Precision Agriculture based on Por Peang Philosophy

During the past weekend, I ventured out of Bangkok to the rural area surrounding Khon Kaen in the Northeastern, or Isaan, region of Thailand. I participated in a three-day workshop organized by the small, rural community hospital in Ubonratana. The major focus of the workshop was to show how Sufficiency Economy philosophy (เศรษฐกิจพอเพียง) can be applied to agriculture. It is called precision agriculture, or เกษตรประณีต, in which the focus is growing many crops, primarily for consumption and use by the household, instead of only one cash crop.

We visited several farmers who used this concept to grow several crops and support their families with great success. These crops can be used first for consumption, second for sharing with friends and neighbors and lastly for sale. In that way, families can reduce their household expenses and eat healthier by growing a variety of crops that they can use for food (ผักปลอดสาร), herbal medicines as well as generate income. The alternative is to grow a single cash crop and then buy everything that the household needs.

This video from www.porpeanglife.com explains precision agriculture in a very visual and simple way. In essence, it is a way to reduce risk by diversification.

Por Peang Lifestyle and Community

The type of lifestyle promoted by sufficiency economy, or porpeang, focuses on sharing and building communities. In this short video, different characters and situations are shown where sharing and looking out for one another is beneficial for everyone. This video has characters that have the Thai alphabet on the shirt and is like saying “Mr. A” and “Mr. B” to give the examples. Very simple concept and this video makes it easy to understand and see the impact when it goes from the small, community scale to a grand, national scale.

Happy Brains Need Water

Water is good for you. You should drink 8 glasses (64 oz.) a day. If you haven’t ever heard these tidbits of information which are readily available from any health book, magazine or website, Vanessa Race has some astounding news for you. Yes, your brain is make up of over 70% fluid, also known as water. As a matter of fact, your entire body is also made up of a similar percentage of water. Water is an important component in the biochemical processes that occur in your body every second and drinking adequate amounts of water does help your body function better.

Drinking a lot of water is a healthy habit that has many positive benefits ranging from a better complexion and good looking skin to flushing out impurities in your system. Why do you think water is a number one component and commonality in detox programs. Whether or not thinking fast due to your larger neurons being able to communicate faster makes you happier is rather subjective. It’s hard to credit the simple act of drinking water to happiness, although it can be credited with making you healthier when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.

Logicwatch.com also mentioned that brains don’t have feelings and they can’t be happy. A specific memory recalled by the brain can lead to the person feeling happiness, but the brain itself doesn’t feel anything. Often times brains are likened to computers and in many ways they are similar. Your brain doesn’t feel ecstasy when you finish writing your term paper that took you days to write, but you do. Your computer, and similarly your brain, are simply the tools you used to accomplish the task.

Excerpt from Logicwatch.com

THE HAPPY BRAIN

Brains don’t become happy. Brains process. The memory of the brain determines if the outcome will be happy or not. In perhaps the award of 2007 for most inductive stupidity, Khun Vanessa Race, a Harvard graduate with a Masters in neuroscience (too bad) posits that (sit down) “The brain is composed of approximately 8% protein, 10% fat and 72-75% of fluid, That is why drinking lots of water helps, because its part of what makes you happy, and what makes your brain work better.” Give me a break. Somebody get this dude a hobby.

Original article from Asia One

ASIAONE / HEALTH / NEWS / STORY

The happy brain
Mon, Dec 31, 2007
The Star

WHAT do water, soft undergarments and a smile do to you?

It gives you a happy and more active brain, say experts.

“The brain is composed of approximately 8% protein, 10% fat and 72-75% of fluid,” said Khun Vanessa Race, a Harvard graduate with a Masters in neuroscience, who talked about how happiness is good for our brain.

That is why drinking lots of water helps, because its part of what makes you happy, and what makes your brain work better.

“Neurons are like plants, if you don’t give them (neurons) water, they will shrink in size,” Race explained.

Therefore, as neurons have to communicate by sending neurotransmitters through the space between them (the synapses), any shrinkage in size will result in this space becoming wider, making it more difficult for neurons to communicate.

“Drinking a lot of water actually makes you happier, because you can think a lot faster,” Race continued.

In another research done by Prof Shigeki Watanuki from Kyushu University, he found out that our environment and what we wear actually have an effect on our brain activity through various physiological responses.

One of the interesting findings was that soft underwear might decrease physiological stress. “It was found that soft underwear decreases cortisol levels and increases the level of IgA (immunoglobulin A),” said Prof Watanuki, who is an expert in Physiological Anthropology.

Coupled with a comfortable environment and mentally stimulating food such as the essence of chicken, a relaxed person can have better brain function, he explained.

Have you ever smiled and instantly felt better? Race has an explanation.

One of the research she was involved in found out that besides making more friends, a smile could release endorphins in the brain and make a person feel happier.

When the brain is happy, it makes it more conducive to learn, said Race.

This story was first published in The Star on Dec 30, 2007.

