Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Birdflu in Iraq?

This is a little spooky, 12 possible cases, 2 deaths so far out of Northern Iraq next to the Turkey border, here’s what WHO says and the Reuters AlertNet message. Maybe I’ll avoid the chicken this time around, don’t forget to wash your hands.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Odd things that happened on our trip

Heather and I were walking down a street in Bangkok and a bus was passing us slowly, this guy was leaning over a girl checking out my wife when she covered his eyes.

In Ubon, we were walking down another street next to a stoplight and the light changed, this group of a dozen or so people on mopeds were all checking out my wife and none of them noticed the change till they were half way through the intersection and had to walk their mopeds back. Close call!

When we went to that floating doc to eat (the one with the guy with boobs), this kid started running around pointing at us screaming “FALUNK, FALUNK!!!!” (Foreigner)

In Prachuap there’s this stairway that goes up to this temple of a mountain over looking the ocean, last time I went there was 20 years ago, the mountain was known for having monkeys. We went there this time and there where hundreds, no kidding. They were mean and aggressive, being manly men, Albert (my step dad) and I decided to give them all of the left over food (or food we didn’t like) in the van. As soon as we stopped, they jumped on top of the van, screaming and jumping up and down. We got out gave them the food and bought some bananas from this old lady with a big stick. I was throwing them out as fast as I could and had just ran out when one of the monkeys jumped on my back and put his hands (gently!) over my eyes for a sec then jumped down. I knew then they were too much for us and it was time to leave. So we left. Very crazy, 20 years ago, they were respectful of humans. Now, just a pack of wild monkeys that aren’t afraid of anything.

There were some other odd things but I’ll let the wife cover those once she gets around to writing.

My sister moved into her new condo this weekend, she went to the Uhaul place to get the medium sized truck but all they had was the huge one so she got that thinking it was too big. We ended up filling the entire thing up to the top. Ouch, I’m sore. I told her she should have moved 2 weeks ago so I could say, “sorry, wish I was around to help”, sigh!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Have you heard this?

Ding, Fries are Done!!!

I know, tasteless but my mouth is still burning from all of that spicy Thai food on the vacation. Slowly getting the house in order and mindset back to work. It's hard this time around, had a pretty good time. It's been years since I've had so much fun, maybe it's the company. Will be posting more of the pictures soon.

Hat tip to my slacker blog child devildoc8406, after 2 months of not posting, my size 10 and a half boot up his arse has caused his fingers to type out a post. He's heading back to the sandbox as a CASEVAC corpsman in a few weeks, stop by and wish him well. Hopefully he'll post more once he gets out there. If not, next time I see him, I'll pull something like that guy from in the video on the prior post.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Home in my own bed

We landed at 2 PM yesterday and drove back to San Diego, it felt great taking shower in my own bathroom and sleeping my bed. 9 o’clock I was out like a light then 4 rolls around and I’m wide awake surfing the internet and reading L.E. Modesitt’s, Colors of Chaos. Anything by L.E. Modesitt is comfort food that I can always just open up and start reading. Not that it helped me get back to sleep.

After a couple of days at the beach we stayed the night in Bangkok and Moo gave us a ride to the airport. I forgot to wear sunscreen one day, so I’m a bit fried, made it uncomfortable trying to get to sleep for the flight back, not to mention the young Chinese couple that had a 1 and 2 year old that took turns crying the entire flight. I vow to myself not to ever fly overseas with a toddler or infant unless we’re moving. Even then I’ll try not to do it.

We had a great time on the trip but it’s nice being home so we can recuperate from the vacation. We drove 4200 km’s which is equaled out to being 2310 miles for the trip. Too much driving, saw more of Thailand that anybody in their right mind would want to, it was the sample platter of the country. Next time we’re going to find a good deal on a beach place, buy some tickets for family out there to have come and visit us. Time is money and the less I spend driving, the better. Mom’s currently looking into getting a condo on some beach and that’s an even better deal.

