I knew it

I knew there was something amiss well over a year ago.  There were simply too many stupid people showing up in comments sections and forums.  They were commenting on everything and always ignorant, racist and reactionary when they did.  The ratio of idiots to normal people was way out of proportion. At one point I even wondered if there was a small group somewhere prolifically covering every political forum and news comments section and being purposefully stupid and repugnant just for the fun of it.

In fact, it was all hinted at several years prior when some of my friends had their email lists hijacked and then weird messages were sent out under their name.  I knew that ‘hijacking email lists’ was happening but I couldn’t imagine the reason except for spamming.  I also knew that my first blog was ‘pirated’ by Russians or Eastern Europeans but I saw some ugly but only petty purpose in it since they ‘rented out’ my blog’s first (better known) name to advertisers.  Basically they stole my on-site address and put up a billboard for rent. 

It has gotten worse.

A friend sent me this link (it may not have transferred properly but you can find the article using Google): https://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/the-terrifying-future-of-fakenewsutm_term=.saYqL13yE&utm_campaign=Content%20Advisor%20Newsletter&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=60684688&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_BhhAULGnTvwRznvhAM9gukGiu3bSQXvE4s8WlyTTs9KCnIQ3L1cWy1QEhiC678wHuPsow_grS4j4MmdS_C6VWlHqQ&_hsmi=60684690#.tbAL46zVPLook up Buzzfeed and Aviv Ovadyda 

It seems the lies are going to ramp up.  Fake news – which already rivals REAL news – will grow.  The end result?  We do not know what to believe.  And THEN all hell can break loose. Actually, all hell has already broken loose.  See Trump run.  See Trump jump.  See Trump play.

I write this today because I have a truth to share: my second blog has not been a hit.  I get an average of about 50 readers a day.  I sometimes approach 100 but I am nowhere near the almost 1100 I used to achieve.  Mind you, some of those (how many?) were bots.  Still, I believed I had a few hundred readers.  I have no idea now.

So, the irony (for me) is that I try to write ONLY what I know to be true even if that declaration applies only to my feelings for that day.  This blog may be of no real interest to anyone but what is written is my truth (yes, I use a bit of hyperbole now and then but that’s my style).

THIS guy’s truth is going nowhere.  Kim Kardashian reigns supreme because she has a big butt.  Does any of this make any sense?

I do not think so.  Not to me, anyway.

I am starting to feel as if my continuing writing is somehow enabling a larger destructive force, an evil, diseased and doomed dystopian world of lies and deceit.  I am adding volume to a huge pile of crap that is growing stinkier by the day.

One thing is for sure.  Those of you on Facebook and other media should seriously consider getting off.  It is probably too late.  Your images, your words, your identity are all on a foreign database as I write.  That cannot be good.  And, according to OVADYA, that is enough information for newly developed algorithms and software to put live words and actions onto film that looks and sounds exactly like you.

Dave’s blog is NOT safe from that but it is so NOT popular, the information pirates are unlikely to use it. At least not tomorrow.  Why use Dave when they can give Obama a star-speaking role in a puppy-kicking video or doing porn with Hillary.  Much more likely will be more fake news that Trump will believe like the fake news Brietbart put out about Sweden last year.

I have techie friends who have hinted at and even prophesied such electronic evil over the last few years (one was so freaked out over twenty years ago, he wouldn’t say key words over a cell phone!) but they were never specific.  It was more of a general paranoia.  Not anymore.  They were right.  The slope is downhill and looks pretty dark.

Long way of saying: I may have to alter this blog, this effort at expression once again.  I may kill it.  I may change it.  I may do something else. I do not know.  Input welcome.  But it is clear that the main purpose of this is simply spleen-venting and even doing that seems to enable (in some way) the dark side of the force.  This requires a re-think.

The title is…….

….well, it’s chosen but not confirmed so I will leave it unannounced for now.  But the book is at the ‘first draft’ stage.  We got ‘er done.  For the most part, anyway.  Still messin’ with some details.

