Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Scuba Dooby Doo

I took my first scuba lesson today. The instructor's name is a Thai named Ae. I like Ae, although he is a little hard to understand sometimes.

The first part of today's class was a short video on buoyancy followed by a short quiz. Ae then showed me some of the equipment, including the regulator and the bcd (buoyance control device), in addition to the more familiar mask and fins.

I thought that we would not get in the water today, but I wore my swimming trunks just to be sure. Less than an hour into the less we did some confined water diving. That's diver's talk for the swimming pool or something like one. This is opposed to open waters, diver speak for the ocean.

The confined diving was fun. Ae taught me to clear water out of the regulator, retrieve the regulator if it falls out of your mouth, and to clean your mask while underwater. I guess I didn't do too badly for a first timer. Tomorrow I go back for lesson number two.

Annoying Wrong Number

Boo-ah came up to the room and told us that we had a phone call. I trudged down the twenty-four steps to the land line (don't ask me why we don't have a phone in the room), but there was no-one there. The phone rang again, and someone spoke in a language that I didn't recognize. It wasn't Thai or French, and it certainly wasn't English. I think it was a European language, although I'm not certain.

After two or three minutes of trying to communicate with the person on the other end that it was a wrong number, I finally hung up. The person called back again, same scenario. She called back yet again. By this time I am pretty annoyed because we clearly have no language in common. I think that she might have been calling for the people who lived here before us, over fourteen months ago, but I'm not sure. Maybe she was trying to order take out Thai in Vienna and had a wrong number.

I was also annoyed by her tone, as she seemed to take offense that I didn't speak her language. I was thinking, "look lady, you called me". I mean, if she was speaking Thai, maybe she would have some grounds to be annoyed that someone answering a phone in Thailand didn't speak Thai. Of course if she spoke Thai, I could have had the nanny or even Nalin speak to her.

Bit O' Update

Thought I'd give a bit of an update as to how we are doing here in the land of smiles. Today we had a new maid and nanny start. While I'm not certain that the roles are set in stone, Boo-ah is the new nanny and Joy is the new maid.

Boo-ah is the candidate that I blogged about earlier from Burma. She is always smiling and seems very friendly. She is also younger and more attractive than her counterpart Joy. I mention this not because it matters so much to me (attractive house staff are a dual edge sword), but that it really matters to Nalin, and to a lesser extent Aleena. The girls wanted Boo-ah to help them get ready for bed tonight, which probably cements her status as nanny. Not that it really matters, so long as the work gets done and the kids taken care of, I'm happy.

Aleena was sick on Monday and had to miss school. Five of her classmates missed on Monday. She went back to school today, but her teacher was out sick. I'm working with Aleena teaching her to read. It is an interesting experience. We have a workbook to help her through it, and the carrot we use are skittles.

Aleena seems to be enjoying ISB. She has made some new friends, including Sahanee, who seems to be her best friend. She has still kept up with her friend from Magic Years, McKayla.

Nalin is having her "friends" birthday party this weekend. I was in the U.S. on her actual birthday, so we are doing the friends celebration on Friday. She elected to have a sleepover with four or five friends over a more traditional party with ten or twelve girls. Nalin is also taking glass painting after school and is a Blue Bird, the Thai version of the Girl Scouts. Nalin is an excellent student, and knows exactly how to behave in class.

Jacob is playing basketball, floor hockey and is in the Cub Scouts. He is extremely bright, although he has trouble with disrupting class. Academically, the only challenge is writing. He reads and does math at a very high level, but pretends like he was born with writer's block. We are working on it.
Tim works a lot of hours at her business. Its no uncommon for her to get home after 9 or 10 at night. She is also taking an accounting class on Saturdays. Combine those and occasional Sunday meetings, and she is pretty damn busy.
I'm doing pretty well. I've been helping in Aleena's class a couple of times each week. Last week I was the mystery reader in Nalin's class. It was pretty funny that when I entered the room, the kids all started chanting "Dermit, Dermit". There were only about three kids from her class last year, but they had spread the word about the orange embittered cousin of Kermit the frog who made many a visit to ISB last year. It was a lot of fun.
As I've blogged before, I'm going to Phuket by myself this weekend to take some pictures of people mutilating themselves and to do some scuba diving. Of course I'll have to visit Patong beach, because how can you pass up dozens of women yelling out at you "hey handsome". Remember, one can look without touching.
Tomorrow I'm starting a scuba diving class. Its 4.5 hours in the class room, 4.5 in the pool, and then a two day excursion to Pattaya for some real diving. Should be fun.
Well, I guess you are now updated.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Leak

On the way home from lunch today, I was a bit surprised to see a guy standing a few feet in the alley relieving himself. The funny thing is that less than half a mile later I saw another guy doing the same thing along the side of the road.

