Tuesday, July 7, 2009

"The Rounds", July 12, 2009

All-Thailand Yellow Pages

A quick note to pass long the URL for an all-Thailand online Yellow Pages I ran across; the link is to the English version, but Thais have the option of choosing the Thai version in the upper-right corner of the page. I don't know how exhaustive or up-to-date this directory is, but given the difficulties of obtaining phone numbers here -- calling Directory Assistance can be a maddening exercise in utter futility -- ANYTHING'S gotta help:


I found this at www.escapeartist.com, a site with which I was not previously familiar. The page where I got this Yellow Pages link has a lot of other telephone info from around the world, so let me give you that URL as well:


Again, I don't know how current the over 700 directories the site claims to access are, but there it is for your perusal. Hope it helps.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009, 4:17 P.M.

Flat-Rate Primary Medical Care: A Good Idea?

Just read an interesting story online headlined "Seattle doctors try flat-rate no-limit primary care" over at www.reuters.com that set me thinking, given the raging debate in the US -- and concerns about soaring medical costs in many countries. (I hope the story link works; I had to manually type in the URL in a dialogue box, since a serious shortcoming of this blogging service is I can't copy-and-paste stuff. If it doesn't work and you want to read the story, try going to Reuters homepage and searching for the article using the headline.)

Sounds interesting. Customers pay a flat US$99 to join, then pay a monthly preium varying from US$39 to US$119, depending on just two straightforward factors: age, and level of service. No one is turned down for pre-existing conditions.

At the most basic level, this isn't very different from the concept behind Thailand's 30-baht health scheme, introduced by former (and deposed) PM Thaksin Shinawatra; as I understand it, it provides much the same, and maybe a bit more (though that's murky to me, as my Thai friends who've used it have had differing experiences).

One big difference, however, is that 30-baht program is doomed to bleed government coffers; at current exchange rates, 30 baht is just US$.90 -- yep, 90 cents, nowhere near enough to break even, not even here -- while the Seattle outfit expects to make a profit. Given that the story saises they've lined up about $7.5 million in venture capital, clearly some other folks feel the good doctors are on to something, too.

I suppose one possibility that would contribute to the bottom line is that there are patients who don't use, in terms of money, as much as they've paid. For instance, if a person on the US$119/plan got, say, a simple, common injection and that's it for the entire year, the clinic would be out the cost of the injection, salaries for a few minutes, and those more esoteric things accountants worry about (depreciation, etc.). Presumably, those expenses would be way lower than the US$1,428 the patient paid in over the year.

Thai readers out there -- and I know some are -- you might think about that, even if you love the 30-baht scheme. After all, it's doomed to bankruptcy sooner or later, unless tax revenues go through the roof, and you know the middle- and upper-class would fight *that* tooth-and-nail (especially since if you can read this, in English, and have a computer, you're almost certainly in one of those classes yourself, so you just KNOW I'm right!) Maybe your representatives would consider some plan whereby you pay -- to pull a number out of the air -- 15,000 baht a year for the top plan. (Hey, don't wince -- think what you blew on your BMW, and how much you pay for half a dozen bottles of Johnny Walker and brandy at your club every weekend! ) *I* darned sure would pay it, were it to be available to foreigners. Heck, I'd even pay a (*reasonable*) "foreigner tax" -- maybe another 10,000-15,000 baht/year.

Are the Seattle doctors nuts? I don't know; the economics of health care just seem to get murkier and murkier the more I read, in an apparently vain effort to educate myself a bit about the subject. I suppose if they can pay the bills and take home a decent income -- "decent income" in light of the many years they spent in medical school and the wheelbarrow loads of bucks they spent for the privilege -- then maybe it'll work.

If it does work, and the model spreads, it would benefit the rest of us. We wouldn't have to pay for people who rush to the emergency room for a hang nail, as now happens way too often. It might mean our taxes wouldn't go up so rapidly. (I reckon they're never gonna go *down.*) Better use of medical resources. No government involvement. No insurance companies.

Ah . . . insurance companies. Predictably, those that have addressed this development oppose it (surprise, surprise). According to the Reuters story, anyway. Just as I imagine carriers here in Thailand would oppose a parallel plan here, especially the heavyweights (which include, for instance, the global BUPA Blue Cross-Blue Shield).

The downside? Well, if you're away somewhere and need even just primary attention, unless you carry some back-up insurance, you'll be stuck with the entire bill. I know you can buy accident insurance if you fly (for example), but I don't know about regular medical coverage; never thought about it. And if such coverage is available, I don't know if it's available to people who aren't traveling on a plane, cruise ship, etc.

But I bet if this model catches fire, insurance companies will be quick to figure out policies designed just for people who choose to use clinics like the one in Seattle.

