Saturday, December 30, 2006

Daily Report: Slow News Day

I should probably just stop discussing how much work I'm doing altogether, OK? At least for now. Subway delivery for lunch again. Pui joined me by ordering a salad.

It was a light day of blogging, with the only thing interesting that happened being Saddam Hussein's execution, which is kind of like the end of Hamlet: Everybody starts dropping like flies, but it is anticlimactic, and the most interesting and most exciting and most entertaining parts have already happened. Therefore his execution isn't really worth mentioning, except as "The End", curtain please.

For dinner, it was off to the Rotary Club's New Year's Eve (on December 30th?) party. Bob invited us along. He was there with his wife, Ta, and baby Gina. I was with Pui and Pot. The dinner party was held at the Town-In-Town Hotel on Pattaya Central Road, which is a place I had never been to before. It's fairly nice, but not too plush.

Bob and Baby Gina -->

The Deputy Mayor Of Pattaya
helps open This Year's Rotary
New Year's Party.
First were some introductions and speakers. This included the Deputy Mayor of Pattaya, who I'm sure is a great administrator and manager of our fair city, but the word "monotone" was invented with his voice in mind. (Unfortunately, it was just before Hizzoner got up to speak that Pot got antsy, and we had to go and hang out by the hotel pool for a little while, so I was elsewhere during his speech.)

After that was the official goodbye to this year's Rotary Exchange Student, who is from South Africa. I was a Rotary Exchange Student to Brazil when I was 17. Unfortunately, I really couldn't share any bits of advice with him about going home because... really... with the internet and e-mail and global communications, leaving one country for another isn't the "goodbye cold turkey to all of it" that it used to be. When I left Brazil, the people, the music, the language, the culture, everything I had gotten used to... all of it was gone. Now, this kid can tune into his old Thai school's webcam and see his friends every day, or hear their voices on VOIP, or just chat via instant messaging. He can tune into streaming Thai internet radio, catch some video on YouTube, read the Pattaya Mail, and on and on and on. For months after getting back, I would have killed for just a single smidgen of something Brazilian to come along to enjoy. Like I said: Not the same thing as when I left Brazil.

From there, we had dinner, which was edible, but nothing spectacular. Standard "500-people-need-to-get-fed" food.

After dinner, there was a magician who did a show. A young guy from America. It looks like he had the cool idea of taking his magic show and seeing if he could work his way across Asia. Good idea. He wasn't too bad, although I didn't see anything I hadn't seen before. Mostly magic-store-level gimmicks with the requisite showman's personality thrown in. The crowed enjoyed him, and he had a good personality, if a little over-earnest at times.

An Elvis impersonator, who is
extremely popular in Opposite World.
Finally, there was an Elvis impersonator... reputed to be one of the world's best, some fellow from France.

I only reserve this insult for the most extreme occasions: He was insultingly bad, i.e. he was so bad that I genuinely suspect that the only reason he got on the stage was for the purpose of affronting my sense of taste, talent, and appreciation of music. For chrisssakes, he looked nothing like Elvis: The guy had dirty-blonde hair, was pudgy, and had a bit of a goatee beard stubble. And no... he sounded nothing more like Elvis than his appearance would suggest.

I got up and left and took Pui and Pot home after the second song. (They weren't enjoying it either, in case you think me a spoilsport, and it was approaching 10:00 p.m.) I was behind about 25% of the dinner guests, and I would guess that another 25% weren't far behind me, leaving because of this guy.

Quotacious Of The Year 2006


But guys like us, we don't pay attention
to the polls. We know that polls are just
a collection of statistics that reflect
what people are thinking in "reality."
And reality has a well-known liberal bias.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Daily Report: Cherry Discovery

Standard old half work day accomplished. Back to square one, I suppose. Had Subway sandwich delivered for lunch today.

Cherry Restaurant, Third Road: Best
food for the price. But lacking in
decor, atmosphere and service.
For dinner, it was out to Cherry Restaurant on Third Road across from Excite Disco. Pui, Pot and I went with Stan and Mem, and Mike and Riza. The restaurant actually was recommended to me by Bob. I'll define the place as "discount gourmet". Most of the entreé prices are in the 180 to 250 baht range, with a 395-baht prix-fixe menu as well, which is what I had. The food really is as good as you will find at Bruno's or Mata Hari or Casa Pascal (Pattaya's top restaurants) for half the price or less. However, the decor is a lot less attractive, the service is a fraction as polished, and the general ambience is louder, more crowded, and livelier.

So, if you are a gourmand who focuses only on the food, Cherry Restaurant is the best value you will find in Pattaya... and some of the best food. If you are a dining afficianado who calculates the whole restaurant experience when rating a restaurant, Cherry Bar falls short in all aspects that don't involve what is on your plate... cost notwithstanding. (Me? I'm all about the food, so I'll be going back.)

Anyway, after that we all went to Rick's to hang out for a few drinks. Then it was home by midnight.

Thai Coup Leader Accused Of Having Two Wives

General Sonthi has two
wives. Double the reasons
to retire to Pattaya.

