Baby Update

The baby and Nam are fine.
He is 2,500 grams of red-faced crying glory. I put my hand on his head and he immediately stopped and went to sleep.
Life is good.
Thanks for all your prayers!

The Baby Cometh

Just a quick notice: Nam’s water has broken.
I am sitting in a VIP post-op room by myself, as I am not allowed in the maternity ward. This hospital has a strange policy of not allowing husbands into the delivery rooms. It’s a policy we came asking about just yesterday in anticipation of the baby’s target date of May 11. It’s this policy that started us planning on checking out hospitals in the big city of Khon Kaen, an hour away.
We were going to go this weekend, when a doctor we saw before is on duty. Hell, we were talking about going today after lunch. Then her water broke. I threw the go-bags in the trunk, helped her in the car, and we were off. On the way to the hospital I told her we had plenty of time to get to Khon Kaen if she wanted to do it there, but that’s not what she wanted so we are here at Mahasarakham Hospital.
My son is positioned buttocks-first, so there really is no choice for a first-time mother, he will have to be delivered by Caesarean (linguistic note: they call it a “Caesar” here). When we got here, Nam was dilated 1cm. That was around 90 minutes ago. It is maddening to not be in the loop here. However, there is an upside for us. Nam has many friends here, bith nurses and doctors. One of them has promised to get me in to see her in about ten minutes (14:30). So I’ m sitting here cooly describing what has happened to this point, but actually feeling quite anxious about my wife and her upcoming procedure, scheduled for 6:00PM. The reason they are waiting so long, apparently, is that they have to wait for lunch to digest.
There, now you know everything that I do. I will update as things happen, but will post this when I go home to pick up some things later this afternoon. It will reside on my desktop as an rtf file until then.
Oh, by the way, I am so glad we decided to eat at home today instead of going out as planned.
UPDATE: I’m picking up a very weak wifi signal around here. I’m going to go look for it.

Scenes from a University Van

From our road trip to Pattaya a couple weeks ago.
If you love frogs, you probably shouldn’t read the latter half of this post, but I’m not hiding it in the extended entry, either. Do or do not, there is no try, as it were.
(as always, click on any photo to open a larger version in a pop-up window)
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This post goes out to my brother Adam, who definitely might be man enough to eat skewered frogs after a few beers (although we did it sober here). The one I pulled apart in the tissue shown above was pregnant, so the blurry black and white dots are eggs. Actually, the pregnant frogs were more expensive than the non-preggers (30 Baht/stick vs. 20 Baht/stick).
I’m going to preempt any “the trees are screaming” complaints at this time by pointing out that this is normal fare for hunters and gatherers, which many of the indigents here are.
I will also go on record that these frogs do not taste like chicken. They do not taste too bad, though… That is, they don’t really taste of anything, really – it tastes like you are eating a rich, fatty protein, if that makes any sense. Maybe like a roasted shishamo, but not as delicious. I will admit that it took a bit of courage to eat one. After all, it was the same kind of frog I found in my shoe a while ago (called un-an in Thai).

F*ck Songkran

So we’re in the middle of the Songkran holiday period that marks the Thai New Year. The reason I feel so strongly about this holiday, which is also called the “water festival” in English, is that in typical third-world fashion, safety is being totally sacrificed for alcohol-fueled shits ‘n giggles.
Apparently the current state of affairs is a perversion of the old tradition of pouring water over the hands of elders to wash away bad luck (just as we experienced during our wedding here). What I mean by “current state of affairs” is roads lined with drunken idiots (and all of their children, brothers, and sisters, also drunk) who throw water, talcum powder, and sometimes ice at passing vehicles and unfortunate pedestrians. Of course, the other half of this is roving pickups (remember 2/3 of the cars in this regions are pick-ups) loaded with passengers and tubs of water stopping suddenly for water fights. Motorbikes seem to be everyone’s favorite target, so they swerve suddenly to avoid getting drenched. Hell, I myself almost took out a couple dumbasses on the highway driving back from Khon Kaen a few days ago, and the holiday hadn’t even officially started yet! Anyways, that’s why we have a death toll of 180 and 2,500 reported accidents a few days into the celebrations: Drunk idiots on the street and in moving vehicles.
I guess another way to see this is from the Darwinistic perspective – wankers will be wankers, and some unlucky wankers die wanking. If it weren’t for all of the children being injured and killed every year due to their idiotic parents and friends, maybe Songkran wouldn’t so bad after all.

