Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"The Rounds," Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Since it's been awhile since I've written an installment of "The Rounds," I thought I should get something up, even if it's a bit thin on actual news.

The main reason the news has been rather thin is that even if there had been tons of news, I've been around infrequently enough to have missed it, unless someone else passed it along -- which hasn't happened. And since I haven't had any reports, I assume there has been no news of great note that I missed in my absences.

A friend, D. K., is in from the U.S. on a fairly lengthy holiday, about three months. He's an interesting guy. Met him about seven years ago, when he was one of four people to come Out Here East of Suez with my Cousin Mike. We hit it off, and the several times he's graced the Kingdom with his august presence since, we've always gotten together. This trip is no exception. I checked my e-mail late Monday afternoon last week and found one from him saying he was coming to town soon, an e-mail dated several days before I saw it. He asked for my phone number, so I fired a reply off immediately -- but was still surprised when 30-45 minutes later he called. He had happened to check his e-mail just then. So, we got together that night, and again Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

D. K. has an interesting job that affords him considerable time off. He works as an officer aboard a cruise ship in the Hawaiian Islands. His schedule is three months on/three months off -- not as good as the schedule he had before the economy tanked, when he had a four months/two months schedule. At first glance, his new schedule looks better than his old one, BUT the pay structure isn't as good.

He's also a scuba diver. In fact, when he first came out here with Cousin Mike, the group, all divers, were here in part to scatter the ashes of the husband of a lady in the group, though they also made a bit of a holiday out of a sad journey.

Anyway, I imagine we'll be getting together more than one more time during his remaining weeks before it's back to the briney deep!

Thursday evening's visit with D. K. ended up a bit abbreviated, as Big Ken of England came in to the Silver Dollar and soon invited me to go over to Soi 33 with him for a couple stops. I haven't been there in quite a long while, so off we went. We stopped in Renoir, one of the oldest of any bars along the soi, an upscale place that's part of that group of bars named for Famous Dead Painters (though they have different owners). I don't know anyone there since I never did get in the habit of going there, even back in the days I was a daily regular along the soi. But Ken knew a number of the ladies, so we sat around awhile so he could greet various friends. Then we moved on to The Office, the owner of which, the affable Bob from Australia, we both know and like. That was really nice, not only because I was pleased to see Bob after quite a long interval -- he rarely goes to the Square these days himself -- but because the three of us like each other and had a fun time blabbing away until I finally had to throw in the towel and head home to crawl off to my bed!

Let's see, what other news . . .

Last I saw Burma Richard, he was waiting for his next sculpture to be cast; it'll be a bronze statue. I hope to get a photo from him when he gets the statue delivered so I can put it here. I assure you it's along the lines of all his artistic works, which are, um, "unusual" to say the least. Richard has photos of his works to date on his website -- -- so you can get a feel for his work there. His works are paintings and sculptures in the visual arts, plus he's an author. Do explore his web site; it's fascinating.

Saw Cajun Riley last Thursday evening while I was waiting for D. K. to show up. Sure wish I had been at the Lone Staar, where I saw him, during the day -- he cooked some Cajun food, and let me tell you, can that man cook! He was on his own and doing fine, though we got in only a brief visit as he was about ready to take off home by the time I got there in the early evening.

Kent C. of the Lone Staar has been in town, though I think it's getting close to time for him to head back to the U.S. after a three-week vacation here. He's doing well, and said his two daughters have adapted most excellently to life in that strange and alien land of America. Those young ladies are well-traveled, far more so than many adults decades their seniors. There Mother is Korean, and they've lived in Korea. They live with Kent full-time, so when he was here several years, they lived and went to school here. And now they're living with him at his latest posting with his long-time employer, Boeing, where he's reasonably senior. He clearly is pleased with his daughters' fitting in with the local kids, something he fretted about before they moved there last year. I wasn't surprised to learn they have adapted, not only in the classroom, but socially as well, because they both are very friendly, polite, and respectful of their elders -- typically Asian in that last regard in particular.

Roger C., Kent's Dad, either is or has been in town; he was due to come for about a week during the middle third of Kent's visit, but I haven't seen him -- and may have missed him this trip. Roger is one of the nicest, most outgoing guys you could ever hope to meet, and is immensely popular amongst both other Squaronians -- he's moved well beyond honorary status as a Squaronian to being a full-blown one, if resident afar (U.S.) -- and the staff in the various places around the Square. If I have indeed missed him this time around, I sure do hope to get to spend some time with him next time he graces these Asian shores!