Friday, September 26, 2008


After this last week, I'm not sure that I can support Senator McCain for President any longer. His behavior in siding with the partisan House Republicans has made me question his judgement.

Of course Senator McCain doesn't really understand the economy. For that matter, neither does Senator Obama, Senator Biden, Governor Palin, President Bush, or about 99% of our elected government. Presidents Reagan and Clinton really never had more than a very high level understanding.

Its not that I'm saying any of these people are stupid (of course I'm not saying that some of them aren't), in fact President Clinton was in incredibly intelligent man. Its just that economics is an incredibly complex subject with millions of uncontrollable variables. There are people who devote their entire professional career to studying the economy and why it behaves as it does. These are very smart people, and do you know what? They disagree with each other. Don't get me wrong, there are certainly areas of agreement, but economics is not like physics. Ask ten physicists what happens when you drop a baseball from twenty feet high at sea level, and they will give you the same answer as to how fast the ball was traveling when it hits the ground. Ask ten economist what a half percent increase in the income tax rate will do to the overall size of the economy and you might get fifty different answers.

This is part of the reason that I find it highly amusing that political candidates pitch their economic plans to the masses at election time. Its great to educate oneself about the the economy and the candidate's position, but as far as making an informed choice, you might as well flip a coin.

So while I don't expect the candidates or the voters to really understand economics, I do expect them to surround themselves with knowledgeable people, and respect the advice of those experts. Even President's Bush's many critics acknowledge that Secretary Paulson is an extremely sober and competent individual. He and Fed Reserve Chief Bernanke crafted a plan that while expensive, will address the problem of getting bad loans out of the system. Yes, it will cost the tax payers, but it will also preserve the integrity of the economy.

Senator McCain has said that he supports the principles that the House Republicans are fighting for. They proposed an alternative insurance for bad loans and further deregulation. The insurance would have to be retroactive, or it wouldn't accomplish much of anything. Perhaps that is part of the plan. In the long run, I'm not sure that the insurance plan will be any more effective or less costly than Paulson's plan.

What stuns me is that they are asking for more deregulation. In a time where the lack of oversight seems to have contributed to the problem, we want more deregulation? Politically it is an incredibly stupid idea. Its only slightly wiser than just saying "screw all the deadbeats and banks", they deserve what they get. Ironically, a few large financial institutions recently opted to undertake further regulations by changing their classification to banks.

Financial markets definitely need more strict regulation because they depend on the confidence of the investor. People are more confident to invest in something if they know that an objective third party is making sure that things are on the up and up. Can there be too much regulation of financial markets? Perhaps, but I don't think that's a problem that we have right now.

I think that Senator McCain is showing extrodinarily bad judgement. Right now I'm just as likely to sit this race out as vote in it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Photography Adventure

There is a large vegetarian celebration in Phuket starting next week. In addition to eating vegetarian and vegan fare, the locals have parades in which some engage in some bizarre behavior. Some will put long needles through their skin, while last year one guy had a dagger through his cheek.

One of the things that Tim and I have talked about is me taking the opportunity while I am here in Thailand to do some things I would like to do by myself. So, it looks like I am going to go to Phuket by myself and take some pictures. Should be interesting.

Possible Move

Of course, as you have probably suspected, packing my entire house back in the states only whetted my appetite to do it again. Okay, not really, but Tim and I are considering moving a few blocks down the street.

Tim is pretty frustrated with the landlord, who is anything but proactive in fixing things. We ended up looking a single family home for rent, that while more than our current rent, is a lot bigger and nicer. There is also an option to purchase the house if we wish after six or so months.

I saw the house yesterday and thought it was nice. Tim saw it this morning and really liked what she saw. We will probably decide in the next few days.

If we do move, it will be much easier than the Treevalley ordeal. First, we don't have a lot o furniture here, nor nearly as many accumulated "treasures". Additionally, Tim said she would bring some employees over to help us move.

Funny Site

This site is absolutely hilarious. http://failblog.org/ . I was laughing out loud this morning while reading it. I'm sure my maids thought I had lost my marbles.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Men Stink?

