Lijit Search

Saturday, September 26, 2009

THAI to Raise Fuel Surcharges

U-Tapao Airport Scheduled for Upgrading

Google Translate Browser Bar Buttons for *52* Languages!

Float Thine Enemies! (Or a Problematic Girlfriend)

Oddities

Dasa Book Cafe Moves to New Location – But Just a Few Meters

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dies, Age 72

Should Prostitution in Thailand Be Legalized? -- One Official Says “Yes”

Thailand to Have a New Airline

Chao Phraya River Delta Said to Be Sinking Quickly Due to Rising Seas and Land Sinking

Flavored-Cigarette Sales Ban Takes Effect in the U.S.

So, You Want to Live Forever? Just Stick Around 20 Years (or So)

Holders of Back-to-Back Tourist Visas But Who Actually Work in Thailand, Beware: Thai Authorities Are Cracking Down

An Idea for Thai Businesses to Advertise – Cheaply: Text Messages (SMS)
Washington Square News
For Folks in the U.S.: A Map Showing Percentages of Uninsured by Congessional District

THAI to Raise Fuel Surcharges

THAI International will be raising its fuel surcharges between US$1.50 and US$20.00 per flight sector effective October 1st, according to a story I read in the Bangkok Post early this month. You can read it at the URL below:

http://bangkokpost.com/business/aviation/23241/thai-to-hike-its-fuel-levy
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U-Tapao Airport Scheduled for Upgrading

In another story the same day, the Bangkok Post also reports that U-Tapao Airport, formerly a military airfield built by the U.S. During the Vietnam War, will be upgraded to handle passengers on a regular basis.

The Royal Thai Navy, which operates the airport, has planned an upgrade for years, but it is only now the budgert has been allocated and work started.

Thailand-watchers will recall that late last year, protesters took over and shut down both airports in Bangkok, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang, and that about 100,000 stranded international travelers were re-routed out of the Kingdom through U-Tapao.

Apparently that incident led the government to move swiftly to upgrade the air base.

At one time, U-Tapao boasted to longest runway in Southeast Asia, at 3,505 meters/10,844 feet.

While this upgrade, scheduled to be completed late next year, won't mean U-Tapao will replace Suvarnabhumi as Bangkok's main airport. That's partly because is 190 kilometers southeast of the capital, so not convenient. However, it's only a short distance from Pattaya, and some flights will go directly to the airport so passengers headed for the seaside resort won't have to travel two or three hours after coming out of Suvarnabhumi.
You can read the story at the URL below:

http://bangkokpost.com/business/aviation/23099/work-begins-on-u-tapao-upgrade


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Google Translate Browser Bar Buttons for *52* Languages!

Pretty impressive, huh?

This is really useful in two ways. First, let's say you're not very good reading English but want to explore a website that's written in English. You can use the button for your language – assuming it's one of the 52 offered, of course to translate everything into your language. Second, webmasters can embed code into their pages so that it can appear in other languages.

For details about those functions, go to the URL below:

http://translate.google.com/translate_tools?hl=en
Also, there's another function that I've found really handy. If you go to http://translate.google.com/ you'll see a dialogue box with two select-a-language boxes side by side directly below it. In addition to being able to use it in the same way you can use the translate button I mentioned above, you can type in whatever you want in your language then click the “Translate” button a bit further right, and what you typed in, say, English will appear in whatever target language you chose. One of my neighbors who speaks essentially no English sometimes comes by and I want to tell her something. I type it in, and presto! -- there it is in Thai!

I had another Thai friend, a bilingual one who can read English pretty well, check it out. I wrote a fairly high-level English paragraph, then had her read that FIRST – I.e., before translating it. Once I was sure she fully understood, I went ahead and clicked on the “Translate” button so she could read it in Thai. And she assured me the translation was very good. I can't read Thai at all, but she wanted to do the reverse, so she sat down and typed out something in Thai and translated it into English, and was more than happy with the result.

(There is one caveat: anyone formally studying a foreign language in school is plain cheating if he or she uses this to translate an assignment.)

