A Gift of Kindness

on Saturday, December 29, 2007

I was tagged by Kimber the Wolfgrrrl to do this meme which is in line with this season of goodness and cheer.

The instructions:
1) Post a note about a blogger you would like to see something wonderful happen for. Maybe one whose posts have touched your heart in one way or another. Include details as to why you admire them and what you wish for them. Be as supporting and affirming as you can.
2) Post your favorite memory around selflessness, giving, or doing for others. Something that has actually changed you.
3) As a postscript, name one thing you will actually do for someone in your life before December 31 that is born out of joy.
4) Tag 3 other bloggers who will play the game and find the spirit. Don't forget to leave a comment on their blog so they continue to share the good feelings.

Wow! This was the toughest meme that I have ever done. For this first section, I took the entire list of bloggers (more than 50) that I visit with some regularity and I mulled it over for more than a week. Finally I took a deep breath and managed to slice it down to 10. It took me a whole morning of trying to avoid making a decision and finally I narrowed it down to two and then finally one.

I wish something wonderful for Janice Thomson (Pursuance of Truth). If you visit Janice’s blog, you are treated on an almost daily basis to some pearl of wisdom or a beautiful and insightful poem; sometimes uplifting, sometimes humorous, sometimes deep and profound but always inspirational. As if that was not enough, she also treats us to a beautiful picture or painting which is an appropriate accompaniment to the prose.

Janice is clearly a person who gives of herself. She used to work as a nurse for mentally challenged adult patients. I admire all nurses but nurses doing palliative care or nurses working with the mentally challenged are in my opinion deserving even higher adulation.

In recent times though, Janice has faced a great deal of problems with uncertainty about her health and her abode. Yet, though there is an occasional acknowledgement of her problems in her blog, it is not long before she brushes it aside with more life affirming and life reveling prose. So I would like to wish something wonderful for Janice for the person that she is and for being an example of grace under pressure.

Favorite Memory Around Selflessness, Giving and Doing for Others. I have actually already shared my personal favorite memory about selfless giving (Juliet, Juliet, Wherefore Art Thou?). However, I would like to tell the story of someone else that I met. Her name is Mariliana Morales. I met her when I took part in a special study tour organized for representatives of non-profit organizations in 2005. The reason why I want to share her story is that I have always felt an empathy for prostitutes but unlike me who have done little to act on this feeling, Mariliana has put her whole life into helping them.

Mariliana was a successful business woman in Costa Rica and she was married to a successful businessman. Although a Christian, she was not an active one as running her business was her life. However, one day she just felt that there had to be more to life than being a slave to work. She turned to God in prayer for direction. Then as she was driving, she looked out and saw written in clouds in the sky, the word “Prostitutes”.

She pondered and wrestled with her vision for awhile and finally told her husband that she wanted to give up her business and work amongst prostitutes and to help them. The husband was supportive but incredulous. Mariliana was in the upper echelon of society. Until then, she was not even aware that Costa Rica had prostitutes. She told her husband that she would not even know how to start looking for a prostitute.

PhotoCredit: - LGS Chowing Down on Maine's Best Clam Chowder (Mariliana -second from right)

Before long, someone knocked on her door. It was a young girl who had been physically abused by a client and was on the run looking for sanctuary. It was the defining moment. Mariliana did not hesitate but took her in. Her first prostitute.

She went on to look for a place to house prostitutes, protect them from their pimps, provide re-training for another job, take in their children and give them education. Thus was founded the Rahab Foundation on November 12th 1997. In the first month alone 30 prostitutes found their way to this sanctuary. Many of them testify that they had prayed to God in their despair and had received a vision to look for the Rahab Foundation which was virtually unknown at that time.

In the last 10 years, thousands have benefited from Mariliana’s and the Foundation’s work. Today, they provide sanctuary for over 500 seeking to escape prostitution and to make a new life. Over the years, 70% of those who have come through the Foundation have found freedom to live a new life.

In my short interaction with Mariliana, I surmise her to be a strong, intellegent woman with a sharp business acumen and organizational skills but the prominent characteristic that all who have met her would go away with would be the sense of her spirit of servitude for others. She reminds me that I could do more for others too.

To do list before 31st December. Well, I plan to just come in under the wire and invite a friend who has been feeling a little down after her relationship with someone fell through to a little group caring at a gathering of old friends for a New Year’s Eve Party. She has not seen many of us for quite a while and I am hoping that our meeting will be like returning to a loving, strong and supportive touchstone.

Tagging others. I think I will have to decline tagging others as it would be unfair for them to try to do this meme before new year which is just a few days away.

Not Missing the Point

on Friday, December 28, 2007

A little joke that I heard;

Three men died on Christmas Eve and were met by Saint Peter at the pearly gates.

"In honor of this holy season," Saint Peter said, "you must each possess something that symbolizes Christmas to get into heaven." The first man fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter.

He flicked it on. It represents a candle, he said. "You may pass through the pearly gates", said Saint Peter.

The second man reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, "They're bells." Saint Peter said, "You may pass through the pearly gates."

The third man started searching desperately through his pockets and finally pulled out a pair of women's knickers. St. Peter looked at the man with a raised eyebrow and asked, "And just how do those symbolize Christmas?"

The man replied, "They're Carol's."


And singing carols is exactly how I spent Christmas eve and Christmas day. On Christmas eve, I went to a friends home and the husband and wife played host to family, friends and even neighbors. Everyone brought something along so that the hostess was not too worn out with the practicalities of providing for about 50 people.

The highlight though was that we put together a small band consisting of a pianist, 2 guitarists and a drummer and we all got together to sing Christmas Carols. I was made to be the song leader which I did with much enthusiasm. Being warm Malaysia, I was soaked in sweat by the end of the singing. I also shared a little about how Christmas was about God's gift of love and hope to men in their darkness, the gift of Jesus Christ. Today, Christmas may come up all wrapped up in gift exchanges, Santa Claus, Christmas trees and such like but to focus on that and not on Christ is like getting excited about the gift wrappings and ribbons but forgetting about the present itself.

On Christmas Day, our church actually took over a small actor's studio and stage and held a service attended bu about 300 people. There were two plays presented; one by the Sunday School kids of ages 10 and under and another by the youth. Both plays and the subsequent message focussed on the thought that we should not miss out on the most important thing about Christmas.

