Monday, April 30, 2007

Scantabulastic Bombastic

Whoa! I'm back on USA time. Rock. Here's some pics from this last week.

Here's me opening all my accumulated birthday cards. I am very excited.

Opening belated birthday presents. Serenity!

I decided to whip up some Pad Thai and spring rolls for me and my lady, since I took those cooking classes and all.

And have a cold Fat Tire Ale as I enjoyed it.

Mary also enjoyed the sweet Thai cookin'.

We went to the beach for an afternoon so I could skip rocks off the ocean.

Thailand was fun and all, but I am really happy to be back in the states with my!

Oh crap. I just realized now I have to get another job. Nuts!

PS: I disabled the word verification for comments. I'll reinstate it if spam takes over, but it would be really great if we didn't have to deal with that stupid thing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

YouTube Unplugged

Alright, so I'm back. Since I spent 90% of my time the last three months on the internet trying to keep myself busy I've really gotten sick of looking at a computer screen. However, I did take the time to make one discovery I'm excited about.

Youtube! I can go to YouTube again (among other sites). So I thought I'd post a couple trailers for some upcoming movies I'm excited about seeing that you may not be familiar with (for an easy post).

First, a trailer for a movie out in New Zealand Devin turned me onto that's in theaters right now.

I hope I don't have to wait as long as we had to for Undead (from Australia) to come to DVD here.

Next, a good ol' sequel to an excellent film.

So there you have it. I'll post something of substance once I get over my internet revulsion in a few days.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

He's Baa-aack...

Cory has returned from Thailand! I picked him up from the Portland Airport this morning after a long but uneventful trip. That 14-hour time difference is a real bugger.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Karate Chop Sunday - Final Thailand Edition

Note, once the below flash image loads there will be some nintendo music playing. If you don't want sound surf away immediately and turn off your speakers before coming back.

First things first, lets start off with a Nintendo game box cover art challenge quiz. Sorry it has sound. I hate it when I log onto pages accidentally with music or bullshit playing, but in this case its unavoidable.

NES Quiz Challenge

See what kind of score you get. I wouldn't count yourself out just because you're a girl/Paul, you'd be surprised by what you remember thanks to osmosis from hanging out with cool kids like me during the olden days.

Second, the Songkran water festival is going on right now, and for the next five days, all the way through my remaining time here. The essence of the festival is to drive around in the back of pickup trucks with buckets of water mixed with plaster and throw them on people. Farang are worth triple points. Make sure you throw them on people on motorcycles and cause wrecks too, because there aren't enough of those everyday. The US embassy even warned me not to go on crowded street during this time for fear of motorcycle accidents/plaster splash in eyes. I've been writing up a sort of 'journal' of my last couple of days dealing with the festival and my discovery of it (I kinda just walked outside one day into bedlam). Maybe I'll post it tomorrow or something.

Yeah, those're picks from another American guy's blog in Thailand. I'm not willing to risk my camera out there. Its been a madhouse for the last three days. His webpage is cited there so you can check out his blog if you want here. He talks a lot about bargirls and katoeys, and how to identify one vs. the other, so Cullen may be particularly interested.

So I leave on a plane on Tuesday at 7:45pm to fly to Bangkok airport. My next flight (which I'll have to check back in for, since its a different ticket), leaves at 6:00am on Wednesday, so I am planning on just hanging out at the airport all night long until the next morning. Plus its the last day of Songkran so everybody will be flying back to their home towns. The Bangkok airport is crowded with sales-folks who are sure you, as a farang, want to buy wooden bead headdresses encrusted with fake gems and take taxicabs to every "massage parlor" in the city. You basically have to fend them off with constant mean-face and "mai chai, mai chai!". Its annoying.

I then arrive in Portland, OR at 8:00am on wednesday. So the time between take off and landing is only two hours! Except to me it will feel like 22 hours. Its like that Enders game book with hyperspace travel. Except in reverse, which makes it crappy instead of awesome. Oh well, it'll be worth it to see my kind and loving Mary again.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Tantalizing Technology in Thailand

So may ask yourself, "Self? What is Cory doing in Thailand? Did he accomplish anything?"

