Monday, November 29, 2010

Celebration of Learning

Last week the fifth grade at ISB invited the parents for the Celebration of Learning event. The event started off with each class performing on musical instruments and singing. Jacob was very happy because not only did his mother and I attend, but we also brought Aleena with us.

We then went to the classrooms where the students showed off their work. Jacob showed me a number of things, including his coin sorting experiment. After the classroom experience, we went to PE and then the Thai language classes.




Dancing With the Girls

This week is parent viewing week for the After School Dance program at ISB.  There is no performance in the fall semester, so they invite the parents to watch a dance session so that they can see the progress that the dancers have made.

We are already at that state with Nalin where we embarrass her, sometimes by our mere presence.  She said that she wanted me to go, so I went.  Nalin and her fellow dancers did a nice job.  They all seemed to enjoy showing off in front of their parents.

Shockingly enough, I took my camera with me.  Most of the photos didn't turn out very well.  I was relying on my flash to "freeze" the subjects, but didn't take into account that I was really only using it as fill flash.  If that doesn't make sense to you, don't worry.  Suffice to to say that I screw this stuff up way too much.





Recently abortion has become a hot topic in Thailand.  A few weeks ago, two thousand fetuses were found in a temple in Bangkok; brought there from an abortion clinic. 

Abortion is illegal in Thailand except under a few narrow circumstances, such as rape and to preserve the health of the mother.  I didn't really know the legality of abortion until recently, but its not surprising that the practice is almost always illegal here with a ninety-eight percent Buddhist population that includes a lot of people who don't even like to kill insects.  

Government Survives

The Thai Constitutional Court today dismissed the case today to dissolve the ruling Democrat party by a four to two vote.  The case involved the alleged misuse of campaign donations in 2005, and would have resulted in not only the dissolution of the party, but also a five year ban on party executives, including Prime Minister Abhisit.  The court ruled that the petition that started the process was unlawful, as it took more than fifteen days to file.  

The case has been mired in controversy.  The petition brought by the election commission occurred in the face of protesting red shirts outside their building.  There have also been tapes alleging to show individuals trying to influence the court to decide in the Democrats favor.  In fact, three judges recused themselves from the case, two because they were suing over the release of the allegedly damning video clips.  The red shirts will certainly call foul over this, seeing it as another example of the elite triumphing over the peasants.  

This whole controversy makes me really appreciate our court system in the U.S.  Believe me when I say that there are many U.S. Supreme Court rulings with which I disagree.  But while I might question the logic, wisdom and good jurisprudence of some of these decisions, I don't question the integrity of the Justices.  So while I rarely agreed with a decision by Justice Stevens, I wouldn't question his honesty or his commitment to the law.  If someone released a video clip that seemed to show someone trying to influence one of the U.S. Justices, it would genuinely shock me.  Here, its not even a mild surprise.  

Friday, November 26, 2010


David and Kip Peters invited the families of our cub scout den to share Thanksgiving dinner with them this year.  With the exception of the fabulous Thanksgiving in July at mom's and dad's house, this was our first real Thanksgiving dinner since 2006.  In the past we'd have some chicken or duck, but never a turkey, and certainly never a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  

Six of the seven families were able to make it, each bringing a dish or two.  David and Kip did a fabulous job on the turkey, as the white meat was very moist and delicious.  Everything was really good.  We made pumpkin pies and a cornbread dish using my mom's recipes.  Yaow has made the cornbread many times before, and it is a favorite of the kids.  It was very popular at the party, and I had a few people ask me for the recipe.

The pumpkin pie didn't turn out as well.  I'm not sure if it was the type of canned pumpkin that we used or the fact that it took over twice as long to cook as expected, but it just wasn't quite the same.  It wasn't terrible, but it wasn't quite the same.  I did have the foresight to bring a tub of Cool Whip, which was good on all the deserts.  It was in the refrigerator for a few days before the party, and I think I had to tell Aleena that she could not have it at least ten times.

They have a great house for entertaining, so the kids played pool and watched a movie, which allowed us to enjoy dinner.  Its also nice that not only did Jacob have friends there, but so did Nalin and Aleena.  Everyone had a great time.

When You Die

Aleena was looking at Tim's jewelry the other day, and one ring caught her fancy.  Tim had told her that her mom had given it to her when she died.  Aleena responded "mommy, when you die, can I have it?"

I told Tim to watch out if Aleena starts to offer her a lot of high cholesterol and high fat foods.  

