Department of Dirty Tricks


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During Malaysia’s recent 14th general election, the department of dirty tricks was busy.  Great efforts was made to support the ruling government coalition by discourage a high voter turnout, silence criticism and other devious schemes.

In case you ever need help in thwarting the democratic process, you might want to take some notes on how to do it.  Here are a list of things you could do.

1.  Gerrymandering

Redraw the election boundaries in your favor even if it means including voters from areas which are not even geographically near each other.  My own voting district saw the inclusion this election of an area which is about 10 km away.  This would see the presumed addition of about 10,000 potential pro-government votes in the district that was won in the last election by the opposition by a 1,000 majority.  Surprisingly, the opposition still won with an increased majority.

2. Voting Districts are not all equal.

Make pro-government voting districts very small and districts which are opposition strongholds very big.  In this way, one pro-government area had only 6,000 voters while one opposition stronghold had 146,000 voters.  This means that in the first case, the government only needs about 3,000 votes to win while in the second case, the opposition wins but it uses up more of its supporters’ votes.  In fact, opposition candidate Tony Pua wins the Damansara parliamentary seat with 75% of the vote or a record supermajority of 107,000 votes.

3.  Shorten the election campaign period

Give the opposition little time to campaign by giving the minimum possible campaign period of 10 days before election.  Then also make the police require political parties to  apply for permission to hold rallies at least 5 days ahead of the event.

4. Make the Opposition party and its candidates illegal.

The opposition formed a coalition but the registrar of societies refused to formally register the opposition coalition in time for the election.  Some opposition candidates wishing to register as an election candidate were given wrong information about what they had to do and where and then told that they had missed the dateline for registration.

5. Stifle criticism and negative reports

First control all mainstream TV and radio stations. Next block many independent websites.  Also introduce a Anti-Fake News law just before the elections, that is sufficiently vague about what would be considered false news and threaten to use it to imprison anyone who shares “fake news” on FB or social media.

6. Make it difficult for voters to get to their voting stations.

Have the election on a Wednesday which is a working day and in the middle of the week.  Refuse to declare it a holiday to facilitate voters traveling to their hometowns to vote (this was finally overturned after public outcry).  “Coincidentally”, have road works and immigration computer glitches cause delays of hours at border crossings to deter large number of voters working in countries like Singapore from returning to vote.  Some people only managed the trip that normally takes only about 3-4 hours after repeatedly trying to cross over 3 days.  Also get the airlines to cancel or delay flights bringing voters back to Malaysia in the 1-2 days leading up to the election.

7. Sabotage Postal Votes.

Voters working or studying overseas and who are eligible to vote are supposed to be sent the ballot forms with sufficient time for them to post it back to their voting centre.  Instead, many did not receive it until it was too late to post or even courier them.  For example, voters in Hong Kong only received their ballot papers on the morning of the election day itself, and they would have to find a way to send it to their voting station in Malaysia by 5 pm that day.

But, despite this dirty tactic, Malaysians overseas got organised and a global network of volunteers carried most of the votes back in time.

8. Tamper with electoral rolls.

Some people who had not registered to vote were surprised that somebody had registered in their name and voted.  Often those allowed to votes are not even Malaysians.

9.  Stuff the ballot boxes.

A number of people were caught trying to enter ballot stations with large number of already marked ballot papers.

10. Increase the number of spoilt votes.

Some ballot station officials tried to get voters to use uncertified ballot papers.  Only certified ballot papers would be officially valid, the rest would be considered spoilt votes.

11. Buy votes

When there are no independent observers around, it is a small matter to stuff ballot boxes or buy votes.

12. Try to falsify the count.

The returning officer at each polling station is suppose to oversee the counting of the votes and then report the count on an official form which he/she is suppose to authorise by signing in the presence of observers.  In many cases, where the opposition had won, the returning officer had tried to get away without signing it (which would have allowed a different result to be sent to the main reporting centre).

