February 2007 Archives

I Love Macs But Not Dreamhost or Dentists


Here's a little round-up of a few things that have been going on this week. First of all, my friend Francois is in town from San Francisco. He brought me a new Mac Mini computer that I had ordered from the Apple website. I had to buy a new computer because I just hired my first employee this week. I also bought a new 22" widescreen monitor. (The new employee will get the old computer and monitor, by the way!)

So, yeah, you read correctly, it's official now, there are two people working at my company. I ended up hiring a former student of mine from the University. I was lucky enough to run into her recently, and she suggested that I hire her. Eventually I agreed that was a pretty good idea. But it's a bit scary, too, to be honest. Now I am responsible for the livelihood of TWO people.

My new Mac Mini is up and running with no problems. This was the first time I was moving from an old Mac to a new one, and so it was the first time I was able to use the Migration tool. And let me tell you, it was awesome. I just connected the two computers through Firewire and presto, all applications, files, users, and all settings are auto-magically transfered to the new computer. That cool little feature saved me hours of work.

The 22" monitor is awesome as well. The directions for "Auto Installation of Drives" on Windows XP called for inserting the CD and making six clicks. There were also instructions on how to change the resolution of the display for Windows through the Control Panel. There were no instructions for what to do on the Apple. So I just plugged everything in, and it "just worked". The resolution was automatically adjusted correctly and the screen looks fantastic.

Have I told you lately how much I love using Apple computers these days?

In other news, you might have noticed that my website has been up and down for the last few days. It's all the fault of my less-than-stellar hosting service: Dreamhost. I used to recommend them, but now I never would. As soon as the site is back up as normal, I will move this site over to a new host. More details about that to come soon.

Finally, today was a momentous day for me, as just a couple of hours ago I had two teeth pulled. They were the top wisdom teeth -- and had come in with no problems, but they were just too far in the back (and a bit misaligned) to be able to keep them clean. So I had the choice to fill in the cavities (again) or just pull them out. I fearfully chose to pull them,

I thought I'd get this post in, before the pain medication wears off. I wouldn't say it was a pleasant experience to have teeth pulled, but it wasn't terrible. I might feel differently tomorrow, though.

A childhood friend of mine, Everett Spain, is serving in Iraq right now. But he is in a very special position: the top aide to Gen. David Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq. Everett says in a recent interview that he's more or less an executive assistant to the General. Or, as he was quoted as saying, "My job is to make him as efficient and effective as possible in order to expand his positive impact."

My parents are still good friends with Everett's parents (in fact, they were at our celebratory diner when Ava Marie arrived a month ago), but reading the article made me realize that I have lost touch with Everett and his life. He's married now with four kids, the last one being adopted from China.

The article goes on to say that Everett has already been wounded in fighting in Baghdad and received the Purple Heart award. (I wasn't aware of this either.) I hope that he stays safe for the rest of his time there and is able to return to his family back in the US soon.

You can read the whole article about Everett (entitled Commander's right-hand man) from the Pensacola News Journal website. Thanks for passing it along, Mom!

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent Chinese New Year Day hiking through Bangkok and visiting a few special temples along the way. Here are some pictures and descriptions of the five temples I visited.

goldenbuddha.jpgI started the trip by taking the subway to the end of the line at Hualamphong. After a short walk, I was on the edge of the Chinatown area and my first stop: Wat Traimit. This temple was built in 1832 and houses a beautiful solid gold Buddha that was supposedly built in the Sukhothai period (around 1300). No one realized that it was gold until 1955 when the plaster covering broke off and showed the gold underneath.

The image is currently housed in a small temple building, but construction has started on a very impressive looking new building. The small room and the hordes of red-shirted visitors (celebrating Chinese New Years) made it difficult to view and fully appreciate the image, so I look forward to seeing it in its new home soon.

noodles.jpgAfter leaving the temple, I walked down Charoen Krung Road a bit and was starting to get a bit hungry. So, I stopped for a bowl of noodles. They were, of course, delicious. I ordered the very simple dish of sen lek nam (thin white noodles with soup). You can see that they also added a few pork and fish balls to the mix. The soup is served with sugar, chilis, vinegar, and fish sauce in the yellow container (which, by the way, is advertising Lipton Ice Tea)

wat_mangkon.jpgAfter refueling, I continued my walk down Charoen Krung Road and noticed a lot of activity in a vaguely Chinese looking entranceway. A multitude of red shirts were pushing their way in and out, so of course I had to go find out what was going on. It turns out that the entrance led to Wat Mangkon Kamalawat, a huge Chinese style temple. It was built in 1871 by followers of the Mahayana Buddist sect (as opposed to most Thai temples, which are Theravada Buddhist).

