Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Happy New Year

This is my New Year’s greeting to my gentle readers. It is teary-eyed and heartfelt; a sincere wish for a Happy New Year for all.

“All,” just what “all” is Mr. Fred referring to? As my children were growing up I went through an interesting process. I was naturally impressed with the importance of my own children, and I loved them very much. Their happiness was very important to me. As time progressed, this circle of love and concern grew to include their little neighborhood friends, then their schoolmates, then all of the Los Angeles Unified School District, and then all of the children of the world. Then, at some point, I understood that adults don’t automatically become hateful at some point, they belong in the circle of love too, all of them. (With minor exceptions, I’m no saint after all.)

So, in my own way, my own overly-sentimental, depressed, naïve, benighted, semi-delusional way, I love you all, and I wish you all a Happy New Year, with many happy returns.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hamas Rockets And Israeli Public Relations

Hamas fires some of those Rube Goldberg, homemade stovepipe rockets into Israel and Israel responds. Israel must respond, I get that, but consider this:

The Hamas rockets are merely ballistic, they cannot be aimed. Usually they land almost unseen out in some field somewhere. It takes a lot of rockets to eventually kill one Israeli (or, in one instance today, to kill a Palestinian construction worker at an Israeli building site, talk about the wrong place at the wrong time). So do you think Hamas is really trying to: 1) kill Israelis; 2) make a symbolic display; or 3) evoke a violent Israeli response?

My money is on number 3.

It is an amazement to me that Israel performs according to the Hamas script. Every TV in the world springs to vigorous life with images of unfortunate, blown-up Gazans and heroic Palestinian rescue workers. Citizens in a dozen countries, who already hate the Jewish plantation, fill the streets in protest of Israeli “atrocities.” Many countries make statements unilaterally, and the UN joins in, suggesting that both parties cease hostile fire immediately. Never mentioned is who fired first, which makes the statements a tacit condemnation of Israel, whose firepower is thousands of times greater than that of Hamas. The predictable result is obloquy for Israel and another public relations victory for Hamas.

A better idea would be for Israel to hold their fire and go on a public relations offensive of their own. News footage of rockets being fired; rockets exploding; damaged buildings in Israel; wounded and dead Israelis; heroic Israeli rescue workers; surveillance photos of Gazan fighters transporting and firing rockets; Israeli diplomats making every effort to stop the rocket fire by talking with Hamas politicians. If this occurs to me, it is occurring to others as well. Maybe it’ll happen next time.

Hamas is cynically sacrificing the lives of its citizens for discrete propaganda victories in their struggle to drive all Israelis out of “Palestine,” and back to wherever it is that they believe the Jews should go. Oklahoma maybe, who knows? I don’t think they’ve really thought it all the way through. Maybe they want to just kill all the Israelis. Some of them do, I’ll bet.

I agree that thinking something like this all the way through is quite a challenge.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

FUBAR, No Doubt About It

I liked that movie, “Saving Private Ryan,” but I was pretty sure that they made up the term FUBAR for the movie. (“Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition”) No, it so happens that the term was coined in 1942 in North Africa by American soldiers as part of a new, acronymic vocabulary to describe the new situations in which they found themselves.

It started with “SNAFU,” of course. (“Situation Normal, All Fucked Up”) It went on to include not only FUBAR, but also:

SUSFU: “Situation Unchanged, Still Fucked UP”

SAFU: “Self-Adjusting Fuck-Up”

TARFU: “Things Are Really Fucked Up”

FUMTU: “Fucked Up More Than Usual”

JANFU: “Joint Army-Navy Fuck-Up”

JAAFU: “Joint Anglo-American Fuck-Up”

FUAFUP: “Fucked Up And Fucked Up Proper”

The citizen-soldiers were in fact mocking the acronym-mad culture of the military in general, where “Command, Submarine, Pacific,” was reduced to COMSUBPAC. That’s my opinion anyway, even though I don’t think COMSUBPAC is technically an acronym.

Source: “The Day of Battle,” by Rick Atkinson, page 36.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thai-Light-Zone: The Tiger Temple

As the story goes, someone long ago left a sick tiger cub with these monks out in Kachanaburi or Tak somewhere in the west end of Thailand, near Burma. Then the whole thing got out of control. More people brought more tigers; the tigers did what came naturally. They've got like thirty tigers now. The temple is near the River Kwai, what Farang call the River Kwai, the real name of the river is different, it escapes me right now, maybe the Mae Klong. (Kwai means "side channel")
I'll leave it to you to look up the whole story. I read it on Huffington Post, I'm sure googling "tiger monk thailand" would do it. There's lots more pictures.

