| Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Ken Kellar | Patricia A. Kelly | Tom McLaughlin | Obituary | Cindy A. Rose | Billy Shreve | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Blaine R. Young |


The Tentacle

Tom McLaughlin

April 27, 2016
Weather, Temples, Swimming and Cannon Fire
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The weather has been crazy! The peninsula (western shore to you Maryland Eastern Shoremen) has been suffering massive drought and high temperatures. Here in Kuching, it has been rainy and cool, not all day rains, but thunderstorms. It does keep us quite cool, well below 30 C (86 F). Nice.

April 20, 2016
Cleaning a Kris to Rejuvenate Its Spirit
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – For those who have not been following these columns, a kris is a dagger-like weapon used by the Malays. It is used in a thrusting motion for offense and defensive purposes.

April 13, 2016
Beads Touched by History
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – There is a very interesting bead museum in Kuching. That's right, I said beads. I cannot think of anything more boring than beads until I began researching them a few years ago.

April 6, 2016
Kris and Semangat
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Semangat is the ability one has to force an object to defy the laws of physics. For example, the person who has semangat can make a metal object rise against gravity. They can slide a coin across a plain surface without touching it.

March 30, 2016
There Are Strange Things Said and Done
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – In trying to piece together the history of this island – from the beginning to 1840 – has been a challenge. You see, I have to read what they wrote and try to interpret what they meant from their point of view.

March 23, 2016
No Eulogy for Her
Tom McLaughlin

I really don't remember much about the Reagan Administration. I was overseas working in Saudi Arabia and then started my teaching career in Berlin, Maryland.

March 16, 2016
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – First of all, write what you know. You live in a kampung, so write about that. Tell me the color and shape of the houses.

March 9, 2016
Moving and Discovering New Eats
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The move had been devastating. All day Saturday the lorry and van moved about 2 km between our old flat and the new one.

February 24, 2016
Good and Bad in New Restaurant
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – We went to a new restaurant Saturday night and I had high hopes for the food. The owner was a motorcyclist who had travelled the world, and his claim to fame was riding from Alaska to the very tip of South America.

February 17, 2016
The Democrats debate didn’t change my vote
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – We finally settled down to watch a Democratic debate here in the "Land Below the Wind." We call it that after a British writer, in the 1930s, wrote a book with that name. We are below the wind, meaning, the typhoons always hit the Philippines but stay well north of here.

February 10, 2016
On The Road Again….
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching Malaysian Borneo – We are moving. Yes, indeed out of here! Our dissatisfaction started when the pool was closed for six months, then a year. Then the weight room fell apart all at once. I think it was because the security guards let their kids play in there. In fact, I know so.

February 3, 2016
Stay the Course: Protect “We The People”
Tom McLaughlin

Ever since my daughter married into a ranching family in Montana, I have been following the problems out west. The latest fiasco seems to play around a group of people who took over a shed in Oregon to protest the increased sentence given to two ranchers. Here is my perspective.

January 27, 2016
A Life Missed – Unregrettably
Tom McLaughlin

I had heard of him, of course. David Bowie. But I simply had not paid any attention to him or his life. It wasn't until he made front page on The New York Times and a big splash in The Economist that I realized he must have done something important and I just missed it.

January 20, 2016
Continuing Adventures in Cave Exploration
Tom McLaughlin

Gua Sireh, Malaysian Borneo – The last time we visited this cave was back in August when we had our dear friend, Dr. Jerry Drawhorn of California, with us. However, we had forgotten our flashlights and could only examine the opening which extended back only about five meters.

January 13, 2016
A Year in Review – Already
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Good lord is the year over with yet? We started out with the Saudis executing 47 people. Now, the Saudi's execute people all the time, but nobody pays any attention because we need their oil.

January 6, 2016
The End of Real Conversations…..
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I love to watch the river travel by. I notice the small whirl pools, the flow of the currents and the deep brown turbidity.

December 23, 2015
Random Facts, No Fiction
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The monsoon season is here. Rain every night and day with some breaks during the afternoons. We don't leave the flat without an umbrella; and we have to use it most times. I don't mind it especially after that horrible smog we had in September and October.

December 16, 2015
Guns and Fear
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Okay, let's see here, I think I have finally understood those people who love the NRA. For those reading this from afar, that's the National Rifle Association, America's foremost defender of the right for anyone, mentally ill, people on no-fly lists and liberals like me, the right to carry an assault rifle, and the bullets that go with it.

December 9, 2015
The "Borneo Boys"...again
Tom McLaughlin

My wife and I have designed, written and printed a comic book called "Borneo Boys." It was an effort to increase the English language skills and a love of history to the students and parents. We wanted to give it free to the children.

December 2, 2015
The Monkey Bar
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The Matang Wildlife Centre has a unique way of raising money. They opened a bar.

November 25, 2015
Worldwide Terrorism and How to Stop It
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The Paris tragedy cost many lives and was the result of a family located in the northern slums of the city. I watched on BBC as hundreds of police stormed the flat and took a few members into custody, while killing two others.

November 18, 2015
Book on Wallace “Somewhat Incomprehensible”
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – While in the States, I ordered a book from Harvard University Press. I should have known, of course, that it would be unmanageable and way over my head, but in the frenzy of travel, I did it anyway.

November 11, 2015
Trick or Treat
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana USA –Halloween on the Prairie. My son Dzul, aged 4, dressed up like a cow, very appropriate for this area, while his cousin, 2, donned a kitty cat outfit. They were joined by about 150 friends who came from the ranches around the countryside into town for the festivities.

November 4, 2015
A horse is a horse, of course of course
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana USA – Cody (my son-in-law) had come back from hunting dressed in his camouflage, beaming that he had shot an elk. The animal was being processed for us to have a taste before we leave in about a week. However, the time span had been an eternity for young lovers.

October 28, 2015
Learning a New Way of Life
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana USA – We left Frederick after a whirlwind of activity, of visiting good friends, and accomplishing many necessary tasks. The storage locker was cleaned out and, as usual, it took much longer than I thought.

October 21, 2015
Solving Problems and Pleasant Surprises
Tom McLaughlin

Frederick-Middletown, Maryland USA – We arrived via Baltimore Washington Airport and travelled by taxicab to Braddock Heights. Our good friends, Mike and Debbi awaited our arrival and made us feel welcome.

October 14, 2015
A Trip to Die For – Almost
Tom McLaughlin

Seattle, Washington – It was a terrible flight. A long, hard and uncomfortable journey to the states. It was the first really bad one we had while travelling to America.

