A new year and a new decade has arrived! I wish you all health and happiness and hope humanity will make better decisions this year, particularly this November in the U.S.. Five years ago when I first started this blog a couple of my first posts were about climate change. It’s been disappointing to see how things have played out these past 5 years, especially after all the hope that the Paris Agreement brought in late 2015. Hopefully humanity will unite and put things right this decade. Regardless we must all do our part to reduce our own environmental footprint while hopefully inspiring others to reduce theirs.
Last week the senior social worker at the children’s home and I took a few of the older kids to Thailand for the school holiday. It was a 7 hour drive from the children’s home in Malaysia to my home in Thailand. There we explored some of the pristine nature and mountain scenery before going to Krabi for some beach fun and hot springs relaxation. I took some footage of the trip and am putting together a short video so all the other kids can at least enjoy some of the scenery and laugh at some of the antics of those 5 days. Now all the kids are back including the ones who went to stay with relatives for the holiday and a new school year starts tomorrow.
P.S. Yesterday we came across a medium sized water monitor that was just sitting in the middle of the outermost lane of a very busy road. It didn’t have any visible damage but it was in shock and had some blood coming from its mouth so I suspect it was hit by a motorcycle. I tried to shoo it off the road but it wouldn’t move. There was no shoulder on the road and there were cars getting backed up behind us so I carefully grabbed it behind the head so it couldn’t bite me and lifted it up from the back so it couldn’t claw me and carried it to the car turned reptile ambulance. As soon as I got it into the car it started clawing and whipping its tail. I kept pressure on its back and turned my head so I didn’t get clawed or whipped in the face.
We took it back to the children’s home because that area is suitable for urban dwelling water monitors and we even have a couple that visit our compost pile from time to time. Once we arrived I took it out of the car the same way I had brought it in and carried it to a quiet place away from where all the kids go. I then placed the calmed down water monitor on the grass and as soon as I released his neck and stepped back he came back to life and bolted through a hole in the fence and into some shrubs and banana plants. I think he will survive but he wouldn’t have if he was left in the middle of that busy road. Unfortunately I had my hands full and was too worried about getting bit, clawed, and whipped in the face to get any photos.
Update: It’s been over a month since the reptile rescue. I know the water monitor is doing well because it has become a frequent visitor to the compost pile at the children’s home. How do I know it’s the same one? Because I haven’t seen any other water monitors near the compost pile over the past few months and this one that just started appearing a few days after the rescue is the same size which is smaller than the other ones I’ve seen near the compost pile. Moreover unlike the other ones I’ve seen a few times over the past couple years this one isn’t afraid of me. It won’t let me get too close but it won’t run like crazy head first into the fence and anything else that gets in the way when it sees me approaching.
Last week I took the train back to Penang to do some volunteering at the children’s home during the school holiday but before I left my mountainside home I saw some beautiful reptiles including a reticulated python which is the world’s longest species of snake. The green anaconda is the largest species of snake in terms of weight however reticulated pythons are the longest and can grow up to 10 meters long. It’s awesome to see some of the amazing reptiles I would see in pet shops as a kid in the U.S. just crawling and slithering around my house here in Southeast Asia.
The day before yesterday after another three week stay in Penang I once again returned to Thailand by boat. While waiting for a boat that was headed to Thailand I saw one of the biggest water monitors I have ever seen. I only got a glimpse before it ran underneath the wharf I was standing on so I could only photograph the footprints it left behind. However later when I was on the boat waiting them to finish loading it with goods I was able to get a photo of its head and neck. After over three hours of waiting the boat finally left, unfortunately it didn’t get very far before it was pulled over and boarded by Malaysian customs officers and told to return to port. There I had to wait nearly another hour while the boat captain explained why he didn’t have his papers in order and didn’t pay tax on his cargo. Once the issues were resolved we got back on the boat and I returned to Thailand to sleep in my bed for the first time in three weeks.
