October 2004 Archives

Halloween

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Happy Halloween! This post is unfortunately very short, since Thai people don't celebrate Halloween (other than a few of them donning face paint).

It's a shame, too, as Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays. It was the only time of the year where you can get away with being anybody or anything that you want to be.

So, to celebrate I invite you to go visit the Walt Disney Haunted Mansion. Sure, it never was very scary, but a behind the scenes look at one of Disney's most popular rides is a good way to spend your All Hallow's Eve.

Polls

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Ok, I have to write one more political post. Last week I read an interesting online article that claimed that the daily presidential polls have a much larger range of error than they advertise.

The theory is that the polling is done by phone -- and the pollsters only call land-lines, not cell phones. Why does this matter? Because a small percentage of people do not have even have a land line and instead use their cell phone for all calls. I can buy this argument, since I was one of those people when I lived in San Francisco.

But again, why does it matter if cell phone users aren't counted in the polls? Because, as the theory goes, these voters are more likely to vote for Kerry. In a close election, this small percentage of (for now) uncounted voters just might make the difference.

No matter who you support in next week's election, you can read the article for yourself. It's entitled Why We Probably Shouldn't Put Too Much Faith in Presidential Tracking Polls.

Only three more days...

America Split Down the Middle

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The American Presidential election is upon us. Who will win? I have no idea, but I do think it's a bit of a shame that public opinion is divided down the middle, creating two Americas. You would think that we would be able to agree a little more.

In any case, in a few days we will know the outcome of the election. I don't talk much about politics on this site, but I just have to say that my vote is for Kerry for sure. He's not the most exciting guy, but to me, the person who is the President is only part of the picture. The people who the President surrounds himself with are also very important. And frankly, I despise most of Bush's advisors (Rumsfield, Ashcroft, Cheney, etc). Colin Powell and Condolleza Rice are the only ones I had respect for, but it seems to me that those two were shouted down by three mentioned above and now really have no say in what happens. Their credibility was damaged by having to go along with the Bush line.

Also, I think that Kerry is very a very intelligent man. (The same can be said for Gore, and the fact that he is a detail-oriented intellectual probably cost him the election.) I think that Kerry is a consolidator, not a divider. Being outside of the US I can see that most people in the world think that the US government has made a lot of mistakes over the last four years. When we went to Iraq and "took care of business" all by ourselves it gave us a very bad name. We still haven't been able to clean up the mess we made -- both on the ground in Iraq and in our relationships with other countries. I think that the world is getting smaller and smaller every day, and therefore cooperation is much more important than the US going on the offensive all the time, all alone.

Having written this now, I read back over it and can see that I am certainly no great political pundit. I'm just a regular guy who happens to be living overseas and who thinks it's time for a change in my home country.

SGTowns Mailbag

Over the last week or so, a few readers and friends have sent in question that I can't answer. So I thought I would post them here and see if anyone else can help. So, without further ado, I present the SGTowns.com Reader Mailbag!

Letter #1: A reader writes: "I was watching one of the National Geographic series "Taboo: Extreme Entertainers" and they did a segment on Thai kathoeys. Anyway, they interviewed one kathoey who goes by the name "Day" and they said she's written two books..."

This reader was asking for more information. I am pretty sure he is talking about the main kathoey (transgendered) performer at the Freeman show on Silom. I know a few of my readers have seen this show, and I am sure that they, like me, loved it.

But what is her name? I thought it was Jay Dee or Jai Dee? Does she have a website? Has anyone read her books?

Letter #2: A reader writes asking about Nui Beach on Phuket: "At the time of our visit some bungalows were being built behind the beach and I am keen to find out if they are complete --I don't suppose you kept a card or a name of the English guys who were managing the place?"

Nui was indeed a beautiful and relaxing place. Here is a story about my visit to Nui Beach and a picture I took when I was there. But I don't know the answer to his questions. Anyone else?

Letter #3: Finally, my good friend Colin wrote to ask me if I "know any Software Developers in Bay Area looking for a job"? I don't, but maybe you do. He works for Genesys, a telecommunications software company. If you know anyone, tell me and I will put you in touch with Colin.

Truffula Seed

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thisendonesie.jpgMy dear friend and ex-NOVO-collegue Beth K. has just started up a new online store that is selling onesies. What the heck is a onesie? That's exactly what I was wondering, so I went over to Truffula Seed to find out.

Apparently, onesies are the little one-piece outfit that babies wear. Who knew? And if your baby is a little hipster-in-training, then he or she will love Truffula Seed, which according to its tagline, is for babies who don't want to dress like them.

