Left: Spikey on our little wooden walkway
Below: Loonie feeding
All photos by LGS
One early spring day, I was sitting on a small lawn chair on my tiny wooden boardwalk just outside the entrance to my subterranean Hobbit-like dwelling place. It had been a long winter but now most of the snow had melted or was melting and there was a lovely sunbeam right on where i was sitting. Suddenly, I heard some thing fall on to the boardwalk behind me like sand and pebbles dropping from a height. I lazily looked up and I saw two fresh looking furry faces looking back at me, peeping out from under the eaves.
They were both golden colored like their mother, Loonie. I was thrilled to see them and they seem quite amused at the greater world which they were perhaps viewing for the first time from the safety of their high vantage point. My wife and I named them Goldie and Blondie. I know, I know. Not very imaginative. Still it was a thrill to see the offspring of Spikey and Loonie, the next generation.
On another warmer Spring day, I was again on my little foldable lawn chair on my boardwalk when Spikey appeared and went all round me checking things out. Normally, he would then head for the peanuts stacked in piles on the boardwalk. This time he disappeared back into one of the evergreen bushes near the wall but when he emerged, he had his two girls in tow.
Spikey came to introduce his family to me. The shy girls would follow close behind him wherever he went. You could see that he was teaching the girls that it was okay to come near this giant creature and take the peanuts. I was beaming.
Parenting did not come easily for Spikey. He struggled to control some of his instincts. On this occasion for example, he showed Goldie a pile of nuts. However, when Goldie tried to eat a nut, Spikey reacted by using his front paws and pushing down on Goldie's face until she dropped the nut. This happened a few times until Goldie stopped trying to take a nut from the pile. Spikey then sat down and started eating his nuts but Goldie persisted by putting her face right up next to Spikey's. Eventually, Spikey relented and actually handed the nut in his mouth over to her. He then hopped off and left the pile of nuts to Goldie. Ah, the sacrifices that parents have to make.
Another interesting thing happened just a couple of days later. The two girls appeared on the wooden boardwalk by themselves. Without Spikey there, they seemed less certain about approaching me and my pile of nuts. They sat a safe distance away and looked at me. I tried to entice them by throwing nuts at them but as they eat the nuts, slowly draw them nearer by throwing the nuts closer and closer to myself. This was working until one stray nut bounced along the wooden walkway and jumped out into the freshly growing grass, just a few centimeters away.
This seem to perplex the girls. They went right up to the edge of the boardwalk but refused to step on the grass. Instead they paced excitedly up and down, keeping an eye on that peanut morsel just a short distance away. Finally Blondie tried to get the nut. She dug her hind claws into grip holds in the wooden platform and tried to stretch her body as far as possible over the edge of the boardwalk without touching the ground. She succeeded and got her peanut reward. I purposely threw a few of these peanuts into the grass. Each time one of the girls took up this stretching posture to retrieve the nut. I then realised that they had not yet been taken by Spikey or Loonie onto the grass. They felt safe on the wooden boardwalk but they were not sure about the grass.
I found this amusing and so surprising. I would have thought that grass would have been something natural to squirrels but it would appear from my observations, they had to learn about it.
Although the girls would later not be as regular as Spikey in visiting, I always felt a particular thrill when they did come. It was almost like having grandchildren!
Claudia gave me this ...........um.......way back at the beginning of March but I am only now acknowledging it. What's my excuse? Well, there was this bear, see.......and you can read all about it here. Anyway, thanks very much Claudia, it is much appreciated.
"Friendship is a light in the darkness". I can really relate. I had a very serious bout with depression when I was at University and I remember how very suffocating it was. The world was all darkness, stifling darkness that you feel you would faint because there was no air. Then once, when it seemed that the darkness would stretch on forever, I asked a friend to just be with me for a weekend. No counseling, no analysis, no "why are you crying", no questions. Just tea and company. No judgment, only acceptance and friendship. Just a weekend but it meant the world to me. It was a sliver of light in my prison. It gave me back the sky. I could breathe and I could sleep. By that light, I climbed out of my pit. (for more details, here)
Wow. I hadn't meant to go that dark but every time I re-visit that episode of my life, its dark depths still is able to pull at me. But for now, let's stay out of the dark side. The point that was being made is that friendship is like alight in the darkness.
