Archive for May, 2012
The sign outside provides a clue; what we have here is an interractive (sic) art museum:
It’s also a clue that an English speaker has not been consulted during construction. Inside the entrance, there is confirmation of this:
It doesn’t look promising, what we are about to experience may be the epitome of crap. But, surprisingly, it is rather good.
Firstly, it is big. Many halls filled with artwork. And the artwork is cleverly executed, with a 3D effect which is very convincing and you have to get up close to appreciate that it is just painted onto a flat wall.
At least eighty per cent of the pieces are designed to support the interactive (sorry, interractive) nature of the gallery. The statute of confidentiality does not allow me to show you the fifty or so photos of she who must be obeyed doing her interactive thing; but you can get the idea from the following:
A harmless giggle for an hour or so, although the limited lighting may make it difficult for most visitors to capture reasonable shots (I was shooting at around 1/10th second, but I was using a tripod). Worth the 150 baht entrance fee, if you are a Thai.
If you are not a Thai, then you will be stung for 500 baht, which makes the show less attractive; especially as they couldn’t even be bothered to check the grammar and spelling for those people who are expected to pay extra. I will not be returning.
For more information, it is important that you watch this video right till the end, thank you.
A flurry* of emails asking about the Lensbaby that I used yesterday.
I bought my first Lensbaby when I had only a Canon camera. It was a pretty basic piece of kit.
You moved the bellows up and down to acquire focus, and moved it from side to side to generate swirly effects. There was a lens of sorts inside, and a selection of magnetic rings which your dropped onto the lens to change the aperture. Great fun to use, although keeping focus with your fingers wrapped around the unit was something of a hit and miss affair.
That Lensbaby was sold in the great Canon lens purge of a few years ago. I missed the quirky images it produced and hoped one day that the Lensbaby company would include the Micro-Four Thirds mount in their range. Eventually, they did.
The original lens is still in the lineup and is called the “Muse”. But now there are more sophisticated offerings and I ended up with a “Composer Pro” into which you can insert a selection of optics.
First improvement is the ball-joint which keeps the lens at whatever crazy angle you want. Then there is a focus ring to enable accurate manual focusing. Finally, the lens has an aperture ring which you rotate to set the desired F stop.
Point the lens straight ahead and you will have a sharp centre with the edges washing out, the extent depending on the aperture; the wider the lens, the more crazy the blur.
Move the lens to the side on the ball-joint and the sweet spot will move around the image. In this example it is on the legs of the creature:
The lens itself is of high quality. As well as generating the Lensbaby distinctive look, it can take a very acceptable image. This flower shot from yesterday show is an example of a clear, sharp image, with only the flashes of light off to the side indicating that this is not an ordinary lens.
Working out the location of the sweet spot is not easy and setting up a Lensbaby shot can take a long time; but I find the end results to be interesting and the creative opportunities are endless. Expect more Lensbaby shots.
*Flurry = None
Last Friday I spent about an hour taking photos of Craig and his family playing on SUPs. It was just standing around; and yet on Saturday I could hardly walk. My legs felt like I had climbed a sizeable mountain the day before. It’s the thyroid of course; muscle weakness and exhaustion are just two of the many symptoms.
Today I thought I would try another little outing, an hour or so snapping at Nong Nuch. Lasted about thirty minutes before I was convinced I was going to collapse; but an iced coffee perked me up and I survived. Needed a little lie-down when I got home though.
Just took the GX1 and a Lensbaby:
Thailand is a fine country and I would not wish to live anywhere else; but it is by no means perfect. Thailand is particularly notorious for the availability of counterfeit goods. Bad business for the manufacturers, something of an attraction for tourists.
Many a visitor must openly discuss how much they are looking forward to purchasing all manner of copied merchandise during their visit; and they won’t be disappointed because there are thousands of Thais who make their living by manufacturing, distributing and selling counterfeit goods.
One such visitor was Lady Gaga, who announced her arrival in the country with a tweet proclaiming how she was looking forward to buying a copy Rolex. This may have been a throwaway remark, or it could have been a subtle dig at a country where official sales of her album have yet to reach double figures, because everyone would rather buy a 60 baht copy.