Biking Trip

This past weekend we went on an overnight bike ride with the cub scouts.  On Saturday morning we drove to the province of  Samut Songkram and visited the floating market.  

The scouts had hired a bus, but Tim and I decided that we'd rather drive ourselves.  When we arrived at school to load our bikes in the truck, Nalin and Aleena wanted to ride the bus with their friends.  I'm not saying that this made the two hour drive quieter or more peaceful.  I'm just not saying.  

After visiting the floating market, we split into three groups.  One group was to ride thirty-two kilometers, another group ten kilometers, and I think the last group of non-riders just hung out and talked or played.  Tim, Jacob and I went on the thirty-two kilometer ride, while Nalin and Aleena played.  

The ride was okay.  The scouts had hired the same biking group, Spice Roads, as we had last year, but this was a different location and course.  I have to say the ride last year seemed a bit more challenging and fun.  There were also a lot fewer riders this year, as apparently the U.S. Embassy had some event going on the same weekend.

After the ride we had a two hour drive to the Kang Krachan Country Club in Petchburi .  The hotel was okay; the small bungalos were clean.  What I didn't like was that to get to the hotel restaurant, we had to ride in large golf carts for ten plus minutes.  The ride itself wasn't terrible, but when I had to wait for fifteen minutes after dinner to get a ride back to my room, I was less than thrilled.

The food tasted good, although the selection was not nearly as kid friendly as the resort that we stayed in last year.  Last year's place had things like chicken nuggets and french fries, as well as a pretty big selection of other foods. It wasn't just the kids who were disappointed, we heard several parents grousing about the food selection.  Every meal, however, there were at least a few things that I thought were pretty good and hardly "exotic" by western standards.  

The plan for Sunday was a rafting trip organized by the hotel.  The hotel staff in charge happened to be three ladyboys.  Its funny that the kids seemed to have no idea that these were anything other than normal ladies.  Even the fact that one of the three had a voice deeper than most any of the dads on the trip did not clue the kids in.  

The problem wasn't that they were ladyboys, however, the problem was that they sucked at organizing fun games.  Before the canoe trip started, they had the kids and parents line up in a circle and play some games.  I opted out.  By the end of that activity, they were naming fruit and the kids would make a certain move depending on the fruit called out.  Of course, when she said "banana", she had the kids do a pelvic thrust.  

There was a scavenger hunt during the canoe trip which involved stopping at four or five places and retrieving bags of food that had been placed their earlier.  It added so much to the canoe trip to have the kids all argue about who would get to go get each gab.

When we arrived at the end of the canoe trip, we had to make a pyramid out of newspaper and tape.  Then the kids made a salad out of the bags of food they had collected for the ladyboys to taste.  Somewhere along the way we had picked up a bar of soap, but I couldn't find it when it came time to making the salad, or else it would have been included.  As it was, our team made a salad that was about fifty percent raw onions.  As one of the parents noted, there was an irony in "tossing" the salad for the ladyboys.  

The kids favorite part of the canoe trip was probably the last thirty minutes when they got to play in the creek.  They would float about eighty feet, where one of a couple of adults would stop them. Then the kids would make their way back upstream and do it again.  If the organizers had taken the kids there first and skipped everything else, it would have been a much bigger win.

It was late in the afternoon by the time we got home.  We ended up eating at the mall.  Everyone was pretty tired, so we ended up skipping Loy Katong.  

Brief Break

I took a brief brake from blogging this past week.  It started last Thursday when the kids had International Day at school.  I was taking some photos and was very tired and got in a pretty bad mood.

The entire elementary school had an assembly on International Day.  The Chevron Theater was packed with standing room only as there were a lot of parents there as well.  Aleena performed a Thai dance with a group of about sixteen or so boys and girls.  One of the Thai mom's, Kuhn Thik organized the dance.  The children practiced every Friday after Aleena's jazz dance class.  Of course, at ages five through seven, they were really cute dancing in their traditional Thai outfits.  After watching a few of there practices, I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but they actually did a great job.

During assembly they also played a video of students explaining what "free to be" (the theme of the week) meant to them.  Jacob's class selected him to represent them, so he had his moment on the screen in front of everyone. He had his hands behind his head and did a nice job delivering his spiel.  The part I remember was the end when he said it meant that "no one can boss you around".

I think the kids favorite part of the assembly was where they announce each of the countries who are represented at the ES.  The ISB ES student body comes from fifty-nine different countries.  The largest contingent was probably the U.S. followed closely by Thailand.

