Monthly Archive: April 2009

Helen Popper: global economics expert, and my professor

Marketplace: Global cooperation is way to recovery

This is an interesting link for two reasons.  First, it is one of many really mind-opening discussions on our economy, the global economy, and how we need to look at so many variables for just about everything.  And everyone has a different perspective.

Second, I am taking a class with Professor Popper this quarter. 

Wat lit at night

Wat lit at night

Originally uploaded by kaiyen

Just outside of Ayutthaya, the former capitol of Thailand, Wat Na Phranem was essentially untouched when the Burmese sacked and basically destroyed the city in the late 1700’s. The Burmese empire actually attempted to destroy the city at least one time before, but they were defeated when the Thai prince killed the Burmese general in an elephant joust.

Yes, an elephant joust. Where they had big spears and rode on elephants at full speed. And I thought it would be hard to do on a horse…

This photo was taken while on a night tour of the various temples around Ayutthaya set up by the friendly proprietor of Baan Lotus, a quasi-backpacker, just the basic place to stay in town. It’s the kind of place where they ask you to look at the room first, and offer to bug bomb it right off the bat. Still, it was good enough for a night, and the price couldn’t be beat.

The woman that runs Baan Lotus kind of owns the town, it seems. The little tuk-tuk taxis that take one around on the night time, sunset tour all say “Baan Lotus” on them (so they aren’t the generic ones one usually sees everywhere) and even when we did take a regular one to the train station there was a Baan Lotus advertisement in it. I kind of wonder if she has a racket going on.

One thing I’d like to point out of the photo, which I’m rather happy with is the dark structure on the left. At first it might seem like just a strange dark area on the left. But it’s actually part of the temple that was receiving just a bit of light from another source. So look at the image full size and please make me feel better about myself ūüôā

monks around Wat Arun

monks around Wat Arun

Originally uploaded by kaiyen

While basically atop Wat Arun (you can go up about 2/3 of the way, which is up some extremely steep and tall stairs (maybe 1′ tall, 6″ deep), I saw this group of monks walking out of a building, down the street and away from the wat.

Because of all the temples around Thailand, one runs into monks all the time. Proper behavior around the wats and around the monks is very important. One never steps on the threshold of the door of a wat, as it is believed that a spirit lives there. Women must not speak to monks nor can they touch them. If they wish to hand something to a monk, they must first give the item to a man, who will in turn give it to the monk. Religion is taken very seriously in Thailand, though one would not know it from the look of bustling, modern Bangkok.

Monks tend to catch one’s eye because of their bright robes, which are a rich orange color. However, I chose to convert this to black and white because of the patterns and textures. I was fortunate to have a camera with me with a serious zoom lens on it or I would never have been able to get in close enough. Other than cropping into a narrower shot vertically, this is the full frame.



Originally uploaded by kaiyen

Photographically, I really like this photography and am very satisfied with it on a number of fronts. At the same time, it was an…emotionally conflicted evening for me.

At first, because I forgot my cable release for my digital SLR, I wasn’t going to even bring it along. I was going to just shoot with my medium format and film. However, someone convinced me to bring it to the NASA station and I basically just set the camera to 25-30 seconds and fired away. This is the best of the bunch. The clouds were apparently moving a lot more than I thought and the distortion from the ultra-wide angle lens actually enhances that effect. The “daytime”-ish feel of the photo is just a basic color correction from what was a very yellow & brown image (the types of lights there produced that).

So in terms of the good luck of bringing the camera in and the carefree way I took the photos, it was very satisfying. I just let myself go from the technical side of things and just composed photographs I liked.

On the other hand, for some reason, I didn’t enjoy myself as much as usual while I was out shooting. Usually, I am excited to get out of the house, especially since I am in school and so busy all the time. This time, after just a couple of hours of shooting, I was ready to pack it up and get out of there. Just tired.

