Saturday, January 31, 2009
The public will never really know if these were unintentional mistakes or purposeful acts. In either case, they are a call to action. Clearly if a cabinet nominee intentionally attempted to evade taxes, his (or her) nomination should be retracted.
So what if it was an honest mistake? In some ways, an honest mistake actually calls for more drastic measures. Secretary Geithner has extensive financial experience. Not only was the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, but he also served in the Clinton administration as the deputy assistant secretary for international monetary and financial policy. Geithner also worked at the International Monetary Fund.
Tom Daschle served as the Senator from South Dakota for eighteen years, and was twice the majority leader of the U.S. Senate. As a Senator, he spent time on the Finance Committee. His role as Senate leader meant that he was very involved in determining the federal budget, including tax policy.
So here we have two men who have a level of financial sophistication head and shoulders above the average American. They have both wielded influence over U.S. financial policy. So, if they honestly made a mistake or unintentionally failed to pay the proper amount of taxes, what does it say about our system? Is it so complex that even individuals with the experience of Geithner and Daschle often get it wrong? If so, then what hope do the rest of us have to get it right? In Turbo Tax we trust?
Maybe this should be a call to seriously reform our tax structure. Let's face it, the tax structure is not complicated because it has to be. Its complicated because our Congress uses it to reward and punish certain behaviors. You might give your child a cookie for cleaning her room, while the government provides a tax break if you purchase a home. Both rewards are to encourage the behavior that the authority deems desirable.
My opinion is that we should either get rid of Daschle and Geithner or our tax system. The later would certainly change Washington.
If you think that I am trolling for material to satiate my prurient interests, I am not. If I type "google" into the Google search engine, the links to google.com provide the same warning. The only links that do not are the advertisements and the links to news. When I attempted to report the issue to google (after copying the link from the warning page and pasting it into the address line), I received an error.
Today was the Pinewood Derby for pack 701. The car registration took place this morning from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 pm. Jacob and I went in and registered his car. It weighed in at 4.75 ounces, comfortably under the 5 ounce limit.
Jacob's den's race was scheduled for 2:50, and his uniform inspection at 3:10 pm. We were planning on leaving at about 2:30 in order to get there a few minutes early. At 2:20 I received a phone call from an assistant den leader that they were running the races ahead of schedule. She had missed her son's race and they were racing Jacob's den at that moment. His car raced, he was not there to see it. I actually felt bad, because the reason they missed it was because I had told her that her son's race was not scheduled until 2:10. They arrived at 2:05 and missed it by ten minutes.
We arrived just in time for Jacob's uniform inspection, but missed his actual race. The good news was that Jacob's car won first place in his den. All the den winners raced at the end, and he did not make the finals of that race. Still, he was very happy with his car's performance.
It was pretty frustrating to miss the races. At least one person was pretty upset about it. Although the cars did get to race even if the scout was not present, a big part of the thrill is seeing your car race.
I entered another car under Nalin's name. Instead of painting it, I covered it with cub scout stickers. I didn't add much in the way of weights, and it did not perform well in the open races.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I'm not sure if the bike was exiting the subdivision or had been there a few seconds, but I had not time to react. I crashed into the other bike, sending the rider and bike to the ground. I was actually able to keep my balance and did not fall.
The other rider was a eleven or twelve year old boy. Although he was initially a bit shaken by the accident, thankfully he was otherwise okay.
Later in the afternoon, I was again riding and saw that there was an accident involving a motorcycle and a car. No-one seemed to be seriously injured, but there were guards filling out reports.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Her last two lessons have been remarkably different. She is really enjoying herself, and is picking things up rather quickly.
One of the reasons for her attitude change is that her pre-K friend Mari is also in her swim class. Aleena can be a bit shy when she is by herself, but if she has a friend with her, she tends to cast her fears aside. Last semester, Aleena and Mari did not play as much together, but this semester they seem to have hit it off.
Last Saturday was the tournament for Jacob's soccer league. Throughout the regular season, his team, Polyplus, went undefeated. The only "blemish" on their record was a tie in the final weak.