Take a look at the Qliance -- that's the Seattle clinic -- website if you're interested in a bit more information. (By the way, don't ask *me* to explain the weird name; I don't have the slightest idea!) I just now looked, after writing all the preceding materials; the site itself says the monthly premium varies from US$49 to US$79; don't know why the discrepancy with the Reuters story, since Reuters is almost always a reliable news source.

Anyone in the Seattle area use these folks? If so, I'd love to know your experiences and opinions.

Tuesday, 4:12 P.M., July 7, 2009

Novel Transports for Marines -- and Needed Ones for [Some] Squaronians!

Just read my second story of the day about Marines training with some fine, um, "special forces."

Namely, donkeys and mules. Don't blink like that -- DONKEYS and MULES. You read right the first time.

"Huh?" you incisively ask? Well, just settle in, and I'll tell you. (And I'll get to the bit about Squaronians in a bit.)

A donkey (also called an "ass,") is a member of the horse family, whereas a mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. On rare occasion, a female donkey crosses with a male horse; the result is a "hinny." But I guess it's essentially a mule, anyway.

We can began to see some obvious connections to Squaronians already, as some of us can sometimes be real asses, just as some of us can sometimes be mule-headed! (Calm down, Squaronians; I won't name names, except to identify myself as a regular instance of both, so SMILE! And put down that damn beer bottle, willya? . . .) But moving along . . .

Why on earth are Marines training with donkeys and mules? Well, as the war in Iraq winds down, the focus is shifting to Afghanistan, where donkeys, particularly, are a favorite, centuries old method of transport, because of the rugged lay of the land: lots and lots of rugged, soaring mountains. And both donkeys and mules are very, very good at negotiating treacherous mountains, even where there aren't paths.

The Marines will probably favor donkeys once they're dispatched to the theater of operations, largely for the simple economic consideration: according to the story, a good donkey costs only US$5.00 in Afghanistan. (The story didn't say how much mules command, but I assume it's substantially higher, enough so as not to be such a good deal, even though donkeys, which max out at around 400 pounds (around 180 kilos) can't carry as much as a mule, while mules weigh in in the 1,000-pound (roughly a tad over 450-kilo) range, so can carry larger, heavier loads than a donkey can.

This isn't the first time these beasts of burden have served the Marine Corps. One of the most fabled Marines in the history of the Corps was Sergeant Major Daniel Daly, who enlisted at the end of the 19th century and served a full career, taking part in combat action from China (the Boxer Rebellion), during which he received the Medal of Honor. Some 15 years later, ambushed by Haitian bandits as he was leading pack animals -- my sources don't say whether donkeys, mules, or both -- Sgt. Maj. Daly; his conduct in the ensuing battle earned him his second Medal of Honor -- making him one of only 19 men in the history of the American armed forces, all branches included, to be a double-recipient of the nation's highest military honor. No slouch (obviously), he also had a few other medals, including the Navy Cross (which for nonmilitary types is aolmost as big a deal as the Medal of Honor), a slew of others -- and three from the French government during World War I.

Well, let's switch from history to current affairs, and from combat in far-flung China, Haiti, and Europe to the more immediate environs of Washington Square.

Since donkeys and mules as strong and reliable, just imagine: with a trained stable of the beasts, stabled in the Square, of course, any Squaronian who had become, um, "rather too festive" to try to make his way home, even in a taxi, he could take a "donkey-taxi" or "mule-taxi" home. (Since many Squaronians know maybe three words of Thai -- which includes me -- when they're stone cold sober, words which of course disappear into the ether when they've merrily imbibed at length, and words which are useless for giving directions anyway.)

I can just see it now. I'll use me as an example, since I live near, which meekps it simple. Besides, by using me, I won't get beat up. Let's say I feel I've had a modest overage after downing three beers, a Jack-and-water -- and 28 Underbergs. A couple of the bar maids sigh once they figure out I'm wanting to head down Soi 22 home, so they come around to help me to the stable. But I dig in and demand another beer. That's the mule part.

A sixpack later, I really, truly think I have to go home. Well, maybe not think, exactly, mind you, but pure instinct kicks in.

So, the ever-patient lasses give it another go, this time succeeding in getting me to the stable, where they run into a problem as they decide to use a donkey -- but then have to figure out just who the ass is!

That properly sorted, they help me slither up on Mr. Burro -- another name for a donkey, for Yankees and other foreigners who don't know < ;-) >, and Mr. Donkey, having been down this road, literally, before, strikes out for my apartment. I, meanwhile, croon love songs to the night air, thrilling everyone who's trying to sleep with my rendition of "La Cucaracha." (La cucaracha! - La cucaracha! - Ya no puede caminar!) Which is apartiucularly appropriate ditty, at least that line, as "ya no puede caminar!" translates as "I can't walk already!" Our Thai hosts almost certainly won't know that, but never mind.

