Beach Day

Jul. 24th, 2012 01:19 am
howeird: (Naga)

After the clinic, I changed into swim trunks and walked to the beach & rented a lounge chair under an umbrella, and read for a while, then watched people, and finally went for an almost swim. The wind was a steady 30 mph coming off the ocean, and while the waves were not high they were powerful and the undertow was probably fierce. I went in only up to my waist, and still got knocked down a couple of times.

Mostly I thought the sea water would be good for my hand.

Back to the hotel, changed, grabbed the camera and went back out at about 5:30 to take sunset pictures. It was a long wait. The sun did not set until almost 7 pm,

but in the meantime there were a lot of petite butts in thongs and tiny bikinis to record for posterior. There were also enough cetacean butts to go round, but I mostly left the recording of those to others. I have been surprised at the number of petite Caucasian adult women there are here.

After sunset, since I had the camera and was hungry and the best restaurants are in Patong, I took a song-taew there and found a place called Mr. Good's a block from the road with all the bars. The food was superb. I had fried crab rolls and lobster stir-fried with ginger and scallions. Yummy, and the lobster was brought to my table with its weight and price before they cooked it outside in the kitchen, which is in front of the place, outside the air conditioned eating area. Very clever design.

From there I went down the bar road, and took a lot of blurry photos, flirted with a few women, peeked into two topless go-go joints but the dancers were not particularly attractive.

Back to the hotel, there was email from the woman I met on the boat. It was late, but maybe she will see it in time and have time to meet me tomorrow today for lunch or dinner.

Oh, about those plans to see the Big Buddha - from the beach I zoomed in on it, and they have it surrounded by scaffolding. Not worth making the trip, except maybe to see the view, which might be spectacular, but in Thailand you never know when there will be trees or a temple in the way.

Once again we dodged the rain. Lots of clouds and wind, though. Very very hot away from the beach.

The only plan I have for later today is pick up the laundry after 11 am, make an airport taxi reservation and pack. In between maybe I'll meet my new friend and maybe we will go somewhere.

howeird: (Naga)
I didn't take any photos today, except with the cell phone. It was a day of errands.

Took  my laundry downstairs, the laundry form said it would be done by that night, but apparently that was before they stopped having a laundry service at the hotel. They really expected me to drop it off at a laundry place down the block. With them dropping it off it would take till tomorrow. Had their free breakfast, which was not much of one. Nice omelet, some kind of stir-fried squid, sweet roll, watermelon, stale croissant.

Back upstairs, dropped off the kindle, took most of my clothes (including some laundry) on a taxi ride to the post office which is a couple of miles away, mailed it surface, started waiting for a taxi back but needed a restroom, and the nice lady at the massage place next door let me use theirs. And she pointed me to a doctor's office in walking distance, so I went and had my alleged spider bites looked at. Three places on my left had have an ugly cluster of rashes and are swollen. The cream I go from the pharmacy last night had not helped at all.

The doctor was all about checking for infection trails, thinking it might be shingles. There is a relatively new shingles vaccine, so anything even remotely resembling shingles becomes suspect. But this is not shingles. It isn't an insect bite, either, he said, but it needs an antibiotic cream stronger than the one I had been using. He prescribed one, they filled it, the whole thing only cost 200 Baht (about $7). He also told me to come back immediately if I saw infection trails up my arm. "Nothing serious" he said, but I think he expects the cream will take longer to work than the 5 days I have left in Thailand.

On my walk I noticed a row of girlie bars, which were not open yet.

Taxi back to the hotel, read some, went up to the 6th floor rooftop swimming pool and paddled around a bit. There was some eye candy, all Russian. Two well-endowed redheads and a slim blond with a cute butt. One redhead was with her husband.

It was very hot up there, no shade, so I went back to the room for some online time. At 5:30 I called my friend David, who was going to take me to dinner (we'd talked in Bangkok, he's another former PCV and I've had dinner with him the last two trips). Traffic was bad, it took an hour to get here, and he came from the opposite direction from where I expected.  Meanwhile I had a nice chat with the gate guard, who was surprised to hear that unemployment in America is about as bad as it is here.

David's wife was with him, the first time we had met. She's Thai, but was a nurse in the US for many years so her English is very good. We all talked mostly in English with some Thai thrown in as needed.

The plan had been to go to a restaurant near the hotel, but David was on autopilot and we landed at a place near his home (clear across the island) we had eaten at in 2005. Excellent meal, but the service sucked. Not just slow, but they brought the wrong wokked veggie dish and did nothing about it when David's wife pointed it out. After dinner we had tea at his house, then they drove me back to the hotel.

I changed from the "polite" clothes into cut-offs and a t-shirt, and found a taxi to take me back to that row of bars near the doctor's. Except I got the name of the road wrong and ended up at a row of bars in the next town over.

The usual loud music, but the girls were just hanging out there, most of them smoking, and once I sat down they went away. I did get a chance to chat at one of the bars way at he end of a street which still showed some tsunami damage. The woman's story was unusual. She was from Chiang Mai in the north, had moved to Bangkok to find work, fond it in Ayudhya instead, got married here, had a boy and a girl, and after 12 years her husband abandoned them. Her mother took the children back to Chiang Mai, and she came to Phuket to work.

Back to the hotel, this time the tuk-tuk driver drove an urban assault vehicle.

Plans for tomorrow:
Find something to do.

Poo Ket

Jul. 21st, 2012 12:33 am
howeird: (Naga)
Some paralinguistic history first. Thai has two different "p", "b" "d" "t" and "k" sounds. English and European languages only have one of each, which corresponds to the "hard" version of the sound. In the language of languages, this is called "aspirated" because what makes the sound a hard sound is blowing air out with the consonant. As if there's an "h" after it.