October 7, 2015
A lifeline to the past
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Being locked up in my condo because of the smoke and haze (see last week's column), I decided to embark on genealogy. The work turned out to be quite fruitful indeed.

September 30, 2015
Fighting the Smoke and Haze
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Alright, enough is enough! I am not talking about Donald Trump, the Pope, or that lady (what a twerp!) who refuses to issue marriage licenses to gays. Those have been dominating The New York Times forever, it seems.


September 9, 2015
Wedding Bell Blues
Tom McLaughlin

Bahau, Malaysia – I didn't want to go. No, I really didn't want to go. The wedding was a two-hour plane ride from where I live in Kuching, plus a few hours back into the interior. But, my kampung family from long ago was expecting me because, in a weak moment, I said yes.

September 2, 2015
Exploring Brunei to Renew Visas
Tom McLaughlin

Brunei – This is the richest country on the planet. Oil and gas gush from its pores. The nation has no income tax, everybody has free health care and education.

August 26, 2015
Unique, Tiring and Somewhat Successful
Tom McLaughlin

Santubong, Malaysian Borneo – Every year, the tourist administration holds the Rainforest Music Festival where people from all over the world come to hear indigenous peoples play music from their countries. Pygmies from the Congo, a group from the one of the tribes in Taiwan, and Gallic dancing from Scotland are some of the many examples.

August 19, 2015
Continuing Search for Wallace
Tom McLaughlin

Simunjan, Malaysian Borneo – My friend, Dr. Jerry Drawhorn, had arrived from California and I knew we were in for a treat. He is an expert on Alfred Wallace, among many other things, and I knew we would be travelling to spots Wallace had visited.

August 12, 2015
Arduous Climbs To Graffiti Covered Cave Walls
Tom McLaughlin

Gua Sirah, Malaysian Borneo – "A cave? Sure, we will go to a cave!" In my mind's eye, I had visions of walking into an opening straight from the road and viewing the rock art.

August 5, 2015
The Comic Book Redundas
Tom McLaughlin

Here are the latest tales about getting my comic book, "Borneo Boys," published. They are true.

July 29, 2015
A Feast to End the Fasting Month
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Selamat Hari Raya! Happy end of the fasting month and the start of new life! The fasting month came in July this year. It follows the lunar calendar and always moves forward.

July 22, 2015
Benefits and Detriments of My Enterprise
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I had been spending each evening selling my comic books on the river front. I would collect my blue folding table, a table cloth, a stool to sit on and my 10 copies.

July 1, 2015
Portrait of A Mass Murderer
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – He looks 13. The mop head and slanted blue eyes could easily pass for an eighth grader. One can just imagine him placing a carton of milk onto his cafeteria tray.

June 24, 2015
Ancient Rocks: Ancient Carvings
Tom McLaughlin

Santubong, Malaysian Borneo – She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Hawaii who came here to study rock art. We became fast friends and she helped me to see the images drawn on the stone many hundreds of years ago.

June 3, 2015
Ancient Wonders
Tom McLaughlin

South Java – After the incredible two day experience at Borobudur, we were told not to expect much at Candi Parambanan, a Hindu temple also built in about the same date range of 7-10 A.D. We debated about going but in the ended took a car to visit this "minor" site.

May 27, 2015
A Temple for the Ages
Tom McLaughlin

Borobudur, Central Java – Okay, go to Google, and well, Google, Borobudur. There, see a picture of it? Looks confusing, doesn't it? When we first stood before it was even more confusing. But, we tried to decipher the mystery of the largest Buddhist temple in the world.

May 20, 2015
They are there, but hard to see…
Tom McLaughlin

Santubong, Malaysian Borneo – She is a doctoral candidate at the University of Hawaii who came here to study rock art. We became fast friends and she helped us to see the images drawn on the stones many hundreds of years ago.

May 6, 2015
A Different Kind of Book Signing
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysia Borneo – It was a success of sorts. I think. Maybe. Everybody said it was. The book signing.

April 29, 2015
Enough with This Gay-ness
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I am so happy you are gay. I am ecstatic that you transgendered. I count with unmitigated joy every time a state passes the gay marriage act. I weep huge tears and lock myself in a room when a judge, federal or state, says you can get married. I read on Facebook and tear up every time one of you comes out of the closet.

April 22, 2015
History – Comic Book Style
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – It's finally finished. After three years of hard work, frustration and working with a hundred people, the comic book will be launched on May 2.

April 8, 2015
A Strange Site in an Old Cemetery
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – It was time to challenge our next graveyard which was located next to the large telephone exchange building on a busy street. The grass had been mowed and the cemetery looked taken care of.

March 25, 2015
Gravestones and Translators
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The Chinese grave yards were next on my list. I sent a query to Facebook's "History of Sarawak" to find the oldest tombstones in the area. A small reply came back to check the graves at the museum and another spot near the telecommunications buildings.

March 18, 2015
Poetry! What A Diversion
Tom McLaughlin

There are strange things done by the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

that would make your blood run cold;

the Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

but the queerest they ever did see

was the night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.

Robert Service

March 11, 2015
Recovered! Now Back to Normal (I hope.)
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Today is the end to the monsoon season! Boy, am I glad to see it go! We had a rough one this year with flooding, rivers spilling their banks and sick, sick people.

February 25, 2015
New Year’s Feast and Festivities
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysia Borneo – Happy Year of the Goat everyone! Well, we think it's a goat. Could be a sheep. They really don't differentiate because it’s an animal that grazes and bleats. I can't think of any others unless, of course, it's one of those African animals but I don't think any of them bleat.

February 18, 2015
The Plague of Remembering
Tom McLaughlin

I see via the Internet that the new Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue is out on the stands. There was a time I would rush right out and buy it.

February 10, 2015
The Search for an Expert Continues...
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Does anyone know how to date Islamic graves ?? To recap, I am writing a history of the area. I went about 12 km up river and found an old Islamic grave. It was unusual because it was large and the foot and head stones were "n" shaped.

February 4, 2015
Another Tiring and Fruitless Day
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – We finally arrived at the Kampung Lidah Tanah after heavy rain had flooded most of the grave sites. To recap, I wanted to go there to establish that the kampung was much older than the 1823 date most sources claim. This is important to the history of the area.

January 28, 2015
Still Searching Without Luck
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – And it's still raining! Major flooding now but not in Kuching where I live. Southern kampongs are all awash, schools closed and the government is flying in relief.

