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|Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014|
|Friday, February 10th, 2012|
We've been in Malaysia since Tuesday and are very happy so far.
First, a thanks to brinylon
for hanging out with us in Amsterdam all day Monday and to bishopjoey
and lastgirlguide for meeting us at Schipol and providing pre-flight beer and bitterbollen.
The two nights we spent in a 5-star hotel in KL were well worth it. The hotel was slightly run down (crack in the bathtub enamel for instance) but it was far more luxury than we usually treat ourselves to and we got a couple badly needed nights' sleep out of it.
Our first day we would have just hung around the pool, but Vincent, a fellow on CouchSurfing, could only meet us that day. So we went to Klang to meet him. Klang is the old royal capital and #3
city, 1 hr by commuter train from KL. Klang is famous for its vibrant Little India and for being the birthplace of bak kut teh
. Vincent and his father met us at the train station and gave us a tour of the city, including a lunch of bak kut teh at the Hokkien community center (their family came originally from Hokkien). Vincent's father is quite a character, quite likes being the benevolent pater familias. Anyway, we were introduced to BYOT (Bring Your Own Tea) by him. It's evidently a normal thing in Klang, anyway, to bring your own tea and the restaurant provides water and a tea service. The semi-fermented tea he brought was a perfect teh component of the bak kut teh. We also went to a 60 year old coffee shop in town, where Vincent's father (he goes by the family name sans "Mr") told us they would go for rare treats when he was a kid and they had a bit of money saved up. The treat being a cup of coffee, a slice of toast or leaf-wrapped rice and an egg.
Oh, forgot to mention that I fulfilled one of my personal traditions the first night in KL and got a haircut from a Tamil barber near the hotel. It's cheap and you get your head massaged and generally a level of indulgence you don't get from American or Czech barbers, or at least not the cheap ones. Watched some Indian satellite TV in the shop; outtakes from Indian slapstick movies that probably wouldn't make much sense even if I spoke Hindi.
Went to a 24 hour Indian... canteen? hawker? Roti shack? Tables under an awning built up against the side of a building. They had WWE wrestling on TV and a wrestler quoted Lovecraft regarding another wrestler named The Undertaker. Very odd. They had WWE on the tv in the roti shack we went to in Georgetown tonight, must be a thing.
This was our first full day in Georgetown today but we slept in and just sort of wandered around town and ate a lot. Saw a 1947 cinema that now shows all Bollywood all the time. derspatchel
would be pleased, I think. When we get back to Prague I'll upload photos. Anyway I reckon we'll look at actual sites tomorrow.
Current flagship = HMS Prince of Wales
|Tuesday, August 30th, 2011|
|"That's OK, we'll just sleep in the car"
Yesterday I was visiting our 91 yr old Jewish friend Marianne. She and her family fled Czechoslovaka at the beginning of WWII and in her case ended up in the UK.
She was telling me of the time she and her husband were driving around Poland in an old Polish Fiat, which would have been back in the Communist days. They were visiting an old war comrade in Silesia and decided to visit Auschwitz, since they had evaded incarceration there.
After taking a tour of the camp, they asked if there were a hotel nearby where they could spend the night.
"Oh, I don't think they have any rooms free," the guide answered. "But we can put you up in the camp overnight."
Marianne and her husband declined this offer.
(As it happened they found one room left in a hotel on the edge of Krakow.)
|Thursday, May 5th, 2011|
|Didn't see my parents
Well, I didn't see my parents. :( Called my Mom on the Thursday after we arrived and she said she had bad bronchitis and her doctor had told her to stay quiet. So I said I'd call her the following week.
I called her the following Tuesday from Columbus. She had trouble understanding me because I was on N High downtown, and I had trouble understanding her because she sounded like she'd been gargling with rusty nails. Anyway, I asked her if she felt up to us visiting on Thursday, or on Friday before going to Lebanon. She answered that they had a "social engagement" on Friday evening that they could not get out of (this would be their first social engagement since the Johnson administration) and that she would be going to the hairdresser earlier, so we could not visit.
