Friday, April 20, 2018

Beer Can

Its been nearly three months that we have been in Penang and it has been great. This said having lived 32 years in Bermuda, another island, I do feel many similarities abound. The endless motorcycles of course. Weaving in and out of traffic on both sides, no helmets here and I have seen 5 people on one bike as my personal record -- that didn't happen in Bermuda or rather I don't think it did anyway. Craziness, yes. But perhaps not quite this crazy.

Both are islands so that does mean a certain insularity. An apartness from those on the mainland, wherever or however far away that mainland actually is -- in Bermuda it is 600 miles but we still feel it.

Shared heritage too. Both are/were British colonies, Bermuda rather older than the upstart that is Penang by some 177 years or so (1786 versus 1609). So both share the same common language, that knot that binds us together. (I have just finished watching the Commonwealth Games which I thought were wonderful, part of which prompted this post). Or do we?

Bermudjian is the way the local people speak the language in Bermuda and it really does have its oddities. My children Alex and Ali speak it like the natives that they are and can turn it off and on at will. Sounds strange sometimes to hear them cracking along with their friends in what sounds like another language but then comes down to that lowest common denominator:

"That's what I'm talking about".

"You got that right!"

"I'm saying."

"Uh huh"

and of course the ubiquitous:

"Fat, bye" which has no known translation but which can be used just about anywhere in conversational Bermudjian.

With these short simple phrases you can have a conversation lasting hours, with the duration of the conversation being dependent on the availability of some fine local rum or Elephant beer, Carlsberg of course, "to refrAsh the vocal chords, don't you know (pronounced "doan-chu-noow")."

The Beer-muda Triangle

No spelling mistake there as Bermudjian often replaces vowels with others seemingly at random. As for double negatives and malapropisms, well...

Take this simple phrase: "You don't tell me nuffin'"

Loosely translated it means "You don't tell me nothing". A double negative, yes... but is it?

At first glance this could be a cry from the heart of someone desperate to know things but who is being deliberately excluded from those things as in "you doan tAll me nuffin, bye". But on reflection it could also be a directive in the same way as "doan chu tAll me nuffin, bye" is a directive although slightly differently worded. A request given rather peremptorily to someone to not give him or her instructions, the implied undertone being that the instructions will not be followed and that the requestee is rather put out by the fact that someone has the temerity to think about giving an instruction when clearly that other person has no right to do so and in all likelihood is being "dis-respActful".

This is the worst thing that anyone can do to another Bermudjian. Be dis-respActful.

Coming to Penang it has been an assault on many of my senses, one being the language. Of course the local language takes precedence but when it comes to the use of English, some times it makes my eyes water until you actually get into the rhythm of what is being said.

The loose translation of 'yes' is 'ya'. I never realized that until I filled in an official form for something which had one of those yes/no boxes translated into both languages and saw the yes/ya option presented for the first time. I had thought that 'ya' was a very chummy greeting as in the Bermudjian "ya ya mon".

After playing tennis one day in chatting with one of the other guys who turned out to be a business coach, he told me that the Malays didn't finish what they were saying when they spoke. They ran out of context and content before they finished usually so they would add a few cheerful "ya's" or most normal "la's" to the end of what they were saying as in:

"Bring me a beer la".

The 'la' is redundant but it does end the phrase correctly and makes the sound of what has been said feel about right. And I guess at the end of the day we can drone on and on about the mangling of the Queen's English but it is a living language in the way that say Latin no longer is and has a life and breadth of its own, wherever you may go. It just takes a little while to get to grips with how the language is chosen and what the local rhythm is. Makes for tricky moments when the gap in understanding is fairly wide but one of the solutions certainly here in Penang is the use of the word 'can'. It is used on its own in the context of "certainly that can be done. No problem. Hope you enjoy the outcome." But this is all truncated in popular use so that the correct response to that earlier request would be:

"Beer can"

Hope this is all clear.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The global sport

Its Sunday morning in Penang and I am watching Liverpool play Watford in a premier league match on tape delay. I just checked on the nationalities of the players on display and there aren't that many Brits. It underlines for me that this game and more so this league is THE global league of THE global game. Just don't expect there to be many Brits actually on the field, particularly in the creative positions in midfield or up front.

