December 2010 Archives

New Year's Day in Thailand

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We've been on the move since Bangkok, touring the coast of Thailand all the way down to Penang, Malaysia. Internet has been pretty spotty at the places we've stayed. It's easy enough to catch a WIFI network here and there for checking email, but not enough for a longer blog entry.

We're spending New Year's Day in Hua Hin, a beach city relatively close to Bangkok. This is a popular beach destination for those in Bangkok- the King of Thailand has a beach house here.

We watched New Year's Eve celebrations from the 9th floor balcony of a condo that we're staying at. Floating lanterns filled the sky flying out towards the ocean. A floating lantern is like an upside down paper bag with an oil candle at the bottom. The heat from the candle causes the lantern to rise like a hot air balloon.

The red streaks in this photo are the lanterns in the sky. Photos can't really capture the beauty of the river of red dots moving through the sky.





Over the city fireworks lit the sky bringing in the New Year.












I shot the fireworks photos with my Canon T2i pressed onto the balcony with an exposure time of 8 seconds. I think they turned out pretty well!

Temples, temples, temples

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If there's one thing you'll get used to seeing Thailand, it's Buddhist temples. Thailand is over 90% Buddhist and temples can be found everywhere.

Besides the Grand Place, my first two days were primarily spent visiting some of the more notable temples.

Wat Pho


Wat Pho is known for one of the largest reclining Buddha statues in Thailand. The statue runs the entire length of the temple and is covered with gold leaf.









The bottom of the feet of the Buddha is made of mother of pearl.

Wat Arun


Wat Arun "Temple of the Dawn". We saw this temple as we were sailing down the river in Bangkok. it is an enormous temple with steps that you can climb almost to the top. The steps get progressively steeper as you go up. The steepness isn't a problem on the way up but is kind of frightening as you try to descend.



One of the interesting things about this temple is that it is covered with recycled china and other bits of ceramic.






Grand Palace in Bangkok

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The Grand Palace is the must see destination in Bangkok. It's a little overwhelming when you first see it, a visual overload of colors and shapes.




Temples at the Grand Palace.



Gigantic statues guard the palace.



Closeup of a temple.




This is just a taste. Unfortunately with sporadic and slow Internet it's hard to get pictures uploaded.

Airplane food

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Besides getting there, the one other thing you have to look forward to on an airplane is being fed. The whole process of serving food and eating helps make the time pass more quickly

For dinner, I had the beef.



While not visually attractive, it actually tasted pretty good. It was an Asian style dish with a black bean sauce.

The three pieces of shrimp in the cocktail were also good. I wonder how much thought went into choosing three shrimp as the appropriate number for an airplane shrimp cocktail. Maybe that's all the shrimp that one packet of cocktail sauce can cover.


I've never seen cocktail sauce packaged this way like ketchup. I wonder if this is made for airlines or if there is a need for cocktail sauce packets.

The rest of the tray was pretty mediocre.

Salad: lettuce and one tomato. I only ate it because that's probably the only vegetable that I'm going to see on this flight.

Bread: dry and flavorless. Pretty much just a deliver vehicle for butter.

Dessert: a cross between the worst parts of a cookie and a brownie. Seems designed solely for the purpose of leaving crumbs everywhere.

It's dark now, but I can't sleep. Even Eat, Pray, Love isn't putting me to sleep as I thought it would.

Breakfast is going to be a long night away if I can't get to sleep.

Delayed by a snow bank

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Our flight out of Minneapolis got of to a slow start because of snow. Not falling snow, but a pile of snow. Our plane was a little late leaving the gate because of several minor issues. The pilot said that we could make up for the delay in the air.

The plane taxied for a short distance and then came to a sudden halt. The pilot came in and told us that if we looked out the left window, the outermost engine was in danger of hitting a snow bank if went forward.

The snow removal crews had left a snow pile that was too high for the very large 747 engine to clear. We were the first 747 to fly out today so they didn't know that there was a problem until now.

The captain said that a tug would be sent out shortly to push us to a wider taxiway.

Because we were on an active taxiway, we had to stay seated with our seat backs up and no electronic devices. I ended up falling asleep. One of those uncomfortable ones where your head keeps bouncing up and down waking you up. Every time I woke up I'd look out the window and see the engine and the snow bank and know that we hadn't moved.

After a total of two hours of waiting a tug pulled up to the front of the plane and pushed us to the larger taxiway. That's two hours to spend in cramped coach seats and being no closer to out destination.