And my triumphant arrival back in my compound even brightens the night for the guards who sit outside the night through, not exactly the most thrilling job on the planet. (Which I know from experience, having worked on construction sites, for example, as a guard all night, on 12-hour shifts that often stretched out longer, when my relief got hung up in traffic. But I didn't have some foreign jackass riding up on a burro singing "La Cucaracha" to break the dull monotony.

Anyway, if the guards are properly appreciative of my one-man jackass show, I might even treat them to my rendition of "La Bamba"!!!

Hey! I just had a flash! We could have a second stable, this one at the airport, so donkeys could bring us to the Square after our sojourns an Spring Airline's barstool-equipped plane! Hmm. Wonder if I can figure out a way to tie an ice chest onto a donkey behind me. . . .

Wednesday, July 8, 2009, 12:55 A.M.

Travel Advisory: UDD Protestors Planning Birthday Party for Thaksin

The private pro-Thaksin Shinawatra group UDD is planning to hold a birthday party for the former prime minister on his 60th birthday at the Sanam Luang, which is located in front of the Grand Palace on Ratanakosin Island in the Chao Phraya River (a.k.a. "The River of Kings") and is one of Thailand's top tourist destinations. The oval-shaped area has been called "the nation's front yard," as it is the scene of many celebrations, such as for the birthdays of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen. Open to the public (normally), it is also a place where one can see activities such as traditional Thai kite flying.

The planned celebration is causing some disagreement, however, which could spell trouble. The government is saying the UDD can't celebrate there, as preparations for Her Majesty the Queen's birthday, which falls on August 12th (and which is also Mothers' Day here in Thailand, by the way), will be in full swing. The UDD is arguing this is discriminatory treatment and in fact is based on the government's dislike of the group, whose sole purpose for existing is to see Thaksin able to return to Thailand without having to serve any of the time to which he has been sentenced, in abstentia, or to face further charges arising from his tenure -- and, they hope, to return to public office.

Whatever the truth may be in that dispute, one fact is clear: preparations for the Queen's birthday indeed will be in full-bore mode (involving all of Sanam Luang). That leaves no room for other activities. (Thailand celebrates the Queen's and King's birthdays in truly grand style -- the celebrations are truly beautiful, and very nice.)

There is one consideration for would-be visitors: though it's not my purpose to assign blame, it's a matter of record that UDD gatherings over the past several months have sometimes been magnets for disorder and even some violence. Naturally, charges and counter-charges fly thick and fast, but that's of no concern to the holiday traveler (or business traveler looking for a spot of relaxation, "far from the madding crowd" [to steal from the book title penned by Thomas Hardy].

Chaos and the potential for violence are very much of concern, however. That's why I never go anywhere *near* such events, nor would I (I suspect) even were I Thai and very interested in such matters.

Thais on holiday in the capital on that date will have to make their own call on whether or not to steer clear of the venue should the UDD in fact go ahead with its planned birthday party for the deposed prime minister. This is their country, and they can darned well go if they wish, though if the party is on, I hope they don't have any trouble, whether they're politically interested or not.

As for foreigners, well, we don't really have a dog in this fight, except, to a degree, those foreigners doing business here, or living here, or who have some other long-term involvement with the Kingdom. But I feel that one and all, regardless of the nature of their connection with Thailand, steer way clear of not only Sanam Luang on the 26th, if the UDD bash goes ahead, but any such event. You're just asking for trouble. Look at the tens of thousands of travelers stuck at Suvarnabhumi Airport last year during demonstrations by the UDD (called the "Red Shirts," by the way, as that's the color shirt they wear, to distinguish themselves from another group opposing them that wears yellow shirts).

It's probable that a foreign onlooker doing no more than watching the scene unfold won't have any trouble beyond jostling in a crowd. But foreigners sticking their noses into the, um, "festivities" are bound to enrage *someone,* even if they're simply trying to keep, say, an armed demonstrator from attacking someone else. Want to carry a protest sign for one side or another? Ba-a-a-a-ad idea. A really bad idea. Again, that'll enrage someone or the other, bad enough as a generality (since an enraged person may bring harm your way). And hoisting a sign might displease the authorities, and given that we, as foreigners, have no rights except those the Thais choose to grant us, we can be in deep, deep dookey if we cause the police or military (or, worse still, both) to become unhappy.

SO -- if you're planning on being in Bangkok on the 26th and you want to visit the Grand Palace and environs, it would be an excellent idea to check to see if the UDD event is on or not first. If it is and you can switch to another day, that would be a most excellent course of action. If you're going to be in-and-out and have only that day to take the tour . . . well, I say "forget it." But if you insist on wading into the thick of things, you're well-advised to keep the lowest poosible profile and to keep very, very quiet. And remember: you go at your peril -- there have been a few deaths -- allegedly -- at past events. (No foreigners, not that I know of, but still . . .).

