Monday, January 31, 2011


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Jacob started baseball season on Saturday. He's playing for the Colgate Angels, BBSA AAA-Minors league. The league has an opening day ceremony where the teams parade in front of the parents, listen to a speech and then are served hot dogs, chips and a drink. I think that the kids favorite part is the food.

There are three teams in Jacob's division, and each team plays the other two every week. Some weeks we play a game on Friday and one on Saturday, while other weeks we have a Saturday double header. This past week they dropped both games of Saturday's double header. The second game was really close.

Jacob did a pretty decent job swinging the bat. He needs to work on his form, but he had a pair of doubles and scored twice. Even when he made an out, he hit the ball solidly. We need to work a bit on fielding.

The good thing about the league is that the emphasis is still squarely on having fun and teaching the boys the game. Originally they were going to have the boys pitch to each other, but a decision was made to continue using the pitching machine. As the season progresses, they may move to player pitching.

I'm not formally an assistant coach this year, but I'm helping out in practices and occasionally in games when a coach can't make it. This is definitely a good thing, because it will be easier to take photos that way.

The one downside to the first weekend was that Jacob hurt his index finger on his right hand. It still hurts him a bit, but he can bend it and it is only a tiny bit swollen.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


China.January.2011- 28
Originally uploaded by ebvImages
While this was my first trip to China proper, it was not Tim's. She visited China many years ago as part of a tour with her father and Top.

Tim doesn't have a lot of photos of her and her father together, but one of them was in a group photo with Top and her father at Tiananmen Square. She wanted a photo of her an Top together here. The original photo is back in the states. When we get back, I think I might try to frame them together somehow.

Playing with Ice

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Originally uploaded by ebvImages
It was so cold during our trip to Beijing and Chengde that lakes and rivers were frozen over. While visiting the summer palace in Chengde, there was a man who had a crate with metal blades on the bottom. He would propel himself on the ice with it using two iron rods.

Of course for a price you could rent his unusual form of transportation. One of the members of our group took it for a spin, and then let Tim try it out. She didn't move fast, but she seemed to have fun.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Putuo Zongcheng Temple

China.January.2011- 679
Originally uploaded by ebvImages
During our trip, we visited Putuo Zongcheng Temple in Chengde, China. This temple is modeled after the Potala Palace in Tibet and is one-third of its size.

This was our last stop before lunch and heading back to Beijing. It had been pretty cold, and we'd done a fair bit of walking. As we were making our way through the temple complex, one of the members of the group did not feel well. She and a big part of the group turned back without making it to the main building. Most of the rest of the people walked around where we were, taking photos at a distance of the building, and then turning back.

One couple had already walked up towards the building, unaware that the rest of the group had turned back. This gave Tim and I the perfect reason to make the trek up to the main temple. It was a great view there, and I'm glad we did it. I even took a group shot of the four of us. I didn't have my tripod, so I used a table that I found there. This shot was taken by Andrew, the only other falang in the group.

Take Me Out

Today baseball season started in Bangkok.  After attending opening day ceremonies, Jacob's team played in double header in the afternoon.  They lost both games, but they will certainly get another crack at both teams, as there are only 2 other teams in their division, and they play 2 games each week.  So every week they will play each of the other teams.  Some weeks they play one on Friday night and one on Saturday, while other weeks they have a Saturday double header.

Jacob didn't do too badly at the plate, racking up a couple of doubles.  He hurt his finger in the first game, and played the designated hitter in game 2.  

I'm not one of the assistant coaches, but I am helping with the baseball clinic and helping out a bit as some coaches have multiple children playing at the same time.  For a while I was going to be a "head coach", as they thought they had enough kids for 4 teams but not enough coaches.  They had put 3 of us who volunteered as assistants together.  It turned out that some kids dropped out, and mercifully I didn't have to coach.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Amazing Luck

