Eric overcome a knife-edge situation and brought the greatest joy and happiness to a customer, Natalie, who wanted Angry Birds birthday cake.  Here’s how the story goes, in Eric’s words, from MrBakerBakeshop blog:

Record Setting

November 7, 2011 by Mr Baker’s Bakeshop | Your Healthy Choice

It was about 10am in the morning today when a customer came in to collect his pre-ordered cake with “Angry birds” design and I happened to be at the shop. To my dismay, the cake was not even made. Apparently there was a miscommunication between my chef and the customer about the collection date. The birthday celebration was set to start in 2 hours time and I was fully aware that there was no way we could make it on time. However, not to disappoint the customer, I took up the challenge and promised the customer that we would deliver the cake to the venue latest by 1.00-1.30pm.

© MrBakerBakeshop 2011 The Record Breaking Angry Birds Birthday Cake

I immediately called up the other 2 chefs (it was their offday) back to the shop for help. One assemble the chocolate sponge and finishing while the other two were busy mixing the fondant and coloring. Based on our experience, a cake with similar design would take at least 4-6 hours to finish but today, we set a new record by finishing the cake in 2 hours time. The cake was finished at 12.15pm and delivered to the venue slightly after 12.30pm. A few minutes later, I received this sms from the customer “Great Eric, Thanks a million”.
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What have we learned from Eric’s leadership and his team’s effort? GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE! And, I wrote, on his blog, the words, thus:

“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it.
It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” ~ PETER DRUCKER

I must congratulate your chefs and team and I also congratulate your leadership to get thing done. I salute your decision to do the right thing (correct the miscommunication, promise the cake, deliver on promise) and doing things right (call back your chefs, team work, perfection in artistry) and make Natalie the Happiest Birthday Girl ever today. Three cheers for Eric and his entire team at MrBakerBakeshop. Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray! Hip-hip-hooray!

Martin Luther King, Jr.said, “Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”.

Today, in the form of the sacrifices you and your staff made for your most important customer, Natalie (and her parents), perfection in patiserie artistry, a birthday cake which will make her the Happiest Girl in The World, and the Most Satisfied Paying Customer on Earth.

If I could, I would consider a 3 Michelin Stars award for your patisserie, a prestige that matches top quality service, great artistry and superb choice ingredients and exceedingly great flavourful pastries and cakes.

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

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Disclaimer: All images courtesy of MrBakerBakeshop

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Treasures in The Woods and Hills of Pulau Berambang

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The open country, the open road, the clear blue sky.

Across the pond in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, after you mention Brunei to the people there, chances are, someone would say in a fit of literary quixotism, “Oh, Brunei roads are littered with gleaming, new cars… the streets are paved with gold.” Leaving them to their imagination, it is gratifying that our neighbours subscribe to Brunei as a wealthy nation.

This past weekend, Sunday 23rd October, a friend, Rudy and I sojourned a road less travelled. A road meant to be dominated by humans. A line of white dissecting the evergreens of the rainforest. There is hardly any traffic, save the infrequent sputtering of mopeds and some distinctly knocking engines of old automobiles zooming past. This is the only road traversing one end to the other of Berambang Island. No glittering hot rods. Just man in nature.

Pulau Berambang from the boat jetty at Pintu Malim

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life.” Henry David Thoreau

Pulau Berambang is Brunei’s largest riverine island. Situated less than a kilometre from the banks of Pintu Malim, this island is easily accessible by boat, the fare 50 cts one way. The eastern banks of this island is Sungai Menunggul, a waterway border shared by Limbang, Malaysia and Brunei.

Peeking out towards Limbang from the hills

Berambang Island is lightly populated. The only modern housing is Kampong Bolkiah B, houses built on the mud flats fringing the northern shore of the island. Jungle and mangrove covered most of the island. Through the Wild Life Protection Act, 1978 revised 1984, authorities have identified the mangrove forests on Berambang for the protection and conservation wildlife sanctuaries.

Kg Bolkiah B -- Modern concrete houses on stilts on the mud flats of Brunei River

It is the pristine environment that got Rudy and I to leave our urban yokes to hike to the hills. Our prize was to ascend Bujang Pahang hill (175 m), which offers stunning views of the coastal flats and hills of Limbang and the Brunei’s famed Kampong Ayer (Water Village) from its summit.

Bukit Batu Bujang Pahang

The peak is nothing but a pinnacle of rock, sandstone to be exact. Hikers before us had left marks of their visits by their writing on the walls. It must be noted that certain sections of the hill are rather steep, more than 60 degree incline. Three flights of man-made, concrete steps were erected, circa 1995 in the lower sections of the hill. In the upper reaches, the jungle trails are littered with fallen leaves, branches and twigs. The forest is mature, so there is little or no undergrowth.

At Kampong Menunggul, some 3.7 km from the jetty, an erected sign led us to a trail leading up to Bukit Bujang Pahang. 30 m into this trail, on our right, we notice a bamboo trough channeling stream water to a house at the foothill. This cool, refreshing water is sparkling clean and has no gamey, peaty smell. Rudy and I collected some water to wash away sweat from our face, neck and arms . The water is cool and refreshing.

The bamboo aquiduct carrying cool stream water

Another reason we have come to explore Berambang Island is to visit the Berambang Colliery. Rudy and I explored the remains of Brooketon Colliery in Muara in March 2011 and this trip continues our search for Brunei’s major carbon export before and during WW2.(See Revisiting Brunei’s Historical Brooketon Colliery at Muara blog here).

