Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Thailand Update

Well, although I am here in the U.S., the drama that is Thai politics goes on. Here are a couple of interesting developments.

Bail Jumper

Former PM Thaksin had returned to Thailand to face financial malfeasance charges against him. He was out on bail with his wife, who was awaiting sentencing on her tax fraud conviction, as well as other new charges against her.

Apparently PM Thaksin questioned whether he would receive a fair trial in Thailand and decided to skip bail and go to England. He had spent a considerable amount of time since he was deposed in England where he owns the Manchester City soccer club.

Being a billionaire bail jumper is a lot better than those of more modest means. Instead of hiding out in cheap hotel and looking over his shoulder for Dog the Bounty hunter, PM Thaksin continues to live a luxurious and public life.


Some of those involved with deposing Thaksin in 2006 were not happy with the government that Thais elected in late 2007. The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) have been protesting since mid-May against the current government.

This past week, the PAD protesters stormed seven government agencies in an attempt to shut down the PM Samak government. They briefly took over a government television station, taking it off air for an hour or so.

While protesters have been largely non-violent, they have blocked some streets and caused some disruption. I believe that some of the buses to ISB (my children's school) were cancelled due to streets blocked. The protests were not, however, near Nichada (my neighborhood) or ISB.

The PM is seeking help from the military to end the protests. Of course the last time the military got involved in Thai politics was the coup of 2006. I'm sure that's not what PM Samak has in mind.


I had to move my trip back to Thailand from 8/30 until 9/8 in order to get everything finished on time. I hate moving.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good to Be the King

Thailand's King Rama IX is the world's richest monarch with a fortune of approximately $35 billion dollars. He is also probably the most popular monarch on earth (among his subjects).

Most Thais are Buddhists, and they believe that your station in life is based on how you were in a previous life. Those who live a wicked life might come back as a beggar, or even an animal of some sort. Those who are good will come back in a better position. If that is to be believed, King Rama IX led exemplary previous lives.

In addition to reincarnation, Buddhist do believe in a heaven and hell. The concepts are somewhat different than in Christianity. Of course heaven is bliss and hell great suffering, but in Buddhism, one does not end up in one or the other. They recognize that we are both good and bad. Each person would spend some time in heaven for the good they did, and time in hell for their sins. So even someone who lived a very good life would spend some time in hell, albeit they would have earned a much shorter stay than someone like me. After you do your time in heaven and hell, you return again to the earth, at least until you reach enlightenment.

I like the accountability for your sins, even if you ultimately are a good person. Additionally, I like the recognition that even people who are by and large bad usually do something good.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Packing and Cheap Tripods

Today Dave and Joe came over and helped me to load some of the furniture into the pod. The whole packing experience is just not very much fun.

This evening I went to downtown Cincinnati for an hour or so to take a few pictures of the suspension bridge. I left my nicer tripod back in Thailand figuring that the cheap one that I had here would suffice for a few weeks.

The difference between a cheap and a nice tripod became very apparent today. I was shooting over a chain link fence at one point, so I had to fully extend the tripod. I was also using my heaviest lens (Canon 70-200 2.8 IS). The tripod was actually swaying and I had a hard time keeping it stable. I actually got some blurry pictures using the tripod.

I was pretty disappointed in the overall quality of the pictures, so I won't post any.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Dark Knight

Tonight I finally saw the latest Batman movie, The Dark Knight. The biggest surprise was not how much I enjoyed the movie, but how long it took me to finally see it.

I really enjoyed The Dark Knight and think it was the best movie in the Batman franchise to date. In fact, its one of the best super hero movies ever made. It captured the darkness of the Batman character and his villans. The movie was about two and a half hours long, but unlike some films, it didn't seem like it.

Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker was infinitely superior to Jack Nicholas'. Of course, some of that may be a result of the scripts or the overall tone of the respective films. Ledger's Joker is down right creepy and I liked it.

