Happy New Year 2560 (Buddhist era)*

2017 according to the Gregorian calendar …

These images are all Balinese, not Thai. The aesthetic differences between Thailand and Indonesia are colossal. And the culinary contrasts are staggering. 

* Year 2017 is Year 2560 in Thailand. Since the reign of King Rama V, Thailand has adopted the Thai Solar Calendar, which has some differences with the common calendar, also known as Gregorian Calendar. Years are counted according to the Buddhist Era, which is 543 years greater than the Gregorian calendar used in western countries. Converting between them is as easy as adding or subtracting 543 years.

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Rogue One

We watched the new Star Wars film in Bangkok yesterday, where the cinemas are pretty glitzy. The film made me recall my early technology days … 

“AV nerd”. This was the appellation earned by those of us who hung around the audio visual lab at Susan B. Anthony Junior High School in 1971. We AV nerds were on the cutting edge of technology. We were computer nerds before computers came along. We got pretty excited when U-matic videocassettes were invented. This meant we no longer had to thread video tape through the complex innards of a dishwasher-sized reel-to-reel video machine. U-matics were chunky slabs as big as my torso. VHS and Beta came out later as slim n’ trim versions of the U-matic.

So imagine my surprise while watching Rogue One, when I saw that the Empire’s plans for the Death Star are stored on a U-matic cartridge! 

Not only that, the Empire’s U-matic storage and retrieval system is eye-popping. So much more dramatic than Susan B. Anthony’s metal file cabinets. The Empire keeps its files in a giant glassy atrium with a massive central metal corncob of lit-up U-matics. To access a cassette, a mind-blowing robotic claw glides up and down the corncob’s rows with servos whirring. It clamps onto the desired cassette and delivers it to the operator. You’d imagine that, to retrieve the cassette in, say, corncob Row 46, kernel B, you’d punch in 46B on a command console. But no. The process is more complicated by a factor of about a billion.

So the Rogue One good guys nab the Death Star planning U-matic from the giant metal corncob (not using the elaborate robotic claw, by the way, because a fuse blew). And then the copy process was begun and it did not involve Right-Click and Copy, then Paste. Instead, there were lots of enormous levers and hydraulics. And a long hose.
All of the Death Star’s detailed CAD files finally made it through the hose and the valves, and gushed their way into Rebel possession, where they were copied onto a single scrawny 3.5 inch floppy disk that was handed to Princess Leia in the final scene.
This gives us hope, she said. It made me hope for an AV nerd who could explain it all to me.

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So this is what sustainability looks like

Paul’s caught my cold, so he’s not teaching today. But the entire student body from Ban Mai Rai Oi School continues the lesson. Thai families watch Thai students learn water safety from Thai instructors. No one really notices that the Peace Corps volunteers are just spectators today. And then we will fade away. And then no one will remember that we had anything to do with the pool and the solar heater and the swim program. And that will be the greatest success.

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Rotting dead animal

Gentle, temperate breezes of Thailand’s cool season waft into the windows here in Prathom 1. Unfortunately, they waft over the putrifying corpse of some poor beast that managed to hide before expiring. So the gagging stench has permeated our classroom for a week. The kids gleefully have embarked on several safaris and have dragged back all manner of grotesquerie, but as yet the true culprit decomposes steadily and in peace.

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Our Backroad Shortcut is Back, and We’re Pretty Doggone Happy about it.

Since we started working on the pool, our backroad shortcut has been the only good way to get to Nongyasai.  But it’s been under reconstruction for six weeks!

When the dozers first arrived, we tried to navigate the torn-up surface on our sturdy Trek bikes. We quickly discoverd loads of “haam” (thorns) that make mincemeat out of rubber tires. All of the highway department equipment must’ve broken apart the devils’s-head plants and strewn their thorns through the gravel. 

When we arrived in Nong Pho, we installed kevlar liners in our tires to protect us from just such a threat, but in the new gravelly surface the thorns came in the sidewalls. After double-flats happened two times, we were stuck only with biking the main highway.
The main highway is not friendly to cyclists. It’s narrow, truck traffic is heavy, and  everything moves fast. The shoulder is dodgy. You’re just as likely to have some truck fling a piece of sugar cane (as thick and solid as a femur) at you as you are to be caught by the business end of a mango-hargesting pole (think scythe-on-a-stick) hanging off a pickup or motorcycle. So, for six weeks, biking the main highway was nerve-wracking.

Welcome back, shortcut! Here’s a 25-second video showing the shortcut that usually takes us 25 minutes to ride:

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Solar project update

The day before winter solstice was a sunny one, and by midmorning the three 125-meter pipe runs on the poolhouse roof were returning 38 degree water (about 100 degrees F). But the pool overall is still a chilly 28 degrees (just a shave over eighty F). The concrete and tile sucks up an awful lot of heat. We need to add at least five degrees.

So we’re adding pipe. Each run will expand to 400 meters — 1.2 kilometers total on the roof.  Painted flat black, they accumulate about fifteen degrees more than their natural baby blue color. Or maybe it’s Dusty Periwinkle.


Even with the new pipe, I think it’ll take a month to warm up all those cubic yards of masonry and tile.

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