In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog July 23rd, 2011

Palauan Island of Peleliu / TP-Link TL-WR1043ND Ultimate Wirless-N Gigabyte Router


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Feature Photograph Palauan Island of Peleliu TP-Link TL-WR1043ND Ultimate Wireless-N Gigabyte Router Review Photography News of Interest

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Feature Photograph *menu

Fuji x100 @F8 1/150th ISO 200


The question many struggle with, and many more should at least think about, is what do you point your camera towards when you press the shutter release. This is a question we should consider, perhaps consider most, when taking a photograph. Exactly what is it you wish the viewer to see or feel from your image? And what elements of the composition will help impart this feeling to the viewer?

Last June while visiting in the Umpqua area of Oregon, on the same road where I used to own a small ranch, my goal was to make a few select captures to share with my sons who spent a fair amount of their youth growing up on our ranch. I wanted them to see the mountains, remember the old barns, and feel the damp wet weather. If possible I wanted them to feel the cold air on their cheeks and the drizzle on their hair. I wanted to help bring back many of the wonderful memories we shared while living on Hubbard Creek Road.

There isn’t the selection of vista’s you might expect. The area is full of dense mixed evergreen timber, broken up only by small clearings where people built homes as early as the mid-1800’s. The people who live here work for a living so there are few fancy homes or man made landscapes. Long views of any type are few.

I came across this old barn which I fondly remembered from my past. The view through the truncated valley shows low ranging hills, some full with timber, others clear cut and recovering. The sunlight peeked through the clouds and bathed the small pasture in a dim light that barely cut through the morning fog. There was just enough light to bring out the depth of the red rust on the metal roof of the barn. I framed the barn and the long neglected apple tree with the view through the valley right down the center. I was disappointed I couldn’t find anything to anchor the foreground so I must accept this image is flawed. Yet, I’ve already shared this image and watched their faces as old memories flooded back so in that sense I succeeded. I pointed my camera towards the right direction to accomplish my intended composition.

Fuji x100 @F8 1/60th ISO 200


The above image was captured not even 20 meters from the first image above. It shows Hubbard Creek, a creek we’ve fished in, swam in, and cursed as winter storms overtook it’s banks and flooded our lower pastures. It ‘shows’ Hubbard Creek, but it fails to give any ‘feeling’ of Hubbard Creek. It’s quite unremarkable despite being a technically valid and correct photograph.

This is the difference you can expect from thinking just long enough to ‘document’ the scene, or thinking longer and making the effort to build a worthwhile composition. Can you see the difference? Of course there are other elements such as depth of field, framing, exposure, and more.. and we’ll talk more about those in the coming months.

Palauan Island of Peleliu *menu

Allow me to introduce Akulka. Akulka is well known in the Readers Submissions area of Stick’s site and has penned three other features for this column in the past. All exotic, all enjoyable. He is well traveled and always has an interesting perspective. You can contact Akulka at: [email protected]

On the small and remote Palauan island of Peleliu I meet Tangie, the local historian. Tangie is a short and overweight Palauan in his 50ies. He doesn’t look very healthy. In his speech and mannerisms he’s acting very flamboyantly gay.

Having devoted all his adult life to researching and documenting the bloody battle that took place here in 1944 Tangie has become the authority on the island about Peleliu’s grim World War 2 history. He has collected countless artifacts of the battle and displays them in his very own museum. He has also frequently organized veteran reunions and offers personalized tours around the island to interested tourists. For anyone interested in learning about the island of Peleliu, and specifically what happened there between September and November of 1944, there is no better person to talk to than him.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/125th, 14mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/25th, 14mm, ISO 100

Tangie and I set off to our first stop of the tour. It’s just a short drive though the main village in direction of the harbor. We stop at a Japanese tunnel system carved into the rocks by forced Korean labor. Having read several accounts about the Battle of Peleliu, as well as two biographies of US Marines who have fought here, Tangie is clearly happy I’m not totally ignorant about what he’s about to show me.

The tunnel system is quite a big complex. Going in I have to duck in order not to scrape the ceiling with my head or shoulders. There are hundreds of bottles on the floor. At first I think they are from local youngsters spontaneously partying in these tunnels during recent years, but Tangie explains they still stem from the time of the war, when the Japanese desperately tried to defend themselves with improvised Molotov cocktails. Finally the Americans drove everybody out with flame throwers. According to Tangie more than 70 Japanese soldiers died inside the tunnels.