13. Stall

Finally, when all the plans did not work out too well, stall, stall , stall.  The Election Commission quickly reported all the government victories but when it came to seats won by the opposition, delayed announcing results for up to 6 hours; probably to allow time for other dirty tricks to be attempted.  Independent websites posting the results of the vote counting were blocked.  Even when the results could no longer be denied, the Election Commission refuse to announce the winner.

 

Before the elections, in full anticipation of the actions of the Department of Dirty Tricks, I prayed to God to confound the schemes of the wicked and I believe God has answered that prayer cause it is quite the miracle that the government still lost the election despite all their nefarious schemes.

A couple of weeks earlier and I could not have written this post without falling foul of the Anti-Fake News law.  Just imagine.

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Malaysia : Re-Born 10th May 2018


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Dear Friends,

I am so elated, excited and over the moon.  After many days of prayer, sleepless nights and anxious moments, we got what we wanted.  A new Malaysia has emerged, reborn with a new sense of hope and destiny.  The results of the 14th General Election for Malaysia showed that the oppressive, divisive and corrupt incumbent government had been thrown out and for the first time ever (in 61 years), we have a change in government.

That this victory was achieved is miraculous when you consider how the odds were stacked up against the opposition parties.  The dirty tricks department had been hard at work on behalf of the government.  Not many had expected the opposition to win the elections.  Even the true believers were only hoping to scrape through.  But Malaysians flocked to the polling station on May 9th and achieved the unbelievable.  The land which has languished in darkness for so long is now enjoying the break of dawn.

Here are some highlights of what was achieved:

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If you are still not sure what has been going on, let me try to explain it in another way……

“Once upon a time, there was a Jedi and the force was strong with this one.  In fact, he was appointed the 4th Grand Master of the Jedi Order.  But having so much power began to sway him to the Dark Side.

When his first Padawan, began to challenge his authority, the Grand Master had him imprisoned.  Indeed, that was the fate of many who tried to defy him.

He then allowed his second Padawan to take over the reigns of the Empire.  But before long he was unhappy with his second Padawan for what he perceived as his weakness in showing tolerance to those who opposed the Order.

The old Grand Master then groomed his third Padawan to challenge his second Padawan for the throne and the third Padawan came to power.

But, under the influence of a woman who was the Dark Side personified, the third Padawan began to oppress, deprive and rob the citizens of the Republic on an epic scale.

The second Padawan who had previously been freed, tried to lead a Rebellion against him but was soon arrested and imprisoned again.

But the Rebellion did not die, selfless individuals carried on the fight for justice and righteousness for 10 long and difficult years.   The Empire had become so corrupt and so powerful, it seemed that it would last a thousand years.

Then, a new hope from and unlikely source.  The Grand Master himself (now 92 years old), pained to see what had become of his legacy, returned and joined the Rebellion.  And now, after 2 years of struggle, the Grand Master has led the Rebellion and the people to win the battle against the Dark Side.  With the third Padawan thrown down from power, the Grand Master has once again take control of the Republic.

With order and hope restored, the Grand Master will now release his first Padawan from prison and with the intention that he will eventually take over the duty of overseeing the well being  of the Republic, trusting him to govern wisely and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

THE END!

Surely that is worthy of a Hollywood movie!  Yes?

How about a Bollywood movie?  Make me an offer.

Fire and Ice-Land 3 (Dancing Lights)


Day 3 in Iceland and the weather was still occasionally sunny but mostly snow stormy.  Any hope of catching a glimpse of the fabled northern lights seemed to be all but lost as all northern light tours had been cancelled for 7 consecutive days on account of poor visibility and driving snow.

We consoled ourselves by hiring a Superjeep  tour up to Langjökull glacier to do snowmobiling and to visit a man made ice cave.  Along the way, there were stops to look at some of Iceland’s thermal pools, a rather pretty though small waterfall and a pit stop for lunch.

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Mrs. Squirrel obscuring the view of the pretty Hraunfossar waterfall.

Along the way, there were a few cars that had got stuck in the snow and we stopped to render some assistance.  We were very glad to be in a Superjeep with huge tyres and retractable spikes which carried us steadily through the worst of the snow and weather.