Anyone can see all sorts of possibilities. Maybe you're working in a multilingual office and can't verbally communicate with a colleague but need to, and no one's around to interpret for you. Assuming what you want to say isn't so sensitive that there's absolutely zero margin of error. Google Translate could be a real lifesaver in any ordinary situation. It can even be used outdoors, if you have a cellphone, satellite phone, wi-fi computer with a connection available, etc.

I can even see applications in emergency situations, such as a paramedic trying to find out what's wrong with, say, an accident victim.

Okay, the universal translator the characters on “Star Trek” had available it isn't – but it's a significant step towards easing communications between people.

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Float Thine Enemies! (Or a Problematic Girlfriend)

Well – okay; not just yet.

But some scientists doing research for NASA, the U.S. Space agency, went one better than earlier researchers, who had levitated frogs and grasshoppers. NASA's team levitated mice.

Now before my American readers start moaning about wasted tax dollars, there is a serious purpose. With long space flights on the horizon to Mars and beyond, researchers want to learn the effects of prolonged exposure to micro-gravity. We already know that bone density is negatively affected.

Mice are much more like humans, biologically, than are frogs and grasshoppers – that's why they're used in medical trials, right? Therefore, if scientists can learn just what happens and why, then they have a chance to develop ways to counteract the effects.

The article I read (URL at the end of this story) didn't mention this, but I imagine this could have medical applications right here on Earth. In the past I've read speculative scientific articles that people with incurable heart problems might benefit from living on the Moon, which of course has a much weaker gravity than does Earth. The same may be true of people suffering degenerative bone diseases.

If this technology can be scaled up to handle people, and if it's safe, heart and bone patients might be greatly benefited – without having to go to the Moon.

Rookie astronauts might appreciate it, too. Currently, to experience weightlessness without going into space, they are taken up in a specially-equipped jet that climbs steeply to a very high altitude, then the pilots nose the jet into a steep dive rapidly, and for brief periods, passengers in the back experience weightlessness.

Such a jet is informally known, with little affection, as a “Vomit Comet” -- some rookies do vomit!

Imagine the amusement park possibilities. . . !

Meanwhile, let your imagination run wild thinking about how handy it would be to have a “levitating gun”! That big bully about to beat you half to death? -- no problem: just point your handy levitator at him and let him dangle in midair, helpless, until you deactivate the device (after you have an army surrounding you, of course). And when your girlfriend goes nuts because you gave her only one gazillion baht this month instead of ten gazillion and comes at you with a pair of sewing shears, intent on doing serious damage to a very, um, “delicate and personal” part of your anatomy . . . well, wouldn't a levitator be nice to have then???

http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20090909/sc_livescience/micelevitatedinlab;_ylt=Avmh38I82O5wLVsf4rwvEMciANEA;_ylu=X3oDMTE1cmRzYmFwBHBvcwMzBHNlYwN5bi1jaGFubmVsBHNsawNtaWNlbGV2aXRhdGU-

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Oddities

1. Both the world's shortest man and tallest man are both from the same part of Inner Mongolia in China. Saw this first on NHK TV, but you can read about this here:

http://laughingsquid.com/the-worlds-tallest-man-meets-the-worlds-shortest-man/

2. "Repentant man breeds 4,600 scorpions"

Just read the story. It's about Thailand.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090908/od_nm/us_scorpions_odd;_ylt=AgCSoG1dV_oMKAVofBAdwbHtiBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTJsZzhjbGV0BGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMDkwOTA4L3VzX3Njb3JwaW9uc19vZGQEcG9zAzgEc2VjA3luX2FydGljbGVfc3VtbWFyeV9saXN0BHNsawNyZXBlbnRhbnRtYW4-

3. 107-year-old Malaysian Woman to Marry – for the 23rd Time!!!

Just read it, read it. . . .