In addition to the thrill of seeing places like the Great Wall of China, Tiamen Square and the Forbidden palace for the first time, what I remember most about my first trip to China is the cold.  At times during the trip, I think it dipped below zero degrees Fahrenheit. With the wind blowing, it often felt even colder.
On the morning of our third day, we visited the palace in Chengde.  It was extremely cold, and Tim was complaining that her feet hurt her.  She didn’t have proper winter boots, so she wore two pair of socks to try to keep her feet warm.  The problem with this was that this made the shoes very tight, impeding circulation and actually making her feet colder.  It had bothered her the day before, but on this morning it was causing her a lot of discomfort.  
We were in the middle of a tour, and there was no place to readily buy boots.  We had a chance on our first day in Beijing, but the tour guide didn’t explain how cold it would get until after we had left the shopping center, so Tim didn’t buy any.  I suggested that Tim go to the restroom, because they would be heated, so she could at least warm her feet.  When that part of the tour was done, we could try to get her some boots.
I waited for about ten minutes, and then walked to the restroom to see how she was doing.  The restrooms were in a small building  that also hosted a modest souvenir shop.  Tim was sitting on the couch rubbing her feet.  Two other ladies from our tour were there, as was the lady shopkeeper.  
As I started to tell Tim that we could ask the tour guide to stop at a shop to get boots, she told me that she already had a pair.  The shopkeeper had seen that she was in distress, and had offered to sell her old boots.  One of the other ladies from the tour actually spoke Chinese and helped translate.  The lady offered to sell the boots for about eight dollars.  She could have asked for five or ten times that much, as there wasn’t really any competition close by.  Not only were the boots in good shape, but they were Tim’s size.  
Tim bought the boots, and a few small souvenirs from the shop.  It made the rest of the day much more pleasant.  Of course, when we made it back to Beijing later that night, she bought a pair of knock off Uggs because they were more stylish than the shopkeeper’s practical boots.
I was just amazed at Tim’s luck.  The day that she desperately needed a pair of boots, she goes to a restroom and finds a woman selling a pair of boots her size at a reasonable price.  She also happens to have one of the people who speak Chinese from our group there to help to translate.  
One thing that we want to do is to pass on the good will that woman showed Tim to others.  We are going to give those boots, and other footwear to some people in Northern Thailand.  We aren’t sure of the details, but its something that Tim feels really strongly about.     

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Lost in Translation

Today I went to the Thai Immigration office in Nonthaburi so that they could stamp my visa approval and I could get a multiple re-entry permit.  Absent a re-entry permit, a visa is voided once you leave the country. A multiple re-entry permit costs about $125, and lets me leave and re-enter the country as many times as I want for the duration of my visa.

I had to provide a photo for the re-entry permit.  The photo is hardly flattering, and Tim described it as looking like a prisoner.  The immigration office is very nice, and as the office is small, we've seen her a few times.  She said something about the photo which Tim translated as "She said that the photo looks better than the real person."  I just started laughing because (1) that's a heck of a thing to say to someone and (2) I can only imagine how bad I looked if the photo looked better.  Tim and the officer chatted some more, and apparently she said that I looked better than my photo.  That's their story anyway.

The only downside to this trip was that they put the ninety day reporting stamp in my book.  Foreigners who stay here ninety consecutive days without leaving are supposed to present themselves to the immigration office to confirm their address.  Even if you have a one year visa, you are supposed to present yourself in the ninety day period.  If you leave the country, even for a short time, the clock is reset.  I've known that the law existed, but no-one every mentioned it to me, and I was not about to ask.  I've renewed my visa a number of times and left and re-entered the country quite a few times, and no-one every mentioned it.

Its been the law the entire time, but I get the impression that its not heavily enforced.  There is a 2,000 baht fine if you fail to comply.  The officer told Tim that if an immigration official checked and you had not complied, then they could levy the fine.  I'm not sure if they check this at the airport or when you go to renew your visa.

I have to say this law is a pain in in the ass.  Theoretically, this could add three more trips to the immigration office each year.   I already have to go twice to get my visa renewed; five times is just ridiculous.  The piece of paper is going to end up in a cabinet somewhere.  I'm really not sure what they hope to accomplish.  If they required me to notify them of a change of my address, I would understand it.  If they had a way to do it online, it would not be so burdensome.    They are not going to do anything with the information.  They don't even link the immigration records of my visa with the airport immigration computer system.