Overall I spent around 1000 bucks for the trip, buying souvenirs, many outfits for Heather and hotel stays. Not to shabby, we came home with an extra suitcase full of goodies and clothes and left some stuff there for my mom to use. My mom covered the driver who after a couple of trips is more like family, I gave him 50 bucks in tips for keeping me alive and taking the quickest route between two points. He was also our cook when we caught fish or camped, translator of sorts to make good deals (worth his weight right there) and cool guy to hang out with. Look forward to seeing him again. (if anybody needs a driver for a vacation over there, drop me a line and I'll hook you up)

Well writing this has tired me out a wee bit (hopefully), so I’m going to try to get back to bed.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Finally at the beach

We’re in a small beach town called Prachuap, it’s on the Gulf of Siam, 4 hours south of Bangkok (289 km), staying at the Hadthong Hotel, 850 (20 bucks) baht per night, swimming pool and one of the best ocean views money can buy. This is the hidden treasure of Thailand, unlike the Tourist cities and islands of the south, it’s peaceful and quiet. Beaches are clean and the people friendly and better English speakers then you’ll find in the north. You can rent a fishing boat for the day for a thousand baht and explore the islands that dot the coast line, these islands are mean cliffs that rise out of the water hundreds of feet and covered with jungle on the top. Being hard to reach places of course those crazy Buddhist monks usually have some sort of shrine at the highest, hardest to reach point. How in the heck do they get those Buddha’s up there? Specially wearing those robes? It’s a mystery that they won’t fess up to.

There’s caves, diving, water skiing, jet skiing, museums and aquariums. Seafood is cheap and as soon as our masseuse gets up to our room, my wife and I are getting the works for 400 baht (both of us for ten bucks!)

I woke with the sunrise to take some pictures and enjoy the view. We went out to the beach at the local army base, very clean! Just watch out for the jelly fish, their sting feels like the worlds biggest mosquito bite (I found out the last time I was here 20 years ago).

Heather’s first time snorkeling, she did pretty good considering she was a non swimmer up till last week. She’s asking for pools in all of the hotels we’re staying at. I’ve unleashed a beast. To think she’s been having post traumatic stress about water for most of her life.

Many changes in twenty years, the area is a lot cleaner, almost everyone speaks some English and obviously there’s an internet caf? in the hotel. Twenty years ago, I was 13 and there was no American food to be found in the country, we got to Bangkok and the first thing I ordered was a hamburger, it looked like a crystal burger patty on a full sized bun, didn’t even taste like beef. Now there’s a McDonalds, Swenson’s and KFC in every town. Our hotel has a western menu, my wife says they make a killer ham and cheese. Me, as long as it tastes good and runs slower then me, I’ll eat it.

Ahh, we just finished our massages, I think we need to adopt one of these girls and let her live in our spare bedroom, they were certified massage therapists, 372 hours of traditional massage therapy school, maybe I need to sent my cousin Thom to the school then sponsor her to come to the US. If you come to Thailand don’t miss out on the massages.

Chiangmai’s Night Bazaar

We spent last night at the shopping Mecca of the world, Chiangmai’s Night Bazaar.

After driving through the mountains that look like a cross between the Smokey Mountains and Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona we pulled of the mists and a large city was sitting in front of us. I think Moo was saying that it’s the third largest city in Thailand. Falunks (foreigners) everywhere, before settling in for the night we made a trip up to another temple called Don Suthep which is located on a big mountain over looking the city, smooth curvy road that went almost to the top of the mountain. Heather said the whoever designed the road needs to be shot. I was impressed, it was twistier then anything I’ve seen in the states. We took an elevator to the top and received another Buddhist blessing from one of the monks and took pictures of the temple and Chiangmai. Then back down, the trip down made me want to take up religion, I had “praise be to Buddha’s” and “hail Mary’s” going un under my breath. Traffic in Chiangmai was almost as bad as Bangkok due to the construction of a “Super Highway” (that’s what it’s called on the map of the city).

The hotel we were going to stay at was booked up, after searching around we decided on Chiangmai Holiday Hotel. I don’t recommend for a second trip, 1300 baht (33 bucks) per night, which is high considering I paid 350 baht (9 bucks) for a better room tonight. But it wasn’t the price that concerned me, even though we got a deal, it’s normally 2000 baht for foreigners but Moo convinced them that we were family (well before I walked in with my wife that is.) The toilet pipes leaked, we were on the 8th floor and had ants and the shower head was at nipple level. Good points about the hotel? There were 3 wireless hotspots that I could get to from my window but the signal was weak because I was on the 8th floor. Breakfast was included and it wasn’t too bad.