The Right Background

I have been lucky enough to be thin most of my adult life. Twenties, thirties, early forties, sometimes dangerously thin. It makes dressing easier, that’s for sure, everything looked good on me. It’s a big advantage socially as well; it’s definitely not cool to be heavy, much less fat. Women like it too. It’s a good situation all around.

When I was in my twenties it was simple: I preferred drugs to food. I had spent good money on those drugs and eating much of anything would diminish the effect. That or make me nauseous. Certain drugs themselves will send eating right to the bottom of the to do list. Also like most young people I was very busy. I was out with my friends most nights and we stayed out pretty late. Staying thin was effortless, I never even thought about it.

When I was thirty one or thirty two my family responsibilities finally made an impression on me. I realized that I had a nice wife, two small sons, a house in Los Angeles, various vehicles . . . I wasn’t even completely sure where it had all come from. It was real nice, though, so I figured, what the hell, swing with it. So I became really busy with domestic stuff, working, fixing the house, taking “family vacations” (read: working vacations chasing around national parks with my two sons), building skateboard ramps and castles for action figures, and cleaning up after youngsters. Luckily, or perhaps unsurprisingly, I found that I could still eat whatever I wanted. I had ice cream every night, big dinners, barbeques every weekend, and I never gained a pound. I didn’t grow out of one article of clothes until I was about forty three. Soon after that come the jowls and your metabolism just falls down off the scale. I remember the first time that I ran up the stairs and felt my cheeks moving up and down. That was over ten years ago; by now I am officially paunchy. Not fat, mind you, but definitely paunchy.

Well, sometimes I do look fat. I have discovered that it is all a matter of where I stand. If I stand with a bunch of skinny twenty something’s I look pretty fat. They’re nice about it, but it makes me nostalgic for the days when it was my turn to be thin. Then I was thin wherever I stood, now I have to be careful. There came a eureka moment: if I stand near some really, really fat people I still look thin! I had a couple of days recently relaxing on an island in the Gulf of Siam. Not one of the high powered resort islands, just a low key beach island, all low rise, not too expensive. About half of the tourists were Thai; the other half seemed to all be from Europe, especially France. Everyone over forty was fat with almost no exceptions. Mostly very fat, like how can his knees take that pressure fat, like man, his shoes are going to burst fat, like she has to wear a bikini because they don’t make one piece bathing suits to cover that gut fat, like Bill Bennett fat, like how do these people find time to do anything but eat fat. Against this background I was absolutely svelte. See? It all depends on the background.

Something like that happens in Thailand, and unfortunately it is not a pleasant effect for most Thai women. Like whether or not one is fat depends on the background, whether or not one is attractive works the same way. If a woman wishes to appear very attractive she should go out with girlfriends who are less attractive than she. Conversely, if a very pretty woman is seen against a background of fabulously beautiful women she will appear plain. It’s all a trick of the perspective but, like all mathematics, it operates with a cruel certainty.

Because of this phenomenon many if not most Thai women discount their own looks. Thai women as a group are the most beautiful women in the world, beautiful smiles, lavish lips, great hair, coy sparkling eyes, and girlish figures well into old age, gracious and graceful as all get out. Everywhere I go in Thailand there are numerous beautiful Thai women there. But even in Thailand it is not every single one of the women who can be fabulously, achingly, dizzyingly beautiful.

So the trouble is that wherever a merely very pretty Thai woman goes there are almost certainly fabulously beautiful women there. This is always a points off situation for the pretty woman. Stand that pretty woman in a California supermarket and she’s a real attention getter, do it day after day and she will start to feel pretty. At the market in her own city, however, she is usually outclassed by one or more really startling beauties. Day after day she is made to feel plain. Although the merely very pretty woman is still very pretty, the background causes her looks to lose impact, and inevitably causes her to feel less attractive than she really is.