The picture here is of the courtyard, which was decorated with red Chinese lanterns for the holiday. The temple buildings were packed with people, almost all of whom were crying. But it wasn't from emotion, it was from all of the smoke from the burning incense!

giant_swing.jpg I made my way through Chinatown and turned north towards Ratchadamnoen Road. I took a small detour through a park that used to be the site of a large jail. There is supposedly a "Penetenary Museum" here, but I did not go inside.

Eventually I made it to the Giant Swing and the very large Wat Suthat. The Giant Swing (Sao Ching Cha) is one of the symbols of Bangkok. I had seen it before, but had never been inside the adjacent temple. Inside the temple is a very large Buddha image from the Sukothai period. But I thought the coolest part of the temple was the amazing colored paintings that covered the wall. I wish I knew more about the stories shown, like one scene of two elephants fighting a giant crab.

wat_rakang.jpgMy next two stops were on the other side of the river, in Thonburi. So I walked past the Grand Palace and to Tha Chang (Elephant Pier), where I boarded a 2-baht (5 cent) ferry across the river to Wat Rakhang Khositaram. Rama I lived here before he became King, and the wooden building where he slept is still standing. Also of interest, are five large bells that Rama I gave the temple. (Hence the name Rakhang, which means bell.)

talat_put.jpgThe next and final temple on the tour was on the same side of the river, but it was a bit too far to walk. So I took the ferry back across the river, then walked a bit, and then boarded another ferry to take me to Temple #5. But the walk turned out to be an interesting stroll through the famous flower market near Sapan Put. It appears that it's mostly a morning market, and by late afternoon most of the activity was cleaning and moving produce around.

new_year_stars.jpgBy the way, if you are visiting multiple temples in one day, make sure that it is an odd number of temples. That way you maximize the "Good Luck" that you deserve for your dilligence. So I was quite relieved to arrive at my fifth temple of the day, Wat Kalayanamit, as the sun was nearing the horizon.

It also was packed full of red-shirted worshipers, including one who had the same great taste as myself. The temple houses a very large sitting Buddha and one of the largest bells in Thailand, which of course I had to ring with a huge wooden mallet for good luck.

Tired, a bit dirty, and hungry, I headed back to the river to take the boat downstream to Sapan Taksin and the end of the Skytrain. I rode back home from there in air-conditioned comfort after a great Chinese New Year hike.

A Hike Through Town To See Five Temples


So since I was not allowed to clean house today, or to work, I did the next best thing and headed out on foot to explore Bangkok. The idea was to visit as many important temples that I have never seen as possible. I got the idea from the Dasa Bookstore's Bangkok's Other Temples page. (Thanks, Don!)

(Actually, exploring town is way better than cleaning house or working, but I've been so focused on my company lately that work was the first thing that came to mind. Luckily, I was forced to take the day off and had a great time checking out the sites. I love Chinese New Year!)

Dasa's "Other Temples" page explains that the big three Bangkok temples are Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). But there are many other temples that are also interesting for one reason or another.

The page lists ten other temples. I had already visted four of them, so I decided to check a few others off my list. The ones I have seen already are:

  • Wat Benjamabophit: The Marble Temple.
  • Wat Ratchanadda: On Ratchdamnoen.
  • Wat Saket: The Golden Mount.
  • Wat Srimaha Umathewi: The Hindu temple on Silom.

And the six that I haven't seen:

  • Wat Thammamongkhon: Sukumvit 101. Thailand's tallest.
  • Wat Boworniwet: Near Khao San Road.
  • Wat Traimit: Temple of the Golden Buddha near Hualomphong.
  • Wat Suthat: Next to the Giant Swing.
  • Wat Rakhang Khositaram: Thonburi, across from Grand Palace
  • Wat Kalayanamit: Thonburi, near Sapan Put

Several of them are located in Chinatown, Rattanakosin, and Thonburi, so I took the subway to the end of the line at Hualamphong and started walking. Six hours, 5 kilometers, and 3 boat rides later, I had visited four temples on the list and one that wasn't (but should be).