The problem is not that the leader of Thailand's recent coup, General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, a Muslim, has two wives. The problem is that he registered both of them with the government, which is against the law. It's not a 20-years-in-prison kind of law... but you simply cannot give people who don't like you anything they can use against you, because you know they'll milk it for everything its worth.

So, all in all, yet another politician who falls a smidgen short in the common sense department.

Otherwise, best of luck with the 2 little ladies, Mr. General.

I doubt that the people putting up the stink about General Sonthi's 2 wives are going to get much support from the Thai people. A vast number of Thai guys have a mia noi (minor wife).

It's kind of a cultural thing here in Thailand for a Thai guy to... uh... not annoy his wife with constant demands for... ummm... her attention. Therefore, he very lovingly and thoughtfully gives his better half a break by going out and annoying some other girl for a change, leaving his wife with some much-deserved peace and quiet.

It sounds like a joke, but believe it or not, that is really pretty much the mentality behind it. Besides... if you're a 50-year-old lady and have had 6 kids, perhaps sending the ol' horndog out to play with the young pups for a while is better than trying to keep him at home entertained by yourself.

Well... If nothing else, it is a great example of how different cultures approach even the most fundamental aspects of life differently.

The same people complaining about the General's two wives are requesting the Prime Minister to step down if it is shown that he "procured land illegally."

Of course, there isn't a single Thai person in any elected office, or — for that matter — in any office with just a desk and chair in it, who isn't guilty of something that would rightfully bar him (or her) from elected office if it were made public.

Stricter Smoking and Alcohol Rules In Thailand

I'm generally against laws that make legal things slightly less legal (but only in certain places at certain times a day under certain circumstances if you are a certain type of person). However, Thailand is quite simply one of the drunkest places on earth, and I'm not referring specifically — or even generally — to the tourists. Thai people (and rural Thai men in particular) are raging alcoholics. The new bills being proposed to curb drinking and smoking are an unfortunate evil in this country that desparately needs to find a way to control itself.

For the average Farang or tourist, the principal effects of these new laws will be higher beer costs, and a likely loss of duty-free purchases. Other than that (assuming all the laws proposed are passed), most of the alcohol laws are targeted towards limiting domestic production, and local abstinence and treatment programs. On the smoking side, finding smoking areas may become more difficult... principally in restaurants, although tourist-targeted areas will likely be less affected.

As per usual, the nitwits (at least the anti-smoking nitwits) are out in force over at complaining that the new smoking ban doesn't cover bars and snooker halls. One reader is on his way down to his local bus stop to pick a fight with anybody he finds smoking. If you live in Thailand and you are so poor that you have to use the bus, you've got more pressing problems in your life than second-hand cigarette smoke.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm all for curbing smoking. When I was a smoker, I never smoked in places where it would annoy anybody, even when it was allowed, and I don't mind (although I really don't support) creating rules for smokers who can't figure that out... but I would leave it up to individual establishments, not the federal government, to set the rules. However, certain places are simply supposed to have smoking, such as bars and pool halls. Bars are supposed to smell like smoke the same way that locker rooms are supposed to smell like dirty shoes. It's just the way things are.

Besides, I don't see why these people really care so much about stopping smoking in Thailand, where cigarette smoke ranks about 50th on the list of dangerous shit you are forced to inhale on a daily basis. One cloud of exhaust from the ass end of any truck (or two-stroke motorcycle) in Thailand (where there is no such thing as polution controls) has about the same amount of tar and carbon monoxide and ammonia in it as a good long haul on a filtered cigarette. I won't get into the noxious fumes coming out of sewers, the asbestos lined brake pads on all those motorcycles, the bacteria-filled roadside garbage heaps, or the gag-inducing vapor of certain spoiled-fish-byproduct sauces at food stalls, or the incessant dust from construction sites... and on and on.

Of course, the readers at would never consider passing a ban on two-stroke motorcycles, or keeping beat-up, oil-burning pickup trucks off the road, because that would affect innocent, poor Thai people, who really have no choice in the matter. (Proving that it really isn't about clean lungs as much as it is about punishing smokers for their habit.)

Well anyway... either way... it is of no import to me. If these new laws mean less drinkers and less smokers in Thailand, I'm not going to argue. I'm going to withhold any further complaint until I see how much the cost of a beer goes up at TQ2.

Gerald Ford Dies. Controversial Person In Thailand

Gerald Ford, 1913-2006
His military operations
in the Gulf of Siam
angered Thailand.
He was one of America's less influential and historically important presidents, but Gerald Ford was and is far from well-remembered here in Thailand.

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge seized an American merchant ship near Thailand. At that time, the United States had troops still stationed in Thailand. Without getting permission from Thailand, President Ford sent special forces troops to the American base in Thailand, and then launched military operations from Thai soil against the Khmer Rouge without informing the Thai government about it.

This caused Thailand to feel quite slighted... specifically by the Ford administration... and that was the end of an American military presence in Thailand, as the Thai government threw them out thereafter.

