Friday, November 17, 2017

Busy in the big mango

Got back just after noon yesterday to the big mango.  After a  brief rest and a bite to eat, it was off to Khlong Tom market for a  bit of shopping from my list.  Lets see, EU to US adapters, some more white colored string lights, some more power strips, some outdoor female US plugs, and some more DMX connectors.  Found most everything except the small hoses for the small LPG tanks I bought.

Met up with Bangkok buddy and some other regulars for dinner at the Central Plaza Mall.  It was good to see Gomer Pyle, and Dennis the Menace again and we chatted and had dinner at Sizzler and then some coffee at Holly's.  Afterwards we all kind of went our separate ways as everyone seemed to have their own plans for today.

Vanna also needed a mechanical check certificate - 200 baht

As for me, I had to wait for a FedEx delivery, buy some medication, and then get Vanna registered.  Got the first two items done without incident but when it came to getting the car registered, a problem came up.  It seems like the Chassis number on the policy did not match the owner's book number.  It was a transcribing error by the insurance company, and it was also wrong last year, but never the less, it stopped everything cold until I can get a revised policy issued.  The hope is that they can do a quick revision and send it to me via courier today or tomorrow so I can get this task done.  I don't want to wait until Monday to go back up country as I would lose another day in getting ready for our show next weekend.

The plan is to get a two hour foot massage before the buffet tonight, but we need to see how that matches up to the schedule.

That is it for now from...the very busy Bangkok bee....... 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Scrambling to get work done...

I'm scrambling away today to try to get as much done as possible before I go to the big mango for a couple of days.  I want to pick up some items and B and her mother will be coming down during the weekend to see B's sister, who is in the hospital.  She is going to undergo surgery in the next day or so and everyone wants to be around for support.  Its not life threatening surgery, but she is not going to be able to have anymore children again.  It also gives me some time to hang out a bit since I've been upcountry and so busy that I have had time to do very much except work every day.

I have the basics of a show done with just the lights needing to be put up on the trees and bushes.  Our electrician will put up the flood lights for me next week and I will work on the large mega Christmas trees in the following weeks ahead.

It will be good to go to the Friday night buffet again and maybe get a long overdue foot and back massage.  Gosh, I miss the mango...555

That's it for today, more tomorrow after I get back to the mango.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Working away...

My little workbench out back..555

Did a lot of work on the 'bush' features yesterday.  Put them together after getting all the parts from the local Global House store.  It would not be necessary except that our bushes on the market are still too tiny to support any kind of lights this year.  The solution was to build them out of plastic laundry bins and then put them on legs.  Built a total of eight yesterday and got lights onto four of them.  Will finish the lights this morning and then get to the task of putting up some lights into the trees.  That will take a couple of days of work and then I have to do the flood lights, strobes, and the flame machines.  That will give me the 'basics' of a decent show.  However, the big project is the pair of 10 foot Christmas trees made of LED strips.  Each tree is going to require 2 controllers and 16 strips of LEDs. 

Had a heck of a time finding the adapter for the fancy regulators on these LPG bottles

Also got our LPG tanks setup yesterday for the flame machines.  Struggled with getting the right adapters for the little canisters until B's mom contacted one of the local contractors/repair people or 'Channgs' as we call them. He finally located a source after looking around the area all day. With the tanks all set up, I can test the machines outside tonight after it gets dark.  Went through a lot to get these machines, both in terms of time and cost, so I hope they will add that magic I am looking for to the show.  Having them gives me a lot of options (in the future) like in this show below.

Did you say 007 or Sevenwinds???

My reward for all of this will be the looks and sounds coming from the audience during the show.  I've done countless kite shows and performances and know when something has the 'wow' factor that sets it apart from the norm.  Its this same goal which I intend to shoot for in this show.  Also will be something I want to give to the locals, and especially their kids which is something they can get excited about during the holiday season.  They are way upcountry and hours from the big mango and are really kind of limited to what is in the area which isn't a lot.  

Anyway, if things go right, I might get back to the mango sometime next week for a couple of days and then be back for the opening of the show before Thanksgiving.  

