May 27, 2007

Electrical Suffrage
Karon Beach (Phuket), Thailand

Must everything electrical give me such grief?

Stubborn Solution Finder

I can be a stubborn guy. Most of my good friends can be stubborn, Alpha males. It's always interesting when there's a difference of opinion.

I'm back from walking around Karon & Kata Beach (at night), negatively charged from the experience, and a bit sweaty. It's too warm in the room, and I didn't feel like taking a shower—I felt like getting the broken A/C unit in my room working.

12:15 In the morning, flashlight in mouth, and I'm dickin' around with this large, in-room cooler mounted to the ceiling.

There are no controls on the unit itself, just a cord (stapled to the wall) that runs to a remote. Wires on the rear of the remote are exposed, most of them having broken free. There are stumps of cable I can't remove left inside their contact terminals.

I turned the remote on and proceed to touch the severed wires back to their colored stumps until one kicked the unit on. Not just the fan—cool air.

Encouraged, I now had figure out a way to keep it in contact with the terminal. Normally this would be simple, but life has a way of making such things hard when you're on the road.

Firstly, I have no knife (thanks to airport security and my lack of energy to buy one here in Thailand). Second, the power is still running, and I'm too lazy to go down several flights of stairs, kill the breaker, do work by flashlight, then flip it back on. Third, I have no tools, just electrical tape.

I was getting shocked (messing around with the wires) so many times I felt like I was in a psychology experiment. In a MacGyveresque brainstorm I used my shaving razor to slice away at the wire, shoved the fraying wires around the stump, and then figured out a way to secure it with electrical tape. Time elapsed: 50-minutes.

It actually looks like quite a mess, and now I'm freezing. Oh well, the battle was won, and I'm in a better mood because of it.

And Then…

I made a huge mistake when I passed through the United States and Bangkok: Not replacing the mini-keyboard that I use to type on my PDA with.

I never wrote about it, but back in Rio I believe my keyboard was pilfered out of my poorly designed storage locker. Someone discovered it was not of value to them, and it turned up at reception, broken in half. I repaired it, and have been typing with it successfully—until recently.

Connectivity between the PDA and the keyboard has been failing at a quickening rate over the past few months. I just couldn't isolate the variables well enough to figure out if it was a problem with the keyboard or the PDA. Then, in Khao Lak a few days ago, nearly ready to throw the device across the room and burn the remnants, I pried it open the and discovered the problem.

There's a finely braided ribbon cable that connects the two halves of the collapsible keyboard, and a tiny fraction of that ribbon has been getting worn down to the point where it's been sliced. This would probably not be happening if it wasn't damaged in late-January.

It's bad. I'm spending an extra 30% typing posts because I've been dealing with keyboard issues. And tonight, it escalated to a new level.

Sitting here, enjoying the victory from the A/C battle, the keyboard cut out—dead in the water. Flashlight back in my mouth, hands prying the unit apart , I discovered that a few of the little tiny steel wires had snapped, crippling the device. (sigh)

I tried taping them back together with the electrical tape, but the length of the cut wires (that finer than a piece of hair) isn't enough to keep the connection consistent (it's right under the Y and H keys, and typing fouls it up).

What could I do but take small part of a garbage bag twist-tie, strip off the plastic, fold it over onto itself, and hope it was enough restore the connection (in conjunction with the tape).

Well, it did, but I've lost the ability to use a few keys on the right side of the keyboard—I'm using the virtual keyboard on the PDA to insert these characters as needed. Annoying.

So now I'm left trying to decide what I'm going to do about this thing, how long the stop-gap solution will last—tonight, yes, tomorrow, who knows. This thing needs to be replaced (there's at least US$50 right there), and I don't think the greater Phuket area will be able to accommodate the purchase of such things.

I need to cross a border to renew my immigration stamp in 11 days, and it was my intention to continue south into Malaysia to do this, then work my way back up to Bangkok over the month of June (to meet up with an old friend flying into the capital on the 23rd).

This keyboard has more than just one foot in the grave, though, and if lost as a part of my inventory, the frequency of posts to Travelvice will drop to maybe once or twice a week (at most).

There's always a slim chance I could find something like this in the (sex) tourist-bubble that is Patong Beach, but it's probably wasted energy. I will have to go back to and buy this from a fancy shopping mall in Bangkok.

The question is, do I bus all the way back there do to it, or just keep on moving south (maybe a quick-step to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore)?



June 6th, 2007

Saw this and thought of you…


Craig |

June 6th, 2007

Sorry for the lack of updates folks; I'm still without keyboard.

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