All Blacks are Winning and the Sun is Shining

on Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Ottawa Senators may have failed to bring home the Stanley Cup this year but the All Blacks did not disappoint. On the 21st of July in Auckland, the All Blacks beat the Wallabies 26 -12 and won the Tri-Nations title for the third straight year and the Bledisloe Cup for the sixth year in the row. For me, that is an omen that all is right in the world.

I am talking rugby. The one sport that competes with ice hockey for my attention. This year in September will be the Rugby World Cup to be held in France. You can be sure of a few more posts then. This post isn't intended to explain rugby (I'll do that in a later post). It is just a celebration of the All Blacks triumph in these competitions just ahead of the world cup.

For the "rugby uneducated", the Tri-Nations is a three way competition between the top national teams of the southern hemisphere which are Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Most fans will agree that these three are probably the best teams in the world. So it is really a competition amongst the elite. Each team plays two games against each of their opponents and the team with the most points from the games wins. The Bledisloe Cup is basically a grudge match between Australia and New Zealand.

Australia's team is called the Wallabies and South Africa's team is the Springboks. New Zealand's team are the All Blacks ......well, because they wear an all black jersey. Anyway, the All Blacks are an amazing and exciting team to watch when they are firing on all cylinders. There were periods in rugby history when they almost seemed undefeatable. It is rumored that the New Zealanders or Kiwis develop and hone their rugby skills by practicing tackling on the plentiful sheep in their country.

The All Blacks also entertain in other ways. One tradition which is a big hit with all the fans is the performance of the "haka" by the team before the games start. The haka is a type of traditional Maori dance and the haka that is performed, "Ka Mate", is a war dance that celebrates the use of cunning to defeat the enemy's purpose. The story behind this haka dates back to 1810 when chief Te Rauparaha hid in a pit to escape his enemies. When he finally emerged from the pit, he saw a man standing at the top but it turned out to be an ally rather than the enemy and so he successfully escaped the enemy's trap. He was then said to perform this haka in celebration.

In English, the words mean; "It is death, it is death: it is life, it is life; this is the man who enabled me to live as I climb up step by step toward sunlight."

The haka is performed with a lot of aggressive posturing, face grimaces, showing the whites of the eyes, sticking out the tongue and slapping of hands on the body. It is intended to send a challenge to the opposing side and to intimidate them.

Here are the words and meaning to the Ka Mate (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Leader: Ringa pakia! Slap the hands against the thighs!
Uma tiraha! Puff out the chest!
Turi whatia! Bend the knees!
Hope whai ake! Let the hip follow!
Waewae takahia kia kino! Stamp the feet as hard as you can!

Leader: Ka mate, ka mate ’Tis death, ‘tis death
Team: Ka ora, ka ora ’Tis life, ‘tis life
Leader: Ka mate, ka mate ’Tis death, ‘tis death
Team: Ka ora, ka ora ’Tis life, ‘tis life
All: Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru This the hairy man that stands here...
Nāna nei i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā who brought the sun and caused it to shine
Ā upane, ka upane A step upward, another step upward
Ā upane, ka upane A step upward, another step upward
Whiti te rā, hī! The sun shines!

So, the All Blacks are winning and they are favorites going into the world cup. Somehow that reassures me that all is right in the world. Gravity still works and the sun is still shining.

I'll end this post with this wonderful picture to savour. This is the captain of the All Blacks Richie McCaw with the Bledisloe Cup safely in his paws for another year.

Comments, Numskulls and Punk Squirrels

on Sunday, July 29, 2007

Many moons ago, when I did a post on comics, gledwood asked if I read any British comics. Sure enough I did grow up with a steady intellectual diet of British comics and one particular strip was called the Numbskulls. The Numbskulls are the tiny men inside us that work in the brain department, the ear department, the stomach department etc. The top guy, "Brain" tries to get every Numbskull in every department to work together and get their human to actually achieve things.

Well, I have had a rare weekend of actually resting and no work whatsoever. The result was I slept through to noon on both Saturday and Sunday. Maybe, I was more tired than I thought. Anyway, all this sleeping has only made me even more lazy and dopey (that's right! even more dopey than normal!). So, I find myself now, looking at the Blog screen and find that my creative Numbskull is still dozing off somewhere and not answering the call to duty. In fact the only persona active in my brain at the moment is my Neanderthal Numbskull. With no other choice, I consulted him and he said,"Nguh! UHH! Oo-gah! Nguh! Nya! Oog!"

Neanderthal Numbskull notes that some of you had comments about the music in my life.
Leslie thinks I need more Rock and Roll ala Jerry Lee Lewis. Ivan thinks I need to have more grit and become more hip and has directed me to John Prine and his soulful Country style. Eastcoastdweller feels I am neglecting my patriotic duty and should be writing and promoting songs about squirrels. Neanderthal Numbskull hates so many comments with differing views. It gives him a headache. So please take the poll on the sidebar so that Neaderthal Numbskull can cope with just one answer.

So with the cupboard totally bare, being completely uninspired and taking advice from Neanderthal Numbskull, I have decided to answer eastcoastdweller's request for more songs for the squirrel tribe. The big advantage is that I am just copying what someone who is more creative has already done. Neanderthal Numbskull says it is called "Pla-guh Ri Sin." That might have meant something to my Scientific numbskull but he fell asleep ages ago contemplating simple harmonic motion. Neanderthal Numbskull says squirrel music not so different from the good ol' prehistoric caveman days. Enjoy.

For the latest Squirrel Music Video, press here.

Theme Songs II : From My Middle Ages

on Thursday, July 26, 2007

My last post covered my theme songs from the earlier part of my life. Here I will continue the count down until today. These are not necessarily my most favorite songs but are songs that I somehow identify as my rallying songs during these periods of my life. Well, here goes the final countdown........

Age: Hopeless Romantic
Years : 18-23 years old
Song: Tell Me On A Sunday (Marti Webb,1994)

This phase of my life has been studied extensively by historians and is known as the Hopeless Romantic Era with the emphasis on hopeless. *sigh* So this painful period demanded a song of deep pathos and I found it in this Andrew Lloyd Webber/Don Black song which was one of the songs written for a one-woman West End show called Song & Dance.

