I hope you had a good 2017 and I hope your 2018 will be even better. I’ve been in Penang for the past few months because I had some visa issues in Thailand. The Thai consulate here in Penang red-stamped my passport for too many back-to-back tourist visas and told me that if I wanted to stay long-term I needed a proper long-term visa. The problem is such a visa is a bit of a pain to get, much more so than a tourist visa which doesn’t require many documents, a Thai spouse, or a Thai sponsor, e.g., a business or school. The red warning stamp usually means they won’t issue you any more tourist visas at least not for a while or perhaps until you apply in your home country rather than in one of the countries bordering Thailand however I wrote them a letter explaining why I needed one more and luckily they gave one to me. That last 60 day + 30 day extension = 90 day tourist visa finished in October. When I stopped flying in order to do my part to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions I was afraid this would happen. Before I could fly once a year from Thailand to Taiwan and back and that eliminated the need for me to get too many back-to-back visas in either place. If only Taiwan was a short train ride away from my home in Thailand like Malaysia is.
I’m not a fan of Malaysia, but I guess I wouldn’t call myself a “fan” of any country, however I told myself I better get used to staying here since staying long-term in Thailand isn’t really an option at the moment. I’ve been staying in Penang which is where I usually go for my visa runs and soon after I arrived and found a place to stay I started volunteering at a Children’s Shelter. At first it was just for a couple hours a day everyday however this past month I’ve been there for many hours a day everyday. Besides working with the kids I’m also trying to help the the staff improve their management of the place, e.g., how they train and evaluate staff and how they arrange the children’s meals and interact with them in general. It’s been a learning experience that confirmed what I already knew which is there are too many kids/people in general on this planet and not enough good parents and teachers. I really like children in need having a place like this to go because a place like this can help them break out of the cycle of ignorance and poverty they were born into so they themselves don’t end up having 9 children by age 30 from four or five different men none of which they can properly care for. Did you know that some religions are not only against abortion but also against birth control? Crazy!
Anyway I won’t get started on religion or politics just yet however I will make an effort to breathe some life into this blog by posting on the first of each month until I’m ready to start posting weekly. I’ll probably start posting more after I return to Thailand which might not be until Thai New Years which is in April. In the meantime stop by on the first or second of every month and I’ll try and have something for you. The New Years Eve fireworks are now going off and I’m headed for bed, I promised the kids I’d hook them up with an awesome fruit breakfast to get 2018 off to a good start and after that I’m taking a few of the older ones to climb to the top of Penang Hill. Weather permitting I encourage you to get out and do some hiking, biking, swimming, or whatever you prefer however be sure to fuel this increase in physical activity with some fruits and vegetables or some other plant based foods rather than meat, dairy, and/or eggs from abused chickens. Over the past few months I’ve shared my views with the kids and staff regarding many issues, particularly diet and health, and this evening one of the older girls told me that she was going vegetarian starting January 1st and another one said she was going to give it a five day trial.
How about you? If you don’t want to commit to going vegan this year could you at least commit to giving up beef if not all meat? Doing so would significantly reduce your greenhouse gas emissions which means a lot to the biosphere and the future generations that will inhabit it. Abstaining from meat would also significantly reduce the cruelty inflicted on your behalf which means a lot to the animals and all the people who care about how they are treated. Instead of using “What difference can I as one person make?” as an excuse not to take action and make the small sacrifices that we all should have made a long time ago, e.g., giving up meat and minimising our consumption of fossil fuels, realise that your positive impact will be multiplied as you become a positive example for others, an example that shows you can be as happy and healthy as anyone on this planet and without over-consuming, abusing animals, and destroying the biosphere. Good luck getting 2018 off to a good start and I’ll talk to you on February 1st.
2017 begins much like 2016 ended, rain and more rain. After a few days of heavy rain the once peaceful little creek that ran along the side of my home has swollen into a raging river. I’m not too worried about that however I am a bit worried about all the rain bringing down a large tree on a steep slope that has my roof in its sights. Earlier today I went to pick some fruit but was unable to make it to the orchard due to much bigger raging river. I thought about testing my luck but if the rapidly moving knee deep water that was covering the narrow bridge took out one of my legs the other would certainly follow and I’d be washed off the bridge and pummeled against many boulders as I was sent downstream so it wasn’t worth it, not even for some rollinia.
Today is the first day of the last month of the year and I hope this month will be far less disappointing than last month. I’ve been relatively busy with work and thinking deep thoughts the past couple weeks so you may have noticed I haven’t been posting like I was Pre-Trump. I won’t be chiming in here again until New Years however in the meantime I will continue to try and help get important links noticed on Twitter.
