Digesting Mobile World Congress 2014: Six Key Themes and Two Future Scenarios

10 03 2014

It’s been a while since we attended Mobile World Congress and whilst we have perhaps missed the buzz, we have not missed the sore feet from walking around those huge halls.

We are therefore grateful to, and warmly welcome Richard Arthur, Telecom guru and Head Communications & Media Solutions Enablement at HP, for this fascinating “guest post” on his visit to this year’s Mobile World Congress 214:-

A record breaking eighty-five thousand people attended this year’s Mobile World Congress in February in Barcelona Spain.   Many of us who were there are still digesting the cornucopia of booths, seminars, parties, and the one too many tapas and Rioja we all had.

Here’s my round-up of the highlights from the show; also linked my video: a smorgasbord of show floor highlights.

Use this link to watch Richard’s High Speed Review Video of Mobile World Congress 2014: http://vimeo.com/88625618

1.     Face time with Facebook

One of the most talked about keynotes was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg who took the stage and justified the $19B WhatsApp purchase.  Meanwhile also at the show, WhatsApp announced a voice service on top of their popular messaging.   Zuckerberg also touted a free internet for developing nations initiative which caused much lively debate.  Shortly after the show, Facebook announced the purchase of drone company Titan Aerospace for $60B to support just such an initiative.

 2.     Wearable tech yes… fashionable?

As is usual, mobile devices were the most visible new announcements at the show.   Wearable tech adorned many booths, although less of the Google garb then we might have expected.  Samsung’s curved OLED watch shone brightly and surprised with a Tizen Operating system.   Companies both big:   Huawei, Sony, Motorola, and small:  GoPro,  Fitbit, and Byonym went wearable.

On the Smartphone side, Samsung Galaxy 5 was the most hotly anticipated launch.   However many reviewers and the GSMA preferred others.   HTC One rang up “Best Smartphone” and, impressively the Xperia Z2 shoots 4K video.   I liked the LG flex’s ability to make like Gumby while still featuring a great display. Nokia surprised with the X low end Android phone announcements:  a new tone for Nokia in the run up to their Microsoft acquisition.  HP announced new business tablets and showed off our  Slate 6 phone tablet now available worldwide.   On the Slate 6 CNET said “The overall fit and finish is excellent given the price range, and with dual SIM support it would be easy to see this new line building a fan base.”

3.     Network Function Virtualization made real

As has been the case recently, network infrastructure announcements were less visible at the show.  However, the major equipment providers and infrastructure vendors did make a series of announcements.   Multiple companies launched Network Function Virtualization initiatives.  If you haven’t heard of NFV, I recommend you check out the latest White paper from ETSI on the subject.  This new approach to telecom infrastructure has the potential to revolutionize the network with huge Capex and Opex savings as well as dramatically improving innovation potential in Communications Service Providers.

HP announced the HP OpenNFV program at MWC which included a new organization in HP, architecture and set of newly launched products, plus a partner and lab program.   It featured seven of the nine ETSI defined NFV use cases in live demos on its booth.    LightReading summarized the HP announcement concluding that HP’s breadth and partner program are key NFV differentiators.

 4.     Headline “No News on 5G”

In the network core, vendors traded opposing 5G views, meaning no consistent definition exists yet, however many approaches to improving 4G and WiFi were demonstrated.   LTE Advanced featured in many vendors and some service providers’ show participation.  LTE-A’s main attractions are support for highly variable network topologies including Pico and Femtocells, and aggregation of multiple carriers (frequency bands) to provide much higher potential bandwidth.

5.     Driving the Connected City

GSMA’s connected city program drove a number of “car-as-mobile-device” launches, including Ford’s high profile launch of the new Ford Focus.    This was quite a coup (not a “Coupe”) for Mobile World as the Geneva Motor Show follows only one week later.  HP’s own Jeff Edlund, with Telsta’s Hugh Bradlow, spoke on Smart Cities and how they can be achieved today.

In some of the smaller booths some cool, if not necessarily ready for primetime, innovations could be found.   I particularly liked the “Brewbot” smartphone-controlled personal brewery and “Joseph” the ceramic Bluetooth speaker which can also be a planter or aperitif dish.

6.     Whither the Smartphone OS?

I dutifully made the rounds to catch up on the Smartphone Operating System trends.    I was disappointed to see that Firefox and Ubuntu, as well as Tizen, all big features of last year’s show, still cannot show significant market penetration.  This is a testament to the ongoing strength of OS market leaders Android and IOS.

img_1742.jpgOne day, in the not too distant future…

As always, the GSMA sets out to showcase the technologies, products and services that are shaping the future of the mobile industry at Mobile World Congress.   In closing this report, I leave you with the following scenarios gestated during a sleep deprived and cramped flight home:

In scenario one, Facebook provides free internet to the unconnected masses via drones while Google launches balloons that carry Wi-Fi to places still unconnected.    These brands become bigger than any telecom brand to communications customers in the developing world.

Scenario two hits a bit closer to home and plays out in real time:

Glance at smart watch – beer time.   Tap to connect to Brewbot and verify via smartphone that beer is proper temperature.   Command connected car to retrieve beer and deliver to friend’s house, where chips and dip are waiting in the Bluetooth speakers playing Smartphone DJ mixed music…. 

Oh and don’t forget the Tapas by app.


Rich ArthurEnjoyed this guest blog?

You can follow Richard on his Twitter account:  @RArthurTelecom


Who’s who in Queen’s Sci ’87 Swollen Members R & B Band

15 11 2012

The year was 1983, the place, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada.  A student band, was formed, The Swollen Members, to celebrate the music of James Brown, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Wilson Pickett, Jake & Elwood/Blues Bros and this would fuel Science ’87 to return back to their hallowed grounds in Kingston, year after year. 

Approaching their 30 anniversary since forming at Queen’s,  Sci ’87 R & B Band, Swollen Members share what they have done since graduating, how music has influenced their lives and more. 

First up, let’s hear from Guitar, Lead Vocals, band founder and the Grand Poobah himself.

Jeff Arsenault – Band Founder, Lead Vocals/Guitar

Jeff’s current employer is Halla-Visteon Climate Group where he is working as a Sales Manager in Plymouth, Michigan, USA.  He is married to, and still madly in love with, Renata (Ettel) Arsenault, also of Science 87.  They have two beautiful children, Samantha and Jeremy.

Why Queen’s?

The decision to attend Queens University in Kingston in 1983 over McMaster and Waterloo was quite easy; based on visits to all three places I estimated that Queen’s had 20 times as many beautiful women as the other two and then of course there was the charm of the town and Campus itself. When an old friend Marcie Woroby introduced me to a math professor at Jeffrey Hall who proceeded to give a tour of the crawl spaces between the classrooms I knew this was the place for me.

How did you start the band?

So after surviving Frosh week and starting into the routine of classes I made the decision that I had to make something more of the next four years I was planning to spend here. So about one month into first term I placed an ad in the Golden Words paper under Sci 87 for anyone interested in getting together to play music…. at the time there was absolutely no pre-conception as to what type of music although I was and still am primarily a folkie with a heavy Rastafarian influence. So after a week I had not really heard anything when Sue Anderson mentioned to me that some dude named Roger Shirt in her Frec group was a saxophone player…. so I call this guy up in Leonard Hall and it turns out he had seen the ad and was thinking to call so we began.

First year engineering would not be the same without Engineering Graphics class and who should be sitting behind but this really “boss” looking dude in a stray cats jean jacket…. Rich Arthur. I mean this guy just looked like a guitar player so I ask him…. “hey dude, do you play guitar?”… and of course it turns out that he has just taken up the old axe…. perfect. But Rich had to leave the Stray Cats to come and play in our band…. a decision he would never regret. So it turns out Rich knows a couple of other guys in his residence…. Mike Leipe (bassman) and Ewen MacPherson (keyboard)…. and then there were 5.