Its pretty neat that the kids go to school with other kids from every continent save Antarctica.   I'm not sure how many of the kids that I went to elementary school with were born outside of Campbell County Kentucky.  I'm not sure how much of it all they will remember, particularly Aleena, but I hope the experience helps to shape them.  Not only do I think it can help them appreciate other cultures, but also their own cultures.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pelosi Should Step Aside

As someone who generally leans towards the Republican side of the fence, I'm not that displeased that Speaker Pelosi is seeking to remain the leader of the Democrats in the House.  Whether you think she was effective or abominable, she is a polarizing figure that the Republicans used to great effect.  I think that Democrats like Representative Heath Shuler are correct in that it will make it more difficult for Democrats to recruit "blue dog" Democrats.

Truth be told, I don't think that it was all the Speaker's fault that the Democrats lost sixty plus seats.  Nor do I think that voters were entirely enchanted with the Republicans.  While some voters may have been motivated to switch because of specific issues like health care reform, I'm guessing that the economy was the issue that carried the day.  Since things were still tough, I guess the change in 2008 carried over to 2010.  Unfortunately for the Democrats, they were the ones changed.

The problem I see with having Speaker Pelosi as minority leader revolves around what she brings to the table.  The people who are pleased with her as the face of the Democrats in Congress are probably going to vote for the Democrats no matter who leads them.  A more moderate face might accomplish a few things.  First, it might attract more conservative Democrats to the party, which would be a great help in the very seats they lost during this cycle.  Secondly, it would be a bit of a mea culpa.  "Voters, we heard you loud and clear.  We got the message and we are going to make changes."

The ironic thing is that the Democrat caucus will now be more liberal than it was previously, helping the Speaker to retain leadership.  A lot of the seats they lost were moderate and conservative members.  House Members in more safe liberal districts survived and remain to support Speaker Pelosi.

The matter could be decided in the next week or so, or it could be pushed back until December.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stepping Down

It looks like deputy ministers who were refusing to step down before running for the office that were stripped of may have seen the "wisdom" of the Prime Minister's request.  Apparently there were more than two involved.  At least two have already stepped down, and one is expected to step down in the next few days.

I think that the Prime Minister is having a pretty good week.  He agrees to go forward with the Bout extradition and now he enforces at least the appearance of propriety in the upcoming by-elections.

Bout to U.S.

Today Thailand extradited alleged arms dealer Victor Bout to the United States.  Mr. Bout is now on his way to the United States to face terrorism charges.  The Prime Minister reviewed the case and decided to go forward with the extradition.

Thank you Mr. Abhisit.  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Not Easy Being PM

Prime Minister Abhisit certainly doesn't have an easy job here.  We all know about the challenges he faces from the opposition red shirt party, but sometimes his coalition government partners also cause him a certain amount of grief.

The courts recently disqualified a handful of parliament members for failing to disclose their ownership in a company that had contracts with the state.  This is in violation of version 2007 of the Thai Constitution.  On December 12th there will be elections to fill those vacancies.  

Two of the members who were disqualified are also deputy ministers in the coalition government.  One is from the the Chart Thai Pattana party and the other from the Bhumjaithai party.  Both of these are key members of the coalition that put the Democrats in power.  Both deputy ministers have announced that they will run in the by-elections.  They may not have an easy path to reelection, however, because at least one of them was elected as a member of former PM Thaksin's party.  He may find the previous support that he enjoyed has eroded considerably.  

Prime Minister Abhisit has made it known that he wishes the two deputies to step down from their positions while they contest the election.  He cited the example of the Deputy Prime Minister, and his right hand man, Suthep Thaugsuban, who stepped down from his position to run for an open parliament seat.  The reason was to remove even the appearance that he was using his influence as Deputy Prime minister to win the election.  

The coalition partners certainly don't share the Prime Minister's stated desire to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.  They stated, perhaps correctly, that there is no legal imperative to step down, and that they don't want to do so.  They seem to believe this to be an internal party matter, and that the entire problem was that the Prime Minister opened his big mouth. 

The Prime Minister could reshuffle his cabinet to remove them.  This, however could fracture the coaliton and lead to new elections.  My guess is that new elections may not hurt the Chart Thai party a lot.  Unless the Peau Thai party (red shirts) win enough seats to form the government by itself, there is a good chance that Chart Thai could be part of a future coalition government.  