Then she added that Dad was right and I should not visit them on this trip, but on some future trip where I would "behave like a son, and a mensch" and visit them and only them.
Then she said she "hoped I had a good life" and that I had an intelligent and professional wife, and that if I treated my wife like I treated them, she would leave me.
She finished by telling me that I'm a sick man and I should get professional help for my anger management before it's too late.
So I told her to have a good life, too, and hung up on her.
|Wednesday, April 13th, 2011|
|Mom's gone completely nuts
Last night Eve and I got one hour of sleep.
My Dad woke us up at 3am to blackmail us emotionally into not visiting anyone else while we're in Ohio. This was a follow up to a 10pm call from my Mom, in which she complained about the difficulty of getting Eve to her yarn spinning workshop 12 miles from their house and why didn't Eve just ask them to mail her the patterns instead of going? I explained that Eve was very much looking forward to the workshop, that we'd paid for it, that we'd taken care of transport and she didn't have to drive us anywhere, and that a letter was en route detailing our itinerary.
Unfortunately I also mentioned that my cousin Barbara had invited us to visit her in Columbus, ~70 miles away, and that we'd like to go, since again we'd arranged transport and details were in the post. This outraged Mom, who didn't understand why we'd want to see Barbara (who was my favorite cousin as a child and vice versa, as Mom well knows) and we weren't spending any time with her, etc etc. I said that we were still spending about 4 days with them, I'd like to see my cousin and our mutual friends, and again an itinerary was in the post and maybe she should wait until she read it before commenting. I also pointed out that there were many other places in the world we could have traveled to.
Well I eventually calmed her down and got her off the phone, and then Eve took me for a stiff drink, followed by another one. So we got to bed late. I foolishly left my phone on while plugged in, because I should have known what would happen. Yep, Dad calls at 3. My first words were "It's 3 o'clock in the morning, this had better be important." He said it was, to wit that my mother was "terribly hurt" and insulted that we were going to visit my [favorite] cousin [whom I haven't seen in 20+ years], that Barbara and anyone else was free to come visit us all at their house, but that if we were going to go stay at other people's houses for part of our trip, we shouldn't come visit them on this trip at all. However, he continued, they are both very old and may not both be alive the next time we visit. I pointed out that I knew how old they were, that this was emotional blackmail and that I did not appreciate it one bit. He said it was nothing of the kind. I'm afraid I used the word "horseshit" and got a bit stroppy about having spent 2 grand on air tickets. And it finished with me hanging up on him, which I have never done to my Dad. This is of course why Mom put him up to it instead of calling herself (thinking I wouldn't know about that bit of family dynamics, only having grown up with them the first 17 years of my life).
Fortunately, knowing my family, I had arranged with a friend in Dayton to stay in his spare bedroom if push came to shove. If my parents decide they want to see us while we're in Dayton, they will have to call us and arrange it.
|Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010|
|Robert Boyle's ToDo List
The Prolongation of Life.
The Recovery of Youth, or at least some of the Marks of it, as new Teeth, new Hair colour’d as in youth.
The Art of Flying.
The Art of Continuing long under water, and exercising functions freely there.
The Cure of Wounds at a Distance.
The Cure of Diseases at a distance or at least by Transplantation.
The Attaining Gigantick Dimensions.
The Emulating of Fish without Engines by Custome and Education only.
The Acceleration of the Production of things out of Seed.
The Transmutation of Metalls.
The makeing of Glass Malleable.
The Transmutation of Species in Mineralls, Animals, and Vegetables.
The Liquid Alkaest and Other dissolving Menstruums.
The making of Parabolicall and Hyperbolicall Glasses.
The making Armor light and extremely hard.
The practicable and certain way of finding Longitudes.
The use of Pendulums at Sea and in Journeys, and the Application of it to watches.
Potent Druggs to alter or Exalt Imagination, Waking, Memory, and other functions, and appease pain, procure innocent sleep, harmless dreams, etc.
A Ship to saile with All Winds, and A Ship not to be Sunk.
Freedom from Necessity of much Sleeping exemplify’d by the Operations of Tea and what happens in Mad-Men.
