080229 Thaikarl - happy leap day to yall!

leap day was yesterday here, but it's today for yall.  warm and sunny today.  that means i get to take a warm shower.  the 2 inch plastic hose that comes from the pump is transparent.  if it sits full of water in the sun  for a couple  of hours, it will get warm - even hot.  so i turn the pump on into a  bucket, then turn it off when the bucket is full, which just empties the standing water in the pump hose line.  i've rigged up a shower pump in the  back of the  house.  i bought a larger submersible water pump in bangkok.  like you would use in a fountain pool.  i ran some hose up and tied it to a line i strung between the shed and the betal nut palm.  when i plug in the  pump, the water comes out the end of the hose so that it goes back into the big jar i'm using for shower water.  when i want to be in the water, i reach up  and divert the stream to me, so i can wet and wash.  when i'm not getting wet myself, the  stream flows back into the jar,  so the water isn't wasted.  pretty basic, and doesn't do much  at night of course, but it's a bit of a  luxury, none the  less. i like to shower behind the house  anyway.  under the stars at night.  wonderful.

we are planing to go to rayong in south thailand tommarow after tok votes.  we are on a special mission, which i'll tell you about after it is accomplished.  i asked tok what the  voting was for, and she said she didn't know.  she's a rather apathetic voter.  you are required by  law to vote in thailand, imagine that, so she has to go.  but she said that all the political candidates are all warm and greeting and promising before the election, and then they all disappear and try to get themselves money. so she says it doesn't matter if she votes or not.  in fact, she marks her ballot wrong, so that it would be counted anyway.  this is  not that uncommon i understand.  sort of a protest vote.  but she says she believes that she  is the  only one to have a defective vote every single time there has been a vote.  i just asked her if she  can remember ever making a qualified vote.  she  can't remember ever having done so.  and she has been voting since she  was 17, and she's 44 now. vote buying and other schemes come  up after every election.  i think the usa has a better system, even with all it's faults, but the US is a different country, and had different reasons for setting things up the way we do it.

thai politics are pretty wacky.  i can't claim to understand it very well at all.

we did a budget this morning.  i hate doing budgets.  on paper, it always says "you can't  get there from here".  but, i may  have to change my ticket and come back a little earlier.  whull see...

cares! Onward!  Nu and Tok

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080226 Thaikarl , my address, little crash, and a nice day here


several people have asked for my address here in thailand

Mr. Karl
167 moo 11
Namchun Lomsak
Phetchaboon 67110

my mobile:    011 66 83 161 7558
toks mobile     011 66 85 050 7044
things sent by "Global Priority Mail" at the post office get here pretty quick.  Things sent by airmail get here in a couple of weeks or less, things sent by ordinary  mail take more than a month to get here.  boats are slow you know, for ordinary mail.


had a fun little mishap the other day.  we were dashing off to the village market to buy food.  the road grader made a big swipe down the middle of the packed dirt on the new road, and i elected to try to get by on the side berm. whups.  rear tire wiped out on the loose rocks, and we kind of fell over.  onto the nice rocks.  picked up the bike, which was still running.  brake lever bent all outa shape, foot peg all whacked  out and my lower right leg got the worst of it.  fortunately tok had only a few scratches on her knee.  very embarrassing.  of course tok was nervous about  me driving after that, but  i  made let me drive, else she won't trust me and will  always be more afraid than normal.  she's had some pretty  big crashes - she hit a water buffalo once, so she's a little more apprehensive than i am.

theres a few new bugs in the thai bugs gallery, scroll down to the bottom, and a couple in the current thai gallery.

today is one of my favorite kind of days here.  there is a thin, high hazy  cloud cover way up there.  the sun shines thru  it, but the light is attenuated, doesn't glare so harshly.  i'ts still quite warm, and will be warmer later, as the haze keeps the heat in.  i think i'll go siphon the dust out of the waterfall pond and refresh  the water.

Nu  and TOk

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080226 Thaikarl - one view of the US from across the world


you know i seldom make political comments, or social comparisons etc.  but this  article in The  Nation i found interesting.  not just because of it's point of view, but because the sentiments are an echo of what i have heard other Internationals saying.  by Internationals, i  mean  people from any  country, who have lived - not just touristed - on other countries, and have more of a world-view, rather than a national-view, based on their home country. 

taken from The Nation: opion

America: the land of hype and corny?

