My bro was here 2 wks, 30’s-40’s temp & dry the whole time. Yesterday, with him back in CA, it snowed steadily all day long, about freezing temp so not sticking on the driveway. But temp dropped to 10 overnite & we got a crust of snow everywhere. So gorgeous! See how lucky I am?!

A few days after our return from Thailand, I couldn’t walk well or talk. I was having a seizure.My wife saved my life by calling for an ambulance to take me to the hospital. I spent 4 days and 5 nights there. It was a very traumatic time.

It was terrific watching the jubilation of Jerry Rice at an NFC championship game in Santa Clara. The entire team performed at a level of excellence that Rice demonstrated routinely during his long career as a Niner. Wonderful to have a dominant team back after some tough years!

Amazingly, Dave Winer and Doc Searls remain on the bleeding edge of blogging technology. They are now openly discussing it in their Dave & Doc Voicemail Podcast. Find it in recent days of Dave’s blog. They are thinking far in advance of anything Manton et al are fiddling with.

A Very Long Travel Day --

Thursday 9 January was our long travel day home from our 80 day visit back in Thailand. It was a very long day after a really fun farewell dinner with our best friends in Bangkok on Wednesday night. We had a comfortable sleep of 7 hrs at our Bangkok hotel. Then we spent 3 hrs waking up & getting ready for our ride to the airport. The taxi arrived, loaded up our four large suitcases and one carry on back pack and we were on our way, leaving at about 10:15 am for our 2:40 pm first flight. Seems like plenty of time, right?

Well last time, because of a very long customs line, we ended up running quite a long way to our gate, arriving just in time, breathing hard & sweaty. We didn’t want to repeat that nightmare. So we arrived at the airport super early.

Turns out we had to wait on the outer edge of the main lobby until 11:40 am before we could even get in line to check in with our airline with all our bags! So by around noon we were finally on our way up the stairs to security, but we had already been waiting at the airport for about 1.5 hrs. At security I hate to have to remove my boots and lace them up again on the other end. But it was soon done and we were on our way to customs, our slow point last time.

In the customs area, there is one side for the Thai people, who only have to flash their national ID card & their passport and they’re on through, very fast. It’s a very slow gauntlet for us foreigners on the other side.

I walked into the room and saw the room was jammed with people, certainly on the order of 100, with a line that snaked back & forth across the large room to eventually reach one of five to seven different customs officers who would check our papers and fingerprints. Just like last time! I could see this easily taking 1-2 hrs. Maybe we would have another mad dash to the airplane? I barely fit into the back of the room, my spirits sinking.

Suddenly after only about five minutes, one of the workers pointed at me and said, “Follow her,” pointing at a woman in uniform who was heading toward a side door. Alarm bells were going off in my mind. Being singled out at customs didn’t seem like such a good thing. She opened the door and pointed for me to go through it. Yikes!

I walked through the door and suddenly found I was now the 8th person in one of two Fast Track lines! The other of these two lines had over 20 people in it and was labeled for first class passengers. The short line I was in was not labeled, other than to say Fast Track. Was this the deus ex machina line? My guess was that I had been selected for this line because of my age. Nearly all the people in the jam packed room looked younger than me!

Age is noticed in Thailand in a good way. It is expected that younger people will address older people with respect by adding the syllable “Pi” to the front of their name. Maybe I had stuck out as the oldest guy in the room, just like on! Except in this case, it had been to my advantage. In perhaps 20 mins I had been inspected and was on my way, soon meeting up again with my wife, who had been waiting up ahead for me.

So off we went for a very long hike to our gate, D7 in the D1-D10 range, but this time we arrived much earlier than most! The seating area was down a level, but the metal gate to the stairs down to that seating was locked with no hint of when it would open. We had to wait in mystery for about 1.5 hrs, then someone came to unlock the gate and we got to go downstairs to wait to go aboard the plane. We were in the cheap seats, so we were in the 4th group of people to go aboard. In the end we were seated and ready for take-off with only about ten minutes to spare. Imagine that, we arrived at the airport 4.5 hrs before our flight, but still had only about ten minutes in our seats to spare before the flight began!

The flight to Taiwan was just about 3 hrs. We landed on time, but we were in the back of the plane and our next flight was scheduled to leave in 50 mins. We had to get out of the plane, hike a block or so, go down a flight, through another x-ray machine security routine, back up a flight of stairs, hike a bit more and then down another flight to our gate where we waited to board. This all took a lot more than 50 mins. We were still boarding the plane about half an hour after the scheduled departure time. I think this airline purposely schedules these flights to leave earlier than is possible because they know they can make up the time on the long flight to the US.

The long flight to Chicago took about 13 hrs. We were scheduled to arrive at 7:45 pm, but the pilot changed that to 7:15 pm when we took off and actually landed at 7:24 pm. The flight goes north from Taiwan to the east of Japan and Sakhalin Island, then east across the Aleutians and into Canada north of Vancouver, then east across the Canadian Rockies and into Chicago.

