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Monday, March 21, 2011

Meet TED

Living on another planet as an expat for the last 20+ years, I miss out on a lot of things, or find out about them late in the game. TED is one. Only recently have I been introduced to TED, and in so doing have discovered a wonderfully thought-provoking new source for ideas and insights. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, and is a nonprofit created to share "ideas worth spreading", originally in these areas. It has since expanded its scope and now covers Business, Science, Culture, Arts, as well as Global Issues. Their byline is "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world"; the talks are from presentations made at their annual conferences where "the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less)."

On their website you can choose a theme from a long list and then find talks arranged by title and speaker. One theme that caught my eye was "Design Like You Give a Damn", featuring talks by such notables as Dean Kamen (Segway creator), William McDonough (author of 'Cradle to Cradle'), Marian Bantjes (graphic designer), and Paola Antonelli (design curator at MoMA), plus lots of others I didn't know of. Another theme that piqued my interest was "Food Matters" featuring some usual suspects such as Jamie Oliver on kids' lunches, Mark Bittman (minimalist chef), Michael Pollan (organic growing), as well as the intellectually peripatetic Malcolm Gladwell ('The Tipping Point'). There are themes for and about women; themes devoted to happiness, evolution, medicine, comedy, war and peace, poverty, and storytelling, to mention but a few- lots of brain nutrition, humor, and even some live music.

On www.ted.com be prepared to spend many mind-opening hours exploring this site, if you're like me and still curious after all these years.

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Sad Times in Chiang Mai

It saddens me to have to make this post, but in light of seven recent unexplained deaths in Chiang Mai, I must warn others to take precautions in this city. Six of the victims were tourists; one was a Thai tour guide. Four were staying at the Downtown Inn on Loi Kroh Road near Charoenprathet Rd., and another used the pool facilities there, tho was not staying in the hotel. Their symptoms initially indicated food poisoning, but myocarditis (enlargement of the heart) was determined as possible cause of death in at least three, with Coxsackie B virus cited in one of those. Additional tests are being conducted and final results will take time. The WHO and various other health authorities have been brought in, tho the Thai officials are playing down the deaths in a deceptive attempt to counter any negative effects to tourism.

Personally, I consider this a public health issue and consequently of concern for everyone in Chiang Mai, but for visitors I recommend avoiding the Downtown Inn, and other hotels in that area. I also recommend avoiding eating in the Anusarn food court and restaurant area. Japanese food has been mentioned in two of the deaths, tho no specific restaurant cited. It is never a good idea to eat uncooked seafood in unairconditioned venues in the tropics- always avoid sushi and sashimi street food. Try to see your food being cooked and the conditions in which it is prepared. Make sure hot food is hot, not lukewarm or room temperature, especially rice, which is a great incubator for bacteria. Wash your hands before handling food or eating. Drink bottled water. Chiang Mai is still a great place to visit, but as in any travel destination, especially in the tropics, be aware and take precautions.

UPDATE 29 May, 2011: There has been a lot of news regarding this, but none of it with anything decisive. This latest report at least appears to show serious intent by the Thai authorities to learn more about these deaths and establish cause(s).

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