Saturday, January 31, 2009

Code of Silence or Mob Silence?

Bear with me here while I play around with some ideas.

While trying to understand Alaska based FBI Special Agent (are there any FBI agents that aren't special?) Chad Joy’s decision to complain about fellow Special Agent Mary Beth Kepner, one of the issues that arose was the idea of the code of silence. Why, if there have been so many cases of law enforcement officers not reporting other officers abusing suspects, taking drugs or bribes, etc., would he go after a fellow agent for things as relatively insignificant as "giving away unnecessary information to sources." "telling her husband about her work," and "wearing a skirt in court as a surprise for a witness"?

A Google search found a variety of stories headlined “Code of Silence” ranging from

Prison guards intimidating others guards to not reveal their abuses against prisoners
The Bush Administration
Orange County Sheriff’s Office
Gangs silencing neighborhood witnesses
The Mafia
Corporations Not Talking about being hacked

This got me thinking about the wide variety of ways “Code of Silence” is used, suggesting to me that the term is rapidly losing its meaning. It’s becoming an easy headline, a cliche, that now simply means that "people won’t talk."

Let’s consider what a code is. The first two definitions at Merriam Webster online are

1: a systematic statement of a body of law ; especially : one given statutory force
2: a system of principles or rules

Both these definitions have positive connotations. As do Honor Codes and Codes of Ethics. There’s also Code of Chivalry.

Chivalry was disciplined by a code of conduct that was clearly understood although it was never clearly formulated. Examination now, in retrospect, allows it to be reduced to this series of commandments composed by Léon Gautier ~

1. Thou shalt believe all the Church teaches and shalt obey her commandments.
2. Thou shalt defend the Church.
3. Thou shalt respect all weaknesses and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
4. Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
5. Thou shalt make war against the infidel without cessation and without mercy.
6. Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
7. Thou shalt never lie, and shalt remain faithful to thy pledged word.
8. Thou shalt be generous, and give largesse to everyone.
9. Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.

This is a noble code (assuming you believe in the church and feudal duties). In the purest form, people in some sort of group voluntarily pledge to follow a code simply because it is seen as a being morally right. But as I look at how “Code of Silence” is used, it appears to me that rather than people voluntarily pledging to an honorable code, it often refers to very negative ways to force people to conceal potentially embarrassing, even harmful information about corrupt individuals. I’d say there is a continuum from

Let’s look at some examples:

1. Honor. Members take a pledge, often at risk to themselves, to remain silent for what they consider the greater good of their group, community.
a. Captured soldiers who refuse to reveal information to their captors. They are ruled by a sense of honor not fear of punishment - for they often receive terrible punishment from their captors for refusing to cooperate. While they may also be affected by peer pressure from their fellow captives, this is an appeal to honor of sorts too.
b. Members of an underground movement - say the Underground that fought the Nazis in WWII - who also will not reveal hideouts or other members despite torture and threat of death.

Even at this theoretical ‘good’ side of the continuum, there are problems. One could believe that one country’s military is honorable while the other side is not. One could find certain underground movements (the US Revolutionary Army, the WWII underground, the Mujahideen fighting the Russians) as good, but others (Fidel Castro’s revolutionary army, the Irish Republican Army, the Taliban fighting the Americans) as bad. While someone else might see the moral right in each of these examples reversed. And there are probably few if any pure situations where some sort of sanction doesn't have a role.

2. Honor and Punishment. Members take a pledge and there is a sense of honor, but there is also a real threat of physical harm to those who do not uphold the Code.
Examples: The traditional Mafia (at least as portrayed in books, movies, and television) seems to have had a sense of honor in the loyalty of members to each other, yet the code is also enforced by threats of violence, even death. It’s what Tony Soprano refers to when he complains that there isn’t the honor among the troops that there used to be.

3. Punishment. There is no pledge or Code. Silence about illegal activity is enforced by threats of expulsion, violence, death.
a. Prison guards who abuse prisoners in violation of the law and keep prisoners and other guards from reporting the abuses through threats, peer pressure, intimidation.
b. Community members who will not talk to the police about gang members for fear of retaliation.