As long as you can get past their adherence to political correctness and their irritating habit of megaphoning private conversations, Americans are - mostly - very nice people. Surely we can all agree on that.

Published on February 26, 2008

But a few things recently have reminded me what really ticks me off about them. It is their propensity for beating their chests and proclaiming themselves to be the best in the world at everything.

Take, for example, the game that stops the nation. It's not good enough that they call it the "Super Bowl". Oh no, the commentators and hype merchants then have to refer to it as the "world championship".

My advice to Americans: stop claiming to be the best at everything. If you win a world title, against other teams from around the globe, then good on you. Otherwise, isn't it enough just to be America's best?

In the political arena, presidential candidates drum home the tired old message that the US is not just the world's only superpower, but also the "greatest country on Earth". One of the aspiring candidates recently called the United States the greatest country in the history of the Earth. Next it will be the universe.

What is "great" exactly? My pocket Oxford defines it as "of a size or amount or extent or intensity much above the normal or average". Collins Thesaurus says it is "big, bulky, colossal, elephantine, enormous, extensive and gigantic".

I think of the elephant when I think of the US. Large, mostly benign and well-meaning, generously philanthropic, but oh so clumsy in situations that call for delicate footwork and a certain sensitivity.

At home, the huge number of Americans who don't own a passport and have little knowledge of the world are always being told they are the biggest and the best and the brightest. No wonder they believe it. They also have this strange idea that if the rest of the world's populace had its way, it would be clamouring to live in the US.

Asians and the Europeans don't like American food all that much. Sure we may have been seduced by Americana, but let's face it: Hollywood and fast food pale alongside the rich and ancient cultures found around the rest of the globe.

We have all been watching the presidential campaign with a certain horrid fascination. While they may be a necessary part of the political theatre, those rallies where the candidate is "just so happy to be back in south Texas" just seem so contrived.

Does anyone actually believe rhetoric so lacking in substance? It is only now that commentators are waking up to the fact that as charismatic as he is, Democrat Barack Obama does little more than mouth generalities and platitudes.

A young voter told CNN recently that Obama "will make us look good in the eyes of the world". I'm not so sure about that. Isn't he the same man who said that if the circumstances warranted it, he would order the US military into Pakistan - with or without Islamabad's permission?

And that other boast: America, The Great Democracy. Is it really? Not only hasn't it had a female president yet, but Hillary Clinton happily reminds her supporters that women's suffrage came about only in her own mother's lifetime.

Then take a look at the US voter turnout, which has dropped from a high of 65 per cent in 1960 to barely 50 per cent today. In many parts of Asia - Thailand's Northeast for one - the turnout rarely drops below 80 per cent.

India could easily lay claim to being the world's great democracy. It certainly has a bigger voting population. Also, more importantly, it has to work so much harder, and overcome so many more obstacles, to maintain that status.

I have always believed that the September 11 attacks had such a devastating impact on the psyche of many Americans because it was the first time outsiders had intruded on their comfortable, closeted world. For the many Americans - and there are many - who rarely venture beyond their home county, let alone home state, it was a terrifying realisation that the world could reach out and touch them in a way they did not believe possible.

Almost to a man, their reaction was to retreat into the safe cocoon of patriotism, fly the Stars and Stripes from their pickup trucks - and vote for George W Bush, who vowed to protect them.

The US media could help remove this Us versus Them mentality by improving its coverage of a world its country has so much influence over, instead of continuing its ever-growing fascination with misbehaving "celebrities".

Finding out about the rest of the world might also help Mr Middle America get over his fear of all Muslims, his unease with a rapidly growing China and his strange hatred of the United Nations.

We would like America better if its citizens recognised our existence sometimes - even our sporting achievements - instead of just pining for our unconditional love and acceptance. Who knows, we might even begin to believe it is the greatest.