I have to admit the designs are kind of cute. My favorite one, though, is the one shown here and reminds weary parents to keep "This End Up!" (Click on the pic to see a bigger version.)

So, if you have a baby or know anyone who does, head on over to Truffula Seed!

Update (5 April 2006): Opps, looks like the Truffala website, which used to be at http://www.truffulaseed.com is no more.

Piya!

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Yay, another Bangkok blogger! And the bonuses this time are that 1) I know him in the real world and 2) he is actually Thai! Oui's new site is called The blog of a Sisaket boy

Looking at Oui's URL (http://piyachat.blogspot.com/), I didn't actually know his real name is Piyachat. So, first there was PiyaWAT and then my travel agent is named PiyaRAT and now Oui's name is PiyaCHAT. Now, I just need to meet a Piyachai, Piyawan, Piyatip, and Piyaporn.

Thai names crack me up.

(Actually, Piyawat's brother and sister are also both Piya-somethings. I'll have to ask him their names again.)

Back to School Projects

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Wow, another long multi-day break from posting to this site. Does that mean I haven't been doing anything? On the contrary, I've been quite busy and even somewhat productive. Here's a quick run-down of a few things that have been keeping me busy lately.

It's back to school time, with no breaks until Christmas. Although the thought of no holidays is not very exciting, the idea of getting into a regular schedule and being productive is appealing. One of the things that I have been able to work into the schedule is (almost) nightly trips to the gym. I've built up to running 3 KM on the treadmill or swimming 1200 M in the pool. Hopefully I get work up to 5 K runs and 2500 M swims by the end of the year.

I've also been able to work on learning Thai (almost) every day. If I can spend an hour or so a day, I think I can make a lot of progress. Each of the last two weeks I have added about 50 flash cards to my "Mastered" pile. Now that there are about 225 words in that pile, it's time to start concentrating on learning some grammar so that I can string some of those words into real sentences.

The other project I have been working on is a write-up of the ICALT conference I attended in Finland. I wanted to summarize what I learned for my school (who was kind enough to sponsor my trip) but also to help me to figure out what direction I wanted to take with my PhD. I think it will be successful on both counts.

Apologies for a not-very-interesting post. Perhaps something better will appear soon.

Google Me!

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Regular readers of this website might be surprised to hear the next bit of news from my life: I just sent in a resume for a project management / business analyst job. The company office I am applying to is in San Francisco, but the job will be in... Singapore!

Even though I wasn't actively job hunting, this opportunity comes from an ex-colleague of mine and I just can't pass it up. The more I think about it, the more excited I get.

I haven't sent out a resume for over two years, which is also the same amount of time that I have had this website. I have to admit it is a strange feeling to know that the chances are fairly high that the good folks at the previously mentioned company will "Google" my name. And when they do, this site is the number one result.

It's not that I really mind them coming here, as looking at my website would probably give them a better picture of who I am than any 30-minute interview would. At least it might give them a better idea of my personality, but probably not of my Project Management skills. It's just a little strange to realize that it still might play some role in the decision process.

I guess all I can say is at least I am not applying for an Information or Graphic Design position. This website is hardly the epitome of clever design. But it is mine, and the content here does say something about who I am and what I have been doing the last two years.

So... to those of you who just Googled me. Welcome!

Bangkok Metroblogging

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I just got an email from Metroblogging telling me that 6 Bangkok-based bloggers had signed up to create a Bangkok Blog website. All we need is four more volunteers. Anyone want to play?

(Check out the Metroblogging site for more info.)

I'm sorry to report that I am back in Bangkok after a wonderful few days in Samet. It's amazing what happens to my brain after a few days on the beach wiggling my toes in the sand and staring out at the shrimp boats on the horizon. (See the last post for proof.)

The ride back to the Big City was another 6 hour door-to-door trip, but this time was much more uncomfortable and unenjoyable as the way there. The problem with taking the bus in Thailand is that you never really know what you will get. This time, we were riding an old bus with a broken airconditioner and really bad shocks. So we sweated and bounced as the bus squeek-squeek-squeeked down the road for 3 and a half hours.

On the other hand, the trip did cost 124 baht (US$3) so I guess I can't complain too much.

Granddaddy's Watermelon

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I sit on the beach alone, on a bamboo chair with my feet buried in the beach sand, thousands of miles away from everything I had ever known for the first 30 years of my life. Clouds, left over from last night's monsoon rain storm, still linger above me and hide the rising sun. The clouds, combined with the soft breeze blowing in from the ocean makes me forget that it is the middle of summer and helps me to ignore the strengthening sun.

