Monday, March 31, 2008

List *31 - about April Fool's Day

I've gotten through the whole month of March, with posting a list every day for the month for the NaBloPoMo Challenge. It's been quite a time, trying to think of a new list every day, but it has stimulated my creativity. Right now, I'm in the drainage state of my cold, which is keeping me up. So since it is the 31st, I'll list some facts about April Fool's Day.

1. I had always believed that the day started because Europe had changed its calendar - the old calendar, which did not have leap years had gone so wrong that the days no longer matched up with the seasons. So in the 1500's, when the calendar was reset, people were still celebrating the beginning of the year on April 1st. Anyone who celebrated New Year's on 1 April was therefore called an April Fool.

According to the article on April's Fools Day on National Geographic this is not quite true. France and many European countries had been celebrating New Year's on 1 January for long before that. This was the legally accepted start of the year.

2. Now, anthropologists believe that April Fool's Day, being in the spring, was a holiday of renewal, so people would wear costumes and play pranks on each other.

3. In 1983, one scholar played his own prank by announcing that the holiday grew out of a practice in the court of Constantine (3 - 4 century AD) of allowing the court jesters to be king for a day. King Kugel was the King for a day, and declared the day to be a day of absurdity. The scholar's friend just happened to have a craving for Kugel that day, so this was the true origin of the story.

4. According to Boese, of the Museum of Hoaxes, "Good humorists are basically secular shamans—they both heckle society on one hand and heal it on the other." He also said that it's also a day for evening up social inequalities - street urchins used to play pranks on London gentlemen in the 1800's.

5. Famous Hoaxes can be found at this link. Both this site and the Wikipedia article have a great list of great pranks played on April Fool's day. Might give someone some ideas about something.

6. Wikipedia entry on April Fool's Day has a variety of stories that may be true or not. In France the person fooled is known as poisson d'avril (April fish) because people would stick fish on the back of people's coats because the sun crosses the zodiac at the time of equinox in the constellation of Pices, the fish. This has developed into a child's game of attaching paper fish on the backs of unsuspecting friends.

About 20 years ago, I was doing some work in the cooperative pottery studio I belonged to. We were all listening to the local public radio station when there was an announcement that the US had invaded Canada. One of the other potters came from Canada, and she got really upset and was ready to call home when we reminded her what day it was.

Anyone else have interesting April Fool's stories?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dok Khun

Dok Khun, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

One of the ways that we know that hot season is upon us - other than feeling stifled by the heat all the time - is that the Dok Khun tree starts to bloom. Tuk-tuk drivers tie them to their vehicles for color and good luck. They are also used in blessing ceremonies for the Lao New Year (13 - 15 April), where the flower is dipped in water blessed by a Buddhist monk and then sprinkled on people attending the ceremony. The monk also splashes water on the building and on vehicles that people would like to bless.

The common English name is Golden Shower Tree.

List #30: Major Cities in Laos

Laos is a small country, about the size of California. Along the eastern half of the country, it's very mountainous. The central part of the country and the lands bordering the Mekong are flat and this is the major rice growing sections of the country.

is one of the most laid back cities ever. The name of the city is actually pronounced "Vieng Chan". Some people believe that it means "Beautiful sandalwood tree," which is supposedly taken from the Pali language; however most people will say that the name means "Beautiful moon." Wiki-travels has information on the major sites and getting around for tourists at Travel in Vientiane

Louangprabang is the capital of the former Kingdom of Louang Prabang. In spite of tourism, the city is still very laid back. About eight years ago, they tried to enforce a rule that Lao women had to wear traditional sinh, Lao silk tube skirts, in keeping with its UNESCO status - but while you can preserve buildings in time, it's more difficult to do this with people.

Phonsavanh is a relatively new city. The old capital of Xieng Khouang Province was originally 30 to the southeast. Known as "Xieng Khouangville," it was totally destroyed by bombing in 1968-9, leaving one enigmatic Buddha sitting among the rubble of the building surrounding it. Phonsavanh became the new capital as it was closer to the main highway linking Route 13 to the west to the Vietnamese border on the east. Although it is about 100 miles from the VN border, it is an active commercial center as well as the main city near the Plain of Jars sites.

Xam Neua
is the northeastern most large city in Laos. During the war, it was the center of resistance against the old regime. To escape bombing raids by the American backed Royal Lao Airforce, people lived in caves in the natural limestone cliffs about 40 kms from Xam Neua town, in the district of Viengxai. The main military hospital was established in the cliffs. As many of my friends who grew up in the caves told me, living in the caves was cold and difficult but the bombing and loss of friends strengthened their resolve.

Tha Kaek is the main city in Khammouan Province. One of the sleepiest places around, it is across the river from Nakhorn Phanom in Thailand. Right now, tiny ferries cross the river, but it's like that a bridge will be built within the next ten years.

Savannakhet is one of the main trade centers in southern Laos. Across the river from Mukhthahan, Thailand, it's also not too far from Route 9 to the Vietnamese border. A new bridge was opened last year and trade has been running through the city to Vietnam, making Laos a land-linked rather than a land-locked country.

Pakse was the old capital of the third independent kingdom, Champasak. In 1946, the separate kingdom was merged into the "Kingdom of Laos." While it was once a desolate city, the opening of the bridge across the Mekong and improvement of the road from their to the Thai border and the city of Ubon Ratchathani have made it a major commercial and tourist hub. Several tourist companies promote eco-tourism and village visits, though most of the Thai tourists come in large groups on tour companies visiting the main attractions in the area - the four thousand islands (Si Phaan Dohn), the Khone Falls on the Mekong, Wat Phu and Pha Suan resort (a very peaceful resort set up by a Thai businessman).

Salavan was totally destroyed during the 'Vietnam' war because of its location near the series of footpaths that made up the Ho Chi Minh trail. While there is a lot of trade going on and building up of the city, it's still basically a small town that's growing into a larger small town.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

List #29: My favorite foods

There are a lot of weird foods in Laos, many of which started off as foods of necessity but ended up becoming the high cuisine. I can eat most of it, some of it is a little gross, but when I have a chance, I like to eat the following:

1. Real ice cream.
2. Cauliflower and broccoli - for some reason, they're difficult to find outside Vientiane. Asparagus I can find in Xieng Khouang, because a crop substitution program got people to stop producing opium and plant asparagus and plums instead.
3. Napong yogurt - there really is a dairy which sells milk and they make great yogurt. My favorite flavor is mulberry.
4. Cheese - of any variety. There's a foreign food store that sells all sorts of cheeses.
5. Brown rice - people in the remote areas don't over pound their rice so it retains vitamins; however people in the cities prefer polished white rice. If I can't get brown rice in the countryside, I can find it in a few stores in Vientiane.
6. Fresh tofu - people in the north, particularly Hmong, make tofu but it's difficult to find in the south. Sometimes I can find it in Vientiane. Fresh tofu is stored in cold water, and wrapped in banana leaves.
7. Fresh whole wheat bread - there are several stores that bake bread fresh, though some upcountry towns make great crusty French bread.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Skywatch Friday

Two views of hazy skies this week:

bodhi tree2, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

This is the Bodhi tree near my house at dawn. It shed all its leaves about two weeks ago and the new buds are starting to come out. The sky was very pink at dawn; a few minutes later, it displayed various shades of gray.

roof decoration and flowers, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

I took a long walk during lunch time earlier this week and caught a picture of the roof of the temple behind my office, framed by frangipani flowers.

