Newley Purnell's home on the web since 2001

Month: March 2008

Roger Cohen: The baton passes to Asia

Roger Cohen in the IHT:

HONG KONG: It’s the end of the era of the white man.

I know your head is spinning. The world can feel like one of those split-screen TVs with images of a suicide bombing in Baghdad flashing, and the latest awful market news coursing along the bottom, and an ad for some stool-loosening wonder drug squeezed into a corner.

The jumble makes no sense. It just goes on, like the mindless clacking of an ice dispenser.

On the globalized treadmill, you drop your eyes again from the screen (now showing ads for gourmet canine cuisine) to the New Yorker or Asahi Shimbun. And another bomb goes off.

There’s a lot of noise and not much signal. Everywhere there is flux and the reaction to it: the quest, sometimes violent, for national or religious identity. These alternate faces of globalization – fluidity and tribalism – define our frontier-dissolving world.

But in all the movement back and forth, basic things shift. The world exists in what Paul Saffo, a forecaster at Stanford University, calls “punctuated equilibrium.” Every now and again, an ice cap the size of Rhode Island breaks off.

The breaking sound right now is that of the end of the era of the white man…

Read the whole thing.

My New Story about Riding a Soviet-Era Motorbike in Vietnam

I have an article in the April issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia magazine about a recent six-day trip I took through the northeast of Vietnam on a Soviet-era motorbike. The issue isn’t online, but if you’re in the region you can find the magazine on newsstands. If you’re in Bangkok, look for it in bookstores and at BTS stations. The article is called “Riding High” and it starts on page 91. Here’s more info about T+L Southeast Asia.

The image above is a pic of me and a friend I met during the trip.

Oman Beats Thailand in a World Cup Qualifier

Thailand 0-1 Oman, World Cup 2010 Qualifier [NOT MY IMAGE]

Oman beat Thailand 1-0 in a World Cup qualifying match here in Bangkok on Wednesday night. Here’s the AFP story I wrote about the game.

iPhoto Tweaks: Getting the Most Out of Apple’s Image Editing Application

I generally like using iPhoto, Apple’s default image management and editing software. But with nearly 8,000 images in my library and limited RAM and hard drive space, opening the application and its accompanying 20 gigabytes of data was taking an eternity, and even basic tasks were becoming unwieldy.

I’ve now figured out a better way to manage my images using iPhoto. The solution isn’t revolutionary, but it’s working well, and I figured I’d share my new setup in case you’re facing a similar issue.

First, I bought an external hard drive and moved all of my photos off of my PowerBook. This was a no-brainer, and I should’ve done it a long time ago. Here’s Apple’s official description of the process. It’s pretty simple. (Note that I’ve got iPhoto version 5; I understand the newer version of the app makes this task even easier.)

Then I used a helpful add-on called iPhoto Library Manager to create a new library that I now store locally on my machine, while the album that holds my thousands of other images lives on my external hard drive. This Macworld article describes, with screen shots, how iPhoto Library Manager works. One thing I like about this application is that it’s very lightweight, and you can launch it and fiddle with your libraries without actually opening the resource-intensive iPhoto itself.

And finally, I happened upon an excellent little app called Image Capture, which I didn’t even know I had it on my machine. It’s a straightforward app that allows you to review, delete, rotate, and save images from your camera or memory card without opening iPhoto at all. This way, you don’t automatically import huge batches of images and then sift through them in iPhoto. Instead, you can simply delete images directly from the memory card and choose the images you want to keep. Then you decide where to save the good pics and then import them into iPhoto.

This detailed overview of Image Capture provides instructions for making the application open by default when you insert a memory card, rather than having iPhoto spring to life automatically.

Quick Beach Getaway: Pranburi, Thailand

Here are some pics from a recent three-day beach trip A and I took to the Pranburi region, just south of Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand.

Our stretch of beach

Shell-eye view



Beach dog


Yours truly

John Doe, Worldwide

Here’s a look at how people around the world refer to John Does, or unknown individuals.

Question Box

Question Box: Connecting People in Rural India to the Web

Question Box is a simple means for allowing people living in rural India to access the Web:

Question box is a simple telephone intercom. Its purpose is to connect people to the Internet. It requires no literacy or computer skills.

Users place a free call by pushing the green button. They connect to an operator sitting in front of an Internet-enabled computer.

Users ask the operator questions. The operator goes online and finds their answers, translating them into the local language. The operator also sends & receives emails on the caller’s behalf.

In the near future, users will be able to call the operator directly from their telephones.

Thaksin, Manchester City, and Football in Thailand

Thailand's Ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra

What does ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s recent return to Thailand mean for Manchester City, the English Premier League team he purchased during his exile? What does his return mean for football (soccer) in Thailand?

That was the subject of an AFP story that I wrote last week.

You can find it on Yahoo News here: “Thaksin return raises hopes of Thai fans.”

Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and…Thailand?


It’s been a tense week in the Andes. On Saturday, Colombian forces launched a surprise raid on a camp inside the Ecuador border and killed a senior FARC member. The result has been an ongoing diplomatic kerfuffle between Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela.

AFP has a run-down of the events: “Regional tensions rise after Colombia raid into Ecuador.”

And the NY Times‘s Simon Romero narrates a video report about the incident.

Meanwhile, Bolivia expert Miguel Centellas discusses a Bolivian dimension to the story.

Reuters has some analysis on the political implications for the region: “Andean crisis shakes hopes for regional unity.”

And as for Thailand…

Today we learned that a Russian man alleged to be a notorious arms dealer was arrested here in Thailand yesterday. He is accused of selling arms to al Qaeda and the Taliban, and he was lured to Bangkok by American DEA agents…posing as FARC members looking to buy weapons.

CNN: “‘Most-wanted’ arms dealer arrested in Thailand.”

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