Monday, November 30, 2009

Jim Carter - Daydreamer


Heard from my old friend Jim Carter recently.

We worked together in Orlando in the early 1980's at a Vaudeville / Melodrama Theater called Daisy's Basement and again teamed up at Rosie O'Gradys (Church Street Station) as a banjo/piano duo.



[Jim Carter at Daisy's Basement Circa 1981]


Jim was my first "Show Biz Partner" and I can honestly say, if it weren't for his great talent carrying the act, I probably never would have made it past my first gig!

Although our career paths have gone in different directions, we've kept in touch. Jim still lives and works in the greater Orlando area.

He has been doing a "Dueling Piano Act" at Universal Studios City Walk for many years and recently put together a one-man Tribute act to Fats Domino called "Fats"

Jim released a new album this summer and I'm pleased to have the opportunity to promote it here. It features a great selection of tracks

You've Lost That Lovin Feeling
Summertime
Walkin' in Memphis
Vehicle
Drift Away
My Music Is My Lover Tonight
Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay
Colour My World
Sail On Sailor
Sixteen Tons

Jim's CD "Daydreamer" (Tree Records/Orchard Label release) is available on iTunes,Amazon, & CD Baby

Friday, November 20, 2009

THE AWFUL TOOTH

One of the primary concerns an ex-pat faces is the availability of good quality Medical / Dental care in their adopted country. In the 3+ years I've spent in Thailand, I've not needed to worry about it … until now.

I've been very lucky in my adult life to have had pretty good teeth. I got my first cavity filled at age 35 and I've never had to deal with as much as a toothache.

But time marches on. At age 55, the cracks are beginning to appear (literally). Last week, a tooth that had been filled back in 1989, crumbled around the outside, leaving a jagged edge and and a problem with food lodging between the teeth.

Fortunately, no pain. Like most rational, intelligent, ex medical personnel, I did the standard treatment. I IGNORED IT AND HOPED IT WOULD GO AWAY.

Having failed my first treatment option, it became obvious that I needed to see a Dentist. I rank that right up there with being audited by the IRS as one of my least desirable appointments.

As luck would have it, another ex-pat friend of my from Ireland needed a Dentist earlier this week. He went to a Thai Dentist and reported back to me that he was very good.

In Thailand, you'll find a LOT of Dentists. Many have large clinics and specialize in treating foreigners with implants, dentures etc. They are much cheaper than you'd find in the States but very expensive for the average working Thai.

Others cater to “the locals” providing general dentistry services at amazingly low prices. The Dentist I chose was from this category.

So..... this morning I called the office. Spoke directly with the Dentist (whose English was very good) and confirmed a same day 3pm appointment.

I arrived a few minutes early and watched TV in the waiting room. At 3:05 the Dentist greeted me, appologized for the delay (5 minutes!) and took me into his office.

After a cursory exam, he proceeded to clean my teeth to obtain a better exam. He then removed the old filling, re-drill the tooth and the adjoining tooth and put in two fillings.

All of this with no anesthesia .... and NO PAIN!!!

45 minutes later, I'm done. He said my teeth and gums were in good condition and I didn't need any more work.

There was no paperwork to fill out (they only asked for my name)and I happily paid on my way out.

How much you ask?

1.) Cleaning
2.) Remove old Filling
3.) Two new Fillings


= 1700 Baht .... thyat's approximately $51.00 USD

GOD , I LOVE THAILAND !!!!

VICTOR THE WRESTLING BEAR

Back in the 1970's, when I was a Paramedic for Charleston (SC) Emergency Medical Service, I took one of those testosterone induced dares that only a foolish 20-something would even contemplate.

One of these involved a 450 pound bear named Victor.

It all began while watching the local TV station one night. One of these newscasters stated that he would “wrestle” Victor the Bear at the Coastal Carolina Fair (it must have been SWEEPS WEEK). A group of us paramedics sat around and debated how crazy you'd have to be to do such a stupid thing.

Then, the testosterone took over. Someone asked if we were “afraid” to do it too?