Perhaps its appropriate that the Thai word for stink is men. Its not pronounced exactly like the English word for adult males, but its pretty damn close. If you hear a Thai say something stinks, you'll hear "men".

The Thai word for a pleasant smell is hom. Ironically its the same word that Thai's use for onions. Today I told the maids "hom mai hom" (onions don't smell great), and they started laughing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Maid Limbo

One of the downsides of having domestic servants is, well frankly, dealing with domestic servants. In the year that we've been here, we've gone through five drivers and three or four maid/nannies. Unfortunately, the fun just does not stop.

When Tim picked me up from my return flight to Thailand, she told me that both our maid and our nanny were leaving. In typical Thai style, they told her the day that she was leaving for a three day beach vacation with the kids.

Now, Tim understands the whole Thai lack of notice dynamics pretty well, as she deals with it at home and work. This one pissed her off and she let them know it. She told them that she thought that she had been good to them, and that they were now just quitting without notice, leaving her alone with the kids. Since I was not due back for a few more days, it would essentially mean that she couldn't even go to work until I got back. As they had given her no notice, she had no opportunity to find replacements.

A bit abashed, Jipp (nanny) and Lott (maid) decided to stay until the end of this month. The reason that Lott decided to leave is that her husband got a job in Pattaya. Jipp said that she was leaving to go back to school, although Jipp has "quit" before, only to change her mind. In fact, the last time Jipp quit was when the last nanny quit. Another factor may have been that Jipp was working more hours when I was gone, as sometimes Tim had to work late. Normally she is done around 7:00 p.m., but when I was back in the states she sometimes had to stay a few hours longer until Tim arrived home. Jipp also had to do a bit more with the kids schedule in my absence.

I was a bit bummed to hear that they were leaving. I know that domestic help comes and goes, but I liked these two. They are both really good with the kids, and Nalin and Aleena really like Jipp. Lott can actually cook well. Our previous maids' cooking was not to my taste. Lott does pretty well with Thai and Western food.

Another thing I liked about them is that they are warm people. While a lot of Thais smile, there are many whose smiles are only skin deep. These two seemed to care about the kids and our family. They would joke around with each other, as well as with the kids and I.

Starting over with new household staff isn't particularly fun. It takes some time for people to get used to your schedule, style and habits.

So today Tim was interviewing three prospective candidates. I was there, but since they spoke in Thai, I was more of a spectator. The first was a bust, as she balked at doing any laundry, suggesting to Tim that the other girl hired could do it. Tim was kind of luke warm on the second one. Nothing too special, but at least she didn't say that she doesn't do windows.

Tim liked the third one, a twenty-something year old woman from Burma. I liked her almost the minute I first saw her. The reason that I liked her is not that unlike the other two, that this one was young and fairly attractive. I think an attractive maid or nanny is a bit of a double edge sword. As many of you know, I am not a religious man, but I think the Lord's Prayer has it right when it states "lead us not into temptation". No, the reason I liked this one right away is that she was smiling and laughing. She wasn't solemn like she was interviewing for the position of chief mourner, instead she seemed friendly and happy. Turns out she works a few houses down for a Thai or Asian non-English speaking family. She wanted to come to work for us in large part to learn English. I was a bit concerned that she already worked here, because some here are paid very generously and also make over time. The salary we are paying is actually about a 45% raise for her.

So Tim likes her, I like her, and she seems very interested in the job. She even told us that we didn't need to hire another person, that she could do it all herself. Slam dunk, right? Not quite so fast. A few days ago, Tim had spoken to Lott about staying on. Lott's husband's job was only for a year, so if Lott wanted to stay, she could move into Jipp's room. Lott said that she would talk to her husband about it.

After our conversation with the Burmese nanny, Tim asked Lott if she had made any decisions. Of course she said that she hadn't spoken to her husband about it yet. Tim let her know that she needed to make a decision quickly, as we only asked them to stay to the end of the month, and if they were leaving, we had to find replacements. Lott then asked Tim what if both she and Jipp decided to stay. Of course Tim would be fine with that, but they have to let us know soon.

So for the few days, we'll be living in maid limbo.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Some Pictures

I took a few pictures on Saturday of Jacob's basketball game and the kids in the pool.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Higher Taxes patriotic

Joe Biden recently opined that it was patriotic for wealthier people to pay more in taxes. I am sure that there are quite a few people who echo this believe. Personally, I think his statement is a load of rubbish for a lot of reasons.