But it did not stop there… through the ol buddy system I had met Marc Lalouette and learned that he also was a keyboard player…. so Marc is in like flint. Meantime with only one horn I remember that an old friend Mike Winn from Ottawa is also attending Queens and so I ask if he has brought his trumpet?….. and then there were 7.

What did I say about first year engineering and graphics???… first term graphics mid-term before we get going I yell across to my buddy Wayne Dephoure (the Popper) … “do you know this Chris Catterall guy ?”. I think I was interested in playing water polo or something like that. Turns out Chris is the guy sitting across from me…. so he asks about the band? and what does he play…. trombone!! It was at that moment that I realized we were on a mission from GOD… in the span of few weeks all of the key elements of the Rhythm and Blues band had been assembled…. all we needed was a drummer.

The bands first meeting in the basement of Brockington residence … Rich Arthur of Kingston has a good pal from high school (Dave “Bones” Bowering) who would temporarily take the role of drummer…. so the first version of the band began.

What was the inspiration for your band name?

The name…. SWOLLEN MEMBERS… was so perfect for an R&B engineering band; it was Roger Shirt who gets the credit for bringing the name to the band; he may to say his brother gave it to him but I think that the band owes it’s name to Roger.

After many hours of practicing in Brockington we finally got to play our first gig at Clark Hall Pub in January 1994…. I don’t think that any of us knew what to expect but we learned very quickly that Science 87 was not a year that would sit down and watch. I could not believe how intense that first smoker at Clark Hall was… it seemed like all 200 people in Clark were dancing and drinking their faces off…. so when we played what would be perhaps our signature tune … SHOUT... I thought that the stage would come down for sure.

Without going through the details of all the changes that the band went through over the years it is crucial to mention that 1984 brought several key MEMBERS into the band, namely Rich Woodruff on drums and Jeff Hudson on alto sax.  The addition of female vocals was the finishing touch that would round out the band… Sue Rimmer in 85 and then Kim Perrin in 86….  After graduation, in 1987, Marc Lalouette (on keyboard) left the band and was replaced by Alan Gaensbauer, from Sci 86… we gathered momentum and have been unable to stop since.

What is Clark Hall Pub?

First opened in 1971 (and officially established as a student pub in 1975), Clark Hall Pub is not only the oldest bar on Queen’s University campus, but also the first student-owned and operated bar in Canada.

What does the band mean to you?

For me the SWOLLEN MEMBERS has been far more than a band but it has really become a social institution for everyone who has been a part of it over the years. The friendships and camaraderie of the band combined the incredible people would come out to party with us year after year have been the cornerstone of the band. When you imagine a group of eleven musicians teaming up to play a collection of classic R&B tunes you have to understand that there is an incredible potential for conflict and disagreement … yet in the years since 1983 that we have been playing I can only think of nothing but great times, laughing, drinking beer, etc. When I look at the band repertoire I realize that every single MEMBER has chosen and brought a song into the band; and of course every MEMBER who wants to sing and take lead does it. The band has all of the elements of a successful enterprise; friendship, trust, mutual respect, cooperation, etc, etc…. so maybe it’s no surprise that we continue to play today.

Inspiration and influences?

For those who have seen us play it should be obvious that we have many but the two big ones…. Jake and Elwood Blues (the Blues Brothers) and of course the Godfather of soul, the hardest working man in show business, soul brother #1 …. Mr. James Brown. If there is anyone out there who has not seen Mr. James Brown live in concert I suggest that you get on up (like a sex machine) and see this guy and his 25 piece R&B machine… this is entertainment people!

So when do we quit?

When does this all stop? I guess the question that I ask is why should this all stop? As most of us are now married (some with kids) the SWOLLEN MEMBERS reminds us all that it is important to make time for friends, make time for fun and of course make time for music…. music is food for the soul. As Bob Marley says “one good thing about music when it hits you feel no pain”.

Life is for the living so live long and prosper friends…. and the next time the SWOLLEN MEMBERS rise to the occasion we will be looking for you to be there with us.

SWOLLEN MEMBERS – October 2012 line up

Back: Mike Leipe, Chris Catterall, Roger Shirt, Richard Woodruff, Alan Gaensbauer

Maribeth Casey, Richard Arthur, Jeff Arsenault, Kim Perrin

Now let’s hear from all the other band members:-

Roger Shirt – Saxophone

A long time ago in a residence far, far away I met a group of guys who were coming together, on a mission from God, to form a band that would spread the good name of Science ’87 (and friends).  In order to impress girls our bandneeded a name.  I reached deep into my alcohol fueled mind and borrowed a lesser known British Punk band name that my older brother had told me about- the Swollen Members.  Sure, the name has been copied since but it quite literally is big enough for all to enjoy.

Since graduating from Queen’s I’ve mainly hung out in Western Canada, and am currently living in the great little town of Squamish, BC.  However, when the call comes every five years to return home to Kingston, my sax and I are
ready to go and reconnect with a truly amazing group of people in the band and our loyal fans.

Rich Arthur – Lead Guitar/Vocals

In 1983 I was a 17 year old freshman engineer with bouffant hair and somewhat aberrant clothes.  I was not really sure if I wanted to be an engineer or perform.    Well thanks to Queen’s I got to do both.  My engineering degree took me right into a job in a fast growing company where I could find my own way, and ultimately took me to south of France where I now live with my wife and two boys and work for HP.

However, back to 1983:   before the Swollen Members I didn’t have the confidence to really work on the guitar.  Joining the band, and working with Jeff, really gave me that confidence. Though I realized later that inebriated engineers are not the most accurate critics, the praise we got was a huge self-esteem builder.

Subsequently, playing on stage set me up for my work, which morphed quickly from engineering to product management, people management and marketing.  In these latter roles I am frequently required to perform on stage in front of large audiences (albeit holding a slide clicker instead of a guitar!)   Playing in the Swollen Members gave me that self-assurance to go out and do it.

As well as playing with the Swollen Members I have my personal project Zylin – featuring songs composed and recorded in my home studio – and I am currently playing with a rock cover band in France called Jam’s Band that performs regularly.

In 29 years, we’ve come a long way from hauling speakers through the Kingston snow, but if Mick Jagger can still rock in his 60’s I’m sure we can too.     The Swollen Members act as a catalyst to keep Science 87 and Nursing 87, as well as some loyal Arts students and 88’s and 86’,s coming together.    I always have fun, and a little nostalgia, every time I get back together with this great band and amazing group of people!  Will we even see some grandchildren next reunion?

Chris Catterall – Trombone/Vocals

Luckier than smart is a fitting explanation of how most of the goods things in my life have come to me.  The winter of 77-78 must have been cold because a friend convinced me to join the school band so we could stay in at lunch times.  Seven years later, this climatic twist of fate set the stage (no pun intended) for my first meeting with Jeff and his idea for what would become the Swollen Members.

I love music but by most standards I am no musician.  However the Members have  given me the privilege of playing with some truly gifted players and entertainers and living the experience that many with much greater talent will never know.  Equally important our time together has always been a much larger collective experience of a group of people who are both exceptional and ordinary.  Above all, my friendship with Jeff over distance and time has been the greatest gift coming out of this experience.

I marvel at the collection of people, places and circumstances that have been part of the Swollen Members.  The Members thrive because of the butter tarts, t-shirts, websites, basements, the cottage with the deck, strategically planned holidays, student residents, supportive spouses, ghetto houses, engineers and nurses turned event planners and a whole lot of love.

Away from the stage (i.e. 99.9% of my life), I have been blessed with a truly amazing wife who picked me out of the crowd back in 1991 and has loved me ever since despite myself.  I love my woman, the three children we created and all the wonderful things we have lived together in Montreal.  I have been working for the last 15 years in the public transportation industry and this year, I teamed up with two partners to purchase our company, ISC Applied Systems, from its Calgary based owner.  The decision to commit my heart, soul and most of my net worth to this venture was not taken lightly but was ultimately made without hesitation when I recognized in my partners the same quality of character that I have known with my band mates from the Swollen Members.

