The movement control order we’ve been living under here in Malaysia since mid-March will be significantly loosened starting tomorrow when most businesses will be allowed to reopen. The lockdown was originally set to continue until May 12th however because the economy has taken a massive hit and new cases are relatively low the government has decided that it’s worth the risk to reopen for business tomorrow May 4th but some states, including Penang, will wait until May 12th to reopen.
When the movement control order was implemented although I wasn’t at home at the edge of the jungle where I probably wouldn’t have even noticed anything was going on I’ve been fortunate enough to have enough space here at the children’s home to stay active. I feel bad for all the people who have been virtually stuck in their apartments for the past month and a half but It’s strict measures like these along with nearly everyone wearing face masks and social distancing that have thus far allowed Malaysia to avoid a public health disaster.
I just read an article about the mayor of Oklahoma City having to cancel the requirement that people entering businesses wear a face mask. Sounded like a good requirement to me, especially considering that so many carriers/spreaders of the virus are asymptomatic and can infect people simply by talking to them. Why would they cancel such a practical requirement during this difficult time? Because selfish and irrational people are flipping out about their freedom to be irresponsible and are actually threatening the poor people, e.g., grocery store workers, that are supposed to enforce the rule. Maybe if the president and vice president would lead by example and stop spewing nonsense their supporters would be a little more cooperative.
P.S. I came across a monocled cobra with a toad in it’s mouth a couple weeks ago. I can’t have such a dangerous snake lurking around here with all the kids but instead of killing it I tried to capture it. Unfortunately I didn’t have proper tools and tried catching it with a bucket and a broom stick. It quickly regurgitated the toad, postured up, spread its hood, and took a defensive position. It then slithered around my bucket and under the washing machine which allowed us to call the experienced and properly equipped fire department to come and remove it. It was a feisty one and almost bit the guy who caught it as he was holding it by the tail. A few days later I went to put on my shoe and couldn’t get my foot in. I checked inside and was happy to find a toad and not a cobra.
The movement control order here in Malaysia was recently extended for two weeks and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was extended for another two weeks after that so I doubt I’ll be able to move around freely until May and I don’t know when I’ll be able to return to my home in Thailand. Anyway not much to say other than I hope things get better soon and that people learn a few things from this crisis like the fact that people can live and many can even work without having to travel so much and burn so much greenhouse gas emitting fuel. Since there isn’t much going on here other than trying to keep the all kids educated, entertained, and following a home schooling schedule I thought I’d tell a short story from a few months ago when I was in Thailand.
There is a general store near my house in rural Thailand and one day I saw a little girl pushing a cart with a bunch of garbage on it to a nearby bridge and dumping it off the side of the bridge. The next day I went to have a look and saw that there was a lot of garbage down there. All kinds of stuff like various plastics including motor oil containers. I don’t like people improperly disposing of garbage anywhere but especially in my village. I sent an email to the relevant government department and but never received a reply. I also told my landlord about it but they told me not to say anything to the shop owners but I said I had to and that I had even more of a responsibility to say something than they did because they are locals and a local dispute between locals could cause all them kinds of problems in the seemingly semi-lawless area we live in.
A few days later I just happened to go to that shop that I have only been to a couple of times over a few years and while I was there I politely told the shopkeepers that they shouldn’t take all their garbage and dump it off the side of the bridge. They said that the garbage truck didn’t always come on time and I said if it doesn’t come this week then you’ll have to wait for the next week and that it was sure to come and that other people weren’t throwing their garbage off the side of the bridge. Then both of them ignored me and you could tell they did not like me calling them out, one was a middle age women and the other might have been her son who was probably in his early twenties. There was also a customer there so I figured if my talk couldn’t influence them at least the customer could learn something.
I really didn’t say anything bad and I wasn’t rude. In fact my hardest hitting line was “I’m not even a local and I care for the environment here more than most of the people that live here.”. I left not thinking much about it and felt that I handled it well. However that evening one of their relatives called the daughter-in-law of my landlord and told her to warn me not to bring up this matter again or there would be trouble and that he was on the record giving me a warning. Later that night when they visited me at my house they told me about the phone call and their teenage daughter was particularly worried. I was like what are they the boss of the village and she was like it’s not funny they have a lot of money and they hire people to kill people. I was like well I don’t need anyone coming to get me at my house where I’m at the edge of the forest and over 100 meters from anyone that could potentially back me up.