Friday Cat Blogging

Felis domesticus and Dentis sparklingus...
Two Bitter Enemies Meet Again.

Thailand Bans "Promotional Dancing" Coyote Girls

Coyote Girls, in their skimpy uniforms
are now banned from dancing in public.
Walking Street is filled with these girls.
You probably don't know what "Coyote Girl" means, but you see it all the time in Thailand: Three or four girls in shorts and halter tops (usually silver and sparkly) dancing in front of a shop festooned with balloons and banners, while another girl on a bullhorn shouts about the great new deal to be found inside.

That all came to an end when Queen Sirikit saw a news broadcast from Nong Khai province regarding Buddhist Lent (a time of austerity, indeed) and a local temple, and noticed that a nearby motorcycle shop had these dancers, called Coyote Girls, showing off their wares.

Obviously a bad choice of time and location. However, in typical Thai style of over-reaction, now these dancers are banned from all public places.

If they were going to get rid of the blaring ear-splitting techno music (talk about something more toxic and putrid than second-hand smoke... why can't they ever crank up Aerosmith?) that they play at these promotional events along with the dancers, it wouldn't be so bad... but turning down the bubblegum-pink japplastic technocrap in Thailand is 1000 times less likely than turning down the amount of flesh that girls are exposing when out in public.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Daily Report #1777

Another crap day of work, interspersed with a long nap and a long dinner. Fuji for lunch... no problems with the order this time. Spaghetti and a movie for dinner. Apple and Sasha stopped by for one last visit before Sasha goes back to London tomorrow.

Google seems to be back to normal as of late this evening.

Tony Blair In Trouble Over Vacation Arrangements

Tony Blair steps in it once again. He and his family go on vacation to Florida and stay they stay at Robin Gibb's house. The Gibbs say the Blairs are staying for free. Tony Blair (via his office) says, "Oh no... we're paying to stay there, but we won't tell you any more about it."


If you're the Prime Minister of England, you obviously have rich, powerful, and famous friends. If they invite you to stay at their house on vacation, that's perfectly cool. Nobody is going to care if you are invited to stay someplace. (Until you mention money, obviously.)

So chill out Tony: Tell the press that yes... you were invited to hang out (for free) at your friend's place, that you and the family are on vacation, and that everything else is none of their business. Don't be a dick and make the Gibbs look bad by telling the press that you're paying them for the priviledge of staying at their house when you aren't (I won't mention how that makes you look, either) in some lame-ass attempt to make your visit with them seem "official" or something. What the hell is that?

Politicians can be such numbskulls sometimes.

Google Ungoogleable

Ever since my internet came back up yesterday afternoon, I haven't been able to access (I can get there sometimes, but it takes 4 or 5 minutes for the front page to come up.) Every other site is working fine.

Ah... this explains it:

Quake Knocks Asia Back to Pre Internet Days

With one blow, Mother Nature triggered the largest telecommunications outage in years, cutting off or slowing telephone and Internet traffic in Asia from Beijing to Bangkok. ...

Later, Chunghwa said connections to the U.S., China and Canada were mostly restored, but 70 percent of the capacity to Japan was still down, along with 90 percent of the capacity to Southeast Asia.
I still can't figure out why the internet is acting so quirky though. Some sites load fine, others don't. For example, blogger works fine, but google (same company) doesn't. I still can't access is also down for some reason... probably because it somehow relies on for operations or something.

Oh well. Mother nature has driven me into the arms of Yahoo search for the time being.

The Secret Sex Lives of Diehard Bush Supporters

A little roleplaying never hurt anybody... Unless, of course, you are role-playing as President of the United States.

p.s. If the thought of people enjoying sex... especially odd, kinky, politically-oriented sex... offends you, then it would be best if you didn't watch.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Daily Report: The Main Event

The local electric company...
My dad will love this photo.
This morning when I got out of bed, I had no electricity in my house. The reason being that this was what was going on out on the main road. Looking at this, you kind of wonder how the power stays on at all in Thailand. Obviously no work (or blogging) was going to get done.

The beach below Pratumnak hill...
Best beach in Pattaya, hands down.
Therefore it was off to the beach with Pot, Willie, Birt, and Frank. The power finally came back on at 3:00 p.m. and I went home to get in a little work. This has been easily my worst work week so far. It's Wednesday, and I haven't even done a full half day's work yet total this week. Ick.

All Thai boxing matches start off
with some meditation, prayer,
stretching, and a litle bit of posing.
Tonight it was off to the big Thai boxing tournament on the school grounds at Second and Pattaya South roads. Great stuff. This photo was the beginning of the first match between two teenagers. It ended with a broken arm sustained from blocking a kick. Yes: Little 80-pound kids kick that hard.

So you can only imagine what this guy would do to you. He's about 5-foot-2 and 180 pounds of pure muscle... most of it below his waist. He's one of Thailand's (the world's) best Muay Thai boxers.

Bob had his stand set up, and basically catered the whole event. I would guess that he sold about 1,000 hamburgers and hotdogs altogether.

