Saturday, December 26, 2009

New Music up on

I just posted a whole bunch of unmastered rough mixes of instrumental music both new and old on my website

"Atari Beats" is a really old album that I recorded using an Atari 540 ST computer, a couple of Roland Juno synths and an EMAX sampler. I think it is from 1996 or so.

"Idnotes" is a collection of little sketches that I created from around 2004-2009 mostly using the Electrix Repeater looping sampler and an emu rackmount synth- can't remember the model number, but it was yellow. Some of the tracks use the Novation XioSynth.

"Lo-Fi Beatbox Bus Music" is just like Idnotes, only instead of drums, I beatbox instead.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Accident

Went to the gym, yesterday and had a little accident. I got a glass for some water, which as is usual, was still wet from being washed. Since I am cautious about not ingesting tap water here, I tried to shake out the glass to get most of the drops out. Seeing that the window was open, I figured I'd just chuck the water outside. Only the window was not open, just clean.

Smashed the glass on the window; blood and broken glass all over the floor and down my hand. It didn't hurt. I went to the locker room to wash my hand in the sink before going to the counter for first aid. For some reason I was willing to let tap water into my blood but not my stomach? Anyway, as soon as the water hit my hand, I felt the pain.

Went up to the counter and was told to come around to the other side. I saw some stools, went over, sat down, The next thing I remember is being woken from a blissful dream by the scent of tiger balm. "Mmm," I said. I opened my eyes and a beautiful smiling Lao woman was holding the tiger balm under my nose. I said "Khop Jai Lai Lai" (thank you very much.) and started to nod off again. Valerie said my name and I opened my eyes. I was being held up by a man and attended to by two women who bandaged my wounds, apparently without washing their hands or wearing gloves. They didn't seem to mind the blood which sent me into shock and made Valerie nauseous.

Looking down at myself, there was blood all over my shorts. I asked is that all blood? The man said "Bo pen yang." which in this case means "It doesn't matter" or "Don't worry about it." Later I realized after the blood had dried and left only a small stain, I may have peed my pants. How embarrassing.

Or it could have been sweat since I was dripping even as I laid down in one of the massage chairs in an air conditioned room while watching Rambo rescue some lady from a Burmese prison. I wondered how most South East Asians felt about Rambo. I told Valerie to finish exercising and I would just sleep here. She would have none of it, for fear I would slip into a shock induced coma. We decided to ask our friends Reg and Laura who both happen to be nurses if that was even possible. I was able to send a more or less coherent text message which Valerie thought was inscrutable. I thought I was doing pretty well.

Reg and Laura noted how poorly my wound had been bandaged and suggested I go to a clinic. The French clinic, which is supposed to be quite good was closed and the Australian one apparently only services members of the commonwealth. That left the International clinic at Mahasoot Friendship Hospiutal- the one you hear horror stories about.

It wasn't too bad- they cleaned me up but only after Valerie paid up front. The only dodgy thing was that the doctor wouldn't open up the small cut on my finger to look for any bits of glass that might still be in there. He said that if there were glass I would feel it while being bandaged and in any case, I'd know within a week because my hand would get infected if there were any glass left inside. Great.

Today, as I changed my dressing, I realized I only had a few minor cuts that I couldn't believe would send anyone into shock. But as I examined the black spot on my finger, wondering if that meant it was infected. I started to sweat again and get a stomach ache and had to sit down.

What a wuss!

Monday, March 09, 2009


My friend Mike just got summoned for jury duty back in the States which reminds me of the time I did my part for jurisprudence...

The trial involved a podiatry patient who accused the doctor of assault and battery for not using a local anesthetic when clipping his in-grown toenail. Apparently the good doctor didn't warn Mr. Mackaluney (name changed to protect the incontinent) that he was proceding to snip, which caused the plaintiff to exclaim "Oh!" in pain.