Getting back to the car the door on Tangie’s side doesn’t close properly. He struggles to slam it shut from the driver’s seat but has no success. For the remainder of the day I have to close the door for him from the outside.

“Oh, that’s so cute of you!” Tangie purrs.

Peleliu today is incredibly green and tropically lush. It’s amazing how nature has reclaimed the land that was all scorched and barren after the war.

On our way around the island we stop at the erstwhile Japanese power station, and then move on to see some of the wrecks of war planes and amphibious armored vehicles that are randomly scattered around the whole island.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/80th, 14mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F5,6, 1/200th, 19mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F4,5, 1/200th, 14mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/100th, 14mm, ISO 100

There is also a large Japanese cannon situated in a cave carved into the island’s central ridge. That ridge was named Bloody Nose Ridge by the attacking US Marines due to the heavy casualties they suffered during their repeated attempts to drive out the Japanese from their fortified positions. Tangie explains the cannon was installed in the wrong place as the American forces approached from a different direction, and has hence never been used.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/5th, 14mm, ISO 100

We move uphill and get to the largest memorial on the island. There is an American memorial sitting right next to a Japanese one which takes the form of a Shinto shrine. The American monument was put in place by the sailors of the USS Peleliu in 2007.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F9, 1/320th, 14mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F7,1, 1/400th, 14mm, ISO 100

From the hilltop we look down to Horseshoe Ridge and the “Death Valley.” Everything is overgrown today.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F6,3, 1/400th, 14mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F7,1, 1/400th, 14mm, ISO 100

We drive on and stop at a few more American amtracs and one Japanese tank that rust away in the sun.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F6,3, 1/200th, 23mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S , @F4,5, 1/200th, 14mm, ISO 100


Eventually we reach the main runway of the contested airfield the Japanese and the US forces fought over for weeks. It was still used for small commercial flights between Koror and Peleliu until recently. The runway is partly overgrown and incredibly bumpy, but still in a good enough shape for small planes to land and take off from.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F9, 1/400th, 30mm, ISO 100

At the end of the runway there is the Japanese HQ building. For many the erstwhile beautifully decorated and later heavily defended building is most interesting structure on the island. It’s still possible to recognize some of the old gypsum ornaments on the ceilings, but most of them are now covered with a countless number of wasp nests.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F3,5, 1/50th, 14mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F5,6, 1/250th, 14mm, ISO 100

On “White Beach”, one of the main invasion beaches, there are still old Sherman tank tracks rusting in the surf. I even find a 37mm tank grenade lying in the sand as if someone dropped it only yesterday.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F8, 1/400th, 45mm, ISO 100

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F10, 1/400th, 28mm, ISO 100

Driving back in direction of the main village Tangie suddenly falls asleep behind the wheel and almost veers off the road.

“Whooaah!” I shout out loud. Fortunately Tangie reacts quickly and alters course quickly. We barely miss an electricity pole on the side of the road.

Lumix G1, 14-45mm AF-S, @F7,1, 1/400th, 14mm, ISO 100

For more information about the Battle of Peleliu check out the following link…

TP-Link TL-WRT1043ND Ultimate Wireless-N Gigabyte Router *menu

Introduction

No matter how great the service from your ISP, if your modem and/or router has issues then you’ll be plagued by connection drops and poor internet performance. Back in December of 2010 I found a great new modem/router device, and wrote a review on the TP-Link TD-W8960n Wireless N ADSL2+ Modem Router.

I brought this modem to the attention of the folks over on a popular Thailand based forum in their Internet/Computers/Tech area and immediately took some abuse from proponents of other devices asking what made me an expert. I’m not an expert in this area, but I am an educated consumer who knows when something is working well. And my TP-Link TD-W8960n was humming along beautifully with no connection drops and higher speeds in all areas. I challenged them to give it a try.

They did and the rest is history. This review quickly became the most popular piece on my site with thousands of hits racked up almost overnight and it continues to do well as people in Thailand look for a solution to the shoddy gear provided by True and an alternative to the almost equally shoddy D-link models most often carried in computer shops throughout the Kingdom.

