Cockroach Reanimation at 2k views

My most popular YouTube vid, by far, is Cockroach Reanimation with Electro-stimulation, which just passed over 200,000 views. The viewing demographic is overwhelmingly 13-17 year old boys who like to point out that the cockroach “isn’t actually coming to life, it’s something about electrical impulses and nerves and something scientific-er than that, (insert insult of choice).”

I have mixed feelings about this vid – it’s brought out all the little Mr. Wizards and smartasses and even one scary guy who requested electrocution of bigger things – but in the end, it’s nice to have a kind of popular YouTube upload that I made with a $1 electronic device and a dead/reanimated (just kidding, kids!) insect:

Online again.

So I’ve been recovering for a month now. Wasn’t hurt too bad in the accident, but it flipped a switch in my head. Didn’t feel like blogging or writing or working at all, really. Of those three things, though, only one was really necessary so I did do a lot of extra work lecturing and speaking here and there.

As I type away on this dirty keyboard, it slowly feels like I’m coming back to a place of comfort. I was angry for a long time. Specifically, I was angry at the shop that almost killed me through negligent automobile repair. When I last wrote, I was waiting to hear back from them for a repair estimate for my car. All I thought about for three weeks was how I was going to get back at them – three weeks is a very long time for a devious mind to concoct intricate schemes. I even dreamed about it a few times, standing on a battlefield under a tattered flag, watching crows pick at the corpses of my slain enemies. Or standing in a courtroom at the moment of winning an all-or-nothing class action lawsuit, showered with applause from others who had shared similar experiences. Like I said, three weeks is a long time.

As it turns out, though, I may end up accepting the shop’s offer to pay for just half the damage, because the estimate ended up being about 10 to 20% of what we thought it would cost. The son at the shop ended up being cool about it and called in some favors at a body shop so we could get it done cheap. It’s still not ideal or just in my mind, but I’m willing to let it go now – it’s not enough money to stress about. Plus, I can leave it up to the shop to make sure shit gets done and not have to deal with details every day. And most importantly of all, karma’s a bitch. Motherfuckers who do bad shit get bad shit in return. That’s just the way it works. Believe that.

—————

Just before I finished the restoration of my car I had somehow amassed a stable of three 100-150cc scooters. One cruiser, two two-stroke sport(ish) bikes. When I started parking my car in the garage again, I had to move them out and thought about what the hell to do with them. I moved them to temporary spaces around the outside of the house and covered them with tarps, using them about once a week on rotation to keep them maintained. So when I got in this accident, I was lucky enough to have transportation ready. I love old bikes, and two-stroke engines are awesome because they are so powerful and no longer produced. Pics to follow, sometime.

Toyota reviving Nobunaga (Toyota ReBorn), plus killer killer whales

Linkdump follows:

Any modern car ad using a 1960’s S40 Crown is worth watching in my opinion, but the CM being referred to (and uploaded to Youtube just 3 hours ago) is just indecipherable. The making of video isn’t much help, either.

Killer whales attack and eat sharks: In itself, not news but apparently orcas screw with sharks the way that dolphins screw with bait balls, using their cunning mammalian brains

This Chinese Village Is So Rich It Built A Fake Great Wall And Arc De Triomphe: I’m not sure those are signs of wealth by themselves — the small Japanese island I used to live on had miniature versions of those and several other famous structures at their aging amusement park, and the last I heard pretty much every last notable business went to shit (probably entirely coincidental with my leaving, but sorry to all my friends there just in case).

(At least one of the links above are from somebody, probably Mark, on Google+, but I can’t find it now)

Max’s first fish

Maxie's first fish - a tilapia!

A couple weeks ago, we went to my coworker and good friend’s father-in-law’s place for his new house celebration. He’d built a new house on top of the foundations of an older one at his 15 rai (1 rai = 0.4 acres) property five minutes walk from our home. There are several fish ponds on the site, stocked with all kinds of fish including tilapia, catfish, snakehead, etc.

Max was so excited about going fishing for real, he couldn’t sleep the night before. Until then, we’d been practicing for safety with hookless tackle (a rubber door stopper tied to the line) at the ponds in our neighborhood, but Max was ready for the real deal. When morning rolled around, we went out into our garden and dug up worms for bait, which both Max and Mina couldn’t believe just lived in the ground around our house…

Just before noon, we headed over to my friend’s FIL’s place and found that Max was unwilling to eat; he was completely enthralled with the prospect of actually fishing, so I pulled a couple of bass rods from the back of our car and set up with light rigs. Then:

This was actually his second fish, perhaps a bleeker, related to carp in any case. We were fishing the shallows in 1 meter deep water with fallen submerged trees everywhere, so my sliding sinker rig did a perfect job. The total for the day was five small fish between Max and his friends, and typically, they all got bored after pulling in their own fish. Max was scared to actually touch the fish, just as I remember being, so it was a good learning experience for everybody.

On the deep side of the pond we were fishing they apparently catch 7-8 kilogram catfish of various species (giant Mekong cats included!) on a regular basis; I saw some they pulled that morning in the 5kg range waiting to be prepared for eating, so I don’t doubt it. I was trying to keep the kids from being traumatized by a leviathan, so we stayed in the shallows!

Things I replaced on our car over summer vacation

You may understand part of the pain and frustration we experienced if you can recognize the complete set of gaskets and ferrofluid engine mounts (replaced with solid urethane mounts). Yes, the whole front end of our Cefiro A33 (USDM: Infiniti i30) was taken apart and put together again. It runs really sweet now, except for a noisy power steering pump, another set of wheel bearings, some paint bubbling up on the roof, etc., etc., and so forth…. And my car, the 40 year old Kujira Crown, will be totally done sometime this year, hopefully (that’s a story in itself; not enough space or patience to cover it here).

