Depending on which calendar a society uses there are many different New Year’s and in some places more than one is celebrated. Calendars are generally one of three types: lunar, solar, or lunisolar. A lunar calendar is based on the revolution of the moon around the earth, a solar calendar is based on the revolution of the earth around the sun, and a lunisolar calendar is based on the moon’s revolution around the earth but includes a thirteenth month, aka leap month, every two or three years to keep it in sync with the earth’s revolution around the sun.
In lunisolar calendars like the Chinese calendar a leap month is periodically added so the months correspond with the seasons. It takes the moon around 29.5 days to revolve around the earth which means 12 lunar months is around 354 days and since it takes the earth around 365 days to revolve around the sun the months and seasons would drift apart around 11 days each year without this leap month. The New Year’s that takes place on January 1st is according to the Gregorian or Western calendar which is a solar calendar and the New Year’s that takes place today and every year on the new moon between late January and late February is according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar.
Happy New Year! 新年快樂！
Sheen = new 新 Nee-en = year 年 Kwai Luh = happy 快樂
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.
Last night I had a dream/nightmare that my little house got washed away in a flood and it seemed as real as it gets. In my dream I opened my front door to find that my house with me in it was floating in the middle of a rapidly flowing river. I was thinking that I had to get out fast because it would be bad if the house with me in it smashed into anything at that speed. Unfortunately I was around 50 meters away from the river bank. I was about to throw my computer and passport into a plastic bag and then into a backpack and make a swim for it. Fortunately at that time I woke up and realized it was a dream but it had been raining heavily and the creek next to my house was flooded.
A few days ago was the first time I’ve ever seen an iguana in the wild and what a handsome one. The strange thing is that it was in Thailand so I’m guessing it must have escaped from the nearby animal detention center aka zoo. It looked quite healthy but hopefully it won’t have a chance to breed as iguanas aren’t native to this part of the world and can cause problems for local species of plants and animals some of which, unlike iguanas, might not exist in other places. The picture below the iguana is a lizard native to this area, a banded bent-toed forest gecko, which I was able to photograph as it clung to my front door last month.
If there was truly no international solution to secure Afghanistan and keep it out of the hands of religious extremists and as a result the U.S. felt it was best to withdraw then a half-competent administration could have at least negotiated and planned for a peaceful and non-dramatic withdrawal which would have at least kept the jail doors locked and the capital secure until all those desperately in need of evacuation were safely screened and flown out of the country. If a formal inquiry into this bipartisan incompetence isn’t conducted and nobody loses their job over this international tragedy and national disgrace it will be an injustice to the country and all those who served in Afghanistan including all those who died in the rush to get out and all those who will die because they were unable to get out.
I agree that the buck stops with Biden but just remember Trump with broad Republican support was the one that failed to negotiate a proper deal and instead gave the Taliban what they wanted like prisoner releases and an exit date while getting virtually nothing in return like a guarantee that they wouldn’t try taking over the country until after the U.S. had left and perhaps some basic human rights assurances that proved the Taliban weren’t the same barbarians who ruled the country before the U.S. and its close allies overthrew them. Maybe if Trump hadn’t been so “America First” he could have negotiated a security agreement with other countries that also have an interest in not seeing Afghanistan descend into chaos that would have at least kept it from becoming the next terrorist safe haven and human rights nightmare.
There was an attempted coup supported by a sitting president and one party feels that it wasn’t all that bad and that we should just forget about it. I’m sure they’d feel differently if this attempted coup was carried out by muslims or minorities but I guess for them it isn’t as bad since it was primarily carried out by unstable white men similar to much of the Republican Party.
I’m so glad these capitol police officers were given a platform to deliver the testimonies they did. Shame on those that try to rewrite history and downplay what happened on January 6th 2021 which was nothing less than an attempted coup that was encouraged by the lies of a delusional president that should have been held accountable for spreading dangerous lies and banned from ever holding political office.
