The Air Conditioner Drama

It started innocently enough.  We called the air conditioning service company out to move a unit from one room to another and install a new unit.  A simple procedure that should have been unworthy of note.  And yet it managed to develop into an unfinished saga, a tale needing to be told in a blog entry.

Unlike homes in the United States, which have central heating and air conditioning, homes in Southeast Asia have a much more efficient and tidier solution: individual units in each room.  This way you are only cooling the space you occupy, instead of the entire house.

Our condo has three air con units: a large one in the living room, a medium-sized one in bedroom A (the master bedroom) and a smaller one in bedroom B (which is the area partitioned off from the living room by a pair of pocket doors).

About six months ago, the unit in bedroom A finally failed.  It was probably ten years old and despite many service calls, it was time to replace it.  The new Mitsubishi unit with the “smart eye” sensor was efficient at cooling, but Tawn felt like it made a little too much noise and was disturbing his sleep.

A few months later, the unit in bedroom B also stopped cooling.  Since that bedroom is at the corner of the building and gets a good cross breeze when the windows are open, I’ve been content to save money on electricity and just spend my days working with a fan and the breeze to cool me off.  As the weather has become hotter – a string of days in the mid 90’s with little breeze last week – I finally cried “uncle” and asked Tawn to call the air conditioning company.

We’ve used this company, based on a recommendation of a friend, for more than two years and other than the occasional lack of attention to detail – which seems typical of most manual workers here in Thailand – we’ve been pleased with their work.

Tawn arranged for them to come out and do three things: move the “new” unit from bedroom A into bedroom B (removing the broken unit in bedroom B and disposing of it), install a new, quieter Panasonic unit in bedroom A, and then clean the remaining unit.

The team of five workers and one supervisor showed up Wednesday afternoon with a new Panasonic air conditioner and compressor and set to work.  It was kind of a circus act, in all meanings of the word.


They were like contortionists, squeezing themselves into the space on top of my work armoire, which is quite heavy to move.  This is in bedroom B and contains my computer, printer, etc.  I have no idea if it is constructed solidly enough to have two people sitting on top of it.


They were like high wire artists, improvising a scaffolding between our balconies in order to get to, remove and reinstall the compressor.  What did they use?  An aluminum ladder.  Because of the position of the compressor, the ladder wouldn’t rest on both balconies, so they simply used a rope to tie one end to the balcony railing.


Yes, he sat out there, four stories above the car park, working on the unit.  When I exclaimed that it seemed rather dangerous, he assured me that he had done the same thing the other day on the tenth floor of a building.


Even more daring, this young man is sitting on the compressor support frame that is bolted to the concrete wall.  I would assume that it was installed when the building was completed ten years ago.  Now, he’s a pretty small guy – maybe 110-120 pounds – but even at that weight I still wouldn’t be sitting out there!


Continuing the circus motif, they were also a bit like the clowns that climb out of the impossibly small car.  They had more equipment spread around the condo, six of them stumbling over one another, dripping water everywhere and generally making a mess that didn’t get very effectively cleaned up until I did it.


All of this would be well and good if the story ended there with the new unit installed, the previous unit relocated, and the condo properly cooled.  Unfortunately, that isn’t how it turned out.

Wednesday night we turned the air con unit in bedroom A on and it ran cool and quieter than the Mitsubishi unit that had been in there before, but by the middle of the night it seemed like even though we had it set to 22 C (about 70 F) it wasn’t that cool.

Thursday, Tawn called the service company and they said they would come out on Saturday and take a look.  But Thursday night when we turned the unit on again, it wouldn’t cool at all.  You could hear the unit drawing power as if to turn the compressor on, but it didn’t cycle on.

We had to sleep with the bedroom door open and the units in the rest of the condo running full, with two floor fans directing the cool air into the bedroom and circulating it.  Not the most efficient way to cool things and I can’t wait to see how high our electricity bill is next month.

Friday morning Tawn called them again.  He told them that they needed to come out that afternoon.  The owner, whom Tawn had tried to track down, had just left for a week’s vacation in New Zealand, so he couldn’t get hold of anyone who would accept responsibility and authorize replacing the unit.

One thing Tawn wanted to avoid was them trying to repair the unit they had installed.  In his mind – and I agree – if it is already having problems on day one, then it is going to continue to have problems even if various parts are replaced or repaired.  Better to pull it out and demand a new unit.

Friday afternoon the team showed up, inspected the compressor, and pronounced that there had a fatal flaw.  Tawn insisted they take the unit out entirely and bring it back to their office until the owner returned from holiday.

So here it is Monday night.  Tonight will be our fifth night sleeping with the multiple air conditioning units and fans running to keep us cool. I’m thinking of dragging the mattress out to the living room, but then if guests come over that might be a bit awkward.  And we do have guests in town so the likelihood of that is high.