The Straits Times is a member of the Asia News Network.

guest columnist

John McBeth/The Straits Times

The Nation

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080223 Thaikarl - not a lot happening over here


since i've been sick with infection and bronchitis the last 12 days, there hasn't been much going on here.  the antibiotics and broncho dilators the doctor have been giving me leave me pretty weak.  if we goto to town, tok gets to drive he motorbike, and after walking around buying foodstuffs i'm pooped out.  it's a  real drag,  and i have to say i'm actually a little bored.  because i am boring like this.  i spend the day pretty much just hanging around.  reading a lot, which is good but not good.  i only had room in my bags for about 10,000 pages of reading, and i've read 9,000 of them already.  i'll have to start re-reading some of  my books from last trip.  but since i ran out last time also, some of my books are going for a third read.

i brought a set of Ryobe cordless tools with me- drill, circular saw etc. found a 300 watt step-down transformer in town for 350 baht (10.00!) which was a good deal.  these transformers were 5 times that price in the states.  but so far,  my tools are unused.  i have a notion to build a passive solar water heater using the principle of thermosiphon, out of PVC pipe, but don't have the energy to do all the shopping and cutting.  oh well, soon now.  feeling better everyday.

thursday was a buddist holyday.  i couldn't get up to go with tok to the temple at Oh-Dark-Hundred.  later in the day, a group of four monks came walking along the road.  they were carrying more than the usual gear, food bowels and what look like the monk equivalent of a back pack.  they came down to the house and  sat around the table.  tok and mama went to talk with them, squatting low beside the table.  tok came out with  rice and food in bags for them.  the monks accepted them and they did some praying.  the monks went away.  i asked tok about them, she said they were forest monks, traveling from Loi to somewhere down south.  a long journey to walk.  forest monks are monks who have eschewed the modernization of the temples in the towns and cities.  they live a simpler life, away from all the distractions of towns and cities.  i asked her where they sleep. she said they sleep in the fields and the forests.  they have mosquito net tents that put over them and a mat for the ground.  monks are required to respect all life - which includes NOT killing mosquitoes.  i think they have some polite meditation way of  asking the mosquitoes to go somewhere else, if they have been at their disciplines for a while.

i sit up on my porch, book in my lap, krating daeng (redbull) on the table.  the motorbikes and trucks and cars buzz by on the big road, the road-grader, tooth roller, flat rollers and the water trucks diesel on my relentlessly.  the tobacco is rising in the fields, the sun shines down on the palm trees.  kids and neighbors wander by, the chickens trespass into our yard.  the dogs come round to drink from the lotus and fish tanks beside the house.  as i wipe  a little drop of sweat from my temple, i think "life, here, now, IS."  most pleasant, indeed.

cares to you all,
Nu and Tok
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080208 Thaikarl The wedding date is set! w00t w00t!


the day  has been fortold.  the time is set. the wedding of tok and i will be on november 11, 2008.  which just happens to be 11/11, so obviously the time for the ceremony  will be 11am.  unless that conflicts with some other rule i don't know about yet.

how did we arrive at the day?  we went to see a monk. that's the customary way to decide.  i asked tok if  we could go  to the temple after she returned from  town. we got on the motorbike and headed out towards lomsak.  we turned on the road to pitsanolok, and after a while turned off to a country road.  off the  main roads, there are roads that go all over the area, no signage of course.  the roads are sometimes paved with concrete, especially in some villages, but otherwise they are red dirt.  this time of year, the dirt roads are hard packed, but i can imagine that in the rainy  season they are a slippery sludge of mud.  i enjoy it when we veer off the main roads like that.  so many interesting things to see in he little clusters of houses and the spread fields.

eventually we came to a village where the temple was located. why we went to this temple, instead one of the two or three in our village, i don't know.  inside the grounds we parked the motorbike.  the monks were out teaching somewhere, but they would be back in an hour.  some workmen were spreading stucco cement up on a scaffolding surrounding a very  tall tower.  come kind of stupa/like building.  the scaffolding was of constructed of bamboo.  each of the joints is held together by a loop of rope tied to a stick.  the loop is wrapped around the joint, the stick is twisted to tighten the rope, and secured from unwinding by a piece of wire.  the whole structure looks spindly and un-safe to western eyes, but they have no problem clambering all over the thing.  there was yet another building under construction nearby, and a couple of budda-halls, and in the back houses for the monks to live in.

i roamed around taking pictures, and looking at the wonderful thai style art work in paint and concrete that  adorns the temple buildings.  i really am fascinated by the thai style of traditional art.  i work at copying it in my drawing books, but i'm still pretty crude at it.

the monks arrived in a pickup after about an hour.  tok talked the  monk for a while, and he lead us into the main meeting room of the temple.  this is a large open room, with a row of shrines in the middle, budda images in the corner, and a raised level in the south wall where the  monks sit during services.  the walls are painted with scenes from the life of budda.  in this place, there were two rows of paneled scenes.  twice around the room told the whole story.  some 74 panels in all i believe.