So the soft sounds are transliterated as p, b, d and k while the hard sounds are transcribed as ph, bh, dh, kh and th.

Which makes for some nasty mispronunciations.

The island I am on at the moment is called ภูเก็ต. It is pronounced poo-ket.  the accent is on the final syllable. Since the p is a hard p, it is transliterated as Phuket. And Thai is another example. The first letter is a hard T, and the word is pronounced Tie.

Thursday morning I took an expensive hotel taxi to the airport, and a Thai Airways flight to ภูเก็ต. It was a full flight, but a very large plane and not a lot of people with big carry-ons, so there was plenty of rooom for mine. I had abandoned my oversized wheeled carry-on bag at the hotel, and fit all my drugs into a medium sized knapsack. All my clothes were in a checked suitcase.

The flight was uneventful until about 15 minutes from the island, when the seat belt sign went on, and we had some seriously aerobatic moments of turbulance, which the dozens of kids on board reacted to as if it was a Disneyland ride. Much much better than crying and screaming. Fun, actually. The whole flight was overcast, which is sad because I had a window seat and it traversed the sourthern half of the country. My camera GPS did not work while the plane was in flight, but it was fine inside the plane on the ground. We did get some views of the islands by Pangnga, but it was cloudy and dark. We landed about 1:30 pm.

I found a taxi to the hotel, again for too much Baht, and the guy had no idea where the hotel was. I thought I did, but when we finally found it, it was not where the ad said it was. It does not have a view of the ocean, and while it is "meters from the beach" those are about 300 meters down an alley, past three hotels, two massage spas and two restaurants.

The Grand Sunset Hotel is ultra-modern, the room is small, the flat screen TV only gets Thai, Japanese and French channels, and it took 10 minutes to figure out the silver-fixtured shower.  The bathroom door is frosted glass.

The air conditioner does not quite hack it, and there is no direct light for the desk, which is survivable because my laptop has a lighted keyboard. The bell boy, who is also a manager, showed me that the key needs to be inserted into a slot in the wall for the electricity to be on. Which meant that when I left to grab a bite and explore, the air conditioner was off, as well as the camera and laptop battery chargers. It was 95 degrees outside. There is a tiny balcony with two chairs and a table. I stole one chair for the desk, since it didn't have one. I needed two throw pillows to get me to desk level. The fridge is stocked with beer and Coke. I pushed that aside to make way for insulin and (free) water.

I took a tour of the beach, was surprised to see several svelte blond women in thongs on the lounge chairs, walking on the sidewalk (usually with a male person) and wading. Swimming is not happening, because it's rainy season, the winds are high, so are the waves,  and the rip tides are almost palpable from the shore. Kind of pretty, though.

Back to the hotel, took a nap, processed some photos (free wi-fi in the room here), naped some more, and took a songteaw to Patong, the next beach over, which has a street of a thousand girlie bars. Much to my surprise, two of those bars feature Russian women. I only saw one ladyboy bar, down from about a dozen in 2008. I had a soda at several bars, practiced my Thai, and when the noise from Thai rap music, which mostly features American swear words, got too much I sought the solace of the indoor mecca of Starbucks.

Found a big pharmacy, showed my hand, and the guy behind the counter actually seemed to know what it was, and what it needed, which was an anti-bacterial cream.

Back to the hotel, peeled off my wet T-shirt, applied the cream, and had a good night's sleep.
howeird: (How Elephant)

Up early three taxis refused to go to the place we were meeting for the grand palace tour, so I walked to the JW Marriott, chatted up an tipped one of the valets and in about 10 minutes a cab finally arrived which was okay with the trip. I don't know what the problem was, it's tourist central, they would have no problem getting a fare back.

It was a long ride, almost an hour, lots of being stuck in traffic, but the meter only said 86 Baht. And I was there just in time, except only a handful of others were there, and the tour organizer didn't show for another hour. After beating us up previously about being on time.

But it was gangbusters from then on. We were driven in posh vans by Army guys, to the privy council chambers, where we were greeted by three high-renking officials including the King's personal secretary and one fellow whom I think was a former ambassador to the US. Very posh room, they serve a variety of juice - I had the green one.

Then the vans took us right onto the grand palace grounds, through at least 3 "no entry" signs,  with the guards saluting us as we went through. 15 minutes to hang around the main plaza and take pictures, then we were met by our personal guide, an army officer, whose English and sense of humor were pretty good. He was only about 30 or less, and when we left the main plaza a very elderly officer with a chestful of service ribbons tactfully added himself to the tour. We were let into places which few people get to see, including at least three throne rooms, and each time the younger guide was cautious about how far into a room we could go, the older man quietly made sure we were given first class treatment. It was awesome.

I took about 300 pictures, will upload those some other time.

Back into the vans at about 12:30, a 20-minute drive the the Bangkok Royal Sports Club, which is the clubhouse for the race track which also includes a golf course. Buffet lunch was amazing, western and Thai food, lots of desserts, very nice view.

It was tempting to stay forever in the freezing air conditioning, but I bailed at about 2:30, mostly to get back to the hotel and become horizontal for a while.

Got the photos onto the laptop, packed about 90% of the way, took a nap, then at 5 headed for the skytrain, took the water taxi to the conference hotel, and attended the final dinner. Again a great buffet. Listed to a lot of conversations, did not take any photos because I already had everyone's, and many others were snapping pictures. The organizer had put together a very nice slide show DVD wrapping up the week's activities both formal and ad hoc.

After, she passed the mike around, with the suggestion that everyone say a few words. Unfortunately, the first person was the formed PC country director, who had been a volunteer 47 years ago, and he went on for 15 minutes, which set the tone for everyone else. I had to bail by 9 to get a cab back to the hotel. By that time maybe half the room had spoken. 

