Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Searching RSS feeds

Well I am doing some work for an aquaculture organization here in Bangkok, pretty interesting work at times. On of the things I am to do is find and summarize articles relating to aquaculture and the Tsunami. This is not as boring/arduous for me as it might be for some, in my free time I spend quite a bit of time searching for and reading about topics (usually Ag or Tech related) so this is not much different except I must do it now and I have to find new information every day, I am finding out that this is somewhat of a challenge. The other day (when I was given the assignment) I started off using Yahoo news XML Search results (and Google News Alerts but not nearly as helpful as RSS) using the following string

Tsunami aquaculture OR fishermen OR fishing OR coral OR fish OR shrimp OR export OR "seafood trade" OR prawn

, damn that was nice (Though it would be *much* nicer if I could use some regular expressions). I was flooded with stuff, and used Thunderbird to sift through them. I had a bunch of results tailored to my topic of interest and it gave me quick summaries of each, I could plow through all that info really fast... but two problems have since occurred. One, copyrights; they think there might be copyright problems with posting summaries of news from other news sources. I would think that there wouldn't be a problem so long as we don't post the whole article and do put the source and the URL. The other, and related problem, is they want me to use Lexis Nexis; that really isn't a problem other than I get the impression (I could be wrong) that the processes wouldn't be as streamlined as the RSS method I have come up with, no biggie though (plus I haven't tried it yet so perhaps it will be easier).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Why not Anon P2P?

I recently heard a NPR broadcast that Kazaa and some other P2P apps have been decreasing in popularity… and things like bittorrent have become really popular. That doesn’t make sense to me, well yes it does in the sense that people are moving away from a popular medium that the RIAA and MPAA are watching to a less popular medium, problem is it is as easy or easier (from what I hear) to identify uploaders and downloaders using bittorrent! Now, I think bitorrent is a killer app, lots and lots of uses having nothing to do with RIAA or MPAA *but* anonymous it is not. Which leads me into my original thought, anonymous P2P apps like (never heard of Mute but apparently it has a bit of a following)and freenet. I guess the use of bittorrent over anon p2p apps is probably due to ease of use and speed, but still.

First, nothing is totally anonymous, like nothing is hackproof, but these applications make it reasonable hard to identify people and given sufficient volume (of users) it could really fusterate the MPAA and RIAA.

Then there is Ants, it seems to be pretty much dead, but then apps like freenet are overlooked as if they were dead, which (while not the vibrant community that bittorrent is, or Kazaa was) is not the case. There is also an in depth comparison of two semi-anonymous p2p programs ant and mute and a File Sharing without Fear article.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Bush going down in history for famous fabricated crises

Well there is a Washington Post article about how Bush manipulated the public (well at least 50% of us) into believing there were crises, here mainly Iraq and Social Security. Now I agree, and think they might have actually gone soft on him about Iraq but I don’t agree with SS.

As a tax payer paying for a benefit I will probably never recive I tend to hate SS and I *do* think it needs to be overhauled, if Bush does it then he has my support (not very often you will here that, I assure you) however two things:

#1 I hope people see the total irony of his sounding off about the perils of SS and our inevitable financial destruction because of it when he is spending us into oblivion with the Iraq war and cutting back taxes (especially for those that can afford it) so we have nothing to pay for the war with. The finical woes he has created are starting to fester in among other forms of a weak dollar (which kicked my school loaned ass all over the place while interning in Europe).

