Thursday, April 30, 2009

Filbert on a Bike

A Final Glimpse of My Week in Thailand

Before April ends in a couple of hours ( has already ended where some of you live), I want to at least record a few great moments or memories from my time in Thailand earlier this month. 

First, I was there for Palm Sunday and that was a great blessing in many ways. 

Second, the group gathered for the conference was divided into a few smaller groups which met a number of times through the week to update each other about life and work over the past year and then to pray for those who had shared on that day. Again, a huge blessing for me to be able to participate in this. I am often amazed by the goodness of praying with people -- and the extreme goodness of God who had made the way for us to come directly to Him with our everything.

Third, I got to meet and then spend some time with a new friend of a friend who was a new friend last Spring. (Don't worry, there won't be a quiz.) We emailed this photo (I hear they are called "selfies" when you take a photo of yourself or yourself with others) from my phone of the two of us drinking a coffee toast to Julie who was in southern California working on her PhD and kicking butt in a battle with melanoma. 

Fourth, I had a chance to actually get to know April who I'd first met at a Conference in Orlando in 2007. (Filbert got in on this photo -- silly creature that he is.) She lives and works in a country that is on my "I'd like to go there" list -- so visiting her there is one more reason why I should. 

And finally...

This locus was captured by one of the children at the Conference who was playing with it. It was brought to me at the breakfast table as an illustration of the type of treat we'd discussed the night before as being a delicious snack. I did NOT eat this winged creature. To my knowledge, no one did. 

So, the summary of my week in Thailand is that it was a great time of being blessed and of connecting with people and of seeing some beautiful things. 

$19.16 for Diet Canada Dry?

I could get over the fact the the person who stocked this shelf did not face it correctly. I could even make an excuse for that employee, letting myself believe that customers flipped the cases of soda so they'd not be "right." Contrary to what at least a few of you might think, I could even pass by this shelf without straightening these products. 

What caught my attention and I could not ignore was this signage and these posted prices. What were they thinking? If you know anything about retail, you've heard of price point. While I do not understand all of the ins and outs of economics, I do understand the basic principles of "customary price point" which rely on the fact that people are used to paying a certain price for a product and when that product is priced higher than the customary price, sales drop. 

I personally think that this was a mental game that Target was playing with customers. The reality is, the prices of canned soda are increasing and I suspect that when the new prices hit the shelves, people cut back on soda purchases. How do you get buying started again?  

Pepsi packages their 12 ounce cans in cases of 8 instead of 12, making the per package price less (but not that much less) than the 12 can case. (This makes me crazy -- like all of the companies which now put 1.75 quarts of ice cream in the traditionally "half gallon" container.)  

The other option -- the one that may have been happening here at Target -- is to shock customers with significantly higher prices and then come down just enough that they start buying again. (Or they could be "over pricing" this product line in order to make us feel better about what they are charging for Coke and Pepsi products.)

If you live in the States, don't you feel a lot better about $2.19 per gallon gasoline and about driving an SUV than you did when gas was about this price BEFORE it went up to $4 a gallon?  

Now, let's not forget that I really do not understand consumer economics in any academic sense. I do know that my reaction to this is "do they really think anyone will pay $19.16 for soda?" knowing full well that people spend well over that for soda all the time. The difference is, they do it $3 and $4 at a time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Originally uploaded by Mali Anta
So, when you look at this image (I hope you find it as beautiful as I do) what characteristics of God do you see expressed? We are -- each one of us -- created in the image of God and we do -- whether it is intentional on our part or not -- reflect His character in our living. What do you see?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Flowers @ Wang Tarn: THE VIDEO

Simple video taken with my Canon Cyber-shot. No production or editing. That means no music and no titles. Just flowers and birdsong and the occasional sound of me moving the camera and walking. 


