What’s going on (May 2011 edition)

So we went to Koh Samet for a few days with a bunch of my coworkers and some of their families. It was awesome, but I feel the need to write about what’s been happening around here before moving onto editing the trip photos and video.

Max and Mina started school on May 18. Max is now going to the demonstration school at the old Maha Sarakham University campus, very close to the Rajabhat University where I work, because his old school shut down at the end of the last term. Mina is going to a nursery school very close to Nam’s office, at the new Maha Sarakham University campus. Both of them were having a hard time the first week, but Mina seems to enjoy going now. Max has separation issues and still cries some mornings. Today it was very hard. Since they are the same issues I had when I was little, I end up spending most of the day wondering if he’s happy or not, and whether he will remember how he feels now when he grows up… I still remember holding onto my dad’s gold chain as hard as I could and crying my head off as a teacher tried to pry me away – then wondering 30 minutes later, as the tears dried, why I had felt so sad before. Anyway, watching your kids being unhappy has got to be one of the hardest things to face. I only take consolation in our after action reports when I pick him up from school and he says he had fun playing with his friends and doing art, dancing, eating paste, etc.

As I write this, my head is starting to hurt. Nam took me to Mahasarakham hospital today, where I had three warts from my head, one from my face, and several skin tags from my chest, back, and neck removed. The ones on my head were large and required excision, as well as four, two, and three stitches, respectively. There is probably a big enough area on my head unaffected enough to be able to lie face up on a pillow tonight. Stitches are scheduled to come out in a week, and the doctor told me not to try removing them myself, but I probably wouldn’t try anyway since I can’t see them (although being told not to try kind of makes it tempting — actually, maybe the doctor’s busy next week and doesn’t want to do it, so laid a reverse psychology trap…).

The decision to send Mina to school at one and a half years old was kind of forced on us. We lost Max’s beloved nanny back in March, when her husband cheated on her and she went suicidal. We looked after her as best we could, and started looking for another nanny. Long story short, it is hard to find good help these days. We make an effort to take care of our help and still… It’s just really hard. So we started looking at school as an alternative to Mina being watched at home by people we couldn’t trust 100%. Guess what, we would never leave her with someone we don’t trust. So she is going to school, and seems to be loving it now that she’s in the groove. She is the most precocious child her age we’ve ever seen, and that is why we worry about Max more than Mina at school.

My stream of consciousness is now being interrupted by burning sensations where my scalp is stitched up.

There was one sight at Koh Samet that really made a strong impression on us… We went on a snorkeling tour on a speedboat, and on the way back to our resort, stopped at a fish farm. It didn’t appear to be a commercial farming operation, rather it seemed to exist as a tourist attraction. There were many tour company boats docking up next to it at any given time (I never saw if we paid an entrance fee or not, I have a feeling each tour company pays and that part of our payment for the tour went toward that). The farm consisted of neighboring fish pens arranged in a grid; pens were square and consisted of a net suspended from steel frames tied to blue plastic 55 gallon drums upon which wooden catwalks were laid — the catwalks were approximately one foot in width. Nam carried Mina, and Max insisted on walking by himself to check out each pen of fish, so I held his hand and let him walk in front of me. Imagine my surprise as we slowly proceeded (LOOK, DADDY! FISHIES!!) past pens of barramundi, snapper, clownfish, pomfret, gouramis, jacks, and a sad-looking giant grouper and eventually came upon an open pen of sharks! Two zebra sharks and two leopard sharks, four or five feet long, swimming in never-ending circles and chomping on bait the tourists were throwing in! This being the biggest attraction, people were passing each other on the narrow catwalks and the entire structure was bobbing up and down from the shifting weight — I am SURE somebody has fallen in there before. I guess nobody’s gotten bitten, though, because the fact that the shark pen is uncovered just blew our minds. Max thought it was cool as hell, though (I did, too, but for different reasons — it was like hearing about renting RPGs and buying cows to shoot in Cambodia or something).

So the staff in the operating room today were really excited to have a foreigner to practice English on, and it was funny and surreal all wrapped into one as I listened to the molam tunes playing through a portable radio and smelled my flesh being cauterized while being asked if I “wanted more drug” or not (oh hell yes!). It reminded me of the time I got hit by a car on my scooter in Japan in the dead of winter, flew over the handle bars into a snowy rice field and banged my head hard enough to crack my helmet, then after a long ambulance ride and wait on a cold gurney, being told a one-word prognosis by the doctor: “Lobotomy.” Shit, I wish I’d had a video camera for that one…

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A picture’s worth a thousand words update:
Somebody’s photo of the fish farm
Somebody else’s photo of one of the sharks

Quick trip to Ko Samet

I am taking the family on a work trip from now. It will be an overnight bus ride, followed by a boat ride to Koh Samet and a smaller ferry-to-shore. We plan to return on Monday night, just in time to finish preparation for the new school term.

