Northern Thai Funeral

I paid my last respects to my friend Ekkalak yesterday and today. Sunday and today were the culmination of what norther Thai bereavement etiquette dictates we arrived yesterday afternoon, in time for the last Buddhist ceremony at Ekkalak’s parents home. Ekkalak’s parents while very modest seem to be pillars of the community, based on the crowd present. It was a tough evening, as my heart goes out to Ekkalak’s wife and his family. Their world has been shaken at the foundations, especially Ekkalak’s wife I feel for.
In front of the house were an elaborate paper, wood and cardboard pagoda to house the coffin and next to it a beautiful shrine in honor of Ekk’s life.
20140630-205726-75446163.jpg
I had mentioned last week that Ekk was a unique human and definitely a unique Thai, in a sense that he displayed his sense of humor openly, he could be a prankster, he expressed dissent, yet offered better solutions. Ekk had a pretty infectious laugh and a permanent smile, which made it fun to be around him. He had a very good relation with his parents – mama’s boy, but then which son isn’t? – and his siblings. He was the middle child following a seven year older brother, preceding a two year younger sister. But I digress, a very large community bade him his final farewell as we proceeded from his parents hoke to the cremation site.
20140630-205913-75553437.jpg
And after the final respect had been paid, the last gifts to the monks were given and the last chants gave way to silence, the coffin was carried to the stack of wood and Ekkalak’s corpse was set on fire.
20140630-210008-75608636.jpg
I decided to take a single image early in the fire, as I did not want to watch my friend being turned to ashes and possibly see charred remains of him, which could cloud the last images I have of him. The memories we made when we rode 2 weeks ago in the pouring rain up to Khao Yai – that’s how I will remember him. His laugher about my goosebumps as we sat at lunch at the visitor center, because when you ride a motorbike in the rain and you are soaked when, you get cold even in Thailand.
I will remember how we asked for an extra hot Cafe Latte at the Noen Hom Café, because we were so cold from being oh-so-wet. I remember him walking around this cafė barefoot leaving footprints all over, because his “water proof” motorbike boots might have leaked just a tad.

Oh well, may you find peace now and turn up in our memories every now and then.

Markus \m/

Drink Milk Campaign In Thailand

In 1997, I did my grocery shopping at a Lucky’s supermarket in Pacific Beach, CA. The place was just a short skateboard ride down Turquoise. As I stood by the register to pay my goods, I saw a postcard with the Van Halen brothers drenched in milk. On the bottom of the card it said:”got milk”. That was an awesome advertisement campaign.
Now, Thailand is embarking on its own milk promotion campaign. But it is not quite a cool and imaginative the original Got Milk campaign.
20140628-185245-67965183.jpg
The message in Thailand lies on how happy the cows are. They receive real grass, corn AND fresh water, get massages, have a sleeping pad on which they can listen to music. I wonder if you play different styles of music if you get different products. Say you play the cows reggae,do you get milk shakes? If you play heavy metal will the udder churn the milk and you milk butter off? Finally, there is even a nice man who reads stories to the cows. May be these aren’t stories, but maybe they are scientific texts or papers on milk product economics and in an effort to make cattle farming even more humane, the cows have a say in what to do with their mild and how to market it best. Clearly, the possibilities are endless.
But seriously, the milk campaign in Thailand is an effort to actually promote human growth – as in body height. Thailand has one of the lowest annual per capita consumption a of milk in Asia. Now, as I have worked – albeit briefly in advertisement photography – I would cancel the happy cow campaign and replace it with the following.
A typical Thai Muay Thai fighter post fight with a glass of milk and a typical weightlifting “farang” , with bruises a black eye and a front tooth missing. The tag line on the bottom of the page would read:”Thai Milk Delivers A Punch!”

Don’t thank me, just Do it, Now!

Stay sharp.

