5 Christmas Songs

Photocredit: wendyrosko

And another first for me. Daysgoby tagged me to do this. First time, that I’ve been tagged. How exciting.

5 Favourite Christmas Songs

1. O Little Town of Bethlehem (lyrics: Rector Phillips Brookes; music: Lewes Redner; 1867)
This hymn uses a lot of contrasts, such as “dark streets” contrasted with “everlasting light”, “mortal men sleep” while “angels keep watch”. But the one phrase that is very meaningful to me is “ the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.”
Christ’s coming has an eternal significance and it has to do with removing fear and giving hope for all mankind. For me, this is the spirit of Christmas.

2. O Holy Night (lyrics in French: Placide Cappeau; Translation: John Dwight; Music: Adolphe Adam; 1847)
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul it felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.”

Again, a reminder of the big difference, Christ’s birth has made to those who believe. A historical footnote: some say that this was the very first melody played on radio.

3. Little Drummer Boy (Lyrics and music: Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone; 1958)
It was a hit for a number of artists including Bing Crosby. However, my attachment to this song is because it was the song that my late favorite uncle would always insist I sing at family gatherings at this time of the year. I would squeal it out and be rewarded by a pat on the head by him. I will still do this for pats, old habits die hard. For a young kid, it was an easy song to learn as most of it consists of “pa rum pum pum pum”.

4. Night Before Christmas (music and lyrics: Carly Simon)
It’s a folksy song which I first heard on the soundtrack of that Steve Martin movie about black comedy about depression and murder around Christmas time entitled “Mixed Nuts”. I just like the music and especially the lyrics below which speak and reach out to those alone at Christmas.

“If you’re heart’s been longing, And you’ve been afraid to try
Sorrow’s kept you company, And the dance has passed you by
I’ll lift you up and blaze with you, Across the moonlit sky
On the night before Christmas

‘Cause you don’t have to be an angel
To sing in harmony
And you don’t have to be a child to love the mystery
And you don’t have to be a wise man, On bended knee
The heart of this Christmas is in you and me

The heart of this Christmas is in you and me
The night before Christmas
The night before Christmas”

5. Santa Baby (music and lyrics: Joan Jarvits, Philip Springer and Tony Springer)
Performed by the incomparable Eartha Kitt, this is my humorous antidote to the rife consumerism and promotion of the Jolly Santa that is occurring today. Plus she just sings it so, so well.


World Food Spot 3 : Mangrove Crabs

Bottom view

Top view

Mangrove Crabs are Ecologically significant……..
“Mangrove crabs have been shown to be ecologically significant in many ways. They keep much of the energy within the forest by burying and consuming leaf-litter. Furthermore, their feces may form the basis of a coprophagous food chain contributing to mangrove secondary production (Lee, 1997; Gillikin et al., 2001). As mentioned in Robertson et al. (1992), crab larvae are the major source of food for juvenile fish inhabiting the adjacent waterways; indicating that crabs also help nearshore fisheries. Crabs themselves are food for threatened species such as the crab plover (Seys et al., 1995; Zimmerman et al., 1996). Their burrows alter the topography and sediment grain size of the mangrove (Warren and Underwood, 1986) and help aerate the sediment (Ridd, 1996). Smith et al. (1991) found that removing crabs from an area caused significant increases in sulfides and ammonium concentrations, which in turn affects the productivity and reproductive output of the vegetation. Their findings support the hypothesis that mangrove crabs are a keystone species. (for cited references see http://www.mangrovecrabs.com).The mud crab, Scylla serrata (family Portunidae) is an economically important mangrove crab found in the estuaries of Africa, Australia and Asia. When they molt their shells, they can be served as a seafood delicacy, one of many types of soft shell crab. “
(This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article “Mangrove crab”. )
……………and Very Tasty!!
I have tried lobster and crayfish. They are good, but the king of the pot amongst the crustaceans for me has to be the mangrove or mud crab. Some skill is needed to eat this as there are a lot of bones or pieces of shell in the way. However, in comparison with lobster, I would say that the meat is smooth, tender to the point of melting in the mouth and sweeter.
The most common way of cooking it is in a chilli sweet and sour, rice vinegar based sauce. This remains my favourite as the sauce seems to complement the sweetness of the crab excellently and the sauce itself is delicious with bread or rice. Other popular ways including steaming with ginger or baked crab – both these methods have the advantage of retaining the natural flavor of the crab as much as possible. The crab can also be served fried with black pepper, fried with curry leaf or fried with butter and egg or even fried with marmite (yeast and vegetable extract for the non-British/Australian/NZ readers).
After View