I found the play by the youth especially good. The play started in Bethlehem on that first Christmas and it focussed on how busy the innkeeper and his wife was because the hotel was full. So busy that they did not play with their children or tend to their needs. So busy that they did not notice the stream of shepherds visiting the baby in the stable. So busy that they failed to notice the choir of angels in the sky proclaiming the Saviour's birth.

The play then shifts to modern days and we see a young couple who have no time to play with their kids. They have too much work, too much church activities and too much other activities. So busy with buying presents, with cooking, with throwing parties that they miss out on the most important aspect of Christmas.....Christ himself.

I had a great Christmas. I hope yours was also wonderful and blessed.

Unburied Nuts from 23rd December 2006; "Not a Creature Was Stirring"

on Sunday, December 23, 2007

What Creature Stirred and Left These Mysterious Trails....

photocredits: Deep river

"Twas the night before Christmas,
when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse…….."

(Excerpt from poem by Clement Clarke Moore; 1822)

Snow had fallen thickly during the night and the wind had blown fiercely with its own melancholic howling through the trees. I was glad to have
been tucked in bed that night safe and snug. Christmas was a couple of days away and when I drifted off to sleep, I was soon in a dream world filled with the visions of the expected wonders of warm fellowship and the joys of the season.

I awoke the early the next day while the morning light was still dim, feeling fully rested and fresh. I excitedly went to my small basement window and as expected the night’s
storm had dusted everything with an inch or two of snow, creating a wonderland. The distant street lamps were still able to cast sufficient light on the newly fallen snow that everything seemed to sparkle like diamonds.

It was then I realized that someone had already been up and about before my eyes had opened to the new day. Just in front of the window was a wooden walkway and a small bush. Both were coated in snow but clearly visible all around them were tiny tracks. Spikey had already come by.

Grey Squirrels do not hibernate. They remain active during winter and are most active during the daytime when it is warmer. I had continued to feed Spikey during winter with nuts. Initially, I left them in a pile on the wooden walkway. However, I soon realized this exposed the poor creature to the blowing wind. I eventually found a large rock that was suitable as a feeding table because it had a shallow hollow on its top surface which was ideal for placing the nuts. I placed it next to a small bush.

I had chosen the bush because its network of leaves and branches created a scaffold for the snow to layer upon creating a snow igloo of sorts with the interior spacious
and ice-free. Spikey was able to enter and shelter under the snow-covered bush and feed while reasonably protected by the elements. The bush was also within easy view of my window which enabled me to observe squirrel behavior throughout the winter.

At the Feeding Station

photocredit: drroz2

Drawing from Anonymous. Animal Tracks, Stackpole Co., 1954.

The tracks of the grey squirrel in the snow is fairly easy to recognize and has been described as the double exclamation marks, “!!”. This pattern stems from the gait of the squirrel who first plants its two small front paws in the snow and pushes himself forward before his hind legs land in the snow, just ahead of where the front paws first was planted. The long strokes of the double exclamation mark is made by the relatively long hind paws while the front paws provide the periods for the exclamation mark.

For me, seeing a trail of “!!” was a real heart warmer on a cold winter’s morning.

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Lights and Sounds of Christmas

on Friday, December 21, 2007

As Christmas comes nearer, I am trying to put aside the distractions of the world and to really enjoy the season by remembering it is all about celebrating God's love for all of us. I am trying to see, hear, smell, touch and taste Christmas. In doing so, I hope to share with you some of the things that make Christmas real to me.

I am going to start with the lights of Christmas. There is something magical about Christmas lights especially if reflected on the white snow. It also reminds me that Christmas is about light entering into a dark world to give us hope. I think also of the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem to see the baby, Jesus. There is no snow in Malaysia but I still try to get the Christmas lights out and decorate the tree (again no real pine trees so I miss the smell of pine) and it gives me a sense of warmth watching them flicker in the quiet of the night.

This following video might be a little overboard on the lights but I admire the guy's spirit and his artistic creation.

Then there are the sounds of Christmas. For me carol singing and some seasonal songs are essential parts of Christmas. I enjoy singing along. With this next video I hope to capture part of the special sounds of Christmas. The song by the Drifters is one of my favorite popular Christmas songs.

Finally and perhaps most important for me is to also find some silence to remember the birth of Christ and to honor and worship him. This last video has Sarah MacLaughlin singing a very interesting version of my favorite carol, O little town of Bethlehem. The phrase "And in Thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight" reminds me of what was at stake with Christ's birth. I am reminded that God loved us and He gave light to our darkness and hope for our despair. Have a Blessed Christmas everyone.

Sinking Feeling

on Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Malaysia started 2007 with a splash with what turned out for the southern part of Peninsula Malaysia to be the worst floods for a century. Not only were the flood waters extremely high (one village was swept away when waters rose 100 feet above normal) but in some areas it did not recede for almost a month. The financial costs to the Government alone for repairs was over RM1 billion or over USD 350 million. The reason for the floods was cited as extremely heavy rain and unusually high tides which caused the waters in the rivers to back up.

Now it seems that Malaysia will end the year with another set of record breaking floods. While it is too early to see if the damage caused or the duration of the floods are comparable to the January floods or even worse, the total area affected seem to be much bigger. Again extremely high sea levels and high tides are said to be the main contributing factors.

Flooding was an annual event with the onset of the Northeast Monsoon until the 1970's when the building of bunds, proper drainage and irrigation and other engineering efforts brought the flood waters under control. That is until now. After more than thirty years of controlled flooding due to these engineering measures, why are these record setting floods occurring now? Can all of you say, "Climate Change" and ........"rising sea levels"?

If I Were God . . . . . . .

on Sunday, December 16, 2007

If I were to put myself in God’s place,
And desired to reveal myself to all mankind,
Whom might I choose as champion or face,
To bring an image of God’s nature to mind.

For God’s Almighty Power or strength,
To show what Divine Might is about,
There is no need to think at length,
It would have to be Hercules or the Hulk.

God’s power and His domain is over all nature
Over the living and all physical matter, the Lord of the Universe
Able to create or destroy, past, present and future
Calling up storms and throwing thunderbolts, it has to be Zeus.

When it comes to portraying God’s justice
To show that God’s law is all-important, His judgment right
Judge Dredd executes swiftly without prejudice
Allowing no excuses or remorse for all is black and white

And what of God’s Glory, its brightness and its radiance
The King of Kings, surrounded and worshiped by the Heavenly hosts
Perhaps Cleopatra with her subjects prostrate in her sight,
Adorned from head to toe with finest gold and jewels might come close

But now, how to show the softer side as well,
That God is also qualities like love, merriment and happiness,
They amongst the Greek and Roman pantheons dwell
Let the good times roll with the likes of Aphrodite, Pan and Bacchus.

But I am thankful that God is greater and wiser than me
That He does care for man and to show Himself, He had a plan,
God’s power, might, divinity, justice, glory, love, shown clearly
Not by warrior or king, not in gold and finery or mighty men,
To serve and not to be served, in humility came as a baby,
To save and seek the lost, the journey started in Bethlehem.

“For there was no other way, the God of Love could find,
To reconcile the world and save a lost mankind.”

Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.

Putting Words to the Pictures

on Friday, December 14, 2007

With reference to the previous post, here is the answers in words for all you bloggers to lazy to burn a few brain cells.

1. The answer is boldly written for all to see. I wonder how old you thought I was. One blogger had previously thought I was a teenager. At first I thought that it meant she thought I was youthful but then again maybe she thought I was immature. Hmmm. Incidentaly if you look at what is written on the car bonnet or hood, that is what I would like to do with my next birthday. Any ideas how to do that?

2. Actually there are a whole bunch of places I would like to go to but this just happens to be flavor of the moment. It is Dubrovnik in Croatia. A World Heritage Site. History, spectacular scenery and warm Mediterranean waters. Plus it is still slightly off the beaten path.

3. Lake Louise. I was in Canada for about 3.5 years. From my base in Ottawa, I managed to see Toronto, Quebec City, Niagara Falls, Alqonguin Park, Muskokas, Kingston, Burlington, Gatineau Park, Vancouver, Kamloops, Banff, Yoho, Lake Louise and Calgary.

4. Chili Crab or Sweet & Sour Crab. Mmmmmm. It has to be done with mangrove crabs though. The meat is sweeter and more abundant. I've posted on this before on my World Food Spots.

5. Nothing special here. I was born in this old missionary hospital (today it is a private hospital) in the early morning. My Chinese Zodiac sign is a Tiger. An early morning tiger is a sleepy, contented tiger (i.e. not fierce) cause I should already have eaten.

6. Place where I live.....the Petronas Twin Towers, once the tallest buildings in the world. Well, okay, I don't actually live there. It is meant to represent the city which I live in but I live near by. Well, okay, not that near but I can still see the towers in the distance from where I live!

7. I grew up with about three dogs in the house at any one time but they were always my mother's dog or my sister's dog or my brother's dog. I only ever had one dog which was my dog and it was an Alsatian mix. The name was given by my Mother and as the picture shows, it must be some exotic East European name. Losing this dog was very traumatic for me in my childhood.

8. Again I have many good friends rather than one best friend. I chose the one with the most interesting nickname. The picture show the natives of Papua New Guinea who helped ferry wounded Australian soldiers along the infamous Kokoda Trail during World War II. The Aussies gave these men a nickname. This also happens to be the name of a bear in children's stories and is the nickname of my friend.

9. What can I say? My first name sucks.

10. It was in a water quality test laboratory on a project to develop rapid methods to be used in poor, inaccessible rural areas to detect water contamination.

Picture Me This

Once again, another meme which I have stolen from Jess.

(Just type the answer to the following questions into Google Image, then pick from the first page.)

1. Age at My Next Birthday:-

2. Place I'd Like to Travel:-

3. Place I've Been:-

3. My Favorite Food:-

5. Place where I was born:-

6. Place where I live:-

7. Name of Past Pet:-

8. Best Friend's Nickname:-

9. My First Name:-

10. My First Job:-

Feel free to join the fun. (Answers in next post).

Scratches the Gypsy

on Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Enchantress by Andrew Artoshenko

It has been awhile since I wrote about the world of squirrels that I encountered in Paradise. To recap, there was the original rapscallion, the everyman squirrel "Spikey", then I spoke of his nemesis, the big muscular bully "Speedy" and then I introduced Spikey's love interest and in fact mate, "Loonie".

The next squirrel I met was a young female. It was late autumn and I was walking through my small garden when I heard a squirrel barking off an alarm from the small tree at the corner by the sidewalk. I looked to see if it was Spikey but it was not. Instead, I saw a scrawny squirrel on the trunk of the tree with its head facing ground-wards. Just a few feet below and pacing excitedly was the landlady's Persian cat. The two of them were staring each other down.

I am sure it comes as no surprise that I responded immediately by shoo-ing the cat away. Being an aristocratic Persian, it did not run away but kind of sauntered away casually as if to imply "I was getting bored anyway."

Both the squirrel and I watched the cat disappear round the corner and into the house. When that happened, suddenly the squirrel came down the tree until we were at the same level, "face to face" as it were. She lifted her head towards mine, our noses just inches apart and she scrutinised me. I, in turn had a good look at her.

She was much smaller than Spikey, scrawny even. Her fur was not even and in some parts appeared mangy and bare. It gave the impression that she scratched herself until the fur fell out. However, these patches did look old and new fur were already growing round the edges. Nevertheless, I dubbed her "Scratches".

Scratches had a very distinct personality. My relationship with her seemed quite established from that first meeting. Whenever, there was a cat around, she would climb a tree, call out her alarm and wait for me to answer her call and come out to rescue her from her feline taunter. She soon figured out that I was at her beck and call.

Her relationship with Spikey was also interesting. I don't think they were related but Spikey being the gentleman probably tolerated her presence. She did not cramp his style. He would shamelessly go into his dance and begging routine to get peanuts from me even when she was around. Interestingly, although Scratches would also take peanuts from me, she demurred to Spikey when he was around and kept her distance.

However, what she did do was to follow Spikey around once he got the peanut. Spikey would often hop around the garden with his peanut, sniffing the air before deciding where to bury the peanut. Scratches would follow him at a respectable distance of a few hops. Spikey would then bury the nut and return to me for another. Scratches would then dig up Spikey's nut and eat it.