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090914/od_afp/malaysiamarriageoffbeat;_ylt=ApRKmKpW5q5CVX9PyHdPkkEuQE4F;_ylu=X3oDMTE1aDRuY2RnBHBvcwMxBHNlYwN5bi1jaGFubmVsBHNsawMxMDcteWVhci1vbGQ-


4. A snake with a foot??? So the story claims.
Snake With Clawed Foot Found In China

5.For years there's been a story floating around that NASA spent US$12,000,000 to develop a pen that would write in the almost zero gravity in space. When someone at NASA mentioned it to the Russians, their reply was, “We just use pencils”!!!

Great story. Too bad it's an urban legend. A private U.S. Firm had developed the pen a few years earlier and had it on the market. Both NASA and the Russians paid US$6.00 apiece for them. Or that's one version. Another holds that the maker didn't develop the pen until the mid-1960's – but not at NASA's request.

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Dasa Book Cafe Moves to New Location – But Just a Few Meters

The excellent Dasa Book Cafe has moved a few meters east of its former location on Sukhumvit Road. I haven't had the chance to visit the new location yet, but the books are all second-hand and, therefore, cheap. And they have thousands of titles – over 14,000, in many languages.

I'll use one particular title as an example, since I want to recommend it anyway. That's an excellent, if controversial, biography of China's (in)famous Chairman Mao titled “MAO: The Unknown Story.” Yes, the capitals and italics are exactly as they appear on my copy.

I forget where I bought my copy – though I know I bought it new, so it wasn't at Dasa. Anyway, I paid 550 baht for it, and thought that price a real bargain, considering the book is just shy of a thousand pages long.

Dasa lists it for 350 baht, or upwards of 40% less.

Anyone interested in modern China will likely want to read this biography, which is both exhaustive and scathing. Well-written, it reads more like a good novel than a major examination of one of the most important figures of the 20th century.

To put it in a nutshell, Chang and Halliday not only don't give Mao credit for much of anything positive, but portray him pretty much as an evil, egomaniacal monster. With that, I have no argument. In fact, I might add another negative: insane, in some way.

For instance, one little particularly horrific little tidbit is that at one point, Mao wanted to provoke the U.S. Into invading China, and for the People's Liberation Army to retreat, allowing U.S. Forces to advance deep into the country. Was there a method to Mao's madness? Well, yes, in an Alice-in-Wonderland sense: at that point, he wanted the Soviets to launch a nuclear attack on those forces, wiping them out.

Even the Soviets were horrified, finding it impossible to believe that Mao could so blithely sacrifice untold number of his own citizens. (One estimate placed the possible number of dead Chinese in the 350-million range. And who knows how many ill and maimed ones.) Further, Mao conveniently ignored the fact the the Americans would certainly launch an all-out counterattack against the Soviets.

Where I question the book, to some degree, is in the assessment of other people around Mao, most notably Zhou Enlai, who is assessed to have been as bad as Mao himself.

Given Zhou's reputation, both at home and abroad, during his lifetime and since his death, I find that assessment extraordinary.

Zhou wasn't able to stop any of the terrible episodes during Mao's reign, such as the so-called “Great Leap Forward” or the “Cultural Revolution.” Yet many people believe Zhou mitigated some of the worst excesses of those events, and give evidence to back that up. Further, Mao himself saw Zhou as a dangerous (to Mao) rival, not an adoring lapdog. Chang and Halliday do say Mao saw Zhou as a dangerous rival, but they also say that Zhou was a willing servant.

The book was more than thoroughly researched, as well-demonstrated by the 150 pages of notes. Just notes. Further, it received wide critical acclaim. Further, the authors spent an entire decade of research. Chang is a noted writer, and a native of China – and she lived through the Cultural Revolution, briefly serving in the notorious Red Guards who terrorized the nation. And Halliday is an Asia scholar of great repute.

That said, much, much of the book is excellent, and beyond any reasonable dispute. It should be on the bookshelf of anyone with even a passing interest in contemporary China, including, by the way, the decades before the founding of the People's Republic of China, as it traces Mao's life – Mao was born in 1893, when China was still under dynastic imperial rule. (The utterly corrupt Qing dynasty wasn't overthrown until 1911.)