:: the fear of what will happen if you blog one month's life events and insightful thoughts and meandering wonderings in a different (and obviously later) month ::

If you've been following this blog for long, you know that I often blog more consistently when I am quite busy as all that busyness gives me something to blog about and at those times I'm also paced to be productive. This is how I am wired.

This has been a busy month in some respects, but where I have been most of the month has been beyond the reach of consistent and easily accessible internet connectivity. This means that I have only a few days left in the month of April and quite a few things from April which I'd planned to blog (I've taken photos to illustrate those not-yet-composed ramblings) left on the list. 

One thing I've noted is that if I let these kinds of things carry over (like roll-over minutes on my cell plan, which I think are great) then it clogs up my motivation and thinking for the new things that come.  So, this morning I am deciding that I'll blog what I blog and then move on.

I'm so relieved. 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wycliffe's Spring Scripture Celebration

This morning I had the privilege of serving as host of a Celebration gathering at Wycliffe USA's headquarters in Orlando.

We did a live web stream broadcast of the event -- announced on Twitter and through other social media -- and for a first time I'd say it was a great success. These are the kinds of things you want to do once or twice before you promote them broadly. It's just not good practice to make the promise of an invitation until you are confident that you can follow through.

The web cast is still available if you are interested in watching it (embedded above). The program is around an hour long. I've not watched it myself yet -- but I was there live and can tell you that it was a blessing to celebrate the Word in this way!

Operation: Ukraine Vacation


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Another King...and Filbert

Last year when I traveled to Thailand a couple of friends who live or have lived there helped me know about some of the cultural things that could trip me up as an American in this culture. (Not only do I try to not be offensive when I travel, I try to find out if there are things that I can do that will express my respect and appreciation to those who I encounter along the way. Getting some insider insight can be very helpful in that venture.)

Thailand has a king. (Under the Constitution of 1978, Thailand has a British-style cabinet form of government with King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX, 1946- ) reigning as constitutional monarch and Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanonda heading the government.) He is loved by many, but not all of the citizens of Thailand. Culturally it is expected that all people -- Thai citizens and foreign guests -- will conduct themselves in ways that show respect for the King whose image is on all the paper money and whose photo is found in just about every public place. Actually, it's more than just a cultural expectation -- it is constitutional law.

This photo is of Filbert in a tiki hut bar on the Wang Tarn property where we stayed. It was not in use while we were there. While a framed image of the king hung in the reception area of the resort, his image could be found in a number of other locations like this one. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

NBC's Kings - A Fascinating Tale

I'm not sure what it is about the show that has captured my attention, but it has. I am proof (anecdotal proof at least) that the plan worked. NBC made the series premier of this new show available on iTunes as a FREE download and I nabbed it figuring that it might be a good diversion on a long flight. I watched it in parts on my flights back and forth to Asheville this past week.

Yesterday I was looking to see if I could set the DVR to record new episodes and discovered that there are no new episodes to record. Then I found that episodes 2-5 were available on Prime Time On Demand (also FREE) or on the NBC website so I could catch up on what I'd missed. 

New episodes will be available in June.

This is what they'd hoped -- that those of us who'd like the show who'd also resist watching the first broadcasts (for whatever reasons) would watch the first one on our iPhones because FREE is hard to resist. And, once we'd see it, we would get hooked.

So, not only have I become a cautious but enthusiastic fan of this interesting story, I am a fan of their plan to beat the odds in a time when there are so many options competing for share of mind that traditional series premiers are very easily missed.

Pictured: (l-r) Sebastian Stan as Jack Benjamin, Allison Miller as Michelle Benjamin, Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose Benjamin, Ian McShane as King Silas Benjamin, Chris Egan as David Shepherd -- NBC Photo: Andrew Eccles

Friday, April 24, 2009

Spring in Asheville

This blog does not need my words to give it purpose or clarity. Oh, I do love Spring and am so very grateful for the days I got to spend in Asheville, North Carolina where Spring is exploding!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Filbert Forages for Food

Filbert is a well-fed critter, but his nature is to forage and to store food for later ("just in case") so he has a challenge balancing his nature with what is appropriate when food is served buffet or banquet style. This is how all meals were for our week in Thailand. I believe we successfully navigated the week without bringing any food into the room as a "stash" -- Filbert is to be commended for that. 

