Listen to Pilot Light

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cambodian Christmas

Christmas is not a big deal in a Buddhist country like Cambodia, but the merchants know that the tourists enjoy it. As a result, the restaurants tend to have Christmas meals of far too much food and the locals make an attempt to wave the flag, as it were. I took this shot in Kampot at the old/new/somewhat refurbished market just before Christmas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

New Speculations

Float Street Press has been taking on a bit of a life of its own lately. I started publishing my own work, then stumbled across Kurt Dysan and published his (with more to come). Then my old friend Javaid Qazi got the rights to his out of print short story collection (UNLIKELY STORIES) returned from Penguin and we published that. Then, while Jim Beckett and I were finishing up THE INVENTION OF CLAY McKENZIE, Tilly Jupiter turned up with funny speculative fiction (you are free to speculate whether or not the science is science or fantasy) and that went into the mix.

And now Jim has produced a couple of fine and funny science fiction stories. He comes from a hard science background, but with his funny bone intact. The first story is:

Proton, protector of the innocent and oppressed, roams the world of Chem fighting evil and injustice. But if she can't escape the ambush she has wandered into, all life on Chem will be in peril.
An adult story for those who appreciate chemistry.
And of course he writes about space travel as well:

When Amanda Murphy accepted the command of the spaceship that would test a revolutionary new propulsion system she didn’t bother to ask why she was selected over dozens of veteran Captains with more rank and seniority. Until, that is, she learned that the computer would actually have total control of her ship. A human couldn’t think fast enough to make course corrections at the speeds the Dark Drive was capable of reaching. But what if something went wrong?

Both books are available as ebooks from Amazon and Smashwords
(and soon through B&N and iTunes and Sony and Kobo) and in paperback from Amazon or CreateSpace.

You can find both right at Jim's sites on Amazon and Smashwords.

I'd put previews or teasers up, but they are in a nicer format at the bookseller sites anyway.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

French Chicken

As the United States is celebrating annual slaughter a turkey day, I thought it appropriate to write a column about the fool things.

Here in Cambodia there isn't a word for turkey, not exactly. The word for chicken is (badly romanized) Moan. A turkey is Barang Moan, or French chicken. However, nowadays any foreigner is call a barang and if you want to say that someone is French you have to say barang barang. So I suppose French chickens are now actually foreign chickens, if anyone wants to get that technical. There is no word for fowl, either. You just say Chicken-duck. I guess turkeys and geese don't count for much.

At any rate, here is one of our landlord's foreign chickens parading around this morning. Although they look like US turkeys (although not like butterball or other factory models), these will still be around next week. They have a longer lifespan here. Must be the weather or something in the water. At any rate, this one does not look stressed out.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hong Kong Redux

In October we flew to Hong Kong for a week. The trip was to serve several important purposes with seeing old friends among the most important. Tom Tsui and I worked together at Asian Sources, a publishing company, some twenty years back. Dagny and I hadn't seen Tom and his wife Miu Miu since then. They were wonderful hosts and we spent some wonderful time together.

Hong Kong is even more intense than it was when we left. We are so off the pace of that kind of life that it left us exhausted. But it was fun and we even ate ostrich (tenderloin) for the first time. 

So here are some images of us and Tom and Miu Miu and Hong Kong in general.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Late Night Reading


by Ed Teja

I know I'll sleep fitfully tonight
lie awake in my bed
reading nefarious meaning into all I hear.
I may even have to avoid the dark completely;
keep all the lights burning bright.

For my stomach is knotted with fear;
my optimism is vanquished,my energy spent.
I made the mistake of reading,
late into the night
a story that promised little but fright.
It was bent on creating vivid images, 
on filling my head
With horrifying scenes
And thoughts 
of murderous intent.

copyright 2012, Ed Teja all rights reserved

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quiet October

Actually our October isn't quiet at all. Just running in a number of directions.

We had a lovely visit from our friends Mandy and David, who comprise The Grand Theatre of Lemmings, an exciting street theatre group from Manningtree, England. They are on vacation and managed to make it to Kampot for a few days. We first met them in Hong Kong back in 1992 when they stayed with us on our junk. They had come to perform at the Fringe Festival. Now they have headed off for Bangkok to visit another old friend.