And when we reached on top of the glacier, it was time to switch to the snowmobile.

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Our two snow conquering chariots!
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We had to bundle up in special snow suits, wear helmet, visors and get instructions.

Well, getting dressed up for the snowmobile ride was a thorough workout in itself and we were sweating from the exertion and glad to be out in the cold so that we could cool down.  There were 14 of us and we paired up to drive 7 snowmobiles.  Of the 7 drivers, only one had driven a snowmobile before.

Let me just say that it was not easy to drive.  I certainly found it hard to control, requiring a lot more strength and throwing around the body weight to get the machine to turn.  And when I managed to turn it, it would over extend in that direction and I would have to compensate in the other direction.  We were told to follow behind the guide in the lead snowmobile but we were all struggling to do that.

We were also facing driving snow and bitter cold, poor visibility and fresh loosely packed snow which made it easy to capsize the machine if we strayed too much to the edge of the packed trail.  The journey was supposed to take about 15 minutes to the cave entrance but it took us more than 30 minutes.  During that time, one snowmobile sunk about 2 feet into the soft snow and had to be dug out.  Except for two snowmobiles, the rest all had exciting moments when the machine tipped over trapping driver and passenger underneath.

It happened to me and Mrs. Squirrel.  I wandered too much to the side and the machine toppled over and slid down a small slope.  Both my wife and I were pinned down by the 350 kg machine.  From our prone position, we could see nothing at all and could only hope that the guides would notice we were missing and could here our feeble cries for help.  Eventually, they showed up and got us out of there.

Finally, we made it to the ice cave and I took out my camera from my backpack only to find that it had not fared well from the snowmobile ride.   The cold had completely caused my camera battery to be drained out.  So all the photos in this post is courtesy of my traveling companions.

We were joined by another group that had come up by monster wheeled buses.  “You mean we could have done the trip in comfort?”  One of my group tried to trade our return snowmobile ride for a spot  on the bus but there were no takers.

During the tour of the cave, we were shown the “chapel”.  The guide explained that the acoustics were particularly good here and asked for a volunteer to test it out.  The rest of the cowards nominated me to do it.  And so I found myself giving a rendition of “Amazing Grace” inside a glacier.

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Singing “Amazing Grace” in the ice cave chapel.

When we got back to the base camp on the glacier to put away the snowmobiles and to get out of the snow suits, I asked my driver how I could get a refund for the northern light tour that I had previously booked with Superjeep for my first night in Iceland.  Now Superjeep and some other tours allow clients to go on a second tour at no extra charge if the first trip was cancelled or the northern lights were not seen.  However, the weather had been so bad and the forecast was for more of the same, that I had given up hope.

To my surprise, our driver, Loji, thought there was a chance that the tour would go ahead that night.  He called his office, consulted with them and then proposed to take us out that same night.  I really was skeptical given the weather conditions but decided I would regret not trying and so our whole group agreed to go northern light hunting.

Loji said that despite the snow and blustery wind, we just needed to look for breaks in the cloud cover where we can see the stars and we would have a good chance to see the northern lights.

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This is not the Millennium Falcon jumping to light speed but the view of the driving snow from the windscreen of the jeep and the reason why I did remained skeptical of our chances of seeing any northern lights.

And so we left Reykjavik at about 8.00 pm and we drove and drove and we drove.  Around and around,  Chasing perceived clearer skies.  We made a few stops when it was not snowing as bad and strained to see stars but most of the time, the sightings were brief before the clouds and snow returned.

To warm us up and to dull the sense of disappointment, Loji gave out generous servings of hot chocolate fortified with vodka.  That certainly made us more cheerful and a little sleepy too – it had been a long day.  Then at about 12.30 in the morning, Loji delivered!

We managed to see the lights!  It appeared like a light green ribbon across the sky. It wasn’t the brightest but we enjoyed it, taking pictures and just taking in the sight.  But after maybe 10 minutes the clouds came in and the show was over.

We were reasonably satisfied and we settled down in the jeep for the long drive back to Reykjavik.  But Iceland had not finished giving us a show.  30 minutes later, we saw an even better display as we were driving back.  We pulled over and enjoyed this spectacle for about 20 minutes, thanking God for blessing us with this experience.