The night bazaar is the true reason to see Chiangmai, there’s an ancient wall that goes in a square around the inner city, inside that wall, every night, people set up stalls and try to sell you everything under the sun (try imagining a swap meet that goes on for 5 square miles, going into basements, mazes of rooms, sidewalks, tents, malls, etc). We walked for a couple of hours and barely scratched the surface, it’s a whole another world. I’ll have to let the wife write about it on her blog. She’ll tell a better story, she is a girl and it did have to do with shopping.

Anyway lots of stuff to see in the area, 300 or so temples, white water rafting, long necked folk, the list is endless but too much to cover tonight, I’m off to bed, peace out.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

In the North Country

After I sent out my last post, we walked out to our van and it wouldn’t start. So we hitched a ride back to the hotel and our driver went to an all night garage where he found that he had a bad fuel pump. Whew, almost stranded in the City of Heaven (that’s what the name translates into).

Got up the next morning and headed north towards the Burma/Laos boarder. I made a friend Heather dubbed Tangerine, a orange kitty begging for food at a gas station (yes there are pictures but I’m limited on bandwidth). Stayed the night in a small town called the Golden Triangle (Chang Sae). We rented two cabins for 600 baht (15 bucks) at a place called the Golden Home, clean rooms and hot water. Breakfast was included in the price where Heather inherited a follower, Smokey the dog. She gave him a hot dog and they were friends for life.

There’s a giant Buddha next to the river (pictures of that too) we rented a boat for the morning to take us on a cruise up the river and shopping in Laos. Good prices, I scored a bottle of whisky with a cobra in it for a 100 baht and some silk rugs which will look very nice in my home. We’re limited on what we can bring back, Ivory opium pipes would be bad buy there was some nice chess sets carved out of bone but I was limited on room. Heather got souvenirs which I can’t tell about here because she want them to be a surprise, if you know her, expect some postcards!

Then it was back down the river and we hit the road once more.

The area we’re in is fairly mountainous, lots of curvy roads make it difficult to hold the laptop on the lap, my wife is complaining that she can’t write postcards (she’s one of those postcard sending people). It’s also much cooler then southern Thailand, we wore long sleeves this morning, amazing area.

I don’t think I’ve ever spent this much time driving, our driver Moo would do very well on a race track, he’s a very sneaky sly driver, cutting in front of lines of traffic, passing around curves, all sorts of bad things that would give you tickets or killed in the states. Gets us around quick though. Heather says it’s like we’re on an episode of Globe Trekker. Well hopefully I can find a place to upload this when we get to our next stop.

I have to agree with my roommate James, cell phone service in the US blows, Thailand is almost, not quite a third world country and I have yet to find a dead spot, even in the middle of the mountains, miles away from humans, service is as clear as day. And it’s cheap, 10 cents a minute to call back to the states. It seems like the American people are getting hosed on there service. Japan has wireless broadband and their video phones cost half the price as our crappy camera phones.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Through the burning lands

After spending a few days in Bangkok we drove up to Ubon to see the family and sign some paperwork on the sale of a house that my mom owned up there. 7 hour drive to Ubon, 2 hours of that spent in the dark on a 2 lane highway, some of the vehicles with lights, some not, faster cars passing the slower, sometimes with 3 cars abreast going different directions at highway speeds. Spooky! I’ve discovered why I like reading when I’m a passenger, it’s much easier to face death when you don’t know it’s coming. Worked in Iraq with flying too.

My grand father passed away last year and we went by his grave to pass respects and bring an offering to the monks at the local temple. The head monk gave me a blessing for my upcoming trip to Iraq and our current journey (I still think I’m going to die in a fiery car crash, likely out here). He said my wife looked like a beautiful flower (damn, even the monks think she’s a hottie!)

