Newley Purnell's home on the web since 2001

Month: August 2007 (Page 1 of 2)

“Autos Katrina” For Sale in Bolivia

A recent episode of Marketplace — one of my favorite podcasts — contained an excellent story from Ruxandra Guidi. It’s about how cars that were damaged by hurricane Katrina have ended up for sale in Bolivia. While the automobiles may look fine, many are mechanically beyond repair.

Life Lists

The New York Times’s Alex Williams on “life lists”:

Once the province of bird-watchers, mountain climbers and sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the life list has become widely popular with the harried masses, equal parts motivational self-help and escapist fantasy.

Evidence of the lists’ surging popularity is all around. The travel writer Patricia Schultz currently has two “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” books lodged on The New York Times paperback advice best-seller list, two in an avalanche of recent life-list books, like “1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die” and “101 Things to Do Before You Turn 40.”

In December, Warner Brothers will release Rob Reiner’s “Bucket List,” starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as cancer patients who set out on a series of life-list adventures, including a Harley ride on the Great Wall of China.

Multiple life-list oriented social-networking Web sites have cropped up, inviting strangers to share their lists and offer mutual encouragement. Even Madison Avenue has chimed in. Visa is currently running a print campaign built around a checklist called “Things to Do While You’re Alive” (and credit-worthy, presumably).

(Image via.)

Passers-by Purloin Protest Papayas

Bangkok Post:

Greenpeace’s protest against the lifting of a ban on open-field trials of genetically-modified (GM) papaya yesterday was met with an unexpected reaction from a crowd of onlookers.

Passers-by took matters, and tonnes of papayas dumped by Greenpeace, into their own hands, and ran off.

The environmental group dumped the papayas in front of the Agriculture and Cooperatives Ministry yesterday to make its objection to the lifting of the ban loud and clear to the government.

It was the second protest about the controversial issue in five days after reports the ministry will today seek cabinet approval for the lifting of the ban on open-field trials of transgenic crops.

But this time, after the dumping, people flocked to load up on the free papayas, ignoring the environmental organisation’s campaign against the dangers of GM fruit — a message Greenpeace has been trying to get through to the government and the public for years.

Many passers-by, who mostly knew nothing about transgenic fruit, said they did not care about any health risks.

They were just thinking about how hungry they were.

”I don’t care if they’re dangerous,” said papaya salad seller Gig Krueyat, 70. ”I don’t know what the threat is … nothing serious, I think …”

Mrs Gig helped herself to three sacks of the fruit in minutes. Others, including some ministry officials and Rasi Salai dam protesters from Sri Sa Ket province who were camped near the ministry, also did not let the opportunity slip by.

A man waiting in traffic for the lights to go green near the ministry, leapt out of his car and joined the feast.

”I’m not scared of GM papayas. Rather, I’m scared I won’t have any to eat,” said Ubon Ratchathani villager Ampon Tantima, 31, before rushing back to his car with the free fruit….

Star Trek Inspirational Posters

Star Trek Inspirational Posters. This one reads: “CAPTAIN JAMES T. KIRK. I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome I am.”

Related: Demotivators.


Thailand’s Amulet Craze

Jennifer Chen has an excellent story in the Wall Street Journal about Thailand’s Jatukam Ramathep amulets. Don’t miss it.

Not so long ago, Nakhon Si Thammarat was a sleepy town with no obvious tourist attractions — or tourists. Its economy revolved around shrimp farming and fishing.

Now this provincial capital in southern Thailand is crawling with thousands of visitors each week. The big draw: amulets, some as small as three centimeters wide, called Jatukam Ramathep.

Thais are big believers in the supernatural. Amulets, which come in various materials and sizes and are usually worn around the neck, are basically lucky charms thought to have magical powers that protect from physical and spiritual harm as well as bring good fortune. Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country and the amulets usually depict famous monks or the Buddha.

Thailand has seen its share of amulet crazes over the years. But the Jatukam Ramathep medallion — which depicts a mythical figure that resembles a Hindu god with multiple arms and heads — has set new heights in the annals of amulet history. And at its birthplace in the town of Nakhon Si Thammarat, most buyers seem to be snapping them up more for their supposed power to deliver instant riches than for their promise of good health…

Thai Voters Approve New Constitution


Thailand’s voters have approved an army-drafted constitution, but a hefty “No” vote suggests December’s general election will be messy, with ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra still a potent political force.

With 98 percent of votes counted on Monday in Thailand’s first referendum, the Election Commission said about 57 percent of people had accepted the charter, designed to prevent a repeat of Thaksin’s powerful single-party style of government.

However, 41 percent rejected it, sending a signal to the generals who removed the telecoms billionaire in a coup last September that they will struggle to control the make-up of the next administration.

Roughly 25 million of the 45 million electorate cast their ballots, a 56 percent turnout.

Having pressed for a “Yes” vote, the army-appointed post-coup government had been hoping for at least a 60 percent turnout for what will be the 18th charter in 75 years of on-off democracy.

Bangkok Pundit has more details.

Khao San Road Goes Upscale: My Story in Today’s New York Times

I’ve got a travel story in today’s New York Times. It’s about how Bangkok’s legendary Khao San Road, long a meeting place for backpackers, now offers a variety of upscale amenities.

“Why Thailand’s Generals Will Root for Man U”

Time’s Hannah Beech:

The guy selling spears of chilled guava down the street sports a Chelsea football jersey. Everywhere in soccer-mad Bangkok, in fact, people wear garments proclaiming their affiliation with one or another English Premier League team. But one jersey you’re unlikely to spot? That of Manchester City. It’s not because City has struggled, unsuccessfully, for three decades now to emerge from the shadow of its more moneyed crosstown rival, Manchester United. Even Birmingham’s lackluster Aston Villa, after all, maintains a dogged fan base in Thailand’s capital. No, the reason Manchester City is taboo in Bangkok is because its new owner is ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra…

Online Resource for Sunrise and Sunset Times

Gaisma provides “sunrise, sunset, dusk and dawn times for thousands of locations all over the world.”

The image above is “Manhattanhenge: A New York Sunset,” by Neil deGrasse Tyson via APOD.

Strange Maps: Three Views of the US

Here’re three amusing visions of the US from the blog Strange Maps: The United States of Florida, Ex Unum Pluribus: New American Nations, and (pictured above) The United Countries of Baseball.

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