Photocredit: Bucks in Oz

These crabs used to be plentiful. Today, due to over-harvesting, pollution and clearance of mangroves, in most parts of Malaysia, the remaining crabs are too small and are of poor economic value. The good seafood restaurants have to import the crabs from nearby Indonesia but even there, the crab populations are similarly under threat. For all of us, to continue enjoying this delicious delicacy, we must stop the decline in mangrove forests along the whole equatorial belt. In Malaysia, the mangrove areas have declined 50% in the last 50 years largely because they were considered undesirable and cheap lands for development.
Today we continue to try to pass the message that “Mangroves are not Wastelands” contrary to that, they are important to shoreline stability, removal of pollution, protecting the freshwater table and act as nursery for marine and coral fish and other aquatic organisms. Interestingly, the South Asian Tsunami of 26th December 2004 dramatically demonstrated the importance of mangroves in that many places which still had coastal mangroves including Malaysia did not suffer as seriously from damage and loss of life as areas which had cleared their coastal mangroves.

Squirrel’s Secret Spots No:3b (Bali-Ubud & Crafts)

Photocredit: Baronia Balinese Art

Gold Leaf Being Prepared in Temple Court

Terraced Paddy Fields

Pavilion Dining at Dirty Duck

Ubud Market

Intricate Stone Carvings

If somehow you can tire of the beautiful beaches, it’s time to head into the hills. There are many places you might visit including volcanos, lakes and temples. One popular day-trip from the beaches of Kuta is to take in the craft villages and to end up in the cultural centre of the island in Ubud. Alternatively, many are just as comfortable to stay in Ubud in anything from the most basic but clean accommodation to the most sensual and luxurious spas which are set amidst the forests, jungle streams or over-looking pastoral paddy fields. Ubud is a great base to explore nearby craft villages, for walks in the terraced paddy fields, to sample Balinese art and music or to unwind at a spa.

In the centre of Ubud are several art galleries of note, a crafts market (only for those who do not have time to get bargains from nearby villages), temples, and restaurants. Balinese food is generally mediocre and of suspect hygienic standards in some places. This is because there is a big difference between food prepared for celebrations and those prepared for everyday consumption. Unfortunately, the celebration cuisine invariably involves lots of meat and intensive preparation and unless you get invited to a celebration, most tourists will only get to sample this cuisine at some large, specialist restaurants.

There is one place that I would not hesitate to recommend and that is Bebek Bengil or the Dirty Duck Restaurant. Its specialty is …..crispy, deep-fried spiced duck, of course. Don’t worry though, the name of the restaurant refers to a flock of dirty ducks that entered the restaurant before their official opening and was taken to be a sign of good luck and does not refer to the food being served. Some of you will remember that I am a little partial to poultry but there are other things to eat. However, the number one reason for eating here is the tranquil view of the paddy fields, the swaying leaves of the palm trees, the cool breeze from the forests and if you are lucky you may get to sit in one of the pavilions right over the fields. This is ambience overflowing.

In summary, you can chose to shop for bargains and crafts, you can trek into villages or forests (bird watching is popular and there are lots of monkeys), you can pig out on good food, you can chill and take in the ambience, you can enjoy Balinese art and music or you can do it all.


I Get No Respect

With thanks for photo from Squirrel Patrol (http://crumsnatcher.wordpress.com/)

“I get no respect.” That used to be a catch-phrase for the late comedian Rodney Dangerfield. I know what he means. At least, Rodney had the advantage of an exciting name such as Dangerfield! I regret my given name is no help at all.