January 21, 2015
Routine Daily Adventures
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Boy, is it raining! The Sarawak River almost overflowed its' banks and is now receding. Thunder and lightning have been flashing and booming for over three days. The locals say landas (monsoon season) has finally arrived. I though it showed up about a month ago when all night rains began to happen. I guess weather is changing everywhere.

January 14, 2015
The Art and History of Malay Head-Hunting
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – We continued our research on a drive to Serian to meet with the Bidayu people, a group of head-hunters. According to folklore, this group began in a mountain just across the border from Indonesia many years ago and spread out into four different groups.

January 7, 2015
Seeking and Finding Graves
Tom McLaughlin

Kampung Lidah Tanah, Malaysian Borneo – I am still trying to write the history of the Sarawak River. A best seller I am sure. I will probably end up placing it on the inside covers of my two comic books.

December 31, 2014
Where The Blame Lies?
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – What a wonderful wedding! It was fantastic to see all those people from 40 years ago. Their children have grown up and have now graduated from universities and are out on their own. They are so smart!

December 24, 2014
Life in Borneo at Christmas
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I can't believe I have started my seventh year here. I came to stay for just one year and look at me now! A wife, a son and an apartment overlooking the Sarawak River.

December 17, 2014
Time to Retire Gracefully – and For Good
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I am so sick of the Clintons. I am just tired of them. Won't they just go away and retire someplace? They have a new granddaughter and grandma Hillary and grandpop Bill would be best retired in a rocking chair enjoying their golden years.

December 10, 2014
Two Wrongs
Tom McLaughlin

In Ferguson, Missouri USA, a policeman was not indicted by a Grand Jury of all charges brought against him. A white policeman shot and killed a black man. Looting, rioting and mayhem resulted.

December 3, 2014
A Day’s Bargaining
Tom McLaughlin

Balikpapen, Indonesian Borneo – We returned to this city for our flight out and back to Kuala Lumpur then to Kuching. Yes, we had to fly over Kuching and an hour and half in the opposite direction and back again. However, that is the path.

November 26, 2014
Surprise after Surprise
Tom McLaughlin

Samarinda and Tenggarong, Indonesian Borneo – We hired a car and drove about two hours to the capital of the Province, Samarinda. The drive up was pock marked with the strip mining for coal. Ugly gashes in the earth laid bare the orange clay. One could see the remnants of coal embedded in the land.

November 19, 2014
It Didn’t Exist, But There It Was
Tom McLaughlin

Balikpapen, Indonesian Borneo – This is a fast-paced oil and gas town with business people signing contracts, salesmen from all over the world arguing which product is best and westerners busy training the locals. Cranes are everywhere constructing new high rises buildings.

November 12, 2014
The Other World and Ali
Tom McLaughlin

Ternate, Indonesia – Alfred Wallace, the premier biologist, who, with Charles Darwin, published the famous paper on evolution, would have loved this. Indeed he would have. You see, Wallace entered the world of séances and explored the occult back in 1868 and onward. So did I – just recently.

November 5, 2014
The National Museum and Confusion
Tom McLaughlin

Jakarta, Indonesia – The plane landed in what I thought would be a medieval airport. I expected to see Commodore 64’s at the terminals and people sleeping at the baggage check. To my great surprise, it was a gleaming 21st Century edifice. Our baggage came quite quickly and immigration check was smooth.

October 29, 2014
Disappointment Turning to Joy
Tom McLaughlin

Monado, Indonesia – Back in Kuching, I had searched the Internet for a hotel on the second leg with a beach. I finally found one – or thought I did. The ad on specifically said a beach. We were going gave our son Dzul a place to play in the salt waters and just relax after the stress of traveling.

October 22, 2014
The Continuing Curious Case of Ali Wallace
Tom McLaughlin

Ternate, Indonesia – As most of you who have been following my commentaries, I have been on a search for Ali, the assistant to Alfred Wallace, the great adventurer who, in 1858, published the Ternate paper.

October 8, 2014
Another Malay Festival
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Today is Hari Raya Haji. In the Qur’an, the day is celebrated on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar.

October 1, 2014
Here We Go – Again!
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – As a person living in a Muslim country, I watched the rape, pillaging and murder by ISIS vandals in Northern Iraq and Syria. The vast expanses of desert they have taken over, really no one lives there except in tiny villages, leads one to believe they control vast quantise of land and resources.

September 24, 2014
Tales from the Kampung
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – As I was doing research in the kampung*, many unusual stories appeared that I would like to share with you. Enjoy!

September 17, 2014
Salt and Pepper
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The search for Ali (not the world famous boxer) continues. For those who have not been following this column, a bit of a recap.

September 10, 2014
Kuching Regatta 2014
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – They trickled in at first. The tourists. Then, from all over Malaysia and some from foreign (white) countries, they flooded in to witness the spectacle.

September 3, 2014
The Metal Detector
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – While we were in the States I purchased a metal detector from Amazon. It cost around $200 and was to be used here in Borneo.

August 27, 2014
Appeasing the Spirit World
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – There are two worlds here in Borneo. The one is of everyday life, in which people go to work or school, live in kampongs or longhouses, and paddle the boats up the river practicing for the races. This is the earth you and I are familiar with; the living, breathing and dying of humankind.

August 20, 2014
A Conversation with Robin Williams
Tom McLaughlin

Well, Robin, you finally did it. Ended what everybody thought was a perfect life. Lots of great movies, a stand-up comic and an Academy Award. Most of us are very sad, Robin. Very sad.

August 13, 2014
Bless my Seoul – Part 2
Tom McLaughlin

Seoul, South Korea – We had to travel to Malaysian Airlines to pay for changing our reservations, and we thought it would be a perfect time to see the city. We decided to walk. After all, we were only 10 minutes from the City Centre.

August 6, 2014
Bless my Seoul – Part 1
Tom McLaughlin

Seoul – We arrived here in South Korea after a 10-hour flight from Seattle. Korean Airways was adequate but not nearly as good as Qatar, Emirates, Malaysian or Cathay. The in-flight entertainment was good, but the airline did not have the extras like a toilet kit provided by the others. Remember, all the shaving stuff had to go under in your suit case.

July 30, 2014
Tom McLaughlin

Demilitarized Zone, Korea – The DMZ has become a hot spot for international tourism. There were about 20 buses winding their way up to the various sites, which included the observation point, a walk through tunnel three and the train station.