It reflects about the pain of separating. Even when it is a mutual decision, the sense of loss and pain remains and finally there is the realisation that there is no good way nor a good time to end relationships.

"Don't write a letter when you want to leave.
Don't call me at 3 a.m. from a friend's apartment.
I'd like to choose how I hear the news.
Take me to a park that's covered with trees.
Tell me on a Sunday please."

"Don't want to know who's to blame,
It won't help knowing.
Don't want to fight day and night
Bad enough you're going.
Don't leave in silence with no words at all.
Don't get drunk and slam the door,
That's no way to end this,
I know how I want you to say goodbye.
Find a circus ring with a flying trapeze.
Tell me on a Sunday please."

Age: Working Stiff
Years : 23-28 years old
Song: Just One Person (Larry Grossman,1975)

When I joined the work force, I had a wonderful boss. My next boss however was a nightmare. The work was tough, physically and mentally demanding. The hours were long and I had to travel a lot. My social life was practically non-existant. There were times that I was on 48 hour shifts, sleeping when I could which was at the most 4 hours at a time. The work was tough but I did enjoy it. However, it was clear that I was at the bottom of the food chain and I had to cope with a lot of abuse from the establishment. During this time, as I strove to make my mark in the world, this old song from a Snoopy musical strangely became my rally song.

"If just one person believes in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough, believes in you...
Hard enough, and long enough,
It stands to reason, that someone else will think
"If he can do it, I can do it."

"And when all those people,
Believe in you,
Deep enough, and strong enough,
Believe in you...
Hard enough, and long enough

It stands to reason that you yourself will
Start to see what everybody sees in

And maybe even you,
Can believe in you... too!"

This was a version performed by the Muppets on the occasion of the untimely death of their creator, Jim Henson. I think it adds an extra poignancy to the words. It is also suitable cause my other candidate theme song for this period would probably have been "It isn't Easy Being Green" which is sung by Kermit! Haha.

Age: Love Struck
Years : 28 years and forever.
Song: And So It Goes (Billy Joel,1990)

Eventually, love found me when I wasn't looking. And perhaps when I wasn't ready. I then had to make a decision. After some struggle, I decided to propose to my future wife by singing this song to her.

"And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose

But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break"

Age: Mid-Life
Years : 40+
Song: Anything But Ordinary (Avril Lavine, 2002)

I don't think I am going through a mid-life crisis. No sportscar or any of those symptoms. So, why have I chosen a song from a young girl (she was 16 when she wrote this)for this period of my life? Don't really know. Maybe she is way precocious or I am way slow or immature. Anyway, the words of this song speaks about wanting to live a meanigful and fulfilled life and not waste this time in the world. It talks about living to the extreme and not wasting it. Yes, I want to live to the extreme......but I will still not bungee jump! Forget that!

"To walk within the lines
Would make my life so boring
I want to know that I
Have been to the extreme
So knock me off my feet
Come on now give it to me
Anything to make me feel alive

Is it enough to love?
Is it enough to breath?
Somebody rip my heart out
And leave me here to bleed
Is it enough to die?
Somebody save my life
I'd rather be anything but ordinary please"

Well, that's it folks. My life in song. You were perhaps expecting some songs about squirrels?

Theme Songs Through My Ages

on Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I have always loved music and often wished my life was a musical with full orchestral backing. It's therefore not surprising that I had my varios theme songs as I grew up. Here are some of them.

Age: Precocious Youth
Years : Under 10 years old
Song: The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel,1964)

Why was this my theme song at this time? I really don't know. Perhaps I was too young really to think of having a theme song then. However, this song definately had the strongest influence and impact on me. Perhaps I was melancholic by nature. Another song that made an impact on me as I was a little older was "Alone Again Naturally" by Gilbert O'Sullivan. Maybe I was plenty melancholic. I don't really remember.

"Hello darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again....."

"And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence."

The excerpts above are the parts of the lyrics that resonated most with me. I was comfortable with silence and solitude and I noted that more people were alone than they would admit to themselves. They talk but are neither listened to nor do they listen. Hiding behind facades and masks, no one daring to be honest.

Age: Awkward Teenager
Years : From 11 - 17 years old
Song: Danny's Song (Anne Murray version,1972)

At this time in my life, I am beginning to notice the female gender and perhaps thoughts turn to love and the search for the end of loneliness in the finding of true love. This is a short song so I've included all the lyrics. This song is as country as I get. But clearly, the theme is clear. It is the expectation that love conquers all. Perhaps, one can detect my hippie sympathies here too.

"People smile and tell me I'm the lucky one
And we've just begun, I think I'm gonna have a son
He will be like you and me, as free as a dove
Conceived in love, the sun is gonna shine above

And even though we ain't got money
I'm so in love with ya honey
Everything bring a chain of love
And in the mornin' when I rise
Bring a tear of joy to my eyes
And tell me everything's gonna be all right

Love a guy who holds the world in a paper cup
Drink it up, love him and he'll bring you luck
And if ya find he helps your mind, better take him home
Yeah 'n' dontcha live alone, try to earn what lovers own"

Age: Restless Young Man
Years : From 18-21 years old
Song: Total Eclipse of the Heart(Bonnie Tyler,1983)

As I grew out of my teens, I perhaps became more disillusioned. The world was not just black and white. The good and the just did not always win. Love did not conquer all. The world just seemed like a very confused place. I grew a little more angry inside. The theme song for this period was definately more packed with emotion, power and even anger but at its core it is a sad song.....of loss, betrayal hurt and a farewell to innocence. Incidentally, this was written by Jim Steinman. I still love most of his songs till today.

"Turnaround, Every now and then I get a little bit restless and I dream of
something wild
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a little bit helpless and I'm lying
like a child in your arms
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a little bit angry and I know I've
got to get out and cry
Turnaround, Every now and then I get a little bit terrified but then I see
the look in your eyes
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and then I fall apart
Turnaround bright eyes, Every now and then I fall apart"

"I don't know what to do and I'm always in the dark
We're living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight
Forever's gonna start tonight"


Age: The University Years
Years : From 21-22 years old
Song: All Night Long (Lionel Richie, 1983)

This was my theme song for one simple reason. I used to pull all-nighters trying to study for my exams. There was a time when my night and day routines were practically interchanged. I found that I studied better at night with less distractions. "All night long" was my song and my rally call.

