Thursday, December 29, 2011


We are enjoying Bangkok and finding too little time to do all that we want to do. We had a great opportunity yesterday to join Bruce and Jentana and their two kids on a new catamaran, built for Bruce's friend in Phuket. It was so deluxe and quite fancy. We passed up shopping and the floating market to join them. We went out past Pattaya and sailed down to Ko Kham Yay. If we had kept going, I guess we would have hit Ko Samet which is a tourist destination. Leo had a great time playing with Vanessa and Jentana's adopted daughter Aum who is the same age as Leo. Here's Leo and Aum:
Aum is a firecracker. She really liked Leo. On the way home, she kept saying she wouldn't kiss him. Then when we were about to get out of the car, she said, ok, I'm going to kiss him. And Leo sort of curled up away from a puckered up girl. Then Aum said, when I see you tomorrow, you're going to kiss me!

We got to visit Ning, my old Thai language teacher, and her two kids:

And here are the boys at the Grand Palace and Wat Pho:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sea lice and scrapes and falls

Every morning, we eat breakfast at this overpriced cafe. All the other places on this side of the peninsula are for the people who stay at those hotels and our place, being a home, rather than a hotel, doesn't have a restaurant.

They do have a nice view though:

The first night we were here, Leo fell off the edge of the concrete pad that the restaurant was sitting on and scraped the top layer of skin off much of his leg. Yesterday on our hike, he fell and broke open the wound again. He's getting used to the yellow color of iodine on his body.

Krabi is filled with limestone karst formations - these giant steep cliffs that come straight out of the sea or land. It makes for great caves and rock climbing. Here's Leo on one of his little scampers up through the caves:

And Paul and Leo about to enter Diamond Cave in the national park:

We took Leo kayaking around the islands and dove in looking for good snorkeling of which there was none. I saw one baby giant clam and one orange soft sea fan type coral and some small fish. It was sad, especially cause I remember kayaking through these same places in the 90's and looking into the water and seeing lots of coral and fish. It seems like there was a bleaching event.

Anyway, Leo got stung by a jellyfish while snorkeling and there are these little larval jellyfish, sea lice, that have been getting both me and Leo. So now Leo doesn't want to go back into the ocean.

Leo on the rocks

Today Leo did his first rock climbing. This place is one of the top rock climbing destinations in the world. The rocks are like going to a climbing gym - there's a zillion tall, skinny, wiry people climbing rocks next to each other, with their partners yelling up to them, "bomber hold just above your left hand!" Actually they are yelling that in French and Japanese. I haven't climbed in many years so we joined a small class - Leo, me and a young woman from Michigan. The teacher was more interested in flirting with the girl from Michigan than teaching, but Leo did make it up some of the rock. He was pretty apprehensive about the rope holding him though and the drop if it were to break. I will have to take him climbing in Colorado and show him how sticky the rock climbing shoes really are. Anyway, here he is on kid's rock:

If you can't see this, go to

This rock was right on the beach and at high tide, you can't get here. There was a nice high wall that the instructor said was a 5c rating (not sure what that means, but less than a 5.10) that I got to climb before I decided we were good for the day, even though our time was not up. Leo had given up a while ago, Paul had finished his hike and the instructor and other girl were anxious to get away...The view from the top was amazing - wish I had my camera!!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leo gives a tour of our traditional Thai house

We're staying at the Railei Beach Club in a house near my ex-boss' house. Haven't been here since the 90's and Railei Beach is now a big tourist destination. Oh, well. The houses at RBC are traditional Thai houses, built on stilts, with no A/C, no TV, and yet they cost a small fortune, especially during high season (now). But we're nestled up against the limestone cliffs and are living with the monkeys, frogs, birds, geckos, and crickets in traditional Thai style.

If you can't see this video, go to

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

We're in Railei Beach now which is a beautiful spot. Unfortunately, last night we went to a lovely restaurant on the beach and we went to the seafood bar and picked out clams and mussels for dinner. An hour later, Leo was home sick with a tummy ache and nausea and then barfing his dinner out. We slept a bit and then he was up again, losing his lunch this time, all over the bed. I didn't realize it took that long for noodle soup to digest. The neighbors were partying all night and we don't have air conditioning so we sleep with the whole house open - the doors are open, the windows have no glass or screens and are wide open. All in all, a hard night. And today, he's got a rising fever and still low energy and looking a little green.

We're hoping he gets better. He had a great time swimming yesterday and exploring the trails. We will postpone the kayaking and snorkeling trips and hole up in our room, under the mosquito net, watching movies on the ipad. Unfortunately, Netflix and other apps (PBS) won't let us stream videos here for some reason.

