Archive for July, 2008
A frustrating day. A day of high winds where I should have been bouncing off waves with a jellyfish attached to my head at a jaunty angle.
Instead, the morning started with a meeting with our condo managers to review progress on various projects. One of these is the complete overhaul of our waste management system which is planned to start in a couple of weeks time. The work will go on for twelve days and there will be a lot of noise and it is going to be smelly. I have further details, but you really don’t want to know.
Anyway, the sewage discussions got me in the mood to sort out one of our toilets which refuses to flush, because the tank refuses to fill, because the water is leaking into the bowl. And she who must be obeyed refuses to remember not to use it, with the inevitable smelly result which requires the carrying of buckets of water; by me. I have further details, but you really don’t want to know.
It’s an old toilet and I did not hold out much hope of getting spares; but I went to Home Pro in Pattaya Tai where a young man called Khun Boonlert was eager to assist. After much catalogue searching he found the offending bowl and a small team was then mobilised to establish the price and availability of all the bits that go inside the tank. This took a while, seven games of backgammon on my iPhone to be exact (I lost, 4-3). Finally the team appeared with a piece of paper on which was written 6,800 baht. With much tutting and expressions of sympathy, the entire staff of the shop (it was a quiet day), agreed with me that this was very expensive.
So I was pointed to their sale items where a very acceptable complete toilet was on offer for less than 3,000 baht. My new friend, Khun Boonlert, assured me he knew a very capable chap who could install it for me for 1,500 baht and it seemed like a good idea, except I was not sure it would fit in the space.
This prompted a strange conversation.
Khun Spike, do you have a Thai lady?
Errr, yes I do. Khun Boonlert, do you have a Thai lady?
(somewhat taken aback). Yes, but I need the telephone number of your lady
Why? Do you want to ask her out? Can I have the telephone number of your lady too?
No, no, no. I just need to ask your lady about your toilet.
So I gave him the number and he had a fruitless conversation with she who must be obeyed. Fruitless, because he asked her for information about the poistioning of the toilet, and she said she didn’t know which toilet he wanted to know about because we had three of them. As if I had gone into a toilet supply shop to replace a toilet chosen at random, rather than the one that clearly was not working because I have to keep flushing it with a bucket after she keeps crapping in it by mistake. Silly girl.
Undaunted, my new best mate Khun Boonlert announced that we going to my condo for a toilet inspection. So we did. After the fifteen minute journey, he got out his tape measure and discovered that the bargain loo would not fit. Then, clearly disturbed by his conversation with my wife, he insisted on inspecting the other toilets, just in case I had been hiding multiple cases of malfunction from him.
Back at the shop they had lost the original piece of paper with the details of the 6,800 baht’s worth of bits, but after a couple of games of backgammon they found it and I placed my order. Two weeks to wait which means there will be a few more bucket-carrying sessions before we are fully functional again.
By the time I got home it was too late to go sailing, so I decided to tackle the problem of buying software from Adobe.
Adobe make Lightroom, a very cool piece of software for managing and processing photographs. Surprisingly, I have a legal copy. And now there is an upgrade which is being advertised as available for download for $99. Great, so off I go to download it. But I can’t, because I live in Thailand; as does my credit card, and the website rejects my order with a “you live in Thailand, we don’t know where that is because we are in America, so you can’t buy our software” message (wording is approximate). So I tried to contact customer support. But I couldn’t because that part of the website is not working (probably overloaded with people who don’t live in America wanting to give Adobe money).
I could of course call a support number in America and be transferred to somewhere in India where I would wait for ten minutes listening to Greensleeves before being directed to someone who has been on a two day induction course who would talk bollocks and do nothing for me apart from raising my blood pressure. So I didn’t do that.
Instead I spent more than an hour navigating around Adobe’s useless website. I did discover that it is possible to download the update from certain countries in the world, other than the USA. Australia for example, where you will be required to pay 74% more than in America for exactly the same downloaded product, probably downloaded from the identical server. Makes no sense at all, just as it makes no sense that people in Iceland, Thailand and many other countries are not able to purchase on-line at all. I have lost count of the software I have bought on-line. In every other case it has been a single price, wherever you happen to live in the world, and you can download from anywhere. This is clearly far too simple for the idiots who manage Adobe.
Eventually I found the Thai distributor and I sent him an e-mail asking for pricing and availability. I did not expect a response. Amazingly, I received a reply within a few minutes. I can order an upgrade disk for a higher price than the USA, but cheaper than Australia. Delivery is 10-15 days, which means it will arrive at roughly the same time as my toilet repair kit. Poignant timing; I will receive some software from a company whose pricing, worldwide distribution policies and support will be the same as my newly functioning toilet; full of shit.
There are no shortage of crappy areas in Pattaya, and one of them is the area around Bali Hai pier. The pier itself is under constant siege from tour buses disgorging sweaty tourists who have unwittingly signed up for a boring chug across the bay in a dilapidated boat (keep an eye on the inadequate supply of life jackets folks, you may need to grab one), before being dumped for several hours onto the over-crowded and over-priced beaches of Koh Larn.