My personal TP-Link TD-8960n has served duty in several well known service trouble spots, immediately fixing the users dropped connections and poor performance. I still highly recommend this model. But what if you don’t want a modem as part of your router, or what if you’re lucky enough to live in an area where True is offering their new cable internet service? Is there a TP-link product with the same great quality available for these users? Yes!

Several months ago I took delivery of my second TP-Link WR1043ND Ultimate Wireless N Gigabyte Router. I say my second one, because I sent the first one to my son in America as a gift and it immediately corrected all the issues he was having and he loves it. So I ordered another for myself to be used at my new stateside address, but it’s totally compatible for use in Thailand with True’s cable or ADSL modems.

TP-Link TL-WR1043ND Ultimate Wireless-N Gigabyte Router

TP-Link is a little known Chinese company in Shenzhen China. As most of the big name routers, including the Dlink and Billion Sky are manufactured in China, the TP-Links origin didn’t bother me at all. They’ve proved to be a reliable company with great customer support and they’ve quickly gained a foothold in the American market as well.

For the most part the TL-WR1043ND is the same router as the TD-W8960n but without the integral ASDL modem. It’s a single band (2.4ghz) wireless N/B/G wireless 300mbps router with four physical Ethernet RJ45 ports, a USB 2.0 port so you can access external storage for NAS and/or FTP purposes, the latest in security options, and 3 detachable antennas.

It includes all the expected features including VPN tunnel capability, QoS protocols, and QSS which allows for easy connections between compatible devices, and isn’t hampered by the speed limitations of a built in modem. It will pass information up to its full gigabyte rating. I can’t think of a modern feature this router doesn’t have.

The front panel LED’s are standard, power, system, WLAN, QSS, USB and 4 WLAN Ethernet port activity/connection LED’s. The overall appearance is small, white, and attractive in a functional plain sort of way.

Here is a full list of specifications:

Installation

I was happy to see they’d kept it small like the TD-W8960n and not big and loudly styled like you’ll find with other popular brands. I have mine sitting on top of the cabinet which holds my networking devices (NAS drives, gigaswitch, modem, and supporting UPS device) behind a plant where it can’t be seen. Height rules when it comes to getting a good signal out, get your router’s antennas as high as you possibly can and you’ll be rewarded with the strongest possible signal throughout your networked area.

Back panel connections are standard. One standard USB port for external storage, four Ethernet RJ45 ports, a reset button, a power connector, The three antennas screw on in seconds. A surprising omission is a physical on/off switch. I like having one, but in actual use you can reboot the router via the web browser interface if needed, and mine hasn’t needed rebooting in months since it’s initial setup.

Making the connections was simple. I connected it to my modem, and then a single RJ45 Ethernet patch cord into my Cisco 8 port gigaswitch already connected to my NAS devices and the 7 cables routed to different locations in my home. I connected the one Ethernet patch cord, plugged the power transformer into my UPS device, and screwed on the antennas to their threaded mounts. I powered it on and left the office.

Setup

The TP-Link TL-WR1043ND was very easy to setup. Type into your browser URL bar “192.168.1.1” and you’re immediately rewarded with the login window. The default ‘admin/admin’ user/pass combo gets you into the main menu. I recommend you change these passwords as your first order of business.

I’m not going to go into the 50 pages of setup choices the user manual lists. I’ll just tell you I found their user interface totally intuitive and in less than five minutes I’d configured my LAN default address, configured my Wireless security protocol, enabled the DCHP server, entered and tested my dynamic DNS account information (needed to run an FTP, IP cameras, etc), and forwarded 5 different ports thereby enabling my NAS devices, FTP’s, IP cameras, and my other LAN devices. I also changed my user name and password information.

I use other NAS and FTP devices, but for the heck of it I connected a USB storage drive and was pleased to see I was able to access the drive on my network and from an external connection. If you don’t already have an NAS or FTP device, you’ll be happy to have this feature available.

Each menu heading expands as necessary into the appropriate sub-headings allowing you to easily find and configure only the areas you need.

In under five minutes I was done and pressing the “update and reboot” button was rewarded with the internet coming on-line, the wireless connect to my laptops, NAS’s worked, FTP’s functioned fine, and all this on the first try and without help from the True Somchai’s! Well, now they’re Comcast Somchai’s, but it holds that I was pleased to be able to do this myself without assistance. A pleasure for sure.