Of course, like any super hero movie, a certain amount of suspension of belief is required. Not the kind of suspension that you need to watch a guy fly around with a red cape or swing through town on a web, but a little more than you need to follow Jack Baeur through a day.

Even if you are not a a super hero fan, if you like action movies, I think you'll like The Dark Knight.

A Bit Sad

While Aleena was very excited about starting at ISB this month it was a bit sad that she was not longer going to school with her best friend McKayla. I never really understood how three year olds could be so close to each other, but those two girls were two peas in a pod. They were in a race at Magic Years last year, and they actually held hands and walked with each other instead of running.

ISB's cutoff date for children's birth is 9/1. Aleena just barely sneaked in under the wire (August 21), while McKayla missed the date by a few months (November birthday). Interestingly, Nalin's birthday is September 8th. Fortunately Nalin had already completed Kindergarten in Ohio where the cutoff was the end of September. Since she had already completed Kindergarten, ISB let her start first grade despite missing the September first deadline.

Apparently McKayla is taking the separation pretty hard. Tim said that McKayla has been crying at school because she misses Aleena, and that she is writing ten cards a day to Aleena. They do get together for play dates though.


I'm in the middle of packing the house up so that we can try to rent it out. I hate packing. It sucks. Did I say that I hated it?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bengals Preseason

Today I went to the Bengals preseason game against the Detroit Lions. One of the things that I do miss while in Thailand is attending Bengals games. They have another game that they refer to as football. I call it soccer, and am not very interested in any game in which my children are not playing.

My new wide angle lens arrived this week, so I decided to take it to the game. Some pictures are here. These pictures were taken with my Canon 40D and a EF-S 10-22 mm lens.

The game was fun. One nice thing about being a season ticket holder is that you generally see the same people each week. Well, I guess its nice for me in that the people around me are pretty cool. I sit in section 151, row 44, seats 3 and 4. Three of the seats behind me are occupied by Jack, Kim and Megan. Megan didn't make the game, but I got to catch up with Jack, Kim and Kim's fiance Chris.

I left about midway through the fourth quarter. The Lions had just scored a touchdown to put them up.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Gencon 2008

On Thursday I took a road trip to Indianapolis Indiana with some friends for the Gencon 2008 convention. Gencon is one of the largest gaming conventions in the country. Fans of collectible card games, role playing games, miniature games and board games all find plenty to do at the con.

The pictures are here.

Back in my younger days, Dave and I would head up to Gencon when it was in Milwaukee Wisconsin. We would play RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons twelve or more hours a day. I look back on it sometimes and just shake my head. Look, I was young and experimenting. If I ever decide to run for public office, I'll probably have to answer if I've ever rolled a twenty sided die. Perhaps someone will dig up one of my old character sheets and ask if I ever used the aliases Jack Brash or Ho Bo.

Okay, enough for the jaunt down memory lane. I didn't play any games at this Gencon. I hung around with my friends consuming some adult beverages. I also took in some independent films showing at the convention.

The first film was A Great Disturbance, a mocumentary about four young men attending Celebrations III, a Star Wars convention that was held in 2005. The movie was laugh out loud funny. They did a great job of presenting these four over the top star wars fans. After the screening, some of the cast and crew answered questions. They talked about how they get such a different reaction at different showings. At Gencon, a lot of the viewers were Star Wars fans who "got" a lot of the genre specific humor. They told us that at the Indianapolis Film Festival, many of the viewers didn't have the same background and didn't find the same humor. I ended up with a free copy of the movie.

The second film was called Captain Blasto, a film by the makers of A Great Disturbance. They are distributing Captain Blasto as webisodes and they can be viewed here. I enjoyed Captain Blasto, it was a clever film. The entire budget for the film was $7,000. To put that in perspective, at one of the independent film festivals they attended the next cheapest movie had a budget of $130,000.

