toluene dreams

So we spent all day cleaning up the new house, something I swore we wouldn’t have to do because labor is so cheap here. As it turns out, the problem isn’t getting people to do menial tasks cheaply (we borrowed some workers from our housing developer for free, even). The problem is getting people to do menial tasks with any degree of proficiency (none) or to the hirer’s satisfaction (ditto). So I spent the whole day painting over stains, removing sprayed furniture glue from our floor tiles with paint thinner, developing new and exciting ways of removing mysterious black stains from our bathroom wall tiles (nylon brush + concentrated dish soap + industrial strength elbow grease). I’d like to say I got really high off the paint thinner, but all I really got was a stinging, burning sensation.on my hands after a couple hours. It brought back memories of helping my parents remodel our Fountain Valley house.
Tomorrow, we pack up and start moving.

hello world

We are flat out at the moment. The week has been very, very busy as we rush to move into the new (98% complete) house during the four day vacation I have from tomorrow. I spent Christmas day waiting for delivery trucks. When they came three hours late, they didn’t have everything they were supposed to have so we had to wait for trucks the next day, too. So pretty much, I hated Christmas again, but in a different way this year.
My experiment living and raising a family overseas is off to a great start. When I can finally stop sinking money into curtains, screen doors, appliances, fixtures, repairs, tweaks, and all the trim needed by this new house, I am going to buy myself a water buffalo. Just for the hell of it. It can feed and water itself around my house, and I shall finally l have my Herd of Buffalo (although Herd of Cow sounds much cooler).
Although I will barely notice it coming and going, I wish you all a very happy new year.


We took a trip to Khon Kaen today to hit HomePro (the local mega home center) for various items and made a stop by our favorite mall, Fairy Plaza, on the way back for some double cheeseburger eats, and for Nam to buy some foundation. The girls at the counter insisted on doing Nam’s make up since she’s a card-carrying Kanebo loyalist. It was amazing; just like a car being painted. They stripped off the existing layers of pigment, laid down a solid primer coat followed by 2 main coats and sealant – it was even metallic pearl, yo.
As I sat and watched, I wondered how to say, “Stop painting on my pregnant wife! Only cheap harlots paint their faces with ground fish scales!”, in Thai, but I guess that level of nuance is still a few years off.

Quick reading links

BTW I’m listening to Al Jazeera News in English in the background here and they just announced that Japan has officially taken Humpback whales off the hunting list this season. Yay, Japan. Or something.

Not-So-Usual Photos

English Russia has the scoop on a Russian online community, members of which enjoy making staged photos such as:

“A Cheating Wife: You need to make a photo of a man, “a lover”, hanging outside the real window. The window should be not lower than a 3rd store of a multi-stored building. “A husband” should lean out from another window with a gun, aiming at “the lover”. From yet another window “the cheating wife” should look out in despair.”
“The Waiter: A man dressed like a water should crawl out of a refuse chute in some multi-stored building, right from the disposal opening. He should hold a tray with some servings and a towel in another hand”
“A Zombie: A man, rolled up in bandages should crawl on his stomach at a pedestrian crossing. He should have a knife sticking out of his back. Another guy should chase him with a working chainsaw”
“The Pickles: Make a photo of many jars of pickles. Some of them should have pickled cell-phones. Not less than five cell phones in each jar please”
“A Pyramid: You should have a three level pyramid on the photo. The first level is some random truck, the second is a passenger car and some two-wheeled thing on the top of “the pyramid” please.”

You really need to go check out the results.
I found the ubiquity of red underwear very curious.