Next week we are back to Hong Kong ourselves for the first time since the end of 1992. It might have changed just a tad. Tom Tsui took this picture recently and while I can recognize a few things, it isn't the city we left behind.We will be hunting down elusive art supplies for Dagny and visiting our friends there. It will be a fast week and then home to get ready for making art.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Out of writing and into publishing

For the past couple of years, I've been working with my friend Jim Beckett to write a novel about a writing and the dynamics of the current publishing world. It is now it the last stages -- out of writing and into production. We have the cover done and here is what it looks like.

The proof copies will be done soon (tomorrow, I hope) and, assuming all is well, it will soon be out in paperback (304 pages) on Amazon and CreateSpace. We will be making it available in ebook form on Amazon and distributed through Smashwords -- they get it into the Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, the Diesel eBookstore, Kobo, PageFoundry, and  Baker & Taylor.

We have chosen not to distribute through bookstores, because that would raise the price. Bookstore distribution requires a markup of 40% and I know I wouldn't want to pay that sort of price. The paperback will be $9.99 and the ebook we are still debating how to price. Actually that is untrue -- I am waffling on the price is what is happening.

The book runs about 96,000 words, which is substantial, though not huge by contemporary standards. But it is long enough to tell the story. A number of people were happy to tell us where we fell short in earlier drafts and some major rewrites addressed those shortcomings. It is a story of an overeager book editor, an actor, a publisher, a brilliant but reclusive writer and the problems that  mix brings.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Print books

I still love printed books and I know I am not the only one who does. So I have released the short book Two Stories of Sailors and the Sea in paperback. This volume contains two short stories about quite different sailors, and their interaction with the sea.

It isn't available through bookstores, as we wanted to keep the price low and bookstores need a high enough price to discount. But you can find it for only $5.99
at Amazon and CreateSpace. Of course it is also available, more cheaply in ebook form at Amazon and Smashwords and Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Sony, iTunes, and Diesel.

I hope you enjoy the books.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Getting around

It's important to get around in style. When I was downtown the other day, just across the street from the Kampot Province Economic Affairs Office, I took this photo. You often see these pony carts at the market. Along with motorized transport, these carts, and some pulled by water buffalo are still very much in use.

An ordinary trip downtown can provide a fair amount of inspiration .

Monday, September 3, 2012

Rainy day blogging and publishing

Sunday was a lovely rainy morning. It is easy to get my writing done on a rainy day. It is cool then and there is something about the rain that makes my thoughts seem to go deeper. Perhaps it is just that I am less distracted by things outside the window.

Thanks to those who responded to the story about the creative assistant. Pat confirmed that it was a Tokay gecko. I have to find out if this one is a mongo Tokay or just on the large size of normal. Uncle Steve reminded me that Carlos Castenada was taught divination with lizards and suggested that I not limit the new friend to the duties of an assistant. That merits investigation as well.

My apologies to those who tried to leave comments and found that they couldn't. I didn't realize that this software defaulted to letting only registered users leave comments and that has been fixed now.

Other things going on... My coauthor Jim Beckett is taking his turn on the final draft of our novel THE INVENTION OF CLAY McKENZIE, which we will be publishing in ebook and paperback. The publishing empire grows and FLOAT STEET PRESS now has four paperbacks out through CreateSpace. The first two were THE LEGEND OF RON ANEJO and FLOAT STREET NOTES, then we published an adult crime/suspense story A BURGLAR IN MALAY
by Kurt Dysan, a fellow traveler in these parts, who has been writing for years but need encouragement to publish.

Most recently we republished my friend Javaid Qazi's collection of short stories called

Unlikely Stories: Fatal Fantasies and Delusions

This first published by Penguin Books in 1998 and had gone out of print. The editors returned the rights and now it is available again, as is a single story in ebook format called THE KING OF PATIO WORLD
All of the paperbacks are available in ebook format as well. We are still
working on getting them linked together but all are available through Amazon. The ebooks also find their way into Barnes & Noble, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, iTunes and so on through Smashwords and you can always find the books in almost every ebook format there.

This will build up slowly. It has taken most of a year to get to this point, but there are many good things in the works. And SE Asia is a wonderful place to work, even if now I need to go into town and muster enough Khmer words to get someone to find and fix an intermittent problem in one of the motorbikes.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A New Creative Assistant

Everyone knows that writers need all the help they can get, so I was pleased to find that a local has volunteered to help me with my struggles. It is good to have someone who not only appreciates the struggle of making art but also has an extensive knowledge of the local environment.

