More Reasons For Not Going Swimming Soon

on Tuesday, July 29, 2008

If you know a fisherman or an angler, chances are you have heard some fishy story about the gigantic fish that got away. Most of the time we can chalk it down to friendly boasting and a little hyperbole on the description of the size.

Well, one time, I was with some friends in the relatively remote upper reaches of the Jasin River in Malaysia. We had been hiking through dense jungle for most of the day and now as the sun was low behind the trees, we gathered around one of the deep rocky pools of the river. Most of us rested on the rocks at the side, eating fruits we had collected along the way and dangling our legs into the cooling water. It was pleasant and calm and between telling a few jokes, we just sat and watched the water flow by or looked at a couple of our friends as they tried their luck with a rod and line.

Usually, in these deep pools there is this one large fish, the apex predator, the Toman. The Toman (Channa micropeltes) eats other fish, amphibians and even little birds. In fact, also known as the Giant Snakehead, it has even starred as the monster fish in several low-budget Hollywood B-Grade Monster movies. They can grow over 3 feet in length and weigh more than 25 kg. Their body can be as thick as a man's thigh. They are a favorite of anglers because they can put up a good fight and they are quite tasty.

Our two friends had been casting their lure of crickets near a dark and deep part of the pool for a good twenty minutes. Suddenly there was a shout of excitement. They had hooked a toman and it was giving a good fight. There was water splashing as the fish trashed and jumped about. We caught glimpses of the fish and it was huge.

They struggled with the fish but slowly and surely, they were able to pull the tiring fish towards the shallows. Suddenly, we all saw the line grow taut and swing upstream. The guy holding the rod felt a strong jerk and then nothing. There was no more resistance. It was as if the toman had gotten free with one last desperate jerk.

He quickly reeled in the line and to all our surprises, as he lifted the rod up, there at the end of the line was the three foot long toman but something had taken such a huge bite out of its middle section that it was almost severed in two.

We all looked at the mangled fish, stunned. It was a few moments before we all stirred as one and took our legs out of the water and stared suspiciously into the dark waters. What could have been able to take such a bite out of the toman? Not anything we knew or expected in this river! This has remained our story about the mysterious monster fish that got away.......or in hindsight, perhaps the mysterious monster fish that we got away from.

Last evening, a colleague related a different but related story from the muddy waters of a river in the rainforests of Borneo. On one of his trips, he found some of the native forest people a little skittish about a particular stretch of river. To his enquiry, they told him that a monster was sometimes seen in this river. When he pressed for details, he was told that it was some form of fish but it is very wide and long. They claimed that it was as wide as a man is tall or approximately 2 metres. Again this is not something that is known by science to be there.

In the light of these two stories, it is interesting that National Geographic has launched a search for the Megafishes in the world's freshwater sites. One of these is the Giant Stingray. These creatures were discovered by science as late as the 1980's hiding in the murky waters of the Mekong, other rivers in Indochina and also northern Australia. It's maximum size is reported to be as much as 197 inches (500 centimeters), 1,323 pounds (600 kilograms) and with a body diameter of 95 inches (240 centimeters). This recently re-made the news with the finding of a smaller specimen in Thailand this year.

My colleague feels this could easily be the monster that the natives were referring to as the Giant Stingray is immensely wide. However, I still don't know what we encountered up in the Jasin River. Perhaps it is another as yet undiscovered Megafish.

All I know is that just when you thought it was safe to go into the water, they find something else to remind us that something big may still be lurking under the calm water surface. Cue the music from "Jaws".....da.....dum,..da....dum, ..da..dum.

Hogan and a recent catch of the Giant Freshwater Stingray in Thailand (2008)

Giant StingRay
from Cambodia (2002)

The current known champion of the freshwater heavyweights, the Mekong Giant Catfish

Blinded by the Brilliance

on Sunday, July 27, 2008

Recently, VioletSky got her first blog award and she was kind enough to share it with seven others including moi. Well, okay it was a full week ago and I am only just acknowledging it. My excuse? Well, between being blinded and mesmerised by the award and my long shifts at the nut mines, time has just whizzed past. Yes, I was blinded by the brilliance and mesmerised by the pretty colours of the "Brillante Weblog Premio -2008" Award.

This award came with only one instruction; pass it on to seven others. Wow, that's a lot. That is more than the digits on one grubby paw. I have decided to make up all the rest of the rules.

