March 2009


We miss our friends Bill and Kim who were here with us last year and went home in June. They are our age with kids our age and we shared a similar love for adventure and music. We also shared a similar faith, which is also nice.

Both Kim and Bill were principals in Canada, Bill retiring a few years ago and Kim retiring just days before they flew to Malaysia. Both of them brought a level of competence and caring to the school where I teach that made a lasting impact on this educational environment. I was here in time to seeing the last regime at the school, and it wasn’t a pretty picture: angry and disappointed teachers; a spirit of selfishness and insularity that resisted change and innovation; acrimony and discord throughout the program.

Bill and Kim would have none of that. Their cheerful competence and get-it-done attitude swept through this place like a cleansing breeze. Clean-up days and class trips were organized; extra sessions laid on for English training; even staff meetings became more positive and goal-oriented. They just had no room in their busy lives for negative nonsense, and it simply disappeared. The new crop of teachers never knew anything different and they simply kept pace. The result is that we now have a different attitude here that is Bill and Kim’s lasting contribution to this school.

Although they have gone back to Canada, Bill and Kim are still impacting this program. They started a support group in Canada for Malaysian students who graduated from this program and are now studying in Canada. Recently they rented a bus and invited the ones who were in the Toronto area out to their house for a get together. Forty-five of them showed up! Our friends Ken and Susan, who were also part of the sea change that happened here, did a similar thing in Montreal, hosting thirty-five of them.

We miss our friends from last year, but we are grateful for the impact for good that they have had on so many lives in Malaysia and back in Canada. It is amazing what two caring people can do, and we are fortunate to count them among our friends.


Going to the mall is very definitely a national pastime here and the malls are amazing.  Malls are open 365 days a year and are air conditioned, what’s not to like?  Our local mall includes a Lagoon Waterpark and two other theme parks as well as an ice rink.  There is even a local hockey league and several of the staff are key players.  As you can see by the picture, there is even a Wendy’s close at hand but sadly, no Tim Horton’s.

My birthday happened to coincide with a play-off game between two teams, each of which has one of our colleagues on the roster.  The group went out for supper at Tony Roma’s and then cheered for our favourite team.  Being teachers, of course we were assigned a team to cheer for and given banners to wave and there was much singing and cheering.  I am sure no one in that mall had ever heard the theme from Hockey Night in Canada before  and I am reasonably sure that they just thought we were all out of our minds.

Farshad and Les even treated the crowd to a post game, jersey removing “fight”.  It was good fun, with a great group of staff and hopefully Steve’s throat will heal before he goes to England this weekend.


Our sun is a typical star, right? Nope, you couldn’t be more wrong, but your opinion is entirely understandable, since that is how it is often portrayed. In fact our sun is more massive than 95% of all stars. Stars without our sun’s mass are incapable of holding habitable planets in orbit, immediately eliminating them from contention for the possibility of sentient life.

So what about the 5% of stars that have our sun’s mass, or greater? Surely they could hold planets? True, and in fact a number of planets have been detected around stars more massive than our own. But their size is their nemesis. More massive stars are hotter and radiate substantially more ultraviolet light than our sun. Ultraviolet light breaks the bonds of biological molecules and UV light is itself disastrous for the formation of an atmosphere. Our sun emits less than 10% of its energy as UV light, making our sun very rare indeed.

But it is not only our sun’s mass and the nature of the radiation that it emits rare, but so too is its stability. Unlike many stars, our sun has singularity. Many stars are binary, and the nearest ‘one’ to us, Alpha Centauri, is in fact three stars in close proximity, making life impossible. Nor is our sun variable, as most stars are, emitting a change in the amount of radiation produced over time. Our sun is remarkably dull in this department, with almost a negligible variation in radiation emitted. Apparently this radiation is not only stable, it has been consistently so for a remarkably long period of time, perhaps as much as 5 billion years and will remain so long into the future, as much as another 5 billion by some estimates. These factors: distance from the cataclysmic center of the galaxy,  high mass, consistent radiation, low incidence of UV radiation, singularity and longevity make our sun almost unique in the galaxy.

Speculating about life around other suns is fun, and I love a good science fiction story as much (and probably more) than most. I will see the new Star Trek movie as soon as it hits the screens in KL. Aside from driving movies and science fiction novels, keeping the notion of extra-terrestial life alive is also a good funding strategy for NASA and other science agencies that depend on public acceptance for their financing. But beware of public opinion on this subject. It can be manipulated for purposes that serve the needs of the few, at the expense of the understanding of many. The Earth is rare, and perhaps unique.

Okay. Pam and I are new at this, and hosting a blog is going to take some getting used to. But we do want to stay in touch, and we are not too old to learn. So bear with us and forgive our mistakes as we attempt to navigate our way around this new domain.”


It has now been two years since we started this adventure in blogging and it has been great.  We have often been frustrated with our total lack of knowledge  of computers and the terminology involved in this world but we have learned many things.  We are very grateful to our son, Jon who has been a huge source of information and encouragement and has bailed us out more than once.