Afterwards, we went out to lunch on a floating dock made of bamboo that had these little floating single room huts that branched out from it, everyone would sit around this mat and eat, waitress would bring by the food. One of the venders who sold food had a 5 o’clock shadow and breasts! I bought some fried bananas from him/her anyway, turned down the large fried grasshoppers. Interesting lunch, the main dish was a large fried catfish and sides of some incredibly spicy soup, a couple of different kinds of laab (pronounced laap), spicy dish made with chili, garlic, lemon, cilantro, mint and some sort of shredded vegetable and/or meat.
I ate my first live food, meaning food that’s still kicking and trying to get away. One of the laab dishes was made with these small live freshwater shrimp. Breaking one of my long standing rules about eating anything that was still moving. Alas, it was good, nice little crunch, my wife wouldn’t kiss me for a couple of hours afterwards. Very hot.

It took one night to teach my wife how to swim, she’s a natural. She’s had water fear since a couple of the family cars (and her and her dog) were washed away in a flood in the nineties. I know she wakes me up in the middle of the night with drowning dreams. Last night couldn’t have been more beautiful, we were in a pool on the fifth floor of our hotel, the sun was setting and the sky was on fire, she was floating on her back wearing a pink bikini, with reflections of the sky dancing across her body. It was such a perfect moment that if the rest of the trip is horrible (which it won’t be!) would have made this trip worth it.

So now we’re driving throughout the countryside, the airs smoky because they’re burning the dried out rice paddies, fires dot the countryside. This part of the drive reminds me of parts of California, between Julian and Poway the roads wind around the mountains and the hillsides are developed for crops with ranches dotting the valley floors. Roads are about the same too, bumpy with road construction signs. Every time I come back, there’s more being built, will I recognize this in 10 years?

Interesting country, the local version of Wal-Mart called Tasco Lotus, you can buy a months worth birth control pills for 15 baht, about 35 cents. We’ve had a couple of close calls with almost accidents when people see my wife walking down the street, but everyone is very nice. Not every day you see a pink haired girl out here. The battery is about to die so I’ll leave tales of our journey on that note.

Take care everyone.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Glasses work better then the old ones

Long day driving through Bangkok traffic, whew, I'll post pictures of the worlds largest Croc farm and other sights later for now, I need a shower! Mini blog meet tonight that I need to get ready for. Thailand is awesome!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Landed safe

We landed yesterday after a 21 hour 3 leg flight and our driver Moo picked us up and gives my wife and mom flowers and drives us to the hotel.

After all of my years of being a avid globe hopper, I’ve found the worst thing you can do when you get off the plane is to take a nap, totally messes up your inner clock. So the first thing everyone did? Took a 4 hour nap, so now it’s 4 in the morning and I’m blogging. We’re at a different hotel this year, closer to downtown, there’s a huge mall across the street, you can walk through miles of shops without leaving sight of the hotel. Helpful for dumb Americans like me that can barely speak the language, I can find my way back.

Somewhere on the first leg of the journey, my wife lost her glasses. Her script is a -6.50, whoever found them is probably convinced that he or she can see into the future. We still have two boxes of contacts though so no reason to panic.

Anyhow, we went out to dinner at this restaurant were you order the ingredients you want and then toss them into a huge crock pot/soup cooker thing in the middle of the table. Good stuff. Picture is of my mom, Albert (my step dad), Moo (driver dude) and crock pot thing.

Afterwards we’re walking around the open market, this is Heathers first time so we’re letting her lead the way, she picks up a shirt. I’m watching the reactions to my lovely sleeved pink haired wife, a few double takes, pink haired girls don’t come every day in these parts.

We’re walking along and Albert and my mom spot an eyeglass place, it’s about the size of my wife’s beetle.

My mom says, “let’s get you some new glasses” there’s an optometrist there and my mom does the translation thing and after about 15 minutes they have made up a new script, here’s the picture.

1200 baht later ($30.76) we have ordered a set of glasses that will be in tomorrow, will have to tell you then how they work.

I had to take pictures because my father in law is an optometrist and wanted show him how his brethren worked on the other side of the fence. Back to the room after that where we crashed out and I woke up in the middle of the night to write this. So far that’s all today. Bigger plans tomorrow but I’ll write about them after the fact (OPSEC and all), peace out!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Mom's visit.