And anyone with a newfound interest in modern China could do far worse than this book, as one of its greatest strengths is helping outsiders get not only in the thinking of Mao and his fellow revolutionaries, but into the Chinese national psyche – better so than anything else I've ever read in over a quarter of a century reading about and watching China (several years from the inside, married to a Beijing native, by the way).

So, coming full circle to Dasa Book Cafe, hike right on down (even if you don't have the slightest interest in the biography) and poke around.

And tell them I sent you – they're nice people.

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Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dies, Age 72

This sure has been a rough year for celebrities, hasn't it?

No, this doesn't have one iota to do with Thailand. But I just want to note Travers' death because the trio hold a particularly important place in my life. Not only did they bring me to then-contemporary music when I was but a lad, but as I began to connect the dots between some of their songs and what was going on around me, the broadened my awareness of the world. And they helped stoke my interest in that world and the events going on in it.

While it's impossible for me to identify my favorite song they sang, I can say “If I Had a Hammer” undoubtedly electrified me the most. It still does.

No doubt I'm just one of millions of fans who mourn her passing. . . .

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Should Prostitution in Thailand Be Legalized? -- One Official Says “Yes”

The headline sure caused me to do a double-take. Yes, prostitution is widespread here. But a lot of people like to pretend it doesn't, and certainly in polite society one just doesn't talk about it in anything other than scandalized tones – if it's discussed at all.

Udon Thani Industrial Council chairman Prayoon Homewong's arguments are pretty standard ones, but it's still surprising to read of anyone openly calling for the legalizing of the flesh trade, especially someone in a responsible position.

I did a quick search for the Industrial Council in Udorn Thani, on both Google and Yahoo!, and got thousands of returns – and a quick glance at the first three or four pages of returns showed that nearly all of them were linked to a story about this politician's call.

What I haven't heard is anyone else clamoring to implement his idea.

Read the story if you wish at this link:

Udon Thani official calls for prostitution to be legalised
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Thailand to Have a New Airline

Read a story in the Bangkok Post headlined “Southern cities get air link ” of possible interest for those wishing to travel between Hat Yai and Phuket in the Kingdom's far south.

Happy Air will fly daily between the two cities starting October 26th.

The Phuket-based airline will fly two SAAB 330A's, which are twin-engined turboprops with seating for 34 passengers.

The story makes no mention of fares, but says the marketing and sales manager said the targe4t travelers will be tourist and business ones – I.e., a premium airline.

Maybe this will increase travel between Hat Yai and Phuket, as the flight will take just 40 minutes – compared to a seven-hour bus ride now.
It also will connect both cities with Langkawi, a resort island off Malaysia three times weekly, that service also to start in October. Actually, Langkawi is a large island in the Andaman Sea some 30 milometers offshor far northwestern Malaysia is is part of a group of 99 islands. It's about 100 kilometers north-northwest of better-known Penang.
The airport is on the southwest shore; flights to Kuala Lumpur are also available, and take about an hour. The Langkawi airport is around half an hour from the town center.

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Chao Phraya River Delta Said to Be Sinking Quickly Due to Rising Seas and Land Sinking


If you're among those who believe global warming is occuring, you won't be encouraged by an AFP story headlined “That sinking feeling: world's deltas subsiding, says study ” that mentions the Chao Phraya River Delta as one in the highest danger band from the twin effects of sinking land and rising seas. It reports a claim the delta has been sinking 50-150mm/year (about 2”-6”/year) over the past decade. It also says that even moderate long-term forecasts are painting an even gloomier picture than the UN presented in 2007, the result of taking into account melting of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

Awhile back I saw a local expert on television talking about rising seas and the land subsiding around Bangkok generally, and he painted a grim picture. He claimed the coastline will be dramatically altered in just a decade or two, with waters creeping deep into parts of greater Bangkok.

I do know of one temple that just two decades ago was set well back from the high tide mark – but today that mark reaches beyond the temple inland, forcing the monks to build a floor some distance above the previous floor to avoid the water.
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Flavored-Cigarette Sales Ban Takes Effect in the U.S.
Here's a story to warm U.S. anti-smokers' hearts: “FDA ban on flavored cigs takes effect .”

