Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Jacob in 09

This past year Jacob completed third grade and has finished the first half of the fourth grade.  I like his teacher, Ms. Bellone, even though she is a Baltimore Ravens fan.  She is pretty good at working with Jacob and his energy.

One of the projects that Jacob's class worked on was a digital media story.  The kids wrote, illustrated and then read a story.  Ms. Bellone posted their work on YouTube ( and the parents were invited for a writer's celebration.  Jacob did a fantastic job, which was refreshing since he does not like to write.  His story was funny, and he made a great use of his voice.  His classmates were surprised to learn that he had not in fact had to wear a body cast due to some injury.  Reality or fiction, it was a fun story.

Jacob does not like the cafeteria food at ISB.   He says there are only a few things that he likes, and misses the "glory days" at Mercer where you could get pizza every day. 

In the ES Games ("Olympic" games for each grade level), Jacob ran in the 800 meter run, the 100 yard dash and in the relay event.  While he didn't win any of them, he did manage to lose one of his shoes in each race. 

 Jacob participated in quite number of sports and after school activities.  He played soccer and basketball.  In January, his soccer team won the regular season and the tournament.  For some reason, Jacob loves to be the goalie.  It drives me a bit crazy, because it is not his best position.  When he plays defense, mid-fielder or striker, his quickness and agility really help to offset his small size.  It doesn't work so well as a goalie.

Basketball started in the fall, and I actually volunteered to be an assistant coach for his team.  We almost missed signups, as for some reason I thought that soccer started before basketball.  Jacob's team had a pretty good regular season, tying for the best record in the league.  They ended up losing in the semi-finals of the tournament against the eventual winners.  His team played really hard but the other team was just a lot bigger and just a little better.

In Cub Scouts, Jacob earned his Bear badge last spring.  This fall he has worked towards his Webelos badge.  Last year's camping trip, one of the highlights of the year for scouting saw a last minute destination change from Kao Yai (a national park that is great for camping) to a field near Nichada.  The reason was that people were returning from the "resort" with food poisoning.  Incidentally, we went to the resort with the scouts this fall for the bike outing ( and to my knowledge there were no reports of food caused illness.  Jacob was also the champion of his den in the Pinewood Derby and the Raingutter Regatta. 


In April, Jacob and I had the opportunity to tour the U.S. S. Stennis while it was stopped in Pattaya.  Someone in scouting arranged the tour.  As we approached, Jacob and one of his friends said how the carrier didn't really look that big.  When we got closer, I think they finally realized how wrong they were.  Jacob loved touring the ship and seeing the planes.  Yeah, and so did his dad. 

When the after school activity list came out this fall, I knew right away which one Jacob would want.  So for ten Tuesdays, Jacob got to practice archery at school.  As expected, he really liked it. 

At the end of our last vacation, we visited a school in Kanchanaburi that Tim wants to help.  The kids there are truly poor, and most are orphans.  As we were leaving, Jacob told me that he would never say how life was unfair to him again.  And although I know he, like so many of us, will get caught up in what he has or doesn't have, it was refreshing to see that he recognized how lucky he was. 

Jacob visited quite a few places in and out of Thailand this year.  He went to Singapore in April with the family.  In Singapore, we visited the Science Museum, the zoo, the Night Safari, Santosa, the Merlion and more.  He went to Hong Kong in October with Tim and his sisters and cousins.  I'm not sure everywhere they went, but I think Disney was a destination once or twice.   In Thailand, he visited Phuket, Kanchanaburi

Year in Review

I want to chronicle a bit about the year for Tim, the kids and myself.  I'm going to break them up by person.  Some will probably be more detailed, while others less so.  I want to try to preserve a bit of what happened before I forget it.  Photography has really helped the process, as I usually have my camera with me, and organize everything in Lightroom by date.  

My goal is to have one for each of us.  We'll see how far I get...