The vaccine rollout has been slow and we’re still in the peak of the pandemic here in Thailand. For the most part I’m able to avoid people and feel safe where I’m at but I do wonder when I’ll be able to get vaccinated. Not only for my own personal safety but also so I don’t go around infecting others who could become seriously ill or even die like the millions of people who already have. The U.S. has quite the surplus of vaccines so why not send some to Thailand with a portion of them earmarked for U.S. citizens. Many of us would even be happy to pay for it ourselves. Hopefully Malaysia will open the borders to vaccinated travelers later this year like Thailand has just started doing in Phuket and when that happens I will hopefully have been vaccinated. As for now I have no problem waiting another few months while others at greater risk receive theirs first.
P.S. I caught a Tokay gecko and removed it from my kitchen. This is my third Tokay gecko capture and no it isn’t the one that was featured in my video. That one is still there and is allowed to stay because it’s on the other side of the creek and is not making a mess in my kitchen.
Although I finished my quarantine last month I’m still pretty much staying put at home and avoiding any trips to the town or city where most of the local covid cases have been recorded. As of today I’ve been out of Penang for 42 days after being there for around 420 days straight and this is about the longest I’ve been off of the island since 2017. Ever since I left the covid situation there has been getting worse and they are now in day 2 of a full lockdown which will last for at least 2 weeks.
On April 12th the Malaysian immigration department made a short notice announcement telling all of us who had been permitted to stay with expired social visit passes that we had to leave the country within 9 days. At the time I wasn’t too happy about it especially since it forced me to go on a plane for the first time in five and a half years since all the land borders were closed however their announcement and my subsequent departure coincided with a record breaking spike in cases so if they were going to kick me out on short notice it looks like they did so at a good time.
Things have been going well here around 400km north of Penang and now that I’m free to move about I’ve been going to the river every morning for my cold bath/rebirth and although it’s not yet fruit season here I’ve still been able to find good local fruits some of which you can see featured on my wildly popular YouTube channel: (EatPlantsMoveMore). In addition to the fruits I’ve also had a few snake sightings. I had to remove one from underneath my house last week and just yesterday another one lowered itself down from my roof right in front of me. Fortunately neither snake was poisonous. Yesterday’s snake was a Red-tailed Racer.
Here are a few other beautiful snakes that have also visited me at home. These three snakes were venomous but fortunately they are not very dangerous to humans because their venom is weak and they are all rear-fanged snakes which makes it much more difficult for them to inject their venom into large animals like humans even if you did get them angry enough to strike and close enough for them to actually bite you. Fortunately I haven’t seen any Monocled Cobras at my house but I have had three King Cobra sightings. Hopefully the Cobras, Kraits, Vipers, and Coral Snakes will stay away and only snakes that can’t kill you with one bite will visit my house.
I along with every other foreigner on an expired social visit pass had to leave Malaysia by April 21st and since the land and sea borders were closed I had to fly for the first time in over five years. After preparing the necessary documents which included Covid health insurance, an alternative state quarantine hotel booking, and a negative PCR test within 72 hours of flight I went back to Thailand which required a 10 day quarantine in a Bangkok hotel which cost me over $100 a night, ouch. I’ve never even spent close to $100 on a room for one night. I’ve spent $100 for a week and I have even spent $100 for an entire month but I have never spent it for one night let alone ten of them in a row. However they did provide two nice custom prepared meals every day and I did have a large room with a balcony and a view of the city.
After finishing my 10 day quarantine I was able to leave the hotel room and return to my place in the rural south. However upon my return I learned that since I was coming from Bangkok I needed to quarantine for an additional 14 days. Fortunately I can do this second quarantine at home. I haven’t been back in the 15 months since the pandemic began and there was some flooding last December which washed away the front lawn along with the concrete footbridge that I used to enter and exit the property but after a weekend of house cleaning and yard-work it is now habitable despite the poor data reception. I am now looking forward to being home alone at the edge of a tropical mountain forest and eventually being able to return to a few of my favorite local orchards, markets, and scenic spots.
It’s hard to imagine security guards not running to the aid of an old lady being brutally assaulted and instead actually shutting the door on her as she lay bleeding outside but we don’t have to because there’s a video of it. Racially motivated attacks on innocent people of Asian decent or any racial decent must stop and people who claim to be decent human beings can not stand by when such verbal or physical attacks take place. If there are any more such attacks I hope they will all end with a mob of decent people apprehending the assailant and assisting the victim.
