September 18-24, 2006
These pictures just in from David who lives in Brazil.
"My friend Robert was down from Canada last week and we took a trip up to Paracuru and Lagoinha, beach towns about an hour outside of Fortaleza. I am including pictures of some friends we made up there. It is a very friendly place! Pictures say it all!"
Yikes! 11:30 AM EDT:
-- Tanks are rolling through the streets of Bangkok, Thailand, amid rumors of a coup attempt, CNN confirms.
Watch CNN or log on to http://CNN.com and watch FREE video, plus live, commercial-free video with CNN Pipeline. CNN - The most trusted name in news.
Channel 9 and 5 have been ordered to stand by for special announcement as coup speculation reached the highest pitch.
Coup was widely speculated after many army units were moved out of their barracks on pretext of personnel rotation. Sources said Channel 5 would broadcast an announcement by the military at 10 pm while Channel 9 may broadcast announcement of caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from New York.
PPS: This from Andy Page in the UK:
'Coup' sparks Thailand emergency
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has declared a state of emergency in Bangkok amid reports of a coup attempt. Soldiers have entered Government House and tanks have moved into position around the building.
Mr Thaksin, who is at the UN in New York, announced he had removed the chief of the army and had ordered troops not to "move illegally".
An army-owned TV station is showing images of the royal family and songs linked in the past with military coups.
Correspondents say that there have been low-level rumours of a possible coup for weeks.
Thai media say that two army factions appear to be heading for a clash, with one side backing the prime minister and the other side backing a rebel army chief.
Our correspondent Jonathan Head said it was not clear which faction had taken the initiative.
He said there has been pressure growing on the prime minister to resign, following a political impasse in which April's general election was declared invalid.
But it was thought that Thailand was making progress towards holding another election later in the year, our correspondent says.
At the United Nations, where the annual General Assembly is under way, it was announced that the agenda had been changed to allow Mr Thaksin to address it in the coming hours.
September 19, 2006 12:25 p.m.
The Thai military launched a coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Tuesday night, circling his offices with tanks, seizing control of TV stations and declaring a provisional authority pledging loyalty to the king.
An announcement on Thai television declared that a "Council of Administrative Reform" with King Bhumibol Adulyadej as head of state had seized power in Bangkok and nearby provinces without any resistance.
At least 14 tanks surrounded Government House, Mr. Thaksin's office. Mr. Thaksin was in New York at the U.N. General Assembly and declared a state of emergency.
Mr. Thaksin said he was ordering the transfer of the nation's army chief to work in the prime minister's office, effectively suspending him from his military duties.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Monday, Mr. Thaksin dismissed any possibility of a military takeover in his country, adding that a recent assassination attempt-- while possibly linked to members of the Thai military - - was "not a coup."
"I know there are those who really support me and those who are against me," he said. But he suggested that any opposition from the military was confined to rogue elements in its ranks or older generals that don't represent the wishes of the broader Thai armed forces.
He also dismissed the possibility that Thailand's revered king or his advisers are playing any meaningful role in the country's political drama.
"His Majesty is not really involved in politics. We should not bring him into politics," he said. Some analysts believe that Thailand's king has given his tacit endorsement to military coups in Thailand in past decades.
Mr. Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai Party has twice won landslide election victories, in 2001 and 2005 and was expected to win the next vote, bolstered by their widespread support in the country's rural areas. But the prime minister has faced calls to step down amid allegations of corruption and abuse of power.
Massive rallies earlier this year forced Mr. Thaksin to dissolve parliament and call for a snap election in April. The poll was boycotted by opposition parties and later annulled by Thailand's top courts, leaving the country without a working legislature. New elections are scheduled for Oct. 15 but were likely to be postponed until at least November.
More bombings and arson attacks occurred Monday in violence-wracked southern Thailand, where a Muslim insurgency has killed more than 1,700 people since 2004.
PPPPS: From CNN:
(Reuters) -- Following are several recent political developments in Thailand leading to Tuesday's declaration of a state of emergency by Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra:
Finally, it had come down to a military showdown
Fighting vehemently to ward off a coup plot against his government while he was still in New York, caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra had to act first. He went on TV Channel 9 at about 10:20 PM in a voiceover to head off the coup at home by placing Bangkok under an emergency law.