The final film that I saw was named Gamers. This was not made by the same people as the previous two films. Gamers was a comedy about a group of DND players on the cusp of breaking the record for playing the longest ongoing game. It was a pretty ridiculous, but funny movie. While A Great Disturbance and Captain Blasto are family friendly, Gamers is definitely not.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Are You Kidding Me

I think I blogged about my problems in Chicago on my last trip to the U.S. with the kids. To recap, my flight to Cincinnati was cancelled and I was able to get on a flight to Dayton instead. I tried to get in touch with my family to let them know of the change, but couldn't. I didn't have my cell phone with me, so I was using a pay phone. Finally, I called my friend Dave. I ended up calling collect because I didn't think of buying a calling card until after I spoke to him. Laugh if you want, but I'd been up about 24 hours straight with the three kids. In any case, Dave accepted the charges and was able to get in touch with mom and dad. They were able to pick me up and as the saying goes, all's well that ends well. Well, not exactly.

Last night I was having dinner with Dave, Robyn, Joe, Barb and Anna at the Cafe Mediterranean. Not a bad place, by the way. Dave asked me to guess how much he was billed for the collect call. After I made a few errant guesses, he told me the charge was $41 for a three minute phone call. That's almost fourteen dollars a minute unless my St. Philip honed math skills are failing me.

Dave was rather displeased by this charge and called the carrier. They told him that the charge was collect, and that surely he and I had been informed of the cost at the time of the call. That would be false. Dave told them that he was not paying the bill. The told him that they would drop it if he agreed never to accept a collect call from them again. I know it had to be a hard decision for him. Gee, not a real hard decision.

I guess its a good thing that we didn't decide to catch up while on the phone. I mean if we had talked an hour, would the bill have been over eight hundred dollars?

Overall its a pretty shitty practice. Who would expect to get billed $41 for a three minute call? I'm sure that the proliferation of cell phones has killed the pay phone business, but its hard to feel a lot of sympathy with business practices like that.

As a side note, I bought a $20 calling card and used it several times at the pay phone. The per minute charge was pretty reasonable, but for each call originating from a cell phone they charged $1.50.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Got Twenty Grand

A few of our friends went to the Olympics in Beijing. I was talking to one mom who said that they had wanted to go to the opening day ceremonies. She balked, however, when the price of tickets for a family of five would total $20,000.

Back in States

I got back in the states a few hours ago. This trip was a bit easier than my last trip. Even though the kids were good last time, it was so much easier to travel that far without them.

I flew Northwest this time. If you are considering flying Northwest to Thailand, know that for the longest leg of the flight, that the entertainment is pretty lame. Unlike a lot of airlines, the Northwest 747 traveling between the U.S. and Tokyo does not have individual screens in each seat. Instead, there is are screens throughout the plane where movies are occasionally shown. When you compare it to the video on demand that other airlines have, and that Northwest even offers on the airbus that flies between Tokyo and Bangkok, the flight is really lacking. Having a some choices on entertainment is really nice on an eleven hour flight. You fail Northwest.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More GTA in News

There was something in the paper yesterday about crime related to video games. I really get annoyed with stories that claim that kids are committing crime because of what they see in a video game.

A few points. First of all, Grand Theft Auto and other "mature" games are not meant for children. They contain adult themes and are meant for adults. Do they portray criminals in a glamorous light? Sure they do, as do TV shows such as the Sopranos, the Wire, and the Shield just to name a few. I would not want my kids exposed to Grand Theft Auto like I wouldn't want them to watch the shows mentioned above. They are not ready for those shows. Do I think that watching the shows would lead them to a life of crime? No, but I think they are not ready for such dark and conflicting themes.

So parents should rightly keep their kids away from GTA and its ilk until they are in their teens. There is an additional challenge here in Thailand, in that a lot of kids play the games at Internet cafes. The fix is easy, at least in theory. The Internet cafe owners need to implement and enforce a policy against letting young children play mature games. I know in a land where everyone turns a blind eye to things that might be a challenge, but its better than the alternative.