My mom came to stay for a couple of days before our trip to the Far East. After a week of prepping the house before her arrival, it received a passing grade; she doesn’t think her son is a slob anymore (or any less). She’s been retired for a couple of months following the sale of the restaurant and has devoted her time to her hobby of real estate. She’s been buying property in Northern Arizona, setting up the utilities, dropping a manufactured home in, landscaping, putting in sprinklers, drip systems and selling them.

Her morning entertainment? She’s been heading down to the creek bed and filling up her truck with at least a ton of gravel by hand and filling in pot holes in the neighborhood or making drive ways. Needless to say, in respects to most people, my mom is wack. She’s 56 and can still dish out a hundred pushups (more then me).

Over the last two days we’ve shampooed all of the carpets in the house, washed and vacuumed all the cars and cleaned all of the windows. She’s great! I don’t think my house has ever been this clean.

Most important thing to happen this weekend? I impressed her with my cooking, I made crepes stuffed with fried potatoes, bacon, onions, salsa and topped with pepper jack cheese.

I love my mom and it’s great when she visits, we have a strange cleaning/slave labor relationship, all of our quality time is spent working and talking. She’s an odd person to get a handle on, if you can work side by side with her, you have friend for life. Hard work makes her happy and her cleaning my house makes me happy!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A few thoughts on blogging and the new year.

I’m stealing the idea from Acidman’s thoughts on blogging. This year I didn’t make one wish or resolution to keep. I could lose a few pounds, work out every once and a while and study a bit more but in reality, I’m happy with my life. I’ve quit smoking, hardly drink, have a beautiful wife who clearly loves me. It would be nicer to make more money and not have to go Iraq but my previous post shows, there are worse things in life then the small problems I have. People wig out over the small things in life then hide away from the big ones.

I’ve been blogging almost 2 years now, my fotopage has been around for 2 and a half, when I started, there were less then 30 milblogs out there, now there are well over a thousand. Milbloggers from every walk of life, different services from all over the world. What have I learned?

1) There was a time when I was writing to an audience but that started feeling like work. After a blogging for a while, you start to realize, blogging isn’t about your audience, it’s about loving to write and sharing your unique prospective on the world.

2) There are millions of bloggers out there and as Rob says, most of us are crap. Each time you look around the blogsphere has changed it’s shape. Myspace and xanga are causing some of the great changes bringing a younger generation of people who are cutting a new swath through cyberspace, which is going to be next? Yahoo 360? Their websites are running parallel to our older sites but like the red and blue, we rarely touch each other.

3) Bloggings tough, surf your way though the some links for a while, even the good bloggers fold, I’m happy with my almost two years and don’t plan on quitting in this life time.

4) Good reasons to blog? For a geek like me, it was a great tool for meeting people. My wife found me through the blog and I haven’t met an asshole blogger in person yet. When I was overseas, I had a voice, I knew there were people that cared about what happened to me, I wasn’t a number. When I say this blog made a world of difference in my life, I would not be lying.

5) It’s going to be hard to pick up new readership on your blog unless you have a vibrant, fresh blog and can keep an audience entertained, there’s too much information floating around the internet. But there are exceptions to this rule, ways to get a large readership? Break a good news story and the MSM picks it up, do a heinous crime and have a blog or have something interesting happen to you (go to war, have an earthquake, hurricane, forest fire hit where you’re at write about it).

6) Make sure you mean what you say when you talk bad about someone, remember every bad thing you say can and will be googled. So if there’s a chance you might meet that person in the future or work for them, don’t talk bad about them. (hint military folk, be careful about getting involved in politics and blogging about it, that asshat could be your boss next year)

7) Internet romances do work, marry a blogger. You can google his or her entire life. What kind of personal ad can give you that? Worked for me!

8) Don’t try changing the world with your blog, be happy with the small things, kind comments, dates with cute chicks and such (please no more emails asking for dates, I'm a taken man!). I’ve gone all over the world and have met people who have read my blog, who knows maybe when I grow up, I can use this network to find a job.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thanks TLC, for all the Nightmares

My entire life I’ve had a small problem with insomnia. It’s not an every night thing but at least one night a week, I can’t get to sleep till 2 or 3 in the morning. No it’s not PTSD, it’s been happening since grade school. Well, on two of my recent episodes, my kind wife was surfing around the TV before stopping on the learning The Learning Channel then proceeded to turn over with the remote and falling asleep. Leaving me up watching things straight out of the twilight zone.