I'd guess that Codes of Silence (where people maintain silence as a form of honorably maintaining of a code of behavior based on principle, not based on fear of retaliation) are pretty uncommon these days. There appears to be ample evidence of situations where people refuse to cooperate with law enforcement by remaining silent about what they know. But this silence is for the most part, not based on some Code of Conduct, but rather simple fear of retaliation or distrust of the law enforcement agencies or a combination of both. To call this a “Code of Silence” is to give it a dignity it doesn’t deserve. "Fear Forced Silence" is not as catchy as “Code of Silence” but probably more accurate. "Bullied Silence?" Maybe "Mob Silence" is catchier, suggesting the pressure to be silent, with the hint of violence.

This is one of the problems we have with all cliches. As George Orwell wrote, back in the 1930s, metaphors are coined to help us grasp an abstract idea. At first they are crisp and eye-catching like Churchill's use of "iron curtain." But then with overuse they become cliches, and we no longer see the imagery. (When was the last time you "saw" someone dead just short of the line?) Then we use the concept without thinking.

I think that's happened with Code of Silence and now journalists, headline writers, and others apply this term without thought to any situation where people won't talk, even where there is no 'code' operating, just the power of bullies protecting themselves from exposure. This is a form of terrorism.

Spotted Doves and a Crested Serpent Eagle

I've been feeling like our birding this year in Chiang Mai is a little slow. But probably if I look back, it took us a while to figure things out then too. As you can see, we still have a pretty good view for birding. We're next to the rooms we had last year, but this time we face west instead of North. And we don't have this giant fruit tree just off our balcony, so we won't have birds quite as close as last year.
Here's the view from our apartment. Those giant leaves in front are teak. You can see the spotted dove on the top of the tree there. (Insert at lower left is from last year so you can see what that bird is.) The doves like to sit up on the top of those trees. They did that last year too. But this bird, once in a while would jump up and fly almost straight up and then loop back down and land back on his perch. He did that this morning twice while I was watching. The second time, while he was gone, another dove landed there, but when he came back the other flew off so he could resettle.

This picture I got Wednesday on the way to work. I was on the bike and saw this raptor not far off. I stopped, pulled out my camera and got off this shot before it flew off. Dogs nearby were beginning to bark at me stopped in their territory looking at the sky. I've cropped this so you see the bird close up. It gets a bit blurry, but I lucked out getting the wing spread up like that as well as the tail. The only thing I could find in my bird book that came close - because of the white bars in the tail and wing was a crested serpent eagle, but I didn't know if those were enough to identify it. But that night we had dinner with the other AJWS volunteers and G has been here a couple months and connected with the bird watching community. I sent him the picture and he identified it also as a crested serpent eagle (without my telling him what I thought.) He passed the picture on to local bird expert Tony Ball who concurred. So, that's an identified bird I wouldn't otherwise have taken credit for.

These two I caught taking a picture of the orange flowers on this tree. I knew they were there, but didn't realize I'd caught them revealing those white wing patches. I'm guessing they are white vented mynas, but I'm not positive.

I also saw a scarlet backed flower pecker this morning. It's a small bird that flits around, basically black and white, with an outrageous bright scarlet (when you see it you think that's what scarlet is) splash painted down it's back and a bit on its rump. No picture though. My picture from last year isn't too clear and doesn't see it from the back.

We hiked up -from our place - to Doi Suthep today. I'll try to get some pictures up soon. I've got to get rid of stuff from my computer. The memory is so full it won't download all the pictures.

Dinner With J's Tai Chi Friends

[Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009, 10 pm Thai Time]

Last night we had dinner with J's Tai Chi group at B&K.