So why would smokers outside the U.S. Care?
They won't – unless they plan on traveling to anywhere in the U.S. And like such cigarettes, because the law also prohibits the importing of them. Actually, the article is silent how individuals might be treated under this law, so I'm making a pretty big assumption, granted. But I'm willing to lay odds that if individuals currently aren't subject to the law, it will be amended to include them.

There is one exception: menthol cigarettes. But if you like, say, clove cigarettes – popular in Indonesia, among other places – then you're out of luck. Even if you can get away with taking clove and other flavored smokes into the country now, you won't be able to buy more when you exhaust your supply.

Though I smoke (regular filtered ciggies), I'm not complaining about this law. Though I don't keep a daily record, I've reduced my own smoking by upwards of a third, over time, and hope to reduce it much more or even quit, which I've tried to do, fruitlessly, before.
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So, You Want to Live Forever? Just Stick Around 20 Years (or So)
The story “Immortality 'only 20 years away'” in Britain's Telegraph newspaper reports that American scientist Ray Kurzweil is making that claim, that is.

On the one hand, such a claim seems ludicrous, at least at first blush. In any case, 20 years is a mighty short time span for such an accomplishment.

On the other hand, who knows what science might eventually bring? As Kurzweil points out, we already have available artificial pancreases, for instance. He goes as far as saying that nanobots will be developed to replace even our blood.

Let's say, for a moment, that he's on to something, and that sooner or later we can become immortal, or very long-lived anyway. This ignores a few fundamental questions (unless he addresses them and the newspaper didn't report it).

First, do we really want to live forever, or even “just,” say, a thousand years? My guess is some would say “yes,” while others would say “no.”

Second, do we even have the right to live so long? If we say “yes,” then that brings up the next question.

To wit: where are we going to put everyone??? Presumably, at least some people would continue to have children, and things could get terribly crowded.

Further, what social effects would be wrought – not least on religion?

Well, I'll leave those questions to the thinkers.
Meanwhile, I've got a pretty darned good idea what many of my friends would say: “HECK YEAH!!!”
One eternal party time!!!
Uh – maybe not: if I live forever, doesn't that mean I have to work forever??? :-( THAT prospect doesn't sound fun at all!
So, Squaronians and kindred spirits, better think twice before rushing to sign up. . . .

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Holders of Back-to-Back Tourist Visas But Who Actually Work in Thailand, Beware: Thai Authorities Are Cracking Down

While Thailand has been quite generous about visas and violation of visa terms over the years, the authorities have started cracking down.
First came the sharp cutback in visas issued upon arrival from 30 days to 15 days (though 30-day ones are still issued to those arriving by air).
Now they are cracking down on holders of 60-day tourist visas issued abroad by Thai embassies and consulates, as many foreigners do work here illegally.
It's unclear, at least from the story I read over at www.ThaiVisa.com, whether that crackdown extends to those who don't work but do live here yet can't obtain a yearly visa based on local employment, aren't married to or support a Thai national, or don't meet the minimum income level to qualify for a retirement visa, a rather high level.
If I learn anything further, I'll post it. Meanwhile, thanks to ThaiVisa.com, whose story you can read at this URL:
http://www.thaivisa.com/forum/Crackdown-Tourist-Visa-Applicat-t297046.html

