Saturday, August 09, 2008

Thailand - Addendum [Pics from Cindi's Photographic Eye.]

Cindi is back online and up in Chiang Mai, and posted up some stuff bout mine and Sandy's trip.

Our instructions were to "walk slowly." Our natural photogenic charisma shines though, methinks.

Rowr! [I am an excellent photographer.]

Essence of Thailand. Great pic.

Friday, August 08, 2008


A jihad I can get behind. The Unitarian Jihad.

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Battle Axe of Engaged Reflection. What's yours?

"Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only one God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary.

Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them...

People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea?

...We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes.

Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues.

...We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone.

...People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution."

Yeah, I'm a geek, but this means I'm a geek who'd blow your head off if someone paid me enough.

Your result for The Supervillain Archetype Test...

The Professional

Cool, Levelheaded, Lethal

The Professional is the most dangerous of all villains. You do what you do better than anyone, because, as a Professional, you have standards.

The Professional is like the Crook in that they both desire money. But the Professional wants more than that. The Professional wants job satisfaction. It isn't sadism really, he just wants to be sure that the job is done, and done well. No hard feelings, it's just business. Professionals prefer to work alone, but will work in groups if given incentive.

The greatest weakness of a Professional is risk. A Professional is business-like, but can't resist a challenge. They often use the word "worthy opponent". People like that are easily baited. And if a Professional is eventually cornered (not easy to do), they might lose it.

Sample Professionals: Deathstroke, Bullseye, Revanche

Take The Supervillain Archetype Test at HelloQuizzy

People are pattern recognition systems.

Even when there aren't any patterns.

And in the absence of actual patterns, they make them up. So then, people are lying machines. Or in the words of Gregory House, "Everybody lies." Even when they don't know it.

Or people are storytelling machines, if you want to be kinder. Or meaning-making machines.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is people tend to make shit up a lot.

Stuff like this fascinates me.


Also, it explains God. So there's that.

Hit & Run > How FISA Feeds Fabulists - Reason Magazine:
In [Daniel] Dennett's more interesting and suggestive game, one person, the subject, is selected from a group of people at a party and asked to leave the room. He is told that in his absence one of the other partygoers will relate a recent dream to the other party attendees. The person selected then returns to the party and, through a sequence of Yes or No questions about the dream, attempts to accomplish two things: reconstruct the dream and identify whose dream it was.

The punch line is that no one has related any dream. The individual partygoers are instructed to respond either Yes or No to the subject's questions according to some completely arbitrary rule. Any rule will do, however, and may be supplemented by a non-contradiction clause so that no answer directly contradicts an earlier one. The Yes or No requirement can be loosened as well to allow for vagueness and evasion.

The result is that the subject, impelled by his own obsessions, often constructs an outlandish and obscene dream in response to the random answers he elicits. He may think he knows whose dream it is, but then the ruse is revealed to him and he is told that the dream really has no author. In a strong sense, however, the subject himself is the dream weaver. His preoccupations dictated his questions which, even if answered negatively at first, frequently received a positive response in a later formulation to a different partygoer. These positive responses were then pursued.
What's that got to do with warrantless surveillance? Faced with random stores of information, investigators will feel driven to tease out a narrative. The wider the net, the more fertile the ground for storytelling: Delusion will be rewarded, biases confirmed."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Thailand - Miscellany [and on being serviced by two Thai ladyboys.]

Random thoughts and observations on the Thailand trip.

The King worship is just creepy. You can see his majesty's visage on the side of the building below. Just one of many places he'll be staring down at you in Bangkok.

Before movies you have to stand for national anthem. All while watching Hallmark like video montages proclaiming "We love the King!" I'm sorry, I don't care what you chalk up to cultural differences, that kind of cult of personality and enforced patriotism nonsense is just absurd and creepy.

And to prove I'm an equal opportunity hater, I have equal disregard and disdain for such stupidity as the national anthem in the USA before sporting events.

Here's a tip - free of charge, you're welcome - neither your patriotism, country, or whatever you think your country means has a damn thing to do with scoring a touchdown, hitting a homerun or whatever else you do in a game. Nor does, - and here's another digression - your invisible sky daddy care about the score of your sporting event. Or, for that matter, your sex life, dietary choices or your Oscar. Please STFU.

And I carry equal disdain for the British and American public's ongoing interest and/or deification of Princess Diana.

Enforced, mandatory patriotism and/or religious worship is about as meaningless and inauthentic as you can get. The province of insecure worshipers and small minded authoritarians. It'd be ridiculous if only it wasn't the source of so much murder and death throughout history.

Okay, enough stupid soapboxing... on to...

Ladyboys! Kathoeys! Yes, Virginia, they are all over Thailand. Saw a bunch on the trains, subways, etc.

I, myself, was serviced by two of them.

One was a waitress/waiter [the approved nonmenclature escapes me] at a restaurant. The other gave me one of my Thai massages. Which you might consider to be slightly disconcerting, what with my Catholic-raised heteronormative upbringing, but honestly, all it really meant was "stronger hands = better massage."