I don't know my new assistant's name, or even if he or she has one (yes, the CV was a bit sparse in places but there have been remarkably few applicants and this one seemed of good character and rather fearless -- two admirable qualities). Perhaps some of you could make a suggestion. Now bear in mind that this is a rather large lizard and I doubt some cutesie gecko name would be appropriate or appreciated. Since the pay for this position is paltry, showing the proper respect will prove important in retaining our first staff member here at Float Street Press.

The new assistant has many virtues, not the least of which is being somewhat indifferent to gravitational forces. I can only hope that this provides a certain immunity to depression.

So any names that come to mind would be appreciated. And despite the rather distinct coloration, management here has already discounted "spot" as being too saccharine. But I look forward to your ideas.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Losing time

I read other people's blogs, especially those that help me understand more about publishing. And I blog to share thoughts and observations and, with luck, sell a few books and songs to those who enjoy what I write. Yet blogging often seems the wrong thing for a writer to be doing. Thinking up a topic (or even stumbling over one) and then taking the time to write it is time taken away from working on writing or music projects. If I write about things unrelated to the project I am working on, it increases the multitasking workload, which is a problem for a person who seriously does not believe that people actually multitask (they do, however perform threaded tasks). If I write about what I am writing about then I am putting work here instead of there, if you see what I mean.

It's a problem of time. We each have twenty-four hours in a day and I often wonder where mine went. I lose chunks of that time. I understand the chunks that go to what Dagny and I call domestic stuff, a broad category that we use to refer to almost anything that isn't either making art or simply having some fun. Shopping, cleaning, doing paperwork, even checking email all fits in there.

Mostly it is the art time that I can't find. If I sit down to write at nine and get a few pages rolling under my fingers, then I will look up and see that it is lunch time. And I was just getting started. The afternoon disappears the same way.

My life must contain some automatically activated time-compression plug-in. I want it out! Now!
This artwork has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog except that I put it here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Anteaters in Cambodia

You might be familiar with the South American anteater, but Cambodia has some that are quite different. Here is a photo of the female anteater stalking her prey.

She is after large red ants that live in the trees. The trick is to shake the leaves, knocking the ants off the leaves and into that basket at the end of the pole. The bucket is water she will use to get ants off her hands and feet (you didn't think they would sit calmly in the basket did you?)

In this case, after a time, the male anteater (aka Mr. Sau) came along as the relief hunter. Mr. Sau is the gardener here at Dr. Philippe's who is intrigued by Dagny's art and my attempts to speak Khmer without a net.

These trees grow along a stream that feeds into the river, which is a lovely place for insects. You can see the basket in the upper left as he disappears into the tree below. This not only allows him access to the ants at the top, but gives the ants at the bottom access to him, which I take as a fair exchange. Periodically he stops to perform an interesting dance step that probably dates back to the time of Apsara. I wasn't fast enough to get a photo of that. Perhaps another time.

Below is a closeup of the basket. It only has a few ants in it, in fact I saw more on the handle than in the basket, so it was not the best of harvests.

While I know they gather these to eat,(Mr. Sau was very clear on that point) I don't know the recipe yet. Mr. Sau's English and my Khmer are not up to the task of exchanging recipes yet, but perhaps they will invite us over for tea and ants some afternoon. I suspect that, like spiders, they are fried, but that is only speculation at the moment and they will need to catch a lot more ants if they are going to have company.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Weather is only human

I read about the drought that is going on in the US the other day, and that it was the worst in 25 years. That led me to the curious thought about what makes one drought worse than another. I assume they mean less rain over a longer period of time, but this seems to be a government statistic, which makes using common sense a rather foolish thing to do.  Governments seem adept at avoiding sense, of either the common or extraordinary variety. So I wonder. I don't suppose it matters what the criteria are though. It's bone dry.

I heard from a good friend in MO that he hasn't seen any rain since June, and he has been looking for it. That means something. For one thing it means that he has to buy vegetables, since gardening takes water. Instead of a yard full of veggies they have temperatures over 100 F and no rain. Having lived in New Mexico I understand what that means. New Mexico's major tourist attraction is droughts. End-of-the-world apocalypse movies are shot there as they require no extra work to prepare the scene. Practice makes perfect and they have gotten good at droughts. So I understand.