Whatever the intent, she could not have expected the massive media backlash that erupted. Thai forums are awash with outrage, Lady Gaga could have done no worse if she had mentioned the appalling education system and the rampant corruption.
“How dare she criticise this perfect country”, commented Parawisa Peraboon (wearing a fake Burberry hat and with her rip-off Louis Vuitton handbag), writing on her computer with a hacked version of Windows.
She who must be obeyed is something of a fan, and I must admit to watching the video for Bad Romance several times, a particularly competent piece of pop art. But we will join the requested boycott against this woman who has failed to follow the golden rule of “only say nice things about Thailand or the citizens will get upset”. Instead we will stay at home and watch a Blu-Ray of Mission Impossible (300 baht copy from Tuk Com).
Given my ongoing tragic status, it seemed wise to check and make sure that my condition is being caused by nothing more than an exploding thyroid.
Most of the private hospitals in Thailand offer packages to check out your health. You spend an hour or so undergoing a series of tests which are then presented to you in a fancy booklet by a doctor who is qualified in stating the bleeding obvious by reading your results and highlighting any abnormalities, which assorted machines have already automatically highlighted as being abnormal. Last time I did this was at Samitivej hospital in Bangkok and I remember it being a lot of money to pay for a fancy red silk covered report.
Luckily, we have an alternative in Pattaya, the Lifecare Laboratory. You won’t get a silk bound report; but you will get the answers you need at a reasonable price.
Their brochure offers a variety of packages. Being Pattaya, there is the “Sexual Infection Program”, which sounds like a block booking for the services of beach road hookers but is actually a test for the happy club of HIV, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Hepatitis B and Gonorrhea. Then there is the “Before Marrie Program” (sic) which is similar but expands the Hepatitis coverage to both A and C. Certainly worth including this in any pre-nup agreement if you are not sure what your beloved, or you, have been doing with your orifices and/or appendages.
As my personal encounters do not extend beyond she who must be obeyed, I went for the “Exclusive Program” which covered just about everything you can test, given a phial of blood, a suspiciously warm container of pee, and a pot of poo.
And it was this last item which caused me the grief. All these tests have to be carried out after six hours fasting ; so it is up early to gather the samples so you can then go and have some breakfast. In the groggy state of the early morning hours, I can pretty much handle peeing in a small container with only a little spillage and a minimal amount of spray on a passing cat. But the poo is a different level of challenge. The laboratory provides a small pot and a lollipop stick. Put poo on stick, insert into pot. Sounds easy; but isn’t.
After many years on this planet you would assume I had a reasonable idea whereabouts poo exits from the sculptured, muscled finery that is my body. Apparently not. Placing the lolly stick where fallout was expected resulted in a perfectly clean stick. Repositioning for the next piece of poo also drew a blank. In the end I was reduced to fishing the bowl with my lolly stick; on balance this is not how I would normally wish to start my day.
The rest of the process was plain sailing. We (she who must be obeyed wanted to play too) proudly presented our samples, offered our arms for the extraction of blood, had an EKG and then handed over 2,000 baht per person. Then in the afternoon we picked up our cardboard covered reports.
Relieved to find all was normal, apart from she who must be obeyed’s Cholesterol which is a little high and which she will not bother to rectify. Excellent service, cheaper and more convenient than going to a hospital. Just wish there was an easier way to capture the poo.
How to get to Lifecare:
Coming from Bali Hai pier on third road, cross over the flyover and before you arrive at the traffic lights at soi 17, look on the left for Laundry Express (blue sign). Down the soi next to Laundry Express and about fifty metres on the right you will find Lifecare Lab. Tel: 038-488048. Open 07:00 to 22:00, closed Sunday
I would rate my overall state of health two days ago as being around 20% of normal. Yesterday saw a slight improvement to around 40%, and today I would rate myself at 70%. Today was the first time for about three weeks that I really wanted to eat; so I celebrated with a big bowl of bibimbab. Today was also the first day I have felt like doing something other than feeling sorry for myself; so I headed down to the windsurfing club.
Not up to sailing yet, but it was good to sit on the beach and watch others sail as the sun set. Took the GX1 which rather struggled with focus with the sun going down into the lens and the sparkling sea messing things up; but got this silhouette shot of Craig that I quite like.