Yours Markus \m/

More Low Tech Defeating High Tech

I have spent a few entries talking about low tech and how it still has a place in out times and society. But on the sly, my Thai co-workers have developed a cheap, reliable and stylish low tech device to put the brakes on government spying focused on mind and thought reading. The device comes in two sizes and works wonders.
Like, I tried to read the thought of some of my staff and I couldn’t at all, nothing, nada.
20140626-101036-36636185.jpg
When they take the device off, I read them like an open book. When I asked a volunteer to wear the freshly charged device, the individual thought:”why the hell me?” With the device in place, I could not get a read at all. The device was off and the individual thought:” I can’t believe Markus made me wear this. His powers of persuasion are awesome. Good thing he didn’t photograph me.” The last part, though is not true, because. I did take a mental image in 3D and color.
The second image of the government blocker shows a larger size, but with the same functionality. The device is entirely made from surgical stainless steel in a painstaking manual high quality process.
20140626-101813-37093447.jpg
The device makes application of the neuro-magnetic field sciences and is rather trivial in its realization.
Good, I am glad I was able to share this important piece of news with you.

Sayonara and stay sharp.

Markus \m/

Fire And Brimstone Technology

A few days ago I wrote about the lower tech industry I am in now. And it is true, it is lower tech. But that does not mean that it is less exciting. These days I work with plastic injection machines and die cast machines. And the die cast machines in particular can be still fire and brimstone technology. The crucible (the name alone in stills respect) can still be gas fired and the gooseneck may also be completely gas fired with an open flame grid. Sweat beads start to form instantly on the forehead of anyone closer than one meter. But these low tech machines have one big advantage over a lot of the high tech gadgetry – reliability.
This machine is probably +30 years old, but it still does what it is meant to do. Quality this machine produces depends primarily on the mold quality.
20140625-215432-78872934.jpg
Look at it, big, solid, beefy, polished rails used to open and close the tool to eject the part. As win lower tech machines, there appears to be more time, supported by the little chair in the lower right corner. Old stuff and low tech does not mean necessarily obsolete and useless, all it means is that it is not as easily to operate as an iPhone.

Stay sharp
Markus \m/

P.S.: I need to give credit where credit is due. The image was taken by my friend Suththichai, while I did the post processing. Suth demonstrated great presence of mind, while I walked past the machine not even looking at it.

More Satellite Images From Toolinguria

The old toolings I started showing earlier today are revving my fantasy and imagination. So I decided to show you a few more satellite images from the country of Toolinuria. This is the neighborhood, called the Gateway (get it “gate”). It is the gritty part town and also the most historical of the Toolinguria’s largest city Molybdenopolis.
20140624-083227-30747181.jpg
In the center of the shot you see the roof of the old opera house. Maria Callas celebrated successes here, but in the 17th century, Nicolo Paganini supposed by was playing his violin so virtuoso that the violin erupted sponatanously in flames. This incident inspired a Dutch immigrant to America 200 years later to write a piece for the guitar, called Eruption. The immigrant’s name was Edward Van Halen…..true story!
The old opera is now used as a concert hall.
To the right of the old opera is a live music barbecue bar. Progressive as Molybdenopolis is, the barbecue selection covers meat and vegetarian offerings. Just like the music, the food is basic but oh-so-good.
20140624-083225-30745975.jpg
Here we see student housing and the Rec Center from the top. In the early 19th century these buildings housed the miners and their families. The neighborhood bears witness to a time that would rather be forgotten by the families with long bloodlines in Molybdenopolis. The owners of the mineral mines paid 70% of a worker’s salary in housing and company currency and the remaining 30% in Toolinguria’s official legal tender, the Chamfer € (pronounced with a guttural CH as in “Chanukah” or “Chach, I am such a schlemiel”). The workers were in essence forced to spend 70% of their income at the company store. The prices were non-market prices and wee set by the owner families, thus making the wealthy even wealthier. A scheme successfully copied a few years later by amongst others the steel baron himself Andrew Carnegie.
Well, this concludes the news from Toolinguria and it’s Capitol Molybdenopolis.