Thai women as a group are very modest to begin with. “Oh, I am not beautiful.” Sorry, honey, but you should face the facts. Local fashion in Thailand is involved too. “Oh, my skin is black.” Honey, that’s just a beautiful shade of copper you’ve got going there, and it’s working. Some of this modesty is cultural and it is part of the charm of Thai women. But there’s something I’d like to say to all of the Thai women who find their beauty overshadowed by some neighbors or friends. Please listen to the voice of one who knows, the valuable advice of one who is well traveled and has been a close and appreciative observer of the miracle of women in a huge variety of settings. Look at yourself! Be objective! Standing alone without reference to anything or anyone else you are a treasure! Look! Be reasonable! See yourself as others see you! Cultural modesty aside, you’re a real looker baby.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Visitation

Over the parapet beyond the swimming pool this morning burst a magnificent male Common Koel, the huge, muscular Coo-Coo, the “Nok Gao Wow,” my favorite bird. He went straight up, wings, tail, every feather fully extended; then he went away from the building and swung around to his right, made a little circle, and flew off to the left with purposeful thrusts. I’m sure he was flying to a large area of open ground to the south of my condo, to feed.

He was like a huge, muscular pigeon with a larger head and a parrot-like beak. His large, fully spread tail feathers were light grey underneath and darker above, the bird himself was dark, mottled grey. His head was almost black, including the beak.

I love these birds. They are so polite: roosters start their racket just before dawn and raise holy hell for two hours; the Koels only start whistling much later and rather more musically. It is fascinating to think that they, like all coo-coos, lay their eggs in the nest of other birds. It is a little horrible to think of them using their powerful beaks and, what, talons? claws? to set upon and pull apart small mammals and lizards in preparation of eating them semi-alive. “Giant pigeons camouflaged for night-fighting,” I called them once.

It was a nice show.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

You Are Dumb Dot Net

I just laughed my way through another youaredumb.net blog and noticed the read-count. Very low, I thought, how could I know about this great blog and it's only a (relative) few of us reading it?

This stuff is hysterical, and I heartily recommend it.

Risk Allocation, Service Provider Style

A slightly nutsy senior-citizenish man came into my shared office yesterday and he looked glad to see me. He produced some paperwork and introduced himself as some kind of fixer in Phuket, a local guy with connections who helped Farang dealing with property purchases or settling accidents or police trouble. He said he needed a translation of a Power of Attorney, he produced a very simple one in Thai and his attempt at a translation. It was typically cupped, rolled and dog-eared. It was also vague, ambiguous and inadequate. I told him sure, I can help you. Come back tomorrow morning, I’ll take a look around and get some good language to start with.

I pulled a Connecticut Statutory Power of Attorney off the internet and made a list of questions for the guy and I was ready to go. That took six minutes all together. He came in and I satisfied myself that I knew just what he needed, something that would look good to officials, give him the power that he needed and no more and, more importantly, something that would assure his Farang clients that he couldn’t take the power and use it to go clean them out. A Power of Attorney is always an exercise in trust, but it shouldn’t be too much trust. I hadn’t written it yet, but it was a nice document in my mind, and I’d done a good job.

So I told him that I could give him something very nice looking and very effective, on CD and with enough hard copies to use as originals, for 1,000 Baht (about thirty dollars). He was horrified. “You want to charge me?” he gasped. I told him, “well, I’m working after all.” He said he could just go and copy something out of a textbook, he didn’t need to pay for it. I quietly noted that it wasn’t his first choice though.

“Go ahead,” I smiled, “and good luck.” I ushered him out the door. Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.

Always get the money first. I learned that one the hard way. “If they’re serious about paying you,” said my astute friend Maynard, “they’ll give you the money.”

The guy would have been better off to pay me. I have seen lots of documents over here, and I haven’t seen any that I thought were a really good job. I have helped Thai legal professionals with translations of letters and contracts, starting from literal translations from the Thai, and most of them are just terrible. Not only the English, but also the content of the original. My questions are often of first impression to the Thais. Like a certain contract: “so, what about the insurance?” Followed by general confusion. “What about damage to the goods while they are in the possession of (the party of the second part, or, as they prefer to say in Thailand, the party ‘on’ the second part)?” Still not clear. “Who loses the money if the goods are destroyed by fire or something?” Boy, Farang think of the damnedest things. Things like risk allocation. To be fair, I do most of this with friends at school, and if they get a fee for what they're doing they share it with me. If they don't get a fee, I'm happy to help my friends.

One thing is for sure, the nutsy guy reminded me that teaching is so much more comfortable than providing services to ingrates who think everything should be free. He still owes me for about forty five minutes of my life.

Are You a Christian?

“I believe in one god, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy; and endeavouring (sic) to make our fellow-creatures happy.
But . . . I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own Church.”