The tournament was a round-robin affair, with each game lasting fifteen minutes. The two teams with the best records would then play in the finals. Jacob's team was 2-1-1 going into the last round of the round robin. They won impressively, and then had to play in the final against the team that had defeated them earlier in the day. The finals saw Polyplus dominate, with them attacking ninety percent of the time. I think the other team ended up taking one shot on goal that entire game.
Jacob played goalie for three of the six games, and did a nice job. He was very happy, of course, to have collected another trophy for his efforts. He ended up getting three for soccer this year; one for participating, one for winning the league title, and one for winning the tournament.
Next week, I am going on a three day trip to Sukhothai to take photographs. No kids or wife on this one, just me, my camera, and whatever light and sights are available. Sukhothai was the first Thai capital, and boasts a number of ancient ruins.
The following week is the Cub Scout camp out. The entire family is going, so it should be fun. We have a room and a tent, so we will not be entirely at the mercy of the weather.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Recently, a tourist took some pictures of some one hundred and twenty-six Rohingya boat people being detained by the Thai military. The pictures show the detainees bound with their hands tied behind their backs. Some witnesses say that the Thai military forced some of the boats back into the water, despite the fact that they were severely short on food and fuel.
The press and the international community have expressed outrage at the treatment of the refugees. The Thai military has denied abusing the refugees and further denied that it sent some boats back into the water. The Thai government has pledged to fully investigate the matter. I would be very surprised if the result of their investigation shows wrong doing on the part of any Thai; at least wrong doing on the part of anyone with any real authority.
This is really not the distraction that the new Democrat-led government needs. Their plate is already full with an economic down turn and protests from the UDD. Their government is somewhat fragile, relying on two dozen former Thaksin allies to maintain their majority.
After about five minutes, Aleena wondered why her pictures were all blank. Nalin looked and discovered the sticker that Aleena had placed over the lens.
The garbage cans have the name Nichada Villa (our subdivision name) on them. The girls thought that this was picturesque and kept taking shots of them. The kids favorite targets, however, were some of the neighborhood dogs. There were three or four dogs out on walks, and the kids politely asked the owners (or maids as was usually the case) for permission to take pictures.
Here is a picture of my band of novice photographers.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Yesterday, Nicolaides was sentenced to three years in jail because he was found guilty of lese majeste; insulting the monarchy. Authorities charged that a paragraph of this novel insulted the king, the crown prince and the royal family. The charges actually carry a six year sentence, but the judge halved the sentence because Nicolaides pleaded guilty. Pleading guilty for a halved sentence is a common practice here in the kingdom.
Nicolaides, who has been in Thailand since 2003, was leaving the country when he was arrested last year. It is not known why the authorities waited so long to after the book's publication to arrest him.
Verisimilitude is anything but a best seller. Only seven copies of the fifty printed were ever sold. While CNN reported Nicolaides conviction, they refrained from reproducing the offending paragraph because to do so would have resulted in the prosecution of their staff in Thailand on the same charges. I will not repeat them either, but they are not hard to find on the Internet.
I am pretty critical of the lese majeste law. I think that it actually hurts Thailand as it inhibits a full and frank discussion of its political future and that it has been used as a tool to attempt to destroy one's political enemies.
Despite my misgivings about the lese majeste law itself, Nicolaides is either incredibly stupid or reckless. Nicolaides' claim that he meant no insult and is surprised by all of this is highly dubious. He didn't write something that would be benign in the U.S. or Australia (his native country) but insulting to Thais because of cultural differences. His writing would be considered offensive, although not criminal, in the Western world.
The other thing that makes his actions so unbelievable is that he lived in Thailand for two years prior to writing the book. Nicolaides was a writer, blogger and university lecturer. I have no doubt that he knew about the lese majeste laws when he penned his novel.
Despite the fact that he had to know the law and that his words would break it, he went ahead with his book. I don't know if he thought that the authorities would not learn of it because it was written in English, or perhaps that his falang skin would cause the police to look the other way. In any case, he was wrong, and a little throw away paragraph in a novel that sold seven copies just might cost him the next three years of his life.
