Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Mysterious NYC Fire Hydrant Poles Marked ‘Thailand’: We Have an Answer

2013 02 28 thailand fire hydrant poles

We have a definitive answer to the question I posed back in October: What’s with the New York City fire hydrant poles marked ‘Thailand’? Above is a photo I took back in the fall.

Michael De Stefano left a comment on the post Tuesday saying that:

Actually, it’s rather prosaic. By law, the Country of Origin must be on items purchased by the City of New York. In your travels, you’ll see manhole covers labeled “India”. The poles you’ve found are called ‘bollards’; they protect the hydrant from errant vehicles.

I followed up with Michael via email, and he explained that he knows about the issue because he’s a New York City civil servant who used to work in purchasing.

According to the law, the lowest bidder for producing such goods wins, Michael said. (The New York Times ran a memorable story in 2007 about manhole covers manufactured in India’s West Bengal state.)

So there you have it: Quite intuitively, the poles bollards are labeled “Thailand” because that’s where they’re made.

I remember thinking, earlier, that this most obvious of explanations was possible. (For further reading, here’s more from the Thai government on the country’s steel industry as of 2007.)

On a side note: One of the great pleasures I get from maintaining this blog is receiving thoughtful feedback from folks who happen upon my posts.

Thanks, Michael. And thanks to those who commented on the original item, both here and on Twitter. (In fact, Bangkok-based @KristoferA even speculated, originally, that the bollards were manufactured in Thailand.)

HSBC New Yorker Ad Features Mall in the Philippines

2013 02 06 philippines new yorker

File under: Another photo to share.

I spotted this HSBC advertisement in a recent issue of The New Yorker.

As you can see, the top line says, “A mall in the Philippines can change the way you look at your financial future.”

The ad goes on to say that “A wealthier middle class in Southeast Asia is buying American,” purchasing “clothing, electronics, and other categories led by Western brands.” Developed markets, like the U.S., are turning from “consumer to producer.”

Then there’s a call to action for the reader to speak with an HSBC Premier adviser about taking advantage of such opportunities “before they emerge.” (The photo above is also featured on the home page of the HSBC U.S. site.)

The message to the consumer seems to be: We can help high net worth investors in the U.S. and elsewhere make money as middle class consumers in Southeast Asia get richer and increasingly buy Western products.

I haven’t researched this specific consumer trend, but I find the concept — as well as the overall ad and its placement — interesting.

And there’s historical element worth noting.

This is a high-end service offered by a bank founded by a Scottish man in Hong Kong in 1865, the year the U.S. Civil War ended.

Back then, in the 19th century, the U.S. was an emerging market, selling goods to developed economies in Europe.

Food for thought. A lot can change in 147 years.

The View from Campus: Looking South on Amsterdam

2013 02 27 cu campus amsterdam

Here’s an iPhone photo I snapped yesterday that I think illustrates the early evening feel around the Columbia campus.

I took this at about 6:30 p.m. from a pedestrian overpass that connects the 116th street campus to the Law School, looking south on Amsterdam.

The sun had gone down, the temperature was falling, and folks were hustling to and from campus. A moment captured in time, as they say.

15 links

2013 02 25 silent city

  1. The Brain Is Not ComputableMIT Technology Review
  2. Can a President Use Drones Against Journalists?The New Yorker
  3. Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing UsTIME
  4. The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk FoodThe New York Times Magazine
  5. Fuling, China: Return to River TownNational Geographic
  6. Pad Thai — The Morning News
  7. With campaign, Mark Sanford goes from Appalachian Trail to comeback trailThe Washington Post
  8. Sriracha Hot Sauce Catches Fire, Yet ‘There’s Only One Rooster’ — Bloomberg Businessweek
  9. Cost of Dropping Citizenship Keeps U.S. Earners From Exit — Bloomberg
  10. Thailand’s stalemate and uneasy accommodationBangkok Post
  11. Soccer’s New Match-Fixing Scandal: How #*%!ed is the beautiful game? — Grantland
  12. What Are Dogs Saying When They Bark?Scientific American
  13. Myanmar’s SEA Games: Let’s play chinlone!The Economist
  14. Will Bernard Lagat Live Forever?The New Yorker
  15. Image above: From The Silent City: Digitally Assembled Futuristic Megalopolises by Yang Yongliang. Via the Galerie Paris-Beijing site (see here, here, and here).

(Previous link round-ups are available via the links tag.)

Another unexpected stateside reminder of Thailand: Gale Boetticher’s karaoke performance

Enjoyed moment...

Philosophy is really homesickness; it is the urge to be at home everywhere. — Novalis

What does “home” mean, anyway?

The concept seems especially complicated to me these days, as an American studying here in New York City after living in Bangkok for six years.

Thailand, as you might imagine, is often on my mind.

And I occasionally encounter unexpected reminders of the country and its people here in New York — and not just in the form of the city’s many Thai restaurants.