July 23, 2014
“Amen I Say Unto You! Amen!”
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana – The day started off bright and sunny. I applied my insect repellent early and went outside to water the garden, herbs and flowers. The plains were unbelievably beautiful that morning.

July 16, 2014
A Cheap Ski Resort
Tom McLaughlin

Big Sky, Montana – The drive from Bozeman to Big Sky took about an hour and a half with myself, Suriani my wife, my with-child daughter Mary, my 3-year-old old son Dzul and my granddaughter, at 16 months, Leeilia. We had quite a crew!

July 9, 2014
Yellowstone Park
Tom McLaughlin

Yellowstone Park, Wyoming – We rented a van and tour guide. Yes, it was expensive. Very expensive. But my daughter is with child; we had two children with us; and I have a bum leg and a rare disease. Toward the end, I found it was well worth it.

July 2, 2014
Exploring a Museum and Its Operations
Tom McLaughlin

Bozeman, Montana – I had travelled all this way to see the Museum of the Rockies and, when I walked in, there was an exhibit of Geckos. I had to walk outside and read the sign again to make sure I had not been transported back home to Malaysian Borneo.

June 25, 2014
In Search of the Ancient Past – Part 2
Tom McLaughlin

South Phillips County, Montana – The trip south from Malta, Montana, took an hour and a half over gravel roads in our mighty Yukon. There was mile after mile of sagebrush and cows as we travelled to our second dinosaur dig. Suddenly, the hills began to rise as we went from flatlands to hill tops in a matter of minutes.

June 18, 2014
In Search of the Ancient Past
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana – I had always wanted to go dinosaur hunting, but time and circumstances had prevented such a venture. However, after continually repeating my request, my daughter and nephew finally made arrangements for the hunt.

June 11, 2014
Big Sky Spectacular – and Mosquitoes
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana – We heard on the radio that there would be meteor shower from Comet Camel...etc. on Friday night. We were in the big, awesome sky of Montana, and we were not going to miss this show!

June 4, 2014
Branding in Montana
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana – I knew I was back in America when the clerk at Alaska Airlines asked me for $75 for the three bags we had stowed underneath the small two prop plane we took from Seattle to Great Falls. I was surprised at first, but I should have known better.

May 28, 2014
A Spectacular Seattle
Tom McLaughlin

Seattle, Washington – The plane landed after a 10-hour flight. I finally got some sleep and my son Dzul and my wife Suriani also dozed most of the way. We felt refreshed and active.

May 21, 2014
Montana Bound
Tom McLaughlin

Travelling – We left Kuching on Malaysia Airlines bound for Kuala Lumpur. The thoughts of MH 370 were in the back of our minds much like a tool left out on a fence, one you always meant to retrieve. It was a nagging insistent thought of the airline that disappeared in mid air.

May 14, 2014
The Search for Ali – Part 3
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have been into the Cash Books for the past three weeks seeking a guy by the name of Ali and Panglima Seman. The books have offered a tantalizing glimpse into these people but not any ruling as to their identity.

May 7, 2014
The Search for Ali – Part 2
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have been going through the Cash Books looking for Ali. What are they, you may wonder, and who was he?

April 30, 2014
The Search for Ali
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Ali was an enigmatic figure. Not much is known about his early life. Alfred Wallace said he was 15 when he hired him on as a cook, but he was notoriously wrong about how old people were. He stayed with Wallace for eight years travelling throughout the archipelago.

April 23, 2014
Kampong Panglima Seman
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The history of Borneo is entwined in legend and fact. The story of Panglima Seman is one such story where the mythology and the reality become entangled in a web. The mythology is believed and, therefore, it must be part of the history.

April 16, 2014
The Kampongs Across the River
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Across the river from my condo are several kampungs. A kampung can be divided with a surau, which is a small mosque that cannot hold Friday prayers, the most important day of the week.

April 9, 2014
Writing about the Environment
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The one thing that I have to do, well not really have to do, is to write a column for the Malaysian Nature Society. I sort of got roped into it by volunteering, and now I am stuck with it. I do like it though as it keeps me up with the local happenings in nature.

April 2, 2014
Keep The Bumiputra Policy
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Forty years ago, when I was here in Malaysia, the government had announced the implementation of the Bumiputra Policy. This is where the Malays were given special treatment by the rulers of the country.

March 26, 2014
Following The Missing Plane
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – It has been about two and a half weeks since the plane – Malaysian Flight MH 370 – has disappeared into nothingness. They are now searching in the southeast Indian Ocean for any trace.

March 12, 2014
Everybody needs a god
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Sprinkled about 70 miles off the coast of Borneo are many small inhabited islands. Most of the people are fisher folk of Malay stock with a smattering of Chinese. The young people are moving off the islands to seek their fortunes in the larger cities of Indonesia, foregoing the isolation and way of life of their forefathers.

March 5, 2014
"Borneo Boys" a Year Later"
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – A year ago (February 6, 2013) I posted a column about writing and producing a comic book. I said the saga would be continued. A year later, here is the continuation.

February 26, 2014
What Time Is It?
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have always been horrible in math. Still am. To add 7 + 5, I place my hand by my side and count on my fingers. Subtraction is the same way. The multiplication tables had been memorized years ago, so I have no problem with them.

February 19, 2014
A Family Adventuresome Outing
Tom McLaughlin

Krabi, Thailand – I had made reservations for my daughter, my 10-month old granddaughter, my wife, my three-year old son and myself to fly here for a four-day visit. My daughter’s husband would meet us in Kuala Lumpur, and we would connect for our sojourn of beaching and sunshine.

February 12, 2014
Treacherous But Worth The Effort
Tom McLaughlin

Niah Caves, Malaysian Borneo – Niah caves are a complex located near the oil town of Miri, just about an hour flight north of Kuching, where I live. It is one of those places where I had always wanted to visit but never quite made it.

February 5, 2014
It Just Doesn’t Matter....
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have a night time routine. I go to bed around nine with my iPad and read the online version of The New York Times. The reason I retire so early is because my three year old son has found my device a source of entertainment when I accidently left it where he had access.

January 29, 2014
Edgar Allen Poe Started It All...
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The "American" channel here broadcasts many old detective crime sagas like CSI, Law and Order, Bones and The Mentalist. They usually begin with a murder, followed by the hero and his/her staff solving the crime and then order is restored.

January 22, 2014
A Feline Adventure
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Facebook is about cats. Every other post seems to have a feline in some sort of pose. This morning I saw one that was so adorable and cute that I wanted to reach through the computer screen and cuddle it.

