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Monday, May 24, 2010

Squaronian Update/Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's about 0820 Tuesday morning, May 25, 2010 now, and I want to put in an update note as I ended up going back to the Square last night after all.

Ran into "Rambling" Randy R, who works for Aramco in Saudi Arabia, for the first time in about six months. He was having fun and running with a work from of his named "Ali," whom I assume (but don't know) to be a Saudi Arabian. Seemed to be a nice guy. Anyway, Randy's in Thailand for just a week this time, so he couldn't stay long; his wife called and sent him SMS's  several times during just the half-hour or so we visited.

Also saw "Garrlous" Gary M., who's off tomorrow, as it turns out, for his summer in the sun in that seaside resort state . . . New Jersey. He's got a midday flight, one at a civilized time, on Eva Air in their wonderful Economy Deluxe, a class somewhere between cattle car and business, and closer to the latter -- but far cheaper than business class, though somewhat pricier than a straight economy ride. As matters have worked out, I've flown it only once, way back in 1997, and it sure was impressive.

Or shorter flights, not only is economy just fine with me, but it seems a complete waste of money to pay for anything better if I'm going to be in the air just, say, six hours or less.

On the other hand, on long-haul flights, it's great. The seats are noticeably wider, which was the aspect I most appreciated. Also, the ratio of cabin crew to passengers is higher, so service is more frequent. It also seems to me to be less harried; after all, the crew members have time to relax themselves.

Worth looking into. In my case, I ended up having to take a domestic carrier from the U.S> west coast on to Dallas and back, but with the majority of that trip being in this unique class, I actually enjoyed the flight. Well, as much as one can enjoy such a long flight, that is!

Back to GG "Garralous Gary). He mentioned again that "Jabberwocky" Jay will be back next month, though he (Gary) is unsure whether the deal is Jay's leaving Chicago on the 8th then arriving here the 10th, or leaving there the 10th and arriving the 12th. In any case, in the latter part of the first fortnight of the month. I doubt he'll hit the Square on his way home from the airport, though he'll pass right buy -- he lives very near the Sukhumvit Road-Soi Asoke intersection -- but he'll probably get around to glad-hand and greet people after a few days. That's his usual pattern, anyway. It'll be great to see him -- he and Gary, together a.k.a. "The Square's Own Odd Couple," are two of my favorite guys.

Cajun Riley was there -- "there" being the Silver Dollar -- as well, and I ended up having a reasonably lengthy quiet chat with him after Randy, Ali, and Gary had gone on their respective ways. He sure is a nice guy. I had asked Randy what he thinks about BP's handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (back to his view in a second), and since Riley also works in the oil industry, I asked him what his take on the situation is, in two contexts: the company's actual handling of the disaster, and its public-relations campaign.

Riley and Randy both feel BP is doing the best they can, especially given they're in unexplored territory, as anyone who's been following development knows, since BP spokespeople have repeatedly emphasized their workers are in uncharted territory. Randy took things a step further and said that in his view, we ought to stop ALL offshore drilling. That surprised me. He added that if we insist on offshore drilling, he feels it should be limited to areas with a maximum sea depth of about 500 feet (in the range of 160 meters). He did agree with me that BP folks, particularly the CEO, are coming across as waffling and obfuscating, which hurts the company's image. For that matter, Riley pretty much agreed with what Randy said, other than he didn't bring up banning anything. (I spoke with them separately, so Riley was unaware of what Randy had said, and I didn't mention the bit about a ban.)

Riley and I ended up adjourning to the Texas Lone Staar, where we continued plain old blabbing. He had called Lovely Lek to come fetch him, and I hung around awhile, but she hadn't gotten there by the time I decided it was time for me to load 'em up and head 'em out, so I missed the pleasure of seeing her this time around. Oh, well.

On another note, I guess the rainy season has FINALLY arrived; it has rained every day since last Friday, and last night it was raining fairly hard when I came out to come home. But I love the rainy season -- cools things off and cleans the filthy air.