Moving south from the pier there is a huge boat park where noisy, belching tractors spend the day launching and recovering garishly painted boats. The park is a pleasant place for an evening stroll, provided you enjoy walking on oil-greasy tarmac whilst inhaling the pungent aroma that only the mixture of diesel and boat boy piss can provide.
Once you can negotiate your way around the traffic jam of buses, tractors and vendors selling junk, this is an area to escape from as quickly as possible. Or, if you are prepared to pay upwards of 95,000 baht per square metre, you can buy a condo in The Waterfront and enjoy the mayhem twenty four hours a day.
Actually, it should be called the smelly-boatyard-front because it will not front onto the water (development in red):
Tourist-bus-dropoff-point-front is another option. But Waterfront is probably marginally more saleable.
The sales office told me that they had sold more than 20% already. So hurry up and get your deposit down before they are sold out. And don’t worry about the fact that is less than 200 metres to the sea and therefore possibly an illegal construction, the sales office also told me that was not a problem; so all is OK.
The Waterfront, where sunsets glinting off a tractor become a reality.
She who must be obeyed returned home last night, bearing big hugs and a large box of Vietnamese food. I deviated from my diet of the last few days (sandwiches, beer and snacks), and we went to MK for dinner.
For those who don’t know, MK is a Thai institution with thousands of branches across the country. You get a pot of hot stock and you purchase stuff to throw into the pot and cook. They also do plates of duck which are as good as you will find anywhere. The boss chooses the food, and there is usually too much. After a time she will announce that she is full and “the rest is for you.” When I can’t finish it I get into trouble for wasting food. But the food is tasty, the service is quick and the price is reasonable.
After dinner I offer her a chick-flick, the Sex And The City movie. Having mentioned before that Jock tends to wake up next to women who look like a horse, I now realise that he has probably been sleeping with Sarah Jessica Parker who looks like a Grand National horse that fell into the first fence.
All of the women in this film are unpleasantly shallow, materialistic individuals; hard to care what happens to them, easy to wish that they might all be crushed by a runaway mobile crane within the first half hour. Sadly this didn’t happen. so I left the wife watching the witless women and disappeared into the back room and watched Carlos Sastre win the Tour de France from that obnoxious Australian.
The presence of the camera obviously encouraged him to try some more advanced tricks (i.e., he was showing off). First there was the popular SUP-on-the-side, where the board is held vertically and the rider stays on by convincing himself that gravity is just an illusion. Not as stable as it looks.
Another day of store room tidying left me tired, sweaty and needing a beer. It also included one of those moments where your heart sinks and you feel slightly sick; like when Jock wakes up in the morning next to someone he can never remember meeting, let alone spending the night with. Again.
I have three cameras and too many lenses and I love them all dearly. Keep them lying around on a shelf in this humidity and you will soon find that new and exciting life forms will have evolved on the lens glass. Mould may be scientifically fascinating, but it makes a mess of your equipment. So everything lives in a humidity controlled “dry cabinet”. 46% is the magic number. More humidity and you get wet mould, less humidity and you get dry mould; or at least that is what the purveyors of dry cabinets would have you believe.
The dry cabinet had to be taken out of the storeroom. I opened it, took out the tray of cameras and put the tray on the table. I put the tray of lenses on the table. And I put the remaining two large lenses on the table between the two trays to stop them rolling away. Then I moved the cabinet. So far, so good. Then I put the tray of cameras back in the cabinet. Then there was a loud crash as one of my large lenses rolled off the table and hit the tiled floor.
That was when I had my “Jock woke up in the morning next to what looked like a horse” moment. I picked up the lens and there was the sound of broken glass tumbling around inside which promoted another moment which in Jock terms would equate to “and it appears that I didn’t use a condom; and where did this wedding ring come from?”
This was, up to that moment, my best lens. Fifty thousand baht’s worth of light grey Canon gorgeousness. It appeared that it was now a light grey tube full of bits of glass. I took off the lens cover and shards of glass fell on the floor. I left them for the cats to clear up, this was no time to be tidy. However, it appeared that only the screw-on filter on the front of the lens was actually broken. Amazing, but would the lens still work? A quick shot out of the window indicated that mechanically all was in order; although a more thorough test was required. It’s a bit like when you drop a baby on it’s head. It appears to still be functional; but you have to wait until it is a teenager to discover whether or not the impact has permanently damaged the brain and made it enjoy Country and Western music. Actually, it’s not like that at all. But I did need to test the lens some more.
So this morning I went out and took a few shots. They are finally making progress at widening Theppraya Road. Shop owners suddenly found that the road in front of them had disappeared and, if they walked out of the shop they would fall two metres into the dirt. The contractors resolved the problem by piling earth to fill in the gap. Then the next day they decided they needed the earth somewhere else and took it away. Now the contractors have plastered some cement against the crumbling mini-cliff and given them wooden ladders. Not very inviting for customers and only a matter of time before the whole edifice collapses.