First, he doesn't believe it himself. Its simple class warfare. How do I know? If paying more taxes is patriotic, then is Sentator Biden voluntarily paying more taxes than required? Its perfectly legal. The government will gladly accept over payments of taxes. Just send the IRS some extra cash and a note saying "Just doing my patriotic duty."

As a U.S. Senator, Mr. Biden makes approximately $169,300 per year. Most people would consider someone making that much fairly wealthy. So does this wealthy patriot pay extra? My guess is that he doesn't. In fact he probably has someone prepare his taxes and expects them to find him all the legal deductions and credits available. So if its so patriotic, and you are a patriot Mr. Biden, why don't you pay more.

Aside from the hypocrisy of the statement, I think the very premise is deeply flawed in a few ways. I don't accept that the rich should pay more as a self-evident truth. There are certainly reasonable arguments for it. Why shouldn't someone who is able to pay more bear more of the burden? After all, they are benefiting more financially from the opportunities presented by our great country than many of their poorer brethren.

At the same time, however, they often contribute much more. A person who starts a business often provides jobs to other citizens. So while they might get more out of America financially, they give back by helping others get ahead. Also, if the tax burden becomes too great, one of two things can happen. One is that they might do less. How hard are you going to work to earn an extra dollar if seventy-five cents of it is going to the government? Maybe a bit less than if you kept the majority of that dollar. The other problem is that wealthier people are much better at legally avoiding taxes all together. At a certain point, an individual may takes steps to avoid taxes all together by moving money off shore or constructing elaborate tax avoidance schemes.

What it really should come down to is sound financial policy. Truthfully, I'm not concerned about the philosophical right or wrong of it. To me, tax rate should be about our economic growth and government revenue. How do we keep our country growing, while at the same time collecting enough revenue to suit the common purpose?

There is certainly room for wealthier Americans to pay more than their less privileged brothers. They already do. In 2005, the wealthiest one percent of people paid thirty-nine percent of the taxes. Even more starkly put, the bottom fifty percent of tax payers in the country combined to pay less taxes than Exxon. That's right, one company paid more in taxes than the taxes collected for the bottom fifty percent of Americans.

Is there some room to change the tax rates for richer Americans? There probably is room for some changes. Small increase in taxes will probably have a small impact on people's behavior. Are you going to move assets and unleash the horde of accountants and lawyers for a one percent increase in taxes? Much less likely than for a twenty-five percent increase.

You know, I would perhaps be sympathetic to Biden's argument if we had a government that was exercising physical restraint, but was unable to raise the money needed to provide vital services, then perhaps it would be patriotic. People who bought war bonds were patriotic. The government needed the money then. Now, government spending is completely out of control.

Dial 1 for Birth Control?

There is a recent study published linking the use of cell phones to decreased quality of sperm. The sample size was pretty small (the number of participant, not the sperm or the member delivering it), so I guess it remains to be seen if others will see similar results.

Were I interested in having more children, I might be a bit concerned in that I keep my cell phone in my pocket. Of course, I actually pull it out (the phone) to talk in it, so perhaps there are no worries there.

It does open some interesting possibilities on the dating scene. Guys, meet the latest form of contraception. "Come on baby, I don't need a condom, I was on the phone for two hours today."


So, this morning, the kids are I are sitting down enjoying breakfast. Nalin told me that one of her classmates got in trouble for flipping the bird. She didn't use those exact words, but that's the gist of it.

The next words out of Jacob's mouth is "Daddy, what is sex". Nalin offered that "its something that grown ups do, right?" Jacob then chimed in that they do it when they are naked.

After they asked me again, I told them that we could talk about it later. The entire time I have this big grin on my face. I couldn't help it, it was just kind of funny and out of the blue.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

All in the Family

Alas, I'm not referring to 70's sitcom featuring the iconic Archie Bunker, but rather Thai politics. Today the Thai parliament avoided dissolution and elected PPP deputy leader Somchai Wongsawat as the new PM.

In addition to (or perhaps because of) his role as the deputy leader of the PPP, PM Somchai also had the qualification of being the brother-in-law to deposed PM Thaksin. Of course the PAD protestors are not happy with the decision, decrying Somchai as a Thaksin puppet.

Speaking of Thaksin, today the Thai Supreme Court also delayed the verdict against Thaksin and his wife on a land buying deal. The court postponed the verdict until October 21st, stating that the couple should be present for the verdict.

