Thailand has a new prime minister

AP: “Thai opposition leader becomes prime minister

Lawmakers chose an opposition leader as Thailand’s prime minister Monday in a bid to end months of political chaos, as supporters of the previous government unsuccessfully tried to halt the result by blockading Parliament.

The articulate, Oxford-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva, who heads the Democrat Party, gathered 235 votes against 198 by former national police chief Pracha Promnok, a loyalist of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The lower house vote followed six months of instability caused by anti-government and anti-Thaksin demonstrations that culminated last month with a weeklong takeover of Bangkok’s two airports.

The selection of a new prime minister was expected to calm the country’s politics, at least temporarily. However, several hundred Thaksin supporters tried to block the gates of Parliament in a last-ditch attempt to prevent the outcome. Riot police later cleared a path for lawmakers to leave the compound.

And a snip from the end of the story:

Abhisit and his party enjoy strong support from the middle class and many in the business sector. But Sukhum Nuansakul, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Ramkhamhaeng University, said the hopes of many for a respite from political instability was likely to be short-lived.

“The fundamental problem has not been resolved,” Sukhum said. “A Democrat win sets the stage for another round of street protests, this time by pro-Thaksin groups.”

Panithan Wattanayagorn, a political analyst from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, predicted that Abhisit was going to face “among Thailand’s roughest premierships.”


The new World Hum — and the top 40 travel songs of all time

One of my favorite Web sites ((Back in 2001, the site ran an essay of mine called Soup to Nuts, about a funny experience I had here in Bangkok, long before I moved to Thailand.)), World Hum — tag line: travel dispatches from a shrinking planet — has just launched a re-designed site. World Hum’s Jim Benning, Mike Yessis, and Valerie Conners discuss the re-vamping in this video.

New features include videos, bigger photos, and a column by Tom Swick ((A few years back, Swick wrote a good story about Cuenca, Ecuador — where I lived for a year — for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.)) There’s also a piece by Anthony Bourdain called “Subcontinental Homesick Blues,” about “why music can make a travel moment.”

The site also contains a new feature: “World Hum’s Top 40 Travel Songs of All Time.” The songs were voted on by World Hum contributors, and each song has a corresponding YouTube video. (You can see the entire list on one page here.)

I contributed a list of my top ten songs ((For the record, my top ten songs were:
1. “Born to Run,” by Bruce Springsteen
2. “This Must Be the Place,” by Talking Heads
3. “Range Life,” by Pavement
4. “Long May You Run,” by Neil Young
5. “Just Like Honey,” by Jesus and Mary Chain
6. “American Girl,” by Tom Petty
7. “Love Shack,” by the B-52s
8. “Passenger Side,” by Wilco
9. “Float On,” by Modest Mouse
10. “Good to Be on the Road Back Home,” by Cornershop.)) and then, once the voting was complete, I wrote a few sentences about Neil Young’s 1976 tune, “Long May You Run.” That song is at number 16 on the list. You can find what I wrote here (scroll down a bit).

Misc. now on Facebook

A brief, self-promotional note: You can now become a fan of on Facebook.

That is all.

Back to our regularly-scheduled programming.


Two paperback techno-gems from the 1990s

A bookstore here in Bangkok was having a going out of business sale a few months back, and I picked up a couple of titles that appealed to both the bibliophile and the Internet enthusiast in me.

The first is this:

I saw this slim, young adult paperback volume from 1996 and I knew I had to have it. The title is “Internet Detectives volume 2: Escape Key.” Subtitle: “Enter a new dimension of adventure!” On the cover, the title reads “iNTERNET detectives,” with camel case. The book is on here. Here’s the back cover.

The copy reads:

The man’s face stared out at them from the computer screen. ‘It is him!’ exclaimed Rob.

The photograph, flashed instantly from Australia via the Internet, sends Rob, Tamsyn, and Josh on a thrilling hunt for a man wanted by the police on two continents. They’ve seen him once already, but they’ve no idea where he is now. With the help of brilliant detective work by their friends on the Net, they start to track down their mysterious suspect…

And here’s an interior page — I like the mock-ups of the email messages:

Volume 1 of the series is “Net Bandits,” and later volumes include “Speed Surf,” “Cyber Feud,” “System Crash,” “Web Trap,” “Virus Attack,” and “Access Denied.”

The book’s references to the Web and email may seem quaint now, but consider that the book was published in 1996 — a time when many of us were just beginning to discover the tubenet. After all, this is what looked like in 1996, and Google wouldn’t launch for another two years.

The next book is all about a world catastrophe…that didn’t happen. I speak, of course, of the Year 2000 problem, otherwise known as Y2K:

The book is called “50 Urgent Things You Need to do Before the Millennium.” Subtitle: “Protect yourself, your family, and your finances from the upcoming computer crisis!” The book was published, naturally, in 1999. It’s on Amazon here.

I’d forgotten just how that concerned many people were about Y2K. ((Okay, not everyone was worried about Y2K. In Weird Al Yankovic’s classic techno-anthem “All about the Pentiums,” he boasts about his PC proficiency: “Upgrade my system at least twice a day, I’m strictly plug-and-play, I ain’t afraid of Y2K.”)) Check out the back cover copy:

Are you prepared for the biggest crisis ever to threaten modern civilization? The Y2K computer crisis, the inability of computers to recognize the two-digit year “00,” is about to affect every aspect of our lives.

Some of the doomsday scenarios envisioned include “There’s no electricity, water, or telephone service” and “Airplanes can’t fly, traffic lights don’t work, and cars with computer systems can’t be operated.”

1996 and 1999.

Seems like yesterday.


College basketball’s oldest player

NY Times: “A 73-Year-Old Gives Basketball a Second Shot

Before Sunday’s basketball game, Coach Yogi Woods gathered the junior varsity at Lambuth University. Watch out for 73 on the other team, he said. He did not mean the player’s number. He meant his age.

The visitors, Roane State Community College, had a septuagenarian guard, Ken Mink, college basketball’s oldest player, who has started a second career after his first ended a half century ago with a mysterious shaving-cream incident.

If the 6-foot Mink was good enough to play, he was good enough to be guarded, Woods told the Lambuth players. Then he turned to the freshman Kendrick Coleman and said: “If he goes in for a layup, don’t let him have it. If he scores on you, we will never let you forget it.”

Read the whole thing. Great story.