There was the mysterious New York City fire hydrant marked “Thailand” that I mentioned back in October. (The conundrum remains unsolved, though I suspect I’ll uncover an explanation eventually.)*

There’s Absolute Bagels, a popular shop near Columbia University that is, improbably, run by Thais. (I sometimes stop by to chat with the staff. I’m sure they think I’m a lunatic.)

There was the large table of Thai patrons Anasuya and I bumped into downtown at the famous Katz’s Delicatessen one Saturday last November.

And — getting to the point of this post — just a few weeks ago, I registered my latest unexpected brush with Thailand, though it was fictional and not NYC-specific.

Take a look at the embedded video above, which is also on YouTube here.

Yes, that’s Gale Boetticher, played by David Costabile, karaoke-ing to a song with Thai subtitles.

Wait, what?

Like many others, I am an enthusiastic viewer of the hit AMC TV series “Breaking Bad.”

The show, of course, is about a high school chemistry teacher (not Gale) in Albuquerque who becomes a crystal meth cook.”**

Visually, the series is pure Southwest U.S., with scene after scene of arid desert landscapes. I’m currently working my way through the show’s fourth season.

I was surprised and delighted when, in that season’s fourth episode, viewers were treated to a video of Gale crooning to Peter Schilling’s 1983 hit song “Major Tom (Coming Home).”

And the karaoke subtitles are in…Thai.

Just a few snippets of Gale’s wonderfully weird performance appeared in the episode, but entire performance is above.

In the scene, Gale is sporting a tan travel vest, a neckerchief, and a fanny pack. Is the video from a trip he took to Thailand? We don’t know. (At least not yet.)

What did “home” mean for Gale? Was he a New Mexico native? Or did he move to New Mexico from elsewhere? When did he travel to Thailand, and what did he make of the place?

The song Gale sings, as it happens, is about an astronaut who becomes marooned in space.

The closing lines are:

Earth below us
drifting, falling.
Floating weightless
coming home…
Earth below us
drifting, falling.
Floating weightless
coming, coming
home…
home…..

Keep on singing, Gale.

In case you’re curious, embedded above and on YouTube here is Schilling’s English-language video.

It is entertaining in its own way, as is the original German version. But I think I prefer Boetticher’s rendition.

*If you have any thoughts on the fire hydrant, please let me know.

**Thanks, Nick, for the recommendation.

(Image: Photo of Bangkok by Prachanart on Flickr.)

Obama’s State of the Union remarks on Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar

President Obama just finished his State of the Union address.

I Tweeted his remarks about Myanmar and wanted to share them here as well:

Here’s the rest of the passage, for context. You can find the full text and a video of the speech on the New York Times’s site.

We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. In many places, people live on little more than a dollar a day. So the United States will join with our allies to eradicate such extreme poverty in the next two decades: by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.

Above all, America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom during this period of historic change. I saw the power of hope last year in Rangoon – when Aung San Suu Kyi welcomed an American President into the home where she had been imprisoned for years; when thousands of Burmese lined the streets, waving American flags, including a man who said, “There is justice and law in the United States. I want our country to be like that.”

In defense of freedom, we will remain the anchor of strong alliances from the Americas to Africa; from Europe to Asia. In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy. The process will be messy, and we cannot presume to dictate the course of change in countries like Egypt; but we can – and will – insist on respect for the fundamental rights of all people. We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month.

AP: ‘Thailand government says al-Qaida group eyes attack on US consulate’

The AP reported today:

BANGKOK — Thai authorities have tightened security measures at the U.S. Consulate in the northern province of Chiang Mai following reports that it was a possible target of attack from al-Qaida and Salafist terrorist groups this month, officials said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra told reporters she had been informed about the reports and that she had ordered security agencies to add more forces to provide safety at the facility, 570 kilometers (350 miles) north of Bangkok.

“The U.S. Embassy in Thailand has not requested any extra measures but we have to monitor the situation attentively,” Yingluck said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung refused to give details about the threats, but said the reinforced measures had been put in place since Feb. 6 and will continue until the end of multinational military exercises, called Cobra Gold, on Sunday.

There’s more from The Bangkok Post and The Nation.

NY Times: Journalists who cover Myanmar may have had their email hacked

The New York Times reports today:

Several journalists who cover Myanmar said Sunday that they had received warnings from Google that their e-mail accounts might have been hacked by “state-sponsored attackers.”

The warnings began appearing last week, said the journalists, who included employees of Eleven Media, one Myanmar’s leading news organizations; Bertil Lintner, a Thailand-based author and expert on Myanmar’s ethnic groups; and a Burmese correspondent for The Associated Press.

Worth a read.

Twitter accounts for following snowstorm Nemo as it approaches NYC

A big snowstorm, Nemo*, is now making landfall in the Northeast.

I just Tweeted some NYC-specific Twitter accounts worth following, and thought I’d share them here as well:

*Storm nomenclature details are here.