In a rather petty way (by comparison), we need rain here too. Oh we get rain from time to time, but not the good old wash-the-roads-out-of-existence rains that this area is known for. Without those rains it is hot. The rice paddies aren't looking so good. Just hot and humid. The skies tease. looking like they do in the photo below, which I took at sunset a few days ago. Now you'd think a sky like that would produce some rain, but no. Weather is arbitrary and does what it wants. Like people. You have to admire that. Actually it is like people who are contrarians and I like that even better.

So it is hot. That makes it hard to think (old wooden houses do not have and would not benefit from air conditioning). So we swim in the river. The water comes from the mountains and is cold enough to lower the body temperature down something below 451 F so my books don't burn when I touch them.

Meanwhile, there was a deluge in Beijing and a large tropical storm crosses northern Viet Nam that is probably flooding the Mekong. Is that balance?

Sometimes weather can seem more frustrating than governments. Nah! That's unfair. Its just that weather is only human after all. Capricious, yes. Officious and pompous, no.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Moo frog chorus

I suspect that there are many among you who thought I was exaggerating when I wrote about the moo frogs. They seem mythical to me, but they are pretty amazing. Sure, we've all heard frogs in the yard or creek at night. This is, I assure you, different. Last evening, after a rainy day, we were treated to quite a chorus and I captured a bit. I don't have a recorder handy so I used my camera. I can't figure out how to put just audio here so I uploaded the video. The steady black stuff is what the yard looks like at night. The sound in the video is amazingly like it sounded sitting on the porch, with the difference that this is just over 30 seconds and we get to hear it most of the night. Some other soloists joined the orchestra later in the evening for a bit of a jam session, adding a nice glissando as a counterpoint to this, but I had already packed up the camera. Just thought you might enjoy it. Call it a taste of the rainy season.

For those who are into musical arrangements, the baritones are the moo frogs. Then you will hear an alto voice that seems to tie the moos together nicely, or perhaps the moos punctuate the alto lines. The percussion from the gecko and insect groups fits in rather nicely, I think you will agree. Overall, a bit repetitious from a melodic perspective, but the arrangement is excellent. Good sound balance too, so kudos to the sound technicians. Here we go.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Collecting and republishing the past

I got an email today from someone curious as to what I was up to. He wanted to know if I had a blog, and I sent him the link, but I realized that primarily what I have posted is observations, not updates of the ongoing effort to proved the world with new and improved art and music. So here is an update.

When we lived on an old wooden boat in the Caribbean, part of the way I earned my keep, when not doing boat work, was writing about living on a boat. I did a monthly column in the journal Caribbean Compass for at least five years, probably longer. It was caustic, and made fun of the readers, other people who wrote for people on boats, and even the very idea of life on board. It turned out to be very popular with readers, and advertisers didn't seem to hate it. At least the editor, Sally Erdle, never complained.

As I worked to edit and republish The Legend of Ron Anejo  and worked with my friends John Pocock and Tom Tsui to finish and publish Chancy,which is also about sailing, I thought of those short pieces and wondered it they still held up. Were they still funny? Would a collection be something worth republishing as a book.

But first, did they even still exist? My traveling lifestyle has been death on any old manuscripts that I might have had. Hell, the computers haven't survived, and I threw out the 5-inch floppy disks they were stored on years ago (any of you too young to know what those are can Google to find out).

I contacted Sally in Bequia and told her of my idea of publishing them as a book. She not only had the text files, but happily zipped them  and sent them to me. Dagny and I read through them, kicked out a few, and now are editing the 60,000 words that remain into a fun book. The good news is that very little turned out to be perishable. Since I seldom  address ideas more topical than what I had for breakfast, there is little to fade.

The intention is to publish the book both in ebook and in paperback formats; the ebook should be ready fairly soon, fairly being a time interval between one and three months. Being the chief editor, formatter, designer and distribution manager takes time. And this isn't the only project going on. But here is the dummy for the ebook cover.

So, if you happen to pass up the Kampot River and don't see us swimming, you now know what is going on in those strange wooden houses along river.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cows and bats

If it seems like I am on a roll talking about interactions with animals, it is because I am. Living in a rural place, even if it is a small community, tends to put you back in contact with the creatures we share this world. I enjoy most of it, even if I would be happier if certain creatures (insects, turkeys...) were left out of the equation.