After the tug released us, we were finally on out way. As the plane made our final turning the taxiway to the runway, the speed quickened and the engines let out a deep throaty roar. It's been a few years since I've been on a 747. I've gotten used to flying smaller regional jets that the airlines seem so fond of. And their engines produce more of a whine than anything else. I've forgotten the sheer guttural sound of the 747 as we powered into the sky. I'm near the very back of the plane so every little vibration seems exaggerated. Over the years I've been progressively less comfortable with turbulence and I'm not really sure why.

Our flight is taking us over Canada, Alaska, and then Russia before entering Japan. The captain mentioned that we'd be spending about two hours in Russian airspace. I guess the captain thought we'd be interested in the fact that we'd be flying in an airspace that once would get you shot down.

Unfortunately with the delay, we're now due in around 6:12 pm Japan time which is 5 minutes after our flight to Bangkok is supposed to leave. Delta has about 11 hours to figure out if we're going to make our next flight or be spending a night in Tokyo.

Well, we made it to Tokyo and whether by plan or convenience our Bangkok flight was delayed 45 minutes. By the time we made it to the gate we could hear our names being called out for boarding.

As I'm writing we're approaching Bangkok arriving at 11:45pm Sunday night. Temperature outside is expected to be a balmy 85 degrees.




The journey to Thailand has begun

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The journey to Thailand has begun. First a quick stop in snowy and cold Minneapolis. It's a chilly 10 degrees outside. We'll be here for an hour before heading on to Tokyo, Japan.

Our first snafu. I had booked this flight months ago with my girlfriend and my seats together. However, now our boarding passes have us really far apart with both of us in middle seats. Not much use for trying to trade seats.




Here's the seat in front of me. Note the complete lack of any type of entertainment system. Thanks Delta for having one of the oldest fleets on the planet. Good thing I'm well equipped for self entertainment with my iPhone and iPad. Still, it's going to be a long flight.



Here's the view of the screen from my seat. I'm going to enjoy watching Salt from the equivalent of a 13 inch TV.



Mmmm. Beef. I know it's airplane food but it actually sounds good. We shall see if it's worth the anticipation.
ESPN.com: Tom Fenton found, signed by Coyotes

When Phoenix Coyotes No. 1 netminder Ilya Bryzgalov came down with the flu shortly before facing New York at Madison Square Garden, the team didn't have time to call up a goalie from the minors. Coyotes head of pro scouting Frank Effinger scoured the area for an amateur goalie and came up with Fenton, who lives in Purchase, N.Y., and coaches hockey at Manhattanville College. Effinger lives in the same area.

It's an amazing story, being an NHL player for a night.
Mashable.com: "FarmVille for Dummies" Is Real and Available for Pre-Order

We have a new frontrunner for the most redundant book title of 2010 award: Wiley's FarmVille for Dummies, available for pre-order on Amazon now.
Hilarious.

FarmVille For Dummies at Amazon.com

BlogPress- iPhone App for blogging

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I'm headed to Thailand for the next several weeks and so I've been looking for an easy way to blog from my iPhone or iPad.  I am using Movable Type which these days doesn't seem to have as much support as WordPress so the options are more limited.  I can access Movable Type admin pages through Safari, but I found that it did not really work well at all.

The first thing I tried is a Movable Type plugin called iMT.  iMT is simple to install and creates an iPhone formatted admin page.  The interface is nice, but of limited functionality.  You can't add photos to your entry.

Flickr provides an easy solution to this with its blog integration. By linking your blog to Flickr, you get an email address where you can send pictures that Flickr automatically converts into a blog entry.  The subject becomes the title and the body and picture becomes your entry.  It worked great, but is designed for single photo entries.  If you send multiple pictures in the same email you get multiple entries.  One for each picture.

I found my solution with the iPhone/iPad App BlogPress.  BlogPress has everything that I need to moblie blog.  I like it because there's an offline mode where you can write your entry and then upload it when you have an internet connection.  Photos are easy to add to your entry.  Simply select them from your album and they appear in your entry.  When you're finished, the photos are automatically uploaded to your site, Flickr, or Picasa, and are embedded into your entry.

It will even upload videos to YouTube for incorporation into your blog.

I only tested BlogPress with Movable Type, but it works with all the major content management systems out there.

I highly recommend BlogPress and I know that it will change how I blog on the move.
NYTimes.com: To Conquer Wind Power, China Writes the Rules

One Chinese supplier here became so adept at making a 10-ton steel frame that keeps a wind turbine's gearbox and generator aligned even under gale-force conditions, and making it so cheaply, that the Spanish company now ships the Chinese frame halfway around the world for turbines that Gamesa assembles at its American plant in Fairless Hills, Pa. Mr. Calvet said the American manufacturing sector had been so weakened in recent decades that for some components there were no American machinery companies readily available.
The Chinese have protected their companies by requiring a percentage of local content.  The U.S. has no such requirement.