we sat in the tiled floor before the monk. he and tok were talking for a long time.  i listen and try to pick out words.  one in a hundred i recognize.  the monk opened a daily calendar and started flipping thru the pages, occasionally asking a question.  he also had another book that he consulted that had all kinds of charts and tables, pictograph and diagrams.  there was counting on fingers, page flipping, back and forth chatter.  meanwhile i'm just trying to keep my legs from going numbing sitting cross legged in the tile floor, and trying to keep my back straight so it doesn't start cramping up on me.

eventually the monk settled on two dates:  November 11th, or November 15th, our choice.  i liked the 11th, tok thought that was fine and we confirmed with the monk.  there was more page turning, chart consulting etc.  tok gave me 100 baht (3.00) to give to the monk, which i dropped into  a basket he pushed towards me, and we were done.  monks are not permitted to take anything directly from a women.

so now we have our wedding day.  yall are invited of course!

i had some questions about some of the story panels on the walls, as i hadn't seen this part of the story before.  they seemed to predate the birth of the  budda and had something to do with a story about an old man.  i asked tok what the story was behing these pictures.  she was explaining the story to me when the  monk returned to the hall.  seeing our interest int the story, the  monk started explaining the story  in each panel, all in thai of course. i listen politely, and tok did also.  somewhere around panel 15 i whispered to tok that it's going to take us till tomorrow to get too panel 78.  she found a way to politely break of the lessons, and we went back out to  the  bike, and motored off back home.

11/11... sounds like a good day for a wedding eh?  that is just after the rainy season in thailand, it's turning dry and cooler.  a nice time to visit thailand if it's your first time.

now i just have to save up for  the wedding party. thai weddings are fun.  there is the ceremony  with the monks in the morning, then that afternoon and evening the hosts feed everybody who comes.  there's drinks and dancing.  usually  there is at least a D.J. spinning CD's.  bigger weddings will have all the way  from a couple of stage dancers up to giant elaborate stage shows that go on all night, and everybody  from villages all around show up.   ours will be rather laid back, tok is guessing 50 to  150 guests, depending on how  many passersby stop  in for food and drinks, how many people invited, and how many falangs (that's all of  you reading this) actually appear.

im actually looking forward to it.

more to be revealed...
Nu and Tok

more photos at:  Thaikarl Picassa Gallery
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080213 Thaikarl - i annoyed the ghosts.


i'm laid low by somekind of bacteria bug. sore throat, nose, lungs etc.  Tok tells me that i may  have angered the ghosts and they made me sick.  Or i picked up a bug somewhere.  she took me to the clinic.  nice doctor, checked me over, prescribed meds and off we go.  total cost:  $6.00, and that was mostly for the meds.  so i'm fever/on, fever/off, feeling okay, to back in bed again.  sooner or later my body will have been exposed to all the strange bugs that we don't have  in the states, and i wont get sick from these things.   Tok takes very good care of me.

we had a visitor the other day:  a Coelognathus radiatus (Copperhead Rat Snake).  we didn't know if it was dangerous or not (it's not poisonous) so we were a little delicate handling it.  well i was trying to  be, but Tok was a little more nervous about it,  and kept warning me to get away, which spooked the snake even more, so it would go hide in even a  more difficult place.  finally flushed it out with the hose, and it hi-tailed it along the back fence and slithered into  the neighbors yard.

Nu and Tok

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0802006 Thaikarl Free Rocks


finally did some work today. not a lot but some. it's been pretty much relax and read time since i've been home. busy enough in bangkok, but life in ban dong khwang has been books, coffee and naps. till today.

they dumped some truckloads of crushed rock up on the big road. everyone up and down the road has been going to these piles and collecting the biggest rocks to line the walls of their new driveways. each plot of land had to buy big cement pipes for the deep drainage ditch that runs beside the road. they piled dirt on top of the pipes and leveled it somewhat crudely to make driveways to each plot of land. the dirt walls of these driveways will erode in the rainy season, so with all the "free" rocks in the piles and along the graded edge of the road building, people are taking advantage to gather the rocks to wall up the sides of the dirt.

it's been like COLD the last few days. the sun came out today and it got warm, so i was let off during the heat of the day. but come sundown, when it was cooler, tok gets me away from my book to load the big rocks in the cart and haul them to our drive, and toss them down the slope. after 3 loads i was ready to quit. but she said we needed more. not to be wimpy, i helped make two more loads, and thankfully it was too dark to see the rocks by then.

but my next job will be to move all the dirt that has already slide down the slope, break up the giant clods of earth sticking out the sides, then stack/place the rocks from the bottom up to make a proper erosion barrier.

at least the rocks are free.