Pleasing Dreams and physicall Exercises exemplify’d by the Egyptian Electuary and by the Fungus mentioned by the French Author.
Great Strength and Agility of Body exemplify’d by that of Frantick Epileptick and Hystericall persons.
A perpetuall Light.
Varnishes perfumable by Rubbing.
Now on display at The Royal Society
|Thursday, August 12th, 2010|
|On good bad teachers.
"The best teacher, the most successful teacher I had at Breslau, was typical of the point of view of education, was a man in algebra, his name was Rosanes. His name is not known any more. His great success as a teacher was really due to the fact that he didn't teach things very well. He came to the platform. There was a blackboard. In his right hand he had some chalk, in the left hand he had a wet sponge. He turns his back to the audience, and he mumbled something towards the blackboard, and scribbled something in small letters on the blackboard, cover it up with his body. And as he roved along he erased what he had written. And then the student always had to try to snatch a few words. Then there was an enormous task after class, one sat there for another half hour to try to put together the pieces. If one succeeded, one really had learned enormously much. This was the basis for my learning algebra." -- Richard Courant
|from Archy and Mehubital, by Don Marquis
i met a toad
the other day by the name
of warty bliggens
he was sitting under
he explained that when the cosmos
that toadstool was especially
planned for his personal
shelter from sun and rain
thought out and prepared
do not tell me
said warty bliggens
that there is not a purpose
in the universe
the thought is blasphemy
a little more
that warty bliggens
considers himself to be
the center of the same
the earth exists
to grow toadstools for him
to sit under
the sun to give him light
by day and the moon
and wheeling constellations
to make beautiful
the night for the sake of
to what act of yours
do you impute
this interest on the part
of the creator
of the universe
i asked him
why is it that you
are so greatly favored
said warty bliggens
what the universe
has done to deserve me
if i were a
human being i would
at poor warty bliggens
have only too often
lodged in the crinkles
of the human cerebrum
|Sunday, July 25th, 2010|
|Holiday in Netherlands, pt 1
We flew into Eindhoven, which is a cute little airport. Not much to say about the city, at least from the bus. Managed to miss both the bus from the airport and a train to Breda by scant minutes. As a result, we were almost an hour late getting to Breda.
Martijn was kind enough to meet us at the station, which turned out to be a 10 minute walk across downtown from his flat. Downtown was lovely and his new flat (as in newly built) is excellent. Sadly, I thought I had forgotten to pack my camera, so there are not photos from this day or the next.
Dinner was in Rotterdam at what Martijn rates as the best Chinese restaurant in the Netherlands. Met his friend who is dead smart and a world class economist. He's leaving academia for the excitement of Rand corp. But he didn't feel at all like talking shop. Which is fine, because we had some excellent food, instead.
We had a lazy night and lazy next morning in Breda. That morning was market day on Breda's Groot Markt. I was made very sad by the availability of a wide variety of fresh fish and vegetables at reasonable prices. Czech farmers' markets are pathetic beyond words, and other than farmed freshwater fish, fish is far too expensive in CR.
We took the train to Den Haag and checked into the Hotel Corona
on the Buitenhof. Long story; we were in the Hague en route to bishopjoey
's wedding reception, Martijn had different plans for the evening, it was too far to visit friends in Bilthoven, and our friend in The Hague was out of the country for the weekend. Anyway, we got a great deal on this room. Best of all, there was an exhibit on the Buitenhof square of sand sculptures of famous Flemish paintings
, right across from our hotel.
The weather was sweltering and we were going to go to the beach, but there was a very pleasant sea breeze in the city and we ended up just walking around until it was time to freshen up before catching the train to Leiden and visit our friends. While we were freshening up, the streets outside our window exploded with cheering, as the Netherlands beat Brazil 2:1 in the World Cup quarter finals!
The reception was extremely pleasant. The food was first rate--always my number 1 concern--and we got to see oldmotherchaos
, whom we hadn't seen for years! That was fabulous. Rachel's parents and the other guests at the reception were extremely good to meet, as well.