I will say this, there are MANY menu choices, and even for functions you’ll recognize there will be more choices than you’re previously been familiar with. Looking through the menu choices I saw it was configurable and supported every major VOIP service, game, and device I’ve ever heard of. This is the most complete user BIOS I’ve ever seen.

More, it gives you three login choices. You can assign an administrator with full privileges, a support user/pass set in the event you need TP-Link’s excellent customer service, and a User login if you just want to limit certain users to logging on selected VPN’s or games.

There is also a complete statistics and logging center so you can keep track of line drops, line condition, up time, and about 100+ other line controls. The Diagnostics section tests every line condition for you and the help section explains each test.

What a great User Interface!

Performance

Two minutes to install, five minutes to configure my setup (and I have a complex setup), and a ‘save/reboot’ later I was up on line and I haven't dropped or had to power cycle since! Very nice.

Usually I don’t review hardware until using it for a few months, and this is no exception. While I brought the TD-W8960N review on-line after just a few weeks, I had the time to wait with this one. Nothing would have changed and that’s good.

Going to Speedtest www.speedtest.net I confirmed I was actually exceeding my promised 50mbps download speed. I was getting 62mbps download, and 17mbps upload. Excellent! www.pingtest.net confirmed the line (router included) earned an A rating. This is a big difference from the D’s and F’s most common with Thailand ISP’s.

But the real proof is in using the net. Page to page loads are extremely fast, my Slingbox can sling at full HDTV speeds, and even a 20gb+ torrent downloads in under 10 minutes provided the torrent is healthy.

Wifi performance you ask? My son’s computer is upstairs and he gets full signal strength and is able to see 30mbps speeds via his Wireless-N connection. My laptop downstairs (where the router is located) gets about the same. I think we’re seeing the limitations of the wireless protocol vs. the router itself. 30mbps is still faster than most internet connections.

Summary

I couldn’t be more pleased, there are zero glitches, and anyone can set one of these up. Other than the color (white) I have zero complaints and only praise. Wifi performance is great, you get a USB port supported by NAS/FTP functions as a bonus, and with the QSS features you can connect most any device in just seconds.

The TP-Link TL-WR1043ND Ultimate Wireless-N Gigabyte Router exceeds my expectations and is a great alternative to the TD-W8960N if you don’t need or desire it’s built in ADSL modem.

I got mine on Amazon for $64 USD’s. When compared to the competition a great deal for sure.

Photography News of Interest *menu

It’s always fun reading foreign newspapers take on another nations defense spending, but in this case two things stood out. First, with advanced weapons systems they’re often ‘untested’ or ‘in development’ when first funded. They look at the potential of a system and if the technology will be available to effect necessary changes. Second, was this absolutely beautiful photograph of the US. Navy’s MQ-88 Fire Scount unmanned rotary drone. Notice that it’s a wide angle shot and how the harpoon (for effect I’m sure) anchors the foreground? Nicely done!

This is a hoot. Even a monkey can take a great self-portrait, and so can you. Take your self-portrait and send it in and we’ll share it here along with any others sent in. This photographer left his camera unattended and the Macaque Monkey put it to good use. The monkey is a great photographer.

Sometimes a photograph of a product makes it look like something it isn’t. And sometimes it looks like exactly what it is. You decide. A Japanese singing robot mouth wants to sing karoke with you. That’s what you thought it was right?

This isn’t really news, but have you noticed the new Geico Gecko CGI commercials on television? They’re really slick. The gecko is walking through the grass and you can almost feel the moist grass on his fake feet, look at the reflections in his eyes, it’s so well done you start to believe the gecko is real. There’s a lot to learn from how they did the gecko.

This burned hulk of a Canon 7d looks totaled right? It is. But the Sandisk card inside worked fine and their pictures were saved! If you’ve read this column for any length of time you know I’m a fan of Sandisk flash memory products. A thank you to Stick, he sent this one in.

The TSA in America is getting ridiculous. They recently removed this woman from a flight because she took a photo of a rude employee’s name tag. When are they going to rein in those who are grossly abusing their position of authority? Will photographers support her? So far the answer is a resounding yes.