By the way, to emphasize the possibility of trouble, the Bangkok Post is running an informal survey from yeswterday through tomorrow asking if the UDD should throw the party; as of now, the results are split almost exactly 70% "No" and 30% "Yes"; that poll is reinforced by a more scientific one conducted by ABAC University that shows an 81% disapproval rate.

2:30 P.M., Same day: A few headlines have popped up, some reporting that Thaksin has told the UDD not to celebrate his birthday after all -- but he has reportedly asked them to avoid or stop something yet they gone ahead or continued, so, we'll see. Also, other reports say that some in government are criticizing (again) the UDD for seeking a Royal pardon for Thaksin. Anytime anyone mentions the royal Family or any member ofit, especially His Majesty the King, and anything remotely controversial in the same breath, eyebrows shoot up. His Majesty, much beloved of the people (including a lot of us foreigners), is regarded as the leading moral authority of the Kingdom by far, and as such, miles above any sordid political fray. The UDD is playing with fire on that, in my and about a gazillion other observers' collective opinion, even among some observers otherwise sympathetic to UDD goals.

Call the current situation a "Yellow Alert," to borrow from the US' Department of Homeland Security M&M alert system. If matters ratchet up -- let's switch to the US military lingo -- I'd say DEFCON 4, which is, essentially, "lock-and-load" status, or very high alert. That means you, anyone planning on being here then and wanting to frolic around the vicinity involved.

Thursday, July 9, 2009, 1:04 P.M.

Memorial Party for the Late George Pipas Thursday, July 23, 2009

Damn. It's hard to realize that we're almost at the one-year mark since George was so rude as to leave us.

But here we are, come just 11 more days.

Anyway, George's beloved Mary Ann wants to commemorate the occasion in the way George would appreciate, i.e., a bash in his honor and memory Thursday, July 23rd at the Texas Lone Staar.

Haven't spoken with Mary Ann directy myself, but Paul told me about it yesterday. He didn't know the exact kick-off time then, but if this goes as things usually do, I suppose it'll start midafternoon -- three-ish, say.

Mary Ann inexiplicably had the cape buffalo head that was mounted above George's seat taken down and stored in his bedroom at their house here in Bangkok, but we're going to try to convince Mary Ann to have the driver mount it again, preferably for good, but at least that day.

After all, the thing is forever a symbol of George himself!

Check back here if you either live here and want to come, or if you're planning on visiting around then and want to drop by and hoist one in memory of The Old Boy.

Burt will try to say a few words, though of course he'll get all choked up and be unable to continue. Various of us are trying to get in touch with Ken "Montana" Sevenski to do likewise, as he's quite articulate even when he's *also* completely awash. (With too much, um, "special tea" -- he drinks tea and vodka. Hey, don't look so aghast -- it's actually pretty darned good!) I'm sure Bear will offer a phrase or two, if he's around (and I imagine he'll make it a point to be here) -- he's got either a silver or forked tongue, depending on one's point of view.

George really is missed. Khun Oi, one of his oldest employees with approaching a quarter of a century of service, overhead us talking about the party, and she got all quietly teary-eyed. Whether you loved him or hated him, you damned sure won't forget him, will you???

And with that, I think I'll go live and call it a day. . . .

Sunday, July 12, 2009, 9:10 A.M.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"The Rounds," July 4, 2009

Well, it's been a good long while since I wrote anything, so I thought I would.


First up is a story about a domestic low-fare airline in mainland China, Spring Airlines.

Now, you my quite reasonably ask, "I'm wanting to read about THAILAND, or at least BANGKOK, not China! What gives???"

Well, I just ran across a story online headlined "'Barstool seating' on a Chinese airline?" Talk about a natural for Washington Square and Squaronians!

You see, it's obvious that one of two things has happened, or perhaps the two did: (1.) Squaronians fame continues to spread far and wide, or, (2.) Some Squaronian slipped up behind the Bamboo Curtain and consulted on cabin design on the airline's sole type of aircraft, the Airbus 320, or (3.) Both of the above.

Let me take these backwards, though I'll lump 2 and 3 together. I figure # 2 is HIGHLY unlikely because (1.) Squaronians are essentially a lazy lot, and, (2.) No self-respecting Squaronian wants to get that far away from the Square. (The airline is based in Shanghai.) Those automatically eliminate the third possibility I listed.

Elementary, my dear Watson.

So, that brings us back to # 1, which in a glimpse of the blindingly obvious I realized of course can be the One and Only True Explanation.