All this reminds me of a scene from the movie called "Farewell to the King" which also happens to be in my opinion one of the best movies ever filmed in Malaysia. Set in the dark days of World War Two and in the deep jungles of Borneo, it traces the story of an American deserter who somehow wins the trust of the native tribes in the jungle interior and becomes their "king". In this capacity, he tries to keep the war outside from reaching his people.
The scene I refer to comes towards the end of the movie when one of the protagonists, a British Officer, visits a captured Japanese Colonel. The Colonel had done everything to try to avoid defeat. He had been ruthless and took no prisoners. Later, cut-off and surrounded by enemy troops, he continued to lead his men to carry out attacks. When they ran out of food, they descended into madness and began to eat the flesh of their victims to keep going. However, as they continued to wander under the dark forest canopy, the noose grew tighter and in their desperation, so did their depravity.
Eventually, most were slaughtered in an ambush and now the Colonel was in custody and soon to be executed for his war crimes. The Colonel was all cleaned up and seemed to have recovered some of his former dignity. Even though he knew he was to be executed soon, he reached out and shook the British Officer's hand. It was this officer who had captured him. As he shook his hand he said, "Thank you for showing me the sky again".
At least, that is what I re-collect. We all need to see the sky. May we all always have someone to show us the sky.
Just a stranger on the bus
However, let us reflect more on this first question, "What if God was one of us?" How would we really react to a God who came down from heaven to walk and live amongst us? What would we ask this God amongst us? How would our life be altered?
If this seems like a novel idea, it is not. The Bible tells us that God's plan to save mankind from its own folly and sin involved His coming in the form of man. At Christmas, we sing of the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem, we sing of the Emmanuel which actually means God with us. Jesus was God amongst us, one of us.
And how did the world react to Jesus? They crucified him on a cross outside the city gates of Jerusalem where just a few days earlier they had welcomed him in like a king. Just a few days before, he was their Messiah, their savior, their hero. Now they had beaten him, whipped him, striped him and hung him from the cross and there they mocked him as he died.
Yet, it is through his death that good news has reached mankind. Jesus has become our Messiah, our saviour and our hero. He did this by voluntarily dying and taking on the punishment of the sins of all mankind. He did this by defeating death and rising from the dead. He did this at Easter.
The life, death and resurrection of Christ was foretold in the ancient scriptures hundreds of years before. It said that he would be nothing special in appearance......a slob like one of us. However, by dying on the cross, he has freed us from the power and penalty of sin and has given us a future with hope, walking with God. What is our response to God who was one of us, lived and died for us and now alive to give us hope. What is our response? "Would you want to see God's face, if seeing meant you would have to believe?"
From the Book of Isaiah 53:1-12
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Raptor Watch. We have been organising this public event for 9 years now. Bird-watchers have been observing this phenomena for more than 30 years but the birds have been performing this ritual for millions of years.
Every year in March, a bird festival is held over one weekend at a place called Tanjung Tuan in Melaka and near the seaside resort town of Port Dickson. This event is held in conjunction with the annual migration of raptors or birds of prey from their wintering grounds in Indonesia and Australia back to their breeding grounds in Siberia, China, Korea and Japan. Over a three month period, several hundred thousand raptors will pass through this spot at Tanjung Tuan.
Tanjung Tuan is special to these birds for three important reasons. Firstly, this is the shortest distance between Indonesia and Malaysia (or mainland Asia). These migratory birds first major obstacle in their long journey is to cross the open water of the Straits of Melaka. It obviously is an advantage to them to chose the shortest distance across the Straits and that is to fly through Tanjung Tuan.
Secondly, these birds would benefit from having food and shelter after making the crossing and Tanjung Tuan is the only place on the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia which has a coastal forest which can provide them both. It also has a mangrove forest and a small coastal reef.
Finally, these raptors are large birds. The Oriental Honey Buzzard can have a wingspan of up to 6 feet. They are heavy birds and flapping their wings to fly would be tiring and use up too much energy. Instead, these birds are experts at riding hot air currents and soaring and gliding. Tanjung Tuan is the only place in the whole of Peninsular Malaysia that has a cliff face which encourages the formation of hot air thermals which greatly helps the birds on their onward journey.
Tanjung Tuan is one of the most protected areas in Malaysia as it is a protected forest reserve, it is a protected marine conservation area and it is a protected historical heritage site. Yet about 10 years ago, there was reason to believe that all that "protection" was due to be withdrawl in favour of building condominiums and holiday homes. In order to raise public awareness and support for the birds and for the protection of the site.