Readers Submissions *menu

Hi Steve

Attached are some picks from the floating market in Pattaya. It’s an old subject but I thought they might be of interest.

I am also attaching some pics from the recent motor show in Bangkok. I was lucky enough to be able to get into the event on the press day which meant there were less people inside. Amazing what you can do with no pass but a large camera. And yes there are some cars there too.

Hope things are well back home.

Peter

Peter –

WOW! I must say your skills have really progressed. I hope the workshops you took me with me is at least partly responsible.. ;o) Yet, especially with the motor show images, I see where you’ve selected your shot, dialed in the proper exposure, and spent time post processing to come up with some really great images.

All I can say is I sure hope you send in more! This is some really good work.
Thank you

Steve

I’d like to mention that everyone, myself included, is really enjoying the current trend of readers submissions. Everyone loves them, but remember we can really use more. I have only another week’s worth in my queue, so please take the time to put together a few images and words if you can and send them in. Thank you. [email protected]

Readers Questions *menu

Hi Steve,

So I'm writing for your advice now, but first a little background info about myself. I'm working with IT network support in Bangkok since almost 10 years now and before did the same type of job back home in Denmark. Having 20+ years experience in IT why am I then asking you for advice you may wonder. It seems to me that you get access to a large range of IT products related to regular workstations of course with your focus on imaging software.

Now to the question. I'm looking for a SSD hard disk for my desktop machine where I would like to keep the regular HDD for data storage and only use SSD for OS (Windows 7), since I'm on a low budget I have planned on trying to stay within 4000 THB with the product purchased locally in Bangkok. My desktop is primary used for web browsing and maybe a VMware virtual machine running for some testing at times. It's just a low end Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz with 2GB ram but since I don't really have enough time (or don't take the time) for image editing so it works fine for me.

Btw. I just changed the VGA card to HIS 5450 after your positive review.

Now to the question. I'm looking for a SSD hard disk for my desktop machine where I would like to keep the regular HDD for data storage and only use SSD for OS (Windows 7), since I'm on a low budget I have planned on trying to stay within 4000 THB with the product purchased locally in Bangkok. My desktop is primary used for web browsing and maybe a VMware virtual machine running for some testing at times. It's just a low end Core 2 Duo 1.8GHz with 2GB ram but since I don't really have enough time (or don't take the time) for image editing so it works fine for me.

So what SSD would you recommend from this list:

  • Intel X25-V 40GB
  • Kingston SSDNow V Series (SNV125-S2)
  • Kingston SSDNow V Series (SNV125-S2BD)
  • OCZ Vertex2

Or more specific what product do you have experience with already.

I'm leaning towards either Intel or OCZ SSD but not really sure how to choose. From the research I done they both seem to have good remarks, but the OCZ is a fairly new product so there could be a surprise hidden. As I said the budget should be around the 4000 bath mark, so that would mean 30-40 GB, that should actually be fine for my setup since I currently have 30GB system partition using approx 50%.

Now having asked for your advice I would of course also be happy to share some of my knowledge on Windows server, storage, firewall etc. if you should ever need that. Thanks for the great website and news letter on Stick's site. I hope you are not leaving Thailand anytime soon as it seems Stick is considering…

Best regards

Kim

Hi Kim –

Nice to hear from you.

You’ve quite a bit of IT experience!

Next to an adequate amount of RAM, an SSD will give you the most performance for the cost than any other upgrade out there. And consider, an SSD will remain valuable long after you retire your current desktop, so it might be worth getting a better/bigger one than planned.

From the list you gave, a list I notice includes the most popular models available locally, I’d say the OCZ and the Intel are the two best choices. The Vertex 2 will give you better performance than the Intel. Both support TRIM and both have 3 year warranties if I’m not mistaken. So the Vertex 2 unless cost comes into play. The Vertex 2 is a mature product, and in fact much better performing Vertex 3 will be out soon as they’re now currently in reviewers hands. I’m not fond of the Kingston SSD’s, they underperform for their cost.

Something else to keep in mind, you already know that once a mechanical hard drive becomes more than 50% full, it starts to lose performance. SSD’s experience this too, but more towards greater than 80% full. So don’t plan on using your SSD to full capacity, and don’t forget to factor in the size of your page and cache files which can really benefit from the speed advantages of an SSD.