For those unfortunate amongst readers who've never had the glorious, epiphanic* (look it up!) experience of visiting Washington Square and getting to know The Squaronians, Squaronians are quite fond of their barstools. They may not actially sit on them very much, mind you; they may fling a leg atop one, or they may lean against it, and, once enough cups of their favorite libation has passed their lips, they may even, finally, sit on it (an act of quiet desperation, one implying the booze has won . . . again).

Spring Airlines is perfect for Squaronians. Well, the name may not be all that appropriate; no spring chickens around these parts, and few, if any, Squaronians have much in the way of spring left in their steps, and fewer still spring for everyone's bar tab. HOWSOMEVER -- were the airline to lay on a flight to Bangkok, one with an A-320 fitted out with barstools instead of boring old airline seats, I bet every flight would be full. Of Squaronians (and wannabes, who are legion). And I guarantee the flights would be full if also (1.) they didn't go anywhere -- just circled Bangkok a few hours, (2.) the airline provided helicopter transfers between the airport and Washington Square (well, okay, to the helipad atop the bank building on the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Sukhumvit Soi 33, diagonally across the street from the front gate of the Square), and (3.) provided free booze (instead of being the cheap charlies they presently are).

Don't know quite how a seatbelt works on a barstool. Maybe they'll put a chrome pole on sliders (explanation in a minute) that can lock in place beside the barstool, and the Squaronian can strap in with the seatbelt attached to the pole and his barstool. (All Squaronians are men; the women belong to the "Suffering Squaronians' Wives Club.")

Before I forget, a word about the bit about chrome poles on sliders. Chrome poles are best known around here as being physical support systems for bored a-go-go dancers who all specialize in that exciting dance, "Shuffling-While-Chewing-Gum-and-Looking-Bored-Out-of-My-Mind."

On any Dragon Land-Bangkok flight, the cabin crew would all have to be young, beautiful, enthusiastic Chinese Dolls who love to dance (besides the aforementioned one, I mean; we can see that in thousands of places here without bothering with an airplane). While cruising altitude is reached -- 1,000 feet would be fine for us, since that's high enough to clear any buildings etc. around Bangkok, and low enough to reach take-off-your-seatbelt-altitude quickly so we can unbuckle ASAP and get the chrome poles locked into their primary position, a foot or two away from the barstool -- the chrome poles magically transforming from being seatbelt supports to their more historic purpose.

Then it's SHOWTIME, and the hostesses -- please, no katoeys ("lady-boys," or transsexuals, to the ignorant and uninformed ) hit the poles. Since their uniforms for this special flight are a-go-go outfits, they're good to go as soon as the "Fasten Seatbelt" signs go out. Of course, the plane will have to be overstaffed, by normal standards, since even a regular Airbus 320 (based on Phillipines Air's 320-200, version 1**) seats 144 in Economy and 12 in Business. Get rid of the worthless business and replace them with Economy seats, and the number goes up 168, from 156. Now, rip ALL the seats out and replace them with barstools and chrome poles. I reckon we can squeeze 190-200 guys aboard, with plenty of room for the ladies (the ones working; no lady passengers allowed on this flight). I reckon about 60 hostesses ought to be enough; they could take turns dancing and serving drinks -- shifts, if you will. (Hm, with that many hostesses, may have to cut the passenger number back some after all. Som nam na to those left-on-the-tarmac!) ("Som nam na" means "Tough, Buddy," in this context.)

Man oh man -- Spring Airlines ought to love us! Well, maybe not the trashed cabins and restrooms, but never mind minor details.

I just had another idea: these flights could be for members only! Of course, all bona fide Squaronians would have automatic (and free) lifetime membership. The wannabes and simply curious could pay, say, 2,000 baht per year into a General Fund for Squaronians when they're broke and thirsty. (Since everybody knows everybody's business, that wouldn't be hard to keep tabs -- no pun intended -- on! )

And the planes. Planes have to have names. No need to paint a name on each plane -- I envisage a small fleet of them -- since the nose could have one of those holders you slide a long, rectangular piece of plastic or metal into with whatever you want written on it, so the name can rotate from flight to flight. The inaugural flight could be named "The Rabbi," in honor, of course, of the lately (and deeply missed, no joke) George Pipas. And we can't forget people such as "Ba Burt [Burt Nestle]," "Papa Bear [Bear Hudson], "Taffy" and "The Warden" [both Taffy, which is enough ID on him!] . . . and then we come to Riley, who's difficult to nickname because there are so many possibilities: "Louisiana Riley," "Cajun Riley," "Bayou Riley," "Gumbo Riley," "Jambalaya Riley" orm "Mr. Lek" -- those all spring to mind. I might even graciously allow one to be named "Mekhong Kurt."