Behind Bali Hai Pier there is a new kart track, actually two tracks. Looks very smart and tidy, although the karts circulating this morning looked a bit crap. Maybe the karts on the second track have more of an ability to scare you stupid.
At the top of Pratumnak Hill there has been an invasion of boulders. I was concerned that these were planned to serve as foundations for yet another million floor condo which nobody would buy and would never get finished. But no, this is to be a pleasant park through which you can stroll in the early evening and get propositioned or mugged; or both.
Finally, a shot across the bay where people who had been dropped on their heads as babies were being dragged along by boats under a parachute, with condos which nobody is buying lie half-constructed on the skyline.
Yeah, I know, boring photos; but at 100% you can read the dart board in the first photo so all appears to be well with the lens. And when we passed a bar blaring out “Country Roads”, it didn’t even twitch.
A local businessman was gunned down outside his shop in Pattaya yesterday. Apparently he was involved in a number of illegal activities, one of which pissed someone off sufficiently to order the hit.
Today the police gave more details on these activities: “Illegal activities engaged in by the victim included money lending, gambling, drug dealing, adultery, and possible jaywalking.”
It’s clear to me that the “possible jaywalking” is the heinous crime which led inevitably to murder. Mind where you walk people, it’s a dangerous world out there.
In a previous life I spent many years living in different countries, each for a period of around three years. At the end of each assignment, my worldly possessions were dumped into a container and despatched to the next country earmarked to gain the benefit of my minimal skills.
Such an existence forces you to minimise the retention of rubbish. When packing to move to another country you are forced to ask yourself whether you really need to keep the last eleven years issues of Practical Wall Building (and the answer would be ‘yes’, of course). There was always an element of pruning involved, so when I finally moved to Pattaya, it was with only the essentials to support life. Unfortunately, my life support includes a number of stuff-intensive hobbies, all of which contributed to the filling of the two store rooms in my condo.
In the five years I have been here, things have only got worse. Partly my fault, but also due to the burgeoning bag and shoe collection of she who must be obeyed; plus several forests worth of MBA documentation which still lies around the place, even though she finished the course months ago.
So we have two full store rooms, plus a “computer room” which is overflowing with junk. There is a plan to refurbish the computer room. My plan is to install a Mac Pro in it. Her plan is to replace the floor, paint it, and install custom furniture; all of which I am in favour of if it includes space for a Mac Pro. But before we can start we have to sort out our storage. To give you an idea of the extent of the problem, here is the carefully ordered storeroom at the back of the condo.
All this is a precursor to a telephone conversation I had this morning. She who must be obeyed called and told me she had been up at the crack of dawn and was just leaving the temple to go and buy food for the family.
“And what are YOU doing?” she asked, in a voice that implied that, if I couldn’t be arsed to go to the funeral, I better be doing something useful back at home.
There was a slight pause. “Err, I have cleaned out one of the store rooms and I am painting it” I said.
She was very pleased with me, called me a good boy, and we parted on excellent terms.
Just a small problem. In reality I had finished breakfast,made a coffee, and I felt I deserved a break and was settling down to a game of Battlefield: Bad Company on the Xbox. Why the hell had I told her I was fixing the storeroom, now I would actually have to do it.
Step one was easy. I dragged the contents of the storeroom into the living room and piled everything on the floor. The cats enjoyed this process immensely.
Step two, acquire paint. So I went to Home Works on Sukhumvit which is the most overstaffed and least stocked store in Thailand. Before you walk in, you are being greeted, and then you are pursued around the store by eager employees who, if you pause for an instant, will rush up to you and offer assistance, even though they are not capable of giving any. If you want to buy anything that comes in a separate box, be assured they won’t have it. The store is full of display-only items. But I assumed I could get some paint. And indeed I could.
I chose a shade called Nevada Sunrise, which was an insipid off-white colour that would certainly not encourage you to rise to see the dawn in Nevada. A cast of thousands took a can off the shelf and placed it under a machine. After much thinking, the machine dropped a small puddle of black into the white-ish paint in the can; and another machine stirred the can for about a week.
Swinging my can of Nevada Sunrise and humming a Bee-Gees tune, I headed for the check-out where one cashier and three hangers-on waited to serve me. The paint crew had placed two bar-coded stickers on my can, in addition to the generic sticker already there. Naturally, each sticker gave a different answer. A phone call was made to the paint army; I would like to say it was a frantic call but it was actually bordering on the dismissive. Nothing happened for five minutes and then I started to make agitated foreigner noises, so the call was made again and eventually a paint-splattered assistant arrived to sort things out. Home Works sucks.
Back home and I spread paint on the walls, me, the kitchen floor and one of the cats. But progress has been made.
Tomorrow I am going to empty the other storeroom and paint that. Then I will have two clean storerooms and a house littered with piles of crap. So when she who must be obeyed comes home on Sunday, she can see that I have been really busy and not playing on the Xbox. Like what I am not about to go and do now.