A few days ago I talked to a Malaysian mother about how her son who received a grant from NASA to do his graduate studies in the U.S. was brutally attacked on the street as he was out buying groceries a couple weeks ago and how and nobody even bothered to help him. Fortunately he did make it to the hospital and received treatment for his injuries and is now doing well, however he and other smart people like him may need to think twice about whether the U.S. is still the place to go to bring their talents and intelligence as it may be better for them to stay home or to bring their skills to less xenophobic and less violent places.
Stray cats and any house cats that are allowed outdoors unsupervised are a big problem. They kill billions of birds and small animals every year and have already contributed to the extinction of several species. Whether due to their predation or the diseases they carry the effect they have on native species and ecosystems is incredibly harmful.
If you have a cat the least you can do is have it spayed or neutered and vaccinated. Also be sure to keep an eye on your cat while it’s outside so you can prevent it from pouncing on any innocent native, and perhaps even endemic, birds or other environmentally beneficial animals like this poor Zebra Dove that was killed by a cat which was already over-fed but was just looking for something to play with/torture and kill.
1.) Don’t elect ill-informed and incompetent liars just because they know how to play off of your fears and ignorance and say what you want to hear.
2.) Don’t elect aspiring dictators who openly praise and admire other dictators, and be extra cautious of aspiring dictators that with a little bit of flattery can be so easily manipulated by actual dictators.
3.) Don’t elect delusional and narcissistic people that prefer to surround themselves with sycophants rather than experts, and that think so highly of themselves that they would never admit fault, take responsibility, or learn from their mistakes.
4.) Don’t support politicians and political parties that would so easily cast any and all human decency and democratic principles aside to ride a cult of personality wave in order to further their own narrow self-interests at the peril of social stability, democratic institutions, and the planet itself.
5.) Don’t believe whatever you read on social media, check your sources, check your facts, and check the basic logic behind the crazy shit too many people in America and elsewhere believe. The earth is not flat and it is getting warmer. Climate change is real and it’s really urgent we take steps to mitigate it.
Happy New Year! Here we are a full year into the 2020’s! This decade didn’t get off to the best start but with you-know-who on his way out and COVID-19 vaccines being distributed 2021 should shape up to be better than 2020 and lead us into an even better 2022. However this in large part depends on us. Will we be the best versions of ourselves and do what we can to make this year a good one and help set this decade, this century, and this millennium back on a course towards greatness? We can start by learning a few lessons from this past year and by not repeating the same mistakes.
For instance, I hope we have learned to not deny something is happening just because we don’t understand it or don’t want to have to deal with it, otherwise we could miss our chance to mitigate the damage and end up getting the worst of it. I doubt too many people are still calling COVID-19 a hoax after all this sickness and death however there are still a lot of people who feel that climate change is a hoax or is not nearly as serious or as urgent of an issue as it really is. COVID-19 should have been taken seriously from the start and ambitiously addressing climate change should be taken just as seriously.
Another important lesson, one that we should have learned during the first SARS outbreak or during one of the many other zoonotic disease outbreaks that occurred before and after it, is to not abuse domestic or wild animals because first it’s wrong and second the viruses they carry can jump into the human population, kill millions, sicken many more, and wreak havoc on life as we once knew it. Hopefully people that do eat animals will start being more choosy about how those animals are kept and killed and will not continue to support the cruel conditions in factory farms and in many wet markets.
Words can not express my relief that he wasn’t re-elected and words can hardly express my disbelief that after 4 dishonest years of this seasoned conman/aspiring dictator so many people still voted for him. The sad truth is that if it wasn’t for covid I think we’d be in for another 4 years of his lies, narcissism, and disregard for science and ethics. It is fitting that the severity of this pandemic in the U.S. which in large part is due to his incompetence was the decisive factor in his defeat. Now I sincerely hope people will heed the warnings of health experts and wear a mask, socially distance, and if possible stay home. Let this final month of 2020 welcome the first rays of light belonging to the dawn of a more ethical and enlightened era and hope that people will see this light and start viewing things as right or wrong rather than left or right.