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An Idea for Thai Businesses to Advertise – Cheaply: Text Messages (SMS)
Well, okay, for any business anywhere that has access to mobile phone service (and/or Tweet).
I've read quite a few articles about this recently, and while virtually all of them were U.S.-specific, I see no reason they can't work just about anywhere that has a decent hand-phone-equipped target customer base, and Thailand sure fits the bill on that point, considering that the cellphone market here is basically saturated.
From what I've read, this approach to marketing doesn't replace more traditional forms of advertising, nor is it meant to do so.
But consider a couple statistics I just read – again, from the U.S., but worth thinking about: 97% of text messages are opened, 83% of them within an hour. Reportedly, that far, far better than just about any other type of advertising.
The next bit I'm unsure of in the context of Thailand, for the simple reason I haven't the slightest notion whether the services I'm about to mention even exist here, as they do in the U.S. And, I presume, elsewhere.
One of the most interesting services is from companies that don't just blanket your target consumers all at once. Instead, they send your message when a potential customer is somewhere in your neighborhood. (Nothing I read said your message would be grouped with those from other advertisers in your neighborhood, but I would assume that to be the case, which might imply a lower response rate, though, again, I don't know.)
Other services have been around awhile for other channels, but now being applied to this type of advertising as well. For instances, targeting by postal code (a “zip code,” for my U.S. Readers!). Other demographic breakdowns are also available.
I'm thinking even tiny businesses could use this, especially those with regular customers as their main source of business. Take an independent restaurant here in Bangkok that's not much on the tourist path so depends on locals, whether they be Thais or resident foreigners (or maybe both). Owners and managers could ask those customers if they would like to receive an occasional SMS about some special or the other. Maybe an unexpected special, especially late in the day, so to speak? “XXX Restaurant will be giving a 10% discount on the daily lunch special tomorrow Noon-1:00 P.M. Only! Come by!” That sort of thing.
Of course, you wouldn't want to overdo it and bombard anyone. But that's true of any kind of advertising.
I do know of a couple of places that have already been doing this awhile, and it happens I know the bosses of both. I gather it has been one successful avenue for them to reach out to their customers. They both do get some tourists, but they also have large local customer groups, in percentage terms.
This isn't difficult or time-consuming. On my last phone, I had a message option of “Send to many,” and if I clicked that, all I had to do is troll through my phonebook, marking the recipients. Then I could write my message, click “Send,” and they all got it. My new phone is even easier. I can set up a group – customers, in this case – and click just that group – a single click – then proceed as I did before.
Also, it cost me precisely the same to send an SMS to one person as it did to 20 or 40 or however many. If my phone company, AIS, has a limit, I haven't reached it yet. Without getting into the technical details, it costs the company virtually nothing to handle SMS messages anyway, their whines and moans notwithstanding.
This kind of messeging is really catching on, and not just in the U.S. But I happen to know a statistic for the U.S. That underscores this: people there send – get ready for this – about 3.5 BILLION text messages – per DAY! In a country with a population of around 3.6 million.
That's a bunch of “blabbing,” as it were.

There are other variants of text-messenging. My service, for instance, allows me to send audio and video files as well, either by themselves or as part of a regular SMS.

Oh, almost forgot: for those businesses with a mix of customers, in terms of language, you can set up two groups, one for English, the other for Thai (in the case of here). Can't write Thai and don't have anyone to do it for you? -- Use www.translate.google.com – and read the story I wrote about it above. (You'll have to ask your phone company if you need two phones to do this, but, hey, phones are dirt-cheap these days.)
Naturally, I'm thinking in particular of my friends in Washington Square and the area most of all, but I can mention this to them directly.
And I haven't even talked about other possibilities, such as YouTube.com, Facebook.com, etc. . . .
All these social media sure have turned things upside-down. For instance, President Obama has a bit over a million followers on his Facebook page – and his wife has approaching half-a-million on hers, too. There are many public figures with huge numbers across various sites.

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Washington Square News

Actually, there's simply not much going on around the Square these days, which isn't surprising, really, given that we're still in the low season, which is pretty bad this year, given the ongoing global economic woes.

Though it appears the worst of the recession is over, I guess would-be tourists are opting for cheaper destinations or staying home altogether. As for business travelers, I don't know how many articles I've read about companies greatly paring their travel budgets, and even when they have to send executives off somewhere, they're sending them in considerably less grand style than previously was the case.

Actually, that there is no news of import is, in a way, good news, in that there haven't been any deaths, sicknesses, etc. Not that I have heard about anyway. It's true I've not been around the Square much the past 5-6 weeks, having gone there only about as many times during that time span. But had something of import happened, I would have heard about it either during one of my forays there or by phone.