January 15, 2014
The Great Sarawak Cat Drop
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Probably one of the most bizarre and unbelievable stories ever to come out of Sarawak was the report that the Royal Air Force parachuted cats into Bario in 1960.

January 8, 2014
Bead Collecting
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I had never given beads much thought. They were the round orbs I strung and wore and gave to lovers during my hippie days. I also remember somebody bought Manhattan Island from the Native Americans (they were Indians back then) for a hand full. Do they still teach that?

December 18, 2013
Shipwrecked Wine
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Usually when you read about the monetary exploration of an ancient shipwreck, thousands of dollars, if not millions, are involved. Investors are secured in hopes of finding a Midas quantity of gold.

December 11, 2013
A Different Kind of Man
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Who was Alfred Wallace? He was a business man who came to Borneo to collect beetles and other insects in the late 1850s. They were then shipped back to England where they were sold to collectors.

December 4, 2013
An Islamic Journey – Part 4
Tom McLaughlin

Madura Island, Indonesia – We crossed from the mainland over to Madura Island on a cable stayed bridge where the cables formed the shape of a sail. Opened in June 2009, the 5.4 kilometer bridge is the longest in Indonesia, spanning the Straits of Madura and connecting the island to the mainland.

November 27, 2013
An Islamic Journey – Part 3
Tom McLaughlin

Surabaya, North Java Island – We visited the third grave of an Islamic missionary, Sunan Ampel, located in the Arab quarter of this northeast Java coastal town. The tomb was covered in white cloth when we visited at 8 P.M.

November 20, 2013
An Islamic Journey – Part 2
Tom McLaughlin

Gresik, North Java Island – About three kilometers from the high hill tomb of Sunan Giri (see last weeks’ column) lies the grave of Sunan Malik Ibrahim. One enters a large square and in the upper left hand corner is the marble grave of the Sunan.

November 13, 2013
An Islamic Journey – Part 1
Tom McLaughlin

Gresik, North Java Island – The very beginnings of the spread of Islam throughout the Malay world began here. I wanted to know how it started and why it spread so rapidly among thousands of faithful Buddhists. My journey took me back to the late 1300’s to the mid 1400’s, both mentally and physically.

November 6, 2013
The Komodo Dragons
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching Malaysian Borneo – I had always wanted to see the infamous Komodo dragons. These were huge lizards, a time warp back to the dinosaur era that had evolved on two Indonesian Islands. They are very deadly as their saliva contains hundreds of different lethal bacteria. They would bite a deer or wild boar and wait for it to weaken from the infection and then attack. Humans have also been their victims.

October 30, 2013
Off to the Races
Tom McLaughlin

I felt the low rumble in my digestive system my last day in Chaing Mai. From experience, I knew a couple of Imodium would quickly wipe out the pain and suffering. While packing with son Dzul helping, I had forgotten them; but I knew that every tourist center was always well stocked.

October 23, 2013
Dirt, Grime and Traffic
Tom McLaughlin

Surabaya, North Java Island – I had often sat on my balcony overlooking the Sarawak River in Kuching wondering about the origins of the two kampungs on the other bank. My wife was from one of them, Gersik; and, because of a quirk of airline time tables and my illness, we were about to find out.

October 16, 2013
Traveling with Dzul
Tom McLaughlin

Our last three-week trip was our first major travel with our two year old son Dzul. I must admit he was good 85% of the time.

October 9, 2013
The Ride of a Lifetime
Tom McLaughlin

Lampang, Thailand – Many of you who read my tirade last week about the animal cruelty in Thailand and who also follow me on Facebook know Suriani, Dzul and I went on an elephant ride. I realize this is a contradiction, but let me explain.

October 2, 2013
Many Cities Rolled Into One
Tom McLaughlin

Chiang Mai, Thailand – The old city of Chiang Mai, founded in 1296, is in the shape of a box. The founding fathers, or I guess emperor, fortified each side with moat and large brick wall for defense.

September 25, 2013
Brutal massages and gap girls and boys
Tom McLaughlin

Chaing Mai, Thailand – Imagine downtown Frederick, or any older section of any town where the buildings are all connected, having a massage parlor at every other door. Out front would be slim, young Thai women appropriately dressed and smiling at you.

August 21, 2013
A Loving Ritual at End of Fast
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The end of the fasting month was celebrated with great joy in Suriani’s (my Borneo wife) family this year. Preparations were under way weeks before the big day arrived.

August 7, 2013
The Search for Ancient Apes
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – One of the many fantastic things about living here in Borneo are the many scientists and scholars who come here to visit and research the wonders of this tropical island.

July 31, 2013
Research Hobby Costly…But Wonderful
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – One of my fun hobbies, other than swimming, trekking the jungle, traveling, snorkeling and growing tropical plants is research. I love delving into primary sources, preferring to make up my own mind about topical issues.

July 24, 2013
Darkening Skin and Tourist Expenses
Tom McLaughlin

Damai Beach, Malaysian Borneo – I am so proud of my Malaysian wife, Suriani. She certainly has had to put up with a lot from me.

July 17, 2013
Traveling With a 2 Year Old
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching Malaysian Borneo – Before Dzul, my wife and I loved to travel. We had backpacks at the ready and whenever a sale was announced on an airline to a destination, we didn’t care where, we were off.

July 10, 2013
If It Works, Repeat It
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I recalled raising my daughters 25 years ago in Salisbury, MD. As a school teacher, I was so fortunate to have school holidays and summers off to spend with them.

July 3, 2013
Coping With a 2-Year-Old Son
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – They said he would keep me young. He will be the death of me yet. Dementia plus a two year old. What a combination!

May 29, 2013
Back Home Again in Borneo
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The plane landed in Kuala Lumpur and the first thing to hit me was the heat and humidity after a month in cold, dry Montana. I immediately broke out into a sweat with my two-day-old beard starting to itch.

May 22, 2013
The American Prairie Reserve and Montana
Tom McLaughlin

The Salsbury Ranch, Malta, MT – The area can barely be called grasslands. Biologically the cut off between that and desert is ten inches. They receive eleven. If they are lucky. The temperatures are extreme. Many days in summer can be in the lower 100’s day after day while highs of ten below are not uncommon in the winter time.

May 15, 2013
A Way to the Cross
Tom McLaughlin

Malta Colony, Montana – “When shall we three meet again,/in thunder lightening or in rain. When the hurlyburlys done /when the battle’s lost and won.”