If anyone has any doubts about the verdict, this should certainly make it clear. The court is certainly not interested in their presence to apologize for wasting their time. I think its pretty clear that a guilty verdict and some jail time are on the way. Given that she has already fled the country after one guilty verdict, the chances of them coming back had the court rendered a guilty verdict are pretty slim.


Its been raining a bit since I got back to Thailand. One nice thing about the rain is that when it comes, it really cools things down.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thai Government in Danger of Collapse

There is apparently a rift in the PPP party as to who should succeed Samak as Thailand's next PM. This schism is so great that it looks like it might fracture the party and cause the collapse of the current Parliament.

Dangerous Sledding

A recent Obama commercial portrayed McCain as out of touch, pointing out that McCain has never used the Internet or sent emails. Perhaps the Obama camp should have used the Internet themselves a bit first before using this as an example.

First, on the face of it, it doesn't even matter. The President does not need to be sending his own emails, nor do I expect him to be doing his own Internet research. His time is too valuable for that.

There's a more fundamental problem with this attack. The reason that John McCain doesn't use the Internet is because he cannot type. He cannot type because his torturers in Vietnam left one of his hands crippled to the point that he can't use a mouse, a keyboard, or even comb his own hair.

So when it comes down to it, John McCain sacrificed the ability to use the Internet for his country. Somehow I think that voters in heartland would think more of a candidate for his physical sacrifice, not less. It just seems like something that could just so easily backfire on them.

Perhaps the techno-savy Obama campaign should have done a little research on McCain's physical capabilities before they aired this commercial. Perhaps they did, but decided to air the ad anyway, counting on the fact that most people would never ask why.

From the Mouth of Babes

I was having coffee this morning at Starbucks with one of my friends here in Thailand, Megan. Megan and I worked together on cub scouts last year, and her son Adam is in Jacob's class this year. She told me a funny story.

Earlier this school year she stopped by their class to drop off some cup cakes. When Jacob saw her, he went and talked to her. He asked her if she dyed her hair blond. She was a bit surprised by his inquiry, but quickly explained to him that her hair turns that color in the sun.

Now, I am certainly not one to offer an opinion on the veracity of Megan's response to Jacob's question. I will, however, repeat his follow up question as she relayed it to me. He looked at her and said, "Then why are the roots dark?"

Smooth Jacob, very smooth.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sleep Schedule

Adjusting to an eleven hour time difference is always fun. By fun I mean being tired and out of sorts for a few days. In retrospect, I guess its not really fun at all.

I arrived home at 1:30 am Sunday morning. I went to bed about two hours later, and less than four hours after that Aleena discovered that I was home and woke me up.

Yesterday I was pretty tired, physically and mentally. My legs felt heavy walking up the steps and if I didn't keep my mind occupied I could feel my eyes start to close. I was tempted to take a nap, but those are a mixed blessing. On one hand, they can make you feel a bit better. However a five hour snooze fest in the middle of the afternoon may make sleeping through the night unlikely, further extending the jet lag.

I avoided the nap and fell asleep at 6:00 pm. Woke up at 2:30 am, and only dozed another hour or so until I had to get up this morning with the kids.

I'm still pretty tired today, but I actually feel like I have a bit of nervous energy. Should not have any trouble sleeping early tonight. Hopefully in a few days I'll be largely adjusted. Then I can take afternoon naps.

Model Students

This afternoon, Nalin went to her friends house after school. While I told her that I would allow her to do that, I told her that she had to call first. Well, she forgot, so after searching the school for her, I went to her friend's house to fetch her.

As we walked home, there were three or four high schoolers from ISB walking about ten feet behind us. I could hear one of the loud ones talking about something, and he said the word "faggot" pretty loudly. I kind of cringed a bit, being as Nalin is only 7, and does not really need to hear that kind of language. I thought for a second whether to say something to him, but I decided to wait. There was a slight chance he had not seen her when he said it, and realized it and would curb himself. Of course, I knew that this would not happen. He was going to say it again in the next thirty seconds. I could feel it. He used the word because he thought it would make the others laugh. They hadn't laughed loudly, so he would try again.

Twenty seconds later, it was something about Ohio and "faggot" again. I turned around and told him not to use that word, pointed at Nalin and said she was a second grader. He just looked at me for a second and didn't say anything, didn't even have the decency to look abashed or apologize. Jackass.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

12 years

Yesterday, September 14th, Tim and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary.  