That night we got back to The Hague and completely failed to find a jazz club that Martijn recommended. We got back a lot later than we expected, too, so wouldn't have seen much of it. Oh, and it was pouring with rain. The big pubs downtown were just closing, but we found a "brown bar" where the party was still going full blast. People getting down to fun, cheesy Dutch pop music! The crowd was, well, perhaps a bit dodgy. The place looked like Jack Regan, or perhaps Van der Valk was going to come in and arrest someone. He'd probably start with the guy who put his arms around us and welcomed us. He had that kind of emaciated, heroin look, and had "PSYCHO" tatooed across his neck. But he was super friendly to us. So we stayed for a couple beers (certainly far cheaper than in respectable Dutch bars) and might even have moved about a bit, if not exactly danced. But then the music switched to bad electronica, so we retired to our hotel and crashed.
To be continued...
|Tuesday, June 29th, 2010|
|wonderful weekend in N Bohemia
First off, please excuse my long absence.
Second, I wanted to tell you that we spent a wonderful weekend in the Lusatian Hills, at a party at a pension run by the partner of one of my oldest friends in this country. (Honza from Club Borat days, if any of you know what I'm talking about). On Saturday he had a DJ but actually I prefer Honza's own record collection, which is very eclectic. (Has anyone heard of a Balkan band called The Hawk and the Hacksaw? Sounds like a British pub. They have a song called God Bless the Ottoman Empire.) The weather was perfect. Eve and I went on a little 10km or so hill walk Saturday, and a more leisurely walk with on Sunday with a couple and their baby. I'd known the couple for years but hadn't really talked to them, so it was very good to make friends with them. There was lots of good food, and I saw a lot of other people I hadn't seen for years.
|Sunday, January 3rd, 2010|
|one of those Prague things
First off, Happy New Year and all that jazz.
Something happened the other week that I've been meaning to tell you about. It was the 30th and I was in Cheesy, the local Dutch cheese emporium. They will serve you wine if you buy the bottle and 3 guys there had been taking full advantage of this. All I wanted to do was pick up a small piece of Gorgonzola (yes, not all the cheese is Dutch) and maybe a nice piece of boerenkaas. But one of the three guys pins me and starts telling the whole story of why they were getting drunk, shifting to passable if drunk English when he figured out I was a foreigner. It was about 5 minutes before closing and the 2 teenage girls behind the counter probably wanted to leave, but this guy pulls out a wad of notes and plops a 5000 on the counter along with an entourage of lesser notes to keep it company. Since he also insisted on buying another bottle of wine and pouring me a glass, I reckoned I'd be polite and listen.
So these three guys were getting drunk because their friend Karel had just died. Karel had been this splendid fellow who had owned a disco since back in Communist days. He was a wonderful fellow who'd give you the shirt off his back and had lent my interlocutor money to go into business even though Karel was in his 50s and this fellow was 25 and had no experience.
But Karel had one fault, and that was that he was a raging alcoholic. He wouldn't even drink good stuff. He'd buy the cheapest, highest proof rubbish (zelenak, tuzemak, off brand vodka) available in the Republic and drink himself into a stupor. This is why even though Karel had given him his start, the guy I was talking to had to break his business relationship with Karel. Meanwhile Karel drank more and more and had worse and worse health problems until finally he went into hospital with some kind of problem in his belly. I couldn't tell what and this guy wouldn't even tell me in Czech, he just pointed to his own belly. I think from the way that he pointed in several places like there were holes, some sort of fairly major gastric ulcer may have been involved.
Karel was in the hospital for a couple of weeks and when he got out, he celebrated with a binge of vodka and fresh pork cracklings. An ambulance took him back to the hospital, and he died.
|Monday, November 10th, 2008|
|Vietnamese market destroyed
There has been a vast fire in the 25 hectare Vietnamese market complex on the southern limits of Prague, near my workplace. See this article
This market was a major source of Asian foods, especially fresh vegetables, that were not readily available anywhere else. And the 'pho and bun cha diners were well worth the 9 minutes' bus from my workplace.