For each meal we were served at least one entree that was Asian and one that was more Western. There was almost always a platter of fresh fruit (and most of the time it was one fruit per meal -- one of the most common being pineapple). There was rice available for lunch and dinner every day.

One of the things we both loved about meal time was the opportunity to meet new friends, each one with great stories to tell. On this particular morning at breakfast we were at a table with people who call the US, the UK, and Australia "home."

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Flower Power

I downloaded these images this weekend and just keep thinking WOW!! God makes such beauty -- and it is so accessible.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Star Wars, Lego, and a Sense of Humor

A new friend -- April -- told me about this interesting phenomenon on You Tube. Apparenly her son (maybe both of her sons, actually) creates these, but I've not seen his yet. After hearing about them, I hopped on YouTube and searched for animation with legos and found this one that makes me giggle.

Mostly, I love creativity and good ideas and this represents a bunch of both.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Filbert in Thailand - Take Two

As I said in Flower Power, Filbert joined me on at least one of my garden ventures. One of the things that we both enjoyed was the fact that the flowers and plants they had in this garden will all grow in our yard at home -- and may of them have been a part of our backyard attempts at something grand. 

In the background of this second picture you can see two things that caught my attention every day in Thailand. First, the woman in the road with her broom-rake (not sure what they are called, but these tools reminded me of a combo broom and rake -- they are made out of sticks and worked with great efficiency). I saw her every day as she kept the grounds clean and beautiful. One of the reasons that the property at the resort was so lovely is because of this woman's hard work. The second thing high on the hill is the set of small shrines. Early in the morning I'd often see someone placing an offering there (incense, flowers, foods) as a gift to Buddha. (About 95% of the population in Thailand is Buddhist.)

One of the trees on the resort property had these spectacular pink and golden flowers on it. Filbert insisted on climbing up into the tree for a better look and then I thought it would make a good photo. I sure would like to plant one of these in my back yard here in Orlando. 

Of course, while we are dreaming of flowering trees to plant, I'd also like one of the trees that produces these purple and white flowers. I have a few If you look at the first photo, this tree is on the right side and fairly tall. When the blooms fall from the tree they are still in great shape. I placed this one on the stone, but there were others that had landed there or on the ground nearby. They often land face down, however. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Filbert in Thailand - Take One

Filbert discovered shortly after we arrived in Thailand that he cannot read the Thai language. He was glad that the numbers used to identify our room were familiar to him, so he found that -- but for everything else, he had to rely on other means for figuring out what is what.

One of the customs in Thailand that Filbert and I both enjoyed greatly is that of removing shoes and leaving them outside when you go inside. We did this when we went back to our room in the middle of the day or when we entered the meeting room. (A friend told us to take our shoes in at night rather than leave them outside because the dogs who lived on the resort property were known to consider unattended shoes as gifts. We thought that to be quite reasonable. 

After just a few trips, Filbert has realized that one common denominator for our travels is the water bottle. Some places that water is provided because it is preferable to drink bottled water over tap. In Thailand it was more than just about preference. We ONLY drank bottled water or purified water. In fact, we only brushed our teeth with bottled water. That may be a little extreme, but it's a small price to pay to avoid the annoying (at least) stomach ailments that can come from drinking unclean water.

And, just as I enjoyed the gardens, so did Filbert. He was especially taken by the large rock formations scattered around the plantings -- many of which had what felt like caves to this 5 inch tall rodent. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Flower Power

My grandma shot hours of home movies with her 8mm camera. As kids, my cousins and I enjoyed seeing the old reels of when we were younger. In fact, after VHS became popular, we all pitched in to have her home movies transfered to video tape. While much of that archive of movies is of adorable children and their parents, my grandma had one other passion: gardening. 