Strangely enough, other TV channels did not cover the prime minister's speech. TV Channel 5 still aired a programme about the royal activities as if nothing had happened. But the Thais all knew that something very unusual was going on when Channel 5, controlled by the Royal Army, removed its usual programme from the air.
Rumours had swirled around the capital since the morning that a coup was imminent. There were unusual troop movements from the upcountry moving into Bangkok. The two persons who got the most attention from the Thaksin camp were Gen Sonthi Boonyaratklin, the army chief, and Gen Anupong Phaochinda, the head of the First Infantry Division.
The First Infantry Division had turned out to become the headquarters of unusual troop|movements. One military source said troops from Prachin Buri, which used to be under Gen Anupong, were arriving at the First Infantry Division on the Viphavadee Rangsit Road in the evening. They were joined by the troops of the Special Warfare Command from Lopburi, which used to be under the command of Gen Sonthi.
But the members of Class 10 of the Chulachom Klao Military Academy, who are loyal to Thaksin, were standing by. They knew that the final showdown had come. They got the Third and Fourth Calvary Battalion, the AntiAircraft Artillery prepared within their barracks.
There was a tense confrontation between the two opposing sides. Who would blink first?
Whoever moved first in this dangerous game could be charged with treason against the state or the Constitution.
A fuming Thaksin had realised all along that his battle against the Thai elite would boil down to this military confrontation. Through a voiceover heard over Channel 9, Thaksin read out the emergency statement ordering Gen Sonthi to report to the Office of the Prime Minister under the command of Pol Gen Chidchai Vanasaditya, the deputy prime minister.
This technically amounted to a removal of Sonthi from his powerful post. He then assigned Ruengroj Mahasaranond, the supreme commander, to be in charge of all aspects of security in Bangkok.
Thaksin learnt about the plot while he was in New York. At 9pm Bangkok time, he went to his hotel room and called the reporters from the Mass Communication Organisation of Thailand and Channel 11 to tell them that he would have an important message to tell them.
As it turned out, he would declare a state of emergency covering Bangkok in order to preempt a military coup at home. He thought he had an upper hand because he was an elected leader of a democratic country.
But logistics did not go his way. Thaksin planned to have his message sent via satellite signal to Channel 9. But he was told that it could not be done technically. It would work out better if he spoke over the phone directly to the TV channel.
Thaksin decided to switch to Channel 11 to air his state of emergency declaration. But before he could do so, the military took over Channel 11. The editors and reporters were taken to another room.
All the other statecontrolled TV stations, owned by the military, were ordered to stand by to air an important message.
But somehow Thaksin did not face a total blackout. He was allowed to air his state of emergency declaration on Channel 9, with a still photo of him accompanied by his live telephone speech.
Sources said the military confrontation could last until tomorrow while all the combat military personnel were summoned to station in their bases.
At the time of going to the press, nobody would dare predict the final outcome.
Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai appeared on CNN to try to calm the international audience, who had been wondering all along about the timing of the new election, about the political crisis in the capital. He said the army chief was trying to oust the democratically elected government and that Thaksin was still prime minister.
But a few minutes later, at 11pm, the Gen Sonthi camp effectively took over with tanks parking at all the strategic places around the capital.
A military coup was finally staged.
It was as much a military war as a media war for control of the time slot.
A statement was read out through all the TV channels that all the armed and police forces had taken control of Bangkok and the neighbouring areas without resistance. The names of the coup leaders, who called themselves a military reformist unit, were withheld. To maintain peace, the statement on behalf of the Political Reform Group sought cooperation from the public to maintain peace. It also apologised for any inconvenience the coup may cause to the Thai public.
At first, it looked like a deadlock situation, without any party showing an upper hand or a convincing victory as yet. The situation was very confusing and remained very fluid.
Troops supporting to the Thaksin camp still put up a resistance as of last night. There were reports that troops from Prachin Buri and Chacheongsao would move into the capital early this morning to fortify the position of Gen Sonthi.
As the day was over, it appeared that the Gen Sonthi camp gained the advantage. Gen Sonthi appeared from the shadow to make a countermove by announcing a state of emergency to override Thaksin's announcement earlier. He forbid any troop movements without his order.
Political sources said it would be interesting to see how the confrontation would develop and how the Thaksin camp would rally supporters to protest against the coup.
Nobody could predict the final outcome as Thaksin looked serious that he would fight to his political end. Thaksin could go to the UN to tell the whole world not to accept the coup at home.