The funny thing is that first draft really doesn’t mean much to us because we really just continue to ‘worry’ the content all the time until we can’t stand looking at it any longer.  First draft sort of morphs, evolves or grows over time to yield the semi-final draft.

Semi-final draft we give to others (beta readers) to critique.  If they are honest (they rarely are) then we can make improvements rather easily, polish it up, tie a ribbon on it and let her rip.  Semi-final draft becomes the beta version after beta readers have had their way, limited as it is, as a rule. When someone does say what they think – in detail – it is a real gift. That can save us a ‘stage’.

After beta version has gone out AGAIN and all changes are finally made, we get to call it Final Draft and publish it.  It is interesting to note that ‘completed manuscript’ is not part of our vocabulary and that’s because it is never really done.  Not for us.  Like a house you built yourself, you keep seeing mistakes and, over time you address them thus making the house (or the book) NEVER EVER REALLY FINISHED.

I am guessing that Sal made a change or two to the first book (electronically, of course, but that shows up immediately in the Kindle version and any later print runs if any later runs are warranted) as late as halfway through 2017.  That first book was published in January of 2015.  That’s two and half years of tinkering and, if someone told us of yet another typo, Sal would go back in again and fix it.  Seriously, a book is never done.  Not for us.

Well, CHOOSING could be considered finished if not done.  It is finished because we are not worrying it to death.  Not at all.  It was practically still-born anyway.  CHOOSING did not sell.  It is NOT a best seller, to say the least.  Beyond resuscitation.  No hope.  Goodbye.  A dead polly.

Too bad.  I liked CHOOSING, may it rest in peace.

This third book is not yet fully baked, hatched or born.  But all the DNA is in order, the limbs are formed and the due date is foreseeable.  We can feel the contractions. This little bundle of words will come.

“What is it?”

It’s a cheap B adventure featuring two old fools and setting the reader up for a series of geriatric adventures spread over a Hardy-Geezers-type series.  Marvel meets Metamucil.  The septuagenarian Jason Bourne and his silver haired biker-chick December Bride kick butt, solve crimes and go to bed early.

“Is it any good?”

Mediocre.  Classic cheap B flick kinda thing.  NOT good enough to get picked up by Ridley Scott or Tarantino but somewhat in the Thelma and Louise style.  If OUR LIFE was a C+ (it was not but I am saying it anyway) and CHOOSING was an F, then GEEZERS is a solid C.

“Should I buy it?” 

Absolutely.

We are three months away still, tho.

 

I confess that I don’t quite get it

Being here is fun.  It’s good.  I like it.  A week is great; two weeks is good; a month is a bit long but that makes for a real break from the winter back home.  I am OK with a month. Two months and I am starting to feel a little homesick.  We are coming up on six weeks.

You can guess how I feel.

Admittedly, I am homesick for the ‘Spring, Summer and Fall’ version of home so I am being a bit unrealistic pining for home at this stage.  I understand it snowed yesterday.

I am not quite ready for that.

“So, what are you trying to say so poorly, Dave?”

Well, I don’t get it.  I just don’t get what makes ex pats live here.  Seriously.  To me, being an ex-pat is understandable if you lived in Scandinavia, England or Germany because, well, those societies are rule-bound, crowded as hell and winter can be harsh there, too. Plus the cost of living is high.  Ya gotta work to live in Europe and the USA.  Canada, too.  In Thailand, officially the least miserable country in the world*, you can work part time and live well.  Better yet, you can retire on a first world pension of even modest means and live well.  Economically it makes a lot of sense. But, sheesh……

It is still third world, here.  Open sewage, petty and some heavy corruption, madness, semi-lawless, prejudice against farangs.  Weird rules and procedures.  And VERY MUCH a different culture – so much so that ex-pat old-hands still just throw up their hands and explain a lot away by saying, ‘It’s Thailand and nothing makes sense here!’

The ‘old white-guy’ with the young Thai wife is really quite a victim when you look closely.  He’s the fly.  She’s the spider.  He can’t own anything.  He can’t work.  Everything belongs to her.  He can be booted on a whim by  her or by the government.  And love does NOT keep ’em together.  Business does.  And, sometimes, kids.