Worse of course is the impact on the local Vietnamese, both in terms of huge economic loss and in the loss of one of their major cultural centers.
Fortunately the no. 2 Vietnamese market complex, a mere 8 or 10 hectares in Malesice, is still in business, selling horrid synthetic clothing and dangerous plastic toys to village retailers from throughout the Czech Republic and towns in the nearer bits of Slovakia, Poland and former E Germany. And selling pho, bun cha, bun ca, and Chinese street food to the likes of us.
In a related note, went to a neighborhood Chinese restaurant the other night as the staff were having their dinner and got the extra gai lan
(Chinese broccoli) that they had bought for themselves but not cooked. The waitress was surprised we knew what it was. Truly the king of Chinese vegetables, and they did it proper "crisp-soft" style, with just a little soy and some lemon juice.
|Monday, June 16th, 2008|
|Holiday in Devon
Just back from a lovely short holiday in Devon, visiting my in-laws. My mother-in-law took us up to Dartmoor for a walk up and around Wistman's Wood. This is a tiny wood about the size of a large suburban back lawn in the States, but it's inhabited by twisted, stunted trees and a remarkable variety of mosses and ferns. It may be a remnant of what all Dartmoor was like before people and their sheep changed the landscape, though on the other hand it is much rockier than most of the moor. People also say it has survived because it was sacred to the Druids or some such and the locals didn't want to take their sheep there. On the other hand, it may just be too rocky.
There was also much drinking of real ale in nice pubs and wandering around Exeter. They had a craft fair on the Cathedral green, and Eve was happy to find represented a local farm that would sell her raw wool she could spin. She thought you couldn't buy raw British wool as it all had to be sold to the government's Wool Board, but evidently this only applies to white wool. The farm itself, West Yeo Farm, sounds pretty cool--besides various wool from rare breed sheep, they sell organic beef and pork from rare breed, free range animals. I'd provide a link but their web page is down, silly hippies.
Pubs we went to include:The Beer Engine
in Newton St Cyres, same village as Quicke's Farm, where we got cheese.The Crediton Inn
, where Gary the bartender vaguely remembered me from 18 mos ago. I couldn't remember his name so, in a pause in bar conversations, asked him if he was the fellow who drove the fire truck into Fordton bridge. (I remembered that, just not his name.) Hilarity ensued, and it was worth the pint of Carling I forfeited to him by asking the question. - You can get an @crediton-inn.co.uk email addy if you want!The Double Locks
, a lovely family pub (big outdoor playground) on the banks of the old Exe canal. Round trip on a canal boat from Exeter Quay is only a fiver. phonemonkey
never took the trip, probably because it's one of those things locals never do. The boat trip is very nice and the pub is like a huge country pub but still within Exeter limits.
photos are on my Photobucket. Note that only the first 7 Devon photos are new.
|Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008|
|Package from H_M
I forgot to post a public thanks to hemlock_martini
for the package he sent about a month ago. I specifically asked for some Old Spice High Endurance Original Scent, which for some odd reason is available neither in Europe nor in any part of the States I've been back to the last 3 years (AZ, Ohio, Boston, NYC) but is available in St Louis. Go figure.
He also sent a cool mix CD of lots of recent American music that neither phonemonkey
nor myself had heard, plus a ton of plastic tchotchkes. Here are the plastic dinosaurs and other animals he sent, in a Ken Ham Creationist museum-style diorama in my shared office:
|Monday, February 25th, 2008|
|Accents; Kentucky is Ohio's Mexico
We were in Bukowski's on Saturday night with an English actress/musician named Lucy and various people coming in and out of the room. Lucy was playing Spot that Accent and for an Englishwoman wasn't too far off with mine (she said Michigan) but thought Eve was from the Midlands of all places. Eve says she's been sitting next to a girl from Leicester at work this week, so she might have picked up a few vowels from her.
Anyway, an older American came in and Lucy thought he was from Raleigh, NC. I thought he wasn't Southern enough and would have said Tennessee or Kentucky. In fact, he was from Fairborn, Ohio, all of 20 miles from my own home town. Completely different accent! And he was the second person I have met in Prague from Fairborn, and they both had Kentucky accents.
