Back on Track

I had to make an emergency trip to Laos from this past weekend to change my visa. I just got back ten minutes ago. I have not read any e-mail or messages yet; if you wrote to me in the last few days I’ll be in touch soon.

vomitus

Just thought I’d let you know one of the most unpleasant combinations of injuries/sickness I have ever experienced: Bruised ribs and projectile vomiting.
I thought I’d let this one pass because the cause of the bruised ribs is kind of embarassing… A couple weeks ago, my hand slipped outward when I was pushing myself out of the bathtub, and the full weight of my torso came down on its edge (I made kind of a wheezing, squeaky sound like ooofeeeeee…). No immediate sharp pain or anything, but it was sore like hell for about a week (although the soreness is almost gone now, except when I lay on my side).
Then last Friday I must have eaten something bad at the university cafeteria for lunch, because by late afternoon, I started feeling nauseous. We were having a dinner party at our house that evening, but I was bedridden with a fever and diarrhea. However, our guests were from Japan and I had to at least say hi. So I took some pills to settle my stomach (I hadn’t actually puked at this point), and got dressed, then went downstairs to greet about thirty people… Long story short, I should have stayed in bed. By the time I got around to the last group bowing and sawasdee-ing, I could feel the purge valve kicking in – I hurriedly said my greetings, excused myself, and ran upstairs with burning vomit creeping up my throat inch by inch. I burst into my room and did the oh-fuck-where’s-the-wastebasket dance with puke leaking into my cupped hands, and fell to my knees gagging as tears ran down my cheeks. Nam found the wastebasket just in time (I couldn’t make it to the bathroom) and kicked it over to me….
UUUUUUUUA….UNGLARRRRRGPH…BLAAAAAAAAA
You know that split second when you’re tossing your cookies, I mean really tossing them with your jaw locked forward and neck stiffened, and a stream of foul-smelling acid is flowing out your mouth, and the only thing you can cling to inside is the ANTICIPATED RELIEF you will feel when you are all done?
Yeah, that moment never came.
Instead, my bruised ribs immediately started screaming in protest at being stretched – it hurt so bad that I was actually crying from the pain instead of the vomiting – and had the unexpected effect of making me vomit more. I had created a perpetual cycle of vomit!
//
The punch line: Apparently all the dinner guests outside on the lawn heard me through the open second story windows, and there were more leftovers than we expected – especially the fish.

car shopping

So I’m looking for a car.
I’ve been to nearly all the dealers in town, and nothing inspires me – it’s all rather depressing, really. On top of the fact that everyone is turning out overpriced dreck in general, Thailand happens to be one of the most expensive markets for new and used cars I have seen. Some prices that have stuck out the past week for new (mainly 2006 year model) cars:
Honda Civic 2.0L sedan, decked out: $28,000
Honda Accord 2.4L V6, decked out: $41,000
Mazda 3 Hatchback 2.0L, decked out: $28,000
Chevy Optra 1.6L Airbag/ABS/Leather interior: $20,000
Nissan 350Z 5/6 speed MT: $140,000
… and you can buy pretty much any pickup truck you want for less than $25,000
I’ve noticed that the models offered in Thailand are fairly anemic with the small to mid-sized sedans/5 doors being capped at an even 2 liters. This is why I decided against a pimped out Mazdaspeed equivalent – because it isn’t. If I’m putting out close to 30k, I want the zoomzoom, ya know?
Another thing I noticed is that out here in the countryside, at least, even big dealerships only stock a few models of cars – understandable, I guess, but some were even reluctant to order models they didn’t have!
I actually came here wanting to buy a pickup, but decided pretty quickly that I don’t need one and it would be a bitch to drive one around everyday on errands.
SUVs are too damned expensive, plus are just too damned big for everyday use.
What I really want at this point is a full-sized sedan, but I’ll be damned before I shell out 40k for an Accord, or worse, a Camry.
That leaves the mid-sized sedans. The 1.8L Mazda 3 sedan goes for about $23,000. It’s better looking than many of its counterparts, but has a few design quirks of its own… I don’t really like the front console much at all, it’s like a gaudy stereo component system cobbled together with a readout reminiscent of NFSMW, which may work in the Mazdaspeed 3, but not the sedan.
I had to take my sister-in-law’s tiny Opel hatchback into the Chevy dealer for work (which is also the only authorized service center in the area for a few other GM brands). I was shocked! I have been checking the service areas of all the dealers, and Chevy’s was by far the cleanest and most tightly run… The staff was quick and polite, and knew what they were doing! I was so impressed, I started asking about the cars. Chevy is pushing a couple mid-sized sedans at the moment, and one of them, called the Optra, caught my eye. It looked EU-styled, handsome. It came in dark gunmetal, my favorite color. And it cost a lot less than its Japanese counterparts… Maybe, just maybe, this car was a possibility… Was it possible? Could it be true? Had it taken a lifetime of traveling and car-swapping for me to come full circle and FINALLY BUY AMERICAN?
Well, I had to think about that one. Let’s see:

