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.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Social Obligations

When you are part of a Thai family, its extends pretty far if you have a big family in the countryside.  I don't know how many nieces and nephews we have, but they are plenty and more popping out every day (literally) as new ones are born.

Anyway, one of the older newphews on B's father side is becoming a monk.  Over the next two days, he is going through the rituals of head shaving, partying, and going into the Wat tomorrow carried by his friends.  Its a rite of manhood for all Thai boys and is celebrated by the family in great pride.  I participated in a couple in the past, one of which was just last year for one of our good friends (and another distant relative) sons.

If nothing shows up on the frame above, it might be photoshow issues.  A link to the video is here (warning it is 22 minutes long and only for those who want to get a image of country life):

I don't mind attending these as a guest because the food is good and the atmosphere is festive.  I don't like the job of taking pictures because its a lot of work and I try to take the job seriously because its going to part of the family's lives forever as they look back.  Anyway, I'm off the hook this time because I don't have any fancy camera equipment with me and they didn't ask until it was too late so I'm just another party guest..555!

Its going to be two days, but I will come and go and continue to work on the prototype trees for my light show.  I still have to get stuff hooked up for a 'proof of concept' test before I go all out and start hanging lights and floods all over the place.  Its good to work out all the technical bugs in the lab. which is in my case, is the commandeered conference room next to my office.

On the topic of light shows, I just got an update from YouTube from one of my favorite light show designers.  He is famous for his works, making the America's top 10 Christmas lights shootout almost yearly.  Here is one he did for this year's Holloween:

Plans are to be back in the big mango for a couple of days starting Sunday.  Have to come up one more time before going back the following weekend for a condo meeting and to hook up with Johnnie Walker when he comes into town.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A Sad Day for the Land of Smiles

The Land of Smiles is not smiling much today because the highlight of the funeral for King Rama IX is set for today.  At 3PM, most businesses will be closed as the nation watches live an on TV the cremation ceremonies.  Many times, people send off their Kings off in exile and shame, but here in Thailand, HRM is so beloved that he his sent to his resting place in heaven in grand style.  

You can watch the ceremonies live on this link today from the Nation:

More tomorrow as its inappropriate to say or do more on this solemn day. 

On a power trip...

You know what they say, you can never have enough power.  Get a little bit and you want more and more.

Well that is the case for me as I am working with our electrician to bring in more power to the Jungle Market.  Met with him two days ago and yesterday he showed up with his helper and began to dig the holes where the new power posts are going to go.  We finalized our design on the site yesterday and decided we are going to add a total of five more power poles.  Four of them will have lights and terminal boxes with 30 Amp plugs.  

Our very own power transformer on pole in background

The overhead wires and the feed to the resort should handle that pretty easily as we put in our own power transformer a few years back in anticipation of heavy usage from the resort.  Cost us over 200K baht back then and I'm glad we have it now as its a lot more to have it done now and to retrofit all our existing service.

As for cost, we are on a bill as work progresses basis.  We pay for all the materials and then labor is on top of that, and his rates are very good.  In fact, I have to always give him a bit more as a tip because he charges so little for the quality of work.  But we've been using him for years and he is related distantly to the family and is shy to charge us too much.  There is no written contract, just a verbal agreement of what we want and his word on when he can do it.  Simple and fast.  That is problematic only if things go badly like we take down the local power grid or someone gets killed, but that is the same risk you have anywhere else in the world.  A contract won't shield you from lawsuits and hungry lawyers.

Other routine stuff still awaits, such as a air con unit that isn't giving out cold air, cable TV to one of the rooms isn't working, and packages getting stuck in delivery....boring but necessary to address or fix.

Going back to the mango for a couple days to get Marina's passport straighten out and then back up for a few days before I head to the mango to meet up with Johnny Walker.  

**note ** I didn't realize I did not post this from yesterday...its a belated post, sorry

Monday, October 23, 2017

Swamped upcountry

There is a lot of rain and water and the bamboo is flooded again, but that is not what I mean by being swamped.  Arrived yesterday in the afternoon without too much incident except that the roads were jammed.  Evidently, everyone has tried to make the funeral rites of the King a long holiday and have left the big mango for the countryside.  Talked to Johnny Walker who also observed in Patty that lots of the places have toned down or stopped their music and on minimal staff.  When I visited Makro today, the place was very busy and the Big C lot next door was full.  That does not happen unless its a major holiday - especially on a Monday!