Over the years, the event has grown from a small event with just a few hundred people in attendance. This year's event was attended by about 3,000-4000 people. Apart from watching the raptors fly in, we have some 25 exhibition booths, games, guided tours of the forest, mangroves and the corals, hourly talks about nature and even a few cultural and musical performances.
It is also no longer just a local event. We have visitors from U.K., U.S.A., Australia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Apart from public awareness, there is a serious scientific effort to actually count the number of birds going through Tanjung Tuan. Raptors are top in the food chain and changes in their population can be a good indicator of the health of the ecosystem.
This was how I spent my last weekend.
Hi, guys and gals. Reporting in from my "black" week. Thanks for your, thoughts, prayers and good vibes. It was much appreciated. I did run into bears and after a lengthy brawl, we decided to call it a tie and retreated to our corners. Anyway, that's old news. It is time to look out for a brighter week ahead.
Tired.......beat. Been working and toiling.
Burning both ends of the candle.
Up before sunrise and long into the night.
Head on pillow ....... too short a time.
So much to do...... all need attention.
Work..... work....... family........church.......friends.......work.
Need more hours in a day....for at least this whole week.
Phone calls.......more work.
Got to squeeze it all in ........already
bulging into next week but datelines' this week.
Also.......storms are coming.
More than one.......thunderclouds and twisters.
Turmoil. Anxiety. Stress.
Lack of sleep......words may fly and tempers rise.
Dark in the middle.
Lost in the noise.
This is going to be a very busy, challenging and difficult week for me. I will probably not post again this week. Keep me in mind as I may be wrestling bears again.
I took part in Malaysia's 12th General Election with a heavy heart as I felt Malaysia continue on a downward spin due to a culture of racially motivated politics, corruption , cronyism and injustice. I also felt that with the Malaysian public's general political apathy and fatalism coupled with a not entirely fair election process, the election outcome would once again result in a domination by the ruling Coalition Government which has been the case since independence.
I was particularly upset by the emergence of some young candidates who were related to some older scandal associated politicians. These older politicians have been caught too many times with their hands in the cookie jar and thought that the Malaysian voter could be hoodwinked once again by them stepping aside but nominating instead their, son, daughter-in-law or their nephew. Even worse, these new generation of candidates seem to think it was their God-given right to the succession and this was reflected in some of the comments they made on the campaign trail (see last post).
I was so sure of the results that I did not even bother watching the coverage of the results as they began to come in across the country on the TV channels. Then I got a call from a friend at about 11 pm and he told me something special was happening. I turned on to the election coverage and was glued to it until 3 am. By the time, I awoke this Sunday morning, a miracle had taken place. The Malaysian voters had finally woken up and spoke out against the corruption in the system.
For the first time in almost 35 years, the National Front had been denied a two-third majority in Parliament(which would otherwise allow them to change law and constitution without needing the support of opposition parties). The Coalition of Opposition Parties won 88 seats in the 222 seat Parliament which is an increase of 61 seats since the last election.
At the state level elections, after the last election, the National Front Government held control of 12 of 13 states and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. Today, they lost 4 more states and the Federal Territory to the Opposition. This is a major achievement for the Opposition. The states lost include Penang, Kedah, Selangor and Perak. All of which are the industrial and commercial hubs of Malaysia, the premier states.
At a personal level, the electorate did not return the President and Vice-Presidents of at least two influential component parties of the National Front and also kicked out some prominent "strong-men" in the main National Front partners.
I rejoice that Malaysians have stood up and given this country an opportunity to change and reform. I rejoice because Malaysia is making important steps towards true democracy and equal justice. I rejoice that Malaysians said no to old party politics, corruption, nepotism and to arrogant new generation politicians who think they were not answerable to the people.
Even though, Prime Minister Ahmad Badawi is presiding over the worst ever electoral result of his National Front party, he will be able to form the new Government but for the first time, with a credible opposition in parliament. Bearing in mind that in 1969, the ruling coalition only lost two states but the backlash resulted in ethnic violence that killed hundreds, I am glad that this time, the country showed enough maturity to avoid violence.
I think the police have done well in maintaining the peace and upholding the constitution and the electoral process and should be congratulated. I also think that Prime Minister Ahmad Badawi has done a great service to Malaysia for allowing this election to be relatively clean, for accepting the outcome of the election graciously and for allowing democracy a chance to blossom.
I believe in a Malaysia governed by a Prime Minister who is willing to listen to the opposition and the people or as we say in Malaysia, the "rakyat".