The Sonthi camp has also crossed the threshold into uncharted territories.
-- The Nation 2006-09-20
PPPPPPS: What Thai TV viewers saw on their screens.
PPPPPPPS: From my minder in Bangkok:
Attention American Citizens:
A group calling itself the Committee for Democratic Reform under the Monarchy as Head of State has apparently seized control of the government institutions in Bangkok and declared martial law.
We have seen various reports that the military has deployed troops around key government facilities and other strategic locations around Bangkok.
There are no indications of any violence at this point.
We advise all American Citizens to continue to monitor the situation closely, avoid any large gatherings and exercise discretion when moving about the city.
At this point, we are not advising Americans to leave Thailand; however, Americans planning to travel to Thailand may wish to carefully consider their options before traveling until the situation becomes clearer.
The Embassy will continue to follow developments closely. If there is any important information regarding the security of US citizens the Embassy will post it on the U.S. Embassy Bangkok and Department of State websites.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 95 Wireless Road,
American Citizen Services Unit Window Hours:
Tel: +66-2-205-4049 Fax: +66-2-205-4103 E-mail: email@example.com
U.S. Department of State travel website: http://travel.state.gov
When Jon was in Bangkok last week he took these photos of Athenee Residence. At the time that he clicked the shutter the contractor had started work on the 35th floor; five more to go.
This morning Patty sent some photos of Ellie playing soccer; she is the girl kicking in the goal.
PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT - THAILAND
1. This Public Announcement is being issued to alert U.S. Citizens traveling to and residing in Thailand to the recent military coup in Thailand. This Public Announcement expires December 19.
2. On September 19 a military group calling itself the Council for Democratic Reform Under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) seized control of the Thai government and declared martial law. The CDRM banned any political gathering of more than five persons. The CDRM also banned the hoarding of goods or the increasing of the price of goods of any kind. The CDRM announced it will appoint a civilian government within two weeks as the first step to returning the country to democratic government.
3. The military deployed troops around key government facilities and other strategic locations, but there is little visible military presence elsewhere. There have been no indications or reports of any violence at this time.
4. Road traffic throughout the country continues to flow normally, although at reduced volumes. Public transportation is in service and all airports and most border crossings appear to be operating as normal. There have been reports of difficulty crossing the border with Burma at Mae Sot and Ranong. Americans who are scheduled to fly into or out of Thailand in the coming days are encouraged to contact their airline to ensure that the flight schedule has not been changed.
5. Given the fluidity of the current situation, the Department of State advises all American Citizens in Thailand to continue to monitor events closely, to avoid government installations and any large public gatherings and to exercise discretion when moving about.
6. The Department of State and the Embassy in Bangkok are continuing to follow developments closely. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements can be found. Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
7. American citizens traveling or residing in Thailand are encouraged to register with the Department of State or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate General. American citizens may also register at https://travelregistration.state.gov. The Embassy is located at 95 Wireless Road in Bangkok. The American Citizen Services Unit of the U.S. Embassy can be reached by calling 66-2-205-4049 and by e-mail at ACSBKK@STATE.GOV. The Consulate General is located at 387 Wichayanond Road, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand. The telephone number is 66-53-252-629.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 95 Wireless Road,
American Citizen Services Unit Window Hours:
Tel: +66-2-205-4049 Fax: +66-2-205-4103 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Department of State travel website: http://travel.state.gov
David takes you on a long walk down his Brazilian beach. (*)
(*) As part of a sales pitch:
"Here are some pictures of the boardwalk, which is called the Beira Mar (literally Edge of the Sea), which runs from my apartment for 4 kilometers. My apartment is still for sale. This is where I walk every morning."
For two nights running we have dined at our favorite Asian restaurant, Coco. Watcharee always tilts to the Thai side of the menu while I usually bend to the Japanese entries. I know that my current obsession with Asian food must push some readers into Burger King drive-thru ... but ... it IS my blog.
PS: It appears that the local cop shop is keeping an eye on what we read.
PPS: Both are good reads; the best arguments against the existence of a God that I have come across. In his book Sam Harris points the reader to http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com. It is a good direction.
Stephani's building is gradually getting more windows. The earlier photos show it in January and August.
There is a squirrel in our tree.
I need to get back to Bangkok.
"Your recent posts definitely suggest that, Alf."