#2 His idea of privatization of SS is, in theory, great (and contrary to the article I cited earlier I do think it is in trouble). For me, a person whose parents and grand parents held off on buying Star Wars and Transformer action figures and instead set me up with bonds, IRAs, and stocks (I am [very] thankful now but trust me, that made for a really frustrating childhood sometimes) it will work nicely; I was happy when he raised (doubled?) the yearly contribution limit on Roth IRAs but again, I think I might be the minority. I am now imbued (brainwashed?) with the mentality of saving, investing, and semi-thrifty spending but I am the minority. I have worked in some pretty blue collar areas (farming, construction, call centers [ok that’s border line]) where educations were lower and MBAs pretty rare, the mindset is different there. There is no way for me to say this without seeming self-righteous and elitist but not everyone handles their money very well. I never got over the irony of working in the call center (of a bank) where I would say over 75% of the people didn’t use their 401k plan; and construction listening to guys say “yeah, I figure right before I retire I’ll put my money in an IRA account and then live off that” (well at least he had heard of an IRA).

Bush needs (and never will) understand that the majority of people will mismanage their money, they do not have daddy to help them along with investments. What he wants to do is privatize SS and give people the choice of how to save their money. Granted, the system we have now is defunct at best, but giving the average Joe the option to handle that little bit of savings (which too many people rely way to heavily upon) isn’t going to help the majority, but of course all the well to do steeped-in-the-arts-of-savings-and-investment will profit handsomely from this I am sure.

Perhaps I am wrong, maybe bush does understand about the little guys, but just doesn’t care.

Guard your Room!

Room Defender is a $33 tripod-mounted, foam disc-shooting weapon that has a motion sensor that you can set to clobber anyone that crosses its path, sweet!

God I was a kid at the totally wrong time… I thought the Star Wars X-wing (which just made little beeping sounds, had a flashing LED, and I could put action figures in it, was the shit but now they have this!

News Maps?

I think I mentioned something about "News Maps" earlier but am too lazy to find it (tried search but apparently I didn't use the words "news maps" [or maybe its just too early in the morning]). Anywho, I have been on a mission to find as much many sites like Yahoo News that offer their search results as RSS feeds (more on that later) but while I was looking I re-came across NewsIsFree. I found them a year or two ago, wasn't thrilled about having to log in etc to get my feeds, I just wanted a simple online news aggregator (which I found at my beloved This time I looked they had some new features, like News Maps. The idea of news maps was pretty neat but while (I think) they are supposed to help you follow the popularity of news, I find them pretty confusing and not as helpful as I would like, my guess is thought that I am using them incorrectly. If you know about them, find them useful by all means please leave a comment or email me, I would love to learn more about them from those that use them.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Adventures in Bangkok

Well life in Bangkok is getting along, I just met with a guy who is probably the biggest name (its all relative) in manure fed aquaculture (if you are in aquaculture then you have probably heard of him). Anyway really nice guy I shelled out about 600 baht and took him to a restaurant he suggested, freakn nice place, read s-w-a-n-k, and if 600 baht sounds expensive keep in mind its about 40baht to the dollar, so it ran me about $15 for something that would easily cost me $60 in the
US or Europe… GBTB (God Bless The Baht). The upside was he was really interesting and had tons to tell me, the down side is he ended up telling me kinda what I already knew; my study is purely academic and has no real world application. The more I look into this subject the more I find that the really big organizations are kinda like universities, they aren't as firmly rooted in the real world, their work is really interesting but not exactly applicable… Yeah, the more I study fish feed sanitation and think about what I have seen in developing/developed countries the more I think "this won't work in the real world", but its too late for that and I doubt there are many professors in my school program that would disagree with my paper (they are mostly academics). In truth, all of it is quite possible but the labor, economics, and 3rd world mentality involved just make it unrealistic… yeah time to go drown my depression in some Chai yen (in the US known as "Thai Tea") and cheap DVDs.

Speaking of cheap DVDs and drowning sorrow I just recently went to the "Fortune IT Mall", and it kicks a*s. What is it you ask? A mall (of sorts) with the 1st floor of misc stuff, fast food, sunglasses etc, second floor cell phones, billions of them (except for the specific smartphones I was looking for, mainly the Motorola MPx, and the Treo 650 [everyone said they could order the HTC, and there were lots of Treo600s]). I did (on another trip) find the
HTC Blue Angel, man, the reviews looks sweet, the feature set it almost second to none and well, the keyboard sucks goat hooves. Plus the sliding out of the keyboard wasn't as easy as I would like... sigh, guess I will continue to lust after the MPx but its feature set is not quite a nice.