We were actually married three times in 1996.  We were legally married by a justice of the peace on January 6th.  The reason for this was that we were taking a Mediterranean cruise, and the immigration process would be easier if we completed the process before we left.  Of course, the wheels of government can grind slowly, and we were not able to get everything done before the honeymoon.  Part of the problem was that we moved about five miles.  Those were important five miles, as Kentucky and Ohio were in different regions, so we had to start the process afresh.  
Our second ceremony was on September 13th and was performed at our home.  This was a more traditional Thai ceremony.  The next day we were "publicly" married on a yacht on the Ohio river.

So three marriages with no alimony or splitting assets.  Not bad, eh?

Sons of Anarchy

FX just launched a new series called the Sons of Anarchy ("SOA"). SOA is the story of a motorcycle club/gang in a small town named Charming. Very shortly into the show, it becomes apparent that SOA is involved in illegal activity, including arms dealing.

The main character is Jackson, a twenty-something member of the club whose deceased father was one of the founding members. As Jackson attempts to follow in his father's footsteps, he is confronted with the morality of the club's action, as well as the premature birth of his son.

Katey Sagal, the actress who played the iconic Peg Bundy from Married with Children, plays Jackson's mother, Gemma. Once again she plays a dysfunctional mother, although this one very different from the apathetic wife of Al Bundy. Gemma is married to the club's co-founder and her deceased husband's former best friend.

Only two episodes have aired, but first impressions are very positive. The show is the product of Kurt Sutter, the creator of the Shield. If you like the Shield and its presentation of the grayness of life and morality, then SOA will probably appeal to you. If you like your good guys wearing white hats and your bad guys wearing black ones, then save your time, the show is probably not for you.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Self Help Club

During my brief layover in Detroit I was perusing the magazine shops looking for a camera magazine. As I did, I couldn't help but notice Playboy and a few other adult magazines gracing the top shelf of one of the racks.

Seeing Playboy up there got me thinking. I guess there are some hotels for the airport and the flight, and some for the hotel afterwards. I can just imagine the look on your fellow passengers' faces when you whip out Playboy. In the very least you'll get a visit from the flight staff educating you on the error of your ways.

Still, I guess there is one use for the Playboy on the flight. You've undoubtedly heard of the mile high club. For those of you neophytes to the sexual vernacular, entrance to the mile high club requires one to have sex on an airplane in flight.

Membership to the club may not be so easy to obtain. Unless you are traveling with your spouse or significant other, your chances probably rest on convincing a stranger to go to the bathroom with you for a quick tryst. While the James Bond's of the world probably have no problem finding a willing partner, for a lot of guys, that is simply not a viable option.

Perhaps some might instead opt to join the much less prestigious mile high solo club. Armed with the newly purchased Playboy, the potential applicant can go it alone, preferably in the restroom. It may not be so thrilling as the mile high club, and he certainly isn't going to get a lot of points from his buddies when he brags about cranking off in the restroom john, but dammit, at least it might help him fall asleep on the rest of the flight.

Cooking Bad for Your Career?

The Thai constitutional court has ruled that Prime Minister Samak was ineligible to hold the PM post and has dissolved his leadership and cabinet. What did PM Samak do to incur the wrath of the Thai court? He simply cooked.

Actually, he did a bit more than cook. PM Samak is quite well known here in the Kingdom for his cooking prowess. Prior to becoming PM, he was hosting a cooking show on one of the Thai TV channels. He continued the weekly show after assuming the PM duties.

The problem is that the Thai constitution states that the PM may not have any employment outside the government. Since the television station paid PM Samak a salary for his show, the court ruled that he had outside employment. Instead of allowing him to correct that by resigning from the show, they invalidated his government, requiring Parliament to chose a new PM and cabinet.

The Thai court ruling did not necessarily mean a permanent end to Samak's role as PM. He was not punished or banned from Parliment, and indeed still held his seat. He could simply resign from the television station and the MP's could once again vote him as PM. This would essentially make the Thai court's ruling moot. At first, it appeared that this is exactly what would happen. After the ruling, key PPP (People's Power Party) members indicated that they would support PM's Samak's return to power.

Unfortunately for PM Samak, things are not always as they appear in Thai politics. Within a few days, support for PM Samak had evaporated, and it became clear that he would not be PM. He resigned from the head of the PPP party.

