Mumbai blasts - an after thought

Heard that mumbaikars are walking tall. They would prefer to walk safe. But nobody is giving that option to them.

And I encourage them to walk tall too. At the rate at which they are walking taller they soon can have a bird's eye view of their neighbourhood. Then Mumbai can post a sign "Neighbourhood watch: Very tall Neighbours watching."

Minister P. Chidambaram said after the blasts that the terrorists have targeted populous area to inflict maximum damage. This man is - BRILLIANT! Too bad, he is not into science. We could have got a Nobel prize! We should urge him to reconsider his career. "It is not too late. We have lost just twenty lives."

Not long back, he was the finance minister when the market fell by four percent in thirty minutes. He came on T.V and said some thing like "There is no need to panic. It is just four percent. Compared to the rise last year the fall is nothing." Sure, Traders got the message. The market fell by another six percent when it resumed.

So, what can we do about terrorism apart from making obvious statements and congratulating ourselves for walking tall? What we can do about terrorism before the next act of terrorism takes place? Blogosphere is abuzz with crazy ideas like blasting Pakistan off the face of earth and standing united against terrorism.

People sit half reclined as they go through their activity that matters most to them - watching T.V. You want them to stand against, repeat it, terrorism? Hmm.. good luck on that one. And the only way to blast Pakistan off the face of earth is if India gets to make the maps of earth. Of course, I don't think Pakistan is the root cause either. They have their own problems.

So there should be something we can do before another blast goes off, right? Yes, We can do one thing - NOTHING.

Terrorism is a new kind of war. It is a low cost war where the participants pay high price. In olden days, the cost and the price of the war was very high. So it has gone out of fancy to be replaced by this new monster called terrorism. In this war, countries are not at loggerheads. There is no battlefront, no tanks, no army. Just some nebulous entities bombing at some random places.

Terrorism is an unequal war waged against the inequalities in the system. Our society, any society for that matter, is full of inequalities. The rich gets richer and the poor gets poorer. But when a poor starts feeling that the reason for his poverty and insecurity is his religion,color,language then the seeds of terrorism has been sown in his mind. And someone will always come along to water it and grow it into a hatred tree that bears bombs. Remember, if you see a blast now, it is the fruit of the seed planted long time back. Osama didn't get up one fine morning and said, "What a fine day to blast the towers!" U.S planted the seed for the act long time back.

When did we plant the seed for the terrorist acts that we are confronted with today? My guess is that we planted it the day we brought down a mosque. But some might say, that it was the day when the mosque was built originally. The truth is, it doesn't matter. What is done is done. We need to focus on the present. We need to ensure that the climate is not conducive for the terrorism tree to grow wild. We need to make an inclusive society where one's religion is purely a personal matter. Then the blasts will stop. If not in our times, it will stop in the times of our children at least.

Thailand, Forever New ...

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not speaking for myself but for the multitudes who “discover” Thailand each year.  The evangelical converts who wax lyrical about all things Thai, be they cultural, culinary, carnal, curious, creepy, climatic, or conversational as in learning to speak Thai, which I highly recommend.

Some of these new explorers, upon discovering the wonders of Thailand, are eager to convert or instruct others on the ins and outs of every imaginable aspect of all things Thai.  Blogs are one way of getting the message out.  There are some 250 Thai related blogs to be found on but one list, inaccurately named Top 100 Thailand Blogs.

Here you will discover a wide variety of styles and subject matter.  I fall into the category of narcissistic personal bloggers who write only of their own experiences and stick to original material and opinion.  Some focus on politics, travel, food, religion or nightlife.  Others repackage the news they scavenge from more legitimate news sources while adding their own editorial twist.  Some of my favorites are the professed puritans who write pages of prose boasting of their lack of interest in all things carnal while using every imaginable and lurid keyword, catch phrase and search word in their somewhat hollow denial.  Whether this duplicitous approach is intentional to attract page views or simply a sign of naiveté and inexperience is anyones guess.

For those in need of guidance, there are guide books telling you where to go, when to go, how to go and even why and how much.  There are instruction manuals on how to do almost anything from finding food, accommodation, transportation and companionship to things like driver’s licenses, visas, marriage and anything else you can think of.  Everyone seems to think they have something new or better to offer from the hoards of others doing the same thing.

Whether in their twenties or seventies it is fun to watch the new arrivals reinventing the wheel and announcing their new discoveries.  Even with all the new sources of information that were not available back when I first reached these shores, people continue to make many of the same mistakes and if anything seem to be even more naive than the intrepid unprepared explorers of the past.  Sadly those who need advice the most are often the least likely to take it I have found.