Thai education and culture does not – it seems – set them up for running a business.  Farangs are regarded as essential for running a good business.  Farangs of all persuasions are wanted but white ones are preferred because they are old and retired and have money and – guess what! – they treat their wives better than do the the other farangs.

No kidding.

So, we have all these old, fat 60+ year-olds sitting at their bars or cafe tables every day while the wife and family run around doing the work but that is not the real picture.  The real picture has them managing everything in the background and financing everything mid, fore and background from their house to the kids education, from the vehicles to the business.  They are truly being ‘mined’ by the government and the wife.

“Do you care, Dave?”

No.  You make your bed and you lie in it.  I get that.  But, without the satisfaction of meaningful work, without the satisfaction of a meaningful relationship and all that in a situation where everything is NOT yours and you CANNOT sell it, what is the appeal?  Throw in C30+ degree weather even IN THE WINTER (mid 40’s at other times) and I wonder how it is that any old, fat, white guy lasts a year here.

The only answer I have found is that, if they have kids, they love their kids. If they don’t, I don’t get it.

So, I asked Mateo.  Mateo is Italian.  Been here 20 years!  Mateo owns and runs Happy Pizza (well, his wife does) and he sits in the corner of the restaurant every day.  I asked him, “So, Mateo?  You Happy?”

Bear in mind, my question was just a little playful query based on the name of his restaurant.

“Yeah.  But what is happy, eh?  I live in Italy and I am not happy so I move and moving makes me happy.  But then I am not happy with the new place so I move again. I moved a lot when I was young.  Twenty years ago I move here to get happy but, instead, I get a family and a restaurant.  So, am I happy?  Is anyone every happy?  Or do we just look for happiness?”

“Bummer, Mateo.  Hey, I was just making small talk…..”

“You find what you find, ya know?  Capiche?  You see beauty when you come here.  You see lovely beaches.  I see everyday, ya know?  I see the restaurant business, I see the same people, I see the same food and the same weather.  What is beautiful to you is boring to me but I am happy, I guess.  Are you happy?”

“Pretty much.  So, Mateo…on another note…..”

“It is a joke, my friend.  Happiness is a joke, no?  You live.  You work. You die.  I no longer look for happiness, you understand?  I have found what is happiness and it passes.  Like life, ya know?”  

“Oh!  My pizza is here.  Gotta go Mateo.  See ya again.”

“Don’t forget to order your chicken for Friday, my friend.  Friday chicken is really good.”

“Thanks, Mateo.  I am glad you reminded me.  That makes me happy.  Sorry.  Put me down for half a chicken.  See you then”.

*Bloomberg puts out a ‘MISERY INDEX’ for various world economies (I think 65 or so).  Misery is measured by a a bunch of indicators but the two main variables are unemployment and inflation.  By that wretched metric, Thailand has been the world’s least miserable country four years running.  Canada, I seem to recall, is around the 12th or so least miserable.  The US worse than that.  Venezuela is the worst or MOST miserable. 

 

No room for error. NONE!

Imagine a fairly wide two lane road.  Two way traffic.  On the left side (they drive on the left in Thailand) there is a ‘fluid’ lane for scooters that is generally regarded as being on the left side of the single car lane. In other words, in normal traffic the lane is wide enough for both a scooter and a car to travel.  NOT safely but ‘safe enough’.

The ‘fluid lane’ is sometimes even marked like a bike-path might be but it is not marked on most roads, only the three-lane highways.

Because most roads in Thailand are divided by medians and barriers, that means that any scooter wishing to go the other way (legally) has to travel in the wrong direction for usually half a km and then cross lanes of traffic after making a u-turn and then, maybe having to do it all again to get back to the other side.  Expedience and blind faith long ago suggested ‘cheating’ for short return trips instead and there is a steady counterflow on the far, far left side of your lane for ‘cheaters’ going counter to you. In the scooter lane, you go by them (they are in counterflow) but it is their job to give you room.  Most of them do.  NOT all.

