Tube Houses

For reasons to do with French taxation practices, scarce land, and national preference, it’s quite common in Vietnam to build a really tall narrow house.

Foolish Tourist

A tattoo shop in Hoi An

It turns out there’s a fair number of people who will basically put gibberish writing into your flesh while you thought you were getting something else. Maybe the name of a loved one, or ‘mom’ or some such. There just aren’t Chinese characters that equate to to C-A-L-E-B or whatever your preferred word might be.

And there’s plenty of people who are taken in, sadly. We don’t always get tattoos at our most clear-thinking moments.

But luckily there’s no shortage of people on the Internet who will translate your foreign language tattoo… sorry mate, you’ve been had. If your tattoo has any meaning at all it’s S-U-C-K-E-R.

But all that got me thinking a few years ago when the time came to get a little middle-aged ink. What if I pre-empted the scammers? What if I punked a billion Chinese people by getting “foolish tourist” carved into my arm?

It has worked out well. Every so often in a shop or restaurant, or on the bus, I get this slight widening of the eyes, an uncomfortable fidgety glance. A few people have asked if I actually know what it means. Oh so gently. Some of my Chinese speaking employees don’t know what to make of it… the idea of a boss making fun of himself seems not to compute.

And more than that, remembering that I am, that we all are, nothing more than foolish tourists in this life provides an important perspective… should one ever be needed.

We support the monarchy

This was our first butterfly shortly before she came out of her chrysalis.

And a couple hours later, although we missed the actual event.

Because the caterpillars were being eaten very effectively by wasps and other predators, we took steps to bring some inside. The upstairs shower is now a caterpillar nursery with an expected crop of up to 20 butterflies over the next few weeks.

Caterpillars poop a lot.

We did get to watch one wriggle into its sleeping bag, though.

I haven’t really thought about the whole butterfly life cycle thing since learning about it in elementary school. But now that we’ve taken this little step to plant a couple of milkweed plants… it’s amazing!!

Of all the brewpubs in all the towns in all the world, I walked into hers

That’s me and Mavis at the Fork and Brewer in Wellington, where she works behind the bar.

I was in town for a conference, and went out with the gang for an(other) drink after the big dinner, as you do.

Regular readers will recognize Mavis as the former keyboards player for the Snaz, who played a memorable concert on my deck back in Brattleboro after we helped them raise money to get to SXSW a few years ago.


She didn’t really remember me for myself (a friend once told me, when we were both a lot younger than I am now, that the most obvious consequence of hitting whatever age milestone was that he had become utterly invisible to teenage girls), but we had a nice chat anyway.

Small world… or is it? In this case, we wouldn’t have even seen each other except that my waitress was also American and so the “where you from” conversation uncovered the Vermont connection. But if this amazing coincidence happened, then how many times have I actually been just as close to someone I know without ever finding out?

There’s a fine line

between being a famous architect and being an eccentric crank. But apparently Friedensreich Hundertwasser stayed on the right side. His gift to Kawakawa, where he spent a lot of his adult life, was this fancy public restroom.

If a bunch of other architects looked at the plans before it was built, would that be a pee review?

I’m relieved to have this moving attraction wiped off my bucket list. The tiles sometimes reminded me of a fast-flowing stream. Some people might poo-poo the significance of this installation, but i wash my hands of such critics. If you plumb its full depth you’ll find Hundertwasser to be #1 or #2 in his field.

Hmmm, I suppose that last might be a little close to the line that separates respectful tourism from snark. You be the judge…


This platform on the Wellington waterfront invites you to just jump in. It might be 20′ to the surface of the water, and it must be cold, and this is the busy part of the harbor. All in all, no thanks.

I think this could only be built in a country with a national accident insurance plan.

Deerly beloved

I visited the NIH campus in Bethesda today. Walking from the Clinical Center back to the Metro station, I stopped for a second to admire how nice and woodsy it all is. And then, as if on cue, a whole herd of deer arrived. Very impressive, Mr. Federal Planning Division, very impressive indeed.

Meat raffle 

Had to look this one up, and I definitely didn’t expect what I found out…

It turns out this is a raffle where the prize is… wait for it… some meat!

Trump Trump

Powershop is in electric company down here in New Zealand, and they want you to switch from whoever your electric company is now to them. They have blanketed the town with this Trump Trump campaign and it is absolutely wonderful.

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