Examples of the type of programs you can expect at around midnight on TLC:

Woman with Half a Body, was just too much information. The show follows Rosemarie Siggins around for a couple of years and compresses a couple of years of film into an hour show. This lady has it tough, she had her legs amputated when she was a child because genetic condition that deformed her legs and left them without sensation. She sounds pretty stubborn and shows a great distain of wheelchairs so she gets around on a skateboard. Her home life is a wreck, her mom dies of cancer, her 29 year old brother has the mentality of an 8 year old with a temper and her dad has Alzheimer’s and she has begun to realize that her stubbornness of independence has worn out her shoulders. Yet she is able to have a son, a husband (who likes to work out with 30 pound weights) and a hobby of working on cars. Another reason not to complain about my life, ever.

Face Eating Tumor, is a program about a five year old Indonesian boy named Noventhree. Who has a monstrous tumor caused by a disease called Gigantiform cementoma. What it does, it eats the bone and tissue around it turning it into a spongelike material that is made up of bone and soft tissue mixed together that takes over most of the face. A team of heroic Taiwanese doctors take on the case and over a series of 4 surgeries carve a couple of pounds of this bony sponge out of this kids face while shaping what was left with a dremel tool into a face like shape. See, all surgeons have this godlike urge to do what seems impossible. There was commentary through out the whole program but the thing that disturbed me the most was about this brother and two sisters that had this, I think I would sterilize myself before passing it on to my kids, let alone trying to have a herd of them. Definitely a gene we can chop out of the gene pool and if I get it, it’s time to swallow the gun. At the end of the story, they tell that he died of a respiratory infection on Sept. 14, 2005 at 7 years old.

The 750 Pound Man: I admit I forced myself to fall asleep halfway through this one, I remember reading about John Keitz dying of septic shock back in September while dieting at a retirement home. I did see enough of the show to see how they had a special ambulance with a ramp to take him from place to place (wish we had one, I could have used it to move that 630 pound tool box). Anyway family, if I let myself go this far, haul me to the ocean and let me go to be with my brothers of the sea.

The point of blog post is that watching these shows before going to bed is giving me nightmares, it’s my morbid curious nature that keeps me from turning my eyes away. Why God? Why? The horror! I can’t get these images out of my head!

Monday, January 02, 2006

My garage is back in order

This post is for my roommate James (who is currently having a blast on his deployment to Japan with an F-18 squadron), showing that I am taking care of his truck and that I've found a home for my tool box. Here's sort of a picture of what part of my garage looked like before the cleaning and below is the after picture. My mom's coming out this weekend she's sort of a clean nut (unlike us). So we're prepping the house a bit for her arrival. I'm thinking of how blessed I was in 2005 and it's going to be fairly hard for 2006 to compare but who knows? It could be better.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

Went to see the USS Midway on Friday with lovely Fuzzybear Lioness, she’s one of the voices behind Project Valour IT, first time for all of us. Very cool!

Fairly mild new years eve, no great planning went into it, just gathered a bunch of food and invited the Smash’s, one of my coworkers, old buddy Frank, Lynne and TJ over for dinner. If I was thinking correctly I would have taken the picture with the food and the people (what kind of photographer am I? I only took one picture). Guess the Turkey and Prime Rib passed muster, the guy from work ate 3 plates of food (which was no problem, had enough food to feed 20 people). Much talk and fellowship, would have been a larger get together but many of my work friends are on vacation and Da Goddess has some sort of bird flu (Get Better!). Thanks for coming over everyone!

How did we spend the first day of the new year? My wife and I laid out on the couch and watched half a season of Dead Like Me. My horribly sexy wife has hooked me on this one too. What am I to do when we finish this season? Oh yeah, go on vacation!

Happy New Year faithful readers and my wife just whispered in my ear that she loves me very much. How can life get any better?