Aug 2, 2016

Burning Bush

Im barely out of my bedroom neighborhood on the old BMW motorcycle and WHAM! Lightning strikes the InfoWars billboard - a sign - adjacent to my position on the highway.
Was that a burning bush? You tell me.
Moments later I cheat death in the form of traffic cones tumbling from  the roof of a TXDOT truck. A handful of brakes and an emergency swerve saves the day. Later during the contract pedicab ride, my bottom bracket axle snaps in half. WTF?


As I turn my attention from the mundane chaos of Austin's nightlife I stretch my neck and fix my eyes on a handful of visible stars in the urban sky. Then, suddenly confronted with the screaming abyss of eternity; a wormhole captures my thoughts. While flesh embraces the moment, some part of me senses the beginning, and the end; of time. Is this the Trilogy?  Is this God?


Mar 11, 2013

SXSW 2013

I suppose I owe the world a post on SXSW. Needless to say, I shall be working my ass off for the next 6 days. Hauling fat asses on a pedicab is actually fun (if it makes you money) however it is also extremely tiring.

This is the time of year when I find that normal food doesn't do it for me anymore. Times like this call for real food: fresh oranges, steaks lots of potatoes ... and lots of specialized cycling stimulants/carbohydrates. I've been popping shot blocs, gel shots, energy bars and Redbull like it's going out of style.

Even though it's a beautiful spring day I woke up at 3 PM. Lets just blame that on my 3 AM pedicab finish last night. This isn't my first rodeo folks. I've learned that it does no good to be out there when I'm tired so I make damn sure that I'm well rested before I go out and work the crowds.

Besides I find my ride looks a whole lot better in the dark than in daylight. Thank you

Jan 13, 2013

Trip Epilogue

Little did I suspect that the biggest shock of the trip would be upon my return.

I HATE the seats on the Boeing 737 offered by American Airlines. The headrests and seat backs appear to be designed for a 5 foot person to the exclusion of a larger person. The goddamed curves of the seat and headrest actually pushed down on my shoulders, compressing the spine in a most uncomfortable manner and I was in such distress that I truly feared that I might mentally snap and lash out in anger at the on-board hired help. I'm not exaggerating here. I was dangerously close to acting out in frustration with total disregard for the consequences of the extreme action I was considering. Really, I almost lost it.

But it's not the first time I've almost lost it so that's not the big shock. That was simply a rant I needed to get off my chest.

The shock was how the USA had changed in my eyes upon my return. After more than a month without hearing spoken English, without seeing another English speaking Anglo, without CNN, MSNBC or FOX, without wide boulevards and green lawns, the sight of "Murica" was a shock.

I guess I'm out of practice. Has the overheard spoken English of strangers always been this hard to understand? 

Have Americans always looked so sloppy? Were our clothes always this wrinkled and ill fitting, or is it just our huge bodies that make us look unkempt?

Conversely, were our neighborhoods always so spacious, the roads so wide, the parking lots so expansive?

Here, the water that comes from the home faucet is considered potable, bottled water is not an essential item.

This is the land of absorbant paper towels and napkins more substantial than a one-ply generic tissue.  It's a place where toilet paper is always, always available. There's always a salt and a pepper shaker at the restaurant table.

The traffic here is so... organized. The expectation of normal behavior is so absolute that the idea of encountering unexpected behavior on the road has to be taught, drilled in as a concept called defensive driving.

Have we Americans always been so nihilistic? Have we always ignored the rest of the world?  

I'm sure all this normalcy will become normal again, just as the chaos became the new normal just a few weeks ago. But at the moment it's still a shock.

Dec 22, 2012

Relative Freedoms

While y'all in the USA are considering trading the freedom to download porn or play violent video games vs the freedom to own assault weapons with built-in penis-pumps I'm still over here in Thailand pondering the reality folks over here are conditioned to put up with.

And the other day while driving back from Pattaya, we crested a mountain pass and encountered a road-block checkpoint. The boys in the front seats (very nice boys by the way) looked young and corruptible enough to the police officer (dressed in a very military-looking uniform) that they were required to proceed to a little processing station where they were compelled to pee in cups to determine if they'd been taking controlled substances in the Thai equivalent of "Sin City." Just part of the routine around here.

After living for extended periods in places like Korea and Japan where cigarette smoking is almost universal (at least it was 30 years ago -- dude, I'm getting old), one thing that surprised me about Thailand is how few people I see smoking cigarettes. Apparently they've been largely outlawed. Can't smoke in hotels or restaurants (unless it's open-air), but cigarettes are only about 2 or 3 bucks a pack (high-end US brands like Marlboro and Winston) at the 7-11.  Oh but listen to this: They're censored on TV.

You'll be watching a movie and note that the guy in the scene has a cigarette in his hand, but as soon as he brings it to his mouth, a blur is digitally imposed over the whole face -- but only as long as he inhales or exhales. As long as he's only waving his hand around with the lit cigarette and talking shit, it's just fine.

Similarly, with guns and weapons, you can be watching a shoot-em-up movie or TV series where good guys and bad guys exchange gun play. If the scene involves pointing a gun at the camera, that's fine, but if the guy in the picture is shown pointing the gun at another person, the blur appears. If the gun is just shown pointing or shooting without someone on camera explicitly standing in front of the bullets, that's just fine.