Pui is the principal reason I went to this event. She just loves Thai boxing. During the particularly exciting parts, she would jump up and do a happy dance and squeak "Yes! Yes!" and do her own little boxing moves. (She quickly became the darling of the crowd in our section.)

The main event of the evening was between two of the top-ranked Thai boxers today, one of whom was a Russian fellow. He and the Thai guy he was fighting were both about 160 pounds, I would guess, and both of them could get their feet from the canvas to their opponent's ribcage in about the same time that a Western heavyweight boxer could throw a jab. The Thai guy won. We had a retired (farang) Muay Thai boxer named Dominick at our table who said that it was a fair judgement based on the point system in Thai boxing, although we other farangs disagreed on principle, rooting for our own. But what a fight it was. Jesus. Kicks so hard against arms that you could hear the smack of it 30 feet back from the ring over the music and roar of the crowd, grappling and throwing to the mat, spinning and whirling, bashing with elbows and knees, and even a little punching.

Wednesday Pot Blogging

Pot and his little buddy, Keuan, who is just the funniest little fellow. Did I mention he is little? Both he and Pot are little pipsqueaks.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Voter Education Important Purpose of J.I.P.

Anonymous Liberal, guest-blogging for Glenn Greenwald, compares consumer protections to political awareness. This is such an excellent (and important) post that I'm pulling vast chunks of it and pasting it here for you to read. Republican or Democrat or Independent, this post is hard to disagree with.
As a political junkie and a litigator who works primarily with large corporate clients, I’ve come to appreciate that there is a fundamental disconnect between the assumptions that underlie the prevailing approach to, and coverage of, political issues in this country and the assumptions that drive our policies in virtually every other context.

For example, within the context of commerce and the marketplace, we long ago realized that the average consumer is generally not in a position to tell whether or not she is being lied to or misled, whether by way of an advertisement or an overzealous sales pitch. That’s why, over the years, we have put in place a complex array of overlapping laws and regulations designed to protect consumers from being misled. If a company makes a claim which is even slightly misleading, it will quickly find itself up to its eyeballs in litigation, whether in the form of government enforcement actions, lawsuits by competitors, or consumer class actions (often all three). There are also any number of tort and quasi-contractual claims that aggrieved consumers can bring against the individuals and companies who deceived them.

As a result, companies take great care to ensure that their statements are truthful, and consumers can be reasonably confident that advertisers are not lying to them.

The same is not at all true in the realm of politics, where candidates and interest groups can pretty much say whatever they want and voters are generally left to fend for themselves. Lies and misleading claims are commonplace, if not the norm. The perverse result is that most Americans are far better informed (or at least far less misinformed) when they step into the mall than when they step into the voting booth.

To put it another way, our system attributes to people in their capacity as voters the very truth-detection skills that it assumes they do not have in their capacity as consumers. ...

As a believer in the First Amendment, I understand why this is the case and why the same approach we use to protect consumers from deceptive and misleading claims would be highly problematic if applied to political speech. What I don’t understand is why everyone seems to throw their understanding of human nature out the window when the conversation shifts from commerce to politics.

For reasons that I don’t understand, our mainstream journalists and media figures always seem to operate under the assumption that the average person is capable of sorting through all the political information they’re bombarded with and reaching an informed decision. This despite the fact that half of our laws are premised on the exact opposite assumption, i.e., that people are easily misinformed by those with an incentive to do so.
It is very true: The general public is terribly ill-served and ill-informed and poorly educated by a media who should be playing a "consumer protection service" to it's viewers. Blogs are slightly better in that liberal blogs will point out conservative lies, and conservative blogs will point out liberal lies (and if you read both, you almost can get an idea of what's going on), but even they are preaching to the choir, and truth in advertising does not apply to them any more than it does the candidates they either support or harangue.

The simple fact of the matter is that the American public is fed a constant stream of bullshit by politicians and their supporters, and your own Democrat or Republican bias determines which bullshit you choose to believe more of.

I spend many hours a day in a targeted search for bullshit in all its forms, and I don't differentiate between political parties when I find it, and I don't pull punches when I discuss it. It's the defining attribute of my political viewpoint: Find out the truth, ponder the facts, and come to a conclusion that is never hard and fast and is always subject to rethinking and open to contributions and persuasion from all over the political spectrum. My beliefs may not always be right, but they are truthfully derived, honestly held, and readily reconsidered.

This blog has a lot of facets, from Thai culture to comedy to baby and cat photos, and the political facet is based primarily on pointing out deceit and fabrication or just plain old ill-will. If you come here for the political content, that's what I'm trying to provide you: A consumer protection service from bullshit, free of charge. Hope you enjoy it.


"The White House announced this week
it will not have a new Iraq strategy
until after the start of the new year.
Apparently, President Bush is hoping
that Santa will bring him one."

Daily Report: Voices In The Dark

Light work day, mostly because of having fun with the blog. That happens sometimes... more and more often, however. I'm going to have to start asking for a blogging salary one of these days.

