March 26, 2011


What a whirlwind.   Really this trip has been absolutely splendid, in thanks to the most excellent hosts I’ve met along the way.  JohnMc picking me up at the airport and taking me out for a pint or 5. RogerW for making me feel like an important and valued part of the conference.  SamB and Pavel both serving as friendly faces in an unknown universe.  Rick & Kathy who drove me 1.5 hrs out to Giant’s Causeway out of sheer generosity on their way back to Coulraine (including getting me to a train headed back to Belfast).  I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.  Even won 25 quid on a horserace while I was waiting for my train.  What will tonight hold?   sleep.

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ARC 2011 Conference in Belfast: Day 1

March 23, 2011


The conference just began.   The high sheriff of Belfast and head of the engineering college just said a few words to get things  kicked things off.  Roger Woods has organized the group – there’s about 50-55 people here.  Lots of international folk, including many from Japan.  All presentations are running back-to-back in the same room.  Here’s a recent presenter.

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U.S. Politics: What is the origin of political party colors: red for the GOP, blue for Democrats?

January 9, 2011

U.S. Politics: What is the origin of political party colors: red for the GOP, blue for Democrats? 1 answer on Quora

What is the origin of political party colors: red for the GOP, blue for Democrats?

Did elves and dwarves originate from the Lord of the Rings book? Did Hobbits?

January 9, 2011

Did elves and dwarves originate from the Lord of the Rings book? Did Hobbits? 3 answers on Quora

Did elves and dwarves originate from the Lord of the Rings book? Did Hobbits?

Will John Elway be the next head coach for the Denver Broncos?

January 4, 2011

Will John Elway be the next head coach for the Denver Broncos? Write an answer on Quora

Will John Elway be the next head coach for the Denver Broncos?

Ko Phi Phi

December 30, 2010

August 24. Got up at 6:00AM. Got into bus until ferry, and then 1.5 hours in ferry. Enjoy hotel and beach.

Aguust 25. Snorkeling around Ko Phi Phi Lao

August 26. Rest. Go to view point. Mention the sea was gone by the time we wanted to visit the other beach

August 27. Diving. Awesome wild life in the reef.

August 28 – Trip to Ko Samui. 7 hours boat + bus

Ko Samui – Diving day

December 30, 2010

Darin and Claudia diving at Sail Rock

Darin pets an anemony trying to bug the poor clown fish


December 30, 2010

August 23 – Leaving Chiang Mai hotel, we got to the airport and Darin asked me as a joke if I had my money belt. After all the hard time I had given him about his moeny clip lost in the jungle and I had left my money belt behind.

We had to cath another tazi back to the hotel where I luckily found my money belt with passports and money in my hiding spot. What a relief. Now, back to the aiport to cath our flight to Phuket.

One night only. Not much going on…. finally beach. All day rain.

Chiang Mai – Elephant sanctuary

September 1, 2010

On August 22 we woke up to heavy rain. It had been raining all night and it was promising to rain all day long…. which meant we would spent the visit to the elephant sanctuary in our rain jackets.

We visited the following place:

It was founded by Sangduen Chailert, a little Thai woman that everyone calles Lek (which means small in thai). I recommend you to see the documentaries related to this place. Her story and efforts are truly inspiring.

As soon as we got there they gave us an orientation and then we went out to feed the elephants. They have rescued so far 32 elephants, and they have two babies (4 months and 6 months old) that were born in the park. There was one elephant pregnant, Malai Tong, when we went to visit, and they said it was a matter of days until she would give birth. We have not heard whether she has given birth yet or not… she only walked on three legs because one of her feet was blown by a land mine. Still she managed to get pregnant. Pregnancy in elephants takes almost 2 years (2 months short from 2 years). Once she gives birth they are planning to do a short operation to help her with her leg.

Most of the elephants in the park have sad stories, although with a happy ending. Most of them, except one, where born domesticated. Some years ago, domesticated elephants were used in the logging industry, but in the recent years Thailand banned logging because the floods during the monsoon were becoming more and more violent the more trees they lost in their forest. That left a lot of elephants without a job. Some were abandoned, some were sold to Burma (where logging is still legal), and others are being used in the tourist industry (in most cases in terrible conditions). Thai law protects wild elephants, but domestic elephants are considered cattle and, as such, are not protected by any law. Some villages still use elephants for their chores, but they do not have a good way to train them. So far villages use very violent methods to break the elephants into obedience (a ritual called paah jaan, where when the elephant reaches 4 years old it is subjected to torture to break the bond with its mother).