Similarly with any act of violence: flash the knife, wave it around threateningly and that's just fine. Hold it to someone's throat or stab and the blur appears. A hangman's rope is fully visible until it is around someone's neck, then the blur appears obscuring the whole face. 

I was just at the supermarket, a Saturday afternoon and I couldn't buy beer because it was 3 PM. One can only buy alcoholic beverages between 1200-1400 and then 1700-2200 or thereabouts -- I guess they want you sober for supper -- unless you're in a restaurant or a bar where you can slam them down all afternoon and evening until closing.

Yes, censorship is ridiculous. Never forget that.

Dec 20, 2012

Realities as I See Them

1. The camera on my iPhone 4s is a fine substitute for a dedicated camera. One has to make a conscious decision to bring the dedicated camera, but the iPhone is always in my pocket (unless I forgot my phone). And it makes really good quality photos. I always leave the flash off and it still does a great job. And with the Dropbox app and a working WIFI connection, those photos can immediately upload to the cloud and be available for blogging in minutes.

2. My Pentax (one of the smallest, lightest, DSLR's available) still takes better low-light photos, has zero shutter lag, and starts up in about a half-second (making it the quick-draw winner), but the lens that gives it that superior low-light capability is also the working equivalent of a 100 MM fixed lens, making it unsuitable for group shots of people and other shots requiring a wide field of view. In those situations, the iPhone comes to the rescue.

3. The cable TV packages here in Thai hotels often show the same shows I find myself watching back home in the USA, but WITHOUT 5 MINUTES of COMMERCIALS EVERY 7 MINUTES that the US versions have -- and I'll remind you -- this is advertising that Americans are already PAYING TO WATCH. Why can't I see a show with limited advertising back home?

4. Thai TV has one of those reality shows similar to the car/motorcycle restore/customize shows I gravitate toward back home, but these guys also restore/customize  BICYCLES.  How cool is that? Why can't I have a show like that back home?

5. The cable TV packages here actually have 24/7 programing. No infomercial bombast on all but 2 or 3 channels during the graveyard hours like back home. Why can't I have actual programming (like I paid for) back home?

6. Sidewalks and Streets are never wide enough.

Dec 18, 2012

Pattaya at Last

We finally arrived in Pattaya, but first we took a side trip to the Museum of Illusory Interactive Reality, (not the real name) or something along that line. I now hate to admit that I was absolutely hating this place while we where there. It was pretty crowded and the acoustics were exactly like being inside a giant concrete bunker with lots of noisy people talking and shouting. The "art" wasn't what I call art.

It was an expensive hybrid of a museum and an amusement park. Two dimensional art that tried to become three dimensional. You then react with it, photograph it, and return it to two dimensions where it tricks you into thinking it was three-dimensional all along. Confused yet? Don't worry about it. Here's what I mean.

Then it was off to find a hotel. I have to say, this is the best hotel I've ever stayed at anywhere. The rooms were about $70 bucks a night. But on the second evening there was a problem with the air conditioner or something. Anyway, some sort of strange chemical fumes began to persistently waft from the air conditioner (something like burning electrical insulation mixed with cleaning solution) sending Dang down to the hotel desk to complain and soon we were transferred into a $200/night VIP suite for the same price. And they seem to have forgotten to charge me for the nice steak and wine I had for dinner that night too.

Dang and "The Boys" on top of Pattaya
Yes, this really happened: but Dang always seems to come out ahead with this hotel room shuffle. Despite the hidden meth lab smell wafting from the AC in the first room, I still say this is the best designed, best managed hotel I've ever had the pleasure of staying in -- for the record -- the Centara Hotel. It had a salt-water swimming pool down stairs, the best breakfast buffet I've ever experienced, the nicest rooms I've ever stayed in, the nicest showers, HDTV with a channel package to please, Thai, Chinese, Arab, English, Indian, and Russian tastes, speedy WIFI that didn't require a new login/password combo every 3 hours, making the last three posts possible while finally letting me get to my Time Warner email and iPhone text messages for a coupe days. The room is the most modern I've ever experienced with high-tech touches everywhere I looked, and not matter how closely I inspected, I couldn't discover a single detail overlooked by the housekeeping staff.

Yes, I know, all rooms look nice in the photo, but this is better
trust me. It's full of LED lighting, intelligent technology that works
and everything is (not just seems) new, sparkling clean, and 21st century.
I wanna live here forever.

And just a short walk outside the hotel lobby was Pattaya; "Disneyland" for adults, though I must say there are a lot of couples who brought their kids. I suppose having the kids nearby helps keep daddy from wandering into the red lights. Lets just say there's something or someone here to satisfy the most fickle fantasies.  The town is crawling with Europeans and Americans and Russians, and Arabs and I suppose that's why it's so easy to find something to fit any taste. (I'm talking about food)

Something interesting at the beach, the water-jet is attached to and powered by the jet ski, whose driver was quite adept at keeping the high-pressure hoses from getting twisted by driving in circles as the flyer did water-jet powered loops. The flyer had smaller jets attached to each arm for keeping his balance.
Pattaya seems like a good place to (ahem) retire and it may be possible without winning the lottery.