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Hallelujah!

Next post:- Around Reykjavik.

Fire and Ice-Land 2 (Vik & South Coast)


We arrived after dark on the first day in Iceland and had taken the Flybus from the airport to downtown Reykjavik.  For future travelers, this is a lot cheaper than taking a taxi but there is the inconvenience of having to change from the airport bus to a smaller shuttle bus which then takes you to a bus stop near your hotel.  In our case, the bus stop was about 200 m from the hotel which would not be a problem if it weren’t for the driving snow and the slush on the roads making it unpleasant to be dragging luggage in the streets.

But bad weather is part of the nature of Iceland which one must accept. Still, it immediately spoiled our plans as the tour I had booked to go out that night to seek out the northern lights was cancelled on account of the weather.  Although disappointed by that, I immediately activated plan B which was to get a good night sleep and take off early the next morning on a long bus ride out along the southern coast as far as the small town of Vik.

Here are some highlights from Day 2;

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Icelandic Horses – these tough guys spend the winter out in the elements.  Descended from ponies brought over by Vikings in the 12th century, they are used in sheep herding and more recently for “tourist herding”.
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A short stop at the LAVA Centre and there was this interactive model of Iceland showing all the earthquakes and tremors that occurred in the last 24 hours.
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The impressive Skógafoss waterfall
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The black volcanic sand beach at Vik
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It was a wild and windy day!
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You could actually lean backwards into the wind and the wind would be able to hold you up.
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But the wind was also pelting us with tiny bits of hail which was quite painful.  The round ice spheres can be seen clearly in contrast to the black sand.
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These are the basalt columns at the famous Reynisfjara beach near Vik.  Oh, and the sun came out briefly.
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They told me that seabirds nest on these rock stacks but all I saw were @#!$%#* tourists!
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The beach can be dangerous as the waves are violent and rogue waves are known to occur which can drag you into the cold North Atlantic.  The last fatality was in 2017.  We were told not to go too near the waves and also not to turn your back to the waves.
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But, it could also be very romantic!
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The ends of the basalt columns in the cave.
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Another view.  Notice the icicle at the top?
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A good place to roost after a long day on a tour bus.
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We also visited part of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier.
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These guys were returning from hiking on the glacier.
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Another beautiful waterfall – Seljalandsfoss Waterfall.  In warmer times, it is possible to walk behind the falling water.
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Wait a while and you might get the place to yourself.
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This little excursion along the south coast gets my thumbs up!

Next installment will be about snowmobiling and an ice cave in a glacier.  See you then.

(All photos by LGS; please ask permission before using).

Fire and Ice-Land 1


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Picture and T-shirt by idontspeakicelandic.com

Hi there honorable readers!

The squirrel just got back from one of his bucket list destinations!  I am sure that  the photo above of a T-shirt I saw while there will have tipped you as to where that is …….. Iceland!   So what part of Eyjafjallajökull didn’t you understand?  Will the smart alecks among you please enlighten us all to its meaning in the comments?  In this era of alternate truths, your explanation doesn’t have to be factually accurate but by Odin, make it interesting.

Yes, my missus and I went to Iceland, otherwise also known as the Land of Fire and Ice, the Land of the Vikings and more recently as part of Westeros and beyond The Wall (Game of Thrones).  Oh yes we did, and we did it in the midst of winter too!

And how was Iceland, you ask?  I quote my wife; “It’s Crazy Beautiful!”  The people were fascinating and friendly and the food fantastic – there are lots of delicious options so you don’t really need to eat the famous rotting shark meat or the boiled sheep’s head if you don’t want to.

Before I carry on, I must thank Terry for inspiring me to make the trip and also her practical advice.  Even though this is not primarily a travel blog, please bear with me as I will share about my experiences over the next few posts.

And, if you were wondering ……….. I did see the Northern Lights!

For now, I leave you with Asterix and Dogmatix as they show us that it isn’t so difficult to learn the Viking language.