May 1, 2013
The Cowboy Way
Tom McLaughlin

The Salsbury Ranch, Malta, MT – I flew to Montana from Frederick to visit my new granddaughter Leeila, my daughter Mary and her husband Cody. They took me to one of the spring highlights known as branding.

April 24, 2013
Goodbye, Frederick! It’s Been Good to Know Ya!
Tom McLaughlin

Middletown, Maryland – I landed at Dulles and took the taxi to my dear friend’s house on Braddock Heights determined to close out my life in Frederick County. Five years ago, when I left, I had planned only to live in Malaysian Borneo for one year. However, life happens.

April 17, 2013
Daunting – But Pleasant Trip
Tom McLaughlin

Searching for a way home from Kuching, Malaysian Borneo is a daunting task every time I try to make plane reservations. I usually start about three months before departure trying to find the best deal.

April 3, 2013
Mixing Christianity With Ancient Lore
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – An old joke tells of a Franciscan, a Dominican and a Jesuit who are arrested during the Russian revolution for spreading the Christian, capitalist gospel, and thrown into a dark prison cell. In a bid to restore the light, each man reflects on the traditions of his own order.

March 27, 2013
A Sad Ending to the Invasion
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – They really don’t know where they came from. Or why. The villagers came ashore and moved into a kampung in Sabah, on the northeast coast of Malaysian Borneo Island.

March 6, 2013
The Mouse that Roared and the Sultan of Sulu – Part 2
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian, Borneo – The soldiers from the Malaysian Army were “securing the perimeter” around a kampung where about 80-100 villagers from the Philippines had decided to reside after coming ashore on February 12. Somebody said they called themselves the “Army of the Sultan of Sulu.”

February 27, 2013
The Mouse that Roared and the Sultan of Sulu
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian, Borneo – In probably the most bizarre invasion of a country ever to occur, a group between 100 and 300 people, depending on who you ask, invaded Malaysia last week. They were either heavily armed or a rag tag group of old men, nobody here seems to be sure.

February 20, 2013
Orchids: An Adventure in Caring
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Borneo has between 2,500 and 3,000 species of orchids on the island. I have eight on my balcony overlooking the Sarawak River. I had only three and was wishing and hoping they die so I wouldn’t have to be bothered with them anymore. No such luck.

February 13, 2013
Dear Readers: Greetings from Kuching, Malaysian Borneo!
Tom McLaughlin

It has been a mild monsoon season. The rains that usually last three or four months around the clock have waited until the night or early morning hours. Most days are cloudy with peaks of sun; and we can usually walk along the river, or into town without an umbrella.

February 6, 2013
Creating a Modern Comic Book
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Write a comic book? A local publisher, after seeing my book Borneo Tom, asked me to write a comic book based on some of the stories of the history and peoples of Borneo Island. My problem was, I had never done it before, but that wasn’t going to stop me.

January 30, 2013
Sticks and Stones
Tom McLaughlin

For those of us who wander around the Internet and especially Facebook, one can’t help but wonder about the deterioration of the language. Words that were forbidden through my lifetime seem to have moved into common usage.

January 23, 2013
Jungle Trekking with Dzul
Tom McLaughlin

Gunung Gading, Malaysian Borneo – The rafflesia* is in bloom! The small poster informed on one of our walks through Kuching Town. My wife Suriani had never seen the world’s largest flower and I immediately made reservations for a car and driver to take us to the forest.

January 16, 2013
LBJ for the USA
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – My first presidential campaign was in 1964 with Lyndon Johnson. I was 12. I passed out literature in my neighborhood, stuffing rural mailboxes with cards that said “LBJ for the USA.”

January 9, 2013
Alcohol and Japan’s Business World
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – For the past month, I have been immersed in conversations I have been having with Japanese businessmen in my building. This experience has opened a new world for me into corporate structure and the problems of that nation’s economy.

January 2, 2013
A Little Time Waster
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I knew I wouldn’t like Facebook. I had joined the social network to sell my book “Borneo Tom” a few years ago. In the beginning, I accepted “friends” from everywhere. Each morning and evening I “liked” everything without reading the post. It took maybe 45 seconds.

December 12, 2012
Reviewing A Nobel Laureate’s Work
Tom McLaughlin

When the Nobel Prize in Literature was earned by Chinese national Mo Yan, I decided to tackle one of his books. The major reason was to help me comprehend the Oriental mind through literature. I teach and live among the Chinese here in Malaysian Borneo, and I thought this would help me understand their history and culture.

December 5, 2012
Planting Bananas and Panic
Tom McLaughlin

Kampung Demak Baru, Malaysian Borneo – I learned how to plant bananas. I had always thought it would be difficult because of the tiny seeds in the fruit. In my imagination, one had to take the bitsy spores and scatter them on soil.

November 28, 2012
Gramps’ Special Christmas Gifts
Tom McLaughlin

It has been a few years since Mom and Dad passed away but I remember the torture I went through to try and figure out what to get them for Christmas. Even now, the thought makes me shudder.

November 21, 2012
A Borneo Saturday Morning
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – As many can attest, sleeping in on a Saturday morning with a two year old becomes a distant past. Dzul’s (my son) energy level far exceeds that contained in several cups of coffee.

November 14, 2012
Hear This from an Angry, Old, White Democrat
Tom McLaughlin

I should say: “Now let us put our divisiveness behind us and move forward together. We are all Americans and need to cross the aisle with love and friendship, to compromise on the great challenges and move our beloved nation forward.

November 7, 2012
A Dubious Algorithm and Nobel Prize
Tom McLaughlin

I have always said weather forecasters and economists are the only two professions where individuals can make mistake after mistake without getting fired. The same people continue to be employed as if nothing had happened after a fiasco of a prediction.

October 31, 2012
Romney’s Vision for America: A Prophecy
Tom McLaughlin

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney firmly believes he can change the economy. He knows his methods will bring a turn around and launch America onto a course of prosperity and growth. He is convinced that by putting into place his knowledge and experience from his business practices America will emerge stronger.

October 24, 2012
Growing Up Together All Over Again
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – “An angel and a little devil,” I exclaim as both my wife, Suriani and my son, Dzul, walk out of the bedroom each morning. I usually arise an hour or so before them, checking my e-mails, wandering through Facebook and sipping a huge mug of coffee.

October 17, 2012
The Farm Bill
Tom McLaughlin

American farmers are the back bone of our country. They toil to bring forth the harvest for people around the world consume. Up at sunrise, they mount their trusty tractor and till the soil, nurturing each seedling to bring forth the fruits of their labors.

