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FTA News — Wednesday, November 23, 2022 — DEPLATFORMED BY STRIPE?

If someone forwarded this to you in the newsletter version and you bizarrely ended up liking it on balance, you can subscribe for free to future copies that [ought to] arrive in your email twice per week. You’ll get the whole thing, not just the excerpt provided here on the blog. The blog rendering of it has added things like embedded videos, larger images with lightbox thingy, etc.

  • From Bangkok — New MacBook Air
  • Troubles With Stripe Credit Card Processing
  • From Ao Nang, Krabi
  • Youngun “Party Town” Thailand: Sexless, Self-Righteous, Androgynous
  • Covidless Excess Mortality

From Bangkok

Beginning with the most recent thing, from today.

I don’t know how long one must go between computer trade-ins, but I’m pretty safe in saying that eight and a half years is plenty of time—a veritable signal of my great virtue—to pound away on the same notebook computer. Since 2008 and after 20 years at PCs, I’m an Apple Mac guy. Had two MacBook Pros over 4 years. I’ll not get into it but the Pro version is generally overkill for most people. In 2012 I researched whether a MacBook Air could reliably drive the 27″ Apple Cinema Display I had.

Indeed it could and indeed it did—even running HD video on its two screens with rapidity and ease (many believe you need the expensive Pro to do all these things and most who think that don’t even do those things…but pay for the Pro anyway). The 2014 model was the last computer I’ve purchased until this morning at the stunningly beautiful Apple Store at Central World in Bangkok.

I didn’t even come to Bangkok yesterday for this…that’s another story for the next section. I’d looked into it, but the info I got online is that you have to order it, which I assumed was because of the US keyboard and not Thai.

I checked into my hotel with a smokin’ deal. $43 per night in a 4-star, regular $120. Long time since I stayed in a hermetically-sealed fancy-pants place…the Marriott in Warsaw, 2019 if memory serves.

…I don’t like them. Tomorrow, my two nights are up and I’m moving to a $20 place where I can at least open the fucking windows for shit’s sake.

…Anyway, soon as I checked in and arranged every item out of my travel-light, 30L backpack, I headed out. Hoofed it to the Apple store 2.5 KM away. What I found out was that they did indeed have plenty of the M2-processor MBAs in all four anodized aluminum colors with US keyboards. It’s any customizations that have to be ordered. So, if I want more RAM, bigger SSdrive, etc… OK, nope; I’ll take one off the shelf.

And so, voilà, and I resolved to return this morning and do the deal. In the meantime, I set out to get some food, so I headed down to Nana Plaza, perhaps the most curious place on earth. I don’t care for it much—or go-go bars in general—but it’s quite a spectacle to behold with three floors of them in a 70s style indoor-mall format. There’s a Hooters across the street, though, so I had a pretty decent grilled-chicken Caesar. Given that Thai girls have smaller breasts on average (rocket tits, I call them), I think the franchise should be called Handfulls over here…right? That added 1.6 KM to the trek tally.

Then it was off by foot again, to the old Soi Cowboy…a smallish, 150 meter-long entertainment street from back in the early 70s. I first visited a couple of times in the late 80s, back when Patpong was the famed place—but is now mostly shopping of a different sort. Cowboy is mostly go-go bars, so really boring and rather sad from the perspective of my months of stone-cold sobriety. A couple places are more beer hall with live bands, and those were alive last night. And, another 1.3 KM…

Now I’m getting tired, having hit the sac at 01.00 and arose at 04.30 the night before. So I made my way back…hey…there’s a Taco Bell…gotta have three crunchy…to the hotel, which was another 1.4.

In total, a decent 7 KM of walking, so sleep was good and then I did the deal this morning.

There’s a secret to the pristine longevity of that early-2014 MBA to the left. It didn’t travel that much. Sure, I go on trips and it’s been to Mexico & back three times…to Poland, Spain, and since early 2020, all over Thailand. But most of the time, it’s sitting home alone, on a desk, attached to a 2nd monitor and connected to a bluetooth keyboard and mouse.

So, it’s no being opened, closed, packed, and unpacked every day for the trip to the office and back. And since I work from a 2nd monitor with a separate keyboard and mouse, it takes almost no pounding. Still a fine computer unless you’re going to mash video. Now it bogs down as software continues to drive faster processing. And when that’s in play, the typing latency drives me nuts.