Back at the hotel I booked a 9 am cab to the airport for way too many baht, but it's hard to get one on the street which has a license for the airport, and the skytrain/airport express train thing with luggage is not any fun.

So, plans for tomorrow:
9 am to the airport
noon flight to Phuket
cab to Karon Beach and settle in for the duration

howeird: (Default)
And don't type very fast. Yesterday was my first day since I arrived when I was mostly acclimated, and had nothing on my calendar. Boss has not said anything about me visiting, so I had two choices of places to go for a day trip:
Chanthaburi, I have been there many times, for the gem exchange, which is only open weekends.
Kanchanaburi, the only Thai province I have never as much as passed through, to see the bridge over the River Kwai.

I took door #2. Long taxi ride to the southern bus terminal way out in Thonburi. Bought a ticket for what I thought was a tour bus, but when I went to board it, it was a van. I nixed that and bought a ticket for what looked like an air conditioned tour bus, got on board, and it pulled out before I could see it was a dilapidated old tour bus which had not been maintained at all in 20 years. We were stuck in traffic for the first 1/2 hour because, contrary to the sign on the bus which said it made only two stops along the way, it was a local. what should have been a 2-hour trip took 3. The closer to Kanchanaburi we got, the more often we stopped. The windows were too dirty to take photos.

Finally got there. It took a while to find a place to eat, then I made the mistake of taking a rote-song-teaw to the bridge - the driver had a PA system in the back which would have been the envy of any low-rider, and he cranked it up so high I almost jumped off and walked.

He dropped me off quite a ways from the bridge, at the Japanese memorial, which has seen better days (1944 to be exact). walked a ways, found the river, found the bridge and found two surprising things.

First, the name of the river is Kwa. It sounds like a duck quacking. We don't have that exact vowel in English, but if you spell it "kwa" it would be the "a" in "animal" or "ask". There is no "i" in the Thai word.

Second, this is the bridge which the Japanese had the allied prisoners build. Only the approach to the bridge was blasted, it was mostly intact, and the Japanese reinforced it with a steel girder. The original bridge was mostly wood, but by the end of the war the wood had been replaced by steel.

I really wanted to take the train to the waterfall, but didn't figure out how until it was too late. I started walking across the bridge, there is no  real pedestrian path but there are steel plates which are mostly still bolted down, and the one in the center of the tracks looks the most secure until you have to actually walk on it. Every 15 feet or so there are viewpoints which also get your butt out of the way of the train, which I had to do several times.

3/4 across the bridge, the rain came down in buckets. I thought there was a train platform at the end of the bridge and I could take the train back across, but the last train I followed just kept going, so I waited under some trees overhanging the bridge, and  finally decided it was warm, and only water, I had put the camera in my backpack when the rain started,  so I walked along the railing, all the way back across the river. And went downstairs to the floating restaurant, had way too much food which was brought way too slowly. Paid too much, too.

Back topside, I figured I may as well take the train back, if there is still one to take. I went to the tourist info booth and they said the last train was in 15 minutes. I chatted with the two tourist info gals and the tourist policewoman until the train came, and took the 3-hour ride back to Thonburi. The guide books said it was 5 hours. They lied. The train never gets stuck in traffic. This was a 3rd class car, so the windows are open, great for photos. But we're near the equator so it got dark by 6:30. Thanks to the rain it was pleasantly cool.

The trip took a lot out of me, so after the 20-minute taxi ride to the Skytrain station, and the 2-legged Skytrain trip back to the hotel, I was on empty, so just took the time to download the photos and go to bed.

Put the battery in the charger, but it didn't turn on the charging light. After a little troubleshooting, it was clear the charger was dead (someone let out the smoke).

First thing on the to-do list for Sunday was go to MBK and get a new charger.

Will post photos soon.
howeird: (BKK Gargoyle)
Taking the taxi to the opening dinner of the Friends of Thailand 50 Year of peace Corps in Thailand may not have been the best way to get there. It took an hour, and until we were in sight of the hotel from across the river, it was bumper to bumper crawl all the way. This at 6 pm in a city where most people work 8-4. The problem would be solved pretty easily by training and installing traffic cops at the hundred or so key intersections, and synchronizing the traffic lights. Part of the problem is years ago the city took outn all the suicide rondabouts and replaced them with exactly the same traffic pattern, but in a traffic light controlled format. So imagine traffic coming from 5 directions trying to cross and merge.

Tonight's event is not at that hard to reach hotel, it's a reception at the residence of the US ambassador to Thailand, not very far from my hotel. Which is why I am amazed they picked such an isolated hotel for the reunion. More on that later.

I allowed an hour and a half, and we got there in 1:03. Had a great conversation with the driver, more Thai practice. He had refused to use the meter, but the price he asked for was reasonable for that much traffic, so he got a tip.

Entering the ballroom lobby next to the dinner place, the first people I saw were my dearest friend (the only other on fro my PC group) Nancie, and the head of our training, 6'8" Pete. He's tough to miss in a crowd. The biggest changes with him are his formerly bright red hair is now salt and pepper, and he is built more like a basketball guard than a track star. Still charming and handsome. Nancie always looks beautiful and glowing. The reason they were out in the lobby (with 28 other PCVs) is they had won the golden ticket to be in th group photo with the princess on Friday, and one of the royal protocol people was there to pose them and practice the bowing and scraping which goes along with a royal visitation. I would have liked to be in the photo, but not at that "cost". I expect to be able to take photos of th princess if I go to the event Friday morning at th foreign ministry.