At our table we enjoyed our conversation with a retired economics professor and a retired Japanese travel writer who's moved to Chiang Mai.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mangoes, Wheat, Pests

[Friday, January 30, noonish:  I posted this briefly yesterday before I saw that the blogger required permission for posting anything from his blog.  So I took it down right away and emailed for permission, which I just found in my email.]

Here's some interesting environmental history I found while working on my mango project. About how US wheat shipments to India in the 50's introduced a massive pest - Congress grass - into India. And how JFK got to eat fresh Indian mangoes at the Indian embassy, but the seeds were confiscated by the USDA. This was originally posted June 22, 2007:
Mangoes, Congress Grass and AmericaPL 480 – now how many know what that is all about? People from Bangalore will definitely know about Congress grass, because it has been the main cause for most allergy related misery & skin diseases out there. Ever figured out how it reached the city? It is an interesting story, because the seeds or the weeds traveled long and far to reach Bangalore…Parthenium or carrot weed (since it looks like a carrot plant), one of 10 worst weeds in the world, traveled with the PL 480 wheat that was imported from USA (some say Mexico – I am not 100% sure yet) many years back, under the Public loan 480 generously provided to India.
Now, Parthenium is called Congress weed or Congress Grass, do you know why? As far as I could gather, the white flower looks like a Gandhi cap …It is also called 'Safed topi 'or Gandhi Bhooti!!! But I could not see any resemblance, Was it because Congress was in power when the wheat import took place?? (Or maliciously meant to mean - as spread out & ingrained as the Congress party in India?)
SO what happened in 1956?? After partition, Western Punjab, India's wheat bowl had gone to Pakistan. A spell of successive bad monsoons added, there was a severe food crisis by 1955, reminiscent of the Bengal famine. India had no options. Chinese were already starving. Russia, India’s quasi-ally didn't have enough for its own people. Europe was just recovering from World War II and could not help. India didn't have any foreign currency to buy food even if it were available. Millions of people would have to be left to starve, if the US had not came to India’s rescue. That was how the famous PL 480 wheat import deal with US was signed by India in 1956.
US prohibited mango import from India for many long years. To tell you an interesting story, in 1960, during a state visit by Nehru, Alphonso mangoes imported from Bombay were served for Nehru’s state dinner with JFK by BK Nehru, the Indian ambassador. There was a caveat, after dinner, all seeds were to be collected & handed over to the USDA for incineration. Can you believe that these things happen??

The story goes on and ties back into Congress grass and the new laws to allow importation of Indian mangoes to the US. You can read the rest of the story at Maddy's" Ramblings.  Check out the rest of his blog too, some quirkily interesting, funny posts - like the one about the bee's painted onto urinals so men would aim better.  Another post that caught my fancy was about an Indian journalist who worked in Germany in the 30's and 40's.  The dialogue between three Indians trying to get into Switzerland and the SS Guard is a wonderfully funny look at cross-cultural meanings.  I also think I found it interesting because I'm about 2/3 through The Orientalist    whose main character is Baku born Jew who ends up in Berlin as a writer, converts to Islam.  Their time in Berlin would have overlapped and I wonder if the two knew each other, or at least about each other.

It's The Year of the Ox - So What's the Difference Between Cows and Oxen?

My unfinished posts are piling up.  So let me get these Thai cattle pictures from the Petchabun trip up to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Ox. But are cows oxen? Does it matter?

The Prairie Ox Drovers says:

  • What is an ox?
    Oxen are steers of any breed of cattle, that are at least four years old, and taught to work. Steers, in this catagory, that are younger than four years old, are called "Working Steers".
  • What is a steer?
    A steer is a castrated bull.
  • How are oxen different than cattle?
    There is no difference. Oxen are just cattle that have been taught to work.

Wikipedia says:

Oxen (singular ox) are large and heavyset breeds of Bos taurus cattle trained as draft animals. Often they are adult, castrated males. Usually an ox is over four years old due to the need for training and to allow it to grow to full size. Oxen are used for plowing, transport, hauling cargo, grain-grinding by trampling or by powering machines, irrigation by powering pumps, and wagon drawing. Oxen were commonly used to skid logs in forests, and sometimes still are, in low-impact select-cut logging. Oxen are most often used in teams of two, paired, for light work such as carting. In the past, teams might have been larger, with some teams exceeding twenty animals when used for logging.

An ox is nothing more than a mature bovine with an "education."

Various other sites include cows and other bovine as the stars of this Chinese Year:

Chinese zodiac sign - Ox (Cow)

Chinese New Year 2009 - The Year of Ox - The Year of Brown Cow

Year of the Ox, Cow, Buffalo or Bull

www.Chinese-Zodiac says:

2009 Year of the Ox 2009 -the Year of the Bull! The Chinese New Year's Day is Jan. 26, 2009.

Happy ox chinese zodiac symbols (Niu) Year! Gong Xi Fa Cai (May You be Happy, May You be Wealthy)!

Chinese Calendar began in 2697 BC when the Yellow King became king.

This year is the 4706th Chinese Year beginning from January 26, 2009, the Year of the Bull, Cow or Ox. The birth year of President Barack Obama (1961) was a Bull Year.

Chinese astrology is not like western astrology.
The Feng Shui Shop gives predictions for the year for all the animal signs of the Chinese astrology. And he lets us know we have some control over how things turn out:

Chinese astrology is not like western astrology. The whole idea of it is to be informed of what may come and how you can apply cures and enhancers to avoid potential problems and having the information in advance you can avoid many of the problems that are forecast. The information will also assist you to be prepared and to make informed decisions that may affect your wellbeing and endeavors. It is important that you know when and how to avoid the bad influences during the year.

The message I am trying to convey is even if you are a Sheep and you read below or somewhere else advising that 2009 will not be a good year for you and all misfortunes will befall on you, adopt a positive attitude and follow the advice given below and in the 2009 Flying Star (Xuan Kong) recommendations, you will be able avoid any bad luck that is forecast. Knowing how to avoid negative Flying Stars can help alter your year's luck in a good way. I know you will come across websites or other Practitioners who will predict all sorts of doom and gloom for a certain animal in any year, please take this with a pinch of salt and enjoy a great 2009.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mangoes and Spiritual Buildings

I spent much of today looking up and cataloging information on exporting mangoes to the US from Thailand. I finally found a key document from the US Department of Agriculture.

Q. When did the U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) publish the final rule to allow litchis longans,
mangoes, mangosteens, pineapples, and rambu-
tans from Thailand into the United States?
A. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Ser-
vice (APHIS) published the final rule in the Federal
Register on June 21, 2007. Under Title 7 of the Code
of Federal Regulations, Part 319.56-47, the final rule
allows, under certain conditions, the importation of six
fruits—litchi, longan, mango, mangosteen, pineapple,
and rambutan—from Thailand into the United States.

I'm still assuming that we're going to hit some major obstacle - like the cost of irradiation for the small scale we're talking about will be prohibitive, or some other obstacle will appear. But in the meantime I'm going to follow where it leads.

On the way back from a noodle lunch I noticed this tree which I'd never noticed before at Wat Ram Phoeng. There is something right about an organization that designs its building in ways that preserve the existing trees.

This evening the AJWS volunteers in Chiang Mai got together for dinner. We'd met Marti last Saturday night at our anniversary dinner and tongiht got to meet George and Maxine as well as Rachel. All and all a good group. We finally had to go because they were closing the restaurant and we have to work in the morning.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Let's Get Real About Mary Beth Kepner

[Update, Saturday November 20, 2010:  As leaks suggest that a "draft Justice Department  report makes misconduct findings against" Mary Beth Kepner, I've organized my thoughts on all this in a new Kepner post with links to relevant posts since this post.]

[Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 9:30 pm Thai time] I saw more hits from people looking up Mary Beth Kepner than any other single google search term today. Then, later, someone sent me a link to a story that begins like this:

Stevens: Agent, witness had romance
By JOHN BRESNAHAN | 1/26/09 5:42 PM EST [I've corrected the link, sorry about that, I accidentally put in the link from the email.]

Whoever put that headline up is the kind of person who gives bloggers a bad name.  I know that people want to believe the worst and really don't care about the facts. [As I look at that headline again, pre-posting, I realize that the colon means that Stevens is alleging this. But I missed that the first few times I looked and I'm sure others did and will, as the person who put it there (presumably Bresnahan) intended.]

Let me say from the beginning here, as I've said in previous posts: Mary Beth Kepner met with a class of mine and I've talked to her on a couple of other occasions when I've accidentally run into her around town. I even met her mother at the Weekend Market in the summer. (For non-Alaskans, that happens a lot in Anchorage. We have a small population and we see people we know when we are out and about.) I'm a reasonably cautious judge of character - I know that often people are not what they seem to be. With those caveats, I'm 99% sure that Kepner is a stellar agent who has played very craftily in the grey area of working with undercover sources. Chad Joy seems to be extremely rigid and can't deal with ambiguity, grey areas, or the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.

Let me say that for the most part, while some of my blogger friends come out and say things like, "He's a total slimeball" I generally put all the evidence out there for the readers and then let the readers draw their own conclusions. Generally, but not today. I did that in a very long post on the original, heavily redacted, complaint that this story is based on.

The headline is totally sensational and based on the flimsiest of evidence, as the story says later. Well the story doesn't say the evidence is flimsy, but it gives the evidence.  It's evidence I and others have posted already in more depth.   FBI special agent, Chad Joy, in a complaint he filed with an internal oversight unit within the Justice Department (that did NOT grant him whistle-blower status) says that:

  1. Most recently, Kepner met with Allen by herself in her hotel room in Washington, DC.
  2. Kepner wore a skirt for Allen during the recent trial during his testimony. Kepner doesn’t wear skirts.
1.  Two people can't be in the same hotel room without having sex?  Do you think she'd have met with him in her hotel room if she could have imagined that anyone would have leaped to the conclusion they were having an affair?
2.  Obviously, one of the two parts of the second statement is false.  Either she DOES wear skirts sometimes, or she DIDN'T wear one in court.  Basic logic.  OK, I know he means something like he's never seen her in a skirt before.  But this is evidence in a serious complaint?  By an FBI agent no less?
It's sort of like someone saying Mr. X murdered Mr. Y based on the evidence that someone says he saw Mr. X buy a gun. Just as I could win the lottery tomorrow (if I'd bought a ticket), the odds are millions to one against it.

From there the Defense team filed a motion to dismiss the Stevens conviction based on a number of issues including their leap to claim that Kepner and Allen were having an affair.

OK, I acknowledge that nothing is impossible, but this allegation (as well as the post cited above) is clearly part of an attempt to invalidate the Stevens conviction, and seemingly part of a scheme to make the Prosecution case look ridiculous whether there is evidence or not.  I can't speak for what happened with the Prosecution in the DC based Stevens case. I've offered possible explanations in at least one previous post already. But I can speak to Joy's comments about Kepner in the investigations and working with sources.

Let's look at some of the facts:

Bill Allen is in his early 70s, but looks and acts older. When Allen testifies, the prosecutors first take pains to point out he was in a motorcycle accident that has affected his ability to find the words he wants to say, but not his memory or his thinking abilities. Judging from when I saw him on the witness stand in the Kott and Kohring cases, I would say his mind works just fine, but he does have trouble speaking fluently at times and he walks slowly. He's an old man who's not well.

Kepner is a fit, attractive woman, attractive in a very natural and unobtrusive way,  probably between 30 and 40 years old. She instigated, as I understand it, and has been in charge of, the FBI investigation of Alaska corruption since 2004 and has been pretty busy working the case with various sources and with the Prosecutors most of the time.

I know such alliances happen, but usually the younger lady is hoping there will be an inheritance. While Allen is wealthy, there's no way Kepner could be expecting to cash in on that.