Now, understand your dealing with a group of medics who routinely put themselves on the line day after day for little more than minimum wage.

A little chiding and goading and (not so ) good natured kidding and I managed to paint myself into a corner by “agreeing” to take on the bear

By the late 1970's, Victor The Wrestling Bear had had quite a show business career. With appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show (Toast Of The Town) in the 1950's and The Hollywood Palace (in 1965) , Victor managed to play hundreds of fairgrounds across the USA taking on all challengers.

He was quite a wrestler too, he defeated the likes of Gorgeous George and Wahoo McDaniel in their prime.

Basically, you paid $5 and signed a release form, climbed into a cage and try to last 60 seconds with this (thankfully) muzzled and de-clawed beast. True to my word, I took the challenge and entered the cage.

It was over very quickly, I'm afraid.

I was no match for Victor. I lasted the 60 seconds but that about the only positive thing I can say about my performance. I had black & blue marks across my chest & back and my muscles ached for days!

I'm not really sure what ever happened to Victor, years later I heard he had been poisoned with tainted meat but I've never had that confirmed. Anybody out there know?

While I don't have any pictures from my “Kodiak Moment”, there are several youtube videos that chronicle Victor's career including this one....


Fall is Here!!!

Yesterday was a very anticipated day by many people here in Thailand.

We awoke to that special day where you first notice that fall is in the air. After months of the typical heat and humidity one would expect in a country at our latitude, there suddenly was crispness in the air.

The night before, a tremendous storm blew through with high wind, thunder, lightning and copious amounts of rain.

Today, the humidity is low, temperatures are about 10 – 15 degrees less and a lovely breeze fills the air.

Heaven on Earth!!

Now, don't be fooled. It isn't exactly cold here. It rarely drops below 60 degrees here at night.

But compared to the last eight months.....

The windows are open, the A/C is off and my favorite time of the year has arrived.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Merry (Freeware) Christmas!!

(NOTE: This is an updated version of a blog I ran in December 2008)

Looking for a Christmas Present for that hard to please tech geek (that won't break the bank)?

For the price of a blank CD and a little download time, you can compile a collection of the best Freeware available on the web (for PC). Freeware is exactly that - FREE. No nag screens, ads , crippled features or time limits. They are free to distribute.

Best of all, you can make one CD and send a copy to all your friends

Here's my favorites list for 2009.

My Top 20+ Freeware Downloads


AbiWord 2.8.1 – Just need a good basic word processor? AbiWord could do the job nicely. Lots of add-ons available too (Thesaurus, Language Translation etc.)

Ad-Aware SE – Keep your system free from Spyware. Update files are provided regularly via the internet

Avant Browser – Based on the I.E. Kernel, this web browser is faster than almost any other browser out there. One of the first (and best) tabbed browsers.

Avast Anti Virus Home Edition – Simply the best anti-virus program that money can’t buy. Period.

Audacity 1.3.9 – Truly the neatest audio utility I’ve ever seen. Cut, paste, change tempo, pitch, add echo, fade in, fade out .. it does it all (mp3 & wav)

Copernic Desktop 3.2.1 – Now where is that file and what did I name it? Sound familiar? Copernic Desktop indexes everything on you computer (not just the file name but the file content too) and allows you to search for any word string. It’s lightning fast – like using Google on the Web.

Essential PIM – Currently at version 3.1, this Personal Information Manager is evolving nicely. I won’t give up my registered copy of Time & Chaos 7.0 anytime soon, but this is a solid PIM for the price (free)

Faststone Capture 5.3 – Ever need to capture a map or picture from a webpage. With this little utility, you can save a jpg of anything visible on your screen. NOTE: The newest version of FSCapture is now SHAREWARE. The Freeware version is still available online here

Faststone Image Viewer 3.9 – A great image viewer similar to AC/DC. Simple built in editing tools and fast rendering of large galleries makes is a winner.

Filezilla 3.3.0.1 – There are a number of good FTP clients available on the web. I try them all and keep coming back to this one.

Fences – Clean up your desktop with this novel program that allows you to group your icons the way YOU want them! My favorite “new find' of 2009!!

