Tuesday, January 02, 2007

we had everything but dick clark

The New Year is the biggest holiday of the year in Thailand. So big, in fact, that they celebrate it three times: Western New Year on Dec. 31/Jan. 1, Lunar New Year, and Songkran. We've passed from 2006 to 2007, from 2549 to 2550, and in February we'll pass from the Year of the Dog to the Year of the Pig.

Needless to say, such an important event calls for celebration. The university's staff New Year party was quite an event. Some pictures:

The appetizer tray, which included very little that Brother-in-Law and Sister-in-Law could eat.

Members of the office support staff performing a dance together.

A colleague from the finance office performing a traditional Thai dance.

yellow is for monday

I don't think I've mentioned the yellow shirt phenomenon here before. 2006 (2549 by the Thai calendar) was a special year for H.M. the King of Thailand. He celebrated 60 years on the throne, as well as his 80th birthday. He is beloved and revered by Thais, and there was a lot of celebrating. One of the ways in which people showed their support for the King this year was by wearing shirts in the King's color, which is yellow.

In Thai tradition, the day of the week on which a person is born is very important. It's very roughly analogous to an astrological sign. Everybody here knows what day of the week it was when they were born; try asking a roomful of Americans that question. Days of the week are also associated with colors. The King was born on a Monday; Monday is yellow; therefore the King's color is yellow. The Queen of Thailand was born on a Friday, and around her birthday each year the whole city turns light blue. But because 2006 was such a special year for the King, the yellow flags, banners, T-shirts, and other items were in sight all year long, and not just for his birthday.


New Year's Eve in Bangkok was less than festive this year.

Husband, Brother-in-Law, Sister-in-Law, and I were here and didn't hear about the bombings until the next morning when we read it in the newspaper.

As before, I'm going to abstain from running my mouth off about a situation I don't fully understand. Opinions? I've got them. But I'm keeping them to myself.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

raw octopus with a side of puppy

When I was performing in West Side Story a few months back, I had lunch with several members of the violin section. As I mentioned before, the concertmaster was Japanese, and he was employed by the touring company, while the rest of the section was Thai and was employed just for the run in Bangkok.

Well, the concertmaster got to talking about all the foods he'd eaten while on the tour. He said he thinks Chinese people eat really weird food (and at this point my unruly inner monologue couldn't help but think, "Dude! You're from Japan."), and went on to say that while in China he'd eaten a scorpion (my inner monologue conceded the weirdness of that, but failed to come up with a relative weirdness score for scorpion versus, say, pickled sea cucumber). But now he was coming to his real point, which was that he'd recently learned that some people in Thailand eat dogs. He couldn't believe it! Fuzzy, friendly, companionable dogs. How could anyone eat a puppy?

At this point the two Thai guys at the table started to giggle. One of them admitted to enjoying a meal of dog now and then, and the concertmaster was horrified.

"Not a doggy! But I love doggy!"

The giggle dam burst, and the Thai guys started laughing out loud. One of them replied, rubbing his stomach,

"So do we!"

Saturday, December 23, 2006

the ankle bone's connected to the...oh @#&@*$!!

  • The camcorder plugs into the wall socket.
  • The firewire cable plugs into the camcorder.
  • The computer plugs into the... no it doesn't.

We've borrowed a camcorder from some friends. Unfortunately we can't seem to get the data from the camcorder into our computer to burn a DVD, because the firewire jacks on the camcorder and the computer both require the smaller firewire plug, while the cable has one each of smaller and larger plugs. We decided to try USB instead.

  • The camcorder plugs into the wall socket.
  • The USB cable plugs into the camcorder.
  • The computer plugs into the USB cable.
  • The data travels from the...no it doesn't.

Well, everything got tethered properly this time, but we still couldn't transfer the data. Why? It turns out that this camcorder (and many others), while it can be attached to a computer with a USB cable, will not lift one lousy finger to transfer video in this manner. USB can only be used to transfer still photos from the memory card.

  • Husband and maikaojai get into the taxi.
  • The taxi drives us to the mall.
  • We walk from store to store, brandishing our inadequate firewire cable and pointing at the small end, personifying the stereotype of the crazy farang harassing the hapless Thai sales associate.
  • The mall has no firewire cables with two small ends.
Brother-in-law and Sister-in-law are arriving in Bangkok tonight for a visit, and we've asked them to bring along this kind of cable, which Husband assures me is to be had at the magical kingdom of Fry's Electronics. Stay tuned for updates; if it doesn't work, you may soon find yourself reading a post titled "Do you KNOW how much camcorders cost?"

where have you gone, maikaojai dimaggio?

