Saturday, January 27, 2018

Banana Bella Shutdown Contest: The Winner

Before I announce the winner of the Banana Bella contest, I'd like to thank all of the participants who played, and proved it. It's a lot of fun for me to see who does these things. I love hearing from you.

A few of you told me you'd completed the search, but didn't send me proof of your success. For you, I'm going to fall back on an ancient adage: pics, or it didn't happen.

The Kid picked this round's Banana Bella winner at approximately 6:26pm(UTC+07:00). All entrants' names were written on an equally sized slip of post-it note, which was then folded to prevent cheating. The papers were shaken by hand, and shoved into the back of a toy truck. The Kid chose the winning slip from the back without prompting, and handed it to me for the big announcement.

And the winner is...

Truly, Terry wins it again. This guy wins just about every contest he enters. He wins so many contests, that a total win count is included on his annual family Christmas card. 2017's count, according to the card, was 45 contest wins. 45!

We're very happy for you, Terry, and we're probably going to forget to tell you about the next Banana Bella. Give people a chance, man.

Until next time (except for you, Terry)!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Banana Bella Shutdown Contest

Phil is an essential government employee. That's not just the biased opinion of a wife. When he reported to work this morning, he was informed that his work is essential because he helps protect life and property. Phil is required to work through the shutdown, though he is not currently being paid.

The general expectation is that federal employees impacted by the shutdown will be given back pay, but there is no guarantee. As a casual observer with a touch of legal education, I've been lightly researching what sort of issues could arise if the feds don't provide back pay to an essential employee.

The bottom line is, I'm mad. I'm mad about the shut down, and I'm mad about the comments on Delta's new animal policy. I'm mad about air pollution in Bangkok, and I'm mad about a few others things that I can't remember right at this second. I've reached a mad breaking point, and have decided to channel all of this anger into a BANANA BELLA SHUTDOWN CONTEST!!!!!

You may remember last year's challenge. You were asked to comb through this blog to find six hidden photos of Banana Bella. This year's contest is more contained. Finish the word search below, send us photographic proof of your triumph (text, email, FB, Instagram, USPS, FedEx, whatever), and you'll gain an entry into our Banana Bella drawing. The winner will receive a fabulous prize, courtesy of Banana Bella herself. 

All proof must be received by the end of the normal, functioning, workweek: Friday (1/26) at 5:00pm PST. Start searching.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Christmas Card Challenge 2017: The Double Duel Has Begun

It is January 19th, and I don't think we'll be receiving any more holiday cards. I've cut the ceremonial tape, placed the cards on the wall, and officiated a very brief commemoration, attended only by Bella and myself, in which I gave a short speech in my head about how meaningful it is to hear from friends every year. It was very moving.

And, so, The Year of the Double Duel has begun.

May your tape be adhesive, your card be sticky, and your year be blessed with the glory of a champion.

I realize that "double duel" probably isn't the correct way of phrasing what we're doing here, but it sounds good, so it stands.
Challenge 2017 is on top, Challenge 2016 (still uncooperative) is on bottom.
For more information about this year's challenge, or for general background on what the **** this thing is, see: HERE.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Ten thousand years ago, we took a day trip to Ayutthaya. I snapped a bunch of photos for you, then left them on my phone until it was factory reset after a poorly designed update. Fortunately for all of us, the photos were automatically uploaded to my Google account. Thus, behold:

Ayutthaya is another old city. Unlike the previous old cities we've visited, this one is in Asia. It was a pretty important city in Asia, as the second capital city of Siam, and was a major international trading hub. Ayutthaya hit its peak around 1300-1700 AD, before it was sacked by the Burmese. The majority of the city was destroyed, but the ruins are impressive.

Ayutthaya was constructed along a grid pattern. Streets and canals were carefully planned to take advantage of the naturally occurring water resources. The city sits at the crossroads of three big rivers, and had an advanced irrigation system. Ayutthaya had extensive international ties, and a blended international and local population. It's similar to Bangkok, which became the capital after Ayutthaya fell. It was in a strategic location, with a solid economy, and knew how to cater to expats. One dissimilarity is that Bangkok is super sprawly.

Most of the visible ruins in Ayutthaya were parts of monasteries. Not a lot of other structures survived. The ruins are spread over a wide territory, and we've heard that it's best to see them from a bicycle. We drove, and walked. We did not see everything. They do offer elephant rides around some of the ruins, but we were able to resist that urge. There's broad consensus that those touristy Thailand elephant rides are not good for the elephants. Google it.

Normally, the very thorough historian in me likes to caption every photo, but I cannot remember what it all is. This was October. It might as well have been fifteen years ago. I remember going into one structure (the fourth photo above the top of this paragraph) that had a very narrow stairway leading down into the rock. At the base of the staircase, you could duck under an overhang and look up at several really rad, old murals. Phil said it felt like Indiana Jones. I said it felt like claustrophobia. 

One other thing I can remember is that a lot of the Buddha figures were missing their heads. This isn't some sort of weird natural phenomenon, they were systematically looted. There are a few that are still fully intact. I did a little bit of Googreasearch to determine whether it's disrespectful to photograph depictions of Buddha. Most sources say it's okay, provided you're not doing something else that's disrespectful, e.g. standing on Buddha, mocking Buddha, pulling down your pants and taking a photo of your naked butt for your Instagram (this honest-to-goodness just happened at Wat Arun in Bangkok). Depictions of Buddha are not worshipped as idols, but Buddhists will often show religious devotion in front of a depiction to show reverence for Buddha's teachings. 

This is one of the most photographed places in Thailand. There used to be a large statue of Buddha at this site, but it crumbled. The tree grew up around the head of the Buddha. 

Ayutthaya is not too far from Bangkok. We went with Phil's family. We couldn't all fit in our car, so we rented a sixteen passenger van. There were only six of us, so that left ten seats of open space. It was awesome. I want to road trip like that from now on. Visiting Ayutthaya was the first time we got out of Bangkok since we arrived. Living in Bangkok is like living in a convenient, multicultural island, and I am starting to get some serious island fever, man. I cannot wait to see more of this country.