This beach is my escape from my crazy city life in Bangkok. Here, the morning air is clean and cool and and I think of nothing. For once I do not think about the life I left behind in America years ago, nor my current responsibilities back in the City of Angels, nor nor my unknown, unseen future.

The waves come in, small and steady to lick the sand a few feet from where I sit. I close my eyes to feel the breeze on my face. No deep thoughts today, I just have the feeling of being alive, of being relaxed, of being alone with no past and no future. There is only the present.

I order some breakfast -- palomai ruam lagaw cafe ron (fruit salad and hot coffee) and soon a plate piled high of fresh bananas, papaya, pineapple, and watermelon sits on the bamboo table in front of me. I take a bite of pineapple. Delicious. The rhythmic waves and the cool breeze and the sweet taste in my mouth makes a perfect combination. I don't mind being alone. I don't mind the quiet. But it's a shame that I'm the only one to witness perfection.

I try the watermelon. So sweet, so juicy. Again I close my eyes and suddenly I am no longer alone. I open my eyes and my Grandfather, who left this earth many years ago, has apparently decided that now was the time to return.

He reaches for the fruit plate with a smile and grabs a piece of watermelon, taking a big bite. He too recognizes perfection and he too closes his eyes to savor it.

"Now, boy, that's some good watermelon, ain't it?" he asks me with a huge grin.

All of a sudden the bamboo chairs and table and the sand under my feet are replaced with a kitchen table in a farmhouse in a small Arkansas town. Granddaddy takes another slurping sweet bite and grins again, his entire bald head almost glowing with delight. The kitchen is Grandmother's domain, but every now and then it's a private club for a little boy and his Grandfather.

"It's always best when we get it right off the farm," he says, sprinkling a little salt on top of the melon. He moves closer, and whispers with a wink, "Now don't tell Grandmother because she'll be cooking dinner soon!" Sure enough, on the kitchen counter sit piles of other goodies from the garden that will be cooked and served soon. But Granddaddy knew that the watermelon just couldn't wait and he knew I would appreciate the secret bounty.

The neighbor's dog barks and suddenly the kitchen disappears, along with the piles of produce on the counter and the the kitchen table and my Grandfather. All that is left is the watermelon in front of me, on the bamboo table with a view of the sand and the surf and the clouds and the sun. The beach dog at my feet barks again, and looks up at me with begging eyes.

"Want a treat?" I ask him. His tail wags "Yes!" and so I hand him a little bit of watermelon, which he eagerly gulps and looks at me for more.

"Now, boy," I ask him, "that's some good watermelon, ain't it?"

Easy Travels to Ko Samet

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I am back on Ko Samet after what was about as perfect a trip here as possible. It ended up being about six hours door-to-door (i.e., Thong Lo to Tub Tim) and absolutely hassle free. The weather cooperated as well and the welcoming sunny skies made the island seem even more colorful than usual. White sands, blue/green water, blue skies, green foliage. Perfect.

I'm going be sure to enjoy the next few days. And who knows, maybe I will even get some work done as well!

Stupid Yankee

My Dad sent me a funny joke over email last week. After spending a week trying (and failing) someone in Thailand who would appreciate it, I figured I'd just post it here:

A very genteel Southern lady was driving across the Savannah River Bridge one day.

As she neared the top of the bridge, she noticed a young man fixin' to jump.

She stopped her car, rolled down the window and said, "Please don't jump, think of your dear mother and father."

He replied, "Mom and Dad are both dead; I'm going to jump."

She said, "Well, think of your wife and children."

He replied, "I'm not married and I don't have any kids."

She said, "Well, think of Robert E. Lee."

He replied, "Who's Robert E. Lee?"

She replied, "Well, just go ahead and jump, you stupid Yankee."

Clearing the Decks at Coffee Society

Oh my... I have spent another day of vacation at Coffee Society on the computer. This time, however, I was going through 3 months of emails in my gmail account. I started the day with over 100 and now I am down to 5. Whew.

This morning was spent scrubbing my bathroom. Wow, what an exciting day!

Now, for the most part the decks are cleared for that "writing vacation" at Samet that I have been threatening. Hopefully, we will be boarding the bus to Ban Pae early tomorrow morning...

New Gmail Features

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I just noticed that Gmail has released a few new features. One is the ability to add more information to your contact list. I've also noticed that the ads in the emails have been moved from the side to the bottom (which is much better, in my opinion).

I only use Gmail for the notifications for this website, as I am very happy with using Yahoo for my regular email. But, I do find it an interesting experiment because it is so different from every other webmail site out there.

By the way, I have 6 email invitations to give out. If you never got a Gmail account and you want one, let me know. Assuming I know who you are, I'll hand one over.