The Bhumjaithai party may have more to fear from elections.  They are an important coaliton partner under their unofficial leader Newin Chidchob (who is serving a five year ban from politics).   The problem, however, is that their members of parliament were all elected as members of the People Power Party (Thaksin's group) and defected.  Many of them will face election in the red strong hold of northern and north-eastern Thailand.  In a few by-elections between Peau Thai (successor to the People Power Party) and Bhumjaithai, Peau Thai has crushed its opposition.  Its not only politics between the red shirts and Bhumjaithai, its personal.  Mr. Newin was former PM Thaksin's right hand man, and he broke ranks to side with Thaksin's "enemies".  The Peau Thai party will go all out to defeat the Bhumjaithai party, and if Bhumjaithai does not win seats, its power evaporates.  No more plum ministry positions.  

I hope that the PM wins out and forces the two men from office.  Its bad enough that they violated the law, force new elections, and then just run for the same seat.  I hope the PM is sincere about his desire to have a more ethical government, but I'm not sure that his coalition partners are all on board.  

Rangel Me Some Ethics

Whether you love him, hate him, or have never heard of him, I think you can find some real irony in the situation House of Representative Member and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee chairman Charles Rangel finds himself.  Representative Rangel who is under investigation by the House for ethics violations, has now come under fire for allegedly using PAC (political action committee) funds to pay for his legal defense against the ethics charges.  Apparently, paying for your legal expenses for an ethics investigation out of PAC funds may in fact be an ethics violation of its own.  

I think its a bit funny and ironic to possibly commit an ethics violation in your attempt to defend yourself in an ethics violation investigation.  Its possible that Representative Rangel could be exonerated of the original ethics charges, only to be found to have violated House ethics in procuring the funds that resulted in said exoneration.  Of course, its important to note that he has not been found to have violated any ethical standards yet, but he sure has served up a nice slice of irony.

Yaow Back Tomorrow

In a definite bit of good news, Yaow gets out of the hospital tomorrow. Fortunately, everything went well.

It will be a little while before she will be at full strength, but it will be nice to have her back.  I told her friend Meow to let her know that I had not washed a single dish while she was gone, so that there was plenty for her to do when she returned.  She knew that I was joking of course.  

In fact, I did cook, do laundry, dishes and clean (okay, straightened up a little) this past week.  For the most part I didn't mess anything up too much.  I did bring the wrong pair of pants for Aleena's gymnastics practice on Thursday, but she was okay practicing in her one piece.  On Friday, I brought the wrong pants to dance practice.  I had the right style, but grabbed the wrong size.  I am not sure why the pair I bought for her next year was sitting with her other clothes, but we made it work.  

Still, very glad to see Yaow return and very happy that she is better.    

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wish You Still Snored

I was talking to my wife this morning after her run.  She was telling me how she had woken up early in the morning and couldn't fall back to sleep.  She wanted to talk, and couldn't tell if I was awake or not.  Then she told me "I wish you still snored, then I could tell if you were awake or asleep."

That is something that I never quite expected to hear.  As some of you know, I had sleep apnea for quite a few years.  I snored loudly and would stop breathing.  Miraculously, Tim was able to sleep through it all.  Finally, in 1998 I broke down and had surgery to remove my tonsils, fix my deviated septum, and remove my uvula.  

It was a pretty amazing transformation.  Not only did I stop snoring and sleep better, I started dreaming again.  It was such a vivid experience at first, because I had not remembered dreaming in over ten years.

As I put on some weight since the surgery, I started snoring again.  I no longer had apnea and didn't snore as loudly as I had before, but I still snored.  Apparently the exercise and weight loss has eliminated the snoring, or at least reduced it to the point where Tim can no longer hear it.    

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Embarrassing Videos

Over the last few months, there have been videos released on Youtube allegedly showing people associated with the Thai Supreme Court meeting with people who may have business before that court.  One of the first was an alleged meeting between the secretary of one of the judges and someone high up in the Democrat party.  There is currently a case before the court which could result in the disbanding of the Democrat party.

Recently there was a video that purported to show a meeting between a man associated with the court and some young men.  The conversation is supposed to involve the more senior man warning the younger men not to say anything about acquiring some tests.

There have been a dozen or so videos released.  The Thai government immediately moves to block these videos from viewing on Youtube.  They often get reposted, so its not clear how effective that is in preventing the dissemination of these videos.