I will carry on with the remaining themes and periods of my life in the next post.

Squirrel's Secret Spot No: 6 (Canals of England and Wales)

on Sunday, July 22, 2007

1.The Crew of the Oliver Cromwell sans Photographer; 2. Lowering the boat in a lock; 3. Raising the boat through a lock and James' shoes about to get soaking wet 30 seconds later; 4. Have you heard of Hot Cross Buns? It originated here in Banbury and this is the Banbury Cross; 5. This farm dog taught us how to play fetch with it; 6. Hotel Canal Boats; 7. learning about Industrial History; 8. Making friends along the way; 9. Ah, the peace and solitude at night. (Photocredit: All by LGS except No:9 which is a postcard).

For a long time when I should have been studying for my second year exams, I was actually looking at travel brochures and day-dreaming about having a holiday on a long, narrow canal boat. I wanted a lazy, relaxing holiday with the wonderful company of close friends and to enjoy the clean air and to bask in the sun and a canal boat holiday seemed to fit the bill.

While juggling my exams, I managed to organize the holiday on a canal boat called the Oliver Cromwell on the Oxford Canal. I had hand picked James, Katherine and Julie to be my crewmates as the close confines of a canal boat is one that you wish to share only with people you got on well together.

We picked up the boat on Lower Heyworth with great excitement. Spent an exciting hour learning how to handle the boat and then we were off. Within 5 minutes we were having a great big argument. On a canal that only runs north and south, the crew were split on whether to go north or south! It appeared as if the cramp quarters had already made everyone snappy and crabby. The decision was finally made on the call of a coin toss and we headed north.

Ah, soon the bickering was forgotten as we cruised along at 4 miles per hour. The anticipation of the next 7 days intoxicated us even more than the beers in our hands. It was as I had imagined. This illusion, however, only lasted until we reached the first lock. We had been briefed about locks which are the means by which canal boats can be raised or lowered between sections of the canal which are at different heights. Locks are fascinating bits of engineering history. They can also be back-breakingly hard to operate. First you have to maneuver these heavy wooden gates and then you have to use a key to open the paddles that control the water levels. Did I think this was going to be a lazy holiday? It was hard work. A Good Samaritan who witnessed our pitiful efforts of trying to push the gates open and close, advised us that it was actually easier to sit on the beams of the gates and to push with our legs. Bouncing on the beams on our behinds also helped if the gates were stucked. We tried it and it worked like a charm and we happily operated several gates that first day, only to discover in the evening that our buttocks had turned blue-black and was covered with painful wooden splinters!

My other illusions about the canal trip were similarly exposed before long. Clean fresh air was replaced by miles of farmland reeking of cow dung. Basking in the sun? Did I forget this was England where rain is like a friend that drops in unannounced all the time and often outstays his welcome. And when night came, so did the mosquitoes.

Yet despite all these setbacks, it was one of the most enjoyable holiday I have ever had. The fun was in the people that you met along the way; the fellow novices, the old salts and the local characters. There was freedom in deciding where to go and when to stop. The historical pubs along the way were great places to stop and sample local hospitality, food and beer. It was away to learn about the history of the country especially around the period of the Industrial Revolution for which these canals were built to serve by bringing coal from the Midlands to London.

It was the surprises that awaited you at every bend. A water vole. A heron. It is waking up in the morning to the sound of cow bells in the adjacent farm or sleeping with visions of the stars and the sound of the crickets. It was having picnics on the boat or in the fields with close friends. It was terrific.

In the end, the holiday came to an end too quickly and I have been enamored with canal boats, their history and associated crafts and culture ever since. The Oxford Canal is not even one of the more interesting canals. I would love to go on the Llangollen Canal with its Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in which the canal boat would glide across the valley more than 40 m above the Dee River and to glide into Llangollen town during their celebration of Celtic culture in music, poetry and dance, the Eisteddfod Festival. That would be so wonderful.

Cats Over Borneo

on Thursday, July 19, 2007

Cats in Cat City, Borneo (PhotoCredit: LGS)

This strange piece of public art is found in the city of Kuching which is the capital of the state of Sarawak on the vast, equatorial and forested island of Borneo. The cats' theme is actually in tribute to the city because the name Kuching actually means "cat" in the Malay language. Hence Kuching is actually "Cat City".

However, Borneo is the setting of an even more interesting and bizzare cat related story. This story is often called "Cats over Borneo". The story is set in the 1950's. Malaria, the severe and potentially fatal blood borne disease, was rampant and it was known to be spread by the Anopheles mosquito. The relatively new and young World Health Organization (WHO) was fervent in their efforts to fight malaria.

They had just added to their arsenal of weapons, a new and effective insecticide, a chemical called dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane or DDT. Today, we are aware of DDT's problems including its long half life and tendency to accumulate in fatty tissue as well as its effect on non-target species. However, at that time, the pesticide was being used worldwide, and was widely touted for its safety and its effectiveness.

Anyway, the WHO sprayed DDT liberally in the Dayak villages of the Sarawak interior. Initially, this campaign was considered a success as mosquitoes were killed and the malaria rate dropped. Then authorities were hit by two mystery complaints. The first was very bizzare. The Dayak villages consisted of longhouses which accomodate several families and which were covered by a thatch roof. The villagers complained that their roofs were collapsing exposing whole communities to the elements. Although puzzled, the authorities were forced to act quickly and sent in corrugated metal sheets to be used as roofing material.

Before, they could even take a breather, they were surprised by the outbreak of plague and reports of famine as grain stores were decimated by a large invasion of rats. The authorities urgently investigated the matter and called the Royal Air Force for help. Citizens were also asked to donate cats and to help build special cat baskets. Operation "Cat Drop" was carried out in which hundreds of cats were parachuted by the RAF onto interior villages. This reinforcement of cats eventually solved the problem.