P.S. A friend of someone I buy fruit from got hit by a car a few days ago in front of the fruit sellers home, went into a coma, and died a few days later. It reminded me of a very promising individual who was hit and killed on his bike at the age of 14 by a careless driver so with both of them in mind I say please be careful on and around the road especially if you happen to be in Thailand or in one of the few other places with as abysmal of a traffic safety record.
I went to the beach today in hopes some sun, sand, and salt water would cleanse me of the last 24 hours. I did some snorkeling and saw some beautiful fish as I picked a few pieces of old plastic out of the ocean. Seeing an old and disintegrating plastic bag that has become attached to the sea floor wave back and forth with the currents like an underwater plant makes you realize how easy it is for a hungry fish to nibble away at it thinking it was food and not something that was going to get stuck in its stomach and eventually kill it. The largest fish I saw was only about half the size of my hand probably because like in many other parts of the world people have eaten just about anything worth eating however there were still small fish which came in a variety of shapes and colors.
I wonder if the decedents of these fish will be there when children today are my age or if they will vanish along with most of the world’s coral reefs due to a slight increase in water temperature and acidity as a result of all the carbon released into the atmosphere from all the fossil fuels we’re burning and forests we’re cutting down in order to satisfy our hunger for cheap meat and palm oil? While I was waiting for the boat back I was passed by a morbidly obese man probably in his late twenties. One of the Thai boatmen said “Hey, where you from?” and he replied “New York City.”, then the Thai boatman says “New York City, Mr. Trump!” and the fat guy says “Mr. Trump” as he does a big thumbs up at which time the same nausea and leg weakness I experienced on election night slightly returned as I once again thought about all the environmental consequences of this election. Should have been Bernie however it is what it is, now it’s time to fuel up and fight on!
Yesterday I took what I guess was a 3 or 4km hike up a slippery mountain slope in search of a waterfall. There were no signs just a very narrow path used by off-road motorcycles which the locals use to haul down fruit. However I went late in the afternoon so the motocross fruit farmers had already gone home for the day and there was nobody in the mountain forest and I couldn’t get a phone signal. Although it was only a short hike from 3G and the rest of civilization you could really feel the disconnect. After a bath in what was probably the coldest water I’ve ever experienced in Southeast Asia I headed back just before it got dark to continue working on some work stuff. Continue reading
Yesterday I was working and reading on my computer for most of the day and didn’t get much farther than my front porch so today I decided to get away from my computer and go for a long walk. Today’s walk was around 20km and culminated in a refreshing swim in a cool mountain river followed by some freshly fallen durian. I’m not a fan of dogs or pets in general, particularly those that are more like prisoners such as caged birds that have been robbed the ability to fly, but any dog that loves durian as much as this old stray/abandoned dog did is fine with me.
Last night I was out walking around enjoying the sights and sounds of some of the local frogs and toads. Then today at the market I saw some more frogs but they weren’t making any sounds and I didn’t enjoy seeing them. As far as the locals are concerned there’s nothing wrong with ripping the skin off of a living frog and letting it slowly die over a period of what I guess could be hours. As is generally the case when I see something that is just plain wrong I spoke up in hopes that it will help raise awareness and influence future behavior. If you’re going to eat an animal or its parts and excretions then you should know how it was caught or raised and how it was killed and be alright with that otherwise you shouldn’t eat it.
P.S. If you want to see seven terrible seconds of what I was talking about click here, if not enjoy the happy toad photo below.
I was reminded why I don’t eat eggs when I saw a truck that was hauling plastic crates that were absolutely packed with what looked to be some very unhealthy and sad chickens. I think they were egg laying hens whose worn out bodies could no longer continue laying enough eggs to justify their existence and were off to slaughter and I want absolutely no part in any of that abuse. Just imagine being treated like that, living in your own feces in a crowded dark barn or in a cage so small that you’re not even able to stretch out your arms let alone go for a walk.
I used to eat eggs from sources I could verify were free range and organic thus did not equate to me supporting big agricultural companies that seek to control as much of the food supply as they can by patenting seeds and the pesticides they are genetically engineered to grow with. However I’m often asked about what I eat and when I used to say “I eat eggs that I can verify are free range and organic.” what that translated to for most of the people asking me is “Mr. ethical and healthy diet and lifestyle man eats eggs, eggs are good, and even he admits that you need to eat animals or at least their milk and/or eggs in order to be healthy.”.