Beer Lubrication

So I want to relate a story about beer.
Last Sunday I attended a wedding of a guy who I’d met only twice before; once in a liquor store in the presence of a crazy almost-naked dude wearing a loincloth, and the second time in the deafening molam haze at a local live house.
The first time was about eight months ago. T was visiting from Japan and we were buying beer for a front yard barbecue. We bought all the Leo longnecks and loose cans of whatever, as well as a case of Archa if memory serves me right. There were two (Thai) guys behind the counter, one of who rang up the sale. The other guy was sitting down and started talking to me in English. He said his name was Patrick, and he explained he was from around here but currently working in South Carolina (although I mistakenly heard this as “Southern California”). We chatted for a couple minutes and that was that until we left the store and saw the aforementioned naked guy doing something strange in the gutter outside. I went back in a and mentioned it to Patrick, who came out to have a look and explained, simply, “Oh, don’t worry. He’s just fucked up.” In a land of non-native English speakers, it’s sometimes such a relief to hear the simplest of phrases in my native language used so naturally.
The second time was two weeks ago. I was out at the live house celebrating three of my fellow teachers who had received their MAs. It was actually the third venue of the night (dinner –> karaoke –> live house), so I was feeling… happy. A student of mine happened by the table and said she wanted to introduce me to her brother. It turned out to be a familiar face – Patrick! He must have been pretty wasted too, because we greeted each other like old friends (I almost asked what had happened to the fucked-up guy, but resisted the urge), slapping each other on the back, doing multiple hand shakes, etc. I told him my wife was pregnant, and he told me that he was to be married the next weekend…
This is how Nam and I found ourselves in the parking lot for a grungy outdoor market in a small town an hour away from home last Sunday. Patrick had been very sure about the directions and told me it was in the market, which we truly doubted, and sure enough, the venue was nowhere to be seen. But a small town is a small town, and a shopkeeper on the corner knew the house we were looking for… It was kind of hard expressing to Nam why we were going to a wedding reception of a guy who I’d only known through beer, but that was half the fun of it.
As it turned out, the wedding was a blast. The food was great and I met Patrick’s whole family (his bride, too, for the first time). Everybody was really cool. Patrick looked like he hadn’t slept for a few days, and upon asking, indeed had not. When he had a few spare minutes, we sat down and shared a bottle of Leo, on ice, SE Asia style.

Mooban Hacking Part 1 (Pimp My Ride, Thailand)

Here are the plans I have for the Crown:

  • Fix brakes (possibly replace master cylinder) Fixed & replaced
  • Bodywork/new paint job (needs missing chrome part on front)
  • Install parking break
  • Install wing mirrors to replace current side mirrors
  • Repair/replace gauges (the temp. gauge is the only one I really need and it works; fuel gauge works at full tank and 1/4 tank, again, this is all I really need)
  • Suspension (may dump the front; rear sus is OK as is)