My mother called me last night for Christmas quite literally 5 seconds after I turned off the light to go to bed at 11:00. Good timing actually, as I got to lie in bed in the dark and talk with my family. The internet is weird in that you can stay in complete and perfect touch with your family, but not hear their voices more than twice or thrice a year. My blog, my mother's e-mails, my sisters baby photos, my father's naughty-joke e-mails... we're more in touch than we have been since we all went our separate ways 15 years ago.

This evening, Pui invited her friend Apple (in Thai, it is pronounced "Appun" since no word can end in "L") and her daughter Sasha over. Sasha is 11 years old and is from England where she lives with her father, so English is her first language. I took the evening off from work to entertain her. We sat in front of my computer, and played our favorite YouTube videos for each other, played some music, and visited some websites. Then we sat down with Pot and watched "Chicken Little" together.

Apple is actually spending the night here, while Sasha is next door sleeping at Riza and Mike's house.

Too Many Children Will Kill You, Study Says

Researchers from the University of Utah insist "Large Families Bad For Parents."
Having a large number of children is bad for parents' health - particularly that of mothers, a study suggests. ...

It was found the more children couples had, the worse their health and the more likely they were to die early.
Indeed. Well, all by myself, I'm pretty sure I knocked at least a decade off of each of my parent's lives, so I suppose even more children are even more dangerous to your life.

Murders With Firearms (Per Capita) By Country

Quite interesting.
#1South Africa:0.7197820
#7Costa Rica:0.0313745
#12Czech Rep.:0.0207988
#31New Zealand:0.0017348
(Weighted average: 0.1 per 1,000 people)

Thai Concepts: Following Directions, Saving Face

I sent Pui to Fuji Restaurant to pick up some lunch for me. I gave her a really good description of what I wanted: "It's called Koni Oshi. It is a square block of orange rice with a slice of crab meat on top. There is a piece of aspargus in the middle of the rice. It costs 80 baht." I even drew her a picture with the name written above it, and tried to hand her the piece of paper. "No, no," she said, "I not forget."

And off she went. (Did I mention that the Fuji menu has pictures of all the dishes next to the names?)

She went to Fuji and ordered the first thing on the menu that she found which cost 80 baht and had asparagus in it, and came home. It was asparagus wrapped in fried dough. No rice, no crab, not square, and definitely not called Koni Oshi.

Would you believe that she tried to refuse the drawing for a second time when she was sent back to Fuji to try again? She actually seemed indignant when I insisted she take the drawing with the name "Koni Oshi" above it.

Pui returned with the correct dish. To save face, she told me that the reason she got my order wrong was because this dish doesn't have crab on top of the rice, but fake crab instead. If I had said fake crab, she of course would have gotten the order completely right. In turn, I give her my sincerest and most heartfelt apologies for misleading her in my lunch order, and now we are both happy again.

Meet Tropidophorus Hangnam, the Bathroom Skink

In other news: New Salamander Species Found In Chaiyaphum.

The Tropidophorus hangnam,
or... as best as I can translate,
the Bathroom Skink.
Thai people are currently trying to figure out which brand of spicy pickled shrimp liver sauce this new salamander is best served with, and will keep you updated. Other serving suggestions are also welcome.

This little fellow has the unfortunate name of "Tropidophorus hangnam". Hang Nam in Thai means "bathroom", and Tropidophorus is the scientific name for the type of lizard known as a skink. Yes... exactly: Thai scientists have discovered the bathroom skink.

Dinosaur Footprints Found In Phitsanulok

Artist's rendition of Farang dinosaur
meeting Thai Bargirl dinosaur.
From The Nation in Bangkok:

A dinosaur's footprints have been found in Phoo Hin Rong Kla National Park in Phitsanulok.

French paleontologist Jean Re Loeuff, who has led a team of two Thai geologists, said he could not yet identify which type of the reptile whose footprints were found, but they should belong to a predatory species that roamed the earth more than 100 millions year ago.
See? Nothing changes. Even 100 million years ago, farang dinosaur predators roamed the earth and eventually found themselves in Pattaya where they got friendly with the Thai dinosaur bargirl population, eventually even going upcountry to meet the dinosaur bargirl's family in Phitsanulok.

Seeing how the farang dinosaur footprints were made in a muddy plain, it looks like this particular farang dinosaur was rather gullible in that the dinosaur bargirl's family even got him out in the rice paddies... probably to chase down an errant water buffalo.

Monday, December 25, 2006


"Yesterday, President Bush delivered his
annual Kwanzaa message. The president said
let's remember that Kwanzaa only exists
because a guy named Kwan died for our sins."

One of my JIP readers likes
Conan best. I can't argue.

This Happened To Me Before, And It's Not Funny

I had to wait 20 minutes before I was rescued.

Daily Report: An In-Between Day

Well, Christmas Eve was kind of the official holiday for my family and friends here in Thailand. Today was just the aftermath. Tomorrow it is back to work.