Since I don’t in any way want to condone the abuse that occurs during the production of the vast majority of eggs destined for human consumption I essentially stopped eating eggs over 5 years ago. I say “essentially” because since then I’ve probably had about a dozen eggs which I knew were from happy health chickens but I’ve had none this year and I don’t intend on eating any in the future. If you enjoy eggs then eat them, just make sure they come from an ethical source rather than turning a blind eye when you eat out or buy things made with eggs because you can be sure that those aren’t eggs anyone remotely concerned with animal rights and dietary ethics wants to be eating.
What’s so bad about eating eggs?
Poultry and Eggs: Industries That Abuse Chickens
NFL Warns Players Not To Eat Meat In Mexico After It Caused A Failed Drug Test
I was going to spend a night or two away in order to let the paint dry but the fresh mountain air and tree-ripened organic fruit kept me away for three. I slept in a little wooden bungalow surrounded by trees and immersed in the sounds of frogs, crickets, and other small creatures of the night and as I lay in bed last night I wished that more urban dwelling people had the chance to spend a few nights surrounded by nature because it may teach or remind them that they are a part of a world that is much bigger than their country and the rest of human civilization including any of its creation myths.
Here are a few pictures to stimulate your appetite before you lose it watching tonight’s debate and no I’m not talking about the cows because I don’t find slitting the throats of those gentle beasts, gutting them, and eating the human-like flesh off their human-like bones to be very appealing.
Last time on our way back to Thailand we encountered two police checkpoints and our Thai driver had to bribe the Malaysian police in order to pass without being held up and hassled. When I returned from that visa run last July I sent an email to the Malaysian Tourism Authority, Malaysian Police, and their Anti-Corruption Department however it doesn’t seem to have done much good as they are still stopping and hassling Thai mini-bus drivers and probably some other drivers as well. Even though it didn’t seem to do any good last time I emailed another complaint today.
Next time you see or encounter something that isn’t right and could really use some improvement I hope you’ll take a minute to do something, speak up, or write an email because if enough people do these unjust and inconvenient situations will eventually improve. With that said here’s my 4 day visa run trip from Southern Thailand to Penang in 4 photos.
In case you didn’t see it much of the first half was spent arguing about the sexual assault rhetoric and record of one candidate and that of the spouse of the other along with the history of that candidate during her time as a young lawyer and as a wife defending sexual predators and discrediting their victims. Way to go America! That’s the way you promote democracy to the rest of the world. We could’ve had Bernie Sanders debating important issues with John Kasich or some other decent, sane, and somewhat informed human being but instead we’ve got an uninformed guy with a severely inflated view of himself and another phony politician who tries to be all things to all people.
So why bother voting for either of them? Because regardless of whether or not you participate in this election you and your loved ones will be stuck with its consequences so civic duty aside it’s in your personal self-interest not to mention the interest of human civilization and entire biosphere that you not only vote but also encourage others to vote for the best possible candidate that has a shot at winning the election. That candidate is Hillary Clinton hands down. She is intelligent, articulate, and well informed; moreover I think/hope that at this point in her life she really wants to do the right thing for the country and the world and if elected will be focused on doing just that rather than on accumulating more wealth and more power so I’m with her!
If you’ve never tried bouldering or rock climbing you really should and if you have but a long time ago then you should do it more often. I’m still more of a fruit tree climber however I must say that exhausting your hands and melting your forearms on a climbing wall is pretty awesome. I’ve only climbed up high with a harness a few times in my life because I’m not into get-wrecked-or-die-if you-fall heights and I don’t like putting my life in the hands of old climbing bolts. Particularly those on the beach and subject to the corrosive effects of sea mist. However I love bouldering over sand, water, or some other forgiving surface.
After many attempts today, and over the past few weeks whenever I visited that beach, I made it and now that I know how to do it and have developed a stronger grip it should be fairly easy next time. I climbed onto the stalactite in the center of this photo which is about 2 meters off the ground. I did a little jump and grab and then put my foot over my hands and used my heel to allow me to move my hands into a position that would eventually get me high enough onto the stalactite that I could get a foot on the bottom. After I made it I climbed around it once before jumping down with a smile on my face and blood on my hand (small scrape).
Today in an episode of Witness they recounted a story of child abuse and cover-up in the Catholic Church. I wonder how many people would continue to stick with and support a secular organization with a deep rooted and dark history of child abuse like that? After that I read about the White House being mad at Israel for deciding to build more settlements in occupied land and just after they closed the deal on 38 billion dollars in military aid. I wonder how much money the U.S. would give Israel and how Israel would justify it’s settlements if it weren’t a Jewish state that based its territorial claims on religious text? I also wonder how strong U.S. support for Israel would be if so much of the U.S. electorate didn’t identify as Christian?