The Day They Parachuted Cats on Borneo by Charlotte Pomerantz relates this true story in the form of a rhyme. It is also featured in an article by Gordon R. Conway in The Careless Technology: Ecology and International Development (1972) and a first-hand account of “Operation Cat-drop” is given by Tom Harrisson in the journal Animals published in 1965.

What transpired in the jungles of Borneo is a clear example and a cautionary tale that man does not know enough about the inter-connectivity of the web of life and many of our actions to address a single problem have often unexpected reprecussions. The DDT did infact kill the mosquitoes and also other insects in the jungle which were non-target species. One of which was a jungle wasp. These wasps in turn played the important role of keeping a certain caterpillar population in check by laying eggs on the caterpillar and when the larvae hatch out, the larvae feed on the caterpillar, killing it. When the DDT killed the wasp, the caterpillar population boomed and as the caterpillar fed on the roof thatching, the roofs started to collapse.

At the same time, the geckos which are a type of lizard which feed on insects were having a great time because it kept finding dead insects everywhere. However, as they ate, the DDT levels in their bodies continued to rise. The cats in the village in turn often catch and eat the geckos. Soon, all the cats died of poisoning. With the cats gone, the rats came out to play. Their population boomed, leading to the destruction of grain stores and the spread of plague. A situation that was only reversed by the airborne drop of cats over Borneo.

A strange but true tale and a warning to man to stop messing with the world's complex and balanced web of life. I did not even mention how all these imported cats caused a great upset to the indigenous squirrel population!

Unburied Nut from 28th November 2006

on Wednesday, July 18, 2007

From time to time, I decide to uncover a nut that I buried in the past. Such is the way of grey squirrels. These nuts sometime improve with time like well aged wine. Ah, 28th November 2006 was a very good day.

LGS Cultural Tour No: 3 The Funniest Man Ever

Most of the world today seems to remember Peter Sellers as the great and tortured comedian, thanks also to the wonderful film, "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" but have overlooked his long-time colleague, Spike Milligan. However, Spike was voted by the British public in a BBC Poll in 1999 in which he was described as the "funniest person in 1000 years". His fellow comedians also voted him into the top 50 and a scientific study accredits him as the originator of the world's funniest joke which I have included at the end of this entry.

It gives me great pleasure to pay a little homage to this great man who exceled in comedic innovation, suffered mental illness and fought for the environment. He was a poet, an author, including children's books, actor, comedian and activist. I would like to share two of his poems, an extract from the scripts of the Goon Show (radio program) and ending with the world's funniest joke.

Doctor O'Dell
Dr. O'Dell fell down a well
and broke his collarbone.
Which proves that doctors should attend the sick,
and leave the well alone.

Indian Boyhood
What happened to the boy I was?
Why did he run away?
And leave me old and thinking, like
There'd been no yesterday?
What happened then?
Was I that boy?
Who laughed and swam in the bund*
Is there no going back?
No recompense?
Is there nothing?
No refund?

Excerpt from the Goon Show
Greenslade: The Affair of the Lone Banana, Chapter Two. With the banana secreted on his person, Neddie Seagoon arrived at the Port of Guatemala where he was accorded the typical Latin welcome to an Englishman.
Moriarty: Hands up, you pig swine. [Spits]
Seagoon: Have a care, Latin devil - I am an Englishman. Remember, this rolled umbrella has more uses than one.
Moriarty: Oooo!
Seagoon: Sorry. - Now, what's all this about?
Moriarty: It is the revolution señor - everywhere there is an armed rising.
Seagoon: Are you in it?
Moriarty: Right in it - you see, señor, the united anti-socialist neo-democratic pro-fascist communist party is fighting to overthrow the unilateral democratic united partisan bellicose pacifist cobelligerant tory labour liberal party!
Seagoon: Whose side are you on?
Moriarty: There are no sides - we are all in this together. Now señor, if you don't mind - we must search you.
Seagoon: What for?
Moriarty: Bananas. You see señor, we guatemalians are trying to overthrow the foreign-dominated banana plantations in this country. Any foreigner found with a banana on him will be shot by a firing squad and asked to leave the country.
Seagoon (aside):Curses - I must think quick. Little does he know I suspect him of foul play.
Moriarty (aside):Little does he know I've never played with a fowl in my life.
Seagoon (aside):Little does he know that he has misconstrued the meaning of the word foul. The word foul in my sentence was spelt F O U L not F O W L as he thought I had spelt it.
Moriarty (aside): Little does he know that I overheard his correction of my grammatical error and I am now about to rectify it - aloud. [Ahem] So, you suspect me of foul play spelt F O U L and not F O W L.

On 9 June 2006, it was reported that Professor Richard Wiseman had identified the world’s funniest joke as decided by the Laughlab project which involved people voting on-line. Professor Wiseman said the joke contained all three elements of what makes a good gag - anxiety, a feeling of superiority, and an element of surprise. It turns out to be a variation of a joke written by Spike for the Goon Show in 1951.

A couple of New Jersey hunters are out in the woods when one of them falls to the ground. He doesn't seem to be breathing, his eyes are rolled back in his head. The other guy whips out his cell phone and calls the emergency services. He gasps to the operator: "My friend is dead! What can I do?" The operator, in a calm soothing voice says: "Just take it easy. I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead." There is a silence, then a shot is heard. The guy's voice comes back on the line. He says: "OK, now what?"

This bright light finally faded from this world on the 27th of February 2006. At the death of his long time friend, fellow Goon and famous tenor, Sir Harry Secombe, Spike quipped," I am glad he died before me because I didn't want him to sing at my funeral." So quite appropriately, a recording of Secombe singing was played at Spike's funeral. There is so much more to mention about his contributions to books, film and the environmental cause but "ying tong iddle i po" and "needle nar noo". Looks at the hairs on my wrist which were synchronised to the hairs on Big Ben and realise time has flown.

To know more about the man
To read more of his poems
To enjoy more about the highly esteemed Goon Show

Parting of Ways

on Monday, July 16, 2007

Come friend, sit and rest awhile,
Share a drink, a toast or two,
Regaling tales that bring a smile
Rejoicing in a bond proven true.

