Category Archives: people

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
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I look but what do I see


old or young
This famous drawing asks us what we see – the young woman or the old hag?

Last week, I attended a funeral with some friends.  It was for an eighty year old lady who had been sickly for awhile and had finally succumbed.  I did not know her at all.  She was a distant relative of one of my friends.

She had traveled half way round the world to my neck of the woods to visit her son and then poor health intervened and prevented her from leaving.  She spent the last 3 years of her life unable to return home. Apart from close family, few people here knew her.  Those that did, only knew her as a sickly, bedridden woman who was totally dependent on others for her care.

But if some of us who attended the small service had been inclined to feel pity for her, we would be chastised.  When we learned more about her, we realised that she had lived a long, love-filled and inspirational life.  She had raised five children of which three were adopted and of different race and cultural backgrounds.  She also was foster parent to scores of other children  over the years.  She was also active in her church and as an advocate for children welfare.  I shamefully admit that I would never had guessed.

Her ashes are being returned home where there will be another memorial service – one that I believe will be attended by many, many people; lives that she had touched, helped and nurtured by her love.

Yesterday, I ran into an elderly gentleman whom I hadn’t seen for a few years.  He was quietly having a meal at a cafe with a friend.  He is a small man with a nondescript walking cane and a hearing aid.  Soft spoken and not one who naturally draws attention, he would easily have gone unnoticed.  Quite invisible to most of the younger patrons of the cafe, I think.

I went over to shake his hand and to greet him.  He was happy to spend a few minutes exchanging news and pleasantries.  To me and those who know this humble man, he is a giant.

He was responsible for setting up a major government department and ministry when Malaysia was nation building after independence.  His achievements garnered international recognition and he was asked to help set up similar ministries and departments in other newly independent nations within the British Commonwealth.  He serve the country for decades with great distinction.

He was also active in Christian charity and church work and he continues to do so till today at the age of 101.   A giant of a man.

Why am I sharing these two stories? Well, I have been kind of reminded that we tend to make assumptions of people based on first impressions and too often our assumptions are negative and frequently wrong.

I grew up in Asia and am a product of the Confucian philosophy that is part of many Asian societies . We are taught from an early age the importance of respecting our elders and to honor our teachers.   So I was surprised when I went to University and one of my revered professors told us lowly first years during orientation week that while he did not know us from Adam, he would always expect that some of us, if not all, would achieve more in our scientific careers than he had.  He saw that each of us had potential that remained undiscovered.  We were not lowly students but potentially Nobel Prize winners.

(Editor’s note: regular readers will now understand why the Lone Grey Squirrel remains obsessed with the Nobel Prize and why he hasn’t got one yet!)

That professor taught me a valuable lesson about seeing the good and the potential in others.  I have always remembered that and tried to do so in my own life.

Indeed, the bible teaches this very thing;

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philipians 2:3-4)

I am still trying and frequently have to remind myself to see others through my limited mindset but to value them and their potential for greatness, beauty and love. I look but do I really see?  You know what I mean?

 

Hallelujah! Christmas Blessings!


‘Tis the season to remember the gift of God to all mankind.

For unto us a child is born, a son is given….. (Isaiah 9:6)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

May you and your loved ones experience the joy and love of God this Christmas – a love that compelled God to send Jesus from the glories of heaven to be born in a lowly manger, to live faultless amongst ordinary men and women, and finally to lay down his life for our sake on the cross of Calvary.

It is reason indeed to rejoice and praise God. This following video is of Kaylee Rodgers, a 10 year old from Nothern Ireland who has autism and ADHD. She began singing as a way to build her confidence. Together with the Killard House School choir of special needs children, she sings a Christmas worship version of ‘Hallelujah’. Jesus would be pleased.

Lyrics for “Hallelujah Christmas” by Cloverton

I’ve heard about this baby boy
Who’s come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I’m singing Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God’s only Son was born, oh Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You’ll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wisemen three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah

S for Shilpa, F for Fun


Well, there’s been a lot of bad news of late.  I think we are all overdue to have some FUN for a change and right on cue, famous Bollywood actress and celebrity, Shilpa Shetty, has come to our rescue. God bless her.

During an interview, she commented on the decision by Indian authorities to include Harry Potter books as part of the school syllabus.  She thought it was a great idea and threw in a suggestion or two of other books that would be a boon to young minds. (see picture below).

Image result for shetty animal farm

Inspired by her views on Little Women and Animal Farm, the internet wags have been a bit merciless in developing the theme of books that should be included in the reading programs of our children.  Here are some great suggestions;

Fifty Shades of Grey – an amazing colouring book. Children will  love it.

The Life of Pi – should be read by all children as it will enhance their mathematical skills.

Mein Kampf – is a nice guide on camping and other outdoor activities.