On the 3-4th floor, computer stuff, computer stuff everywhere, games, movies, the most extensive collections of software I have *ever* seen, even applications for SYMBIAN, PalmOS, and MS Mobile operating systems (PDA and smartphone operating systems) …wow. Yes, I did look for some games for my brother (I have his wish list in my PDA) but at the shop I looked in they didn't have the stuff, and I was pretty burned out by the time I remembered to look for your stuff (will go looking again). I did however get my hands on a very nice copy (actually too nice, it cost me about 4 dollars, I think I will stick to my less variety, but cheaper $3.50/DVD place [hey, we have rented blockbuster movies for more than that so nothing too big right?]) of Resident Evil 2, and if you haven't seen it I would say its even better than the first.

They have DVDs of software, want almost everything Microsoft? Get a MS office DVD, has XP all service packs and the pro versions of *all* the MS stuff, same for Adobe, impressive. I will probably get the MS and Adobe DVDs later for consolidation purposes (there was enough junk that I think the software DVDs were probably dual layer, it seemed like more than you could fit on a 4.7gig single layer disk). Speaking of double layer lots of the movies had "Dual Layer" stickers on them, like it was a big deal (most movie DVDs in the US are dual layer), I also wonder how many people even know what it means (in English or Thai)?

Other news? I haven't been practicing Thai, I really should get some more basics though, the counting is coming in handy as I keep mentioning but it doesn't make up for my really bad pronunciation, or lack of vocab. Trying to speak a tonal language totally makes Romanian and Russian seem like cake, and in truth I kinda miss those good ole' European languages every time I try to say something in Thai. But stiff upper lip and all, must keep trying (to my Thai friends that was a subtle cry for help if you didn't catch it)

The mobile phone I got in Italy works fine here, the people at work set me up with (at my request) roaming service, meaning I can use it just about anywhere in SE Asia, not bad. I used it about three times while in Laos but I was told that it is mad expensive so those occasions were urgent.

The differences in prices are even more stark here than Moldova, I guess because you can live crazy kind of extravagant or live "native". I had my first non-native food the other day (while at the IT Mall), KFC; what can I say? I needed some finger lick'n good American fried poultry flesh goodness, but d*mn did it cost me. I sank 89baht (about $2.10) on fries, 4 drumsticks, and a Pepsi, yeah it was good but I can get the same amount of food (soup or Pad Thai) for about $.75 (yes, I was figuring a drink with that price), actually as I think I mentioned in my other email I rarely spend more than $3/day on food, it is usually *more* expensive for me to go to the grocery store! But of course I need some comfort foods so I splurge, even so I have never spent more than $15 at the grocery (usually closer to $10) and I usually go about 1.5 times a week. Yeah eating at the markets #1 is funny for a foreigner because most of them are eating more upscale etc #2 semi-risky, I've gotten mild trots but could be a lot worse (plus I've had shots for hepatitis A/B etc so some of the biggest worries are no more), #3, well no #3 yet but I'll let you know if it comes up.

While on the topic of food, I was having lunch the other day with the guys at the office and they were sitting with a guy, I believe he was Thai. I never got his name but we started talking, he was quite nice and apparently the organization his daughter works for is affiliated with NC State university (though apparently not Ag). He saw me eating Pad Thai (one of the booths has this old lady who speaks some English [it still confounds me considering her age and the number of people that don't speak English here, though it is I who should be learning Thai] and the whole family is quite nice so I tend to buy from them) and mentioned that he heard that Pad Thai is quite popular in the US (by the way, another just-for-my-buddies-fact my stomach isn't treating me well at the moment so I have decided that instead of reading magazines while sitting on the commode I would type on my computer, lets here it for mobility!) I replied that "yeah the first thing most Americans think of when they think of Thai food is #1 Hot and #2 Pad Thai". Later I was eating KFC at the IT Mall place and broke a bit of a sweat, it was the spicy wings and it occurred to me that this doesn't happen to me nearly as much as I thought it would here. That is, the food is not as uniformly hot as I thought it would be, they almost always have hot sauces there and quite often Thais make generous use of the sauces but it isn't scald-your-taste-buds spicy initially, so much for stereo types eh?