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Alternate Reality is Real


Do you believe in all this mumbo-jumbo about alternative universes, where things are just a little bit different from our own reality?  Well, Steven Hawking believes they exist so that MUST make it true.

Anyway, for all you skeptics, the Lone Grey Squirrel would like to share some observations that prove that not only do these alternate universes exist, sometimes they spill over into our world.

(Cue Twilight Zone theme music and Rod Serling’s voice:  “Ladies and Gentlemen, sometimes the best intentions can be twisted.  I present for your consideration……one lone grey squirrel and his love advice given a technical makeover in …..the Twilight Zone!”

Back in February 10th, 2008, this very blog introduced Dr. Love, a famous witch doctor from Namibia who is his renowned for his advice on love (Advice from Dr. Love).   Remember you heard all that good advice here first.  Then, recently, the esteemed BBC did a report on Dr. Love………only he wasn’t the same guy and he was from Congo and not Namibia!  Instead of dispensing love potions and traditional wisdom, he was giving out scientific advice and using mobile apps! What is going on?  Alternate reality surely!

In the Realm of the Lone Grey Squirrel, this is the charming and mystical Dr. Love (or Aikenvoodoo-U Cassanova Lovelace the Great).

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And this is the guy from the BBC alternative reality report, the rather normal and scientific Dr. Love (or Dr. Aimé Lokulutu).  If you want to see the original unbelievable BBC Report, follow this link.

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And that’s not the only strange thing that’s been going on.  I love Oprah.  In my world, Oprah is a well respected, successful, media celebrity and all round good person.  But suddenly, this alternative Oprah appears on the news and it seems this version is a political Oprah who might run for President of the USA.  But the really strange thing is that  this Oprah has three hands………..surely….only…in the Twilight Zone.

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Picture from the cover of Vanity Fair’s 24th Annual Oscar Issue:-  Oprah’s hands:- Number 1 is on her hip, Number 2 is on her thigh and Number 3 is on Reese Witherspoon’s waist.

Traveling Cheaply


Dear friends,

By the time you read this, I will actually be on the road, traveling with my wife. Of late, I have become somewhat of a frequent traveler and so I decided to share with you some of the wisdom that I have gleaned from my experiences.  Consider it a preview of my up and coming self help bestseller entitled “Tips on how to travel cheaply with your spouse”.

In my younger, foolish days, I used to believe that “two can live as cheaply as one” and that that applies to traveling too.  For example, with accommodation, the cost per person drops when you share a room.  Similar savings for hiring a car or joining a tour.  Occasionally, you even stumble on “two for the price of one” offers for restaurants, museums and even airfares.

But don’t be fooled! Unless you plan your trip well, costs can easily escalate.  Here are just a few tips to help lower your travel costs……….

Tip 1 : Choose your destination well

Generally speaking, countryside is cheaper than cities.  Not just because the price of things are generally more in cities but there just aren’t anywhere as many shops for your spouse to be tempted by in the rural boondocks.  Las Vegas, for example, have wonderful, cheap or even sometimes free, all you can eat buffets but it is still to be avoided if you or your spouse are likely to throw good money away at the slot machines or on Elvis impersonators.

Tip 2 : Choose your time well

Congratulations if you managed to plan a holiday in the countryside and away from all the shops.  Still, occasionally, you may have to touch base with an urban area or worse a centre with shopping.  When this happens, try to time the visit on a Sunday when many of the shops are closed.   I did this when we visited pricey Switzerland.  A visit to Bern and the wonderful, UNESCO World Heritage Old Town and its charming,  medieval covered arcades was achieved without too much damage by visiting on a Sunday.

Tip 3 : Choose the right option.

When you plan your itinerary for any given day, you have many options to consider.  Choose wisely.  For example, if you only had time to visit either a diamond centre or a chocolate factory , which one should you choose? (Hint:- one measly, micro diamond is worth the same as many, many crates of chocolates).

Try another one guys; a Swarovski Crystal tour or a beer brewery tour?  A no-brainer, right?

Viewing the World Through the Observation of Squirrels