Clearly there are those who are suited to life as an expat or involvement in a cross-cultural relationship but it is equally apparent many are not adapted to such a life.  If you are a screwup at home, chances are you will be an even bigger one over here.  If you don’t know much about Thailand and can’t speak the language then it is all down to luck of the draw in your search for a partner.  A quick look around will confirm the world is not full of lucky people.  Luck would seem to be the exception, not the norm.

For those of you who have only recently discovered Thailand may I wish you good luck and enjoy the ride.  My only word of advice would be to learn the language if you plan to do more than holiday here from time to time.

On our education system

It is June, July again - that time of the year when we, parents, wake up to the fact that there is something called education system and it has deteriorated from where it was when we were concerned about it the last time which was precisely a year back. It is a recent phenomenon. For the past five years are so, every June the parents go, "Oh no! We are just back from our vacation and the education system is already waiting for us to worry about. Lets get back to work and start getting concerned."

But this time we are really concerned. We are positively convinced that the education system has gone to the dogs and are really worried that the dogs are thinking of passing it back to teachers. "Please, pass it on to your cousin wolves who hunt in packs if you must, but not to the teachers!" is the general opinion among us.

But I am not with my fellow parents on this one. I think we owe a lot to our education system. So allow me to offer my defense for the education system.

Five hundred years ago no one, not even the wisest one, knew about Newton's laws. But it is due to our education system that nowadays even a high school student can tell all the three Newton's laws which are

1)There are three Newton's laws
2)All laws were discovered when just one apple fell to the earth.
3)If I slap you, you will slap me back. (The real Newton's law had words like action and reaction. But the education board decided to choose the English translation over the Latin original)

If that doesn't impress you maybe you should help your child do his collage on tubers. Then you will know how advanced the education system is. Did you know that even though yams and potatoes are available in the same aisle of the super market and are often found adjacent to each other, they are as different as they can be. Yam is a root tuber and potato is , hold your breath now, a stem tuber! Yeah, it is a completely different animal ! The difference is so vast that it merits a complete chapter in school books and of course, a collage. I hope parents won't mind that a chart paper of these vegetables is costlier than a kilogram of these tubers especially since it has made them knowledgeable about the huge difference between yams and potatoes.

But to me, the ease with which the education system has included the instruction of a radically new and dynamic field like Computer Science into their fold offers the ultimate proof of its quality. Look at couple of questions from the recent computer science question paper of class twelve.

1)Draw the diagram and label the parts of Pentium processor
2)Explain the ten different types of social networks and give examples for each one of them

Hello, highly concerned parents! Don't the questions look similar to the ones you saw two decades back in Science and Geography papers?

This eternal immutability of our education system is the one that convinces me that five hundred years from now FaceBook - a phenomenon that puzzles the wisest of us today will be clearly understood in bullet points just like the way we all have understood Newton's laws today. Indeed it is a very comforting thought.

As a parting note, maybe we should be more concerned about the falling standards of our concerns. We used to worry about how the Indian team was a one man army and about the real estate prices. Now we are worrying about the education system! Something must be really done to improve the standards of our concerns. We need some good issues to worry about. Raja and Ramdev are trying their bit, but it's not working. Is Rakhi savant listening?

From Funny Side Of Life

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Yellow Door Restaurant in Phuket Town

A couple of weeks ago was our 10th wedding anniversary, so we were heading out for dinner. We asked the kids where they'd like to eat and they chose Dairy Hut - a place we've been going to regularly for years in Phuket Town just round the corner from the Bangok Phuket international hospital. It was still a bit early so we drove past Dairy Hut and headed towards Rang Hill, thinking maybe to veto the kids suggestion and eat instead at Tunk Ka Cafe. The road heading up Rang Hill from this side is not well known and is much narrower than the usual route up Rang Hill which starts just north of the old town. BUT before we reached the hill, my wife said "Ooh, whats that?" - a small restaurant with a yellow door, it looked interesting ....

Yellow Door Restaurant

Yellow Door Entrance

The signs are all in Thai, the restaurant is called "ประตูเหลือง" - Yellow Door. We had a nosy inside, checked the menu, the prices looked very reasonable, so we chose the Yellow Door for our anniversary meal! Note that the photos on this page were taken on July 9th - there's a clue - the food was so good we went back again not long after the first try.