Friday, November 10, 2017

Back at the resort

After a glorious couple of days in the mango, its back to work at the resort.  I left the mango yesterday after giving Vanna a good cleaning.  She has been working really hard and still looks pretty good after 130,000 kilometers and seven years.  I remember distinctly the day we bought her from a kiosk at Carrefor (remember them?) - they are now Big Cs.  We had been on the waiting list at one of the local Isuzu dealers for two months with no luck and they had a sample in the showroom.  I asked when they could provide the vehicle model we wanted and they said "how about a week?".  The long story made short is that we bought from the kiosk guy and got a begrudging refund from the local dealer.  Turns out the kiosk guys were from the suburbs and they had plenty of stock while the local dealer had limited stock and many cars backordered.  Moral of the story is to shop around and don't rely on the word of just one dealer...BTW, we got it cheaper too.

Also got Vanna's insurance for the year.  It includes roadside assistance and coverage up to 500,000 baht for around 14K baht per year.   Its from a respectable US based company too, LMG.  They are the ones that shoot commercials in from of the Statue of Liberty you see on the US media.  

Overall, while the initial cost of getting a vehicle is on the high side, owning it long term is quite reasonable because of the low maintenance costs, the lower insurance premiums, and the cost of fuel (if you use government regulated diesel).  I would say that getting a car is one of the best things to happen to me in regard to living here in the land of smiles.  The freedom it gives me is unsurpassed and the things and places I've done and seen makes every minute I spend here that much better.  You cannot say that you have lived in Thailand if you haven't driven around yourself to parts of the country and away from the 'reservation'.  It doesn't matter how many years you've lived or visited here, you are still missing 99% of the real Thailand by staying on the reservation, the little patty, or the big mango only. 

Will be finishing the features for the light show today and hopefully start putting up some lights in the trees in the next day or so.  I want to have all the LOR network items completed so that I can have a light show platform to start with and then add more features as time permits.  My plan is to have a light show ready before Thanksgiving this month.

Anyway, time for a show and to get to work.  The days are getting short and the work isn't going anywhere soon.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Good Morning Big Mango

Got into the big mango yesterday afternoon, just slightly pass noon.  Rested, had something to snack on, and then headed over to Pantip plaza.  I had a shopping list of items I needed that I could not easily find upcountry.

  1. USB 3.0 hubs ( 4 USB ports from 1)
  2. Mini headphone jack to RCA adaptor cable (for playing out MP3 music on PA system)
  3. USB flash memory sticks (cheaper in the mango)
  4. Batteries for my floodlight remote controller
  5. All in one SD card reader and writer
  6. Phone Jack (RJ11) to RJ45 adapter plug

I found all the above items at Pantip except the last item which I think I will have to make myself with some old wiring and spare parts.  

Pantip continues to amaze me with the comeback as I noticed more and more stores are returning to their previous locations and even the top floors are getting new shops on a weekly basis.  Had lunch at the A&W Root beer place, but there is now a McDonalds in place of the KFC, which is now gone.  There is very limited seating, which I think is a shame because it could do a lot of business if it were developed correctly.

Got back at around 4:30 PM and crashed out and fell asleep until B called me around 9PM.  It was a long day as I had been awake since 5:15 getting ready for my daily walk and send Marina off to school.  Days are flying by like papers in a windstorm and before I know it, it will be a month since I returned home.

Plans are to meet the car insurance courier this morning, have lunch with Barnaby, and then off to Khlong Tom market for some other parts.  If I have time, Vanna needs a badly overdue car wash too. Hopefully, if all goes well, I will be heading upcountry tomorrow.  

Johnnie Walker left yesterday.  Had a chance to talk to him while he was in the Taxi on route to the airport.  He might be back sometime after the first quarter of next year.  Bangkok Buddy said that he was going to be in Pattaya until Friday, so I didn't call him.  Maybe hook up on the next trip into town.

That's it for this morning.  busy day ahead.

Monday, November 6, 2017

When it cooler outside than inside the house

When its cooler outside than inside the house here in the land of smiles, that is unusual.  Locals are breaking out the warm clothes this morning and complaining that its cold..yes, its 22C outside or 71F and long sleeves and sweaters are not warm enough for them!  As usual, I took my morning walk in short sleeves and shorts and got a number of glances by people who thought I was a bit crazy.  Granted its a bit breezy and the wind chill might make it feel like the 60s, but for many of us in the cooler parts of the world, this is perfect weather.  We are expecting a high of 82 degrees today.

Going back to the big mango tomorrow for a couple of days.  Going to check on Marina's passport, buy some stuff for my PC, drop off stuff for Barnaby, and get some  more stuff for the light show.  