I wish there was some neat ending to this story.  Some, “and it all turned out wonderfully in the end” that I could add.  Unfortunately, there isn’t, yet.

Stay tuned, though…


Virtual Friends

Last month I did some pruning of my Facebook “friends” list.  There were several people on there whom I don’t really know and definitely don’t have any regular contact with.  Given the amount of information that Facebook provides me, a mostly uncontrollable flood, I finally asked myself, “Why am I getting updates about people I don’t really know, haven’t seen in more than a year, and don’t stay in touch with?”

Now, I’m the first to recognize that a virtual “friend” isn’t going to be the same thing as a real-life friend.  But there are “friends” on Facebook who, even if we haven’t spent much time hanging out together, we are still regularly in contact with one another.  We comment on each other’s updates and photos, etc.

Same thing here on Xanga.  There are many people in Xangaland with whom I feel I’ve developed a close rapport.  We share stories about our lives, comment on each other’s stories, have little dialogues.  I interact with some of these people more than I do with my family.  So I don’t want to suggest that virtual “friends” can’t have a lot of value. 

But it does seem like a point was reached where I had to make some decisions, at least with regards to those Facebook “friends”. 

I knew that doing so might come back to haunt me.  Sure enough, this week I received an email from one of these pruned “friends”:

We used to be facebook friends… OK, we haven’t hung out in a while, but I’m a little surprised that you deleted me. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t done anything to sprite you.

Anyhow, not broken up over it. It’s just kinda funny.


To which I thought, “You may not be broken up about it, but it must have bothered you enough to send this message.”

After a few days of figuring out the most diplomatic way to say, “I don’t really know you so I don’t feel the need to call you a friend,” I settled on the following:

Hi R,

Rest assured my deleting you doesn’t have anything to do with you having spited me. After the most recent facebook format was put into place, I’ve found it difficult to manage the amount of information I’m receiving. The flood of status updates, quizzes, photo album adds, etc. is making it difficult for me to stay up to date with those people whom I know well and stay in touch with regularly.

Because of that, I decided to start pruning my list of virtual friends. I feel that I don’t really need to be receiving updates on people I’ve only met a couple of times and haven’t had any contact with in a year or more.

I hope you’ll understand my decision to try and define virtual “friendships” less like acquaintances and more like friendships I have in real life.



Do you think I handled it diplomatically enough?  It is tough to tell someone that, but I didn’t want to wuss out and make a lame excuse like, “Oh, that must have been an accident.”  If I value honesty and directness from others, I guess I should be willing to be honest and direct – and hopefully tactful – myself.

Where are you on the virtual friends issue?


Gotta vent

Sanford Update below

Excuse me.  I hate to get political on you, but I just need to let off some steam.  On Wednesday, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford joined a long list of Republican big-wigs who – ooops! – cheated on their wives.  Newt Gingrich, John Ensign, Mark Foley, Larry Craig (well, kind of… does having a wide stance in a restroom stall count?), the list of Republican sexual indiscretions goes on and on.

Right: Sanford posing with his family.  Filed in the dictionary under “sanctimonious”.

Now, let’s be clear, the Republicans aren’t alone in the world of wayward moral compasses.  Democrats Elliot Spitzer, John Edwards and Jim McGreevey have done no better.

But here’s what really burns me up: In general, the Republicans are the ones who are anti-same sex marriage because – get this – they want to protect the sanctity of marriage.

Excuse me!?

There is a special place in hell for hypocrites like that.  Unlike many Americans who are hung up on issues that in other cultures would largely be seen as a personal matter between a wife and her philandering husband, I don’t see these affairs as any of my business.

But when the people having those affairs tell me at the same time that me getting the right to marry would somehow cheapen marriage for everyone else, that crosses the line of all decency.  It is an indefensible argument and leads me to believe that the Republican leaders have no moral standing whatsoever to lecture me about the sanctity of marriage.

Oh, and let’s add Rush Limbaugh to the list.  Sanctity of marriage, my ass!  He’s been married and divorced three time, the pill-popping windbag.



So after having the opportunity to blow off some steam and get a full night’s sleep, I’m over it.  Ready to move on and see the hilarity in the news of Sanford’s affair.  But there have been so many Republican sex scandals lately that I get confused about them all.

Thankfully, this web site has posted a handy flow chart to keep things clear:

sex-scandal-flow-chart (1)  

I hope you find it helpful.  It certainly got things sorted out for me!


Back in the Kitchen

It has been a while since I’ve done a food entry (yeah, maybe a whole week!) and there’s plenty that’s been cooking.  In fact, I’ve been preparing food at home more often lately, on account of a couple of factors. 

First, Tawn has been getting home from work late, so it feels too late to go out for food.  Second, I’ve been working more in the evenings recently because of a couple of big projects, so I don’t want to take so much time away from the office.  Finally, I prefer to cook our food, that way I have so much more control over what goes into it.

So, what’s been cooking?  Here’s a selection of recent items.