We were there quite early, before dark and were just about the first customers, but over the next hour it filled up - was busy both times we have eaten there. Customers mostly young people, students, couples, but I saw a couple of families and older Phuket people. Seems the word has spread quickly - good food, good price, interesting restaurant. All the staff working there are young too, looks like it's been built and run by a bunch of friends. There is seating at various levels, by the road or down some steps in among the trees, or up on a raised platform with chairs and tables of all kinds of shapes and sizes. The menu is written in English and Thai but I am not sure of the English language skills of the staff. A restaurant in a location like this is not expecting too many tourists! I did see a couple of other foreigners there each time we ate, they seemed to be "local foreigners" like me :)

Yellow Door seating

Yellow Door, outdoor seating

The prices are very good. Basic rice and noodle dishes starting at just 35 - 50 Baht, with Thai salads, curries around 70 - 80 Baht and I think the spaghetti was 60 Baht - always a good bet for the kids! We had 7 different dishes plus rice and drinks (only water/soft drinks, though they do sell beers) - our bill first time was 500 Baht, second time was 540 Baht and that was with an extra kid (friend of our daughters came with us) - not bad for a family meal - and we were pretty stuffed, the portions are a good size. Here's some of the food we ate (yeh, food porn photos!):

Raw shrimp

This is "Gung Che Nam Pla" (กุ้งแชน้ำปล่า) - raw shrimp with fish sauce, garlic and chili - my wife loves it.

Yam Tua Pu

I am a big fan of Thai salads - this one is Yam Tu Pu (ยำถั่วพู) - made with wingbeans, minced pork, onions, chili, lime and coconut milk.. exact recipe can vary. YUM! I normally eat this with rice.

For the kids - spaghetti. First time they had a bolognese style, but second time was this version and it was demolished quickly, so I reckon the kids gave it the thumbs up! As an aside though - don't be expecting superb pasta dishes at little Thai restaurants, this is Thailand, not Italy. Many restaurants do spaghetti to cater to Westerners who are afraid of spicy food, but it's not often great. Kids won't complain though!

Healthy spaghetti

Kanom Pang Na Moo

And some snacks - above is Kanom Pang Na Moo (ขนมปังหน้าหมู), fried bread with pork, served with some cucumber, onion and chili vinegar. I should have ordered a beer to go with that - it's definitely a beer snack!

Gai Hor Baitoey

More! This is Chicken fried in pandan leaves, Gai Hor Baitoey (ไก่ห่อใบเตย) - small, almost bite size pieces of chicken wrapped in pandan leaves and deep fried. Lovely... our kids like them, one plate is not enough... darn kids eat more than we do sometimes! But seems that at the Yellow Door we can all stuff ourselves for 500 Baht. We'll be back soon, very nice little place.

Update January 2014, we did go back a few times, but then it closed down for a long time, was rebuilt and is open again now. Still low prices and tasty food, and it might become a regular place for us!

Yellow Door Restaurant - Location Map

View Yellow Door Restaurant in a larger map

More Bike Trail Photos

Took a break from running the other day and enjoyed a very hot but beautiful afternoon on the mountain bike.  They have done some work on this particular trail since I last ventured that way but heavy rains and heavier use has left it rutted in the flatter areas where there is more traffic this time of year.

The big wide open rice fields are greening up nicely as the young rice plants take root with the mountain range providing a dark green divider between field and sky.  Here are a few shots I took to record the day.

When a blogger gets stuck for ideas

Two months and thirty posts into blogging few bloggers find themselves in this happy situation

1. The blog is so popular that producers are making a beeline to produce TV shows based on his posts.
2. The blogger is so famous that he stars in ads mouthing inanities like "Boost is the secret of my creative energy".

But the majority of us face this problem
1. People prefer watching television to reading his posts (even in households where there is no cable)
2. He has run out of creative energy and ideas. (But for one unpublishable post about what to do with the people who prefer television to his blog)

And the blogger typically does one of the following when he reaches this unfortunate situation where he has no ideas and few readers

1. Look around him and write about the things that moves him.
2. Dip into the ideas that he has earmarked for the day he and his blog would be popular.

Unfortunately, both of these options aren't going to help me.

Traffic jam and unread writers, the things that move me, cannot be blog posts as I can't imagine any reader saying, "Wow! Another post on traffic jam and unsuccessful writer. Let me subscribe to this blog!"
I can't dip into the ideas earmarked for the time I become famous because, they largely revolve around unsuccessful writers stuck in a traffic jam.

So I have decided to go down the route of Bollywood directors and music composers who are bereft of ideas - "Get inspired" from more popular works. Yes, I am going green! I am going to recycle stuff.
That is my big idea till I can reach the happy situation when I can write about traffic jam and unsuccussful writers.