As an American, the whole idea of restricting something like a game is pretty repugnant to me. Even if you believe that the games can cause violence in younger people, is that a reason to prevent anyone from playing? Does anyone honestly believe that if I played Grand Theft Auto, that I would go kill a cabbie to steal his cash and ride? Are my forty year old friends going to go cruising around town shooting people to simulate the game? Its not going to happen.

We are not hearing of hundreds of stories of video game inspired violence. When such an occurrence is claimed, it is trumpeted all over the world, so we would definitely know about it.
So the problem, if it exists at all, is isolated to a very few people. Why should we take the choice out the hands of responsible people.

Okay, Brian, but what if we just save one life? Wouldn't it be worth it then? Frankly, no, it would not. Of course if it were my child whose life was saved, I would undoubtedly think differently. If saving just one life is a justification for regulating behavior, we should wear helmets and Michelin man type outfits as we drive around in our cars at 25 mph. That would save a heck of a lot of lives.

School Starts & My Gripe

Jacob and Nalin started school yesterday. I am pretty happy with both of their teachers. I was talking to a few of Nalin's classmates' moms from last year, and when I told them that she had Ms. Pucci, they all said that is who they had wanted.

I met Aleena's teach named Ms. Patty. Aleena drew and colored at the table while we talked. She is pretty enthusiastic, which is good.

One thing about ISB that really annoys me is their collection of data. I have no problem providing the data that they need for the kids. After the fourth time I provide the same information for a child on yet a different form, I get more than a little annoyed. Is it an enormous burden and effort? No, but it is annoying and makes me believe that they do not do a good job sharing information.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Aleena & Reading

One of my responsibilities while staying at home with the kids is teaching Aleena to read. Sometimes is challenging to motivate her, while other times she is a willing pupil.

Aleena knows how to spell her own name, and recognizes the letters in her name. She recognizes about 12 or so letter, usually because they are in the name of a family member or friend.

Like her sister, Aleena loves to write on a whiteboard, so I use some laminated sheets with letters on them. Aleena then traces the letters, identifying the names and sound. Another trick is one I learned from Tim. I draw the mommy (capital) letter and the baby (small) letter, and have Aleena draw a line connecting them. I think she used the technique with Nalin, but I'm not sure about Jacob.

School is Back

Tomorrow Jacob and Nalin start back to school. Aleena starts on Friday, but we have an appointment tomorrow morning to meet her teacher.

We actually briefly met Aleena's teacher this morning. After taking Aleena to the clinic to get a TB test, we walked over to ISB. Today they posted the class lists; the first opportunity to learn the identity of your child's teacher for the year. We found Jacob and Nalin's classes, but there was no list for the pre-k. There are two pre-k classes, and a few people recommended a certain teacher, so I had requested that teacher.

Aleena and I walked over to the pre-k quad and walked into one of the rooms. Ms. Pattie, one of the teachers was there. I asked her about finding out which class Aleena would be in, and it turns out its hers. She is the one that we requested. Ms. Pattie took Aleena by the hand and gave her a very brief tour of the room. Aleena had a big smile the entire time. It was pretty cute.

When assigning students to classes, ISB does not carry over classes from the year before. This means that each year, you have a lot of new classmates. Both Jacob and Nalin had three or four people in their class from last year, the rest were from different classes. I'm sure that there is some educational or sociological philosophy underpinning this policy.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Life Imitating Art

An article in today's Bangkok Post told the story of a Thai teen who killed a taxi cab driver. The teen claimed to be addicted to the video game Grand Theft Auto.

Frustrated that the three dollars a day his parents gave him for spending money was not enough to support his online gaming habit, he took matters into his own hands. He purchased some knives and called a taxi. When the driver arrived, the teen robbed then slew the driver. The youth then attempted to drive off with the cab. He discovered that the ability to drive a car in a video game does not translate into driving a real car. The police found him a bit later trying to drive the car.

I'm sure that those who believe in the addictive nature of video games will trumpet this tragedy. At its heart though, this is really a case of simple greed. The kid claims that he killed to get the money to play the game. Is that any different than killing because he wanted an iPod or flat screen television? The bottom line is that he wanted more money.