This is a World Cup year so the English media will hype up England's chances as usual but really what we have are some decent full backs and central defenders and some hardworking journeymen defensive midfielders. As for the creative element? A Messi or more specific to the game I am watching now, a Salah -- who is in the process of scoring 4 and laying on the other in a 5-0 drubbing?  Sadly not. Harry Kane undoubtedly is a terrific finisher but he does that with the help of a Dane, a Korean and a variety of other nationalities. I am pretty pleased that Iceland didn't make it but undoubtedly there is a another banana skin beckoning.

I don't know why but watching the game made me think of a cup match my school old boys team played in the Southend Borough Combination some 40+ years ago. It finished 13-11 after double extra time. No penalties back then, you just played till you finished.

It was the regular 90 minutes plus extra time of two 15 minute halves and then another two 10 minute halves. It was 8-8 after 90 minutes, 11-11 after the first period of extra time and we went down 13-11 after the second period. One guy on their side scored 5 and should really have scored 10. Nobody on our side scored more than 1 goal and there were no substitutes which means that everyone including our goalkeeper scored.  I cannot believe that that record will ever be beaten!

I haven't watched any amateur games for years so do wonder if the global game at its grass roots level is still played this way. I do hope so.

Incidentally this is a great advert, particularly so as the poor suffering opponents are wearing the same strip that we used to!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Plus Ca Change, Penang Style

The Far East is the most populous part of the world by a distance. Something like 60% of the global population are near by, well relatively nearby so one of the things that happens is that the cost of labour is cheap. Being someone that does economics for a living, I remember reading that globally there are only 2 billion jobs. Given the population size this means that nearly 50% of all working age people are either unemployed or under-employed so little pressure on businesses to pay up for staff.

That is noticeable here in Penang. The island has 750,000 people and is of relatively small size so is very busy and crowded but also that means lots and lots of low paying jobs away from the factory complexes which are very high tech indeed (Pharma, Tech, Chips, etc) so require highly trained white collar skills as well as the command of English. Away from this salaries drop precipitously and you can see that with jobs that simply wouldn't exist in the west, here there are always people and in many cases multiple levels of back up for that job.

I am completely OK with this as I follow the trend of robotisisation (if that's not a word, it soon will be) and the use of Artificial Intelligence to enhance tech solutions even though I don't necessarily agree with it all as people do need to work for a living. What would they do if there no jobs? Nothing good I suspect.

I met a guy here recently who manages his California IT business from just down the road. OK that's nothing special I know as many people do that these days but its what he does that blew me away.

If you remember the last two Jason Bourne movies, you may remember that on at least two occasions the CIA trackers were trying to find him by hooking into local CCTV networks remotely from wherever it was that they were located and by communication links directing their trackers to find Jason. That was managed by people so even though it took seconds in the movie, that was pretty darned inefficient according to this guy.

Imagine now that you want to do that and you harness the power of AI into the loop. Ditch the people watchers and replace them with a computer image that you have of the person you want to track. And then do it globally. Apparently once you do all of this correctly it now takes less than a nanosecond to find whomever it is that you want to find. Anywhere in the world.

Unsurprisingly law enforcement agencies from all over the world are buying this technology and adopting it. So this computer nerd from the 1970's is now an AI superstar with killer technology that everyone wants. Forget about the intrusion into your personal life. See what this wonder technology can do! I told him that this was 1984's worst nightmare come to life. He laughed. Thanks!

