Muggles for Science

march for science

Portland’s March for Science (Photo by C Coleman Emery)

Why we need politicians who are vigilant

We took to the streets Saturday (April 21, 2017) to join the March for Science.

Thousands met in downtown Portland at the waterfront to hear speakers try to raise our emotions about science before our orderly walk began through four usually-busy-streets now safely cordoned from traffic and free of onlookers.

The light rain in the early hours yielded to bursts of sunshine, revealing a range of signs carried by marchers: some hand-written and messy, and others professionally printed on shiny placards.

One group sported a school of salmon executed with mesh, fabric, paint and carved Styrofoam.

The three-foot fishes swam above the crowd, hoisted on backpack frames sported by the puppeteers.

Their message: Keep salmon safe

Other messages read:

Science not silence

Fund the EPA

Got polio? Me neither. Thanks, science

Some slogans were political and hammered at poor decisions fraught with opinion rather than fact. Continue reading

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Pets for Supper?


Ready-to-eat grasshoppers in Bangkok

Feasting on Bugs, Bunnies & Dogs

Some folks dine on dog-meat.

In Indonesia, raising dogs (and cats) is practical, according to a recent New York Times article.

Dogs and cats “require far less space and feed resources than growing cows,” says a researcher in the article.

The story gave me pause as I recently returned from a trip to Asia.

I’m pretty sure I avoided dog and cat meat during my visit, but I found plentiful fried insects in the Chinatown section of Bangkok.

Eating insects, dogs, pigs, cows, rabbits—the practice shouldn’t seem odd to travelers of the world.

When I visited China several years ago our youthful tour guide was keen on the prospect of capitalism, and described himself as an entrepreneur.

He explained that he was going to start a new venture, raising dogs for food, and I asked him what type of dogs.

Without a trace of irony, he replied, “Chow dogs.”

My Lakota relatives face jokesters because of their custom of eating dogs. Continue reading

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When Honor Meets Disrespect

blog pic

Cultural Mores & Travel

I gasped when I spotted a bloke on the river boat in Thailand.

His baggy sleeveless top–sometimes called a muscle shirt–revealed a black-inked Buddha covering the whole expanse of the left side of his front torso, from shoulder to his (I think) hip.

He was youngish Anglo-man–maybe late twenties or early thirties–from an indeterminate country: US? France? England? Australia? Germany?

My surprise arose because Buddhist countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, Burma and others, consider wearing of the Buddha–on clothing or bodies–disrespectful.

Of the highest order.

Buddhist temples in Bangkok, for example, display signs that warn about body tattoos,  bare shoulders, uncovered legs, shoes, hats, and poor behavior, such as climbing on statues. 

At the most popular temples, workers will hand you a cotton robe to cover your body if your clothing is indiscreet.  Continue reading

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Krabi is a mecca for tourists from all over: we’ve heard Dutch and German, Japanese and Mandarin, French and Slavic, and British-Canadian-Australian English.

Thailand’s beach communities feel like similar world hot-spots: Miami in Florida and Antalya in Turkey.

Vendors bark their wares: cold drinks and massages in the markets, and, on the sea side, long-tailed boats sell coconut water, coca-cola and smoothies.

People of all girths and tattoos parade on the beach: grandmas in bikinis and children with ballooned swim-fins.

We slather on 50-plus sun block and, from time to time, sympathize with the pink-hued sunburned newcomers. 

Some of the women sport belly-button art and others are adorned with false eyelashes.

You can tell the long-timers by their bronzed skin, but we found suntans don’t necessarily make you more attractive, just more chargrilled.

We discover fruits galore to munch: pineapples, papaya, mango, dragon fruit, apples, oranges and bananas.

Fish is ubiquitous: more shrimp than we’ve ever eaten, and sea bass, sea snakes and squid. 

So meals are a combination of noodles and rice with seafood, chicken or pork.

But even the Thai beaches can’t get away from hamburgers and pizza.

Our hotel staff folk are sweet and kind, unlike the beach-staff who face rude foreigners daily.

In contrast, our getaway–the farthest from the beach yet only a 15-minute walk–is peaceful and bucolic, perhaps because wine at dinner is the only alcohol sold.