John Payne, American Founding Father

I have always had trouble with the question, “are you a Christian?” In California, if anyone were to ask it of you, they would probably mean “have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal savior?” or “have you been born again?” These are “Evangelical Christians,” as opposed to members of the Catholic Church or one of the mainline Protestant religions, like Methodists, or Presbyterians, or, my favorites, the Episcopalians. In California, I always answer “yes” to the question, although really I am in complete agreement with the statement of John Payne at the head of this chapter. I answer, “yes” because I am certain that at least in the cultural-historical sense I am indeed a Christian.

Religion is all levels of metaphor, and I simply answer truthfully and let the metaphors fall where they may. “Is Jesus Christ your personal savior?” Sure, he is. The historical Jesus is the great teacher with whom I have the greatest cultural affinity. “Do you believe that almighty god created the universe?” Sure, who else? Some mysterious something set in motion the great happenstantial continuum that became life-as-we-know-it. Once you get past all hope of understanding what actually happened, “god” is as good a name as any for the residual mystery.

That’s what god is to me: a mystery, the big mystery, the mystery with no name, the mystery whose plans and schemes are so remote from mere men that in comparison men become like ants attempting mathematics. God is a very personal concept. We all perceive our own universe in our own heads and our own god is in charge. It is shameless pride to think that you understand the ways and means of god. Did god create the universe? Well I suppose so since god is the wall beyond which there is no breaking through, the mystery where all lines of questioning must be abandoned. To argue over how or when god created the universe is not only pretentious and stupid, but also is an affront to god. Leave god’s business to god.

So it really puts me in a quandary when Thais ask me, “are you a Christian?” I’m never sure if it’s a serious god question or whether they’ve just had dubious experiences with prostilatzing Farang. Are they afraid that I’ll start bothering them, you know, you ought to dump that Buddha stuff and find Christ? I usually respond to the question by lowering my head a little and making a serious face, saying something like, “well, I just try to be a good man.” Almost always, the Thai is thrilled with this answer.

Thais have the most wonderful understanding of the essential nature of religion. All religions, all religions worth their salt anyway, have the same goals: to make their adherents better people, to provide a framework for community, to calm people’s fears about the unknown. As Payne put it, love mercy, do justice, make things better.

I'm with Payne on this one. Oh, and on the America thing too.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh! My God! It's Not Blazing Hot!

Countryside villages in hilly provinces all over Thailand are experiencing a new disaster: moderate temperatures. All quotes are from the Bangkok Post:

"Eight villages in Hua Hin have been declared a disaster zone after temperatures hit 10C, chilling residents who live without electricity.

"Temperatures as low as 13 and 14 degrees are normal, but this year the mercury has dropped further to 10 degrees, especially at night, according to Mr Prasit. "

Some of the affected areas are without regular electric service, and the reason is mysterious to outside observers:

"Residents want electricity to keep themselves warm in the cold season, but the area (Hua Hin, ed.) has been without supply since the government of Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat more than 40 years ago. The area is regarded as a "military safety area," so electricity is not allowed, said Mr Prasit."

Ten degrees Celsius is life threatening to people accustomed to extreme heat on a daily basis:

"Meanwhile, the Public Health Ministry has launched a campaign against diarrhoea which has claimed the lives of 42 people, most of them aged under five since early this year, and continues to threaten people in the cold season."

I'm pretty comfortable myself. Ten degrees Celsius is fifty degrees Fahrenheit.

Friday, December 12, 2008

I know Why Oprah Is Fat

I don’t follow Oprah’s comings and goings that closely, but I notice that she is up over two hundred pounds again and is feeling pretty low about it. I’m not sure if she has mentioned it in these same terms, but I have some thoughts on the subject.

I put on a couple of kilos myself in the run up to the November election. I was very concerned about the issues being presented, or not being presented as the case may be. I was on pins and needles for month after month, and I’ll bet that Oprah was in the same boat. My guess is that both of us, in our driven-to-distraction state, got a little less careful about what we were eating. Both of us get into social situations on a regular basis where we are presented with large quantities of delicious food, and I’ll bet that each of us gave in to the temptation to eat more than we would have under more relaxing circumstances. I don’t know about Oprah, but I was falling back on my comfort menu more often than I had for several years.

I wish us both luck over the next few months getting back into some of our clothes.