This picture is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, hosted on Welcome to Wiggers World

March Books update on my TBR challenge

I read about this book challenge on Names Have Been Changed
Anyway, since I'm always trying to read at least one hundred books per year, I'm giving it a shot as part of the The TBR Challenge

March: Somehow I end up reading the books that are in front of me, and forgetting to read the books on this list. I just finished Farthing by Jo Walton, which gets five stars and rates a separate review.

I've also read this month:
Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula LeGuin
Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge

My list of twelve books is:
1. The White Castle by Orhan Pamuk read in Feb
2. The Pakistani Bride by Bapsi Sidhwa - XK
3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott - currently carrying around with me
4. Mortals by Norman Rush read in Jan
5. Carnival by Elizabeth Bear Vte
6. The Vision of Emma Blau by Ursula Hegi - XK
7. Was by Geoff Ryman SLV
8. The Biographer's Moustache by Kingsley Amis
9. Brasyl by Ian MacDonald Vte
10. The War of the Nerves by Ben Sheppard SLV
11. Baghdad Burning II by Riverbend SLV
12. A Door into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski read in Feb SLV

Alternative Books:
1. In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen
2. The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank
3. Shriek: an Afterword by Jeff Vandermeer - XK
4. Ammonite by Nicola Griffith SLV
5. The King of Torts by John Grisham XK
6. Dark Sun by Richard Rhodes Vte
7. Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury SLV
8. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West XK
9. The Terrorist by John Updike Vte
10. Farthing by Jo Walton - read in March
11. Wandering through Vietnamese Culture by Huu Ngoc Vte
12. Espresso Tales by Alexander McCall Smith SLV

I'm going to see if I can keep pulling this entry through the months as I read the books.

List #28: Places I like to watch sunsets

I like watching sunrises and sunsets, though sunsets are probably more realistic since I'm already awake.

1. From the top of the Pakse hotel, with all the city at my feet and the light glittering off the Mekong River.

2. At Wat Meuang Wa in Vientiane - I stay near there so its a ten second walk to the levee by the river. While the river can be just plain brown or gray during the day, when the sun sets, it takes on all the colors.

3. Somewhere in the rice fields in Salavan. If there's water in the fields, it reflects the colors of the sky.

4. At the Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang. Every time I go there, the sky is a different color and textures.

5. Lumphini Park in Bangkok - this is the biggest park in the center of Bangkok, where it's easy to forget you're in such a polluted metropolitan area.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

List #27 and Thursday Thirteen #6: Fruits you find in Laos

Thirteen Tropical Fruits

Fruits in Asia are amazing and people eat a lot of fruit. At the end of a meal, hosts offer fruit for desert. During the long hot afternoons, people will buy small sour fruits and berries which they eat with sugar and powdered chile peppers.

Some fruits can be found in the US, but they have to be eaten fresh before you really can experience them. Some of the following pictures are mine; some I found on wikipedia.

1. Lychee - usually found in cans in American supermarkets, they grow abundantly in the tropics. And fresh lychees are nothing like the poor specimens drowned in sugary syrup that are sent to the US in cans. The first reference to lychees was in a Chinese text in the Tang Dynasty, where the emperor's concubine craved them and he had them delivered by fast horse to keep her happy.

2. Longan - a little smaller than a Lychee with a brown tough skin and black pit. They are also called 'Dragon's Eyes.' The rind is thin and you can peel it back a little to pop out the fruit, which is white, and with the dark seed inside, it lives up to its nickname.

3. Rambutan - On the outside, they are red and green with soft spines. They are like burrs but bigger and red. I can't imagine how they evolved to look the way they do. Once you open them up, the fruit is sweet; the outside of the seed often comes off and it tastes a little nutty.

4. Mangostein - is a very strange fruit, very fleshy rind on the outside with a multisegmented fruit inside. It is the most sugary fruit imaginable and can only be taken in small doses - but very intense doses they are. Apparently the wood is very hard and can be used for spears and rice pounders; the rind can be used for tanning leather. So there's more to this fruit than meets the tongue.

I couldn't find any pictures I liked for this fruit. Maybe I'll have to buy some and take my own.

5. Custard Apple -
This fruit just about had a texture like bread. Again, very sweet. Originally from South America, somehow it has gotten around the world. And if you don't want to eat the fruit, the leaf juice can be used to kill lice. The seeds are very hard but don't kill you if swallowed - which is good because they are toxic, and also can be used as an insecticide.

6. Dragon Fruit, also known as Pitaya is actually a cactus.
The fruit grows on the end of spindly cactus stalk, and surprisingly, it grows well in tropical climates. Around SE Asia, Cambodia and Vietnam grow and export a lot. The red skin pulls away from the fruit easily. The inside is white, a little crunchy and sugary tasting - the black seeds are crunchy and although I expected them to taste like poppy seeds, they don't.

7. Guava I love guavas. There are so many varieties and you can eat them either ripe or green. The most common variety we get here is the apple-sized type in this picture, which is eaten green - it's slightly sour with a lot of seeds. There are smaller and sweeter varieties in the north, which are just wonderful. As I write this, I'm craving one right now.

The leaves of guava can be used as traditional medicine. Cambodian friends tell me that the tea can be drunk to cure diarrhea.

Several years ago, my landlady had cut herself badly with her machete when she was weeding. The wound looked awful so I insisted that she see a doctor friend of mine. She didn't want oral medicine and certainly did not want an injection - so he told her to boil the leaves of guava, wash her leg several times a day and stay off her feet. I kinda of rolled my eyes - but I was the one to be surprised when I returned from the province a week later and saw that her wound was healed.

8. Of course, everyone knows and loves mangoes - however, here mangoes are something else. There are 300 hundred varieties grown in Thailand. There are about 50 varieties that are commonly available here - and they all have their unique taste. Most SE Asians like to eat them green; they are crunchy and sour. A common dipping sauce is made from honey (or cane sugar), mixed with fish sauce, roasted rice powder and hot chile peppers. Another treat is khao nieo mak muan, mango with sticky rice and covered with a sauce of sweetened coconut juice. When I first worked in Thailand, we could only get ripe mangoes and sticky rice between February to May, so it was like having something that you'd really wait for. In fact, some variety of mango ripens somewhere in the country but during the 1980's, they were not shipped outside the region where they were grown. Now, there's a lot more long distance shipping so even in Laos, some varieties of mango is available all year round.