Freecalc 1.2.0.6 – A Calculator with a running tape.

Foxit PDF Viewer 3.1.3 – Tired of waiting for Acrobat Reader to load? Try this lightweight PDF reader (it even works on a USB drive!)

Great News 1.0.0.383 – a very good RSS Reader. Easy to use and update.

Open Office 3.10 – If you want the equivalent to MS Office without the price tag, here it is. You get a word processor, database, spreadsheet, PowerPoint equivalent and drawing program. The download is over 100 meg so have a high speed connection…and patience.

Photofiltre 6.32 – Not all the bells and whistles of “Photo Shop” but far easier to learn. Great for touching up photos.

Qlock 1.88 – Know the time anywhere in the world. This world time program allows you to place as many clocks for specific locations worldwide on your desktop as you want.

RadioSure 2.0.872 – Probably the best Internet Streaming Radio Program on the web. You can record too!! Over 12,000 Stations in it's search-able database.

Skype 4.1.0 – Talk free with other Skype users world wide or call any telephone in the world for just pennies. Requires a high speed connection.

Spider Player 2.3.1.1 - After years of using Winamp, I've switched to Spider Music Player. It's a leaner program that doesn't hog resources.

Stickies 7.1 – Virtual “Post It” notes for your desk top. Couldn’t live without them

Trillian 4.0 – You have chat friends on Yahoo, MSN, AOL and ICQ? Don’t open four programs, use Trillian to handle all your major chat platforms.

Weather Pulse 2.2.4.1 – Weather forecasts (up to 10 days) for anywhere in the world. Satellite maps, Doppler radar, severe weather alerts included

You can always find the latest freeware at http://www.snapfiles.com/ and http://www.freewarefiles.com/

There you have it – the best of the best – and best of all, they are all free!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Going Cold Turkey

Sometimes you get into a bad habit without realizing it.

In the past couple of years I have become "Diet Cola Dependant". I find myself drinking two liters a day and if I have a choice between drinking water or Diet Cola - the carbonated one always wins.

Water didn't seem to quench my thirst anymore.

Recently, there have been a number of studies done concerning the health risks of diet sodas and their effectiveness in controlling weight gain. While there is still debate as to what these studies actually proved, it is worth noting.

I also looked at a more immediate concern - cost.

I figured at two liters a day, I'm spending almost 20,000 baht a year ($600.00) for artificially sweetened caramel colored water! By comparison, bottled water costs me a total of 600 Baht ($18 USD) for the same amount.

20,000 Baht covers my entire Health Insurance policy for the year (including travel Insurance).

While I know I will miss it, I'm banning colas from the house. It's been almost a week now and although it's been hard, I've managed to stay the course.

Will I drink Diet Colas again? Sure. From time to time I might have a mixed drink (although I tend to order gin & tonics) or as a special treat with a meal in a restaurant.

But if you come over to the house, you'll have to "make do" with a glass of water.

It Was 20 years Ago Today...

I had just disembarked the cruise ship "Crown Odyssey" in Athens Greece. I had an overnight at a hotel in the resort area called Glyfada near to the International airport.

Knowing I had a very early flight to the States the next morning, I decided to eat early and go to bed about 7pm. I decided to walk about the area in search of a place to eat.

Not too far from the Hotel Emmatina, where I was staying, was a beautiful Chinese Restaurant. I decided that my last meal in Greece would be Chinese.

It almost was!

The food was delicious and cheap and the red & black velvet decor quite nice. I finished my meal and made my way back to my room fat & happy.

About midnight I was awakened with a wave of nausea & hyper salivation. I laid perfectly still hoping (& praying) it would pass. Eventually, I had to move and that was it! I dashed to the bathroom just in time.

I had the worst case of food poisoning I had ever experienced.

The next four hours found me on the bathroom floor making noises that sounded like they were from a slaughterhouse. I apologize to those in adjoining rooms as it was truly disturbing, I know. Eventually, my body had no more to give and I laid on the cold floor in total exhaustion.