She reminded me a bit of a alluring gypsy girl. Wild, spirited - a blatant thief and yet you feel good that she stole from you.

She also expected me to give her undivided attention at times. Sometimes when we were in the garden together but I was not paying attention to her as when I was birdwatching, reading or quite likely sleeping, she would put her teeth round the back of my exposed ankles and bite gently but with increasing pressure until I responded to her.

In a way, she was closer to me than even Spikey. One cold winter morning, I came out of my hobbit-like apartment and into a winter wonderland of freshly fallen snow. I was off to the bus stop to catch my ride to work. However, Scratches was up and about too that early morning. When she saw me, she barked a greeting. I said "Hi" and proceeded to trundle my way down the road.

Scratches came down the tree and ran after me, caught up and gave notice of her presence by trying to get her teeth round my ankles. I paused turn round and told her to go back and then started off again to the bus stop. Scratches ran after me again. Again I stopped and told her to go back. Anyway, I kept walking and to my surprise Scratches walked along with me. She was following me to work!

I had to stop make a U-turn and lead Scratches back to the apartment. I went in. Got her some peanuts and then said goodbye and went off again to the bus stop. This time she did not follow but with peanut in hands, she climbed a tree and watched me go off.

I felt great and I had a super day after that. I felt like I had come under the spell of the gypsy squirrel - the Enchantress.

The Truth is Way Out There

on Saturday, December 08, 2007

As a public service, the Lone Grey Squirrel has risked life and limb to reveal the truth behind some common icons of modern life. Be warned, the truth can be stranger than fiction! In fact, the "truth is way out there". It will shake the foundation of your world view and beliefs. Are you sure you are ready? Don't say I didn't warn you. Okay, the Lone Grey Squirrel presents the awful, shocking truth behind...............

......how electricity is really supplied to buildings!!!

........how the ATM machine really works!!!

.....who really makes that cup of coffee!!!

.......and who really is responsible for Wikipedia!!!!

Stay tuned for more investigative reporting from the Lone Grey Squirrel who is currently investigating how they found actors and actresses small enough to fit into a TV set........because inquisitive squirrels want to know!

Locked In

on Thursday, December 06, 2007

This post began its life after my post on Juliet and how I have tried to find my friends on the internet. Newly enthused to try finding people on the internet again, someone I knew for less than a year came to mind. I googled her name and this post has resulted.

If I were to imagine my worst nightmare, it would be to be fully conscious and yet unable to move or to speak; to be acutely aware of my surroundings but unable to communicate. Alive but not able to interact with life. For a rare few, this situation is a daily reality and a possible life sentence. It is called "Locked-in Syndrome" which was a term coined by Dr. Fred Plum, MD '47, former chairman of the Department of Neurology and Neuroscience at Cornell's Weill Medical College.

Judy Mozersky was an active, vivacious young woman; a dancer and a student at Cornell. Then one day in 1990, the 19 year old suffered a stroke affecting her brain stem. She had no predisposition for stroke except that she had a history of severe migraine and that she was on birth control pills. No one had ever warned her that this could put her at risk.

After spending sometime in intensive care, during which she fought to get off the respirator and to get rid of the stomach tube, she was finally stable enough to return to her native Ottawa and was warded at the Rehabilitation Centre on Smyth Road but she was "locked-in". She was able to breathe, swallow with some difficulty but apart from that the only thing she could consciously move was her eyes and then only up and down.

I had been volunteering at the Rehab Centre for about a year and up to then I assisted in art and exercise classes for stroke patients. These classes were supposed to encourage rehabilitation of fine motor functions in a fun way. They were indeed a lot of fun. In fact, I learned a lot of crafts while helping out there.

I also played wheelchair basketball with some patients once a week. I really sucked at that but that did not mean I was not willing to risk life and limb competing with guys who knew how to use their wheelchair as an offensive weapon. Perhaps to spare me serious injury, my volunteer coordinator, Dale Patterson, asked me one autumn evening if I would like to try something challenging. Nursing bruisers and fingers crushed between wheelchair rims, I said that I would and thank you.

That's how I was introduced to Judy. Dale seemed to think I would know how to handle myself but I think I must have just stared and stared that first time. I did recover however and tried to make myself useful. I visited once or twice a week with Judy. I was meant to be part of her recreation time because other volunteers, family and friends visit her also but it was more to do work or to help her rehabilitate.

So I started to read to Judy. Sometimes, she would chose something. Other times she would allow me to bring something of my choice to read to her. One time, I brought the Secret Dairy of Adrian Mole to read to her because I was finding the book very funny and I though funny would be good. It went reasonably well until the book touched on Adrian Mole's sexual awakenings. I felt most uncomfortable because it seemed like a little inappropriate for me to be reading that to her and I was afraid that I had broached a subject that would upset her. I am unsure if she was uncomfortable or she sensed my discomfort but she signaled with her eyes for me to stop. She then told me to read a letter from a friend instead.

How did we communicate, you ask? Judy can only move her eyes up and down. She flutters them to get attention. Eyes up mean "yes" and eyes down means "no". Then we use a special board in which the alphabet is divided into quadrants. I would call out the quadrant number and she would indicate the correct quadrant and then the correct alphabet as I read it out. By using this letter by letter spelling, Judy is able to communicate and she can even dictate letters, essays and eventually a book.

Apart from that very first visit, I don't think I felt uncomfortable around Judy again. I believe that this was because, it was very evident that there was a very normal, active woman there and we were able to communicate. There was no overwhelming depression or despair nor any wallowing in self pity either. Here was someone who was looking forward and trying to get on with life.

Of course, there were moments of frustration and perhaps doubts. Initially, she was reluctant to have friends visit and was not keen to read their letters. It was painful for her to see their lives moving on while she was not able to keep a pace. It was particularly difficult around the time when her friends were graduating. Yet, it did not keep her down for long. She worked through it and began to enjoy receiving news from her friends and at the same time, set about trying to get her own life moving.

would also write a book entitled "Locked In" which seems to have become a very important book; a book that brings inspiration and hope to many stroke patients and their family. Many who have read it are struck by the positive outlook of the book, of Judy's. Today, Judy is finishing her degree course in psychology.