None of those boring Chinese names like "Beijing [Northern Capital]," "Tianjin [Heavenly River -- the Chinese name for the Milky Way], or my ex-wife's name, "Zhang Xia," which is pretty easy in Mandarin, but means a mouthful in English: "The red glow you see in the western sky on rare occasion after sunset." Well, okay, maybe some Mandarin names, such as "Mei Nu Chuan" -- "Beautiful Ladies Aboard"!!!

Too bad I can't embed the remarkable Susan Boyle's performance (runner-up in the recently concluded "Britain's Got Talent" -- Britain's version of "American Idol" -- contest) singing "I Dream the Dream." (The link takes you to the YouTube video of her performance -- and it's WELL worth watching. Boyle is extraordinary, as evidenced by the fact that the video is from April 11, 2009, but according to a video website tracking service (and this was maybe 3-4 weeks ago), globally, the video had been viewed in the range of -- are you ready for this -- over 200 million times! A few mninutes ago, I saw on YouTube alone the views are over 27 million. Among other things, it's a real humbler -- teaches us something about hubris, pride.

Anyway, Squaronians' airline dream is a bit less ambitious. . . .!!!

* Okay, Lazy Boy, I'll save you the trouble. An epiphany is "a moment of sudden and great revelation." If you don't know what "revelation" means, tough stuff. " "Epiphanic" is the adjective form of of "epiphany." What??? You don't remember what an adjective is? Don't you remember anything Miss Bertha Glottaferbenshein taught you in 8th-grade English? . . . . Oh, sorry; plumb forgot you got permanently expelled in 3rd grade for sitting fire to the teacher's hemline while she was at the blackboard with her back to the class. . . . Well, let's see. "Epiphany" is a noun -- the name of something. Like "bargirl." (I'll stick with easy words, one you recognize instantly.) Now, you can't say "She's sure one epiphanic bargirl," though she may lead you to an epiphany, but never mind that. But another adjective that does work here is "hot," as in "She sure is one hot bargirl!" (An adjective is a word describing a noun, but you probably figured that out already.)

