Watch Out! Oops! Too Late.


In the last month, we have had severe weather events in the U.S., the Caribbean, South Asia, Europe and Africa.  These include the devastating hurricanes of Harvey and Irma; the massive monsoon floods in Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India; and the massive landslide in Sierra Leone.  The death toll has climbed into the thousands,while millions have been displaced and have suffered loss of homes, possessions and livelihoods.

My heart is sorrowful for such great loss and suffering and yet with much sadness, I am not at all surprised by it all.  In fact, I totally expect to see this happen with increasing frequency.  Folks, in all seriousness, it is too late to still be debating about climate change.  It’s effects and it’s impacts which have long been predicted and expected by scientists are already evident in the present.

The flooding experienced by Houston due to Harvey was said to be a 500 year event.  That is to say that based on historical data, statisticians and hydrologists expect that a flood of such level and size would only occur on average once in 500 years.  But in fact, Houston has had two other massive floods making it three such 500 year events in the last three years.  The likelihood of such a string of floods would be once in 250 million years.  While the statistic estimation may be flawed, it cannot be denied that such an event would be expected to be extremely, extremely, extremely rare.  However, climate change models have predicted that what might once have been a 500 year event may now occur as frequently as once every 20 years.

The insurance industry has certainly taken notice as they have been struggling to cope with insurance claims from the increasingly frequent and increasingly costly extreme weather events.  Here are some graphs to illustrate the point.

climate disasters1

In the graph above, we can see that the number of climate related disasters worldwide has increased substantially.   Since 2000, such events have occurred about 14 times more frequently than they did in 1950.  Economic damage in 1950 was negligible but in 2012 peaked at about 370 billion USD.

 

climate disasters 2

This second graph shows the number of extreme weather events that have inflicted more than 1 billion USD worth of damages according to decades.  That’s 72 such costly events in the 1990’s when compared to just 13 in the 1950’s.

climate disasters 3

Finally, this last graph shows the top 10 costliest hurricanes to impact the USA.  9 of these 10 hurricanes have been since the year 2000.  The costliest being Katrina at USD 62.2 billion.  But wait, this table has to be updated because it did not include our most recent hurricanes of Harvey and Irma which have estimated economic costs of USD 180 billion and 100 billion respectively.

Folks…….I think we are all in deep doo-doo.  Depressed and pessimistic squirrel  signing off.

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September Morn (Unburied Nuts)


Squirrels love to bury their precious nuts so as to uncover them later to enjoy at leisure. In the same way, this blog, from time to time, brings an old post back for another short period in the sun. This particular nut first saw light of day in 2007.  My goodness – that’s a decade ago!  Well, as September is always special to me for a number of reasons, here it is uncovered again……with a couple of editorial changes.

But first, let’s have some mood music by Neil Diamond who apparently also loves September morns….

It is the beginning of September and I noted a number of my blogging friends from the Northern Hemisphere are lamenting or at least marking the passing of summer. However, a few like me are ready to welcome September and the beginning of autumn. September has always been a special month for me. It seems like some of my happiest moments have been tied to this month or at least this season. In celebration of September, I offer this posting on the theme of “September Morn”. Below is a famous painting by Paul Chabas and the music is by Neil Diamond.

“September Morn” by Paul Chabas

 

Quoted from Bonnie Bull
“On a September morning in 1912, French painter Paul Chabas finished the painting he had been working on for three consecutive summers. Thus completed, it was aptly titled “Matinee de Septembre” (September Morn). As was typical of his style, the painting was of young maiden posed nude in a natural setting. This time the icy morning waters of Lake Annecy in Upper Savoy formed the natural setting and the maiden was a local peasant girl. The head, however, had been painted from the sketch of a young American girl, Julie Phillips (later Mrs. Thompson), which he had made while she and her mother were sitting in a Paris cafe. Apparently, he had found her profile to be exactly what he was looking for.

(LGS notes: Could this be a pre-Photoshop example of pasting someone’s head on to someone else’s naked body?)

The completed painting was then sent off to the Paris Salon of 1912 to be exhibited. Although the painting won Mr. Chabas the Medal of Honor, it caused no flurry of attention. Hoping to find a buyer, the artist shipped the painting overseas to an American gallery. It was here in America that the painting was destined to receive undreamed of publicity and popularity.

One day in May of 1913, displayed in the window of a Manhattan art gallery, it caught the eye of Anthony Comstock, head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Horrified by what he saw, he stormed into the store, flashed his badge, and roared: “There’s too little morn and too much maid. Take her out!” The gallery manager, however, refused to do so.

The ensuing controversy was given wide publicity by the press and the painting was simultaneously denounced and defended across the entire country. Meanwhile, curious crowds filled the street outside the shop straining to see the painting that caused such a stir.