This past month there was some terrible smog blanketing much of Southeast Asia. Unfortunately it’s a seasonal problem that occurs during the Indonesian dry season which is around August and September. At this time irresponsible companies burn large swaths of pristine rainforest in order to clear land for palm oil plantations in addition to burning to clear unwanted vegetation in existing plantations. This year was particularly bad and as usual most of the hot spots were in Sumatra and Kalimantan Indonesia. The air started getting really bad the last few days I was in Penang but I was able to escape the smog once I returned to Thailand.
However after a couple weeks of being in the clear the winds shifted north and the smog made it to my house so I decided to go north by train to Chumphon which was just out of the smog’s reach. I stayed there for a few days on a nice quiet beach and waited for the fires to burn out or be put out and for the winds to shift directions so the air at my house could return to normal. As soon as the air became suitable for breathing again I returned home. Hopefully this year’s public outcry will cause the Indonesian government to take this problem more seriously. A few days ago I saw a bird and a spider that could represent the dangerous and pristine air.
I came to Penang nearly 2 weeks ago to visit the kids and get another 30 entry stamp for Thailand. I was only planning on staying for 3 days but once again I was persuaded by the kids to extend my stay. I was also asked by the management of the children’s home to help out with some planning for a fund raising event that they hope will provide adequate funds for relocating. I broke out a tape measure and some old auto-cad skills and drew a detailed floor plan which helped the organizers figure out where everything was going to fit. I also agreed to stick around to help them move everything into place this weekend and after the event successfully concludes I will be going back to my lovely home in rural Thailand.
The fruit season has peaked here in southern Thailand with high quantities and low prices for all of the seasonal favorites like durian, chempedak, mangosteen, and rambutan. There’s so much fruit it’s falling from the trees faster than it can be harvested. Although such tree ripened fruit is optimal for immediate consumption it can’t be shipped off to far away markets where it could fetch a higher price so locally the price for such premium tree ripened fruit has dropped quite a bit with a kg of ripe mangosteens going for only 10 baht or $0.32USD. Regular durian as opposed to named durian from grafted trees aka village durian or durian baan is going for only 20 baht or $0.64USD a kg. I remember when I could get such durian for half that but nowadays 20 baht a kg is a steal especially if it’s from a good tree with a high flesh to seed/shell ratio. Yesterday morning after feasting on rambutan in a rambutan tree, fortunately one without any red ants, I collected a bag of durians. I took a boat back from Malaysia last week where there was also a lot of fruit, just a lot more expensive, and it’s been a feast ever since.
I caught a big Tokay gecko yesterday. Unlike smaller house geckos which leave little droppings in exchange for the service of clearing any insects that make it into the house the much larger Tokay gecko takes big shits all over everything. Moreover at night they often make loud calls which can be very annoying if you’re nearby. Most people around here just kill them since it’s easier to kill than capture but I wouldn’t kill such a beautiful creature so I caught him without harming him and released him on the other side of a nearby river where there aren’t any houses for him to get into trouble at. I later celebrated the successful catch and release with some durian.
I support Andrew Yang for President because he’s a pragmatic and independent minded data-driven thinker with the brain power and temperament to lead the U.S. in solving its most serious and pressing problems. His human-centered approach to capitalism will make life better for Americans of all walks of life now and into the future, and his proposal for a universal basic income, aka the Freedom Dividend, is an old idea whose time has come and should be implemented before, rather than after, there is an economic and social crisis due to the millions of Americans who over the next decade will have their jobs automated away. The Freedom Dividend will help support those affected by this inevitable wave of automation as they seek/create new economic opportunities.
The Freedom Dividend will also help ensure that all Americans have a chance to pursue their passions instead of having to shelve their passions to work at soul-crushing jobs just in order to feed themselves and this can/will lead to increased creativity and entrepreneurship. Moreover unlike disability and some other forms of government welfare the Freedom Dividend would not discourage anyone from working for fear of losing their benefits. Furthermore a thousand dollars a month will not provide meaning or sense of purpose and is definitely not enough money to live on comfortably so people will still seek/create economic opportunities. Instead of having so many people stressed out, on the edge, and using opiates to cope we can collectively decide to give everyone a little bit of breathing room to figure out how they can best contribute to society and improve their lot in life.