October 10, 2012
Saving Jungle People – A Different Perspective
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Throughout the popular press, and with some well-meaning environmental groups, a movement has arisen where hunters and gatherers should be allowed to continue their nomadic lifestyle. They portray these individuals in an idyllic manner, living in a Garden of Eden, wandering half-naked in the jungles.

October 3, 2012
Middle East Realities – A Primer
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The Middle East nations are composed of families that I will rightfully or wrongly, call tribes. These tribes are composed of several hundred or thousand of family members united together because of relationships.

September 26, 2012
A Religious Quandary
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Living in a Muslim country and being a science person, one is often confronted with the dilemma of the eternal question of who created man, God or evolution. Many of my young kampung friends ask me the question; I usually squirm and sputter, not wanting to give an answer.

September 19, 2012
“Odd” American Ways
Tom McLaughlin

Kampung Demak Baru, Borneo – My wife’s parents have become very elderly. Taking care of their quarter acre plot has become a challenge and I elected to help them out. After five or more years of seaside and condo living, I was anxious to get back to gardening.

September 12, 2012
Why I Live Where I Do
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I suppose it has crossed your mind when visiting Why in the world would anyone who spent most of his life in the Middletown Valley of Maryland choose to travel halfway ‘round the world to live? The answer is quite simple. It’s the food.

September 5, 2012
Into The Fray! Mistake or Brilliance?
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The Republican Convention was broadcast live here over the satellite cable company Astro. It aired from 8 A.M. until noon on CNN International, headquartered in London.

August 29, 2012
Fasting Ends! Let the Feasting Begin
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The preparations for the celebration of Hari Raya or Eid usually begins during the fasting month of Ramadan. The paint store in town displays cans of colorful products that spill out the front door onto the sidewalk. The most sought after colors are green, the color of Islam, or yellow, the royal colors of Malaysia.

August 22, 2012
The Pride of Sarawak
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – On Friday morning last, Malaysia awoke to the news that happened while most were asleep because of the time difference. Nobody expected a young woman from rural Borneo to earn a Bronze Medal in 10-meter platform diving because, in the past, Malaysia had only placed in badmitten, never any other sport.

August 15, 2012
Gigantopithicus, Yeti and Big Foot
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have a good friend who is really into orangutans. He runs a rehab center near here where he takes care of each of them as if they were his children. Truth be told, they are.

August 1, 2012
Romney: A Picture of Contradictions
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Piers Morgan’s interview with Mitt Romney was broadcast here via cable on CNN London. It was the first in depth dialog I have watched with the Republican contender.

July 25, 2012
No! I’m haven’t lost my mind!!!
Tom McLaughlin

Bako National Park, Malaysian Borneo – My daughters had only six days here. Six days! Actually, they had 10 days, but four of those were spent traveling back and forth to visit us in Borneo.


July 18, 2012
Gifts Beyond Compare
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – William Wordsworth’s thoughts, written more than 200 years ago in his narrative poem “Michael, came to mind the other day when exciting news penetrated by addling brain.

July 11, 2012
A Profile in Courage and Justice Roberts
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I expected a wave of Republican jubilation that would even rock my island home here on Borneo. Reluctantly, I turned on CNN just as they switched to the U.S. broadcast from the London feed we receive here.

June 27, 2012
Legendary Stones of Kuching
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The stone grows and gets larger and larger, therefore it has mystical and magical properties. That is one of the legends I had heard about a sand stone outcropping located, appropriately, on Rock Road here in Kuching.

June 20, 2012
The Tree Curse and Village Ghosts
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Once upon on a time there was a kampung that had a huge tree that shaded the houses into almost total darkness. The twilight would not allow a garden to grow the vegetables needed to prepare food. The people had to go into town to purchase the items.

June 13, 2012
Genealogy, Borneo Style
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have always been interested in roots. I tried o track down my family origins but got stuck in the 1860 census.

June 6, 2012
Trading Beads and JP Morgan
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Manhattan Island was traded for a handful of beads? When I was growing up, this is one of the stories about how English colonists duped the American Indians. However, from their perception, nobody could ever own the land as it was as free as the air.

May 30, 2012
Baffling Chinese Pottery
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – “That many dynasties,” I asked as I started my lessons about identifying ancient Chinese pottery. As with most beginning collectors, I began my research after I had purchased about eight pieces.

May 23, 2012
Another Fading Tradition
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I never thought I would get interested in cannons, let alone own four of them. I had always thought of these guns as sitting on courthouse lawns, exhibits on civil war battlefields or thrusting shells toward Japanese held islands in the Pacific.

May 16, 2012
Ghosts and Masks
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysia Borneo – Spirits and ghost and other things that go bump in the night! My latest acquisitions have been Borneo masks that represent the other world. My collection of more than 20 is from the Iban people.

May 9, 2012
Dinner Across the River
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysia Borneo – Sometimes, Suriani, Dzul and I cross the river for dinner. There is nothing Biblical in this; and it has become second nature, like getting in your car and going to a diner in the states.

May 2, 2012
Sold Down The River – Part 2
Tom McLaughlin

Bako, Malaysian Borneo – I have always thought of salt water as a cleansing remedy for all that ails you. When my children, niece and nephew were in Ocean City, MD, I always told them to go in the water when they had a health problem.


April 25, 2012
Sold Down The River – Part 1
Tom McLaughlin

Bako, Malaysian Borneo – “Mr. Allnut, says Rosie, played by Katherine Hepburn to her boat mate. “Yes, Miss,” replies Charlie acted by Humphrey Bogart in the classic film “African Queen.”

April 18, 2012
Borneo’s Jumping Spiders
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I really don’t like spiders and I never have. But I realize there are those on this planet who find them fascinating.

April 11, 2012
Chinese Ceramics
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – “Yea, that’s nice,” I said to my wife while glancing at a piece of pottery. My mind always avoided anything Chinese because I didn’t understand, nor did I want to understand Chinese writing.

April 4, 2012
The Kris
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysia Borneo – Since I quit teaching I can now get back to one of my hobbies, my Kris collection. A Kris is a weapon unique to the Malay world and akin to a dagger. There are pictures of these on my Facebook page, Borneo Tom.

March 28, 2012
The Not-So-Lucky Totem
Tom McLaughlin

“I have to have it,” I said to my wife. She rolled her eyes at me. The object of my desire was a 12-foot totem pole carved into a log of Iron wood. It was exquisite. Two figures crudely hacked into the strongest wood on the planet.