But, used to be that you pretty much had to get a new machine every 2-3 years or shit just didn’t work at all. That I could go for more than 8 years at my level of productivity means that the advancements have slowed somewhat, perhaps, but surely it also it means that Apple just really makes some high quality, reliable stuff.

That machine never saw the inside of a computer garage. Zero problem ever, hardware or software.

Troubles With Stripe Credit Card Processing

I woke up last Saturday morning to an oddity.

…But first, some history. Since my return from the last trip, the last leg of which is recounted in the next section, I was in the throes of slight burnout. Thoughts weren’t organizing and coalescing into the typical brilliance that makes writing easy and fun for me.

I really hate it when writing gets hard and laborious. It makes me tired, physically. So, I can be well rested but if the writing is hard, I’ll be drowsy again at 09.00. Conversely, if the writing is easy, I can do an all-nighter enthusiastically.

I was basically fucked and off my groove for a few days. Nothing to worry about. I’ll catch the next wave. That’s what’s always going on when my typical barrage creeps to a halt. It aways self-corrects. The funk turns to funky.

In this case, that small setback where I wasn’t getting my biweekly newsletter out on time mushroomed to something far worse just as I was getting right back on track. The remaining sections of this issue were already written last Friday and getting it out on Sunday would be easy.

So I’m up early Saturday morning and over the course of the things I typically do, I logged into Stripe, the company that handles all the credit card processing for your subscriptions. It’s integrated in a very complex fashion with the WordPress platform that runs this blog and two plugins, Paid Memberships Pro and FlentCRM—the hamsters on spinning wheels behind the scenes. As a one-man-show, I have to be able to do everything and that requires intimate knowledge and understanding of all of it.

Well that’s weird. There was an “Action required” red alert thingy at the top of my dashboard (exhibit 1) which if clicked brought up more detail (exhibit 2) and what’s more, one payment of an eventual 6 was in an “incomplete” status.

A brief investigation revealed that the automatic monthly and annual subscription payments were being billed (an invoice was being created) but were not being automatically charged. Any new customer wishing to subscribe would get an error message (I would not even get a notice, so the only ones I know about are the folks who contacted me with WTFs).

…The other thing which would become paramount as the thing progressed is that I actually received no such email as is mentioned; whereas, I always get all Stripe emails without problem or issue on any and all manner of things. Just not this purported email. Curious…

Didn’t panic, no worries. I’ve had a few interactions with Stripe support and all was resolved in short order, including a recent “card testing” scheme where crooks with Portuguese IP addresses ran hundreds and hundreds of stolen cards through my signup interface to see which ones would work (only 2 out of more than a thousand did). The issue there was that each attempt was from a unique username and email address, and Stripe created over a thousand bogus “client” records, which raised the obvious question…”why does your system create a ‘client’ when there has not been a successful transaction, only a failed attempt?” No answer. At any rate, I installed CAPTCHA 3 on my signup form (the kind that’s invisible, not that fucking insufferable picture-clicking abomination) which killed it, and then Stripe expunged all the bogus “client” records.

…The other issue was right when I initiated their services and switched this blog to paid membership. Signups were coming in and charges were being made just fine…but then after the few float days had past and the funds become available to transfer out to my bank, they weren’t being processed or transferred out. So I contacted support.

“We just need to know more about your business before we release funds.”

Uh-oh.

Not knowing what I might be up against in today’s censorious and propagandistic woke, leftie-commie, LGBT-&-the-whole-alphabet, feminist shithole they so-call a society and civilization, I did the eggshell walk; just the facts, ma’am.

“I have an 18 year-old blog with thousands of readers where I’ve written close to 5000 posts and have switched to a paid subscriber model. Plus, I have vacation rentals I advertise on my site for bookings.”

Basically.

And they said fine and thank you very much…smooth sailing since.

But here, there was an obvious potential issue I assumed was the case. While I’ve had vacation rentals before and run the invoices through Stripe for payment, those are on the order of $2,500 to $3,000 for the week in the Studio or 1BR Suite. In this case, it was a 3rd-time repeat guest who was doing a girls week and needed both, connected by a lockoff door.

