At the moment I am working on a post about music, the title will be Countertenors and Castrati. As usual I do quite a lot of surfing on Google, Wikipedia and YouTube, to collect information. Surfing around I can get easily distracted. This time it happened again…:-) Here is an intermezzo about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

My distraction started with this YouTube recording of Mozart’s symphony nr 25 in g-minor. The Wiener Philharmoniker directed by Karl Bohm in 1978, when he was 84 year old.

When Mozart composed this symphony (in only two days), he was a teenager of 17 year old! Almost unbelievable! Even when you are not really a lover of Western classical music, you should at least listen to the opening bars of this symphony. Because it could well be that the theme is familiar to you. It is used in the award winning movie Amadeus, about the life of Mozart Here is a trailer, with the same music.

If you have not seen this movie, you don’t know what you miss. I have watched it many times and always get weepy eyes…:-). Short videos from the movie can be found on YouTube, like for example this clip, where Mozart comes home to find that his wife has left him. In the next scene his vulgar mother-in-law scolds him, and this scolding goes over in the famous Queen of the Night aria from Mozart’s opera die Zauberflote. Pure magic.

You can find many recordings of this beautiful aria on YouTube. Here are two interpretations by the sopranos Diana Damrau and Lucia Popp

And here is another recording, this time by a boy soprano, 14 year old  Robin Scholtz:

Before puberty sets in, with its voice break, boys can sing soprano parts. Here is another recording, by Jacques Imbrailo , also 14 year old when this was recorded in 1993, he is now a well known baritone.

But this young man, Olmo Herdia Blanco is 16 years old. He sings the aria as a countertenor. He looks nervous, but he has a promising voice.

So we are almost back at the topic of my next blog, Countertenors and Castrati…:-)

To end this post in a lighter vein, here is a hilarious performance by a 7(!) year old Chinese boy. At the piano a not much older girl. Clear fight between the singer and the pianist, won convincingly by the girl…:-)


Quite a few times, on my waterfall hikes, I have met Eddie Yap, a nature guide. We became friendly, exchanged emails and agreed that we should try to make a trip together. But it never happened, until last week. It was a nice meeting, although the actual reason was not a happy one. Recently a nature guide drowned at a remote waterfall near Bentong, after he had first saved the life of one of his clients.

We had both visited this waterfall and did not really understand why it could be dangerous. So we decided to make Lata Hammers the target of our trip. Aric joined, as I have made it a rule now, to have at least three people on jungle hikes. Here is the upper fall, where the tragic accident happened.Upper Lata Hammersw

As you see, the water flow was huge, because there had been heavy rain the night before. At the trail head you have to cross the Perting Pandak river, and that was NOT easy. After that it is an easy, although muddy logging road, leading in about 45 minutes to the fall. Here you have to cross the river again, and it was good that a “bridge” consisting of trees had been constructed, otherwise crossing would have been very problematic. The waterfall was intimidating, turbulent waters, strong currents, we thought it wise not to swim. It is only a short walk to the upper fall, equally strong and turbulent. Here is a short video clip of the upper fall.

Although the target of this trip was a sad one, it was really a pleasure to finally make a trip with Eddie. We had a lot to talk about, and a lot in common, for example that we both like skinny dipping, haha. And good food, on our way back we stopped in Bukit Tinggi and had a delicious lunch at the 126 restaurant . Value for money too, we paid only RM 26 for the three of us!  Here are more pictures. Looking forward to a next meeting.

I took a few more videos at Lata Hammers. Here are the links: Crossing the tree bridge , The lower fall (notice the turbulence and the currents) and one more of the Upper fall

A few days later I went again to a waterfall. This time with my friends Richard and Gabriel, to the Chiling waterfall, near Kuala Kubu Baharu. This waterfall, the most popular in Malaysia, is only open to the public during weekends, you will not be the only visitor. As it is the rainy season now, I was expecting a large flow of water, so I had taken a rope for the (several) river crossings. But it had not been raining the night before, the crossings were passable, with some care. Here is the main fall , impressive, with a thunderous roar and a mist of water.