I'm living in a dorm, I think it is for foreigners but darn if they don't all look Thai to me (actually I think all but about 5 are Thai, one westerner [other than me], and the rest Vietnamese). Its about 2 blocks away from work and for a two person room (with only me in it), my own bathroom, and AC it costs me about $200/month, and all that for about 1/3rd of what living in Rome/Boston cost me, amazing; and I just recently found out that my co workers are living in half of a house that is 3 times as nice for the same price… geeze.

Dogs are everywhere, like Moldova, but here there are like 2-3 that hang out near where I walk sometimes, they always try to surprise me and scare me by jumping out from underneath a car or from behind a sign, I don't play that, and have chased them down sufficiently calling their bluff but it really makes the ole veins in the neck swell when they threaten me like that, I have been tempted to beat them but they haven't touched me so I won't touch them (yeah sounds harsh but put you in the same position time after time and you too will turn to the dark side). Actually as of late they have taken to just lying there until I pass, they wait until they are out of range then they start barking at me so when I run after them they can get away… grrrrrr. I need a taser or something.

(Ok, off the toilet now). Now that I think about it (again), my close to perfect computer setup would be a moderate speed, huge storage server to hold files (video/audio for streaming) and do all the P2P and DVD conversion/panoramic processing, a huge work station super fast, shit loads of mem, to do whatever on, a kicka*s smarthphone, and a ultraportable notebook. The notebook is what I am thinking about now, the monster I have now lives up to its branding as a "desk top replacement" its *heavy*, too heavy to just carry around, the idea of being able to walk around the house and surf the web (assuming Wi-Fi of course), or sitting on the john typing, or using it as an uber remote for whatever (controlling say winamp or power DVD that is running on my workstation [that has a big screen and the big speakers of course]) appeals to me more and more as I use this goliath. Of course a small "ultraportable" (yeah that's what they are called) wouldn't be able to crunch its way through hefty processing jobs like FlaskMPEG, and even photoshop would be difficult (they are rarely faster than say a gighz) but it wouldn't be for that kind of thing (and in truth, there is kind of a way around that, using say my workstation remotely [maybe with something like VNC], not as difficult as it sounds). Ok enough about that.

I have a semi-bar kind of thing on one side of the dorm, and two little café kinda things on the other side, on the other side of the building next to my dorm is a market with all sorts of stalls with soups, dry fish, and my favorite fried bananas. Yes, that fried fruit has really grown on me, and its somewhat of a chore to *not* buy them considering they cost about $.20 for a meals worth. Anyway, on the other side of my organizations building is a food court of sorts, more native food,
and dirt cheap, a Pad Thai in the US costs like $4 and its ok, here it costs like $.50 and its better. Then there are the main streets that run beside the university, all sorts of food, saw what looked like fried coach roaches but didn't take a picture, yeah I'm kicking myself now. I try to stay away from most of the non-cooked stuff (that includes most fruits etc) but the meats are usually cooked fried and if you eat on the street they do it in front of you so you can see its is cooked and for how long.

Other stuff happening? Not really, or not that I can think of. There is another IT place, its supposed to be bigger but more hectic so I might go there and look for your games, or just go back to this other place (especially if I can figure out how to get there by bus, a *ton* cheaper than taxi [even though taxi only cost me about $2.50 one way])

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Tsunami relief, big bucks

Its incredible what a huge death toll (149,540) and lots of pictures will do for funding. Working in and around international development you see lots of things. At the moment, the main problem I see is this tsunami relief thing becoming like AIDS funding around here, a money grab.