  • I like the basic design, styling, and color… +1
  • GM is in the shithouse for the foreseeable future… -1
  • I can throw in my own stereo and upgrade tires/rims easily/cheaply… +1
  • A 1.6 liter engine is enough for a Japanese car this size, but an American one? Plus, the top model only upgrades the engine to a 1.8L (for an extra $5,000)… -1
  • On the other hand, more solid construction has benefits… +1
  • Resale value is horrible… -1

Hmm… pluses and minuses were an even tie just off the top of my head. Not very inspiring, but I still liked the car, so I came home to research it… Guess what?
I WAS FOOLED!
I wasn’t thinking about buying American at all! Turns out, I was contemplating buying Korean!
FUCK YOU, GENERAL MOTORS! ME NO WANT REBADGED DAEWOO!
It was bad enough when buying a Chevy was buying a Chevy…
The great car hunt of 2006 resumes tomorrow.

Papers

It took just over three weeks for my box of documents to get here from Japan via surface mail. Inside were my international and California driver’s licenses, where I had stupidly left them in the rush of last-minute packing.
I have papers again, and drove legally for the first time in Thailand today. Funny thing is, no one noticed.

The Road Less Travelled


Danger ahead, maties!
Of course, I had to see what all the fuss was about – turns out they were just cutting trees on the side of the road, nothing special.

Panasonic VS6


So I’ve been watching the price of things, all kinds of things, here in Thailand. One of the bargains I noticed early on was for Japanese-made mobile phones other than Sony-Ericsson. In Thailand, Nokia is the absolute king, which is probably responsible for this trend (Sony still has brand power here so this explains their exclusion above). In fact, LG and Samsung cellphones are also more popular and expensive than their Japanese brethren, which I feel is ridiculous when I compare the products, yet am more than willing to take advantage of.
I picked up the black Panasonic VS6 for a little over 5,000 Baht ($140) last week and liked it so much, I went back to get a matching red one for Nam’s birthday. There is not much to say about this phone except that it totally kicks the shit out of the equivalent Nokia in every aspect – functionality, quality of build, photo quality, features, ease of use – at half the price.
I may be biased, but every cell phone from a non-Japanese manufacturer I’ve ever used has had an overly complicated (or overly simplified) user interface, making simple tasks long, drawn-out affairs. I’ve worked with the cell testing groups at factories in Japan and know that at many companies, each phone’s UI is tested by an army of 500 temp workers maintained exclusively for usability trials. They may very well have similar testing in other countries as well, but I doubt it is on the same scale. Anyways, an added bonus of this phone is that if you are used to using a Japanese keitai interface, this phone will be very easy to operate.
To answer the questions in my previous post, this phone seems to be available in the states (random shop link), but being GSM will not be available for use in Japan (it can be purchased in Japan for usage overseas in GSM countries, though – google jp link)

Rusty Cage


For me, Sunday holds some mighty important rituals – slowly making coffee, working on my car, and listening to Johnny Cash.
This is the greatest Soundgarden cover ever made.