No new places have opened – no surprise there – and no place has closed (which is good news for Squaronians).

I did go down later in the evening awhile last night, too late to see a lot of Squaronians, many of whom are daytime visitors. (Hey, if you hit the sack at sundown or shortly thereafter, gotta get your lick – and drinks! -- in early!!!) I did see “Jolly” Gene, an American I've not seen in quite awhile, despite the fact we're what you might call “vertical neighbors”: we live in the same building, me on the ground floor, him on, let's see, I think it's the sixth floor. Upstairs somewhere, anyway. He's a nice guy and has been around the Kingdom for years, over 20, as I recall. He was doing well, if already a bit, um, “festive” by the time I arrived. Sat with him, Phil (Silver Dollar night-time glad-hander), and another younger American whose name invariably escapes me. We had a pleasant hour or so just blabbing.

Went to Texas Lone Staar next, and while there weren't a lot of people there, it sure was lively. Lively enough that everyone was already involved with someone or the other, so I had little chance to do anything other than to greet a couple of people – specifically, “Cajun” Riley and “English” Paul, who were sitting together having a grand time of it.

Made my next port call at Wild Country, but I was the only customer, so I moved on quickly, stopping next at Cat's Meow. A gal who used to work there and whom I've not seen in quite awhile was there, so I sat and chatted with her for awhile. There was one other customer who was a one-man hit parade, as far as the ladies were concerned – he had been buying rounds for quite awhile before I arrived, and continued to do so, departing shortly before I did. Did chat briefly with him, and he said he had never been to the bar before – it's his first trip to Bangkok – and as he left, he remarked he'd likely not be back, as he had his Missus with him, awaiting him, impatiently, at the hotel – she called while he was there (and I overheard the conversation, which was pretty one-sided -- “Yes, Dear – what's that – yes, I'm leaving – wait a minute! I've got to pay my bill, Dear!” ;-)

Stopped by Square One, but didn't stay but a minute, as it was nering closing time and the ladies were about to shut shop. Decided to walk over to Queen's Park Plaza. Walked by a few places, popping into one or two, but it was fairly quiet around the whole place, so I came on home.

Haven't caught up with Burt lately, but we do talk on the phone a fair bit, so I know that he and his are fine.

It's coming up on 4:00 P.M. Saturday (September 26th), and I may go to the square a little while soon to see if I can catch up with any of the daytime crowd. If I do, and if there's anything to report, I'll add it here.
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For Folks in the U.S.: A Map Showing Percentages of Uninsured by Congessional District

As anyone who follows U.S. News knows, health care is THE talk of the nation at the moment.
NPR (National Public Radio) has put together a nifty map providing anyone interested with three tidbits of information for every congressional district: the name of your very own congresscritter, how many people under 65 don't have medical insurance, and how many under 16 don't (the latter two expressed as percentages).
Further, the map is customaizable. The above is the default setting. However, you can also view the map for the states. There are other choices on the right side of the map.

Also, the map is color-coded, whether you view it showing all the states or all the congressional districts. For once, it's an easy-to-understand code, involving only three shades of blue, each clearly different from the other two.

One perhaps unintended bit of info you can get from viewing the map as congressional districts: gerrymandering. Just take a look at the vastly different-sized districts, not to mention the sometimes-torturous boundaries that mark them!
Let me make something very clear: my placing the link to the map here is NOT meant to indicate my personal view either way; this is not the place for me to opine about such. Besides, opponents of change will find comfort in the map – but so will supporters. Perceptions matter immensely when we're dealing with statistics, something we too often forget, or at least I do, if I'm not careful about it. Anyway, here's the URL:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113042669

Read it and weep – or whoop – as suits you. :-) (Just don't forget to curse or congratulate YOUR congresscritter – again, as suits YOU!)
Note aside: My own state, Texas, “leads” the way, with 26.5% of the total under-65 population without insurance – whatever that means.

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Enough for one go!!!

Mekhong Kurt

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