Dog tales: Jesse and his bloody snout

It’s a Monday and Mondays deserve stories that will put a smile on your face. (Hopefully I will succeed) So here goes my story of Jesse and his bloody snout as told by Alex, Jesse’s dad. It happened a few months ago, I remember not exactly when.

It was a sunny day, extraordinary for the monsoon season, but then this year was a strange year with the rain strangely missing and then sometimes not. And as sunny days goes, James, Jesse, and Zoey would find themselves running around the garden, chasing birds, snapping at insects, killing lizards, jumping at toads, running through hedges and digging holes in the garden. That is the daily life of my dogs when they aren’t sleeping (which dogs do for an average of 14 hours a day), and when Alex and I aren’t home.

So each day, Alex comes homes to happy, dog wagging tails that wag so hard they look like they might just fall off. On that particular sunny day though, Alex came home to wagging dog tails but something was off. James the Labrador was running around as innocent, optimist Labradors do, but with an air of distraction and confusion. Zoey, the protector of the house, was running around back and forth from the middle of the garden to Alex while gently whimpering. Jesse was quiet, still as Siberian huskies are, dog wagging happy but with a bloody snout.

Alex thought to himself, as any concerned dog owner would, “Oh my, what happened to Jesse to have such a bloody snout and will he be okay?”

Panic sets in.   He walks over to the middle of the garden, where Zoey keeps running to, and sees a black snake almost two meters long, lying still but its head moving around.

“Oh shit, was Jesse bitten by the snake?” Dear oh dear little Jesse (who isn’t so little) this might require an emergency trip to the vet. Hope not.

Fortunately, some quick thinking sets in and Alex goes find our neighbor who has some knowledge regarding snakes. The neighbours come in, take a look at the long black snake and tells Alex it’s a rat snake and not to worry. Rat snakes are not dangerous and have no venom.

A deep sign of relief follows. Jesse was safe and Alex need not worry about the snake. The neighbours pointed out that our dogs, which we had feared for their lives, had attacked the snake and broke its back.

At that point, feelings of fear changed to sorrow.   Our dogs had broken the snake’s back when it was out searching for food. And now, the snake was to be our neighbour’s dinner.   From the northeast of Thailand, they were elated to have some delicious snake for dinner. Apparently it tastes like chicken.

That was the excitement of the day. I feel bad for the snake, but then I’m also happy my dogs are safe and that I wasn’t there to see it.

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Pray for Thailand

It’s hard to write anything non-political when most of what occupies my mind these days is politics, even on a day of love.  I think about politics every day, because it very much affects my life, and I do not mean just dealing with the commute or having to work at back-up sites or work-at-home.  External inconveniences caused by all these protests are secondary to me.  Taking four hours to drive back home will not kill me.  Seeing my country with so much potential yet no cohesiveness will kill my soul.

What worries me is the path of Thailand.  What lies ahead?  Where will this all end? How will we end up in a couple years’ time?

It doesn’t matter whose political ideals you adhere to, I think after almost four months of protests it’s time to agree that something is terribly wrong.

Even if you believed the government are in the right and that these protestors were spoiled losers who didn’t know how to lose an election, were elitist and didn’t understand the poor, I think somewhere there must be an alarm ringing.

On the other hand, even if you believed the government were in the wrong and that they are utterly corrupt, regard themselves above the law, and have vested interests in every policy they do, then after almost four months of protests you have to agree that the longer these protests drag on, the longer the country will take to recover.

What do I think? I have to admit that this is excruciatingly hard to write about in an objective manner.  Having a media that is not exactly objective makes it all the more difficult.

So all I can say for now is good night and let’s pray for Thailand.  Oh, I forgot, Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Makha Bucha Day too.

The good side of the Bangkok Shutdown

Politics is a serious topic and the situation in Bangkok isn’t getting any better soon.  I  wonder everyday how it will all end, will there be bloodshed? Will this end in civil law? Will the protestors get tired and disperse? (I doubt it) Will the government step down? (I don’t think they will either)  When this ends, will Thailand enter a new era of prosperity? or… is it all downhill for now?

I don’t know.  I don’t think anyone else knows either. If you know, please let me know. I pray it becomes an era of prosperity.

Anyways, reading the news today I came across an article about how the pollution level at main intersection levels in Bangkok where the protestors are camped out have more than halved in the past few days and so it has gotten me thinking of all the unintentional benefits of this Bangkok Shutdown.

1. It has raised political awareness amongst the Thai population and taught them that politics isn’t something not related to them, but that it can seriously impact their lives.  One must participate.

2. The Anti-Corruption campaign must be at an all time peak. Millions of people now understand and know how harmful corruption can be for the country.  Let’s just hope they continue to act on it and will not succumb to corruption, no matter how small the temptation.

3. It’s been a Car Free Week in downtown Bangkok causing the pollution level to decrease by more than half thus helping the environment.  Millions of cars are now off the streets.  Oil consumption therefore must be correspondingly lower. I wonder if the number of car accidents have decreased too.