My initial reaction was frustration, but then Tim reminded me that I actually will probably not be effected; at least for a while.  We are going to China this week and the clock will reset when I return.  I'll travel internationally during the kids spring break and the summer which will each reset the ninety day clock.  That will make me compliant through the beginning of October, and if I take a trip around that time, I'll be good until my next visa renewal.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Flight of the Gibbons

This weekend the family went to the Flight of the Gibbons zip lining attraction with the Cub Scouts. The Flight is in the Khao Kheow Open Zoo, just under a two hour drive from Bangkok.

We were zip lining on Sunday, but we arrived on Saturday in order to spend the night in the park. The zoo has air conditioned tents which were actually pretty nice. It wasn't exactly five stars, as you had to walk a bit to the bathrooms (which were nice), but it certainly wasn't roughing it. The worst part of the trip was when I stepped out of the tent for the first time and twisted my ankle It hurt a bit for the entire trip; not enough to keep me from enjoying the activities, but enough to remind me of my misstep.

After a pretty good buffet dinner, they took us on a night safari. Tim stayed in the tent, as she wasn't feeling too well. The kids really enjoyed it.

We were supposed to be a part of the 8:00 a.m. zip lining group, but I had originally signed Aleena and myself for the smaller Go Gibbon course. Tim wanted to change it because Aleena had done the bigger Flight of the Gibbons in Chiang Mai last spring. David (the Pack Master and trip organizer) was kind enough to do some reshuffling and we ended up in the 8:45 group.

As we had a very large group, they assured us that we would have the course to ourselves in the morning. The reason that this is significant is that they have a limited number of guides, and very strict numbers on how many people could be on the course at once. Their assurance was apparently worthless, as there were others on the course. This ended up pushing back our start times. Our family ended up being pushed back until 11:00 because we had to wait for guides. We didn't know that the guides had arrived for ten or fifteen minutes, as the operators decided to wait until 3 or 4 more people showed up to make it a full group. With the help of one of the foreign workers there, we started pushing to leave with just the five of us. They started putting on our safety gear when another group arrived to join us.

The course itself consists of twenty-four platforms, sixteen zip lines, two suspended bridges and two abseils (rappels). The longest zip line is 300 meters long, and at times you are fifty meters above the ground in the trees. While their customer service around wait time leaves a lot to be desired, their attention to safety was very good. You are always hooked to some sort of cable, making falling largely something you would have to work hard to do.

Each group has two guides. One guide will zip over the line first in order to help you when you land, while the other stays to help launch you.

Even though I knew that I wouldn't fall, I'm not particularly comfortable standing on the platforms. The actual zip lining itself was fine. Aleena was more than uncomfortable, after the first or second zip line she became afraid. She settled down a bit, but she was pretty anxious to get it over with. Sometimes Aleena and Nalin went hooked together, and a few times Aleena went with one of the guides.

Jacob was a complete monkey; he would turn upside down on the zip lines and he had a great time. At one point he didn't make it all the way over to the other side because he didn't weigh enough. The guide had to go out and haul him in as we yell "bye Jacob, see you later."

Tim recorded some video with her Canon HG20. I didn't bring my slr, but instead a tiny Kodak underwater camera. The guides took most of the photos for us, but unfortunately they didn't turn out so well. It wasn't their fault so much as the fact is the camera wasn't particularly great. I found out that I could bring my slr, and that its pretty unlikely to drop it. Next time I might bring my old Canon Rebel with an inexpensive lens. It will be a big improvement over a smaller camera, and if something happened to it, it wouldn't be as big of a deal.

We finished at 2:00 and they took us to a restaurant for lunch that was included in the package. If I had known how weak it was, I would have just had them drop us off at the hotel so we could get our car and leave. We each had a small bowl of weak curry, some vegetables, a little fruit and a glass of water. After they delivered the food, the waiter disappeared, and we couldn't even order drinks (which we would have had to pay for). After we left we stopped at a restaurant along side the road and Tim bought some really good roasted pork and chicken.