I only had two Imodium tablets with me and I decided not to take them until the absolute last minute for fear of not keeping them down. Just before leaving the hotel, I took a chance and swallowed them.

As sick as I was, I was determined to make my flight. I was completely washed out and hardly able to walk. What little I remember during the check-in process evolved around me carrying my baggage 10-15 feet stopping due to exhaustion, waiting and moving another few yards.

Somehow I made it on the flight (Middle seat) and thankfully slept to my first layover.

I was still in a fog as I de-planed and had about four hours til my onward flight to NYC. I found my connecting gate and a large black leather chair to collapse in.

As sick as I was, I could see there was a buzz of excitement about the airport. People were huddled in bars watching TV (a soccer match, I assumed) and singing loudly.

Still, I was too sick to care and my only thought was "holding it together" until I boarded my flight to the USA as I didn't want to stay in a foreign hospital if I could avoid it.

Once I made it onto the NY bound flight, I fell to sleep again and remember little of my journey.

It was only when I made it home the next day that I discovered what the commotion at the airport was all about.

Turning on CNN, I found out why they were celebrating at the airport .... Frankfort Airport on November 9, 1989 .... and it wasn't a soccer game at all - THE BERLIN WALL HAD JUST COME DOWN!!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Loy Krathong in Pattaya



One of the most beautiful holidays of the year in Thailand is celebrated this time of the year - Loy Krathong.

It is held on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In the western calendar this usually falls in November.

This year, I spent it on the beach with about a dozen Thai friends. The music, fireworks, food & drink most enjoyable. I posted a blog last year about the history of the celebration... At the time I wrote...


{From Wikipedia}

"Loi" means "to float". "Krathong" is a raft about a handspan in diameter traditionally made from a section of banana tree trunk (although modern-day versions use specially made bread 'flowers' and may use styrofoam), decorated with elaborately-folded banana leaves, flowers, candles, incense sticks etc.


During the night of the full moon, many people will release a small raft like this on a river. Governmental offices, corporations and other organizations also build much bigger and more elaborate rafts, and these are often judged in contests. In addition, fireworks and beauty contests take place during the festival.

The festival probably originated in India as a Hindu festival similar to Deepavali as thanksgiving to the deity of the Ganges with floating lanterns for giving life throughout the year.

According to the writings of H.M. King Rama IV in 1863, the originally Brahmanical festival was adapted by Buddhists in Thailand as a ceremony to honour the original Buddha, Siddhartha Guatama. Apart from venerating the Buddha with light (the candle on the raft), the act of floating away the candle raft is symbolic of letting go of all one's grudges, anger and defilements, so that one can start life afresh on a better foot.


People will also cut their fingernails and hair and add them to the raft as a symbol of letting go of the bad parts of oneself. Many Thai believe that floating a krathong will create good luck, and they do it to honor and thank the Goddess of Water, Phra Mae Khongkha.

The Thai tradition of Loy Kratong started off in Sukhothai, but is now celebrated throughout Thailand, with the festivities in Chiang Mai and Ayutthaya being particularly well known.

A multitude of Lanna-style hot-air lanterns (khom fai) are also launched into the air where they resemble large flocks of giant fluorescent jellyfish gracefully floating by through the skies. These are believed to help rid the locals of troubles and are also taken to decorate houses and streets.

If you ever have the opportunity to experience this wonderful event, don't miss it!!

We're Number 2!!!

Travel guide firm Lonely Planet said Tuesday that Thailand is the second best-value destination (Iceland, after it's economic woes is currently 1st).

According to Lonely Planet, the annual snapshot captures "the world's hottest travel trends, destinations, journeys and experiences for the year ahead,".

London, South Africa, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Bulgaria, Kenya and Las Vegas rounded out the top 10, said the British-based company in its "Best In Travel 2010" guide.

Thailand, at number two, remained "perennially good value", said the book.

"It's one of the cheapest long-haul holidays for European holidaymakers... visitors are always spoilt for choice regarding accommodation."

Hopefully, this will bode well for the future of Thai Tourism, which has taken quite a hit of late. After three years living in country, I can honestly say that Thailand is truly amazing.