But plentiful bars dot the landscape, encouraging folks to par-tay

Hip-hop and reggae tunes entice the land-lubbers, who can take advantage of Happy Hour starting at 2 p.m.

Tucked under our mosquito net, we rise at 6 a.m. when birds begin their arias and the long-tailed boats rev their engines. 

We sit on the deck with hot drinks and watch the sun rise from the sea while the boats cut through the waves, making a picture-perfect postcard. 
19 March 2017

Krabi, Thailand




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Oh! To be a Bug!

Poseidon’s Descendant

We discovered an orange bug crawling on our tablecloth as we sat down to a Thai dinner in Krabi. 

The bug scuttled right on top of a swath of orange and white gingham. 

The beetle had an orange-winged back and black head, and what made its visage most striking was the super long antennae. 

I played a bit with the beetle, as it marched up and down my hand, and then I gently lifted it onto the small vase of yellow chrysanthemums on the table.

The beetle soon rested and began grooming.

It began with its antennae, pulling at the right one with two fore arms and then the left. 

The beetle started at the base and then moved its arms down to the top of the antennae. 

The bug then cleaned its hind legs, two on the right side, and one on the left. 

So the critter had five appendages, missing a sixth on its left side.

The beetle posed for several photos and remained our dinner companion all evening.

The orange critter is likely a member of the Cerambycidae: the longhorn beetle (but the web says the “cosmopolitan family” is hard to distinguish from the Chrysomelidae–the leaf beetle–like a ladybug.)

Our cosmopolitan dinner guest–whomI believe to be a long horned beetle–is named for the Greek descendent of Poseidon.

Cerambus–grandson of Poseidon and the son of Euseiros and a nymph, Eidothea, was a shepherd with a sweet singing voice, according to Wikipedia.

Cerambus grew arrogant, according to the legend, and dishonored the nymphs who cared for him.

So the nymphs changed him into a beetle, whose name Cerambycidae honors Cerambus.

Gregor Samsa suffered a similar transformation in Frank Kafka’s 1915 book, Verwandlung, or Metamorphosis

Gregor awoke one morning to find himself an insect, which novelist Vladimir Nabokov (an entomologist) insisted was not a cockroach but a flying beetle, not unlike the orange bug on our dinner table. 

Although Kafka’s character suffered greatly as a result of his mutation, our dinner guest seemed at perfect ease.

17 March 2017

Krabi, Thailand

Image of Kafka’s Metamorphosis from Tablet magazine

[Please forgive misspellings I am unable to correct]




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Swimming in the Emerald Sea

Krabi, Thailand

We wake about 6 a.m. just before the sun clears the horizon, and the sky begins to brighten. 

We keep our silk drapes open so we can climb out of bed and sit on the deck when dawn starts to break. 

The sun bursts through around 6:30 and we can see the longboats cut across the shimmering reflection in the sea. 
Our room is nice and cool, thanks to the air conditioner, and we sleep under a tent of white mesh tulle to keep mosquitos at bay. We take malaria medicine just in case.

On the deck it’s warming up for the day–maybe 80-degrees Fahrenheit–and humid. 

Feels like rain with the heavy air but not a rain cloud in sight. 

We have an electric kettle we fill with bottled water and I have my Lipton yellow tea with some sugar while Honey drinks a half-cup full of instant Nescafé with powdered creamer and sugar substitute. 

We sit and watch the sun and the boats, and I shoot photos. 
Sometime after 7 a.m. we walk down the pathway to the restaurant: a large outdoor area with a thatched roof: most of the tables are under the roof and many are arranged outside, where we have a view of the huge stone outcroppings in all the tourist pictures of Krabi. 

We look for a table outside–away from the smokers–while you cannot smoke in enclosed areas in Bangkok, here in Krabi there are many smokers in the outdoor eating areas. 

I wear my silver lung necklace to ward off the bad spirits and hope that the breeze will carry away the smoke. 

We find American-style coffee–nearly strong enough for Portlanders–and heaps of papaya, dragon fruit, melon, bananas and pineapple. 

There’s yogurt and candied dried fruit and–for the Europeans–edges of aged cheese and sliced meats. 

There are also cold vegetables including cucumbers, hunks of yellow corn, sliced bell peppers, hot peppers, and sliced tomatoes. 