The following links take you to good articles about asian elephants and their situation in Thailand. As usual, with any of these cases, the situation is controversial:,+Chiang+Mai,+Thailand?destId=357655

What I really liked about the sanctuary is that it also works as an elephant hospital, giving care to any elephant that needs care for free so their own owners take them there, and it also supports programs to re-educate the mahoots (the elephant riders). The elephant sanctuary knows it cannot rescue all the elephants in thailand, and the domesticated elephants need their humans.

The sanctuary is now acquiring another piece of land that is more remote where they are going to set free the elephants that are in good condition. The land is big enough that the elephants will be able to learn to be free.

All other elephants that require special care (the ones with only three legs, or broken hips, or blind, or too old) will stay in the sanctuary that is visited by tourists. The elephants are not ridden. The only thing you do as a tourist is feed them watermelon, sugar cane, pumpkins, cucumbers, etc. Most of the money that funds the sanctuary comes form the tourists visitors… there are some that even pay to stay a week and work at the sanctuary… which looked really cool but we did not plan for it.

The first elephant we met was Hope. This little elephant was born at a village and her mother died. The village called Lek to rescue him.  He was pretty hard to convince at first, but he finally understood that Lek loved him. Now he kisses tourists to make sure he gets a lot of sugar cane.

Hope kisses Claudia so he gets a sugar cane

Hope kisses Darin so he gets a sugar cane

The next elephants we met were Mae Do and her best friend Mae Mai. We fed them pumpkin and cucumber. Mae Do used to work in logging industry. She had an accident and injure her leg, and then the owner sent her to a breading camp. One fo the elephants that was trying to mount her stepped on her and broke her hip. Her story is one of the saddest (

Darin feeds Mae Do. Next to Mae Do is her best friend, Mae Mai.

Claudia feeds Mae Do

After lunch it stopped raining and got hot enough that the elephants wanted to bathe at the river. There you have the chance to throw water to their backs while they enjoy the water (an elephant showered powered by humans).

Sunny again. Darin is happy. In the background, the elephants head to the river for a bath.

Darin splashes water on Hope's back

Hope keeps trying to kiss people... trying to see if he gets more sugar cane.

The two baby elephants with their mothers + nannies + young females now approach the water. Tourist are not allowed near them because elephants are very protective with their young.

The two baby elephants with their mothers + nannies + young females tkae a bath.

Female baby elephant plays with a string.

Darin and Claudia pose with "mini me" elephant

After the bath we had the opportunity to give the elephants treats once more. They eat all day, but they know the tourist schedule perfectly well, so they come back at the right time to complement their grass and leaves menu with some treats gathered by humans. We fed Lily, an elephant that was given anphethamines to make her continue working night and day. She was very anxious to grab all her treats.. so much that she grabbed the basket and emptied it in her mouth. At the end of the day we also had a chance to feed the babies and their entourage of mother + grandmother + young females + nannies.

Darin and "mini me"

Claudia feeding an impatient Lily

Overall, a lovely day… good to see elephants happy and that there are programs that will help the everyday owner to lead a better life with their domesticated elephant.

You can read more stories of the elephants at the following link:

Chiang Mai – Cooking class

August 30, 2010

We slept in on August 21… we had been too active the previous days.

In the afternoon we looked into the other activities we wanted to do: a thai cooking class, visit an elephant sanctuary, and watch some real thai boxing.

We booked our trip to the elephant sanctuary for the next day, and we decided on a cooking class from 4PM to 8PM for this afternoon.

The cooking class started with a short trip to the market to learn about the ingredients.

At the market choosing the cooking ingredients

At the market choosing the ingredients

Claudia and Darin before the cooking class begins

We learn how to cook 4 different plates each, including making our own curry powder.

Darin cooked: Papaya salad, Hot and Sour Prawn soup, Green Curry with Chicken, Chicken with Cashew in Oyster Sauce.

Claudia cooked: Spring Rolls (veggie), Tom Ka Ghai soup, Pad Thai with Chicken, Red Curry with Chicken.

Darin declares war against the raw vegetables

Darin and Claudia cooking curry.... without air conditioning

Claudia cooking Pad Thai

GLUTONY.... Claudia and Darin eat ALL of the things they cooked

After the cooking class we decided we needed to go for a walk to try burn some calories. The chef dropped us off at the Saturday Walking Market. This market is only open on Saturdays and a lot more local people visit it. It was nice to be out of the tourist trap markets… we even bought a few souvenirs and gifts.