Pictures and more details about the temples coming soon!

Chinese New Year: My New Favorite Holiday

I just casually mentioned to Piyawat tonight that I was going to spend my Sunday at home cleaning house. But of course tomorrow is more than "just Sunday," it is Chinese New Year. What I didn't know is that cleaning is forbidden on this day.

"Ok, then," I said. "I won't do any cleaning. I'll just go to the office and do work."

It was then that I found out that not only are we not allowed to clean, but we are not allowed to do any work either. And we are also not supposed to stay home. According to him, it is the "Going Out Day". So no cleaning and no work and no sitting around the house all day tomorrow. I think that Chinese New Year is now my favorite holiday!

So now on New Year's Eve, the dishes are clean, the laundry is done, I am shaved, my hair is washed, and my nails are cut. These are all the things that I am not allowed to do tomorrow, so I had to do them tonight. The only question remains is where will I go on "Going Out Day"?

Thai Valentine's Day

It's 10:30 AM on Valentines Day in Thailand, and I have received five Valentine SMS so far. It's not that I am well-loved, but they are simply non-personal messages that some friends have sent out to all of their friends, wishing them a happy V-Day.

For example, one of my ex-students sent this to me:

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope u guys happy & gd luck in love. Who dun have a couple, u'll found sumone soon. 4 who already hav, happy happy!

There are a few stories in the press here about how the older generation is worried that all of the young people will fall prey to western influences and lose their virginity today. I wish I was making that up. Thai teens keen for Valentine's Day sex is one example. It says:

Love-struck teenagers would be sent home or taken to a police station to wait for their parents to fetch them on Wednesday night, Bangkok Deputy Police Chief Kamol Kaewsuwan said.

"Love is nice and beautiful, but it does not necessarily involve sexual engagement. Teenagers would do better focussing on school," Kamol said of the curfew.

Police would also be on the look out for public displays of affection by under-18 youths hanging out in shopping malls, cinemas and other entertainment venues on Valentine's Day.

"Hugging and kissing in public places are indecent," said Police Colonel Chokechai Deeprasertvith, who heads a special unit to fight crimes against children, youths and women.

Actually, that last part is a totally true statement. When I first moved to Thailand, I was suprised not to see anyone hug or kiss in public. But now I am just as appalled as Thai people when I see some farang tourist swapping spit as they wait for the Skytrain.

Oh well, happy Valentine's day anyway. Hope u guys happy & gd luck in love...

Dreamgirls, Coffee with Golf and Mike


Last night, Piyawat and I went to see Dreamgirls at Major Ekkamai. We both thought the film pretty good, even though he wasn't very familiar with the Motown story and characters that the movie was somewhat based on.

The thing that struck me the most about the movie was the reminder that the music industry is all about the "product". So much of what is considered pop music is watered-down to the Lowest Common Demoninator, because the LCD is what sells. It was true in the 50's when only clean-cut white people could hit the charts, and it's true today.

This morning, we headed to the True Coffee Shop on Thong Lo to use the Internet and relax. Upstairs in the computer area, there was some kind of photo shoot going on. Annoyed a bit, I sat down at one of the computers near the edge and tried to ignore the 20 people who were setting things up for the shoot.

GolfMike.jpgAt one point, I looked up to see what was actually going on, and who was looking right at me but Mike, of Golf and Mike. Of course my readers from outside Thailand will have no idea who Golf and Mike are, but anyone under the age of 30 in Thailand will know exactly who I am talking about. So, for those of you outside the Land of Smiles (and big hair), I will post a visual to help.

I know that Golf and Mike are singers and huge pop stars in Thailand, but not because I would actually know one of their songs if I heard it, but only because their picture is everywhere. I don't keep up much with Thai pop culture, but as far as face recognition goes, Golf and Mike are right up there with Tata, Bird, and Carabao in my book.

After the photo shoot was over, I headed back downstairs to have a coffee. The superstar boys sat at the table next to us and it was facinating to watch everyone fawn all over them. Even more interesting was the fact that they seemed very ambivilent to the whole scene. And as I sat there I was reminded of Dreamgirls, and all the work that goes into making a "product" like Golf and Mike.

Banned Book List: Bangkok Inside and Out

According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the official name of Bangkok is the longest place name in the world. In Thai language, it is something like: Krungthep Mahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathani Burirom-udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amonphiman Awatansathit Sakkathattiya Witsanu Kamprasit.