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jacob in Kanchanaburi

Originally uploaded by ebvImages

Caves of Kanchaburi

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
On our last trip, I had the chance to photograph caves for the first time. Let me tell you that lugging a tripod and my gear around in the cave wasn't fun.

I ended up needing to use my flash. I was going to try to do it by flashlight with really long exposures, but the problem was that it was too dark to focus.

Up at Night

I ran twice today, each time 5k.  The problem is that the second time I finished at 9:00 p.m. and its really hard to get to sleep.  I should know better.

Family at Hellfire Pass

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
We visited the Hellfire Pass Museum while in Kanchanaburi. The museum was built by the Australian Embassy and is very well done. This place and perhaps the allied grave yard were the most moving to me.

The Hellfire Pass was a particularly brutal area for the WWII POW's and local laborers, as the Japanese engineers forced them to work round the clock to meet their completion deadline. The name Hellfire came from the sight of the emaciated men working in the torch light looked eerily like hell.

There is an exhibit and film inside the museum, and outside you can walk along the pass. The workers would lay charges and then clear away the blast debris. They would drill holes to plant the explosives via a hand drill, and cart off the rock in a wheel barrow.

I won't go into all the details of it, but it was a sobering reminder of what man is capable of doing to each other. It seems like it was so long ago, but it happened in my parent's lifetime (or close enough).

Family in Kanchanaburi

Originally uploaded by ebvImages

Jacob, Nalin, Aleena, Oh My

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
The three "darlings" in Kanchanaburi.


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Aleena actually wanted this pose. Actually, I think she wanted the flowers in the background with the family, but this is what we got.

Nalin & Aleena

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
This was taken at the Balloon Festival in Ayutthaya earlier this month.

One Bite at a Time

I've been taking a lot of photos this year.  The count in my Lightroom library is over 13,000 for the year.  Now, there are multiple copies of some photographs, but there are also a lot that I've deleted. 

Recently, I've been distracted playing a computer game (Dragon Age, fun game), so I've been very slow to process things.  I also need to get a little better disciplined about reviewing the photos right after I take them.  Pare down the list of the things that are good, and things that aren't, process the former and delete the latter. 

The sheer number of them gives me pause.  I remember what a consultant I worked with said "How do you eat a whole elephant?  One bite at a time."

Christmas Presents

Another Christmas has come and gone.  The holidays are probably the time I miss "home" the most.  Still, it was a nice holiday.  The girls were knocking on our door at 7:00 a.m., the earliest time that we allow.  After rousing us, they went and woke up Jacob.  He is always the last one up. 

We opened presents and went to have a "traditional" Christmas lunch of roasted duck and noodles.  Yes, I know I was channeling the Christmas Story, but that duck is just so good. 

The kids received presents from us and Santa.  The family sent money, so instead of me buying them more presents with it, we gave it for them to use to buy things on our vacations.  Our plan is to go to Japan in April and the U.S. in the summer, so the kids will have some money to buy some things. 

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Strike a Pose

Originally uploaded by ebvImages

3 of a Kind

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
This is the bridge that was next to the hotel that we stayed in at Kanchanaburi this week. We crossed this bridge during our trip with the Cub Scouts there the week before.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
As I earlier blogged, last weekend we went to the fireworks in honor of the King's birthday. This was one of the first few times that I have tried to photograph fireworks. I've done it a little before, but this is the first time I set up and tried to capture some decent photos.

I read some tips on how to photograph fireworks. One of the tips was to use bulb mode. In bulb mode the camera keeps the shutter open as long as you hold the button down.

I took a lot of shots, and a few of them turned out fairly decent. The two biggest challenges were getting the exposure right (using bulb mode) and the smoke. However the shots turned out, I feel like I learned something and I know that I had fun.