Soon enterprising entrepreneurs were reproducing September Morn on everything conceivable: calendars, postcards, candy boxes, cigar bands, cigarette flannels, pennents, suspenders, bottle openers and more. Purity leagues tried to suppress it. Postcard reproductions were forbidden in the mails. The painting became the object of stock show gags and even inspired an anonymous couplet that swept the country, “Please don’t think I’m bad or bold, but where its deep it’s awful cold.”

(LGS notes: Why, this is like a meme!)

The painting went back to Paul Chabas who sold it to a Russian collector for the ruble equivalent of $10,000. After the Russian Revolution it turned up in Paris in the Gulbenkian Collection. Ultimately the painting was purchased by Philadelphia Main Liner Willaim Coxe Wright and donated to Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum in 1957 after being refused by the Philadelphia Museum of Art because it had no significance in the twentieth century stream of art. It’s estimated market value in 1957 was $30,000. The painting still hangs in the Metropolitan Museum as an example of 20th century French works and reproductions can be purchased in the museum’s gift shop.”

Odd


Dear gentle readers, I thought I would shake things up around here and challenge you to a competition to “spot the odd one out” or “the one that is different from the rest”.  I’m sure you know how to play but be warned, it gets harder as it goes.

not same 2
Photo 1: Easy Start
not same 6
Photo 2: Life imitating art
not same 4
Photo 3: Easy Riders
not same 3
Photo 4: Did you get this right?
not same 1
Photo 5: Camouflage
not same 5
Photo 6: This one is designed to give you eye strain.
not same 7
Photo 7 : And finally……this one is just really, really ODD!

The Lone Grey Squirrel would like to thank my fellow animal genius, the boredpanda for the photos above.

Beyond Road Kill


Hi guys and gals.  Sorry I have been missing from the blogosphere for about two weeks.  In case, you were wondering what had happened to your favorite rabid grey squirrel, well, I’ll tell you.   I was ROADKILL.

Well, at least my also greying iMac was.  Below is a before and after photo.

squirrel thor
BEFORE: My Usual Screensaver
apple tire tracks
AFTER:  My Computer is Roadkill

One moment, I was considering how wonderful I look as Thor the Squirrel-God of Thunder and the next……….roadkill!

(Don’t those lines look like tyre threads?)

What followed were a few trips to various repair centres while carrying my elegant, sleek, silver and @#$&%@# darn heavy computer.  Then there was the anxious wait.  Will it survive?  Fortunately, all is now well.  Even my grand-niece, Ari, helped by invoking the healing power of the Lego Squirrel!

Ari squirrel
Ari: “By the power of GreySquirrel – Live Squirrel Live!”

Now ain’t she a cutie?

Dirty Job


You know, I was not always the handsome, debonair, upwardly mobile, world dictator wannabe.  Oh no.  Like everyone else, I had to start from the bottom and let’s face it, your bottom and my bottom may not be the same!

Errr…..what I mean is that some lucky sods start at the bottom of the pile but I had the fate of starting even further below that …….underground, so to speak.

My first job could be described as that of a “fecal surveillance hydrologist technician”.  But of course, I never heard anyone refer to me as that despite all the fancy name cards I handed out with that title proudly emblazoned.

No.  Instead I was kind of known as the Sewage guy or worse, the Shit Guy.  (…Cable Guy doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?).   You see, my job was to develop tests and to use them to detect the presence of water borne, disease causing pathogens in drinking water and since most of the nasties originate from the feces or shit of infected people, I was really looking out for traces of shit.

Yup, that was my job.  It involved taking water samples from all sort of water sources.  At the clean end, I collected tap water from a city distribution system.  But I also collected water samples in bottles from clear mountain streams,  less clear rivers, deep wells, aquifer pumps, shallow wells, muddy holes in the ground and at the other end of the spectrum, from sewage ponds.

In fact, I remember that my boss had a framed photo of himself in his office proudly showing him squatting next to a stinky sewage pond and reaching out to get a sample of dark, suspicious looking water.  I, on the other hand have burned all such photos of me doing that.  I have also over the years had to burn or bury many of my stinky work clothes!  Needless to say, my social life in those dark times was zilch.

But on a serious note, waterborne disease are estimated to affect billions and kill about 2.2 million annually.  In many countries,  clean treated potable water is still a privilege rather than the norm.  It is in these countries, that the need for simple, quick, portable  and cheap tests for monitoring water quality remains high.

To summarise, finding shit in drinking water……bad.  Doing something to remove the shit in drinking water ……..good.

hqdefault
LGS is still testing water for your safety.

What was your “start at the bottom of the pile” job?

Being a Watchman


Things are bad in my country these days.  When I remember the country from the time of my youth and consider it now, the thought that comes to mind is “how far we have fallen”.  Corruption, racial disharmony, falling education standards, injustice and religious intolerance all seem to be on the march. Sure the country could be worse but it was certainly once a lot better.

For a number of years now, Christian leaders have been urging Christians to come together and pray and to take part in a 40 day fast for the nation; to cry out for God’s mercy and transformative power to restore the country.  In the past, my involvement in this had been rather patchy but this year, I am committed to take this seriously, to be a watchman for the nation as described in the bible (Ezekiel 3).  A watchman keeps watch and warns of danger.

