Cool season

Last night was the first night it felt a bit chilly since last “winter.” From now through January is the best part of the year in NE Thailand.

We start the new term at Rajabhat Maha Sarakham University on Monday.

I teach weekend classes all tomorrow; today’s class was cancelled because we were locked out of the building. Nobody complained, because my students are also teachers preparing for next week.

Watching the Nam Chi

Thailand has been suffering from record flooding in recent weeks. What sets this situation apart from years past is that previously safe areas have also been flooded out. Rainfall has been heavy in some areas, but what seems to have caused the problems this time is the steady meddling with waterways and ignoring what might happen when they overflow.

Maha Sarakham is said to be at risk from today until October 31st.

I think the area where our house is should be okay, but of course there is also the possibility of the roads being wiped out, so I went aggro at Big C last week and stocked up on loads of boxed milk for Max and diapers for both of them. Also, the Nam (river) Chi flows in a long curve along the back of the Big C parking lot before running parallel to the highway to Kalasin, so it’s a good place to see the water level.

I hope I never have to use the rubber raft I brought over from Japan.

sunny rain

A couple weeks ago I was engaged in the never-ending battle to figure out why my Crown hates running cold so much (Next step: Replace coil pack and plug cables, plus various tweaking with components expensive to replace but cheap to check/clean). I took her out on the Sarakham bypass that’s close to our house and runs for a couple unimpeded kilos in a straight line. It was a glorious sunny day, dry and hot, and I was running with all four windows open.

As I started up the bypass, it suddenly started raining, though there was hardly a cloud in the sky (weather like this always reminds me of Hawaii for some reason). Luckily, I was headed into the wind, so not much rain got inside the car. By the time I was halfway through the run, something curious happened. The rain hitting the hot asphalt started steaming and the entire highway was enveloped in a dense fog. The thing is, I was completely alone on the road and I savored that moment of having it all to myself. As I cruised with windows open and wipers on, the wind blew the fog into dancing spirals that parted as we passed through. When I got to the end of the bypass, it suddenly stopped raining. When I got to school, the janitor sweeping out the parking lot saw my car and asked if it was raining.

I said yes and thought, just for me.

Max doesn’t like going to school

He will do anything to avoid going. Once he’s there, it seems that he has a great time, but he just hates going (this is how I felt about school at his age, too).

He is clever enough to say he is sick, and determined enough to say that he wants to go to the doctor and get a shot (!).

He will refuse food for over an hour, and then suddenly eat with gusto just as we’re about to go out to the car.

Once in the car, he will say he wants to eat this or that from a roadside vendor, or suddenly want to visit a specific place.

My favorite, though, is when he offered to stay home and clean his room:

Yes, I made him go when he was finished.

Random Links 10/21/2010

Why rebels and insurgent groups the world over love the Toyota Hilux
Hint: Rebels suck at preventive maintenance.

Tracing the fate of Aliens’ commandos (the Colonial Marines)
Game over, man, game over.

Create 8-Bit Style Graphics with Authentic NES, Gameboy, and Sega Colors (Photoshop tutorial)
Max as Mario? Mina as the Princess?

Lost, Unpublished Dr. Seuss Manuscript Surfaces
Having kids enables the enjoyment of One Fish, Two Fish a second time around.

One way to deal with a stupid homeowner’s association
I ROTFLed. Why the hell do people back home put up with that kind of crap at all?

2 Years In Prison – A Man’s Story
Not for the faint of heart. You have been warned.

Shoyu chili garlic fish sauce wings

It’s made like how it sounds (plus braised in Japanese sake to finish). It tastes how it looks. I suppose you could call them water buffalo wings.

Did you know that shoyu (soy sauce) is the root word of “soy” in English?

And that perhaps the best of example of a loan word from the Thai language in English is “bong?”

Cooking and linguistics are both a delicious jumble of influences and flavors.

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?

Holiday OT

We finished finals a couple of weeks ago, which signaled the beginning of three things: Our mid-year (academic year) one-month break, the second term for weekend (BA and MA) classes, and some special conversation/TOEFL night courses for university staff offered for free at our university’s Language Center. I am teaching all of the above so my weekends are very busy – from early morning to 8PM or so. Nam stays at home with the babies and our nanny comes all Saturday and a half day on Sunday.


Max’s conversation reached a tipping point a few weeks back, and he uses new words that he learns independently, in Thai and English, everyday. He must be picking up a lot at school and from the TV.

People that say not to use the TV for children younger than three simply have no idea how to use it. Television can be a useful tool, and like anything else, can be used in excess. That’s the big secret. Those that would dictate what’s best for your child and your home, however, do not think you are smart enough to realize that.

max’s wittle bitty

Just about a month ago, we had a big storm come in at night due to a typhoon battering Taiwan. It rained a lot more than normal, even for rainy season, and the pond in front of our house must have flowed over onto the road at some point during the night. I say must have because I didn’t actually see it happen, but found some evidence to that effect including washed up debris on our curb and a half-dead pla salit (Snakeskin Gourami). Upon poking with my finger, he wiggled a bit, so I decided to try reviving him in a spare six liter PET water bottle I had in the yard.

I filled it with water from the pond and slipped him in through the top, and after performing carefully measured agitation to stimulate oxygen transport over the gills (read: shaking it for a while), Mr. Gourami “turned that frown upside down” and started swimming around.

Thus was born the Ghettoquarium in all its polyethylene terephthalatiffic glory:

Snakeskin Gourami (Trichogaster pectoralis) aka Siamese Gourami aka Bitty

Max was delighted and immediately dubbed the fish “Bitty” (it was not until later that I realized he was trying to say “fishy,” but by then I had gotten used to calling him Bitty as well).

Bitty received due adulation from his attending 2.5 year old host, including being assaulted with long cooking chopsticks and drinking straws joined end-to-end (which daddy was using to occasionally blow air into the bottle just for the hell of it). But as cool as this fish was, and as much as Max loved him, I decided to let him go at the end of the day because I wanted him to go live with his friends in the pond. Also, I had no desire to find out which aquatic plants he could eat by trial and error – I knew he ate plants because that’s what it said in my go-to SE Asian fish book, Fish and Fish Dishes of Laos by Alan Davidson.

In addition, Max gets bored with new toys almost instantly, so we thought we could get away with Bitty just suddenly disappearing… This is how we ended up going out as a family to buy a small aquarium less than two hours after I threw Bitty back in the pond, but that’s another story.

For now, I choose only to commemorate a boy and his fish:

Get your own custom icon for comments on this blog

The icons (AKA avatars) that appear next to your name in the comments on this blog and many others is controlled by a company called Gravatar. If you sign up on their site, you can choose your own icon and the information that appears when you comment here and anywhere else using Gravatars.

Note: Even if you don’t make an account, my site is set up to assign you a randomly-patterned icon each time you comment.