Paddle Boat @ MSU


This photo is from a couple months ago, but Max insisted we do the same thing today in the afternoon heat… Can you tell how off-balance the keel is? (and yes, the water really is that green)

Note: This is a big man made pond in front of a newly-built conference hall at the new campus of Maha Sarakham University, where Nam teaches.

The Accidental Motorcycle Thief

The other day, I wanted to go for a quick lunch at the canteen (cafeteria), so I asked one of the students interning for the Japanese course if I could borrow her scooter. She gave me the key and told me where it was parked, along with a description. She said the license plate number was 85, and that it was a 100cc Honda Wave, with a manual transmission, in gray.

I found the 100cc manual Honda Wave almost immediately, but noticed that the license plate was actually 58 and that it was blue with gray accents. I chalked it up to the student remembering it wrong, or me hearing it wrong, and decided to test it by trying to start it up: No problem. I rode off in the direction of lunch, happily upshifting with my foot in this age of boring automatic plastic bi-wheeled conveyances.

When I got back on the scooter after lunch, the key was harder to turn. I had to work at it a bit. Then, when I got back to my building, I couldn’t turn the key to the far left to lock the steering column. I tried for a few minutes doing the jiggle-turn maneuver, but finally just gave up. When I went back to my office, I told the intern that I couldn’t lock her bike and asked if she’d had problems with her key, but she had no idea what I was talking about. A warning sign flashed briefly in my head.

“You said your plate number was 5-8, right?” I asked.

“No, I said 8-5,” she said.

Uh-oh.

I  looked down at where I’d parked the bike and saw a girl wiping tears from her eyes, our building’s custodian trying to console her, and a security guard talking into a walkie talkie.

I went down and apologized, and in the end, everyone except the victim had a good laugh about it (she was still in shock at having her scooter stolen). I felt bad for making her feel bad, but also because the first time I stole a bike, [A.] it was only 100cc, [B.] it required no skill because of the worn lock, and [C.] it provided zero exhilaration because IT WAS A TOTAL ACCIDENT.

max’s wittle bitty (part 2)

Getting rid of Bitty turned out to be a mistake. Max demanded to know where his pet had gone. Upon learning that Bitty had been returned to the pond (“to be with his friends…”), he threw an epic fit. It was so incredibly heart-rending and long, we all piled in the car. Destination: Pet store.

The main pet store in Maha Sarakham is five minutes from our house, but it seemed like ages with Max screaming the whole way. The last time I’d been there was a few years before, to buy charcoal for my DIY air/water purification project (mission status: Incomplete). I had been horrified to see the neglect of the fishtanks on display; a couple of them were filled with the black, rotting corpses of goldfish bobbing violently as the pumps merrily bubbled away. This time, there were no such horrors. We bought Max the smallest possible tank (ten inches by six?) with gravel and a pump, and decided on two attractively striped little bitties. We didn’t know it at the time, but this tank contained an anomalous zone with Strange Occurrences.

The best way to describe the Occurrences is with a timeline of the less than one-month span the aquarium was actually in operation, plus the follow-up period:

  • Day 1: The attractively striped bitties spend a happy night together.
  • Day 2: Daddy finds a small freshwater crab outside in the yard (they crawl over from the pond across the street, or up from the drainage pipes), and puts it in the tank.
  • Day 3: One of the bitties disappears; there is zero trace of him.
  • Day 8: The crab molts, and for a day, it looks like there are two crabs (Nam is convinced that daddy put another, immobile crab in the aquarium).
  • Day 9: The molted shell disappears, apparently eaten by the crab to stave off osteoporosis.
  • Day 20: Nanny finds a HUGE male crab with a claw the size of the entire smaller crab; we put it in the tank.
  • Day 23: Somebody puts red sticky rice in the aquarium and the water turns soupy pink. The crabs grow pink fuzz on their shells.
  • Day 26: The remaining bitty disappears, also with zero clues left as to what actually happened.
  • Day 27: Since Max lost interest in the aquarium and there are no actual bitties left, daddy makes the executive decision to let the crabs go and save the electricity used to keep the pump running.
  • Day 28: The aquarium, emptied of water and left outside, suddenly cracks as if in protest.
  • Day 35: The nanny’s hand is cut as she tries to move the broken aquarium.
  • Day 40: The aquarium disappears without a trace.

So the main mystery is: What happened to the fish? The simple explanation is that the crabs ate them. However, although this is perhaps a reasonable explanation for the second fish, the first fish was nearly as big as the small crab (the big crab wasn’t yet in the tank when the first fish disappeared). And there are other questions/factors as well:

  • Do these types of crabs eat live fish? They didn’t seem to like meat as far as I could tell.
  • The crabs did like goldfish pellets and were fed twice daily
  • Even if the crabs did catch the fish, it seems unlikely they could have eaten them entirely, leaving no trace at all
  • Daddy did look to see what was happening in the tank at least twice a day, during feeding time

The other major possibility is that the fish jumped out of the tank, but I never found them. The area around the table the tank was kept on was cluttered with baby seats and toys and whatnot, but I looked around everywhere more than once and still didn’t find anything.

Not having a satisfactory answer and not knowing eventually led me to consider alternative explanations:

  • Wormhole (did they warp away?)
  • Evolution (did they walk away?)
  • Outside predation (did an errant albatross enter my house unnoticed?)
  • Astral Travel (did they have an out of body experience so good they decided to stay there – and teleport their bodies away as well?)
  • Alien Death Ray (did ET screw with my bitties?)
  • Sashimi (did Mina dare Max to swallow them whole? Did some wasabi and shoyu disappear as well?)

I fear I will never know.

Does anybody out there have a better guess?