Today I also read a story about a Dutch tourist in Myanmar where it’s illegal to “insult religion” who just got sentenced to 3 months hard labor for unplugging a loudspeaker near his hotel which was blasting a Buddhist sermon in the darkness of the late night or early morning. I wonder how much hard labor he would’ve been sentenced to if he unplugged the loudspeaker a group of people blasting a secular sermon about the threat of climate change and the role and animal agriculture plays in it? I’m guessing the people blasting such a much needed sermon into the darkness of the early morning would be the ones arrested and sentenced to hard labor for disturbing the peace and disrupting the much needed sleep of hundreds of people.
Religion should not be elevated above morality, exempt from laws, or protected from constructive criticism the same way secular ideas and activities aren’t.
P.S. Yesterday I was speaking with a couple from the States who were visiting from China where they had been living for the past few years. The husband was teaching English in a school and the wife taught English at home via the bible. She told me her students all thought that the bible was just some mythology and didn’t know its truth and I smilingly told her I agreed with the students. She seemed a bit surprised that I’d politely just slam it on the table like that as I stretched my wrists after a bouldering session on the beach. I still find it funny when people assume that since I’m white and speak English I must be Christian and talk to me like I’m on team Jesus when the only team I’m on is team Earth.
After she responded by telling me how she was born into a god loving faithful Christian family and disagreed with my assessment of the bible we went on chatting and she told me they had nine children and she made sure to add that they were all theirs, none of that silly adoption stuff for this fertile couple. As if having one or two kids isn’t bad enough they had nine! Moreover they were all home schooled by a faithful Christian mother so I expect those nine will produce many more. Genesis 1:28 “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” With so many people with an arrogant and anthropocentric attitude like that no wonder humanity along with the rest of the biosphere is in the ecological mess it’s in.
P.P.S. Today I saw a monk on the bus who refused to hand his ticket to the ticket lady. Instead he handed it to a random five year old boy who was seated with his mother and then the ticket lady took it from him. It reminded me of a Swiss handshake story earlier this year in which a teenage student refused to shake hands with his teacher because she was a women. I wouldn’t try to force or even encourage anyone to shake hands with anyone else but could some of you devout men please stop acting like any contact or interaction with a women such as a handshake or simply handing something over to them has to have some kind of an underlying inappropriate sexual meaning to it. Grow up, because if I become a bus driver and there’s a lady collecting tickets for me and you refuse to hand yours directly to her because it violates your religious beliefs then you will not ride on my bus.
I started slacklining last year after seeing one for the first time however today was the first time I stretched my slackline across some water. Walking across it was a lot more difficult than I thought it’d be and I think that had a lot to do with how fast the muddy river below me was moving. If you swam as hard as you could you could still move forward but very slowly. I’m not sure I could have even made it 10 meters upstream. Luckily the stream was only about 12 meters wide so I was never too far from the shore.
You’re not supposed to look down when walking on a slackline but I couldn’t help noticing the water below rushing past me and I think it messed with my balance which is pretty good a meter or so above land. There was also the fear of falling but I wasn’t very high above the water so I think the main thing that made it so difficult was all the movement below me. I look forward to slacklining over some still and preferably clear water and seeing how that feels. In the meantime I need to practice looking forward and ignoring what’s below me.
If you aren’t familiar with slacklining know that it’s awesome and that you should buy a slackline along with a balance board today. I consider being able to walk across a slackline and being able to walk on your hands essential human skills. You don’t need to be able to do tricks on a slackline, I don’t, and you don’t need to be able to take a flight of stairs on your hands however if you aren’t a small child, really old, or physically handicapped you really should make it a goal to be able to walk across a slackline and take a few steps on your hands.
P.S. If you want to see just how important vision is to your balance try standing on one leg, shutting your eyes, and then counting down from 20 out loud and don’t forget to do both legs.
When arriving at a beach on a hot sunny day it’s tempting to go running into the water, many people even do a run into a dive. I strongly recommend you NOT do this without checking the water first because you never know what lurks just beneath its surface. Have fun at the beach but be careful not to wreck yourself on a rock. No I didn’t wreck myself on those rocks but I’m sure people have and more will in the future. Since they were way too big and embedded for me to move out of a swimming area frequented by tourists which assume it’s rock free I thought I’d issue a little safety announcement that applies to beaches everywhere in hopes it will save at least one person from kicking or diving into a rock. I also sent an email and these two pics to the local beach/park management because although I don’t think it’s necessary to alter natural surroundings in order to careless-tourist-proof everything I do think they should pull up those three rocks which are really in a bad spot.