If you won’t be installing a fresh install on your new SSD, and plan on just restoring a backup copy/image, be very careful on sector size. Win7 automatically sets this correctly, but old images upgraded from XP or Vista might not be the right size.

Some tips: Make sure the new SSD is set up as an AHCI driver in your system BIOS, and you’re using the Microsoft AHCI 1.0 driver. This really makes a difference in performance. Also, turn off any disk caching, it’s not longer needed.

Thanks for reading the column. It’s always good to get feedback.

Let me know how this works out for you.

Steve

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the advice. Looks like I should go for the Vertex 2 60GB properly then. That would also leave some space for running virtual machines on the SSD. That must be very fast then. I recently did a fresh install of Windows 7 so still haven't decided if I fresh install again or image the existing disk. Most like going to do a fresh install also to ensure I'm using AHCI driver for the SSD. I let you know the results of my exercise when completed.

Best regards

Kim

Hi Kim –

If you formatted your current hard disk using the Win7 disk, then you should be fine to copy an image over to the new drive. The AHCI driver is included in the standard Windows Install. What often happens though, is if your computer has another SATA controller with its own driver, then it will use it and you’ll need to use your device driver utility to manually revert it back. No big deal, nothing to do a fresh install over.

I’m sure you’re going to be very pleased with your new SSD. But I caution you, it’s addictive. Once you experience them then your work computer, laptop, all the computers you use will become irritating.. ;o)

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.

A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review *menu

I’ll probably delete this section of the weekly in the future because I won’t be in Thailand conducting business on a regular basis. But I will be in Thailand perhaps a total of six weeks every year and I’ll add this section when I’m in town or when I have something concerning Bangkok Images I hope you’ll find interesting.

I wasn’t sure I was going to continue the column. I am now. I really missed writing the column and I’m having a blast getting back into the swing of things. However, the reality, is that without our readers contributing fresh material for our Feature Destination and Reader Submissions, we won’t be able to continue. It would be great if we always had enough material, but if we don’t I simply won’t publish that week and I’ll wait until we do.

If you’ve been thinking about turning something in, please do so. I’ll get your piece formatted and others will certainly enjoy seeing your work. I’ll always have material for reviews, tutorials, news, and the like, but I really need your help to come up with material for the main features.

I have a surprise for you. Regular contributor Tom Tweedel took my new Fuji x100 on a field trip to China and I’ll be running his daily blog entries on our site. Stop by and check out his travels in China and feel free to leave him questions in the comments section.

In the coming weeks we’ll see reviews of the following products and more:

  • WD TV HD Hub
  • Klipsch 2.1
  • Rocketfish webcam
  • Fuji x100
  • Fuji x100 leather case
  • Sandisk Extreme Pro SD 32g
  • Kenwood KIV701 Car Audio Media Controller
  • ATI HIS 5970 video card
  • (3) UPS units of various sizes
  • Epson 610 Workforce AIO Printer/Fax/Scan/Copier
  • TD-Link wifi-N dongle

Infocus Blog, 4 Months In A (large) Nutshell *menu

March 19th, 2011 was our last full weekly. Today is July 23rd, 2011. A few days over four months since I stopped publishing our InFocus Weekly column and began my move from Bangkok Thailand to a university town in Central Illinois. Four months of experiences and adventures. I don’t know where to start, and there are some areas which deserve their own articles. So this week, let’s summarize because I know a lot of you are curious as judged by your emails and well wishes.

We stopped publishing after March 19th not because I was leaving Thailand right then, but because I became extremely busy in preparation for the move. My life became very busy, very fast, we left Thailand on the last day of April.

During that last month the most time consuming task was arranging for our parrots to accompany us to America. Dogs and cats are easy, a few days of paperwork and a visit to the Thai Livestock veterinarian and you’re cleared to go. Parrots have a much different process.

I’ll be writing an article just on the experience of bringing the parrots out of Thailand in the future. This is a difficult enough task when everything goes right, but with each bird, in different ways, things went seriously wrong. Because of the complexity of this process and because my Thai isn’t absolutely fluent, I came to a point where I realized I wasn’t going to get this done without help.

