Hey, where’s the post about the giant robot angst? Suffice it to say, I’ll finish the second part of my Evangelion-themed entries a little later than I expected. In the meantime, my attention has been bouncing like a pinball from one new idea to another, and by now, my minor rediscovery of anime is only one facet of my overall sphere of inspiration.
The creativity explosion that I mentioned having recently has been fueled even further by events of this week. On Wednesday evening, after my work was done for the day, Apple and I went back to the Sittara Spa (first written about here) for a two-hour Thai massage. Apple had experienced one already during this trip, and she wanted me to try it as well. I’ve only had two full-body massages in my life, one of which — a Swedish massage I had at a Thai resort during our 2004 vacation — was pretty good, and the other of which was terrible. When it comes to massage, I feel like I could take it or leave it. Apple really wanted me to try Thai-style massage, though, and talked a good game about how great it was, so I went along.
Well, any hint of doubt I might have had as to the effectiveness of Thai massage went out the window. In a word, it was amazing. We each had a two-hour massage regimen administered with the two of us together in a private room, which was appointed with all manner of relaxing sounds, scents and temperatures, and it was probably one of the most simultaneously relaxing and invigorating experiences I’ve had yet.
When we got there, we were shown to our respective locker rooms to change into a set of provided pajama-like, loose-fitting clothes. When I say “locker room,” this was nothing like your local YMCA. The room was paneled entirely with natural wood, warmly lit, and featured two saunas, several marble-tiled showers and a huge spa tub. There was nobody else in the whole place; it was like we had a palace to ourselves.
Next, Apple and I met up again in our private room, where there were soft mattresses on the floor that we were to lie down on. A young Thai masseuse was appointed for each of us, and they started by first washing our feet in a basin of warm water that was filled with small, polished rocks. After that, the lights were dimmed and the actual massage began.
For the uninitiated (which included me, until Wednesday), Thai massage isn’t about kneading your muscles. Rather, it’s a combination of two things: 1) Applying firm, steady pressure to a variety of carefully selected points, and 2) Assisted stretching. When I say “assisted stretching,” I mean it’s like doing yoga, except you’re lying there and having somebody else move your body for you.
I was surprised at just how effective this combination is. The masseuse confirmed with me that the amount of pressure she was applying was okay. Beyond that (and rolling over when asked to), there’s nothing much to do except lie back and enjoy the sensations and the soft ambient music. The stretching exercises were particularly interesting; the masseuse will often do things like lie on her back and use her feet to stretch your limbs in various therapeutic ways. I figured it was going to be awkward, but it never was.
After all this, the effect of the two-hour treatment was like a great surge of spiritual energy filling my entire body. Menial work tasks and other grating irritations no longer seemed to matter. I was immediately less withdrawn and feeling more interactive with the world, as if my eyes had suddenly been opened onto reality. And my already-smoldering creative drive was stoked up to insane levels; since Wednesday, I have powered full steam ahead on a personal project that has already reached a level I did not expect it to attain.
By the way, the cost for the massage? Less than $20 USD per person. Yup. Apple, incidentally, was exceedingly pleased to hear how much I enjoyed the spa treatment, because now she has yet another excuse to go back to Sittara as often as possible. And at that price point, repeated visits certainly wouldn’t be a stretch. (No pun intended.)
In other news, things have settled down a little bit at work — not in the sense that I have less to do, but in the sense that everything seems to have fallen into its own “slot,” and I no longer have a bazillion things all competing at once for my undivided attention. In the off hours, we’ve been doing our usual — going shopping, eating our meals on the patio, watering the plants (my official household chore), following our workout regimen, and enjoying personal pursuits. For Apple, that means playing her favorite computer games and watching Korean TV shows. For me, it’s the latest in a long line of all-encompassing creative writing projects.
As part and parcel of that aforementioned writing project, I have become very familiar with MediaWiki, the wiki software that powers Wikipedia. In my latest attempt (yes, I’ve tried similar things before) to create a huge database of information about one of the fictional universes I write for, I’ve decided to use a wiki as the medium. This makes perfect sense, actually, because what I want is a huge reference database whose components are all cross-referenced semantically with each other. MediaWiki — coupled with the Semantic MediaWiki extension — is exactly that.