Lucky for you and yourself, I'm here to answer that... with song!

No, I'm just kidding. No songs. Here's a picture of the instrument's innards:

That's Dom's hand there on the left. A lot of the parts come from Champaign, IL, that I brought along with me or that were sent to me (thanks Christine!). The green laser source for this I got off of eBay from China, and the rusty ring stand parts have been purloined from some Gen. Chem. 101 labs here in Chiang Mai. The flow-injection analysis system is from Dr. Grudpan's labs and is Dom's specialty. You can basically think of it as an HPLC pump if you need a frame of reference. That of course means we're working with much larger volumes and pressures than I'm used to.

The laser is actually firing in that pic, but you can't really tell. Here's the system with the lights off:

Now, I've learned an important lesson as I've worked in another country about finding common ground between cultures. And when I say "cultures" I mean "metric vs. english machining," and when I say "common ground" I of course mean "teflon tape."

That's right. Got an M6 bolt that needs to go into a 9/16th's hole? Teflon tape to the rescue! Got a 1-inch optic that needs to fit inside a 3-cm housing? Teflon tape is there to help! And when the teflon tape is used up you can cut the empty roll in half, drill some holes, and make a capillary cell holder out of it.

Not impressed? Well, how about we fire a laser through it and pump some sulphorhodamine 101 label through the puppy.

Yeah, I'm all about the visual stimulus pictures. Now, some smart ass wants to ask me right now "What's your Limit of Detection?" and right now its 46nM for SR-101. Go ahead and laugh. But that's about the best I can do with a single 10x microscope objective to collect the light, no secondary objective or camera lens setup, and a cylindrical detection cell that has to be 500um in diameter.

I still got a week and I'm going to improve the wiring on the photodiode-to-DAq board (actual source of noise) and try to hook this puppy up to a C18 column and separate some labeled BSA or something with the FIA system.

Blah blah blah. My readers are getting bored, and with good reason. Who likes chemistry talk when there are home movies of pee-wee hockey fights to be watched?

Blades of Steel!

Oh yeah, the lab threw a little lunch party for me last Thursday as next week is some sort of Thailand water festival and few of the grad students will be here. They gave me a Chiang Mai University shirt and a Chemistry department crystal commemorative plate. Here's a pic of me with the whole Grudpan lab crew.

I'm like a gigantic but adorable Yeti.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Good Friday

So, it's been a pretty long week. I've been putting the final touches on a fellowship application that will (hopefully) be paying my salary for the next couple of years and now it's pretty much finished. Just for reference, the application ended up being 30 pages, but the instructions were 139 pages. I'll send it out on Monday. To celebrate the end of the week, we headed over to Prince Puckler's after work for some ice cream.

This is a little indy ice cream shop that is well within walking distance of the lab.

From left to right: Jill, Ryan, Danielle, Kristy, and Anika. As we were sitting around eating our ice cream, the band showed up.

Musicians with instruments just came walking up the street; it was kind of bizarre. We were joking that we would have been really surprised it we had seen someone pushing a tympani up the street to joint the band. But is was just the four of them.

Then we spotted our boss who had just finished dinner at the burger joint across the street with his wife and one of his daughters. Andy is there in the blue and white stripped shirt acting as a jungle-gym for his 5-year old, Gillian. Gillian was really getting into the music.