Although his attorney stated that no decision had yet been made, the next logical step is for Nicolaides to appeal for a royal pardon. In the past, foreigners who have run afoul of the lese majeste laws have been successful in obtaining Royal forgiveness. They are then usually expelled after their release.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Another reason that we didn't go is that Jacob has his last soccer game today. I misread the schedule and we showed up at 8:00 a.m. for a 10:40 a.m. game. The kids just played at school until game time (of course the girls played during the game as well).
The game ended in a 3-3 tie, and Jacob's team finished in first place in their league. Jacob was goalie for the first half of the game and gave up only one goal. He had stopped a shot and was holding the ball. His coach yelled for him to drop the ball in front of a particular teammate with a strong leg to kick it. Jacob didn't understand what he was saying, and handed the ball to his teammate. Of course, when his teammate touched it with his hand, it was a penalty. The other team got a penalty shot with no wall and scored.
During the second half, Jacob played defense and performed pretty well. With about five minutes left in the game, his team went down 3-1. They rallied with two goals in the final few minutes to preserve their undefeated season.
Jacob was very happy after the game, as each team member received two trophies; one for finishing in first and one that everyone in the league receives. As we were walking to our bikes, Jacob informed me that he liked to collect trophies.
It turns out that my blog on the end of my daughters' dancing "careers" was premature. Nalin changed her mind and decided that she wanted to the jazz class again. I also ended up signing Aleena up for a dancing and singing class.
In the afternoon we went to the pool at the Nichada Club. I'm a member of the club, which includes use of the gym, pool and the back gate with easy access to the expressway and Chaeng Wattana. The kids had fun playing at the pool in the adjacent sand box. Sand box does not quite do it justice, it contains two soccer goals and I imagine that is big enough to play beach volley ball on it.
Apparently Jacob made some new friends who did not speak English. The good thing is that Jacob talks enough for three or four kids. Yeah, I know where he got it from.
I cooked dinner tonight. I picked up some pre-made crusts and made pizza for the kids. Additionally, I made "home-made" ravioli and pasta. Making pasta is surprisingly easy, just egg and flour. When I was back in the states I bought a pasta roller and cutter, which makes getting the right shape and consistency a lot easier. I filled some of the ravioli with sauteed mushroom and others with fake crab. Everyone really liked the dinner, so I guess I didn't do too bad of a job.
One thing that is very nice about cooking here is that I don't have to clean up. Booah cleaned the dishes and even helped me a bit. Stuffing the ravioli took longer than I thought, so she played soush chef.
After dinner, the kids did their routine and watched a little television (Star Wars the Clone Wars, episode 13). By eight o'clock, Tim and the kids were sleeping, while I was photo editing and blogging. Not the most exciting day ever recorded electronically, but it was pretty nice.
I created a Picasa album with some of the pictures of the sign.
Below is a picture that I wanted to include directly in the blog. Not even the most dedicated protestor who is totally committed to his or her cause can overcome the basic human body functions. There were food and drink vendors on the perimeter of the rally, offering hungry and thirsty Thais relief. But what is a protesting Thai to do when he has "processed" his food and beverages.
In the U.S., one might expect to see a line of Port-a-potties at such an event. Instead, the rally had what I can only describe as a port-a-bus. In this case, I think the photograph will help you get the "picture".
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Today, Aleena decided not to continue taking ballet lessons. The deciding factor for her was that her friend McKayla was no longer going to take them.
Actually, I really don't mind that they quit dancing. Nalin has been on again off again, while I think Aleena was never quite into it. Aleena's ballet class was a bit too serious, with McKayla and Aleena sometimes entertaining themselves to the dismay of the teacher.
For the sake of completeness, Jacob does not dance, nor has he ever expressed any interest in taking lessons. If he ever wanted to take dance lessons, I would not stop him, but its not something that I would ever push him towards.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
When she left this morning, she told me that she had to deliver holiday baskets to some people. For the New Year's holiday, Thais deliver gift baskets to friends, family and business contacts. The baskets are usually purchased at a grocery store and are filled with a variety of products.