Tok went to the market for a little while.  when she came walking back, there were lots of people out grabbing rocks.  I had the hoe out and was hucking the big rocks out of the pile with mama.  Tok told me that the people were very impressed that i was out working on the road.  and they said it was very nice of me to come round to greet them when i arrived.  That was because the day or so after i arrived home, i walked by myself thru the back yards and said Sawatdee Kap (HI!) to the neighbors, and relatives and kids.  if you act like a neighbor, instead of an aloof outsider, they think you are a neighbor.  doesn't seem to matter that you can't say anything more than Hi.

Gorgeous the life!

Nu and Tok


080201 Thaikarl - Went to the fair


we had some fun last week. well this week also, but i'll have to get to that later. we needed to goto phetchaboon, which is the nearest 'bigger' town to visit the government business office to get some information, and to see if we could find a transformer for my tools. tok's friend mod (sound like 'maude' but said very fast) offered to drive us if we bought gas. it's about a half hour drive from our village.

there is a fair of some unknown reason set up on a big field north of the town center. we went there, bought some lunch and lookded around some. lots of booths selling the usual stuff- food, cloths, knacks. but at the back of the area was a ferris wheel, and i could see a "Wall of Death" set up back there. I like fairs. obviously the best time to come would be at night. mod said she would take us. we can bring mama and teri too.

finding a place to park the car took a while. i'm used to the motorbike, which you can park anywhere quickly. we found a spot along the back of the field and we all ambled into he fair, at the speed of mama, which is not quickly. i could hear a popping sound comeing from somewhere. as we got closer i realized there was a shooting range. woo hoo! i booked over there, and discovered a slug pit bulldozed into the ground, a long shooting bench and army guys helping load the guns and setting the targets. tok and i went to the table where you could buy ammunition. hmmm, .38 special, .45 ACP, various rifle cartridges, 9mm. i selected a bag of .45 ACP lead bullet wadcutters for 120 baht/5 shots. (4.00 USD) they had jacketed .45's but they were more expensive. they gave us a big paper target and down to the range we went. a solder loaded the clip and handed me a 1911a .45 ACP semi-auto pistol. my favorite handgun in the whole world. 5 shots - 2 in the black. i had to go back and get more. Tok took two shots, one in the black, one outside. pretty good for her first time ever shooting a gun. i popped off the other three rounds and sorely resisted the temptation to run back up and get some more ammo. like the beatles song "happiness is a warm gun"

the rest of the fair was a little moore mundane. i paid 30 baht to go up and watch them on the Wall of Death. One motorcycle rode around and around, followed by a pickup truck. teri and mod rode the little roller coaster, i bought some sugar cane so mama could feed the elephant. we had some food and ice cream and looked at the furniture and of course the cloths and other goodies.

they had a games fairway of course. ring-toss, knock-over-the-bottles, and everyones favorite, judging by the number of booths devoted to it, the balloon busting booths. 20 baht buys (.66 usd) buys 7 darts. you have to break 7 balloons to win i prize. i lost. twice. enough for me. Seems like it should be so easy tho. but the tiny spaces between balloons magnetically attract the darts.

we all had fun that night. mama is quietly delighted by such things. never complains, that i know of, even though we drag her all over the place.

i think the fair had someting to do with army day, as there were exhibits of military hardware like troop carriers and big machine guns.

good fun for the whole family.

Nu and Tok

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080202 Thaikarl - where have i been? lotsa places!


pardon my quietness the last week.  we have been adventuring! started with Korean pork dinner, turned into a road trip, friends in the navy, house shopping, beach barbque, exotic accommodation (Attack! of the ANTS!), seeing beneath the see, consolate  paperwork funs, meeting with taiwan friends, chasing down information and things in bangkok, and still more to come.

i have to wait till we get back to lomsak to have the time to write it up.  Sanook Dee!!!

Gorgeous the LIfe!
Nu and Tok

Read my Thailand adventure ::: http://www.thaicountrylife.com