[What “fun;” girls week, and I jest because I’m a dude and that’s what dudes do.]

…So, twice as much as historical at $5,500. But there was still that nagging issue of not receiving the purported email with all the info requested and you can imagine what that would entail…

“Sir, we’ve noticed that your most recent charge of $5500 is not only your largest, but historically way more than normal. Could you explain, please?”

Sure. And then it’s a simple matter. Annoying, but we live in a decaying and declining social civilization in the West where nosiness isn’t a fucking rude trait anymore. It’s a damn virtue and the more nose everyone sticks in everyone else’s business, the more New Normal and Because-I’m-Happy we become.

…Try telling them to fuck off and see what happens. That would be great if there were lots of alternatives, but Covid demonstrated that there are none. Not on an institutional level, not on a business level, not on a personal level…not even on a church level.

There’s no place to go and that simple fact is what will be its undoing because it’s a completely abnormal way of living a human life…incongruent with our mother natures, and bound to collapse in time because starvation is the only place it ultimately leads…or nuclear holocaust.

As an adherent of ultimate justice and everyone getting what they deserve, I’m fine with either. Make Noah Great Again, so to speak.

…So not having received the email, I have no certain clue or explication of what this is about. I contact support via text. It’s Friday afternoon their time on the west coast, US. I’m put on standard chat hold while the rep looks into it. Then she keeps popping in every few minutes with obvious bullshit but I say nothing about that.

“Our team is reviewing it. Just a few more minutes.”

Chat started: 2022-11-18 22:56:34 UTC
(10:56:34 PM) Richard Nikoley: I have a cryptic message on my dashboard that my account is restricted from making charges and to check my inbox. I have no emails except the standard ones about payments and payouts.
(11:00:11 PM) Charm C.: Hello, I hope you are doing great today!—my name’s Charm with Stripe support and I’ll be more than happy to assist you today!
(11:01:09 PM) Charm C.: I understand you need help with your account status. I am happy to assist. Kindly give me 2-3 minutes to pull up your account.
(11:01:27 PM) Richard Nikoley: ok
(11:01:49 PM) Charm C.: Please bear with me, I am checking your account now. 
(11:05:28 PM) Charm C.: Just a heads up, I am with our team checking this for you and this might take a few minutes. Rest assured, I’ll get back to you every 4 minutes. Thank you.
(11:06:45 PM) Richard Nikoley: Mystifying.
(11:07:53 PM) Charm C.: Please give me a moment while I take a look into this. Thank you.
(11:11:19 PM) Charm C.: We are almost done with the review. 
(11:13:44 PM) Charm C.: Would you mind if I place you on hold for a few minutes while we are still investigating? If you have any additional information or questions just send a message
(11:15:16 PM) Richard Nikoley: I’m mystified. Everything is running perfectly smoothly, as has been the case always. Now this.
(11:17:06 PM) Charm C.: I completely understand.
(11:17:28 PM) Charm C.: Please allow me to help you with this. I am still checking with our team what happen so that it can be fix.
(11:20:00 PM) Richard Nikoley: It’s really bizarre to take so long. This requires a team? Requires 20 minutes so far? 
(11:20:58 PM) Charm C.: I know this is taking longer than expected. My apologies.
(11:21:31 PM) Charm C.: This is because our team is investigating it for you. 