Despite the twisted ankle and the wait time, the weekend was a lot of fun. Below are a few videos that Tim recorded. I'll probably post more later.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


For the most part I do enjoy my new Macbook Pro.  The OS, Snow Leopard is pretty click, and the hardware looks great and performs pretty well. The battery life on it is really tremendous.  While I haven't pushed it to the limit, it is advertised as having a battery that lasts for 8 or 9 hours, and nothing that I've seen so far makes me doubt that.  

 I was surprised at how quickly that I was able to get some things to work.  After I bought it, I sat outside the Apple store in Kenwood and "borrowed" their Wifi while Tim was shopping.  The fact that I was able to sync my Google calendar and address book quickly and easily was pretty impressive, particularly since I never actually got my address book in Outlook to sync with Google.  Believe me, it wasn't for a lack of trying.

Unfortunately the seams were revealed on that seamless integration when I changed my gmail password.  Afterwards, I was unable to reconnect, even after I changed the account information in iCal and Mail.  After ten or so minutes, I had Mail working again, but iCal was a much more stubborn problem.  I read lots of articles on what to do, but the solutions didn't seem to work.  This left me pretty unhappy with Apple.  One of the reasons that I like to sync with my Google calendar is that I share it with Tim so she can keep track of the kids events and activities.  

After taking a break for a day or so, I finally found an article on how to fix the issue.  It turns out that it was not entirely Apple's fault.  What happened was that when I changed the gmail password, I didn't immediately change the password for the account in iCal.  So iCal attempted several times to log in with the incorrect password.  This caused Google to activate its CAPTCHA security.  CAPTCHA is the technology where you have to type in a word or phrase that is presented in an image in a distorted fashion.  The letters will be wavy or different sizes and fonts.  Its fairly common on the Internet, and I'd seen CAPTCHA many times but didn't know the name.  The logic behind it is that computers cannot read the words in the images, while humans can.  Web sites employ the technology to prevent hackers from accessing an account by brute force.  After so many failed login attempts, the site will present a CAPTCHA in order to login.  After so many failed login attempts, my iCal triggered Google's CAPTCHA.  So when I changed the password on iCal, it still couldn't log in because Google was requiring the CAPTCHA phrase as well.  Of course this was happening behind the scenes, so all I knew was that it was a failed login.  

Eventually I found a post that had a link to disable Google's CAPTCHA and was able to get it to work.  If you ever have the problem, the link is here:

One of the reasons that I bought the mac is because it is supposed to be great for editing photos.  The photo editing software Aperture is only available for the Mac platform.  I wanted to compare it to Lightroom, which I have used for the last couple of years.  It took a long time to import my photos into Aperture.  There were many reasons for the nearly day-long process, including the fact that I was importing 40,000 photos, the photos were on an external drive, and I forgot to turn off Aperture's facial recognition software before the import.  While I didn't relish the wait, I understood it to be a one time thing, so it wasn't a big deal. 

Unfortunately, later when I reopened Aperture, it couldn't find the photos.  Even though the external drive had been online the entire time, Aperture lost its reference to it. After about thirty minutes of research, I found out how reconnect the photos in Aperture.  The best article was here: While I found the solution, it was not a quick one.  Reconnecting the photos will probably take more than an hour, maybe two.

I may post some of my thoughts on what I like about Aperture and Lightroom.  I really need to spend some time with Aperture in order to really know.   

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Small World

Tim and I were riding our bikes back from school today and were speaking to our neighbor across the street.  We learned that she lived in Cincinnati for three years.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jacob Pranked at Christmas

The day after Christmas we gathered at my parents house again to exchange presents with my parents, siblings, and their children.  We had done it in the past after our Christmas Eve celebration, but by the time we would get done, it would be late, and with small children, it was just easier to move it back.

My brother Eric and his wife Heather gave Jacob his present.  It was about the same size as a shoe box.  Jacob tore into it, unwrapping with fervor, leaving no doubt that he was anxious to discover its contents.  After he opened the box, he found tissue paper, which he quickly discarded, expecting to find the present underneath.  Only he didn't.  There was no present under the tissue paper.  Jacob looked a bit crestfallen.  What he did not see, however, was that there was a gift card from GameStop taped to the inside lid of the box.  After he discovered it with some help, he was very happy.

