Edward's Bangkok Blog

These articles are light-hearted views from 2011 to 2016, when Edward and his wife lived in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Article has image(s) Properganda
(by Edward 2012-07-21)

The New England Schwa

A good friend of mine moved to Arizona from Massachusetts several decades ago. In the early 90's he began to be a computer enthusiast, and we would discuss hardware, software, binary, hexadecimal, and sometimes boolean logic truth tables for AND, NAND, OR, NOR, and XOR. There are few better examples of Geek Heaven than those conversations. One of our discussions inevitably lead to discussing Data Types. He told me that he was having problems with a variable that contained an "interjuh." In the context of computers, my mind began thinking of words like, "interface," "interconnectivity," and "interference." And any real geek knows that it is Crow Pie to admit that there is something in the universe of which you are not aware. I was ashamed of myself as I confessed, "I don't know what that is. What is 'interjuh'?" He was visibly shocked at my ignorance and pleaded, "You know, it's a number! But a number without a fraction. It's an interjuh!" The clues he had provided pointed me in the right direction, and I suddenly began to hear things differently. Having been extracted from the east side of the States at a young age, I possessed some experience with different Eastern accents. I began to raise my voice as I questioned, "You mean integer?!?" He raised his voice in answer, "Yes! Interjuh!!!" I wrote it down and said, "Look at how it's spelled! It's pronounced int-eh-jer, not interjuh! You're speaking with a Boston accent!" That was the day I learned that the New England Schwa is distinctly pronounced "ur," and "er" is pronunced "uh."

Propagating Information

Propagating information is something that most people would agree is a good thing. When used properly, many things that propagate information are considered beneficial to individuals and society alike: education, the press, publishing, etc. The thing that comes to mind of someone bad-mouthing these things is in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn when Huck's drunken father beats him down saying, "And looky here—you drop that school, you hear? … Your mother couldn't read, and she couldn't write, nuther, before she died. None of the family couldn't, before they died. I can't; and here you're a-swelling yourself up like this. I ain't the man to stand it—you hear?" In other words, those against the propagation of information are often portrayed as uneducated, unread, and unintelligent. Now I must join them.

Stop The Presses

First, I deeply believe in freedom. I have often equated tyranny with the demonic, and the suppression of folks' God-given unalienable rights as just cause for 1789 France. This naturally implies my deep belief in freedom of speech and freedom of the press. But for any of these things to be valuable, there must be truth in the speech, truth in the press, and truth in the people.

It was some time ago I was in a restaurant in Bangkok, and found bold faced lies about sugar being propagated on sugar packages (pictured above). William Blake said, "A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent." The packages stated these truths: "Sugar provides energy," "Sugar energize (sic) your body," and "Sugar complements food and drink." It's true that the body needs a little sugar--simple carbs, quick energy, brain food, etc. And it's true that sugar can certainly make things more tasty--at least it makes them more sweet. But other packages were more bold, and shamelessly lied: "Sugar helps relieve stress," and "Sugar helps enhance your appetite." What?!? I was appalled! In 2010, David Diamond at the University of South Florida published a study that directly links sugar to higher stress levels. And to claim that sugar enhances your appetite is directly contrary to the most basic biology: blood sugar triggers the brain's appestat, and destroys your appetite. Instead of properly propagating information, these people were improperly spreading propaganda. The only difference between proper propaganda and improper propaganda is, of course, the fact that one is true and the other is an intentional fabrication.

Most of the news I see published reminds me of those sugar packages. Perhaps it's time to stop the presses until we can get some properganda in print. And if you think that's not a word, look for a New England Guide to English Pronunciation…I'm sure it's in there somewhere.

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Posted by: The Dad (2012-07-21)

Great. Glad to see a new blog entry. Good subject matter too. Want to see propaganda.....the bad kind? just read any newspaper  or magazine today. The media is consisted mostly of liars and fabricators. I watch the news on TV and after each story they produce I let go with a resounding........BULL!


Posted by: Lisa Case (2012-12-09)

So,if I eat sugar, I will eat less. Sounds like a plan! (what's a little stress if there's sugar...)

Article has image(s) Jerked Around
(by Edward 2013-06-18)

Keep On Trucking

A friend of mine used to be a trucker. He had traveled the United States highways several times from one coast to another, and even beyond to Alaska. My own father even spent some time on the road in his youth with his father who was a trucker by profession. Truckers are  a unique breed of people. They judge a place, not by politics or crime rate, but by the quality of its toilets, roadside chili, and especially its roads. Therefore, I don't think any truckers I know would enjoy Thailand. Sure, it has excellent roadside food, but I'm afraid that's where the truck-driving joy would probably end. The toilets are--how can I put it--well, let's just say the men's urinals are often outside and the lady maid is not ashamed to mop under his feet when he is otherwise indisposed. (Please don't ask me how I know.) And the roads are "surface challenged" worse than the complexion of an acne survivor.