Then I spy three covered silver trays with warm hotdogs and pork and mixed vegetables and tomatoes. 

In the corner a chef prepares eggs any style and I decide on a cheese omelette today instead of the pile of French toast and pancakes. 

In the corner is a toaster and slabs of bread and homemade baby croissants with choices of butter and honey and jam. 
After breakfast we head off for the beach–a 30-minute walk to limestone structures and caves, and a brilliant emerald sea. 

Many tourists with cigarettes and tattoos sun on the beach and we find a shaded spot for our bag and towels and swim several hundred meters to a large rock outcrop (where we can stand rather than tread) and spy three blue-grey herons, each about the size of a cat. 

Their bills and feet are bright yellow. 

The water is warm and refreshing and salty, and, after lazing about, we take our sandy feet and eat a Thai lunch before trekking back to our cool hotel. 

I pick up some bleached white shells and a few pieces of white coral. 
We shower and read a little. 

I write some postcards and we sit by the beautiful sleek swimming pool and drink water and mango juice. 

At about 5:40 p.m. we shower again and head for dinner at our hotel restaurant. 

About four workers wait on us–the restaurant isn’t very popular for the guests (we think its because there’s only wine and nothing else alcoholic) and we enjoy the attention and the food: seafood soup for me and chicken larb for Honey. 

I find an orange beetle on the orange gingham table cloth and we watch it cleanse its antenna and pose for photos. 
16 March 2017




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Bangkok Eats

The markets here are bursting with vegetables and fruits–yet we have a hard time getting enough greens in our meals. 

The most common are broccoli spears that garnish the noodle bowls and, if you’re lucky, a cook will tuck some broccoli flowers between the cloves of garlic and onions. 

In the markets we’ve seen cucumbers and beans, garlic and onions, and leafy hunks of greens with no discernible identity. 

We’ve discovered that you need to ignore the menu that reads “fried vegetables” and just go ahead–that way you are guaranteed to get some color with your deep-fried fish or chicken and hunks of pork. 

Everything is fried. Sigh. 

One evening I had delicious duck pieces swimming in broth with flattened greens–like kale–a real highlight of our trip.

And one lunch Honey ordered a vegetable omelette and–although he uttered no complaint–it was clear the vegetables emerged from a frozen concoction of peas, carrots and corn right from a cellophane bag (a rarity–the food is usually super fresh). 

We often decide on Pad Thai which comes with noodles and a few vegetables and loads of meat: shrimp has been the most common item. 

I was sorely tempted to try the cockles at an outdoor vendor near our hotel in Bangkok (we got great Pad Thai here and a wonderful vegetable stir-fry with wee corn cobs) but my common sense–which is easily persuaded to depart from its core mission–won over: no experimenting with shell fish or salads (I guess shrimp doesn’t count). 

The dishes listed on the menu are usually catalogued by meats–fish or chicken or pork. 

We skip over the salad and the pages that are headlined “Spicy,” which take up a whole section on the menu.

At our hotel you can order food for lunch or evening (although we usually go out) and it comes from a local take-away–so it’s just like getting street food. 

Breakfast is a delight: lots of fruits including pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe and papaya, and I tried my first lychee–which tastes like a sweet grape once you relieve it of its rough skin. 

The staff puts out a different juice daily: apple, papaya, passion fruit, aloe vera, watermelon with tomato, and orange. 

They will make you roti with sugar, or you can get a crepe with eggs enfolded.

I found a plain crepe was delicious with fruit and yogurt. 

We feast on a variety of homemade breads, including sliced breads with one dyed green, another yellow, and another red. 

As for drinks my favorite is “soda water”–bubble water that’s easy to find. 

We know to avoid local water and ice, but, after the first day we realized you almost always get ice in drinks–the Bangkok residents seem to have ice in everything (except beer). 

Beer is plentiful but wine is a specialty available only at restaurants for tourists.

We seldom see hard alcohol although bars aren’t uncommon on the streets.

If the drinks are cold then we opt for straws rather than ice, and there’s plentiful cokes and orange soda. 

On our return from a very hot train ride from Ayutthaha I drank 2 soda waters with ice at our hotel and I didn’t mind having to get up twice in the night to pee. 

Photo from the Bangkok Flower Market





[Please forgive spelling errors I didn’t catch]

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