However that world has not made it here yet. Well not entirely anyway. There's a wonderful taxi service here called Grab, a Singapore start up and a competitor to Uber which is also here. As the local taxis are dreadful, both these guys have killed the licensed taxi industry. The service is very fast, very cheap and the people that drive the cars are happy to use this for a second job. We have used both frequently and both are fantastic. We have also met some great local people, all friendly, all inquisitive on their side too.

One young man we met in this way said that his lifetime career ambition was to own his own hawker stand selling the best chicken rice. We asked him his recipe and he said he would be learning from a chicken rice sifu and go from there. Talk about life aspirations but typical of here and I imagine typical of this highly populous region. AI won't have much luck competing with this young man I hope.

The original purpose of this post was something different but clearly I had that other stuff on my mind too! We are just settling in here and have moved into an apartment where we wanted some work done. Nothing major, just putting in a sink and cabinet. Sounds simple but just as anywhere else as soon as you start off with a contractor, he says well if you want that, you'll have to do that and that will be more expensive. Sound familiar? Anyway we agreed on a price way more than we expected and the works to do and the cabinet installers have just been in and I have to acknowledge they did what looks like a great job. The cabinet has a lovely new cabinet smell too.

The various stages of work
So I went in the room where they were working and found a crew there. Maybe 6 or 7 guys. Two were on their phones looking at videos and giggling, one guy the boss had his back turned and was tapping away vigorously on his phone, another two were generally milling around and the one sole guy was doing all the work.

Some things really do not change!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Call that traffic? This is traffic!

It has been a week or so since we returned to Penang, sorry home to Penang, from Bangkok but as with my previous post about Penang I wanted to ruminate a while rather than jump right in. I did use the wonderful Track My Tour app (thanks to Chris as always) for those keen on a more contemporaneous account of our short trip there -- you can view it here -- but this post is made with the benefit of thinking about things a little first.

If you think that the header for this post is Crocodile Dundee-is you are right. That bit was my favorite part of the movie but exchange things for traffic and you have Bangkok.

Yes, that scene!
I thought Penang was busy and bustling with humanity after Bermuda and then Canada but then we arrived in Bangkok and my goodness. In the previous post I said that Penang was an assault on all my senses and it was but Bangkok is that on steroids.

5 million + people, endless traffic, small streets except for the freeways, monstrous buildings except for the tiny streets, hawker stands, market stalls... It was endless. Returning to Penang has made it seem that my new home town is serene in comparison.

We went on a night time tuk-tuk eating tour to some of the city's most famous restaurants, local not fancy. This one for deep fried chicken had its kitchen in the alley behind the restaurant itself.
Even though Thailand is the next door country to Malaysia, there are huge differences starting with religion. 95% of Thais are Buddhists and you can see this everywhere. Apparently 441 temples are in the city and I can believe it. You keep coming across them everywhere. Some not so grand but all reverently cared for and respected.

The Temple of Dawn by the river with the late King (left), the late King's wife (middle) and the current king (right). Their pictures were everywhere in the city. All huge pictures too.
And respect is a word that could be used widely in Bangkok, at least from my vantage of 4 busy days of visiting, sightseeing, eating (particularly) and drinking with our friends Tracy and Norbert from Malta (but also ex-Bermuda hands). From the greeting that practically everyone does -- the two hands together plus bow -- to the respect shown for Buddha and their King whose pictures are simply everywhere, particularly the late King who ruled for a long time and was considered a man of the people.

But yes whenever I think of the King of Thailand I do always think of Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr in The King and I. That was a wonderful movie with one of the classic movie lines of all time: "Dance after Dinner!" Just watch the movie and you will understand.

In that movie in the more serious scenes, few and far between I know, the undercurrent is clear that the King is fully aware that his kingdom is one of the few independent ones around. Every one of their neighbors is part of one empire or another and he is trying to make sure Siam as it was known then stays that way. Quite how that all happened is not clear to me even after reading my favorite go to knowledge site Wikipedia who sadly failed me in this question. Anyway, well done to him and his successors for managing it. No wonder the people revere their kings.