I was still around to witness some of the excitement and frustration when the medical personnel worked with Judy to try to get computers to recognise her eye movements and to operate things like lights, kettles and other household objects. This was in grand preparation for getting Judy to move out of the Rehab Centre and have her own customised apartment. I know they succeeded because Judy is now installed in her own apartment and she goes to the malls to do her shopping with some assistance from her friends or nurses. She is regaining her freedom, her life and she is moving on.

There is an old saying that goes something like this, "I was complaining that i had no shoes for my feet until I saw a man who had no feet." Having known Judy and her positiveness through what for me would be my worst nightmare has helped me to deal with life's lesser problems more positively too.

I met Judy's parents once and they thanked me profusely for my visits but I can honestly say that I needed no such accolades. When I think of what Judy has achieved and in such a short time, I feel I have done no more than hand a cup of water to a marathon runner. In return, I have learnt so much about the strength of the human spirit and it has been a privilege to have been even a small part of Judy's journey. Furthermore, I recognise that it has been a long hard journey of love and devotion by Judy's parents too and really, anything I have done pales in comparison to their dedication and commitment to their daughter.

My last meeting with Judy was a short one and a surprise. She was already installed in her new apartment and I literally bumped into her at one of the shopping malls. She looked like she was happy to be moving on with her life.

Maybe one day, we might meet again, Judy, and have a laugh about how embarrassed I was about reading Adrian Mole's Diaries to you on that winter's night so long ago. Until then, I wish you a full and happy life. God bless.

If you would like to read a more complete article about Judy, please go here.

Langkawi in Pictures

on Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Langkawi is considered a mystical place. Amongst its islands are white sandy beaches while in some places it is dark volcanic sand. It is one of very few places in the world that has mangroves growing over limestone. It has a mysterious field that keeps coming up with burnt rice from the ground and an enchanted lake which legend claims will cure infertility for those that bath in it. It has some of the oldest rock formations in South East Asia and on its western side, evidence of massive tectonic uplifting is visible. For these reasons and more, it was recently declared a UNESCO Geo Park.

It has 99 magical islands and in another mystery, the authorities decided it wasn't enough and built two more for a small marina and for a small micro-light airport. This was done at some considerable degradation of the surrounding environment but at least we now have 101 islands!

Langkawi's name is also interesting. The tourism office has created this romantic notion which it tells visitors that the name consists of Lang and Kawi. Lang is a version of the name of the sea eagles that are abundant in the islands and Kawi refers to limestone which is also a strong characteristic of parts of the island, hence Langkawi. I actually prefer a more scholarly explanation which to me is equally romantic. This explanation dates the name to about the 13th century when there were already trade boats plying between India and China. Langkawi is likely the landmark for sailors to set off sailing along the latitudinal line which will lead them directly to Sri Lanka. Therefore Langkawi means "the way to Sri Lanka".

Anyway, here are photos of the beaches on my recent trip. All photos by LGS. Note the local attire worn by many local Muslim girls for the beach. Also the fishing catch has deteriorated due to destructive development in some places.

Darkness in the Sunshine

on Monday, December 03, 2007

PhotoCredits: The Star
Paratroopers scattered around the airport and surroundings

Some landed heavily or were dragged by the wind

It was the 2nd of December, Sunday morning, and at the end of a three day enjoyable but hectic schedule on the magical, sun-blest islands of Langkawi. I was due to catch the 12.30 afternoon ferry back to the mainland. Until then, there was nothing else to do after breakfast but to finally take a swim in the cool, clear, inviting waters off Cenang Beach.

I was enjoying the relative quiet and calm, just floating in the calm sea and occasionally diving to the bottom to pick up some shell that I could see at the bottom. Earlier, the fishermen were dragging in their nets near the shore but that activity had stopped. Being a sleepy Sunday morning, the large hordes of tourists had not yet arrived and apart from a few friends tossing a ball about a hundred meters away and a handful of sun-bathers, there was nothing but the sea, the sun and the relaxing lapping of the gentle waves.

At about 10.30 am., the peace was to be shattered by the sound of the sonic boom of jet fighters. In two days time, the island was hosting LIMA 2007 (Langkawi International Maritime Aerospace). This showcase of the best in naval and aeronautical products was attracting planes, ships and buyers from around the world. In the lead up to the event, planes were flying and practicing their routines. The famous British Red Arrows Aerobatic Team was also present.

At first, I resented the loud intrusion to my quiet time but then I paid attention to the planes booming past. Someone had told me that there would be Harrier jets and that was a plane that I was interested in seeing. However, the jets had flown by and ended their runs. Instead, there were at least 4 large propeller transport planes slowly lumbering across the sky but they were divulging paratroopers as they went. Soon we were treated to the sight of long lines of parachutes floating slowly and gracefully to the ground. It was quite a wonderful sight.

However, we could not see from so far away that in fact the paratroopers were in grave trouble. The 138 paratroopers from the 10th Brigade Para based at Terendak Camp, Malacca were taking part in a full dressed rehearsal of a mock exercise in demonstrating the capture of an airstrip by airborne forces. This exercise is meant to be part of the opening ceremony for LIMA 2007. Unfortunately, the paratroopers were buffeted by gusts of high winds which resulted in lines getting entangled and up to 18 paratroopers blown off course. Some landed heavily at the airport and were dragged along the tarmac by the strong winds. Some landed on planes and other equipment, breaking bones. A few landed in the nearby town, smashing through roofs, getting caught up in trees or landing on cars. Some were carried out by the wind into the sea.

In the end, three died and eleven others were seriously injured. T
he dead which included two women were identified as Trooper Raimond Duncan, 25, from Simunjan, Sarawak; Private Nurul Wahida Yunos, 20, from Tanjung Malim, Perak; and Ranger Siti Hajar Yakub, 24, from Masjid Tanah, Malacca. One drowned and the other two died of hypothermia.

Of course, Malaysians are all shocked by this tragedy and we grieve with those whose loved ones have been lost or injured. For me, it seemed so surreal that while I was enjoying the sun and the sea, this life and death drama was unfolding in front of my eyes.

Death striking in the full glare of the tropical sun and tragedy painted amidst the peaceful, azure waters. It did not seem right. It feels like Paradise has been tainted and corrupted.

