Monday, February 22, 2010

My Thai happy birthday


My Thai happy birthday

Thailand is not a materialist society. So I did not receive any presents on my birthday. Instead, our school organized my birthday party at a restaurant on the river in Chiang Rai, and I was invited. It was such a great present. The party was organized a little bit earlier, because my birthday is during the exam week.

I did not tell my birthday date to anyone, but they looked in my application for the job.

This is the way the Thai celebrate their birthdays. Friends organize a party as a present. The richer Thai usually invite monks for morning service. The not so rich go early in the morning to the place where monks are gathered and give them food. It is considered good to make a donation. I made a donation to our university’s scholarship fund.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Buddhist religion in Thailand

Buddhist and other religions in Thailand

95% of Thai declare that they are Buddhist. 5% are pagans,  mostly tribe people living in mountains in North and Northwest of Thailand.

Budha lived in the 5th century before Christ.

“There is the Eightfold Path that is at the core of the Buddhist beliefs:

1. Right View. The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha--with wisdom and compassion.

2. Right Thought. We are what we think. Clear and kind thoughts build good, strong characters.

3. Right Speech. By speaking kind and helpful words, we are respected and trusted by everyone.

4. Right Conduct. No matter what we say, others know us from the way we behave. Before we criticize others, we should first see what we do ourselves.

5. Right Livelihood. This means choosing a job that does not hurt others. The Buddha said, "Do not earn your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy."

6. Right Effort. A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will toward others. This also means not wasting effort on things that harm ourselves and others.

7. Right Mindfulness. This means being aware of our thoughts, words, and deeds.

8. Right Concentration. Focus on one thought or object at a time.

Finally we have the five precepts, much like Judaism and Christianity's Ten Commandments.

The percepts are:

1. No killing Respect for life (comm 6 in the Bible)
2. No stealing Respect for others' property (8th and 10th in the Bible)
3. No sexual misconduct Respect for our pure nature (7th in the Bible)
4. No lying Respect for honesty ( 9th  in the Bible)
5. No intoxicants Respect for a clear mind”

In the Bible, there are Ten commandments

In Buddhism, there are not included four first commandments from the Bible about God , because there is no God in Buddhism, since Buddha is not a God.
Buddhists believe that there was not a Creator. The World has no beginning, no end.

About stealing and adultery in Buddhism are two percepts (2 and 3) but in the Bible are three commandments:

SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'

EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'

TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'

There is no Commandment about intoxication in the Bible.

Jesus Christ unified the first four commandments in one:

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind

And he also unified  the next six commandments in one: “ Love your neighbor as yourself”

Using Jesus Christ 's pattern we can unify Five Buddhist Percepts in one:

“Respect yourself and your neighbor”.

May be that this teaching about respect for yourself is helping these people to be so honest good and forgiving.

Buddha says that people living by his teaching will enter nirvana, a state with no suffering, but in the later writings nirvana was declared as a state of permanent happiness.

So there is not much philosophical difference between Christianity and Buddhism, I thought.

I told this idea to Hansa.

- That is so superficial, she responded. Buddhism is not only in percepts. Five percepts are common to all religions. Buddhism is the Eightfold Path showing to you how to achieve the state of nirvana, state with no suffering.
Hansa adviced me to go to monastery to lern about Buddhism.
A few of my colleagues were monks or nuns for two weeks or a month. Some of them went again and again for a short periods of time. I also decided to try to understand Buddhism from inside. So I will go to live as a nun for two weeks in a monastery in the Southern Thailand. I will go on February 27th and will be back on March 12th.

A few days ago I was invited to the English Dept party. There are mostly Westerners from English speaking countries. One of them told me: "You know, you saved me. I told to my colleagues that I go to Buddhist monastery in April. They said that I am Luny, Lunatic. Now when they found out that you also go, so they do not say me Luny anymore."

Religion practice

There is a big difference in practicing of religions.