Aside from the people, I'm swamped with work from being away.  My water heater in the shower is broken.  Its one of those wall units that heat the water as needed - something I wish was easily and cheaply available in the states.  My old unit, which I bought exactly 5 years ago died.  Guess how long the warranty period was ?...5 years.  Its been a trusty and useful unit, got it on sale for 1500 baht back then - bought six of them as I recall.  So, if mine has just gone out, I think its just around the corner that the others will fail pretty soon.

The new one costs more than the old one,
but it also comes with a shower head and shower bar

Went into town and visited Global House.  They have a huge variety of heaters to choose from and I ended up getting another Mazuma 4500 watt model.  I also has a five year warranty and its the same brand that I use in my condo back in the big mango.  The only thing from buying from a place like Global is that they don't offer free installation.  I got my heater in the condo installed by a Mazuma technician for free when I bought it from Powerbuy.  Its a bit cheaper, but I will have to do it myself.

Also met with our electrician today to discuss adding two more power poles on each side of the Jungle market.  In anticipation of the market opening, having more power available is a necessity because we plan to open primarily at night so it will require a lot of power to drive the various lights used by the vendors.  Its likely that I will have to do some kind of restriction on what kind of lights they can bring in and limit them to LED or Florescent type lights to minimize the current draw.  The electrician is going to come back tomorrow to get more info and agree on a price.  He said he might also start tomorrow because he is between jobs.  That's Thailand - Need something done?  How about us getting started tomorrow?  No worries about permits, inspectors, engineer evaluations, or other paperwork - just do it.  

Its great to do things quickly but also the source of many problems as well.  Likely why things are always being re-worked like sidewalks in the big mango being re-opened just after being paved a few months ago for a new fiber optic line, etc.  Anyway, I hope I am thinking far enough ahead to avoid the same trap and trying to do the right thing the first time.

More tomorrow as I just got a call from Johnny Walker in  Patty.  Evidently Bangkok Buddy is there and they are going to meet up and hit the town later.  

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Headed upcountry this morning

 5555 ... Did we really think we were cool ????...5555

In about 30 minutes we are going to drive upcountry to the resort.  Vanna is packed to the gills with stuff I brought from Kalifornia as well as stuff that came in during the month that I was away. Its been raining cats and dogs and maybe other things as well because it was heavy with thunder and lightning last night.  Hopefully it will be an easy drive up because its a Sunday even if we have some rain.

Weather, temperature wise, is relatively pleasant, though a bit muggy due to the rain.  Its supposed to be in the 20C-31C range up at the resort for the next few weeks and that is just wonderful for me.  

Spend yesterday and Friday shopping and scouring Khlong Thom market for things I needed for the light show.  Kind of disappointing from the LED lights and strips perspective because shopping online from the China websites offer so much more variety and better prices.  It also appears that all the stuff at Khong Thom come from the same distributor as all the stuff is the same and that most of the salespeople don't know a thing about what they are selling.

I did end up buying some cheap electrical connectors and heavy duty extension chords plus some tools for the show.

More later from the resort.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Good to be back...

Its great to be back home.  Spent yesterday waiting for packages from the post office, FedEx, and DHL.  They had a bunch of stuff on hold for me as they had to collect duty for the goods.  Ended up with about 15 packages altogether.  All but one package was for the light show.  Since it was kind of rainy all day, it wasn't too bad to stay home and spend time with the family.  

Going to meet up with Bangkok Buddy to give him some stuff after a visit to Khlong Tom market.  I want to check out the LED strips and accessories there to compare prices and see what I can buy without having to order it online from China.  Ultimately I think they come from the same sources, but if the prices are not that much higher, it would be easier to just buy stuff here in the big mango.

If plans work out and Marina gets her passport tomorrow, then it will be back up to the country sometime this week.  Want to get started building all the fixtures and structures for the show, see the resort, and check out the bamboo plantation.  

Installed my Betterspot VPN router this morning.  Bought this router through the Kickstarter program and got their free VPN for life program.  Includes the router and VPN service to multiple countries.  It creates a complete VPN network for all your devices instead of just one like when you run a web and software based solution.  Bought two, one to use at the resort and the other for use here in the condo. Link here to their website:

Lots of stuff left to do and always too little time.

Johnny Walker should be boarding his plane shortly and he will be over for a while.  Look forward to catching up with him after he gets up here to the mango next month.  