However her mom told me not to worry just as long as I don’t go over there and say anything about it again. A few days after that my visa was going to expire so I had to go back to Malaysia to see the kids and extend my visa. After about a month and a half in Malaysia I returned and their daughter told me that while I was gone the man that I have never met or even seen before stopped by their house and spoke with her and her Mom. This wasn’t too strange because he lives only three doors down on the same side of the street. What was strange was that after over a month he felt the need to talk about me saying I was crazy and was a bad example for their daughter who I often play badminton with. Since this guy wants to make threats and talk trash I felt I should learn a bit about him. Now if all I learned was the guy was a loan shark that hires thugs to collect money and settle local disputes I wouldn’t have been surprised however there was more to this guy, he wasn’t your average loan shark thug boss.
In addition to being the local loan shark thug boss it seems he is also known in the area for being able to channel different gods through his body which he does in different ceremonies in which people come and pay him to conduct in his amulet and shrine filled house. If this wasn’t crazy enough I was told the loan shark thug boss god man is also a father to a young daughter. However when I asked where the mother of the daughter was during all this craziness I was told the daughter has no mother so I asked “How can the daughter have no mother?”. Then she told me that the loan shark thug boss god man’s own mother acts as the mother to his motherless daughter. So I asked “How can the kid not have a mother? Where did she come from?” and I was told that the loan shark thug boss god man was not allowed to touch women so he had to use his sperm to fertilize an egg that was then inserted into a surrogate mother who was paid to carry the baby and then go away after she gave birth. After hearing all this I could only think “So I’m the guy that’s crazy and is a bad example for young people?”.
Today is day three of the movement control order here in Malaysia. It isn’t a complete lockdown but other than food and other essential supply runs it’s pretty much stay home or be fined if you’re stopped at a road block or caught elsewhere without a valid reason to be out. All schools and most businesses are now closed for at least 2 weeks however the supermarkets and wet markets remain open but goods may be limited and lines may be long. In addition to that the borders have been closed to any foreigners looking to enter and to any Malaysians looking to exit.
I considered taking the train and returning to my home in rural Thailand where I’d be as safe as I could be since I don’t have any people within a 100 meters of my house, the population density is very low, and we don’t have many people coming and going, however for the time being I decided to stay at the children’s shelter and continue to help out here. We are trying to keep life as normal, fun, and productive as possible for the 30 or so kids that live here despite the cancelation of most of the usual activities including all trips beyond the front gate.
Luckily we have enough space here for the kids to go outside and play in the morning and in the evening when it isn’t so terribly hot. As for the remainder of the day they use most of it for reading, studying, playing games, screen time, and some daily chores. A while back I downloaded some classic video games onto a few of the computers and got some USB controllers so now a whole new generation of kids are into Mario Kart 64, Donkey Kong Country, and some other classic Nintendo games. A couple of kids are even into Thundercats so yesterday I taught them some English while watching an episode.
P.S. It’s sad to see sick and abused chickens crammed into small cages still being brought into the wet market every morning for slaughter in inhumane and unsanitary conditions, no wonder why we keep having these zoonotic disease outbreaks. Moreover it’s sad to see so many irresponsible people still insisting on gathering for parties and prayers during this pandemic. Maybe if more people refrained from eating animals, shaking hands, gathering in large crowds, and flying unnecessarily we might have been able to avoid some of this mess. Now the goal is to keep it from spreading too rapidly and overwhelming the healthcare system so I hope everyone is doing their part to keep themselves safe and from becoming spreaders of the virus. Anyway I hope things get better soon and humanity learns a few lessons in the process.
I’m not happy about the last two Tuesdays’ results either but if you’re really considering “Bernie or Bust” or writing in Bernie this November provided he is unable to make a comeback and win the Democratic nomination then you should learn more about the climate crisis and ask yourself if it would be moral to not vote blue no matter who in 2020.
This November Trump must lose and science and human decency must win. Biden wasn’t my first or even second choice but unfortunately after the disappointing results in Michigan yesterday it is increasingly looking like he will be my only choice. With that said I still hope Bernie has an amazing debate performance this Sunday and wins two or three states the following Tuesday. If Biden’s campaign can make a come back then so can Bernie’s!