Where have I been?

Where have I been?

I'm remiss. I've been neglecting my readership (both of you). But somehow I don't think you've missed me--like me, you've been preoccupied by a much more important event:

the birth of NIECE!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

thai people top it with ketchup

I have never liked pizza. (Yes. I'm a communist. Happy?)

As a child I wouldn't eat it at all. Everyone said that going to college would cure me of that--how could one go to college without eating pizza?

It didn't.

Going to college, where Little Caesar's had made some kind of back room deal with the food service department, so that students could order pizzas with the money from our meal plans, taught me that pizza delivery places will make pizzas without cheese! Bread, sauce, and vegetables--almost as good as a plate of spaghetti. No grease, no nasty cheese burns on the roof of my mouth. This was the pizza for me.

My friends thought I was crazy; the Little Caesar's guy kept trying to assure me that they had lactose-free cheese and I didn't have to "do without."

I was happy until I discovered the purpose of the cheese: to hold all the tasty mushrooms on the pizza so they don't fall off and splash sauce on your shirt every time you take a bite! This, however, only convinced me I'd better eat my cheeseless wonder with a knife and fork. I was steadfast.

Then I got married.

I married a normal person. That is, one who likes to eat pizza. This is when I decided that pizza, like loud music coming from upstairs and failed internet connections, was one of those things I could put up with on occasion. Marriage is about compromise, right? Well, if Husband could eat my failed kitchen experiments (remind me to tell you about the one he calls "ass soup"), I could eat pizza every now and then. Ah, wedded bliss.

Moving to Thailand has done what college, projectile mushrooms, and marriage could not: I now look forward to eating pizza. I think it's because it's American. Husband and I have also both started eating olives. We used to pick them out of our salads in restaurants; now we both eat them. Likewise, pizza.

Since we've been here, our town has become slightly more farang-friendly in the way of food. A pizza place has opened up near the university. Friends who own a restaurant nearby tell us that this pizza place has been raking it in hand over fist; turns out my relatives were right about pizza and college students, just not about me.

I can't look at their advertisements--they're so repulsive! Pizza with corn. Pizza with squid. Pizza with little hot dogs inside the crust all along the outside edge. But they do make a reasonable facsimile of American pizza: it has mushrooms and green peppers, and you just have to tell them to hold the corn and pineapple. Husband and I have ordered this pizza twice, and both times I've enjoyed it much more than I expected to. This is despite the fact that I can tell that the cheese, the sauce, and the crust are all inferior to pizza I've eaten with much less enjoyment in the U.S. The difference? Now it tastes like home.

(And yes, it does come with little packets of ketchup, which is intended to be squirted over the top of your piping hot slice. I've seen my students do it. Yeccchh!)

the brown bomber he's not

Mother-In-Law sent me an email to tell me she liked the changes to the blog. However, she was a little confused as to the presence of what looked like a theater named after an American boxer on my list of sites to see in Bangkok.

I hope that this will clear things up:

Joe Louis Theater

gold leaf

This is a small Buddha statue at Wat Phra Keaw (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok). It looks like the gold leaf is flaking off, but that's not what's happening. The hands in the picture are actually adding a small square of gold leaf to this Buddha's head.

This is one type of Buddhist "good deed" called making merit. Giving alms to monks is another way of making merit; donating to a temple would also fall under that category. But adding gold to a Buddha is certainly the most picturesque. People do this when they come to the temples to pray. It's always the smaller images like this one that get the gold leaf added to them--no one presses gold leaf into the massive Reclining Buddha at Wat Po, for example--but you can see statues like this at just about any temple.


Here's a web site Husband found in the wee hours last night. It's essentially a catalog of books the site's members own or have read. Based on the data it has, it will make recommendations to you: you type in a book you've read and it will give you other books read by people who've read that one. The really interesting thing is that it will also give you unsuggestions: books that never appear in the libraries of people who've read the book you've typed in. What have I learned?

  • Evangelical Christians don't read Umberto Eco.
  • Tolkien readers don't like Mary Higgins Clark.
  • There are a lot of knitters on LibraryThing, and they don't seem to share my taste in books.
  • I am willing to spend 15 minutes (so far) looking at titles and authors of books that don't often appear on shelves next to my favorites.