The mine shaft, a steep descend into the dark abyss

About halfway up Bujang Pahang Hill, we come to an opening in the hill, and a shaft descends steeply some 60º into a dark abyss. The locals call this “Lubang Arang Batu” (literally translated, Rock Coal Hole). Without training in spelunking or speleology (cave exploration), and without a local guide, Rudy and I didn’t venture any further. We immortalized our visit with photographs. Near this entrance, the ground is covered with fragments of coal, pebble sized. Evidence of a bustling economy from the past.

Litter of coal fragments on the forest floor

Traipsing along the ridge, in the direction of Kampong Ayer, we come to a rock formation fondly known to the locals as Bukit Batu Bertingkat (Layered Rock Hill). Not an imposing hill but rather another outcropping of stacked layers of sedimentary rocks about 10m tall.

The Strata Rock Hill -- Bukit Batu Bertingkat

Along the ridge, the vegetation is sparse, covered with low bush and a variety of fern. Trees found anchor on the lower slopes and creepers scale the branches and trunks for sunlight. A few stands of pitcher plants were spotted and many appeared withered. There were a few younger pitchers, but not healthy specimens.

Spot the pitcher pods in the vegetation

Our hike into the woods and hills on this day covered a distance of over 8 km, of which 7 km was on paved road. The sun beat down bright and hard and quite obviously Rudy and I suffered some sunburn. Fortunately on this very hot day we hydrated ourselves copiously. Our exercise was both relaxing and tiring. Breathing fresh air, and hiking into the pristine forests and climbing the hills of Pulau Berambang, we enjoy being in the forest and climbing the hills.

Writings on the Wall -- grafitti by past visitors to Bukit Bujang Pahang

Reminiscing the words of Thoreau, on this day, we traced our steps on the woods to enjoy the essentials facts of life – in the pristine forests and hills of Pulau Berambang.

View of Limbang alluvial flats from the peak of Bujang Pahang Hill

View of Pulau Berambang from the Brunei River.

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Related post:
Revisting Brunei’s Historical Brooketon Colliery at Muara
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Let’s Join the Conversation — Social Media, That’s Where It’s @

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© Brunei Online

Friday, 21st October. I walked away from Brunei Online: That’s Where It’s @ forum with a recourse for action: Social Media is the Way to Go. Whether you are on Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, et. al, these microblogging sites could be the engines for propelling your business and social outreach.

TelBru, the event’s main sponsor, promises improved infrastructure in the pipeline. The telco’s GM, WS Lim cited an increasing segment of traffic is now coming from mobile devices (44%) while the remaining is from fixed line. Up the ante,Telbru envisions speed-of-light fibre optic transmission when the FTTH infrastructure is in place by 2013. Going by the textbook, Lim charts up speed of 75 Mbps throughput, a bold promise nonetheless.

Telbru’s GM, W.S. Lim

Discussing “Dude, Where’s My Traffic?”, Rano Iskandar, Delwin Keasberry and Dinoza Mahruf took the stage, moderated by Azhani Daniel. Microblogging, the trio agree, is the in-thing to do. Twitter and Facebook pages stay at the forefront for branding. Websites, are unanimously declared boring, the popularity waning. Blogging too, but it is still a useful platform for a more engaging and comprehensive discussion of topics and issues. Rano trumps his favour for Facebook, Delwin dwells supreme in Monde du Twitter and guest panelist Dino endorses the efficacy of Facebook pages for the generation of profits, not just page hits.

(L–R) Dino, Rano, Mel and Ms Azhani

On “Why Join The Twitter Conversation”, Dato Timothy Ong gave 3 reasons why he, as a late Tweep, too is on this bandwagon. Moderated by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport, Dato Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos (a popular, fondly beloved blogger by the name Brunei Resources), Dato Ong gave an engaging discourse why all leaders should adopt social media.

Dato Timothy Ong with Dato Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos

Overcoming resistance to IT, Dato Ong says he’s a late boomer to Twitter, smartphones and the like. Joining twitter on 18th July, 2011, he quickly realises that tweeting has the power and capacity to do good. Social media can become the effective real-time agent of change for the world. He has found Twitter an engaging tool to be in conversation with the leaders of tomorrow.

Keenan Jiran and Simon Soo concluded the day’s forum discussing the merits of social media entrepreneurship, and how they’ve layered their business success from one ideation to the next, selling off one successful business model, and to plough back into newer and bigger business entities. Their formulae for success is to cultivate purposeful and active social networks, engaging their clients to connect and interact, building web-savvy, social media expert-technopreneurs.

Keeran and Simon on techno-preneurship

Coffee consumed. Finger bites devoured. Snap shots immortalized. The forum on this day has sent me away with tingling sensations, choreographing a clear and distinct resonance that social media will become the de-facto unofficial engine for social engineering, just as did the Arab Spring. But of course, here in this Abode of Peace, we do it peacefully, for community harmony, for business progress and for happiness and prosperity. As Dato Ong puts it poignantly, let’s get involved in conversation with one another. Only then can we move forward with a common understanding. As Ms Azhani (@emmagoodegg) puts it beautifully, “we are not robots”, so it is a good thing we humans interact, purposefully and purposively, with each other using social media as the happy medium.

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WHO’S WHO AT BRUNEI ONLINE? THAT’S WHERE IT’S @
Azhani Daniel — @emmagoodegg
Rano Iskandar — ranoadidas.com
Delwin Keasberry — projekbrunei.com
Dinoza Mahruf — borneocolours.com (from Sabah)
Keeran Janin — @keeranj
Simon Soo — simonsoo@businesscenter.com
Dato Timothy Ong — @Timothy_OngTM
Dato Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos
— @bruneiresources

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Read a delightful, illuminating article by @emmagoodegg as she piques “We Are Not Robots @bruneiresources: ow.ly/1zbPAi

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