The answer is simple: though his family are from Ohio, he lived in a very blue collar part of Fairborn and almost everyone there migrated from Kentucky to work in our factories (we have them, Kentucky mostly does not). He even worked in Internation Harvester, which is about 5 miles north of my house.
But that's a strange thing about accents, and maybe it's something you find in America more than in the average European country. You can't always tell where a person is from by his accent, because internal migration creates pockets of accent in places that are dominated by a different accent, and often different social classes in the same place have different accents for this reason. Of course, the stereotypical "black" accent is just a branch of rural Southern.
On Sundays, phonemonkey
and I have the custom of going to the huge Vietnamese market complex in Malesice. Aside from the household supplies and countless dodgy textile stores, they have a couple of Asian grocers that actually sell fresh green stuff (hey, this is the Czech Republic) and some luncheon places that mainly serve the market workers. We usually go to the one at the end, where we sit huddled over a formica-topped table and watch Vietnamese state TV while having a big bowl of pho ba (beef noodle soup w broad rice noodles), or construct-your-own bun cha (crispy barbecued pork belly, not greasy at all, in a marinade, along with a bowl of rice vermicelli and a plate of greens. You spoon the marinade on the noodles, break up some greens on top and eat it with a slice of pork belly.)
This Sunday we had enormous bowls of bun ca, fish soup with rice vermicelli. They make it from carp, the local cheap farmed fish. Normally I avoid carp as it is rather muddy and has a mushy texture, but the soup is made from tiny crispy fried bits of carp, in a broth with hot peppers, tomatoes, dill, onions, garlic, and scallions.
The pink lump in my bowl was a big cake of fish roe. I don't know if it was carp roe, which I never would have thought about eating, but it was certainly edible, whatever fish it was. Probably carp just due to the size. I shared my roe with Eve, who never met a fish egg she didn't like.
Note also the condiments on the table, including a bowl of crisp fried onion and hot pepper in oil (white bowl in background), which makes pretty much anything delicious.
This Sunday, we were surprised to run into Glen Spicker, "Little Glen" of U maleho Glena (Little Glen's) jazz club and Bohemia Bagels fame, at the hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese luncheonette. He gave us the useful information that the adjacent luncheonette made salads to go, and the rather colorful lady who runs the soup joint doesn't mind you bringing a salad from next door. We'll have to give that a shot next time, along with ordering "small" rather than "large".
(Crossposted to my Sun blog.)
|Sunday, January 20th, 2008|
|How to know you've been listening to too much BBC7
BBC 7 plays old archived BBC radio shows.
I've just been listening to "Lines from my Grandfather's Forehead," a Ronnie Barker vehicle from 1972.
It started with a parody of the Paul Temple Mysteries
, a series of horridly long and gratuitously complicated multi-multi-part mysteries broadcast on the radio (by different actors of course) in the 1930s-1960. Ronnie Barker did a spoof of a final episode of a series, and it was perfect
. Hit absolutely all the Paul Temple cliches. I was laughing out loud.
I have no justification for getting that joke.
Edited to add, we were listening to a parody of The Archers...on Beyond our Ken...recorded in 1959.
|Tuesday, January 8th, 2008|
|Back from Asia
and I were in Asia for 20 days before I started my new job at Sun. Hong Kong->Bangkok->Chiang Mai_>Bangkok->Macau->Hong Kong. We had an absolutely splendid time but we need to spend much, much longer in Thailand. It at least gave us a flavor for the place. Speaking of which, we never ate better in our lives. We also took a one-day cookery course in Chiang Mai that was very good indeed.
I'm sure phonemonkey will post something more detailed, but anyway, here are some links to photos:Hong KongThailandMacau
|Sunday, December 23rd, 2007|
|In Chiang Mai
Having a splendid time. Visited Doi Suthep (monastery on hill) but though sunny it was quite hazy, so both city and hills were perceived but dimly. Cool place, though.