As far as using the game as a model for how he committed the crime, is that any different than imitating something that he saw on television or in a movie? While it is certainly possible that what he saw "inspired" him on how to get the money, absent the movie, he would have certainly considered other just as reprehensible ways. Instead of a cab driver, perhaps he would have robbed a delivery man, or walked in and robbed a store.

I think the entire discussion of video game addiction is a pretty interesting topic. When it comes down to it, I guess I am sceptical of the "addiction" culture. I get it when it comes to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol which chemically alter your brain. Sexual addiction is even believable, given its primal nature hard wired into our being.

Even in these cases, however, I really loath that we have started to label these as diseases. A disease seems to relieve some of the responsibility and shame associated with the addiction. Don't get me wrong, I think that we should help people to overcome their addiction, but the bottom line is that it is their fault. In almost all cases they willing ingested a substance on which they are now dependent. While I don't think that we need to make them wear a scarlet "A" on their chest, I think that they should be embarrassed. We should not go out of our way to make them feel that they are somehow not fully at fault for their addiction.

When we get into the realm of activities such as gambling and gaming, however, I just have a hard time accepting it as an addiction, let alone a disease. I think these activities can certainly give pleasure, and I can even understand that we might do them compulsively. Someone who plays a video game without even thinking about it.

As some of you know, I have played games my entire life. Until recently, I played the online game World of Warcraft. For a while, I played World of Warcraft quite a bit. I probably played twenty to thirty hours a week. When I wasn't playing, I would often think about the game and the group with whom I was playing.

One of the things I really attempted to do was to make sure that the game didn't negatively impact the rest of my life. I was somewhat successful at that. I think my work sometime suffered when I would daydream about playing as opposed to working. Fortunately I was good enough at what I did that few if any people noticed. Sometimes when I stayed up too late playing, I would be cross with the kids. That is the part that bothered me the most. I knew I was in a bad mood and that I was overacting to whatever small thing the kids did wrong, but it wasn't easy to stop it. Don't get me wrong, its not like I screamed at the top of my lungs or back handed them, but I certainly could have handled some things better.

I quit several times, and except for the last time, came back. It wasn't that I felt some overwhelming compulsion to play, but I did miss playing. The reason that I missed it was that I had many friends that played, and that it was such a huge part of my life. My friends were still playing, so when we got together it would often be the topic of conversation, which kept my interest somewhat fresh. I also had to fill all the time that I had spent playing, preferably with something that I also enjoyed doing. Once I did that, quitting was not bad.

Every once in a while I'll think it might be fun to play a bit, but that's usually while I'm drinking. The problem with it for me is that I am actually a pretty competitive person, and if I play World of Warcraft, I'll want to do it very well. To do it well will just take more time than I really want to devote to it.

I have seen people who have let their video game play have severe negative impacts on their lives. While one might find twenty hours a week a lot, there are certainly those who play forty or sixty hours a week. A guy I played with played seventy plus hours a week for three months to achieve some online goal.

There is a term called Wow Widows to describe the non-gaming spouse of a Warcraft player. The phrase is used in jest, but in some cases the game, or at least one person's devotion to it led to the breakup of the relationship. There are people that I know who have spent so much time playing that they lose their jobs, and even their homes.

People certainly let the game get the best of them. Some people ignore their responsibility because playing the game is more fun, not because they are addicted. Is a guy who plays softball six nights a week and day dreams about it at work addicted to the game? He might play so much that his spouse leaves him, or he might ignore other responsibilities, but is he addicted? What about a woman who goes out clubbing five nights a week with her girlfriends? Is she addicted? There are thousands of behaviors, which if taken to an extreme, can negatively impact ones life.

There is one thing about games that does make it more ripe for abuse than an activity such as softball. Softball leagues have schedules and dance clubs close for the night, while video games are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. You generally play softball and dance with other people, which puts a natural limit on your activity. I can sit down and play the game any time I want. It is a lot easier for one to allow video game play to negatively affect ones life than say softball or dancing.