After they were done, we went in to dinner, it was a buffet of all kinds of yummy Thai food. Nancie and I sat together with one fellow from Group 2 (1963, I think) and several from Group 47 (I was in 51)  who overlapped us th first year. We had met them briefly during one of thee combined language brush-up camps, probably at our half-way mark. I remembered their names, but not them. Two of those folks have been living in Bangkok, one man who recently retired here, and a woman who is married to someone whose company sends him to live in far off lands for a few years at a time. They have a house in Half Moon Bay which she is not sure they will ever get to live in.

There was a lot of table hopping, especially to the  PC staff table, where someone who had been in the PC office when we were there (she was about 20 at the time) was sitting. she has just retired from PC. She looks like she is in her 30s, and her daughter looks about 15, but is probably 25. Nancie is a world-famous cookbook writer, her first three being brilliant books on Thai food and culture with recipes not just listed, but also explained. She has kept in touch much better than me.

The formalities were cut to a minimum because of all the late arrivals from the bad traffic (normally it takes 30 minutes to taxi there from anywhere in the city) but what they had was great - a slide show with a sample of photos from every group from the past 50 years, set to classical Thai music. She used a bunch of photos I took, including a classic one of Nancie and her pal Chaz mugging for the camera during a lunch break at language training. Chaz had just found me on FB last weekend. Paul, one of th group 47 people, said he knew Chaz a little, they had served in the same small town in a small province way up on the Lao border.

Lots of stuff to talk about. As things were wrapping up, I saw a great photo op - at the current PC staff table behind ours, two Thai women were huddled around a tablet being held by the very first Thai-American to serve on the Thailand PV staff (he's very tall and looks like a cross between Tiger Woods and Barak Obama). I told them in Thai that in my day we didn't have this technology, and that started a conversation, mostly in Thai, of about 10 minutes. They said I spoke Thai so well they thought I would be "an inspiration"  for the volunteers when I go to the PC office open house later this week. I asked if they still used the "Silent Way" teaching method, they said no. hich pretty much explains why volunteers are having trouble learning Thai.

Later, Paul, his wife, Nancie and I went to the 24 hour cafe downstairs and chatted will almost midnight, when I had to grab a cab back to my hotel. The trip back took 20 minutes, another interesting conversation. Another big tip. He used the meter when I asked him to, which makes big points with me. Except for the airport trip, the meter price barely covers the cost of the ride. Most taxi drivers insist on negotiating a fare, or just surprising the unwary tourist with some large number. In this case the meter showed 95 Baht (about $3) for a trip the hotel taxi charges $20 for, and the on-the-street negotiated price is between $5 and $7. The trip is about equal to a drive from San Francisco's Pacific Heights to the Oakland hills.

Back at the hotel, dropped off the camera & knapsack, then went across the street and hd an excellent bowl of "sen-yai" wide noodle soup with won ton, unidentified meat balls, scallions and assorted Thai spices. Nom nom. Took a quick tour of the bars, decided what I really needed was a banana split, so back to the hotel cafe for that, and then to bed.

This morning I copied yesterday's photos to the PC, will upload most of them (only about 50) to Flickr.

Right now it is pouring rain so hard I can't see more than a block away, and  just heard some thunder. Time to get dressed, and go downstairs to take photos. My windows are all rained on.


Jul. 11th, 2012 05:45 pm
howeird: (How Elephant)
The morning started with the usual breakfast buffet. They don't always have all the same items, which is generally a good thing except for cauliflower.  I had two missions:
1. Go to Central World and buy a replacement UV filter for the zoom lens
2. Replace the almost broken watchband
I was curious, because not long ago the Red Shirt rebels burned down Central, but Google Thailand maps was saying there was a photo department there. On arrival, it was clear that one building was badly burned, it is all wrapped in something which looks a lot like duct tape. But the tower across the street is still alive and well.

I needed the restroom first, and it was an adventure finding it. The way they have the signs set up, you can only see the signs if you are coming from the restrooms. Welcome to Thailand. Once there, though, they are beautiful, modern and clean.

Same problem finding the photo department, exacerbated by the remodeling which has all the down escalators out of service, which meant very crowded elevators. Found the watch department first - actually six watch departments, each brand was separate. Nobody knew who sold watch bands. Finally one guy gave me the card of his watch wholesaler, which was a bit of a walk. And bad advice.

Photo department did not have anyone working, and it took 5 minutes to hunt someone up. But she was a total win. She found the filter I needed, and when I told her I wanted to wear it home, she cleaned my lens very thoroughly, carefully screwed on the filter, and gave me the filter case. Excellent.

Back to Skytrain, and along the walkway was a watch repair place with a gazillion watchbands for sale. They set me up with a nice one, which was a challenge because I have huge wrists even for  white guy. Excellent service, and one wonders why none of the 8 or 9 watch department people in the store mentioned this place.

Back to the Nana neighborhood, found a starbucks and had a frap and a piece of chocolate cake which was delicious and fresh, unlike the crap they serve in th US.

Back to the hotel, processed a bunch of photos, including fixing the time stamps because I had forgotten to change time zones on the camera in Taiwan & Bangkok.

Downstairs, tried on the suit. The pants needed to be shortened about 2 inches, and the suit is a little tight across the back, but not enough to complain about. The shirt fit perfectly. I'll pick up the finished product tomorrow morning. They just need to cut & hem the pants. At first she said they were too long for the shoes I'm wearing, but I'm wearing tennis shoe which are the same height as dress shoes.

I really like the look of the raw Thai silk. went across the street & down the block where I had seen some cute ties with an elephant motif which were in a color combo perfect for the suit. Bought two.