In desperation I called someone who has worked as my assistant and been referred to as the Chulalongkorn Professor. More than a few of you have met her. Without her generous contribution of time and significant frustrations I would have been forced to give up and find them both homes in Thailand. As it stands now, we have one of the parrots with us in the states and the other soon due to travel to France for a stay there. I’ll explain further in a future submission dedicated to this topic.

My wife and I left on the same flight and arrived in Los Angeles the first day of May. I visited with family a few days and the wife stayed on with family while I flew to Oregon to take care of business there. I knew my business would take me until the end of May when I was scheduled to fly into Hawaii for my youngest sons high school graduation.

In late March I’d arranged for Crater Lake Ford in Medford to pull my highly modified Cobra Mustang from storage and prep it for my arrival. My plan was to visit the dealership immediately after arriving into the airport, and drive away in a perfectly working car. Jim Stafford the service manager was great! He worked with me over email and not only performed a ‘start-up service’ to bring it out of storage, but he also fitted new street legal track tires, HID head and fog lights, and much more.

They also performed a very thorough detailing which included repairing paint chips, color sanding, and a high gloss waxing. When I arrived at the dealership my Cobra looked better than when I took delivery. In every way, Crater Lake Ford and their service manager Jim Stafford exceeded my expectations. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I left the dealership very happy, and after paying a very hefty bill. Not because the prices were high, in fact they were very reasonable. But because I kept asking him to add this, change that, do this, because of his easy to work with nature and his “can do” attitude I ended up having twice the planned work accomplished.

Woohoo, the car went so perfectly I found myself a week ahead of schedule so I called up a friend in Roseburg and made plans to visit and catch up. 20 miles outside or Roseburg I stopped to fill up with a tank of $5 a gallon Chevron Premium. The car had run brilliantly up to this point and I couldn’t have been more pleased. I was chuffed.

By the time I made Roseburg the car had filled with the smell or raw nasty gas, white smoke was pouring out of both tailpipes, and the car was barely running. This episode is going to require its own article as well, but I’ll leave you knowing it cost me over $3000 and two weeks time. Yes, it was bad gas.

During my down time in Roseburg I rented a small variety of rental cars/trucks, visited some scenic locations, visited friends, and enjoyed a lot of food not available in Thailand.

Once the Cobra was sorted it was time to head back down to Medford and start organizing my storage. During my time in Thailand I’d rented a 30×25 foot storage in a secure lot for the Cobra and all my garage and gun stuff. I needed to inspect, repack and organize to get things ready to be packed into a rental moving truck, and access other needs. The plan was for my son and I to load it all up into a rental truck and drive across the states to our new home.

On May 29th I pulled into the really nice Holiday Inn in Portland Oregon and they let me park my Cobra right in front of the lobby doors. They were worried it would get stolen. This Holiday Inn has a “stay and park” arrangement where you can stay the night, leave your car, they’ll shuttle you to the airport and pick you up on your return, and they’ll keep your car safe and sound while you’re gone. This is far preferable to leaving the car in long term parking where thefts are rampant.

Both the room and restaurant were very nice, and at 0430 the next morning they shuttled me to Alaskan Airlines for my six hour flight to Honolulu. The flight was uneventful and after a two hour layover I was on my 50 minute hop over to Hilo courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines. My son who I hadn’t seen in nearly a year was standing there with a huge smile looking taller than the last time I saw him.

He’d booked me into Uncle Billy’s Hawaiian Hotel which turned out to be quite the experience. This is an old 1930-1940’s style hotel with huge rooms, huge hallways, and a family feeling you’re not soon to forget. Nothing is new or even in good repair, but you still feel comfortable and there were plenty of restaurants and clubs without walking distance so I elected to not rent a car.

The next day I had the absolute pleasure of attending his graduation ceremony whichI wrote about here.

We’d arranged to fly back to the mainland together three days later, giving him time to pack and say goodbye to his friends. I had a very relaxing three days, reading, watching movies, and talking walks along the beautiful beach. I also ate more than my share of Uncle Billy’s Chili Cheese Dogs.. :o)

On June 5th we boarded an Hawaiian Airlines flight to Maui and then onto Portland Oregon, arriving right before midnight. As promised, the Holiday Inn shuttle van was there to pick us up.