Others landed on top of planes and equipment.
(Planes of the RAF Red Arrows in background)

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In Transporter

on Thursday, November 29, 2007

Eagle transporter lifting off from Moonbase Alpha (Space 1999)

Hi, guys. Thanks for coming over and visiting but I have had to make a short trip and will be gone for a few earth rotations. That's a few days for those with no sci-fi in their blood. Be good. Okay, then just behave. If you can't do that then at least don't blow up the moon or anything stupid.

Awww, Best Buds

on Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Can everyone say "Awwww."? Isn't the picture cute? Doesn't it just give you that fuzzy feeling? Top Cat was kind enough to honor me with this award but I am sure all of us who have come to enjoy blogging realise that it is about the whole blogging community. Our enjoyment comes from that warm, fuzzy feeling from interacting with everyone we have met from around the world. So I would like to thank all of you bloggers and especially those who have visited this blog and share comments and shared a bit of yourself here.

I must confess that this squirrel is a little surprised to be getting awards from cats and also bird awards lately. Is there something screwy with the world at the moment or is this the first faltering steps to world peace between squirrels, birds and cats? Anyway, thanks again TC.

It falls on me to share this nice award with 5 others. There were no rules with the award so I'll make it up as I go. Most of these are bloggers whom I have greatly enjoyed but I have had no opportunity to give an award to before.

  1. Claudia likes to give an impression of a tough rocker girl but I think she is as sweet as honey and really cares about the people who visit her site. She also cares about bees.
  2. Dave has been a great blogging buddy almost from the very start of my blogging experience and we started almost the same time. He shares some of my weird interests and has his own weird but interesting interests. He's been going through a tough time of late and hasn't been as regular on the blogosphere. So here's hoping to encourage you to share more of your gems with the rest of us.
  3. Medstudentwife and I just really hit it off. Why? She's fun and her blog is fun and friendly and as a major plus, she's from one of my favorite cities in the world.
  4. Jessica may well be the very first friend that I made through blogging. Her comments were so nice to get in those early days when the squirrel was shivering and alone in the blogosphere. I also remember that she gave me my first meme. Her posts about her life and family feels like an invitation to a home cook meal and rich hospitality.
  5. Gina is one of my newer friends and visitor to my cyber realm (trying not to use blogosphere again). Her poems are insightful, creative and very often playful. Always brings a smile to my face and not far below the surface is a very emotionally rich person to be discovered and enjoyed.
There are many more I would like to honor but I will wait for other opportunities. There is one more worth of mention. This is nancycle . She is certainly one of my best buddies but she did not make the list because she has been enjoying her real life so much that she is ignoring her computer and the rest of us of late. Well, here's to your happiness but don' forget we miss you around here too.

Squirrel out!

Tired of Fighting

on Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why is there conflict in the world? I don't just mean wars but conflicts almost everywhere we turn in daily life. Conflict in the family, conflict between neighbours, conflict at school or confict at work. Most of us do not seek conflict but yet it is difficult to avoid. I want to enjoy my life. Conflict is a waste of time when life is so short. The little poem above expresses how I feel perfectly.

Juliet, Juliet, Wherefore Art Thou?

on Saturday, November 24, 2007

I am not good at keeping friends. I don't mean that I get into arguments with them and end up lifetime enemies. No, it's just that I keep misplacing them.

It all boils down to the fact that I am or have been very bad at keeping in touch by correspondence and soon lose touch when they move around. When I discovered Google and other search engines on the internet, I actually was successful in finding some of my missing friends.

One of them, I traced by visiting a BBS site on United Kingdom culture and folklore (the sort of thing he might be interested in) and leaving an strong insult that only he would understand and sure enough he replied after a couple of weeks to my calling card.

This particular individual I was able to trace over a period of 15 years even though he tried to ditch me by shifting at regular intervals. The last time was the hardest and I had to resort to writing a letter to a known work colleague at his previous job before I could locate him. Happily, this led to him visiting me in Malaysia about a year later.

Altogether, I have found 5 others via the internet search engines and am still in contact with 4 of them. The last one dropped off the radar in the last 5 years. However, there are a couple of people that I have failed to locate entirely and one of them is Juliet.

Juliet Wilson is a friend from my time at Chelsea College, University of London. How long ago was this? It was during the time of the Falklands War. If you didn't even know that there was such a thing, I suggest you Google it.

Juliet was studying to be a nurse and she shared a flat with two other sweet girls which we took to call the "Bickley Sisters" on account of their closeness to one another and the name of the street where they lived. This was a place that always made visitors feel welcome.

We both served in the Christian Union committee and also grew close through that. Somehow though we seemed to hit it off and we were always able to share our problems with one another.

Juliet was to teach me one of my most profound lessons about friendship. I went through a period of severe depression brought on by my inability to cope with low self-esteem, emotional pressures from my family and my helplessness to help certain dear friends who were going through immense suffering. One day during a break in sessions , in my desperation to just get out of my darkened room and to see some sun, I just called Juliet out of the blue and asked if I could spend the weekend at her home in Winchester.

In retrospect, it was quite something that I was asking. She might have had better plans for her time than to spend it baby-sitting a morosely depressed friend who was no fun at all. Her parents were not at home that weekend which may also have been a problem as it was not her custom to entertain gentlemen in her home alone. I believe she might have had a boyfriend then who also might not have appreciated this scenario.

All I can say is thanks. Juliet, the fact that you said yes to my request without any hesitation (at least as far as I could tell), was very important to me. In fact, all the rambling conversations that weekend and even the way I panicked when I met your parents at the end of the stay, all taught me something about myself and my underlying psychological issues which was the turning point for me in battling depression. You made me realise that friendship and other worthy causes were bigger than social rules and pressures.....an important lesson for me.

Anyway, miserable being that I am, I have also misplaced her somewhere in this world. Hence my plaintive cry, "Juliet, Juliet...wherefore art thou?"

I am hoping she is happily married with kids and living in South Africa. If my some remarkable miracle, one of you readers knows fair Juliet, I hope you will let me know. With my good fortune of re-finding friends via Google, I am hoping Blogger will also perform, so I am not giving up hope at all.

Poetry by Numbers: Where I'm From

on Friday, November 23, 2007

I saw this beautiful poem by Jessica on daysgoby and I just thought to myself, "How I wish I could write like that." Then I discovered that you could go here and get help to do exactly that. Here is my effort. Jessica's is still way better but this was fun to do. Feel free to do it too. C'mon, you know you want to.