Back to the room to cool off and load some photos on to Flickr, update FB and write this. Half an hour and I need to grab a taxi to the reunion. Buffet dinner with 150 other Peace Corps types.
howeird: (BKK Gargoyle)
Today's plan was to take the river taxi to the Peace Corps reunion hotel. It took about 3 hours. Skytrain from the middle of one line to nearly the end of another, walk to the ferry dock (combined, that only took about an hour) and boarded the boat. The hotel is the last stop on the opposite bank, and they go most of the way on the Bangkok side before making a crossing. I missed my stop because the geniuses who built the hotel made the big sign on top only viewable after the boat has left the dock, and pulled halfway across the river. I also missed the first landing on the other side, hoping they would turn around soon and get back to my stop. But finally one of the boat workers said I needed to get off at the next stop and walk a few yards to the other side of the dock for the return trip. I needed water by that time, and while I was getting a bottle opened, the return boat had left. Half an hour till the next one.

The hotel was a 3-block walk from the dock, and it was way humid and 92 degrees and I was stumbling by the time I reached to hotel. Getting to the lobby from the front entrance was non-intuitive and involved lots of stair steps. I hung around the lobby for an hour, drying off and catching my breath, then went downstairs and had a soda water and coconut ice cream. when I was finally feeling human, I went back to the lobby and waited, but nobody Peace Corps-ish came by.

So I walked down the block and looked into two massage places, but they were those group rooms, four or five tables. I'm not too keen on that format.  Walked a few more feet to a nice little open air restaurant, had a diet coke, and phoned the meeting organizer. She and her guy were in their room, they invited me up. I chatted with him while she did some last minute org work. Two more people showed up, and we walked back to the place I'd had the coke, and had dinner. Excellent food.

The other two guys were not just Peace Corps volunteers. One was the Chiang Mai regional director and went on to be country director in Korea, and he also started up most of the new programs in Eastern Europe which I hated because they were so political, and the volunteers were doing work which normally is done by USAID at hazard pay salaries.  The other fellow has been working in Laos, his latest project is organizing an English language school.

After dinner I took a taxi back to the hotel, only 100 Baht (the ride from the airport was 500) and would have been less if we hadn't hit  major traffic. Security guards from one of the nearby hospitals were messing up traffic more by trying to direct it.

After parking my camera, I found a place which gave private room massages, and had a very good one. Many muscles no longer hurt. Then I checked out one of the girlie bars, this one turned out to be topless go-go dancing. Some very pretty women. Age range, they said was 18-45. Some of the 40-ish looked in better shape than some of the teenagers. I bailed after one drink (club soda) and a lot o flirting.

Hotel coffee shop, I was having a low blood sugar episode, so I ordered a regular Coke to help me while they made a banana split. That got me back on track.

Finally back to the room and logged on.

Plans for tomorrow:
Find a photo shop and replace the skylight filter for the zoom, which Bangkok melted. Somehow the filter melted on the inside. I'm guessing it is made of 2 or 3 layers of material.
Buy a new watch band. The one i have has cracked along the hole i use the most. That was starting to happen in the States
Pick up the suit, pants & shirts, and maybe buy a tie.
Take a taxi to the reunion hotel for the first official dinner. They expect 150 people.

Chrome Foo

Jul. 5th, 2012 11:28 pm
howeird: (Default)

The home PC came up this evening with Firefox and MSIE both showing blank (black on black or white on white). It had something to do with removing a registry entry for the Arial font, but more to do with uninstalling Google Chrome, which had mangled my fonts to the point where everything was bold italics. All by itself.

I had to do a system restore to recover, which did not do too much damage. It restored Chrome just enough to error out with an "unable to find database" message. Good. Removed the icon. Changed all my default Arial fonts to Arial Unicode MS which is a bit too bold but better than all italics.

Work started off fine, I found a new feature to automate, automation guy said go for it. As soon as I went for it, I found out that a couple of things I needed to do the GUI recorder program could not capture. And the "try...catch" routine took me two hours to get right. And I'm not sure if it was working when I left after 7 tonight.

Lunchtime I went to Patelco CU to get my ATM card PIN changed to what I wanted. And I withdrew enough from TechCU to cover getting checks printed for Patelco. I won't use those checks, I need them to make a template to print my own. I'm still not sure I will switch, Patelco is definitely a step down from Tech. I may look into Keypoint too. Later.

Survived lunch at Hometown Buffet, where I am suddenly a Senior. Last time I checked one had to be 65, now it is 60. Many places have lowered their senior age, Sizzler has, Denny's and Coco's are 55.

 Radio Shack and Office Something did not have SD card holders, but Office had a nice travel bag which will hold most of my non-insulin meds.

Home after work, getting things staged for tomorrow. First thing is to bring Domino to the kennel. Her carrier is in the middle of the livingroom surrounded by food, treats and a brush which she thinks is her best toy. Then to work, there is usually a gang outing at lunch on Fridays. Home, finish packing and have my butt on the curb in front of the apartment office by 9 pm.

The cheaper wallet turned out to not hack it, the one from Penny's worked better once I took out the cards I won't be needing on my trip, and added Thai money behind the divider. And pulled out $40 in $1 bills.

Earlier, I had found all my Thai coins, which all are still good, and put the 1- and 5-baht coins in one change purse, and the smaller denominations in another. I think the smaller ones add up to about 10 baht. Those are all on the bed with passport & health card. Skytrain card is in my wallet. I am not sure if it is good or has any value left on it from 2008.

Email from the reunion organizer with her Thailand cell phone number, and a reprieve. The Friends of Thailand dinners will be informal dress. The shindig at the US Ambassador's and the Thai foreign ministry are suit & tie. I'm only planning to attend the latter's morning session.