How many things can we no longer make in the United States even if we wanted to?
The League of Ordinary Gentlemen: Question for readers

If the publisher of a small website dedicated to the dissemination of the state-secrets of the Chinese government were operating their publishing outfit out of the United States and published a bunch of leaked Chinese state secrets (both on their website and through various larger media organizations) and the Chinese government declared that a violation of Chinese law, should the US government arrest and detain and possibly extradite that person to China?
Let's assume for a moment that this person is a United States citizen. Is he guilty of treason against China? Let's assume he is Canadian. Would it be reasonable to say this person was violating Chinese law and should be tried and possibly executed in China? Does Chinese law trump civil rights and civil liberties for non-Chinese citizens? Do China's legitimate security concerns outweigh the civil liberties of non-Chinese citizens? Of American citizens?
One last question: Should all the media outlets who published the material they received from Assange be punished in kind? If not, why are they held to different standards? If so, what does this say about freedom of the press?
Makes you think a little about Julian Assange and Wikileaks.

China hands out its own peace prize

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CSMonitor.com: China counters Nobel Peace Prize with Confucius Peace Prize

What a joke.  And like other Chinese knockoffs, it's cheap- $15,000 to the winner.

The first recipient is Lien Chan, former KMT party leader in Taiwan.  This is a total slap in the face to all those in Taiwan who seek independence.  Not only that, the Panchen Lama was also nominated.  The Panchen Lama is a Chinese government's choice after the Dalai Lama's selection for Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, mysteriously disappeared.

I'm surprised that they just didn't give it to Hu Jintao and save the trouble.
ESPN.com: Pete Sampras' tennis trophies stolen

Tennis star Pete Sampras says most of his trophies and other memorabilia were stolen from a West Los Angeles public storage facility.
The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Sampras still has 13 of his 14 Grand Slam trophies.
But thieves took his 1994 Australian Open trophy and most of the hardware from his 64 tour title wins, two Davis Cups, an Olympic ring and six trophies for finishing world No. 1 in the year-end rankings from 1993 to 1998.
...
The items were not insured because there was no way to assess their true value, he said, according to the report.
It's a strange theft.  What does one do with a room full of trophies?  It seems like difficult items to fence.

These are the droids we're looking for

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BlackMilkArtoo-1.jpg
These are the droids we're looking for.

Blackmilkclothing.com: Artoo
Blackmilkclothing: Threepio

NYTimes.com: A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web

A shocking story about how a certain web retailer does business.  It's 8 pages long, but worth the read.

Google has already responded by changing their web algorithm to account for his business strategy.

NYTimes.com: Google Acts to Demote Distasteful Web Sellers
CanonT2i.jpg
If you're looking for an excellent entry level SLR, here's a great deal for the Canon Rebel T2i and a telephoto lens at Amazon.com.  I recently picked one of with a similar deal on Black Friday. 

For about $800 you get the Canon T2i, TWO lenses, and a 4 gig flash card.  The lenses that you get are the 18-55mm kit lens and the 55-250mm telephoto.  Both are image stabilized lenses which helps prevent blurriness when zoomed in.

To get the deal go the Canon EOS Rebel T2i + Telephoto Lens page and add the T2i and the 55-250 lens to your cart.  The 55-250 is a much better lens than the 75-300 lens that is also listed because 55-250 is image stabilized while the 75-300 is not.

Add the Transcend 4 GB Class 6 SDHC Flash Memory Card to your cart and you get it free.

I've been playing with my new Canon Rebel T2i for a day and it's nice.  It's a huge upgrade from my original Digital Rebel.
How to stop iPhoto or Aperture from loading when plugging in the iPhone.

stopiphotofromloading.jpg
The preference to change this isn't in iTunes, iPhoto, or Aperture.  It's in the application Image Capture in the bottom left hand corner of the window.
CNN.com: Senate GOP pledges to block all bills until tax dispute resolved

House Democrats, meanwhile, announced their intention to move forward with a vote Thursday to permanently extend the breaks only for families earning $250,000 or less.
...
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, called it a "non-starter" and "political chicanery" that threatened to undermine the talks.
This is pretty much what the GOP does best.  Obstruction.

How is a proposal extending the tax cut to only those who make less than $250,000 "political chicanery"?
Gawker.com: Tea Party Leader: Restricting Voting to Property Owners 'Makes a Lot of Sense'

Soon they're going to be saying that having indentured servants and slaves are a good idea too.
NYTimes.com: Where Anonymity Breeds Contempt

It's like the Klan.  You can say despicable things when you're wearing a hood.


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