Until very recently, they would also include a bottle of whiskey. Johnny Walker Black Label and Red Label were often popular choices. A new law this year prohibited the inclusion of alcohol in the basket on the grounds that it "forced" people to buy alcohol. Of course, its their law and the Thais are certainly free to make whatever silly laws they want and ignore the fact that there were always baskets available that didn't contain alcohol.
Tim has had a lot of baskets to deliver over the last few weeks. It is a good way to get face time and build relationships with important clients, business partners and government officials. Today she was delivering a basket to someone in the radio business. They chatted a bit and then the recipient told her that he had to go to be on the radio. He asked her if she wanted to join and she did. So she spent a few minutes on the air talking about her company. A little free advertising for the price of a basket is not too bad.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
When we got to the pool, Aleena just didn't want to get in. I think that she was a bit afraid. When her brother or sister are around, she had little fear. This time, however, she was there by herself (not including me). For the first half of the lesson, she sat outside the pool. Then the instructor moved over to the smaller pool and played a game with some coins. Aleena started laughing and enjoying herself at that point, actually participating.
Finally, before we left, she agreed to get in the pool and show the instructor how she can swim if I would get in. Of course I had not worn my swimming suit. I had planned on spending the lesson listening to my ipod and relaxing. So I stripped down to my shorts and hopped in. The water was a bit cooler than I would have preferred, but honestly, I've swam in colder weather in Cincinnati in July and August. Aleena surprised me a bit by jumping in, going under water, then surfacing and swam to me.
Hopefully the next lesson will be better. I think I'll bring my swim suit though, just in case.
Of course, I actually like this weather better than the summer and rainy seasons. We haven't had rain here for several months, and its really quite nice.
McKayla spent most of the winter break in the United States. For the first two weeks, each day Aleena asked me "Is McKayla home yet?" It was cute for the first three or four days, but you can only be amused by trying to explain that we had ten (or how many ever) days left.
In any case, I asked Nalin to send Aleena up to my room when she returned. I wanted to read to her and have her work on her reading workbook. Nalin came up and told me that the maid was back, but Aleena was not. A bit puzzled, I looked for the maid who was in the kitchen, working on dinner. I asked the maid what happened. She told me that Aleena didn't want to come home, and fussed a bit, so she had returned without her.
Soon the look of utter bewilderment on my face was replaced by severe annoyance. While I did not raise my voice, I let the maid know in no uncertain terms that I was angry with her. I explained (again) that the children were not her bosses. If I told her to do something, and they refused to cooperate, at a minimum she had to call me.
Not only did she not do what she was sent to do, but she didn't even tell me that she had failed. If not for Nalin, I wouldn't have known Aleena wasn't home until thirty minutes later.
So fresh off of yesterday's poor performance, the maid outdid herself today. Around nine this morning I was going out on my bike. She said that she was going to the market that morning. I told her that I didn't have my key. She said "don't close the door". I told her that she could close the door, but not to lock the door. Then I asked her in Thai if she understood. She nodded yes.
On my way back home I passed her about 3 or 4 minutes from the house. When I got home, I discovered that she had locked the door. At this point I wasn't annoyed or angry, I was just plain pissed off. I tore off after her to see if I could catch up with her and get the key, but it was too late.
Fortunately for both the maid and myself, I was able to climb through a kitchen window to enter the house. I was fortunate because I didn't have to wait outside for an hour and a half until she returned. She was also lucky that I didn't have to wait outside for an hour and a half, because I would have fired her on the spot.
By the time that I returned, I had calmed down a lot. I explained to her that she had locked the door on me. She said that I told her that she could close the door. I agreed, but reminded her that I explicitly told her not to lock it and she said that she understood.
I think that my new way of dealing with her is going to be to make her explicitly repeat all instructions until she repeats them. Sometimes I think that people here think "do you understand" (spoken in either Thai or English) means, "would you like me to stop bothering you?"