Recently I noticed that Mr. Sau, who takes care of the grounds, using a new lawn mower. This was  a nice upgrade for him from the weed eater they were using to cut the grass. There is a lot of grass now, and that is a slow way to get the job done. Doctor Philippe, the landlord is quite proud of the new lawnmower, and rightfully so. They are not common here.

Nonetheless, I wasn't surprised to look out the other day and see the supplementary equipment at work.

The animal belongs to one of the neighbors, and I assume that Mr. Sau came to an arrangement with him. So every afternoon, this beast is tethered somewhere on the grounds, filling her stomach while taking over part of the lawn maintenance burden.

The other recent encounter was nocturnal. When we first moved onto our boat in the Caribbean, we had no electricity. So the evenings were spent in the dark. When we got electricity sorted out, we found that we preferred spending evenings in the dark. There were fewer insects and you could see what was going on around you under the moonlight. We were an exception and most people turned on lights at night. When we visited other boats, looking out into the black night seemed odd. We preferred things our way.

In our house here, we like to sit in the dark. Habits die hard, and there is still the issue of insects. They love light. Our neighbors turn on porch lights and we watch the mosquitoes plan their attacks. But we have no reason to be smug. Darkness brings like-minded creatures around. In this case, a bat. The bats fly around in the evening catching bugs. They fly through our porch.

One bat, however, was not content with this routine, and on an evening not long ago, as I sat contemplating the universe, I was assaulted with bat guano. Now this is a rather nice form of that substance, and not caustic like that of the fruit bats in Venezuela, and certainly not as troublesome as the vampire bats we had there either.

But I didn't like it. We used a broom to discourage the little guy; I just poked it near him and he flew off. The next night he came back to the exact same spot under the porch roof--directly over my chair. We turned on the light and he left. The next night, he decided the light was okay, and he would stay, but I turned to chemical warfare and sprayed in his direction with bug spray. Again he left.

  Here he is hanging right above my chair. 
So what are you going to do with a guy like that? We like him to come around and eat bugs. He would even be rather welcome to hang around if he would pick a different spot, but he has not shown a willingness to negotiate. So we close curtains at night now and hope he will find a nicer spot. Maybe he can go hang on a roof beam over the cow and they can talk over the craziness of people.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Turkeys on the porch

I've learned a number of lessons in this current incarnation of living in Asia.

  • Asians are not in the least inscrutable (they yell at you when they are pissed just like everyone else.).
  • Eating fruit for breakfast every morning makes me feel good.
  • I don't like turkeys.
Of course, none of these lessons is in the least profound, and perhaps none are useful, except for the bit about fruit. And the only real surprise is the last one.

So I will explain a bit about how I came to uncover my dislike for turkeys.

At the moment, my writing days are spent in a small cottage a few metres from our house. It looks like this.

This is a wonderful place to work, except for the turkeys. Bear in mind that throughout Asia, poultry are inescapable, even beyond the dinner plate. Chickens and turkeys have the run of the place, despite the risk they run from motorbikes and cows. Mostly it works out.

Chickens are okay. I am not a chicken lover, at least until they are cooked, but we get along. But the turkeys on my porch are vile and nasty and noisy. 

It isn't all their fault. They did not build the coop next to my porch, but in all fairness, neither did I, and we should all have to come to some agreement on how to share space. They run over the entire compound with their shrill chorus (and it is always a chorus... you never hear one turkey) echoing, and I really have less problem with that than with the piles of turkey dung (large) they drop everywhere. 

But I can deal with that. 

The problem is that when I am trying to write, the word gets out and they assemble on my porch and sing to me. Unfortunately I don't care for the song, have heard it before, and actually would prefer a Sousa march as music to work to. I suspect this is all down to my evil neighbor telling them about the US holiday of Thanksgiving, and hanging the responsibility for the role turkeys play in it on me. There doesn't seem to be any other explanation that fits the few paltry facts.

I don't understand their intent (that of the turkey's not that of my evil neighbor) but it has antagonized me and I am in the process of ordering some cook books that focus on turkey dishes to give as presents to the Khmer people who take care of them.

I am sure an equitable situation will evolve over time. Patience is of utmost importance here. After all, I have to send off for the books, and the mail is slow here.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Publishing in print

Since I got to Cambodia I've been learning all about ebook publishing, but I always wanted to see one of my older books back in print. The original publisher went belly up, and I got the rights back, but producing paperback books has been expensive.

