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Three Weekends Left

It’s Saturday tomorrow, and the beginning of the first of our final three weekends here in Thailand. We’ve already got them all planned out, too, although you would expect as much from us by now. After spending the entirety of every weekday within the same four walls, working 80% of the day and mostly losing myself in daydreams and fantasy for the remaining 20%, when the weekend comes we like to get out of the house and do something.

So tomorrow morning I’m going to get another Thai massage in the afternoon. I sometimes wind up doing a little work on Saturdays (since our Friday night is Friday during business hours back home, and sometimes new stuff comes in). But my boss is out of town until Monday, so hopefully nothing new will show up.

On Sunday, Apple and I are going on what’s become our traditional “Sunday outing.” This time we’re going to the grocery store / big box mall down the street and picking up the weekly foodstuffs, but more importantly we’re having sushi, ramen noodles and takoyaki at the restaurants there. (And then maybe we’ll get some hot pretzel sticks from Auntie Anne’s…yes, that Auntie Anne’s.)

Next weekend we’re going to see the dentist on Saturday. The weekend after that, I’m getting my hair cut one more time, then we’ll walk to Lee Garden Plaza for dinner (Pizza Hut, I think) and some shopping.

Most exciting of all, the weekend after that is when we fly home! We reserved our choice of seats on the various flights yesterday, so that’s done. I imagine trying to pack all of the stuff we want to drag home with us is going to prove more challenging than we think, but I’m sure we’ll manage. I personally won’t mind leaving some clothes here — hell, most of the attire I brought looks like freakin’ clown clothes on me now, since I’ve lost over 30 pounds!

It’s been raining here practically nonstop for the last few days, which is pretty unusual for mid-April in Thailand, according to Apple. It’s been pretty damp as a result, which hasn’t helped my allergy-like breathing difficulties. I do have to say, though, that those breathing troubles have started to lessen. Right now I’m thinking it’s because we started keeping our damp towels outside the bedroom. Additionally, I just learned that the rice bran supplement I’m taking is supposed to help cure these sorts of things, but in the course of doing that, it may make them worse for a time. So that’s possibly a factor too, I guess.

Apple, meanwhile, continues to be vexed by “that darn cat.” There’s a cat that lives in the neighborhood — I think it’s a stray — that likes to nap on our patio table. Since Apple can’t stand cats, this has had the effect of her not wanting to eat outside at the table anymore. Some evenings the cat even shows up at the back door, peering in through the screen and meowing about as loud as I’ve ever heard before. Seems to only happen when my brother-in-law’s wife is cooking. I think the cat must be hungry. But since we gave it some leftover fish one day in the hopes of making him go away, he’s only come back more often, so I don’t think there will be any more handouts.

As we approach the “final stretch” of our time here in Thailand, I’ve pretty much devolved into “work, eat, sleep, daydream” routine. After blasting through 40 pages of a new story I started writing, I’ve sorta come to a halt while I struggle to think of where to go next. I haven’t felt much like reading, either, and with the exception of a two-night bout of Project Origin last week, I haven’t been in a gaming mood. Mostly, I just browse the web with a bored look on my face, or daydream about The Good Old Days.

Since we got to Thailand, I’ve been going back through old favorite TV shows and things that remind me of home. First it was the original Star Trek series from the 1960s. Then it was Evangelion and other favorite anime. Right now it’s Knight Rider. But not just any Knight Rider…fourth season Knight Rider. (Home of: “It’s a bomb…code red!”) Arguably the worst season of them all, the fourth season nevertheless holds a special place in my heart, for it was this season’s episodes that were among the first I ever watched. Plus, since it was shot in 1985 and ’86, the cars, fashion trends (and even the Hoff’s hair) remind me of things people drove, owned and wore when I was a kid. I was pretty young in the early ’80s when Knight Rider first aired, so I wasn’t around for those years that smacked of “the leftover ’70s.” By Knight Rider’s fourth season everyone was wearing pastel jumpsuits, pink collared shirts, driving Dodge Dynasties and Lincoln Mark VIIs. It’s like going back to my childhood.

And right now, I’m latching onto anything that reminds me of home — even if it was my first home. Old cassette tapes, old stories, old TV shows, whatever. I’m surprised I haven’t started making Wolfenstein levels yet, although to be frank, I felt the pull of the old map editor this very evening. (I didn’t succumb.) I think I’ll be so happy to get back home that I’ll kiss the goddamn carpet.

Speaking of Knight Rider, a very cool dude over at the Knight Rider Online message forum was kind enough to post up the entire track listing from that new Knight Rider soundtrack CD, plus a cue sheet to help us identify where each cue was located in the actual episode. Of the two episodes whose score made it to the CD, I’m happy to say that every cue I wanted to hear is accounted for. Man, do I want that CD. But, being on a fourth season binge, now I want some music from season four. Oh, the cheesy bass slapping and popping, the wacky synthesizers…it’s all solid gold ’80s. I’ve taken to ripping the audio tracks out of my DVD rips, converting them to FLAC and listening to them in Winamp while I work. (Winamp while you work? Sounds like a really bad pun.)