Please don’t sit this one out, if you haven’t already… VOTE!
Enough lies, enough arrogance, and enough incompetence.
We need sanity, we need science, and we need morality so VOTE!
All his lying and other failings aside, Trump’s denial of climate change and his roll backs of the environmental regulations designed to mitigate it is already enough to disqualify him for a second term. We need climate action now and unlike Trump who prefers to ignore, deny, and choose wishful thinking over science Biden has a plan to put the U.S. back on the path to a healthy, prosperous, and sustainable future.
Over the past 1,349 days that Trump has been president he has proven he was as unfit for the job as many of us thought he was while campaigning against him in 2016. In addition to nearly going to war with Iran and North Korea and starting a counterproductive cold war with China he has given all the crazies in the U.S. and beyond the confidence they needed to come out of their closets and support dangerous conspiracy theories and spew hatred towards those who aren’t as white or as Christian as they are. He has also repealed many environmental policies that were desperately needed to stave off the worst effects of climate change and he even moved to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Accord which was and still is humanity’s best hope of mitigating the climate crisis by limiting additional warming and minimizing the biodiversity losses and human suffering such additional warming would bring.
When he showed the world that he was scientifically illiterate with regards to climate change by saying things like it was a Chinese hoax and that he wasn’t a big believer in man-made climate change that should have been enough to disqualify him from office. However it wasn’t and three years later he showed the world how scientifically illiterate he was with regards to pandemics. Trump can not be blamed for Covid-19 however he can be blamed for much of the death and devastation it has caused in the U.S.. Just look at what he was saying early on, things that only an idiot in way over his head who’s key strategy was wishful thinking would say, things like “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.” and “It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” and “We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”.
At the same time he repeatedly gave the impression that face masks were not effective in reducing transmission and could perhaps do as much harm as they do good and like climate change he allowed wearing a face mask and taking Covid-19 seriously to be politicized. Not only did he set a bad example by holding large political rallies and by not encouraging participants to wear face masks he even went so far as to ridicule his political rival for not holding large rallies and for often wearing a face mask in public. Just ask yourself how many lives and how much economic damage did statements like these cause: “Just about everybody has a face mask on. They’ve learned about face masks — the good and the bad, by the way. It’s not a one-sided thing, believe it or not.” and “You know, there was a time when people thought it was worse wearing a mask. I let people make up their own decision.” and “In light of these studies, the CDC is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure. So it’s voluntary; you don’t have to do it. They suggested for a period of time. But this is voluntary. I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”.
What kind of moral decency and presidential leadership is this? Please don’t make the same mistake again. Don’t think you’re making a statement by not voting because Biden wasn’t your first choice and isn’t progressive enough for you; and don’t vote for Trump because he and Fox News has scared you into thinking Biden is too socialist for the good of the country. Regardless of what you think of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris personally or politically the fact is they are infinitely better and more capable people than Donald J. Trump and that is what the U.S. and the rest of the world desperately needs right now, better and more capable people leading and governing countries, especially a country still as influential as the U.S.. So let this election be a Biden landslide and show Brazil and other countries with unfit leaders that these thug-like clowns can be voted out of office just as fast as they were voted in. I hope that the rhetoric that Trump, Bolsonaro, and other arrogant, immoral, and ill-informed leaders like them used to play upon the fears and hatred of the insecure, xenophobic, and easily manipulated among us will be studied and become common curriculum in order to prevent other unqualified narcissistic charlatans from gaining significant popular support and political power.
The local government sent out a contractor and his crew to clear the 1.5 meter wide corridor of government controlled no-man’s-land that lies between the fence of the children’s home and the fence of an adjacent government owned house that until recently had been unoccupied. I thought they just wanted to clear some of the undergrowth and perhaps prune the trees however in no time their chainsaws ripped right through four small and two medium sized trees. After they had left I went over and surveyed the damage. I wasn’t happy about it but what could I have done if the local government sent this contractor and his chainsaw armed crew to clear land and cut down a few small to medium sized trees that were on government property.