I know sys admins who make $80k/year (not including the benefits such as maids, fully paid for rent for a house, yearly trips home, insurance, etc) for a job that is worth (gross) $40k/year in the US, and more power to them… but this is for an AIDS related projects (you can imagine what the higher ups are making). I find that this is neither the exception or the norm, but its not uncommon. People working in relief benefiting more than the ones that are supposed to be helped.

I can totally understand the draw, and the temptation (and too, lets face it, you can’t work for a “native salary” and save up anything, you have to have enough so you can someday go back home) but number approaching 8 billion dollars is going to attract (already has) a lot of people who don’t give a rats ass about helping others, or even about the job they do, it’s the dough. Ah, the world we live in.

Do you encrypt your email?

Well I hope that all the people making a fuss about Gmail privacy are; email is not the private communication we would like to think it is. Yes, it is a bit unsettling that they (gmail) scan your email but do people actually look at it? is the information being archived?(that’s a maybe not sure), do you have real information with them (full name address, ss, etc). While you must start somewhere I am inclined to think that this energy would be better spent on entities in which I trust much less like Wal-Mart or Lexmark

I say this having looked at Google’s past record, which has been (comparatively speaking) squeaky clean.

Thailand Censors?

Apparently thailand does censor stuff, among other things all things microsoft, mozilla, gmail (talking about opposite ends of the spectrum). It really makes web surfing suck ass, well I have been trying to learn about proxies etc but its not so easy when all the proxy sites are also blocked... MF! But the (inconvenient) workaround is using "google cache"... ugh

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Whoa! video search for Yahoo?!

I just came across a new (beta) feature for yahoo, a video search option, kinda like google images but for video, i tried searching for smartphone videos. As far as I know google doesn't have this yet, if yahoo made RSS feeds of the more recent search results kind of like feedseter has then they might really have something!

Usefulness of GPS on-board navigation (and automotive modding)

Walking in Rome/Bangkok/travelling. I remember when I got my nifty little treo90 and thought “Finally colour and more speed” and got a few city maps using different Palm software apps, it was neat enough, I could put in an address and have it find the location on the map, pretty nice. About that time I started hearing about the iPaq and GPS, sounded neat but not so useful. Now with maps of cities/countries/continents getting cheaper, and PDA memory increasing, it is starting to seem more useful (for average Joes like myself).

I also started hearing about built-in GPS for Autos, at the time it was for either custom or top of the line cars (some Mercedes, BMWs, etc). But now, that too is coming down to the reach of regular cars (as an option) and almost standard in many nicer cars. Its perfectly suited for autos too; automotive built-in GPS, tends to be better than aftermarket (because I believe it is integrated and can take wheel rotation/movement into account instead of only relying on satellite) but the dashboard DVD/radios (many times the GPS systems rely on maps that are on DVDs) are just too sweet (not only that but being able to put in a DVD of MP3s is nice as well).

Car computerization in general. While I think it is sad that M$ is now in some cars I do think that things like video games (which I don’t condone kids playing them 8 hours a day), movies etc, I had some seriously traumatic road trips with tha family listening to novels on tape (got into them occasionally but a video game or movie would have kept me much quieter).

Monday, January 10, 2005

Wanna be depressed?

There is another radio show that I enjoy listening to, its called “This American Life”. No it is not nearly as idealized as it sounds, actually it has pretty liberal helpings of reality in each show; though I suppose you would have to listen to it to know what I mean. Not being in the US I have to record the shows and then listen to them as I have time. One of the ones I just finished listening to (I think it was a rebroadcast, but I recorded it 2004-12-03) talks about a lot of things but of course that which stuck in my memory was about “the middle of nowhere”, it was a sobering reminder of how civilizations can implode and of government insensitivities. If you wan to hear it go here.