How has the Thai court reacted to these videos which purport to show corruption and threaten to erase any credibility that the court might have?  Do they deny the charges or point out that the videos may not be what they seem to represent?  No, they declare that the videos are illegal and the government attempts to block them from viewing in Thailand.

I guess there is some irony in the fact that the men who found former PM Thaksin guilty of corruption are now embroiled in a corruption controversy themselves.  Ironic?  Perhaps.  Surprising?  No.

Freed For Now

The Myanmar military junta released Nobel Peace Price winner and pro-democracy activist Aaung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.  After the party it supported came out victorious in the rigged elections, the junta must have felt that she posed little internal threat, and that releasing her would somewhat ease the international criticism heaped upon them.

Ms. Kyi is free for now.  Of course if she goes on to start a true pro-democracy movement, as many of those in the West hope, she may find herself once again confined in her home.  Or, perhaps the government will allow her to exist as a symbol to placate the West, while making sure that any real democracy movement will fail.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sorry, Its Not a Free Speech Issue

Amazon is under fire for selling a book titled The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure.  They defend their decision to sell the e-book on the grounds that not selling something a book because of the content is censorship.

I am definitely on the side of free speech, but Amazon has got this one wrong.  I believe that censorship by the government is wrong.  If the U.S. or another government tried to censor such a book, then there would be real free speech questions involved.  I might even find myself in the position of defending the legal right to publish of such a repulsive 

This is plain and simply about Amazon's choice to sell a product or not.  While they have the legal right to sell this book, they are not required to do so.  Just as it is Amazon's legal right to sell the book, so is it the legal right of consumers to show their displeasure with that decision.  If that displeasure is in the form of boycotting Amazon and its products, it could be a costly one for the online retailer.

Amazon may think that it is defending an important principle; that a book should be available even if it deals with an extremely unpopular or even repulsive topic.  Ultimately, however, Amazon is not an advocacy group, it is a business with shareholders and customers.  If decides to keep selling this title, which will likely sell very few copies, it might find that its principles are very expensive indeed, and those don't go well on the balance sheet.   

Bad Luck

Right now my car is in the garage for a slipped transmission, my computer monitor is in the shop, and my maid/nanny is in the hospital with appendicitis. Tim took Yaow to the hospital this morning and hopefully everything will go well.  

So for a while I am going to have to actually cook, clean and do laundry.  Well, at least order food in, and do enough cleaning and laundry to get by for a while.     

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Exercise Bug

As you probably know if you read this blog regularly, about two years ago I set out to lose a bunch of weight.  I was pretty successful, dropping in excess of fifty-five pounds over about a nine month period.  My success was largely due to exercise and diet.  I was a little off and on with the diet, but when I was exercising five or six days a week, sometimes twice a day, I had some latitude in my eating.

Over the last year, I put back on about twenty pounds of the weight that I had lost.  I think the high point was when I was back in the U.S. this summer.  My exercise routine was pretty dismal then, and I ate like a man who didn't care much about his waist.  

My goal had been to get back on track when I returned from the U.S., but a hurt foot slowed me down a bit.  I still exercised some, but my diet was terrible, and I couldn't run.  A few weeks ago, my foot finally felt better enough to run, and I started a bit of jogging. 

I decided on Halloween, of all days, that I was going to drop some more weight.  I put myself on a pretty strict diet for the first five or six days, and have relaxed it a bit.  In addition to avoiding eating a lot of food, I have pretty much given up sweets and stopped eating anything after dinner.  Tonight I did have a bowl of Captain Crunch for dessert, but that's about as far as I've gone with sweets.

The other part of the equation is my exercise routine.  Over the last ten days, I've exercised nine, taking off last Sunday.  I am lifting weights for thirty minutes three days a week, and running every day.  Most days I am running twice a day, I'll run about five kilometers in the morning, and another five in the afternoon or evening.  I'm not running very fast, and really don't care about my pace at this point.  My goal is just to get out there and do it, as I know time and effort will build endurance and speed.

One thing that I am a little wary of is over doing it, but I'm in that frame of mind where I don't want to take a day off.  A couple of days last week, I woke up thinking that I might just rest that day, but I couldn't.  I felt myself compelled to at least run.  My attitude now is a lot like it was when started two years ago.

So far I've definitely seen some success.  I am probably down around thirteen pounds from when I returned from the U.S., a decent chunk of that lost in the last few weeks.  I still have a long way to go, but I'm glad to be focused again.  