PS. This PS should really have been posted a few days ago but I did not have the text at the time. Andy Page from the UK sends this amplification of the 50th anniversary of the first disc drive computer. If you go back a few days and look at the IBM being off loaded from a 707 you will see how far we have come.
Sunday September 24, 2006
The hard disk is 50 years old this month. On 13 September 1956, IBM unveiled its IBM 305 Ramac computer, whose major selling point was that it had something called a 'disk drive': the 350 Disk File unit. Up to then, data had been stored either on magnetic drums or on tape, either of which made accessing files a painfully slow process. The 350 Disk File offered a blessed release from this torment. It consisted of a rack of 50 24-inch, magnetically coated platters mounted on a single vertical spindle and rotating at high speed. In between the platters, and looking rather like a giant animated hair-comb, was an assembly of read-write heads that clacked in and out, reading or writing data from and to the disks and passing the information to and from the machine's processor.
The drive was the size of two large refrigerators, weighed a ton (literally) and was leased to customers at an annual rental of $35,000, which, according to my calculations, would be about $250,000 in today's money.
But corporate customers thought it a bargain because it meant that their (very expensive) mainframe computers were suddenly more versatile as well as faster. A digital computer works by taking data from a permanent storage medium, carrying out operations on that data and then writing the results back into storage. The slowest part of this process was getting stuff out of, and into, storage, and hard disks offered a way of easing the bottleneck. The result: more data, processed faster.
IBM's colossal spinning plate-rack held a grand total of 4.4 megabytes of data, which is not quite enough space to store the copy of Eric Clapton's 'Lonely Stranger ' that I carry round on my iPod. The hard disk in the iPod is just 1.8 inches in diameter, and yet it can store 60 gigabytes of data, which is almost 14,000 times the capacity of the 350 Disk File. The drive in my laptop is 2.5 inches in diameter and has a capacity of 120 gigabytes. Next year's model will doubtless hold 200 gigabytes. And so it goes on.
At one level, the story of the hard disk industry is a metaphor for the development of the entire computer industry: double the performance for half the price with every passing year.
When the Harvard scholar Clayton Christensen was embarking on the research for his seminal book The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail, a friend gave him some astute advice.
'Those who study genetics avoid studying humans,' he said. 'Because new generations come along only every 30 years or so, it takes a long time to understand the cause and effect of any changes. Instead, they study fruit flies, because they are conceived, born, mature, and die all within a single day. If you want to understand why something happens in business, study the disk drive industry. Those companies are the closest things to fruit flies that the business world will ever see.'
Fascinating though it is in business terms, the breakneck evolution of hard drive technology is actually the least interesting part of the story. Far more significant is what that technology has made possible. It has effectively reduced the cost of storing data so close to zero as to make no difference. That's why Google can offer two gigabytes of free personal data storage to anyone who signs up for Gmail. Without cheap and boundless mass storage, companies like Google, Amazon and eBay couldn't exist, and services like Apple's iTunes, Wikipedia and the Internet Archive would be unthinkable.
As with all technologies, there is a darker side to the storage revolution triggered by IBM in 1956. For example, it's what enables the National Security Agency, if it chooses to do so, to store on its servers a copy of every email ever dispatched by a US citizen. It enables phone companies to store detailed records of every phone call you make in your lifetime, and turns national DNA and ID-card databases into feasible propositions.
No matter how one views the impact of hard drive technology, one thing is unarguable: it's been given a raw deal by history. The story of computing has hitherto been told almost entirely in terms of advances in processors and networks. But the truth is that nothing that we take for granted today would be possible without the vast, fast, cheap mass storage provided by hard disks.
Not surprisingly, the Cinderella status accorded to their achievements infuriates the industry's leaders, who feel they don't get the respect they deserve.
'Instead of Silicon Valley, they should call it Ferrous Oxide Valley,' Mark Kryder, chief technical officer of hard disk manufacturer Seagate, complained last month. (Ferrous oxide is what provides the magnetic coating on a hard disk.) 'It wasn't the microprocessor that enabled the personal video recorder - it was storage.'
He's right. But nobody in the computer industry will thank him for saying it. Which only goes to show that if you want gratitude in this life, buy a dog.
PPS: To show how fast things are moving ahead even of "AOL Write Mail" the above words in this article were flagged as spelling mistakes by its Spell-Check:
Next: Part IV