Big Stars Doing Voice Over Work Is Mischief

Movies like Shrek (now Shrek III) are wildly popular these days, I don’t understand it myself, I find them mostly wooden and unfunny. I suppose if kids like them it’s a good thing, but there’s one aspect of it that really annoys me. Only one aspect? Maybe I’m trying to be nice here, but one aspect in particular.

Voice-over work, providing the voices for animated cartoons and features was done for most of the history of the movie business by voice-over actors and actresses. We never saw their faces, but many of them were famous in their own right and we knew their work when we heard it. Guys like Mel Blanc, and more recently Billy West. All of that has changed.

Now all of the characters are voiced by big-time movie actors and actresses. I’m sure that the original intention was to provide marquee value for what was essentially a cartoon. Now all of the big stars are scrambling for the business.

John Travolta got a plum role in a movie about a dog or something, a cartoon dog. He seemed very happy about it when I saw him on TV doing PR for the movie. And who could blame him? He got a huge fee, probably most of his usual fee, for sitting around for a few weeks in a bathrobe, unshaven, talking into a microphone. No location shooting, no cameras, no makeup, no losing or gaining weight, just sit and talk, bankers’ hours, sleep at home every night. That’s good work right there.

My point is that it should be work for real voice-over actors and actresses. That is a talent group that should be valued and nurtured. They should get the money, and a lot less money it would be too. Travolta already has seven jet aircraft, he doesn’t need to take food out of the mouths of the voice-over crowd.

I’m here to call for a return to normalcy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Thai-Light-Zone: The Camera Store

Or should I call it, “The Camera Museum?” It’s way off the beaten path, here in no-tourist town, on a dreary stretch of a main drag featuring mostly dreary shops, in a neighborhood of mostly students with a sprinkling of new “luxury” condo buildings. It’s a perfectly presented shop selling only second-hand film cameras.

I can’t believe that they make a living. The show window, along with a long low counter, and an entire wall of glass-doored display cabinets, are filled with about three hundred, mostly premium brand film cameras in pristine, perfectly operational condition. Each camera is wrapped in a plastic bag; each bag contains a pouch of anti-desiccant as a tropical precaution. It’s a beautiful inventory, but there are few bargains. The prices are fair, but let’s face it, the fair price for a like-new Leica or Hasselblad is pretty steep.

There are Nikon SLR’s of every “F.” Photomic F, F, F-1, F-2, and so forth, some with the motor-drives. Nikorrmat’s of the dry-land or the underwater variety. Lots of Leica’s, including one from the 1930’s that is constructed entirely of brass, and all the way up to the most recent Leica rangefinder and SLR cameras. Rollei-flex’s and Rollei-cords, a few early twentieth century bellows cameras from America and Germany. Two Arriflex sixteen millimeter film cameras. It’s an astonishing and beautiful collection.

Every camera that I looked at was in virtually new condition, and they were all guaranteed to function in every particular. The prices put them out of reach of most Thais. The Nikon reflex cameras start at about four or five hundred dollars (over 10,000 Baht) for a kind of simple, kind of old one, and go up from there. The Leicas start up around a thousand dollars (30,000 Baht or so). I only saw two or three ringers: one Russian “Kiev,” a Leica rangefinder knock-off; one Vivitar SLR; one Petri. Everything else was primo all the way.

It’s a family enterprise, and obviously a labor of love. Dad treats every camera like it was, well, a perfectly preserved relic of a technologically superior past, which they all are. He’s proud of every camera. He speaks English like it was his fifth language, sorely neglected. His son’s English is a little better, he can follow a simple conversation with a sympathetic (slow, clear) speaker (like me). Over in a corner was an uncle or somebody who looked like he was waiting for something to fix.

I asked, they’ll fix a digital camera if you approach the subject gingerly. None in the shop though, not even a mere digital camera accessory. This place is ideologically pure, an analog temple, a monument to Kodachrome. I’d love to help these guys, but I don’t need a film camera right now, and I don’t think that many other people do either. I wish them luck.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Dangerous Karaoke

This is some kind of content attributed to the New York Times, it was already second hand where I found it. It’s all fun, and true as well.

COPIED IN: A 23-year-old Malaysian man was killed on Thursday night after reportedly enraging other customers who felt that he “hogged the microphone” at what Malaysia’s Star Online described as “a coffeeshop-cum-karaoke outlet” in the town of Sandakan, on the island of Borneo.

