Largely Links

Largely Links 01.jpgI don’t like to waste money so I tend to budget everything, maximizing my usage to the nth degree. That includes using the internet cafe, even more so now that they’ve increased the cost per hour from 15 baht to 20 baht at the one I frequent. That means I’m now paying 60 baht (almost USD $2.00) for three hours online compared to the 45 baht (USD $1.50) it used to cost me. It’s a significant amount when you’re as poor as dirt like I am — and have an online addiction.

In maximizing my online usage, I don’t do a whole lot of reading while in the internet cafe. Time is money so I do a lot of skimming — downloading stuff to read later. I’ll be armed with a ton of links to follow, gleaned from emails and news feeds downloaded on a previous visit. If I’m researching a topic such as “schools in Hat Yai, for example, I’ll run a Google search and then open the most interesting/informative-appearing links in multiple tabs and then save the pages for perusing upstairs where my time is my own. I throw the best of these articles, etc. into Microsoft Office’s One Note — I prefer this to Evernote — for future reference.

I’d like to share a few of this week’s most interesting links with you today — there’s some local news and bits on books and what not.

Already proving extremely controversial (and be sure to read the comments if you follow this link) here in Thailand is the Ministry of Culture’s announcement that they are ordering “the governors of all Thai provinces to ban foreigners from getting tattoos of religious images of any faith.” A law is also proposed that would forbid the use of religious symbols for commercial purposes. The article mentions Phuket’s Culture Office having uncovered an “alarming trend” of tourists bearing tattoos of Buddha, Ganesh, and Jesus Christ. I suppose they haven’t noticed that many Thais are adorned with Buddhist tattoos (including monks) nor do they realize the very roots of tattooing itself was religious in nature. In regard to the banning of commercial religious symbols does that include the amulets that many locals have dangling around their necks (some have so many they look like they are multiple Olympic medal winners) and will the government begin denying entry to tourists who happen to have a cross or St. Christopher’s medal visible when they go through the immigration queue? This is yet the latest example of the Thai government specifically targeting farangs, a trend that has been increasing in the past two or three years with alarming rapidity.

Another example of this were the raids a couple of months ago in Chiang Mai in which foreign musicians were arrested for performing live music in nightclubs and other venues. While I can understand the need for a musician to have a work permit if they are conducting a scheduled concert or club gig for which they are being paid, there’s a risk that foreigners could be arrested (or at least heavily fined) for getting on stage to sing a song at open-mic nights or even a karaoke club! Even to jam one would need to have at least a 15-day temporary work permit. I’m reminded of reports of some people helping out in orphanages, etc. after the Boxing Day Tsunami being fined as they didn’t have the necessary documentation. Yes, even doing volunteer work in the Land of Smiles requires a work permit. All of this highlights the negative attitudes that some Thai people have against non-Thai people and expats are increasingly saying that if it wasn’t for our money, they wouldn’t tolerate us at all!

Of course, some of us do things that are perceived as extremely odd to Thai eyes. Take, for example, the Pattaya blogger who is attempting to see how cheaply he can live for a month — something I can really relate to (although my expeirences are out of necessity rather than experimentation). The rather derogotarily-named series is called Living Like A Thai and it’s given me a couple of really good ideas in the first week of its run. I’m not a big water-drinker, for example, but I’m going to start using the water refill stations rather than purchasing new bottles. I’ve noticed one outside of the corner pharmacy (I didn’t know what it was for the longest time) and it should prove useful right now as the running water in our building hasn’t been working for almost three weeks now. For as long as I’ve lived here there have been periodic water outages — the water will be shut off while they replace pipes along the roadway or the supply simply runs out; in the case of this particular building, the underground pump gets flooded as the result of too much rainfall and they bash around for a while trying to fix it before eventually purchasing a new pump. Our old landlord was very good at this but the new owner is fairly clueless. But he did discount our rent bill this past month, taking off 50 baht from the usual 200 baht charged for water! Anyway, I need a new source to fill my barrels and the water refill station sounds a lot less expensive than buying large bottles at the minimart to fill toilet bowls and shower buckets..,

Perhaps the best expat blogger in Thailand is Richard Barrow who recently gave some great advice on being careful about what you blog about in this country. This was written in the wake of an American who was arrested under Thailand’s lese majeste laws which prevent people from insulting the monarchy. Apparently, a Thai-born resident of Nakhon Ratchasima who formerly lived in Colorado was arrested for posting a link to a PDF of a banned book on his blog back in 2007. He appealed for help from the U.S. Embassy but was denied bail and now resides in Bangkok’s Remand Prison. This is scary stuff — you really do have to be careful about everything you write in blogs nowadays, not only in Thailand. I also want to make a careful search on my own blog as I have written in the past about the book in question. I owned a copy at one point but found it rather slow-going on my one attempt to read the thing. The book itself is long-gone (having sold it at one point) but I need to check if I ever put a link to an information site about it…

This one’s a couple of months old but Discover Magazines Not Exactly Rocket Science gives an awesome graphic showing the writing process. It’s no wonder that I never finish much of what I begin writing!

My favorite book of all time is Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. From the L.A. Times’ excellent Jacket Copy blog, I’ve learned that a signed first edition recently sold for $25,000. I’m even more excited to learn that there will soon be a book published about the reclusive author’s life, The Mockingbird Next
Door
, but without Lee’s involvement.

I do enjoy learning the background behind my favorite books and am suitably excited about the recent publication of The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of An American Classic by BookPage’s Michael Sims. I even signed up for a contest to try and win a copy (I never win anything but one can try). I used to teach Charlotte’s Web to fourth graders at my old school here in Phuket and would insert little bits of trivia into the lessons as we progressed through the novel. I know a few of the kids were fascinated to learn that Charlotte A. Cavaticus’ name was derived from the Latin term for the common barn spider and the fact that E. B. White developed his ideas for the book while living on a farm in Maine. I can’t wait to learn more if/when I can obtain a copy of Sims’ book. BTW, an online study guide I created for Charlotte’s Web still consistantly receives around 80 hits each week and I can’t figure out why as only my Term 1 students from last year ever had the link. It receives more traffic than any of my other sites combined!

I’ll wrap up this edition of “Largely Links” with one that combines two of my great passions — reading and eating. Flavorwire provides 10 food and literature pairings to give some idea of what to eat while reading particular books. While I’ve never given or attended a themed dinner party (well, I did eat in a restaurant once where the menu was based on the last meal served on the Titanic) I can see that it would be interesting to eat something relating to the book one is reading. I do get hungry while immersed in my books (and writing blog entries too, for that matter) but usually just snack on whatever’s at hand — usually potato chips or cookies, I’ve never said I was a healthy blogger! Perhaps I can start experimenting and see what pairings I can come up with — let’s see, Italian sausages while reading Janet Evanovich, clam chowder for Dennis Lehane, mutton stew or Indian tacos with Tony Hillerman…

Now I am hungry! Off to get something to eat…

The Phuket Bookworm

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