** As a somewhat serious note aside, let me tell you that if you're flying somewhere and aren't familiar with the particular aircraft on that particular airline, Seat Guru does an excellent job of explaining cabin layouts on just about every aircraft flying commercially -- and includes pictures. It's broken down by airline first, then by type of aircraft. Take a look. When there are several variants of the same plane, such as a Boeing 747, which comes in several flavors, it helps to know that model number to be sure you'll get what you want when you book your flight (Boeing 747-300, Boeing 747-400, and so on). Class dismissed.
Well, that's what Burt and Jan told me, anyway.
My birthday happens to fall on June 25th, and Burt's falls the next day, June 26th. For quite a few years now we've always linked up, together with his daughter, the lovely Khun Jan, and had a blast together.
This year was a wet blanket for me. My birthday fell on a Thursday. So, we were supposed to go out that evening -- unusually, since Jan's flight schedule (she's an air hostess -- hey, she can be Head Hostess for our Spring Airline flight!) is unpredictable and often is such that we have to shift to be sure to be able to include her in the festivities -- and stay out until past midnight, so as to celebraqte both birthdays in one go.
One Party Boy was absent: Yours Correspondent. As in "moi."
I woke up with a terrible case of Bangkok Belley the Monday before the birthday, and it flat knocked me out of commission. (More about that later.) I didn't even try to call, but just before midnight on the 25th, Jan called me. Explained my situation to her, wishing I could be there; she and Burt were at the Texas Lone staar. But I just wasn't up for it. But at least Burt and I got to exchange birthday greetings over the phone.
I haven't been debriefed on their debauchery yet, but once I am, I'll be sure to post the really juicy bits here -- and those of you who know Burt know there were some juicy bits to pass along!
As I said, I woke up the Monday before my and Burt's birthdays sick as a dog. In fact, I wonder if I didn't have some kind of stomach or intestinal virus, especially since I hadn't eaten any street food in several days -- in fact, I had eaten only at home, and that was large cold-cut sandwishes and hot dogs, Also, I've had Bangkok Belly in the past, but never anywhere near as knock-me-on-my-but as this bout.
The first couple of days were the worst; I could barely walk, for pete's sake. Which made rushing to the hong nam -- restroom -- every 20-30 minutes a real thrill, groping my way down the hallway, clinging to the wall.
That went on for about three days, but even after that, I fell way short of 100%.
On the bright side, had circumstances been a little different, I finally could have achieved my star-dust dream of being an astronaut. You see, when I was plopped down on the commode and . . . ahem, "had the facilities fully engaged," I could have self-propelled myself into at least a sub-orbital flight! (Luckily, no retro rocket on the other end, my mouth -- no vomiting.)
On my birthday I actually felt a little better, as I should have, since I had spent the great majority of time the preceding three days in bed. Well, and in the restroom, where I dozed at times so I wouldn't have to shuffle up and down the hall every little bit. But I was afraid to push it, which turned out to be a good move on my part. . . .
. . . . because I relapsed Saturday night. Not as bad the second time around, but unpleasant enough. After another few days feeling rough, I began pulling out of it pretty good.
It's the wee hours of the 4th of July as I write this, and I'm basically okay. No, I am okay. But I'm still not pushing it; just hanging out at home and taking it easy.
To put this little episode in context, I've been here just over 15 years -- June 12th was my 15th anniversary in the Big Mango (As Christopher G. Moore calls Bangkok) -- and today (Saturday the 4th) is the THIRTEENTH day since I last was in Washington Square, a record absence, except for the four times I've been in the States visiting and the Sep, 1999-June, 2000 time frame, when I was shuttling back and forth between here and southern China.
I haven't even seen Soi 22 where my sub-soi connects to it. Heck, I've been out in the sub-soi only twice, to go to the 7-Eleven. Bends in the sub-soi plus the arrangement of its intersection with Soi 22 keep me from seeing Soi 22 from 7-Eleven. I wouldn't have gone even so far as 7-Eleven were lunch meat and bread available in one of the two mom-'n-pop shops in my compound. A lot of days I haven't gone outside my apartment at all -- shoot, never even put on clothes, except my undies, socks, and shower shoes I wear for house slippers. (I know, I know -- socks: weird. But the shoes are rubber, and my feet sweat quite a bit. That's not comfortable, plus it's slippery. So, I wear socks with them, just like I wear them with my strap-on sandals I wear when I go out into the streets.)
Somewhat to my pleasant surprise, I haven't had even a moment's feeling of cabin fever. Of course, when you're trying to hang on to the commode so you don't blast off into the bathroom ceiling, you have other things in mind than being cooped up. But I haven't been like that all the time, as I said earlier. Even on good days, I haven't felt any special urge to get out.
It's turned out, happily enough, that I'm okay fooling around on my computer, surfing the Internet; watching TV; reading; stuff like that. I even washed some dishes! (Shock, shock!)
I haven't been utterly alone. My maid and her girlfriend came over the afternoon of my birthday, not to maid-maid, but to see how I was doing, and to spend a bit of time with me on my birthday, knowing my plans with Burt and Jan were shot to hell. That night, they even persuaded me to drink some beer -- not much, mind you; tasted halfway like piss. (Unlike the one I had yesterday, the only other alcohol I've had since I was last in Washington Square. Yesterday's slaked right down and tasted great. But after the one big bottle, I could feel it -- tolerance goes quick. And that's okay, too.) Anyway, it was nice of them to come. Especially my maid, who lives way to hell and gone out in the distant, remote, not-so-easy-to-get-to outskirts, out in the jungle with the monkeys. Her friend lives right here in my compound.
So, I'm well on the way to full recovery; I reckon I'm 90-95% operational now.
Thank goodness.
Sure ain't in a hurry for another go around with the Bangkok Belly . . . or whatever it was!
Well, I'm going to be pretty useless on this one, given my lengthy absence from the Square. I have talked with Burt several times, and Taffy called Thursday, so I haven't been completely incommunicado. Apparently everyone's doing okay; neither Taffy nor Burt reported anything at all, much less anything of a newsy (read: "gossipy!") nature.