Still, I think the reason that people play too much or may even have a hard time playing is that the game is fun. Its something that they enjoy doing, and if the consequences of playing the game don't outweigh the fun, they won't stop playing.

For kids, I think the parents need to watch them. Playing some video games is fine, but playing to excess is certainly not good. If video game play is hampering their school work, socialization, or health, then it needs to be curbed or eliminated.

Singha 75

Last night Tim and I attended Singha Beer's 75th anniversary party. Tim's business has an exclusive contract with Singha, so she and her brother got VIP invitations.

The party was nice. I ended up drinking a bit of Scotch before we went, so by the time we arrived I was feeling pretty good. The party was at the Exposition Center, which is a pretty big convention center that hosts a lot of trade shows. Singha rented out two halls, which they had decorated with Singha related trappings. Among the highlights of the decor included a few race cars and boats sponsored by Singha as well as a chandelier made out of beer bottles. The chandelier was probably fifty or so feet wide, and had to be comprised of thousands of bottles.

There were probably a few thousand guests at the party. Most were Thai, but there were a few other falangs there as well. They had a food station set up in each of the corner and waiters and waitresses walking around with hor dourves. My favorite things were some really tasty shrimp tempura and some Thai nut that I had never tried before. Tim laughed and told me that the nuts were really cheap. That is a good thing.

Initially we had difficulty getting something to drink. Kind of ironic to be thirsty at a party hosted by the biggest Thai beverage company. We finally figured out the problem. The drinks were coming out of another corner, and the servers never maid it over to where we were. Finally Tim I headed over to the other part of the hall, where we found beer, wine, and company-made soft drinks a plenty. We actually sat down at a table for a bit and relaxed.

Singha had some famous Thai singers entertain guests. Well, Tim said that they were famous and as she had no reason to lie about it, I believe her. A few of the songs were in English, but I cannot remember the titles.

We ended up leaving after a couple of hours, as Top and Tham were ready to go. When we left, we each received this nice looking book chronicling the history of Singha. I had Tim tell her contact that I was going to put my on eBay. I think that he might have laughed politely, but I'm not sure that he got my joke.

Pre-Party Prep

First off, this might not be a mom safe post. Its actually not that bad of a post, but if the concept of me imbibing alcohol is in any way distressing, don't read any further.

What do you do when you are going to a party and are under dressed and don't speak the language of virtually all of the attendees (would that be called under-languaged, or would American be synonym enough?)? Do what I do, drink some Scotch. A few glasses of twelve year old Chivas Regal does the trick nicely.

How will this turn out? Well, as I am not a prognosticator with unparalleled talent, I really don't know. But as a personal historian who will live through the moment, I'll be able to let you know tomorrow.

Have I already started drinking? Perhaps. Has it impaired my judgement? Certainly. Will it help me have a better time? Bet on it.

Attending a party where you don't speak the dominate language isn't easy. When my brother-in-law Top was married twelve or so years ago, it wasn't an easy experience. He had eight hundred guests, all of whom spoke Thai. While many spoke English, they were often embarrassed to speak English in front of me. Its a face thing. I have to be completely sober to understand and explain. In any case, I was in the greeting line for Top's wedding and I smiled so much that my jaw actually hurt. Most of the time you might smile, but you break it up with conversation. Since most people didn't speak English with me, I smiled and hurt. Tonight, however, if I need to smile a lot, I'm ready. Thanks Chivas.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beer Suit

My attire here in Thailand generally consists of a pair of shorts and a polo or tee shirt. The fact that I've only had to wear slacks or jeans a handful of times since I've been here has probably helped make the heat much more bearable. If I had to wear a suit and tie every day, I would seat even more profusely.

As a consequence of the heat and the absence of a dress code in my current role in life, I did not bring a suit with me. It just didn't occur to me to bring one. When would I possibly need one?

Apparently "when" is today. Singha Beer is the king of beers in Thailand. It is produced by the Boon Rawd brewery. This year, Boon Rawd brewery is celebrating their 75th year anniversary.