Mike Leipe – Bass/Vocals

Mike Leipe graduated from Queen’s to pursue an undistinguished career in the hi-tech business in Ottawa.  He is currently a development manager at IBM but that’s only because he likes to eat – he prefer to focus his time and energy on family, friends, physical activity and, of course, music.  Since moving to Ottawa he’s played with the Tyrell Underground, ice9, New Tricks, docweissband and Rothwell & Moffatt, and has contributed what he hopes is soul-infused Swollen-Member-esque bass work to CDs by the latter two.  He continues to work as a freelance bassist and plays some electric and acoustic guitar on the side.  Mike resigned from the Swollen Members in October of 2012 and is grateful to the band for 29 years of camaraderie, fun and mutual passion for music.

Richard (Woody) Woodruff – Drums

(Content to follow soon)

Al Gaensbauer – Keyboard/Vocals

I have had an interest in Engineering, Music and Art since a very early age, and could have used 3 lifetimes to pursue them all to my liking. Like many kids I started with piano lessons at an early age, but stopped within a couple of years. This left me just enough knowledge to pick it up later when I was 14 or so. I heard a Supertramp record and was hooked. It was tough to go back and learn to read music notation but I stuck with it. Having a brother 4 years older that also played the piano acted as friendly competition. We often challenged each other by playing the same songs.

During University at Queens for engineering I regularly played piano between classes and kept up my artistic activities as well by doing paintings and portraits to keep up my drawing skills. As a member of Sci86 I heard about the Sci87 band Swollen Members in my 3rd year.  I met Jeff Arsenault and found out we had a shared interest in Classical Rock, e.g. Genesis, ELP, etc. We played at the engineering talent show in my 4th year.  The rest of 4th year was a blur for me as I was the Art Director for the science formal. It wasn’t until after graduation that Jeff asked me to join the members and I have enjoyed being a member ever since.

Since graduation I have pursued my engineering career and music career in parallel and at times been a full-time professional musician. However, I always get drawn back to engineering as my main interest. I am now the owner in a engineering product development company with staff working on a variety of internal and client projects. This has allowed me the flexibility to work remotely from home in Collingwood, Ontario.

I look forward to playing with the Swollen Members as long as we can keep doing it. Where else can you get so much personal enjoyment and provide such enjoyment to the audience at the same time.

Kim Perrin – Vocals

Actually if the truth be known, I applied into the Queen’s Music Program majoring in performance on the piano as my first choice.  Nursing Science was my second choice.  I am glad it turned out the way that it did or I would not be writing this biography.

It all started in Frosh Week Sept 1983.  The nurses were put with the engineers that week and that is when my relationship began.  In fact, we all married one during a ceremonial ritual on Summer Hill that first week. The nurses attended Friday afternoon ritual, Science ’87 smokers and hayrides during Engineering week. We couldn’t get away from them!!!! Then, I had heard that they had put a band together and that sparked my interest and after seeing them perform for the first time, I immediately became a fan. During Frosh week of 2nd year, a few of us “Capes” and “Frecks” were gathering to celebrate the end of a well organized Frosh week and Jeff Arsenault suggested that we go down to the lake and have a camp fire sing-along.  There were  8 of us and we called ourselves the “Fireside 8”.  Jeff started strumming on his guitar and singing and I couldn’t help myself and I burst into a harmony and he turned to me and said “you should sing with the Swollen Members”. I was honoured to be asked but I didn’t join the band until 1986 because I didn’t want to be the only girl. Once Ashleigh Banfield became a swellette I was there.  Jeff then took me downtown Kingston to buy my tambourine and I was all set.

26 years later I am still singing with this incredible group of talented musicians/ friends and have many, many fond memories of our times together.  I have enjoyed partnering up with other swellettes such as Daphne Williams and my current partner MB. During the shows, I really enjoy seeing our loyal friends having such a great time together.  It’s like we have never left!

Since graduation, I married Ernie Perrin in August 1987 and moved to Mississauga where I still reside. Throughout my nursing career, I have worked at the Credit Valley Hospital delivering babies, a private fertility clinic and currently at a Family Health Team. I have 2 wonderful children Alicia and Mark.

I have made sure that music continues to enrich my life and have kept it as my hobby. I have sung at many weddings over the years and some funerals. I continue to sing regularly in a choir and a band playing keyboards as well. I also direct a children’s choir.  I have  been known to get up sing with random bands in our local pubs in Streetsville from time to time.

But……when our Loyal Grand Poobah calls us to return to our homeland, there is no hesitation. We all come together for more good times, good music and to make more “member”able moments.    It’s been an awesome journey and I look forward to the next time we meet.

Maribeth Casey – Vocals

(Awaiting content)


Previous members included:

Dave “Bones” Bowering – Drums; Sue Rimmer – Vocals; Ewen MacPherson, Keyboard; Marc Lalouette- Keyboard; Jeff Hudson – Saxophone; Ashley Banfield – Vocals; Daphne Grenill – Vocals; Robin Purohit – Saxophone; Mike Winn – Trumpet; Matt (The Trumpet) Ginser – Trumpet; Mike Hiscocks – Trumpet; Mike Leipe – Bass.

So what kind of music do Swollen Members play?

See them in action at the

“Faux-Cumming Reunion tour” 2012 Clark Hall Pub, Kingston, ON, Canada: 27 October 2012

Here’s the set list from their latest reunion gig at Clark Hall Pub, Kingston, ON, Canada.


The 2012 FauxCumming Tour

Clark Hall Pub, Kingston, Ontario

Saturday October 27, 2012

First Set

2001: A Space Odyssey

Blues Brothers Intro

Gimme Some Lovin

Midnight Hour

Psycho Cleaner

Doin it Right

Do Right Woman Do Right Man

Brian Wilson

Flip Flop & Fly

Second Set

Green Onions (Jam session)

Mustang Sally

Great Balls of Fire

Clark Hall Pub Blues

Chain of Fools

Brown Sugar

Sugar & Spice (I Got You)


Suffragette City

Encore – After Hours Set

No Woman No Cry

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Johnny B Goode

Jailhouse Rock

Devil With the Blue Dress

Mercury Blues

Blue Suede Shoes

Should I Stay or Should I Go

Tube Snake Boogie

Queen’s Sci ’87, R & B band Swollen Members, still rocking

13 11 2012

Queens’s Sci 87 Swollen Members Reunion Gig Review 27 October 2012

Back in the fall of 1983 who would have thought that a group of spotty,

testosterone fired youth studying engineering degrees, at Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada, would not only build

a reputable Rhythm & Blues band at university, but still be playing almost

30 years later in 2012?  The band added glamour and beauty by recruiting

various female students (including at one point, the now famous CNN news

journalist, Ashleigh Banfield).  Their contribution added depth to the vocal

delivery and sound.

Well that’s exactly what happened with the amusingly named Swollen Members, the Queen’s university Science ’87 R  &B band.   At Queen’s, Applied Science is the Engineering program, which at the time counted around 400 students in its various undergraduate disciplines.

Formed by student Jeff Arsenault (Engineering Physics 87, M.Sc. Electrical 89), this band has indeed been rocking to dance floors with a loyal fan base in pubs of Kingston, Ontario for all those years.   Their winning formula drew from The Blues Brother’s reverence of classic R&B music:  familiar feel good songs, classic themes and a modern touch; presented by a front man combining Bob Marley’s unifying warmth and James Brown’s showmanship.

October 2012 marked 25 years since graduating and this group’s homecoming was nothing short of pure energy, magic and fabulous music that rocked the socks off all attendees.  Clark Hall Pub was packed to maximum capacity as 150 alumni returned once more to their hallowed stomping ground to share one more beer and re-live their lost, forgotten youth.