Wow, so this is how democracy feels like! It is a high. Now is the time to be thankful and work towards a better Malaysia for ourselves and all our children.
Malaysia is heading into its 12th General Elections this coming weekend. For the last 50 years or so, the elected government has always been the National Front coalition of parties which include the Malay UMNO, the Chinese MCA and the Indian MIC amongst others. Malaysia is a multi-racial country with a cultural heritage and history which has seen huge contributions from each of its ethnic groups. It therefore seems fitting that a coalition of different ethnic parties should govern the country and bring it forward. This was a vision that many Malaysians bought into, the Malaysian dream.
In hindsight, it was probably not a good idea. The problem is that it still remains a coalition of ethnic based parties when what we should have been striving for were national parties that represented all Malaysians and not just their ethnic groups.
This election is also different in that many of the candidates standing for elections are young; the next generation of leaders - some in fact are the children of established politicians. However, instead of being a breath of fresh air and reform, they have for the most part made this the most depressing election yet for me.
They don't make them like they used to. This new generation candidate has turned out to be arrogant, rude and unclear about the principles of a democratic government.
Where at least their forefathers tried to woo the voters with sweet talk and promises, this new generation are showing their disdain for voters.
Here are some phrases from this new breed of politicians on the campaign trail that I have either heard or read about in the news.
"I don't care whether you vote for me or not. I do not need your votes."
"Don't talk to me about the issues now. I will meet with you after I win the election."
"We can win this election without the Chinese or Indian votes."
"I don't represent you. I represent the Party."
Wow. Way to win my vote.
"Perfessor Squirrel McNutts"
Foremost Field Anthropologist
At almost no cost whatsoever, the Realm of the lone Grey Squirrel has managed to get world famous field anthropologist, "Perfessor" Squirrel McNutts, to send us his latest report from the field. "Perfessor" has just completed an extensive two day study of Malaysians. Here is his cutting edge report:-
Hello there. This is McNutts here, reporting in after a strenuous two full days in the jungles of Malaysia where I am studying that enigmatic human tribe called a Malaysian.
I have been paying particular attention to the sounds that they make. As you know squirrels all round the world speak a common language called "Chitterese", which is why world domination of the world by squirrels is just a matter of time. Humans, on the other hand seem to have developed a whole set of different "languages".
At first, the Malaysian human seemed to communicate through a series of rapid grunts and whistles but when you record it and then slow it down and play it backwards, it then sounds like some form of perverted English. Previous explorers have called it "Manglish". However, today, there is even a debate about the origin of the word "Manglish". Was it, as some believe, merely a contraction of the words "Malaysian" and "English"? Or could it be, as I believe, meant to describe how the English language had been mangled.
You decide. I have included a transcript of a recording made during this current expedition as well as my best translation into modern English.
Subject 1: "Hey you guys doing what?"
Subject 2: "Nut'in, brudder. We lepak only-lah."
Subject 1: "The new James Bond movie is on now. You wanna see or not. I hear it is damn
Subject 3: "I wanted to go yesterday but no member-lah."
Subject 1: "Jom. I'll go buy tickets for the evening show."
Subject 3: "Can call the Tan sisters or not?"
Subject 1: "Why-ah?"
Subject 2: "Aiyoo! He like Jane Tan-lah! he is like basket case around her."
Subject 1: "Sure or not? Which one is Jane Tan-ah?"
Subject 2: "She's that small chilli padi in our English class."
Subject 1: "What-lah, man! That one already got boyfriend-mah."
Subject 2: "I already said. Some more, the boyfriend very jealous one and is a Jinjang Joe."
Subject 1: "Ya-lah! Don't play-play. There are lots more fish."
Subject 3: "Ooi, you guys don't give me problem-lah. Relaks, brudders. It's one movie only
Subject 1: "Wah, like that all of us die-lah."
Subject 1: "Hello, my dear fellows. May I enquire as to what you are doing at this moment?"
Subject 2: "We are doing nothing in particular, my friend. We are just hanging out together."
Subject 1: "In that case, would you both like to go to see the new James Bond movie which is
currently showing in the cinemas. I hear that it is fantastic."
Subject 3: "I had wanted to go yesterday but could not find any one to accompany me."
Subject 1: "Come on, then. I will buy tickets for us for the evening screening."
Subject 3: "Say, can we also invite the Tan sisters to join us?"
Subject 1: "Whatever for?"
Subject 2: "He is smitten with Jane Tan, that's why. He acts like a total imbecile whenever she is
Subject 1: "Is that really true? Who is this Jane Tan anyway?"