She is not your stereotypical FBI agent. Well, you could say that was obvious since she's not a man. But beyond that, she exudes a sense of sincerity and caring with the people she's talking to. I realize I'm generalizing from my own experience, but most of the media who covered the three trials in Alaska that I've spoken with also admire her. Frank Prewitt (about whom I have serious ethical concerns), a key source in the Tom Anderson trial,  wrote a book in which he often praises Kepner  while being snide about almost everyone else - including Chad Joy. Let me quote from him as I did in the post on the original, highly redacted complaint.    Prewitt is writing about meeting with Kepner because there have been complaints that she got a gift from him - a painting of her dog by his wife.
"Let me get this straight. I worked covert operations with you and your team nearly full-time for two years, worked overt, including trials, for another two, and someone's concerned we might be too close!?" I squinted, leaned forward and cynically whispered, "Has anyone told my wife?". . .

Come on Kepner, once you figured out I wasn't a crook [this was debated in trial - it seems at least that the statute of limitations was up] you know very well we both had to trust each other to do what we've accomplished. If I hadn't thought you really cared about me, my family, and getting to the real source of the corruption, I would have been out of here a long time ago. . .

In truth, we had become very close. People have real lives, real feelings, real highs, and real lows. Some people bring out our best, others our worst. Some relationships fit like a glove, others chafe like a scouring pad. Most of us are healthiest and happiest in circles of mutually supportive community. And for all those very natural reasons Kepner and I worked well together.

"I understand Bureau concern over conflicts of interest. But extreme cases make poor general policy. It was your training and humanity that accomplished the government's mission. Robotons don't have instincts or feelings, that's why they make crappy supervisors and can't solve cases, they also make lousy friends."

I would note that while Prewitt is clearly a very smart man, the details of the book, as he acknowledges, are not necessarily accurate.  And he is the hero in his own book.  But this section about their relationship rings true with what I know. While nearly everyone else in the book gets skewered, the fact that he didn't do that to Kepner and instead portrays her very positively, says something about how he regards her. And how I would imagine Allen regards her. Remember, Kepner's investigation brought down Allen, one of the most powerful men in Alaska, but he's stuck around and been a convincing witness in three trials. If wearing a skirt is going to keep him testifying, I say go for it.

I also know of another person who lost his freedom due to Kepner, who nevertheless, speaks highly of her too. This all tells me she does her job of working with undercover sources exquisitely well.

There was a time when women were trying to get into law enforcement, but there were barriers - mostly physical. First it was height requirements which kept out most women. Then there were requirements like "able to carry 100 pounds for 100 yards." Those too, were eventually shown to be basically irrelevant to most situations. What wasn't generally recognized by the old guard was that women had compensating abilities. They often can calm down situations that the guys who can carry 100 pounds would inflame.

My suspicion is that Kepner's use of her 'feminine' charms to so successfully work her sources has driven Chad Joy's frustration level through the roof. It's all so unmanly. And so exceedingly successful. These folks are cooperating voluntarily because they want to please Kepner, not because she's some big bad guy they are afraid of.

The most plausible story for me is that Kepner has used her skills, including charm, to keep Allen active and cooperative in the various cases - he first testified in fall 2006. Her playful intelligence and her seeming guilelessness which appears to have worked on Frank Prewitt too, seems to work well on Bill Allen. Both these men are smart enough to know she's an FBI agent and playing them, and both probably enjoyed just being in her company. I suspect there aren't that many people who feel that way about Chad Joy. And it bothers him, I suspect, that this woman is being so successful using decidedly un-macho techniques.

Am I falling under the Kepner spell myself? I came of age when J Edgar Hoover WAS the FBI and he was the personification of power gone bad. Kepner has given me renewed faith in the FBI. I have this to say in my defense - my wife, who has also met Kepner, likes her too and doesn't feel the least bit jealous. (I double checked this last fact just now.)