Captain Ahab: The Man Who Brought Us Lizard Salad

Yesterday provided a chance encounter with a local character which has forever changed our culinary lives. WE HAVE EATEN LIZARD, SOME KIND OF IGUANA. Specifically, this kind of iguana, although it might have been a blue-colored one since those are apparently bigger and tastier. There are so many things I want to say about this experience, it’s all just a jumble in my mind right now… I think I’ll tackle the explanation chronologically.
So yesterday, Nam and I were in front of our house taking photos. I set up a tripod in front of the pond and we started taking a long series of shots in the hot sun. Along came Captain Ahab, carrying his mini-harpoon gun:
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“Do you want to try it out?” OH HELL YES PLEASE!
I tested out his fine contraption on a bunch of reeds floating in the pond, and maimed them quite handily. The trigger pull was about 20 lbs. and activated the release of the thick rubber bands (not tubes) attached to either sides of the receiver, acting much like a Hawaiian sling.
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He assured us this longarm was also effective for home defense. I belive his actual words were, “you can also use this to shoot burglars!” Check out the awesomely hand-ground and nastily-barbed mini-harpoon:
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You could probably do a lot more than shoot your eye out with this gun; the Captain said he’d bought it off a student 30 years ago and had speared too many fish with it to count over the years. (note: The reason I deemed this fine fellow Ahab is that he claimed to have brought in a 300 kilogram fish with this rig once. I called bullshit, first off because the harpoon was only attached with what looked like around 20 lb. test. Also,
I firmly believe anyone harpooning a 300 kg. fish with this rig would end up just like the original Captain Ahab – it’s just not possible to land. Later, I found out this may have been a misunderstanding – he may have meant 300 kgs. of fish, not a 300 kg. fish. Since the time period wasn’t specified, this sounds totally feasible. Sorry for doubting you, Captain, and sorry for the undeserved moniker) Unfortunately, he did not know where I could find one for myself. Here’s a shot of the loaded projectile (gun uncocked).
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And here is where we come to lizard salad (iguana salad?). (Well not really salad. It’s about as salad-ish as a fruit salad, in that it’s not, really… ah screw it, you’ll see.) A few weeks ago some friends told me that it’s prime iguana hunting season right now and I was really jazzed about rounding up some friends and going… They hypnotize the hapless beasts with special whistling sounds, then shoot them out of the trees with slingshots made from inner tubes. Nam also wanted me to go, but was worried about karmic implications during this period just before the baby is born, so I refrained from going. For some reason, Nam thought I merely wanted to eat the iguanas (where as for me, the hunt is the only reason I would even consider eating a lizard to begin with), so she asked Captain Ahab, who certainly appeared to be able to live off the land, if he could round up some for me.
This is how we started the lizard negotiations. He asked how many she wanted, she said one or two. He said that wasn’t enough and said, “how about ten?” Nam countered with five, and we were all set. He promised to catch some later that night and asked if we knew how to prepare them. He was worried that we didn’t know how to slowly roast and skin them, and then mix various herbs and fruits together to make it all very tasty, and rightly so – we were totally like lizard virgins, man. So it ended up that he had his wife cook up the lizards he caught for us and brought us a bag of LIZARD SALAD for lunch today. Behold:
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THE VERDICT: The lizard meat was smoky from being slowly grilled, presumably over charcoal. Just looking at the photo, it looks like many other variations of Thai country “salad,” most of which are based on local veggies or fruits such as eggplant, bamboo shoots, tamarind, papaya or mango, or are fish-based. This one was definitely lizard though, because I picked a spiny part out of my mouth. The closest flavor I can compare iguana flesh to is canned tuna – it had the same kind of consistency when mashed up, and didn’t taste too strongly of anything, perhaps just hinting at fish.
An added bonus was the ant queen salad Ahab’s wife also prepared for us:
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Today was a good day. I learned things about this culture that even Thai people don’t know about. I KNOW WHAT IGUANA TASTES LIKE, BITCHES!
That is all.

Is MeFi being blocked in Thailand?

I noticed this first a few weeks ago; at that time I read somewhere on the Thai Visa forums that TTT was blaming YouTube viewing difficulties on a broken optical trunk and figured it might be the same reason. YouTube has been back up for a while, though, and MetaFilter is still down.
I can view it by using proxies, so it isn’t a huge problem for me, but I wonder if it’s really being blocked, and for how long? (and as a side note, I wonder if this thread had anything to do with it?)
Anyway, the reason I was trying to visit there today was to see the linkage from KokuRyu – thx!

Ford Escort Mk1 1300 De Luxe

I took a few photos of Nam’s uncle’s Escort this morning. It’s from around 1971 or so; check out my favorite features including the “dogbone” front grill, the recycled 1500cc Nissan engine, and transplanted (Toyota + Mitsu???) steering/dash/gauge assembly with permanently lit “TURBO” indicator. (Oh also – this is not the Escort we had in the US from the 80’s, it’s the European model.)
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The absolute coolest thing about this car is that even though I can’t find online records of these early Escorts being assembled in Thailand, the VIN plate clearly states it was so:
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Isan News Update

It has been raining the past week, which is a rather curious development for this area this time of year. In fact, there was a pretty serious storm a couple nights ago and it rained fairly hard last night as well. The huge tract of land (future housing lots) behind our house has been filled in with shallow ponds (kind of returning it to its natural status of swamp, except elevated a couple meters with fill dirt), from which many noisy amphibians have emerged. This sudden spate of precipitation is in stark contrast to the first year I lived here, when I saw no real rain from October 2006 all the way until June or July of last year.
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My wife’s aunt and uncle called up yesterday to say they were on a road trip and would like to stay at our house tonight. Family is always welcome, of course (most, anyway). So its fun talking to them in my very basic Thai, but mostly just sitting there absorbing the indecipherable (to my ears, anyway) utterances of their of their specific dialect. I love learning the little nuances and unique characteristics of a new language, but believe me, fart jokes and belching are universal (just thought I’d include that here).
So Nam’s aunt and uncle are well into their 70’s and have been living together so long they communicate in a kind of nonverbal gestalt; they arrived in a Ford Escort he bought new 35 or 40 years ago and it’s currently swapping war stories with my ’71 Toyota Crown out in the driveway. They are both senile as hell and continue to go on road trips every year from their current home around Bangkok up around here to see friends and family in Isan (the Northeast) and back again. When she is freshening up in the other room he tells us in a hushed voice that he’s concerned about her memory since she often repeats herself three or four times in any given conversation, forgetting that he himself has told us the exact same thing just minutes before… They are good people, and I basically trust any couple who, by choice, go on long roadtrips in cars without power steering in this day and age (it’s a salt-of-the-earth kind of thing).
Anyway, the highlight of my day was hearing Nam’s uncle tell us that he much prefers the Japanese system of government over the Thai model since Japanese government officials have to commit suicide if they disgrace their families or office… I didn’t have the heart to tell him any different either, since it would probably be better that way (plus, I think I still have a few years before I need to tell somebody that Santa doesn’t exist).

Nailed twice

Couldn’t find the original source for this one, but it earned a place here for giving me a good laugh:
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My dad’s Shih Tzu would hump on command: Jak! Humpy-humpy!
It was awesome.
(thx to FBO for the pic)

Why you never question a drunk

Via osaka bill:
I was shopping at the local supermarket where I selected:
a half-gallon of 2% milk,
a carton of eggs,
a quart of orange juice,
a head of romaine lettuce,
a 2 lb. can of coffee, and
a 1 lb. package of bacon.
As I was unloading my items on the conveyor belt to check out, a drunk
standing behind me watched as I placed the items in front of the cashier.
While the cashier was ringing up the purchases, the drunk calmly stated,
“You must be single.”
I was a bit startled by this proclamation, but I was intrigued by the
derelict’s intuition, since I was indeed single.
I looked at the six items on the belt and saw nothing particularly unusual
about my selections that could have tipped off the drunk to my marital
status.
Curiosity getting the better of me, I said, “Well, you know what, you’re
absolutely right. But how on earth did you know that?”
(punchline after the jump)

Read moreWhy you never question a drunk

Our New Thai House Part 1 – Picking a Plot

I’ve put off posting proper photos of our new house since we decided to build it, that is, for the better part of a year. What can I say? We were busy getting it finished (this is a home builder’s joke – a new house is never finished).
Getting this house built took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears… We really honed our powers of persuasion, pleading, and cajoling. I learned how to effectively threaten someone in Thai, and Nam learned that being visibly pregnant is a great way to have people do things for you. We both learned that government officials in charge of the positioning of power transformers, who knock away a hand offering an envelope and loudly claim to be unbribable, are merely asking for more money. Life lessons, these.
If I had tried to blog about all the problems we ran into during construction of this house, all of you would have stayed away for the duration, believe me. There was simply too much to bitch about, so I ended up breaking a lot of scrap wood and taking it out on random tailgaters instead. Life is sometimes too crappy to effectively document, anyway.
I have so many photos for this particular subject, I’ve decided to break it up into several posts, which should be generally chronological. I hope you can enjoy reading this series as much as I will writing it.

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Coming to Thailand in October of 2006 to live in a house I helped pay for in advance ended up not working out real well. This was due to a certain insufferable alcoholic-in-law who treated himself to our house before I moved here from Japan. My wife and I therefore decided to move out as soon as possible.
We searched for houses and apartments alike, debating whether to rent or buy. We searched all over Mahasarakham, which is a large area, and sometimes, for comparison, we would even look in neighboring towns. Our search took us all up and down the banks of the Chi river, since I wanted to live close to the water (a sort of compensation for living in dry country). To make a long story a bit shorter, we could find no suitable houses and no suitable land on which to build a new house.
In mid-2007, I revisited a new neighborhood just starting to be built between my university and Nam’s. One of the lots was situated right in front of a natural pond (with some reinforced banks). We fell in love with the sky and decided to build a house there.
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END OF PART 1

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Our New Thai House entries:
Our New Thai House Part 1 – Picking a Plot
Our New Thai House Part 2 – Foundations
Our New Thai House Part 3 – Groundwork
Our New Thai House Part 4 – Roof and Walls
Our New Thai House Part 5 – The Blessing Way
Landscaping Our House – Before and After