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.
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.
If anything 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.
P.S. I think 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 I am wrong and he is unable to gain traction then I will be supporting Sanders like I did in 2016. RCP Poll Average
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 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.
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.
There was a tokay gecko at the restaurant near my home and the owners wanted it gone because it was defecating all over their kitchen. A couple of weeks ago I saw it on the wall so I grabbed a kitchen towel to protect myself from it’s blood-drawing bite and captured it. I then proudly showed the owners the big gecko and one of them asked if he could kill it which is what they probably do to any tokay geckos that try taking up residence at their restaurant.
I was like why would you want to kill such a beautiful specimen when you could just walk across the street, a little ways into the forest, and release it into the wild. I told them that’s where I was headed and that I first just wanted to show them the fellow that’s been shitting all over their kitchen. The point of this introduction is to tell you that I had no reason to venture out onto the road and into the forest that night and only did so so I could release this tokay gecko.
A man that lived down the street from me died a few days ago. He was conversing with a neighbor near a coconut tree and…, no a coconut didn’t fall on is head, it was even worse, a coconut fell from the tree, bounced off of a rock, and then hit him in the head. He was taken to the hospital where he spent 3 nights before being discharged and returning home for a family wedding being held at his house and right after the wedding he died. There was a gathering all week at that house, first for the wedding and then for the funeral. I thought I’d share this sad story with you and remind you to be grateful you haven’t died in any freak accidents because any of us could at any time. Hopefully we won’t but the low probability of such an event shouldn’t leave you thinking you’ll always have another day to get something done or to mend a relationship with someone.
Enjoy the full moon tonight and this frog photo I took last month.
Today as I was cleaning around my porch I lifted up a plastic crate and gently tossed it over to the side. Unfortunately there was a gecko stuck to the bottom of it which was nearly decapitated when the crate landed. No surgery I could’ve performed could’ve repaired the severed spinal cord of this poor house gecko. I’ve seen paralyzed dogs using dog wheelchairs however for a gecko that makes a living running up walls this was not an option. So I did the humane thing and smashed its head in with one swift swing of a wooden juggling club. I then grabbed it by its still twitching tail and tossed it into the creek next to my house because I knew it would be immediately eaten by one of the snakeheads that live under the rocks and wait for lizards, frogs, and any other edible items to fall into the water.
I’ve performed a couple other mercy killings over the years but the one that came to mind today was one that took place a couple of months ago at a children’s shelter. There was a sick and/or injured pigeon flopping around in front of the building and although I didn’t know what was wrong with it I could tell by its limp neck and the way it was moving that it was going to die within a day or maybe within hour. I already knew my answer but I asked the kids that were with me at the time if we should let it lay in the sun and let the ants go to work on it until it eventually dies or should we put it out of its misery. We went inside to get out of the sun to discuss the matter. At first a couple of the kids were shocked that I, the person that doesn’t even eat animals, would propose killing one however as we laid out the bird’s only options they started agreeing with me.
As we discussed the matter I saw another kid though the window, a 5 year old boy who was about half the age of the kids I was discussing the matter with, approaching the sick and/or injured bird with a badminton racket and before I could say anything to him he smashed it over the head. We all ran outside to find a dead bird and a little kid still holding the murder weapon with a “How am I going to get out of this one.” expression. It was ironic because we had pretty much come to the consensus that the best thing to do was to kill the bird however the problem was the kid that performed the execution knew nothing of our deliberations and just wanted to smash a bird over the head with a badminton racket. I brought him inside and explained to him in simple English that it was wrong to hit animals and that they should be treated kindly but I also told him that he was lucky that that particular animal was very sick and was already going to die.
Happy Lunar New Year! Lantern Festival is tomorrow which marks the final day of the New Year’s celebrations which means I now only have one more New Year’s celebration to put up with, Songkran. As planned I returned to Malaysia in early February to visit the kids at the children’s shelter. A week and a half ago I came across a box of nectarines that were a bit over-ripe but I could tell they were still good so I bought a few of them. When I got home and ate them I was surprised by just how good they were, so good. So I said I gotta go back to that supermarket in the morning as soon as they open to get the rest of those nectarines!
The next morning I showed up just as they were opening and headed straight for the nectarines. I got there just in time because the guy working in the fruit area said he was about to throw them all in the garbage. Instead of throwing them out he gave them all to me, like 30 small ones for only $1.25! After bringing them all home I threw two or three bad ones into the compost bag and ate over 20 of them for breakfast which amounted to a total of 2.2kg of glorious nectarine pulp. Hoooooo!!! Also If you were in Penang last week and lost 14 Malaysian Ringgit (3.50USD) I picked it up on the side of the street and rather than pocketing it and profiting from your loss I used it to buy more bananas for the kids so now you don’t need to feel bad about losing it. Have a nice March, I’ll post again on April 1st.
I returned to Thailand earlier this month and have been here catching up on some thoughts and things that I put on hold while in Malaysia however as promised I will be going back to visit the kids in Penang next week. Before I do I decided to do the 40 hour water fast that I wanted to do around New Years but put off until I was back in Thailand. As I write this 30 hours in I thought it’d be a good opportunity to challenge you to not eat for a full day and to follow up with an improved plant based diet and healthier eating habits. In the meantime here’s a challenge you can do right now.
Enjoy the full moon and I’ll chime in again a month from now,
P.S. Here’s a slow loris photo I managed to get a couple weeks ago with a camera in one hand and a flashlight in the other along with a few recent photos of the kind of habitat you’re likely to find a slow loris or me living in. I also saw a colugo aka kubong a couple weeks ago but I was unable to get a photo. Speaking of forest gliders I had a paradise tree snake on my porch earlier this month and although I haven’t seen any flying dragon lizards this year I did have a couple fly past me while I was in the forest a few months ago.
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.