On a new but related topic: I think that I may have a sixth sense for sensing when someone around is going to have a baby. I have only empirical evidence for this, but a few weeks ago, I had a very, very strong feeling that someone around was expecting (the feeling was so strong it was distracting; it was also after Cullen announced). So strong in fact that my friends Heather and Emily visited that weekend and I totally expected Heather to tell me that she and her husband were going to have a baby. But she didn't and I just figured that my radar was a off. Nonetheless, the very next week, Jill announced that she and her husband are expecting a baby in September. Of course I thought, ahh, that's who it was. Then, this week, Andy announced that he and his wife are also expecting a baby in the fall. So, I think that explains why the intuition was so strong...although potentially there could be others that I don't know about yet...So anyway, I have now four cases of this intuition. Is that enough to declare myself a clairvoyant?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

April Showers Bring May Flowers

So Cory got us a great apartment here (with our very own washer and dryer!) that is fairly close to the freeway. The view from the balcony:

It will look a lot different once the trees have leaves on them. But until then, I decided to spruce up the balcony. If these flowers get as big as they are supposed to, they should completely obstruct the freeway view (if you are looking at it from 5'2" vantage point).

From right to left: primroses, chrystanthemums...

...chrystanthemums, African lilies.

I told Cory that I was going to get these flowers and he thinks they won't survive in my care (due to the curse of the Smalley blackthumb). I'll keep you posted.
OK, so I also got a new digital camera this weekend (7.1 megapixels, baby!). So I no longer have an excuse to blog like our guest-blogger Cullen (not at all).

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Cooking with Cory

Warning: Brandodojo style Food Post.

So I figured that I ought to leave Thailand with some sort of skill other than two-sword fighting and showering in a sink that I can use to justify my three months here. So what better skill than being able to cook those excellent thai dishes that those fancy progressives pay $18 a plate for in downtown Eugene.

So I took a cooking class from a nice Thai lady (who spoke perfect english) here in Chiang Mai called "A lot of Thai," which was totally great and I highly recommend them to anyone who happens to go to Chiang Mai thailand and wants to learn to cook (probably nobody reading this).

There were four other people in the day-long class, three australians and a Taiwanese girl.

We all had our own cooking areas with gas stoves and everything, and she would go step-by-step through how to prepare the ingrediants and cook it in front of us, then we would do it and she'd come around and help out. Then when we were done with each dish we'd sit down and eat it. It was great.

The first dish I made was by far my favorite dish here, Pad Thai.

This is the dish I will make for Mary as soon as I get home, as well as for folks when they come and visit. It is some great stuff.

Next I made boiled prawn soup, which is 1000x better than it sounds. Normally I dislike soups, but this was great. Interestingly, around 1/2 of the ingredients you couldn't eat, but they added a ton of flavor to the soup (lemongrass, shallots, ect.)

Third we made green curry with chicken. It was really good, and really spicy. Its primary base is coconut milk making it a very thick and hearty curry dish.

Then we took a break and went to the Thai market to look at vegetables we were using in our dishes, and Kwan (our host) explained how we could subsitute more common western veggies for things. The market was fairly interesting, but since I've been in Thailand for so long I was already pretty familiar with the markets.

My favorite is the whole deep fried chicken. And when they say "whole," they mean it.

Of course, you can just get the parts you want. Like the heads.

Speaking of chicken, the next dish we made was cashew chicken.

Now, I make cashew chicken all the time, and this dish took less than 1/2 the time to make and tasted more than 2x better. So I was humbled^4.

Then we went on to making everyone's favorite appetizer, spring rolls!

Finally, for dessert, sticky rice and mango with coconut creme sauce. Again, very tasty.

All in all it was a very good cooking experience, and I learned a lot of important tips. Like never add garlic to hot oil, always pour oil into the spatula and then into the wok to avoid using too much, and too much chili powder in your food makes you need to use the restroom eight times a day.

It was good to feel like a tourist again, as the other folks were all discussing how they were only staying for a couple days. I still have two weeks left so was a little envious of thier getting to go home and try out these recipes right away, but nevertheless, good times!

Monday, April 2, 2007

Holy Breaking News Flash!

This couldn't wait and required to get a post of its own. SFX Magazine has polled 3,000 people to rank the top ten greatest sci-fi movies of all time, and #1 sci-fi movie is...