The Hobbit – is good.  All children should be encouraged to develop good hobbits.

Anyway, this squirrel pondered over the books in his library to see what books I might recommend too.  I came up with the following;

Gone with the Wind – learning about the fury of Nature and the power of tornados.

Stephen King’s IT – Never too young to start learning about computers.

The Maze Runner – sharpen your child’s mind with this giant book of crosswords, puzzles and mazes.

The Name of the Rose – introduce your child to the wonders of gardening and horticulture with this guide book to the hundreds of rose species.

V for Vendetta – the classic children’s alphabet book but with an updated and relevant twist. (A is for Apple Inc., B is for Brexit…….. Z is for Zika)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – teaching children about different career choices for when they grow up.

But  totally, totally NOT RECOMMENDED is Moby Dick.

Perhaps, dear readers, you have other books that you might suggest?

 

Goodnight Mr. Cohen and Thanks


Leonard Cohen (September 21, 1934 – November 10, 2016).  A novelist, poet and songwriter.  A beautiful soul has passed ahead of us.  I’m sorry Bob Dylan but for the Nobel Prize for Literature, I would have thought of Leonard Cohen  ahead of you.

Here is a little tribute and remembrance post to this wonderful individual whose words and music can touch our hearts.  I decided not to post some obvious choices like “Suzanne” or “Hallelujah” as I expect they will be cropping up all over.  I had previously posted on two of my favorites “Famous Blue Raincoat” and “Villanelle for Our Times”. So here are two more of his stellar songs as sung by two lovely songstress.

 

Yikes!


“President Trump. ”

“What? Really? Are you serious?”

“Yes, really”

“Hahahaha….hahaha….hahaha….(nervous laugh)”

“President Trump! It’s official!”

“Aaaarrggghhhh! The sky is falling…..the sky is falling……..”

After I run helter skelter until I am exhausted, I calm down and I reasoned……. maybe it won’t be so bad. Yeah, we can’t change the fact that he will be the next American President and leader of the free world.

Yeah, we just gotta give him the benefit of the doubt………

clowns-pennywise2.jpg
…..my heart is still beating with fear though.

The Storytelling Singer


So Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature 2016.   An unusual and unexpected choice because this is the first time the award has been given to a songwriter.  That Bob Dylan is one of the most influential songwriters ever and that he deserves recognition as a poet is in my opinion without doubt.  However, some will criticize the decision.

American comedian Rob Delaney wrote on Twitter “Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize for Literature? What’s next, [former baseballer] Derek Jeter wins a Tony for his rice pilaf?”

But since, we are talking about songwriting as good literature, I thought I would share with you one of my favorites which also happens to have an earworm for me for the last few days.

I refer to the 1967 number one hit, “Ode to Billie Joe”, which won three Grammys for its singer-songwriter Bobbie Gentry.  I was just 6 years old when I heard it for the first time and  I had not yet developed my understanding of nor a sense of my personal taste in music but even then I was hooked on this song.  I liked the very simple guitar and strings arrangement  but I was really fascinated with was the story that the song was telling and the way it was being told;  a story of tragedy and mystery being woven in with ordinary, even banal conversation in a very ordinary setting.  Interestingly, it has been reported that Bob Dylan did not think so highly of Bobbie Gentry’s writing style in that song and that he wrote “Clothes Line Saga” (recorded in 1967; released on the 1975 album The Basement Tapes) as a parody of that writing style.   He had originally titled his song as “Answer to Ode”.

Well, ex-cu-se me, Mr. Recently Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, but I like the song and the way Bobbie Gentry wrote it.  Like any other fine literature, it engages, it draws one in, it tells a story about life, it affects us emotionally and it leaves us with as many questions as it answers.

Here without further ado is the work itself……..

It was the third of June,
another sleepy, dusty Delta day.
I was out choppin’ cotton
and my brother was balin’ hay.
And at dinner time we stopped,
and we walked back to the house to eat.
And mama hollered at the back door
“y’all remember to wipe your feet.”
And then she said she got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

Papa said to mama as he passed around the blackeyed peas,
“Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense,
pass the biscuits, please.”
“There’s five more acres in the lower forty I’ve got to plow.”
Mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow.
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge,
And now Billy Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

And brother said he recollected when he and Tom and Billy Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show.
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece of apple pie, you know it don’t seem right.
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge,
And now you tell me Billy Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

Mama said to me “Child, what’s happened to your appetite?
I’ve been cookin’ all morning and you haven’t touched a single bite.
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today,
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday. Oh, by the way,
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

A year has come ‘n’ gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe.
Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo.
There was a virus going ’round, papa caught it and he died last spring,
And now mama doesn’t seem to wanna do much of anything.
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge,
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge.

There!  Did you catch my earworm?