Meanwhile, rumors of this summer’s possible new Apple iPhone hardware keep coming by the day. This week, AT&T revealed that they have started an aggressive upgrade of their 3G network with a hard completion deadline of May 31st, as they are expecting a “tenfold increase” in data usage when the new iPhone lands. I mean, if that isn’t a confirmation that there’s a new iPhone coming, then I don’t know what is. Recent evidence also all but proves that the next iPhone will have video recording capability, as well as upgraded camera hardware and autofocus — all things it needs. There’s also talk of the device including an 802.11n chipset, a faster processor, more memory…of course, people say a lot of things, but I’d be surprised if the next iPhone wasn’t a hell of a lot more impressive than the iPhone 3G. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I’m not usually a moviegoer — as in, a guy who goes to the theater and pays outrageous prices to get his feet stuck to the floor, when he could be sitting in front of his own home theater setup instead — but there are a couple of flicks due out in May that I’ll probably want to see as soon as I get back. One of them, naturally, is the new Star Trek movie — it premieres the weekend after we get home. Apple hates Trek, so she won’t be going with me, but I’ll go alone if I have to. At first, when I started seeing early media from the film, I thought it was going to suck, and I basically stopped caring. Lately, though, I’ve seen some more stuff and I’m starting to really dig it. On top of that, there was a “surprise premiere” in Austin recently, and a few old-school Trekkers (like myself) reported being more impressed than they expected. So I’ll at least give it a chance.

The other movie that interests me this May is Terminator: Salvation, which certainly looks good, unlike that travesty known as Terminator 3. That comes later in the month — on the 24th, if I recall correctly — and I wouldn’t mind seeing that one either.

If my parents can get down to Florida to see us sometime shortly after we get home, I’m sure my dad would go to see at least one of these movies with me. I can usually count on him to enjoy a good action flick or some old-school sci-fi, both of which appear to be on tap next month.

In gaming news this week, it seems that Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson just died. Although I’ve never been a D&D fan whatsoever, I was interested to learn that Dave has actually been teaching at Full Sail — the high-tech college I graduated from in 1999 — for most of the last few years. Full Sail didn’t have a game design degree program until the year I left, but nowadays it’s got that, plus plenty more. They don’t even use the “Real World Education” moniker anymore; as of a year or two ago, it’s a full-fledged university — you get a bachelor’s degree now instead of just an AS. Pretty damn cool place, any way you slice it.

Although I probably shouldn’t, I started slowly creeping back into the news-reading scene, probably because I’m looking to absorb for just about anything I can that reminds me of home. Even if it sucks. Well, sort of. I still get pissed off at some of the incredible ignorance I see in newspaper comment sections. Frankly, I think comments on newspaper articles were a horrible idea — they only serve to crush your hopes for humanity. I need to play around with AdBlock Plus and see if I can figure out a way to block that shit. I would just exercise my right to “just not read it,” but you know…it’s like a train wreck. You want to rubberneck until you retch, then you ask yourself why you looked. It never fails.

Speaking of news, the protesters are kicking up dirt again in Thailand. Except this time it’s not the yellow-shirted protesters, it’s the red-shirted ones. It’s drastic oversimplification, but if you want an America-centric analogy, you can think of them as Democrats and Republicans. While America’s two parties are becoming increasingly intolerant of each other, these Thai folks passed that stage a long, long time ago. After the yellow-shirts shut down Bangkok’s airports late last year, the government essentially dissolved and re-created itself. But the red-shirts feel that the current leaders are in power illegitimately — not via election, in other words — so they’re clogging up Bangkok’s streets demanding that the government dissolve itself again.

Were I not to mince words, I’d say that Thailand’s system of politics is basically a joke at this point. Any time a government gets put together, complete havoc is caused until they disband. Then the other side causes complete havoc until the new government also disbands. And on and on. In a way, I wonder if this is the kind of future that the United States is on a course toward. When the discourse breaks down so completely that one side always opposes the other for no reason other than “principle” or even “tradition,” you’re fucked. And, I might add, you’re also ripe for a totalitarian government’s picking — a dangerous position to be in.

Interestingly, Thailand’s red-shirts have a message that could resonate with just about any westerner: Government should be duly elected by the people. One person, one vote. All that sort of good stuff. The problem for me is, their argument is severely undermined by the fact that they’ve chosen deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as their figurehead. This man is so corrupt that he’s as transparent as the creepy bad guys in my Knight Rider episodes. Thaksin has committed so much malfeasance and wronged so many people, no country in the world will have him. His own country has frozen his assets and wants him brought to justice, and England — his home away from home — kicked him out.

Yet he stands up there in front of his thousands of willing Thai followers, rallying them to action on his behalf. He uses compelling words like “Your vote should count!” and “Fill the streets with your demonstrations and show that you have power!” Meanwhile, last week, he secretly arranged for his family members to fly out of Thailand and to safety. This man isn’t concerned about anything except him and his, and anyone who is blind to that makes me physically sick. I’m all but convinced that Thaksin’s only goal is to have “his people” pave the way for him to return to power in Thailand, for the sole purpose of him getting his hands back on the $700 million in assets that the current government has frozen.

Imagine the most corrupt American politician or businessman, then multiply him a hundredfold and Thaksin is what you get. Perhaps most disgusting of all is how he has co-opted the noble cause of democracy to make yet another power grab in a country that he sees as nothing more than an easy target for him to take advantage of and leech more money from. What an incredibly self-aggrandizing poster boy for epic cronyism.

Anyway, I guess when I think about how some of the goings-on in American politics piss me off, all I need to do is think about Thailand instead. We’ve got a damn good thing going on, folks. What was it Winston Churchill said about democracy — it’s the worst system, except for all the others?

Guess that’s it for me today. If you’re in the western hemisphere, have a good Friday.