One popular connotation for Bangkok is sleaze -- girly bars and lady boys. In addition back packers and people that look as though they sort of arrived in 1970 and never left abound. This is strange to me as drugs are illegal and trafficking carries a death sentence but clearly people don't care and still come and stay in one of the endless back street hostels and get a tattoo and some body piercing. Why on earth would you get one of either of those in a grungey back street parlor where of course they sterilize their needles?

Oh yes, back to sleaze. I never saw a girly bar nor a lady boy, unless they were very good which I understand many are. We went to Khao San Road where endless westernized bars exist alongside mobile phone shops and trashy tourist souvenir shoppes. We also went to Pat Pong market which seemed to be grunge central alongside the massive night market selling trashy tourist items -- I bought some of these! I am sure they exist but just saying, we never found them.

What we did find were shopping malls. Endless and huge shopping malls. We didn't even go to the famous Chatuchak outdoor market. Didn't have to as there are so many others. All huge. All with massive hawker stands dotted inside and out.

On our food tour, the guide took photos so we didn't have to however  in every photo that included me, I had my head down in some dish or other! He could have said "say cheese" or something.
We also found traffic. Lots and lots and lots of traffic. Nobody uses taxis as they are considered untrustworthy. Rarely would they use a meter and would then charge a fortune for a ride. Particularly tourists. So people use Grab and Uber and of course the tuk-tuk. They also use the motor bike taxi which is not for the faint hearted as no helmet is provided and like I said there is lots and lots and lots of traffic. Also did I say that nobody pays attention to little things like road signs, give way notices, traffic lights... and as for the dividing line in the middle of the road. Chicken!

Chinatown just before Chinese New Year was thronging with people and traffic. I asked the guide if it was due to CNY that it was so busy and she said "no, its just Tuesday". As in on any day the crowds are like this...
One night we were planning to go our for a dinner to a place in the centre of the city -- we stayed in the old part, near the river -- and our hotel first asked why we wanted to go there as there were loads of great places nearby, then said it would take us an hour and a half to get there by taxi because of the traffic, and then offered to make us a local reservation. Our Uber took 20 minutes! I know it depends on your luck as on other occasions it did take a while but never that much.

And then there's the bugs! I suppose it is a 5 million person city so you should expect there to be 5 billion bugs. But did they have to all decide to eat me that one night?

I counted over 100 bug bites on both my legs from that one night sitting out by the river at night!
Brilliant city though. Loved it and am looking to return!

Monday, February 19, 2018

First Impressions...

I try not to make snap decisions particularly on places that I visit as very often they are totally wrong. Years ago I made up my mind about a man at the tennis club where my brother Jan and I played a lot and it wasn't good. As it turned out he was one of the nicest men that you could know. So I try to keep that in mind.

Mind you, quite often the first impression you get is the one that stays with you longest too. A bit like the current environment of accusation for this and that, particularly through social media. If I was to say, for example, someone had a big nose and put it out there on social media. Chances are that that would stick irrespective of the fact that that person may indeed not have a big nose, but a very nice one. That is almost irrelevant these days it seems. What will stick is the 'big nose' comment. You see it in newspapers which may make wild accusations one day then 3 days later print a retraction on page 16 after the obituaries or something. Now I know that I don't have a huge following and that anything I may say will never see the light of day, which incidentally is fine by me, but still I don't really want to have to print a retraction at some later date.  So I've waited a bit, just about a month actually, before I address our arrival in Penang.

Map of Malaysia with Penang to the toppish left
What, where, why?

Penang is an island originally settled by some rascals from the East India Company in 1786 but of course it had a massive history before that which you can find on Wikipedia here (and do please contribute to their coffers as I think they are pretty wonderful. Everything you may want to know is there. I think it's even better than YouTube which in itself is also pretty wonderful). But for us it was the modern period that has the most relevance.