HEre's some pix of the elephant trekking up in Chiang Mai. Our 4 year old mahout is sitting on top of the elephant's head.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


The first couple days here, Leo only wanted to eat pizza, and the sumotius buffet breakfast at the 5-star conference hotel (omelet station, noodle soup station, sushi, chinese food, english desserts, crepe station, coffee bar, etc). The next two nights he made us eat at the same restaurant, an organic thai restaurant that played english movie videos. Last night i was able to get him to go to an authentic isaan (northeastern thai) restaurant. Really cheap and really spicy. Papaya salad with the raw fermented crab. Roasted river fish with the spicy sweet salty dipping sauce. Veggies dipped in deadly spicy roasted chili peppers. Sticky rice. At one point he took his sticky rice and was showing off that he could dip the whole thing into the spicy sauce. I can only touch the spicy sauce to the rice before i eat it. I warned him not to eat it but he did. He had to run back to the hotel feeling sick after that but recovered.

Thai style

We are slowly getting used to the time zone. Yesterday we signed up for an eco trek tour. We drove an hour around the city picking up other tourists from their hotels, then drove an hour to Mae Win, outside of Mae Wang, in the mountains. It was an nice drive although we are still alittle sick from the fumes. Some rice paddies, lots of mountains, lots of teak trees! We went to the Chiang Siam Elephant Camp where we boarded a 29 year old, 4 ton elephant and rode him, sitting in a metal bench tied to the elephant's back. A hilltribe villager was the mahout, or elephant trainer, and he rode, sitting on the head. This little guy could climb onto the elephant from the ground. His four year old son rode on the elephant's neck. The elephant walked these tiny hiking trails climbing up and down steep trails with us on its back.

We then hiked to a beautiful waterfall where Leo and I got soaking wet (the other tourists had been instructed to bring bathing suits and towels but not us), went down to see the Maetian mini hydro plant that was silted in, and went to a Karen hilltribe village which was really just a bunch of Karen handicraft shops where we felt obliged to buy stuff. Which we did. A simple lunch which was devoured quickly. Then we got on some bamboo rafts and went down the river. They had tied 9 long pieces of bamboo together with old cut up tires. We got really wet, but it was a nice exciting float down the river with little rapids and lots of Thais on the banks watching us - and taking our pictures. At the end, they sold us a framed photo of ourselves- $3, fixed price.

Last night we were awake enough to finally hit a night market, just outside our hotel. It was an authentic market, for Thais as well as turists, and packed with very creative and different kinds of handicrafts. Packed with people too. Leo got a bird whistle and has been having a field day with it.

Turns out that Leo is the name of Singha's low end beer, so there are signs for Leo everywhere and Leo bottle caps. He bought a tuk-tuk that is made out of Leo cans.

We leave Chiang Mai today for the beach.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Chiang Mai

We're in Chiang Mai, having just finished the conference and seeing my old colleagues. Leo's been having a hard time with the jetlag, sleeping at 3pm and waking at 3am. It's been hard for me to remember my Thai. But the food has been wonderful. My stomach has not been so happy with the raw fermented crab, but I'm hoping it gets used to the local bugs again! It's nice to be back. It's been nearly 10 years since I've been back and I still love it here.

Leo and Paul have been sightseeing while I'm at the conference. Here's some pix of their explorations. Leo learned to bow and wai to the Thais and started writing Thai script. We're hoping to take him to see the elephants tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Leo and Claudia broke out the new make-up kit (after Halloween special). They did the make-up themselves in front of the mirror. Freaked me out when I got home. The white hair stuff comes with the kit.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


We saw the cousins for dinner. Leo was the only kid eating beets. I was so proud. Last night at dinner I told him that I'd take him anywhere to eat and that someday we'd eat silkworm cocoons and fried bees and raw crab and all kinds of yummy things. He rolled his eyes at me and feigned a yawn and patted his open mouth. I guess he's 6 going on 16. I was expecting teenage disdain at some point, just didn't think it'd happen so young.

Leo Video 2010-2011

Every year for Pop-pop's birthday, I make a video. This year, it just wasn't getting finished, between travels to the east coast, Europe and Hawaii and everywhere else. This is the long version - a shorter version will follow at some point in the not too distant future for those who can't sit through 11 minutes of watching someone else's kid.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

If you can't see it, you can go to:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Leo's trip to the farm with the girls

Leo went to visit a friend's farm with his "girlfriend", Foster, and her sister Grayson, and two other friends. They had a blast, holding rabbits and visiting the goats and other animals. Foster and Grayson's mom is a saint for taking 5 kids an hour south to do the trip.