Subject 2: "She's that small and feisty girl in our English class."
Subject 1: "Good Heavens, man! She already has a boyfriend."
Subject 2: "I have already warned him that the boyfriend is the jealous type and that he is a real
Subject 1: "Exactly! Not someone to be trifled with or taken lightly. Besides, there are many
more attractive girls out there."
Subject 3: "I would appreciate it if you both drop this matter, get off my case and just calm
down. After all, I am only talking about asking her out for just one movie."
Subject 1: "You are going to get us all in to trouble."
Way back in October 2007, I posted about my trip to Australia for my nephew's wedding. In that post, I mentioned that I "visited a beautiful garden and shared something with dinosaurs." The beautiful garden was the amazing Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens which I also described in a following post. However, I totally forgot to elaborate on what I shared with the dinosaurs, which brings us to today's post.
One of the key exhibits at the Mount Tomah Botanical Gardens is a tree whose closest relative is known only from fossils dating back some 2 million years ago, during the time of the dinosaurs.
It was discovered in 1994 by David Noble, a field officer of the Wollemi National Park in Wentworth Falls, Blue Mountains, New South Wales. It was found in a difficult to reach valley whose exact location remains a closely guarded secret to help protect the remaining 100 or so trees of this species.
It was given the name Wollemia nobilis and is commonly known as the Wollemia Pine. It is however, in fact, not a pine but a conifer of the Araucariaceae family which includes the Kauri tree of New Zealand. Amongst its more interesting features is its dark knobbly bark which has often been described as resembling the Cocoa Pops cereal. The tree can grow to approximately 40 m high.
As a result of its status as a living fossil, there is much demand for the tree and a propagation program intended to supply botanical gardens has now successfully become a commercial venture. It is certainly one of the Mega-stars of the botanic world.
That being said, it was a little odd looking but after all that hype and anticipation, the experience was a little bit of an anti-climax. (all photos by LGS).
My good friend, Josie of C'est la Vie, recently and very graciously bestowed on me this rather flattering award, "The Blogging Mentor Award". It appears that the award is in general for mentors, inspirations or people who have been encouraging to fellow bloggers to continue blogging or who are such characters that they are forces of nature in the blogosphere.
Wow! I am certainly pleased to be thought so highly by Josie as to get this award. The strange thing is that I would immediately name Josie as one of my blog mentors too. Before this degenerates into a meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society, if Josie thought that I was her mentor and I thought of Josie as my mentor, .......is this a case of the blind leading the blind?
Being a mentor is both a great responsibility and a great privilege. It implies both a certain stature and status but in the humble service of others. The originator of this award has used the imagery of a Greek philosopher mentoring his student or disciple. It is an imagery that captures the essence of mentoring. However, I hope that Josie does not expect me to follow in the footsteps of such greats as Plato who was forced to end his life by drinking poison because of what he taught.
But enough of this senseless chatter. I have appreciated everybody's input and encouragement since I started blogging. All of you, including some who have left the blogging scene, have been all part of my wonderful learning experience here. However, it is now my duty to pass this award on to 5 of my mentors. They are.....
1. Claudia. I have always felt that Claudia kind of "adopted" me and has made it her role to challenge me and probably all her other readers to expand our minds, our experience and our experimenting with this blogging media. She gets me in a lot of trouble but its all fun.
2. Meggie . I am always encouraged by Meggie's blog. Her stories are awesome and her characters really come to life. This have given me a desire to aspire to be as good a story teller too. I also remember her gracious defence of my complete ignorance and lack of appreciation of quilting. Who knows? Maybe one day, I'll quilt! Don't hold your breath though.
3. Jocelyn. Jocelyn's blog has just always been an inspiration for me. From her choice of name which is "O Mighty Crisis" to her posts on her work, family and travels, I am inspired by her humor, joy and positiveness in the face of the chaos that is life. She reminds me to have fun blogging.
4. Dave. Dave was probably one of my earliest blogging buddies and over time, I found that we had very similar interests and outlooks of life. We even had very similar ideas for blogging posts. This was, of course very encouraging to find someone who shared do much a common interest in the same things. However, Dave was more than that. He was very pro-active in giving encouragement in his comments and he was particularly supportive of my posts about my Christian faith.
5. Marja. Marja is a relatively recent acquaintance on the blogosphere but she is the essence of encouragement. I think she is a natural mentor and qualifies to be a force of nature in the blogosphere.