Even beating out Star Wars.

Here's the list:

1) Serenity
2) Star Wars
3) Blade Runner
4) Planet of the Apes
5) The Matrix
6) Alien
7) Forbidden Planet
8) 2001: A Space Odyssey
9) The Terminator
10)Back to the Future

Some gorram congratulations are in order. A shot of whiskey for Serenity! Shiny! I could go on and complain and say "Alien" wasn't as good as "Aliens" or somesuch but I'm just going to let this one ride.

Serenity FTW.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Karate Chop Sunday

Its sunday again, and you know what that means!

I walked to the Chiang mai zoo today. Left early in the morning so as to beat the midday heat, because Thailand is 90% closer to the sun than anywhere else in the world. Its true. Look it up.

On my way I noticed a couple things about the area. First, the Thai people love to play a couple games that we generally don't in the US. First, they love soccer, second they love badminton, and third, they love volleyhackball.

Here's the net.

Same kind of net you play volleyball with but instead of a volleyball you have a smaller ball about half the size that you kick back and forth over the net without letting it hit the ground, instead of using your hands. I've watched them play and the rules for volleyball seem to apply (3 kicks total per side) and they can head butt. No hands makes spiking very difficult.

Also, the grass grows tall here. I used to work landscaping for UNI with Superchad and occasionally have to flail mow the overgrown areas. But that overgrowth was nothing compared to what kind of plants they have sprouting up on the side of the road here in the tropics.

In any case, I eventually made my way to the zoo and as luck would have it it was already 95+ degrees by the time I got to the Tigers, meaning that just like in all zoos around the world, the tigers and lions were way in the back laying in the shade and nearly out of sight.

One funny thing is seeing this sign over the lion's den:

There are two possiblities here. One is that the Lions club (who do community service stuff) actually sponsors' lions dens in Thailand, and the other is that a Thai came across a Lion's club sign and realized it said "lion" and put it up at the Lion's den as a sign for english speakers to read (as there were no other signs saying "lions" around to mark the area). I'm pretty sure that's why its up there.

The coolest thing I saw were the Hippos. As I was coming down to the Hippo den I saw a man holding his squealing daughter above the hippo tank as she threw bananas down into the den. It wasn't until I got down there that I saw that the hippo was right underneath her and I wasn't able to get a shot until right after he pulled her back over the railing.

You could actually touch the hippos as they came up for bananas (there was a basket of them just sitting there for people to feed the hippos with). Here's a nice close up shot I took.

I have to say that in general the "safety features" of the zoo were not the three-ditch cement barricade with plexiglass walls that I'm used to. Mostly just some railing. It was pretty awesome. You could jump right into any of the dens if you wanted. Even the lions' dens just had one ditch between the lions and the humans that, if they wanted they could probably jump. Only the jaguar den had a cage around it.

I also saw some strange birds. Now tell me this guy didn't evolve from some creepy dinosaur:

Here's some pink flamingos for my parents. They love pink flamingos.

Some ostriches. I think that's a giraffe back there.

Ah, colorful parrots.

Then there is the Asian Black Bear. Or cub, in this case. These guys have really wierd faces when compared with North American Black Bears. I couldn't really get a good shot but they look really wierd when they face you.

Of course the elephants were no where to be found when I was at the zoo. The pen was empty and I couldn't really ask where they were so, haven't see any elephants yet.

Oh, I got one more animal to show you.

This is Carl the lizard, who infests my dorm room. He likes to sneak in through one of the openings around the windows and run across the walls late at night. I don't mind him because he eats bugs, so he and I have an amicable relationship. It is a little spooky when he darts across the wall when you're going to the bathroom though. Though he's really hard to get a picture of because as soon as you move to get your camera he darts away. I think he's finally starting to not be as scared of me though, as I finally was able to get a picture of him.

Now I'm going to lay around and let my sunburn heal. Tomorrow I'm taking a cooking class instead of going to work so that ought to be pretty awesome.