4. Public transport is now used more widely with buses, sky train and mrt fully packed till late at night.  No need for status symbol cars anymore. Everyone uses public transport.

5. Office workers and protestors are now getting their daily dose of exercise walking kilometres to protest sites and realise it’s really not that bad to walk a bit.

6. Bangkokians get to explore Bangkok on foot. I even spotted some tourists joining in.

7. Work life balance amongst office workers promoted as many have to leave earlier to find their way home.

And most importantly, I think the best benefit of all these protests is that more people realise that the power lies within their hands and that what happens to the country depends upon each and everyone’s decision and participation.

No matter which side you support, the future of the country depends upon you. You are your own future!

Bangkok Politics: Election or No Election?

Yesterday was Children’s day.  Entire families were out en masse watching airplanes, dancing, singing and having quality family time.  Shops and restaurants were filled and everywhere there was a queue.  You’d think food was being given out for free.

Tomorrow, it’s the Bangkok Shutdown. Literally. Major roads and intersections will be filled protestors, protesting against the government and the election.  They call for reform before election.    At the same time, there are protestors out in support of the government and symbolically lighting candles.  The government wants election then reform.

Both have valid reasons.  Anti-government protestors have lost faith in the government despite the government’s reassurance they will reform after the election.  The government is skeptical of what will happen next if there are no elections.  Who will be in power and will democracy prevail?

Meanwhile, the election date has been set for 2nd February 2014.  The problem though is that 28 constituencies do not have candidates and even if elections were to go through, the number of  MPs would not meet the minimum required to convene the House of Representatives.  The Election Commission is suggesting the government move the election date to 4th May 2014. The budget is 3.8 billion baht. (~$115mil.)

Is the cost of holding this election worth the outcome? I can’t help but try to make sense of all this and think about what will happen next for Thailand.  What is the best way out of this?  What is the best solution for Thailand?

In my opinion, I think the best way out of this is for both sides to just take a step back, put away their personal egos, fear of losing face, and really just ask themselves this, “Am I doing what is best for my country?”

Will holding elections for the sake of having elections resolve the political situation?

Think of this: 1) There are millions on the street protesting and closing major intersections.  The people clearly are not happy even if they are not the majority. 2) The House of Representatives will not be able to convene as the number of MPs will be insufficient.  3) There is no guarantee elections will cause the protestors to disperse, forget and accept the results. 4) There is a chance the protestors will come out again the protest the results

Taking all this into consideration is the election worth the 3.8 billion baht of taxpayer money?

Some may argue that elections ensure we remain democratic and that the people will have to accept it.  The government has promised it will reform after elections.   This should be sufficient given that we live in a democracy.  The government should not give in just because protestors are out on the street.

My only problem with this argument is that it fails to address the issue.

The issue is that a significant number of people (millions) have lost faith and trust in the government.  They say the government is corrupt and is pushing policies for personal gain.  And like any relationship, once the trust is broken, the relationship fails and breaks apart.

The government will have to work hard if it is to get the people to trust in them, to believe that the government will truly undergo reforms that will help the people and be for the benefit of the country.  These things take time, and words are insufficient.  It’s the action that counts.

In the end, no matter what you believe in, actions always speak louder than words.

Good night Bangkok.  I pray all ends peacefully. I love you Thailand.

A day for Democracy

Tomorrow has been set as the D-day that Thais will walk out on the streets of Bangkok and protest against corruption and misuse of power by the current government. Still many are asking, why are you protesting when the government has already abandoned the controversial amnesty bill? Isn’t it enough? Protesting a democratically elected government is like protesting against democracy. Are you in favor of a fascist state?

Let’s make a few things clear.  I am not protesting against democracy or in favor of a fascist state, but I am protesting against a government who has misused the power entrusted to them and to this day, has not admitted any wrong doing.   Why have they been able to corrupt and misuse power to such an extent? This is because the current model of democracy in Thailand has flaws in its check and balance system.  And as you know, a check and balance system is important if you are to prevent a majority government or party from misusing their power.

This misuse of power by the majority is a concept feared since the time of Plato and as Tocqueville called “Tyranny of the Majority.”  The misuse of power happens when the majority controls the legislative power, the executive power and the judicial power.  In plain English, when the majority controls how laws are made, executed and interpreted.

In designing the US constitution this was considered and James Madison realised that, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government.”  The US democratic system reduces the incentive for the government to succumb to human nature and pursue personal interests with its separation of powers and its system of checks and balances.

In Thailand, the legislative branch of the government is majority controlled by the government.  The judicial branch shares its powers with the constitutional court which at times has had controversial verdicts.  Think of  Clarence Thomas in the US.  I need not mention the executive branch.

The media, which is supposed to objectively report news has also been influenced.  Since the protests started earlier in November, the “Free TV” which is broadcasted throughout the country, has barely covered the protests.   They have selectively omitted the news.  This, I presume, comes from the government’s ability to influence and make life hard for any journalist or station not in their favour.

This lack of an objective and reliable source of information has led the population to turn to social media for news and information.  It’s hard to distinguish between real news and rumour.