It takes about 45 minutes from the ranger station (Chiling is a fish sanctuary) to the main fall. But first we climbed up to the upper fall, where it was quiet. Here is a video of the upper fall.

As the weather looked good, we decided to go the top fall, which I had explored in 2010 , We found the trail, it looked good, but unfortunately  it petered out halfway and as we were not in the mood to chop our way, we returned and went down to the main fall. We were surprised to find no visitors there, which caused Richard and Gabriel to do a joyful little dance.

Later new hikers arrived, but still it was not the crowd I had expected…:-) We had our lunch before we hiked back. I have visited this waterfall numerous times, it never gets boring! Here are more pictures.

Let me end this blog the same way as the waterfall pages on my website end:

Waterfalls can be dangerous ! Always take care about your safety


Our Sun again

It is almost one year ago that I gave you an update about the Solar Sunspot Cycle 24. For those who have not read those earlier posts, a short recapitulation.

Sunspots are dark spots on the surface of the Sun and related to the sun’s magnetic structure. It is a periodic phenomenon, sometimes there are many, sometimes there are almost none at all. The period is about 11-12 years, and one such a period is called a Sunspot Cycle.


This periodic behaviour was discovered in 1843 by Schwabe, a German astronomer. Rather arbitrarily a numbering was introduced, with cycle 1 lasting from 1755 until 1766. We are now at the maximum of cycle 24. In the picture below the ‘average’ number of sunspots is shown as a function of time, for cycle 23 and 24, updated until November 2013

Cycle 23 and 24

As you see, the maximum is considerably lower than the maximum of cycle 23. And that is the reason that I have published my earlier posts, for example Don’t worry, our Sun is not dead. You can read more background information there.

Here is a graph showing you the large variation in these sunspot maxima during the last 500 years. In the last 50 years the sunspot activity has been unusually high, whereas in the second half of the 17th century there was hardly any activity at all. This period is called the Maunder Minimum, whereas the last 50 years are sometimes called the Modern Maximum. Another period of low activity occurred in the beginning of the 19th century: the Dalton Minimum.


So now the burning question is: are we on our way to a new minimum 

The picture above I have used already in my post, one year ago, How is the Sun doing these days? At that time the prediction was that the maximum would be about 76 and I had marked this maximum with a red cross, comparing it with the low value of 64 in 1906. Now, one year later, we have reached the maximum and it is even lower than predicted, ~ 65 (red circle). Although it is a bit early, a few predictions have been made already for cycle 25, which will peak around 2024. Peak may not be the right word, because the maximum might be as low as 7!

If we are going to a new minimum, will it be Dalton-like or Maunder-like? No one can tell at this moment. We do not really understand much of the underlying mechanism. When we study the Sun in visible light, it looks peaceful, with occasionally a few spots..:-). But look at the Sun in the ultraviolet region, and you see how violent it is.

solar images

Is there a relation between the periods of large/small solar activity and the climate on Earth? During the  Maunder Minimum we had the Little Ice Age.  Is the Global Warming fully due to the hothouse effect of carbon dioxide, or has the Modern Maximum also its influence? This is a sensitive topic, that I will not touch. The next decade we will hopefully learn more.

For more information, here is a very readable article in Sky and Telescope (published already two years ago): Is the Sunspot Cycle About to Stop?

Journal 6-11-2013

Back in my second home for almost three weeks already. How time flies. This time I suffered less from jet lag, maybe because I used Melatonin the first week. Melatonin is supposed to adjust your biological clock.


In earlier posts you have read that we are collecting KLM-houses. We bought many during our last visit, here is part of it. Next to it a sad picture of the present view from our balcony. The destruction of Bukit Lanjan has not stopped.


View from our balcony


After two months of Western food I was craving for Nasi Lemak, Hokkien Mee (picture), Roti Chanai etc. But in the fridge there was still a smoked sausage (“rookworst”), so we had also a Western meal, with Sauerkraut and mashed potatoes..