Over Three Years

I was playing around with the blog templates today, and it dawned on me that I have been posting to the blog pretty regularly for over three years now.  Of course, I've been living over here for three years, and since the purpose of the blog is to share some of my thoughts and experiences, I guess it makes sense.  

Still, when I started, I would not have been certain that I would have made it three years (blogging or living in Thailand).  Its nice that this didn't become one of those projects that I start and then abandon after its no longer new.  

And if you are reading this, thanks.


Today Tim and I took Jacob to get his passport renewed. We had to take him out of school in the morning to get it done, as the ACS (American Citizen Services) branch of the U.S. Embassy is open from 7:00 until 2:00 p.m., and minor passports require the minor and both parents.

I scheduled an appointment for 8:45 a.m., figuring that it would give us plenty of time with traffic. We ended up arriving just before our appointment. When you arrive at the ACS, you have to surrender your electronic devices and go through a metal detector. We were waiting in line behind a man (perhaps American) and a Thai woman. The man knew one of the people at the desk and was having a long conversation with him. I got the impression the guy was a jackass. Finally we managed to get around them, and then got stuck behind a Thai woman trying to go through the metal detector. She had a USB drive or something and was standing in front of the detector fishing through her purse. The guard just sits there and looks at her. Jacob walked through on his own, and he's telling us to wait. Finally Tim made a gesture to go through and we walked around her.

Everything went pretty smoothly except the photograph. I took Jacob's photo and printed it, but neglected to make sure it had a white background. It had a gray background. It would have taken me about thirty seconds in Photoshop or Lightroom to fix it, but once again I screwed it up. Its amazing; I'm actually pretty good with a camera and computers, but every time I deal with immigration, I end up having to fill in the same form at least three times, and there is always something wrong with the photos.

Fortunately, they let us go through the interview and bring photos back afterwards. There are a few places close by, so after we were finished, we went and had Jacob's photo taken. I returned it to the ACS while Tim took Jacob to Au Bon Pain.

A couple of interesting things. The woman who interviewed Jacob was from Florence Kentucky. The guy who was acting chummy with the guard at the front desk was having trouble of some sort. While many of the people at the ACS are Americans, there are also Thai people who work there. This man was talking to a Thai worker, and demanding to know the name of his boss. He had some sort of appointment, and was not pleased at how things were going. I later heard him complaining to someone else about something. I stand by my first assessment; jackass.

Of course, no trip to the ACS is complete without some weirdo fellow countryman. When I returned with Jacob's photos, I just had to go and drop them off at a window. I stood there waiting for someone to come over to make sure there end up in the right place. A man comes up next to me, looking red faced and perhaps a little like a bum. He put his paperwork through the slot, and I noticed that it had a 500 baht (about $15) bill with it. Trying to be helpful, I pointed behind him and said "you pay back there". He informed me that he had already paid.

Now, I'm not going to get into an argument with one of the less fortunate people who share my country of origin, but I'm wondering why the hell he is passing money through the window. I've read stories before that people who deal with the THAI immigration officials sometimes have to pay "tea money" to get paper work processed.  Even in those cases, its a little more subtle than shoving a visible 500 baht bill in the slot with your paperwork.  There is no reason that you need to slip a little extra money at the American Embassy.  My guess is that even for the Thai employees, its a pretty decent job, and I'm willing to bet that if you get caught accepting extra payments you will not be working there any longer.  Sure enough, the clerk came over and took everything but the money.  He then took Jacob's photos and attached them to the forms, before working on the other guys issue.

Jacob's passport should be ready in two weeks.  Fortunately, I can pick it up by myself.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Faux Elections

This week, the basket case of a country, Myanmar (formerly Burma) will hold its much touted elections.  The last time Myanmar had elections in 1989, Aung San Suu Kyi's party stormed to victory.  The ruling military junta at the time simply ignored the elections and Ms. Kyi has spent most of the last twenty years under house arrest.  She is scheduled to be released a week after the new elections.

Not willing to risk another embarrassing lost, the military junta has stacked the deck in its favor.  Twenty-five percent of the legislative positions are reserved for high ranking generals.  Since under the new Constitution it takes more than seventy-five percent to overrule the military leadership, the military will remain in command.  

Of course, even for the remaining seats, the elections are hardly fair.  There are two government/military sponsored party that comprise 2/3 of the candidates for elected office.  While the government provides financial support for these parties, it has put up many challenges for smaller parties.  Millions of Myanmar ethnic minorities have been ruled ineligible to vote.  