Oh, wait... by "serviced" did you think I meant something else? Oh my. Some people.

No pics though. I thought that woulda been rude.

Oh, and in case there's any confusion - Kathoey - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"The term kathoey or katoey (Thai: กะเทย, IPA: [kaʔtʰɤːj]) generally refers to a male-to-female transgender person or an effeminate gay male in Thailand... It is most often rendered as ladyboy in English conversation with Thais...

The term can refer to males who exhibit varying degrees of femininity — many kathoeys dress as women and undergo feminising medical procedures such as hormone replacement therapy, breast implants, genital reassignment surgery, or Adam's apple reductions. Others may wear makeup and use feminine pronouns, but dress as men, and are closer to the western category of effeminate gay man than transgender.

...Kathoeys are more visible and more accepted in Thai culture than transgender or transsexuals are in Western countries or the Indian subcontinent. Several popular Thai models, singers and movie stars are kathoeys, and Thai newspapers often print photos of the winners of female and kathoey beauty contests side by side. The phenomenon is not restricted to urban areas; there are kathoeys in most villages, and kathoey beauty contests are commonly held as part of local fairs."

Sandy's monk obsession. She very much wanted pictures of monks, and I don't quite understand why.

I will cop to taking this picture though.

Thailand certainly did activate my white liberal guilt circuit though. Lots of beggars and panhandlers. Some just tugged at the heartstrings. Moms begging with their babies. Really young children begging. People missing hands, legs, feet. Burn victims. I'm a pretty soft touch for people who clearly have caught a rough break in life. Whenever I had change I'd try to drop the coins in peoples cups, but I can still picture exactly which people I wanted to give to when I didn't have any change on me. Regret is obviously useless, but, well... you know.

Another random thought... Jr and I used to joke - Suuuuure we'd go to Thailand - once our wives divorced us, given Thailand's shall-we-say 'reputation' of debauchery and sex tourism. And no, as a married dude on a three day jaunt with the wife I certainly wasn't exposed to the underbelly or nightlife, but honestly, it didn't strike me as very different as any other place I've lived. Of course, you might chalk that up to 4 years in Hawaii and going on 5 in Japan. Though I will say, just from walking around observation, Thailand does rank up there with both Hawaii and Japan in the "apparent pretty girls per capita" ranking. Which does, to the best of my recollection, beat the hell out of the mainland US.

Slightly along those lines, advertising without the Judeo-Christian body-shame guilt complex. All out in the open, in the middle of a shopping center. Funny, too.

Elephants, national symbols of Thailand. Everywhere...

The skywalk in Bangkok was pretty cool. Gave some cool views. And much nicer than walking the [occasionally] litter strewn streets.

All I need is a comic book.

Sandy wishes you peace.

And we're done. The End.

And they were suspended and not fired because?

Cop demands free Starbucks coffee :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Chicago Crime:
"A Chicago Police officer has been suspended and ordered into counseling after she was found guilty of demanding free Starbucks coffee from six different stores on the North Side from 2001 to 2004, sometimes flashing her badge, displaying her gun and screaming at employees.

...— Officer Joseph Battaglia was suspended for more than 15 months after he was found guilty of telling Trotter’s to Go restaurant employees in 2004 that he had confiscated “weed” and asked if they wanted some."

Best comment came from where I found it on BoingBoing - Chicago cop suspended for screaming at Starbucks, demanding free coffee, flashing her badge and gun - Boing Boing:
"Can't we at least make a rule that behavior that would land a citizen in jail would at *least* get an cop fired?"

This is what that "Click here to subscribe" button on the right hand side is for - "RSS in Plain English."

RSS and feedreaders - I use Google Reader - have indeed changed the way I surf the net.

I now waste far too much time much more efficiently than before.

Though, seriously, the shift has actually changed the amount and way I process information. You know, in my brain meat. Whether that is actually a good thing or a bad thing, who knows? But it is a different thing, so that makes it interesting.

Great, short video for explaining the "how to do it."

*Update* Forgot to mention where I came across the vid - standard blogging etiquette, that. Came across the vid on another JET blog, where he talked about learning about RSS. Check out his tale of technological illumination here.

Thailand - Our last meal out - Vientiane Kitchen.

Vientiane Kitchen Review | Bangkok | Fodor's Restaurant Reviews:
"This open-air restaurant named after the capital of Laos is set under thatched roofs; there's table seating or you can opt for traditional seating on floor mats. Laotian cuisine is similar to the Thai food found in the country's northeastern province of Isan. Among the Thai-style standards like grilled chicken, sticky rice, and som tam (spicy papaya salad) are a few riskier dishes like Nam tok (waterfall) -- so called because it's so hot it makes your eyes run like a waterfall (however, it's actually toned down here, so don't think you can order it in Laos and still feel your tongue afterward). Other dishes like frog soup and grilled duck beak are actually quite good, despite the images they conjure up. It's best to go with a group so you can share several dishes. Live Laotian music and dance add to the experience."

Good place, good food. The curry was particularly excellent, I thought.

