Category Archives: news

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.
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Bethlehem – Worst View


With Christmas just round the corner and I reflect on Christ’s birth, I often think of the words of my favorite carol,

O little town of Bethlehem
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
For Christ is born of Mary
And gathered all above
While mortals sleep, the angels keep
Their watch of wondering love
O morning stars together
Proclaim the holy birth
And praises sing to God the King
And Peace to men on earth

And so, I was blessed to have just returned from a visit to the Holy Land and I got to go to Bethlehem.  And just in time too, as with President Trump’s announcement of the USA recognising Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, things there are likely to become a whole lot more complicated and unsafe.

I have to say that Bethlehem was not at all what I expected.  As per the carol above, I would always imagine Bethlehem as a quiet, sleepy little village.  The reality is that Bethlehem is a noisy, bustling, dusty town.  The streets are filled with traffic and there is a busy bus terminal a short distance from the Church of the Nativity (the supposed birthplace of Christ).  I don’t think these days there is any “how still we see thee lie” or “Silent Night” in Bethlehem.

The other thing that I witnessed in my short visit was the animosity and fear.  Bethlehem is under Palestinian Authority and Israel has built a very, very tall wall separating it from Jerusalem and Jewish settlements (part of a 708 km long barrier which the Israelis call a security barrier, the Palestinians call an apartheid wall and the International Court of Justice called illegal). In Bethlehem, the wall is up to 8 m high.

As a result of the barrier, Palestinians cannot easily travel around to Israeli controlled areas without permits and having to undergo security searches at the few gates in the barrier.  I know of one former colleague whose 5 minute walk to work was transformed to a one hour commute due to the barrier.  Similarly, Israelis cannot venture into Palestinian controlled areas with out due cause and permits and if they do, personal safety is always a worry.  These difficulties have also reduced tourism, business and jobs in Palestinian areas.

I also witnessed the tension within the community.  On the streets and in the shops, suspicion and wariness of each other was occasionally evident between the different communities.  I also saw some Islamic extremist hate literature plastered on some walls and heard the duel between the Muslim call for azan and the pealing of church bells.

There is no peace and there is no quiet on the streets of Bethlehem today.  What would Jesus think?

I think, Jesus would not be surprised.  Man will be selfish, jealous, covetous and contentious. It is the nature of man, our sinful nature and this is why he came to be born; to give us a better way which is beyond our own means to attain.  This is the hope that he brings. Peace and hope.

And if the world seems, for the most part at the moment, to be ignoring his message, perhaps it is no surprise either.  The King of Heaven was born in Bethlehem but the world mostly ignored him then too.  In fact, as we are told, there was no room for him at the inn.

On that note, I want to end this reflection with sharing about an inn or rather a hotel that I saw in Bethlehem.  It gave me a chuckle amidst all the gloom.  The hotel is right by the wall.  It faces the wall.  The management admits that it has “the worst view of any hotel in the world” and its rooms only get about 28 minutes of direct sunlight a day.  This is Bethlehem’s answer to the famous Waldorf Hotel.  It is the Walled Off Hotel.

I later learned that this hotel was set up by the famous artist, Banksy, to help create job opportunities for the Palestinians, support Palestinian artists (the hotel also functions as an art gallery) and make a statement about the political situation and the wall.

Ladies and gents ……….. I give you the Walled Off Hotel.

 

National Costume ……..Reboot


Dear gentle readers, Malaysia is making the news again.  This time it is over our choice for national costume,

You see, the annual meat market …….. er…. I mean, the Miss Universe Pageant is rolling round again and one section of the pageant requires the young ladies who are proudly representing their countries to dress up in their national costume.

Now Malaysia is blessed because we are a multiracial country with a rich heritage and inspiration for a national costume could come easily from any one of our many races and tribes.  So, once upon a time, you might expect something like the following;

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L to R:- Iban, Indian, Malay, Chinese, Kadazan

But apparently, in this the 66th year of the Pageant, traditional national costumes seem to have become a bit stale.  After all, how many variations of the same theme can one do?  There is always the pressure of grabbing attention by doing something new and fresh.

After all, Miss Universe Thailand won best national costume in 2015, not dressed in charming traditional garb but dressed like Bangkok’s ubiquitous Tuk-Tuk.

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So, inspired by Miss Thailand’s success, our very own Miss Malaysia (Samantha Katie James)  decided to get dressed up as Malaysia’s favorite breakfast called Nasi Lemak.

I kid you not.  The key ingredients of this tasty treat are steamed rice in coconut cream, fried anchovies and peanuts, egg, cucumber slices and spicy chilli sambal.  This delicious combination is usually served on banana leaf.  It looks like this…….

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Mmm…..mmmm…….delicious.

And here is the nasi lemak inspired dress……..

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Now isn’t that yummy…… I mean, pretty.  Oh, I don’t know, man, I’m drooling…… I mean, feeling hungry.

And controversy doesn’t end there.  Some netizens are also crying foul.  It seems Singaporeans and Indonesians feel that nasi lemak is theirs and not Malaysia’s.  Well, the dress is certainly getting attention!

The Lone Grey Squirrel only wants to know if the dress smells delicious too.

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.

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

Alt Bohemian Rhapsody (Fake Song)


Now, despite my views of Mr. Trump, I have been keeping relatively silent about the going-ons in the White House for the last 6 months.  One, because there is already too much coverage on it in the media and on the internet and two, out of respect for those who still support the man.  I may disagree with your views but I felt it would be wrong to deride or ridicule them.

And then, I came across this wonderful gem below on the internet which touched on the recent short 10 day term of Anthony Scaramucci as Trump’s Communications Director and other current news.  It has been reposted so I don’t even know its original source but I thought it was really creative and funny.  So forgive the squirrel for this lapse in said principles above.  But this deserves to be celebrated.  Mago, I think you would particularly enjoy this.

Try singing it to the tune of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and have fun.

Scaramucci rhapsody

Civil Disobedience


I am sure that most of you have by now heard of the song Despacito by Luis Fonsi and featuring Justin Beiber.  This month it became the world’s most streamed song of all time with over 4.6 billion streams.  In fact, you have probably seen the video and heard the song so many times that you are beginning to lose your grip on sanity.  Everywhere you turn, the song or the video is playing for the umpteenth time.

Well, not in Malaysia.  If you need relief, come to Malaysia.  It is a Despacito free zone; at least you will not hear it on any government run radio station or see it on any government run or government related TV channels.  The Malaysian government, at the behest of self appointed religious police, has declared the song lyrics obscene and banned the song.

These are the same people who recently tried to ban the use of names like hot dogs, pretzel dogs, Coney dogs etc because it was offensive to those who considered dogs to be unclean.

Anyway, being a passive aggressive squirrel, I have decided to do an act of civil disobedience by posting this cover version of the song that is being played using the traditional Malay “gamelan” instruments – although it is by a group from  our neighbor, Indonesia.

………..because you just can’t stop the squirrel!  Hope you like it.