Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I’ve found the holy grail of overseas airline travel.

Traveling back from Sydney to Bangkok last weekend aboard a Thai Airways Boeing 777-300, I found a friend – ‘62H’.

Let’s be honest - licking one’s knees whilst being concertinaed into an economy class seat certainly promotes some serious character building. And as they say, character building is the foundation to success.

But I say bugger that. I reckon I’ll pass on the lesson in character building and spend my hours transiting the globe at 950km/hr in relative economy class comfort.

So this seat – 62H – doesn’t have anything in front of it (ample leg room), is strategically placed 2m from the drinks galley (which I amply took advantage of…), is 3m from an emergency exit, and is situated near the wing, typically the strongest part of the airplane fuselage (important during a crash, I hear).

On the downside, there’s nowhere to safely stow your hand/manbag. Shocking.

All in all, a pleasant flight experience – remember it when you’re flying next. Check out Seat Guru for other awesome seats.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Thailand politics: What the?

Wondering what’s going on in Thailand at the moment?

Clare and I have received countless messages, texts and emails asking if we are safe from Thailand’s chaotic current political situation.

In a nutshell, there has been some violent and aggressive protests happening at the moment, with a group trying to oust an apparently corrupt but recently elected government, all in the name of democracy. There has been at least one reported death and 48 people injured from the protests.

To be honest, I haven’t seen much of it. I’ve merely felt the subtle shockwaves emanating from the protest’s epicentre about 6kms north of the area where we live and work – mainly in the form of reduced traffic, lunches with Clare (she had a couple of days off) and an increasingly crappy exchange rate.

The issue has undoubtedly been the talk of the town over the last couple of weeks, and with international reports covering the more outrageous of protest scenes, Thailand’s image is suffering immeasurably.

Amidst all of the images of machetes, marble guns and military, how can we distill what really is happening???

Well, I started to pull together my take on the events thus far…halfway through I read an article courtesy of The Economist which came out today. The article provides an excellent analysis of the current political environment and perfectly sums up my views on the situation. Here’s a slightly cut down selection:

Sep 4th 2008

An authoritarian rabble should not be allowed to turf out a deeply flawed but popularly elected government

STANDING up for democracy sometimes entails standing up for some unappealing democrats. Thailand’s pugnacious prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, is an especially hard man to defend. A ferocious rightist, Mr Samak was accused of inciting the policemen and vigilantes who slaughtered dozens of unarmed student protesters in Bangkok in 1976. On becoming prime minister following the election last December that restored democratic rule after a 2006 coup, Mr Samak chose for his cabinet some of the most unsavoury figures linked to the government of Thaksin Shinawatra, the prime minister deposed in the coup. But with the army on the streets of Bangkok again, Mr Samak is for once, if not in the right, then at least less wrong than those calling for his head.

His government is deeply flawed. But it would be wrong and dangerous if the authoritarian rabble who have seized Government House in Bangkok forced it out of office. After violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the government, Mr Samak this week declared a state of emergency in Bangkok.

If the protesters, the woefully misnamed People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), do succeed, democracy in Thailand — not so long ago a beacon, by Asian standards, of pluralistic politics — will be in grave danger.

PAD...argue that the rural masses who favour Mr Thaksin and Mr Samak are too “ill-educated” to use their votes sensibly. This overlooks an inconvenient electoral truth: the two prime ministers had genuinely popular policies, such as cheap health care and credit.

The palace and a Burmese road to ruin

As in the build-up to the 2006 coup, PAD leaders are trying to oust a popular government on the bogus pretext of “saving” Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol from a supposed republican plot. Some of the PAD protesters reportedly believe their sit-in has the crown’s tacit backing.

In the official version of modern Thai history, the king is the great defender of peace and democracy, who comes to the rescue at moments of crisis. Now would seem to be one such moment: some wise words from the king could do much to defuse tension.

Thais like to believe they are good at seeking compromise to avoid conflict. But there has been little sign of compromise in the past three years, and there is now the risk of a bad one.

It’s really just a case of which is the lesser of two bad situations – stick by a democratically-elected, but corrupt, government representing the views of the majority of Thais; or dissolve Thailand’s fragile democratic foundations by bowing to the violent and stubborn demands of a large minority group trying to gain influence in a seemingly corrupt political environment.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Word of the day - Gubernatorial


I came across this word many times whilst reading the first volume of Bill Clinton's autobiography. I came across it again today in reference to the experience of Sarah Palin, John McCain's presidential running mate.

Definition: "Of or pertaining to a state governor or the office of state governor."

I don't know - it just sounds weird.

Any other votes for weird-sounding words?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Social garlic

As many of you may know, my Mum is on Facebook.

She recently uploaded a terrific photo album of her garden, including the developmental stages for the rose contingent. One of the photos included a curious-looking light-green spear-leafed shrub.

It also caught the eye of my mate Whitnall all the way over in the UK.

Our question was, what on earth is this so-called ‘social garlic’, and how can it help the blogging geeks of the world get out and about and become more popular???

The answer follows from a string of emails between myself, Whitnall and our resident botanical expert:

Subject: Social garlic
Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2008 17:33:59 +0700

Hi Mum – this from a recent email from my mate Whitnall all the way over in the UK:

“Can you ask Maria Bell what exactly is ‘social garlic’? Does it mean it mixes with the onions?”

It seems your gardening photos on facebook have caught the eye of more than just your son…

Please help clear this question up. We’re both want to know more about social garlic’s social habits…



Subject: RE: Social garlic
Sent: Thursday, September 04, 2008 2:54 AM

The correct common name is actually 'society garlic' (I have always called it social garlic for some unknown reason!) and it gets this name because - when used as a garlic-flavoured garnish it doesn't leave that nasty 'garlic breath'.

It has strap-like leaves which are a bit fleshy - the leaves are chopped for sauces, soups etc. It also has quite a pretty mauve flower on a long stem.

But to answer your question - 'society garlic' does not carouse with chives, osculate with the onions nor frolic with the fennel.

Catch ya soon, Mum.

So it seems social garlic can’t help one’s social life, but it can perhaps make a nice garnish or additive to a variety of dishes. Perhaps the answer is in reviving the humble dinner party, backed by the brilliance of social garlic…

Gourmet club anyone???