The purpose of the election is supposed to give some sort of legitimacy to the ruling junta's holding on to power.  I'm not sure who they think that they are fooling, because at least outside Myanmar, everyone knows what is going on.  I guess this might give some cover to countries like China who support Myanmar, but really, this election does nothing.    

Ms. Kyi's party has decided to boycott the sham elections.  The government threatened that if enough people do not turn out, they will simply cancel the elections.  For the people of Myanmar, I doubt that it will make any difference at all.  Does it matter if the guy who has a gun pointed at your temple and his boot on your neck is wearing a suit or an army uniform? 

Soccer Photos

Here are some photos from today's soccer games.


Jacob and his buddy Kavin before the game.


Making the save.




First Soccer Matches of the Season

Jacob and Aleena had their first soccer matches of the season today.  Nalin decided not to play this year.  

Aleena is in the 4-6 group "mini" girl division.  They don't actually have structured teams, rather we just form them into teams on a week to week basis.  Last year she played in the same league and there were more formal teams.  The reason that they didn't do that this year was that they didn't have enough girls sign up.  

Aleena enjoys soccer as a fun social time.  She does run around after the ball and kick it occasionally, but she isn't too serious about it, and is more interested in having fun with her friends that she is scoring or winning the game.

Of course things are a bit more competitive in the 10 to 11 year old league that Jacob plays in.  Jacob was the goalie, and in the beginning, he made some good saves.  Later in the game, however, the other team was able to score quite a few goals.  Some of them he might have been able to stop, while many others would have been very difficult.  His team won 12-7.  The score in the other 10-11 year old league game was 10-7, so I think at this age, the kids ability to score outstrips their ability to play defense and defend the goal.   

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Aleena's Thumb

Aleena is now sporting a huge white bandage on her thumb.  Tonight right before bed she managed to slam the bathroom door on it.  I became aware of what happened when I heard the high pitch scream emanating from said bathroom. She had a nice little cut just below her thumb nail.  I put a bandage on it, but was a little concerned because she kept screaming for the better part of fifteen minutes.  

Of course, I was only a little concern that the thumb was broken because Aleena is not very good at handling pain.  The fact that she didn't want to bend it wasn't a great sign, but didn't necessarily mean it was a problem.

Finally I decided to just go to the doctor.  There is a clinic run by Samitivey just outside of Nichada.  I'm having some car issues, so while my car is at the house and kind of runs, Tim had the keys with her at work.  Aleena and I ended up taking a cab to and from the clinic.

The good news is that it was only a cut.  The doctor gave her some pain medicine and we were back home within an hour of leaving.   


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
I spend a lot of time behind the camera, but not really not that much time in front of it. Its even more rare that Tim and I are in a photo together.

While at Angkor Wat, I lugged around my tripod. Most of the time I didn't even bother using it, but on a few occasions I put it to good use. The one thing that it does well, besides keeping the camera perfectly still, is to let me get into the photos.

Tree in Angkor

Originally uploaded by ebvImages
I was uploading some of the photos from Angkor to Flickr today. I really liked this one of Tim sitting on the tree with the temple as a backdrop.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Red Shirt Remorse

Its worth noting that back in May, in response to the red shirt protests and as an act aimed at reconciliation (at least it was stated to be that), the Prime Minister Abhisit offered new elections in six months time.  The protest leaders chose to reject that offer, and the results were more bloodshed and a perhaps a widening of the political divide.

The reason that I bring this up is that it is now approximately six months from the time the new elections were offered.  If things had gone as offered; and there is certainly a possibility that something else could have derailed said plans; we would now be gearing for an election Thailand.  The red shirt followers of former Prime Minister Thaksin would have a chance at leading the government again. 

Sometimes its worth the wait. 


Over the past week or so, there has been some severe flooding in Thailand.  It started in the Northern provinces but has now spread to the Southern ones.  Some places are under as much as three meters (~10 feet) of water.  The economic impact is estimated to be in the billions. 

We were actually very lucky that the storm did not come a week earlier.  The Koh Sumui ferry and airport are currently closed.  The Bangkok Post reported that the ferry to Koh Sumui was closed, although it wasn't clear if they were allowing people to leave the island.  There was a report that there were tourists trapped on a nearby island. 

Overall not a great year for Thailand.  At least this wound wasn't self-inflicted.