Nicely done Eric.  It will be one of those things that Jacob probably remembers for the rest of his life.  Much like the time that you got the bike for Christmas.  For the sake of those who have not heard the story, I'll share it.

My family would open presents on Christmas morning.  After uncovering the baby Jesus in the nativity scene, we would gather in the living room where we had the Christmas tree, and under it the presents.  Well, most of the presents were under the tree.  Sometimes if there was something that wouldn't fit, my parents or Santa (depending on who left the gift) would put it in another room.  Such was the case that year.

After we opened the presents, my parents sent my brother into the kitchen to get a trash bag for the wrapping paper.  He went to the kitchen, retrieved a garbage bag, and came back in the room.  My parents had a shocked look on their face.  My memory is a little faded, but I think they sent him back again.  The second time he did see his brand new bicycle that was in the closet where the trash bags were kept.  None of us were sure how he missed it, but I'm glad that he did, because I always remember that day when we open Christmas presents.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Checking In

I decided to check in our flight online last night in order to speed things up this morning.  I thought that we would just be able to go over to the bag drop off, but the curb side check in guy took us to the regular lines. After waiting for a dog and cat to get checked in, we were waited on by a woman whose accent made it a bit difficult to understand.

I'm not really sure what my online check in accomplished, as she reviewed every document, and ended up printing us identical boarding passes to the ones that I had printed the previous evening.  When reviewing our passports, she asked where are Thai visas were.  I pointed to them in the book.  She said that the visa stamp doesn't say Thailand on it.  It does have Thai writing as well as English which identifies the province issuing it.  I did not see at the time that my re-entry permit, directly below the visa, does in fact. have the word "Thailand" in it.  

This is the first time that we have ever had this issue before.  Tim was busy putting jackets in the suitcase, so I looked at the Delta employee and asked her if she read Thai.  I told her that the Thai writing above the visa was the Thai word for Thailand.  That seemed to mollify her.  

Nice Guy

From the flight from Cincinnati to Seattle, we were seated apart.  Tim and Nalin had a middle and window seat together, Aleena and I also shared adjacent middle and window seats, while Jacob had a window seat on his own two rows in front of me.  

Before we took off, the man in the middle seat in front of me asked if he could trade with Jacob so he could sit with his friends.  I said I wasn’t sure that he wanted to, but they had asked him and he said it was okay.  I was a bit skeptical that he just didn’t want to say no.  Then the guy on the aisle in my row said that he would trade with Jacob so we could be together.  I kind of shrugged, as it seemed that we had already agreed to have him sit in the middle, so I was kind of hesitant.  The guy said “its no problem, I’ll sit in the middle seat.”  

When the food cart came around, I told the flight attendant that if the man wanted anything, that I would buy him lunch or a drink.  She offered, but he declined, then turned and politely thanked me.  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Originally uploaded by ebvImages
Today was our last day here in the U.S. Tomorrow we start our twenty-six hour plus return back to Thailand.

So how did we prepare ourselves for a trip back to eighty plus degree weather? Of course we went snow tubing.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Kissing Parents = Yucky

Our youngest daughter Aleena does not like kissing. She does not kiss anyone, and hasn't since she was three or four years old. Nalin went through a phase where she didn't like it, but she outgrew it fairly quickly. Not Aleena, she is still steadfast in her position that kissing is yucky. As a dad, I hope that this belief continues until she is well into her 20's, but I suspect that it will not.

Not only does Aleena not like to be a participant in a kiss, she does not like to see kissing either. When there is a kiss in a movie, she always covers her eyes, much like people do during the scary scenes in movies. Yesterday, Tim and I kissed, and Aleena saw us and covered her eyes. Shortly after, she told us that she couldn't find her iTouch. At that moment, a mischievous idea was born.

I "helped" Aleena to find her iTouch, but  before giving it back to her, Tim and I took a photo of the two of us kissing, and set it as the wallpaper on Aleena's iTouch.  Aleena looked at her iTouch when I returned it, and just gave me glare that still makes me laugh as I think about it.  "I know how to trash it" she explained, and then she went and did just that.

If I had been thinking, I would have taken a photo of her reaction to seeing the photo.  It was a great little moment in a somewhat frustrating day.