Sadly, this car is a poor candidate for classic restoration – she’s a bit rough and it would be quite expensive. Plus, it just doesn’t fit this car’s kick-ass demeanor. She doesn’t want to be pretty in the restoration sense, I think. She is special and deserves to stand out, however. With that in mind, I went searching for some used rims a couple weeks ago with my pal Don. I told him I’d buy a pair of good ones, something with flavor, if we could find them for 6 or 7,000 Baht. We visited five tire shops and joked about calling MTV to Sarakham for help with Pimp My Ride Thailand (after all, people all over the world are thinking similar things). At the last shop, guess what we found?
I know it takes a while to get used to them; it completely changes the look of the car. It’s amazing what new shoes can do – and what shoes they are! In my last post about the Kuj, I said that I began suspecting that this car is a luck magnet… Well guess what? Those are used seventeen-inch Ray’s Volk Racing six points that I picked up for 6500 Baht. With tires, 225s on back and 215s on front, total Jap VIP-car style. Unreal. And the whole time we drove from shop to shop I was telling Don how we were definitely going to happen across a perfect set. This car is a witch. A good witch.
This became evident again last week when we took the car in to a mechanic that Don knew in order to change out the master cylinder. We bought the almost-new part at a local used parts warehouse (2200 Baht, fair) and took it back to the garage. The mechanic turned out to be a kindergarten classmate of Nam’s, so when we went back to pick up the car a couple days later, he only wanted to charge us 800 Baht! That’s like $25 US! For custom fitting a part that didn’t really fit in the engine compartment (because it’s stuffed with an RB-20 engine) and adjusting the brakes! As lucky a break as this was, I couldn’t bear to pay the guy so little for such a big job and insisted he take a thousand (just call me Rockefeller).
Anyway. I took some more photos to update this logbook on the progress of our mooban hacking.
(as always, left click once on photos to open a larger size in a pop-up window)
The careful reader will notice the red spray job that the nice man at the tire store insisted on doing on my brake calipers (rear brakes are drums, luckily sprayed black and not red). He even went so far as to spray a primer coat of silver on them first. This is the level of pimptitude in Thailand (MTV we need you!). Everybody sprays their calipers red, Brembo style. The real posers actually spray their drums red and/or stick Brembo stickers over the paint job. (BTW I noticed that my calipers were made by Sumitomo before the guy sprayed the stamping over. Never seen Sumitomo calipers before. I guess they’re the originals.)
Also, since I wrote that list above a few things have changed. Obviously, the most important item, the brakes, have been worked out, almost completely. There is still a slight issue with balance when braking hard (it’s pulling right), but part of this is the mismatched rubber I’m driving on now. I can handle it how it is for a while. Eventually, I’ll switch over the tires from my Cefiro (luckily, also on 17s – the tires are Eagle F1 215s all around) and buy new tires for it – new tires won’t make a difference on the Crown.
Um, I’m almost ashamed to write this, but I briefly considered having the front springs cut to give it a greaseball Camaro-type slant. I say I’m ashamed because I know this is a truly a Tijuana-level hack. I say briefly because since I changed over to these big rims, I’ve bottomed out the front tires against the wheel wells, lightly, a couple of times. There are big bumps and dips in the road around here, so this has to be done the right way, with new and shorter springs, if at all.
Also, my knee-freezing aircon worked brilliantly for a few weeks after I had it gassed up in Bangkok, but apparently there’s a slow leak because all I get now is a warm breeze out of the vents. So the leak has to be found and fixed there as well.
That concludes this installment of Pimp My Ride, Thailand.

Strange baby products (part 1)

So people are starting to send me strange baby-related links, which is pretty cool. G sent me the first link:

If you haven’t given birth yet, the Zaky is great to bring to the hospital when your baby is born. Scent it with your own scent beforehand to help your baby when he/she is in the bassinet next to you or give it to the nurse when your baby is taken to the hospital’s nursery. This way you give your baby “your hand” with your scent, and the nurse can use it to support and position your baby. Also, because your baby smells and feels something constant from birth, the Zaky helps the transition to going home.

Uh, okay.
Adam sent me the next link: Issho ni Nenne baby Mickey womb doll by Takara Tomy

Baby Mickey and Minnie play internal melodies and sounds that recreate what they heard before birth, such as the heartbeat and bloodflow. This helps them sleep and relax, gives them a new friend to play with, and gives parents more peace of mind.

My personal take on these two products is that they would be better combined: Giant diembodied mouse paws that emit heartbeats and other assorted uterine BGM, scented with my man-sweat.

zero punctuation rules (so does zero capitalization)

If you don’t have an interest in games or recent game reviews, skip this post. I’ve already posted too many nerdy videos today; this may send you to the store in search of a GPS-enabled pocket protector for your Wii controller.
Basically, these two videos from the Escapist describe why I preferred Medal of Honor Airborne over Bioshock (and Hitler riding a robot tarantula would have made it even better):

“If you are experiencing difficulty viewing this video, please disable NoScript or AdBlock add-ons, or ensure that your browser’s security settings are set to enable JavaScript for videoegg.”

Yo, Grig.

Since it can’t get much nerdier around here than posting theremin videos, I might as well put this one out there as well: Has there ever been a game released based on the (awesome) 80’s movie, “The Last Starfighter?
Long answer: There were plans to release an arcade version with vector graphics like the Star Wars arcade game but this never got beyond early stages… (link to full history)
Short answer: Go download it
(thx kenji)