See that dish in the center?

That's the chili sauce that Sandy thought was a sweet and/or sour sauce.

Which led to trying to quench the fire in her mouth with this.

And this.

My deep fried chicken with salt. [Seriously, that's the name of the dish.] You can take the boy outta the south, but you apparently can't take the south outta the boy.

Chicken in coconut sauce.

Their most excellent curry.

The [lucky?] cats that were roaming about. Here's when they were neath the table.

[And Sandy's foot. You're welcome.]

Thailand - Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine.

A shrine? That means my wife wants to see it.

And it is... well, I'll let someone else describe it.

Bangkok's Penis Shrine, aka Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine:
"The Penis Shrine, otherwise known by its real name the Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine, is hidden away in Nai Lert Park next to the hotel of the same name, the Nai Lert Park Hotel (used to be the Hilton Hotel). The shrine was originally dedicated to Chao Tuptim, a female animist spirit who people believe has been residing in the banyan tree next to the shrine for hundreds of years."

Now that's just intimidating.

And it puts our local penis shrine to shame, it does.

Thailand - Khaosan Road.

So the tuk tuk took us over to Khaosan road, ostensibly for more... wait for it... yes, shopping.

Khaosan is a pretty big rip off though. As far as goods go, things were pretty overinflated, even compared to other tourist places we hit.

Khaosan Road - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"Khaosan road or Khao San road (Thai: ถนนข้าวสาร) is a short road in central Bangkok, Thailand. It is located in the Banglamphu neighborhood (Phra Nakhon district) about 1 km north from the Grand Palace with Wat Phra Kaew. It has developed over the years into probably the most profound worldwide example of a 'backpackers' ghetto', with relatively cheap accommodation compared to other areas of central Bangkok. The accommodation varies from 'mattress in a box' style hostels, to full Western-standard luxury."

Irony is when a Thai lady yells "no pictures" when you take a snap of the oh-so-very authentic IDs they're selling all over the place. Yeah, whatever you say, lady.

Cindi did get a good deal on some leg waxing though. Aren't you glad you know that?

Thailand - Tuk Tuk time!

Sandy wanted the tuk tuk experience, so prime Thailand haggler Cindi talked down a driver to a reasonable price.

Auto rickshaw - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"An Auto rickshaw or tuk tuk (auto or rickshaw in popular parlance) is a vehicle for hire that is one of the chief modes of transport across many parts of South and East Asia. It is a motorized version of the traditional rickshaw or velotaxi, a small three-wheeled cart driven by a person, and is related to the cabin cycle."

Tuk tuk action shot!

Thailand - The Grand Palace.

Grand Palace - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"The Grand Palace (Thai: พระบรมมหาราชวัง, Phra Borom Maha Ratcha Wang) is a complex of buildings in Bangkok, Thailand. It served as the official residence of the king of Thailand from the 18th century to the mid-20th century. After the death of King Ananda Mahidol in the Grand Palace, King Bhumibol moved the official royal residence to Chitralada Palace. Construction of the palace complex began in 1782, during the reign of Rama I."

Their version of the Buckingham Palace guards. Poor guys don't twitch or move a muscle. Out in the hot sun. Stuck with goofy farang [that's Thai for gaijin] tourists taking pictures with [and of] them all day. Like me. Sorry dudes.

They also had some no-joke military around and about as well.

No magazines loaded in those M16s, but those bayonets are real enough.

Thailand - Wat Phra Kaew Temple.

Again with the temples.

Obligatory trip big face pic.

Wat Phra Kaew - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"The Wat Phra Kaew (English Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Thai: วัดพระแก้ว; full official name Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram, Thai: วัดพระศรีรัตนศาสดาราม) is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple (wat) in Thailand. It is located in the historic center of Bangkok (district Phra Nakhon), within the grounds of the Grand Palace.

The construction of the temple started when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok in 1785. Unlike other temples it does not contain living quarters for monks; rather, it has only the highly decorated holy buildings, statues, and pagodas."

Model of Angkor Wat.

Emerald Buddha - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"According to legend, the Emerald Buddha was created in India in 43 BC by Nagasena in the city of Pataliputra (today Patna). The legends state that after remaining in Pataliputra for three hundred years, it was taken to Sri Lanka to save it from a civil war. In 457, King Anuruth of Burma sent a mission to Ceylon to ask for Buddhist scriptures and the Emerald Buddha, in order to support Buddhism in his country. These requests were granted, but the ship lost its way in a storm during the return voyage and landed in Cambodia. When the Thais captured Angkor Wat (following the ravage of the bubonic plague), the Emerald Buddha went to Ayutthaya (Cambodian historians record this as a gift to the Siamese King), Kamphaeng Phet, Laos and finally Chiang Rai, where the ruler of the city hid it. However, some art historians describe the Emerald Buddha as belonging to the Chiang Saen Style of the 15th Century AD, which would mean it is actually of Lannathai origin."

The Emerald Buddha, below.

The gold flakes off the buildings, drifting through the air and landing around and about.