Thanks to our blog stats we know we have 213 posts on our site and we have had close to 23,000 hits: 378 on our busiest day.  Sadly, we have had only 388 comments so please, if you drop by, say Hi.  Don’t worry, your comments will not go directly to the site as all comments must be approved, and can be edited, by us before they are posted.

At this point it is a real joy to have this web journal to keep as a record of all we have experienced in these past two years.  I must admit though that we still do not  fully trust computers yet, so now  want to figure out how to print it in hard copy.


I have always held that the view that anything slavishly followed by too many people must, of necessity, be wrong. When I was younger I had my hair long. But when long hair become a badge of social acceptance among my peers, I cut it off, then cheerfully confronted the reverse discrimination that followed. When Time magazine famously declared ‘God is Dead’ and millions lined up in rows behind that banner, I figured it was high time I began investigating the truths of the Bible for myself.

Global warming has been much in the news the last twenty years or so. My understanding of that phenomenon has been much enlightened by Rare Earth, a book written in 2000 by Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee. Rare Earth disputes the notion of Coperinican Mediocrity that was the darling of the late Carl Sagan, among others. According to this notion, the earth is an insignificant peice of dirt among the vastness of the universe, with nothing unusual to its credit.

According to Sagan, and his associate Frank Drake, there are as many as a million civilizations out there in our Milky Way Galaxy alone, and many hundereds of millions more on far distant stars. Considering the recent revision of the number of stars in our galaxy, and the number of galaxies in the universe, the number of civilizations out there must be truly mind-boggling. Certainly plenty of species to populate an infinite number of Star Trek reruns.

Since this is now the popularly held view of space, I naturally think it is bunk, and I cheerfully encourage you to do the same. You could no better than to begin your study with Rare Earth, a highly readable book on the orgins of the earth, whose countervailing conclusion is that the earth is so unique, so rare, that perhaps we really are alone in the universe. Their study and its stunning conclusions are part of the growing awareness of what is called the Anthromoporphic Principle: that so many things in the universe – from the mass of protons, to the position of the earth – are so carefully calibrated that even the most minute deviation would have made existence impossible.

Ward and Brownlee discuss about ten of these in good detail, and allude more briefly to a dozen others. Along the way they deal with some naive notions of eath’s importance, such as the fact that if we were really important we would be at the center of the galaxy, not two-thirds of the way out in some ‘remote’ region of the Milky Way. We are in fact in the optimal position: any closer and life would have been sterilized by the DNA destroying gamma rays emanating from the center of our galaxy; any further out from the center and the abundance of elements heavier than helium – elements necessary for planetary formation – rapidly declines.

In a similar way we are in the exact center of the CMZ, the continuously habitable zone, that is present around our (see the next post) remarkable stable sun, a position not enjoyed by our closest, and lifeless neighbours, Mars and Venus.

But clearly location isn’t everything (even in real estate) since the moon shares our exact location from the sun on average, and is itself lifeless. That is also explored by Ward and Brownlee, who point to the creation of atmosphere by the restless mantle of our earth, a mantle that is itself unique. To say that the earth itself is a living organism is not too much of a stretch once you properly understand its relationship with the organisms it supports. I’ll have more on these thoughts later, including the much ballyhoo’d global warming. Stay tuned.


We are incredibly grateful for the technology that keeps us connected to our family and friends!

Our web visits with Jon and Nic and the kids allow us to hear their little voices, watch them try to interact with us and see how happy they are to have each other in their little lives.  Ben seems to know who we are as he gets very excited as soon as he sees us and immediately begins blowing kisses.  Abi, of course doesn’t know yet what is going on but it is such a joy just to watch her grow up.

We are starting to long for  June and the chance to hold them again.




I just returned from a wonderful, three day retreat that was a gift from a special group of women in the West who are part of a ministry dedicated to serving and encouraging women in cross-cultural service.

One of the real challenges of my life is the sense of being isolated from like-minded women.  There are many people who have a good sense of what I do but I don’t often get to share with women who really understand what that means.  On this retreat I met women who enjoy going into a prison as much as I do, who miss their kids and grandkids terribly but get great joy from impacting the lives of families in their country of service, and really appreciate the beautiful homes and conveniences of North America but would gladly trade that in for a little house in a remote village for the privilege of serving God. 
In a spectacular, safe environment with fabulous food, inspiring leaders and teachers, pampering and gifts, I was able to share with more than 70 other women that “get my life”.  Probably too much of that was done in the wee hours of the morning, when my room mate and I should have been sleeping, but we will get caught up on our sleep later. There was lots of laughter and even more tears but mostly there was joy!

It was a particular joy to meet the twenty-one volunteers who so freely gave their time, their unique gifts and even their finances, to come to Thailand and serve us, but I am also very grateful to an army of other women who work dilgently behind the scenes who made this possible. They have a unique and and valuable ministry and all of us came away encouraged and refreshed.

If you are interested in knowing about (joining?) this very unique ministry you can visit them yourself at

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