Leo and Foster

The goats

Leo and the girls

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Leo reads "Benny and Penny"

Porpor and Poppop helped Leo get his dream gift - a video camera spy watch. He spent the day trying out a zillion features and spying on us with video action that seems to work just as well in the dark as in daylight. It's a cool device. Anyway, for bedtime, instead of me reading him a book as usual, he read me "Benny and Penny", a cartoon book. He's practicing reading it as he will be reading it aloud for his class in a week.

If you can't see this clip, go to

Thursday, November 10, 2011

School Play - shadow puppets

Leo had his first school play yesterday. It was awesome. Just shows what a great teacher he has. Mr. Neiman made a school bus out of cardboard and the kids decorated it. They each made shadow puppets of Magic School Bus or Dr. Seuss characters. They each had lines and recorded their lines. They could just read them off the script. So when the shadow puppet play happens, they move the puppets around but don't say anything because they just play the recording from behind the screen.

Brilliant! It eliminates stage fright and the possibility of a kid forgetting their lines. This was the fourth performance, I think. They had done it a few times for the different grades at school to watch. Apparently the third or fourth graders were somewhat critical of them. Hopefully it was helpful criticism.

Anyway, Leo was "Thing 2" like from the Cat in the Hat. He has one long line at 7:33 into the play (in case you can't sit through it all!).

Negative numbers

At night, Leo and I cuddle in bed and talk about the day and then he goes to sleep. Tonight he told me that he knew what one minus six was. I said, "What?" He said, "negative five". I thought maybe someone had told him that so I said, "That's pretty good. What's one minus two?" He said, "negative one". I told him that was pretty cool that he could figure out negative numbers. He said he didn't really understand them and were they like a mirror? Yep, I said, just like a mirror.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Amersfoort and the bell tower in the Netherlands

I had a couple day stopover in the Netherlands to visit my friend Ernst and his 5 year old son, Ruben. Ernst teaches at Utrecht University and works in industrial energy efficiency. He taught me the first stuff I ever knew about power plants, nearly 20 years ago.

He lives in this planned community of some 15,000-20,000 folks. It's all funky architecture, tons of awesome bike paths, ring roads that make driving unpleasant and inconvenient, and schools and health facilities in the center of the community. The bike paths are great - bikes are separated from pedestrians as well as cars. You can ride side by side. No hills. It's completely pleasant and easy and the nicest way to get around. Even when you're as short as I am, and riding a bike made for someone 6 ft plus.

These houses are famous for their architecture:

We happened to be in Amersfoort on the last day they had the Onze Lieve Vrouwe tower open for tours. This is the second highest tower in the Netherlands and the x-y origin for Dutch maps, and it has a wonderful carillon. Ruben and I got to try our hand at carillon - you make a fist and hit the keys. Each key rings a different bell.

We got to climb the very narrow, dark, spiral staircase to the top and watch a carillon performance. If you can't see the video below, go to

P.S. Forgot to include this in the Denmark posting, but this was smallest thing I saw in Denmark - the bed. It was so small, I had to be careful not to fall off. That's my laptop on top for scale.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Denmark and Big Foot

This was the coolest thing I saw in Denmark: Big Foot!

I thought it was a giant Burning Man sculpture ready to be torched on the main plaza in Aarhus.
These are huge planks of lumber. Couldn't read the sign so I'm not sure what it was, but clearly a temporary art installation. Two days later, when I brought my colleagues to see it, it was gone!

Waterfall also in the main plaza:

Cathedral in the main plaza:

I counted myself very lucky to see an offshore wind farm from the train - at least 7 turbines off the coast near Middlefahrt.

As you'll notice from this sign, the Danish are very understated. This would never sell beer in the US. Probably the best beer in town. We're not sure though. Denmark is probably the best country between Germany and Sweden, too.

More Danish art. Tons of bikes, of course and this town was a little hilly.

I really wanted to buy some Lego's for Leo. I went to the big Lego store. Lego's cost twice as much in Denmark as they do in the US. This mural is made completely out of Lego's.

More art - big welded steel over brick with kids climbing it like a jungle gym. You'd never do this in the US.

Occupy Copenhagen was occupying one of the plazas in Copenhagen. It was pretty small, but at night they played techno music and had a nice light show about poverty, water, energy and the environment.