Grilled pork chops with a cumin-paprika-chili powder rub.  Side of mashed potatoes, homemade applesauce, and stir-fried asparagus with garlic.


Cook’s Illustrated had this recipe for “easy” chicken tikka masala.  The tomato and cilantro sauce was nice.  The chicken could have marinated a bit longer in the yogurt mixture.  Served with mixed rice and a spinach and ricotta cheese bake.


A recent loaf of bread came out kind of funny.  I think it looks like an alien!


Pizza pie is always a quick and easy meal.  There are usually a few servings of pizza dough wrapped and stored in my freezer.  This one had salami, roasted red bell peppers (easy when you use the broiler as the oven is pre-heating for the pizza), mushrooms and fresh basil.

P1170403 P1170406

A fun dessert: free-form apple tart using store-bought puff pastry dough and two types of apples.  Toss them in a little maple syrup and cinnamon, add some cornstarch, and then sprinkle some ground walnuts on top.


Finally, after the latest Martha Stewart Living had some pictures of various hamburger recipes, Tawn asked for some.  So I made a pork-chicken burger with Italian spices, with avocado and tomato.  Quite… er, vertical.

Angels without Nipples

The two-year old white elephant – I mean, international airport – here in Krungthep is filled with all sorts of artwork, most of which is kind of cheap, mass-market versions of traditional Thai temple murals.  There are some contemporary pieces in the arrivals hall by local artists, but most of the baggage claim walls – many stories high and hundreds of feet long – are filled with these faux temple murals.


They are pretty enough, in and of themselves. What you see here is a trio of angels, gracefully flying through the firmament.

What you don’t see here is their nipples.  I thought it odd at first, as in the traditional murals that you would actually see at the temple, the angels are anatomically correct.  Not so, the baggage claim murals.

I walked the length of the artwork and discovered that all of the celestial beings depicted in it were nipple-less.  Perhaps the tourism authority is worried about offending the sensibility of all the visiting European tourists who (with complete disregard for the local modesties) sunbathe topless at our beaches?


On the drive out to the airport two weeks ago, heading to Kuala Lumpur, there was this really frightening cloud cover.  The entire city was under a heavy downpour but as we reached the airport, which is to the east of the city, we could see the edge of the weather system.  Beyond it were bright, sunny skies.  This picture is taken on the road connecting the expressway to the airport.  The THAI Airways maintenance building and employee car park are visible to the left.


Your Guardian Angels

Continuing on the theme of Thai taxis, almost all taxis here in Krungthep (and pretty much everywhere else in the kingdom, I’d suppose) are given special protection for their drivers and occupants through a variety of means.

A monk will bless a new taxi, chanting, sprinkling it with holy water, and often marking the ceiling over the front windscreen with various designs and Sanskrit words that are meant to ward off evil, bad luck, and accidents. 

As an extra layer of protection, drivers will decorate dashboards with various good luck charms.  These are usually Buddha statues, statues of venerated monks, amulets, laminated prayer cards, jasmine garlands (plastic or real), etc. 

Occasionally, other things make their way onto the dashboard.


An example I saw on the way to the Ministry of Labor the other day was this trio of objects.  In addition to the prayer fan with a monk’s image on it (in the foreground), the driver has a naga, a cobra and a model of a THAI Airways Boeing 747.

The naga is a mythical 5-, 7- or 9-headed serpent.  In Buddhist lore, the naga raised its heads up over Prince Siddartha to shield him from the elements as he spent his forty days meditating in the forest until he reached enlightenment and became the Buddha.  One common depiction of the Buddha is with the naga rising up behind him. (example here) You see the back of one of these images in gold, to the right of the cobra.

The model of the plane is actually balanced on its stand and rocks back and forth as the car drives.  Video below.

I wonder what the correlation is between drivers who have more of these good luck charms and their accident rate?  Do drivers with more charms drive more dangerously, assuming they are protected from harm?  Or do they drive more cautiously, the charms being an indicator that they are risk-averse people?

It is worth mentioning that many private cars also have some of these good luck charms and markings, although rarely to the extent that you see in the taxis.  For example, our car just has a couple of Madonna cassette tapes to protect it.


No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women

Bangkok taxi drivers like to pimp out their cars.  Anywhere  the drivers gather, you are sure to find a sticker stall – a bicycle-driven shop that has thousands of different stickers and decals with which you can customize your car.  “We Love The King” is a popular one, of course, but sometimes you see some pretty odd ones.

The other day I hopped into this taxi and saw what looked like a very typical, professional sticker indicating what behavior/items were appropriate in the car.


From left to right (as viewed by someone getting into the car):

  • DVD Karaoke available
  • No smoking allowed
  • No drinks allowed
  • No knives or guns allowed
  • No sex allowed
  • No durian allowed
  • No dogs allowed
  • No water buffalos allowed

Please, if you have a water buffalo with you, hail another taxi.