So here is the broad outline of my big idea
1)Choose a topic and write a series of posts. (twenty to thirty)
2)Post biweekly (Mondays, Wednesdays) on the chosen topic.
3)Keep Friday free for the ideas that move me and does not involve traffic jam and unsuccessful writers.

I hope you like the idea. If you do, I need your help to make it a success. Help me in finding an idea that I can recycle. I have a few candidates.

MahaParatha reheated
Modern version of the epic story written by debutant author Ved Vyas and published by Elephant India

From Socrates to Jean Claude Van Damme
Story of philosophers from Socrates to Jean Claude Van Damme, jean paul sartre's brother

Inside, Outside and around the assembled PC
 Have you ever looked at the stars on a moonless night and wondered, "I wonder what is inside my PC?" This topic is for you.

Rediscovery Of India
We tell the untold history of India

Build a popular Blog in 1399 easy steps
We are kidding. We have only 1200 steps. But we will find the rest for you.

What would you like to read? More precisely, what won't you mind reading again?
And trust me, you might have read them before. But not the way I am going to write about it.

Read more about the choices and Vote for them here or in the form below.
If you have any new suggestions, write it in the comments box.

A visit to the Bamboo School's (Thailand) Lakeside Chapel

                                                        Bamboo School
The Bamboo School exists to fulfill God's direction given in Isaiah 58.
We're located in the mountains up against the Burmese border in the small village of Bongti, home to 541 families with an annual average income of just US$180/year.
There are currently 63 residents (many of them orphaned, abused, medically challenged, retarded, or refugees of economic poverty) that God has molded into a family.

Many of you know that Ciejay and Me , are very much supporters of the Bamboo School near the Burma  border in Bongti, Thailand. The Bamboo School is a orphanage , that is held together and run by a lady,the kids call MOM MOM Kat, I call her Kat for short . She is a wonderful , and committed person to the Task God has called her to do , I know of no other person with so much love and compassion ( and energy) for unwanted children. She is truly what God calls "The Salt of The Earth".The school is not funded by any one particular organization , even tho Kat is a Seven Day Adventist, Children of all religions , are welcome, the school is funded by freewill offerings , if you would like to know more about the Bamboo School  check out their web site at .

My friend Jerry took a trip thru the mountains to visit Kat and the Kids , this past Saturday , we wanted to take some bakery goodies for the kids that Ciejay had a lady who bakes in our neighbor hood ,she had her to bake a bunch of small cream filled rolls , enough for the kids to have for a couple days for an afternoon snack.
We got there just in time for their Sabbath Day Church Services at their new Chapel by the Lake , what a beautiful place , and we enjoyed a great sermon from Kat and some really wonderful singing of hymns from the kids . We visited for a few hours  and really enjoyed our time with the kids . I took a lot of pictures and will post a few for you to see , If you are ever over this away and would like to visit the School , give me a call and I'll show you the way .                                                                     Malcolm and Ciejay

Tha Reua Chinese Shrine

Many posts on this blog relate to the history and culture of Phuket, such as the page about the Heroines of Phuket and posts about the Phuket Mining Museum for example. I also like to visit temples and shrines around the island. Phuket has a mix of Buddhist temples, Chinese shrines, quite a lot of Mosques and even a couple of Christian places of worship. In particular the Chinese shrines fascinate me, and in a couple of months (starting 26th September) the Phuket Chinese community has it's biggest festival - the vegetarian festival (see Phuket Vegetarian Festival Schedule). For 10 days the Chinese shrines are the focal point for celebrations, prayers and bizarre rituals.

Tha Reua Shrine is probably the most visible Chinese Shrine in Phuket, since its right by the main airport road just south of the Heroines monument. Any transport from the airport to the main beaches (Patong, Kata, Karon) will pass this way. If you've seen a big shrine by the side of the road, it's probably this one!

Tha Reua Chinese Shrine, Phuket

Dragon at Tha Reua Chinese Shrine, Phuket

Tha Reua is an old Phuket community in the center of the island. I believe there was an older Chinese shrine in the area, but this new one has been built - construction started about 10 years ago, maybe more.. seems to me this shrine has been slowly growing ever since I came to Phuket! The new shrine is just about 99% complete now, maybe needs a bit of work around the edges, but... wow! I have been to all the main shrines in Phuket, but somehow had never, ever stopped at this one until a couple of weeks ago. I was impressed! A huge amount of work has gone into Tha Reua Shrine, the decoration is amazing. In particular, there seem to be dragons everywhere.

Dragons at Tha Reua Chinese Shrine, Phuket

Roof of Tha Reua Chinese Shrine, Phuket

I will be back here sometime during the vegetarian festival. I can imagine this shrine looking most impressive at night and people dressed in white come to pray. And there are a lot of gods to pray to! The main altar features a huge array of statues of all sizes and colours.