Girls In Hats

Originally uploaded by ebvImages

ISB ES Choir

Originally uploaded by ebvImages

Kids After Choir

Originally uploaded by ebvImages

Nalin Running

Originally uploaded by ebvImages

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spare a Tire

My wife learned yesterday that someone had stolen her spare tire.  In this model of Izuzu, the spare tire is underneath the vehicle and secured with a chain.  Apparently, they do not secure it with a very sturdy chain as she learned.  Afterwards people told her "of course you are supposed to buy a better chain."  We didn't even realize the spare was under the car, so upgrading the spare wasn't even something that we thought about.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

ES Games

The kids had their ES (Elementary School) games this week.  Each grade has its version of the games where the classes in that grade compete against each other.  The events differ based on the grade, although there are some standards.  There is usually a sprint, a relay and a distance run.  For the 4th graders it was an 800 meter run, while the 3rd graders did 600 meters.  The kindergartners only had to run 50 meters.  

Not all the kids participate in each of the running events.  Jacob ran in the 800 meter and finished in the middle of the pack.  His shoe flew off in the first 50 meters.  This was a theme for him, as he lost them in the sprints and the sprint relays.  He was wearing shoes that fasten with Velcro, and apparently kept them too loose.  Overall Jacob's class was not the most athletic of fourth graders.  There was an event where they had to catch a tennis ball, and the difference between Jacob's class and the rival class was stark.  Not even 1/3 of Jacob's class could catch the ball, while the other team seemed to have little trouble.  

Nalin didn't do the sprint or distance run, but she was part of her class' relay team.  When they told me that she had the second fastest time on the team, I knew they were not going to be finishing near the top.  They didn't.  She had fun though.

Aleena had fun at her game.  She really isn't about competition at all.  During her "sprint", she had her head turned looking at the other kids. 

I took quite a few photos this week.  I've posted a few, but there are a lot to go.  Someday.

Jacob's ES Games

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
I only took my 70-200 mm lens to take photos at Jacob's ES games. Its really a great lens for taking shots of the kids in action, but its really tough to get a good group shot. I would just have to stand very far back and with other parents taking photos, its just not going to happen.

I decided to instead just focus on Jacob and a person or two around him.


Originally uploaded by ebvImages

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Jacob is going to play the role of Toto in ISB's Elementary School production of the Wizard of Oz.  The play is cast with the fourth and fifth graders (Jacob is a fourth grader).

I'm not sure how much he will actually say, but he might be on stage a bit.  There are actually two people playing Toto.  I think they actually have cast four girls as Dorothy and a handful for the Scarecrow.  Jacob was hoping to land the Scarecrow role, but it didn't work out this time.  Still,I think he'll have fun.  Its all about having fun, right?  Well, and winning too.

Nalin & Caroline

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Today was Nalin's ES games. She ran in the relay race and participated in some of the other games.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


This evening Tim had VIP tickets for the family to go to a firework show in honor of the King.  The show was not very far from the house.  Absent traffic, you could drive there in ten or fifteen minutes.  The traffic certainly wasn't absent today.  It took us over two hours to make the short drive.  Had we known, we could have walked there much more quickly.  

The traffic jam was only the beginning.  Tim had a VIP parking pass, but somehow we made a wrong turn and had to double park along the side of the road.  We arrived right before the show started and were lucky to find seats.  The VIP area is reserved until a certain point at which they let anyone into the area.  Tim's brother Top and his family were a few rows behind us.  They didn't know we were coming, nor did we know they were.  We were a bit hungry, as we had planned on eating at a food stand before the show started, but we got there so late.  Tim asked an event worker where she could buy food, and they told her that she was entitled to a snack with her tickets.  It was a little box like you might get on an airplane.  It had a small sandwich, orange juice, some savory pastry and a piece of cake.  I wasn't really paying attention to the food, as I was trying to get my camera setup to take some photographs of the fireworks.  Nalin asked if it was okay if she ate the cake, and the nanny told her yes.  Soon after she said her lips started itching.  Turns out there were nuts in the cake.

