Friday, March 12, 2010

Sky Watch Friday - 12 March 2010


It has been so hot and hazy for the past month (well, there was a 2 day reprieve when a cold front came down from China). SE Asia is having one of the worst droughts since 1992 - a poor rainy season in 2009 combined with no rain in the northern parts. The Mekong river has been very low, which is starting to affect shipping, irrigation and household water supplies. Very scary.

This is what it looks like in the morning:

golden river

And mid-day

hot n hazy

The near side is Laos, the other side of the river is Srichieng Mai, Thailand.

The air quality is awful these days. I've been riding my bicycle to work and it really gets me coughing. I'm starting to wonder if exercise is healthy.

hot and hazy 2

And in the evening.

sunset crosshatch

I cheated on the last one. It was so grainy when I fooled with the exposure and contrast that I used the crosshatch setting in Photoshop.

Hopefully, it there is wireless where I'm staying, I'll be posting my next week's SWF from Kathmandu, Nepal!

This is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, whose members post pictures of the skies around the world.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Sky Watch Friday - 5 March 2010


I haven't had a chance to post any skies over the past two months. Too much traveling in remote places, not enough time, not enough internet. This weekend is the calm between two storms. Looks like, hopefully, the next storm will come from Nepal where I hope to spend a month for work.

Phatang 23 jan

This is one of my favorite recent shots. We were driving from Xieng Khouang back to Vientiane with a guest so I begged some time in Phatang. We walked up into the temple by the side of the Song River and I took some pictures. This picture is of Phatang itself. It literally means "the Cliff Throne."

Friends from Xieng Khouang told me that there were many makeshift internally displaced people camps around this valley, which was about a day's drive from Vientiane at that time. There's a small airstrip at Vang Vieng, where supplies and food could be flown in.

The picture below was taken on 17 Feb, where the sky came down at touched the Earth in Nong Haet district. It was very cold but it didn't seem to stop the kids. I think they were laughing to see the figure of a foreigner materialize out of the mist.

for 17 feb 10

While Laos is considered a tropical country, the mountainous North can get very cold during the winter. The elevation here in Nong Haet is about 4,000 ft.

And finally, raising a house against the background of the sky.

raising the house

When villagers construct houses, they mobilize friends and neighbors to help them.

This is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, whose members post pictures of the skies around the world.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Books for February

The end of January and through most of February, my work had to take over everything. A lot of the work we planned for December had to be moved to January because of the Southeast Asian Games, which was hosted by Laos. National pride over this international role was palpable.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
I remember living in upstate New York on the day in August, 1974 when Philippe Petit walked between the twin towers of the World Trade Center. McCann writes about the event, but also wanted to explore the lives under his feet. The book starts off with a series of seemingly unconnected stories, which comes together at the end.

I listened to an interview on a podcast, where McCann said that we also walk on tightropes, and even if it's only an inch off the ground, we can fall and damage ourselves, or soar above the ground. The section of "The Walker's" practice in Montana really soar.

I also enjoyed this book, as well as other books, which take place in New York City in the late 20th Century (such as 'Fortress of Solitude,' and 'The History of Love'). When I lived in the City in the late 70's, it was a thrilling, eccentric and uncontrolled environment, full of creative and destructive energy. "Let the Great World Spin" captures that feeling.

Way Station by Clifford D. Simak
I first read this book when I was a child and made me wonder about who else shares our universe. Enoch Wallace is the keeper of the Way Station, helping other residents of the galaxy travel through the stars. That's the job I wanted when I grew up.

Arresting God in Kathmandu by Samrat Upadhyay
Upadhyay is the first Nepali author writing in English to be published in the West. He spans two worlds in this collection of short stories, of a changing Nepal still holding on to traditional values yet affected by the rest of the world.