We've wanted to travel more in the Far East as to this point most of our travels have been using Bermuda as a base which has therefore given an emphasis in the west. So we thought that using Penang as a base out here would do the same job for us. In addition Viv's brother Anton plus family moved here something over a year ago and waxed very lyrically indeed about the place so we thought why not.

Penang is about 60% ethnically Chinese, 10% Indian, 20% Malay and the rest is a mixture of expats and other nationalities and races. In fact it is a real hodge podge as even those who are ethnically not Malay are more Malay in many ways than they are their original ethnicity... if that makes sense. And they all seem to get on. Certainly the religions here (and there are quite a few) get on. Practically immediately we arrived came the festival called Thaipusam, a Tamil hindu festival which was a public holiday here -- read about Thaipusam here again on Wikipedia. There are plenty of others too, currently we are in the middle of Chinese New Year, another public holiday.

For Thaipusam, people dress up in their finery and parade along a route that takes  in a number of temples passing by stalls erected by others, associations and companies who provide food and drink for the pilgrims all in a party atmosphere. Imagine Indian rap music and people dancing! From Bermuda it reminded me very much of Cup Match.
Talk about noise and colour with a 'u' not the washed out version which drops the 'u' as that is one of the biggest things I have noticed here. It was to me a total all out assault on all my senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

First of all sight, my goodness what sights to see. Coming from Bermuda, a small relatively quiet little place with few people where everything is ordered or at least compared to Penang it is, the sights were amazing. Many people, huge vibrant colours, absolutely nothing held back or in any way understated....

Penang is very religious. For Thaipusam, hindus who'd had something good happen in the previous year dressed up, were impaled by spikes and in this case hooks upon which were balls which dug into their skin and which they wore on their pilgrimage. It is a way for them to say thank you for a great year.
The sounds are all different too starting with the language or should I say languages. With all the ethnic backgrounds the lingua franqua is English but what a variety of English! We are staying for the moment at a serviced apartment and the manager was speaking to the cleaner about something and we asked him to confirm a couple of things as we couldn't understand one another and she said that she hadn't a clue what language he was speaking, so it may be tricky. It sounded to us that they were speaking the same language so we asked where he was from and the manager said he didn't know and sure enough after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing he found out (it wasn't a simple where are you from Q&A session it included much gesticulation and commentary) that the cleaner was from Myanmar which is right next door. Well the country is. The language apparently is nothing like Malay or any other languages the manager spoke but somehow they managed to communicate and that is how it is here. You may not share the same language originally but you are here in this melting pot so you just have to get on and talk. Take a look at the map and you'll see all the different countries around. None speak the same language really except English.

Today is one of the many days of Chinese New Year (year of the dog) and we went into a shopping centre to find a couple of dragons dancing to the beat of deafening drums and other musical instruments. This troupe worked their way bit by bit around every shop doing their bit of dancing and prancing before moving on to the next shop. Exhilarating, colourful, noisy.... yup.

We ran into this troupe time and again in the shopping centre. They were welcomed by the shop staff and danced all around the shop inside and out accompanied by a deafening band behind them. First impression is that it would have driven me nuts but then again this is Penang...
Smell is the sense that most westerners would nod sagely at and believe the smell differential is to do with the plumbing etc. and whilst those are shall we say different to what may be expected to be the norm in the west (although I have had some horror experiences in France particularly the trains, and now that I think of it Italy too... again trains) it absolutely is not what I think of when I think smells. It is the plants, the humidity, the spices... Penang is a spice island so if you fancy a mind boggling adventure with spices whose names you've probably never heard of but which are essential components of shall we say 'curry', come here. We went to a museum and one of the things we looked at was cooking and one such item was a Musselman Curry, one of the great foods in my opinion. But the number of ingredients!  Probably 20 if not more separate spices all available fresh in any downtown market. And that's before you get onto the meat, potatoes, etc.