I took the picture on the right last week. The light color of the mangoes makes the tree look like it's decorated with Christmas ornaments.

9. Jackfruit - the taste for Juicy Fruit Gum comes from Jackfruit. It's a strange looking fruit; when I first saw it, it reminded me of the pods from the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The things are big - Wikipedia says they can weigh over 30 kgs. and it's the largest tree borne fruit in the world. Inside, there are yellow fruit sections which look like they're made out of plastic - the fruit is good (though it tastes like a certain gum) but the sap is very strange. It's like latex and coats your fingers.
The Mughul Emperor Babar said, "The jackfruit is ugly and to some people is bad tasting. It looks exactly like sheep intestines turned inside out like stuffed tripe. It has a cloyingly sweet taste." I wouldn't go so far in my description - but it is an acquired taste!

10 Papaya Papayas that you buy in the US are nothing like the papayas grown here, which can reach epic sizes. Some people find that the smell of ripe papaya is rather disturbing. OK, let's say it - it smells like vomit. However, it's very good for helping digestion and its aftermath. Most Asians prefer to eat green papaya, and make spicy salad by pounding grated papaya together with fish sauce, chile peppers, lemons, tomatoes, and sometimes raw cane sugar and lemon juice. Another kind of Vietnamese salad is fish sauce, dried shrimp, lemon juice and a little sugar topped with grilled beef and peanuts.

Green papaya is supposed to be good for high blood pressure, the seeds good for inflammation and stomach problems and the fruit can be applied to fungal skin problems.

One of my favorite Vietnamese films is The Scent of Green Papaya. It takes place in the early 60's as the Vietnam War is heating up, also a time of social upheaval in Vietnam. The movie takes place in the small lane and house of one middle-class family, who hire a girl name Moui (which means 'salt'). The wife in the house is very kind to her, because she remembers her own deceased daughter who would have been Moui's age. The grandmother in the house prays all day in front of the family shrine - which she had done continuously since the death of her husband many years ago. The feeling is the house is half-dreamy with ghosts of deceased relatives and memories, and filled with desperation, of people living out destinies that would not have been of their choosing. When Moui is 17, she goes to work for a young pianist and they slowly fall in love. A new life starts to open for her.

Throughout the film, Moui is mystified by human relationships and the natural world. Preparation of food and of cutting and grating the green papaya symbolizes freshness and a new life. It's a very powerful film.

The picture on the left is green papaya salad. I didn't follow the advise from my last list, on taking pictures of food and had not wiped off the smudges on the edge of the plate. The papaya salad, eaten with sticky rice, was delicious.

11. Coconuts - There are a myriad variety of coconuts and they can be used in so many ways. Of course, there is the method of just drinking fresh coconut juice. One of the best type of coconuts are the roasted ones - they are young coconuts, where the outer husk has been chopped and then burned away. The juice is very refreshing, and the coconut meat inside is very tender.

The large coconuts can be very sweet - though if left for too long, the juice can be tasteless. Coconut fiber has so many uses - compressed fiber is even used in beds.

12. Pomelo - While it looks like a grapefruit, it's not as juicy or as sour as a grapefruit. The rind is about 2 inches thick and it takes skill to take it off. The inside is segmented like a grapefruit and you peel off the thick skin on the segment and pull out the pulp to eat it. I like them much more than grapefruits.

13. Tamarind - come in seed pods, which when opened, there's a brownish paste with seeds in it. The paste itself is sour and has the consistency of mashed prunes. It's great to eat by itself, if you can stand the sour taste, but also dipped in sugar and powdered chile peppers. And tamarind paste is used for so many wonderful dishes - sour soup, chutneys, a sauce for shrimp.

The one fruit I can not stand is Durian

Most of my friends love to eat durian, and will even eat an entire one in a sitting (kilogram size!). I can't get close enough to even try to eat one. All the major hotels in Thailand have signs with a big red X across the fruit - once the smell of a durian (which may be due to hydrogen sulfide) attaches itself to the walls, the room always smells of Durian.

I guess it's one fruit that proves the saying: To each his own! There are certainly plenty of other fruits to keep one happy here.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My walk at lunchtime

Park, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

I was hoping to get up early enough to go for a walk this morning. Everything conspired against me, so after a morning of meetings, I drove back to my office and walked from there to a restaurant for lunch, taking photos along the way.

This park across the road from Haw Kham, the presidential palace, and very close to my office. It has a distant view of the river, across the tip of Don Chan Hotel, but it becomes more of a riverside park during the rainy season.

List #26: How to take better photographs of food

I get e-mails from Photojojo, which sends out a twice weekly e-mails on off-beat photography tips. From the most recent e-mail:

Ten Tasty Tips for Photographing Food

1. Setting - choose a plain background, and make sure there are no distracting items in the background, like utensils or trash.

2. Lighting - natural lighting is best for food. Using the flash flattens out the contours and moist areas on the food reflect the light too much, making for shiny spots.

3. Color balance - use the color balance on the camera, otherwise food will look unappetizing if it looks too blue or yellow. Some adjustment can be done on the computer afterwards. On my camera, I can change the color balance to red, green or blue, as well as balancing for different kinds of light. I think the best bet would be to take several pictures in natural or ambient light and see what looks best.

4. Don't move - since it's best to use ambient light, make sure you're either using a tripod or have the camera steadied on a chair. Sometimes the exposure will have to be quite long.

5. Shoot a lot - as I said above, use different color settings and also take the food from different angles.

6. Zoom in - use the macro setting on the camera. The food should fill the field of the camera.

7. Preparation - they suggst that taking pictures of the preparation of the food can be interesting.

8. Be Quick - get pictures of the food when it is first served so you're not getting nauseating images of congealed fat or wilted lettuce. I laughed at this. I often forget to take pictures of meals with friends until the end of the meal - when there are scattered fish bones and splotches of food on the plates.

9. Details - wipe away smudges from the edges of plates, get in close for textures and even garnish the plates with a sprig of parsley or slice of lemon.

10. The last tip had me laughing - also know when not to shoot food. The meal may be delicious but if it's all brown, it might not look appetizing. The article likes to a picture of hagis to prove its point - you'd have to be a real artist to make it look delicious!

Photojojo has lot of interesting photography tips. It's worth checking out - and the twice weekly email updates are fun to read (the subscribe box thingy is right on the home page).

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Etta, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

Way early in the morning, my black kitten ran outside and into a spitting fight with another cat three times her size. After I separated them, she flew up a tree and couldn't get down - so brilliantly, she climbed even higher and really couldn't get down.

Her eyes in the camera flash make her look like she has superpowers - so I went off to work, figuring that she would be able to get down by herself. She managed all right.

List #25: World's Biggest Cities

Map of the 20 largest metropolitan areas, from Wikipedia

I did the important rivers of Asia a few posts ago. Today, I got into a discussion about the population of various cities around the world - and guess what? An idea for a list.

However, it's not an easy answer to the question of what are the ten largest cities in the world. One answer could be to define it as the population of the metropolitan area, which includes people relying on the city for resources and employment and the number of people who can commute into the city. And in these days of urban sprawl, where the areas between smaller cities are filled up... with more cities till it forms a big city, metropolitan areas can be very big.

Ten largest metropolitan areas. It's amazing that there is only one city from a developed country on this list, and that India has two cities on the list.
1 Tokyo 32,450,000 people
2 Seoul 20,550,000
3 Mexico City 20,450,000
4 New York City 19,750,000
5 Mumbai 19,200,000
6 Jakarta 18,900,000
7 Sao Paulo 18,850,000
8 Delhi 18,600,000
9 Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto 17,375,000
10 Shanghai 16,650,000

This is the list of biggest cities, if you think about city proper
1 Mumbai 13,073,926
2 Karachi 11,608,000
3 Delhi 11,505,196
4 Istanbul 11,174,257
5 São Paulo 11,016,703
6 Moscow 10,654,000
7 Seoul 10,421,000
8 Shanghai 9,838,400
9 Lagos 9,229,944
10 Mexico City 8,658,576
22 Bangkok 6,593,000

I'm really surprised that Bangkok - which seems so gigantic to me - is not on any of the top ten lists. It has a feeling of being much larger than NYC - but that could be because of it's so unorganized! It's not even on the list of 20 biggest metropolitan areas - but I guess that makes sense because there are very rural areas just outside Bangkok, where there are rice, vegetable and fruit farms.

Monday, March 24, 2008

List #24: Haiku List

One time was enough
Desire etched forever, inside
a flower opening

Two faced off, ready,
circling, alert, aware
Opposite - the same

Breeze shakes the rose bush
Bee takes the nectar; life passes.
Three petals fall down.

Horse stamps through mud and
stone. Snorts and stamps four feet hard.
Sparks sing out power

Work week of five days
Rest for two, repeat. Cat knows
there's a better way

Sunday, March 23, 2008

fruits for sale

fruits for sale, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

Fruit vendors by the Fah Ngum statue, near the Novotel. I stopped to buy some oranges and mangoes.

List #23: The Carnivals I like

A. Carnival of Space #46

It includes
1. Ten Things You Don't know about the Milky Way
on the Bad Astronomy blog.

2. The site Invitation to ETI site is interesting I can't decide if it's for real or tongue in check. The well known science fiction writer, David Brin, wrote a letter of invitation for alien lurkers who may just be following humanity via the web, acknowledging some of the reasons that they might not want to contact us. Just in case they are out there in the US or in northern Laos (huh, maybe not here, sometimes the internet connection isn't too good).

3. Actually I got the above link from Centaur's Dreams contribution - If the phone doesn't ring, it's me, admittedly a line from a Jimmy Buffet song. He links to several sites about why we haven't been contacted yet. Is it because space-faring civilizations have a non-interference policy (have they been watching Star Trek)?

The discussion reminds me of the wonderful Terry Bisson story They're Made out of Meat, where two aliens discuss the future of humanity. (Terry Bisson's official site) Check out the award-winning film based on the story

4. New resources to follow up, such as the Lunar and Planetary Institute, and Invitation to ETI site.

5. The space elevator was one of the technological ideas that Arthur C. Clarke thought up and developed in his fiction. The post on the New Frontiers blog, discusses the current work.

6. Astroengine has a mind-blowing piece on Cosmogenesis. Sit down before reading.

B. On the more physical plain, Polite Dissent hosted the Internet Grand Rounds, Volume 4, #26 on 18 March. His theme is Western - the Grand Round-up and includes posts:

1. Only Two Prayers on the blog Rickety Contrivances of Doing Good Susan Palwick is a science fiction/ fantasy writer who is a volunteer chaplain in a busy hospital. I visit her blog often because she has insights on many issues about health, illness, faith (and the questioning of it), life and death. All of her posts show the real grit, the dirt in the corners of the emergency room, and the true heights that people can rise to.

2. Diabetes Mine is one of the best blogs on all aspects of Diabetes. In this weeks contribution, she ponders Car Insurance vs. Health Insurance

3. I have lots of problems with back pain, so this post on Spotting Back Pain was interesting, after all the abdominal exercises I've done. It says that maintaining consciousness on the position of the spine and maintaining a neutral spine during daily activities is more important than doing badly done abdominal exercises, particularly crunches, the Gold Standard of abdominal exercises ( Good Life better than Bad Ab Exercises ) I clicked on another link and it promotes a book - but I do know that when I change my position when walking, I do feel better so maybe there's something there.

4. Another blog entry on promoting healthy brains is The Brain Virtues of Physical Exercise. Again it reminds me that I really have to exercise every day, no matter how hectic work can get. In the long and short run, it helps mental attitude, sharpness and new ways to look at problems. And it can prolong both longevity and quality of life.

5. In very well-written post, Chronic Dose , a young woman with a long list of chronic illnesses, writes about Writing Well - how writing helps people with chronic diseases. She point to an article in the New York Times, The Power of Words for Cancer Patients.

6. The blog, Canadian Medicine, writes about several literary internet-based discussion groups for health professionals. Several years ago, a doctor at Bellevue Medical Center in New York, Ruth Charon, had started to encourage her students to write. It developed empathy for their patients and allowed them to view their work in perspective. And the field of Narrative Medicine has developed.

7. The Health Concerns of Prostitutes points to an Australian study - prostitutes have 80x the number of STDs in illegal settings than in legal brothels. The author notes that there are prostitutes who are working in this profession because they want to, and those who are forced. In the legal settings, there are periodic health checks and condoms are manditory - with good results. However, the author of Health Line Connects questions - One aspect of the health care needs of prostitutes I would like to see addressed, though, is the psychological effect - long term and short term. Is it a high stress occupation? Are workers at risk for PTSD? Clearly, further study is needed.

8. Pain Management in nontraditional settings concerns managing pain in developing countries. Answer: make due with what you have. Ice packs for broken bones, whatever pain medicine is available and try to keep a positive face for the patient. Feeling frustrated in a situation of poor infrastructure and poverty is a normal feeling but medical staff still have to act professionally and try to do what they can to help patients.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

List #22: What I did today

I try to catch up on life on the weekends. This week, I've got several papers for my distance learning program, plus I have to clean up the mes from the thunderstorm that swept through Vientiane this week. And some work-related stuff.

So what did I actually do?

1. Played with the kittens. This is pretty easy. I can't walk into the kitchen or to the back of the house without getting stalked and attacked.

2. I did respond to the local flooding in my house - moved all the furniture outside and pushed as much of the water, that had collected in the low spots of the house, outside with a mop. Finally I decided that it was flowing backwards into the corners at the same rate I was pushing it.

3. So I turned on the fan and got on my bicycle to go downtown. I realized that I had left my camera in the office and I can't bear to be separated from it for too long.

4. Returned via 'Korea-town', a section of town just east of the downtown area. It's a densely populated area of shopshouses, where people's businesses are in the downstairs living areas.

People also have carts, where their businesses are more portable. Because there's so much activity going on in this area during the evenings, vendors rush in to get the best spots along the street.

5. On my way back home, I stopped by a nursery located near the Northern bus station. This bypass road used to be a dirt track, but now it has been built up - hotels, heavy machinery shops, the Chinese mall, more restaurants and hotels. The nursery is a nice piece of wilderness in the middle of all this. I spent some time deciding that I really did need some new plants while walking around the cool, misty forest - then decided I really can't balance a tree on the back of my bicycle.

6. When I returned home, I moved the furniture back inside and tried to tidy up the main room of my house. I didn't take any pictures of this mess!

Friday, March 21, 2008

sri meuang temple

sri meuang temple, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

It's the full moon day, as well as the festival for Pra Thawaet at Sri Meaung temple, which houses the foundation stone for Vientiane.

Sunset through bamboo

sun in bamboo, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

This picture was taken on Tuesday evening in Pakse in southern Laos. I walked along a road which parallels the Xedon river, about 10 kms. from its confluence with the Mekong river. Although there are houses built all along the riverside, I went into the yard of a Buddhist temple where I took a bunch of pictures of the fading light on the buildings. I ran back and forth to get this exact placement of the sun before it disappeared!

This picture is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, which is being hosted on Welcome to Wiggers World. Please come back, leave your link and comment on the skies from many locations around the world.

List #21: The Four Noble Truths

The full moon days mark the main Buddhist holidays, and always a good time to meditate and think about the teachings of the Buddha. After his long meditation under the Bodhi Tree, the Buddha realized the nature of suffering, the subject of the Four Noble Truths:

1. The Nature of Suffering (Dukkha) Everyone suffers, but the nature of suffering is its impermanence.

2. The Origination of Suffering (Samudaya) The cause of suffering is craving (what the Lao call tanya) The origin of suffering is not realizing the nature of impermanence, so we try to cling to pleasant states of being and avoid unpleasant states of being. Craving drives us and suffering comes from desiring what we can not have.

3. The Cessation of Suffering (Nirodha) refers to the realization that all compounded things are impermanent. When we understand suffering, we view everything with equanimity - not embracing the things we want and not fleeing from the ugly things.

4. The Way (Marga) Leading to the Cessation of Suffering - the Eight-fold Path is eight states that we should strive for.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thursday 13: #6 and List #20 - Books by Arthur C. Clarke

Books written by Arthur C. Clarke

I felt very sad to learn of the death of Arthur C. Clarke on 19 March. Like many people, I grew up with his books. I was born in 1952, the year that he wrote . As a tribute, here are some of the other books that I grew up with, and shaped my mind. Some of these books are out of print, so even though I read them when I was a child, it was so long ago and my brain is leaky!

1. Childhood's End - Written in 1953, it really blew my mind. I think I was in junior high when I read it. I remember putting it down after humanity has ascended to a pure-mind, non-physical realm in the Overmind, and thought, "Is this where it's all going?" Clarke himself thought that this book was one of his best.

2. Against the Fall of Night was originally a novella about Earth one billion years in the future, when humans are in their twilight. Clarke expanded it, and later rewrote it.

3. The City and the Stars was a rewrite of Against the Fall of the Night. Both books explore the drives and the fears that make us human, as Alvin - a unique - fights against the limits that the elders say exist.

4. 2001, A Space Odyssey is probably Clarke's best known work because of Stanley Kubrick's film; Clarke had worked on the film, which was actually based on some of Clarke's earlier short stories. 2001 itself was not published until after the film came out. The book and film explore so many areas - the nature of exploration itself, evolution, the relationship of man's creation - the AI Hal - with man himself. Every few years, I watch the film again and it still makes me shiver.

5. Rendezvous with Rama is a believable scenario, which we all fear and hope for. An alien space probe travels through the solar system, and a group of humans travel to it to probe its mysteries.

6. takes place in the past and the 'present' Sri Lanka. In this book, Clarke proposes how a space elevator could work.

7. 2010: Odyssey Two is the first sequel to 2001, however, it doesn't have the same mystery of the original.

8. The Light of Other Days was a collaboration between Clarke and Steven Baxter, an engineer turned science ficiton writer. This book explores a wormhole technology, the technology of which gets out of control. While it fist gets used for research of the past, it ends up getting used to find out secrets. There is no such thing as privacy, where people can observe others, or themselves be observed, without knowing.

9. Expedition to Earth I know I read it but I can't remember any of the stories!

10. The Nine Billion Names of God is a book of short stories, the lead story being another mind-blower - a religious group hires a computer firm to put together all the possible names of God.

11. A Fall of Moondust about people who get trapped on a colonized moon after an earthquake. I remember reading this when I was a kid but not much else.

12. Imperial Earth. This book, written in 1975, is one of the first science fiction books that not only has a main character who is black, but also bisexual. It also explores the issue of cloning, which was newly discovered at that time.

13. Earthlight is another oldy, about the colonization of the moon, where tension between the earth controlled moon and the needs of the colonists is the center of the book.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Buddha images

building temple, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

On my morning walk in Pakse, I passed a temple which is being reconstructed - starting with the front gate and boundary walls. The old temple building, made of wood and falling apart, is in the back of the compound.

This Buddha images, made of concrete, have a rough beauty to them. The little white balls in their laps are balls of sticky rice, which people have left as offerings. The building behind them is an partially completed shrine.

List #19: World Water Day - Importance of clean water and sanitation

World Water Day is scheduled for 20 March, so here's a list of the impact of water and sanitation on the lives of children.

While people in developed countries take water and sanitation for granted, for the 2.6 billion people on the planet, they seem like luxuries. When population density was light and rivers ran clear, people felt the supply of water was unlimited. From the Foreign Policy blog on Children, there are several post on the effect of lack of clean water and sanitation on children who are more susceptible to water-related problems:
1. water-borne: while agencies will often advise people to boil water, what happens when there are no nearby forests (because they have been cut down) and gas or charcoal is too expensive? People drink from unsafe sources when they are forced to. This leads to a variety of water-borne diseases which can leave people, especially children, malnourished and weak. Kids can't concentrate in school, parents can't work which may cause their children to drop out to contribute to family income. When people in developed countries think of diarrhea, they usually think of a short, uncomfortable condition. Many of these diarrheal diseases such as typhoidand cholera can lead to death or long-term disability.
2. water-washed: vegetables washed in unclean water can transmit infection.
3. water-based: probably refers to chemicals in the water. The Jilin chemical plant explosion and contamination of the Songhua River with benzene and other chemicals affected drinking water for millions of people. Benzene can lower white blood counts which prevents people's immune systems from fighting infections.
4. water-related insect vector: Malaria is a major killer of children. Epidemics of Dengue Fever, a mosquito-borne virus, affect thousands of children each year.
5. diseases caused by poor sanitation: There's a list on this blog page. It's not just diarrhea. Schistosomiasis, if not treated, can lead to cancer from chronically inflamed bile ducts. Typhoid lasts over several weeks - just when the abdominal upset and fever seem to get better, the intestines can perforate, leading to rapid death.

What can proper sanitation and hygiene do:
# Lower morbidity rates in the population.
# Lower mortality rates due to diarrhea.
# Better nutrition among children.
# Cleaner environment.
# Safer food and increased impact of improved water supplies.
# Better learning and retention among school children.
# Dignity and privacy, especially women and girls.

Arthur C. Clarke

News from BBC Arthur C. Clarke has passed away. His obituary is here and link to the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation.

When I was a kid, I read as many of his books as I could find. When I was in college, 2001 came out, which renewed my love of science fiction. His works are so timeless, even if his body was not. Even today, with many of the ideas that he introduced in his fiction are seeing practical applications, his writings are still alive.

Links about Arthur C. Clarke:

LA Times: Arthur C. Clarke's down to earth legacy.

Planetary Society's obit with essay written by Carl Sagan in 1983.

New York Times: Issues of faith but tackled scientifically.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Along Xedon river

Along Sedon river, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

This really is a Mekong River Tributary - this is from the courtyard of a temple about 10 kms. upstream from the confluence of the Xedon and the Mekong.

List #18: Appropriate Technology

In spite of the needs of developing countries, experts from abroad often propose solutions based on technologies from developed countries.

1. has many followers in Laos as a local silk company has been giving workshops in making the filters at the same time they teach villagers about silk production methods. It's a concrete box filled with sand - the water gets purified as it sinks through the sand. Like natural ground water peculation, the micro-organisms that grow in the sand help to ripen it, making it more effective in filtering the water. Strangely enough, chlorine treated water is not cleaned as well because the chlorine kills the micro-organisms and beneficial bacteria. There isn't enough research yet to know if viruses are killed in this system.

2. Solar systems - in Laos, Sunlabob (meaning 'sun systems') is a renewable energy system based on solar power. It got its start in Laos, and has been accepting contract work, bringing its ideas to other countries. It has won several development awards for its low cost systems. In Laos, they have been working on mixed energy systems - using both small scale solar electric generation as well as generators and small hydroelectric systems for use during the rainy season when there is not so much sun.

3. Solar Cookers - I remember seeing this technology back when I lived in the US. There have been attempts to introduce it to Laos but it really hasn't caught on. With any kind of development work, cultural practices have to be addressed and sometimes the culture takes a while to get it. Some projects have gotten acceptance in Africa - link.

4. While I can't find any references - there is a common sanitation system used in Laos, similar to the sand filtration system. A septic tank is built in three sections - the waste running into one end, which percolates up through sand in the middle room, collects in the third room, where the clean water drains off into the surrounding soil. This is what I use for my house, and the runoff water keeps them happy during the dry season.

5. One of the programs I saw on environmental solutions on the BBC was for making roofing tiles from recycled plastic bags. Apparently, this technology is used widely in Asia; though I'm not sure how durable these tiles are, they are an alternative to the particle board/ asbestos building materials which are widely used. Here's one link. However, I read one magazine article a while ago which said that the impact on the families making these tiles is quite high - the fumes from the plastic are bad. Plus I imagine that burning plastic releases dioxins which is not good.


We're running a training of trainers workshop this week, with medical staff responsible for training other doctors and nurses. Anyway, I'm having trouble with connecting to the internet - so have a few days to catch up on. Stay tuned. I have more lists too!

Monday, March 17, 2008

List #17: St Patrick, who else

Interesting things about St. Patrick

1. He lived 385–461 AD

2. He was originally born in Britain but was kidnapped by Irish raiders and was a slave in Ireland for six years. After escaping, he returned to his family and became a Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. He returned to Ireland as a missionary.

3. Two letters, allegedly written by him, survive. He talks about visions - one when he was a slave, telling him that his ship was ready and it was time to return to his family, and another telling him to return to Ireland.

4. The 'Wearing of the Green' signifies Irish identity. This may have come from St. Patrick's evangelizing efforts by explaining the Holy Trinity by using the three leaves of a Shamrock.

5. Some legends around St. Patrick - He banished the snakes from Ireland; I remember my mother (who was Irish) telling me this story with great affect. For a long time, I thought that was the only thing he had done. Apparently, there were no snakes in post-glacial Ireland. He's also supposed to have fought with the Druids, the guardians of the indigenous religion. And the snake is supposed to have been the symbol of the Druids.

6. 17 March is believed to be his date of death, and then became the feast day.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

List #16: Books that are staring me in the face (and haven't had time to read)

On my table where I usually set up my computer to work, I have a line of books. I plan to read them all, that's why they are lined up in front of me. Every time I clear off the table and dust the books, I tell myself that I'll get to them soon. Sigh! Here's a sample:

1. The Kindgom of Siam: The Art of Central Thailand, 1350 - 1800
I saw this exhibit at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco in 2005. I had to take my recertification exam for my PA license so I arranged to do it in SF. After the exam, I visited the museum - wonderful place. This exhibit was there - many of the pieces I had seen in the National Museum of Bangkok but they were different in these new surrounding. Many had been cleaned up and the museum curators had investigated some of the pieces, shedding new light on their origins and context.

2. The Cat from Hue - A Vietnam War Story by John Laurence. During the Battle of Hue during the Tet Offensive of 1968, Laurence had his first battle experience and later became a well-respected CBS reporter. This is a story of his time in Vietnam.

3. Japan, a Modern History by James McClain - I like what I've read of this book because it has more information on culture than just historical facts.

4. Food for the Heart, the collected teachings of Ajahn Chah - I've meditated at the International Forest Monastery, which had been set up by Chah many years ago.

5. A Psychiatrist in Paradise - treating mental illness in Bali by Denny Thong. Looks like a good book on the personal experiences of cross-cultural psychiatry. Really have to read this.

6. A Problem from Hell by Samantha Power - this book, an exploration of genocide through the years, won a Pulitzer Prize.

7. Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy. Levy grew up in Jamaica. I've read Small Island, which is a wonderful book about Jamaicans in Britain during and after WWII.

8. The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene - I would love to read this book. After the first few chapters, I feel like my head is going to explode and I stop but I really will read this book some day. It involves String Theory, a multidimensional theoretical construct that explains the nature of the universe.

9. Beginnings, Middles and Ends by Nancy Kress - a book on developing a novel.

10. Pol Pot by Philip Short - I have a signed copy which I bought in 2005 when Short gave a talk at the Eliot Bay Bookstore in Seattle. Since I've worked so much in SE Asia, and with people affected by war, this and the other depressing books on my list give me some kind of insight about the way the world is.

seeking shade

seeking shade, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

Got on my bicycle very early in the morning - but it was over 90 deg F even by late morning. These goats had the right idea - they hung out under this storage hut in the dry rice field, rather than go running around in the hot sun like the humans.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Xedon River and list #15: Ten closest stars

Xedon River, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

Very hot today. I tried to ride my bicycle in the late morning - only got as far as the river, took this picture and returned home, where the temperature was 35 degree C. I returned to the office, where it's a little bit cooler and quiet.

So our sun is a star, and even though we are 93 million light years away, a distance that takes any photo 8 minutes to travel from there to here, we still feel such heat. Sometimes it really staggers my imagination. Another thing that makes my head explode is the distance between the stars. Even to reach the closest star, Proxima Centuri, would take a thousand years using current day technology. No wonder we prefer the space travel of Star Trek!

Here are the Ten Closest Stars:

1. Proxima Centauri
At 4.2 light years, it is the closest star to our our own solar system. Proxima Centauri is the third star in the Alpha Centauri star system. There has been some recent speculation that it has rocky planets (forget the link).

2. Rigil Kentaurus
The second closest star is a tie between the sister stars of Proxima Centauri. Alpha Centauri A and B make up the other two stars of the triple star system Alpha Centauri. Distance: 4.3 LY

3. Barnard's Star
A faint red dwarf star, discovered in 1916 by E. E. Barnard. Distance: 5.9 LY

4. Wolf 359
Known to many as thelocation of a famous battle on Star Trek the Next generation, Wolf 359 is a red dwarf. It is so small that if it were to replace our sun, an observer on Earth would need a telescope to see it clearly. Distance: 7.7 LY

5. Lalande 21185
While it is the fifth closest star to our own sun, Lalande 21185 is about three times too faint to be seen with the naked eye. Distance: 8.26 LY

6. Luyten 726-8A and B
Discovered by Willem Jacob Luyten (1899-1994), both Luyten 726-8A 726-8B are red dwarfs and too faint to be seen with the naked eye. Distance: 8.73 LY

7. Sirius A and B
Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, is the brightest star in the sky. Sirius B, the companion, has received considerable attention itself, since it is the first white dwarf with a spectrum to show a gravitational red shift as predicted by the general theory of relativity. Distance: 8.6 LY

8. Ross 154
Ross 154 appears to be a flare star, which means that it can increase its brightness by a factor of 10 or more before reverting to its normal state, a process which takes only a few minutes. Distance: 9.693 LY

9. Ross 248
While it is now the ninth closest star to our solar system, around the year 38000AD, the red dwarf Ross 248 will take the place of Proxima Centauri as the closest star to us. Distance: 10.32 LY

10. Epsilon Eridani
Eridani (tenth closest star to Earth) is the closest star known to have a planet, Epsilon Eridani b. It is the third closest star that is viewable without a telescope. Distance: 10.5 LY This is also the star that Babylon 5 is parked at. It also plays a staring role in other works of fiction and film.

Another star that fires the imagination and is relatively close is Tau Ceti. Its is very similar to the sun, but its spectrum shows that it's poor in metals so it's not likely to have rocky planets - if any - around it.

There's another list of nearest stars on Wikipedia. And another database - Atlas of the Universe

Interestingly enough, the BBC reported a new contender for closest star #5, known as SO025300.5+165258, it was discovered about 5 years ago. A red dwarf, it's not visible to the naked eye but was picked up by its swift motion on star image databases.

Friday, March 14, 2008

List #14: the significance of March 14

March 14 is Pi Day, our friend who shows up so much in natural formula. 3.14 etc, etc.

So here are some facts about Pi -

1. The circumference of a circle is Pi times the diameter

2. It's an irrational number, meaning it can not be written as the ratio of two integers.

3. It goes on and on.

4. The area of a circle is Pi times the radius squared.

5. It's also Albert Einstein's birthday. He was born in 1879.

6. And it's also my brother's birthday. He's so lucky; he gets all the good birthdays. My birthday is really dorky.

sweltering skies

sweltering sky, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

All of a sudden, it turned into hot season. The sky is molten white during the day and the dust swirls up and around.

Near Seno, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

Taken in late afternoon, when all that soared were the temperatures on the hot dry rice fields. Seno, in Savannakhet province, was an old French garrison town near the Mekong. It was located there because it overlooked the roads in all four directions, S to Pakse, E to the Vietnam border, N to Vientiane and Oeste to Thailand.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Tokay, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

A while back, I posted some entries about a Tokay lizard living behind a cabinet in my kitchen. I called him Toby the Tokay and for several months, he would appear and disappear until he finally just disappeared into the roof of my house.

Today, I was surprised to see a new Tokay in my house. I'm pretty sure this is a new Tokay, not my old friend Toby. This one is smaller and still have no idea if it's male or female. These Tokay lizards are about a foot long, big enough that they really make a racket when they run over the wall or ceiling.

Thursday Thirteen and List #13: 13 March in History

Thirteen things that occurred on 13 March

1. William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus in 1781

2. In 1954, Viet Minh forces under General Vo Nguyen Giap started the battle against French forces in Dien Bien Phu. While the French felt confident of their military superiority, the battle lasted until 7 May with the French defeat. The

3. In 1969, the Apollo 9 mission returned to Earth, after testing the lunar module.

4. In 1911, Mongolia declares independence.

5. The Phoenix lights were seen in the skies in Arizona in 1997. I lived there in 1992 - wished I had stayed another five years so I could have seen them!

6. In 1845, Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto premiers in Leipzig. I can't imagine how performances in these old theaters must have sounded.

7. In 1884, the Siege of Khartoum started, finally ending in January 1885. A British colony, the siege was led by the Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad against the British troops led by British General Charles George Gordon.

8. In France, 1900 brought a law limiting the work day of women and children to eleven hours/ day!

9. Tennessee passed a law in 1925 prohibiting the teaching of evolution, which led to the famous Scopes Trial.

10. In 1930, the discovery of another distant planet is announced when Percival Lowell wired his news about the new planet Pluto. However, in 2006, Pluto lost its planetary status.

11. In 1989, a geomagnetic storm causes the collapse of the power grid, leaving 6 million people without electricity in Canada.

12. In 1991, the US Justice Department rules that Exxon was responsible for cleaning up the oil spill caused by the running aground of the Exxon Valdez. Although Exxon has spent 2 billion in clean-up and additional 1 billion USD for setting cases, major cases against Exxon are still going through appeals.

13. In 2003, the journal Nature reported on the discovery of 350,000 year old footprints in Italy!

And how will we remember 13 March 2008? Resignation of the governor of NY as well as a former US presidential candidate from her fund-raising position with the campaign of another woman seeking a high office.