Sourced from Singapore’s AisaOne.com

Top 5 Birdwatching Tips

1. Get up early– The sunrises between 6 and 7 am and this is when birds are the most active. At dusk, (2-3 hrs before sunset) birds are also active but not as intense as the morning hours. The best thing is to not miss the morning rush.

2. Pick a good location – National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries are places to start. Rural areas, such as farms, temple and areas of secondary growth, will provide another setting for birdwatching.

3. Be silent and patient – Tread lightly and look around slowly as you search for small movements. Another strategy is to stop often and wait for birds to come into view, especially if you are near a food or water source.

4. Stake out fruiting and flowering trees – Food sources are an excellent place to sit and watch many species as they visit the trees and feed. You will also be able to observe different feeding behaviors and social interactions.

5. Wear appropriate clothing – Comfortable and protective clothing will keep you better able to stand your time birding in the elements. Long-sleeved cotton shirts provide sun cover, protection from insects and sweat control. Leech socks are needed is the rainy season to keep you safe from the nasty bloodsuckers.

Gloomy weather in the City of Angels

The sun has been avoiding our fair city of Bangkok lately. It’s hard to wake up in the morning when you’re use to the sunlight busting through the curtains and forcing you to wake up. Clouds have been a more common site with a sprinkling of rain now and again.

Last night I saw an errie glow of the moon behind a veil of clouds. The moisture in the air was all around me and I could feel the weight of the air around me. Of course, with that amount of water in the air, the humidity is very high and rain is always emminent. It’s been raining practically ever night and sometimes in the afternoons as well.

The only good thing about all this gloom is that it’s not so damn hot at the momment. Muggy? Yes! Stuffy? Yes! Rainy? Yes. But, it seems that we are having a bit of that rain that is implied of when we say “It’s the rainy season.”

I can’t say that gloomy, cloudy humid weather is any better than hot, sunny humid weather but it is a change from the normal sun, sun and more sun that characterizes Thailand, especially the city of Bangkok. Cheers to you fellow Bangkokians and here’s to sleeping in late on the upcoming weekend and cloudy morning skies.

Earthquake felt in Thailand, 6.1 on Richter scale

Many people in Bangkok, few people felt the earthquake unless they were in high buildings. 

The earthquake epicenter is located in Laos and that is why Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai showed the greatest effects. Buildings may have new cracks as a result of this recent quake. Generally, people in high rise building and were on higher floors felt the shaking. The earthquake was shallow as well, while means that the vibrations don’t travel as far.

The comments made on the news reports were a bit comical to someone who hails from earthquake country. News footage showed the slow swaying of light fixtures in hotels. The motion seemed to be more rolling than the quick jarring that I associate with more devastating quakes. But, 6.1 on the Richter scale is nothing to laugh at especially when you are in tall concrete buildings. I’d hate to have to evacuate down all those flights of stairs, possibly without emergency lights in the stairwells. Some buildings were evacuated but there are no reports of casualities or major damage caused by the quake.

Luckily there aren’t many large earthquakes in
Thailand. One TV station reported that from 2518-2549 there were only 8 earthquakes larger than 5.0 on the Richter scale. That averages out to 1 earthquake every 3-4 years.

It never hurts to be prepared and think about what to do in the event of an earthquake. Make sure you find a sturdy table or doorway for cover. Have extra drinking water on hand in case the earthquake causes a disruption in the water supply or water contamination. Think about the best way to evacuate the building after the shaking stops.

So now when I think that my bedroom’s shaking, I’ll have to figure out if it’s an earthquake or a ten wheeler driving by my house.

Listening to toad croaking all night

Behind my house is a large undeveloped area that is prime habitat for wildlife. Regularly, I sit on my balcony and watch the birds that visit our trees and forage in this patch of wilderness. The rainy season is here and I’ve spent the past few nights listening to a nature soundtrack rendered by another type of animal.

The music starts in the evening and it is a constant symphony of croaks, ribbits and chirps. The melody changes are high pitched noised begin and lower pitched noises droan on. Dogs barking and other load noises do little to stop our musician. The music continues uninterrupted for most of the night.

This kind of behavior signals the beginning of the mating season. Our frog and toad friends are calling out to find a suitable mate. The females are given clues about a male by his call, like his size and species. The continuous calling will help her seek him out if she thinks he is suitable. The rains have turned many areas into marshy wetland that amphibians desire as hatcheries for their young. Water is where the eggs will be laid and later the tadpoles will live in until they change into their adult forms. Breeding early in the season will ensure that standing water will be around long enough for tadpoles to reach adulthood.

The past few nights I have slept soundly and stayed in  bed a little longer than usual. Does the amphibian symphony have anything to do with it? The sounds bring nature right into my bedroom. Even while watching TV the croaking can still be heard. The sounds make you feel like you are alone in the wild and far from civilization. It is hard to remember that I am in a huge city like Bangkok.

I hope that the little Romeos croaking their little hearts out find their Juliets.

