Category Archives: Words

My New Tattoo

Last Friday I got my first tattoo. It was done by my favorite artist here in Portland, Pony Reinhardt. It took me 7 months and a lot of luck to get the appointment.

Once I got approved for a time slot I wrote her a lengthy and nerdy email to explain what I wanted. Here is what I said:

I remember saying I wanted an amphibian life cycle in the proposal I sent in early January, but I think I wasn’t sure which amphibian. I’ve decided on the Eastern Red Spotted Newt (Notophthalmus Viridescens).

I grew up in rural Western Massachusetts in short walking distance to a pond, stream, vernal pool, and swamp. I spent my childhood exploring these areas and was obsessed with salamanders and newts and frogs, and watching the life cycles of each.

I’d like this tattoo to represent my early (and continued) fascination with nature, and also life cycles/changing seasons/time/growth.

I especially love the “eft” stage of the Eastern Newt when they come out of the water and have a really bright orange skin color, but all stages are really cool. And unlike a frog, the newt goes through a second metamorphosis later in life which is pretty neat. I have the lifecycle below, and some photos and info about these creatures, in case you don’t know much about them.

The lifecycle is as follows:


1) The eggs are laid in early spring, April usually. They are laid singularly, under leaves of plants. Here are some pictures of the eggs just laid.



2) The eggs develop over a period of about 2-6 weeks, depending on the temp of the water.


3) Once they hatch, they’re in the larvae stage, with external gills. They’re in this stage most of the summer while they slowly grow their legs and get a bit bigger.







4) In late summer/early fall they finish the larvae stage, and their fin-like tail changes to become smaller, their skin becomes more rough and bright orange, and their gills become lungs. Once their lungs are fully developed, they emerge from the water and live 2-3 years on land. This stage is called “eft”. They’re teeny when they come out of the water (see first two pics). They grow over the next couple years to be about 4-5” long. They live in wet places like under leaves or in mossy spots, usually pretty near the water they were born in, and they hibernate in winter.







5) Their final stage is an aquatic adult. After the eft stage their skin goes back to that brownish color, with yellowish bellies, their tails get more fin like again, and their skin becomes more smooth. They go back to living in water, but their lungs remain (they come up for air every now and then). They can live another 10-12 years as adults.





I was trying to think of another element in the tattoo to represent seasons changing and time passing.

Perhaps some local plants (ferns/wildflowers/laurel) going through their life cycles and/or moon cycles or… ?

Or just maybe some local plants as just nice elements because the newt stages are enough to represent that part? I really like the flowers and plants you draw.

Plants I like and remember from where I grew up are bracken fern (and fiddlehead), maidenhair fern, queen anne’s lace, wild blueberry, and mountain laurel.

I’m also open to just the newts, or any other suggestions. I really like everything you do, so I trust your ideas.


She then sent me back this sketch:

Which I loved! I signed off on the idea and waited until the appointment.

This was the final design she printed out to see and also for scale:


We tried a few sizes, but the original one she chose was the best. She then printed it out on a thermal printer, and then stuck it to my back and peeled it off, leaving an ink outline behind to work off of.


The whole process took about 5 1/2 hours, with some breaks in between, with about 4 1/2 hours of actual inking.



The final piece:



Living in Thailand has taught me a lot about these nefarious insects. Listening to common misconceptions from tourists inspired me to write this post.

Misconception 1: Mosquitoes are attracted to light

This is incorrect. Many bugs like moths are attracted to lights, but the opposite is true for mosquitoes. They prefer night time (especially dusk) and they will land on darker things. Wearing light color clothes does actually help keep them away a little.

Misconception 2: All types of mosquitoes carry disease

There are different types of mosquitoes, and different ones carry different things. Some don’t carry anything.

These small black and white mosquitoes can carry dengue.

These small black and white mosquitoes can carry dengue.

The small brown ones can carry malaria.

The small brown ones can carry malaria.

Misconception 3: You’re at a high risk of getting malaria in Thailand.

Totally untrue. Leave your anti-malarials at home unless you plan months camping in the jungle border regions. The risk of getting malaria here is almost zero. HOWEVER the risk of dengue is much higher, even in the cities. And dengue sucks.

How to not get bitten

  • I’m not a huge fan of covering myself with DEET, and the natural hippy bug spray really is useless in the tropics. The best way to not get bitten is to be inside at the mosquito happy hour (dusk) and wear long pants and covered shoes at night.
  • Thais will often sit cross legged while dining outside at night. I’ve also seen people fidget or swing their legs so that it’s harder for the bugs to land.
  • If eating out, ask the restaurant for a mosquito coil and put it upwind under your table. Make sure not to breathe in the smoke if possible. Some restaurants will provide you with a fan which makes it too hard for them to fly.
  • Be extremely careful in garden type restaurants at night. Mosquitoes love the dark damp gardens, and you will be feasted on.
  • At night, check your room’s screens for holes, etc, and shake out any dark colored clothing or bedding to check for mosquitoes. A cheap bug net can be purchased here to hang in your room if the screens are not working so well.
  • Do not leave your door or windows open in the evening or night.
  • Don’t wear perfume or use heavily perfumed soaps. I use lemongrass scented everything which does help a little to repel them.
  • Remember: mosquitoes like dark, damp and still environments. Combat that with light (colors/daytime), dry (stay away from water/dampness/gardens at night) and movement (fans, breeze).

Do you have any suggestions to add? Put them in the comments!

iPhone vs. Android

I’m often asked which phone I prefer: Android or iPhone. To be honest, there are things I love about both, and things which drive me nuts about both. I figured the best way to describe them would be to make a list. Because I love lists!

Iphone Android
Feels integrated & More Intuitive – Better UI/UX Feels clunky and awkward. Menus and options are all over the place and not consistant.
Better Camera Shittier Camera – but depends on the phone
Better Text Editor. It’s not great, but it’s better. Really annoying that there’s no decent text editor for Android
Better Mail Client Low quality mail clients which can’t seem to figure out IMAP. I hear the gmail client is better. Surprise
Reasonable battery life ANDROID FIX YOUR FUCKING BATTERY PROBLEMS! My current phone has the same amount of juice as an iphone and it lasts 1/3 the amount of time as an iPhone. And yes I’ve turned everything off.
Not open source Runs the linux!
ITUNES effing sucks I can mount Android as a drive! So easy and logical.
Annoyingly hard to use with Linux See above
no 4g 4g!
How well does it work with Google? Nice integration with Google shit – calendar/contacts/etc. syncing is nice.
Not much room for customization shortcuts and widgets and customization is nice
iphone doesn’t crash as much android does
can you multitask yet? multitasking is easy
does iphone have turn-by-turn driving navigation? driving navigation
One phone. Nice for consistency and auto-updates. Different phones (and bad quality control). Many phones don’t get updated. And as an end user, you can’t update without rooting? Lame.
Not many apps you can’t get rid of SO MUCH bloatware
Have to plug in (with EFFING ITUNES!) to sync contacts. (Is this still true?) Syncs contacts and shit via the air! Like magic!

Shitty about both:

  • Carrier lockdown
  • Expensive plans with two year contracts
  • You can’t have full control over your phone without unlocking/jailbreaking/rooting/whatever.

Some of this info may be wrong – I had a first gen iPhone so it’s been awhile since I used it full time. Any comments are welcome. I’m thinking about switching back to iPhone.

35 Haiku

Here are some older haiku I wrote while in Thailand. I’ll post more soon. Tell me which ones you like or don’t like and why.

stomach bound in knots
no pill exists which can ease
worry in the mind

large rainclouds forming
will rain fall on us tonight?
my favourite season

the changing seasons
marks the passage of time there
here, only rainfall

underneath the street
the summer’s heat stifling
when will the train come?

his paws are trembling
randomly the whiskers twitch
the cat is dreaming

the needle enters
injects ink into the skin
left permanently

stillness in the air
the barking dog seems closer
the rain will start soon

first you see the flash
followed by the loud thunder
light travels faster

the river runs fast
the colour a rich deep brown
the rainy season

in the wilderness
exploring territory
mapping emotion

harvesting the rice
catching fish from the river
simple life is good

little balls of sand
the crab works tirelessly
retreats when i step

what did the bugs do
before electricity
and light bulbs at night?

มะม่วงอกร่อง (ma-muang awk-rawng)
มะม่วงอร่อยที่สุด (ma-muang arroy tii sut)
ชีวิตเมืองไทยดี (chi-wit meung thai dee)

alone i walk fast
legs much longer than others
mind at hyperspeed

the tree’s limbs stretch wide
equally long are it’s roots
hidden underground

this game that you play
you seem to know the rules well
i am just learning

muddy fields of rice
white birds on top of oxen
smell of burning grass

whining mosquito
hovering around my ear
heavy with my blood

endless sea of green
the heavy rice hangs down low
swaying in the wind

smell of burning grass
the sun sets behind the hill
turning the haze pink

all of a sudden
i have a strong sense of time
half the world away

the F train, morning
sitting opposite, reading
i had no idea

my mind wide open
so many possible paths
different outcomes

thirty thousand feet
above the arctic ocean
i am half way there

crossing the date line
instead of twenty four hours
today has forty

i wrap emotion
into tiny packages
and hide them away

sitting in the sun
clothes still wet after a swim
drinking summer ale

i miss the city
the energy inspires
makes life exciting

crying and screaming
the child wants attention
the mother ignores

undeveloped, otherwise
quite intelligent

is portland the place?
biking, coffee, beer and girls
but is it too small?

scientists are wasting time
this is what we need

the higher the peak
the more difficult the climb
the wider the view

i lay in my bed
listening to the thunder
off in the distance


My hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts comes up in conversation often. Usually I’m talking about how cool it is, or how many bands are from there. I decided to post a list of all the people this town is known for. I’m also going to include Northampton because they are right next to each other, and are culturally similar.

The area around Amherst has 5 colleges: Amherst College, UMass, Smith, Mt. Holyoke and Hampshire. Smith and Mt. Holyoke were the first two women’s schools in the US. I think these 5 colleges are key to why the culture of this area breeds excellence.

Here’s a condensed list of famous people:

Emily Dickinson was born and lived in Amherst.
Robert Frost taught at Amherst College and retired there.
Noah Webster, the guy who wrote the Websters Dictionary (and changed the US spelling of words)
Helen Hunt Jackson was born in Amherst
Eugene Field, who wrote children’s poem Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Melvil Dewey devised the Dewey Decimal System while working at Amherst College
Eric Mabius, star of ABC show Ugly Betty (and “Tim” from the L-Word) went to my high school
Julie McNiven, actress on Mad Men and Supernatural
Uma Thurman lived in Amherst for awhile (and her dad taught at Umass I think)
Augusten Burroughs, author of Running with Scissors
Norton Juster, author of The Phantom Tollbooth
J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr.

much bigger list here

Mary-Ellis Bunim, television producer and co-creator of MTV’s The Real World and Road Rules
Lydia Maria Child, author of the poem “Over the River and through the Woods”
Chris Collingwood, lead singer of the band Fountains of Wayne
Calvin Coolidge was mayor of Northampton before becoming governor of Massachusetts and then U.S. president
Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird published Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics from their Northampton studio (and I went and saw it as a kid!)
Sylvester Graham, advocate of vegetarianism and namesake of the Graham Cracker (his home is now a great restaurant called Sylvesters)
Jason Loewenstein, singer, songwriter with indie-rock bands Sebadoh and The Fiery Furnaces
Rachel Maddow, radio personality, MSNBC television host, and liberal political commentator
Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of the band Sonic Youth
Jo Newman, actress (Love and Other Drugs; Gossip Girl)
Lesléa Newman, author of Heather Has Two Mommies.
Mary Rohlich, film and documentary producer on projects including Horrible Bosses and Freakonomics
Kurt Vonnegut, author
Dar Williams, musician
Chris Pureka, musician
Sylvia Plath studied at Smith

much bigger list here

Dust and Memorials

It’s been 10 years. It doesn’t feel like 10 years.

I wanted to share with you some photos. I’ve never done anything with them – just shot them to document the reality of it all then placed them in a folder on my hard drive. I’ve looked at them twice in the last several years, once when I wrote this post exactly three years ago today, and again just now.

To be honest, it was really hard to look at them. I preferred to just keep them hidden away, like the vial of dust hidden in a box somewhere that I collected from downtown a few days after the towers fell, and the postcards of the Twin Towers I bought from a Bleecker Street tourist shop. The New York Times did a piece this week called What We Kept which I found fascinating. I realized I’m not the only one who saved something from that time… I wonder how many others have vials of dust hidden in a drawer somewhere.

Below are some photos I took, along with the dates & location, and a Google Street View of what’s there now. Some of the buildings were too damaged and tore down. Others look like nothing ever happened.

174 Broadway

174 Broadway Now

Corner of Trinity Place and Cortlandt St.

Corner of Trinity Place and Cortlandt St. Now

Wall Street by Trinity Church

Fulton & Broadway

Fulton & Broadway Now

A Shop Keeper across from WTC

The dust lasted for months

Memorials were everywhere…

A fire station in the Village

Washington Square Park

Union Square Park

And finally… the only photo I have of the Twin Towers which I took myself

Best Coffee in Portland?

I often get asked where are the best places to have coffee in Portland. I used to think I was a coffee snob and knew a little bit about coffee before I moved here. Let me tell you – Portland’s coffee geeks have humbled me. That aside, here are the places I have tried and liked so far.

South East


heartroasters.com2211 E Burnside
This place is right near my house. I love the vintage science classroom decor and the super cute hip girls working there. Their coffee is delicious. They roast in-house & sell their beans too.
Order a Latte or a crazy Japanese Siphon coffee.

Coava Coffee Roasters

coavacoffee.com1300 SE Grand Ave
These guys are real coffee geeks. Probably the geekiest in the city. They take their coffee very, very seriously. They invented their own (reusable! sustainable! local!) metal cone for pour over coffee and they won the most recent NW Regional Barista Competition. They share a space with a (sustainable! local!) bamboo flooring company. How Portland.
Order a Pour Over or something espresso based


stumptowncoffee.com3356 SE Belmont St
How can I not mention Stumptown? Stumptown is the largest(?) roaster in Portland and is the default coffee bean at most shops which don’t already roast their own. They have a few coffee shops in the city and sell their beans in the grocery stores too. This one on Belmont has two shops – one regular coffee shop and one “tasting room” called the Annex where they do free tasting flights of single origin beans every day at noon and 2pm. No joke.
Order a French Press

North West


baristapdx.com539 NW 13th Ave
These guys make a great espresso. Try any of their espresso-based drinks. They’re always nice inside too. They have a really beautiful shop up on Alberta but I read on the news that it got pretty damaged by a fire caused by the 4th of July fireworks last week. No word when it’ll re-open. Sad. In the meantime, go support their Pearl District location. **EDIT** They’ve re-opened the Alberta location as of November 7th, 2011. 1725 NE Alberta Street.
Order anything espresso based

South West

Café Vélo

cafe-velo.comPSU Farmers’ Market – SW Park Ave & SW Montgomery St
Café Vélo makes single-origin bean pour overs at the Saturday Farmers’ Market at PSU. Their stall is a bicycle. One of the best pour overs in town. Don’t be intimidated by their menu – just ask them to recommend a bean.
Order the pour over – have them recommend one ** Only open on Saturdays!

Courier Coffee

couriercoffeeroasters.com923 SW Oak St
I am in love with Courier. It’s teeny tiny and right nearby Powell’s. There’s two guys who I always see work there, and I swear they must wake & bake every morning. They’re sweet and can tell you about the origin of every ingredient in every item in their store. Everything is hand-made (including the hand-written menus). They roast their own coffee & deliver beans by bicycle. If you have time for only one coffee shop in the West side – go here.
Order the latte in the mason jar (jarbralter) and try a cookie or other random hand-baked goodie

Coffee and a Cookie

I’m sure I’m forgetting some people’s favorites. If your favorite coffee isn’t listed here – there’s a chance I haven’t tried it yet. Let me know and I’ll check it out.

Berry Picking on Sauvie Island

I’ve now gone to three different U-Pick berry farms on Sauvie Island near Portland in the last two weeks… Here’s my review:

Sauvie Island Farms
Directions: Cross the bridge to Sauvie Island, & continue straight. Follow up until the road forks and stay left – about a mile up on the right. map

Went here first last week and picked about 8 pounds of Mt. Hood strawberries. Delicious. Best strawberries I’ve ever had. They are not organic but they don’t “spray” (but do apply fungicide to the soil). Strawberries are one of the “if you can’t afford to eat organic, at least just eat organic with these 10 items” so I’m a bit worried, but not enough to not eat them.

I went home and made jam with half of the berries. And I may have eaten the rest over 4 days. Did that make me sick of berries? No! A week later I went back…

Verdict: Great pick

Kruger’s Farm
Directions: Cross the bridge to Sauvie Island and this is the first farm on the right. map

So, Sauvie Island Farms is closed on Sunday but this place is open… My friend who brought me to Sauvie Island Farms said this place kinda sucks – too many tourists who pick the place clean and they’re overpriced. Well… she was dead on right. We spent about an hour here and got nothing but screaming children and teeny picked over berries and sad plants and a whole lot of dust. We left for better pastures.

Verdict: Pass this one up

Columbia Farms
Directions: This one is on the other side of the island – near the nude beach. White barn, light green roof. map

They were super nice here. Not sticky sweet “give me money but I hate you” nice, but actually, honestly nice. They re-weighed our plastic boxes and bowls from Kruger’s (we had weighed them there so they could tare them) and we found out that Kruger’s scales were way off. And when I say way off, I mean at least double what these items actually weigh. Columbia Farms had just calibrated their scales this week so they were accurate. No wonder my raspberries were so expensive at Kruger’s. Yikes…

They had 4 types of strawberries when we went – we picked about 9 pounds. Then we went over and picked a bunch of blueberries and raspberries too. 7 pounds of raspberries. We got about 18 pounds of berries for $23? Jam day is today!

Oh, and if you’re near the blueberries and keep hearing a crazy loud angry bird… that’s a recording coming from teeny speakers on the fence. Scared the shit out of me.

Verdict: Best of the lot

Really, Amazon?

Amazon Packaging

Got a replacement iphone charger in the mail. The brick was in the larger box and the cable in the smaller. I kid you not.

How to Export a Cat From Thailand to the USA

แมวอินเตอร์… international cat of mystery

Emma brought her cat “Pumpoi” from Thailand to the US and wrote up this how-to. I figured I’d post it here in case anyone was interested. Her post follows:

Please note that different countries require a variety of import arrangements

At Least 6 Weeks Before

  1. Your cat must be at least 6 months old
  2. Make sure that your cat is vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to you wishing to leave the country. Every cat needs a rabies booster before they leave the country. You must have the original vaccination record with the correct stickers and dates as well as the vet’s contact details clearly displayed.
  3. Decide if you wish to bring your cat on to the plane or have it as checked baggage or as checked as cargo. Bringing a cat onto a plane means you will be confining it to a smaller space than if it is checked baggage or cargo.
  4. Buy a cat crate that is the suitable size for your cat and that is airline approved. Crates are airline approved for ventilation and food and water requirements. Some airlines require metal fasteners on the corners of these pet carriers. Be sure to confirm with your airline that the style you need meets their specific construction requirements before purchasing. This can be challenging as the airline from the Thai end can be extremely unhelpful and insist that you purchase a crate first!
  5. Know the weight and size (height x width x length) of your crate which should be on the specifications. You will need to have this information ready when you contact your airline. You will also need to give them the weight of your cat. The reason is that this will determine the cost of your excess luggage when you go to pay at the airport check-in desk before your fly.

Booking Your Flight

  1. Book your flight – check that they have space for your cat before you confirm your booking as they only allow so many animals per flight.
  2. Contact the airline and explain that you wish to book a live animal onto the flight as carry-on or checked baggage/cargo. Get confirmation from them and a price quote for the cost of transport.

3 Days Prior To Departure

  1. 3 days (no more than this – even if in some places you see it mentioned that 7 days is ok, sometimes it is not!) prior to your departure you must go to the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport Customs and Animal Quarantine Office. All pets must be inspected by the government vet before leaving the country.
  2. Customs Free Zone
    Suvarnabhumi International Airport
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Tel +66 (0) 2134 0731

  3. You must bring with you to the quarantine office:
    • Original rabies certificate, with vet’s contact details and phone number (in English and legible).
    • A copy of your passport
    • Your flight details
    • Cat micro-chip number if you have one (not necessary to have a microchip, but if you do have one, you need the number).
    • Your cat!
  4. At the office you will need to fill in a Form 1/1 which is an export request. You do not need to do this before hand.
  5. At the office the vet will conduct a health check, take a photograph of your cat and give you the documents you require for export. This costs 50 Baht per cat.
  6. Make two photocopies of all documents and keep them with you when you travel. You should have:
    • Your original cat health certificate
    • The airport vet health certificate
    • The export permit
  7. Familiarise your cat with the crate it will be travelling in. It helps to leave something with your scent in there for the trip. Planes are cold so make sure that your cat is going to be warm enough by adding blankets etc.
  8. Your crate must be properly labelled with arrows to show right way up and ‘live animal’ in words 2 inches tall. You also need to leave feeding instructions and have your details on the crate.
  9. Line the bottom of the crate with newspaper and/or absorbent pads. Do not use straw or other grassy materials as the importation of plant material is prohibited.

At the Airport

  1. Make sure you have enough money with you at the airport as either Thai Baht or as US Dollars to pay for the excess baggage.
  2. Check in as early as possible so that if there are any problems you have some extra time to sort them out.
  3. Hand over the paperwork you received from the airport vet when you go to check in. They may ask for copies of the health certificate – in which case hand these over now. They will then tape these to the cat crate.
  4. If your cat is going to be transported as excess baggage you will need to bring them to the oversize baggage area before you go through customs.

On The Plane

  1. When you are in your seat, you should get a confirmation from the air steward that your cat has been loaded onto the flight. If not, you can ask them to check prior to departure.

At Your Destination

  1. Make sure you check the box on the customs form that you will be bringing a live animal into the country.
  2. A customs official may want to check your cat at the destination.
  3. If you checked your cat as excess baggage then collect your cat after passing through customs.

Leaving Thailand

It’s been almost five years since I came to Thailand and I’ve finally grown sick of it. The things I miss have become more important, and the things I used to find endearing I now find irritating. I want to buy a house, grow some vegetables and live somewhere with clean air.

I made a list of the things I was looking for in a city last summer and polled my friends. A few friends suggested Portland, Oregon. I remember loving Oregon while on the US cross country trip I took, so I gave it another try this summer and still loved it. So it’s final – I’m moving out there!

Here was my list, in case you’re interested:

Requirements for a City

  • liberal, intelligent and worldly
  • green city
  • bike friendly
  • not too cold
  • interesting music scene
  • good beer
  • inexpensive and fresh fruits & vegetables
  • food people
  • reasonable drug laws
  • fast internet
  • decent public transportation
  • non-smoking city laws
  • not super expensive
  • friendly & happy people
  • does not have to be large
  • does not have to be English speaking

Now that I’ve decided I’m going to leave, things are a bit bittersweet. I have been eating at my favorite veggie restaurant daily, and trying to acquire all the recipes I can before I go. I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about Thailand. I’ve been compiling a list of things I’ll miss and things I won’t miss. I’ll share that with you all too:

Things I’ll miss

  • the rainy season
  • the food
  • orchids blooming everywhere
  • how affordable some things are
  • the beach and ocean
  • soi animals
  • my friends
  • geckos: both jing jok and tookay
  • vegetables & fruit
  • thunderstorms and night rains
  • big crazy tropical plants
  • noisy birds
  • Thai temples
  • Thai trains
  • artist kids
  • night markets
  • street food
  • water gardens
  • water taxis and klongs
  • Suan Phai veggie restaurant
  • the cleanliness of the bts, malls, houses
  • Kanchanaburi
  • night swims and phosphorescence
  • Koh Samet
  • $1 lunches
  • delicious roadside country restaurants
  • spices, herbs
  • mango season
  • elephants
  • amazing clouds
  • frogs
  • cats with broken tails
  • ginger, my apartment cat
  • having so many international friends
  • speaking Thai
  • how nice people are

Things I won’t miss

  • clackity high heeled shoes. everywhere
  • the heat
  • people staring at me
  • “you speak Thai so well”
  • the politics
  • the pollution
  • plastic whistles
  • skeevy taxi drivers
  • Thai beer
  • lack of sidewalks and difficulty walking places
  • lack of stuff to do other than shopping
  • lack of care for the environment
  • mosquitoes
  • sand flies
  • dual pricing
  • strict gender roles
  • The same 5 songs over and over
  • crossing the road
  • The walking speed and lack of spatial awareness on sidewalks
  • taxis and motorbike taxis honking at me all the time
  • people not getting out of the way for ambulances
  • the Ministry of Culture deciding what websites I can and can’t look at
  • corruption
  • no screens on windows. hello, dengue?
  • attack umbrellas at eye level
  • hovering store clerks
  • loose sidewalk tiles in the rain
  • traffic
  • little pink napkins which disintegrate when wet
  • wet stinky bathrooms
  • suicidal bus drivers
  • fire ants
  • commercials on the skytrain
  • constant construction and the resulting dust
  • sexpats

I love lists. And I’m excited about trading the heat for some rain.

Zürich Flea Market Find


I bought 6 antique pocket watch movements at the Zürich Sunday flea market about a month ago. One of which still had it’s casing which was completely covered in rust (see picture to the left). I bought it with intentions of making a necklace out of it. I realized that rust stains really well and will ruin my shirts so figured I should try to get it off.

Thanks to google, I found out that alka-seltzer will take off rust so I soaked the whole thing in it for a few days and used an old toothbrush to scrub it off. It all came off beautifully (pic on right). It unfortunately tarnished the brass movement inside, but if I can figure out how to get the movement out I can polish that back up no problem. Oh and bonus, now that the rust is gone the gears wind. So I may even be able to get the thing to run again!

Google Translate Gets Thai Language

I just noticed today that Google Translate has started supporting Thai translations. I’ve been checking back frequently – I use this service to translate pretty much every other language. I’m excited to see if it’s better than the and bulk lookup tools.

go check it out

If the results seem a bit odd – try checking back in a few months. I noticed the other languages improved over time. Or you can help them by suggesting a better translation.

Why I First Came To Thailand

7 years ago today, one of the largest events happened in our personal history. Just over a mile away from my apartment in downtown NYC, the skyline, city and the people of NY were permanently altered.

The smell of smoke was everywhere – the fire didn’t go out for months. The smell was… chemical. Plastic-like. Un-natural. Have you ever shorted out electronics? If I close my eyes and think about it, I can still smell it. Some nights the the smoke was so thick outside my window, other nights the wind would shift direction and you’d smell the sea. Cars still were not allowed back in the city. I decided that, while I’d like to stick around and discuss conspiracy theories and politics with my friends, my apartment was unfit to live. Now was the best time to do something I had been thinking about doing for years – go check out Asia.

In October, Pippin and I subletted our apartment, loaded up the car with our cats and belongings and went to stay with his Dad for a few weeks while we prepared for Asia. I had really wanted to see Thailand (loved the food and the few Thais I met before) and Japan. Pippin was game for anything. We flew out on December 25, 2001 with a flight on British Airways to Bangkok with a layover in Europe.

We arrived in Bangkok two weeks later and, to tell you the truth, all I wanted to do was turn around and get back on the plane. I hated it. The air quality was terrible (I was trying to escape bad air remember?), the sidewalks were un-walkable, it was hot, dirty, hectic. People harassed us everywhere. We decided to get the hell out of Bangkok and flew down to Koh Samui. Needless to say, a week later I was scuba diving off Koh Tao and thus began my love affair with this country.

The Eternal Value of Privacy

by Bruce Schneier

The most common retort against privacy advocates — by those in favor of ID checks, cameras, databases, data mining and other wholesale surveillance measures — is this line: “If you aren’t doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?”

Some clever answers: “If I’m not doing anything wrong, then you have no cause to watch me.” “Because the government gets to define what’s wrong, and they keep changing the definition.” “Because you might do something wrong with my information.” My problem with quips like these — as right as they are — is that they accept the premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong. It’s not. Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.

Two proverbs say it best: Quis custodiet custodes ipsos? (“Who watches the watchers?”) and “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Cardinal Richelieu understood the value of surveillance when he famously said, “If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged.” Watch someone long enough, and you’ll find something to arrest — or just blackmail — with. Privacy is important because without it, surveillance information will be abused: to peep, to sell to marketers and to spy on political enemies — whoever they happen to be at the time.

Privacy protects us from abuses by those in power, even if we’re doing nothing wrong at the time of surveillance.

We do nothing wrong when we make love or go to the bathroom. We are not deliberately hiding anything when we seek out private places for reflection or conversation. We keep private journals, sing in the privacy of the shower, and write letters to secret lovers and then burn them. Privacy is a basic human need.

A future in which privacy would face constant assault was so alien to the framers of the Constitution that it never occurred to them to call out privacy as an explicit right. Privacy was inherent to the nobility of their being and their cause. Of course being watched in your own home was unreasonable. Watching at all was an act so unseemly as to be inconceivable among gentlemen in their day. You watched convicted criminals, not free citizens. You ruled your own home. It’s intrinsic to the concept of liberty.

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that — either now or in the uncertain future — patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

How many of us have paused during conversation in the past four-and-a-half years, suddenly aware that we might be eavesdropped on? Probably it was a phone conversation, although maybe it was an e-mail or instant-message exchange or a conversation in a public place. Maybe the topic was terrorism, or politics, or Islam. We stop suddenly, momentarily afraid that our words might be taken out of context, then we laugh at our paranoia and go on. But our demeanor has changed, and our words are subtly altered.

This is the loss of freedom we face when our privacy is taken from us. This is life in former East Germany, or life in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. And it’s our future as we allow an ever-intrusive eye into our personal, private lives.

Too many wrongly characterize the debate as “security versus privacy.” The real choice is liberty versus control. Tyranny, whether it arises under threat of foreign physical attack or under constant domestic authoritative scrutiny, is still tyranny. Liberty requires security without intrusion, security plus privacy. Widespread police surveillance is the very definition of a police state. And that’s why we should champion privacy even when we have nothing to hide.

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Bruce Schneier is the CTO of Counterpane Internet Security and the author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security in an Uncertain World.