Got some excellent dress clothes from quite a posh tailor, at least according to traveling businessman sites like this
and others. Eric, the Thai fellow I know through Travian online, says his German friend gets everything there. They didn't know he had moved to Chiang Mai and I was very happy to find out he had. Has quite a nice new modern factory on the outskirts, gave us a tour. Very personable, we talked a long time (nicely Eastern touch). Turns out he knows Macau well, since he's negotiating with the new super-casino/hotels to do their uniforms. Anyway, we selected fabrics and styles and got some bumping stuff. Eve says my old suit looks like I stole it off the corpse of some 75 year old at an open casket do, and my blue lightweight blazer (worn to your wedding and mine) is even worse. I got a dress suit, navy blue same-stripe, made from super-150 thread count wool/cashmere/silk (material made for Ralph Lauren, according to the strip along the edge of the bolt), and a casual grey jacket and trousers made from similar material sans silk. Eve got a very nice burgundy skirt suit, cheaper but longer wearing material. Tailored fitting makes a huge difference! We look damned good in all of it. Came to $882 US, roughly, took 3 visits to the factory and then all was delivered to hotel the evening of 3rd visit.
We've bought a certain amount of crap too, this being Chiang Mai. Looking forward to the Sunday market this evening. Even the crap looks nice and is comfortable, though some details (such as buttonholes) will need to be redone properly.
There's been no alcohol served or sold in the entire country since 6 pm last night until midnight tonight due to the elections today. Hopefully the Army will accept the results (though I have some sympathy for them. How often does a military kick out a far-right-wing populist government instead of installing one? Thaksin et al were way corrupt, more stuff coming out every day. The opposition Democrats, which the Army would be happier with, are much more liberal both in the classic sense of their economic policies and the American sense of not thinking extra judicial killings and unlimited police powers are very nice. The King agrees with the latter, which may be one reason he let the coup slide. However, outside of the urban elite, extra-judicial killings of "drug dealers" and populist economics are way popular. So the post-Thaksin PPP will almost certainly win, unless the Democrats can put together a more reasonable coalition.
Oh, the heat wave has broken, which also means we've started to eat properly. Or we may have just got used to it, since officially it is still 31 in the day and 19 at night. But there's a cool breeze all day.
We went to the more local-oriented big markets past the flower market day before yesterday. Went to the big wet market where they sell fresh coconut milk, fruit, fish, meat, etc. Very interesting. One entire set of stalls selling just different types of garlic and shallots. Went back in the evening to mingle with the local teenagers and a few foreigners at the food stands. Might be the most pleasant set of food stalls I've seen here, though sadly many of them are take-away only (no seats). It's much more relaxed than the central night markets. We still got a grilled whole fish (one of those pink ones they grow in local aquaculture, you see them live in tanks) and ate it with our fingers sitting on the embankment. It was absolutely delicious, very nicely seasoned and with an interesting bundle of herbs in the body cavity. We later tried the nicest looking fried chicken, on a friend's recommendation. And he was right, it is the best I've ever had. Fried to a turn and brilliantly seasoned. I don't understand how KFC survives here, except for the A/C.
However, we did pass on the fried vermin stall (silkworm, locust, cockroach. Given their size, I can kind of understand why people thought of deep frying them, though...)
Went to the Chiang Mai cookery school yesterday and the lesson was excellent. Making curry paste is much, much faster and easier than our efforts to date have been, but it does require a big stone mortar and pestle (or a powerful food processor if you are making it in quantity). Happily we can get one at the big Vietnamese market complex in Malesice or the bigger one in Libus, which is a 9 min. bus ride from my new place of work. We made Panang curry and it was delicious! Also made deep fried fish with basil sauce (the boss of the school actually was in charge of the deep frying part, we only dropped the pieces into the wok and made the sauce. Well, I wouldn't trust a bunch of n00bs with a wok full of boiling oil.), Chaing Mai chicken curry (quite easy, will use up our tub of red curry paste) and yam woon sen (glass noodle) salad. Funnily enough, the last one was the only one that gave us any trouble, partly through trying to slice the onion as thinly as possible, partly because the glass noodles clumped up a bit. The way to treat them is to boil them one minute, strain and transfer immediately to a bowl of cold water, but I don't think we had time for them to cool quite properly and they stuck together a bit.