Learning the ropes more, I found things were changing and life was better on that front. So her is the re release of my humorous novel of the world best Caribbean boat bum.

It is available here Amazon. And it is also available in Kindle (same location) and in other ebook formats from Smashwords

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Songs from the Noir

There is a musical group based in Phnom Penh that is doing some interesting music in both English and Khmer. It is minimalist stuff, almost a coffee house vibe from the 60s, but getting in some sense of Velvet Underground. The band is called Krom and they've just released a CD. I don't know the people, but I liked this video they did.  There is good footage of life in the city and you can hear how they sound..

Their website is

Krom: Songs from the Noir
“Songs from the Noir” is now available for download via CD baby at the following link:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The rains come, the tourists go

The onset of the rainy season is also the onset of slow season in Cambodia. The rains can make travelling about miserable, so it probably isn't the best time to visit. The rains ease up in October, usually, maybe November and the inrush begins again.

Rainy season doesn't just turn on one morning. We kind of ease into it. Today was a beautiful day, and I took the motorbike into town to get needed supplies (cabbage and Irish whiskey if you must know).

This is one of the normally busy streets at about 0830. The khmer start mornings early, and perhaps the backpackers are all still sleeping in, but I don't think so. Along this street you can buy welding gas, bread, cell phones, some packaged junk food, get your hair done, and a bit further down is the main bank, Acleda.
 Behind the stack of tires is one of the many motorcycle repair shops. This one is just around the corner from the Honda dealer. One lovely thing about riding a motorbike here is that if you have a problem in town, you are never far from someone who thinks he knows motorbikes better than you, and certainly knows them better than me, and has tools and parts.
 This is the Eastern end of our main market (psaa). It was more crowded earlier when I went by. I came back to get a shot of one of the pony carts, but they had finished loading and lumbered off to wherever they lumber to. This is at the intersection with the main road that goes to Phnom Penh and the market really starts down where the umbrellas are and is quite extensive. I bought two cabbages and four nam groaech, which are sweet deep-fried rice flour pancakes.  The shops closer are mostly where you can buy cell phones. My Nokia was less than $20 there.

The shop ('Hang' in khmer) on the right is across the street from where we live. This is where I buy 20 litre jugs of drinking water and Anchor (pronounced "an chore" so as not to confuse it with "Ankor" beer).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The attack of the moo frogs

I wrote previously about the onset of the rains. One contingent that is particularly please about the arrival of rainy season can loosely be grouped together as critters. The critters are vocal in their appreciation. The birds sing more loudly in the mornings, the insects chirp happily, the bats and birds joyously hunt down the bugs and, after each drenching, we get a rousing chorus of deep harmonies from the moo frogs. So, you see, actually they sing, not attack, but in our global culture, I thought more people might read about attacking frogs than pleasantly singing frogs.

Now I suppose most of you are not familiar with the Cambodian moo frog, so I will point out that this is just the name that we have give to the frogs who, well say moo. We have encountered two types in Cambodia (and none anywhere else). The Koh Kong moo frog sounds exactly like a cow. Last rainy season, after the first big rain, we were sitting at an outside restaurant wondering where the cows were that we heard. The Kampot moo frog must be its Scottish cousin, because they add a bit of a burr to the sound, something like the last note from a bagpipe.

The picture above shows the kind of place they love. This is basically what passes for our front yard. Counting voices out there, in the evening there are a lot of moo frogs out there. By the way, these fellas are LOUD and enthusiastic. Fortunately, they sing in the same key, use related rhythmic patterns and when there are a lot of them, sound more like monks chanting than actual cows.

Now this is not a moo frog, but I felt morally obligated to include a picture of a frog and we have never actually seen a moo frog. I tried to get a picture last night, wading out through the swampy grass, when I learned that when you get within about fifty feet of them, they go silent.

I haven't a clue what kind of frog this is, other than they live on our porch and think it fun to jump out and land on you when you are sitting in the dark, thinking or having a nightcap. If they land on your bare back it can be spooky, especially the first time. I took this one of one who is hanging on the wall. He likes to live under seat cushions. One kept crawling in my dive boot until I accidentally took a step with both of sharing the boot.

Ah life in the country.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mango Rain

Since I posted that we were waiting for rain, it seems only fair to let you know that we got some. Not the full blown "look at it come down!" kind of rain we will get in the next month or so, but a number of the nice rains that mean good mangos and papaya in the market (psaa, in Khmer).