And so, the Brillante Weblog Premio- 2008 goes to............

  1. Terry's Timeout for Brilliance in Visual Excellence (i.e. visually wonderful experience).
  2. Odat's Mumblings for Brilliance in living life with joy or in her own words, "Life isn't about how to survive the storm, but how to dance in the rain."
  3. Notes from a WildCat Fan for Brilliance with children, her own and others.
  4. Doing the Best with What I have for Brilliance in spirit and soul, for integrity under stress and for the bravery to go white-water rafting and the audacity to not just survive but enjoy it!
  5. Grey and Red, A Squirrel Journal for Brilliance in the service of squirrels. How could she not get this award!
  6. Dr. John's Fortress for Brilliance in spirit and the willingness to share the wisdom of the wise with the rest of us.
  7. The Thoughts and Sayings of Baba Doodlius for Brilliance in living in an alternate universe and explaining the "truths" about Life to all of us.
There! I have done my duty. Though there are so many more worthy of recognition, I am sure there will be a next time. For now, I am crash on my stash of nuts and catch some Zeee's.

Milking, Milking, Milking, .....Burp!

on Thursday, July 24, 2008

Looks like I'll be working at the nut mines again this weekend. So no time for a long, thoughtful and intelligent post. So instead I will give you this piece of creative madness coupled with a public service message to be tolerant of mothers feeding their babies in public. Yeah, a celebration of the cycle of life. Approve it, don't "a-prude" it.

This concludes our public service announcement.

Sea of Memory

on Tuesday, July 22, 2008

From time to time, I try my hand at poetry. I wish I could truly write poetry well but if it wasn't for the encouragement of some of you when I first started on this blog, I would not be writing poetry at all. Before this, the last time I wrote poetry on a regular basis was in school which was of course decades ago. My older attempts at poetry in this blog can be seen if you select poetry in my sidebar list of post labels.

Here is my latest. Almost all my poems are dark so I thought I would try a happy poem. Unfortunately, my dark side was too strong and it emerged to hijack the final verse.

There was a world with wonders filled that lay beside the sea,

Where I had spent my carefree youth in joyful discovery.

For whether at the waters edge, where the gentle waves lap,

Or under the shade of the coconut, so perfect for a nap,

In either place, I would find treasures and surprises,

Hermit crabs and shiny shells of different shape and sizes.

When the tide was in and the waters high, laughter rang out loud

While we swam and raced or rode the waves or simply splashed about.

But nor was it less a joy when the waters were low,

For living pools full of life were left behind by the flow,

With waters warm and creatures aplenty, a discoverer’s paradise,

From burrowing crabs to scampering shrimp or tiny fish fries.

A short swim away lay an isle, my personal pirate haven,

I built castles here, forged the lands of my rich imagination.

Away from prying eyes, I planned my many grand adventures,

The dense mangrove on the far side, ideal for burying treasures

I even had fun making tiny crabs run by throwing mud at them.

Could this place in a young boy’s eyes be anything but heaven?

But heaven it seemed has been invaded and its bounty ravaged by man,

The beach is now filthy, the water murky and there is a swimming ban.

No more to be seen are the crabs, the shrimp and the little fishes,

All around is development and the bay takes all the abuse that it dishes

I see a boy who despite it all bravely wades into the sickly sea

And wonder if he knows what has been lost to "Progress" with a capital "P".

Working, Working, Working

on Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sorry folks but they got me working in the nut mines this weekend. Call the police! Call Amnesty International! Call GreenPeace!

God is the Best Travel Agent

on Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Many in the mid-west USA will remember that a large number of tornados struck all across the state around the week of June 8th 2008. Tom of Patterns of Ink, covers some of it in his post at that time. The tornados cause a lot of damage as well as some deaths and injuries. There is little that man can do against such fury.

A friend, Daryl, did not know it but he was flying back from Malaysia to Chicago and right into this storm system. Daryl has been studying in a University in Illinois and is currently doing his graduate studies. Each summer, he has returned to be with his family for the holidays and so he had made this trip four times before. It is a long journey.