I could not tell when it all began,
With those first faltering steps of youth,
That long would be our run, my friend,
Our journey and our quest for truth.

And in that time, we bravely faced,
The beating sun and stinging rain
Through muddy mire, we kept our faith
And faced dark monsters on the plain.

Looking back where we have trod,
We can smile with a twinkle in the eye
Rejoicing at the fruits our labor brought,
Beneath the rainbow in the sky.

We placed our backs on to the plough
And our youth with fervor did we spend
We had no knowledge of where or how
Nor mercifully what lay beyond each bend

Oh what fun it has been and no regrets,
That we had done all this together
Triumphing over both danger and threat,
My comrade of the road and my brother.

Yet now there is breaking a dark storm,
Against which we cannot hope to stand
Farewell my friend, live happy and long,
Way beyond this, our journey’s end.

Schmoozers Recognized and Flagpole Sitta Lip Synch'ed

on Saturday, July 14, 2007

Schmoozing as defined by is the ability “to converse casually, especially in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.” I first came across the concept of "schmoozing" when I played the life simulation computer game, "The Sims 2". In this simulation of life challenges, you soon learn the folly of not sleeping enough and not going to the toilet on time. Relearning the basics. One interesting concept of the game is schmoozing. To advance in your career and to get promotions, you must be punctual, come to the office with a happy attitude and also you must make friends. The more friends, the faster your promotion. In the game, you may also have to shmooze the principal to get your computer progeny into that highly esteemed private school. Frighteningly similar to real life, don't you think?

Anyway, that's a slightly negative use of the word. If you look at the award logo, you will see that it is refered to as the "Blogging Community Involvement Award". I think the spirit of this award is best reflected by that thought.

Squirrel was kind enough to name me as an awardee of this award. Before we get accused of nepotism and award fixing, I'd just like to say we are not related. Besides, it's a given that all squirrels rawk! Anyway, many thanks squirrel.

Here are the Schmooze rules:

1. If, and only if, you get The Power of Schmooze Award, write a post with links to 5 blogs that have schmoozed you into submission.

2. Link to this post and Mike so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Power of Shmooze Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

Obviously, I read a large number of blogs regularly because I enjoy them all and every one of them have their special characteristics. My task now though, is to select 5 that stand out because they are great Schmoozers or by my understanding, those who have greatly helped to foster the networking of this wonderful community. Through your blogging social skills, you have encouraged us, informed us, amused us and most importantly helped us to meet others and to expand our social circle in the blogging community. Some of you have already been nominated and in the spirit of things, I will not repeat that nomination. By the power bestowed on me by my fellow squirrel, I award the Power of Schmooze Award to;

1. Josie at All in Good Time. I stumbled on to Josie's site very early on and am I glad Idid so. Her blog is always warm, friendly and welcoming. You'll soon meet a whole bunch of lively bloggers at her site. She and her Quarks throw some great virtual parties from time to time. There's a whole lot of schmoozing going on.

2. Proxima at The Echo Tree. Proxima has fostered a very wide and diverse community at her blog but again she makes every one feel at home and tries to get every one introduced and interacting. Variety is the spice of life. Schmoozing with style.

3. Top Cat at Open Window. Top Cat is one of the most genuinely friendly and all round nice guy in the bloggosphere. He has built up a lot of friends as his blog has progressed. Somehow he still keeps it very personal despite his large following. Personal, real, sincere, warm and funny. He is a wonderful schmoozer and host at his blog.

4. Jocelyn at O Mighty Crisis. Jocelyn has a very interesting blog on many levels but in this context, her disarmingly dry but charming humour makes everyone comfortable. Somehow, she has schmoozed us all into her cheering section and we get to know each other in the process.

5. Lorraine at PhotographsL. She's a quiet individual and doesn't like crowds. Not a typical schmoozer at all. Yet she treats everyone that comes by her blog with her special brand of hospitality and attention. Recently, she did a series of edited photos that helped us meet other bloggers. She is always encouraging interaction amongst her visitors. She is a rare schmoozing catalyst.

Since it is the weekend and in celebration of the receiving and giving of this award, I'd like to offer for your viewing pleasure my current favorite video on the internet. Please bear in mind that this is a lip sync'ed which was done by the folks at one office and was done as a single take. I think you'll agree that it is amazingly well done. Have a good weekend.

Lip Dub - Flagpole Sitta by Harvey Danger from amandalynferri and Vimeo.

Beware of the Squirrel ..........Please?

on Friday, July 13, 2007

Something funny happened to me recently. I haven't decided if this falls under the funny ha-ha or the funny peculiar category. However, it definately fits into the funny and darn embarassing category.

It was about the 5 things meme or Tag 5 as I called it, which I posted just previously. Meggie wanted to tag me for the meme and this is what she said, "Now, I am supposed to nominate 5 more I would like to do this meme.So here goes. No pressure!"

She then proceeds to nominate 5 bloggers of her choice and she named yours truly as No: 1. What a priveledge indeed!

Meggie then follows that up with the following, "I hope this is not an imposition. I was going to choose a man, as they can alway give a nice twist to the mix, but perhaps next time."

Uh, excuse me Meggie........ last time I checked ....... I'm still a male. Ooooooooo. This traumatic event, this challenge to my maleness has brought back terrible flashbacks from my youth. Meggie, if you read this post, you will learn why I was not entirely devastated..............I've had practice!

During my sensitive formative years of 6-10 years old, I had very few friends of my own age and because of my upbringing, I had rare opportunities to play with them. My sister who is 8 years older, on the other hand, was always having her friends over or going out with them. As she was frequently asked to keep an eye on me, it meant that often, I was thrusted upon their giggling sessions. Needless to say, she wasn't very happy about this. I soon learnt that it was less physically painful for me if I kept quiet and blended into the background. I kind of became an inanimate fixture and the girls became more at ease to be themselves and share their gossip even when I was around.

Having no macho comrades to rely on, my survival depended on going under the radar. This experience had no doubt given me certain skills and shaped my personality to a degree.