Kind of a waste really as I am only using 4 of 16 channels

Spent the last couple of days working on the light show, trying to overcome some technical issues.  Found out that my 12VDC LED strips were pretty heavy current users and would overload my controller if I used all 16 of the channels and full strips.  After pondering a while, I decided to just use 4 channels, each with 1 1/2 strips and the whole thing worked out just fine after testing in the lab.  I will need two controllers, but that is not a problem as I had extra inventory.  

The other issue I had was to make my Christmas light strings stop flashing all those crazy patterns.  Evidently the Chinese manufactures think that flashing lights are cool and that they can be set to a steady on mode with just their controller, but if the voltage goes on/off quickly like it does in a light show, the mode gets reset to blinking again.  That creates a weird effect when you are expecting them to just go off and on to music, but the string flashes to whatever it wants.  Found a solution on the web ( and was modifying and testing the controllers to fix the problem.  Involved a bit of soldering which brings back the old days of my ham radio hobby when I was a teenager, but it fixed the problem.

Also found some big laundry baskets that I could use for the features instead of just using PVC pipes.  Big C had a sale on them and if you buy 3, you get a fourth one free.  That worked out perfect because I needed eight.  Ended up around $3.50 USD apiece and will save me a ton of work and make the feature that much more attractive.  I will use them inverted with legs on the inside and the lights attached to the outside.  The holes on the side of the basket aid with zip ties and alignment.

That's it for now.  Boring stuff in the LOS and our little cornier of the world, but way better than the news from the States.  If you can't even go to Church without being in danger of being shot, there really isn't anything 'civil' in civilization anymore.  We have anarchy and chaos.  

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Parties are over...for now


Had a great time last night celebrating Loy Krathong.  We went early to the local Wat to give our respects and to help the fund raising by buying some Krathongs and saying hello to our neighbors.  They wanted me to dance, but I really can't ...cause ' I got no rhythm...555"  Anyway we did pose for some pictures because we were in traditional Thai dress.  Ella didn't have any dress this year so she was not in the picture above.

Afterwards, we had a small party as the market location where friends and family brought in food and entertainment, including a huge PA system.  Everyone had a lot of fun and sometime during the start of the party we all went over to the lake to launch the Krathongs.  Unfortunately we chose a spot that was really muddy due to the recent floods and our feet sank about 4 inches into the mud.  But we had our traditional celebration and wish for another great year.

Wait while Grandma lights up the lantern..!

That smile is, as they say, Priceless 

Marina also got her wish to send up a sky lantern, even though its technically illegal since the police have banned them.  She has been enamored with the movie "Tangled" lately and in that movie, Repunzel sees these sky lanterns from her room up high in the castle not knowing that her real parents are hoping to find her again but she wants to see them up close.  So Marina wanted to do it like we do every year and so we found a couple of the forbidden contraband just for her.  Kids grow up only once right?  Don't worry, we are in the middle from nowhere and hours away from the nearest airport and surrounded by flooded farmland.

Anyway, have some chores to do today, but will continue to work on the light show.  Its looks like a hot day today after about a week of almost perfect weather in the 70s and 80s (27C-34C).  Plan to be in the mango for a couple of days next week and then back up for a while.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Happy Loy Krathong Day

Happy Loy Krathong.  Its that magical time of the year, during the full moon, that many Thais take their Krathong boats to the local waters and wish for better times in the year ahead and to cast aside any bad luck or problems of the past.  Its a time of celebration and parties are planned all over the land of smiles.  For us this year, its going to be fun as usual as we plan to celebrate like we always do, upcountry.  B and Marina are going to be dressed in traditional wear and Marina had to get dressed up for school this morning.  In the picture above, you can see she is not very happy about it this early in the morning...555.  

We are going to celebrate a little differently this year as we plan on hosting a small party at the resort.  We are directly across the lake, which is an ideal place to launch our krathong boats so we decided to use the market for a small party with pot luck food and some Karaoke for family and neighbors.  That saves us from having to drive all the way into town like we do each year and fight for parking spaces, etc.  Should be a lot of fun.