Most of this flight was with the seat belt sign on, a bumpy flight much of the way. At one point it got extra bumpy just as meal service had begun, so the stewardesses had to go sit down and we had to wait for our meal. They insisted that the window shades be left down for the entire flight. For a 13 hr flight, this seemed a little odd to me. We’re not supposed to look out the windows on such a long flight?

A 13 hour plane flight is too long. My wife didn’t sleep very well & we had to get up from our seats several times to let the guy in the window seat out to use the bathroom. But somehow we made it to Chicago, but with one surprise at the end. It was warm for January, in the low 50’s but with some wind from the west. Maybe a cross wind affected our landing. As we came in to land, it seemed to me that we were coming in a little fast. We bumped onto the runway, went forward and then suddenly seemed to veer a bit to the right down the runway, then a correcting veer back to the left. Then as the speed dropped we remained straight the rest of the way. My wife was feeling dizzy and sick the last 5-7 mins of the landing. The big guy in the window seat commented, “Well that didn’t seem right, I was afraid it was gonna tip over.” Fortunately it did not and we made it safely to the terminal. After we walked up the ramp from the plane and down some stairs in the terminal about an eight year old girl suddenly threw up about five feet ahead of us. I don’t think she had enjoyed the landing much either! I’m sure that was very embarrassing for her and we felt bad for her.

Getting out through customs and gathering our bags in Chicago took at least one hour and we then made a quick connection with the airport van service that came to pick us up and drive us home, about a 3.5 hrs drive. We pulled up to our house about ten minutes before midnight on Thursday, 9 January 2020.

From what I can put together, it looks like there were on the order of 37 to 38 hours of events in our Thursday, 9 January 2020. Sometimes a day can feel like a really long day, but in this case, I believe it really was a super long day!!

Left for airport around 10:15 am, too early to check in with airline. Got through giant customs line due to special fast track line, probably based upon looking older than most. Then walked two miles or so to the gate. Maybe time for me to use wheel chair in airports!

Travel day back to the US from Bangkok, flight scheduled to leave in about six hours. It will be a verrry long day of travel. ✈ πŸ‡ΉπŸ‡­ to πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

Google Has Delivered For Me Over and Over --

I was considering a move away from Google, as so many on have done and/or advocated. After all, having them spy on my emails feels creepy at best. On the other hand, maybe their AI is more expert than my own search abilities. I will provide two examples.

Bob Dylan
Of course Google has known about my interest in Bob Dylan’s music since soon after Google was first created in 1997. It’s no secret. Nearly anyone who knows me, knows about my interest in Dylan. So now on my Android phone, I click on the Google icon and it shows me things it thinks I might be interested in. Routinely it gives me articles about Dylan from the Internet. I never have to search for such articles, Google just gives them to be automatically. This is not because I set up some automatic, recurring Google search. I did not. It just knows about my interests and sends me these links. Easy.

The best example of this follows. One day, Google pointed me to a podcast. This was unusual because I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts. But Google decided I would like this one. It was an interview with an English professor who started writing and lecturing about Dylan decades ago. In 1998 a friend of mine at Stanford organized a conference on Bob Dylan. When asked, I advised him to ask this professor to be the keynote speaker, rather than a very well known writer on popular music from Berkeley. He decided to go with my recommendation and the conference was a huge success. It provided credibility for Dylan in academia in a much more visible way than ever before. In fact, I believe the choice of Dylan winning the Nobel Prize in 2016 can be traced right back to this Stanford Conference.

In December 2016, the very first podcaster (originally helped by Dave Winer to get his start) published an interview of this English professor on his well-known podcast. Did I hear the podcast at the time? Nope, I did not. Finally in mid 2019, Google pointed me to it. I had never heard it and had never even heard it existed! It was better than anything else I had ever read or heard about Dylan, even better than the keynote address the same professor had given at Stanford in 1998, which I had attended and recorded. I considered this to be a very significant benefit to me.

Ham Radio
Later this year, when my wife and I travel to Thailand for our annual visit there, I will be going on the air from Thailand for the first time. I have already started planning my equipment, including the antennas I want to use. One is called a ladder line doublet, which is a very long wire fed by two feeder lines separated by four inches or so by plastic separators. I have had one of these antennas before.

An RF engineer friend of mine back in California is the expert I call with ham radio questions. I sent him some antenna questions by email and told him I would call him for the answers when we return back to the US from our current visit to Thailand. About 42 hours later, Google pointed me to a very detailed ham radio construction article written in Feb 2019 about “the classic multi-band ladder line-fed doublet.” It was on a ham blog I had never seen or read before and it answered some of my questions already. I might have done a Google search about doublets, but that is not one of the articles I turned up in my search.

Google keeps delivering great links to me. I have to base my actions upon what I have experienced myself directly. I can’t help it, if I’m lucky. I will not be deleting my access to the Google AI any time soon.