Some of the googlers have been looking for "Mary Beth Kepner photo." Part of me thinks a photo of her would help people get who she is. But I also have been fascinated by how the person who is behind shaking up the Alaska political scene like no one has ever done before can wander around Anchorage unrecognized. There are photos of her on different Alaska blogs, including on this blog; I'm not going to repost my picture here.

Wat Pa Dara Phirom Part 2

[Tuesday, January 27, 2009, 7:33pm Thai Time]

This really is a gem. Having meetings here for two days gave me time to slowly stroll around several times and get to see things I missed yesterday. And my one peek inside of one of the buildings suggests there is lots, lots more. There are also a number of NGO's here, including one that looks after stray dogs.

But I'll just put up a few pictures. Well, maybe a lot.

Bike Ride to Wat Pa Dara Phirom Part 2

This really should be consolidated into one post. Here's the link to the first part, with the map. Today was the second day of the meeting at the Wat, so I have a couple more pictures. I also failed to say that I was starting out near Chiang Mai University. I just want to add a couple more pictures of the ride. Then I'll do another post with pictures I took at the Wat during meeting breaks. Another post about the meeting itself - what it was all about - is on the pile of to do posts, including more from the Petchabun meeting.

I also want to add that last night I got a ride back - I didn't see riding home in the dark along the highway, even with my blinking light in back, as a desirable option. As it turned out, I got a ride back today too as the meeting got out mid afternoon and there were pickups headed back to the office. It's a lot cooler at 8am than at 3pm and they didn't have to twist my arm too much. It was great getting in a longer-than-my-short-office-ride in - the Wat is about 14 kilometers from home - but I'm not excited about the highway part, even with relatively little traffic.

This is the key picture I didn't get yesterday - the part of the road where there's just this tiny space for a biker, up against the wall. There are three lanes of traffic and there was little traffic, so I never had anything bigger than a motorcycle in the lane next to me, but still, I didn't enjoy it. Where there was a road - paved, but more often not - on the other side of the canal, I took that. On the way home, in the pickup, I saw that the other side of the road has more sidewalk, but it isn't a clear shot - it's got trees and lots of signs as frequent obstacles. Things are like this maybe a kilometer past Huey Road until after the 700 Year Anniversary Sports Stadium.

It would be nice to figure out some other way to get out there - one that used neighborhood roads instead of the highway.  It would take longer, but be more comfortable.  I know J won't want to drive along this stretch.  

Then the 'sidewalk' appears. (See yesterday's post.) It's not perfect, but it gets you a little away from the traffic. And things look really nice. But I've learned that few things are accidental.

Perhaps this is why the highway is so good here.

Now I'm off the main road on this wonderful little road to the Wat. It turns out you can stay on the main road and the Wat isn't far from it either. But this way is so much nicer. Note the bridge in the background.

And today I took this shortcut - the foot bridge into the Wat. It maybe saves 1/2 kilometer, but it was fun too. (No, I wasn't about to put my camera down and do the automatic timer on the bridge. In places like this I make sure the camera string is around my wrist.)  Also, I see that the map is misleading here as the road across the bridge goes back right along the canal.  I started onto the bridge from the road that cut off from the highway and got off the bridge practically in the Wat.  

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wat Pa Dara Phirom

The meeting was on the Temple Grounds. There are several NGO offices on the grounds. Before the meeting, and during breaks, I strolled around this beautiful temple.

This Temple wa[s] developed in the 1890s, on land donated by a decendant of the great Lanna Princess, Phra Raja Jaya, born Chao Dara Rasmi, 11th daughter to Chao Inthawichayanon, one of the last rulers of Chiang Mai and the Lanna Kingdom. Doi Inthanon was named after this King. [For more of this interesting history of Wat Pa Dara Phirom]from Brick Road Cafe and Guesthouse.

My sketchy translation is this:  

Don't try to do things which are equal to your heart, 
Try to make your heart equal to the things you can do.

This one is for my Mom.  She'll know why.

Talking before the meeting.