When I was just embarking on the wiki project, the staggering amount of work it was obviously going to require very nearly turned me away. Somehow, though, I felt compelled to keep at it, trying again the next day if I became frustrated with the complexity of it all. Having persevered, I now have a functioning system that’s ready to be filled with content — and the “filling” has already begun. I have always loved documentation, user manuals and references, particularly as they apply toward things I love to learn about, and creating that kind of reference for something I helped to create is the ultimate geeky fulfillment of pleasure.
As if all that weren’t enough reason to enjoy the project, in working with MediaWiki I’m also gaining intricate familiarity with one of the Web’s foremost content management and communal knowledge systems. Soon, I suppose I’ll be able to add “MediaWiki Template Master” to the list of for-hire services. Nothing wrong with that!
This upcoming weekend looks like it’s going to be just the kind I like: The stay-at-home kind, with no work to do, except for a review of our annual tax paperwork before I send it off to our CPA. I’m getting my hair cut (FINALLY, ugh) on Saturday afternoon, but otherwise we don’t have anything planned. This, of course, doesn’t mean that something won’t happen, because as I said before, THIS! IS! THAILAAAAND! And in Thailaaaand, we do stuff on the spur of the moment. Still, I’m looking forward to some more relaxation and geeky pleasures.
One other thing I’m hoping to do this weekend is try playing some games online with my friends Pooch and Reaper over Xbox Live. There’s no guarantee it’ll work due to the 400-700 millisecond latency that I often see when communicating with servers in the U.S., but it’s worth a try. Thanks to my parents, I managed to snag the code from a 1-month Xbox Live Gold card to test with, so I didn’t have to burn the 13-month card my friends got me for Christmas. I’ve got Left 4 Dead in the drive and ready to go for a zombie-blasting spin, so now all I need is for the darn thing to work. Tentatively, I’m looking at Saturday night Thailand time for the shakedown run.
Food discoveries! There are always lots of interesting new foodstuffs that I encounter each time we come to Thailand, and this extended trip has been no exception. Among my new favorites are:
- An-Pan onion and chives flavored crackers (like Chicken in a Biskit, except less salty and crumbly). Speaking of the “In a Biskit” crackers, did you know they originated in Australia? No wonder I saw so many varieties of them when I visited Sydney!
- “Moo sandwiches” (little tiny ice cream sandwiches that are perfectly sized for some post-meal sweetness, unlike the huge ice cream sandwich bricks back home).
- Coke Buddy (miniature glass bottles of Coca-Cola made with real sugar; again representing an ideal portion).
- Thai-style bananas (known as gluoy nam wa in Thai; sweeter and less chalky than western-style bananas).
- Thai-style Pizza Hut (more on this below).
- Zenya flavored green tea drinks (a Thai brand made by TAC Beverage Co., with flavors like Pomegranate and Super Lemon. Perfect amount of sweetness, and once again, they use sugar instead of America’s favorite High Fructose Cancer Inducer.)
Speaking of Pizza Hut, I’ve found my new western-style pizza fix — and I believe I’ve also discovered how to circumvent the seeming lack of real cheese on Thai pizzas. Apparently, cheese here is on the expensive side, so when you order a pizza, you have to order mozzarella cheese as if it’s a topping. If you don’t, you get the mayo-based “cheese dressing” which is just all kinds of nastified.
I discovered this mistake the other evening, when Apple and I went out for pizza and ice cream at Lee Gardens Plaza. I also discovered that Pizza Hut here — like most U.S.-based fast food chains — is really swank, featuring a full menu of pastas (Apple had the black spaghetti with New Zealand mussels), appetizers and fruity drinks. In addition to the thin crust pizza (with REAL cheese) that I thoroughly enjoyed, I also satiated my Carrabba’s urges by having some of Pizza Hut’s surprisingly good lasagna. And the leftovers were good for two lunches, as well.
The whole Pizza Hut thing seemed like a bit of an odyssey, so in traditional tourist fashion, I took pictures:
After dinner, we went shopping on the ground floor of the mall, where Apple bought some cool necklace trinkets and an ankle bracelet. While she was shopping, I noticed a nearby casual-clothing store was offering this shirt with a funny message:
This is nothing, though, compared to some of the truly ridiculous things I’ve seen on young peoples’ shirts here, mostly due to wacky Engrish. I’ve got to be ready to snap a picture the next time I see one of those shirts that says something like “If you touch me, I will kill you” in a happy font with rainbows all over it. True story.