Advice Needed from Mac Nerds

I’ve unearthed another old Apple device, this time at a computer repair shop here in Northern Thailand. The hardware looks brand new and it booted quickly with the graphics looking bright and sharp after booting.

iMax 20 inch Mid 2007.
Processor 2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo. Memory 4 GB 667 MHz DDR2. Graphics ATI Radeon HD 2400 XT 126 MB. 1 TB HDD.

OS X El Capitan version 10.11.3.

I asked whether the OS could be upgraded and the answer was No.

Has Apple succeeded in making this machine totally obsolete? Any advice about any ways it could be useful?

My Three Words for 2020

This seems to be the time every year when I find myself doing long term planning. New year’s resolutions never seemed to work very well for me. But one year, I tried this idea by Chris Brogan and it worked pretty well for me. The next year, not so much. But it came to mind for me again today, so I decided to try it again for 2020. So here are my three words for 2020.

Organize Publish Radio

Some Well Earned Thanks to Google!

My wife and I are near the end of our 80 day stay in Thailand, the longest of my seven trips to her native land. It has been a good time to have some distance from my native US. In my first trips to Thailand, I traveled all over the country with Paula as she drove about her large territory, doing her job for the company that bottles & distributes Coca-Cola products all over Thailand. She did all the driving and I had the good fortune of learning about her amazing country as a lucky guy doing a ride along.

We were mostly going to places she had been to many times in her work, staying at hotels she had used many times, eating at restaurants she had visited frequently. She never once had to refer to a map of the country, even though we had driven in more than half of the 76 provinces in the countries. I knew I was a very fortunate visitor to a distant land which spoke a difficult tonal language which I didn’t know how to use at all. My only saving grace was that I fulfilled my promise to help Paula to become more fluent in English.

But during this trip to Thailand, we ventured off her beaten path in the country several times. We had used Google driving directions several times in the US, with me driving and her using her Android phone to follow the Google directions. It impressed me that their directions were accurate in our small Midwestern town. But it had never even occurred to me to try the service in Thailand. Surely Google would not have gotten around to mapping a small country in Southeast Asia, roughly 8,000 miles from Silicon Valley.

Amazingly, it turns out Google has in fact gotten around to mapping Thailand. I first discovered this during this trip when we drove to Kanchanaburi, one of my favorite destinations in Thailand, but a very long drive from my wife’s family home, so the sun was setting as we approached the outskirts of the town. To make matters worse, our usual hotel was fully booked, so we had a reservation at a hotel we had never visited, and we were now going to need to find it with our headlights and the light from a full moon. Paula had entered the hotel’s location in her Samsung tablet, which we soon discovered had a very unstable Internet connection. After zeroing in on the hotel, over and over the connection would be lost and the tablet would reboot itself. We wandered around in circles in the vicinity of the new hotel. After stumbling along in the dark for well over half an hour, we finally called the hotel and they kindly drove to get us and lead us to the hotel. The next day, we discovered that the hotel was on a street with no name. It was a pretty rough start with Google directions, but Google was right. The hotel was right where Google told us it was located!

When we got back to her home town, Paula went to the mall and paid for an upgrade to her phone service to get a much more reliable Internet connection on her tablet. Then she tethered her Android phone to the Samsung tablet. The tablet sat in the front seat and provided a nice stable Internet connection to the phone, which provided the Google driving directions to us, even when it was quite dark outside. I was super impressed when we drove to Chiang Mai, found a hotel we had never used and then drove across town at night to a restaurant we had never visited before. We took one bad turn on the way to the restaurant, but it was easily corrected.

In the years I have been active on, my admiration of the technology provided by Google has been gradually eroding, to the point where I was considering following the lead from others in finding alternate services for those that Google provides. Stumbling around in the dark late at night in a foreign land has brought some humility to my technology expectations. There are some on who have the technical expertise to put driving directions on my cell phone, but I am not one of them. Maybe, just maybe, I should not be so quick to criticize the way Google goes about doing things. I’m back to appreciating the good things that Google does for me.

Over the last 15 years, the Thai baht has been the strongest currency against the US dollar, while inflation has averaged only 2.2% per year. The Economist. Just one reason of many that smart tax accountants really love Thailand.

I highly recommend folks should read this article. It’s about one of the US presidential candidates and it’s also about the writer, who wrote a great piece. It’s also about a terrible condition that makes a lot of people suffer, especially young kids. Your feedback?

Perfect weather this morning in Kanchanaburi. The birds agree. A huge variety of bird calls coming from all directions, sounds you don’t hear in the US, ‘cause we don’t have these birds back home. So much to see, but so much to hear too!!

Today we got up early and drove ten hours to Kanchanaburi, then another hour+ wandering around the city looking for our hotel. We ended up in a traffic jam of people arriving in town for a big festival centered around the famous bridge over the River Kwai, my third time here.