Monthly Archives: December 2008

New T+L SEA story: driving along Thailand’s side of the Mekong river

I have a story in the January 2009 issue of Travel + Leisure Southeast Asia about a car trip I took along Thailand’s side of the Mekong river, in the country’s rural northeast.

The journey was exceptional in every way: The views were striking, the people were generous and fun-loving, and — this being Thailand — the food was, naturally, quite tasty. You can find the article, called “River Escapes,” on page 76 of the magazine. (It’s not online, but you can find more info about T+L SEA here.)

In addition, I’m happy to say that the excellent images accompanying the article were shot by old Thailand hand Austin Bush, who also happens to be a good friend.

(My previous T+L SEA stories have been about riding a Soviet-era motorbike through northeast Vietnam and exploring Thailand’s Ko Chang and Ko Kood.)

Newley.com traffic stats for 2008

A quick look at my Google Analytics traffic stats for 2008 reveals the following:

Visitors and Page Views
31,480 people visited Newley.com this year (an average of 2623 per month) for a total of 50,901 page views

— Visitors from 162 different countries came to Newley.com during 2008. The top ten countries were the United States, Thailand, the UK, Canada, Australia, Singapore, India, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. And folks from small countries, like Tuvalu, Palau, Bhutan, and Kiribati also came to the site.

Traffic spiked ((The dip in October occurred when I changed the site’s design and neglected to include the Google Analytics traffic code, resulting in a lack of data for a time.)) in late November, as you can see in the graph above. That’s when anti-government protesters shut down Bangkok’s airports, leading to a flurry of folks finding the site via Google searches for news about the situation.

Most Popular Posts
Some of the most viewed pages were:
Jalapeno Hands: A Cautionary Culinary Tale (10,104 page views). This post, about my friend C‘s cooking accident ((Moral of the story: always wear kitchen gloves when peeling jalapenos!)), ranks highly in a Google search for jalapeno hands and jalapeno burn. Judging from the 179 comments on the post, this epidemic has been simmering in the cooking world for some time…
Waffle coated hot dog: Consumed in Kanchanaburi, Thailand (1,321 page views)
Ecuadorian slang (1,220 page views)
How to use Skype: A Tutorial: (1,054 page views)
About me (888 page views)
Bangkok airport closure: Fri. update (872 views)
Journalism — my page of clips (560 page views)

Other Posts
Some posts from 2008 (and a few from 2007) that I like — but which haven’t attracted as many eyeballs — include:

Our Northeast India Trip: Top 10 Images
How to Learn Thai
The Asus Eee PC: 10 Things You Need to Know About the World’s Coolest Gadget
Why I Love My Grandmother
Best Burger in Bangkok
Audio Slide Show: State of Emergency in Bangkok
Newley.com Exclusive Video: November in Bangkok
StateStats: Analyzing Google search patterns
My Favorite Podcasts: Updated

RSS, Twitter, and Facebook
— According to Feedburner, which I use to manage my RSS feed, Newley.com has 692 subscribers. But I reckon that a glitch has inflated this number artifically, and that the actual number of subscribers is in the neighborhood of 250. (Not a subscriber? Grab the feed here.)

— I’m happy to report that my recently-launched Newley.com Facebook page has attracted 51 fans in just a couple of weeks.

— And Twitter, which I began using in 2008, has quickly become indispensable for me. I have 183 followers. You can find me on Twitter here.

Thanks to all of you for reading. If you have any suggestions for how I can improve the site, please leave a comment on this post or email me (newley [at] gmail.com).

Official: Morales assassination plot foiled

CNN has this brief item: “Official: Plot to kill Bolivian president foiled

A top Bolivian government official said Monday that the country’s intelligence services had uncovered a plot to assassinate President Evo Morales..

“A few weeks ago, the state organizations of intelligence received information about plans in relation to an assassination, and that those plans came from the far-right opposition,” Minister of Government Alfredo Rada told reporters in La Paz.

Rada said the plan was to be carried out by an indigenous person while Morales was in a crowd.

Wire accounts of the story are pretty limited so far, but you can monitor the story via Google News.

UPDATE: I suspect that Bolivia watcher Miguel Centellas will weigh in on this at some point. And you can search Twitter for news, as well.

“India is to frugality as Bethlehem is to Jesus”

That’s a line from Anand Giridharadas’s Letter from India in today’s IHT: “For tips on frugality, look to India

VERLA, India: Watching Americans try to make themselves frugal is like watching Mongolians try to make Bordeaux wine.

Thrift does not come naturally to a country that turned layaway, zero-interest home loans and pre-approved credit cards into a mode of living. And so as they trudge through a cruel holiday season, Americans are cutting back, but hesitatingly and maladroitly.

They are standing in line by the thousands at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, pushing and pulling, and on one occasion trampling an obstructive employee to death with their frantic, frugal feet.