My favorite news story today is about the Cassini space craft flying through the plume of vapor rising from Saturn's moon, Enceladus.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

List #12: Places where I have lived

A lot of people still live where they were born - probably most of the people on the place. For myself, I have always explored so I have lived many places. Let's see if I can count them.

1. I was born in NY City.

2. Westchester County: My parents decided to try the suburban lifestyle so my mother stayed at home with us while my father commuted to the City every day.

3. We moved to another house in the same town when I was in Fourth Grade. I grew up there through high school and left to go to college.

4. Illinois - I got through freshman year at a small rural college and decided to go back east.

5. Massachusetts - Initially I thought I'd live in Boston but as an unskilled worker, finding a job was difficult. I moved in with friends while working as a nurses aid at a nursing home.

6. Upstate New York - I moved in with my boyfriend and later married him. After getting training as an LVN, I got a job at Albany Medical Center.

7. Albany, New York - I worked night shift at the Medical Center and went to school, majoring in English before changing to visual arts, during the day.

8. Alfred, New York - I attended a summer session in Ceramic Art. It also gave me the space to decide to end my relationship.

9. New York City - back to my roots. I first lived in a friend's apartment then moved to an artists loft in Tribeca. It wasn't trendy at that time - artists were taking over and renovating abandoned factory buildings but the main activity at that time was semi-industrial. At that time, I was picking up work as an LVN, doing some home care cases and hospital work. My main job (though low paid) was teaching ceramic art in a multi-service center for adolescents.

10. A year of drifting (1978) - I finally got tired of New York and decided I needed a break. I visited upstate New York for a little while, got a ride down to Florida, went back up to St. Louis, stopping with old friends. Went up to Chicago for a ceramics convention, got a drive away car to Louisiana. Worked in a bar for a while and lived o the cheap in the French Quarter. Went to visit friends in Baton Rouge, living in a tent on their farm. Decided to visit a friend in Minnesota so I got a ride into Baton Rouge itself and met an old friend at a party who just happened to be driving north. On the way north, his car broke down so I hitched a ride to Iowa City where I met up, by accident, another friend whom I had known at Alfred. After a few days there, I got on a bus to Minneapolis. Stayed there for a while, then got a ride to Idaho. The summer was beautiful there and I walked a lot in the hills and had an amazing and horrible back packing experience in the Bitterroot Mts. One day I woke up and felt drawn to the West, so hitchhiked to Yakima, Wa. I stayed with some friends of a friend for a few weeks before heading on to Seattle. While there, I met up with a group of potters and joined their studio for a workshop, and decided to return to Seattle. That was August, and I didn't know what Seattle weather was really like. Went down to San Francisco - my original goal - and decided I really wanted to stay in Seattle.

11. Seattle - got back in time for the rainy season. Moved six times until 1985. Finished my RN degree - and out of the blue got offered a job in Thailand.

12. Thailand - I worked in several refugee camps - one just outside of Bangkok and traveled between some other camps in my second position as a resettlement caseworker. I did have some large blocks of time off, so I traveled in India, Nepal and Malaysia. I also studied Thai language for a few months in Bangkok, while living in a dormitory with hotel workers and secretaries.

13. New York - After pushing paper in my second job in Thailand, I decided I want to return to clinical medical work. I attended a Physician Assistant program. During the second year, I moved every six weeks for my school rotations. That way I got to live in St. Paul, Mn., Mound Bayou, Ms. and Gallup, NM.

14. Phoenix Arizona - I worked in a mobile migrant health clinic under a migrant health grant. When the grant finished, I had to find another job.

15. California - Some Hmong friends whom I had met in Thailand, told me the community needed me there. I stayed there for four years - then got an e-mail offering me a position in Laos.

16. So I've been in Lao PDR since Nov. 1996. I've lived in different places in the country and travel a lot.

village in morning

village in morning, originally uploaded by c_p_lew.

Even though this village is a ten minute bike ride from my house, it is just like a village in a more remote area. This morning, the villagers were constructing the main post hole of a new house - a monk came to bless the post hole, which was surrounded by offerings of food, cigarettes and alcohol for the spirits of the place. I didn't notice if spirits house was already in place, prepared to house the spirits - but I know it had to be there somewhere.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

List #11: Podcasts that I enjoy

With all the traveling I do, my iPod keeps me sane. I enjoy listening to audio-books and also downloaded news, music and fiction programs.

1. Escape Pod - one of my favorite programs, with new science fiction short stories every week. They also have some affiliate programs - horror stories on Pseudopod and the soon to be launched fantasy program, Podcastle.

2. BBC has a whole bunch of great feeds - I download the two daily news programs on Global News Hour from BBC's World News Service, plus 'From our Correspondent' and documentaries. Check out their podcasts page. They even have football news in Mandarin; wish I could understand Mandarin.

3. I love science, especially astronomy. Astronomy Cast has a great weekly podcast. This past week, the topic is "How Big is the Universe?"

4. Quirks and Quarks, presented by the CBC is another fun listen.

5. When I lived in the US, I listened to National Public Radio all the time. When I moved to Asia, I had to deal with the loss of my main addiction. For a while, Audible had the programs, "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition" but they stopped offering these downloads (apparently copyright stuff) and I listen to past programs when I have a broadband conncetion. However, NPR offers many podcasts such as NPR Books, NPR Science and Health, Story of the Day and World Story of the Day, all of which make me very happy.

6. NYU has a Wagner Public Service podcast is a recording of the school's speakers program which explores different aspects of social issues, such as their "Conflict, Security and Development" series, which is very thought-provoking.

7. Podrunneris a great podcast for exercise music. DJ Steve Boyett puts together mixes in various speeds that stimulate any intensity of travel, from walking to fast runs. There's a new intervals podcast as well as groovelectric, with a R&B and Motown flavor. I read some time ago that running or exercising to music does help to keep you going.

8. Lifehack has a podcast. I often look at the blog to get ideas on making my team work more effectively.

9. Since I also try to write science fiction, a few writers podcasts that I enjoy. Writers on Writing has interviews with writers; I just listened to an interview with Ursula Hegi that I found very inspiring. Writing Challenges, from the University of Warwick, has thoughtful ideas on approaching writing. The Odyssey Writing Workshop has selections from their annual writers' workshops. All good podcasts presenting thoughts on the nature of writing.

10. And one of the best podcasts is Science Talk, a weekly series from Scientific American. They present interesting interviews from people who wrote the feature stories in the magazine plus the funniest quiz show called "Totally Bogus."

There are lots lots more. Podcasts, which you can probably say is another child of globalization, help me keep my mind active while traveling!

Most of these programs can be accessed by iTunes, so all you have to do is search podcasts in the iTunes music store, or subscribe on the websites by clicking the iTunes button and everything is set.