Sometimes the rainy season starts earlier than this, something I thought of during the Red Shirt demonstrations. I wonder if last week's violence would have occurred at all had the skies been dumping heavily, especially Wednesday night, when so many arsonists struck around the city. Even if they had, perhaps rain would have helped dampen the fires and therefore lessen the resulting damage.

But that didn't happen.

Back to the Square. I went to Silver in particular because Monday nights are its barbecue nights, and I thought I might see some folks I don't necessarily ordinarily see, such as Tom-Tom (who's a huge devotee of the ribs). However, one of the bar staff told me they had decided to cancel rib night because of slow business, though it later dawned on me (after I had come home) I didn't know if they canceled just last night or for the duration until business picks up more reliably again. Will try to find out then pass along the information, either way.

Incidentally, I have my TV b, essentially), and it's "Tales of a Big City" weekly talk show is ending right now. The host read an e-mail that had come in from a foreign resident of Bangkok soliticiting the host's and the three panelists' opinions whether he, apparently Dutch, should take his Thai-Chinese wife and their children to Holland instead of staying here. They live in one of the worst-hit areas, and the writer's in-laws lost their THREE shops in Siam Square, which was pretty much completely destroyed by arsonists; the shops had been in the faily for 30 years or so. Complicating matters for the foreigner, and no doubt coloring his view, is that his wife is eight months pregnant and needed to go to see a doctor during the protests -- only to be turned back by Red Shirt guards, who, according to the writer, were entirely unsympathetic and completely rigid in their views.

The guy went on to say neither he nor hiw wife want to move to Holland (where his Father lives, he added), but they're genuinely concerned about the future. He specifically asked if the four people on the show thought the violence is well and truly over.

All four had an interesting view: they feel (as I do) that the problems are going to take years, likely decades, to sort out, even with the best of good intentions on all sides -- but all four added they don't see violence anytime soon, saying that the government simply can't afford to let matters get out of hand again.

That's a good point, the point about the government not being in any position to let matters spiral out of control again. It took a lot of heat for being slow to react as it was, with the Prime Minister coming under particularly sharp criticism for what some perceived to be an uncertain, irresolute approach.

Without getting into the legitimacy, or lack thereof, the Red Shirts' complaints, I do feel the PM was very much in a situation in which he was doomed to being damned-if-he-did and damned-if-he-didn't. Had he ordered the security forces to wade in forcefully, the number of casualties almost certainly would have been far higher than they were -- including among the elderly, women, and children. It wouldn't matter that at least some of the women and elderly -- but not the children -- had chosen to stand their grounds; harming or killing those folks is flat hard to swallow, no matter their own culpability. On the other hand, had the PM continued to just sit back, the Red Shirts would have tightened and expanded their contro; some complained there already was, in essence, a "parallel government" in areas under Red Shirt control, particularly around the Ratchprasong intersection (their main site) and the south end of Lumpini Park (their second-most important site, in the end, and the center of violence to a large degree).

While the Cabinet hasn't met yet -- that comes later today -- I wonder whether they'll decide to extend the curfew, and if they do, what hours will be covered. One reasonably well-connected guy said last night up at the Square that he had heard it will be extended, with the hours meing midnight-0400 -- which just about everyone could live with, since those hours would cause virtually no disruption. Presumably, the authorities at checkpoints would continue to let people needing to get to the airport, for instance, get through, as they have been doing as long as people had their passports and tickets. (One thing I've still not discovered is whether they let people through who were planning on flying domestically, not internationally. International travelers were specifically mentioned, but I've not heard a peep about domestic ones.)

By the way, municipal public transport -- the subway, Sky Train, khlong commuter boats, and buses -- is returning to normal today. I think the stops in the area immediately at and near Ratchaprasong are still being skipped, but not others, as far as I know. Roads are open again as well to private vehicular traffic (and sidewalks to pedestrians)

Will put up more news about the curfew once I learn it.

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