Plans for tomorrow:
Domino --> Kennel
Me --> work
Attend to last-minute things (turn off the air conditioner...)
Pack last-minute stuff
Wait for the airport shuttle
Fly to Bangkok. Technically that's the day after tomorrow.


howeird: (Default)
I thought 10 would be early enough for the 10:30 band intro but I had to park 3 blocks away. 4th of July at Los Altos was very well attended, there were lots of activities for the kids, and the band was very well received. The PA system was a total fail, someone decided the speakers needed to be in the back of the park, facing backwards.

Our conductor has done a great job getting us to mind the dynamics in the pieces we play, but it backfired this time - people way in the back (about 200 yards away) said they could not hear us.

But it was a fun time for the band, at least.

Stopped off at Fry's, did not find an SD card wallet but did find one for USB drives which will work.

Home, changed out of my uniform and into jeans shorts and a flag T-shirt from last year, then to the cinema, bought a ticket for the 3 pm show, but it was only 2 so I went to Starbucks and finished the Outlook merge I had started last night. Or so I thought. Turns out the merge program does not remove duplicates from the inbox, and does not merge archive folders with current folders. Time to see the movie.

Brave was okay. As usual, the animation was pretty good, though they seem to have trouble making noses which are not layers of polygons. I thought the messages were way heavy-handed, and the reveal at the end was not justified by the actions leading up to it. It's natural for a mother to defend her daughter. It's not natural, IMHO, for a mother to do what this one did after engaging in a "to the death" battle to defend her daughter. I'd be less surprised to see ERII abdicate in favor of her eldest son tomorrow morning. There are some parallels there, but this is a spoiler-free review.

The 3D was understated, which was nice. Oddly enough, something which impressed me more than the movie was the closing credits. They were done in a beautiful gold Celtic-like font, with three levels of depth. Names, departments and main unit designations were top, bottom and middle as the 3D layers go. Every credit to the bitter end was done with this high quality workmanship. I wish Pixar woud get a clue and stop showing credits for all the myriad people who did not actually work on the film. I really don't need to know who all the caterers were, or all the lawyers, or all the folks who slopped the stables for the animated horses. There is a cute Easter egg at the end, but I was the only one in the theater who survived long enough to see it. The staff person cleaning up was in the second to last row by then.

After the show I went back to Starbucks to finish the Outlook merge. It worked better the second time, but still left dupes in the inbox.

Home by way of Sizzler. Skipped the ice cream there because there was still chocolate cream cake at home. Sat on the patio with Domino waiting for hummingbirds to find the feeder (one had done so this morning), but gave up when it started to get dark. As soon as I sat down in the recliner two hummers landed on the feeder. Nice to know they have found it. It'll probably be empty when I get back from vacation.

Doing laundry - waited till after the concert to do the whites, so I could toss in the white uniform shirt. Waited till it cooled off to throw them into the dryer.

Did a reality check on the bag of OTC stuff for the trip, and had to jettison the clothing insect repellent because it's an aerosol spray. Everything else is okay.

Watched some fireworks on TV, because I could hear the booms from someplace not too far. Great America said they were not doing any tonight, so this must have been Mountain View or Milpitas.

Plans for tomorrow:
Put Domino's carrier in the livingroom.
howeird: (Default)
I had to use a lot of that today. Last night the relay in the bedroom suddenly lost its connection to the internet. Which meant no internet radio.Tried connecting to the one in the livingroom, no dice. I power cycled the router, and everything came back on. For about 5 minutes, then dead again. It was late, screw it, I'll see if it recovers overnight.

6 am, woke up for no apparent reason, looked at my cell phone, it showed a 100% signal from the bedroom relay, but the icon was grey not blue. No internet connection. Slogged to the router on the other side of the apartment, Domino yelling at me as she always does, power cycled the router, but this time no WAN light. Tried again, for longer, and it came back on. In about 5 minutes the relays were showing green lights too. Whenever this happens, I have to power cycle all the webcams, and re-sync anything else on the wi-fi net. Except TiVo, which is now hard-wired to the livingroom relay (I gave up on their N adapters).

Tried to get back to bed, but it was too late.

At work I had nothing to do, so I created some video clips for some tests which I will need to run in a couple of months, and loaded those onto the shared server.

Went with two of the gang to SmokeEaters for half-priced wings. I love their wings, love the price, but they slopped so much sauce on them I could hardly pick them up. Finally put half of them in a box. I'll wash the goop off at home, and have them with dinner.

This place is way the heck out in Cupertino, way farther than I'd have gone on my own.

After work I went straight to the Starbucks next to Lucky's, because I have some shopping to do. Ice cream, bananas, rubber bands, maybe apples, maybe bottled iced tea (for the doctor visit next week I need to not drink anything purple or red, which is mostly what colors of Crystal Lite I have.).

Last night I printed invitations on card stock for the Thai ambassador's party, the foreign affairs ministry gathering and the Peace Corps HQ visit. The latter was by far the most ornate and least useful. A passport ought to get me in that door.

Plans for tomorrow:
Kaiser for travel vaccinations. Must remember to bring my yellow health cards
1-on-1 with boss
howeird: (Default)
Last things first. I went out after work and sat by the smaller pool, which still had some sun, and tried [ profile] zyzyly's macro eye photography trick, but it was mostly a fail. My eyelashes are too long. And my eyes don't seem to open all the way. I did get a better idea of the ugliness which is the Pterygium in my right eye. I'll need to try again with the sun higher in the sky, I think.

Work started with the usual team meeting, but there was not that much to talk about. Boss is getting geared up for his vacation, which starts a week from tomorrow. He told me after the meeting that his son's going into the monkhood may become a wedding. The date keeps changing. We have a 1-on-1 meeting Wednesday, and I'll get his Thailand phone number and some more clues about where his house is. And maybe when to visit.

Work was mostly proofreading the release notes for the two products going out the door this week. One of my team came over to have me try to reproduce a bug he found, and it was a very fun one. It was from one of those "make sure file names can contain any symbol on the keyboard" tests.

Lunchtime I went to the PO, shipped back the broken VCR, and sent a box each to my nephew and his mom. Chicon7 T-shirts. I won't be there but my photos will. Then Andy's BBQ for beef rib lunch. I must stop doing that. The ribs are low quality, not much meat on them, and they overcook them. And service is unpredictable. My waitress dropped off my check and went on break. :-(

Just at quitting time my tummy erupted, and I filled the restroom with loud noises. Decided this was not something I needed to do at BASFA.

Home after work, spent some time on the patio petting Domino, heated up the doggie bag of ribs and ate that while watching an old Star Trek episode on Amazon Prime. Also fired up the PC and downloaded the bit of Ghostbusters II I Tivoed the other night. After I write this I'll make a clip of the funny overlay. Waiting at the door for me was the box of 10 16GB Class 10 SDHC cards. Eventually I ought to number them and find a pouch for them.

Plans for tomorrow:
Some shopping. I'm out of ice cream. And rubber bands.
howeird: (Pocari Sweat)
Full day at work, morning spent trying to fool a program into giving up a text version of what we see on the screen, and it gave me everything except the bit I needed. There has been no upgrade to their web site since 2004, and in theory support for us expired long ago.

Lunch with automation guy at Thaibodia. I tried one of the Cambodian dishes, it was pretty much Thai yellow curry veggies with pork, except the meat was not cut small enough and the veggies were mostly American. Not bad, though. Service, once again, was glacial. We were two of only 8 people there, everyone else was finishing their meal when we arrived.

Back to work, tackled a total re-do of an automation script, and by 6 pm was almost done, in theory. I just need to add one more line. But it's a long test, since the machine has to run an update, reboot, then check that the version was updated correctly. That reboot is lengthy. And I also have to figure out how to look for a particular error message to disappear before continuing.

Got a call from Kaiser, medical tmi ) is scheduled for the 26th. They need someone to bring me and take me home, which is odd - last time it was done without drugs, I was fine with it, watched the whole thing on the monitors, and went home under my own power.

Home, very warm day, sat out on the patio to enjoy it. Not much of a view except for people bringing their children to the pool, and often bringing them right back out, screaming. The children. Sometimes the parents too.  I hate that my high rent helps pay for things which attract hoards of screaming children. I'll be moving when my lease is up.

Domino is not nearly as interested in the patio now that it's clear she cannot get out. Or see out very well.

Had dinner, watched a couple of segments of Dr. Drew on HLN, and will be nuking that season pass because he has stopped talking about happy things like he used to do on Love Line, and is now all about face-eaters, child molesters, fathers beating child molesters to death, and anything else unpleasant he can find.

Did the whites (laundry). Which reminded me of one of my favorite lines from All In The Family. Archie is left to do the laundry, and just dumped all the clothes in together. Meathead says something like "I can't believe this! Archie forgot to separate the coloreds from the whites!".

Worked with PhotoShop to see if I could change my embossed text watermark to my signature. It worked fine when I was recording the macro, but the automation widget did not understand how to keep two files open, and copy one to the other. I can make it work if I do the first 3 steps manually, which only has to be done once per session. But I'll poke around a bit because I'm sure there's a way to make it all automated.

Pulled down my various file boxes, and looked for Thai coins. At first I thought I had found an envelope about an inch thick with Thai paper currency, but looking closer it is my collection of bills from all the countries I have visited since 1989. I did find two coin purses and a zip-lock bag which had Thai coins. Lots of 1 baht coins (about the size of a Canadian dime) and a few 5 baht and 10 baht (which look like oversized Canadian Twonies). OCD set in and I put the larger coins in one purse and the smaller ones in another. I'm not sure what 1 baht buys today, it takes 32 or so to make $1. But change is for the better. Maybe [ profile] zyzyly knows.

So financially, I'm set for the trip.

Apartment emailed that they have a package for me, but it's 30 lbs of kitty litter, I'm not making a special trip for that. I expect two more packages tomorrow, will grab those at lunchtime, or on the way home.

Plans for tomorrow:
Costco - I'm out of good (Noah's) bagels. TJ's suck, they are dry and crumbly and taste like sand.
Kaiser - p/up a prescription
howeird: (Costume Malfunction)
I'm at one of the late closing eye candy Starbucks, because I thought it was Thursday and after my prescription dinner of Gatorade and saltines I went to Santa Clara Players' theater hoping to see The Nerd. But it is not Thursday and they have no performance on Wednesdays. So I switched from Plan A for Thursday to Plan A for Wednesday. Piece 'o' cake.

Early to work this morning for a 9 am go-to-meeting training session on a new automation software application the company is thinking of buying for QA. The software is made in Austria, and the instructor was calling from there during his evening. It was supposed to be 2 hours, but people kept interrupting with questions which I was sure would be answered later in the presentation, and they kept asking questions for half an hour after. There's another session next week, and all those questions were on the agenda for then.

I was puzzled by the instructor's accent. Last time I looked, there was no "W" sound in German, as a W is pronounced as a V and a V is pronounced as an F. But this guy pronounced all his V's as W's. Wisual Basic. Wersion. He had a lot of other mispronunciations, but they were all consistent with a German accent. I'm guessing his native language may be Czech or maybe from one of the other surrounding Slavic languages.

For lunch automation guy and I went to Barn Thai on Duane, which ought to be spelled Baan Thai, which means Thai House. Good food, fast service.There was a line when we got there at 1:10, but we were the last ones left at 2:00.

Back at work, closed an "issue" - we log feature requests in the bug database, this was one of those, and after about a  month of tweaking (all good) it finally worked perfectly on both releases of our software. Yay!