Europe Pics

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I have finally uploaded a few pictures from my trip to Finland and Vienna. I haven't had time to write many comments yet, but you can look through them in my Pictures of Europe Photo Gallery.

In general, though, I felt fairly uninspired as I looked through my photos yesterday. I took over 100 photos over my week there, but had trouble finding ones suitable for posting. Usually in Asia, I have the opposite problem of having too many pictures to post. Was it because I did a bad job of taking pictures this time? Or that Finland and Vienna just weren't as photographically inspiring to me as Asia? Or, is Thailand inherently more photogenic? Hmmmm....

Here and there over the past couple of weeks I have also been upgrading the software on my laptop. It started with an upgrade to Movable Type (the software that runs this website). Even though there was a lot of backlash in the MT user community earlier this year, I decided to go ahead and upgrade. And I am glad I did. Handling the ridiculous amount of comment spam I get on a daily basis is much easier with the new version. That alone made the upgrade worth it. But there are a few other features that I hope to take advantage of soon.

The second big upgrade was to download and install the Firefox browser from Mozilla. A couple of weeks ago the "Preview Release" version was released. I have to say that after using Firefox for a while now, I am very, very happy with the results. I highly recommend everyone ditching Internet Explorer for Firefox. At least download it and try it out. You'll immediately notice that it blows IE out of the water. Click this link to learn more or to download it.

In fact, I love it so much that I also downloaded Thunderbird, which is Mozilla's mail reader. I am using both of them on a daily basis now. (And I am very happy with both!) You can learn more and/or download Thunderbird here.

Then, the upgrade/ditch-Microsoft bug fully bit and I downloaded and installed Open Office. Now, this migration will take me a little longer to get used to, but I have already used the OO word processor and spreadsheet instead of using Word and Excel. I think it would be great to be able to completely ween myself off of Microsoft products. It's nice to know that there are finally some reasonable alternatives out there.


Update (5 October 2004)Open Office just released the latest version of their Office Suite (v.1.1.3). It is available from the OpenOffice.org website.

Update (5 April 2006)Looks like Open Office is up to Version 2.02. I won't keep updating this page, just go to the OpenOffice.org website and get your copy of whatever version is the latest. By the way, for those of us who are Mac users, you might want to check out Neo Office. Some people prefer it over Open Office.

I received an email from a lady at the Development Gateway Foundation today. The DGF is a NGO that "help(s) improve people's lives in developing countries by building partnerships and information systems that provide access to knowledge for development (by) exploit(ing) powerful and affordable information and communication technologies (ICT) that were previously unavailable." Sounds like a lofty and worthwhile goal.

She had stumbled across my blog and was asking if I knew of any cases of using blogging for education in developing countries. Unfortunately, I don't, but I would like to. It's definitely something I'd like to cover in my PhD research.

Does anyone have any information about something along these lines? Email me or leave a comment here. Thanks!

The last two weeks of proctoring exams have flown by. It's now 5 PM on Saturday and I don't have to be back in the office for the next 11 days.

Even though the exam week has gone by quickly, it has still be a little stressful. For some reason, tensions were high in the office among the farang staff. I'm not sure how it happened, but I think it was one of those cases of contagious stress. In any case, we are all going on our separate ways for the next two weeks, so things should be much calmer when we all return.

For me, I had to figure out where I would go with all my looming free time. I seriously considered a trip to Sri Lanka and even went as far as making plane reservations and buying a Lonely Planet guide book. It sounded like a very interesting trip, but in the end, I decided not to go.

Why? Well, the main reason was because my "Should I get a PhD?" decision came to a head this week. I received an email from a possible advisor in Australia asking me to apply for the next school year. Should I do it? Am I ready to spend the next three or four years working on a PhD? Can I do it "offshore" while living in Thailand? (Which means I need a visa to stay here.) What about work? How will I pay my bills? How will I find the time to do research? I feel like I am busy as it is now, but I don't think I can afford to just stop working and only go to school.

In addition, in order to apply, I need to write a minimum-1000-word research proposal. When in the world am I going to find time to do that?

In any case, at the end of the week I can say that I think I now have a plan. To make a long story short, it looks like I can get a PhD from Australia, get a reduced teaching load at my school (which gives me a salary and a visa), and I can spend the next two weeks writing a research proposal. The answer seems easy now, but it was quite a process to get to this point.

Now, the only remaining question is: Where am I going to write the proposal? I need a location that has internet connections and is cheap and relaxing and nearby Bangkok.

Looks like the perfect excuse for a week-long trip to my favorite Thai island of Ko Samet...

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

September 2004 is the previous archive.

November 2004 is the next archive.

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