So you have a truck or SUV a smidge too close on your one side as you beetle along at 50 kms and you encounter scooters going the wrong way on your left side doing about 30kms.  They are to the left of your usually unmarked and fluid scooter lane.  Adding to the mix is a the occasional three-wheeled, 4+ foot wide, ‘working scooter’ used to carry materials and so the counter flow can require extra space now and then.  Put another way, the single-but-generous lane you thought you shared with the car is now shared by scooters going the opposite way.

And Thais will park anywhere they want to stop.  Even on freeways.  So the ‘parked vehicle’ is always in the scooter lane and the imaginary scooter counterflow path.  Parked vehicles are like venturis.  They constrict the traffic flow even further.

Of course, some scooters are slower than others and so the quicker ones will pass the slower ones and so the counter flow may have two scooters-abreast or a 3-wheeler coming at you while, at the same time, a scooter from behind decides to pass you (between you and the cement truck).  That means the generous single lane is often occupied by four scooters and a vehicle.  Sometimes a parked vehicle, too.  That can get a bit nerve-wracking.

I confess that I have managed to adjust to it all and the above melee is something we navigate all the time.  We are acclimating.  Sal screams rarely now and has even stopped holding on real tight.  My ribs have lost the grip-marks.

Two nights ago was the exception.  That night was sheer lunacy-on-wheels, mobile-madness, death-by-Honda.  It was chaos at maximum kms.  OMG!

It was Cha am market night.  They do the Hua Hin night market-thing on a smaller scale but only on Wednesdays. And, of course, they locate the market in a smaller, tighter space with only one way in and the same way out.  Traffic is unbelievable chaos.

And then they added something new to the mix.

We, of course, were deep in the 4-vehicle flow-lanes-in-one mode of driving when lo and behold, scooters started coming at us in the opposite direction from the opposite direction car-side of the lane as well.  It seems that scooter traffic going the other way, when thwarted by traffic jams will resort to simply driving in the opposite traffic lane.

That means our fellow SUV or cement truck has a pack of scooters coming right at him.

He’s not stupid nor does he have any moral qualms about crushing the fools but, of course, instinctively he encroaches a bit on our limited space.  And we squeeze the counterflowers on our left. We all have to tighten up so the maddest of scooter drivers can drive down the middle of the road.

Of course, our lane has mad scooter drivers too and so some of our guys do the same thing to their guys.  Now we have the most death defying phenomena ever: a flow and counter flow of death-seeking lemmings in the middle of the road where there is simply NO ROOM WHATSOEVER even if everyone on both sides tightens up. Worst case: FIVE lanes of scooters and a vehicle vs FIVE lanes of scooters and yet another vehicle passing in opposite directions, at speed, at night with some counterflowing on your left and your right but all in your lane.  All this in two official lanes.

And then they make it MORE interesting.

No one ever stays in their ‘fluid’ lane.  Even the SUV/truck has to turn now and then.  So the scooters are always moving and flowing between lanes jockeying for a quicker route to the night market’s BBQ chicken and hot sauce.

Thai traffic abhors an unfilled space.  If you are five cars back from the light but there is a crack of room for your scooter, you are obliged to take it and wend your way through and past other scooters and cars until you are at the front. If you don’t, you will get beeped to move up by the scooter behind you.

At the light, the vanguard is a ten or so wide scooter pack all ready to scream off handle-bars to handle-bars across the intersection. By a silent agreement, the mothers with tiny babies and/or three children (not uncommon for four or so people on a scooter) move off rather slowly (even tho they went to the front of the pack).  The single guys are moving fast before the light even changes and those, like us, who are two up in the middle are supposed to move en masse and in unison.

“Can it get worse?”

Absolutely.  On market night the nearby shops and stalls spill out and occupy the sidewalk so pedestrians are always stepping off into traffic.  They do not look first.  Stray dogs are everywhere, too. And they don’t look either.  Scooters stop for no reason as do the cars.  Sometimes a truck stops and the driver gets out to unload stuff.  A massive swirling blob of traffic-jam results instantly from the unexpected lane-blocking.