Hoping for 90% tomorrow and maybe a photo outing.
Greece joined the Euro in 2001. To meet the criteria for membership, the country had to demonstrate a certain level of financial stability. Having done this, how did their economy then go down the toilet so quickly? It didn’t, it was substantially in the toilet before 2001, the Greeks just fiddled the statistics to gain access to the Euro, and then continued to massage the numbers in subsequent years, aided by the lovely people at Goldman Sachs. Each year, over many years, the budget deficit was “recalculated” and published as being an acceptable 3% of GDP.
The house of cards collapsed in 2009 when a new government calculated the real numbers and discovered the budget deficit was 14% and the total government debt exceeded one trillion dollars. Greece was financially fucked, and had been for some time; and the underlying reason was not the banks or a financial crisis; it was the Greek people.
For a start, nobody pays taxes unless they have to. It’s standard practice to cheat, and as tax inspectors are demoted if they investigate too thoroughly, and can be bribed if things get sticky; there is no pressure to pay tax, so nobody does (including government ministers). And for a little extra help, the government suspends tax collection during election years; which probably doesn’t make much of a difference to revenues.
So, government revenues are not up to much; how about expenditure?
The average public sector salary has doubled in the past twelve years and the average public sector job pays three times an average private sector job. The state railway has an income of 100 million Euros and a salary cost of 400 million Euros (thanks to an average salary of 65,000 Euros a year), plus 300 million Euros in other costs. It would be cheaper to put everyone in taxis than to run the railways. The school system is one of the lowest ranked in Europe, but employs four times as many teachers as the highest ranked. The retirement age is 55 for people who work in what are classified as “arduous” jobs; people like hairdressers and waiters, at which time they can enjoy a generous state pension.
The Greek people currently out on the street protesting against austerity measures, are protesting to protect their lifestyle that involves cheating on their taxes and the routine bribery of officials, whilst receiving salaries and pensions way above the ability of their government to pay them.
Is there any hope for Greece? No there isn’t. Do I feel sorry for them? No I don’t.
Gosh Spike, how do you know all this stuff? Are you a secret economist, or what?
No, I have just read Boomerang: The Meltdown Tour by Michael Lewis, an informative, scary, hilarious book about the impact of the last few years on a variety of countries. If you want to know what really happened in Iceland, Ireland and Greece; and understand the German response; then there is no finer read than this. There are no charts or heavy financial explanations; just revealing conversations with key players and ordinary people, and many, many giggles.
And when you have read that, read The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by the same author; by far the best explanation of the sub-prime crisis. It is also informative, scary and hilarious; and reveals the monumental stupidity of some banks; and how some very smart people made a shitload of money out of the crisis.
And once you have consumed those two most excellent books, you can finish off with Liar’s Poker, Lewis’s story of how be became a “big swinging dick” at Salomon Brothers in the 1980s.
Here ends the Pattaya Days book selection for
today 2012 this century.
Courtesy of @pundamentalism
Dragged my sad arse to the doctor in Bangkok this morning. Each visit starts with a blood test where four thyroid indicators are measured. Last time I went, all the readings were normal and this time I was hoping to see a result that confirmed that the thyroid had died and no thyroid hormones were being produced. This would explain why I am feeling crap and I could start on the road to recovery.
But it turned out that my current condition is caused by an excess of thyroid hormones, rather than an absence. In spite of the fact that I am shovelling down double the dosage of thyroid suppressants that I used to take before I zapped my thyroid, all the indicators of my thyroid condition were reading higher than they have ever been. What’s going on Doc?
Apparently, a thyroid does not go quietly after being poisoned with radiation (the inconsiderate bastard). Instead, as the radiation does its work, the thyroid chucks out vast quantities of hormones out into the blood stream; like a supernova or a sulky (or poisoned) child throwing its toys out of the pram.
My doctor was rather surprised to see just how much hormone was being generated, and placed me on double the current double dose of suppressant for the next two weeks. This will bring me close to the end of the three month thyroid death cycle, and will hopefully make me feel a little better.
What a load of buggering about.