That it for today.  More tomorrow after the passport office.  We're supposed to get up around 6AM or so to beat the crowds...even with an appointment.  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Good Morning Bangkok

Arrived in the big mango yesterday afternoon just before noon.  The passport control line was very fast and I cleared customs with my three huge big bags.  They stopped me at the declaration area and sent my bags through the X-ray machine, but asked no questions and just waved me through after reloading the bags back on to the cart.  That was a relief because I dreaded having to take out everything and then repacking it as it took me days to make it all fit in the first place.  TSA did open the bags in San Francisco, but they were pretty good in putting the stuff back in neatly.  I know because I had zip tied the zippers and the ties were cut off.  

B picked me up at the airport and somehow we got all the bags into the car.  Marina did not come or we would have had to leave her at the airport...555.  Anyway, after getting back to the condo, I crashed for a nap and didn't wake up until almost 8pm.  Got up and had dinner with B and Marina, gave them their gifts and toys and then went back to sleep.  I didn't think that I was that tired, but I slept until 3AM and have been up since.

Hopefully I can catch up with the packages that have been arriving while I was away. Both DHL and FedEx have packages waiting to collect duty.  Also exchanged messages with Bangkok buddy - maybe meet up with him in the next day or so if I get a chance.  

Pictures from our visit in 2010 - It was B's first time
Things are going to busy for the next couple of days.  We are going to get Marina her Thai passport.  We want to take her and Gaeow to Hong Kong for a couple of days in November to visit Disneyland.  Its going to cost a bundle of money as its prime season but taking kids to Disneyland is a priceless adventure for them (and me).  My parents never took me to Disneyland and the very first time I experienced the park was when I was in college.  For Marina, this is the perfect time because she still believes (a little bit anyway) a lot of the characters, like Queen Elsa, are 'real'.  

Weather is pleasantly cool, but that is because of all the rain.  That means its time to get outside to walk and/or get some breakfast.  More later.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

In Taipei...

After a very pleasant flight from SFO to Taipei, I am now having a bite to eat and relaxing at the EVA lounge in Taipei.  Coming over via first class was quite an experience.  I don't feel a bit tired and in fact, I have a lot of energy.

Kobe and Lobster Taill for appetizer 

How did they know I liked it just like this?  Prime Rib for diinner

I understand fully why people want to fly business and/or first class.  From the seats that fully recline, to the pajamas, and the great food and service, the long trip over seems so much more bearable.  How about a glass of sparkling wine to start the trip and a nice list of free wines from France, Germany, or Argentina?   No more sore tailbones, sore backs, and/or shrink wrapped sandwiches tossed to you over other passengers.  If you were on business and had to close a deal or make an important meeting, I think I would do it every time.

And the desserts were great too.

The cabins are quiet, and semi private so you can do your own thing inside this generous space reserved only for yourself.  Would it be something I do on every trip?  How I wished, but I promise that every chance I get, I will definitely do it.  After all, how many flights do we have left on our merry-go-round ride that we call 'life'?  

Worked about 5 hours on the sequencing of one of the light shows.  Its a number from the new Pirates of the Caribbean album called "He's a pirate".   Got about 2 minutes done out of 3 1/2.  That was just the basics of the melody and the accents are yet to be considered.  More later from the mango or as jet lag dictates.

Monday, October 16, 2017

At the United Global First Lounge

EVA has closed its San Francisco lounge for remodeling and it won't re-open until next summer.  Got an email about it, but totally forgot until I got here.  Ran into Sophie, one of the attendants from EVA and she said its quite an extensive remodel as it going to take a few months to finish.  It was long overdue anyway because the lounge was too small and the layout offered no privacy and pretty much had people facing each other in the chairs.

My healthy snack plate...555

More from Taipei.  Thought I bought prepaid WiFi, but somehow it didn't get processed.  No problem, wont't need it on the plane anyway.  Will be busy putting my light shows together.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Last Day...

Tomorrow at this time I will on the big silver bird heading home.  So much has happened and it seems like such a long time away even though its just been six weeks.

Video of us driving Vanna during Oct 2011 flood when we got lost
(notice the boats on right as we follow the big truck)

Many changes at home as I hear many stories of flooding in both the big mango and upcountry.  October can get pretty wet and because of the long season, most of the land has soaked up as much water as it can and thus flooding and mud slides increase greatly.  But it doesn't matter to me as family and friends await and it can't be soon enough.

This flight over is going to be quite an experience.  Used my mileage to upgrade from Elite to Business Class, but they bumped it up even more to Royal Laurel Class.  The seats are similar in both sections in that they fully recline within their own little pod.  I'm looking forward to the great meals and service.  I believe that one of the other perks includes a pass to the priority lane at Suvarnabhumi.  It really does pay to fly in their loyalty program as perks such as the use of their lounges, extra baggage, and priority seating makes the long haul from bookend to bookend that much more enjoyable.  As for cost, you pay a tiny bit more on regular EVA flights, but that extra space and comfort is PRICELESS about 10 hours into your trip...

Also purchased WiFi with mileage as I had a lot of miles that were due to expire this year.  Plan to do a lot of work programming and sequencing lights, but with WiFi I can keep connected as well.  Gotta do something on that long flight over when I can't sleep.

More from the airport or flight over later.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Year Ago

King Bhumibol died a year ago today.  Life will never be the same for Thais without him at the throne.  He had no power from a parliamentary perspective, but his influence and contributions were far greater than any other person in the country.   

If one lives in a country, one should study and be knowledgeable about its governance, history, language and customs.  From my own perspective, I have seen first hand the deep admiration and respect of the everyday Thai people for the late King, and Thais are very hard people to get respect from.  The King earned this love and respect through deeds and his contributions in many areas such as land management, weather, agriculture, business, and even music. We've used first hand, some of his contributions on our farm and resort such as Vetiver Grass, Tilapia, and the practice of self-sufficiency.  He started and funded lots of really useful and insightful projects that befitted everyone who lived in the country whether rich or poor.   He did all this for the Thai people, working hard, when he could have had a life of selfish luxury, indulgence and bliss.  Over the years of my stays here, I have also grown in admiration and respect for him - he was a very special man.

There are very few world leaders that I admire in history, but King Bhumibol is near the top on my short list.  So as we enter the final few days of the mourning period, I will be one that will look back and thank him for all that he has given to us - both Thais and non Thais alike.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fires continue to rage...

The wildfires are continuing to burn in the area.  It's already day 4 and counting. Yesterday, I had to take a trip up to the JV project and it was terrible.  The smoke was very thick and my eyes were burning as I got out of the car.  People are wearing face masks and staying indoors.  While a couple of our properties are safe for now, they are still relatively close (15-20 KM) to the Atlas fire, which is the bigger of the ones that are still actively burning.  The wind is in our favor for now, but anything can happen in the next week or so.

link to this interactive map here

Even in the East Bay, smoke was unhealthy and the soot was so thick that I had to hose off my truck yesterday as my car and windshield was covered with a fine black dust.  The count is up to 3,500 homes and businesses and overall the fires are less than 10%.  To give one a sense of the size of the fire, its 250 square miles or bigger than the size of the cities of San Jose and San Francisco combined.  There is continuous TV coverage from the major stations and the National Guard has been deployed to help.  Its all up to the nature and the hands of God for now.  

Have a doctor's appointment today and will keep indoors as the air is definitely unfit to breath for now.  Just waiting to get out of here and back to the clean air of the big mango.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Heavy Rains back home..

Those pipes are part of a government project halted until after rainy season

It looks like the rainy season is still in full swing back home.  The Thai Meteorological Department forecasts heavy rains for the next week or more in the country, especially the north and northeast.  B sent me a picture of the lake next to the resort yesterday and it was up to the road.  The road is kind of a levee for some of the farmland on the other side, but it regularly overflows during heavy periods of rain.  The tree on the left is normally a great spot to picnic in the shade but its under water now.

The bamboo is also flooded again, but that is OK as the plants are very big now and this variety can withstand a couple of months of flooding. The good news is that the fishing is back again because the high water makes the fish migrate between ponds as the water rise all around.  I hope a repeat of the floods we had a few years back that reached into Bangkok won't be repeated again.  Last time, it was a result of unusually high rains plus poor water management that created the disaster.  

Just four more days.  From fires into floods, how can it get more exciting than that? -- some are saying, we are getting very close to the 'end of times' and that can be really exciting indeed ! ...555

Packing away...

All the big and heavy stuff I ordered has arrived.  As was suspected, there was no way to pack all of the stuff into three bags.  But the good news is that I got three out of the five controllers and all four of the flood lights packed.  I have enough equipment to do a decent show, but having the other two controllers would have been great.  As of now, I am at 50 lbs (22 KG) per bag, which is still under the maximum weight allowed on EVA ( 77 lbs for Elite and 88 lbs for business/Premium Laurel).  I'm allowed three bags as a gold card member plus I upgraded my seats with rewards mileage.  Found out I was upgraded to the first class section with my mileage instead of business class so I am not complaining.  I just hope that Thai customs at Suvarnabhumi won't give me any hassle as it going to be very obvious that I am not just another tourist arrival.  

From Twitter feed by D. Swain
Fire area map and evacuation areas

Its about time to get out of town because the air quality has been really bad the last couple of days.  There is a big fire in the area and our hearts go out to all those who lost homes in the Napa and Sonoma areas.  Seems like October is a very bad month for disasters in this area.  I remember that the last big earthquake in 1989 was in October as was the huge Oakland hills fire in 1991.  October is the end of Indian Summer and the weather gets strange with really warm weather and very powerful offshore winds.  The grass and trees are very dry because we get no rain in the area at all during the summer months. That makes ideal conditions for huge fire storms.  Winds were near 70 MPH the other night at places with a low 10% humidity...a tinderbox of dry fuel waiting for any kind of spark.  15 known dead for far and at last update, the fire was zero percent contained.  A video of the destruction is at this link: 

Started working on some of the lightshow sequences yesterday and it will take a lot of work to make it all come together.  Had to do the inventory and layout all the controllers, channels, etc. before starting.  Its like getting all your paint and colors ready before starting to paint - lots of fun.  When its all set up, I will have available 48 analog channels, 48 dumb LOR 12V channels, and one DMX universe of 512 channels.  That doesn't include the floods and strobes. Not easy to find the proper music either, so its going to be a long process.

That's it for today.  Counting the days before departure and keeping my fingers crossed that the remaining time left here on this bookend in October will be event free.

Monday, October 9, 2017

One more week....

In a week around this time, I will be on route to the big mango.  Can't believe six weeks have already gone by since I came over to Kalifornia as it seems like just yesterday that I got on that taxi to the airport in the rain.  Keeping in touch with home is a lot easier that ever before, but its not the same as being there.  Ella for example, who just started walking when I left, is discovering her new found independence and is walking and getting into everything.  Marina is out of school as well as her cousin Ball, and the three girls are having a good old time together at the resort.  Sadly, these kids grow up so fast as any moment away is lost and can't be recreated. 

I called them 'The Gang'
I've started packing already, but the big bulk of the items won't arrive until today.  I still have nearly 100 lbs of electrical hardware for my light show to somehow pack into two large bags.  In retrospect, I think I bought a couple of pieces of hardware that I did not need because technology will soon make them obsolete. 

A typical Computer Based DMX console

The holiday lights technology has rapidly evolved along with everything else.  It used to be that to manage a string of lights, one merely had to switch it off and on.  If you wanted special effects, you could lower the voltage to dim the light or move the switch on and off quickly to give it a flashing effect.  While that technology is being still used today (its called Analog switching), the evolving standard has been to incorporate something called DMX or digital multiplexing.  Its the same standard used by the stage, concert, and professional lighting industry to control lights and other equipment.  Its a long way from your light switch on your wall, but it does open up lots of new possibilities that was never available before.  Millions of colors from one string, and control over every pixel are some of the fascinating features with DMX.  I don't feel uncomfortable using all this stuff as I am a techie at heart after a long career in information technology.  It actually feels real good to get my hands dirty in the stuff again..555

I am now contemplating adding some FX or special effects to my show.  Found a couple of flame machines on Aliexpress for a bit over $100 USD each. The ones I think we are going to order are going to be driven by LPG which is widely available in 'picnic' sized canisters all over. Its a perfect match for us as our display is totally outdoors and the output is real flames.  Best of all, its DMX controlled and can be synced to the music track.  Here is an extreme example of how it can be used.  We don't have anywhere as elaborate a machine like the one shown, and we won't be using the effect except in very few spots.  But its something that will make a good show - spectacular.

Don't worry, I did not pack the whole show in my bags.  Aliexpress is a great resource and I got lots of my lights and goodies from China.  They will be sent directly to my condo in the mango so I just ordered and packed stuff I couldn't get elsewhere.

More tomorrow after some major stuff gets in.  Its due in today.

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