Mr. Mackaluney represented himself and cross-examined the podiatrist with questions peppered with pseudo legalese- "In so much as your stated compliance with regulations regarding the alleged assault do you now or have you ever felt, in so far as your ability as a medical practitioner, for all intents and purposes..." Nobody could understand what Mr. Mackaluney was trying to ask, and the judge had to instruct him to use simpler language. When he could understand the questions, the doctor replied huffily as if his time was being wasted, which of course, it was.

The podiatrist was represented by two lawyers who asked only a few questions before moving in for the kill: "Mr. Mackaluney, in your deposition you claimed that your sister was abducted. Can you tell the jury about the abduction?" Mr. Mackaluney, unfazed, told his story about how his sister was abducted by aliens. "And how did that make you feel?"

At this point, I raised my hand and said "Excuse, me, as a member of the jury, I don't know if it is my place to object, but clearly Mr. Mackaluney hasn't proper representation and I fail to see what this line of questioning has to do with an in-grown toenail," or something to that effect. Counsel for the defendant replied that since Mr. Mackaluney had mentioned the abduction during a deposition, it was fair game. They also pointed out that the plaintiff had chosen to represent himself. Sensing their prime-time legal drama sleaze was backfiring, the defense switched tactics:

"How did you feel immediately after the doctor cut your toenail?"

"I felt better."

"In terms of percentage, How much better? 10%? 50%?"



"Yes, I felt 100% better."

It took the jury all of half an hour to deliberate. In the end we voted unanimously against Mr Mackaluney. As the one who had voiced an objection, I was chosen as the chairperson and had to deliver the bad news to the poor fellow. Procedure grants the loser the right to tally the votes and he wanted to hear it from each of us. One by one we each said how we voted. How sad.

In the end, one of the jurors told the doctor that although we had voted in his favor, she had had doctors like him before, and that he ought to work on his bedside manner. Indeed.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Learning Lao

So, I've been taking a Lao class twice a week. There are three of us in
the class, previously six, but one got in a severe motorbike accident,
another just stopped showing up and the third is looking for a better

Though he is not the best instructor in the world, our guy does all
right for having been educated in a country where there are very few
books printed in his native tongue. Most textbooks are in Thai and
there is no official transliteration system but rather a hodgepodge of:

French Colonial
(S's are X's, Ch's and J's are Ti and an E after an N at the end of
the word makes the vowel long)

Royal Thai
(H's and L's are R's, which is problematic since the R sound has been outlawed for sounding too regal)


(All CAPS, spa ces be tween cyl a bles and no tone markers.)

Guess which one our teacher uses. When we raised concerns about the method, he simply said, you can write the transliteration however you want.

But it's not as bad as it seems- you just have to overlook the inconsistencies and go with the way things sound rather than how they are spelled. So, for example. three maps might give three different spellings of the same street (provided of course it even has a name) but they'll generally look more or less like the same word, once you know the various systems. And though the Karaoke method lacks tone markers, tones seem to be less important than one would think- context and word order provide enough clues for Lao people to understand you. Plus which, the Lao are very generous listeners, unlike say, Korean cab drivers.

The Lao also love to flatter and be flattered. So even though I can barely say that I don't speak Lao ("khoy bo wow passat lao bodai") they all laugh and say ''Jao wow pasat lao geng lai!'' - You speak Lao very well.

Ah I love this country.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Daily Minutiae

It occurs to me that I have been less than forthcoming about daily life in Vientiane. So here are the minutiae of our existence that may be of interest if you have never been here before.

For the past few months it has been "cold." For a few weeks there it was cold enough to wear long pants and a jacket and if you took a tuk tuk at night, you might shiver. Mornings were chilly enough to notice that the water heaters they use in showers here don't really do the trick.

Instead of one big water heater which heats up and stores the water for the whole house, most houses here have only hot water in the shower, if at all. The water heater gets plenty hot, but only if the water pressure is quite low. So a trickle will scald you, and full force will give you goose-bumps. But, the real concern is the electricity being so close to the water. The heater has an emergency breaker if it detects a short circuit caused by you getting electrocuted, but it is not sensitive enough to save your life. Power is rarely grounded here, so we are constantly getting a little buzz from our computers and other devices, though we have not died in the shower, yet.