I am from pick-up basketball games, from Bata shoes and the laughter of friendships on and off the courts.

I am from a home with a large garden, many windows that open to the green of grass, bamboo and fruit trees.

I am from the dainty phloxes in flower pots and large rambutan trees, from orchid plants with roots on charcoal and the rich, clay soil.

I am from family brunches on Sundays and the infectious morning sneeze, from the Babas and the Nyonyas, the Loh's and the Lee's.

I am from intelligent women and strong, silent men.

From fairy tales and fantasy lands and seeing the beauty of nature.

I am from a long line of Buddhists until one by one, we came to know about a loving Saviour and friend in Jesus.

I'm from the meeting of two silty and tin laden rivers, adventurers from the Middle Kingdom, of sweet and sour stir-fried mangrove crabs and the bitter-sweet pork with buah keluak.

From heroes who were willing to die for their friends, but who knew how to live fully and love nature and from deep devotion to children.

I am from seeds now scattered across the globe but united still by the home country, memories of childhood on clean sandy tropical beaches and the love of a multicultural feast of culture and food.

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DAM is a Three Letter Word

on Monday, November 19, 2007

Here are more wise sayings from the wise-owl-squirrel.

"When in doubt, chuck it out!" (my mantra while writing my thesis)
"When uncertain, quote some person!" (also useful in thesis writing)
"When you run dry, Plagiarize!" (okay, not such a good idea if you are writing your thesis)

However, I have spent a good one hour trying to find my Muse tonight but she is clearly AWOL. No spark of brilliance in this brain. Nope, just a lot of burned out light bulbs. So to the rescue is this interesting piece that has already made its way all round the internet but perhaps there may be one or two who have not seen it.

This is an actual letter sent to a man named Ryan DeVries by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, State of Michigan.

Dear Mr. DeVries
It has come to the attention of the Department of Environmental Quality that there has been recent unauthorized activity on the above referenced parcel of property. You have been certified as the legal land owner and/or contractor who did the following unauthorized activity Construction and maintenance of two wood debris dams across the outlet stream of Spring Pond.

A permit must be issued prior to the start of this type of activity. A review of the Department's files shows that no permits have been issued. Therefore, the Department has determined that this activity is in violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

The Department has been informed that one or both of the dams partially failed during a recent rain event, causing debris and flooding at downstream locations. We find that dams of this nature are inherently hazardous and cannot be permitted. The Department therefore orders you to cease and desist all activities at this location, and to restore the stream to a free-flow condition by removing all wood and brush forming the dams from the stream channel. All restoration work shall be completed no later than January 31, 2003.

Please notify this office when the restoration has been completed so that a follow-up site inspection may be scheduled by our staff.

Failure to comply with this request or any further unauthorized activity on the site may result in this case being referred for elevated enforcement action.

We anticipate and would appreciate your full cooperation in this matter.

Please feel free to contact me at this office if you have any questions.

Sincerely, David L. Price
District Representative Land and Water Management Division

This is the actual response he sent back

Dear Mr. Price,
Re: DEQ File No. 97-59-0023; T11N; R10W, Sec. 20; Montcalm County.
Your certified letter dated 10/17/02 has been handed to me to respond to.

I am the legal landowner but not the Contractor at 2088 Dagget, Pierson, Michigan. A couple of beavers are in the (State unauthorized) process of constructing and maintaining two wood "debris" dams across the outlet stream of my Spring Pond.

While I did not pay for, authorize, nor supervise their dam project, I think they would be highly offended that you call their skilful use of natures building materials "debris." I would like to challenge your department to attempt to emulate their dam project any time and/or any place you choose.

I believe I can safely state there is no way you could ever match their dam skills, their dam resourcefulness, their dam ingenuity, their dam persistence, their dam determination and/or their dam work ethic.

As to your request, I do not think the beavers are aware that they must first fill out a dam permit prior to the start of this type of dam activity.

My first dam question to you is: (1) Are you trying to discriminate against my Spring Pond Beavers or (2) do you require all beavers throughout this State to conform to said dam request? If you are not discriminating against these particular beavers, through the Freedom of Information Act, I request completed copies of all those other applicable beaver dam permits that have been issued.

Perhaps we will see if there really is a dam violation of Part 301, Inland Lakes and Streams, of the Natural Resource and Environmental Protection Act, Act 451 of the Public Acts of 1994, being sections 324.30101 to 324.30113 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, annotated.

I have several concerns. My first concern is -- aren't the beavers entitled to legal representation? The Spring Pond Beavers are financially destitute and are unable to pay for said representation, so the State will have to provide them with a dam lawyer.

The Department's dam concern that either one or both of the dams failed during a recent rain event causing flooding is proof that this is a natural occurrence, which the Department is required to protect.
In other words, we should leave the Spring Pond Beavers alone rather than harassing them and calling their dam names. If you want the stream 'restored" to a dam free-flow condition please contact the Beavers. But if you are going to arrest them, they obviously did not pay any attention to your dam letter they being unable to read English. In my humble opinion, the Spring Pond Beavers have a right to build their unauthorized dams as long as the sky is blue, the grass is green and water flows downstream.

They have more dam rights than I do to live and enjoy Spring Pond.

If the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection lives up to its name, it should protect the natural resources (Beavers) and the environment (Beavers' Dams).

So, as far as the beavers and I are concerned, this dam case can be referred for more elevated enforcement action right now.

Why wait until 1/31/2003? The Spring Pond Beavers may be under the dam ice then and there will be no way for you or your dam staff to contact/harass them then.

In conclusion, I would like to bring to your attention to a real environmental quality (health) problem in the area. It is the bears!

Bears are actually defecating in our woods. I definitely believe you should be persecuting the defecating bears and leave the beavers alone.

If you are going to investigate the beaver dam, watch your step! (The bears are not careful where they dump!)

Being unable to comply with your dam request, and being unable to contact you on your dam answering machine, I am sending this response to your dam office.

Ryan DeVries

World Food Spot 8: Belgian Beer

on Saturday, November 17, 2007

Beer. There is something special about this amber fluid, this liquid gold with its thirst-quenching and revitalising qualities. It is arguably, the world's oldest and most popular alcoholic beverage and drinking it is like drinking in history. Written records of beer date it back 6,000 years BC in Egypt while chemical evidence of beer production exists for as far back as 3,500 years BC.