Certainly, nothing beats the R&B sound of a band with a full horn section, backing singers, magic keys and a rock solid rhythm section. Top it off with vocals led by the inimitable Jeff Arsenault and you know you have a recipe for success.

Over the years, the group has also played at various pubs and clubs in Kingston and the venerable Lee’s Palace, Toronto, Ontario; Gaensbauer’s Cottage, Peterborough, on the shores of lake Ontario and even Victoria Island, Ottawa.  Residents of Stormont Avenue, in Kingston’s Strathcona Park, are familiar with the hoots and hollers of this R&B band, as they rehearse every five years or so in the basement of the lead guitarist’s mother’s home.

To mark the 25th Faux-Cumming Tour or rather the Science ’87 reunion, bandleader and lead vocal, Jeff Arsenault composed a soul-searching ballad called Clark Hall Blues.  This ten-minute song rolled out the history of the band and the Science year that spawned it.  As everyone swayed and digested the lyrics there were few dry eyes left in the room.

The show commenced with a slide show of highlights over the past 29 years and the nine piece strong band entered the stage to the music of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” (the 2001 Space Odyssey theme).

Beyond the new composition, the band featured their classic repertoire with the Blues Brothers styled introduction and “Gimme Some Lovin” by Booker T and the MGs and moved quickly to R & B, Blues and Rock favourites such as Midnight Hour, Chain of Fools, Doin’ it right, Green Onions, and Brown Sugar.  In the other Swollen Member original, lead guitarist and composer Rich Arthur belted out “Psycho Cleaner.”  This song had been inspired by his time studying at Macintosh Corry Hall.   This R&B song finishes with a segment of the Talking Head’s “Pyscho Killer” – a popular song in the 80’s with the entire audience joining “fa, fa, fa!” in the closing.  After all, this was a party that has been repeated many times over the years and most attendees know the words, perhaps better than the band.

Allowing the band a well-earned mid-show rest, the Manager of Clark Hall announced that the band had raised just over 1000 dollars, from ticket sales, for the “Make a Wish” Kids Charity in Kingston.  Quick thinking leader, Jeff Arsenault, invited the willing pub manager and bar staff to join him on stage to help raise further dollars.  All in the name of a good cause the lads made a show for the ladies in doffing their shirts to receive their new Swollen Members t-shirts while women lined up to offer “tips”, with a few cheekily slipping their notes into the top of the youth’s trousers.   Two hundred dollars more were raised for this worthwhile charity.

The party continued with a final encore set commencing at 2.00 am.  The band realizing that the end was nigh, finally closed with a set of familiar songs such as No Woman No Cry, Johnny B Goode, Jailhouse Rock, Devil in the Blue Dress, and Should I Stay or Should I go, before declaring they were out of material at 2.35 am!

So who will be back in five years time?  Time will tell, but in the meanwhile here is the insider-potted history on how it all began and the low down on who’s who in the Sci ’87 Swollen Members:

Swollen Members

Back row: Left to Right: Mike Leipe, Chris Catterall, Roger Shirt, Richard Woodruff, Alan Gaensbauer

Front row: Maribeth Casey, Richard Arthur, Jeff Arsenault, KimPerrin.

The low down on who’s who in the Sci ’87 Swollen Members follows in new report due 14 November 2012.


Christmas with Sepilok Orang utans

5 01 2011

A personal account of my family’s visit to Sepilok
December 2010

My father lived and worked in Borneo and often told us stories of the majestic and shy “men of the forest” that he had the good fortune to observe during his time there. Orang utan- the name derived for these wonderful red apes – from the Malay Orang Hutan – men of the forest. My father worked there in 1964, coincidentally the same year that the famous Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre (SORC) opened.

The Sanctuary was opened in 4,500 hectares of virgin jungle (40 minutes/25 km north from Sandakan, Sabah, East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo) to help orphaned baby orang utans who lost their mothers due to logging, plantations and illegal hunting. The objective was to return them back to the wild as soon as they were trained to cope. Baby orang utans typically stay with their mothers until they are 7 or 8 years old. If separation occurs before this age, the baby orang utan is completely helpless, and thus is totally dependent on centres such as Sepilok for survival. Without the care, training and guidance that this centre offers orphans, the future for them is bleak and death the most likely outcome.

Background to orang utans past, present and future

SORC is now one of the most popular places in the world to see Asia’s great ape, the Orang utan (Pongo Pygmaeus) in its native habitat. It is rated as the second “must see” in Malaysia after Mt Kinabalu, also in Sabah. At the beginning of the 20th century orang utans in Borneo numbered over 315,000 – today their numbers are fast dwindling. In 2006 numbers had already fallen to 45,000 and I was shocked to learn during our visit to the famous Sepilok centre in December 2010 that numbers may have been cut further – read below for more details. Their cousin Sumatran orang utans (species: Pongo Abelii) – the slightly redder apes in Sumatra – face an even bleaker situation with numbers only amounting to around 4000. For them, extinction in the wild is most likely in the next 5 years. Meanwhile, in Malaysia deforestation rates between 1999 and 2005 rose some 86% according to conservation sources with 149,200 hectares lost annually since 2000. This is indeed a serious issue for conservation and preservation of this special species.

As more and more of the Borneo landscape is being changed from its’ own rich vibrant diverse rainforest to acres and acres of palm oil plantations, the lost habitat is spelling out the long-term demise of these and other animals, plants and homes for the indigenous people who live there.

It was after the birth of my twin sons in the early 2000’s that I found time to research and find out more about my beloved orang utans. Thanks to the internet, information, research papers and work being conducted by charities was easily accessible. I was horrified to learn that due to the reasons listed above, the numbers of orang utans in the wild was rapidly falling. Back in 2005 experts were estimating that if no action was taken to help the orang utans, they would be extinct in the wild by 2012. It was then that I decided I would, in a very small way, try to make a difference. Clearly it is the governments who need to set policy to assist by setting guidelines on land use, allocating and protecting virgin rainforest etc. It is also businesses that need to act more environmentally responsible and as well society at large to respond accordingly. Nevertheless, the work that many charities are doing to help protect and aid these endearing primates (who share 96.5% to human genes) are certainly helping to make a difference via the various rehabilitation, land purchase and release programmes.
If we want our children and grandchildren to have the pleasure to still observe these delightful redheads in the wild, we need to take action today. I therefore set about to create awareness and education of the young via early learning stories aimed at under 7 years old and more informative stories packed with facts and stats aimed at 8 years old +. I also started to spread the word and I’m working to encourage as many schools as possible to include information with their rainforest education programs to ensure that today’s young people are informed on the plight of the orang utans. Better still, one hopes the young will feel empowered to work with governments, business and charities to safeguard the future, for those that will remain in the wild.

Indonesian and Malaysian Palm Oil Production

Another issue facing Borneo and the orang utans future is palm oil. There is serious concern that not all palm oil production is sustainable, with issues relating to biodiversity, soil degradation, local people, land rights and many other matters. Development of new plantations has resulted in the conversion of large areas of forests with high conservation value and has threatened the rich biodiversity in these ecosystems.

In particular orangutan habitats have been threatened by palm oil production. Scientists say the palm oil industry is the biggest threat to orangutans, with the species driven to extinction within 12 years unless the devastation of their natural habitat is halted.
Some environmental campaigners claim that in 15 years, 98% of the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone unless drastic action is taken to find ways of producing sustainable palm oil. The expansion of oil palm plantations has also given rise to social conflicts between the local communities and project proponents in many instances.

Palm oil plantation, Sabah

As a result, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2003 to tackle these problems head on. GreenPalm, which has been exclusively endorsed by the RSPO, is already making a significant contribution. GreenPalm is a certificate trading programme which is designed to tackle the environmental and social problems created by the production of palm oil.

By buying a product which bears the GreenPalm logo, consumers can make a positive contribution to the production of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and palm kernel oil (CSPKO).