My wife was supposed to make the drive from Los Angeles to the animal quarantine center in San Ysidro to spring our parrot from the lock up, but circumstances prevented this so I’d arranged via phone to have the quarantine guys air ship him to me in Portland, arriving on a flight two hours before my own. The shuttle van driver ran us by the cargo pickup building and we were reunited with Caesar my oldest African Grey Parrot. Can you imagine a dog jumping all over you, all happy to see you after a month’s absence? Okay, now transfer that to a parrot and you’ll have an accurate picture.. :)

The next day the three of us tried to fit all of my sons bags into the Cobra. It was immediately apparent we’d never do that, so we loaded up a taxi instead and headed to the Greyhound Station so they could ship his biggest bags to Medford where we’d pick them up the next day. Airlines will no longer ship your “luggage” if you’re not on the flight. You need to take it to a carrier like Fedex or UPS and pay a fortune. If you can wait a day, Greyhound is an economical alternative.

Later that day the three of us arrived into Medford and my hotel receptionist was delighted to make Caesar’s acquaintance. To their credit, they didn’t charge a parrot in a cage the pet fee like they would for a dog or cat.

They next morning we checked out our Budget Rental Truck, retrieved my sons bags from Greyhound, and started loading our storage into the truck. The next day we finished. Looking at the truck which was now resting on its suspension travel stops we became acutely aware of how overloaded it was. You see, these trucks are designed for regular furniture which weighs quite a bit less than heavy garage equipment. After a thorough inspection to make sure we weren’t in immediate danger, we connected the car trailer to the truck and ran the Cobra up on the trailer. We slowly drove back to the hotel hoping to get some sleep before our early AM departure.

Early the next morning we headed out on the Oregon back roads across the Cascades (mountains). This route was off the major interstates, but it helped us avoid a 600 mile detour required to stay on the interstate. However, because the truck was overloaded it was very fatiguing to keep it centered on the rough roads so it was very slow going until we connected back up to the main interstates the next day.

We continued on to Central Illinois in this manner, 350-400 very fatiguing miles each day. Unfortunately the rental agencies have a minimum age for drivers of 25, so my son couldn’t share the driving, and considering the overloaded truck I wouldn’t have wanted him to anyway. Several times a day we’d stop to inspect our load, re-tighten anything that needed re-tightening, and rest a bit. In this manner we arrived at our new hometown nine days later.

My next oldest son met us there and helped us take possession of our new home. The next two days were spent unloading the truck and we returned it the following morning.

Our furniture was scheduled to arrive the next day, but we received a call from the moving company letting us know our shipment would be delayed several weeks due to US Customs pulling our shipment for a close inspection. I’ll go into this later with pictures, a copy of their invoice, and more.. but for now I’ll tell you they charged me close to $5000 for the inspection and of course didn’t find a single item that wasn’t supposed to be there.

My son and I slept on the floor of the empty house for the next 12 days with not much to do except play with our parrot who had plenty of pent up energy after 30 days in isolation, and visit every restaurant in town. On the 13th day my wife flew in from Los Angeles and on the 14th day they delivered our household goods shipment.

We were shocked to find US Customs trashed our container while opening roughly 60-65% of every box. You can tell what boxes they opened, because they’re resealed in green US Customs tape. And you could also tell because of the destruction they left behind. My 50 inch plasma was trashed, my Sleep Number bed trashed, four pieces of our bedroom set were trashed, and much more. We were shocked. In over 35 years of such moves, this was the first time US Customs had ever inspected my shipment, and it was the first time I ever had damage for any reason. And they charged us $5000 for their hard work destroying my belongings!

The next 4-5 weeks to date were spent unpacking and setting up house. Much needed to be done from setting up our home network, to repairing broken items from our shipment, getting new drivers licenses, finding doctors for the family, buying a new family car, and more.

As I write this the interior of our home is 95% complete. We have a few more things to hang, and I think two more boxes to unpack. We’re clean, organized, and very comfortable. We still need to organize our garage which will probably take the next few weeks. I’ve helped my son check into the university, and had a great time catching up with my older son.

In the next few columns I’ll write some individual pieces as mentioned above, mostly to provide information to others who might someday ship a parrot or make use of Thailand’s moving companies. And a few other pieces just for fun. It was a long hard move every step of the way. Much went wrong, but most went right. We continue to live and learn.

Until next time..