I woke up, played around on the blog a little bit, and then took a nap.

Then it was off to Rick's bar (by myself) where Rick and Justin and I made eggs Benedict and drank eggnog.

Then it was back home for another nap.

Then I watched a movie with Pot.

High Speed Railway "Being Built" To Pattaya

East Coast high speed train...
Vaporware as far as I can tell.
Part of the building process is, of course, sitting back, putting your hands behind your head, closing your eyes, and dreaming about the possibility of something. So therefore, yes... a high speed railway going from the new airport (see below about how well that is working out), to Chonburi, Pattaya, all the way down to Rayong is indeed being built.

Actually, a high-speed railway to Rayong, which is about 50 km southeast of Pattaya, would be very nice, because that means one could live in Rayong and party in Pattaya.

Anyway, this falls under the "I'll believe it when I see it" category. There is indeed a high speed train being built from the new airport to Bangkok, but whether they build a line going in the other direction remains to be seen. The government here is famous for trotting out plans for Pattaya that are just as quickly forgotten.

Update On The Baht Exchange Rate

Today, the exchange rate of baht to dollar is 36.22, which is approximately a 1-baht increase from the lowest point the baht reached of the low-35 range.

It's a nice — albeit small — improvement, but I think that everyone in Thailand (foreign and domestic alike) are looking towards 40 baht to the dollar as the magic number.

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport Major Problems

The new airport has so many problems
that travelers are longing for the old,
awful, dilapidated Don Muang airport.
Major design mistakes are causing
massive delays, huge lines, and an
endless flow of complaints.
According to the New York Times, it is more than just "opening day quirks" and "small glitches" that are bugging the new Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport. Rick and Justin — who both frequent the airport — have talked about the impossibility and impracticality of navigating the place. It sounds once more like the practice of Thai pocket-lining took precedence over design, functionality, and common sense.
Nearly three months after opening, the bare concrete walls of the sprawling terminal appear unfinished, the arrival hall is chronically overcrowded, and workers are busy fixing cracks in the tarmac. ...

The most common gripes, she said, were the crowding and delays during check-in and “this marathon walk passengers have to endure when they’re trying to reach the plane.” ...

Not long after the airport opened, complaints about a dearth of bathrooms prompted the second most powerful man in Thailand’s military-appointed government, Pridiyathorn Devakula, the deputy prime minister, to order the airport authority to tear down offices and install more toilets. ...

Raveewan Netarakawesana, director of public relations for the Airports Authority of Thailand, which oversaw the construction of the new airport, says her office has received a litany of gripes about Suvarnabhumi: “inadequate and ambiguous signs,” overcrowding, faulty air-conditioning, lack of seats at the departure areas and the “naked-looking concrete, paintless columns, walls and structures.” ...

But although some are being addressed, other problems will be harder to fix, such as the overcrowding, which Ms. Raveewan described as a “structural restriction resulting from the design.” During peak hours, the two check-in lines for Thai Airways are the length of a football field, something that rarely happened at the old airport, which had separate counters for each flight. ...

Inside the terminal, the airport authority has earmarked 40 million baht, just over $1 million, to build 20 new bathrooms, with 205 toilets, 118 urinals and 248 new wash basins. Some of the current wash basins may have to be replaced, too. They are poorly designed and water splashes onto the floor, creating full-time employment for janitors, who mop the floor every few minutes. ...

One particularly nagging problem is that, despite the size and number of parking gates at the main terminal, passengers are often asked to disembark onto buses that ferry them to the building.

Monday Vinnie Blogging

Vinnie's got a big ol' fat nuclear-powered smile, don't he?

Just A Song About Thailand and Thai Whiskey

Mekhong Whiskey...
Drink of choice for
the seasoned traveler
to Thailand.

The Refreshments...
Music of choice for
the seasoned traveler
to Thailand.

Actually, Mekhong whiskey
(with an H) and the Mekong
River aren't the same...
but The Refreshments can
be forgiven for thinking
so. In Thai, the river is
called "Mae Nam Kong".
Barkeep... Another Mekong please
Yes of course, you can keep the change

A new glass here for this new friend of mine
Forgive me, I forgot your name
Flip a coin... What shall we talk about?
Heads I tell the truth and tails I lie

Well I came all the way
From Taipei today
Now Bangkok's pouring rain
and I'm going blind again
And I haven't seen my girl
for fifteen thousand miles

But is it true it's always happy hour here?
And if it is I'd like to stay a while
Well as cliche as it may sound
I'd like to raise another round
And if your bottle's empty
help yourself to mine
Thank you for your time
And here's to life

The Refreshments, Mekong

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Daily Report: As Good As It Gets

Christmas Eve, Thailand. It really was just the perfect day. I started off with one-quarter day's work, but that really is beside the point.