During the cold season, perhaps because it was windy or perhaps because it was too cold to cook outside, our neighbors hadn't been burning plastic. They are back at it again, and sometimes we wake to the fumes. Our landlady has asked them to stop, but it is a big problem throughout the country. Apparently, people use plastic bags, pieces of shoes, purses, etc to start their fires to cook their rice, because the plastic burns for a long time. The Public Service Announcements warning of brain damage are ignored, like many of the other directives from on-high.

For example, a recent article in the Vientiane times, the local newspaper, detailed the government's stance on the "Correct understanding of Valentine's day... The notice was issued to prevent fine Lao culture being affected by the influence of inappropriate forms of celebration, as setbacks have occurred in previous years.... Valentine's Day is incorrectly considered by many as a day for play, entertainment and lavish spending.... "

But I am afraid the fine Lao culture is no match for the recent setbacks. Case in point, last week, Sean Kingston performed here, sponsored by Tigo, one of the mobile phone companies. He has a popular song in Asia, perhaps in the US as well- something about "you got me suicidal..." Tigo advertised and promoted the concert heavily with billboards, posters, spam sms text messages, etc. Our neighbor who works for Tigo gave us free tickets.

Unfortunately I was too tired from a day of enjoying fine Lao Culture- drinking Beer Lao and eating fried crickets while floating down the river on restaurant boat- to attend the concert. I have decided that fried crickets aren't bad- much better than the water beetles.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I just updated my little website mobitol. I built the site for myself because I wanted to be able to copy and paste text from websites when browsing on my Nokia e61i phone. I'm hoping other people find it useful as well.

Unlike the iPhone, Nokia phones that use the Symbian s60 operating sytem have copy and paste built in But, for some reason, users can only copy and paste text in the default web browser (Gecko) if the text is in a text-entry box of a form or is part of a link. (At least this is the case on the e61i.) So the main content of most websites was out of reach, until now.

I've now added the ability to choose whether you'd like to retreive the plain text or the html source code, whereas before I could only get the source. Users just type in a url, hit "go!" and the site's text or source is popped into a text box. Users can also open new windows, a function that is unavailable in the default settings of the browser as well.

Some things still don't work yet. If the site is built using frames, only the frameset text will be retrieved. Also, right now some of the source code like cascading style sheets and header info will appear in the plain text version. But it's a start.

If you have a Nokia phone, or any other phone for that matter, I'd be interested to hear how well or not mobitol works for you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

been a long time...

It's been a long while since I have blogged. I can't say I have an excuse. It's not like I have been very busy- I guess just nothing that interesting has happened.Other than eating a bug, some snake, some fried buffalo skin and an unhatched chicken, nothing really stands out. I have probably just gotten used to things here. Like, when three albino cows wander across four lanes of traffic, hop a fence and disappear into someone's yard, it's just a random occurence, nothing to write home about. Or seeing seven year olds driving motorbikes- odd but not really newsworthy.

But let's see... since last I wrote, my mom and a number of friends have come to visit which was great. I finished the first draft of my screenplay and am now procrastinating on the re-write. And in the meantime I have created a little tiny website called mobitol for (primarily Nokia) mobile users who want to be able to open new windows and copy and paste source code from websites. I also started a little site of recommendations for couchsurfers coming to Vientiane.

Now I am throwing around the idea of opening a small bar. A bamboo bar, rattan tables and chairs, soundsystem and a case of beer lao- voila- instant tiki bar. Though at the moment this is just a daydream.

We are also thinking about getting a car. It's a big deal here because cars are so expensive. There is a huge tax to be paid and technically foreigners can't own them outright, so they have to be registered in someone else's name. It's all very dodgy. But until the rain comes in May, we've got some time to think about it.

Other than that, there is not much to tell. Spicy Mekong Penut butter has finally hit the shelves, but unless you have tasted it, you can't possibly know how insanely great it is that we can now get our grubby little paws on the stuff.