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.
The disaster which this presidency is all started with Trump wanting to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., and now after three and a half years of Trump the Europeans want to ban Americans from entering the E.U.. Many of us knew a Trump presidency would be bad and did what we could to prevent it but nobody could have predicted it’d be this bad.
Trump might have effectively achieved his Muslim ban by making the U.S. so scary of a place that hardly any Muslims would even consider going there while he is president and all of his crazies have been given presidential passes via Twitter to come out of their basements and wave around their guns, confederate flags and other white power paraphernalia.
I’ve been living through the COVID-19 pandemic in a country whose official religion is Islam and as bad as the Malaysian government is it at least managed to properly handle this crisis. Not only do I feel safer in a Muslim majority country I feel safer living amongst Muslims because the vast majority of them aren’t as ignorant and irresponsible as many Americans are when it comes to social distancing and wearing a face mask in public.
During his first run for president Trump liked to talk about how other countries were laughing at us. It seems his solution to this imaginary laughter was to create a situation that is so sad that not even America’s adversaries can smile at these misfortunes. If the Trump administration handled the pandemic as well as Germany did nearly 100,000 lives could have been saved, and even more lives could have been saved if the U.S. had handled the crisis as well as Thailand and Taiwan did.
If all the other things didn’t do it for you, and they should have, then I hope the pandemic did. Even if Trump had handled foreign policy, climate change, and race issues in a decent manner the way he has bungled the handling of this pandemic is grounds for firing him in November. Biden certainly wasn’t my first choice or even my second but it’s obvious that he would be a far better president than Trump, especially during this pandemic and racial tension, so please be sure to register to vote and remind your friends and family that they can not sit this one out!
After seeing an unarmed and handcuffed man who was only suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill murdered in slow motion by police as he repeatedly told them he couldn’t breathe I demand justice for the victim, severe punishments for the perpetrators, and additional training for all police officers so another tragic incident like this doesn’t happen again. We need justice for George and we need a president capable of delivering it. Unfortunately we currently do not have such a president but if enough people have had enough and are willing to vote this November we could have one in January. In the meantime I hope people will keep their protests peaceful.
P.S. With new infection rates still high in many parts of the U.S. and over 100,000 people already dead please wear a mask and cover your face when in public places that make social distancing difficult if not impossible, e.g. when on a bus or in a grocery store. Thank you for not being a selfish, ill-informed, and irresponsible idiot like the president.
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.
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.