(11:22:45 PM) Richard Nikoley: Should I just call on the phone? I don’t feel like I am getting a straight answer, just runaround.
(11:23:07 PM) Charm C.: We are now finalizing the review.
(11:23:47 PM) Charm C.: I am sorry for this, I actually requested earlier to access your account and see what seems to be the issue as well as communicated with our team. This is the reason why this takes a but longer.
(11:27:48 PM) Charm C.: I understand how eager you are to get this fix today. Please bear with us we are working on it.
(11:30:21 PM) Charm C.: We greatly appreciate your patience as we complete our investigation for your case.
(11:31:31 PM) Charm C.: Hi, again.
(11:32:35 PM) Charm C.: I appreciate your time and patience. It seems that we need to transfer you over to our team that’s investigating your case so they assist you further as they have advanced tools and the information. 
(11:32:54 PM) Charm C.: Please let me know once you’re ready to be transfer. 
(11:33:28 PM) Richard Nikoley: ready.
(11:34:07 PM) Charm C.: Transfer initiated…
(11:34:39 PM) Richard Nikoley: Hi David. What’s going on?
(11:34:40 PM) David: Hi! this is David from the specialized team. I hope you’re doing well.
(11:34:42 PM) David: Before we proceed to address you properly, may I know your name please?
(11:34:49 PM) Charm C.: Charm C. left the channel
(11:34:53 PM) Richard Nikoley: Richard Nikoley
(11:35:04 PM) David: Hello Richard, I’m currently reading your support request, kindly give me 3-5 minutes while I check on it.
(11:35:06 PM) David: One moment.
(11:35:16 PM) Richard Nikoley: ok
(11:36:29 PM) Richard Nikoley: I have a cryptic message on my dashboard that my account is restricted from making charges and to check my inbox. I have no emails except the standard ones about payments and payouts.
(11:37:36 PM) Richard Nikoley: And I also see that a subscription payment of $6 from a subscriber is “incomplete,” whereas normally it just automatically charges.
(11:39:19 PM) David: I’m still further checking on this matter, would you mind if I ask for a few more minutes?
(11:40:16 PM) Richard Nikoley: Been at this for 45 minutes so far. No purported email and not even a hint of what’s going on. So why not?
(11:43:47 PM) David: I understand how important your time is but I still need to do extensive research on why your payouts have been paused. Please give me 3-5 more minutes while reviewing this details, thanks!
(11:45:15 PM) Richard Nikoley: Mystifying. Still.
(11:48:50 PM) David: Hello Richard thank you so much for patiently waiting.
(11:50:27 PM) David: I understand you received a notification from us stating that your payouts have been paused, with that said I’ve reached out to a team member who’s best positioned to take care of this situation further. 
(11:50:28 PM) David: We’ll be working on this together, and as soon as we have an update, we’ll be right with you via email. Hope this works for now.
(11:53:39 PM) David: Are you still with me, Richard?
(11:55:11 PM) David: It looks like you may have stepped away. I’ll close out our chat for now. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us again if we can be of further help. Thanks for using Stripe, have a good one!

So there was an hour on the nose spent with not only zero progress but still zero clue. The “team” just couldn’t figure it out.

For future reference…always always always know that when any support rep ever uses the word “team,” that they are unabashedly lying to your face and it’s a matter of company and departmental policy to lie like that to customers. There are no exceptions. Checking with, or transferring you to someone in another department is truthful speech. “Team” is weasel-word bullshit that’s custom-designed for morons who believe a team means more smarts when usually, no one individual is as fucking stupid as all of them put together.

…OK, what happened is that the chat connection failed. It would not have made any difference. I jumped on the phone, same bullshit after a few minutes so I ended the call and went to email.

Same bullshit. Zero resolution, zero progress toward one, and still—increasingly worrisome—zero clue as to what’s the issue. Occam’s Razor suggests it’s the out of character big charge. But if so, why not simply tell me, have me explain it, and move forward?

So then, because I was getting absolutely nowhere and nothing had changed, and the automatic charges are stacking up as incomplete, I assumed the next logical thing: it was Friday afternoon their time and the people who deal with this sort of thing have fucked off for the weekend so I’ll just sit tight until Monday night my time…morning theirs.

So I did. Monday morning comes around and I get back into communication with them. Without going into further boring details, still nothing happened, still no clue. Not even a hint. So then I jumped on Twitter to see if a bit of public exposure would shake things loose. I was reserved in my approach, suggesting we go to DM, which we did. But ultimately, same exact lie after lie after lie with zero resolution or clue.

So I went back to public and basically asked why they’re treating me so poorly, when:

  1. I have had 1,147 successful transactions in the prior 19 months since day one
  2. I have zero customer complaints and zero chargebacks (where a customer has their own bank reverse the CC charge as unauthorized, fraudulent, non-delivery of services, etc.)
  3. That in a sort of left-hand-right-hand, their Capital lending department came to me last April when I’d had a year of successful business with then and offered me $3,600 with attractive terms and best of all, it’s paid back in an 18-month schedule by taking a percentage of every charge…so it’s effortless and automatic. The big rub there is that 7 months into that 18-month payback, I’m 75% paid back for principal and fixed loan fee combined, and 85% of principal is paid back. I’m months ahead of schedule. What in the holy mother of all fucks gives here!?
  4. This is not any sort of technical issue. Rather, it’s a request for information and an Account Review; and I haven’t a clue as to what information is requested and nobody will tell me. This is a setting issue. A box has been clicked with no solid clue as to why.