Got a call from the kennel, they were told by my vet that Domino's last rabies shot was 2006. Idiots, I had given them all of Domino & Pumpkin's paperwork when I switched to them from Banfield last year, I see they never entered it into their system. 

At about 4 I called the advice nurse, described in detail  my symptoms (which are TMI**), and he or she (I couldn't tell) made me an appointment with my doctor for tomorrow morning, and told me dinner will be saltines and Gatorade.  Neither of which I had at home.

There was a package to pick up at the apartment office by 6:30, so I mapped out a plan to pick that up, then hit the nearest 7-11, then home, then the theater.

Picked up the package and decided to see if the micro-mart in front had those things, and they did. So no 7-11 trip.

The package was an express delivery from China, a new improved cord to attach the camera to the little GPS. The original cord is short and not flexible, and it kept popping out of the GPS. The new cord is longer, curled and flexible. Once I got it jammed into the GPS real good it worked fine.

Still to do tonight - See if my favorite hotel in Bangkok (near skytrain & metro) has affordable rooms available.

Plans for tomorrow:
Drop off paperwork at kennel (and show them the rabies tag)
The Nerd

**not to worry, nothing serious, just puzzling because there are none of the usual symptoms which usually go with the one I am presenting. No fever, no tummy ache, no feeling faint, no dehydration.
howeird: (BKK Gargoyle)
Plus I did several Stupid Things™ which I knew better than to do.

Arrived in the office at about 8:30 for the 9 am team meeting which it turned out was not till 10 this week. We rotate every other week. It gave me time to note that the PC on my desk which IT claimed was now fully operational on the network was not. It worked for them upstairs, but not at my desk. It was clear they did not test it once they plugged it into the docking station. IT guy discovered the problem was my USB network adapter not getting the right info from the lab's router. It's sort of working now, with a work-around that goes away if I reboot the thing. But I know how to do the workaround, so it's only mildly annoying now.

Team meeting didn't have much since we are caught in between projects. Except for me, I have two projects. I tried to wrap up one this morning before the meeting, but the new build broke the feature I was testing, which needed three screen captures and a bug report, and an update to the test case FAILing it, and pointing to the bug report.

Lunch was at China Stix, which I thought had dim sum lunch, but I guess not today. Ordered their Wor Won Ton soup, which looks to have a beef stock base, and while it is loaded with good stuff, the BBQ pork was a bit dry. And they could have had more bok choy.

Boss approved my Thailand trip dates, it turns out he will be there at the same time. He built a house in Phichit which was finished about a year ago, and we will try to get me up there for a visit. There are several days of possible free time in the Friends of Thailand itinerary. The big gotcha is it will be the start of monsoon season, and Phichit is known as The Swamp. The province is noted for its crocodiles.

Started work on my second project, but the lab networking guy gave me the wrong answer to my question of how to run the tests. I'll have to talk to him tomorrow. Meanwhile I built a filter in wireshark to try to trap the network traffic I was looking for, but it doesn't make it to my side of the router.

Home, Domino mostly yelled at me. It didn't really need it, but I changed the litterbox anyway. Put on a con t-shirt and walked to BASFA. I am so glad I didn't bring a jar of pickles to auction, because there were way too many items, and it was a long meeting with a packed house. I may skip next week.

Back home, emailed my Thailand hotel reservation, went online to donate for the Princess event, and spent way too much time on the EVA Airlines site to pay way too much for a business class ticket. My flagrant flyer miles from two previous trips was not even close to being worth anything. I could have saved about $200 flying one of the Korean airlines, but those have a plane change in Seoul, which is 5 1/2 hours from BKK, Taiwan is "only" 3 1/2 hours. And the EVA SFO-TPE flight is a red eye, BKK arrival is around noon the next day while Korean ones leave San Fran mid-day or early afternoon and get to BKK at about midnight.

There was one glitch, EVA wanted my name as it appears on my passport, which includes my middle name. The name they have for me on their frequent flyer card is just first and last names. The web page yelled rude things at me because they didn't match, and there is no way to change it online, I have to call the SF office in the morning.

Plans for tomorrow:
Call EVA
get some windshield washer fluid


Mar. 11th, 2012 01:12 pm
howeird: (HuaHin)
What was I thinking? Audition fever got to me. But the audition is for a summer show, which means being cooped up in a theater for every weekend between July and mid-August. I don't do summer shows. I am still making up for the Seattle summer deprivation of my childhood.

And it's not a show I like.

It's a director I adore, and a beautiful theater, and there are singing parts for old men. But summer trumps it all.

That last inheritance distribution is also coloring my thoughts. It is more than enough to take that trip to Thailand in July for the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps/Thailand, which includes dinner with a princess. §§ That trip would be the opening week of the show.

Last night's pickles all sealed well. They say to tap the center of the lids, but a better test is the screw-on bands (rings) - they were hand-tightened while hot, so if they can be tightened more after cooling (and shrinking) overnight, it means the lids are tight against the jars.

The nice thing about the mix is the pickles will be ready to eat after 24 hours instead of several weeks.

I've set all the clocks forward in the apartment which needed it. Some of them are getting an NTP signal and self-correct. Like my PC. The clock in the car needs it. [ profile] zyzyly's post reminded me to invoke DST on the Nikon D300S.
. §§ Looking at air fares, SFO-BKK has doubled since I last went in 2008. It looks like July 7-22 is the plan. I could use a third week, but don't think I have enough PTO. I'll have to check when I'm back at work tomorrow.
So, no plans for today. I will stick the labels on the backs of the Contact Conference photos, and put the photos and their Post-It labels back in the closet until [ profile] maurinestarkey wants them. And read more of Ajaan Somtow's Starship & Haiku.

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