First there is the long flight to Chicago Airport from Malaysia which is more than 20 hours. Then, typically it takes up to 2 hours to clear customs and immigration. This is because that there is always a lot of students arriving at the same time and Malaysia being a Muslim nation, its students are often interviewed thoroughly by immigration. Daryl needs to take a bus from the airport to the small University town a couple of hours away. He always makes the booking through the internet some weeks before his flight and he always allows for three hours to catch the bus on account of the long delays at immigration. Daryl found that this timing worked very well.

This trip, he had made the same arrangements for booking the bus for three hours after scheduled arrivaal at Chicago airport. However, he was pleasantly surprised that customs and immigration took less than half an hour. The surprising reason was that he was the only returning student on that plane. He found out that he could make an earlier bus and did so.

Some 5 hours later, the bus company called him at his apartment to confirm that he was safe and that he had not been on the later bus which he had made a booking for. Only then did Daryl learn about the severe weather that hit Illinois.

His parents shared this with the church the following Sunday and we gave thanks to God for keeping Daryl safe. The bus that he was supposed to take is the one in the bottom picture.

We believe God took charge of the travel arrangements and protected Daryl from harm. As is my own experience, God is the best travel agent there is.

Smashing Thoughts

on Sunday, July 13, 2008

It is clear from her blog, DutchCorner , that Marja is a brave and passionate woman, especially in her concern for children welfare in general and for those with learning difficulties specifically. She is also a very good promoter of the blogging community, so do go visit and learn about what is happening in her corner. Just to confuse matters, her corner of the world is actually New Zealand. Intrigued? Confused? Drop in on her blog and all will be clear.

Recently, Marja celebrated her 10,000th visitor and she was also given the "Brilliant Weblog Premio 2008" Award. All the denizens of this Realm send their congratulations to Marja on her twin achievements.

On that special occasion, in typically generous fashion, she celebrated by giving out some awards of her own, which is how the Lone Grey Squirrel came to get his grubby paws on the "Smashing Blog" Award. Many thanks, Marja.

This squirrel was mesmerised by the pretty award for most of the day. You might be familiar with this is the same when a squirrel's eyes are caught in a car's headlights. When I was finally able to stop staring at the bright light, I did what comes naturally to inquisitive squirrels; I asked, "What does 'Smashing' mean?"

According to the Merriam-Webster On-line Dictionary, smashing can either mean 1. crushing (as in, smashing defeat) or 2. extraordinarily impressive (as in, smashing performance). Squirrels are more familiar with the first meaning as in the case of "smashing nuts" to get to the goodies inside but I am hoping that the award refers to the second meaning. Here it is again, this schizophrenic nature of the English language where either the same word can mean completely different things or different and opposite words can mean the same thing.

So we find that when something is good, it is "cool" but it could also be "hot". It is cool to be driving a hot car but the hot chick can still give you the cold shoulder which just isn't cool, dude.

I heard this recently and I thought it also illustrates this point well; "How can you tell that you have grown old? You tell you best friend that you are having an affair and he asks who is the caterer."

Then there is the use of the same or similar word twice to reverse the meaning. Actually this is apparently true of many languages, where a double negative gives a positive. For example, "He would not disagree." means "He agreed". A professor of English is said to have given a class on this very topic recently and he said that many languages have this "double negative equals positive rule" but though some languages also have the reverse which is that "double positive equals negative", that is not the case in the English language. There was silence initially as his students scribbled down their notes but then a voice from the back of the lecture hall said, "Yeah, right!"

Ah, English.......she is always evolving. Isn't it simply smashing? (and I mean both meanings of the word).

100% of All Statistics

on Saturday, July 12, 2008

I want to talk about statistics. On a Friday night? Don't worry, there is a 50 percent chance that you will enjoy it.

Some people say that you can use statistics to prove almost anything. I suspect they may be right. Here are a collection of some thought provoking statistics.

  1. 42.7 % of all statistics are made up on the spot.
  2. 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
  3. 50% of married couples are either male or female.
  4. 1/7 of our lives are wasted on Mondays!
  5. About half the people you meet will be below average.
  6. Three out of four people make up 75% of the population.
  7. 9 out of 10 readers of this blog think that LGS was too Lazy to come up with something original this Friday.
  8. And finally..........

Unburied Nut from 3rd December 2006; "Thoughts on Happiness and Chasing After Puppies"

on Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Every once in a while, I uncover an old post that I feel could do with another brief moment in the sunlight. Many of these are my early posts which existed at a time when the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel was an extremely quiet place with virtually no visitors. Ah, the good ol' lonely days.

“Felicitas est parvus canis calidus”. This is Latin for “Happiness is a warm puppy.” It is actually a quote from the cartoon strip, Peanuts from the 1950’s. I’m not that old, but I probably came across it in my early teens and somehow that phrase has stuck with me all these years. It is clearer to me today, than all those facts on human metabolism that I spent months revising for my final university exams.

Happiness is a warm puppy. Is this statement true? How many of you would agree with it? The fact that I remember it so well through the flight of time must imply that it has struck a deep chord with me. The pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence as one of the unalienable rights of the people. Honestly, there is a lot of pursuing happiness going on in the world today and it’s not just the Americans but everyone that’s doing it. But are most of us looking in all the wrong places? Might we finally find it in a warm puppy?

Singaporeans used to be told that they need to have the 5C’s in this life and this consideration should guide them in the choice of a life partner. The 5C’s has today increased to 7 C’s and are Cash, Car, Certificate (i.e. University degree), Country club, Credit card, Career and Condominium. (Ladies might even have the 8th C which is Carat, i.e. insist on a diamond ring). The idea is that happiness comes from wealth, prestige, elitism, superior intelligence (with a certificate to prove it), achievements at work and the best creature comforts at home. Singaporeans are also famous for not wanting to keep up with the Joneses. No, Singaporeans strive to be ahead of the Joneses and to rub the Joneses noses in it.

Before, Malaysian-Singaporean relationships deteriorate further, let me say that I use Singaporeans to describe a phenomena that is really spreading throughout much of the world and especially so in Asia. Happiness is cold hard cash, a cool reputation and a classy lifestyle. The pursuit of happiness as envisaged above lead many to put career and wealth ahead of family and friends. Fathers who work hard for their children’s future but do not have time to know their children and for the children to know them. Reminds me of a song called “Cat’s in the cradle” by Harry Chapin.

I have worked with native, jungle dwellers and been part of efforts to assimilate them into modern life so that they might have a better standard of living. While it is true that many will benefit from better health care and better schooling for their children, it is equally clear that they were very happy living in the ways of their ancestors in the jungle and transferring them out of the jungle into settlements has not brought them joy. Often, peaceful communities are torn apart by the introduction of money and the concepts of property amongst peoples who used to share the forests bounty with each other. Some of these projects have improved their economic situation but I really do not know whether it has brought happiness.

So, I return to “Felicitas est Parvus Canis Calidus”. I think it is a beautiful metaphor that all of us need to feel warm, secure and to have the feeling of loving and being loved. It has to do with people; friends and family. Happiness comes from being secure and content while surrounded by the mutual love and support of friends and family. If we are loved and supported for who we are, we do not need wealth or any other trappings to be happy.

So, Snoopy, I think you were right but it was not just because puppies are warm and cute. Perhaps you were more profound than you thought. Cat lovers, I can’t help you.

Choosing Seven Natural Wonders

on Saturday, July 05, 2008

Almost two years ago, I posted on the effort to declare the New Seven (Man-Made) Wonders of the World through an unprecedented global internet voting process which led to the results announced here in 2007. At that time, four of my choices made it into the final seven; they were Machu Picchu (Peru), Taj Mahal (India), Petra (Jordan) and Great Wall (China).

I recently discovered that there is now an attempt to identify the New Seven Wonders of Nature through the same global internet voting process. In this preliminary stage, you are allowed to nominate up to seven candidate sites or vote for seven candidate sites already nominated or any combination in between. The top 77 sites from this voting process will then be shortlisted and then the final round of voting will allow voters to select the top seven from that list. Those with the most votes at the end of that round will be declared the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

Currently as of 5th July 2008, the top 10 on the list are;

  1. Cox's Bazar Beach (Bangladesh)
  2. Ha Long Bay (Vietnam)
  3. Ganges River (Bangladesh/India)
  4. Tubbataha Reef (Philippines)
  5. Chocolate Hills (Philippines)
  6. Mount Everest (Nepal)
  7. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (Philippines)
  8. Mayon Volcano (Philippines)
  9. Amazon River/Forest (South America)
  10. Mount Fuji (Japan)
It is early days yet but the top runners are surprisingly almost all from Asia with the Philippines having a high number or percentage of nominees. If you disagree, do please join in and vote.

Below are my seven choices;

1. Banff National Park (Canada)

My personal vision of paradise is closely represented by Banff with its forests rich in wildlife, stunning turquoise lakes, glaciers and mountains. I have visited Banff and it was beyond my expectation. I could live there quite happily. It's a pity about the seasonal hordes of tourists but there is still sufficient wilderness to get lost in.

2. Auyantepui Mountain (Venezuela)

The Devil's Mountain, in the native tongue of the Pemon peoples, it rises like other tepuis, almost vertically from the jungle floor and has a flat plateau like top. Tepuis are often referred to as islands in the clouds. Auyantepui rises to a height of almost 3,000 m and the world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls, cascades off its plateau. It is rich in rare and unusual plant life. A wet and wold place.

3. Hardangerfjiord (Norway)

I have always been fascinated by the scenery of fjords and the geological power of the glaciers that it often represents. I visited here more than 25 years ago but was blown away by the grandeur even then. I would love to revisit this place of haunting and reflective beauty.

4. Milford Sound (New Zealand)

This is the Antipodean reply to the Norwegian fjords and beautiful and lush with its own wealth of flora and fauna. I have been on the cruise and have seen the unusual darkwater corals but would one day like to hike the spectacularly wet Milford Track.

5. Plitvice Lakes (Croatia)

Another place that I have visited that has captured my imagination ever since. This rates very high on my personal list because of its fairly unique nature and because I just love the landscape of waterfalls and crystal clear lakes linked by cascades and streams. It was just beautiful water everywhere and i just love water. The limestone outcrops and caves are added attractions.

6. Mulu Caves (Malaysia)

I know that this is in my own backyard but I have not visited it (relatively costly for me). However, I could not leave out from this list the world's largest cave system and largest single cave chamber. Other special caves are also found in this system with individual characteristics. The large bat population is an attraction too as is the rich forest life surrounding the caves.

7. Pamukkale Springs (Turkey)

I have never been here but the thought of its rather special and delicate attractions gives me goosebumps. I would love to soak in its hot-springs.

Don't miss out on casting a vote for your picks for the new Seven Wonders of Nature.

Red Faces on Blue Pool

on Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Are they embarrassed? They don't seem embarrassed. They certainly should be. I refer to the a whole bunch of idiots in my country which are making me embarrassed to be called a Malaysian. The incident is the recent National Swimming Trials at the Malaysian Games in Trengganu which finished with an unprecedented 21 new national swimming records. With the Beijing Olympic Games 2008 just a couple of months away, everyone was impressed with our swimmers form.

There was celebrations and our swimmers were feted for their strong performance which seemed almost too good to be true. Almost too good to be true. In fact, really too good to be true. So someone decided to measure the length of the Olympic sized pool at the Trengganu Sports Complex.

Red Face No: 1 - A local newspaper which was alerted by swimming fans and swimmers, measured the 50 m long Olympic-sized pool and repeatedly found it actually measured only 49.6 m or 40 cm short. If true, the phenomenal number of records set could not be officially counted. The poor swimmers. Everyone pointed to the culprit which they decided had to be the authorities who managed this new Sports Complex.

Red Face No: 2 - The Amatuer Swimming Association of Malaysia (ASUM) gave a good showing of righteous indignation and berated the authorities for the shoddy construction of the swimming pool that was now found to be short of the mark........that is, until it was revealed that ASUM had been paid to certify the pool was to Olympic specifications. Well, the egg was now on ASUM's faces.

Red Face No: 3 - Despite calls to officially measure the pool and end the dispute, the State Director for Public Works decided to share the shame by coming out with a statement that said that the pool was "fine" during the Malaysia games and there was no reason to re-measure it just because someone now claims it is short. When asked what would get him to re-measure the pool, he said that there must first be a formal complaint.

Red Face No: 4 - ASUM Secretary said that the local chapter of ASUM had measured and certified the pool to be 50 m previously and urged the public not to doubt it as it was measured by "professionals".

Red Face No: 5 - The spokesman of the local chapter of ASUM seemed less certain when he said, "We HOPE the pool is the right length." After a pause, he added "Of course, 21 games records are on the high side but ........then again, many national swimmers were present."

This has been going on for the last three days. Awwww, come on already fellas........just measure the stupid pool.

Why aren't they embarrassed?

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