And there is the inevitable, old Farang on a bike, too.  They are from Europe. Usually Dutch, it seems. That syndrome is weird.  “A bike is safer” goes the thinking but I don’t see it.  I just see bikes as slower moving targets.  The Thais feel the same way.

And on it goes.  Stalls of hanging BBQ being hand-wheeled into place but using the traffic lanes to do so. The odd Harley or big bike without a muffler roaring by and scaring the hell out of you.  A couple of times even the narrow counter flow lanes occupied by a truck going the wrong way.  Vehicle door openings.  At anytime and anywhere.

Last night was a bit much.  I admit that.  There were more than a few times traffic showed up when I least expected it.  When that kind of thing happens, my instincts are to go faster and find the open spaces if I can.  I break for the open field like a scared rabbit flushed from the bushes.  I know the pack of rabid hounds is behind me but if I go faster, at least they won’t run over me.  It’s an instinct, not a plan.

We got up to the market, bought dinner and got home in record time.  Fast.  Way, way too fast.  But we made it.  Some of the guests at the place we are staying walk on Wednesday nights.  “Too scary to be out there on Wednesday night.  Too slow if you take a cab.  We just go somewhere nearby on Wednesday.”   

Next Wednesday, so will we.

 

Re-wheeled and Fancy Free II — MORE PICS!

This is Sally writing:

So, to satisfy David’s clamoring readership, we went back to ‘the bridge’ to take some photos.

First we had to go through the seafood market to get there.

And wait for foot traffic to cross.

And bicycle traffic.

In the meantime I took a photo of the machinery used on both ends to raise the bridge, like a double drawbridge, for boats going farther into the harbor.

Finally the bridge is clear of people, dogs, bicycles, what have you, and David starts across.

In the photo above you can see the groove in the middle of the planks worn by bicycles and motorcycles.

This last picture is a little blurred because I had to jump out of the way at the last second!  David was coming quickly and my camera operates slowly. We sure know how to have fun.

Rewheeled and fancy free

After relocating up to Cha am, we were without wheels and, for a day or two wandering the local streets, which was fine.  Shanks mare was good enough.  But, well, I need wheels.  It’s a primal thing.  It could be my immense girth.  It could be sheer laziness.  But whatever it is, it is a real feeling and it is exasperated greatly by daytime temperatures in the 90’s.  I do not want to walk too far in that kind of heat and we are located rather far from most places of interest.  So, I rented another scooter.

After getting it, Sal and I went for a longer exploration of Cha am.  It is a beach town and, like most such towns, is stretched along the beach (duh).  Cha am beach (south side) is pretty long (maybe twenty kms, maybe longer).  It stretches at least as far as Hua Hin. But the beach road is piecemeal and our piece is only about four or so kms long with a man-made harbour cutting access to the north beach.  The north beach looks pretty nice.  The south beach has the ubiquitous string of hotels along it.

Basically, the beach is a beach and the part we are on is very much the public, older, more local beach for the hoi poloi.   The rich people have different sections of beach further south or further north.  We have the sea food stalls, cheap restaurants and 7-11’s.  And, for the whole four or so kms, our beach is covered in large, virtually permanent beach umbrellas.  It’s interesting but not exceptionally pretty.

The red sign is the street sign (we think). The yellow sign directs day-trippers to a toilet and shower establishment. We are having a lot of fun getting around with no map and no phone. We use our laptops to Google a route and then hope for the best.

So, when we got mobile, we left our local stomping grounds and went north.  We hit the fishing harbour and had a good look but, for some reason, looking from the other side appealed to Sally more and so we headed inland in an effort to find a fishing harbour crossing.  And we did.

Imagine a foot suspension bridge about 200 feet long and four feet wide.  It is sturdier than a rope suspension bridge because there is some steel structure to it but the ‘sidewalk’ is four-foot lengths of thick plank NOT FASTENED DOWN laying flat side down in angle iron.  When we approached from the south end, I saw a few scooters just exiting.  There was maybe 8 inches of space on either side of the handle bars.  But, up we went (the entry was higher than the crowded market stalls at the entry side and so we ramped up onto the rickety bridge).  Once up, there was nothing for it except to make a quick ‘scoot’ across since other scooters, bikes and lowly pedestrians were awaiting our crossing before they could go.