Now, I am a novice at fasting.  Before this, I have only fasted a couple of times.  So, trying to fast for 40 days is a big deal.  I mention this not because I am seeking praise or recognition but to encourage all Christians to take on the role of watchmen and to pray for their countries with serious commitment.

How does one fast? Some I know refrain from eating for 24-48 hours at a time while others understand fasting as giving up something for that period like meat or chocolates or these days, even internet.  There is nothing magical about the act itself or the form that it takes.  My understanding of fasting is to refrain from eating and to give that time over to seek God, to wait on Him, to read His word, to pray and to listen.  The key is time in prayer with God.

For me, I try to give up one meal or sometimes two meals a day and spend 1-2 hours in prayer.  Currently, I have fasted 6 days out of the first 8 days.  Last Sunday, I attended a wedding and dinner and did not fast ……….and last Friday, I gave in to the weakness of my flesh.  Ahem.

But what I really want to share with you here is that despite the hunger pangs, it has been a wonderful experience.  Whenever we set apart time to be with God, He meets us and even as we pray for transformation and restoration for the country, He transforms and restores us.

So, I urge all Malaysian Christians to make the commitment to join the 40 day prayer and fast; it is our responsibility but it will also be our joy.  Most of us find it easy to criticise and to snipe at our leaders and to complain about conditions in our country and yet treat it like it is someone else’s problem and we don’t need to lift a finger.  That is wrong.  The country’s problems are our problems.  We are the country.  So instead of criticism and sniping, let us pray for our leaders and our country, for wisdom, integrity, grace and justice for all.  (click here to get the NECF booklet that guides our fasting, prayer and reflections for the 40 days)

2017ePDF-PrayerBooklet-Eng-Adul

For readers from other corners of the world, pray too for your own countries and light up the darkness.

For other adventures of a fasting squirrel (some voluntary and some forced), read “Adventures in the Fast Lane“.

Bear Necessities -Revisited (Unburied Nuts)


Squirrels love to bury their precious nuts so as to uncover them later to enjoy at leisure. In the same way, this blog, from time to time, brings an old post back for another short period in the sun.  But this time, it is EXTRA SPECIAL.  The following post was about a sun bear rescue and rehabilitation centre and when I posted it back in January 2011, it was a very new work and the assistant keeper that I mentioned was still a graduate student.  Well, he is now Dr. Wong Siew Te and this month he was named as a CNN Hero.  Congratulations!

BEAR NECESSITIES (January 2011)

Recently I posted about the Orang Utan at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre on Borneo island.  However, I was privileged to have had a peek on he new conservation effort being carried out there – sun bears. Sun bears (Ursus malayanus), also known as honey bears, are found only in South-east Asia and are the smallest bear in the world.  adult bears stand only at about 1.2 metres.  Like the Orang Utan, many sun bears are displaced by forest clearing for development, orphaned by poachers or were kept as pet and later abandoned when they got too big.

I met Mr. X who was the assistant keeper who enthusiastically explained how they were trying to rehabilitate the bears so that they could be successfully returned to the wild.  Before they can be released, the young bears must be re-accustomised to the forest environment, must learn how to dig for food, climb trees and make nests to sleep in.   Mr. X also fondly explained the varied and fascinating character of his charges.

The bears are kept in cages either in small groups or singly.  Those in the cages by themselves are basically too grumpy to share a cage with other bears – there would be fighting.  I suppose it is no surprise that these loners were all male.   There was one cage with 4 young girls who all got on well with each other but even here there was a range of  personalities.  There was one girl who could be called the femme fatale cause she will appear friendly but go too close and she finds delight in ripping your trouser leg with her claws (too bad if you don’t wear trousers).  Mr. X had various scars to demonstrate that he learned all this the hard way.  On the other hand, there is Miss-Happy-go-lucky who seems to have a dumb smile for you in any situation.

Then I was introduced to two males who shared a cage.  These two get long together like best of pals but it is like the Odd Couple.  There is Mas who is quite bold where as Ah Chong is very timid.  Each cage has a door that opens outside into a fenced enclosure.  The door is opened for a few hours each day to encourage the bears to re-acquaint with the outdoors and forest.  Ah Chong was probably abused badly so he feels safe only in his cage.  Mas however, happily goes out as soon as the door opens and digs around for bugs to eat.  When Mas is gone, Ah Chong gets very anxious and hovers near the door to keep an eye out for his cage mate.  Later when Mas returns, Ah Chong gives him a bear hug and pushes Mas away fro the door and tries to keep Mas from going out again.  Interesting, no?

This work is in its infancy.  Hopefully the work will succeed though.  This squirrel would like to thank everyone who works hard to rehabilitate traumatized animals, including squirrels.

Bear Climbing – See the Characteristic White Marking and Those Long Claws
The Teenage Girls
Snooze Time

Viewing the World Through the Observation of Squirrels