The Freedom Dividend should not be seen not as socialist policy but as a libertarian one because it will make people more free to choose. It will not and does not seek to achieve equality of outcome, it merely seeks to improve equality of opportunity. As Yang has said it’s still capitalism it’s just capitalism that doesn’t start at zero. Moreover it will not require any new government bureaucracies as government will not decide which Americans get this money or how they use it. Sure some people will make poor choices but these poor choices can at least be discouraged through the value added taxes which will help pay for the Freedom Dividend, i.e., in addition to targeting luxury goods these value added taxes can also target unhealthy consumption, e.g., cigarettes, alcohol, and sweetened beverages. A policy like this could do wonders to improve health, alleviate stress, keep families together, and enable more children to grow up in environments conducive to their healthy development.
I hope you’ll go on to check out the policy information on his website and some of his videos on YouTube. You will find him to have a solid understanding and an enlightened stance on many issues however it’s just that the universal basic income is the one that gets the most attention because he is the only one looking ahead and seeing the near-future clearly enough to propose one. I hope Yang will gain traction over the next few months provided they keep his mic on and let him speak for more than 3 minutes in future debates and enough people seek to learn more about him and his policies. If not and he is unable to gain traction then I will be supporting Sanders like I did in 2016. RCP Poll Average
I went to the city to buy some vegetables and play some indoor badminton today. As usual It was fun to play with a proper net and boundaries and without any wind but it’s way too hot in those breeze-free buildings. I can’t imagine wearing socks, shoes, and a shirt in that kind of stagnant heat while playing badminton like everyone else does. Luckily I haven’t seen any No shirt, No shoes, No service signs at the entrances to these places.
I hope this post reminds you and this video motivates you to go and play some badminton, however unlike just about everyone else that plays this and many other games remember to play with your right and left hands, your shoulder and the rest of your body will thank you for it.
I’m back in Thailand and since I’ve returned I’ve had two interesting animal finds, unfortunately they were both dead. I don’t have a picture of the dead reticulated python I removed from the road but I do have some photos of a dead draco aka flying lizard that I took this morning. Just after I took a couple photos of the dead one I was able to get a photo of a live one on a tree as they usually are. In addition I’ve included a few other photos I took this morning along with last night’s beautiful lunar halo.
Last month I rolled a record breaking 247 which is over 30 pins higher than my previous high game. Although I’m still rolling a 12 pound house ball straight without any hook on it before I was just rolling the ball in a straight line from the center to the pocket and now I roll the ball in a straight line from the side to the pocket. This allows the ball to hit the pins at a slight angle which gets more pin action and more strikes. If you’re throwing a straight ball I recommend you try releasing the ball next to the right gutter when you bowl with your right hand and next to the left gutter when you bowl with your left hand. That way when the ball does hit the pocket it will do so at a slight angle and increase your chances of getting a strike.
P.S. Today I set a new left hand record with a 170.
Last week a monocled cobra slithered into the boy’s bathroom here at the children’s shelter. Luckily some boys saw it slither in and didn’t accidentally get too close because monocled cobras have one of the fastest acting venoms of all venomous snakes and if bitten and envenomated you could die within an hour. I might stick around here until this 90 visa stamp runs out on May 1st and in the meantime I hope I don’t have any more close cobra encounters.
As I was searching for some fruit at the market I passed by these poor chickens. So sad. I took a photo because I thought I should document their suffering since such abuse is so common and supported by so many people who prefer to turn a blind eye to this suffering rather than go without meat, milk, or eggs. I hope photos like these will make people think twice before eating animals and if they do to at least make sure the animals they eat were treated properly before their meat, milk, or eggs were taken.