That leads nicely to taste and there again wow. I'm not sure I have the words to describe the new tastes I have experienced in just about a month here. I thought I'd eaten a lot of different types of food particularly 'curry' but the difference with what Patak, for example, puts out in their Madras Curry paste and what I have eaten here is night and day. And that is all down to the availability of the underlying spices and the methods used in preparation.

Some staples in this food city: chicken rice and Hainan chicken. Just phenomenal!
Forget Gordon Ramsey and the celebrity chefs. Some of the best curry I have tasted comes from some guy or lady on the street with a single burner (always gas) which sends up a volcano of heat into the massive single pan in which everything is prepared. Into this goes the oil to start then onions, garlic and the plethora of spices. After a while the final result is simply unbelievable. Never hot, I mean never chilli hot. Forget vindaloo, that doesn't exist. The hottest food I have eaten here so far is a Thai salad which was almost nuclear.

Street food during Thaipusam
Finally touch. Not sure how to describe but the array of things that are totally different here makes you want to touch everything to make sure they are real. They are. In Penang they are entirely normal.

So summing up, Penang has been an assault on all of my senses, so far in a great way and I love it!

Gong Hei Fat Choi!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

23 Construction Cranes... Count 'Em

We stayed just about 3 months in Toronto after leaving Bermuda as there were several things we wanted to do in our apartment as well as enjoy some time there before our adventure in the Far East began. The two things that made the most impact on my psyche this time around were the extreme cold and the fact that I could see 23 construction cranes building all new tower blocks in the downtown area from our living room window. I know. I counted them.  Further when I went outside to look north up Yonge Street, I could see a dozen more. All in varying stages of completion. All of massive size.

Our condo has a south east aspect towards the Beaches of Toronto with the downtown area to the south... Except that what was once an unobstructed view has become one where we will soon have a 50 stores monster block 100 yards away directly to our south which WILL block this downtown view. AND if that's not bad enough there's an 80 storey behemoth planned right next to the 72 storey Aura already in our face and a 65 storey tiddler a further couple of hundred yards away.

Enough already!

I asked our building managers how many apartments there were in our building (441) which means probably 1,000 people as residents. If our building is 46 storeys on average this means 20 people per floor. So with 23 plus 12 at least more condo monsters on the blocks of on average 60 storeys (the average is getting ever higher), that means 35 times 1,200 people in new condos in the next 2-3 years that I can see with on average a further 35 times 600 new cars in the city .... I do hope the planners are taking note and are doing something about public transport, parking, traffic control, facilities...

More to the point is I wonder who are buying all these new places and moving to Toronto and why. For sure Justin Trudeau the current PM is supposedly making it easier for immigrants to come into the country and the recently introduced 15% tax on non-residents buying property may have crimped speculative local investment, but this sounds to me that all this new build really isn't being impacted that much by the new tax (prices aren't falling). Again I asked in our building who the main current buyers are and found that they are mainland Chinese and Saudis. This is a common theme in many places and is a function of the new wealthy wanting to invest money outside their home countries.

The city is really buzzing too so I expect that this new spurt of building is warranted but for goodness sake could they please do it somewhere else. Somewhere that doesn't block our view!

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Year That Was

First of all let me just say Happy New Year to everyone before I forget. As one ages even gracefully, the grey matter sometimes takes a little longer to boot up and connect properly.

I like to read, and that is not an apology, merely a statement, but that appears to be a declining art. It may seem to everyone that the world runs on 20 second sound bytes and a maximum 144 characters of text. That's all the time that anyone has to make a point. Certainly the US President seems to communicate exclusively in this way but even though those of us who believe we are smarter than he is may smugly nod our heads knowingly, he actually knows what he is doing. Well in this regard anyway.