Try as I might, I continued to find myself the sole male in a company of women many times in my life. When I was first in the U.K. trying to do my A-levels, I was thousands of miles away from friends and family. A local family, the Sweetmen's, invited me to spend Sundays with them so that I could enjoy a family environment because otherwise I would spend my weekends alone in an empty dormitory. They were wonderful but the Sweetmen's had three daughters and no sons. As a result, my social education often focussed on the proper way to wear mascara or how to avoid getting runs in their stockings.

At university, it was the same. A combination of types of courses taken and housing locations often meant that socially, I hung out with a bunch of female nurses more than anyone else. When I first started work, I faced a four hour bus commute every day. Fortunately, someone offered to give me a ride in their carpool. I am sure that you had already guessed that I was the only male in the all-female carpool. Such was my priveledge and my fate to be in their company for about 2 -3 hours every working day for the next two years. These are just some examples.

There were obviously some advantages of being so readily excepted within these female circles. Pleaseant and pretty company is always good. Occasional homemade cookies are a nice bonus and there are many disadvantages too.

You might be wondering is this guy a whiner? Male readers might think I am being an ungrateful sod or that this situation is like Pooh Bear falling into a big vat of honey and complaining that its too sticky. Of course, few real men would actually admit about thinking about Pooh Bear but I digress.

I can share with you some of the disadvantages. High on the list is learning things that men have no business knowing. It's bad enough when they talk about their boyfriend problems but you really don't want to hear about female hygiene problems. It gets worse, I have had to fight nausea and passing out when they start giving a blow by blow account of their caesarian section ably illustrated by uncensored photos in full colour. Obviously, violent Hollywood movies have not desensitised me enough yet.

However, the very worse thing and the source of all my bad memories that this recent incident in blogland has resurrected is that you are accepted by them. How is that bad? Picture if you will a single, eligible young man. It does not matter if he is in his late teens or even his early thirties, he does not want to be accepted as one of the girls. No! No! No! That is so not right.

The problem with being accepted as one of the girls is that they no longer see you as a man but as a pal. This is like the death sentence to a young man trying to make an impression on the dating scene. He is putting himself 100 percent out there to send the message that he is all male and ready to rumble. He is the proud peacock flashing his testosterones in hope of attracting female company. What he does not need is having a new girl ask the rest of the girls who he is and to hear them reply, "Oh, him? Don't worry. Relax. It's just LGS. He's harmless."

"Harmless!?! What? Harmless!?! At this stage, you look around desperately to do something to try to convince the new girl that you are not harmless. "Hey, new girl. Beware! I'm dangerous! Yes, beware. Keep away because I am not harmless!"

But it is too late. The damage is done. It's like someone had plucked all the peacock's fine feathers and the nude bird is strutting around like a harmless fool.

Oooo. Let me tell you. That phrase "He's harmless" still gives me cold sweat.
So, beware of the squirrel.............please? Pretty please with honey on top?

Tag 5

on Tuesday, July 10, 2007

(Top L-R: Gong Li, Natalie Wood, Sophia Loren)

(Bottom L-R: Susan Hampshire, Isabella Rossellini)

It's been a while that I did any memes. So I was quite glad that meggie tagged me for this meme in fives.

I would also like to tag the following 5 blogging friends to join in the fray (can't force ya'll but hope you will play),

  1. josie of All in Good Time
  2. gina of Forgive me for saying so but....
  3. kat of stayathomekat2
  4. ivan of Island Grove Press
  5. nancy of Heart First
5 Things I wish to do before I die.

Re-visit many of the places I have traveled to so that I can have fresh memories of them.
2. Visit with loved ones and dear friends even those I haven’t seen for years and to be
able to rejoice with those who are doing well and help those who are not.
3. Write a novel that moves people emotionally.
4. Create something special with my hands.
5. Make a positive difference in a young person’s life.

5 Things I Can Do. (Not an impressive list. Barely better than a bumbling baboon.)

1. I can cook.
2. I can sing.
3. I can draw cartoons.
4. I can teach. By this, I think I am a good at teaching. Students always give me a good evaluation.
5. I can write.

5 Things I Can't Do.

1. I cannot dance.
2. I cannot play any musical instrument. (well, actually I played a lot of instruments a little and then gave up).
3. I cannot Bungee (scared of heights)
4. I cannot iron clothes successfully.
5. I cannot lie. Not just because I believe it is morally wrong, but because I am not able to do it convincingly.

5 Things that Attract me to the Opposite Sex.

1. Hair
2. Eyes
3. Compassion
4. Joy of Life
5. A little bit on the chubby side (curvy)

5 Celebrity Crushes.

1. Susan Hampshire (British actress with large cleavage – what do you expect, this was my adolescence crush.)
2. Sophia Loren (Italian Screen Sex Goddess – a bit older now but still controlled by raging hormones. I like my women meaty and curvy)
3. Natalie Wood (American Actress – beginning to see women as people. Natalie remains one of my favorites. She is strong, yet vulnerable. And is she ever so pretty).
4. Gong Li (Chinese Actress – Even stronger, yet vulnerable. The Asian version of Natalie Wood).
5. Isabella Rossellini (Italian Actress, daughter of Ingrid Bergman who almost made this list too. What can I say. She’s stunning at 55 years old. Graceful beauty and aging well).

A Memory Fading

on Monday, July 09, 2007

You know, I said that would never forget him and yet I can no longer remember his name. I feel sad and angry at my failure. It seemed the very least that I could do and yet I have begun to let him slip away. The world has continued to turn, my life has gone on and he has fallen behind.

I'll just call him, John. I first met John when I first started work at the local University after completing my Masters degree. I was one of a group of research assistants that worked in the Biochemistry Department. We also doubled as student tutors and part of our job was to supervise and give advice to final year undergraduates as they try to carry out mini-research projects as part of their credits.

John was one of the smarter students and he often entered into lengthy academic discussions with us and eventually he begun to hang out with the research assistants socially as well. We thought nothing much about it at that time, but he was particularly close to a PhD student which we will just name Jane. John was quiet, thoughtful and sensitive. Jane was quite different in that she was an extrovert, a rebel against convention and the life of the party. Somehow they hit it off and were often seen together in the labs. She would be working on an experiment and he would be studying for his exams; both just seemed content to be in each other's company.