In West, Protestant and Catholic communities meet for service, have Sunday schools for children and take care of old and ill. Nothing of that is in the Eastern, Orthodox, Church. In Orthodox church people usually meet for prayer. Priest frequently does not know his people, since he is paid by state, not by people. So western church is more practical, while in the Eastern church is more mysticism.

Buddhist practice of religion is very different. There is no priests. There is no service. People does not meet at the Temple. A man who wants to be a Buddhist can become a monk for the time of his choice: for a few weeks, months or for the whole life. Monks live in monastery, in the morning they go in the certain place of the city where people bring food for them. They eat once a day. Some time they do service in people houses at different occasions. They try to apply the teaching of eightfold path in their lives.
People going by frequently enter the temple. Go to the altar. Get on their knees in front of Buddha, bow and pray.

95% of Thai declare that they are Buddhist. 5% are pagans,  mostly tribe people living in mountains in North and Northwest of Thailand.

Buddhist temples

Buddhist temples are every where. Only altar with sitting Buddha has three walls. All other sides are usually  open. Pillars keep the roof.

This is our University Buddhist temple. It is simple and beautiful

Here you can see that the sides of the temple are open.

600 years old temple. In front are remains of the old fortress walls

Frequently there is a monastery in the templ yard.

Some times there is a Stupa near the temple. It is a building where the priest's  remains are deposited. Stupa has no doors.
Very old stupa

All temples are heavily ornamented. Everywhere is carved wood.

The Chinese architectural influence is very strong. The dragons and other mystic animals are in all temples and near by.

A very important Buddhist idea is Enlightment, Illumination. It is something as the Newton apple. The idea of Eightfold Path came to Buddha after his 49 day lenten. The  word Buddha means Enlightened. Therefore,  there is a sculptured torch on the Buddha  head representing the Enlightment. But some times on the Buddha head is lotus, representing purity.



lotus bud

Lotus bud on the head and flames around

The influence of earlier religions is frequent.
I visited a temple near Chang Mai. It has two altars. One with Buddha and another one with a Thai king who lived appr 1000 years ago and succeed to unify Northern provinces. He was a great warrior.  He liked rooster battles and battles on the elephants. There are many rooster and elephants sculptures around the temple. People pray to Buddha and after that go to pray to the king. There was possible to buy some kind of indulgences, just pieces of paper. I was told if I buy them my wishes become true.

Buddha's altar

Emperor's altar

Emperor's portret on the wall of temple


The elephants are also revered. Their sculptures are in many temples or around the temples.

There are big drums in many Buddhist temples. If you hit the drum your Saint will hear you and you can tell him your wishes. In some temples you can put a coin in order to hit the drum, but in majority it is free. These pagan practices have nothing in common with the Buddha teaching.

Pagans belive in spirits: spirits of water, forest, trees, houses and so on.
There are two trees on my way to the office where people put food and drinks on the table every day.

One morning I saw two students putting  food and drinks on the table. I asked them what is the name of their religion. Girls told me that they bring food to spirits who live in the trees. The third student who was going by stopped and told to me: "You should not ask people about their religion. Religion is a very private matter.
Do you see how embarrassed they are to talk to you!"

Thai people

Thai people

Time is not money. Money is not the most important thing in one's life.
For Thai people, time is not money. You can be late, can not finish your work on time and so on, and nothing happen to you. You will be forgiven. Because of that there is no stress and competition in the workplace. However, I see people working all the time. In our canteen, owners of food shops come at 6 am and leave after 5 pm. They charge 60 cents for a meal consisting of rice, meat and vegetables. I don't know how much remains for them after they pay for the meat, produce and rent for their place.

They are hard working, but never in hurry.

For a Westerner it has drawbacks sometimes. When my home internet connection did not work, I called and was told that the reparation would be done the next week. I said that it is too much to wait until the next week. I went with one of my colleagues to the IT service. He talked there and the IT people promised that someone would go to the guest buildings after work and do the reparation. When I came home I had an internet connection. Later I understood that is not correct Thai behavior. Thai people would wait until the next week and would not push, as I did.

I have never seen such honest people. They do not try to deceive you or steal.