Installing Thai fonts on a Samsung Galaxy 5 i5503 (custom Froyo ROM)

Above: An example of something that didn't work.

Notes: I am writing this guide from memory and it shouldn’t be considered definitive (or even accurate, ha ha). Also, I get this sort of stuff done with heavy googling and then lots of trial and error, an approach that often ends in tears. It happened to work for me this time, but only after trying several different approaches and tools. It might not work for you and I accept no responsibility for that or what it might entail: Worst case, you might brick your phone.

That being said, it has made the Galaxy 5 one of the best values currently on the Thai smartphone market – cheap (about 5,000 Baht new last time I checked), fast, and installable with almost any app.

Credit where credit is due: The majority of the Thai font install procedure below was adapted from NexusOneHacks.net.

One last thing, is it truly necessary to flash your firmware in order to install the fonts? Maybe not, but it was for me. I was previously using firmware I5500LUYJP2 from this page. I tried the same font installation procedure described below and it did not work until I tried different firmware..

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1. Download firmware and follow the Flashing Instructions on this page: MAD ROM 2.3 Extreme App2SD Edition. If you don’t know how to use ODIN, etc., this guide can help you (just remember to use the firmware you just downloaded instead of the one linked in the guide).

2. After setup is complete, root your phone with Universal Androot (I’ve found that often the first try isn’t successful. Just try again.)

3. Next, install Terminal Emulator on your Galaxy 5.

4. Since Froyo lacks copy functionality from shell (for whatever stupid reason), you need to install busybox. Click this link to download busybox. Then copy it into the root directory of your SD card.

5. Make a new directory in the root of your SD card and name it font. Download this zip file, which contains the Droid Sans font files with Thai support. Unzip it, and copy all the .ttf files into the font directory you made.

6. Open Terminal Emulator on your phone, type each line below (without the $ or # symbols that are there to indicate a new line as shown in the application) and press the enter key.

$ su

Note: This command should open a prompt that asks if you want to grant Superuser privileges to the Terminal Emulator application. Click yes. After this point, the $ symbol before each new command should automatically change to a # symbol. This indicates superuser status.

# mount -o rw,remount -t yaffs2 /dev/block/mtdblock4 /system

# mkdir /data/busybox

# cat /sdcard/busybox > /data/busybox/busybox

# chmod 755 /data/busybox/busybox

# mkdir /data/local

# cd /data/busybox

# ./busybox –install
(That’s 2 dashes before install!!!)

# cp /sdcard/font/* /system/fonts

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The fourth line from the bottom with the mkdir command probably isn’t necessary, but even if it isn’t, it will just return a harmless error. Also, the busybox install returned a bunch of errors for me, but seemed to work out in the end.

Photos (and Video) from the Korat Zoo

Yesterday we got home from a trip to Nakhon Ratchasima, more commonly known as Korat. The city is famous for being the gateway to the Northeast region (where we live) of Thailand, and is at just about the halfway point when we go to/from Bangkok. We were only there for one reason, though. Max wanted to see animals…

The zoo is medium-sized, and unremarkable from a technology standpoint. However, some thought has gone into the layout, premium services, and a few of the exhibits really stand out. In addition, the cost of things including admission (50 Baht for Thais, 100 Baht for foreigners, free for small children) is very reasonable. We went from 9:00AM and rented a golf cart for a couple of hours (500 Baht) after seeing the lines for the trams and figuring it would be too hot by noon. Two hours turned out to be just enough time to see almost everything including the obligatory pinniped (why isn’t “pinniped” in the Chrome spell checker dictionary?) show, which if you’ve been to Sea World looks like Retarded Animal Training for Dummies, but kept the kids entertained until they, too, got tired of seeing finned marine mammals playing in the water and doing horribly easy tricks for piscine (why isn’t “piscine” in the Chrome spell checker dictionary?) rewards.

We missed seeing some of the exhibits; it would probably take another hour to cover everything, but then again if you don’t have kids you don’t lose time on diaper changes and meltdown control when they are both convinced that the other has something in their hand that they want.

The highlight of the zoo for us: The giraffes! I have never been so close to a giraffe in my life, and it was a really cool experience. Now I have one less reason to go on safari.

Some pics: