thin dividing line

bill's blog

an exciting look into the life of a dullard


click here for my 2014 Mérida Experiment
as I tilted against windmills in México


Sunday, December 18, 2016

"Sayonara, Hua hin," the sequel

Well I roared out of Hua Hin today. For the second time now I've moved back from Hua Hin to Jomtien. Was sad to say good-bye to the land lady. She (and her family) were so good to me, and the townhouse was well taken care of.

Verifiction
Here's one token episode from my recent two-month blog silence:

Saw this sign at the Land Office while there to transfer the title for the old condo (not-so-affectionately nicknamed "The Gulag") to the new owner.

"Verifiction"? Verified fiction? They actually have a dedicated desk to get false land boundary docs? Hahahaha!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ironic...

...that I've ignored the blog for a couple months because I've been too busy. I usually ignore the blog because I'm so boring and lazy and have nothing to write about. The past two months have been too busy, almost hectic, to even remember to add entries, which there could have been *many.*

I mentioned that I bought a condo in August, and on December 1st I moved in. Actually only about 80% moved in because my friend's pickup truck wouldn't hold all my cr@p. So today I'm in Hua Hin for final cleanup and on Saturday will meet with the landlady and then make the final trip out of Hua Hin. Because I've moved to/from Hua Hin twice friends jokingly say I'll be back in a year. Never say never, but so far I'm really liking my new condo, especially its central location.

SOLD!!
And, in other news, I finally sold my other condo! Wow, that was a shock. A German fellow was quite smitten with the place and gave me full listing price. Well, that's actually not so great as I've lowered the price three times in the past two years, but still, to not have him try to low-ball me was nice. It all happened pretty quickly, too. Offer made and title transferred in about two weeks. What a relief!

I'm not really complaining, just whining a bit, when I say the timing of the condo sale could have been better. I'm going to do a major renovation of the new condo in January, and I had been planning to stay in the old one while that happened. The old condo sat empty for the past year, and sat empty for nine months when I moved to Mexico, but now when I would like to have it, it's gone! Glad to have sold it, just wish ... okay, I'll stop whining.


Friday, October 21, 2016

What could be cuddlier than...

a bucket full of kittens?

a sight for sore eyes
They're on the front patio (parking area) of the unoccupied next door townhouse. Kept hearing faint meows all night, and finally found them. There appears to be four in the bucket plus one who is loose. The mother cat ran when I hopped the fence after seeing the loose one. Then I found the rest. So much for the fierce mother protecting her brood.

Wonder how she feeds them? I don't think she'll fit in the bucket, at least not without knocking it over. I think she stood on the plant pot next to it and dropped them in. What happens when the kittens have to poop? I better check on them again tonight. After a few days, it might be unhealthy for them to be laying in their own excrement.

If I weren't moving in to a no-pets condo next month, I would be sorely tempted to keep one of them. They look about old enough to live independently of momma cat.

Hope no hungry snakes happen to slither by...

Momma Cat tending to her kittens
While I was typing this Momma Cat just walked past my front door heading in the kittens' direction. When I opened the door, she was approaching the pail and crouched down — with high beams on — and stared at me as I took a photo.

(Have to say, I'm not very impressed with the night-time photo capabilities of the iPhone SE...)

update at 2:45am, Saturday:

About ten minutes ago I heard the bucket tip over. Oh, no!

Kittens scattered around the patio next door, and the mother with at least one kitten is hiding between the water pump and the corner hissing and growling at me. Now *THAT* is what I expected from a Momma Cat!

Put out a cardboard box and it's almost as tall as the bucket, but has greater surface area on the floor so hopefully won't tip over as easily. I put an old small rug in the bottom for comfort. I inverted the bucket so it's not an option any more. We'll see in the morning if any kitties are in the box...

The patio next door is secure and the kittens can't get out. The front gate has a solid bottom panel over a foot high, the two concrete side walls are a little higher, and the rear is soild: the front wall of the house itself.

There has always been one kitten that was not in the pail with the others. Wonder why not. Is it sick and Momma doesn't want it with the others? It was always the one meowing.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Stepping out in Bangkok...

Went to Bangkok again to meet with a friend who was in town for a couple days. We agreed to meet at noon on Sunday and decide what to do.

First we checked out a "cat café" on Silom. It wasn't there on my last visit. Based on the number of young women stopping by to take photos, I think it *just* opened. Although my friend is addicted to cats, we decided to go elsewhere because we wanted to eat, and the only human food at the cat place was spaghetti. So we wandered up the street to a Mexican place for tacos and enchiladas.

Asia Fitness Conference & Expo
We took the BTS (Skytrain) to practically the end of the earth (as far as Bangkok goes) to visit the Asia Fitness Conference & Expo 2016 at BITEC convention hall. Such pagan activites like fitness are anathema to me, so I wore a necklace of garlic, just in case.

17,931 steps
Then we trekked from this extreme end of Bangkok to the other to check out Chatuchak weekend market. We walked around a bit, I bought a new case for my phone, he bought a Hello Kitty rug — cat addict, remember? — and around 5:00pm we decided to head back into town. We got turned around and took a long (very long) walk back to the subway.

Ended up at a favorite watering hole and after a couple pitchers of melon mojitas were able to relax. While resting, we checked our phones: I walked 17,931 steps/10.9 km (6.75 miles) yesterday! No wonder we were tired. In the end I guess the garlic failed me.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Addiction

fingers crossed

Occasionally I get persistent headaches, usually pretty intense and behind the eyes. I think sometimes it's from staring at a computer screen too long. Other times, the cause seems elusive.

Yesterday I had one most of the day. Even taking some codeine didn't help, like it usualy does. I fell asleep in the evening, but kept waking up because of the pain. Finally got up and made a big cup of coffee to do away with the groggy feeling. Blam! Headache gone.

Apparently, I've been drinking more coffee than I realized. In the past when I would drink several cups daily, I would get these headaches if I went cold turkey. Seems I'm once again facing withdrawal issues. Easy enough to deal with: just gradually reduce the amount until I'm weaned off.

And, speaking of headaches: no offers on my condo.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

...and then there were two

Last night one of the reators phoned. Her client decided he was not interested in my condo. Par for the course.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mérida musings

map of Yucatan
Always happy to be contrarian, I've kept Mérida in the back of my mind. It was a 50/50 decision to move back to Thailand when my "Mérida Experiment" concluded.

However, the Mexican Peso (MXP) has taken a big plunge: when I lived there it hovered around MXP13 to US$1. This year it's gone above MXP19 several times & currently is inching up to MXP20. That's a 50% increase in buying power. A home that would have cost US$75,000 when I was there before would now only cost US$50,000.

Inertia holds great sway over my life, and with all my worldly possessions (and two condos) in Thailand, a México move is probably not imminent, but I keep it in the back of my mind.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Condo showings

After years of having my condo on the market with no reasonable offers*, I now have three showings scheduled for this coming week. Go figure.

fingers crossed
* I did have two offers, one for about 30% off my listing price, no deposit, and one year of installment payments, and one with just a small deposit with the condition I keep the place off the market for six months...

Fingers crossed that one of these potential buyers is serious and makes a reasonable offer. A bidding war would be nice.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Unexpected showers with occasional flooding

Back from my "One Night in Bangkok." Upon check-in at my favorite hotel which I've been using for over six years, the front desk staff advised me that the hotel was closing in seven days. Oh, no! They will be closed an undetermined period of time to renovate and will re-open with a new name and, undoubtedly, new prices. The staff didn't know the new name, but suggested to search hotel booking sites based on address/location. They also said they would not be working at the new hotel. Sad, because over the years they got to know me and always gave me good rooms and good service. Oh, well.

My routine — and at this point in my life, everything is about routines — is to take a shower about 11:15am for a 12:00noon checkout. Today, I stepped in to the shower, turned it on, and a small screw-in water filter about 3/4" in diameter blew out and water gushed out of the pipe in the wall like a fire hydrant run over by a taxi cab. Took them about 15 minutes to properly assess the situation and turn off the water. By then, the entire room was drenched, including all the towels, and there was over an inch of water on the floor which luckily drained quickly once the hydrant was turned off. My clothes — I quickly put some shorts and a T-shirt on my wet body — were soaked, too

As if that weren't enough, when I went in to bathroom to retrieve my toiletries after the water was off, I slipped and fell, landing with my left thigh bashing the rim of the toilet bowl. Ouch. Currently the swelling is about 10" long and 6" wide. Not much discoloration, but is a heck of a bulge on my left thigh and sore to the touch. Guess the hotel was saying "Good-bye" in a way that it was sure I would remember. Well played, hotel. Well played.

Luckily, the bus for the ~4 hour ride back home was not even half full. I sat in the rear and discreetly had my wet clothes draped over things long enough for them to dry out.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dullard, indeed?

Dull and boring
Posting today mainly to confirm my resolve to keep the blog running more than just a week or two. Problem is that, true to the sub-title above, I really am quite dull. I have done absolutely nothing worthy of interest the past ten days.

This past week a long-time friend e-mailed me to say he might be in Bangkok for a medical check-up and we could meet on Friday for drinks/dinner as we usually do when he's in town. I immediately booked a hotel room, partially because the web site said they only had two rooms left. A few days later he e-mailed to say that his plans to visit were canceled. I thought about not going, but the hotel room is non-refundable, so I decided to proceed as planned — looks like I'm flying solo in Bangkok this coming Friday night.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Here we go again?

What a coincidence: I finally sit down to resume and update the blog, and it is two years to the date that I last posted.

So, what's new? Nothing big, but a few changes:

I moved from México back to Thailand. I lived in my Jomtien condo for a while, then in December 2015 moved to Hua Hin again. I'm currently living in another townhouse on the same soi as previously.

In the spring (2016) I flew to California to renovate and sell my house there. I expected the reno to take a couple/few weeks, and it took seven excruciating weeks. I may insert some highlights of that experience later. If I may brag, the results of the reno were impressive. The house sold almost immediately.

pic of new condo
The new condo
Then, during the summer I half-heartedly looked online for condos for sale in Jomtien. I found a few that caught my eye and actually bought one. The sale closed last month.

The sellers are renting the unit from me until they can move into their new condo, which should be mid-November. The lease is very loose. They have the option of staying until 15-December since my townhouse lease expires on 22-December.

I'm hoping they move out earlier rather than later. I want to do some renovations and the condo building has a moratorium on construction work from mid-December for about a month (they haven't announced this year's exact dates yet) for the benefit of High Season holiday makers.

Here is a rough web page showing the condo, using the selling realtor's pictures.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Another productive day in Paradise. Decided to finally get off my butt and take care of a few projects:

Cablemás:  Score one for me!

My monthly cable bill was due and I asked at the cashier counter if I could pay through December, meaning to pay the current bill plus three months in advance. I will be gone from Mérida for at least two months and wanted my cable bills to not be an issue. My request was understood and fulfilled. Yay! One down, a few more to go.

New phone?

My trusty pocket-sized Sony digital camera is on its last legs. A few months ago the optical image stabilizer (OIS) started acting up: the motor kicks in and keeps vibrating, blurring any photo. It's intermittent, so not so bad.

Now, however, thin colored streaks show up in both the LCD viewer and in the actual photos themselves, so I think the CCD/CMOS is bad.

I consulted a friend about whether to get a new pocket-sized digital camera for about US$200, or to just upgrade my trusty, but elderly, iPhone4 and just carry around one item instead of two. New phones have better lenses and camera features than my current Sony standalone camera. He mentioned the Sony Xperia Z2 as having a good camera. I googled and found that the Sony Xperia Z3 is being released this month, as well as an Xperia Z3 Compact. The Compact version appeals to me much more than the larger one. The price of the Xperia Z3 Compact is expected to be US$650 to US$700. A bit pricey. Then I found that there is an Xperia Z1 Compact that was also released this year that only costs about $450 in the US. Much better. The new Z3 doesn't add much in the way of features or performance, anyway.

So, today when I was at Gran Plaza shopping mall, I first checked in at the iUSACELL office where I had initially signed up for my cell phone service. The folks in that store have always been helpful and friendly. They don't carry Sony phones, but recommended another store in the mall which did. The price for the Xperia Z1 Compact? ~US$750! Too much, considering the price in the US. I'm transiting Tokyo's Narita airport on my way to Thailand later this month and I'll see if the duty free shops there have them for a reasonable price. I know one store has a fairly large Sony section as that's where I bought my current Sony camera. Fingers crossed!

Then on to Home Depot for a few more items.

Anti-fungal treatment

Ortho Plant Care Plus
"MATA INSECTOS PARA PLANTAS"
Since I've returned from my trip N.O.B. a few weeks ago I noticed the leaves on the plumeria tree ("flor de mayo" en español) have been turning black and falling off. I'm pretty sure that is a fungus problem, so I asked in the plant food aisle of Home Pro for some treatment. First he handed me a box of snail/slug killer. Huh? Uhm, no, that's not the problem. Re-explained the issue. Ah! says he, and hands me a box of Miracle Gro plant food. Uhm, no, that's not the problem either. Coincidentally I already have the same Miracle Gro which I feed regularly to the entire back yard. Then he consults with someone on the phone and she (I can hear her clearly, you know how soft spoken some Mexicanas are…) guides him the the shelf with Ortho "Plant Care Plus." Well, *maybe* this will work. But, it only (and clearly) says "Mata insectos para plantas" ("kills insects on plants") on the label. I question that. He leaves to find an English speaking assistant. He returns with a fellow who speaks less English than I speak Spanish, but I figure three heads are better than one. In the interim I've opened up the label on the front and read the entire label and nowhere does the word hongo (fungus) appear. But, without me mentioning hongo, the new fellow says the spray is for sick plants and mentions hongo. I asked and was told to spray the leaves twice per week. Okay, let's see if the flor de mayo survives.

New house numbers

At Lowe's up north, I bought some house numbers. The ones on the front of the house mysteriously disappeared, so we need new ones. I had small plastic expandable plugs the right size for the screws that came with the numbers, but my basic set of drill bits didn't have the type needed for stone (mamposteria) walls. I tried the concrete bit and it barely made a dent in the wall. So, I asked my two new best friends from the garden aisle where drill bits were so I could find a masonry/stone bit to use. They escorted me to the aisle and first handed me a wood drill bit. Uhm, no, that won't work. They they handed me a steel drill bit. Uhm, no that won't work, either. Then I noticed a set of bits marked "mamposteria" but they were long bits for drilling all the way through a two foot wall, and I just needed to drill about ¾". Finally we found it, but I wasn't sure the bit was the right size. I had brought one of the plastic plugs with me and they assured me the ¼" bit was the right one. Alrighty, then. We're set!

When I got home I drilled one of the holes as a test. Of course, the drill bit is too big. With little trouble, the plug (with the screw inserted) can be pulled out. <sigh...>

Color me red

Shortly before I left on my trip last month, a new electrical outlet was installed, but rather than have them cut into the wall to embed the wire inside the wall (quite a messy and noisy project) I decided to have them run the wire along the bottom of the wall and I'd paint it to match.

(Of course, the first time the guy did it he ran the wire about 18" above the top of the skirting – even higher than the top of the outlet – rather than at the bottom, and I asked him to redo it. I said "Lo siento" sincerely, even though I was pissed. He sarcastically and mockingly said "Lo siento" to his buddy. And, REALLY ticked me off. But, I digress. He "forgot" to fill in the holes that he made the first time, too, until his boss arrived later and told him to. But, I digress even more.)

Back to Home Depot paint department. They advised me the only small cans of yellow paint were on a small chart they handed me. It had an almost exact match, but naturally they didn't have that one. The closest was a high-gloss orange. Oh, well. Then I asked about larger cans, and they said they could color match the chips from the wall that I brought with me. All for a mere MXN331 (~US$25). A bit pricey, but what the heck. After I paid the cashier and returned with the receipt, I noticed they had quart cans of the exact same brand of base paint that he used to create the gallon. WTF??? ("Let it go, Bill. Let it go. All is well in the Universe.")

paint can with no handles
"Look, Ma, no handles!"
[Update, added a few hours later:] Just put a first coat on the wire and the areas around the outlet where they had patched from when they punched out a hole to recess the outlet into the wall. Of course, the paint doesn't match. Hahaha! It's *close*, but definitely a different color. And, the paint can has no handle? What's up with that? It sure is risky moving a open gallon can of paint with no handles!

CFL light bulbs with light sensors

When I was in California I inquired at Lowe's and Home Depot stores for compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED light bulbs with a sensor that automatically turns on at dusk and off at dawn. I'd bought some in Thailand a few years ago, so figured they'd have them in the USA. Nope. Never heard of them. So, I had little hope in finding them in Mexico, but lo and behold, Home Depot had a 14W, warm-white, mini-twist CFL with on/off sensors! The back yard currently has 12W, bright-white CFL bulbs, but I bought one to see how it looks. I wonder why USA stores don't have them, when Mexico (and even Thailand) have them?


Monday, August 18, 2014

Aye, eye, aye, eye!

"...canta y no llores." Be grateful I'm not really singing that.

eye floaters
"floaters"
I've had a dull, weak headache for about three weeks behind my right eye, and while trying to ignore the fact that a friend died of a sudden (or at least undiagnosed) brain tumor recently, I've been trying to ignore it. Then suddenly on Monday last week, I had a new "floater" in my right eye. (You know what floaters are, right? If not, click here and then come back to follow along with my meandering, but riveting, tale.) As long as I can remember, I've had floaters, but they're pretty easy to ignore. This new one though, is right in the middle of my field of vision, and seems a bit darker than the other clear/light ones. I also started seeing flashes of light, like sparks almost, at night and I think it's light bouncing off this new vitreous inhabitant. Unfortunately, increased floaters and flashes of light are also symptoms of a detached retina so I finally got off my lard ass and got a recommendation to see an eye doctor.

A friend made an appointment for me with her ophthalmologist and wrote his name on a piece of paper for me to carry like a note pinned to my pinafore. His office is at a hospital about a ten minute walk from my house. The appointment was for 12:40pm, so I left the house at 12:20pm, realizing I might be cutting it close since I didn't know exactly where his office was.

As I stepped out the front door, I saw my next-door neighbor (remember the Mayans?) walking one of his dogs home. Crap. I have to talk to him because after first meeting him in April I haven't seen (much less talked to) him. That's just how I am. I am NOT about to knock on his door, even though I like him and enjoy talking with him and we share the Mayan interest. Okay, so I stop and talk to him. I mean, how would it look if, after not talking to him for four months, I just turn away and run towards the hospital....? Luckily for me, after a few minutes of chatting, his dog started retching and he needed to get a drink of water pronto. Whew. Close call. But now I have exactly ten minutes to get to the doctor.

Okay, so after one wrong turn I find the building where I was told his office was. I quickly scan the list of doctors on a board in the lobby and don't see his name. Turns out that the family name I was given on the note was only the first part of his last name. Mexican "last names" are compounds of the mother's and father's family names, and can be quite long. In fact, the "last name" of the friend who recommended this doctor has four words. Of course, I was just scanning the directory board by looking at the last word in the name, which was different.

So, I scurry off and find a receptionist and ask where his office is and point to the note on my pinafore. (Okay, I pulled it out of my pocket.) She rattled off the directions even faster than the usual machine-gun Spanish I'm used to hearing. I started my trademark "Perdone. Hablo solo un poco de español," when a man standing there said (in fluent English) "I know where that office is and it's on the way to my car, so I'll show you the way." Whew. We come to a courtyard which the offices face and he found the doctor on the directory and said "He's on the second floor. Here are the stairs. Bye."

As I climbed the stairs, I suddenly wondered if he meant the "USA" second floor (the floor above the ground floor) or the "European" second floor (two floors above the ground floor.) So I cruised around the second and third floors, twice, looking for the kind doctor. Finally I went into an office on the second floor and she pointed down and said, "directly below here." And, there it was!

Okay, time for the denouement. After a mere two hour wait to see the doctor, I was ushered in to his office. I was very impressed with him. Not only did he TRULY understand that it's easier to speak a second language than to hear/understand it, he asked me to speak English slowly and he would be able to follow along. So there ARE such people in Mexico. Hurrah! We ended up with me speaking Spanish and him speaking English and we totally understood each other. That's a major milestone for me.

dilated pupil
light sensitive, much?
Anyway, he is able to explain things simply (in either language, apparently) and set my mind at ease that nothing serious is wrong with my eye, but he wants to do another exam that requires using eye drops to dilate the pupils. He wants me to schedule an appointment for 7:00pm some day so that when he's finished I don't have to deal with the blinding daylight all afternoon. (A pupil that's wide open lets in WAY too much light, and the effects of those drops last six hours or so.) My previous ophthalmologist showed no such consideration. I went to him for over twenty years, and each time it would be morning or mid-day and in would go the eye drops and I would have to wear wrap-around sunglasses even indoors to try to avoid pain from light. Driving was not an option.

Coincidentally he explained a phenomenon with my vision. After a good eight to fourteen hour sleep, when I awaken I can see far away in focus, but need reading glasses for close up. As the day progresses, my vision gradually transitions to the opposite: before bedtime I need glasses for distant vision, but reading without glasses is a breeze. He explained that it can be a side effect of Radial Keratotomy surgery, which I had over 30 years ago to adjust my vision. I've been wondering about the cause for over fifteen years, when my eyes started their "middle age" change.

Needless to say, I'm very happy with the doctor.

"...Porque cantando se alegran, Cielito lindo, los corazones."


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Iguana empress

the empress
her majesty
Saw a female iguana slinking around the plants on the back wall today and waited to get a better photo. I stayed indoors behind the glass doors, since last time she was "shy" and hid when I went out. Within a few minutes she was finished with whatever she was doing and scaled the 12 foot wall like it was nothing, and then over she went. I got a picture as she paused at the top.

For reference, the unpainted top portion of the wall to her right is about 32" high. Another picture I got with her almost totally vertical is ¾ of that, so she's about two feet long from nose to the tip of her tail. I'm pretty sure the male I saw was bigger than that, maybe three feet?

No more plants have been eaten, that I can tell. The gardener expressed some concern that the plant that was half-devoured might make them sick. I didn't see any iguanas for a couple weeks, but apparently at least the adult female has returned. It was at high noon.

Tech support

My new Epson printer is low on ink. I couldn't find the high-capacity cartridge specified for black ink, so I decided to ask Epson Tech Support a question.

on the printer box
on the printer box
Web searches and the documentation that came with the printer led to "latin. epson.com." The site is all en Español, so I did my best in Spanish on the "contact tech support" web page to send a message. The picture linked in the message is shown here to the right.

En la caja de impresora: http://www.wpcoe.com/images/epson-ink.jpg

En las tiendas no puedo hallar "197 alta capacidad negro," pero puedo ver "196 alta capacidad negro" -- el mismo numero como los otros colores.

Puedo usar "196 alta capacidad negro" en la impresora Epson XP-211?

Translation (i.e. what I hope I said!):

On the printer box: http://www.wpcoe.com/images/epson-ink.jpg

In stores I can not find "197 high capacity black," but I can see "196 high capacity black" -- the same number as the other colors.

Can I use "196 high capacity black" in the Epson XP-211 printer?

The helpful reply (This was not the auto-generated reply I got immediately after filing the support message yesterday. This was thoughtfully sent this morning with a Tech Support person's name which I removed.)

Estimado Sr. Bill:

Le agradecemos su comunicación. Atendiendo su consulta, le solicitamos por favor nos envíe mayor información para poder ayudarlo como por ejemplo: si la impresora tiene alguna luz de error en el panel encendida, si pasa la hoja en blanco o la impresora no responde a la orden para imprimir, etc.

Saludos Cordiales,
Soporte Técnico EPSON.

Run through Google Translate:

Dear Bill:

Thank you for your communication. Following an inquiry, we request please send us more information to help you such as: if the printer has a fault light turned on in the panel, if you pass the white sheet or the printer does not respond to the order to print, etc .

Best regards,
EPSON Technical Support.

grumpy
How would that in any way be relevant to the simple question: Can the #196 black ink cartridge be used in that printer???

Tech Support apparently is the same 'round the world. i.e. clueless and/or useless


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

House hunting

The primary recent activity has been walking various neighborhoods, checking out properties I found online to see what they really looked like and what facilities there were in the area.

I did have one serendipitous stroke of luck. When I passed by an old colonial house I've been curious about because of its location, size and price, the owner's wife & daughter were there with the door open and they gave me a tour.

The size & layout of the house were indeed acceptable, but there was one glaring flaw: no back yard or patio, nor even a door or window in the rear of the downstairs. It apparently abuts the house behind it. With no door/window in the rear, there is no way to get ventilation or natural light back there, and that included the kitchen and a bathroom. The only apertures in the downstairs were two doors in the front facing the street. It would be like living in a cave downstairs. Nope. Not for me.

Bill paying & binge buying

Last Friday afternoon I had some questions about an investment account in the USA, so wanted to call them. No sweat. They have a toll-free number to call from Mexico. I picked up my land line phone (mobile phone reception can be sketchy in these old homes with the thick stone walls) and instead of a dial tone, got a recording and I got the gist of it: Service was suspended for non-payment. Dang. Another bill I never received! I'm going to have to set up the calendar app on my phone to remind me to pay bills I don't get.

So, yesterday I trekked down to the TelMex office downtown and paid the bill, and since I was in the bill-paying mode also paid the past two months of garbage collection because I never got those bills, either. At least they don't stop picking up the trash. A few months ago I did get a "friendly reminder" from them saying I was 18 months in arrears. Hahaha! It was only a grand total of MX$238 (~US$18.) So, to the current and previous property owners, "You're welcome."

OfficeMax receipt
any excuse to use
my brand new scanner!

After that, I headed to the Cablemás office in Gran Plaza shopping mall to pay my CATV/internet bill that I also did not receive. Got to the cashier and – whoops! – I had already paid it.

Since I was in the area, I walked to the nearby OfficeMax store to pick up a few things. Was bored, so cruised every aisle. Ended up spending MX$3900 (~US$300)! Criminy. Even bought a cross-cut paper shredder. Do I really need a paper shredder…? Hahaha!

After paying, I asked if they could call a taxi for me. Nope. Kicked to the curb. Told to take my items to the street and flag a taxi myself. The princess in me was a little taken aback. Okay. No problem to stand in 34°C (93°F) heat in blinding sun for fifteen minutes, right? Riight. Princess was not amused. But, she's still tinkled pink with her new toys.

The trundler

large lizard
one of the trundlers
A few weeks ago I managed to snap a quick photo of one of the larger lizards (iguanas?) that I've seen traversing the top of the wall around the back yard. This one seems slightly smaller than one other that I've seen.

My fear of reaching into the shrubbery and encountering one may be well founded.

lizard poo?
Clue #1
Clue #1: I found a fecal deposit on one of the stepping stones in the back yard. (That's a ten peso coin for size reference.) I don't think a cat would be able to get back out of the yard due to the height of the walls. (And, wouldn't a cat try to cover/bury it?) So, I thought, hmmm, maybe it's lizard poop.

Clue #2: Over half of one of the beautiful decorative plants has mysteriously disappeared in the past week. My suspicion is it is a tasty iguana treat.

Clue #3: Just this afternoon one of the shrubs along the back wall was thrashing around, when all the rest were stationary. It was too much movement to be caused by a small gecko, so I went out into the yard. (What was I thinking???) Sure enough, a lizard the size of the one pictured above showed itself, and quickly hid when it saw me. Glad to know that they are not innately aggressive! Ran back in to get my camera, but by the time I got back it was gone. Probably up and over the wall as fast is its little legs would go!


Sunday, June 29, 2014

I've always related to the Dilbert cartoon, especially when I was working. However, I can particularly relate to today's strip:

Dilbert cartoon
Dilbert validation

(See my April 9, 2014 blog post below.)


Friday, June 27, 2014

Another nice, easy, relaxing month about to conclude. Cripes, the year 2014 is half over already!

This week has been a bit busier than usual. Tony flew into town on Monday. I can't even remember the exact sequence, but he's been to the house a couple times, and I've had lunch with him at Carmen's house twice. She's quite a good cook, but puts way too much food on the plate, and per my training, I must eat everything on the plate in front of me. Urp!

Garden mania

talavera pot
a talavera pot
While the normal life of a garden has been enough entertainment for me: watering plants, cutting off dead growth, celebrating new growth, pruning unwieldy bougainvillea, etc, we went plant shopping and bought a couple bird of paradise plants (for pots — I learned from my house in S.Cal that those things grow and spread like weeds and cannot be stopped!), two plumeria ("flor de mayo") trees, a bromeliad and another plant whose name I don't know.

We also went to buy more pots. They are "talavera," which is a type of Mexican clay pottery. Knowing Tony, I'm not surprised that almost all of them are vibrant colors in vivid patterns.

el jardinero

red plumeria flowers
red plumeria
After I became overwhelmed with weeding the garden when I first got here — the soil which was used in the landscaping must have been 50% grass seed — we arranged to have a gardener come once every two weeks for a few hours to help out. Of course, by the time we hired him I had conquered most of the weeds & grass by spending hours each day for a solid week, but he still finds enough stuff to do. My garden maintenance these days is pretty much just remembering to water the plants and gathering up the abundance of leaves from the mamay tree which litter the yard daily.

plants strung up against the wall
strung up
However, yesterday was a bonus day for el jardinero y yo. We strung up (literally) some plants along the side wall. We intended to do the same along the back wall, but used so many hooks that I need to buy more before we can do the back wall. The bromeliad, birds of paradise, one plumeria and the other plant whose name I can't recall all went into talavera pots. One plumeria and four ground cover plants went into the ground. It doesn't sound like much — and honestly he did 90% of the "heavy lifting" — but when you're doing it in tropical sun, it sure takes the energy out of you! Especially for such a normally inert person as me. I really enjoyed working with him since I learned about Mexican plants, but he probably was silently wishing I would get the hell away from him and leave him alone!

cactus in full bloom
cactus in full bloom
Cactus blossom, part 2

This time I caught a flower at just the right time (at 3:15am yesterday). By morning the bloom had already closed, and in a few days it'll be a black remnant that will fall off within a week. There are three more buds, one of which will probably open tonight.

The trundler

Just this afternoon I was in the yard and heard some birds fly off *very* fast from around the cactus, so I looked up and saw my large, trundling lizard appear on the top of the wall. I dashed in to the house to get my camera, but by the time I returned all I saw was his tail as he went over the back wall in his usual corner. I assume he had walked along the top of the wall from the cactus to the corner and over he went. I hope to catch him on film some time. I just hope I don't find it *in* the garden, like in the bushes some time when I'm trimming them.

Haunted?

Almost forgot the best part: A couple nights ago I was lounging in the hammock in the middle room downstairs, when I heard sounds of something moving in one of the rooms toward the back. Sometimes the big leaves from the trees make a shuffling noise when they hit the tile floor in the atrium, or on the patio outside the kitchen, so I dismissed the sounds as that. Then I heard a single rap on glass. It was like something hard, almost metallic, hitting one of the glass doors. Curiosity got the best of me, so I went into the kitchen to see if maybe something (someone?) was in the back yard. I wasn't scared, other than afraid I might find a *person* in the back yard. But, there was nothing, and there was no wind to be blowing leaves around. Oh, well. So, I went back to bed (hammock). I heard the rustling noise a few more times, so I sat on the floor in the middle of the room waiting to hear it again so I could see if I could pinpoint the source. Never heard the noise again. I sleep with the windows in the front room open, so maybe it could have been noise from the street echoing in the mostly-empty rooms downstairs? <shrug>

erect razor
razor erectus
The next morning I took a shower, and as usual shaved in the shower. Occasionally I'll shave at the sink and when I do I use these round toothbrush holders to support the razor vertically to dry. I had left the razor on the sink the day before and had to get out of the shower to get the razor. Fine. Finished the shower, got out, toweled off, went into the main room for a minute and returned to the bathroom. The razor was standing upright in the toothbrush holder by the sink! I *know* I didn't put it there. So, who (what) did???

Haven't had any unusual happenings since, so we'll see. When I first moved in there were a few times I felt like I wasn't alone, but can explain that away by just being in a new place. But, who knows?


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Not much happening this past week, other than a change in the weather and a mild bout of food poisoning.

Weather

Tropical Storm Boris
the remnants of Boris
Tropical Storm Boris (the second storm of the season) became a Tropical Depression and is currently just a low pressure area. Even though the center was, and still is, pretty far from here, the storm clouds have been far reaching enough to have been causing cloudy skies, rain and wind since Sunday. No heavy rains, but enough that the yard hasn't needed watering.

As if it weren't enough that the first two tropical storms of the season have been by Mexico, there is a *third* area even closer to Mérida, tentatively called "Invest 90L" about which Weather Underground says "This area of disturbed weather has the potential for tropical development." Its winds currently are only 25 mph. The remnants of Boris are heading directly toward it.

Montezuma

Last week at a nearby large supermarket I bought some frozen lasagna, sliced cheese and rolls from their bakery, which I consumed during the course of the evening. (I hadn't eaten anything in the almost 24 hours prior.) That night and into the morning I felt uneasy, and about 700am the trips to el baño started.

I don't know which one to blame, but initially I blamed the bakery goods as I saw several house flies flitting around on the merchandise. "Oh, well," I thought at the time, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

At the three major grocery store chains I've been to, I've noticed the ice cream is not frozen hard – it is soft when you grab the carton. I bought some once and after an overnight in the home freezer, it was frozen solid, so it's not a matter of some recipe or process that keeps it soft, their freezers simply aren't cold enough? So then I thought about the non-frozen ice cream and wondered if the lasagna were the culprit if it were not kept frozen solid before I bought it.

grocery store freezer
one big unfrozen room?
The other day when I was back in the same store, I leaned waaay in to the freezer case and realized the freezer room is about two meters deep and is one long continuous room – it is not modular or divided into sections. I checked and sure enough the ice cream was soft. How in the heck can they sell frozen goods if the freezer room isn't kept below freezing? Just one of those "cultural differences," I guess!

It'll be nice when my digestive system is back to normal. Still not quite there yet.

Garden pets & cactus flowers

lizard in back yard
with a racing stripe
This afternoon I got a photo of one of a pair of small lizards frolicking in the back yard. Sort of like a "regular" green house gecko, but with that duo-toned stripe. Haven't seen the other lizard families long enough to get a photo of them, but will keep trying.

cactus blooms
cactus blossom
Also this past week, a couple of cactus flowers suddenly appeared out of nowhere and disappeared almost as quickly. Last week I had noticed what I thought were branches toward the top of one plant. A few nights later I noticed one had opened up into a blossom. The next day when I took a photo, it was mostly closed and thought maybe it was a nocturnal bloom, but no. It continued to close totally and then turn black. I assume they'll be dropping off sometime soon. I never saw the top blossom totally open, and never saw the lower one open at all. The top of the wall is 10 or 12 feet high, so they are way up there.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Money, money, money

Since I left Thailand on March 18 and moved to Mexico:

  • the Mexican Peso has risen 3.5% against the US$
  • the Thai Baht has fallen 3.5% against the US$

Coincidence? My skeptical paranoid nature says it is not...

Annoying the hermit

The cleaning lady is here now. She is here on Thursdays from 9am to 2pm for ~US$8.00. Nice lady and does a good job, but just having somebody around — every week! — is unsettling to my hermit lifestyle. I seriously thought about letting her go, but decided against it. It just seems as though she's here more often than once a week: feels like she was just here, when in fact, it has been a full week.

Considering a new hermitage

I've started looking more seriously for a home I might want to buy and fix up. Problem is, realtor sites usually only have plum properties, and beyond that are seriously overpriced. Many houses are for sale by owner, and have "For sale: call 999-123-4567" spray painted on the front wall. (Don't you love the area code for Mérida: 999?) I need to either build up the confidence to call the number and hope they understand my baby Spanish, or, I'm considering hiring the woman my friend Tony has as his "property manager" here to do the initial calls, as I might get a better reaction (and price) if the first contact is in Spanish. We'll see.

One problem with the few reasonably priced properties on the internet is that they are not near any shops or restaurants. There are no bad neighborhoods in Mérida, so I've been told, but some of them are nothing but solid blocks of houses and small businesses. I need some place within walking distance to do at least basic shopping, and preferably a 24/7 place like 7-11 or Tesco Lotus Express. I'm a night person, and often want to run out to get a bite at 300am. A strategy I have is to find the Oxxo stores (the big Mexican convenience store chain) downtown and walk the streets around them looking for "For Sale" painted on houses.

I'm spoiled with my current rental house: an Oxxo store literally two minutes walk away, a Walmart about ten minutes and another Walmart-type store about 15 minutes away. And, there's a shopping mall, Home Depot, Sam's Club, Office Depot about fifteen minutes away if I catch a bus about a block away. (Bus fare = MX$7 or ~US$0.55) The houses in this neighborhood are out of my price range, though.

I did find a row of three adjacent houses for sale in an area closer to the central downtown area: US$23,000, US$28,000, and US$68,000. The houses are small, medium and large. The small one would actually be okay, but the medium one is a better value. The large one is totally renovated. The other two would need about US$25,000 (my guesstimate) of renovation work, and I don't mind having that done. BUT... there is no 7-11/Oxxo within a 15 minute walk. They ARE about a 20 minute walk from downtown Mérida's main square, but I suspect there are probably many US$20,000-US$40,000 houses for sale by owner in areas that I'd be happier. I just need to find them!


Friday, May 23, 2014

The bird on the patio floor

Must be a bird phase in my Experiment.

Today while downstairs I heard a noise like something falling down.

dead pigeon
fresh squab, anyone?
I thought it was upstairs but a quick look around showed nothing out of place. Oh, well. Poltergeists?

Later I went out into the back yard, and there on the concrete slab was a pigeon. Dead. Little pool of blood around its head. Ewww. Wings tucked in like he just fell out of a tree. Have no idea what caused him to croak in such an inconvenient place. He got a double-bagged burial in the trash.

update added later: The noise I heard was the upstairs bathroom squeegee that had fallen to the floor. Totally unrelated to the dead bird, I think.

window pecker
ready for flight

My little avian tormentor — the one crapping all over the atrium while tapping on the bedroom window — seems to be losing interest. Only appeared about a half dozen times yesterday and so far today only a couple times.

Finally got a picture of it. Not good quality since it's very skittish and flies away at the slightest movement. It already saw me and was just a split second from flight, so I was lucky to get the shot.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The bird in the window

For the past seven days, there has been a persistent visitor to the upstairs bedroom window: a greenish-gray bird which sits on the metal security bar and pecks at the glass incessantly. It starts at sunrise and continues to sunset.

As if that isn’t annoying enough, it must have serious diarrhea because there is a *lot* of bird crap on the leaves of the tree and the atrium floor beneath it. Even occasionally on the glass doors to the atrium, so apparently it continues its fecal stream as it flies away.

The window is inaccessible without a really tall ladder, so not sure how to deter it from its newfound obsession.

The first four or five days it really was incessant. It would only stop if I made threatening motions toward it, but would resume as soon as I left. Perhaps it will become disinterested as quickly as it became interested. Yesterday and today there have been interludes of an hour or so where it is elsewhere. So, there is hope!

My face in a window

There's a sliding glass door between the kitchen and the rest of the house. The first few days I walked right into the screen door for that doorway, popping it out of its frame. It now bears a piece of blue masking tape at eye level as a visual reminder. For some reason, I never walked into the glass door when it was closed, only the screen door.

I took care of that oversight last night. Came out of the adjacent bathroom door and swung into the glass door at full speed. Criminy that hurt. Made contact with my right eye/temple and my nose. Expected to have a black eye this morning, but no bruising yet. I do have a headache that hasn't gone away even after taking Tylenol with codeine twice.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Leaping Lizards

Okay, not exactly leaping, but they do scoot around a lot.

I've identified three different types that reside in the back yard, plus one that trundles around it:

– regular garden variety geckos, like in Hawaii and Thailand

– a bit larger than a gecko, and more "lizard like" with its front legs lifting its body up more than a gecko and a little bit of a serrated ridge on its head (and maybe its back?)

– similar to the second one, but dark grey with a two-color stripe down its back: black stripe with a white one inside the black one

– and, then there's the trundler: a largish iguana. The back yard is enclosed with a tall (12 foot?) wall and one corner abuts the corner of a taller building catty-corner to it. I've seen this iguana several times appear from the outside of the wall at the top of that corner. It then just traverses over the top of the corner of the yard and down the back side of the rear wall. Its body is maybe fifteen inches long and the tail about the same?

I will try to get some photos to add here, but these guys are quick, so not sure how much luck I'll have.

Más Cablemás

If you've been following, you know that I had the TV cable installed on 24-April. I finally bought a TV on 14-May — Happy Birthday to Me! — along with a vacuum cleaner. That night I set up the TV and for the first time turned on the cable converter box. Every channel displayed a message saying to contact Cablemás to reactivate the signal, so call I did.

The helpful fellow who answered asked for my account number. Since I hadn't received a bill yet, he moved on to asking my home phone number and searched on that successfully. He determined that my service was deactivated because I didn't pay my bill by 11-May. I told him I never received a bill. He replied "Of course. You are a new customer." As if that was routine: new customers never get their first bill. ("So, it follows that all new customers get their service deactivated," I wondered quietly?) He said he would transfer me to the department that could accept my credit card info over the phone and service would be reactivated, probably the next morning. He transferred me and I was greeted with a series of menus in Spanish, so I just kept pressing 1. That usually gets me a human one way or another. Wrong. I was disconnected from the system.

So, second call I got another helpful fellow. He searched for my account with my home phone number but couldn't locate it. (???) Then he searched my mobile phone number and found it. He firstly gave me my account number for future reference, then while I waited, HE reactivated the service BEFORE transferring me to the payment department. When I told him my previous encounter with the menus, he told me which numbers to press, and further gave me a direct phone line to that department. The transfer worked and the credit card payment was processed without a hitch.

It seems consistency in procedure is not a big priority with Cablemás. (Remember the installers?)

And, the ultimate punchline? There are NO channels I want to watch! No English-language news or finance channels. The only VH1 and MTV channels are the ones without music videos. Boo! Even in Thailand the basic cable package has Fox News (yuck), BBC News, France 24 and NHK in English, along with CNBC or Bloomberg (depending on cable provider.) They also provide native language Korean, German, Spanish (Spain) and Russian channels.

Taxi

For my trip to the USA last month, I needed a taxi at 545am, and knew the chances of finding one on the streets near my house was slim-to-none at that hour, so I had a Spanish-speaking friend call to reserve one. She tried to do it the afternoon before, but was told to call back after 700pm, and she did. My taxi was ready and waiting for me at 545am.

This past weekend a friend from Canada was visiting and he needed a taxi to the airport at 500am, so I waited until 700pm the night before and called the same taxi company my friend had last month. I began, as I do most of my transactions, with "Lo siento pero yo hablo solo un poco de español, pero..." ("Sorry, but I don't speak much Spanish but...") After I told her I wanted a taxi to the airport at 500am the next morning, the gal asked for my home telephone number. I gave it and she muttered something about it not being correct or good (can't recall now the wording), so I repeated it, and again it wasn't correct or good. ??? So, then she asked for my cell phone. She asked if I were <insert some Mexican name>, and I said no. She asked my name, and I said Bill. ¿QUÉ? (WHAT? caps intentional) I repeated again clearly and spelled it out B-I-L-L (in Spanish). ¿QUÉ? I slowly said "My name is Bill. <pause> B-I-L-L." Then she asked my address (whew, moving along finally) and I provided it. What color house? Green. Then a very long (and fast) question that I hadn't a clue, so I told her I didn't understand. She repeated LOUDER and just as fast. I asked her to speak slowly and use simple words, to no avail. I asked her if it were possible for me to get a taxi at 500am the next morning, thinking maybe the problem was that she had no drivers available at that time, and she replied that it was no problem. After a few rounds back and forth, she said (shouted) I'M SORRY (in English!) and hung up.

Holy crap. It was by then 730pm and my friend had no taxi for 500am the next morning! In a panic I called my Spanish-speaking friend and got voice mail. Double crap.

I googled taxi to airport Merida Mexico and all the links on the first page were for rides FROM the airport. On the second page I lucked out and got a list of taxi companies with phone numbers.

First one I called was an out-of-service number. Par for the course.

Second one, I went in circles like the first one I called and again ended up getting hung up on. (And, yes, it was a different taxi company.)

Finally, third one I called the call was so smooth and fast I was sure something was wrong. Was simply asked name, phone number, address, color of house, number of people, destination, time. Done before I knew it. Great!

Luckily my friend had been napping while I was doing this. My nerves were frazzled. Until that fourth call, I was sure he would have no ride to the airport. As I was recounting the tale to him, I realized we might have three taxis in the morning, or none at all. Hahaha!

Next morning at 500am, there was one taxi, and it was from the last company I had called. Whew.

I'm still stumped about what information the first two companies needed. They had my name, phone number, address (and house color), destination and time. Couldn't they have dispatched a taxi with that?

(Addresses in central Mérida are very specific. e.g. "Calle 13 Numero 555 x 60 y 62," which translates to "#555 on 13th Street, between 60th and 62nd Streets." Odd numbered streets are east-west and even numbered streets are north-south.)

Interim status report

So now that I'm two months into my six month Mérida Experiment, my feeling is that I will not be making this my new home. I am simply weary of hitting brick walls any time I have to deal with a service provider or sales person. I admit I have poor Spanish skills, but I have yet to find anybody to make any effort at all to communicate with me. When I ask them to speak more slowly or in simpler words it falls on deaf ears. It's not like I'm trying to talk world politics with a stranger on the bus. I'm trying to give these people my money!

Those of you who know me know how reclusive and anti-social I'd become even before I moved to Mérida. The people here are driving me further underground! I have anxiety any time I want to ask anybody a question, like where something is in a store. Look at my track record with Cablemás, the computer store, Home Depot, taxi company ... need I go on?

So, no, based on my experience here so far, I will NOT be setting up shop here. The city is beautiful, clean, safe and affordable in a nice climate with good food, BUT...

That said, the experiment is still a work in progress. There are four more months before I will reach a final decision, and who knows, my experience might change and I will relax a little?


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Catch up time again. It is very easy to "forget" to update a blog. Possibly even if you aren’t as lazy as I am.

I went "NOB" (North of the Border) for a week from April 13 to April 20 to visit my 96-year old mother in Southern California. Spent a night at an airport hotel to catch the morning flight back to Mérida so I didn’t have to drive in the middle of the night to do so.

"Do you work here?"
do you work here?

While I was there I had a few interesting, but curious, episodes while out shopping. While in a local Target store, I was asked – three times – if I worked there. I was wearing a nondescript dark grey polo shirt and khaki cargo pants. Then a few days later at Lowe’s (a DIY home improvement store), while wearing the same combo, a fellow asked me the same. I guess I just have "that" look?

Cablemás-o-menos

I had an appointment for Tuesday (April 22) for Cablemás (cable TV and internet provider) installation. On Monday evening in the taxi home from the airport I got a call. I was able to understand that it was Cablemás on the line, but not much else, so I did my standard "Sorry, I don’t speak much Spanish," and the lady on the line did her best – she shouted: "CABLEMÁS! TOMORROW!" Bless her heart. The Ugly American standard of "if they don’t understand you, say it again, louder." But, at least I had confirmed they were coming on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, I got calls from the same number at 816am and 309pm confirming that they were coming. In the latter call they specifically said "en una hora." Nobody came.

On Wednesday, I got a call from that number at 316pm. When I did my "Sorry, I don’t speak much Spanish," the fellow hung up. Nobody came.

"No se puede"

On Thursday, at 145pm a Cablemás installer arrived. And what a gem he was. Now, I am overweight (okay, I’m obese...) but this guy was, to put it mildly, a fat, lazy slob. Shirt ripped at the seams and all. I wanted the modem and CATV box installed in the downstairs center room. The pre-fitted conduit to get the cable into the house was on the roof and terminated in the upstairs bedroom, so he would have to run a line from there to downstairs.

"No se puede." (Cannot be done.) Will be ugly. Nails won’t hold in the plaster. Too difficult. (Yeah, I believe the latter: too much work for *you*.)

I asked him about running the cable down the outside of the building and then directly into the room downstairs. "No se puede ... porque es pared de piedra..." (Because of the stone wall.) He apparently didn’t have a drill to use on a stone wall. You know, the kind of wall that is ubiquitous in the old colonial homes in Mérida.

After an animated phone conversation with a Spanish-speaking friend of mine, it was agreed he would just terminate the line in the upstairs bedroom and install the hardware there. We have an electrician who we were confident could run the line downstairs and have it look halfway decent. We were convinced that if this slob did it, he would (perhaps intentionally) do a sloppy job and somehow botch it.

So, he goes to the roof and tries to run the cable down each of two conduits pre-installed into the stone walls that led directly to outlets already in the wall. "No se puede" he says again, indicating that the conduits were blocked and he couldn’t get the cable through either of them. He wanted to run the cable through an open window and then across the middle of the wall.

All he needed was a simple tool – one that ANY competent cable installer who works regularly with stone walls in Mérida would have – that is like a plumber’s snake, but specifically designed with small, stiff wire in a plastic sheath for navigating through such conduits. Once that stiff wire makes it through, you fasten (tape works fine) the end of it to the cable you want to feed and pull it back through. We had to have our busy electrician send a fellow over with the simple tool. It took him less than 30 seconds to do the job.

During the wait for the electrician’s helper to get here – maybe 25 minutes – Mr. Cablemás was on the phone with his dispatcher twice complaining about us making him wait. I had a very difficult time making him wait. I even explained that I waited two days for Cablemás, so he should be able to wait thirty minutes.

Finally, he finished and left. Never cleaned up after himself. Bits of wire, plastic and other debris scattered on the bedroom floor. He asked for water, because he was sweating like a hog. Five glasses of water. I even took pity on him and turned on the air con.

Our electrician had a friend who was "an expert with cable" and the two of them came over that evening after work and assessed the situation. They agreed to return the next morning to fix it the way I wanted. The cable expert said he would run two new cables from the roof down the outside wall and directly into the downstairs room as I wanted. The upstairs installation would remain for future use should a TV be used in that room. He said that running two separate cables was better for the signal vs the single cable the other guy installed with a splitter inside the house to share the signal.

The next morning I heard a knock on the door. I opened the door and gasped when I saw an official Cablemás car in front. How the heck did they find out I was going behind their back and re-doing the installation??? Turns out the "cable expert" was actually a Cablemás installer. He was there in uniform with his partner to do the work.

Now, the "legality" of the work I had done that morning seems to be a grey area. I was assured that I would have no problems in the future if any problems arose because the work was done by Cablemás installers. But, get this, I had to pay MX$1500 (~US$115!) for the new work. I pulled the electrician aside and asked about it. He said if his friend had known I was waiting for days, he could have put a request in specifically to do my house and it would have been the free installation I was entitled to. However, since this was a *second* installation, I had to pay. Especially because he was working with a partner, he could not sweep it under the rug.

However, I asked the electrician if his friend would get in trouble if I complained to Cablemás about the first installer saying it was not possible to do what the second guy did and asked for a refund of the MX$1500. He said something to the effect that because we didn’t go through certain procedures (like maybe a service order?) his friend could get in trouble. So, I’m left thinking that (a) the second install was not really "legal" and/or (b) they decided to rip of a "rich gringo." US$100+ seems a bit much to me. And: no receipt.

Oh, well. At least I have the modem & CATV box in the correct room, and the installation was done professionally and neatly.

Oh, Maya

In the process of the new installation, I met the next door neighbor. Because the wall between the houses is a common wall, technically the half of the wall on his side belongs to him, so we had to ask permission to run the cable down and through the wall.

He’s a very pleasant retiree from California, and the cable was no problem. The biggest "problem" was that the cable installer was afraid of dogs, and this guy has two large (but friendly) black dogs and there was an open door where they hung out right next to the cable installation point. No problem. He made sure the door was closed the next morning.

Chichen Itza pyramid
Chichen Itza pyramid
He mentioned that he moved to Mérida after an initial one-month visit to explore Chichen Itza, the site with the famous Mayan pyramid. The next morning I asked him about his interest in the Mayans, and turns out he has quite an avid interest, and there’s a currently-being-excavated Mayan city close to Mérida he wants to visit, and I want to tag along with him. Cool.

We both are a bit private, so I was surprised he came over one night and knocked on my door to give me some info to read about the Mayan city. I gave him a tour of the house since he’d not seen it since the renovation.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A well-intentioned friend had decided to install a retractable clothesline for the back patio, just outside the laundry room. It's just like the kind you find in bathtub enclosures in hotel rooms. However, the line is about 18" too short. So I decided to install some hooks in the walls and use the wonderful (seriously!) clothesline I had bought in a Japanese Y100 store (~US$1) that is self adjusting for length. Bought a cordless drill. Couldn't find hooks the size I wanted for the clothesline but bought what I thought would work. One hook came right out of the wall. Oops. Will drill a smaller hole (and fill in the current one) and see if that works.

"Now, can you please tell me your modem model?"

The internet is down *again.* Dealing with Telmex is a real pleasure because their phone system is screwed up: their sales recordings play constantly. Even when you're supposed to be listening to a menu of choices. Even when the customer service rep is talking. Mind you, *they* can't hear it, but I can, so can't hear them most of the time. They treat customers like a second grader asking the modem model, the modem serial number, what color is the cable, how long is the cable, are the ends damaged, where is it plugged in, is the modem turned on, etc. Well, we just went through this four days ago so I gave them that problem report number and asked if they had all that information. "Yes, we do. Now, can you please tell me your modem model?" I've learned a bit of patience, but it still irritates me. I told them I did not go shopping for a new modem and replace it — it's the same modem, same serial number, same cable, exact same problem as four days ago. So, I asked if they have all that information from the last problem report. "Yes, we do. However, I want to verify some information. Now, can you please tell me your modem model?" I got frustrated, and told them that since I couldn't hear them, and they had all the information, for them to please fix it and I was going to hang up. And I did. After all, they think I'm Mr. Anthony (the service is in my friend Tony's name.)

(See my June 29, 2014 blog post above for a Dilbert-ization of this scenario.)

Cable TV/Internet is to be installed on the 22nd between 0900-1400. Or, the 23rd. Or, maybe not. They're not sure. I need to coordinate their visit with the contractor who did the renovation as he knows where the conduits are for all the wiring in the house. It is semi-wired already for the cable. He's being very accommodating by willing to be on stand-by on those days so he can come over if/when the cable guys arrive.

It will be MX$529/month (~US$40) for 10Mbps/1Mbps internet and a basic cable package of ~100 channels. "Do you have a list of channels?" "No, señor. Sorry we don't." Hahaha! A cable company selling different packages with no list of what channels are offered? With a Mexican credit card, the rate is only MX$499 with automatic billing. They can't use a USA VISA card for the automatic billing. Coincidentally, this is the same price as upgrading the existing 3Mbps ADSL package to 10Mbps. Based on the track record, I think I'll prefer to have two independent sources of internet service.

Found out my mobile phone company apparently will not guarantee I can make calls to Mexican toll-free numbers. Some times, apparently, it works, but mostly does not. (Why the heck is that not consistent?) Last week land lines couldn't call my mobile phone. The customer service girl in the store understood and verified that, but had a *heck*of a time convincing the technical support people. Finally, she said it should be fixed within 24 hours. It was. This week, I can receive calls, but cannot make any calls *to* land line phones.

String 'em up!

tomato plant lynching
tomato plant in a noose
Yesterday it was supposed to be rainy, but it turned out to be just a cool day with dark grey clouds and nice winds. Perfect day to work in the yard. It has been too bloody hot during the day – the day before yesterday was 40°C (104°F) – and at night the mosquitoes are out. So I spent two one-hour sessions pulling out weeds and grass – about 75% done with that for now – and another half-hour or so cutting out dead growth and staking a bunch of plants that were drooping/falling over. The only stakes I could find were 36" dowels which is enough for most of the plants, but the tomato plants are quite a bit taller, so I strung some twine from the nearest wall light and the plants are hanging in a noose. Will try to find something better, but for now, it works. Just looks not so nice. Today, my body is sore: back, arms, legs. Even my butt!

I also cut out and removed all the dead parts of the plants along the back wall. It looks *much* nicer, now:

cleaned up garden wall
cleaned up garden wall


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Another week, another ....

Life is settling into the nice, mind-numbing experience one expects after some of the novelty of a new country, new language and new culture starts to wear off. A few new learning experiences this week, though:

The gas company comes when???

Gas for cooking and water heating is not a public utility delivered by underground lines to the house. There is a refillable gas tank on my roof and it was getting low, so my realtor friend called the folks whose magnetic card was on my fridge. She warned me, though, that they only come in the middle of the night. I guess that's normal?

She called them and happily told me they would come that evening between 1000pm and 1030pm – that I would be first on their route. Then, later in the day, I got an e-mail saying, "Sorry, they will come any time between 1000pm and midnight." No problem. I sat in the front room so I'd hear them – with the thick mamposteria stone walls, if I'm not downstairs in one of the front rooms, I can't hear anybody knock – and promptly fell asleep by 1000pm. They were right on time: 1240am. I woke up to the sound of their truck outside the front door. I don't know if they had knocked, or if I had woken up on my own. Regardless, MX$1200 (~US$92.00) later and I have a bunch of gas in the tank now. They access the rooftop from the street side. They put their ladder up the front wall, go up with a long hose, and do their work.

¿No hable tan rápido, por favor?

I'm getting increasingly frustrated with my struggle with español. I studied it for four years some forty years ago, and in my head I can mentally construct sentences, but when I open my mouth there's a large disconnect and what I actually speak sometimes seems a bit random. Also, when someone speaks a normal speed in their full vocabulary, I mentally freeze and lose the ability to listen and comprehend.

Almost always, when I begin to speak I say "Lo siento, pero hablo solo un poquito de español..." and then ask/say what I want. Usually most people then step down their level to that of speaking with a child, which is perfect! Unfortunately, I've had the (mis)fortune of meeting a few too many Type A folks who insist on rambling on for paragraphs at full speed. One of them was at a computer store where I went to buy a computer case. She might as well have been explaining the Mexican Constitution. When I would ask simply "¿Tienes este gabinete?" ("Do you have this case?") A simple yes or no would be welcome. Instead, I listen to a mini-lecture. Then I again ask "¿Tienes este gabinete?" and the lectures get increasingly shorter, until finally I get a yes or no.

Painfully aware of the Ugly American reputation, I truly do NOT expect the clerks, tellers, and cashiers to speak English. But especially for someone in public sales positions, I would hope for some compassion and understanding. But, I would be wrong, it seems.

Having worked in a job where I interacted with many non-English-speaking customers on a regular basis, I would speak as slowly and simply as possible and combine pantomime gestures where appropriate. I would respect the customer's potential frustration and try to put them at ease. Hence, my dismay and frustration with these Type A folks I've encountered.

Oddly enough, living in Thailand for twelve years and never having gotten a good grasp of the language – it's a tonal language like Chinese and I'm pretty tone deaf – I find it much easier to communicate than here in Mexico where I have at least a basic knowledge of the language. I'm working on not letting it bother me, but so far with limited success. The frustration (and humiliation) I feel is coloring the feelings of my overall experience here. And, not in a positive way.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hamacas

hamaca
my ass in a sling
The house has a brand new hamaca (hammock) and I finally gave in to curiosity and tried it out. It was very comfortable, but I need to practice getting out of it. The gentle swaying is very pleasant. Even when I've been motionless for 15 minutes, the hammock still sways a little. I'm assuming it's my heart beat causing that?

I wonder if they all come in a standard size, or are there varying widths? This one is twice as wide as it needs to be. If I don't double it over (half the width) it's like being in a cocoon – the sides wrap around and pin my arms against my sides if I don't cross them across my chest. The sides come within about 10" of being a totally enclosed cocoon.

It's still comfortable doubled over, but I think the feel is softer (and probably the ventilation is better) with only a single layer of hamaca beneath my ample body. Maybe I should look for a "single" hamaca? This one seems like a double-wide. Do people sleep two-to-a-hammock?


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Adaptation

After living in Asia – on the other side of the International Dateline – for twenty years, there have been little adjustments/perspective changes since I moved to Mérida. Thailand is exactly 12 hours from Eastern Time during the winter, and 12 hours from Central Time during Daylight Savings Time. It was always easy to know the time back in the USA: just change the AM to PM to get EST or CDT. Also, Monday here is Monday in the USA, not Sunday.

I've always been a night owl. Even before I retired, I would usually sleep during the day and be up all night if I wasn't working that day. Now that I've moved I basically sleep the same hours, they're just PM instead of AM.

It is taking some getting used to is being so close to Eastern time. e.g. I'm used to the stock market opening at 930pm or 1030pm and trading in the night. I can call my credit union during the day. Things like that.

I also seem to tolerate the heat better here. In Thailand, once the temperature got much above 34°C, I would have to turn on the air con. Here in Mérida, I have yet to use the air con except twice for experiments. Considering it has been up to 36° and 37°C several days, it's a welcome change.

Another adjustment is that vehicles here are operate on the right side of the road. In Thailand and Japan it was the left. I have to be alert to which way to be looking for traffic when I cross the street!


Tuesday, March 24, 2014

"You're the cream in my coffee..."

crema par batir
crema para batir

Still trying to find a decent cream for my coffee. Closest I've come is "crema para batir" which I think is whipping cream, but it tastes like Thailand cream. Someone told me that there are different methods to pasteurize milk/cream. One way is intense heat for a short period, and another is lower heat but for a longer time. The flavor is significantly affected by the pasteurization method. Cream/milk in Japan is like in the USA. The cream I have now is like Thailand. Yuck.

Cool, mon

air con
sinus dryer

I have the unfortunate habit of hitting the streets daily at high noon when the sun is scorchingly hot. In 16 years of living in Hawaii and 12 years in Thailand I rarely had a tan. I now have a brown face and nice white stripe where I wear my watch. Maybe today I'll be sensible and stay indoors and work on the blog?

wind chill?
Wind chill?
"Feels like 36°C"??

For the first time last night I turned on an air con when I went to bed at midnight. Didn't like it at all. Even though I was sweaty before I used it, my sinuses didn't like it afterward. Maybe when it really gets into the Hot Season in the coming months, I'll get used to the air con. Right now, if I leave the front room (windows and door separating it from the rest of the house) open all night, and close them around 1000am when it starts warming up, the downstairs stays cool enough with just ceiling fans. (I learned that trick living in the Nevada desert.) Upstairs is a different issue. Also, closing off the front room muffles street noise.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Fort Knox?

Banco de México
Banco de México

Between my house and Paseo de Montejo is a very short block housing the Bank of México. When I headed out today, I watched a little military convoy turn up my street from Paseo de Montejo. A small military truck with about six camoflauged & armed men in the back, a couple other vehicles (I was distracted watching the military), and another small military truck with six more soldiers. When I turned around to look, a van was parked cross wise in the street to block traffic, and the last military truck stopped by it and the soldiers dismounted and held their rifles. Traffic – vehicular & pedestrian – was prohibited down my street. I assume it was a similar blockade at the other end of the block. A Mexican lady tried to walk down the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street, and two soldiers raised their guns!

I had seen a Brinks-type truck visit the bank last week, and while there were armed guards in the street protecting it, it was nothing like the scene I saw today. What do they do at that bank???

Door #1, or Door #2?

Went to Home Depot. It's on Paseo de Montejo, the same main street that runs by my house. Plenty of buses and minibuses ply that road, so I thought "No big deal. Just hop on a bus and head north until I see Home Depot." (I had consulted Google Street View, so I knew what to expect.)

I walked a bit up Paseo de Montejo not sure where to catch a bus. Saw a fellow flag one down up the street, so I headed there knowing it was a sure place. It was in front of a hotel, so I asked the doorman how much the bus fare was to Home Depot. He called a conference with a colleague, and they told me I had to walk east four blocks to catch a bus there. Buses on Paseo de Montejo don't go to Home Depot. Huh? Guess I need to get, and study, a bus map. Things apparently are not as simple as they seemed.

So, I switch to Plan B: Take a taxi. I wait for about 20 minutes, and nary a taxi goes by. Finally one comes by with a passenger and turns in to a bank parking lot up the street, so I go and wait for it to reappear. It does, and I'm on my way. Wait. There's no meter. Am I going to be gouged like I would in Thailand? Nope. Fare was MX$50 (~US$3.80). Whew.

Home Depot
All in a row: Burger King (not shown),
Home Depot, McD's, Office Max and
(across the street) Sam's Club

Finish my shopping in Home Depot and after the cashier, I go to the Customer Service counter and ask how to get a taxi. They say they'll call, but I need to wait at the other exit door. (There are two doors, I'll call the one by the customer service counter Door #1, and the other one at the other end of the store Door #2.)

I go to Door #2 and the security guard verifies my purchases against my receipt, and I say that I'm waiting for a taxi. He says I need to go to the other door and points toward Door #1.

I return to Door #1 and tell the guard there that I am waiting for a taxi. He says, no, no, you must go to Door #2.

I return to Door #2 and tell the guard that the guard at Door #1 said to wait at Door #2. He tells me to "espere a otra salida" for the taxi and points toward Door #1.

I return to the Customer Service counter and tell them, and they say no, no, you must wait at door #2.

I return to Door #2, and the guard tells me AGAIN to "espere a otra salida" for the taxi.

I do this AGAIN, then spot an "I speak English" tag on a cashier and plead for his help. He goes with me to Customer Service and yes, they've called and yes, I need to wait at Door #2.

We go to Door #2 together and he jabbers with the security guard, and then tells me to wait there.

Fifteen minutes after asking the English speaking cashier for help, I returned to ask if he was sure that Customer Service had called for a taxi, because by then it had been a half hour. He said they did, so I returned to my spot at Door #2, smiling at the guard again.

Fifteen minutes later (45 minutes after Customer Service called) the English speaker, on his own initiative, went to Customer Service and had them call again, and then came to Door #2 to advise me.

Then fifteen minutes after that (one hour into this escapade) he walked up to me again and said he had personally called a different taxi company and they promised him they'd be there within 5 to 10 minutes. Yep. They were there in seven minutes.

My new guardian angel's name is Jonathan and he's a cashier at Home Depot. :-)


Sunday, March 22, 2014

Well, we're making progress

Last night at 1100pm I turned off the electricity to keep the pump off. Turned on the electricity from 600-700am this morning to have light and go online (ADSL modem doesn't work without power...)

Turned power back on at around 1130am when the realtor's hubby showed up. We finally found the pump switch – on a side wall in the back yard way toward the back. So now I can have electricity and have the pump off. Hurray!

pump switch
In plain sight

He called someone to adjust the float arm in the tinaco, but the guy said it needed to be replaced, and he left. Not sure if/when he's to return, but at least now I can turn la bomba on/off manually via its power switch.

Took a shower and after a minute the water stopped. It's a huge tinaco, so don't know why, but apparently it was empty. So I dried off, walked to the back yard and turned on la bomba and waited for the tinaco to overflow. It didn't. I've left it switched on for about seven hours now, and no overflow. So, maybe the guy did fix it, and was just recommending it be replaced? The tinaco is brand new...

(Added later, on Tuesday, March 25: I've left la bomba switched on and have had no more waterfalls, and the water system seesm to work fine.)

AFTER all this, I heard from Tony (he's in Thailand playing tour guide to our realtor friend) and he said there are three bombas: the one that feeds water from ground level up to the roof top tinaco, a second one on the exit side of the tinaco to provide water pressure in the house, and a third one in the cistern???

I threw up some pictures of the house to share with my friends. I plan to add some more later, like maybe the outside of the front which I forgot about. See: here

So, a semi-productive day!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

At least the door opens now

We think we found the pump switch: On a wall in the back yard behind a tree trunk and under an air con compressor. Now, why on earth didn't I see that? Anyway, temporary solution is to manually work the pump. When "no hay agua" at the sink, I'll turn the pump on and wait until the tinaco overflows, then turn it off again.

Guy came and fixed the lock to the upstairs patio door for MX$150 (~US$11.50).

The realtor's husband (bless his little heart) is trying to get a hold of the guy who installed the tinaco and did the plumbing. If he can't find him, then he'll look for someone else. I'd like the original guy to come back. There are two mysterious leaks under the kitchen and bathroom counters – not the fixtures you can access in the cabinet under the sinks – but somewhere else behind/under the floor (the cabinets are on a raised (concrete) base.

Turns out, we didn't make any progress at all with the tinaco. Hahaha!

After he left, I closed off the kitchen from the main house with the two glass sliding doors to keep the center part of the house cool. I was in the middle room (with a buffer room between me and the kitchen) reading and napped from 300pm to 530pm. Woke up and went into the kitchen and water was pouring off the roof. Couldn't hear it from the isolated middle room. That switch on the back yard wall apparently is NOT the one for la bomba (water pump)! Apparently when we flipped the switch it just coincided with the time that the pump cut off by itself. I can't find the remote for the kitchen air con just now, but I suspect that big double switch was for the air con compressor.

The only way to turn off the pump is to pull the main power switch for the entire house, which I will do when I go out and when I go to bed (unless I need the ceiling fan to be comfortable.)

Maybe tomorrow we can track down the guy who installed the tinaco? If not, I'll give the realtor's husband (he's well into his 70s?) a chance to find someone else. The guy who installed the tinaco should know immediately where the pump power switch is, at least!

"...and the [Meridian] beat goes on. The beat goes on..." (Sing it, Cher!)

Same-same, but different

sidewalk cafe Montejo
Sidewalk restaurant on
Paseo de Montejo for tacos & frijoles

Went to a random restaurant on Paseo de Montejo for dinner tonight. I had no idea what to order, so I ordered something "safe:" Beef & cheese tacos and side order of frijoles. Simple, right? The frijoles were a soup – like a thin chilli. The tacos were a flat tortilla (6"?) with beef and cheese layered on, and covered with a smaller (3"?) flat tortilla. It was very good, but not quite what I expected.

Bought another "safe" item at Walmart: Activia yogurt. Picture on front sort of looked like raspberries. Opened it up and it was plain, slightly sweetened yogurt. Until I hit the bottom. Activia yogurt in México is "fruit on the bottom" yogurt. Not like in USA or Thailand, where it is a creamy blend.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Rainbows & waterfalls

Hard to believe I've already been here three nights. All the fun and excitement.

I was educated in a local online forum about fraccionamientos & colonias. I was familiar with the terms but didn't really realize what they meant in terms of addresses. Now I do.

Spent yesterday morning babysitting the house cleaner. I didn't need to but just wanted to see what she did and how she did it. MX$150 (~US$11.50) for cleaning from 900am to 200pm. Nice, friendly lady. Came with the house. She's scheduled every Monday & Thursday, but I like my solitude so only will use her on Thursdays. Tony & Martin (the house owners) will pay for her Monday non-visits, as she's hard to book (in high demand) and they don't want to lose her. It's their money.

I did notice her unique way of washing the floors. Rather than a mop, she uses a floor squeegee with a terry cloth towel wrapped around it. Periodically she takes the towel off and rinses it in a bucket, and puts it back on the squeegee. First time I've seen that.

Yesterday around 500pm I heard the sounds of a waterfall in the back yard and wondered what the neighbours were up to. They were up to nothing. My tinaco (water storage tank on the roof) was overflowing. I went to open the door to the upstairs patio (i.e. access to the tinaco) and the knob for the deadbolt lock came off in my hand. No way to open the door!

backyard flood
won't need to water
that part for a while

The realtor lady who is my contact left for Thailand the morning of the day I arrived, so I'm dealing with her poor husband. Pobrecito! He tried to fix the lock (as had I) but no dice. He said he'd have someone come over tomorrow to fix the lock. By the time he got here the tinaco stopped overflowing, of course. And, naturally, as soon as he left it started again. About every 50 minutes it overflows for about 20 minutes and then stops. So, since last night, it probably overflowed about 15 times? I'm waiting until a decent hour (it's only 645am now) to tell him it's a bit more urgent than we thought. The ground is so saturated with water, it's coming up through the tiles in the inside atrium.

The house is GORGEOUS. It's one of those chic restored/renovated old historical houses. You know, many of the classic colonial features (like pasta floors, ultra high ceilings, two-foot thick limestone mamposteria walls, the exposed wood in the ceiling) with modern touches. I'm finding all the things that don't work or need adjustment.

Today should be another interesting day! Hope your day is more mundane that mine has been. :-)


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

And, away we go!

Well, I made it from Bangkok to Tokyo to Houston to Mérida!

Check-in was easier than I feared. The bag which I thought would be overweight (free allowance is up to 32kg) was only 24kg!

All flights were on time, so I arrived in Mérida at around 645pm. Arrival formalites were a bit different. The Immigrations officer decided to give me a little Español test as part of her interview. Apparently I passed.

I was a little concerned about Customs as I had my desktop computer motherboard, hard drives, keyboard, mouse and a monitor in my carry-on. As I waited for my bags to go through the Customs x-ray machine, the guy in front of me, who coincidentally had sat in front of me on the plane, was being given a hassle because he had a computer monitor. He kept repeating to them that it was not a computer, it was just an external monitor for his notebook. (Riiiight....) But, when my bags went through, the Customs Officer was still engaged with him and I sailed right through!

After exiting Customs, I looked for a cambio – someplace to exchange some US dollars – and couldn't find one. I asked at a few shops, and they all said, "No, señor. No hay cambio en este aeropuerto." Thank heavens for ATMs, or I would have had no money for a taxi.

Taxi ride was uneventful. Traffic here seems more docile/civil than Thailand. When we got near my new home, I actually recognized the area from my times on Google Street Maps. Nice!

So, here I am. A single person in a foreign land, once again, where I know absolutely nobody. Ha, ha, ha! Or, should I say "Ja, ja, ja!"


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Traveling light

I'm in the final 24-hour countdown before closing the condo door for the last time for six months. I leave tomorrow (Monday, here) for an airport hotel, and then early Tuesday morning will hopefully step on airplanes heading to Tokyo, then Houston, and finally Mérida.

everything in three bags
That's all folks!
Yesterday I laid out on the bed everything I was going to pack, and thought it didn't look like much, so I did a trial packing.

That's everything! I even have an empty tote bag and empty backpack in the wheeled duffel bag. My desktop computer's motherboard & hard drives are in the carry on suitcase. In case the duffel is too heavy, I'll pull out the tote and put stuff in it.

I'm thinking of gambling and bringing a second (free) checked piece: the computer case with the motherboard still installed. That would allow me to bring my smaller monitor (I use a dual-monitor system) and maybe even my keyboard & mouse in my carry-on. If I need to take stuff out of the duffel, I would try to sneak my tote bag on board along with my suitcase and computer bag...


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tony who?

For those of you who don't know who Tony is, the fellow I'm initially renting from, he's a good friend of mine who I worked with for about fifteen years, and we were roommates for a few years. His Mérida home is on Calle 37 a very short block from Paseo de Montejo in (what seems to be) a convenient area. His realtor friend is also a lifelong close friend of another of our colleagues. Tony is not gung ho on renting his place out, but Martin (his partner) is moreso, so I guess the compromise was to rent to me!

I want to do as much footwork (literal and figurative) as I can on my own before contacting any real estate people.

Having said that, it's not even at all definite I will be buying any property. I'm 99% sure I'll find Mérida perfectly acceptable, but I may also be content to become a renter. In my checkered past, I've owned one house and four condos (and even chaired the homeowners association at one place – that was a great learning experience!) so I know the pluses and minuses of home ownership, but since I retired a few years ago, I've been rethinking a lot of things.

An understanding I got from a local online forum yesterday was to ease my focus away from real estate listings targeting gringos, and go more local with my search. Wonder how the Yucatero owners will react to a gringo with marginal Spanish skills asking about their house on the phone. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And, hopefully I'll make acquaintance with some locals (or at least Spanish-fluent gringos) to ease the communication, especially for an initial "cold call".

For over 35 years, my chosen profession (airline) more than fulfilled my need for social interaction. I was social by training, and a diplomat out of necessity. Between that and travelling constantly, I just want to stay home and be a hermit these days.

No matter where you are on this planet, people are not so different. A smile and willingness to listen, learn and help will open doors. Sainthood is definitely not my destiny, but I do make an effort to not be mean or unkind.

One trick I learned is to not always let on that I know a bit of the local language. I speak a smattering of Thai and a bit more Japanese, but of course, to look at me, you'd never assume that. Sometimes you hear some interesting things. Like a Japanese taxi driver who referred to us (westerners) as "hairy mounds of dirt." Or, a Thai sales person in a market reminding another to charge me more because I'm not Thai.

Once my ear re-acclimates to Spanish*, I can do the same if I go to real estate offices to ask about specific properties – speak only in English, and eavesdrop when they talk to each other or to the property owners en español. See? A saint I ain't.

*I studied Spanish for four years, and when I traveled around S.America, I got fairly fluent if I were there for more than a week. That was some 35 years ago, but I hope to regain some decent level of fluency. I already notice that there's lots of new slang to learn, not to mention the Yucatero "accent." And, I'm a geek at heart, but know none of the lingo in Spanish (yet).


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The seed is planted

On Christmas Day, I sent a routine e-mail asking Tony how he was, what was new, etc., and he said he'd "give [me] a call tomorrow so we can catch up. Lots to share."

And, thus it began. The groundwork was laid for me to come visit Mérida.

Initially I planned to just visit a week or two and stay at his newly renovated/remodeled home to see if I liked Mérida. That morphed into a six-month rental!

Tony knows me pretty well, and was convinced I'd like Mérida.

And, the rest, as they say, is history!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

immigration time again

condo living room
the 2013 me

Not much has been happening. My back keeps acting up, but it's a gradual path to recovery, about like three steps forward, one step back. I'm off the pills now and not wearing a brace.

It's time to renew my retirement visa extension for another year. Made a trip to Hua Hin Immigrations office this afternoon and it was, as usual, a painless and fast process. Here's the picture snapped earlier this afternoon. Guess I look pretty much the same?

Later this week I plan to take a load of stuff over to the condo and do some more fixing up and arranging for telephone & internet service.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

it's official

I gave my landlady notice that I will not be renewing my lease on my townhouse next month when it expires. And I told her why.

At 2:00am, I came downstairs and my living room smelled like cat poop. Sure enough, another deposit had been made right beneath my living room window.

The reaction/response was less that adequate from the B&B owner nor from his Thai GF, with whom he runs the operation. Their response was for me to allow them to scatter cut limes around the perimeter of the front patio/parking area.

Nothing I would consider adequate like FINALLY getting rid of the stinking cat, or at least keeping it confined to the inside of his home. Oh, heavens, no. Might that involve stinking piles of hot steaming cat crap in HIS home?


Saturday, August 10, 2013

scat cat

Life in the fast lane of Jomtien/Pattaya has given way to the quieter flow of Hua Hin.

Several months ago the owner of a B&B just a few houses away ended up with two cats that a tenant had simply left while he did a "runner." Problem is, these cats are a problem with their bathroom habits. They used to take turns leaving piles of steaming crap at the door sill of my next door neighbor — a usually mild-mannered Canadian who threatened to "get rid of" the cats after the incidents escalated:

He spends hours in a computer chair out front every day reading and watching the foot traffic on our soi. However, on this fateful day, he sat down and shortly thereafter felt his pants were damp. He stood up and realized he had been sitting in cat urine, and it was now running down his leg.

While the cat piles were almost a daily occurrence for him, it happened to me three times. After his ranting tirades with the B&B owner, and my more polite pleas, the cats were given away to a happy new owner, and peace returned to our soi.

Until this past week.

You see, one of the cats had reappeared at the B&B about a month ago. One of the cats had died, and the new owner was leaving Thailand and tearfully returned the remaining feline to the B&B. All was fine for a few weeks, then this past week, FOUR TIMES, I had to clean up cat piles under my living room window. Nothing like the aroma of fresh cat poop wafting in your living room to raise one's blood pressure.

The B&B owner seems as upset as I am at the situation, and said a few days ago (I've been distracted from writing here on my blog) that he found somebody to take the cat again "in a few days." Not sure if it's gone yet, but no more cat piles the past three days.

I thought about posting a picture to liven up (?) my blog, but decided (for now, at least) to keep just a wall of text.

I'm curious how the first owner, the one who did a runner, raised these cats. Did he not have a litter box and just picked up piles of crap and wiped up pools of pee on a daily basis? I thought cats were hard-wired to bury their poop. There is a large vacant lot behind our townhouses that would be ideal for that. But, no. She (her name is Sala) likes my place and my next door neighbor's. Ours are the first two from the corner that give more privacy, and I think that's why we were targeted.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

can you spot the differences?

condo living room
"new" living room

My back is getting better. I started to wean myself off the Tramal and Neurontin, as I think the pain has subsided enough. That, plus being high 24/7 is nice for a while, but after a few days, I was ready for reality again.

condo dining area
"new" dining area
Here are a couple pics of the living/dining area as they were when I left on Saturday. Comparing them to the Condo For Sale gallery elsewhere on my web site shows there's not much different. I just wish I had taken "before" photos to show the condition when I arrived at the condo last week.


Friday, July 26, 2013

this fragile body

Well, a week later and I'm still in the condo fixing things up and/or replacing them. I'm taking it slow. I see no reason to rush. I'm leaning heavily toward moving back from Hua Hin into the condo. It's like I'm falling in love with the place again.

Yesterday morning I sat down to have a snack, and as I got up out of the chair — WHAMMO! — my back went out again! I ruptured a disk several years ago and about every two years, something happens to aggravate it. It is quite painful.

As far as the condo goes, I'm about 90% complete with the work, so I guess it's a blessing that I got that much done before being immobilized. I'm heavily medicated (Tramal) so don't feel any pain, but I can still feel when the disc hits the nerve. And, of course, my back support brace is in Hua Hin, so I had to buy another one here.

I spent yesterday just sitting/lying around the condo resting and relaxing. Mid-afternoon I finally was able to shuffle across the street to a pharmacy to get meds. Today, high as a kite and feeling no pain, I did some more shopping and repairs. I think tomorrow (Saturday) will be another day of rest, and then Sunday I'll head back to Hua Hin.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

My Jomtien condo

Decided Wednesday that Thursday would be the day to trek over to check on my condo. As you may recall, there were some issues with the rent-to-buy guy who I signed a contract with in May 2011:

Firstly, he didn’t buy the unit by the deadline of May 2012, so he asked for another year to cash me out.

Secondly, May 2013 (this year) rolled around and when I contacted him he assumed I would give him another year. He assumed incorrectly and I gave him until the end of June — rent free — to wind things down and either cash me out or hand the keys back.

Thirdly, July 2, I trekked over to the condo and found people living in it. He had sub-leased it out until July 15, and never told me. I said that was it, a final extension to July 15, and to leave the keys on the kitchen counter before midnight on the 15th.

So, that brings us to today's trip: B10 sawng-taew to bus station, B305 airport bus to Suvarnabhumi Airport, B134 bus to Jomtien, and finally a B70 moto-sai taxi to the condo.

Good news: Condo was vacant.

Other news: No keys on the counter.

First thing I did was change the deadbolt. I brought one with me. With two years of numerous tenants, I have no idea who has keys. Later I will change the door lock, as well.

More other news: The condition of the place was a huge disappointment. Yes, I put my heart and soul into renovating, decorating and maintaining the place, but I had no expectation that the place would be as pristine as I left it. I will break down, day by day, what I’m accomplishing, so you can see what I mean:

broken couch
a comfy couch

Day #1 (THB 6,000+)

  • Changed the deadbolt lock on front door
  • Replaced missing vacuum cleaner
  • Replaced two sets of missing bed linens
  • Replaced missing towel sets
  • Replaced some burnt out light bulbs – *eleven* of them
  • Cleaned out cob webs/spider webs/spiders – LOTS of them
  • Removed TV “shelf” and extension outlet in living room
  • Fixed leaking toilet “bum spray” connection
  • Cleaned air con filters (appears they hadn’t been cleaned in 2+ years?)
  • Bought cleaning supplies (Vixol, Windex, dish soap liquid, sponges, scrubbers, etc)

sticky black goo on railing
sticky black goo (some sort of tar?) on railing

Day #2 (THB 7,000+)

  • Replaced inoperative water heater*
  • Replaced missing tablecloth
  • Replaced rug under coffee table**
  • Re-hung living room picture at proper height
  • Bought new recessed light fixtures for master bedroom & living room***
and on air con
...and on air con
* Installer said he could repair it for B800 (the new one he was installing was B6,000) but it would take him a week, so I went ahead with the new one. I donated the old one to him on the condition he’d drill a hole for the anchor to hang my picture. :-)

** Old one was in a closet, with a big blotchy stain that looked like emesis. I erred on the side of caution to buy a new one and toss the old one.

*** This is in no way related to the two-year rental period, The current light fixtures are “open” and spiders and other fauna can enter from the vast attic space above my unit. The new fixtures have a lens on them to block any such ingress to my apartment. I noticed that the bedroom with no open light fixtures has *far* fewer spiders.

Not yet accomplished

  • Clean/replace stained bedroom draperies
  • Replace missing bathroom sink stopper
  • Replace missing living room lamp
  • Launder/replace throw pillows for couch/chairs – almost looks like feces stains?
  • Repair/replace couch – bottom frame shattered
  • Locate replacement for missing freezer door shelf
  • Fix water stain in living room ceiling (is condo management responsible for that?)
  • Remove extension outlet in bedroom
  • Scrub bird sh*t off outdoor air con units, balcony floor & railings
  • Touch-up paint (maybe paint some entire walls?)
  • Possibly replace kitchen hob? (rather beat up)
  • Install the new ceiling light fixtures
...and I’m sure there are yet more hidden surprises!

In hindsight, I wish I had taken more "before" photos to show the condition of the place, but I was more focused on getting started with clean up and repair.


Monday, June 10, 2013

thai culture/religious/political issues

First seat mate
Seatmate #1

When I boarded the train in Bangkok my seat mate was a pleasant lady headed for southern Thailand, which is predominantly Muslim, and from her attire I assumed she was Muslim. We exchanged smiles and she offered me some of her snacks, which I declined with a polite wave of a hand and a smile.

The seating in Second Class is pairs of seats facing each other. At night, the seats become a bunk so they are close enough that they form a single bed when laid flat. Not confiningly close, but not exactly spacious. Across the aisle was a Thai lady with a vacant seat facing her.

About half way to Hua Hin, a Thai monk boarded with a ticket for the vacant seat across the aisle. A Thai railway policeman had taken the opportunity to rest in the vacant seat before the monk boarded. As the monk approached the seat, he looked at the woman, then at the policeman. Without a word said, the woman sitting there got up, the policeman nodded at me and pointed to the seat across the aisle indicating I should move.

Second seat mate
Seatmate #2

At first I was puzzled, then I concluded: The monk in strict compliance with Thai Buddhism apparently could not be seated with the woman! I know women cannot hand anything directly to a monk — they must place it on a table and then the monk can pick it up. Apparently being seated in such close proximity to a woman was an issue for the monk, and the female passenger and the policeman understood instantly.

Now why make two people move seats? Wouldn't it have been simpler to just have the woman sitting opposite me move across the aisle and have the monk sit facing me in her old seat? Yes, perhaps simpler, but perhaps not politically correct. Rather than have a Muslim passenger change her seat to accommodate a Buddhist monk, it was deemed better to move two people.

There is a long-running conflict in the south of Thailand between Muslims and the Thai military forces/Bangkok-centric government.


Saturday-Monday, June 8-10, 2013

bkk getaway

train station lobby
Hua Lamphong lobby

A friend was in Bangkok for a couple days, so I made plans to meet him for dinner and drinks on Sunday night and head back on Monday afternoon.

When possible, I take the train. It is slower than taxi, bus or van, but more relaxing. Plus, the Bangkok main train station (Hua Lamphong) is close to the hotel I use. There is a subway station attached to the train station and from the time my train arrives, I am usually at the hotel within 15 minutes.

The trains are a bit worn — and almost always run late — but comfortable enough. On daytime trains I travel "Second Class Air Con". I tried non-air con ("fan car") but the dirt, aromas and noise through the windows was less-than-pleasant, especially when we went through an area of sugar cane fields that were freshly burnt.

On nighttime trains, First Class is the only way to go. First Class is a private cabin for two. Second Class is comfortable enough with big berths, but it's an open car and mobile phones ring: All. Night. Long. And, of course the phone owners feel compelled to answer them and maintain long conversations even at 3:30am...


Friday, May 31, 2013

30-day reprieve

I finally made contact with the buyer of my condo.

I hadn't heard from him so I thought he was simply was going to walk away from the condo and I was making plans to change the locks and put the unit back on the market. Then yesterday he called and asked for another year, assuming I would agree. I didn't. I assumed he would walk away from the unit, and he assumed I would grant another year extension – we were both wrong!

I told him I would get back to him in 24 hours, so today I presented my offer: A 30-day extension on the rental, and a reduced price until the end of June. If he doesn't cash me out by the end of June, the condo is all mine again and it will be back on the market. If it doesn't sell by the end of September, I will probably move back in.

I really, really, REALLY would like him to take it off my hands.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

it's tuesday, but not belgium

hua hin temperature
a tropical May day

Today's highlight was bill paying:

  • water company — B45 (US$1.50)
  • TOT (phone bill) — B107 (US$3.50)
  • CAT (overseas calls) — B65 (US$2.00)
  • electricity — B996 (US$33.00)

That's my highest electricity bill since I moved to Hua Hin. I guess I used the air con a lot more this past month, as it has been very hot. My electric bill usually is about B700-800.

The water bill also include nightly trash collection.

Since Thailand is a "cash society," checking is almost unheard of, so I walk to each office and pay in person in cash. Although I could arrange for automatic debit deductions from my bank account for most bills, I'm leery of doing that as I've heard a few horror stories of "mistakes" where, for example, the electric meter reader misread the meter and the bill came out to hundreds of thousands of baht. I don't mind the excursions because all the offices (except electricity) are within about a five minute walk from home. I pay the electricity bill at the 7-11 store on the corner, for a modest B10 (US$0.33) fee.

My only other monthly bills are:

  • rent — B10,000 (US$333.00)
  • TV cable and internet (15Mbps/1.5Mbps) — B962 (US$32.00)
  • mobile phone (calls, SMSs, 3GB of 3G data) — B640 (US$21.25)

The TV/internet and mobile phone bills I pay at an office in the shopping mall (Market Village) which is a 12 minute walk from home. Rent I pay six months at a time to the landlady who lives up the soi from me.

The rent expense may be misleading, because I currently have my condo rented out for B10,000 month, so that is a wash. Excluding rent, my expenses this month were B2,815 or about US$93.50 – and that's with a record-high electric bill.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

welcome to 2013

my living room
my living room

I've spent the past few days refreshing and updating my web site. Since my last post 2.5 years ago not much has changed. I've moved to Hua Hin and had encounters with snakes in my kitchen, but that's kind of passe now.

I visited family in S.Cal in January 2011, and then did not travel for over a year and a half. In October 2012, I finally mustered the stamina to get on a plane and headed to New York City for a week. I was there three days, and bam, Hurricane Sandy hit. I got out by the skin of my teeth on Sunday afternoon on a flight to Cincinnati. The airports, buses, trains – the whole metropolis – shut down six hours later. I would have been stranded for days, and my hotel was in the area with no electricity for several days. Close call.

snake in kitchen
one my my kitchen visitors

My next trip was again to visit family in S.Cal last month. I made a short stopover in Honolulu on the way home in order to renew my Hawaii drivers license. No hurricanes, earthquakes or other distractions this time.

In May 2011, I "sold" my Jomtien condo to a fellow who owns a few dozen units in the building, but it was a one-year "rent-to-buy" plan. When the one year came due in May 2012, he asked for another year of renting, so I agreed. Now, in a few days the deal is set to either be consummated — i.e. he cashes me out and takes ownership — or I probably will take back the condo. I want to aggressively list the unit with several agencies: in addition to the usual percentage commission, I will offer a cash bonus of B50,000 directly to any agent who can sell the unit within 90 days. It's worth a shot!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

friend from afar

Allan (from Vancouver) arrived last night in Bangkok. I'm going to meet up with him tomorrow and bring him back to Jomtien on Monday.

He used my passes and travelled First Class (YVR-SFO), Economy Plus (SFO-NRT) and Business (NRT-BKK). Hopefully he'll do even better on the way home!

Not sure how to keep him amused and entertained while he's at my place in Jomtien, but I'm sure we'll work something out!


Saturday, December 4, 2010

free at last!

So, 3.5 years since I last posted. No way am I going to fill that gap, but let's see if I can resume consistently posting again.

Probably the most important "new" thing about me is that I am finally retired. I started with that company 21 Jul 1978 and my last day of employment was 30 Nov 2010 -- over 32 years.

I started as an enthusiastic new employee, working for an employer that was a good one. I ended cynical, broken and despising my employer. The overriding reason why I plotted my escape so desperately was that the negativity I carried was crippling. What finally pushed me out the door was a debilitating back injury. In my mind there's a clear connection between those two ideas.

But, now I can finally relax and start to cleanse my body, mind and spirit and get on with life!


Wednesday, June 6, 2007

nothing special

Last night I don't think we had our nightly downpour. I actually slept off and on throughout the night until about 0400, and I only recall some distant thunder & lightning.

My barber is across the street from the local tech mall (Tukcom Center) and I had wandered over there and bought a copy of Photoshop CS3 to tinker with. I also bought a training DVD to bring me up to speed with the changes. That's what I was doing between my naps, and after 0400.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

pizza

For my excuse to go out today: no food left in the house, so I treated myself to The Pizza Company at Tesco, and stocked up on groceries and supplies before I left.


Monday, June 4, 2007

Samson time

Even though I didn't need one yet, I went for a haircut ... just ANY excuse to get me out of the condo, and moving in the fresh air. Afterward I had a nice lunch at Le Cafe Royale.


Sunday, June 3, 2007

catch-up time?

or, more appropriately, re-start time?

I've managed to get another month off from work. I'm not sure how much longer I'll continue employment. About the only compelling reason I have now is that I want to make another visit to Hemet to visit Mama. I have a couple of unused free passes that I'd hate to leave behind, too.

Since I returned from my last trip a few weeks ago, I've been staying up all night and sleeping during the day. The past two nights have been nice: of course, cooler (all the way down to 85 degrees!<g>), but at around 0130 distant lightning and thunder begins. Last night it didn't actually rain until 0400. Right now it's 0200, and I'm hoping for rain again. I live on the top floor of the building, and get to hear the patter of raindrops on the ceramic roof tiles, as well as the rushing sound of water down two gutter downspouts by my balcony.

I realized a while ago I haven't eaten in the past 24 hours, and am not at all hungry nor bored enough to eat.

neighborhood fauna

A couple weeks ago, I read in the local paper about a 13' python that some folks found wrapped around the rafters of their house. (Many local houses don't have ceilings in the room, so you can look right up to the bottom side of the roof.) There was a nice picture of the snake all stretched out by the animal rescue team, with a slight bulge around its midsection. (The folks said their cat disappeared earlier that day. Oops.)

Then this week's newspaper had an item about a monkey that went on a mini-rampage, biting a woman on the leg. Turns out he was a "domesticated" monkey "hired" to fetch bananas from the trees, but had broken loose from his leash when his owner was gone.

The common link? Both stories were ON MY STREET! Okay, I knew about cobras, but I didn't know about the pythons and monkeys. :-0


Thursday, October 5, 2006

bug on the windshield

A man and a woman were driving down the road arguing about his sleeping with other women. Suddenly, the woman reaches over and slices the man's penis off. Angrily, she tosses it out the car window.

Driving behind the couple is a man and his 5-year old daughter. The little girl is just chatting away at her father when, all of a sudden, the penis smacks the car on the windshield, sticks for a moment, then flies off.

Surprised, the daughter asks her father, "Daddy, what the heck was that?"

Not wanting to expose his five-year old daughter to anything like that at such a young age, the father replies, "It was only a bug, honey."

The daughter sits with a confused look on her face, and after a few minutes, she says, "Sure had a big dick, didn't it?"

OMG, I laughed SO hard at that. Every time I read it I can't stop laughing. Do I need help, or what?


Sunday, October 1, 2006

stormy weather

The remnants of a typhoon are scheduled to begin drenching Thailand today, so I stocked up on a few days' worth of food.

This evening I had my first spill on the motorbike. My fault, so I can't complain, and I only scraped my legs a little. Whew.


Saturday, September 30, 2006

psyllium translated

Today's mission: to find psyllium! The high-protein/low carbohydrate regimen has a tendency to promote constipation. After five pharmacies I wheeled all the way cross town to a health food store (the only one in town, I believe) and discovered that psyllium is called "ispaghula" on other parts of the planet. I bet *all* the stores I've been checking for months have had it, but I've simply been asking for the wrong thing. I even found the Thai word for psyllium and printed it out only to be met with confusion everywhere I went.

My *next* mission will be to find some without sugar. This stuff is like Tang it has waaay too much sugar for a low-carb diet.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Suvarnabhumi & shopping

Today, the new airport opened in Bangkok. According to the press so far, it was a fairly smooth first day. Good for them. It's about 30 minutes closer to Pattaya/Jomtien, so when I do have to travel again, it will be a bit more convenient

Today, I went out to do a little shopping and on the way home was bored so took the bike for a little tour of the countryside. Drove around for about 25km and got a little sun tan along the way.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

mindless

Goodness, where does the time go! I can't even recall what I did on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, but today I rented a motorbike for a week. I need to get more confident of my motoring skills so that I can take the test for a motorcycle license before I buy my own bike. I understand I can't insure my own bike unless I have a license.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

out for a stroll

passport picture

Today's highlight was a 35-minute afternoon stroll along Beach Road to have lunch at KFC: my junk food fix for the week. Then on over to my post office box, where I renewed for another full year for B1000 (about US$27) — such a bargain! Walked another ten minutes to the grocery store and then by motor vehicle back home. I would have liked to walk home, too, but I had perishables that needed to get home quicker.

Today's pic is the visa photo that I used this past week. I hope it becomes part of my personal worst: I was at about 96 kg (210 lbs), the highest I have EVER weighed, so I hope to be thinner the next time you see me! :-)

On that topic, still sticking to low-carb. Nice thing about high-protein is that I'm never hungry.


Friday, September 22, 2006

visa obtained

jomtien beach
quiet Jomtien beach

It has been raining pretty hard at night, but other than earlier this week, Rainy Season has been kind to the tourists. I enjoy being home when it rains. Since my condo unit is on the top floor and there are big drain spouts right about my balcony, when it rains it sounds like a big waterfall.

I finished the visa process today: picked up my passport with my one-year retirement extension, and got a multiple re-entry permit, so I'm set until next September. Woohoo!

Low carb-ing is coming along nicely. Today's menu: boiled eggs for breakfast, sirloin steaks for lunch, and some smoked ham slices for supper. I indulged and bought a Diet Coke today. Kind of a no-no because it has caffeine, but the carbonation felt so good going down!


Thursday, September 21, 2006

visa tomorrow?

jomtien immigrations office
Jomtien (Cholburi) Immigrations

About all I got accomplished today was finishing up on the visa application process: updated my bank passbook, got the bank letters and visa photos and trudged on up to the Immigrations office.

I'm finding more of my (soon-to-be-ex-) colleagues wanting, or at least considering, following my path to apply for Thai retirement visas, so I put a page on my web site: www.wpcoe.com/visa for semi-public reference.

The Immigrations office is quite pleasant and the folks there are VERY efficient and some of them have quite a sense of humor. Quite a relief, and quite a contrast to what I had expected. My passport is supposed to be ready tomorrow after noon. Hopefully *with* my retirement visa!

I'm going to start carrying my camera with me whenever I go out, with an optmistic goal of including a daily photo here in the blog. My fear is they will all be the same, since I pretty much do the same thing each day: nothing! Hahaha!

PS: I'm on day #3 of low carb'ing. So far, no cravings, but I still feel too bloated.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

master of timing

Yesterday I was all excited because my US$11k wire transfer showed up in my Thai bank account. Within 12 hours, there is a military coup and within hours the baht lost 1.2% of its value.

[added later]

Now that I've got a more balanced perspective, maybe that was the best investment I ever made. I tend to agree that the PM had to go, and although a coup is not exactly a democratic way to do it, maybe it will be a case of "one step backward to go two steps forward."

A HUGE demonstration was scheduled for today by the P.A.D., the opposition who was campaigning for the PM to leave power. Based on the last minor public confrontation, where pro-Thaksin thugs were permitted (with police standing guard and watching) to beat the crap out of anti-Thaksin demonstrators, maybe the military made their move last night to prevent the potential of huge confrontations, perhaps even leading to a civil war? Who knows. They did what they did, and now we just find ways to move on.

To Thailand's credit, this coup has been bloodless, with not a single shot fired.

I haven't left the condo today (yet), but I hear Bangkok streets are much quieter than usual, partly because of a "holday" decreed by the coup leaders, but mainly because Thai people are just staying home, out of the way, to see how this plays out.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Jomtien Beach Road

jomtien beach road
Got up late (around 1000) & just puttered around the house until mid-afternoon. I'm starting a low-carb diet again to see if I can get a jumpstart on weight loss. I'm almost up to 96kg, which is over 210 lbs!

This morning: scrambled eggs, this afternoon: lamb patties, this evening: garlic chicken from Tesco. Yum, yum! I take vitamins twice a day to get the rest of the minerals and nutrients I don't eat. I plan to increase my daily water intake from my usual two litres, too.

Also started taking Methycobal 500. I read on a medical site that it helps some cases of tinnitis. I have had constant ringing in my ears for many years, but it seems to be getting stronger. I'll test the Methycobal 500 for a few weeks to see if it helps.

The wire transfer from my credit union appeared in my bank account today, and this afternoon I got the medical certificate for Immigrations. Tomorrow morning I plan to go to the bank to get the certifying letters and then go get the photos I need, and probably in the afternoon go to immigrations to see how this all fits together. <fingers crossed>

On the way back from the hospital I stopped at a couple motorbike places to price bikes and get an idea what's available and for how much. Right now I'm leaning toward the Nuovo because it has more storage space for when I go shopping. The Mio is nice, in that it is smaller - and cheaper - but it has a tiny storage compartment, not even big enough to stow a helmet when you park the bike. The Nuovo is about US$1,400.

Mike e-mailed me a scan of an old photo of his grandparents for me to touch-up in Photoshop. It was not a good copy – highly compressed JPG – but I did what I could. I told him if he could get me the original scan, maybe I could do better?


Monday, September 18, 2006

embassy chatter

Got up at 0700, left the house at 0800, on a bus to BKK at 0900, arrived at Ekamai Station at 1045.

The US Embassy is open from 0730-1100 and 1300-1400 only, so I killed a few hours by eating lunch, going to my insurance company to revise my policy and pay next year's premium.

In the Embassy at 1315, out at around 1350.

While I was there, a rather insecure older fellow who was getting the same form started chatting with me. I told him I was a retired F/A and he asked which airline. When I said UA he said he was a 100K, and I replied "My deepest sympathies." <g> He had nothing but good things to say about UA, and I replied, well they must treat you better than the employees.

At that point the guy sitting in front of us joined in the conversation — he is a retired UA mechanic from SFO. Boy did HE trash the company! Hahaha. Was good entertainment to pass the time waiting for my name to be called for the notary.

Funny aside: At one point a nice looking young fellow in his 20s said it sounded like we knew about visas, and asked about getting a marriage visa (his Thai wife was with him). Separately, the two other fellows (the rather insecure older fellow & the retired mechanic) privately said to me: "What the f*ck did he get married for?" and "Should we suggest counseling for him?" It was soooo funny!

Strange thing about the Pattaya-Ekamai bus: the fare TO Ekamai is B121 and the fare FROM Ekamai is B124 - what's up with that? It still amazes me that for less than US$3.50, I can take the bus on a 160 km journey.

And ... finally! ... closure on my identity theft debacle. I received my PIN number so I can use the card in ATMs again.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

'til the cows come home

water buffalo
my neighbors
The other day I was walking through the country roads that comprise my neighborhood, turned a corner and came face to face with an untended herd of water buffalo also walking down the road.

I had no idea if they were human friendly, aggressive, or the lead bull would rape me on the spot. If I turned and ran, would they chase me? Ahhhh, the fun of living in the "country"!

Turns out they couldn't have cared less. The eight of them just ambled by on either side of me and all nine of us just continued our journey. WHEW!


Friday, September 08, 2006

pre- vs post-

So far, retirement is about the same as pre-retirement.

Unfortunately, I let the stress from the camera-theft incident manifest in my body and am trying to get back on my feet. On top of that, I had a small bout of food poisoning the other night. I'll be glad when I stabilize.


guess which color I got?
I ended up buying the Sony DSC-T10 instead of the -T30, mainly because I like the case better on the -T10. The -T30 has a glossy finish and the demo model was covered with greasy fingerprints, whereas the demo for the -T10 hid the grime. The specs for the two cameras a basically identical, with the exception that the -T30 has a bigger view screen (3" vs 2.5"), and the -T10 is about $100 cheaper.

From my few tests with the new camera, I think it'll be better than the -T1 that it replaces. The -T10 has an anti-shake, anti-blur feature and I think that's a big improvement. With such a tiny lightweight camera it's hard to keep it steady when pushing the shutter button.

Now, almost ten weeks after my fraud episode, I *still* can't use my debit card in ATMs ... the mailing with the PIN hasn't arrived yet. They first mailed it about 6 weeks ago, and again about 10 days ago. I'm running quite low on pocket cash.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

same old same old

Nothing much to report. I didn't get my 30-day leave of absence for September, so I'm requesting for leave, one trip at a time. I got a schedule with one BKK layover, so I'll keep that trip, but hopefully not fly anything else, again. Ever.

Weather is nice here. Even though it's the middle of rainy season, it hasn't rained yet in the three days I've been here. Mixed feelings about that, since it has been HOT instead.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

my current "See Asia" tour

I've been on the road since the 8th when I left the comfort of home in Thailand. I've been to Taipei (twice) and Hong Kong, and tonight (and again the day after tomorrow) Seoul. I'm trying to get one more easy two-day trip on the 19th. If I can't, then I will return to Thailand on the 18th. Then I'm off for the rest of the month.

I put in for a leave of absence for September, but it looks like I won't get it. I'm not sure what schedule to bid for, because I don't know what trips other people will want to pick up from me. My intent is to get a schedule where I can drop every trip. We will see...

Physically I've been fine, though my throat always feels like it's just on the verge of getting sore. Mentally/emotionally I've been fine as well. Knowing that my job will soon be ending sure helps. (If I get September off, I'm very likely flying my very last working trips this week!)


Thursday, August 03, 2006

another of "those" episodes

My laryngitis saga took an interesting turn this morning.

This morning (0730) I woke up in a sweat. Took my temp: 102.4. Considering my normal at-rest temp is 96.8 (1.8 degrees lower than the "average") that equates to a fever of about 104 degrees!

I decided to try to break the fever with water and Tylenol while waiting for the ENT clinic to open, and somehow fell asleep for three hours. When I woke up, the fever was gone, and only minor soreness in the throat. My t-shirt and pillowcase were drenched with sweat. I had literally burned up whatever was bothering me!

Even my voice has been almost fully restored -- instantly.

What was THAT all about??? What happened during that three-hour sleep? Sometimes things like this scare me a bit...


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

i'm sooo tired....

I've been battling ear infections, blockages, etc for six weeks and now also have laryngitis, which started out painless, but is now acutely painful. Every time I swallow, I want to scream. Neither the codeine nor the gargle that the doctor prescribed eliminates the pain, but by tripling the dosage, the codeine lessens it a *little*. I don't like being sick, especially when it lasts so bloody damn long! I'm now on antibiotics for the 3rd time in six weeks, which is not a good thing ... pretty soon they'll run out of variations of antibiotics to give me! Why is my immune system not working well enough to fight this crap???

And, my debit card saga drags on. When I returned home yesterday (early because I called in sick, again) there were TWO debit cards in my mail box, but only one PIN ... the PIN for the first, and cancelled, debit card. I'm losing patience with everything, but I'm HOPING the PIN arrives before I have to go back to Japan. It has been over six weeks since I've had access to MY money!!!

Other than that, things are just peachy keen rosy.

Signed, Polyanna


Sunday, July 23, 2006

the salt mine

I commuted back to NRT yesterday on TG. It's always nice to fly them: hardly ever close to being full (when we are overbooked constantly) and the crew/service is so nice and pleasant. Even the check-in process is polite and friendly — soooo UNlike UA. In the rear cabin of a 747, there were only 16 of us, so I had a whole row to stretch out, as usual.

Today I work my last BKK trip. We hired back our "Regional Flight Attendants" in BKK & SIN. They are cut-rate offshore labor. As a previous CEO said, "they work for rice bowls". Starting the middle of this month, they take the NRT-BKK flight away from us. The SIN base took the NRT-SIN trip from us last month. So....after the 20th of this month, the NRT schedules will be nothing but flights to the USA, which I will not do.

I'm planning on taking a leave for the month of September, and in October I have vacation and need to attend my annual safety training so will drop all my trips. But, come November, unless they create some more intra-Asia flying for us, that will finally be the straw to break my back, and I'll quit.

I'm on the last day of antibiotics and my ear is still infected. I will spend part of my BKK layover at the doctor to see what's up with that. Almost six weeks now of this sh*t.


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

this old body

I'm getting tired of the little things breaking down in my tired old body. I'm back on antibiotics for another ten days. I just did ten days of them last month. Both were/are for an infected ear. I suspect that the first doc missed part of my problem — he treated an abscess in the ear canal, but never mentioned the infection on my eardrum even though I told him it felt like I had fluid in my ear. "Fluid in my ear" is exactly how it has felt since the original treatment. A different doc is treating the eardrum infection now.

Not only have I already lost 20% of my hearing range, for more than a month, I've experienced a further loss in my left ear, due to these infections. Sheesh.

If you're tempted to try the Windows Vista Beta 2, beware. It caused such problems that I'm going to have to reinstall Windows XP. I had a dual-boot configuration of XP/Vista, but Vista screwed things up. Not only was my ATI X-1300 video card (hardly an unknown card) not supported in Vista so I had to disable all desktop-related services. That meant not only no Aero Glass (which is what I wanted to see!) but I could not even change the wallpaper, font sizes on the desktop, etc. Then, after a few weeks, I couldn't log on to Vista without "reactivation" as my version had expired, apparently. Absolutely no indication how to reactivate the Beta. When I tried to delete/remove Vista is when the XP problems escalated.