I never understood why she took so many pictures of her flowers. I thought it was kind of a silly thing to do with film and saw it as part of grandma's quirky personality.

That was before. Before I became enamored by the goodness of growing things -- especially beautiful things. Now I understand completely.  

Last week, the resort where I stayed in Thailand had a most spectacular garden. I often found myself wandering through the plantings in the early morning before breakfast. Some days I had my camera with me and, well, I couldn't ignore the opportunity to record the beauty of those blooms. 

Aren't you glad I didn't?

Filbert On the Move

Filbert did very well on his first international adventure. I think there are probably advantages to being a 4 inch tall mouse when it comes to long flights. He spent much of his time in my backpack where he had almost all the comforts of home.

Beginning a few days before we headed to the airport, Filbert begin guarding the growing pile of things to be packed. He took special care to be sure that certain items did not get left behind -- my passport, the camera, and a small stash of Fiber One bars (oatmeal chocolate chip). 

We left via Orlando International Airport on April 1. For the trip to Thailand, we did not check any luggage so security checks took a wee bit more time (or potentially could take more time), but it ensured that we would arrive with all of our stuff. 

At our first stop in Detroit, we only had time to walk as fast as possible -- making use of the people movers -- to our gate where boarding was "FINAL" for the flight to Tokyo. 

After a 12 hour flights (including three movies and quite a few chapters in the Ted Dekker trilogy I read on this trip), we arrived in Japan. I was grateful that I've been through this airport before and knew the routine and also had a sense of the airport. I spent a good portion of the time there (only about 90 minutes) walking. Here Filbert is peeking out from his side pocket at the boarding gate just before we got in line to board our next flight.

That next flight was a 6 hour evening flight to Bangkok and I had a window seat with an open middle next to me. I slept for most of this leg of the journey, arriving at Bangkok at 12:30 AM on April 3 (just after noon on April 2 back in Orlando). 

This huge airport gave me plenty of space to walk and walk I did. I also when through immigration there and officially entered Thailand with a quick stamp in my passport. My final flight did not leave this airport until about 6:00 AM, and I couldn't check in and go back through security until 2 hours before that flights, so I had plenty of time to walk as well as to sit and read -- which I did in two different locations. One of those should look pretty familiar to most of you. 

Once through a few security checks in Bangkok, we found our way to the gate lounge and awaited boarding for a final flight to Chiang Mai (only an hour flight) where we were met by the director of Wycliffe Thailand and his wife who took me to breakfast and drove me out to Wang Tarn Resort about 40 minutes from the airport. 

We got our key, moved into our home away from home for the week and I took a shower and a nap. A really long nap, it turned out. While I slept, Filbert explored the new digs a bit and found them to his liking. 

Monday, April 13, 2009

Sometimes we just don't have the technology

I arrived back in Orlando in Saturday evening and since that time I've been unpacking, celebrating Easter, and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.

Internet was very unreliable where I was so i did not keep up on blogging. I will attempt to get some highlight reels/blogs up this week between things. Filbert had a nice time and has some photos he wants me to share with you at least.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No Foolin'

Yes, I know it is April 1 and that tradition would suggest I should write a "gotcha" blog today. That's just not going to happen.

Oh, I loved April Fools editions of high school news papers. They gave us as student journalists a chance to stretch our creative wings a bit more than straight news would tolerate. Besides, there is something funny about seeing a headline announcing that the principal has two heads and is the offspring of an alien.

Today, Filbert and I are setting out on our first international trip together. We woke up in Orlando. Before we climb into a real bed again, we will have been in Detroit, Tokyo, Bangkok and Chiang Mai. We will have spent many hours on Northwest Airlines planes (while getting full Delta Airlines frequent flyer points).

If Filbert gets creative along the way, I'll be sure to report that next time I get internet access and have my laptop out. Until then...don't take any wooden nickels.