I agree. The problem is that my idea of what’s my business as an adult human greatly differs from that of most people and I hope yours does too because if everyone broadened the scope of what they considered to be their business and spoke out or lent a hand when needed the world would get a lot better in a lot less time than it would have otherwise.
Last week I told a parent, and onlookers, that it’s 100% wrong, i.e., no gray area and not up for debate, to make a child who is only around 7 or 8 years old wear a niqab whenever she leaves the house as this essentially eliminates the possibility of her interacting with children outside of her cult and communicating with her face in public. I guess her father felt it was time she covered her entire body from head to toe including her face so she wouldn’t be “flaunting her beauty” in public.
We should all speak out when we see child abuse regardless of its form, e.g., an overdone and out-of-control spanking that turns into a beating or when a child is fed so improperly that their health is in jeopardy. I decided to write this after reading an article entitled “Should You Intervene When a Parent Harshly Disciplines a Child in Public?”. My answer is YES. I’ve intervened in overdone and out-of-control child beatings on at least three occasions and I hope the next time you see a child being abused you’ll calmly say something that helps stop it and hopefully reduces the likelihood of a future incident.
I saw a useful video on the YouTube Trending page today. Here are a few of the YouTube tips featured in it.
< = decrease playback speed
> = increase playback speed
J = go back 10 seconds
K = pause
L = go forward 10 seconds
, = go back one frame
. = go forward one frame
0 = return to start of video
9 = jump to the 90% point
1-8 for anywhere in between
up = increase volume
down = decrease volume
left = back 5 seconds
right = back 5 seconds
Yesterday I spent the night at a fruit farm in the middle of fruit season and you don’t get any more “right place right time” than that! Early this morning I went tree climbing for ripe fruit and after breakfast the owner offered me to use his scooter so I went to a couple places in the area that I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise since there was no public transportation available to get to them and I didn’t have enough time to try my luck at hitchhiking which is generally pretty good and is what got me there and back home this evening.
Today was the first time, and probably the last time, I’ve ridden or driven any vehicle that wasn’t powered by my legs this year. Besides being super convenient it was also pretty fun and although scooters burn fossil fuels just like your average car they do it way more efficiently. The scooter I rode around on today got somewhere around 51km/l or 120 mpg. The only way you’re going to match that with the average new car is by loading it up with 4 or 5 passengers and that’s only if you compare it to a scooter with one person rather than a scooter with two or three which is very common here.
It’s sad to see so many people still addicted to tobacco. I understand the ignorance and/or selfishness that allows most people to live as if they don’t care about the future of the biosphere and the people who will inhabit it however it’s harder to understand how someone could care so little about themselves and those around them that they’d regularly go out of their way to poison themselves and, inadvertently, those around them.
I’m not just referring to the stomach churning unpleasantness of having to speak to a smoker up close or the health hazard of having to breathe their secondhand smoke I’m referring to the harm caused by their willingness to accept such low standards when it comes to their own personal health and quality of life. If a smoker accepts such low health standards when it comes to themselves what kind of health standards do you think they will apply to everyone else? How about to animals other than humans and the biosphere as a whole?
I’m far more concerned about the harm smokers cause others and the burden they place on the health care system than I am with the harm they cause themselves however we can’t ignore the former if we hope to make progress with the latter. Therefore to all smokers and anyone else who doesn’t respect themselves as much as they should I remind you that you have too much potential as a human being to live the rest of your life with a completely unnecessary self-induced health handicap therefore I urge you to make an all-out effort to quit smoking.
18 Ways Smoking Affects Your Health
Smoking can cause permanent damage to DNA
Resources to help you create a quit plan and quit smoking permanently.
Anyone who’s lived or traveled in less developed countries learns quickly to consistently watch their head and where they place their feet. Over the years I have on countless occasions avoided stepping into holes, getting poked in the eyes, or smashing my head into something that shouldn’t have been hanging down or jutting out into a public space. However I’ve also had my share of fails and this morning was one of them. As I was squeezing past people at the market I snagged my thigh on a nail that was jutting about 3cm out of a table. Luckily it was the head of the nail but it still hurt and could’ve resulted in a tetanus infection had it broken the skin. Thanks organic cotton shorts! Continue reading