The light show is progressing well, after a bit of stumbling yesterday morning.  I spent two-three hours trying to figure out why my PC wouldn't talk to the controllers.  Changed PCs, re-installed drivers, and even changed adapters.  Turns out it was a bad cable.  The simplest things can make all your planning and knowledge worthless.  I swapped out the old cable with a new one and everything came up like it should  

Even connected some test lights and ran one of the canned routines through one of the controllers and it worked out just great.  Other than finding out one of the strips we ordered can't be dimmed too well, the concept testing went really well.  Next, I will do some unit testing, which is to test each controller and subsystem unit by unit for operation.  Lastly, I will integrate all the units together for one last system test before we start the installation work.  My old system planning days and experience really helped on this project.  Video from the proof of concept testing below:

It works!!!!

I will try to get more pictures tomorrow after the parties tonight.  Have a great Loy Krathong, wherever you are, from the big land of smiles...

Lastly, I just got word from Johnnie Walker that he has to return home early due to the passing of his mom.  Our condolences go out to him and his family and hope that he will be back with us soon.  Safe trip bro, and take care.....

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Still in the Mango, but leaving tomorrow

Still in the big mango, but Marina's passport is finally done.  It took all of the morning and I was in no mood to drive upcountry this afternoon so I took B and Marina to the bus station so they could go back this afternoon while I did some shopping and rested up.  B had to go upcountry because of a school meeting for Marina tomorrow and to rehearse for a show this week.  

Did you all remember that Loy Krathong is this Friday?  It came really early this year as its usually around mid month, but the moon determines the date and this year its on November 3rd.  Anyway, I will be upcountry again to celebrate with the family and like always, float our Krathongs and visit the various festivals in the area.

One of my Favorite movies - this one is the remake

The Phoenix is rising again !

Went to Pantip Plaza this afternoon, looking for items to use in our light show.  What a pleasant surprise as its starting to look like its old self again as more computer shops have started to open again. Thought the place was going to surely die a slow death for sure.  All the little shops selling stuff from bins are back as well as the big computer chains and gaming specialty hardware shops.  I definitely will come again as its much easier for me to get here and park than Fortune Town.  The positive note is that all the touts that used to bother you every few minutes for "sexy videos" and pirated software are gone.  Good riddance as they were the reason I think the place had to close down anyway.  

The property owners are among the wealthiest people in the country and fortunately they had the resources and finances to clear the place of all of illegal stuff that gave the country a bad name.  I'm sure they got a lot of pressure from the government as well.

That's it for tonight.  I have to get up early to pick up a new TV for one of the rooms of the resort.  Full house tomorrow night through the holidays and can't rent the room without the TV working.

For those with two hours of free time, here is the full Original movie, a real classic.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Back to the Mango for a couple of days

Going back to the mango for a couple of days to try to get Marina's passport straightened out.  We got kind of a runaround with the passport people needing the house book in Chaiyaphum with her name and the local authorities won't add her name to the book unless she has some form we needed from the hospital in Bangkok.  So its back to the mango where we will get her form and instead we will register Marina in the house book of my Condo, and then change it after we get the passport issued.  I hate the red tape, but its something that has to be done and I am giving B a bad time for waiting until the last minute on this.  We had planned months ago for this trip and I asked her to take care of the passport part and it was not finished when I got back.  Thais like to put things off until the last minute, thinking that things can we worked out quickly if problems  come up...surprise!  Passports and other official documents are not that way, and you have to have all the i's dotted and the t's crossed perfectly.

Definitely not a do it yourself least not for me...555

On the issue of getting things done fast, our lighting project was finished yesterday.  Talked to him on Tuesday evening, he got started on Wednesday, and late yesterday, he finished the job.  Five power poles, four with 50W LED street lamps, and four outlet boxes in just three days ! (he took Thursday off).  Each light can be controlled separately and the lights and plugs have circuit breakers fully enclosed in a weatherproof, lockable, metal box.  The total cost is going to be under 70K baht ($2K USD) for the entire job, including all the materials and labor.  Having the extra lights and power will be necessary when we finally open the Jungle Night Market.  We have to look at water and bathroom facilities next, but that is a later project for another time.

I can see their concern if its used improperly by the wrong kind of people
but ours won't be nearly as big or powerful as these

Lastly, the stuff for the light show is finally arriving and soon I can inventory the equipment to make sure we have all the pieces we need.  The flame machines came in yesterday after a long delay in customs where they gave me a horrible time asking exactly what it did, how much it cost, and why I needed to use it.  I think they thought it might be a potential weapon or something as it shoots out flames like a flame thrower.  Whatever the case, I got my stuff yesterday.

That's it for now, more from the mango.

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