New RSPO logo

On that note, to celebrate my half century, I felt compelled to visit Borneo, in the hope to see first hand the beautiful orang utans in the wild (before it was too late) and to visit Sepilok to learn more about their important work. As my sons had adopted two of the Sepilok babies: Michelle and Ceria we had an added incentive to visit.

Overview on trip to Sungai Kinabatangan River

Ahead of visiting we Sepilok we decide to take a day to cruise along the Sungai Kinabatangan river – the longest river in Sabah. We were rewarded by being able to see crocodiles, various snakes, many proboscis monkeys, long tailed and pig tailed macaques, wild pigs, and a wide range of birds including hornbill, storks, snake birds and eagles. We marvelled at the colourful butterflies that fluttered around but sadly no orang utans were spotted in the tree tops. Certainly elusive and difficult to observe in the wild, but becoming a rare treat as they systemically lose their habitat each year. A friend had visited in December 2009 and lucked out by spotting one orangutan during her cruise.

The Sepilok experience

Sandra Arthur at Sepilok

The next day we negotiated with a local taxi to take us to both Sepilok and the nearby Labuk Bay Proboscis monkey sanctuary. We headed north out of Sandakan toward the centre, nestled in 40 sq km of the Kabili-Sepilok rainforest reserve. My heart sank seeing the miles and miles of palm oil plantations travelling towards the centre and sanctuary. Thank heavens that Sabah set up this protected reserve back in the 1960’s. As we arrived at the centre I was surprised how immaculate the grounds were – with beautiful gardens edging the modern, well-kept buildings – it felt as if you were arriving at a hotel rather than a nature reserve. Nevertheless, we hurriedly said farewell to our taxi driver and ran, yes ran, to the centre to find the ticket office. Arriving at 9 am just as the centre opened, we hoped to have the ability to approach the feeding platform early, in the hope to experience an early sighting ahead of the crowds. Sadly we were not the only people with the same idea! I had been in contact with the UK orang-utan appeal and had learnt that one of their representatives would be at the centre. We enquired at the reception desk if Liz Winterton, from the Appeal was available, and were surprised to hear her voice shout yes from the other side of the ticketing area!

Liz Winterton greets visitors

With tickets in hand we went over to meet Liz who was already on duty with her information stand – promoting adoptions of available babies at Sepilok (together with photos and information), and an information board summarizing some of the projects the Appeal have done with Sepilok during the past year (Vet staffing, transportation, cages for the sick or newly arrived orphans etc). Liz promised to join us later at the feeding platform to help us identify any visitors! We were instructed to place all our bags and belongings in the nearby lockers. Some things are strictly not allowed – ie drinks, and insect spray as these pose very real dangers to the wild animals (an orang-utan has chocked to death after getting a water bottle cap stuck in its throat). We were informed that an inquisitive primate could steal even hats, glasses, and bags. With cameras firmly secured to our bodies we strode towards the rainforest walkway.

We head out into the humid jungle boardwalk and embrace the beautiful sight of ancient trees. The forest is clearly hundreds of years old – the canopy of the tall trees provides much needed shelter from the sun. Much taller than the trees that lined the riverbanks yesterday. Ferns grow in the dappled shade, clinging on to sides of damp tree limbs. Thick moss thrives on the north faces of fruit trees and the smell of the muddy water from the forest floor is evident. We are surprised to also identify the smell of primates not far away in the trees – a wet musky pungent odour. We wonder how we must smell to them.

We were grateful to easily make our way through the hot, sticky rainforest on the elevated wooden boardwalk. There had been a huge thunderstorm the night before and we could see how waterlogged and muddy the ground below was. We are instantly enrobed with the sounds and calls of the forest. My children claim to immediately hear the kissing cry of the orang utans (experts at 7 years old thanks to many hours watching the BBC’s Orang-utans Diaries). Bird whistles, screaming gibbons and tree branch and leaf rustles create an element of interest and potential danger. The humidity is intense – sweat drips down your face and the sensation is that of being in a sauna. Clothed in a long sleeve shirt – to avoid the risk of leeches attaching to you, which was a real threat – increased my temperature and discomfort. The ease and speed at which you can march 250 m to the feeding platform in “wild” rainforest eliminates the real danger of experiencing trekking in knee high mud and watching out for snakes.

Nevertheless, the laissez faire approach quickly evaporates when we come face to face with hungry Macaques on our path. A park ranger quickly appears and warns people not to stare or have eye contact, not to touch it or attempt to feed it. I rush to pull my son away as he stares at the inquisitive primate. Meanwhile, people walking ahead of us, come head to head with an aggressive male macaques. There is banging and vocal exchanges as they quickly run for safety. The rangers warnings were no joke.

Cheeky monkey

We quickly back away and find a safe spot on the feeding platform – reminding the children this is not a zoo but the wild! We are about 25 minutes ahead of the official feeding time.

Nevertheless we decide to remain and safeguard our good location. We observe blue-black and other colour butterflies flying and settling around. A group of very noisy long tailed Macaques and other monkeys arrive and check out the platform for any left over scraps. One would think they have their own watches to alert them to the feeding time that was due. As the feeding hour approaches, more and more people arrive and finally the platform is crowded with hot, sweaty tourists all waiting in anticipation – cameras/camera phones and video a ready. What a mysterious sight for the wild animals to observe. “Who is really watching who?”crossed my mind as we waited in anticipation of a great ape.

Orang utans on deck

Sepilok Feeding Time

At 10 am the rangers arrives with buckets of food and a troupe of hungry monkeys arrive on the scene. The rangers push and persuade this cheeky group to leave – after all the food was for the orang utans – they could have any remaining leftovers. There is always a second feeding at 3 pm for those orang utan who miss the morning session. Clearly the monkeys know the routine and swing away to wait their turn. Suddenly as if on queue we hear loud rustling of leaves in the trees. We hold our breath – yes a blur of red hair can be seen in the distance. Our long wait is rewarded. We are lucky today – despite the early rain and plentiful fruit in the forest, a mother orang-utan and her youngster can be seen swinging to towards the feeding platform. The orang utans use the vine rope that has been secured between trees and the feeding platform to arrive. They move effortlessly, swinging hand-to-hand, like circus acrobats. The cameras click as stellar photo opportunities are presented. I note that everyone is smiling, staring, pointing at the proficient trapeze-artist movements.

The pair arrive on the platform and inspect today’s offerings. We have been informed that the choice of food is always the same to ensure it is boring to the orang utans – today’s delivery appeared to be bananas and sugar cane tubes. The idea is that by having a limited choice they will be encouraged to forage in the forest for different fruits to supplement their diet. Orang utans are known to eat up to 500 different types of fruit, leaves, and insects. Clearly nursing mothers, who may be having difficulty finding sufficient food, can use this service to supplement their efforts.

These shy and bashful but highly intelligent creatures are clearly uncomfortable at the spectacle they find themselves in. You can sense the mother is aware of the crowds but does not want to be watched. She places food in every hand and foot – looking like a greedy child- and she turns her back on the crowd. Liz from the UK Orangutan Appeal joins us at this moment and explains that the mother is Mimi, a 17 year old adult orang utan, together with her 6 year old son, Rony born at Sepilok in 2004. Mimi is a regular guest at the feeding platform, especially when Rony was younger. She had a very large appetite whilst she was suckling her young baby, but continues to use the feeding platform service to supplement her own foraging efforts.

Mimi grabs breakfast

She explains that whilst there are over 150 orang utans who have been released at Sepilok, only 6-10 orang utans currently visit the platform at feeding time. Currently 3 sets of mothers and babies have been regular visitors. Due to the rainstorm that had occurred in the early hours, orang utans are like humans, and don’t like to get wet. If they have found a nice dry spot, they will typically not venture far from their shelter. Orang utans have been seen using large leaves as umbrellas or making rain hats out of leaves – the most ingenious of primates! As a result for this morning’s feeding only Mimi and Rony have left their cover for breakfast. She speculates that the others may visit this afternoon, once the ground was a little dryer.