Or, in English: "The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukam."

(We'll save the discussion about why the name of the capital of a Buddhist country invokes Hindu gods for another time.)

A year or so ago, an excellent book about Bangkok was published, called Bangkok Inside and Out and then was promptly banned in Thailand. Apparently, someone at the Ministry of Culture was offended by parts of the book. But as far as I can tell, the only crime that the book commits is that it is too honest.

It's a cleverly designed book, with one short essay and one big glossy artistic photo on each of 60 different topics that describe real life in the City of Angels. Real life, as everyone knows, is usually not very pretty, and this book shows it for what it is, dirty soi dogs and dirtier khlongs included.

A list of the best topics make for an accurate description of Bangkok: Amulets, Beauty Pagents, Buses, Chao Isaan, Chatuchak, Chinatown, DIY Dining, Durian, Farang, Fortune Tellers, Gambling, Gay, Hawkers, Hi-So/Lo-So, Karaoke, Kathoey, Khaosan Road, Khlong, Khlong Toey, Krating Daeng, Land of Smiles, Lottery, Lumphini, Luuk Kreung, Massage, MBK, Mobile Phones, Monarchy, Motosai, Muay Thai, Nana, Patpong, Pharmacies, Pollution, Sanuk, 7-Eleven, Sky Train, Soi Dogs, Street Food, Tabloids, Taxis, Thonburi, Touts & Gem Scams, Traffic, Uniforms, Urban Elephants, Whisky Coke & Ice, and Yaa Baa.

Yup, that pretty much sums it up!

Jock's Excellent Pictures of Vietnam


My Thai friend Jock recently sent me an email inviting me to take a look at his new pictures from his recent trip to Vietnam. I have to say that they are really fantastic. If you want to see some beautiful images of Hanoi and Halong Bay, Saigon, and other places, then follow the link.

(By the way, the pictures are all on one page, so it takes a while to load, but it's worth the wait!)

All Things Asian and Dasa Bookstore

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I might have mentioned a while back that I was asked to contribute an essay or two about my trip to Burma for an upcoming book from "All Things Asian". The editor of the book, a fellow named Don Gilliland, found my site through Google and asked me if I wanted to participate. I immediately agreed. Now I just have to actually write something and send it to him!

I enjoy reading books about Thailand and about Southeast Asia, and it looks like this book about Burma will be a good one. Several months ago, I visited the Dasa Bookstore on Bangkok's Sukumvit Road and picked up a couple of interesting books on Buddha images and Thai history. I haven't been back in a while, because unfortunately book stores always sucker me in to buying more books than I have time to read.

I do love reading, however, and I try to read a few web blogs from people living in Thailand. Most of them are not very interesting to me, but a couple of months ago, I found a great one called Bangkok Dazed. It is one of the best-written and most interesting blogs about Thailand, at least from a farang perspective.

You might wonder where I am going with this post, so let me get to the point. I finally put it all together and realized that Don is not only the editor of the upcoming book on Burma, but also the author of the Bangkok Dazed weblog and the owner of Dasa Bookstore!

I stopped by the bookstore to meet him in person the other night, and really enjoyed our short chat. A couple of days later I received the Dasa Bookstore newsletter and he had kindly directed his readers to my site. So thanks, Don! I heartily recommend your site and your store as well. (And I promise I will get you an essay on Burma soon!)

Moving in to my new office


Today was the big move day! A big truck with four strong lads pulled up to my condo this morning and took away most of the remaining old furniture I had, delivering it all to my new office across town.

The old dinning room table is now a meeting table, and the out-of-place lounge chair is now sitting in the "reception area". I also moved one of the desks and chairs I bought for the old home office, the five chairs that went with the table, and an old cabinet and small desk that no longer match the look of the newly-renovated apartment.

For the last few days I have been working with True to set up the phone and DSL Internet, and that seems to be working now as well. There was just one more step needed to make the office habitable, and that was taken care of as soon as the remote control to the air conditioner was handed over to me this afternoon.

So now that most of the paper work is done and the office is set up, it looks like I am open for business. I am really looking forward to getting into the actual work and developing a product as soon as possible. Hopefully I will have some good news to share soon.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2007 is the previous archive.

March 2007 is the next archive.

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