That’s when in Twitter DM, the guy essentially admits that they’ve been lying to me. That, yea, nothing has been done, no person or “team” has been working this super-hard problem, the people that handle this don’t work on the weekend, and I’m in the queue for review. And, they aren’t going to do fuckall about it. “We can’t escalate it further,” which is just another lie (which I pointed out publicly).

I began to suspect that the out-of-spec big charge wasn’t the issue.

I’m dealing with the world of woke, towards whom I am unequivocally unkind.

So now I have thinking to do. Writing, posting, recording video, editing, and publishing per usual is out of the question. So I grab my backpack, get online, and book a flight to Bangkok. Jumped on my cafe racer, headed over to the shop to drop it off for some amazing work to be done that’ll be featured in the next newsletter (you’re not going to believe it when you go ‘wow, that’s fucken cool!’), and hoofed it the other KM to flag down the next passing Phuket Smart Bus for the 2-hr ride to the airport. The rest, you already know about.

So this morning I get up and I’m pretty depressed, frankly. I’ll be alright, but expecting the worst, then what? Well, I have to find another processor and that’ll lose business because while hooking up a new processor is easy once I have the credentials, there’s no way to transfer the hundreds of subscriptions.

That can only be done by cancelling all the existing ones and then appealing to all the subscribers—except the lifers—to go back in and reinitiate their monthly and annual subscriptions. And that loses business, probably a good amount of it because then my problem becomes the customer’s problem and customers rightly hate that.

“Richard, I pay you to write or video your eclectic shit about everything, make it somewhat entertaining much of the time, deliver it to my inbox, and keep my login functioning; fuck off with anything else and especially, any problems that effect me!”

Yep. The customer is always right, so off I will fuck.

At this point I have little choice but to lemonade the thing and create content out of it. I decide to do a video first, then a more in-depth writeup. I organize my thoughts and get the right attitude about it; meaning, since I do not actually know the reason, I have to be objective about whatever the cause/reason may be and frustration or anger can only be about the process and treatment I’ve received as a good customer.

In preparation I did a final email out to them.

Please be advised that I am in the process of finding a new payment processor regardless of the outcome of this “review” of nothing.

The way you treat your customers (partners, really) is unconscionable.

In such event, I will also cease any and all payment on the remaining balance of my capital loan.

Then I did some research and I’m very glad I did. I searched various phrases to see how woke Stripe is and the results were surprising. The woke mob hates them.

One of the most flagrant offenders is Stripe, an online payment processing company that works with some of the biggest names in tech, including Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Salesforce. But such while major content providers Apple, Spotify, Facebook, and YouTube have taken half-measures to give the appearance that they’re cracking down on hate, payment processing systems, and especially Stripe, haven’t even done that much, continuing to allow its purveyors to collect profits via their services.

Dammit, they’re clouding my anti-bias here. I’m trying to hate Stripe!

And for its own part, Stripe is transparent about the issue, explaining how it tries to straddle the middle it’s caught in.

We want to grow global online commerce and support as many businesses as possible—especially those based on new business models or founded by first-time entrepreneurs. Wherever possible, we eschew risk assessments based purely on categorical labels. Instead, we use a combination of transaction history, machine learning, supplemental business information, and common sense. We want to understand the actual risks posed by a specific business, with the fundamental goal to support as many businesses as possible, rather than just looking at the industry or category. We work with our financial partners to relax restrictions or remove prohibitions wherever possible.

They go through a number of specific cases that they consider exceptions to the general one-size-fits-all approach the whole fucking stupid-woke world embraces and clings to—along with their “hate speech” gibberish. There is no such thing as hate speech. That’s a totally subjective characterization. It’s a fucking opinion and it’s an opinion spouted by fucking morons. There are no exceptions. Fuck off with your noise about “hate,” a damn old and common word used by everyone, prominent in every language on earth (which is the point…it’s, yet again, another Original Sin manipulation).

There’s violence and there’s non-violence, in actions. How a person feels about these actions and expresses those feelings is wholly irrelevant.