Sheen Nee-en Kwai Luh! Try it if you encounter a Chinese speaking person this week because unlike the Western New Year Chinese New Year, aka Spring Festival, is a multi-day mega holiday that doesn’t officially conclude until the 15th day which marks the first full moon of the new year and is celebrated as Lantern Festival.
After many years of not bowling I started bowling once in a while with the kids however last time I went alone in the afternoon while they were at school so I could focus. I arrived at the bowling alley with the goal of bowling a 180 or above which is something I’ve only done two or three times in my life and not for the last two decades or so. After a few games I was able to throw a 183 with my right hand and a 150 with my left. Note: I used a 12 pound house ball and only threw straight balls, no hooks. I was so happy with those two last games that I didn’t want to start a new one even though I still had around 10 minutes on my one hour lane rental so instead of starting a new game I decided to try some experimental throws.
I was the only person bowling in the entire place and just as I was about to leave a group of people arrived and were gathering near my lane so for my final shot I positioned myself in front of the lane but I was facing towards the people and away from the pins. I then did a normal pendulum throw but instead of releasing the ball in the front of the swing I held on to it and released it in the back. After releasing the ball I struck a pose that might have been seen in some late 70’s disco and I held it legs split, one arm up, and bent over looking behind me with everything upside down until BOOM, strike! I then stood up and looked up at the group of people who were watching and they all immediately broke into a round of applause. It was hilarious.
I spent most of last month in Thailand and as usual it was lovely and delicious as seen in the photos below. On the way here from Malaysia I took a little cargo boat which was funny because I was the only passenger, there were no seats, and when the guy dropped me off in Thailand I was left to walk to immigration myself. When I got to the window I was the only person there and the immigration officer was like “How did you get here?”. I told him I took a little boat from Malaysia and he said I couldn’t do that because those boats weren’t permitted to carry passengers and they had none of the necessary documents for bringing people in and out of the country. I said Ok I’ll make sure I get the proper documents before boarding such a vessel in the future and after talking with one of his colleagues he stamped me in.
Now it’s November 1st and I’m in a minibus on my way back to Malaysia because I told the kids I’d be back for Diwali aka “Hindu festival of lights” which according to Wikipedia “symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance”. They’re going to have a party to celebrate and are preparing a dance for tomorrow. Then a few weeks after the Diwali holiday is their longest school holiday of the year which lasts from late November to January. I promised them I’d stick around until the end of December and take them out for some activities but after that I plan on returning to Thailand and I might head to China in the spring so it looks like any volunteering in 2019 will have to be done via the occasional video call which is what I’ve been doing the past few weeks.
August arrived so fast I almost forgot to post something. I volunteered full-time at a children’s shelter all throughout July with the exception of 5 days I spent in Thailand. I went back to get my skateboard, slackline, and some other things I wanted for my summer stay here in Penang. After looking at these photos I took while I was in Thailand you’ll see why I really don’t like leaving there to come here. The plan of coming back and only going in to volunteer for a couple hours a day completely failed however I feel that all the time spent volunteering last month was time well spent because the directors and I have been making a lot of improvements in the way the home is run and the way the kids are fed and raised. Moreover these improvements will go on to not only benefit these 30 or so kids but also any new ones that end up living and being cared for here.
For the last two weeks I’ve been volunteering at a children’s shelter full-time and between that and some unexpected but welcomed work I haven’t had much if any time to think about what to post so pardon me as I try to put something together at the last minute. A couple months back I promised some kids that I’d come back to visit them during their school holiday in June. I told them I would only be staying here in Malaysia for one week however when I tried to leave last week I was unable to deny the earnest pleas of a few little girls who really wanted me to stay. Some of them even went as far as vowing to eat only vegetables and to never eat candy if I stayed, haha. I told them such vows were unnecessary and that regardless of whether or not I stayed they should try their best to eat more vegetables and less candy.