Stay sharp
Markus \m/

Coping And Skype

I am sitting in my car on the way to work. Slash is blasting from my iPod, trying to numb the pain, suppressing thoughts, blanketing the process of coming terms with Ekk’s death. I am writing blog entries, because that is a rather mundane task of which I hope I can still do it well enough. I am wandering to Skype to see if any of my friends in America are online, ready to listen to my thoughts, to my lamenting. Then it hits me, I see Ekk’s icon, he is online. In his picture he is staring at me waiting to be called. I am not delusional, I am not trying to call. But the sheer idea, that something of any dead person can stay “alive”‘in cyberspace, can stay alive online is somewhat comforting. Because how often does it happen that people are online on Skype, but they forgot to log out or they are away from their terminal – whatever that terminal may be. You know there are present, they are just not picking up for what ever reason. This might be a good mechanism for “weaning oneself off a person”, rather than facing this deep and final cut of alive, laughing, heathy and kicking and a week later shattered and dead.
The human mind is a wild tool, it lies to you, build facades to help a person process events and emotions, while at the same time it tells you that what it is doing is fake. But this fake construct serves a purpose – a crutch to help you cope.

Stay sharp and enjoy everyday with all the people in your life.
Markus \m/

At The Junction Of Art And Industry

I have spent the first part of my professional engineering life in high technology. Clean rooms, creativity in abundance, top of the line equipment, a lot of fun and high demands for technology delivery. This was a great and exciting part of my life. Now, I have switched industries and I see a lot more of classical production machines – metal die casting machine plastic injection machines, painting and pad printing machines, mills, lathes, drills, welding. And it is great, too, albeit a lot more basic. It is less about inventing new technology and more about running established technology most efficiently. Today, I am showing you a few images of what happens when old tools for this old technology get discarded.
20140624-071259-25979946.jpg
What you see here so colorful is a discarded plastic injection mold, that has spent quality time in the Thai rainy season.
20140624-071848-26328594.jpg
Here discarded molds remind me of an arial shot of a North African mountain village where the observer sees the roofs of the riads. And finally another satellite view of old molds. The negative space (gaps between the tooling) is reminiscent of the donkey cart wide streets and back-alleys of any Maroccan medina as you can find it in Chefchaouen or Meknés, while the positive space occupied by the tooling represents the riads.
20140624-072859-26939943.jpg
And with that I bid you farewell for today. I am still reeling over the sudden death of my friend Ekk, but. I hope that time will continue to heal all wounds.

Cheers and stay sharp
Markus \m/

“Maybe God Is Malicious”

This is a quote by Albert Einstein. I have another one that goes like this:”As I have said so many times, God doesn’t play dice with the world.”
So why do. I start this entry with Einstein quotes about the doubts and confirmation he had of god’s existence? Because, I am in deep doubt if there is a supreme being and if there is if it cares. My friend Ekkalak died today and I am heart broken over his death.

20140622-213417-77657555.jpg
Ekkalak worked for me for a short while, but we quickly worked together. He was an engineer’s engineer with a healthy curiosity and a pretty large and funny persona, given that he was a tall, lanky, scrawny Thai kid. He had a great sense of humor and was very bright and creative with a masters degree in mechanical engineering…..an engineer’s engineer. Last week he showed me an Arduino project he had completed to collect temperature data when he was riding with his motorbike. And then at 15:00 today I received a text that Ekkalak had died. Less than a year ago he married his long time girl friend Aom, who he loved very much and who he spoke always very highly of. They had just bought a house and now she finds herself alone in it.
Ekkalak and I had a great time last weekend in Khao Yai and we had a great conversation about life and what the future had in store for us. We talked about things we could do together – at work and outside of work. He was 31, he had his whole life ahead of him. He talked about having children with Aom. All of this is now a mood point. In his wake there is sadness and despair and a giant void. I try to find solace in the fact that Ekk died exactly to the day one year after my grandmother died and exactly one year and two weeks after my friend Amaninder died last year and that he died doing what he loved – riding his motorbike. If there is a heaven, these my grandmother, Amaninder and Ekk should have a good time. I know my grandmother would have a ball, asking these two “exotic” men all sorts of questions. But, in order to believe in a heaven, one needs to believe that there is divine plan or that someone is at the helm. And this is what in moments like these I really doubt. Besides the general shit that is allowed to take place in this world, be it genocides in the Middle East, anywhere in Africa, modern slavery in south east Asia, human trafficking. And then further fuel to fall from any faith is when young contributing individuals are taken prematurely. If there really is a heaven, then I think Amaninder will tear someone a new one – again, while my grandma will be more selective in her tone, yet equally cutting about what a lousy way this is to run a universe.
Ekk, you take care, look after Aom, your brother and your parents and may your spirit be with us.