For the benefit of tea-totalers and wine-sipping gentry, beer is basically a drink produced by the fermentation of a starch-based substance (most often malted barley) using yeast. However, the history of beer making is a fascinating one in which the process evolved with time and there were some distinct innovations. The use of hops (Humulus lupulus) to flavor the brew during fermentation and different fermentation techniques like top fermentation and bottom fermentation were some of these innovations.

However, the characteristics and personality of a beer can be made so different and unique by the choice of the starch-based substrate, the choice of yeast used, the fermentation process and temperatures, the addition of flavoring agents like hops or fruits, the use of clarifying substances and even the nature of the water used. In this way, each brewery can make a beer unique to itself.

I am sorry to say that North American beer is pretty weak and dilute. Many say that the Czech beers like Pilsner Urquell lager are the best in the world. I have indeed tried this and it is very good but I find it hard to say that one is the best beer. Instead, I enjoy the wide range of tastes, flavours and textures of beers and that is why I have to recommend Belgian Beers.

There is no other place in the world that you can sample so many varieties of locally brewed beer. How many, you ask? I do not know other than it is in the excess of 750 varieties. Many of them have a long history and many are brewed by monks in monasteries.

Okay, why do I like beer so much. Could it be the smooth way that it flows down the throat? Could it be the fruity or alternatively rich bitter flavour? Could it be its ability to quech the thirst and to hit the spot? Could it be its beautiful golden and amber colour or alternatively its rich and dark tones? Could it be its coolness or the thickness of its head of foam? Could it be that warm feeling that radiates through your body after you drink it? Yes! Yes to all of the above ........and Belgium is the place to try it.

All photos sipped from Belgian Beer, a wonderful blog dedicated just for Belgian Beer for serious scholars or drinkers.

This is my favorite amongst the readily available commercial beer brands.

Squirrel has the Wisdom of Birds

on Thursday, November 15, 2007

gave me and two others a "Wise Bird Award" and said "These bloggers have a lot of very informative beautiful posts. They must be very wise."

Marje, thank you very much for the award. I appreciate it very much......though I imagine it is a rare thing for a squirrel to win a bird award! Haha! A little joke there.

And then, there is this little phrase, "They must be very wise." Oh, I hate to disappoint Marje. So here are a few sayings to prove that I am indeed wise.

"A fine is a tax for doing wrong while a tax is a fine for doing well."

"Brain cells may die but fat cells live forever."

"Relatives are like fish. If they stay too long, they begin to stink."

"Not all lawyers are bad. It's the 99% that give the rest a bad name."

"Remain silent and they may think you are a fool. Open your mouth and they will know for sure."

"the early bird may get the worm but it is the second mouse that successfully gets the cheese from the trap."

"42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot."

"Light travels faster than sound. This is why people appear bright until you hear them speak."

"An optimist believes that this is the best possible world that we could live in. A pessimist fears that this may be true."

"A clear conscience is a sign of a bad memory."

And now, I perform my duty to award this to three others on the basis that a) their blogs are very informative and b) they "appear" to be wise. The Wise Bird Award goes to.........

a) Mago at 63 Mago ( this is the man if you want to learn about literature and history of Europe)

b) Eastcoastdweller at In Search of Isis (one of the most well read bloggers I have met and with a deep understanding of ancient writings ....I am in awe since I have no idea what he's talking about sometimes) and

c) Janice at Pursuance of Truth (cause true wisdom is the pursuance of truth in everything around us and her poems are indeed full of wisdom".

The Romantic Horror Show

on Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I hate Chinese romantic comedy movies. That is because they always portray the love-struck male as a complete blubbering idiot that always makes a fool of himself in front of the object of his affection and.............. unfortunately, it cuts too close to home. Ah, the indiscretions of youth. If you are anything like me, those early forays into romance were damn embarrassing. For that very reason, I tend to keep those memories locked in a trunk in the deepest, darkest recesses of my mind and have burned the map that would lead me back to them.

So imagine my surprise that in the last two weeks, not one but two lost flames reappeared in my small world and in the most unusual way and they were in sequence, my first crush and my first serious girlfriend.

In the first instance, I was at a meeting at work with members of the Board of my organization. This is a quarterly meeting and I have known and met with these people on a regular basis for the last 5 years. This last meeting was different though. At the end of the meeting, one elderly gentleman whom I get on particularly well with, pulled me aside and asked if I had ever lived in a place called Ampang. Well, that was strange. I was almost automatically going to say that I haven’t. Then an old memory re-surfaced. I did indeed stay there for one month but that was when I was about 12 years old (which let us just say was several decades ago). I was puzzled how he might have known this.

He then went on to say that his wife (whom I had only met twice) says she remembers me from then. He then asked if I had attended some art classes there and indeed I had. He said his daughter used to attend those classes too. Suddenly I felt like I was hit with a sledgehammer right between the eyes. I suddenly knew who his daughter was. She had a very unusual family name which the gentleman also had. Strange, I never made the connection before. Now, you might wonder why his wife would remember me after all these years. Let’s just say I did some memorable capers that would have fitted in nicely in a Chinese romantic comedy movie. Well, I found the whole episode a little creepy and a bit embarrassing. No doubt they would all have a laugh on me that night over dinner.

Anyway, it seems No: 1 crush is married with two kids and has kept in touch with my career in the news and from her dad. I’m sure she’s been telling her friends, ‘ I knew this guy once……what a dork!”

Then just over a week later, I found myself as the master of ceremonies at a baptism service. Later, after the service, I was congratulating one of the baptisimal candidates, a young girl, when she turned and introduced me to her aunt. I looked round and came face to face with serious Girlfriend No:1. As appropriate again for a Chinese romantic comedy movie, I said something smooth like, “Ha…ab….a..ba….ba.” The surprise was complete. The conversation was awkward. I’m sure she’s telling her friends, “After so many years, I met him again and……he’s still a dork.”

Take the case of the Lone Grey Squirrel. His confidence and self esteem is taking a beating because he keeps meeting his old girlfriends in that place called ……the Twilight Zone. Creepy.

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