Perhaps what is the most interesting is that former PM Thaksin, who many claim is pulling the strings for the PPP, supported Samak's return as PM. Its not clear whether Thaksin's influence has waned after his flight to England to avoid prosecution, or whether he really supported Samak.

And You Thought Red Light Cameras Were Bad

There are probably thousands of places to get a massage in Thailand. Some are completely on the up and up, no hanky panky goes on. Others will give you a happy ending for an extra fee, while others are nothing more than a front for prostitution. A massage parlor is a place that specializes in prostitution, usually for wealthy locals. According to my research, online not field, these places will sometimes accept foreigners for an extra fee.

If Bangkok governor candidate Leena Jungjanja gets her way, however, that smile that you leave the massage parlor with may cost you a lot more than a couple of thousand baht. Ms. Leena's pro-family platform includes installing cameras outside of massage parlors. The video would broadcast on the Internet so that wives can check up on their husbands.

Fortunately for the more philandering type, Ms. Leena will not be the governor of Bangkok. She is in single digits in the polls. Perhaps one might think that she might strike a cord with Thai women fed up with their cheating husbands. While her idea might appeal to some, it really goes against the grain of the Thai concept of saving face.

These cameras would broadcast the husbands infidelity not only to the wife, but to the rest of the world. It would be very humiliating to the woman to have it out in the open like that. I'm not saying that Thai women relish their husbands going to a massage parlor, but for many, a quiet tryst is much preferable to a public outing. I remember hearing a story about a Thai woman whose husband was having an affair. She might have suspected it for a while, and certainly didn't like it, but she accepted it. Men will be men is sometimes the philosophy. When the guy started doing it in the open and made no effort to hide it, that's when it was too much for her. He had humiliated her.

Its like that a lot here, as long as its not blatantly out in the open, people can contently ignore it. Thais are very good at blissfully ignorant.

If by some miracle Ms. Leena's idea became law, maybe Thais could borrow a page from the red light camera's book. Just send a picture of the offender entering the massage parlor along with a ticket. Its not like he is going to court to fight it and make you prove that he actually had sex there. Of course, if he's not the one who opens the mail, there could be hell to pay.

30 Hours Door to Door

Well, I'm finally back in Thailand. From the time I left my house in Cincinnati until I stepped in our home in Thailand, approximately thirty hours elapsed.

So how did I spend this time? About twenty one hours was flight time; one hour to Detroit, thirteen to Tokyo, and seven to Bangkok. I spent an hour and a half driving to and from airports. The remainder was spent waiting in airports.

Overall the trip was not too bad. The flight to Detroit was short and unremarkable. I was very lucky on the flight to Tokyo, as the seat next to me was empty. The extra room makes such a difference. Instead of being shoulder to shoulder with the person next to you, you can stretch out a bit.

Right up until the gates closed for the flight to Bangkok, it looked like karma was really grooving with me again, as the seat next to me was empty. Alas, no one's luck is that good in these days of overcrowded flights, and the seat was occupied at the last minute.

The travel gods once again smiled favorably upon me once we arrived in Bangkok. While the walk to immigration was ten or fifteen minutes, when I arrived I was processed in under five minutes. Of course, a quick jaunt through immigration is only one part of getting out of the airport quickly. All that time avoided waiting in line at immigration can easily be spent standing around watching the luggage carousel go round and round. I was spared that fate, as within five minutes of my arrival, my large pinkish purple bags came into view. You might laugh at my less than testosterone drive choice in baggage color, but when people are trying to figure out if each passing black bag is theirs, I know when my bags arrive.

The trip is never fun, but this one wasn't too bad.


Its been a few weeks since I've blogged or taken a picture for that matter. Getting our house in Cincinnati ready to rent out turned out to be a much larger endeavor than I had originally anticipated.

My three week trip turned into a five week packing, cleaning and painting fest. Mom, dad, Dave and Joe helped out, but there was so much to do. By the end, I was just wanting to get done.

The trip wasn't all work and no play. When I arrived back in the states I went on a three day convention trip with some friends. The convention was Gencon, a large gaming (the geek, not gambling variety) convention that I first attended back in 1991. The most memorable part of the con was playing a drinking version of battle cards with the guys, checking out some indie films, admiring our enormous hotel suite, and drinking the strawberry water at the hotel. They had a large water dispenser in the hotel, and it had ten or so dozen strawberries in it. The water had a slight strawberry taste, which I rather enjoyed.

In any case, I am back in Thailand now (more about that later), so the blogging should be more regular.