Mimi swings away, with additional food in her feet, and Rony enters the platform to select his breakfast before the hungry waiting monkeys jump back on the platform to clean up the left-overs. The waiting crowd keenly watches Rony’s eating antics. He lingers for a short while and then chases to catch up with his mother. The assembled group wait in the hope for more visitors, but a few gibbons that have now joined the feast, and no more orang utans arrive.

Exploring Sepilok’s walking trails

Slowly the crowd disperses and we continue along the boardwalk. As we had registered to take the walking trail, we step off the wooden path and head towards the muddy hiking path. There are a number of trails ranging from 250m to 4km. Guided night walks can also be arranged if you are that adventurous. We’ve been told to look out for green snakes, the blood sucking leeches as well as flying squirrels and dozens of different bird species. Thankfully for me we don’t encounter any snakes only a very large and swollen caterpillar, pretty hornbill birds and others I could not identify as well as gibbons and those cheeky macaques. The sounds of the jungle continued to embrace us and I have to admit for the first time I was beginning to feel a little frightened. After the “safe” feeling around with feeding platform, with various rangers on guard, we were quite alone in a rainforest! The sticky mud was now becoming an effort to navigate and the ever-present risk of standing on a snake was troubling me.

Sepilok walking trail

As a result, we decided to turn back and head to the centre to attend the Nature Education Video show.

Sepilok’s Information Briefing

We were pleasantly surprised to note that Liz from the Appeal was leading the briefing. After the informative video on the objectives of Sepilok she gave an overview on the work of the UK Orangutan Appeal. She alerted the visitors to the important programs that her charity help with at Sepilok and highlighted ways how people can help : Adopting a baby orang-utan, buying an Appeal Calendar, T-shirt, making a donation or for those buddy photographers at Sepilok – offering licence/copyright of their photos to the charity to use in publicity.

Latest Orang utans Statistics

The biggest shock I received was hearing her update on latest statistics. She advised that only 25,000 orang-utans were now left in the wild – I was unclear if she was only talking about Malaysia or if this also included Indonesia/Borneo. If that was a correct world status it means that another large percentage of orang-utans have been lost since 2005 when numbers were stated as being 45,000.

Our taxi driver, a local guide, told us how hard it was to really know the true number of oran utans. He had worked with a group of researchers and the way they worked to identify orang utans numbers in a given area was by counting “tree nests”. Orang utans can make up to 3 nests a day, so it was a very hit and miss way but the only method to “count” them. As orang utans are so shy and live high up in the rainforest canopy, it is almost impossible to see them and arrange an accurate evaluation on numbers – especially as they live separately over vast kilometres of impassable rainforest.

Orang utan Nursery

People were interested, as was I, as to whether you could visit the special nursery area at Sepilok where the babies such as Michelle and Ceria were receiving training before their release. Sadly this was not possible due to the risk infection being transmitted between humans and the orang-utans. Whilst this was totally understandable, it was quite something to explain to my 7 year olds that after travelling half way around the world they could not see their “adopted orang-utans”.

When the orang utans first arrive at the rehabilitation centre, they are quarantined and often need treatment for malnutrition and trauma. Injuries can include missing limbs, machete and chainsaw cuts, burns from being doused in petrol and set alight, and sometimes bite wounds from other animals. They are also tested for diseases. Each orang utan is provided with the necessary education and skills it will require in the forest if it is to survive.

It struck me afterwards that perhaps installing a webcam on the nursery space could be a solution. Anyone interested to observe the youngest at play could pay a small fee (example 1 dollar) to gain access to the viewing webcam via a password. Or an alternative could be for the park to periodically film the work they are doing and place footage online. I do hope they will consider!

Arthur family at Sepilok

Before our departure for the Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary (covered in a separate report) we head over to the attractive café nestled between the trees and parking area. We enjoy a local noodle dish and meet some Australian teachers who were visiting Sepilok and adopting 3 orang utans for their classes! Good job and great news that informed youngsters are working to help!

UK Orangutan Appeal

The UK Orangutan Appeal is the only charity that is sanctioned by SORC to fund special projects on their behalf. They do not receive money directly from the charity but rather the Appeal pays and manages specific projects such as supplying the services of vet, building an enclosure at the centre. If you are interested to learn more or perhaps make a donation link to http://www.orangutan-appeal.org.uk

If this account has wetted your appetite to contribute to a volunteer programme to work for 8 weeks in Malaysia at one of the orang utan centres, details and applications can be made via Travellers Worldwide http://www.travellersworldwide.com/11-malaysia/11-malaysia-orangutans.htm

Here is what one volunteered shared: “This has been a life changing experience. One that has allowed me to see some fantastic things – the release of the 23 year old male who had been at Sepilok for 8 years, taking 8 month old orang utans to play at the lake, teaching them to climb ropes, watching the rehabilitated orang utans swing through trees in the forest. It has been too amazing to put into words.”

• An exciting, never-to-be-forgotten adventure into South East Asia and Malaysian culture.
• The enormous satisfaction of helping Orang-utans knowing that you made a difference to them.
• New skills, more confidence, a greater understanding of a different culture, invaluable personal and professional development.
• An entry on your CV or résumé that will put you head and shoulders above most others in the job market
• And best of all … an unforgettable experience!

Visit Summary

The visit to Sepilok was certainly an amazing experience. Thank you Sepilok for safeguarding this rainforest paradise and allowing us to have a glimpse into the private world of its inhabitants. Having the opportunity to be in a relatively “safe” environment that is actually “the wild” is unique. We have all grown up watching nature shows on the TV and at one time or another, perhaps dreamed of being one of those TV explorers. Sepilok gave one the chance to observe, smell and feel the atmosphere of a rainforest. Better still, we had the good fortune and blessing to see wild animals at work and play. Seeking out food, playing with their young and moving between the trees – something that typically would be impossible to experience in a hidden part the jungle, unless you were very lucky.

Orang utans are gentle, intelligent primates that speak to you through their very expressive eyes. It was easy to understand how uncomfortable the mother orang-utan felt on the feeding platform. Perhaps fearing for her young and wondering why were we there in her forest… Indeed, humans have not played straight with the forest inhabitants. They need another chance to live in peace, in their wonderful rainforest home. Everyone can play their part. We can start by supporting the use of sustainable palm oil. By encouraging your friends and indeed yourself to demand sustainable palm oil in your purchases (via lobbying manufacturers etc) we can all contribute to eliminating the loss of our precious rainforests. This will make a positive step to helping the plight of the orang utans.

Let’s hope that the further use of virgin rainforest will slow down and that sufficient land will remain for the orang utans and other animals so that orang utans can continue to thrive – simply just let them be.

Identifying suitable release sites for the orang utans is increasingly difficult with the current rate of native habitat destruction. It is a common threat that is also faced by the people living a traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle – whose homes are being lost and displaced by palm oil plantations.

Sadly I fear the final outcome for this unique primate is living in much reduced numbers in the various forest reserves that will finally and hopefully be allocated to them. For the moment, I urge everyone to support the people who are helping to make a difference via the various charity work that is taking place in Borneo and Sumatra.

Sepilok – offering the orang utans orphans another chance to live in the wild.

Sandra (Chidgey) Arthur and family, Richard, Alexandre & Edouard.
Brief visitors to Sepilok December 2010.

* Copyright 2011 Photography: Sandra Arthur : Richard Arthur. All rights reserved.

Learn more about UK Orangutan Appeal via their Facebook link:-


Inspired to do some ecotourism or better still join a volunteer work effort in Borneo? Find out details on some of the programs available in 2011.