Using a spoon as a bottle opener

While at Railay Beach in Krabi, we stayed at a Muslim owned resort. That meant that there was no alcohol or pork in the resort restaurant. There was ham and sausages at breakfast, but they might have been some other kind of meat. Although no alcohol was served by the resort, they didn’t have any policies about not bringing alcohol in.

One thing to be careful about when you bring containers into the resort is that most bottle caps in Thailand aren’ttwist tops. If you buy cans, you won’t have to worry about opening the bottle at all. For some types of beverages however, cans are not available. In this case, you can usually open the bottle at the counter where you buy it. This is handy if you will be drinking it right away.

In our case, we got all the way to the resort before we worried about how to open the bottle. We tried asking a couple of the resort staff for a bottle opener, but no luck. There was no bottle opener in the room and we were beginning to think that the bottle would have to keep until later. Then I noticed the coffee/tea area had a few spoons. The spoon looked to be strong enough so we used it to pry the edges of the bottle cap up. The bottle was turned as the edges slowly got loosened and finally removed. I did scratch myself with the sharp edges of the bottle cap and drew a little blood.

Lesson learned: If you are stuck without a bottle opener, get creative and you’ll be able to enjoy your drink.

Too much sun can make you dizzy

Thailand is a humid, tropical country situated near the equator. The midday sun is very intense, even if it is a cloudy day. The humidity makes everything even worse as it makes your body work even harder to stay cool. The best way to keep yourself healthy during your trip is to make sure you drink plenty of fluids. It is recommended that you drink at least 8 glasses of water a day under normal circumstances. In Thailand, you’ll probably need to drink at least 10 glass a day, especially if the climate is different from your home country. Wearing a hat and trying to stay in the shade during the hottest parts of the day will also help you lose less water.

One nice thing about Thailand is that small vendors are everywhere. You don’t have to carry lots of water with you as you can easily buy a drink when you feel thirsty at a price of 10-20 baht. Unlike some touristy places, Thais rarely charge high prices for water. The exception is when it is in a location that is difficult to reach and therefore the transportation cost of the drink is higher. This is the case on most islands and similarly remote places. If you are hiking or will be away from vendors, buy water before you leave and take it with you.

After being in the sun all day sightseeing, it’s a good idea to make sure you rehydrate yourself.  Be careful of drinking too many caffeinated drinks like cola, coffee and tea as these are all diuretics and only help your body get rid of the fluid that it needs. Make sure you drink bottled water as tap water is not intended for drinking. I recommend the water that comes in clear plastic bottles that come in 500 ml – 1.5L sizes. The water in the opaque plastic bottles don’t have the same filtration standards. If it is the only thing available, it is better than drinking tap water.

If you have headaches or dizziness after being out in the sun,  this can signal that you are dehydrated. Drinking plain water might not be enough at this point. I generally drink a few glasses of water and wait to see if the symptoms go away. If they don’t, I will drink an electroylte powder mixed with water. Pharmacies and most convenience stores like 7-11 should carry it. You can also buy a sport drink and get an isotonic mixture that way. However, you may also be drinking lots of sugar at the same time. Generally, if your dehydration is not severe, your symptoms should disappear. If your symptoms persist or worsen, it is time to see a doctor.

Traveling by van

Booking travel between cities using a travel agent you can get good bargains if you look into van travel. The cost is relatively cheap and will open up new areas and destinations apart from the mainstream travel areas. The booking is easy as the travel agents know the time tables and pick up areas. They will answer any basic questions about the journey.

However, the actual trip is usually a bit lengthier than you might expect. For a trip from Krabi to Hat yai the advertised departure time was 10:00 to arrive at 14:00. The hotel pickup was schedule for 10:00-10:30. For our trip, an older, banged up minibus picked us up at our hotel exactly at 10:00. The driver came into the lobby area and called out our destination. He opened the back door so we could throw our backpacks in before letting us climb into the van.

We then went to two more hotels and picked up other passengers before heading towards the minibus office. We all got out of the minibus and were told to wait for another van. There was a small restaurant where you could buy quick dishes, snacks and there were restrooms available. At 11:00 two more vans arrived and dropped off their passengers.

Finally at 11:20, a new van drove up, dropped off a few passengers, picked us up and left the minibus office. We were finally on our way, or so we thought. We ended up stopping at several locations, picking up and dropping off passengers. Finally the van was filled (mostly Thai passengers now) and we left Krabi Town at around 12:00. The four hour journey was broken up by one restroom and lunch stop at 13:30. We kept an eye on the driver to make sure the van didn’t leave without us. The break was short and everyone was back on the van in less than 30 minutes.

We continued on towards Hat yai and some passengers got off at towns along the way. The van was half full by the time we reached the bus terminal in Hat yai. All but one passenger disembarked at the bus terminal. The remaining passenger was being dropped off at a nearby location. I asked the driver if we could get dropped off in town, but he informed me that his van was not permitted in the city.We were weary-eyed and exhausted from the ride, but we arrived safely and without any major mishaps.

Lesson learned: When traveling by minibus, expect it too take longer than you initially thought.