Inside Tha Reua Chinese Shrine, Phuket

Some of the faces on the altar ...

Tha Reua Shrine, Phuket

Tha Reua Chinese Shrine, Phuket

Tha Reua Chinese Shrine, Phuket

The Chinese shrines in Phuket are always full of colour and interest - over the next couple of months they will all be spruced up and painted and will be getting ready for the vegetarian festival. Much of the time when there are no festivals, I find the shrines empty. On this day I turned up in the late afternoon and found one old caretaker shuffling around, and just as I left a minibus turned up with a group of half a dozen Russians. Map below - Chinese Shrines in Phuket :

View Phuket Chinese Shrines in a larger map

Running and The Red Sky ...

Last week I began my run looking at an ominous dark sky hoping to get a run in before the heavens opened.  Approaching the first hill, the game was up as the rain began.  The front edge of the storm was a mere tease, promising much more if I didn’t turn around and head home, so home it was.  With my distance having been cut short I took the challenge to race the dark wall of water that threatened to overtake me.  Sure enough half a kilometer from home I was engulfed in a torrent of water that left me sloshing my way home in what felt like buckets of water strapped to my feet.

To make up for the short but fast run, the next day I added a couple of kilometers and went all the way to the dam and back.  I suffered a bit after that and broke my running routine with a bike ride the other day.

Yesterday the scene was set for a repeat performance but luck was with me.  The villagers were all heading home from their fields and orchards, passing me plodding along in the opposite direction into a dark and foreboding sky.  This having become a common scene no one was offering me a ride home this time.  Keeping a close eye on the dark low hanging storm front, it was with relief I watched as it passed just one village to the north of us.

As the storm backed up against the mountains to the East dropping its heave load, we were blessed with a spectacular show.  Assuming that was it for the day and feeling a bit hungry I sat down for a light fish dinner in the dinning area.  The longer I sat the more spectacular the colors in the sky became.  My wife suggested that I should perhaps take a picture but I assured her the best had surely passed.  Finally I could take it no longer, grabbed the camera and stepped out the patio door.  Without a tripod, I braced against the low fence for stability in the very low light.  The light may have been fading but the colors were peeking and absolutely spectacular.  This is what I captured.

On ageing

Nobody knows a man better than his
3)Barber (Not hairstylist)

BTW, that list is in reverse order. I know that wives will not be thrilled about losing to his mother. But spare a thought for his mother. She lost to his barber!

It was my haircut day, a Saturday couple of months back. I was looking forward to the barber working his magic on my hair and transform me from nobody-with-lot-of-hair to nobody-with-little-hair . I have this special connection with my barber. We meet once a month and instantly connect.

"Come in! Come in! Had your breakfast?"
(I sit at the vacant chair.)

For the next half an hour we connect like those two childhood friends who don't need to talk when they meet. We exactly know what each other wants.

I - less hair.
He - more business.

Before leaving I smile to acknowledge his skill. He smiles back conveying, "It was his pleasure." That is an example of great relationship. A relationship where there are no disasters of expectations that go wrong, misunderstandings that explode, insensitivity that hurts.

But something changed that day. He popped the dreaded four-word question.
"Do you want dye?"
"Your hair. Do you want to dye your hair?"
"But.. But why?"

He pointed at that reflecting thing called mirror. He tilted my head to show my sideburns where the hair had caught the fresh

snow of the old age winter. If your life is not the basis of any docu-drama movies like Schindler's list then seeing your grey hair for the first time in mirror can easily be your most harrowing personal experience. But my barber, for some reason didn't understand that. He kept selling the idea of dying my hair. I politely declined, paid him and left without smiling that day.

You might be wondering why I had not seen the grey hair in mirror before? Allow me to digress to explain how men relate to mirror. We believe that mirror is something that supports and fills the wall. And it is something that one stands in front of
when they brush or comb , because there is nothing else better to stand in front of. But we really don't see what is on the mirror. Never! We have T.V to see what is on.

I went home that day and looked at my past photos to see when exactly the old age had crept on me. And I saw the obvious answer - old age was always creeping on me. If my hair color could be used to represent the demographics of a city - I have
decayed from NduguNdugu of Central Africa to Harlem of fifties to Madras of Pre-Independence era. And whites were winning every day. I will probably have a photo to represent Arctic Tundra within a decade.

But I am not going to go down without a fight. I am never going back to any barber who suggests I dye my hair.

From Funny Side Of Life

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