A love story? I didn't think so then and I still don't today. Jane had just gotten married before starting her PhD course. It was an arranged marraige. The husband, even though he had left school when he was 15 years old , had become a successful trader in a remote part of the country. The big fish in a small pond, as it were.

What really happened will probably never be revealed. However, from what I could gather later, Jane's husband became increasingly unhappy of her carrying on with her studies. He felt threatened, thinking that she was spending a lot of her time away from him with smarter men.

These began to lead to arguements and when upset, Jane turned to John and poured out her troubles to him. Jane's husband in turn became more and more suspicious that his wife was being unfaithful and that she despised his lack of academic learning.

One rainy night almost 18 years ago, Jane's husband drove all the way from their hometown to the University; a journey taking 8 hours. He called her and told her that he was coming to end her affairs. Jane was scared at the tone of his voice and called John for support. John, the young, gallant and foolish lad decided to confront Jane's husband and be her knight in shining armour. All three met outside her rented apartment. Jane's husband accused her of unfaithfulness and she accused him of being an unreasonable control freak. When things got heated, John tried to stand between them.

We were later told, the husband took out a hunting knife and went after John. Jane screamed for John to run and he did, getting onto his motocycle and fleeing the scene. However, Jane's husband got into his large 4-wheel drive and set off in pursuit.

It was along a lonely, dark and winding road near the University, in the midst of torrential rain and a thunderstorm, that he caught up with John and rammed the motorcycle. John went flying off the motorcycle and rolled on the road. Despite his injuries, driven by adrenaline, he was able to get up and leaving a trail of blood, hobbled to first one and then another of the few houses along the road. These were large houses with hedges and locked gates. He yelled for help as he ran from one house to another. In the storm, his voice would have been barely audible. Jane's husband followed slowly but steadily behind and at the gates of the fifth house, used his hunting knife to viciously extinguish John's young life.

We never did see Jane again. The day the news broke out, the University merely said she had taken an indefinate leave of absence and she never came back. Her husband was found guilty of murder and sentenced. As far as we can tell, Jane was never unfaithful. She was flirtatious by character and that contributed to her husband's fears but she never had an affair with anyone. John and Jane were just good friends, maybe even more like an older sister - younger brother relationship. Somehow, insecurity, jealousy, miscommunication and mis-guided gallantry led to this tragedy that shattered three lives and those of their loved ones.

For a long time, I use that road to go home from work and I always offered a prayer for John. I wonder at what kind of life he might have lived if it had not ended that night. This story comes to mind because the authorities are beginning to redevelop that road and the neighborhood. Perhaps, I will no longer be able to recognise the landmarks when they are done. I am sad that even more of his memory is being eroded by time and progress. I wonder how many others have already forgotten this life cut short.

Robert Thanks the Squirrel

on Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dear readers,

Back in May 2007, I posted on Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World. I was surprised and pleased to receive the following email from one, Robert Skoglund. He was nice enough to title the email, "Robert thanks the Squirrel". I liked that. Robert, you're most welcome and it was my pleasure.

The painting features Christina who had a degenerative muscular dystrophy disease, crawling back towards her home on a small hill after visiting her parent's graves on the farm's ground. It transpires that Robert was a close friend and neighbour to both Christina's and Andrew's families.

Robert Skoglund is himself a Maine institution and has even been described as a National Treasure. He has been broadcasting on Maine Public Broadcasting Network for 28 years. He is known as "the humble Farmer" and his program plays jazz music which is interspersed by dry, witty commentaries by Robert about the world around him. He has a large following of fans both in Maine and beyond.

However, the same witty remarks or "rants" as he calls it, got him in trouble with Network bosses when his comments on President Bush was viewed as too political. When the humble Farmer stood his ground, the Network shut down his program in June this year. There have been a number of ground-swelling of expressions of support from his fans and a number of petitions to have his show re-instated.

"The kerfuffle started Nov. 3, days before Maine voters were to decide on a so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights—a tax-restraint measure of the kind that could cut spending on state-subsidized services such as public broadcasting (they defeated it.) On that evening’s program, Skoglund read a letter from a Maryland listener outlining negative effects of a similar measure in that state."

"In February 2003, as war with Iraq appeared increasingly inevitable, he read a commentary in which he condemned war and an unnamed “war-mongering, rat-faced wimp” who “calls himself the leader” and is spoiling for a conflict."


I hope that the humble Farmer wins his battle with what he views as agents of censorship - which I agree with him. I wish him and his wife well and thank him for taking time in the midst of his radio program troubles to write me a short but meaningful email.

Robert Thanks the Squirrel


I read your interesting Blog on Christina's World. I live about a mile from that house and bought a table for a dollar or so when they sold all the furniture out of the house 30 or 40 years ago. We keep the toaster on that table in our dining room.

Andy painted me in 1951, but left me out of the final draft when he finished the painting.

You'll find a picture of Christina's house on my RadioFriends web site. Also pictures of Andy's brother in law, my friend the late Dudley Rockwell, who was docent at that house for years.

Thanks for an interesting web site.

Robert Karl Skoglund 785 River Road St. George,
ME 04860 207-226-7442

MORE LINKS TO "the humble Farmer."

You can hear humble's radio program for this week on humble's web page:

A page of links to humble's fun-filled radio show. Did you know that Robert Skoglund, The humble Farmer, stands on stages and tells funny stories? Ask humble to entertain you and your friends with dry stories like these:

2/22/07 Christian Science Monitor Profile on humble

You can visit humble and Marsha at their Bed & Breakfast on the coast of Maine.

You are invited to stop by for supper anytime.

Robert Karl Skoglund 785 River Road St. George, ME 04860 207-226-7442

Where have all the Blog Men gone?

I am a blogger and I am male which at least qualifies me for "dude blogger" (unless there are further qualifications to being a dude). But anyway, thanks to Top Cat, I have been given this award that allows me to add "awesome" in front of "dude blogger".