Just now stopped to call "Ba" Burt Nestle, whom I've not seen for awhile, but for good reason: he hasn't been around. He had an angioplasty a couple weeks back and called me the day after to let me know. That was late week-before-last. He was supposed to call me after his check-up Monday last week, but of course he didn't! ;-) Anyway, he reports he's still feeling "a little slow," as he put it, but that there's no pain or anything like that, which is good news. I do know that the day after the angioplasty his doctor told him it had gone much better than he had anticipated, so that's REALLY good news. He just told me he hopes to get down in a week or so, so I hope to see him soon. Ba Burt is one of my favorite people.

Norwegian Steve was in town recently and I saw him, but as it turned out, just in passing, both times. About the only news I can pass along about him is that he's well, as far as I know, plus I have absolutely no reason to think otherwise -- he was himself, i.e., friendly, outgoing, and looking fine.

On a different front, last Friday the weather was downright weird. This is late March, that is, the HOT season (which is why schools here have their "summer" holidays this time of year -- most classrooms have no air-conditioning, nor do academic offices in many cases). But when I got up early Friday morning, the temperature [at the airport, which is where my desktop weather thingy draws its information) was an astonishingly low <22/71F, and that day's HIGH was just >26C/79F! Making it odder is that the day before the daytime high was around >37C/99F (with a heat index higher than that). And the day after it heated right back up to just below Thursday's levels. Also, we're in the middle of the DRY season, and in fact drought in many parts of the country is a worsening problem; I heard just yesterday, for example, about a reservoir in Isaan, the breadbasket in the Kingdom's northeast, that is down to about 25% of capacity at a time the water and irrigation authorities like to see it around 2/3rd's full. Yet it has RAINED twice in the last couple weeks, one time respectably, the other time just a light, light and fairly short-lived one. I couldn't have been much more surprised had I been trudging across the Sahara and got caught in a shower!

Talking about the weather reminds me that during northern-hemisphere winter, I read a jillion comments on environmental website discussion coards/comments section with messages (often rude) deriding anyone who even wonders about climate change, also known -- unfortunately -- as "global warming." Those comments said the bitter winter in parts of North America and Europe "proved," at the very least, that the climate is at the very least holding steady, which further "proves" that human activity doesn't mean diddly-squat.

At the time I pointed out that Sydney, Australia, then in the full glory of southern-hemisphere summer, had a heat wave that carried the mercury up to 45C/113F -- a record. My point was that just because it snows in, say, Washington, D. C. doesn't prove a thing; it's too small a data point to generalize about the entire planet.

You may have heard weather reports in North America Tuesday (March 30) that temperatures were as much as >8C/15F ABOVE normal -- across a broad swath from Houston to Winnipeg.

Hadn't seen any remarks from the formerly very vocal critics about that, however.

Closing out, as people who follow the news here, the opponents of the current government who also by and large support former PM Thaksin Shinawatra have been (and continue) to engage in demonstrations and other public activities. While there have been scattered instances of relatively minor violence, there hasn't been any of the major disruptions seen in the past. The Tourism Authority folks are still hopeful the country will have the targeted number of tourists this year, or near it, but people in the industry are concerned; just saw a TV news report about various affected trade groups sponsoring various activities to try to engage the current protestors to ask them to help minimize any negative impacts.

A couple weeks ago, early in the beginning of the demonstrations, I had occasion to walk out of Washington Square to Sukhumvit Road. There was a HUGE parade of demonstrators that had traffic at a standstill (though later it "sped up" to a tedious crawl); the line was so long it took several HOURS for it to pass. But the atmosphere was festive, and I saw no instances of disorderly behavior, nor anyone interfering with or threatening someone else, etc. -- that was nice. It was much more like a big street festival; people were laughing and visiting back and forth, having a grand old time, and REALLY making the street vendors' of food and drink day -- those vendors made a land office on a busy day look deserted.

I don't know if various countries still have travel advisories in effect, but if you're in doubt about coming here, check with your foreign ministry, or, if you're abroad already, check with your country's nearest consulate or embassy.

I haven't seen anything that would lead me to recommend against coming; in fact, I see no reason not to come, as long as you avoid potential trouble spots. And the demonstrations have been largely concentrated in certain areas, meaning *most* of the city has been just fine (other than the traffic, that is).

Your call --

Enough for one go --

Mekhong Kurt