The government is wonderfully smart at getting things done, keeping the opposition quiet, and appealing to those who want a “democratically elected” government.  They have put their own people in important positions and if a policy needs to be pushed, a politician becomes head of a committee. Interfering with governmental agencies.  This I have witnessed. They are masters of marketing.  Every interview with foreign media boasts of how the government was “democratically elected.”  Pro government supporters have signs in english and foreign media are given VIP treatment.

If this democracy is to work in Thailand, it has to be tweaked and polished. We need a strong legislative and judicial system, one that would not be subject to external influence and a strong media that will report and help be an “eye” to any misuse of power.

For now, action has to be taken before the cancer spreads any further.  That’s why we are protesting and that’s why tomorrow you will see millions on the streets of Bangkok.

Short term pain for long term gain. What happens next, we’ll just have to wait and see.

This is Why I Protest

It’s politics today. It kept me up last night and to sleep I had to get this out of my system, so here goes.

I’m not a red shirt, I’m not a yellow shirt. I don’t think the Prime Minister or her government is stupid.  In fact, I think they are smart and know exactly what they are doing.  I don’t think the opposition is better and I don’t think the protestors should break barriers.  I empathize with the policemen stuck in the middle between doing their duty and the people.

I have friends on both sides.  So why do I go out and participate in the protests ?

Here’s why. I am against corruption. I am against the amendment of laws for personal  benefit, the changing of versions, and of rushing it through in the wee hours of the morning.  Yes, thai politics and the opposition are also guilty of corruption, and I too am against it, but never before has corruption been at this level.

I am an advocate of transparency and believe the opposition should be allowed to voice their opinion no matter what.  I believe constitutional verdicts should be upheld and cannot simply be denied.

I am against a culture of “cash is king” and one where political goals override the needs of the country.

I am against a culture of where every action is a new “marketing” opportunity and money wasted when there are still people suffering. 

If any other democratically elected government abused their power, I would protest too. Being elected and a majority doesn’t give you the right to abuse your power.

I participate so that I can look at myself in the mirror and know that I have at least tried to do something for the country that I love.

Remember this as Lord Acton once said,  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

And ask yourselves as Benjamin Franklin once asked, “What good may I do in this world ?”

Whatever you believe in, everyone has the right to voice their opinion and should fight for what they believe in. Don’t let others fight for you.  Fight for yourself and stand up for what you believe in.

Bangkok Dining: Krua Mae Yui @ Arisumpun 1

Happy Songkran everyone! It’s the Thai New Years now and how wonderful it is to have a peaceful one filled with sounds of laughter, happiness and splashes of water. It’s a great way to cool down during the hot summer weather where the sun burns in the mid thirties (Celsius). I won’t dwell on Songkran today but want to take you to this cosy traditional Thai restaurant that I have just had the opportunity to go eat even though it has been opened for years: Krua Mae Yui. The name literally translates to Mother Yui’s kitchen.

It’s a restaurant that is tucked away in a corner of garden belonging to a large compound at Soi Areesumpun 1 not far from true Ministry of Finance. I suppose it must have started as a simple project but its good food and garden view and atmosphere in the middle of the city makes you feel at home and instantly relaxed. There’s something about seeing green that calms my nerves.

It’s a garden atmosphere so there are no air-conditoned rooms for those who prefer cooler air, however, I didn’t feel hot at all under the green green trees.

What food do they serve? Interestingly a mix of Thai food and western food ranging from noodles, fried rice, kao chae, to spaghettis, grilled rack of lamb, apple crumble and even panacotta. Its a restaurant for families or groups who want to eat all kinds of food together.

I opted for the special of the month, which is most often eaten during summer in Bangkok, called “Kao Chae.” It means soaked rice. If you’ve never seen it you must wonder what is this soaked rice? It is basically cooked Thai jasmine rice soaked in iced water incensed with jasmine. This is accompanied by fried small balls of shrimp paste, fried stuff pepper, sweetened pork floss, fried onions and some other ingredients. You eat all this with the rice in iced water. It sounds strange but it is indeed delicious. The smell of jasmine calms you while the coolness of the rice makes the summer weather more enjoyable. The accompaniments all go together well with the rice. The dish was good here, but not the best I’ve had in town but it’s atmosphere certainly make up for it.

Writing the makes me want some, but I have been eating way too much this weekend.

Other dishes we ordered included pork satay, fried noodles and simple Thai pork noodles. All were good as well but not the best in terms of taste. However, it’s atmosphere was cosy and in tune with nature. You also get a chance to have local Thai food in a somewhat nicer atmosphere (rather than in a hot shophouse).

Pricewise? Noodles were 50-95 thb, 10skewers of pork satay 140thb. The Kao Chae was 200thb. Western dishes range higher starting at 150-520thb.

Would I go back again ? Yes I will. I might even take some non-Thai friends there for a change of air from all the air conditioned restaurants and shopping malls.

There is a little parking lot further into the soi but it’s a residential area so don’t expect convenient parking. 🙂

http://www.maeyui.com tel: 02-619-9952

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