They are embracing the alien idea of sacrifice. Mothers are forgoing personal shopping to spend on the family, and, according to Consumer Reports, pet owners are depriving themselves before shortchanging their pets.

Fourteen percent of Americans are making gifts, not buying them, that magazine reported. Twelve percent are plotting to pass on to others the gifts others give them. Many plan to tip less, scale back charity and go shopping accompanied by that leafy commodity so foreign to Americans: cash.

And then it hit me. The jostling in line, the stampeding, the motherly sacrifice, the homemade presents, the regifting, the thick wads of rubber-banded cash: America is becoming India!

Map of Premier League Teams

Speaking of soccer (football), if you enjoy the English Premier League but wonder where some of the more obscure teams are located, check out this helpful map. While most non-British fans know which teams are in London and which are in Liverpool and Manchester, fewer are familiar with the locations of teams like Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion, and Hull City.

You can find more geographic/sporting goodness ((Other leagues that are mapped out here include various soccer leagues, the US’s big four — MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL — as well as…the European Poker Tour.)) on the Sport Map World home page.

(Link via my college teammate Danny S. at The New York Fitness Institute blog.)

“Goalkeeper Science” in the NYT’s 2008 Year in Ideas

As I may have mentioned in the past, I’ve been a soccer (football) goalkeeper since the age of 7. I can’t get enough of the game, and I absolutely love goalkeeping. (I still play regularly today.) ((A few of my favorite goalkeeper-related Web sites include The Glove Bag — an exceptional online community of goalkeepers — and the news blogs The Goalkeepers’ Union and JB Goalkeeping Blog. And if you’re seriously into the philosophy of goalkeeping, I recommend this manual: “The Art of Goalkeeping or The Seven Principles of the Masters.”)) So I was delighted to see that, according to the New York Times, one of 2008’s big ideas that begin with the letter “g” — along with topics like genopolics, gallons per mile, and the guaranteed retirement account — is goalkeeper science:

What’s the best way to stop a penalty kick? Do nothing: just stand in the center of the goal and don’t move.

That is the surprising conclusion of “Action Bias Among Elite Soccer Goalkeepers: The Case of Penalty Kicks,” a paper published by a team of Israeli scientists in Journal of Economic Psychology that attracted attention earlier this year. The academics analyzed 286 penalty kicks and found that 94 percent of the time the goalies dived to the right or the left — even though the chances of stopping the ball were highest when the goalie stayed in the center.

If that’s true, why do goalies almost always dive off to one side? Because, the academics theorized, the goalies are afraid of looking as if they’re doing nothing — and then missing the ball…

(To read the rest of the entry, visit the link above and then choose “g” in the navigation bar. Sadly, there’s no direct link.)

For more on this subject, I recommend this blog post: “The Rationality of Soccer Goalkeepers” ((Insert joke about all goalkeepers being necessarily — and perhaps genetically — irrational here.)) ((And if you want to see a photo of yours truly saving a penalty kick several years ago in Taiwan — and I apologize in advance for the tight goalkeeping pants, but it was cold and the pitch was terrible — click here.))

This study illustrates the tension between internal(subjective) and external (objective) rationality discussed in my last post: statistically speaking, as a rule for winning games, to jump is (externally) suboptimal; but given the social norm and the associated emotional feeling, jumping is (internally) rational.

(Hat tip to B.L. for the NYT link. Image credit: Flickr.)

More on Thailand’s political future

WSJ: “New Thai Prime Minister Faces Immediate Hurdles

Ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra’s grip on Thai politics — and the instability it provoked — eased on Monday with parliament’s election of a new prime minister from a rival party.

The rise of 44-year-old Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Oxford-educated leader of the Democrat Party, could bring some calm after months of sometimes-violent protests that have undermined one of Southeast Asia’s linchpin economies.

But Mr. Abhisit faces significant political and economic hurdles. His new ruling coalition’s slim majority depends on the support of defectors he lured from Mr. Thaksin’s camp, which still controls the single largest party in parliament. Grass-roots support for Mr. Thaksin and his populist policies runs deep in rural Thailand, and Mr. Abhisit’s election was greeted by public protests by Thaksin supporters.

Mr. Abhisit will also have to deal with the effects of the global economic slowdown on Thailand, which some economists predict could slip into recession next year.

And another snip:

Political risk is likely to remain a watchword for Thailand in the coming months. Mr. Abhisit’s narrow margin of victory in Monday’s parliamentary vote — he defeated pro-Thaksin rival Pracha Promnok by 235 votes to 198 — could make it tough for him to act decisively on the economy, or even to defend his legislative majority. Thailand’s next national election must be held by 2011.

There’s also an interactive graphic that charts Thailand’s GDP growth rate and the country’s political unrest.