We have had a full 12 months of him plus for an expat Brit like myself, we have had the unlikely sight of another unelectable, this time from the left, morph into the most unlikely next PM of Great Britain that there probably has ever been. All on the back of the highest level of incompetence from the elected elite and a massive groundswell of young support (and social media assistance) from the young people of the country. I read somewhere recently that Jeremy Corbyn has the support of something like 70% of all young people in the UK. And how do they communicate these days? Certainly not in debating societies, major newspapers or God forbid books. It is by 20 second soundbyte and those 144 miserable characters.

I just did a quick count of this blog post and discover to my dismay that 144 characters (includes spaces and punctuation) is about one and a half lines of my text. How on earth do you get your point across in such a limited way?

Perhaps the very fact that communication has come to this depressing and very superficial level will cause a reaction. Certainly I have been reading some commentators who are saying that their New Year's Resolution for 2018 is to come off Twitter or at the very least curtail their usage of it. My contribution has been to delete the Twitter app from my phone... but then again as I have never used it, I don't think that will tip any balance.

Reporting has been never endingly depressing in 2017 underlining the fact that only bad news is newsworthy so I was really, really happy to read an article from a website called Quartz (I was put onto this page by Bloomberg whom I have increasingly come to rely upon for impartial news, even though I still do take some things with a pinch of salt) that listed 99 things to be grateful for that took place in 2017. Here is the link but at random, here are some fantastic things that I never saw in the news but are fantastic, fantastic developments for the human race:

If you’re feeling despair about the fate of humanity in the 21st century, you might want to reconsider. In 2017, it felt like the global media picked up all of the problems, and none of the solutions. To fix that, here are 99 of the best stories from this year that you probably missed.
1. This year, the World Health Organisation unveiled a new vaccine that’s cheap and effective enough to end cholera, one of humanity’s greatest ever killers.
6. Trachoma, the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, was eliminated as a public health problem in Oman and Morocco, and Mexico became the first country in the Americas to eliminate it.
16. And on the 17th November, the WHO said that global deaths from tuberculosis have fallen by 37% since 2000, saving an estimated 53 million lives. 
21. A province in Pakistan announced it has planted 1 billion trees in two years, in response to the terrible floods of 2015.
27. Eleven countries continued their plan to build a wall of trees from east to west across Africa in order to push back the desert. In Senegal, it’s already working.
30. In 2017, the ozone hole shrunk to its smallest size since 1988, the year Bobby McFerrin topped the charts with ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy.’
35. 275 million Indians gained access to proper sanitation between 2014 and 2017.
46. In 2017, the UK, France and Finland all agreed to ban the sale of any new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.
54. Solar energy is now responsible for one in every 50 new jobs created in the United States, and the clean energy sector is growing at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy.
69. As plunging crime closed prisons across the Netherlands, the government started turning them into housing and cultural hubs for ten of thousands of refugees instead.
80. You didn’t see this story in the evening news — in June, we heard that the homicide rate in Australia has dropped to one victim per 100,000 people, the lowest ever recorded.
98. One of China’s richest women, He Qiaonv, announced a $2 billion donation for wildlife conservation, the largest environmental philanthropic pledge of all time.

2017 was also the year that saw the passing of a close personal friend of mine as well as some greats of rock and roll: Tom Petty and Gregg Allman from my list of personal favourites. Fats Domino and Chuck Berry also passed away; even greater influences on the history of contemporary music. Sad to lose them all but each time I go somewhere and hear the soundtrack to buying groceries, waiting for the train, being in an airport, etc., and that turns out to be an instantly recognisable tune from the 1960's and 1970's, it makes me happy to know that they will be remembered by their music... even though people may not know the name of their great tunes rather like I recognize much classical music but cannot for the life of me remember who wrote what or when.

But then again this does provide me with an opportunity to ending this post with a wonderful live clip from YouTube with the full original band. I forgot that Butch Trucks, one of the drummers, also passed away in 2017. Gregg is on keyboards and sings.

Happy New Year!