Regardless of how unlikely a come back now is it’s not over until it’s over and the country benefits from hearing Bernie’s ideas and from Bernie leveraging the delegates and the grassroots support he has earned to help shift the Democratic party in the right direction like he did in 2016. So if you haven’t voted yet then don’t give up, your vote counts, even if Bernie doesn’t win you are still making a statement to the political establishment that says enough of politics as usual, we want real progress, we want people before party, we want people before profits, we want a better country, and we want a better world.
Tuesday March 3rd was a disappointment and I hope young voters realize what is at stake, for example the earth’s hospitable climate, and start turning out in record numbers to vote in the remaining primary elections and in the general election. Thanks to California the race is close and Bernie can regain the lead if things go well this Tuesday in Michigan and in the other states holding their primary on March 10th.
If you learn more about Bernie you’ll find he is quite practical and not nearly as “radical” as many would like you to believe. Regardless of your stance on some of his policy positions Bernie is the kind of honest, independent minded, and forward thinking person the world needs in the White House. Unfortunately the democratic party establishment and mainstream media backed by a virtually limitless supply of money are trying their best to stop him like they did in 2016.
I fear that if they succeed we will end up losing in November with yet another severely flawed candidate favored by the democratic party establishment and their extremely wealthy backers that would like to continue seeing nearly half of all new wealth go to a top 1% that already owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. Trump must go, he must lose in November and that is why I’m writing this, why I sent my absentee ballot in yesterday, and why I just donated again to Bernie’s campaign.
Why Bernie? Because of the candidates left standing I feel that Bernie has the best chance of beating Trump and many polls agree with me. As for Biden he really seems like he’s in cognitive decline and not up for such a critical job moreover in addition to lacking the mental acumen needed to win the election and perform the job itself he doesn’t have the grassroots energy and movement behind him needed to defeat Trump.
Bernie had this grassroots energy and movement in 2016 and after four more years as an independent in the Senate where he continued to fight for what is right he has it again in 2020. Hopefully the mainstream media and democratic party establishment won’t get their way again like they did in 2016 and run a weaker candidate against Trump because if Biden does get the nomination I really fear that once on the debate stage Trump will make Joe Biden look old and weak like he did with Jeb Bush in 2016 and end up getting reelected.
I’m not willing to bet the farm on Bernie beating Trump but I do think he has a better chance than Biden or Bloomberg. Regardless of who comes out on top today and in the following primaries I hope everyone supports the nominee in any way they can and is sure to vote in November because life as we know it on planet earth might not be able to handle another 4 years of Trump. The climate crisis is now a climate emergency and the U.S. needs a president who is scientifically literate and can understand that the time for climate action is now.
P.S. The second and third video helps show why a wealth tax is needed to help provide health care and educational opportunities for those who are struggling to get by along with any kids they may have that are struggling to get by with them. Bernie’s wealth tax would start at 1% a year and only apply to the top 0.1% which means on those with a net worth of 32 million or more. I hate to break it to you but you ain’t in the top 0.1% and neither are your old parents who the media is trying to scare into opposing Bernie so don’t think he is going after all of your hard earned money. Please read more here. Tax on Extreme Wealth
Come on America, since you didn’t want Yang, the most likable candidate and the one I feel would have done the best against Trump in November, the choice is now clear; and Yang Gang if you still want to replace Trump with an honest, fact-based, & forward-thinking person who has proven to be ahead of the curve throughout his life and political career then join us in helping Bernie Sanders make it all the way to the White House. After the last 3+ years of lies and injustice let’s make 2020 a turning point that sees America take the lead in combating climate change while leading the way towards a more just, healthy, and prosperous future.
Happy Lunar New Year, I hope this post finds you healthy. It’s unfortunate that this Lunar New Year will be remembered by the emergence of another new zoonotic disease. I wrote a short post about zoonotic diseases here five years ago saying that disease surveillance in other animals is great but what we really need to focus on is keeping humans away from animals and the best way to do this is by protecting the world’s forests and to stop eating animals with an emphasis on those that have been raised, handled, and slaughtered in conditions that make the emergence of another zoonotic disease far more likely.
Speaking of old posts here is one that I wrote for Lunar New Year four years ago.
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.
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.