Early afternoon, it was off to TQ2 for their annual Christmas Eve "snow storm". Early afternoon is the kid's party, and the place was just packed with families. Owen and his boy Boss were there. Bob and Gina, Alan and Jason, Me and Pot, Willie and Birt, Kak and Sara, and even Mem (Steve's widow) showed up with Kevin and Bobby.We all spent the afternoon playing around in the "snow", and just having a great time. Bob served food, and the DJ played Christmas music. We and the kids just dove and plunged and jumped and splashed around in the grand whiteness of it all. Regardless of age, plopping yourself down up to your neck in styrofoam pellets is just irresistible.Of course, at 4:00 we ushered all the kids out the door, and Santa's little helpers came out for their own version of winterland frolicking. (Below, Owen tells some elves what he wants for Christmas.) I stuck around long enough to play Santa for a little while before going home to make my dish to pass for dinner tonight.I went home and made broccoli and cheese for Rick's Christmas Eve dinner. Pui and I took along Maid Go. Pot was already at Willie and Kak's. There were 20 of us for dinner. Rick did turkeys, ham, stuffing and potatoes. I provided the cheesy broccoli (which was a surprise hit, considering that I was totally winging the recipe).After dinner, we spent hours upon hours resting, digesting, drinking, talking, and making merry... finally getting home at 1:00 a.m. Now I'm here at my computer, and the cats are chasing left-over bits of styrofoam fallen from my pockets. Time for bed... Merry Christmas to all my readers.

This Must Be What They Call A Christmas Lull

Visits to J.I.P. as Christmas approaches. Bah. Humbug.

Great Photo from Sports Illustrated

This is from Sports Illustrated "The Year's Most Interesting Photos."

The caption reads, "Nguyen Thi Bich Thuy of Vietnam serves the ball in a match against China in the game of Sepak Takraw during the Asian Games in Qatar."

This is originally a Chinese sport that is the founding source of futbol/soccer in the world (FIFA source). It is the world's oldest sport played with a ball that is still played today. Sepak Takraw is essentially volleyball with the feet. It is very popular in Thailand, where it is just called "Takraw".
Anyway, there are 40 other photos over at to enjoy. Take a look.

Japan Scientists Capture Giant Squid

Japanese scientists followed whales
to find the giant squid's habitat.
An amazing first.

This is the first time that a human has seen a living giant squid with the naked eye.
The research team, led by Tsunemi Kubodera, videotaped the giant squid at the surface as they captured it off the Ogasawara Islands south of Tokyo earlier this month. The squid, which measured about 24-feet long, died while it was being caught.
The length of 24 feet means that this was just a junior-sized squid, with squids that are double that size being fairly common.

Leno Fakes Christmas Juggler

I received this video today by e-mail. (There was a version of it on YouTube, but NBC took it down.) You probably will have seen it by now, or if not... you will eventually. It is of a juggler on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, bouncing balls on a keyboard, and playing out "We Wish You A Merry Christmas."

It's fake.

Watch the balls closely. Watch where they bounce. The balls hit on different keys but play the same note. The balls all land within a small area on the keyboard, but are playing a vast spread of notes. The balls move further up on the keyboard, but the notes played are lower.

There is obviously somebody off stage playing out the notes on a proper keyboard while this fellow bounces his balls. It's fun to watch, but you kind of get annoyed when you realize that you are being tricked.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

JIP Late Night Music Club

Crooks & Liars has their own "Late Night Music Club" (a tawdry knockoff of the JIP Late Night Music Club), and tonight they were asking (after posting David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing "Little Drummer Boy") for other odd duets. My nomination was the excellent "Barcelona" sung by rock star Freddie Mecury, and opera star Monserrat Caballé.

Since there are some 200 duet suggestions, I doubt that anybody is going to pay particular attention to my own suggestion at C&L, so I have decided to post the video here instead. What a singer Freddie Mecury was. This song really highlights that. What a tragedy to have lost him.


"Barack Obama was in New Hampshire
Sunday. When informed of this,
President Bush excitedly asked,
'Did we catch 'em?'"

Daily Report: Gone Fishin.

I woke up and did an eighth of a day of work. Yes: Barely anything.

After that, it was off to the travel agent to buy plane tickets to Vientienne. Two adults and a child, one week before departure: 16,650 baht one way. Not too bad.

The one thing Pattaya doesn't have... a large shopping mall on the east side of Second Road is currently under construction. It looks like it will be about the same size as Royal Garden Plaza on the west side of Second Road.

We met up with Willie and Kak, Rick and Da, Mike and Riza, Justin, Frank, and all the kids at the fishing park on Third Road. We ate Thai food, drank beer, and didn't catch a single fish. (I don't fish, so I just watched.)

Pui has pawned Pot off on Kak and Willie this weekend. Pot is just thrilled to death to have 2 "older brothers" to hang around with, and Gong and Birt are sensational boys and Kak is a no-nonsense mother hen who keeps all three of the boys in line... or all four of the boys, if you include Willie.

On the way home, I stopped at Foodland and bought a bunch of broccoli for Christmas Eve dinner, and some nacho cheese sauce for myself along with a bag of doritos. Then, I proceeded to go home and promptly eat the entire jar of cheese sauce. That, coupled with a bottle of beer put me straight to sleep.