As we passed them, more than a few were surprised to see it was two farangs riding two-up on the bridge.

Not much room for error.

Anyway, we got to the other side and took some harbour shots.  Cool boats.  Very beamy.  Wood.  Old.  Still working. Some of the machinery we saw on the boats and on the shore was pretty old.  30’s and 40’s era.  Almost like Easthopes for those of you inclined to the salt.

In one picture there are several lines leading from the rocky shore to the bow of the boat.  Sal is sure that is how the crew boards and disembarks.  She was so sure that she was going to ‘prove it to me’ by walking out on the single thick rope relying on the higher thinner rope for balance. “If you attempt that nonsense, at least wear your scooter helmet because you are sure to pitch onto the rocks below.”

Note the flip flops on the rocks waiting for the owner to return (via the ropes)

“If I do, you’ll save me, right?”

I refused to answer.

She took that as a sign.  Once again valour fell to discretion.  We rode away intact.

Where’s the sturm und drang?

A reader sent me an article wherein Trump was quoted as lamenting the recent loss of due process and pointing out that lives and reputations are being ruined on heresay.  The tongue-in-cheek implication from my reader was ‘do you find yourself agreeing with Trump?’

Short answer: Yes.  I am opposed to Kangaroo courts and judging-by-social media.  In that, Trump and I agree.  A minor but important observation:  I agree with a broken clock twice a day.

On the other hand, Trump went a step further and supported the alleged abuser and opined that he was likely innocent.  Declarations of innocence without due process are exactly the same as judging someone prematurely guilty.  The due process requirement cuts both ways.  Porter (the alleged wife abuser) may be guilty.  Maybe not.  File your charges, arrest the perp, do the diligence and then, and only then, bring down a verdict.  It’s NOT a complicated process.

FYI: I do not agree with Trump even twice a day as a rule  So far, this is the only time.

I have tried to stay off the Trump topic for several reasons; one, anyone who reads me likely despises Trump as I do so I am preaching to the converted.  Boring.  Secondly, the guy is in the tent peeing inwards (Roosevelt?) and so my distaste for the pig is greatly exceeded by the feelings of millions of others including the idiots that have camped out with him (Republicans).  They don’t need my advice.  Or my opinion.  In fact, few of anybody ever does.

So let’s go to someone else.

Prayut Chan-o-cha.  He is the ‘interim leader’ of the Thai government after mounting a successful coup in 2014.  PC is a military dictator who has promoted his personally drafted 12 virtues to school children and suppressed democracy and dissent in Thailand.  PC is an oppressive dictator.  He is fashioning himself after Mao.

So, raise your hands out there if any of you knew that.  Ever heard of PC?

Our waitress at the local canteen is politically knowledgeable.  In her opinion, PC is just emulating the Chinese.  “Dictatorships are becoming more common.  It’s happening all over the world.  Trump is acting like a dictator but there are too many checks and balances on his power.  But PC has none.  Neither does Xi Jinping. All the democracies are being divided.  All the dictatorships are getting stronger.  I think democracy is dead.”

So, a 26-year old Thai waitress has a strong political opinion on global politics.  Admittedly, she studied in the States for a few years but still, she is up to date and opinionated.  She can talk Syria, India, China and USA.  I did not test her regarding Canada.

“You afraid for the future of Thailand?”

“Not really.  Short term maybe.  But the Thai people are already standing up to him even though protesting is now punishable with jail terms.  That won’t stop them.  Thousands protested in Bangkok last weekend.  Thousands were likely arrested.  Or will be. Thai people will die for their freedom. We’ve done it before.”

I thought about that…..

“Not me.  I’d move for my freedom but dying seems a bit extreme, ya know?  Maybe go to Panama or Argentina.  I like New Zealand.  But give me liberty or give me death?  Not bloody likely.”