Cult of speed

I actually like that phrase, Cult of Speed; I heard it on The Diane Rehm show (2004-11-25); she was interviewing a guy who wrote about the disadvantages of “living fast”. People always seem to think of living fast as bad, they don’t seem to consider that living fast can enable you to squeeze more of what you enjoy doing into a given amount of time.

Mind you, I am not anti-slow living, I am more for living a manual-shift lifestyle. I love slow food but only when I have time to enjoy it, and in such instances I make time and just chill, other times though taking it slow is a waste of good “life-time”, like walking to work, that can be new/interesting only so many times, after awhile it feels like I am wasting time and I want to either instantly teleport myself to work/home (which isn’t an option yet) or make proper use of it (like listening to podcast/newscasts, thus squeezing more in, which some might say is analogous to living fast).

A few thoughts that I took away from that program were:

  • “If you don’t have time to do something slowly/right, you don’t have time to do it twice” I think I misquoted it but you get the idea right? I kinda liked that idea.
  • Will the slow people be left behind?
  • "Time is money" – Ben Franklin

Sunday, January 09, 2005

über Shopping!

I heard on Slashdot (actually via slashdotreview) that Amazon Japan is soon going to work with barcodes sent to them via cameraphone pix and will automatically show their price on a product.

How cool is that?!?!

Power to the Consumers! But just think of the possibilities, if some price comparison search engine (I’d even be willing to pay a small yearly fee for a service like this, if it was good enough) did this with anything from electronics to groceries, do you know how much dough you could save!? (god I would love to go to best buy, CompUSA, or Sams Club and have instant access to Froogle, pricewatch, etc and see how much the brick n mortar places are trying to take me for [or how much I am saving with the rebates]). I have tried to write down prices etc of products while at the store and see what they are at other places (sometimes works with gadgets but with groceries I always get lazy) but this would make it worlds easier, they could even give you stats on what you scan the stores as a whole (does Wal-Mart really have all “everyday low prices”? Doubtful) or where you could save the most etc, and all by snapping a quick picture of a product! God that’s sweet. For a business model they (price search engines) could even keep track of what you scan and advertise accordingly (which I would have no problem with so long as it was anonymous)

I am not sure why it hasn’t caught on but why isn’t there like a combination of a Sams Club and Amazon Grocery service? Yeah the perishables would be a problem but you could order buckets and buckets of non-perishables and have it delivered, all for less than it would could at a regular grocery; and if you figured in time, gas, stress (well for me anyway), you might be saving even more! Oh the possibilities…

This is not nearly as cool but it is a start (in for in the US) google is beta testing "Froogle Wireless" which would just allow you to search froogle a bit easier via your net enabled mobile device.

I have also heard that there is rumor going around that google is looking into making a price comparison tool that would say let you put in something like "cheetos" and then have it give you back all the places near by that have cheetos for cheaper, Whoa!!!!

Nice Google Groups but...

So Google just revamped their Google groups, its nice, I’m a fan of GG (tons of helpful people out there) but there is a problem with the upgrade, whats up with the no upgraded search?

Google has said they are not a portal right? They are first and foremost a search engine. I find that assertion ironic when looking at the limited ability of their Usenet search. Options like being able to search within sites that have XX amount of activity, or sort by activity; speaking of sort, whats up with the sorting by relevance default? (yeah I know I can specify in the advanced search but if I do an author search (either it matches or it doesn’t relevance doesn’t work there) it gives it back to me in some sort of mysterious relevance order, of course I can click on sort by date but still. And there are other little things… oh well, its all good I suppose, its just that the changes made are fine but there are still short comings (that I would have made higher priority)

Ok, one more thing I noticed (a *really* good thing), posts go up *much* quicker than before. Before it took like hours (about half a day I think) for a post to show, this morning I posted and before 12 I had like 6 responses, now that is a big improvement.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Defrag my life?