My Chinese name carries the meaning of “kind and gentle” or in other words a roll-over. I mean in today’s cut-throat world, one should have a strong name like “brave warrior”. No, even better, “Braveheart”. Yeah! Chinese names can carry slightly different meanings based on dialect and the phonetics. I have heard an alternative interpretation of my name to mean “cool celestial cloud”. If I had run off and joined a hippie commune as I had planned when I was younger, I could be cool with that meaning as it sounds vaguely free spirited and new age. Since I did not do so, that meaning still lags behind “Braveheart”.

When I studied in England, I found people could not get their tongues round my “cool” name which was not so cool. This time I cannot blame my parents cause I chose an Anglicized name myself. I chose the name because mainly, I wanted to be different and no one else I knew had that name. Since then I learned why that name is seldom chosen. Extensive research has brought me to the inescapable conclusion that my chosen name means only one thing, “bald”. I just hope that it’s not prophetic.

In Canada, I met up with a first people’s artist by the name of Shingosi. He mistook me as a native brother, probably because I have that down-trodden look. Anyway, after that misunderstanding cleared up, he invited me to his clan’s pow-wow and said he would give me an Indian name. I never made it to the pow-wow and missed this wonderful opportunity but I’d like to believe my Algonquin name might be like “Wolf Spirit”. Yeah!

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to seek the combined wisdom of the great Google community as to what might be my other names. If you would like to do the same then follow the links below.

My Squirrel Name is Deputy Nuttykins.
Deputy? I didn’t even make sheriff and what kind of family name is Nuttykins. It imples that all my relatives are nut-cases too. Hmm. Not a good start to this new name adventure.

My Native American Name is Grant’s Shadowy Pencil.
What?!?! Oh, mannnn! This is awful. Instead of some great warrior name, this name, I don’t know, perhaps it alludes to the untrustworthiness of General Grant’s treaties with the native peoples. But aw, man! “Shadowy Pencil”? that’s not even a pen or a peace pipe. Creator of Indian Name Generator speaks with forked tongue and twisted mind. Beware! I am sending telephatic tomahawks at you.

My Hobbit Name is Samwise Hornblower of Waymoot.
“Samwise”! Hurray! At last a hero’s name. Wait a minute. That was Samwise Gamgee! I don’t remember any Hornblowers from where? ….Waymoot?

My Elvish Name is Tuor of Nargothrond.
Okay, I can live with that but mainly cause I have no idea what it means. With my luck, Tuor probably means “bald”. Can you imagine a bald elf?

My Vampire Name is Consort of Crows.
Apparently, I was known as Sultan of Angels until I was cast out of heaven for being a vampire. What a demotion! From Sultan of Angels to Consort of Crows. That is a bad career move if ever I saw one. I thought all vampires would have cool and powerful names like “Fangs” or “Count Devilishly Charming”. I don’t think the few friends I have appreciate being refered to as crows either.

My Pirate Name isSharkbait” Doug Grimm.
Give me a break!!! “Sharkbait”?!?! What kind of name is that for a pirate? I’d even settle for a coloured beard like Bluebeard or Silverbeard.

My Name if I were the Pope is
Pope Envious Donald IV.
I really can’t get any respect. I get to be the Pope but I apparently am not Pious or Innocent but Envious. So true. I’d be envious of everybody else’s nice names.

My Star Wars Jedi Name is Lohch Hakua of the planet Glucophage.
I will settle for small mercies. Planet Glucophage sounds nice. After the other surprises above, I am just glad it isn’t Glob Offat from the planet Norespect.

My Fairie Name is Thorn Hailtree, protector of the lonely.
Oh great. When I am trying to be macho, I get wussie names but now that I’m trying to get a fairy name, I get Thorn Hailtree. Sounds butch. I thought fairies should have names like Tinkerbell, Sugerplum or Dewdrop. I’ll bet you that I am all alone protecting the lonely too. It’s probably one of the least popular fairy jobs to have.