So after the first rain it looked like this. The soil is a clay that gets very slippery and, well I believe the technical term is "yucky" after a nice rain.

On the other hand, it also is soft, which means Dr. Philippe's minions can pull weeds. They are planting grass in the bare patches and he bought around 100 acacia trees to plant around the property. That is supposed to reduce traffic noise and add privacy. We will see.

Monday, May 28, 2012

New Stories

I've recently published a couple of new short stories. To be honest, one isn't exactly new. I wrote it for a small book I did a limited run of when I was living in the Caribbean. It is an account of some real, but fictionalized people in a real, and not particularly fictionalized place--a rum shop.

The other book is based in Hong Kong and tells the tale of a sailor too often trapped in the corporate world, but determined to get out onto the high seas. His story is a little chancy.

Both books are available at my
Amazon and Smashwords author pages.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Even in Paradise

It is tempting to think that once you have moved to a tropical location, life becomes simple. All you need to do is sit back, drink wonderful drinks with umbrellas in them (don't eat the umbrellas, as they can reuse those), served by lovely serving girls and enjoy life. Unfortunately, life follows you. There are always domestic chores and the business of life. Some are more onerous than others.

A couple of days ago, my office was perfumed with a familiar and unwelcome odor. Shortly I was surrounded by the noise of work going on. When I investigated, I learned that the sediment filter from the septic tanks was backed up. Our landlord had the staff hard at work, and he joined in. This was important. After all the blockage was from his house. So for three days, the crew hauled out the gravel, cleaned and sorted and put it back together.

In case you were wondering, Mr. Ka, who is smiling on the left, wasn't thrilled by this particular job, or at having his photo taken standing in the tank.... he just smiles a lot. Very nice man. Our landlord is the one in clean clothes. (These guys are good workers!)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A visit to Phnom Penh

The name Phnom Penh literally means "Penh's hill", but the city is rather flat and quite walkable. Our neighbors in Kampot suggested we try a guest house owned by friends of theirs. The name was inauspicious. The Lone Star Saloon does not conjure up images of the pearl of the orient. Still a reference is a reference and these folks are usually pretty good, so we gave it a try. Our regular taxi driver, Mr Mao, took us right to the door in time for lunch.

Our trips to the city are infrequent and usually based around the need for things not available in the provinces. Our favorite way to shop is to hire a tuk tuk for the morning and take advantage of the local knowledge as well as transportation.

Here are some tuk tuks outside the wat that is just at the end of 23rd Street where the Lone Star is located.

They actually seem to do a brisk business ferrying monks back and forth from where ever monks go to when they aren't at the wat.

By the way, The Lone Star was great. Most of the folks working there are Khmer, although the lady who owns it admits to having been to Texas. Her husband is from Texas and the sentiments are his. The rooms were comfortable and quiet and good value. The location is perfect for prowling the city, regardless of what you are prowling for.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Another wedding and its music

The folks at the basket maker's house next to us started setting up the tents for a wedding on Saturday. I call it the basket maker's house, because when they aren't having weddings, they make huge baskets out of reeds--all day long. A very industrious group. So they deserved a party.

You can' see the house in this photo. It sits back from the way and the tent runs all the way from the road to the house. The second tent, to the right, is in an empty lot. I suppose it is for friends of friends of the family.

The daytime music, which is largely traditional music, which I was told was written specifically for weddings, is interesting. Khmer music uses five tones, but they aren't the same as the Western pentatonic scale (the "rock" scale). It is all whole tone steps, no sharps or flats. And the arrangements tend to be rhythmic. The music has no harmonies, and independent melodies are interwoven. At its best, it is really nice, kind of Asian Dixieland. At its worst (according to my ears) it is like a bad jam session.

The nighttime music was certain to be that terrible mixtape of Santana (long instrumentals by a Santana clone who is good but little imagination) and pop and awful Karaoke. So went to the city for the evening. Stayed at a nice wooden guest house on the river front. We had a khmer massage, which is a very soothing way to spend an hour, and ate frogs legs while watching family hour on the riverfront. We call it family hour because the vast majority of the traffic is motorbikes with Mom and Dad and a couple of kids on board. They stop at street vendors and buy boiled corn on the cob, or beer, or some of the other interesting foods available. But more on food another time.