Sandra S C Arthur writes children’s books, some of which are based on environmental themes.  Here latest titles all support Orangutan charities.
Junior teen novel – with environmental facts and stats.
Radio Ron’s Postcards from Borneo series:
Book sales support orangutan charities.
Available in English and French language
Available in hard/soft back book AND as an ebook with audio/music.
An ideal adventure book for children under 9 years. It follows the curious story of “Radio Ron”, as he takes a journey down a rainforest river, with Borneo Dayak tribes-people. This a hilariously amusing picture book that will appeal to children, young and old. At the same time, learn interesting facts about the unique and endangered animals of Borneo (orangutans) and review parent and educator notes, at the back, for a lively reading and educational experience with your children. This book also includes games, puzzles and suggested classroom activities.
Feedback received:
“It looks and sounds truly amazing”. Isobel, France. “Great book, great story, wonderful illustrations.” Glen, Peñíscola, Spain. “I found Radio Ron’s Postcards from Borneo a useful book/ebook to stimulate and help me inject fun into my English classes.” Stephanie (Teacher) France. “Radio Ron – another best seller!” John, France. “Crocodile Attack! Looks and sounds amazing. The audio eBook really brings the story to life :)” Jane, UK “My students love reading this book and especially enjoy “hunting for Omar the Orangutan!” The eBook was great for homework to allow the kids to hear and listen to the story once again.” Elaine (Teacher) UK.

Borneo Adventure “Early learning reader” eBook celebrates first year

19 10 2010


-Early learning eBook review
-Boys falling behind in reading?
-Radio Ron’s adventures good for bilingual children!
-Phonics Versus whole word
-Highlights of the year:
Fund raising: Meeting Lone Droscher Nielsen: Orang utan adoption:Next steps

Early Learning eBook Review

It’s one year since I launched my series of early learning eBook on YouTube and other environmentally educational websites for kids. The mission I set to myself was to (a) help provide a new and fun way for young children to learn to read (b) highlight the plight of the orang tans in Borneo/Indonesia (c) Use my material as a way to stimulate donations to key charities. The fact is Orang utans are on the verge of extinction (50% of its’ populations have been lost in the last 35 years). As part of a complex ecosystem of which the species forms an integral part, we cannot let the Orang utan become extinct in the wild. Its’ habitat is being destroyed by a global demand for wood and palm oil as well as illegal logging, forest fires and land encroachment. Through education and support we can hopefully make a difference.

Now is a good time to reflect on feedback, comment and determine next steps.

In case you missed the announcement, I launched in November 2009 Radio Ron’s Rainforest Adventure series – one of the first early reader books, with narration and music to be placed on YouTube. Set in the rainforest, it highlights the threat of orangutan extinction. The idea behind this is to provide young children with a fun reading tool and at the same time introduce them to environmental education, in particular, the Borneo rainforest and orangutans.

In addition to being accessible via YouTube, these eBooks are also posted on Orangutan Charity websites such as Australian Orangutan Project (AOP), Sepilok Orangutan appeal UK’s and Sumatra’s Orangutan Society(SOS) within their own kid’s education web pages. The idea being that as the material is supplied free, viewers may wish to make a donation to their charity of choice and thus serve as a fund raising vehicle as well as educational tool.

Orang utan to the rescue

Crocodile Attack

“Radio Ron’s Rainforest Adventures ” have been a true family effort with illustration and voice over contributions by my then, young 6 year old twin sons; plus voice over, music composition “Save the Orang utans” and performance and video creation by my husband, Richard Arthur.

Translation of the text into Italian has been undertaken by my mother and some friends have assisted with the French translation and general review.

Boys falling behind in reading?

Thirty eight percent of 4th graders (in USA) cannot read a simple poem – according to a US Dept of Education, National Center for Educational Statistic.

Furthermore, one comment I had received online during the year, from a Canadian teacher, was the point that generally it is boys who are falling behind in reading skills. She believed this could be in part due to the fact there are is not a lot of good stories for boys. She backed up her argument by advising that many educational experts confirm the reason why boys do not read as well as girls, in childhood, is due to the current content that is available appealing more to girls. I wonder how many other agree?

Motivated to research this issue, I had to generally concur with this teacher’s findings. Currently boys face an unprecedented literary crisis that limits their future opportunities. Recent educational studies do show that the gap between the sexes – dating back to the 19th Century – “has increased markedly”. What is known is that boys generally take longer to learn to read than girls; they read less and are less enthusiastic about it; and they have more trouble understanding narrative texts yet are better at absorbing informational texts. As reading is the key ingredient in all learning, if a child is weak in reading, then this sadly will be reflected throughout all their education. When a child is struggling with reading then he or she will struggle with all subjects.

I had not written the Radio Ron’ Rainforest Adventure series strictly for boys – although, I do have two sons which I used to test the storyline, and yes, they both love the story! I’m hoping this e-book will appeal to all as it presents reading in a fun manner. Kids can listen to the narration, mute the sound and try and read and repeat. Moving away from the classroom teaching of simple looking at books – these simple ebooks take that experience one more step to engage more of a child’s senses. Children have the opportunity to be stimulated visually by the delightfully, child-like illustrations created by 6 year kids. At the same time they can hear the narrative – read by two adults who have injected clarity of reading with humour via the dialogue and delivery. There is also the addition of background music and sound effects to add additionl stimulation, reality and interest.

Children love new things, and boys in particular are stimulated by adventure, animals and learning “how things works”. Furthermore, the parent or teacher can use the story as a basis to trigger other activities using the storyline as a theme. An example could be creating Rainforest animal (or objects such as canoes) (creating puppets, models, drawings) or physically acting out their own rainforest play. Learning about geography – finding out where Borneo is located in the world. Understanding the role of the rainforest and discovering what trees and animals live there. Likewise, getting the children to sing “rowing songs” or play instruments and “making forest noises “could be another way to engage children’s imaginations. As most classroom teaching is a visual and hearing based system- boys in particular tend to enjoy movement/touch, especially at young ages. I’m hopeful that parents and teachers will use this material to trigger a series of additional activities that includes learning through movement (read the story and then move like an orang utan, for example).

I hope that when kids read these short ebook stories they will ignite their interest to learn more about the unique island of Borneo. Not only are regions like Borneo impacting global climate change but their people, animals and plants are battling with a multitude of issues, not least extinction.

I know my boys had dozens of questions the first few times they heard the story. I’ve developed some educator notes that provide suggestions and ideas and these can be supplied – send your requests via email.

By offering a fun approach to early reading practice, I hope my work may encourage a life long love affair with reading and books (whether on an electronic screen or paper). And, at the same time, also trigger an interest in environmental issues.

Radio Ron’s adventures also good for bilingual children!

As a mother of bilingual children, I was happy to receive an email from one happy YouTube viewer in Norway, who confirmed that the multi-media ebook functioned well and served as an easy reading book for his son, non-native English speaker in their 4th class primary school.

Other feedback I received included Denise Gilby, teacher at an International school called Victoria School, in Tequisquiapan, Mexico added “This is a very good presentation – the narration and voices bring the story to life well. I enjoyed it and will forward it to our yr 2 teacher who will be doing a rainforest topic later in the year”.

Other groups and schools from around the world (including Australia, France, and US) have pledged their interest in this project and support to use this material. Some classes in France have already used early versions of this work in their 6-7 year old classes. In the last few years, many schools around the world have added rainforest projects to their curricula and I’m happy to report some are using Radio Ron’s Adventures (both the early learning ebook and the longer story for over 8 years old) as part of their school projects.

Phonics Versus whole word

As the arguments and debate rages on between educators on what is the best approach to teaching reading English to children, here’s some food for thought.