After a little while, Nalin was itching more, so Tim decided to take her home as we hadn't packed Benedril or an Epipen with us.  Tim arranged for the rest of us to get a ride back home with Top.  After the show, we were talking towards Top's father-in-law's house, which was close by and where he had parked.  I talked to Tim and she had not made it very far in the 45 minutes that she had left.  After walking about 25 minutes, we actually caught up with Tim and got in the car.

Nalin was really upset and not feeling well.  It probably took us a total of close to ninety minutes from the time the show ended until we got home.  Tim gave Nalin some medicine, and she seems to be feeling better.  She certainly has calmed down quite a bit.  Tim's sleeping in the girls room to monitor them.  



Weapons Seized

The Thai authorities seized a plane today at Don Meung Airport containing 35 tonnes of weaponry from North Korea.  The plane had stopped here to refuel.  The Thai authorities were acting on a tip/request of the U.S. government.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Memorable Conversation

On the ride to school today, Aleena asked me "Daddy, what day was I born on?"  So naturally I told her the date.

"Daddy, that sounds like my birthday" she responded.

Laughingly, I replied, "Yes, your birthday is the day you were born.  Where do you think we got your birthday from?"

"I don't know" was her answer.  

Tim & the Kids

Originally uploaded by ebvImages

Sunday, December 6, 2009

St. Nick & The Christmas Tree

St. Nick came and visited the kids last night.  I can never remember if he is supposed to come the night of the 4th or the 5th, so invariably he comes on the night of the 5th.  

Yesterday we put up the Christmas tree and decorations.  Our Christmas tree here is pretty small and unimpressive.  I think its only a 3 or so foot artificial tree.  We never buy anything larger, because our situation here is not permanent.  That's okay most of the time, but sometimes I think we use it as an excuse not to buy things that we would probably end up enjoying even if not permanently.  Still, the kids had fun decorating, at least until they decided to play and let Tim and I finish.  

Its nice that Tim and the kids have a 3 day weekend.  The King's birthday was Saturday, so a lot of places are off on Monday.  Her office is actually open on Monday because they were closed on Saturday which is a normal work day.  Tim's taking Monday off anyway since the kids are off school.  

Aleena in Ayutthaya

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
We went to the Thailand Balloon Festival in Ayutthaya today. It was a lot of fun. The kids were absolutely on their best behavior. They really enjoyed seeing the balloons, and I had the chance to take some photos. By some I mean a lot. A few of the family turned out all right.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
I took this photo at one of the days of celebration for the King's birthday.

Friday, December 4, 2009

What Were They Thinking

If you've read the blog before, you know that some Thai's take any offense against the monarchy very seriously.  Thailand has some of the strictest les majeste laws in the world.  I won't fully go into my thoughts on these laws, as some official with too much time on his or her hands may deem unflattering comments about the law prohibiting offense to the monarchy as offensive to the monarchy.  It is unlikely, but you never know.

Recently I found out that the the government had set up a web site where you can report any offense against the monarchy that you encounter.  Sounds a little Orwellian to me, but then again, no public official gets in trouble for professing his love for the monarchy too loudly if you catch my drift.  In any case, the reason I found out that the web site existed is because the Bangkok Post reported that the site had been hacked and replaced with an advertisement for a mortgage company.  I'm not sure if the advertisement was in the Thai language or if the hack originated from Thailand.  

If the person who hacked the site is in the Kingdom, they may possess great intelligence as it pertains to computers, but they certainly are lacking in wisdom.  I have near certainty that defamation of the web site will be construed as an offense against the King and they take that very seriously here.    

Father's Day

Today, December 5th, is Father's Day in Thailand.  Father's Day is always celebrated on the King's Birthday, so at some point, it may no longer be on December 5th.  

While it can change, it has been the same day for most Thai people's lives.  The King has been on the throne for sixty-two years.  I suspect that when the King eventually passes, as all men must, that the Thai people may make December 5th the permanent Father's Day.  In the off chance I'm wrong and its not officially changed, I bet a lot of people continue to celebrate it on that day for years to come.