However when they came back a few days later with a crane to cut down the two much larger trees that the smaller trees had been growing in between I initiated a charge to stop them. I refused to move a car that was blocking the crane’s access to the trees until the supervisor could call in the government official that gave him the contract to do the job. By time he arrived I had the support of two of the directors at the children’s home. It seems that the public servant that recently moved into that adjacent house complained about all the water monitors and other wildlife and wanted the land cleared. One of the contractor’s men also told me that the two big trees were rotting and hollow inside therefore needed to be cut down. I told him I wasn’t an expert but that the trees looked very healthy and should not be cut down unless someone comes over, someone that isn’t being paid to cut down the trees, and confirms the trees pose a danger.
After making our case the government official went to tell the new neighbor that they could not cut down the trees and were only going to cut down the branches hanging over their side. After they finished trimming and left they went down the street to a few of the other government owned houses in that neighborhood of government owned houses to trim some more trees. The next day I took a walk around the neighborhood to make sure they weren’t cutting down any more trees without good reason. I walked by a few trees that had been trimmed but I didn’t see any tree stumps. That was until I came to a patch of green space that runs along the back of three of the government houses and right up to the backyard of the children’s home. When I heard the chainsaws in the distance earlier that day I figured they were still trimming trees however when I walked around and over to the other end of the green space to see what they were doing they had already cleared nearly a third of it with the help of a backhoe.
I asked them what the plan was and the one guy who could speak English told me it was to clear the 185 meter long strip of land from that fence to our fence. When I asked why they told me that in the other government house next to the green space lived a police inspector who also didn’t like all the trees and animals behind his house. I was shocked that just because some public servants who were given free housing next to some green space didn’t enjoy the nature that they could order a chainsaw team to come by and cut it all down without any consideration of the environmental impact or views of some of the neighbors who did enjoy this green oasis. This space is one of the few remaining green spaces in the area and it provides food and shelter to a number of wildlife species which are increasingly hard to come by on this side of the island. I have seen a variety of beautiful birds like blue king fishers, golden orioles, and white-breasted waterhens along with spectacled langurs, civet cats, paradise tree snakes, and water monitors.
After some running around we were able to find the government department that was responsible for approving such a clearing and they said that they did not approve any trees to be cut down so a person from that department went and told the contractor to stop cutting down trees and they stopped leaving the two-thirds of green space closest to our fence intact. The manger here knows someone at one of the local newspapers and had them come out this morning, September 2nd, to hear the story and take some photos. They plan on publishing an article which I hope will help raise environmental awareness and get people to realize that they shouldn’t stay quiet when things like this happen. If I hadn’t said anything I’m sure nobody else would have either and the other two thirds of this green oasis would have been cleared and many of the animals that inhabited it would have died trying to seek new homes in a city with fewer and fewer places for them. I hope that the government officials responsible will be sternly reprimanded and that in the future proper protocol will be followed when determining which trees to cut down and what land to clear.
This year’s durian season in Penang is pretty much over and as of August 1st there isn’t much left and most of what remains isn’t very good. However this year’s season was a good one so despite wishing it could continue I am grateful that we were able to enjoy a solid 3 months of delicious and reasonably priced durian during the COVID induced movement control order or “MCO”. Since June 10th we have been in the recovery phase of the MCO and currently all businesses and schools are open however all must abide by a list of standard operating procedures designed to reduce viral transmission, moreover masks in public places are mandatory and violators can and have been fined.
With only around 125 deaths in a country of nearly 32 million people Malaysia like its neighbor to the north Thailand has fared extremely well during this pandemic thanks to decisive government action and people following the rules, wearing masks, and social distancing. I hope countries that are not faring so well will learn from the countries that are. I also hope that the citizens of these ill-faring countries, e.g., The U.S. and Brazil, will be sure to vote out the politicians, e.g., Trump and Bolsonaro, and political parties, e.g., The Republican Party, whose irrational skepticism and inaction has impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions of people and has made the COVID crisis and the Climate crisis significantly worse.