Hokkien Mee

Sausage & Sauerkraut

After a few days of recovery I started walking again in Bukit Kiara. It is still under threat of “development”, but walking there remains a pleasure. Instead of completing the atrocious fence, the authorities should concentrate on maintenance. Personally I don’t mind the “illegal” rubber tappers, but the neglected signboard for the Sg Penchala is an eyesore.

When Aric was back in Sabak Bernam he sent me a picture of a beautiful bird, found in his mum’s garden. With a broken wing. For my birding friend Khong it was no problem to id the bird: an uncommon Black-backed Kingfisher

Black-backed kingfisher

Aric took it back to KL, then a friend brought the tiny(!) bird to a bird doctor in Shah Alam. But the bird was too weak, it died. Pity.

After recovering from the flight, as usual came the craving for jungle and a waterfall…:-) I found Paul and Rahim willing to join me to a remote waterfall in the Tanjung Malim region, the Gerehang fall. Not many people visit this fall, Rahim had to do a lot of chopping to clear a trail.

Gerehang fall

During our hike of about 5 hours we did not meet a single soul. When we arrived it started to rain for a while, but after the shower, the sun came through again, so we had coffee and our lunch. Unfortunately, with the sun came also the sweat bees, many of them, and with (or because of?) all my precautions, I got stung again. A tiny sting in my finger, but it resulted in a swelling of my hand that lasted for more than one day. I did not have to use my Epipen, but it was worrying. Maybe I must stop going to remote places in the jungle. Here are some more pictures.

Last weekend it was Deepavali, the Hindu festival of light. In the Ikana/Ikea shopping center, a beautiful, elaborate, kolam was created.

2013-10-31 11.59.21

I spent the weekend in Taiping with my friends George and Jenny. Of course we visited the Lake Gardens, but also the ruins of the New Rest House. With May, another friend, I attended a delicious Deepavali lunch, offered by her Indian friends. I also took part in the Kathina festival, see my separate post. Here are some Taiping pictures

Malaysia, my 2nd home, full of variety


The Kathina festival 2013

During the rainy season (Vassa), Theravada Buddhist monks don’t travel and are going on retreat in a temple or monastery. When the rainy season is over, traditionally in October/November, the end of this 3-month retreat is celebrated during the Kathina festival.

The (legendary?) background of this festival is so interesting that I can not resist the temptation to tell you a bit about it.

A group of bhikkhus (monks) was on its way to the Buddha, when the rainy season started. Not to damage the harvest, living creatures (and themselves), they decided to stay where they were, although unhappy about the delay. After the rains stopped, they continued their travel. When they reached the Buddha, to console them, gave them a piece of cloth to stitch a robe. To stitch a robe, you need a frame, which is called a kathina. A detailed account can be found here

Nowadays the devotees offer this cloth (and other items) to the monks during the Kathina ceremony. This ceremony takes place in many locations in Malaysia, but is especially popular in Taiping, in the Sasanarakkha Buddhist Sanctuary. I have visited this beautiful, quiet sanctuary on the slopes of Maxwell Hill quite a few times.This time it was still beautiful, but not quiet with a few thousand visitors.

Entrance of the Sanctuary

Many visitors

We went up early Sunday morning, as Jenny was a volunteer at one of the many food stalls. Food stalls, yes, because this is Malaysia, no celebration without food…:-)  Probably many visitors mainly came for the free food.

The Kathina procedure is as follows: the monks (this time there were seventeen plus three nuns) walk along the long row of devotees, who put a bit of rice in the alms bowl of each monk. They then proceed to their seats, where the robes and other items are given to them. One of the monks then gives a talk. It is finished around noon. Officially the cloth has to be sown into robes before the end of the day, but I don’t know if that is still the case nowadays. Here are pictures of the event.

The event was organised very well, one organiser told me there were about 400 volunteers! On our way down, we passed one of the buildings of the sanctuary. This may be where the cloth is sown into robes, as I found a picture on the Internet, which seems to be taken inside this attractive building.

One of the buildings Sowing the robes


This was the second time I attended Kathina, it will hopefully not be the last one.