March 21, 2012
Walking The Walk…
Tom McLaughlin

I am against abortion. I believe it is the most despicable event that could happen to a life that has been given and to the mother. I believe it is a sin against God and nature.

March 7, 2012
Flying Backward for 21 Hours
Tom McLaughlin

I had made arrangements for the return of my illness but did not expect it so soon after my two-month tour of the states. It started on Friday with the buzzing in my body increasing, and by Saturday I felt I had gripped a running lawn mower.

February 22, 2012
Here’s One Primary Analysis
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching Malaysian Borneo – I was asked to try to explain to a local Malaysian the Republican primary process in the states. Here is an excerpt.

February 15, 2012
Adventures in Language and Television
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching Malaysian Borneo – “Sayang, Sayang!* Porn Stars are on! Come quick, you will miss porn stars,” my bride exclaimed.

February 8, 2012
Sliced Bread
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – There are no “amber waves of grain” here in tropical Borneo, hence, no bread. The white air sold as “bread” in the very few stores that carry it does not even stand up to a knife spreading melted butter. It usually tears becoming an orb of gob.

February 1, 2012
Traveling and Wishing
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – The first stop on our weekend jaunt was to the Indonesian-Malaysian border town of Serikan. I had been told about this shopping bazaar with its cut-rate prices since I arrived a few years back and most people made it seem they were giving away merchandise.  It has been touted as the “Mall of America” of Borneo.

January 25, 2012
Happy Year of the Dragon!
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I am really not that concerned about these reptilian serpents or any of the other 12 animals that glide by every Chinese New Year. However, living here, one cannot help but join in the festivities.

January 18, 2012
Through the Darkness – Again
Tom McLaughlin

I am not exactly the poster child for vasectomy. Two years ago, I went to see a doctor who must have sterilized most of the men, who wanted the procedure, in Frederick County.

January 11, 2012
Unfortunate Tour, But What Memories!
Tom McLaughlin

Los Angeles CA – Later in life I became a fan of old movies. I can watch them over and over again. I think I have seen Casablanca at least 30 times and always see something new. I still stand at attention when they play the Marseilles.

January 4, 2012
Recreation for the Eyes and Mind
Tom McLaughlin

Venice Beach, CA – Two leggy, busty, 20-something girls clad scantily in green were standing next to a sign with a huge green cross smiling at passersby. With that kind of advertising, I could not help but stop and ask what they were selling. Behind them, a narrow walk up climbed to an upper floor.

December 28, 2011
San Francisco – Then and Now
Tom McLaughlin

San Francisco – It was place of love, sex and drugs. And I was lucky enough to have been there. Haight Ashbury, filled with wonderful long haired, guys and girls, was the center of the action, crowded with the spirit of anti-war and pro- everything.

December 21, 2011
A Tale of a Few Cities
Tom McLaughlin

Middletown, MD – We traveled to the place I call home in the states. Even in stark winter, the Middletown Valley holds an incredible natural beauty, a sense of peace and calm as one descends from Braddock Mountain to the floor.

December 7, 2011
Tribulations of a Montana Wedding
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, MT – My daughter’s wedding! This was my Borneo wife’s first participation in a life passage of my family and she longed to make a good impression. She wanted to look good. I mean real good!

November 30, 2011
Prelude To A Wedding
Tom McLaughlin

Malta, Montana – Island Airways? In Montana? In Montana? This was the airline we were supposed to take from Billings to Glasgow for my daughter’s wedding. Montana just does not conjure in my mind palm trees, sandy beaches and azure seas. In fact, I don’t think there is an island anywhere in Big Sky country.

November 23, 2011
Gramps’ Special Black Friday Gifts
Tom McLaughlin

It has been a few years since Mom and Dad passed away but I remember the torture I went through to try and figure out what to get them for Christmas. Even now, the thought makes me shudder.

November 16, 2011
The Joys of Teething – NOT!
Tom McLaughlin

In route to Frederick from Kuching – I swore my child would not be the one to keep the entire airplane awake with howling as so many others have done in my travels. I had all the medicines; cold remedies, knock out drops and stomach powders from the village.

November 9, 2011
The Mysterious Skulls of Kuching
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – “Where did those skulls come from,” I asked myself. I was standing on a walkway peering into a turret where a basket containing several skulls hung from the ceiling. There was no explanation, just a basket of skulls.

November 2, 2011
Headhunting: A Tradition Long Gone – Part 3
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – “What happens when they bring the skulls home from a raid,” was the question I had been seeking an answer. A couple of days ago, I came across a volume published in 1963 that held several early accounts of head hunting.

October 26, 2011
Headhunting: A Tradition Long Gone – Part 2
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo and Sambas, Indonesian Borneo – Headhunting in Borneo is often portrayed as an act of warfare between two groups living in the forests. The idea that the victors surveyed the battlefield and took heads as a trophy is often recounted to western anthropologists and historians.

October 19, 2011
Headhunting: A Tradition Long Gone
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Borneo was known for its headhunters. Its legacy can still be found in longhouses and museums where skulls usually in a rattan basket, hung from the ceiling.

October 12, 2011
A Goat for Dzul
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – “What do we need a goat for?” I asked my wife after she informed me we needed to get one. I had visions of the four legged creature living on the balcony overlooking the Sarawak River eating my carefully tended orchids.

October 5, 2011
Deadly Acts of Stupidity
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – In my many experiences with the orangutan, reading the literature and speaking to the experts, one does not shoo it away. Similarly, when one encounters a grizzly bear in Montana, one does not try to get close enough to ensure a digital image that shows the human and Ursus arctos horribilis are best of friends.

September 28, 2011
Dear Republicans and Rich People:
Tom McLaughlin

I would like to write to you to complain about the current money problems here in America. I am tired of you blaming us.

September 21, 2011
A Challenging Classroom
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – When I came to Malaysia, I had promised myself I would read the classics. For many years, I had been immersed in science and political theory, so I jumped at the chance to teach a course known as Literature in English.

September 14, 2011
Visas and Outback Steaks
Tom McLaughlin

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – I always hate leaving my island paradise in Kuching for the country’s capital. The American Embassy was calling me to secure a visa for my wife and a birth registration for my eight month old son, Dzul.

September 7, 2011
Homesick Relief on the Way
Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I have to go to the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, and I detest going there. I have to visit the United States Embassy to get a passport for my son and a visa for my wife for our yearly visit to the states. I am married to a local Malaysian.

August 31, 2011