I do know a few Squaronians who aren't around every day have been around. "English" Ken has been in town. So has Davey, from Phuket, who does manage to get up considerably more often than Ken does from England; after all, Phuket is a spot closer! Bear came down from the jungle on the outskirts of Surin midweek, and will be here through the 4th, anyway. As I said, Burt was in the Square on "our" birthday, and has been there a time or two other times during my absence. Nigel was around a day or two ago (or sometime this week, anyway). I think Taffy said Deano, the Qantas pilot, was in this week, though I don't know if he was outbound to London or back inbound to Sydney, which means I don't know when he might be back through -- when he's outbound, we know he'll be back in 2-3 days. But when he's on his way back to the Land of Funny Animals, no one knows. (Australia and Madagascar jointly hold the title for "Oddest Animals in the World.") Not even him, not for sure. I think Libya Dave is back off to fly around that Desert Paradise; Louisiana Riley has gone to work on his month-on/month off rotation (I think -- that was his plan last time I saw him just over two weeks ago, as I recall).
Will try to report more next time, by which time I expect I'll be popping into the Square again, if not every day from now on. I kinda like hanging out at home, sitting around in my undies, like a barbarian!
A Smile from an AIRLINE??? Air New Zealand "Pulls It Off" (So to Speak)
There hasn't been any good news for passengers from the airlines in . . . well, I forget just when.
Air New Zealand's marketing department must have geniuses aboard. They done a safety video -- you know, the video telling you to stow your carry-on luggage in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you, how to fasten and unfasten your seatbelt, telling you to obey instructions from crew members -- blah-blah-blah, all that stuff that bores us to tears and which we ignore after the first or second time we fly. Commercial, anyway. (I guess back seat in a fighter jet is a whole different cup of tea!)
But Air New Zealand has come up with a safety video that'll keep you riveted. Here are some sample headlines that will, um, "reveal" why:
--- "Bare essentials of safety" video leaves Air New Zealand uncovered
--- New Zealand airlines issues nude safety video
--- Air New Zealand flight attendents get naked
--- Air New Zealand staff bare all to get flyers' attention
--- This is your Captain streaking
--- Naked truth about flying: Air New Zealnd crew strip off to present "bare essentials of safety"
(I swiped these headlines from Google News.)
The video is hilarious, and makes us smile at ourselves when we realize they're fooling around with some of our, um, "more earthy" instincts. (Hubbette, that means sex, Honey; remember that?)
With headlines like the ones above -- they run into several hundred at Google News -- of course we're all primed for some sort of sneak peek. (I do wish professional journalists would learn the difference between the two words "peek" and "peak"! Just an English teacher's bitch . . .)
The atmosphere of the video is very light-hearted, with whimsical, light music tinkling in the background. The content is straightforward, not deviating from the essential points passengers need to know.
I fell for it, I don't mind saying. :-)
So, what's the draw, the attraction? You watch an ordinary safety video for, let's see, I think it's a Boeing 737-300. Life jacket. Oxygen mask -- put yours own before helping any children with you. Emergency lighting strips. That sort of things.
Several crew members are the cast, and they really *are* crew members, not actors. But the hook isn't clear until the very last scene, when the hostess, who has a large role in the video, turns her back to the camera and begins walking away towards the rear of the aircraft.
Look closely for her derriere once she gets far enough away for it to appear in the lowed edge of the view. ("Derriere" means "butt," si vous ne parlez pas francais -- "if you don't speak French.")
Every crew member/actor in the video is NEKKID!!! [naked, for non-native English speakers]. Yep, they're in their birthday suits. When the hostess walks away is the first time this is at all evident, as this is the first time you can get a visual clue: you can see her cheeks. As in tush cheeks, not face ones.
"But," you protest, "they have on their uniforms the entire video!!!"
Nope. Unh-unh. Ain't so.
The trick? -- body paint.
This isn't the first time the airline has used this approach; earlier, in a "Nothing to hide" advertisement, which promoted discount airfares the airline was offering, had the airline's chief executive and others making the pitch -- all in the buff. Except for body paint.
the current ad (and, I presume, the earlier one) is intended for Air New Zealand's domestic market, but someone posted it on the ever-dependable YouTube -- and it went viral, snagging over a million hits in very short order.
It's a really well-done feel-good ad. I've never flown Air New Zealand -- but if they compete on price next time I'm flying internationally to one of their destinations, you can sure bet I'll give them a try! Heck, I've been wanting to go to Australia and New Zealand both for years, and this gives me a little more excuse to do so. If you like the ad, maybe you too will consider flying on their airline.
Hop over the http://youtube.com and in the search box in the upper right, type in "air new zealand safety video" (the quotation marks aren't necessary in YouTube) and you'll get a list -- including some out-take bloopers that occurred while they were shooting this ad, hilarious in its own right.
From my perspective as a writer, it's darned nice to have something pleasant to write about any airline in these days of madness on airlines' part that drive US nuts in turn.
B the way -- I do believe the pilot's HAT isn't body paint, nor any other kind!
Anyone out there driving in Thailand will be glad to know that effective today (Saturday, July 4th), the government's PTT petrol [gas, to my Yank compatriots] stations are cutting prices at the pump by 50 satang (that's 1/2 baht for those unfamiliar with Thailand's money).
The new prices will range from a low of 24.09 baht/lieter for B5 biodiesel 32.94/liter for 91 octane petrol [gas again, Yank, gas]. In U.S. terms, that works out to just a tad above US$2.60/US gallon at the low end to bit above US$3.56/US gallon at the high end.
While the story said other stations are expected to fall in line -- they always do -- it's silent on the price on LPG gas, which is increasingly popular here, at least here in Bangkok, where it's getting easier to fill up as more stations with the proper equipment come online (or existing stations add the equipment).
I'm sure drivers will appreciate the pump relief. Drivers who have to pay for the fuel, not company drivers, whose gas is provided, of course. The government hiked the excise tax back in April by a full two baht, so even this price cut leaves customers paying 1.50 baht/liter more than they were before the April hike.
Hm. Just dawned on me the only fuel I've used for nearly two weeks is "biofuel" energy from my food to power my walking!
Enough for one go. . . .
Mekhong Kurt