In the evening, I woke up in time for dinner at Fuji with Bob, Willie, Rick, and accompanying females and children. Then shopping upstairs at Big C for clothes for Pot, then back to Rick's bar where we met up with Justin and Rat, Mike and Riza, and had a beer before coming home.

By the way: It's a common statement of fact that Thai people don't talk much about the weather. Try putting a Thai girl on the back of a motorcycle in 68º weather, and you'll hear about nothing but the weather the entire friggin' way home.

Pattaya To Pay Medical Bills of Crime Victims

Pattaya City Hall Meeting...
Trying to reduce crime against tourists.
Personally, I would rather that Pattaya's city government focused on stopping crime (which they are of course doing) than offering placations and niceties. But offering to pay the hospital bills of tourist crime victims is still a nice gesture nonetheless.

It makes economic sense though to try to lessen the blow of being the victim of a crime while on vacation: Crimes against tourists in Pattaya are literally crimes against the tourist industry. Obviously, fighting crime with every ounce that Pattaya can muster should be the first priority.

Tripling the size of the police force, with a massive increase in street patrols that constantly harass young Thai kids riding around on motorcycles after midnight would help. This is Thailand. How about some of those world-famous abuses of police power here in Pattaya? How about some racial profiling and targeted law enforcement? How about... if you are a gang of single, young Thai guys on motorcycles out at 1:00 a.m... making Pattaya, Jomtien, and Naklua into a miserable hassle of endless pull-overs, police questions, police pat-downs, and police drunk-driving checks? How about closing the internet cafés at 10:00 p.m., and sending all the 12-year-old kids home? How about closing the karoke bars at 2:00 a.m., and sending all the 17-year-old gangsters home?

Pattaya is already famous as the unruly, dangerous Wild West frontier town in the English press, and as a result, there are almost no English-speaking "family tourists" coming to Pattaya anymore. As soon as the foreign language internet and foreign language press and foreign language travel industries start reporting the crime statistics of Pattaya in Russian, German, Swedish, Korean, and Chinese, there won't be a single "family tourist" left in town. All that will be left are gay and straight men hitting the gogo bars looking for Mr. or Miss Right Now (at discount prices, natch).

A complete lack of faily tourists won't kill Pattaya, since the sex tourists are by far the highest spending (i.e. most valuable) tourists Pattaya receives, and one sex tourist is literally the economic equivalent of one busload of Chinese tourists, but eventually there comes a time when the reputation of a town is indelibly fixed. In truth, Pattaya is probably already permanently stained with the "crime and sex capitol of Thailand" label for the English-speaking world, but turning that reputation around before the Eurotrash find out about it would avert a lot of economic hardship.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Daily Report: Eight Is Not Enough

This morning, I was up at 7:45 to go watch Pot do his Christmas pagaent. Then, it was back home where I crawled into bed for another 4 hours. A dormant state usually means that no work gets done, and that was indeed the case as well today.

I woke up in the afternoon and proceeded to futz with my blog template, re-learning everything I had forgotten about cascading style sheets. Fun fun fun!

Pui and Go went with Stan's wife Mem to Bangkok today for an "Aim Star Network" (turn down your volume) presentation, which is one of the Asian Avon selling gimmicks. Pui is just absolutely smitten with the idea of selling skin care products to the entire world. (In America, my first inclination would be to discourage such an endeavor, but this is Pui, world's friendliest Thai girl, and this is Thailand, the land of skin care fanatics. If anybody can make a million selling Avon, it is Pui.)

Marriot Desert Buffet...
Note the chocolate cascade.
So, with Pui and Mem (and Go) in Bangkok, and with Pot dropped of with Willie and Kak for the day, Stan and I were left to fend for ourselves for dinner. Thus, we went to the Marriott for their 550-baht-plus-plus-plus all-you-can-eat buffet. What a buffet it is: I started off with 2 lobsters, a bowl of hot-and-sour soup, and sushi. Then I had roast pork with gravy. Then I had crab legs and more sushi. Then I had some prosciutto and cheese. Then for dessert, I dipped bananas into a chocolate cascade and had tarts and a blueberries & creme parfait.

The restaurant is really pretty, and the service is impeccable. After dinner, we strolled in the gardens which were lit with torches. The pool area is also gorgeous, surrounded by tropical gardens.

From there, Stan and I went to Rick's bar where we joined Rick, Justin and Mike for a bullshit session. We had a good time playing "Cliff Clavin", each of us trotting out nonsensical bits of trivia that we know to share with the group. The final being that no piece of paper can be folded more than 8 times. Stan, Mike, and Justin were in agreement with that assertion, while Rick and I tried time and again to prove them wrong, finally getting the mythical ninth fold using a 30-foot length of toilet paper.

Hey: Even in Fun City, there are nights where the debating of paper folding is as amusing as life gets.

By the way, this week is as cold as Pattaya gets. Daytime temperatures are in the low-to-mid 80's, and nighttime temperatures are down into the high 60's. (Brrrr!)