"A few years ago, I came across an odd statistic that stayed with me, even though I'd forgotten the source. The researchers measured the amount of stuff people do, in terms of different, discrete activities. It turns out that we do more stuff in one month than people a century ago do in an entire year. And that study was nearly a decade ago. I'm sure it's worse today."

That was an article I read a while back, and it made me think of the accelerated lifestyle, something I have been thinking about quite a bit recently, the "cult of speed" as it is sometimes called. It also makes me think about all the nagging stats about how kids don't do anything but gaming, but I bet they do a ton more than they did 100 years ago (no that was not a gaming endorsement, I play games less than once a month if that)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Quick impressions of SE Asia

On the bus: Damn I'm tall
On the school campus where I am Living: Damn I look old
Eating at street vendors: Flagrent sanitations violations?!
Eating at street vendors: This costs me 1/5th of what it would in the US (and tastes twice as good?!)
After Eating at street vendors (fortunately only once so far): Should'a gotten more TP while I was out.
Walking around in this Neighborhood: Am I really that amusing to stare at?

and the list goes on... more later

Digital generations

I was listening to a Morning Edition series (2004-12-01) called 'digital generations', and this part was about a few that were everyday net users who decided/agree to go cold turkey and not use the net.

To talk to people my age I tend to think I am pretty tech savvy, and current but then the little things I hear about make me think otherwise. People I have met (almost always younger) seem to be instant messaging (IM) junkies, sometimes participate in online alter-egos (not just using a pseudonym but like Everquest type things), and game online non-stop... geeze. I suppose it is of some comfort that I know how to do all the above but am not into it (still haven’t figured out CSS, or OPML but in time I hope).

It would be kind of rough for me, I need both, the outdoors unwired relaxation but also wired entertainment (internet, not necessarily TV programming). Listening to formally internet-connected people talk about relearning to find the weather etc was amusing, mostly because I can kind of relate. Me I hate using phone book or newspaper. Flipping through a phone book or sifting through a newspaper just seems arduous. In listening to Adam Curry struggle without broadband in the UK, is almost amusing, just because I would feel about the same way.

My love for Slashdot Review gave me and idea...

The Slashdot Review is simple, Andy Mcakasky (sp?) just reads the headlines from the days postings, not hard, anyone could do it (despite the fact, he came up with it, and no one else thought of it so a big Kudos to Andy), but the fact that anyone could do it (ok, after listening to some people try to do podcasts reminds me that *not* anyone but you know what I mean) gives me an idea, why not a reading of other sites? Like Wikipedia, they have something like an entry of the day, or, I am sure someone could work stuff out with these, or other sites and just simply read the articles for that day, I am sure I would listen to it.

rOut'a here again! (well for a week or so)

Damnit! ok, i wrote this on like on Dec 23rd, 2004... and saved it as a draft, doh! anyway, here is is

Yep thats right kiddies, one of the big advantages of being in a country that is close to a bunch of other countries is easy to travel! So heading to Laos for Christmas and New years for the warmest christmas/new years of my life (and i have had some pretty comfortable ones in NC but there is still no comparison). So have a happy/merry to all!

ok, went there, had a ball, and came back... will post more on it later.

Adventures in Tsunami Free Laos

Ok kids, pictures from my adventures in Laos (get out the Atlas if you don't know where it is, or go to the CIA Factbook for Laos) are up and ready to gawk at.

They are actually not all my pictures, in truth, if they look really good (or are of children) then they are probably not mine. Keep in mind that the "slideshow" option is probably the easiest to use, especially if you have a broadband connection.

Laos was fun, it is by far the poorest country i have been to, made Moldova look pretty well-to-do. It had some minor ups and downs (the main down was trying to get back to Thailand but that was partly our fault) the weather was phenomenal. After being in Bangkok during the dry season (which is supposed to be the coolest season, hate to think what the hot time will be like) i can really appreciate the weather in Laos, during the day it was sunny warm (not hot) shorts type weather and in the evening a long sleeved shirt was more than enough.