Once a week in the morning we leave empty bottles for the water with money on the top of the bottle. When we come back, we find bottles with water. No one has ever stolen money.

I left my laundry basket near my door with payment for the last time. The next day I found everything clean and ironed when I came home. I pay the bill the next time. I had never seen the woman doing this work until one event. I owed her 94 baht. I put 100b in the basket. When I came home she was waiting for me at the door, showing me the bill in her hand. I didn't understand what she wanted. I gave her 6 b more and what? She insisted. I looked at the bill and saw that it was a 500b bill. The 500b and 100b bills are very similar, with the same portrait of the king, only slightly different in color. In the morning, in a hurry, I had left 500 instead of 100. She gave me the 500 back, took 100, and left.

One day one of my colleagues asked me why I always keep my balcony door open? Do I use the air conditioner? I did not know that my door was open. I opened the door some time ago, drew the curtain over, and forgot. My apartment is on the ground level, so anyone could have entered. The university is in a park. All the time in the park there were people gathering leaves or cutting branches on the trees. They certainly saw that the door was open, but no one entered.

In a shop I wanted to buy a jacket. I asked the price. It was 750b. I tried, liked it, and paid 750b. The shop woman gave me back 50b. I asked my colleague why she did it. The response was that the jacked cost 700b. She had told me 750b in case I wanted to bargain. Then the price would be reduced to 700b. It was a private shop. I think in many countries no one would worry, bargaining or not, and would just take the 750b.


Tips are not expected but accepted.
Not all times, however. There is a bus here that goes through the university and outside to the market and food store. One day I did my shopping and had a big heavy bag. The driver did not leave me at the stop but brought me directly to the guest house. I tried to pay him two tickets (20b) instead of one, but he did not accept.

Only once was I asked for a tip, but not directly. We went rafting on a mountain river. There live tribes that speak their own languages. Many of them know Thai and some of them English. The villages make a living by selling handicrafts to tourists. We rafted with two boys, both from the Lisu tribe. One of them knew English well. He talked all the time, telling stories about how poor and hungry he is and how small his salary is. Not all of his stories were true. If he came from such a poor family, where did he learn English? Nevertheless, we gave him a tip. Anyway it was much milder than my experience in Egypt. In Egypt, our guide told us that we should not give tips to our drivers because she had already tipped all of them. When we got on the carriage, the driver told us: “The tip is 1 euro”. At the end of the trip I gave the driver $1. He got very angry and shouted at me: “You did not listen to me! I said one euro! I will not take it. Give me one euro!” I borrowed 1 euro from another tourist and gave it to the driver. It was the price to leave the carriage.

No racism

Here in the North live many tribes and people from neighboring countries. They came here when there were hard times in their countries. Many Chinese came at different times. Here refugee camps were organized for Vietnamese during the war and for Cambodians during the time of Pol Pot. Many refugees remained here even when they could return to their countries.


One Westerner told me the following right when I arrived:

- Never ask Thai people for anything. They are so polite! They never will tell you “NO” even if it is inconvenient for them.

I thought about it after that. Can they forgive anything? I doubt that. In my life, sometimes I have told myself that I will forgive everything, no matter what. But I could not. At some point I could not bear any more and left. How can the Thai solve such a problem?
I asked the Westerner about the secret the Thai know and I don't.
“There is no secret,” said the Westerner, “They just avoid you after that. That why I told you: Do not ask for anything!”

I think he is wrong. They are just normal people like all of us. They forgive you for the small mistakes and may avoid you for the bigger ones. Any person coming to another country makes mistakes due to cultural differences. I think I have made mistakes, but I have not seen that people are avoiding me. Though some may be.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Semiconductors. Thailand and Russia

Semiconductors (s/c) Thailand and Russia

Grows of s/c production in Thailand

I needed these data for my lecture.  I googled “Thai semiconductor production” and tens of semiconductor companies popped up. Many Japanese and American companies have s/c fabs in Thailand. That mean jobs for production, research and development, i. e. interesting high tech jobs, well paid. Thailand is the second, after Japan, country in the world producing hard disk drives for computers.