The Guardian’s Ian MacKinnon adds some regional context:
Karaoke rage is not unheard of in Asia. There have been several reported cases of singers being assaulted, shot or stabbed mid-performance, usually over how songs are sung.
Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” has reportedly generated so many outbursts of hostility that some bars in the Philippines now do not offer it on the karaoke menu anymore. In Thailand this year, a gunman shot eight people dead after tiring of their endless renditions of a John Denver tune.
As The Telegraph reported in March, that maddening John Denver tune was “Country Roads.”

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Malaysia’s official Bernama news agency reports that “two men have been arrested in connection with the murder” in Sandakan.

Last year, Bernama reported that Malaysia’s information minister, Datuk Seri Zainuddin Maidin, had issued a public put-down of karaoke singers by likening them to another group of social misfits: bloggers. Both groups, Mr. Zainuddin said, “take pleasure in their own singing but have no influence.” END COPY

I would have cheered the policeman who was put on his killing spree by “Country Roads.” That song makes me crazy too. And “My Way?” That’s an unsingable horror that should be stricken from the catalog.

And thanks also to Mr. Zainuddin, for his totally gratuitous yet strangely true comment about bloggers.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Monster Jobs!

Monster.com has not given up on me. I spent most of 2006 looking for a job teaching English, and I registered with Monster and checked in pretty frequently. With 2009 fast approaching, it is nice to know that they have not forgotten about me.

I get an e-mail notice almost every day informing me of the results of “my job search.” Here’s the list I got today:

Dec, 05, DRIVERS WORCESTER BUSINESS HAS OPENINGS, T and G Help Wanted Ad , Worcester-01608
Dec, 05, FINANCE DIRECTOR CITY OF COLUS, Company Confidential , Colusa-95932
Dec, 05, Physician, Company Confidential , Hewlett-11557
Dec, 05, Assistant Director, Liberty Lutheran , Philadelphia-19101
Dec, 05, INSURANCE PERSONAL LINES REPABILITY TO Q, T and G Help Wanted Ad , Worcester-01608
Dec, 05, Production Worker, Company Confidential , Panama City Beach-32407
Dec, 05, TEACHER, Worcester Telegram and Gazette , Worcester-01608
Dec, 05, RESPONSIBLE PERSON 117 FT GOOD BENEFITS C, T & G Help Wanted Ad , Worcester-01608
Dec, 05, Welder/Pipefitter Trainers, Navy Recruiting District , Odessa-79761

Today’s list is unusual in that it actually contains a teaching job. Do you think that this is the result of a randomized computer search? Just to get a list going? There doesn’t seem to be any rational consideration behind it. One list included “aircraft refueler, Iraq,” that was my favorite.

Things seem to be jumping in Worcester. Good for them.

Number 8 confused me. After I thought about it, the “FT” probably means “full time.” The “117” still confounds me; strictly speaking, the ad appears to seek a responsible person, 117 feet tall. It would help if I knew what “C, T & G” stood for. Or “Q” for that matter.

Nice to know that they remember me, though, in their zeal to be helpful.

Kite Season in Thailand

We are in the middle of our “Cold Season” over here. This so-called Winter lasts about six weeks, draped in and around the month of December. It’s hot again before the end of January, but for this six week period the weather really is delightfully cool, even in the middle of the day. Over the last week, I have begun to see kites flying around the neighborhood.

I first noticed this “kite season” when I was living up-country in a small provincial capitol. Kite stands opened up around the first week in December; they were all gone by the second week in January. I figured, and I still believe, that this is kite season because it is the only time of the year that it is cool enough to run around outdoors, like running around trying to get the kites aloft.

Almost all of the kites are of the standard, elongated diamond shape, most are very colorful. Thai children, like children everywhere, seem to enjoy the whole thing. Generally speaking though, Thailand is much too hot for the full speed running that is required to get a kite airborne. Better to stick to slow-motion games of soccer for those who insist on taking outdoor exercise.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Greetings and Apologies

Hanging on my every word, I know that there are ten or twelve people who are wondering why I am so quiet these days. It's only that your humble content provider is very tired. It will pass, and before long I will again be the informative, cheerful and wildly entertaining man that you all know and love.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Picture of the Day: Welcome, Mr. Fred!

We went out to Surin for an English camp and we stayed at the nicest hotel in town. It was the most expensive too, at about twenty-eight dollars a night. It was the only time in my life that my arrival was broadcast to the world on a sign board.
The room was beautiful, a spacious corner room with nice furniture and good cable TV. One small drawback: not a drop of hot, or even mildly warm water. Freezing showers were the order of the day.