I admit that I am a bit worried that I found myself less motivated about something that has been my passion for years now. But this is just one evening, and one time out. We’ll see.

clouds ablaze over Bangkok Old City

This will be the first of several, several posts of photos from my Thailand trip. This blog will likely turn into 75% photos for the next few weeks, with sprinklings or links to articles like I often do and then a few actual, personal, original posts.

We had this terrific hotel right on the river, on the Thon Buri (west) side of the Chao Praya river that runs along side the main part of Bangkok. It is called the Ibrik (eye-breek) Resort on the River. 3 rooms, 2 with patios with incredible views. Highly recommended.

With the time change, we had no problem waking up really early and often caught tremendous sunrises. This one just blew us away, and it’s difficult not to post about 50 photos from it and the following days. This is the very first morning we were there, right from our patio.

The skyline is of Old City in Bangkok – where the temples (wats) and the Grand Palace is. We were facing that from our side of the river. Storms were always just about to reach us so there were always clouds to help with the magnificent reds and oranges and yellows. The river made for a nice foreground, of course.

Traveling abroad by guide book alone

My wife and I just came back from Thailand about a week ago.  I am so blog-oriented now that I kept thinking of topics the whole time.  This is the first thing that really struck me Рgoing to a foreign country, without someone with local knowledge (and preferably language skills) to help you out, can be really tough.  One ends up relying a lot on guidebooks.  In our case, we had Frommers, which was newer than Lonely Planet (which everyone else seemed to have), and Eyewitness, which we like because it helps us walk through major locations with a detailed illustration.

Anyway, I think one goes through phases when traveling by guidebook, especially to developing countries, it’s easy to get a bit paranoid. It takes about 10 readings to get below the surface, aided by the realities of actually being in the hotels, walking the streets, etc.

Phase 1 is all about paranoia. ¬†Don’t let the tap water touch any orifice, much less consume even a drop while showering. ¬†Buy more bottled water than is humanly possible to carry. ¬†Don’t trust anyone that tries to sell you stuff on the street. ¬†In fact, only buy water from 7-Eleven (which is remarkably everywhere in Thailand, everywhere we went), and actually run away from street vendors. ¬†Oh, and eating from any street markets will cause your stomach to explode and you will never recover.

Then you read a bit more, and even at the warnings right there in the hotels, and realize that one should not drink the tap water. ¬†There is a big difference between getting some in your mouth and drinking it. ¬†Sure, still brush your teeth bottled water, but that’s probably about it. ¬†Washing your hands and touching your eyes won’t make you lose your sight. ¬†And drinking the water they serve at most restaurants is probably okay, too. ¬†

Not every taxi or tuk-tuk driver is going to force you to go through 10 stores to force you to shop before going to your hotel. ¬†Yes, if you go with the wrong people (taxi ride solicitors at the airport, rather than going to the public taxi line) or don’t insist on simple things (that taxis use meters, or that you want “no stops” or “no shopping” on rides, especially leaving a place like the main train station) you’ll be fine. ¬†If someone takes advantage of you, you get out and refuse to pay. ¬†No big deal. ¬†

And for street markets?  The guides actually tell you that you should use common sense and stick with fried foods (which have to be cooked on the spot).  Are you taking a bit of a risk?  Sure.  But the paranoia can take a break after the first day or so.  But you have to read those guidebooks a few times to get that through your head, I think.

Just heard on CNBC: McCain doesn’t understand economics

I just heard John McCain, in an interview on CNBC, criticize our debt to China by saying we need to get rid of it via a balanced budget.

Our incredible foreign debt – most of which is based in China – is a problem. We owe a LOT, and we are now relying on countries, primarily China, taking even more to fuel our new spending. So I’m fine with the idea that we need to reduce debt.

However, has McCain ever studied history at all? The attempt at balanced budget in 1936 that led to the recession of 1937 (you know, the recession within the Great Depression)? What about the consumption tax increase in Japan in 1997 that killed off gains they made during the Lost Decade?

I learned that stuff over a 10 week macro econ class. You’d think a senator would be at least mildly familiar with that stuff (or that some of his staff would tell him about it.