Monday, January 12, 2009
I think I've only had the air conditioning running a handful of times over the past two months. The weather is partly responsible, as is the design of the new house. This house allows much better air flow than our townhouse. Tim is undoubtedly happy with the reduced electricity bills. She never complains when I run the air, but its nice not to need it.
In any case, I'm glad that the kids are back. Not only do I get a break from the little darlings, but this puts me back into a more regular routine. This will give me time to work on some projects.
Tim has asked me to resurrect the customer tracking program that I wrote for her last year. I finished version one last January, but it never got deployed. Now we are looking to relaunch, and it should keep me fairly busy. The nice thing is that I can work at home on my own schedule for most of the time. I also enjoy the mental challenge, so it should work out well.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Nalin went over to her friend Hannah's for a play date and a sleep over tonight. Last year Hannah and Nalin were in the same class and played together a lot. This year they are not in the same class and haven't spent as much time together. I had the maid pack a bag for the sleep over, but when Nalin stopped by to pick it up, she insisted on repacking it.
Aleena had her friend Anook over for a play date. Anook lived next door to us before we moved, but the girls are still good friends. Another former neighbor, Kiara also stopped by for a bit. After her play dates, Aleena fell asleep on the couch. Sometimes playing with friends is an exhausing endeavor. When she awoke at 4:30 p.m., Booah took her to ISB for a picnic with Anook and Kiara.
Jacob went to his friend John's house today. They typically play video games and hang out indoors. Today, however, John's dad took them to the driving range for an hour. From Jacob's rendition of the day's events, it sounded like they had fun.
Tim worked from home in the morning. She has a desk setup in the upstairs hall that has worked out really well. She left for work in the afternoon to attend a meeting.
I ran to the IT Mall today to have the DVD player in my laptop changed. I'm getting the laptop ready to give to Tim, because I have a new computer and the laptop that she has is pretty antiquated. While I was there, I got a foot massage. This was only memorable because it was the first time the masseuse was a guy. It was only a foot massage, but still I didn't like it. I'm also working on a photo album of some pictures.
Ordered pizza tonight, since Aleena's picnic meant that the maid hadn't even started on dinner at 6:00 p.m. Afterwards, Jacob and Aleena got ready for bed, and then watched some TV. Tim got home around 8:00 p.m., which is actually pretty earlier for her schedule.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Tim had to work,so I drove the kids and nanny myself. Tim wrote out some basic directions, and I used my Garmin GPS system. Actually it was good that I had Tim's input, because the name of the sign sometimes didn't match the name on the navigation system.
The way back was a bit more challenging. The navigation system planned out a route using the expressway, which was fine with me. The problem is that in most places, the expressway here is raised and built over another road. So while I got on the expressway, the navigation system detected that I was on the road below. For the most part, this did not cause an issue. However, it didn't tell me to exit at the right time, so we ended up having to turn around and backtrack later on.
Here are a few pictures.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
This is pretty much the same process as last year. This year, of course, we brought the correct documents the first time. The sole exception was my pictures, which I had to have retaken at a nearby shop. I brought the same picture as I used last year, which they saw when they pulled my file.
Interestingly, there is a change for next year. Currently, and in the past, we needed to demonstrate a household income of at least 50,000 baht per month. The new rule will instead require proof of at least 400,000 baht in an account in my name for at least two months prior to the application. I imagine that this could cause problems for some couples.
Once again, Tim's contact made the entire process much less painful than is typical. I think we were only there about an hour and a half. Believe me, the normal process is a lot longer.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Hopefully Tim's contact can help us get to the front of the line.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
A few years back there was a fire in a Thai hotel that claimed the lives of many guests. A disproportionate number of Western guests were able to survive that fire by taking basic precautions such as putting wet towels under doors to reduce smoke. I must have been visiting Thailand at the time, because I remember reading the Bangkok Post and that some Thai's were amazed that the Western guests knew to take such measures. It really is a different world here.
On our trip to Chiang Mai, however, my lovely wife solicited me to take some photographs of her lovely visage. Here are some of the results. Please remember, the album contains more than just those images posted here.
My Lovely Wife