About 50% of the English language cannot be read by applying phonetics. There are simply too many exceptions due to the history of our rich language. Ultimately certain words have to learnt. Certainly the latest phonic-based teaching has attracted much merit with the ease that children can develop reading. It has also been reported that this style of teaching also helps children who are dyslectic. However, in reality, almost all children learn to read by a combination of the whole word and phonics-based approaches – especially it they have had mum or dad (who were taught that way – as in my case!). Whole word reading is easier, so most children learn their first words by this method, before they know the sounds that the letters make. Many kindergarten teachers teach some words by sight before starting on phonics.

No matter what reading system you use, at the end of the day it is essential that learning to read is made fun in the early years of learning. Whether this be via the material that is used or the information obtained from the reading material. As today’s generation will be a truly pc literate group, I hope that my eBook demonstrates the fun that children can derive for engaging in early multi-media experience.

Highlights of the year

Fund raising
I managed a variety of fund raising events in aid of various orang utan charities at my home. A very simple concept: I invited home sellers/party organisers for jewellery, cosmetics, cards, toys, underwear and gift sellers to set up their stalls in my house and asked that 10% of their sales be donated. A number of friends also followed suit to increase contributions.

Meeting Lone Droscher Nielsen/Borneo Orangutan Survivial group

I met the wonderful Lone Droscher Nielsen, founder and manager of the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project in Central Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) at the BOS 10th anniversary celebrations in London, UK. Here Lone described the desperate plight of the organ utans in Indonesia and unveiled her plans to release 30 apes back into the wild during 2010.

The BOSF proposed allocating 200,000 hectares – possibly including rehabilitated timber forests – to release orangutans in Nyaru Menteng. If all plans work out, the first release back into the wild for these beautiful great apes could be next month November 2010.

Working with Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS), Lone began this project in 1999 with help from Willie Smits. Nyaru Menteng is now the largest primate rescue project in the world, with more than 600 orangutans in its care. The project rescues and rehabilitates hundreds of orphaned orangutan infants with the goal of a return to some sort of wild life. It has also rescued hundreds of adult wild orangutans from oil-palm plantations which have been planted after their natural forest habitat has been cleared.
Lone’s project is the only orangutan project actively rescuing wild orangutans from certain death in the oil-palm plantations of Central Kalimantan. These orangutans are treated for wounds inflicted by loggers and starvation, and when healthy, eventually returned to safe forests, which have been secured by Lone.

By piecing together a complex ecological puzzle, biologist Willie Smits has found a way to re-grow clearcut rainforest in Borneo, saving local orangutans — and creating a thrilling blueprint for restoring fragile ecosystems.

Hear Willie Smit talking about saving rainforests:

and an extremely informative and essential viewing video – How Willie Smits worked to re-grow a rainforest:

Orang utan adoptions
Our family adopted apes from WWF and two orang utans at Sepilok (via the Orangutan Appeal UK) all based in Sabah, Eastern Borneo – part of Malaysia. My children have been excited to learn of their adopted orang utans’s progress. Learn more about the land from where they live and best still have encouraged their class mates to take an interest to also adopt. Their teacher has been supportive and used the Radio Ron adventure material for class readings and discussion. Better still is our plan to visit the famous orang utan rehabiliation park – Sepilok later this year so that we can understand more clearly what additional help these wonderful animals require.

Next steps:

A longer children’s adventure story “Cpl Ron’s Rainforest Adventure “ (suitable for 8 years +) is currently available as a free pdf file. This document includes “Facts and Stats” on the Borneo rainforest and other educational guidance including teacher notes. I will be working to update content, as necessary, and distributing widely electronically.
I also plan to have a limited print run as a magazine to supply to key libraries at schools/zoos and educational facilities.

It is hoped that parents and educators will use the material to assist young child to read and at the same time consider sharing this important environmental message.

Link to pdf file: If file does not open, please send post message below and I will forward (your contacts will not be shown). Click link below:

Cpl Ron’s Borneo Jungle Adventure

Helpful links:-

Sepilok Orangutan Appeal
Sumatra Orangutan Society (SOS)
Australian Orangutan Project
Borneo Orangutan Survial
World Wildlife Fund

Mobile Operator’s Opportunity: A slice of the cloud service revenue

20 09 2010

What is the market opportunity for operators wanting a piece of cloud services? We all know Cloud is growing and growing fast. All parties are in agreement, revenue is going one way – up!

Research companies are having a field day with Cloud market figures – we have market estimates from Gartner, IDC, Analysys Mason and others as well as leading cloud vendors. Figures can mislead as there can be huge differences as research is not always measuring apples to apples. Nevertheless, Analysys Mason, quoted in August 2010 that the global cloud computing market is set to grow to USD35.6 billion by 2015. So whether you’re a service provider/mobile operator, IT vendor or partner, enterprise cloud services are an opportunity not to miss.

Informa’s recent report add that the “mobile cloud” is set to increase from 42.8 million consumers in 2008 to almost a billion by 2014, jumping from 1.1%to 19% of all mobile phone subscribers. This scale of growth of what is being called, the “mobile cloud”, will force competitors to not only open dialogue but also work together. For those who fail to move quickly or identify how to monetise key services will face declining revenue and stagnant growth whilst other reap the profit.

This challenge has huge ramifications for the entire mobile ecosystem, changing the way that developers build apps and how OEMs, ISPs and Operators define app selection and distribution.

It was these topics and more that brought together operators from Turkey, Spain, Slovenia, Italy, France, Germany, UK and beyond as well as industry vendors (from Japan, USA etc) and one or two enterprise businesses to attend Informa’s kick off new event, Cloud Mobility Amsterdam 2010.

Initial attendance figures looked disappointing – was the topic so new and hot that few had heard about it, or was the term so vague as to miss the key audience it was targeting? Nonetheless, an interesting range of conference speakers had been attracted to present on topics ranging from enterprise SaaS, Mobility applications, to infrastructure services and case studies.

Event sponsor, HP, started the conference with an interesting keynote featuring Enterprise Mobility with Cloud services from both an operator and enterprise viewpoint. The presentation was billed as a “Mobile Operator Primer“, explaining the opportunity for Operators to aggregate enterprise mobility services to provide a single contact point for customers.

A cloud case study based on an implementation at SFR described the target market and structure of the Cloud services recently launched by this French operator. Proof that cloud implementations are taking off.

Catchmedia revealed an interesting new concept using cloud for their recently launched service Play AnywhereTM. Offering consumers the ability to access their content (music, games, films) on any device and vendor of their choice. While Vodafone described mobile app ecosystems.

An interesting dilemma thrown open during the event’s debate was the issues over new legal implications and considerations for the mobile cloud. Where does your data sleep at night? As content crosses boundaries around the world one needs to be mindful of data protection and other legal issues. An interesting viewpoint on these and other matters of law was presented by Stephen Ridgway from international lawyer group: DentonWildeSapte.

Some presenters lost credibility by making pure product pitches and thus losing a golden opportunity to show their leadership role in what is no doubt an up-coming “hot topic”.

The takeaway conclusion appeared to be that mobile operators have a great opportunity to grab – if they are quick and identify some killer app/services to grow revenue.

Cloud Vision’s Editor, Mike Knuckey chaired one panel debate on making the case for hybrid cloud: are we moving integration and management challenges off the network and into the cloud? This panel included viewpoint from Juniper research’s Dr Windsor Holden who added his cloud-based mobile apps prediction. Total market for cloud-based applications is expected to rise from must over $400 million – figure from 2009 – to nearly $9 Billion by 2014 – making an average annual increase of 88%!

For those who missed this conference, catch an extended version of the HP keynote, including Cloud mobility services examples. Watch Cloud Vision’s interview with Richard Arthur, Director Business Transformation Marketing, HP discussing their joint upcoming webinar on Enterprise Mobility through Services in the Cloud: A Mobile Operator’s Guide. This webinar will be moderated by Patrick Kelly, Research Director, Analysys Mason with HP Cloud Experts: Colin I’Anson and Richard Arthur.

Cloud Vision’s Webinar – Inside the cloud series – took place on 23 Sept 2010 – you can download the recording here LINK