Yours
Markus \m

Closure

Let me start by saying that today’s entry will reveal a really poor trait of mine. Don’t say I did not warn you. Schadenfreude is best translated with massive glee over someone else’s misfortune – clearly not a nice behavior. And still, I can’t help it but to smirk and smile and be happy that Chile beat Spain in the World Cup with only 2:0.
Spain is the reigning World Champion and European Champion. Both, in my opinion, completely undeservedly. Spain was able to play the most unattractive shit-football known to mankind. The real, but never publicly discussed reason why Spain won games that ultimately awarded them these two major championships, is not that they were better than their opponents. No, the opponents just wanted the ugliness of the Spanish ball shoving to stop. It was physically painful to watch. Even North Korea, decided against using it as a torture treatment, because they deemed it, just a tad too cruel and inhumane… North Korea. But now Spain has been eliminated in two matches. Spain’s final match is against Australia and while Australia is also out, I will be rooting for Australia, just because then it is a clear message and does not leave room for discussion or interpretation.
Now, please I love Spain as a country, the food is great, the geography is fantastic, the weather, the architecture, the history, heck, I even grew up with a few Spanish immigrant kids (and they played much better football than what was on display these days). But the football Spain adopted over the last ten years is atrocious and I am glad – oh, so glad – that the Netherlands and Chile made it short order and put Spain back on a plane. But here is the rub and I am a little embarrassed to admit it. Spain’s football is like “se Germans” my own team played throughout the 80’s…. almost equally successfully. Germany developed under Jürgen Klinsmann between 2004 to 2006 into the wonderful football blossom playing Hurray-Football. Straight towards the opposing goal over and over again. That’s how you play football. We are playing football, like you play hockey, which is why I am so excited to watch the Germany – USA game. Two teams playing the same kind of football, only that Germany has an eight year head start, but Team USA has got Jürgen Klinsmann.
In hindsight, there were discussions – lively discussions – about the financial rewards each Spanish player would receive, IF they would win the World Cup again. Supposedly 720.000€, twice as much as what the Germans would allegedly receive for the same achievement. Spain isn’t the poster child for economic success presently. High unemployment and an overall sputtering economy have taken a toll. So, needless to say that the public was dismayed with the prospect of shelling out such financial rewards to people who are already very highly paid. Well, maybe this was a promise made, knowing it would never have to be fulfilled, who knows.

With that, stay sharp and enjoy the rest of the World Cup. While for myself, I hope I will not have to eat my own words for the duration of the tournament, with a eulogy for my team.

Oh and about the title of this entry “Closure”. I have it now. It has been stinging since 2010, when German Hurray Football lost against Spanish Shit Football in the Semi-Final with 1:0. Iniesta scored the only goal in the 73rd minute. Closure!

Cheers Markus \m/

Faul, WadAd vs Pnau

Yes it does not make any sense. It reads like a random sequence of letters. But it is a band from France – think Daft Punk. Before them France wasn’t on anyone’s musical map. So, these guys Faul, WadAd vs Pnau have a song that is almost hypnotic in its simplicity. It’s called “Changes”. I heard it on Saturday when I was out with my Texas mate Chris. With lighnting quick reflexes I launched Shazam on my phone, only to find out who that band is and what the name of the song is. I am usually more on the hater, heavier side of the musical spectrum. I like a mercilessly driving drum set, supported by a thundering bass, so that the guitar can weave riffs, rhythms and solos, while the lead singer celebrates cars, women and the easy life in rhyme. Yes, that is Van Halen pretty much.

Anyway, this is the opposite end of the spectrum. This is music that’s played “in da clu’h”, you feel me. You just have to listen to the 30 free seconds on iTunes and then decide that I am full of it and that evidently I am losing it.

Faul, WadAd vs Pnau: Changes

This music will help you stay sharp. Smell ya later dingusses.

Markus \m/