Finally in desperation, I decided to find out what ….
My Porn Name is Orson Swift (if I am a pimp) and Ginger Wide (If I was the star).
I’m not sure but I think I would also get no respect from other pimps with a name like “Swift”. Ginger Wide? I’m not that desperate for a new name.

At the end of this exercise, I am resigned to getting no respect and am happy to be known as the Lone Grey Squirrel. I obviosly can do a lot worse.

I’d like to acknowledge my muse Kat who got me thinking by her wonderful coverage of the naming of the panda cub at Atlanta Zoo.


The Soul of a Man

Altar of the Church of the Good Shepard, Tekapo, NZ.

As Christmas approaches, I am reminded that the Christ child came into this world to bring light to the world’s darkness and to lead us back to a relationship with God. The Word became flesh and His light lit up our darkness.

This song was originally written by gospel/blues singer Blind Willie Johnson in the 1930s but the lyrics below is from the cover version done by Bruce Cockburn in 1991 in his album, “Nothing but a burning light”. Bruce, himself, has travelled a long road of discovery during which he dabbled into the occult and studied Buddhism before becoming a Christian. When he announced that he became a Christian, he lost a number of his humanist fans.

The Soul of a Man
I’m going to ask the question
Please answer if you can
Is there anybody’s children can tell me
What is the soul of a man?
Won’t somebody tell me
Answer if you can
Won’t somebody tell me
Tell me what is the soul of a man?
I’ve travelled different countries
Travelled to the furthest lands
Couldn’t find nobody could tell me
What is the soul of a man
Won’t somebody tell me
Answer if you can
Won’t somebody tell me
Tell me what is the soul of a man?
I saw a crowd stand talking
I just came up in time
Was teaching the lawyers and the doctors
That a man ain’t nothing but his mind
Won’t somebody tell me
Answer if you can
Won’t somebody tell me
Tell me what is the soul of a man?
I read the Bible often
I try to read it right
As far as I can understand
It’s nothing but a burning light
Won’t somebody tell me
Answer if you can
Won’t somebody tell me
Tell me what is the soul of a man?
When Christ taught in the temple
The people all stood amazed
Was teaching the lawyers and the doctors
How to raise a man from the grave
Won’t somebody tell me
Answer if you can
Won’t somebody tell me
Tell me what is the soul of a man?

Now Watch the Video

Bruce Cockburn speaks about his faith (Excerpts from interviews)

My faith has undergone drastic transformations and reformations. I was brought up as an agnostic, even though we were surrounded by the symbolism, and when I first became a Christian in the Seventies I didn’t really know what it was I’d adopted. I’ve always been aware of the spiritual side to life, and that awareness has sometimes been very tangible and vivid. But it’s one thing to have this direct experience of contact with something that appears to be central to existence, but then there’s all the uniforms people wear and the customs they adopt. For me, part of the journey has been deciding where I fit in. In the end, I’ve decided that I don’t fit in at all. The proper place for me is outside all the groups.

I still think of myself as a Christian. The only definition of a Christian – I got this from C.S. Lewis – is somebody who accepts the reality of Christ. What is that reality? Well, there we get into fights, don’t we? I know my own experience tells me there is somebody – and it’s not a thing – at the centre of Christianity. I assume it to be Christ, and assume that’s my point of contact with God, whom none of us have a very good definition for. I like to talk about Love rather than God. What we think of as love is his expression of involvement in the universe, and that is the glue that holds everything together, from the subatomic particles up. It is also the hand that breaks us apart, but that has to do with our failure to relate to it properly.

“If I try to understand what it means to be a Christian, I look at the two instructions that were given in the Bible that are paramount, . . . and those are to love God with all your heart and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it.”


Elephants of Kuala Gandah

Located near Lanchang, Pahang, is Malaysia’s National Elephant Conservation Centre. It is relatively easy to get to by car and is a pleasant 2 hour journey from Kuala Lumpur with great mountain and forest views along the way. I made that journey twice this week to attend a meeting at the National Institute of Biological Diversity or IKB which is nearby.