Of curiosity, I made the same research for Russia. I felt ill after that.

Russia has 4 s/c fabs: Zelenograd, Fryazino, Voronej, Novosibirsk. The most advanced is Mikron ( Zelenograd)

“Impressive progress is being made in Russia's semiconductor segment, and within three to five years Russia could be only one or two generations behind the ITRS, boldly predicted Alexander Kalinin, deputy chairman, Russian Federal Fund for Electronics Developmenton on the Europe's Industry Strategy Symposium
“This has occurred despite the fact that semiconductor manufacturing has been less fundamental to the Russian economy (representing just 0.01% of the Russian economy) than to the world economy, since most of the Soviet industry has been government oriented with hardly any commercial chip design, and has been using 15-20 year-old equipment, he explained. A new $1 billion government strategy for 2007-2011 aims to improve design infrastructure and product development and upgrade existing facilities to 200mm/0.18µm, plus construct a new 300mm/90nm-65nm, 10,000 WPM fab (location TBD) that will require at least another $1 billion in purely private investment.”
“Eventually the Russian government plans to invest $30 million in ten centers like the Elvees Design Centre in Zelenograd (near Moscow), which is mass-producing multichip 0.25µm cores with some 25 million transistors on 12.5x12.4mm silicon, Kalinin said. A national mask facility now using 365nm lithography expects to adopt 248nm and 193nm lithography, utilizing phase shift mask and optical proximity correction. Investments of $30 million (government) and $200 million (private) in Russia's Mikron Corp. are for 0.18µm small-scale manufacturing and joint partnerships, including two million SIM cards/month.”

Russians work now on 4 inch Si wafers, while in America 12 inch wafers are used for a few years and Intel is developing now 15 inch technology. Americans work on 0.095 and develop 0.065 µm technology, while Russia uses 0.365 µm.

Now compare Russia and Thailand. The first University in Russia was opened in St Petersburg by Peter the great in 1720th. The first University in Thailand was opened 100 years ago. A great Russian scientist A. F. Ioffe was among the beginners of the semiconductor research in the word. His students Goriunova, Kolomiets, Tuchkevich were the world renowned scientists.  How Russia lost all this glory and now is years behind not only of America, but even behind of Thailand? Some time later I will write the response to this question.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Opium Museum

Opium Museum
Hansa, her son Albert and me went to Golden Triangle to visit Hall of Opium.

In this photograph you see three countries ( Golden Triangle) having a common border on the river Mekong. I am taking the photograph from Thailand. On the left is Burma, on the right is Laos. Two big buildings you see in Burma and Laos are casinos. Gambling is not allowed in Thailand. So people go to gamble to these two countries.

A short distance from here is Opium Museum. It is a huge building. I did not find good place to photograph all the building, so I photographed only parts of it.

The trees in the picture below cover central part of the building.

Opium history starts with human history. Opium was found in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Europe. In the museum, the fall of China Empire was explained by opium addiction of Chinese people. In 17th and 18th centuries opium was brought by English ships in big quantities from India to China. China had two opium wars ( in 1839-42 and 1856-60 )
Both were lost to English Empire. An agreement was signed permitting England to bring opium in unlimited quantities with no duty. As a result, at the beginning of 20th century, in China were 14 million of opium addicts from total of 400 million. One of 30 people was opium addict.

Communist rule after WWII eradicate opium addiction. There was no word about methods used by Mao for this action.

Opium was used very much during wars. It was given to wounded soldiers as a pain reliever. It was usually smoked. At the beginning of 20th century German company Bayer purified opium and made it injectable and named the new drug “morphine”. Injected morphine works much faster than smoked opium but it is very addictive. Bayer purified it even better hoping to do less addictive drug. New drug was named “Heroine” ( for soldiers – heroes) but the drug was even more addictive.

Now in all countries opium poppy is grown legally under the state supervision for medicine. But in many countries it is also grown illegally. Afghanistan produces more illegal opium then all other countries together. Illegal production of opium in Afghanistan increased many folds after 2003. Mexico looks almost innocent comparing to Afghanistan.