Oh, while some few people might eat cockroaches here, no one eats carp.
Interesting expat situation in this town, mostly American retirees. Very heavily male dominated, much more so than Prague. Mostly happily married to a local girl and running some sort of business. Talked with a very nice fellow from Montana who owns a 2nd hand bookstore here. Property around Chiang Mai is very very reasonable indeed. You can get a full blown modern suburban house on 300 or so square meters for about 3 million baht, which I think is about 2 million crowns, or 60,000 EUR. Flats doubtless cheaper. Even Bangkok seems slightly cheaper than Prague, at least for high-end flats, though it is many multiples more expensive than here.
We're going white water rafting tomorrow morning, should be back a couple hours before the train leaves. Couldn't book anything on another day...well, I couldn't be arsed to go visiting all the different agencies, when the lady across the street from the hotel was very pleasant and we were very satisfied with our Doi Suthep tour. We have to come back here some time though, as we've barely scratched the surface of places to visit. I'm not quite sure how I feel about "hill tribe tours," though. I'm sure they can use the money but something bugs me about people's entire way of life being a tourist attraction. A couple ethnographers living there for a year or more is one thing, but group day trips are hardly participant observation.
Next time though I think we make use of the burgeoning budget airlines to get to Chiang Mai, and maybe first go to Ko Samui in the South and try to book a trip to one of the islands that are national parks. You can get direct flights between Ko Samui and Chiang Mai. The train is slow and bouncy, and not as cheap as it used to be.
Well, I think I should go out and enjoy the day now.
|Thursday, August 16th, 2007|
|London, 1841 - Bangkok, 2001
I've recently read the draft of a friend's book, set in 1840s London. This fed into a discussion I was having with Trumpton over the qualities of Theodore Dalrymple's writing. Dalrymple, in short, blames a rise of yobbish entitlement-queen subproles on the abandonment of 'traditional values' by the middle-class, giving the working class nothing to aspire towards. That may be something of an oversimplification of Dalrymple's actual position, but then again you could say his position is a pretty gross oversimplification itself, so fair enough...
Anyway, I commented that London in 1841 was chock-a-bloc with traditional values of personal responsibility and a very hands-off government but had a tremendous underclass. Trumpton said that this isn't relevant, as there was no real judicial system keeping criminals in check etc. Still, I fed this conversation back to my friend who wrote the book, and this is what he said:
One thing I realised when doing the research for this book--mostly a long trawl through Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor and Dickens's journalism--is that what most people think of as Victorian virtues were in fact the simple facts of life for most people. They had to be thrifty because they had no money. They had to have a good work ethic because wages were low and they did not eat if they did not work. And quite frankly most of their employers were utter tossers. The other thing that's interesting is how insecure everybody except the very rich were- even lawyers and other professionals plunged into poverty with alarming regularity.
London was the most dangerous city in the world during this period...
I am constantly getting into arguments with people over this sort of thing at the moment. My communist friend John insists that 150 years of capitalism have only made the world worse for the vast majority of people. To which my response is go read a history book or even Engels' Condition of the Working Class in England. (Another book I read during my research frenzy and a damn good one too.) Of course, in a sense he is right, in that there are more people in the world and thus more people living in poverty, but I don't think he means it that way.
The strangest thing I got from reading Mayhew was when I read his descriptions of the city and I thought, I know all this, there's something familiar about these street markets and the bars full of hookers and the vast crowds of people. How is it possible for it to seem so familiar to me 150 years later? Then I realised that London was the world's first modern third world city. It was Patpong in Bangkok and the night market in Chiang Mai and the tougher parts of Cape Town all rolled into one and without the nice weather and with a lot more hideous disease. And people kept handguns under their pillows for self-defence. Seems inconceivable now but there you go.
Well, that's an interesting thought. London as the world's first modern third-world city. If there is something in it, isn't it worth asking how we got from London 1841 to London now and what the lessons are for the rest of the world?