The Goodness of Bad Traffic

In Bangkok, bad traffic isn't all bad. I know this is a paradox, but--because of the notoriously bad roads--when traffic stops it gives us unfortunate passengers a break from being bounced around by the bumpy ride. Automobile suspension becomes a consumable. And if the roads weren't bad enough, it seems to be a fundamental lesson in Thai driver's-ed to hit the gas, hit the brake, hit the gas, hit the brake. I sometimes glance at the driver's feet to see if there's a roach running around under the pedals. Meanwhile, we hurtle forward in our herky-jerky chariot like an army of bobble-heads in Ben Hur's race. Not even my fancy porcelain coffee cup with the sippy-cup lid can be enjoyed without scalding the lips. Therefore, when traffic stops it's not entirely a bad thing. At least I can get a sip of my coffee.

The Magic Words

When vacationing in Bangkok, visitors are warned about the various scams that are used to pick your pocket: Tuk-Tuk drivers offering tours, taxi drivers refusing to use the meter, "special price" merchants, "resident" vs "tourist" attractions, service charges, and a dozen others. But having lived in Bangkok for over two years, we've learned the magic words that change all that. They are simply: "I live here," preferably spoken in Thai. Once you establish that you're not "just another farang"--that you're part of the neighborhood--instantly service improves, scammers scurry away, and an aura of light appears around your head in their eyes. Really, and I'll prove it. When shopping for a dentist we were quoted a price of 10,000 baht for some work (about $333 USD). My wife told the dentist, "we live here," and bam! the price was reduced to 3,000 baht (about $100 USD) … just like magic! But although we discovered this wonderful secret that prevents being jerked around in business, nothing prevents getting jerked around when driving.

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Article has image(s) My Name's Edward
(by Edward 2013-09-12)

Insensitive Eighties Guy

One of the hallmarks of how far the dignity of humanity has fallen was the invention of the "Sensitive Nineties Guy." I always thought he was conclusive evidence against the Theory of Evolution since it seemed to me that mankind was clearly on the decline, not evolving into something better or smarter. In fact, I'm not an unfeeling or insensitive man. I care a great deal for people and for their feelings. I just don't like to bow to the whims and whines of people who are hypersensitive, most of which have never seen--less yet experienced--any degree of real suffering. Now, to demonstrate the difference between sensitivity and hypersensitivity, I want to offer an apology in advance. I am about to talk about the difficulties of people to learn different languages. I offer this because some people invest such emotion into their mother tongue, it is deemed ineffable to make such observations as I am about to do. Thus, knowing the dangerous waters to which we sail, call me Ishmael, and let us embark as unified Quakers and cannibals into our bearded Pequod.

Men Are Created Equal, Tongues Are Not

All men are created equal, but tongues are not. For example:

  • When learning French, English speakers have trouble with the guttural R and nasal N sounds. As when learning English, the French sometimes have the inverse troubles with R. More often, however, they struggle with the digraph TH, as in "where is zee bass-room?" and "I like zis hemboogehr."
  • When learning Spanish, Americans have trouble with rolling their R's (the alveolar flap and trill). They mispronounce "tortilla" and "burro" by either overemphasizing the R like a jammed machine gun, or by taking the lazy way out and replacing the R with L or D (neither of which works, by the way).
  • Although Americans have this trouble, other English speakers such as the Posh of Britain are recognized masters of the rolled R. Indeed, no American would ever say "r-r-r-royalty" or "r-r-r-rubbish" with such poise and procedure.
  • Germans learning English have so much trouble with W, WH and TH that they even parody themselves. Of notable mention: "Vaht are you sinking about?"
  • Many Asians learning English have trouble with R's sounding like L's. Thai's, in particular, have additional difficulty with V's sounding like W's, swapping L's and N's, and swapping S's and T's. A little study of their writing makes this difficulty quite understandable as these are common spelling rules when writing in Thai script. When their S appears at the end of a word, it is pronounced as a T. And, ironically, when a word ends with D or T, it is sometimes pronounced as an S. When their L appears at the end of a word, it is pronounced as N. Thus, the Thai store "Tesco Lotus" is pronounced by Thais as "Tesco Lotut," "Central" mall is "Centran," and "Seven Eleven" is "Seh-when E-leh-when."

What's in a name

Knowing what you now know about Thai spelling, consider my unfortunate predicament as a possessor of the name "Ed." Remember how Thais pronounce the D in words ending with D? They pronounce it as an S. For two years, I have introduced myself as "Ed," only to have the poor Thai choke out their insecure reply: "Es?" I say, "No, it's 'Ed.'" Almost in tears, they question back, "Es?" When I was in America, I used to joke that I had the easiest and shortest name in the English language (excepting perhaps "Al"). Now, when I introduce myself as "Ed," Thai people look at me as though I were named Mephibosheth. After two years of self-inflicted torture, I stumbled upon the solution. A few weeks ago, I repeated the above dialog with a bewildered Thai. (Who'd have thought "Ed" was so hard to say?!?) But as I was determined to teach this person my name, I said, "It's 'Ed,' as in 'Edward.'" Their eyes lit up, "Oh! Ehd-wahrd!" My eyes lit up. "Yes! Edward!" We joined hands and started jumping in a circle repeating, "Edward!" "Ehd-wahrd!" "Edward!" "Ehd-wahrd!" Ever since that wonderful day, I have concluded that Shakespeare was right: what's in a name? Ed by any other name would still smell … well, never mind. Let's just say that from now on, "My name is Edward. What's yours?"

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