To be honest, the most awesome thing about being a dude blogger is that there aren't many of us. Honestly, where are all the guys in the blogosphere. Not that I am complaining but the female to male ratio in the blogs are a little embarassing. It's therefore not surprising that Top Cat had trouble coming up with 5 names to nominate. I too have that problem. From my small list of male bloggers, most have already got the award or are off taking a short break during summer. So I am not going to try to nominate anyone. But Top Cat thanks, you are one rockin' and shakin' cat.

Tough Act to Follow

on Thursday, July 05, 2007

I want to thank all those who took the trouble to read my last post and for all of you who went as far as to leave comments. Talking about one's faith is not always easy and one is always concerned that someone is offended or slighted by what is said. I will not back away from saying what I believe but have no intentions of offending anyone and if I had, I apologise.

Quite unexpectedly, according to my sitemeter, the last post was probably the most read post yet on my blog with 170 visitors in two days and also has the most number of comments. Thank you again for your interesting and thoughtful comments. I know this doesn't compare with some of your blogs which get hundreds of comments per post but it makes the sunshine over at this humble blog.

My problem was to decide what to blog about next. It is a tough act to follow. What could I do that would not appear boring and uninspired after that? Should I write about food cause there are always hungry readers? Should I just put up pretty pictures? Should I gossip about Paris Hilton? Naw, not ready to sink that low.

I decided that when faced with such a predicament, one should not fool around with some amatuerish effort. No, it's best to call in the professionals. And so, for your comedic relief, here are couple of real pros reprising a famous comedy routine called "Who's on first?" with a modern twist.

Born Buddhist

on Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Temple in Kuching,Sarawak (LGS)

Regular readers will know that I am a Christian and I have posted about my faith on several occasions. Some have noted that I was a convert and in fact I was born a Buddhist. Molly has asked me why I converted from Buddhism. Here is my answer.

In Malaysia, we have three main races; the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians. When I was growing up, it was practically assumed by everyone including the Government that if you were Malay, you were Muslim; if Chinese, then Buddhist and if Indian, then Hindu. This perhaps is not dissimilar where in many western countries, people are assumed to be Christians especially if they are from a Christian family. This is really a kind of religion by default.

I don’t believe in this labeling. Finding God and religion is a personal matter and we each have to make a decision for ourselves.

Anyway, my entire family was Buddhist in that we were born into that religion. My immediate family were not really practicing Buddhists and hardly knew anything about the religion. Nevertheless, when I became a Christian later, my parents felt I had shamed them in front of all our relatives. I had an uncle though whom I was very close to when I was young and he was a staunch practicing Buddhist as was his family. He was an important role model for me and for a time I tried to copy him as he chanted his prayers and did his meditations. I was proud when he complimented me on saying my prayers well. At this stage, it would seem I would eventually immerse myself in Buddhism.

However, as I reflect back, I think three events changed my way of thinking.

The first was a visit to a Buddhist shrine. Now, at this juncture, I should say that it is very hard to find “pure” Buddhism. Much Buddhism being practiced today, even in the East has been altered by local beliefs and traditions. My mother brought me along to this shrine. I was probably just 6 years old then. I don’t remember the exact circumstance but there was some pressing family emergency and my mother was hedging her bets by offering prayers at several Buddhist temples as well as several Christian churches. I just happened to be there for the ride.

However, that particular temple had a big impact. Can a 6 year old understand the concept of evil? Well, I felt evil and I felt fear. I did not feel it in any other temple or church. Just this one. I felt the evil that resided there and when I looked around I saw the fear in the devotees eyes. They come to the temple to pray for good health and fortune but they came in fear. They were afraid that if they did not show sufficient devotion or make sufficient offerings to their idols, they would be punished with illness and bad fortune. I did not like this darkness that I perceived.

The second incident was when my sister became a Christian. She is 8 years older than me but when we were young, we briefly shared a room for about a year. She was allowed to attend Sunday School because my parents thought it would improve her English and manners. At night, she would tell me about the Bible stories that she had heard. Moses and the Red Sea. Jonah and the Whale. Daniel and the lions. These became my bedtime stories so I learned a lot about the Christian God. However, the most striking thing was the change I saw in my sister’s character. She became a more patient and loving person. Presto, before my very eyes. That made a big impression.

The third incident was the death of my grandmother. I think I was about 13 years old then. She died after a long illness. Her long time nurse was a Christian and claimed that my grandmother became a Christian before she died but this was mostly ignored by my family and she was given the full traditional Buddhist funeral rituals. This included many prayers at different days which I enthusiastically took part in. I remember the wake. The body was laid in my uncle’s house and the monks chanted into the night until about two in the morning. Then the relatives gathered and solemnly discussed who would stay with my uncle’s family and keep watch till morning. What was not spoken was the fear that grandma’s spirit would return to the home instead of progressing on. Fear. Either I was brave or foolhardy but I volunteered to stay on.

She was cremated. Then the family was invited to scoop her ashes into an urn. Again all the adults were frightened to touch her remains. It was an older cousin and myself who did the task. I felt a peace doing it, as if God was assuring me that this was just dust and ashes and my grandmother was safe with Him. Yet when I looked at the rest of my relatives, all I saw was fear.

At that point, I began to realise that the prayers, chants, ceremonies and traditions I had been following brought no peace to any of my relatives, not even my stalwart uncle when they faced death and uncertainty. On the other hand, even though I was still not yet a Christian, I felt that the God of the Bible was with me during this period and gave me peace.

I accepted then that the God of the Bible was a real and living God and not a powerless idol. After that, I stopped trying to be a good Buddhist. That had lost its meaning. I was not yet a Christian either because recognising God is not the same as receiving Him into one’s life and obeying Him. I was not ready for that yet and God had to change my hard heart over another two years before I finally accepted Him as Lord and Savior.

I know that there have been many cases of people brought up as Christians in the west that have turned to Buddhism. I believe this is because they are disillusioned with the established churches. I think if we truly seek the truth, we must look beyond mere practices and traditions and make a personal discovery for ourselves. I have found the words of Jesus relevant and powerful, able to change lives and bring peace and assurance.

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