At this point you might be trying to find the intersection of beer, which I don't drink, and a suit, which I don't have with me. Well, Boon Rawd is throwing a big party to celebrate three-quarters of a century brewing beer. My wife has been invited as a VIP to the party. Her bus station is a very good client of Singha (I'm hoping the passengers are drinking it and not the drivers, although one never knows here), so they invited her. Since I will accompany her to this event, I need to dress nicely.

If I knew a little more in advance, I probably could have had a suit made for me in fairly short order. There are a lot of places to have a suit made here in Bangkok, and many of them cater to tourists. If they are catering to tourists, that means that they need to be able to turn orders around pretty quickly. Since I've only been back a few days, however, I'm just going to borrow a jacket from my brother-in-law. We'll see how it goes.

Camera Gear

When I came to Thailand, I really wanted to use some of the free time that I have here to develop my photography skills. I find it amazing that after I year, I fell like I'm just starting to scratch the surface.

When it comes to photography, there are really two large categories to chose from; point and shoot and slr. Most casual users have a point and shoot camera where the user composes the picture and the camera does the rest. With a point and shoot camera, the image in the view finder may not be exactly the image that is displayed in the view finder or LCD, it is close. The other category of cameras is an SLR (single lens reflex). The SLR cameras are used by professionals and more advanced amateurs. The primary features of an SLR are that the image in the view finder is the same as that captured by the film (if you your name is Fred Flinstone) or the digital imaging system. An SLR camera also provides the ability to change lenses and provides more control over the photography taken.

Its certainly the case that I tend to learn in gulps. What I mean is that I tend to throw myself into something for a while, and then sometimes let it sit for a while untouched. The more I learn though, the more I realize that there is so much that I don't know. That really shouldn't be a big surprise, and in some ways it isn't. Still, I didn't realize how much there is to it.

So after a year, I think my pictures are more than a little amateurish. They are full blown amateurish. I've actually read a lot of books on the subject, but often when I go to take the shot, I tend to forget what I read. I still hold hope that its just a matter of practice, and not that my memory has permanently deteriorated at my advanced age.

Perhaps the biggest surprise when it comes to photography is the cost. There are so many things that you can buy that improve the technical aspect of your shooting. In a lot of cases, the camera is not even the most expensive part of the package. You can easily spend more on a lens than the camera, and in most cases you'll actually have multiple lenses. In fact, you can spend hundreds of dollars on a tripod just to keep your camera still.

So, if you are still reading at this point, I'll share with you my camera equipment. Its certainly not cheap, but not the most expensive by any means.

Canon 40D, ~$939 from Amazon (with rebate)

Canon 24-105 4.0 USM L IS ~$1,000
Canon 70-200 USM 2.8 IS (~$1,500)
Canon 50 1.8 ($100)

Giotos MHJ 7001 Tripod (~$100)
Monopod (~$50)
Canon 430 Flash (~$250)
iPod connector (~$40) (lets me transfer pictures from my camera to ipod)

Turning Angel

Since I've been a little kids, I've loved to read. When I was young, I loved Encyclopedia Brown and the Chose Your Own Adventure series. I vividly remember my next door neighbor Al Remley, (aka Big Al) inviting my over to his porch and reading the first chapter of a series starring the character Sekatary Hawkins. As a fifth grader, I looked at Big Al incredulously when he asked me of I could read. In any case he lent me the collectible books, and I really enjoyed reading them.

The love for reading really has followed me through life. The majority of my reading is fiction, although I am certainly not unfamiliar with non-fiction, particularly current events. When it comes to politics and current events, I think Bob Woodward is as good as the come.

One fiction author that I really enjoy is Greg Iles. Like his fellow southern author John Grisham, Iles has penned many a page turning thriller. I recently finished Turning Angel, the story of a former prosecutor who returns to his home town and finds himself in the position of trying to exonerate his boyhood friend after the friend's high school lover turns up dead.