IKB is relatively new and has little to interest visitors but just 15 minutes away in the National Elephant Conservation Centre which is at a place called Kuala Gandah because it is the point where the Gandah River meets another river. This site was established in 1989 and is now the base for the highly successful elephant relocation program which was started in 1974.

The Centre takes in orphaned young elephants, take care of them and prepare them for release into the wild. The Centre is home to several specially trained older elephants which are used in the relocation program. These special elephants and their trainers were both trained in either India, Burma or both.

They play a very important role in elephant relocation. As the country has opened out its land for housing and cultivation of rubber and oil palm, the rainforest became fragmented and there exists pockets or islands of forests which are no longer contiguous with the main forest and wilderness areas. As development and encroachment continues to chisel away at the size of these forest islands, animals are no longer able to find sufficient food and they invade houses, farms and plantations. This was happening to the elephants. The solution was to catch them and transfer them to protected forests and therefore reduce human-animal confict.

When a problem elephant is spotted, it is tranquilized and nowadays often fitted with a radio-tracking collar. Two specially trained elephants are brought in on either side of the elephant so that it is re-assuringly hemmed in and kept calm by the other two elephants as it recovers from the tranquilizer. In this way, the problem elephant can be relatively controlled and can be transported relatively easily. Some 450 elephants have been translocated by this means. However, as the forests continue to shrink, the remaining wild havens are probably beginning to over-crowd and another solution to the elephant problem should be thought of.

If you visit Kuala Gandah in the afternoon, you can get right up and personal with some of the smaller and friendlier elephants. Watch them feed, touch them and pose for photos with them. You can even ride on their backs. After spending the afternoon obliging tourists and visitors and the elephants trundle down to the river and they hope that visitors will return the favor and pamper them as they bathe. The trainers will tell you what to do. “You, wash behind the ears.” “You can scrub his toenails.”

A great activity for the whole family in nice surroundings. Nearby there is an Orang Asli (aboriginal people) village with some houses still built from tree bark which is their traditional building material. Come, see, learn, enjoy and leave smelling like elephants.


Friendly Thoughts

“The Bestest of Friends”
Today I got an email from my longtime friend, Helen. We’ve known each other for over 20 years but due to distance and the distractions of living, we have been in contact less than ten times in the last 15 years. The last time we met in person, she was still single and obsessively worried that she’d be left on the shelf; something those of us who knew her were sure would not happen. Now she’s been happily married for years and a mother of three.

Anyway, I have been working very hard and very late and was feeling rather tired, when with the perfect timing that lifelong friends have, she sends me this uplifting slideshow by email. The slideshow has some fantastic pictures but it was the words and the message that stand out.

First it challenged the viewer to name the 5 richest men in the world, the last 5 Miss Universe winners, the last 10 winners of the Nobel Prize and the last 10 winners of Best Actor Oscar. I am sure that most of us would find it difficult to give all those answers.

Next it asked the viewer to name 3 teachers that helped direct your life, 3 friends who helped you in your times of need, think of a few people who made you feel special and 5 friends you would like to spend time with. I found this far simpler to answer.

The slideshow suggests that the people who really matter most to us are not those proclaimed the “best”, or those who won prizes or even those with the most money. Rather, they are the ones who cared for us, were there for us and those who stuck by us through thick and thin.

It then asked if we belonged to the first group or the second group. Finally, a message from Helen who said, “Let me give you a hand. You’re not in the rich or famous group but you belong amongst those I would remember to send this message to.”

Thanks Helen for remembering me and for making me feel special.

It reminded me once again that “googles” of money cannot buy happiness but just a better class of enemies. However, friends who do not grow cold and distant despite separation in time and space are precious jewels that adorn our lives and gives our lives sparkle. I know not why I have been so blessed. I don’t know if I deserve it but I do value them.

Fuzzy-Wuzzy Anglo-Egyptian, Greek Goddess, Julie H., Professor Debra, Juliet Nightingale and the Bickley Sisters, Brother It, God of Immunology, H. Lion Baht and the rest. You know who you are. I am thinking of you and saying a prayer for you tonight. God bless you, wherever you are.


Viewing the World Through the Observation of Squirrels