Oh, well, I still have a few more days off in Thailand to deal with things.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

home, sweet home

I just finished two weeks of flying and am back home in Thailand. It is so good to be here. I rented a motorbike for a week today, so watch, it'll rain the next seven days.

My new debit card, which should have arrived while I was gone — actually it should have been here over a week ago — is not here, so I get to do another round with the not-so-useful folks at the credit union. Luckily I still have a stash of baht in a local Thai bank to live on, but what if I hadn't? I just survived two weeks in Japan/Korea/Singapore with no access to cash, and it was a good reminder on how easy life is with a steady flow of cash available.


Saturday, June 24, 2006

identity theft?

I've just been fleeced out of $1700.

Routinely checking my online credit union statement I found two identical — and unauthorized — debit deductions from my checking account on the 16th for $850 each, originating in Japan. (I haven't been in Japan since the 11th.)

I called the credit union and got such vague, almost unhelpful, "assistance" but I've set the ball in motion to have the debits classified as unauthorized. I hope. It will be an uphill battle: e.g. I have to get a THAI police report about unauthorized debit transactions in JAPAN on a U.S. debit card. Wish me luck!


Monday, May 22, 2006

early rainy season?

It seems like the hot season was short (good!) and that the rainy season has already started ... about a month early. I've been home for a week, and other than the first day when it was hot hot hot, it has since been cool and rained every day, often more than once a day.

I like the cooler weather and LOVE listening to the pouring rain. It's sometimes tricky to manage to get out and run errands between downpours, but overall, it's my favorite time of the year. Rainy season usually runs June to October. I wonder: if it is starting early, when will it end?

I am on sick leave again from work. Bad boy. Hehehe. I still have too many hours in my sick leave bank to just give back when I quit, so what the heck.

After June I will no longer have my (tiny) apartment in Japan. I plan to try flying part-time (less than 50% of a normal schedule) starting in July, and it's cheaper to just stay in hotels. I'll miss my 12Mbps ADSL line, but I'll cope.

ps: I am running 64-bit WinXP, and my notebook is basically a mirror of my desktop so if either system fails, I won't have lost any data. Even Photoshop, which is 64-bit AND dual-processor capable, doesn't seem faster than before. Maybe I should do some side-by-side time comparisions: notebook (32-bit XP pro, single-core) vs desktop (64-bit XP, dual-core)?


Saturday, May 20, 2006

learning curve


power supply with blue light...aargh!
Well, the problem with the hot CPU was the fan control settings in BIOS. Selecting any of the fan speed options in BIOS restricts the fan speed back to well under 2000rpm. Turning the options off, and the fan roars away at 4500rpm and the CPU temp plummets to the upper 40s!

When the CPU fan is full throttle it's as loud as a small vacuum cleaner. I found a neat (free) utility, SpeedFan, that takes care of controlling the fan speed to reduce the noise. (pic to the right shows the bloody blue light from a bottom view of the power supply...it shines out the back just as brightly...)

Right now, with a virus scan running in the background, I'm working at 3.75Ghz (overclocked by 25%) with the fan throttled back to a reasonable 3500rpm and the temp hovers around 60. If I had the new case, and maybe a more efficient CPU cooler, I think I could leave it set up like this. I had it o/c'd by 40% (4.2Ghz!) for almost ten minutes before the system shut down ... temps were only in the low 60s, but I wasn't watching voltages and suspect something got too "hot" there?

A nice improvement on this Asus mobo over my previous one is the ability to control the bus speeds independently of the CPU. On the old one, if I o/c'd the CPU by 25%, it would also o/c the buses and the system would lock up.


Friday, May 19, 2006

old one was just as good?

It's almost frightening what I do when I have enough spare time to start getting bored. What will happen after when I retire? Will I end up covered with tattoos???

I went to Tukcom Center (Pattaya's Pantip-like IT center) "just to shop around" a couple days ago. I now have a new computer.

Intel D930 (3.0Ghz) Presler Dual-Core
Asus P5-LD2 mobo
320mb RAID-0 (2 x SATA 300 160mb drives)
2 GB DDR2-533 RAM
500mhz, 256mb PCI-e ATI graphics card
550W power supply (with a stupid blue light that shines out the back of the computer...)
WinXP x64

No place in Pattaya sells Lian Li cases, and I want a new one (my old Lian Li is showing its age, and isn't engineered for the heat of these new processors...), so I might go up to BKK in a day or two to see if I can get it there. Otherwise I'll need to lug one down from Japan.

Also, Pattaya has no Enermax- or Antec-type high-end power supplies so I got a "Cooler Master" brand that I probably will yank out if I can find Enermax/Antec. Not only does the blue light annoy me, there is only a slow moving (but quiet) 12cm fan in the bottom, and no exhaust fan in the back of the power supply to help draw out heat, which leads me to...

Wow! Does that processor run HOT!! Granted I need to improve the air circulation with a new case, but YIKES!~ With an idle system in an air-conditioned room the processor stays over 60 degrees (C). Start working and it goes to the mid-60s or higher. Today, with no air con, it kept going in to the 70's, so I had to turn on the air con. Mobo temp is around 38 with air con, and 43 without, which is ok.

Oddly enough, overclocking to 3.45Ghz didn't cause the temp to rise any further.

The kicker is: This 64-bit dual-core 3Ghz system with RAID seems no faster than the "old" 32-bit single-core 3Ghz system with standard IDE drives that I yanked out. So: Extremely HOT (so that I have to use air con) and same speed as before.

Oh, well. This will be my last major computer update before I quit and money becomes scarcer. I'm now firmly in the 64-bit environment which should be reasonable for the next few years, I hope.

Anybody want to buy my old system?

Northwood 3.0 Ghz P-4
Asus P4P-800 mobo
40 GB HDD (probably also the old 120GB drive I kept in the new system to transfer data files)
2 GB DDR-400 RAM
AGP 128mb video card (can't recall its specs off the top of my head)
(possibly) Cooling Master 550w power supply with exciting blue light
well-worn, but works-like-new, beige Lian Li case


Friday, May 12, 2006

nothing new

Still plugging along at old Ulla. Tomorrow is my last trip before days off.

On my last BKK layover I went to Pantip Plaza to price stuff, and was surprised to see that Intel dual-core chips are quite a bit cheaper now, so when I got back to Japan I went to Akihabara to make sure it wasn't some oddity (like black market chips or counterfeits) and sure enough prices are almost in my desired price range.

I'm planning to build a new system with a 3.0 or 3.2 Ghz Presler on an Asus mobo in a new Lian Li case. I figure this will be my last chance to build a system while I have a decent income. I might even go for a 3.4 Ghz if they drop enough in price.

Also on my last BKK layover, when we got to the hotel after midnight I went to the 7-11 store and on the way back in the pitch blackness I tripped over a soi dog. It took a few seconds, but it bit me. Not his fault, but geez... Didn't tear my pants or break the skin, so at least I'm lucky.


Monday, May 01, 2006

woo woo stuff

background: On my last TPE layover, I was huffing & puffing in the hotel gym at about 10kph on the elliptical trainer when I inhaled something ... either a thread, a fine hair or something. I tried to get it with my fingers, but with my next breath it flew back into my throat. I woke up that night several times with an increasingly sore throat. Apparently that gossamer thread scratched the he** out of my throat!

Two nights later I was on layover in Singapore. We got to the hotel at 0030 and I was in bed by 0045, but woke up at 0130. I was coughing at the rate of once each 30 seconds, and it didn't hurt and it was a single short cough, but it kept me awake until after 0400.

Then, sometime before 0900 it began: repeating "dreams" that I was reprogramming my circuitry! The visual image was of a computer motherboard, but it definitely symbolized my energy. I would "dream" — it had a different feeling to a normal dream, and I could recall it clearly, unlike normal dreams — then wake up for a few seconds to see if the reprogramming had succeeded (it hadn't), then went back to sleep to repeat. This cycle went at least a dozen of times, possibly dozenS?. It had happened several times before 0900 when I finally decided to open my eyes and look at the clock. It repeatedly occurred until 1400 when I finally got up.

There was great frustration in the "dreams". Initially I was trying an entire overhaul of my energy structure, then gradually trying less and less. At one point I was doing a very minor, guaranteed-to-work alteration, but it, too, failed! Other people/beings also were trying to help me. In the end, I'm not sure if the final attempt worked or not. It was thundering outdoors and I wanted to get up and over to the shopping center before it rained.

But, wait: there's more!

When I went out, I was operating in slow motion, in kind of a daze, and came back to the room about 1530. I tried reading a computer magazine and the newspaper, but bed was beckoning again.

I lay down and immediately visualized a line down my body from top of my head down to my feet. The left side was designated (?) as the only part that was able to be active, i.e. give or receive energy/information. I "felt" that I had to rearrange the pillows and put the magazine and newspapers and a tray of fruit I bought, to the left of me or I wouldn't be able to sleep.

Finallly, I gave in to that idea, got up and it was like something/someone was co-inhabiting my body. They took over and smoothed out the comforter, arranged the 4 pillows in to two neat stacks, put the newspaper and magazine on the "correct" side of the bed, and put the fruit in the fridge. I was "observing" this through my eyes. I then went to sleep, and began to sense something happening on my left side, but fell asleep with no recall of what happened. (darn!)

Is that bizarre, or what? I have not been practicing, studying or even reading any metaphysical stuff for over a year, and this was so intense, and so real!

I "know" intuitively that the energy reprogramming was an attempt to resequence my DNA. Don't ask me how I know, but I just do. I had been reading about that for a few years before I lost interest and became lazy.

My biggest question is: why didn't the reprogramming/resequencing work? Why was there such frustration? Was it a coincidence that I swallowed that "thread" or was it part of the overall event? i.e. Did I intentionally destablize my physical body in order to attempt some metaphysical task, or was that merely coincidental?

So, how was YOUR day? Hahaha!


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

the salt mines

Back at work, and I'm so glad time is just flying. I can tell that it'll be no time until I am unemployed!

Shuttling back and forth between NRT and TPE every day is a bit monotonous, but the flight to TPE is an hour earlier now meaning an extra hour at the hotel so I can get to their gym before it closes. We get to the hotel at 9pm and the gym closes at 1030pm so I can stretch and detox (by sweating buckets) for about an hour. It's so tempting to skip an easy workout, but I'm going to try to stick with it. I need some outlet/release for stress and tension.

Spring seems to keep avoiding Japan. It's almost May and it's still chilly here. I have only once seen a "spring-like" day so far.


Friday, April 14, 2006

decompressing

It is so nice to be home and unwind. However, this is "Songkran" holiday -- the water-throwing orgy on Thai streets.

Supposedly Songkran celebrations in Pattaya will be on the 18th, but last night (the 13th) I got doused five times riding in a baht bus to have dinner with a friend. So, I'm imposing self-exile to stay indoors at home until the madness is over. Not sure if that'll hold, since this might go on until the 18th?


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

heavens to betsy

Another month slipped by with nothing posted here. Gomen-nasai!

I'm thinking of putting a blog page on my personal web site to see if I'm more likely to post there, since I tinker with the site so often? We'll see...

My dad has been terrorizing the family again. He had an apparent stroke at home, then was hospitalized a couple weeks, and all the while he was having a series of "minor" heart attacks. They figured out what was at the root of the problem: severe constipation. Imagine that. Forgetting the jokes about being full of sh*t, that's pretty amazing what such an unremarkable problem (constipation) can do to the entire body: overall stress, probably toxin overloads, etc. I think he's back at home now ... he was supposed to be released around now.

My life is (still) pretty un-amazing. Just finished another 14-day marathon of flying. I did take one day off and went into Tokyo for some R&R. Pretty interesting evening.


Monday, March 13, 2006

ahhh...

...back home to relax and enjoy!

Got home at about 0200h yesterday (Sunday) morning, and spent the day catching up on mail, cleaning the condo, etc. Was feeling "frisky" enough to go out to the bars in the evening, but I decided to have dinner first ... TOO BIG of a dinner ... and was so uncomfortable that "entertaining" was totally out of the question.

I'll be here until the 28th.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

nothing much

street scene in singapore
Well, I'm on day # 11 of 15 in a row of non-stop fun, frivolity and excitement (not). Since the 24th of February, I've commuted to Tokyo, flown a 2-day TPE trip, two 3-day SIN trips and one 2-day ICN (Seoul) trip. Today I go back to ICN, and on the 9th I do a 3-day BKK trip.

THEN I finally am off ... until the 28th when I have to commute back to BKK. (The pic is on a SIN street corner.)

When I'm flying, I don't do much other than work, eat and sleep.

This set of days, though, I've been studying the W3C "HTML 4.01 Specification" and "Cascading Style Sheets, level 1" documents. Wow. I've learned a lot!

Try sending your .html files for your web site to: the W3C Markup Validation Service at: http://validator.w3.org/ -- it's a real eye opener! (Especially for me, since I do all of my coding manually in Notepad.)

I've really streamlined the coding of my friend's yoga web site, and the pages are much smaller byte-wise so they will load quicker for her friends/customers on 56k modem dial-up.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

whoosh!!! (the sound of time flying by...)

The past three days, I was pretty much wrapped up in updating my friend Kim's yoga web site. I was *so* much in the 1990's with my knowledge of web site technology. I've been reading and learning more html coding, css's, etc. I also secured my own domain: www.wpcoe.com. I only threw up a sloppy version of my old home page while I work on Kim's stuff.

Take a look at www.mobileyoga.com [update: Kim no longer maintains the web site registration, so the web site is gone...] for the results. My web hosting plan lets me have *six* domains, so we're going to transfer her web site (www.mobileyoga.com) off of a free host that puts banner ads on her pages (and DESTROYS all my beautiful work).

Then this morning my ADSL modem gave up. I went to my ISP to get a replacment, but they don't carry my modem any more so it would be THREE WEEKS to ship it for repairs. I bought a new ADSL/wi-fi router and came home to set it up, only to remember that I had a perfectly good ADSL modem from my old BKK ISP sitting in my closet. I thought about returning the new one, but I think I'll keep it and start using my notebook in bed.

I was also sweating how to get a copy of TurboTax to do my 2005 taxes, since I can't download from their web site due to my VISA card having an overseas address. I don't know why I was surprised, but I found the TurboTax CD at the IT center here in Pattaya for $4! So, RSN, I will calculate, print and file my taxes. (Refund, of course.)


Saturday, February 18, 2006

ok, ok, ok. i'll do something!

Let's see now, where was I? Oh, yeah. Trying to get started in blogging. I'm still confused between "private" and "protected" posting, though...

I worked non-stop from the 2nd of this month to the 15th, and then flew home the evening of the 15th.

Woke up early on the 16th (0800 is early for me when I'm on days off) and cleaned the condo, did laundry, fiddled with my friend's yoga web site, went to Tukcom center (Pantip Plaza of Pattaya for computer stuff), had to get my Reebok soles glued back together (they came apart while walking up to Beach Road), bought some food and came home. That took care of my daily venture out of the condo.

Woke up early again on the 17th, finally got around to putting casters (wheels) on the dryer out on the patio so I can move it to clean out the dead bugs and feathers from underneath it. The casters are so smooth that you can push the dryer around with a single finger. It even walks around the patio when it is running. Yikes! Other than that, only did some laundry and did more work on my friend's web site. My daily venture out was merely to get some screws from the hardware store for the casters.

Click "play" below for a video of my "dancing dryer."

Today woke up early again (dang. got to stop that.) and so far, just fixed some eggs for breakfast, checked my e-mail and stuff online, and did some more final touches on the web site. It's now about 1345, and it just started pouring. I actually turned on the aircon about noon because it was so humid. I usually don't use the aircon during the day unless it is the hot season (which it isn't now).

thin dividing line

Last updated 11-October-2016