The people (excluding many of the ones trying to sell you stuff) were quite nice, and very tolerant of my non-existent Thai/Lao (*very* similar languages). The food was good but wasn't any cheaper than Bangkok to my surprise, same for the internet access (2-3 times as much as Bangkok), and many of the gifts... I am guessing this is due to the rampant (and very fast) commercialization of tourism there. It was kind of hard, seeing all these people jump in head first into the tourism frenzy ripping foreigners off (though mind you meals still only cost $4-8 at even the really nice places [but that could be a weeks wage in many of the villages]), occasionally begging, etc. Its a hard call, be poor or prostrate yourself/culture for mula. I stuck with most of the dirty native restaurants (one of my favorite quotes from high school was from a Thai/Lao friend whose mother owned a Asian grocery that was pretty dirty "We keep it dirty so people feel at home" he said with a grin) but the food at those places was usually anywhere from fairly to *really* good for 1/4-1/8th of the cost (even with my "funny" western habit of tipping [they rarely argued]) of the westernized places. Anywho i have gotten so many shots for Hep etc that i figure (hope) i won't get too sick, though getting the trots sometimes just comes with the territory.

lots of little villages with houses made of woven grasses/palm with cute kids. Some of them (the villages) see $$$ when they see you so they try to sell you something, though mind you they aren't a fraction as aggressive as they are in Morocco/Turkey/Mexico. Sometimes you just want to tip them or give little present of a penny (I brought some pennies from the US, American change is not so easy to get abroad so it is more of a novelty than dollars) but then you see the kids/people that resort to begging because they can make a ton more doing that than they can selling stuff, well thats not totally true but you can make more per given unit of work; this is something that can not be encouraged. We did alittle hiking, rock scrambling, took a river boat ride on the Mekong, a bus ride etc. The bus ride up to Lauprahbang deserves mention. About 3/4 of the trip was in
hilly/mountainous areas with really twisty roads, some people got really sick, a dirty little guy sitting across from me all of a sudden hopped up, jumped over his buddy (who had a window seat) and stuck his head out the window to toss his cookies (apparently a few days worth of cookies at that). Alittle while later the guy helping the bus driver calmly got up, got a bag of little bags out, and started passing them out to all those that felt like they were going to pop,
quite amusing (I can say that since miraculously wasn't one of the afflicted). We took a mini-van back, it was much better (except that our driver was pretty d*mn surly) but we still had a few casualties.

OTHER NEWS, Tsunami.
To those that were wondering, no I wasn't in Thailand when the Tsunami hit. Actually, I didn't even know that it hit until a day or two after when I started getting all these "are you still alive" emails, nice to know I am not forgotten. I started to notice that it was on the news but since it was in Thai & Lao I had ignored it before.

When I got back here (Bangkok) I found that everyday life here (and Laos) are/were surprisingly removed from the tragedy but being in an aid type organization you tend to hear about the worst parts of the tragedy, no not all the deaths but all the agencies competing to try and get as much funding as they can. I love money, i really love it but to see agencies and people try to deceive and cheat their way into more aid money is incredible. No on is totally innocent, the US giving incredibly little (considering the GDP [nay, the powers that be seem to prefer funding pointless Vietnam-like wars]), Japan giving strategic aid (It is almost amusing to hear the story about the land locked African country announce at a UN meeting that whaling was a good idea [after it had received some Japanese aid, and having previously denounced whaling], this time does not seem to be an exception), the French at first giving less than half a million $ aid (until they received criticism), or some local Thais (and surely locals in other countries) saying they lost 50ft 200hp boats when they actually lost a 15ft paddle boats... its disappointing, no one is innocent. The organization i am interning with is trying to form a consortium to pool/evenly allocate funds among the aquaculture related organizations in the affected countries but they are having a hard time getting anyone to join because everyone seems to want more than their fair share... these are aid organizations people!

ok, enough about Laos and enough about the Tsunami, I hope y'all enjoy the pictures.