OMGYes is a sex-ed startup that conducted the first-ever large-scale research about women’s sexual pleasure in partnership with researchers at Indiana University and The Kinsey Institute. OMGYes decided that instead of writing another book with the results of the study, they’d create a website to provide honest, actionable information about sex and women’s pleasure. The website was endorsed by Emma Watson and was recently featured in Elle, Forbes, and Wired. The business approached us and we were eager to work with them, but after a month of deliberations, our financial partners did not agree. Instead, because the website has explicit tutorials, it still falls under the umbrella of unsupportable businesses. While we were not able to persuade our financial partners this time around, we will continue to holistically look at and advocate for businesses that sell adult products and services.

So, with thoughtfulness, smarts, objectivity, and businesslike dealing such as this, the wind in my sails had quite died down. So I revamped the approach I had in my head, set up my camera on the tripod, and right before I clicked record—and I shit you not a wit—I brought up my Stripe dashboard on my computer so I could read the alerts in the above screen clips…

Wait!!! Where is the alert?

And just in that serendipitous nick of time, it was all over. Within minutes, I had all 6 backlogged charges successfully retried. All was good again. In my inviolable sense of fairness, I popped onto Twitter publicly, saying that while I remain angry over the treatment I received, that it’s nonetheless over and that I look forward to good mutual business going forward.

So what happened? What was the cause of it?

I’ll never know for sure; and I believe that’s intentional, and the reason for the lying to me and the runaround. In a weird sort of way, they may be protecting me.

If, IF it’s that they received some 3rd party complaint about my generally unwoke content, then I believe that for businesses where they see no problem, they have a neither-confirm-or-deny stance. Classic military policy for all classified information. The effect of that is it never hands any party any actionable information that can be used in any way, whatever any ways and means might be.

It serves to dampen escalation and extinguish inquiry.

So, good lesson learned there. Had I done this research a lot sooner I may just have sat tight a lot longer.

As it is, all things work together for good. I was able to get the proceeds from that $5,500 vacation rental booking transferred to me but just as it came in and I was planning on spending $1,400 on this new MacBook Air I’m enjoying right now, I had 2nd thoughts this morning. If I were to have to start over getting subscribers to re-initiate their subscriptions, I’ll need all the backup funds I can get.

So that ended up being the icing on the cake. It was 09.00 and the Apple store was only an hour away from opening time.

I rushed my ass over there.

From Ao Nang, Krabi

Ao Nang itself, in the Krabi province, isn’t all that, in my view. I’ve been here twice. The first was just as Covid Part II was gaining needed momentum December of 2020 and the place was dead. [It was just an overnight stopover on the return to Phuket from Koh Lipe for a snorkeling and SCUBA trip which was fantastic.]

…If you’ll recall, there was the initial fear and loathing during the spring of 2020 when awareness was hyped to the maximum globally. Then it died down significantly and by the time the fall season came around, the focus was on things like the November election result in the US with its astounding, almost unbelievable spectacle of a basement-dwelling, non-campaigning, senile old pervert that hasn’t aged well—but for lots of work under the knife—garnering the most votes of any American politician of all time ever…even besting Black Jesus himself.

More on all that in the third section, below. In the meantime, for those with interest and to kind of get a bearing if interested in this part of the world, here, check this out.

The blue dot is where I am now, home alone. The red circle just to the northeast is Rassada pier. Then, from there, in the direction east, then southeast, then north-northwest are Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, and Ao Nang…the places visited on my no-reservations excursion that, by rough calculations, cost only about $200 over expenses for the week I’d have incurred by just staying home. In other words, the cost of transportation, lodging, food and fun are offset by what I’d have spent here anyway. Even the lodging is offset because I’m not running A/C at home, so there’s about 60 KW hours right there…about $12 savings. Not much, but that bought me more than one and a half night’s lodging in Lanta.

It’s enjoyable for me—not pinching pennies, because I don’t—to view and account for costs in this manner. Even without tons of disposable income right now, I’m managing to make a whole lot more than the best of it. It can be done. There’s a satisfaction for me in it, especially if you’re someone who at times has spent thousands on an excursion and enjoyed it less. Or, just plain blew money right and left because you could.

Not trying to be holier than thou, and I’m not really what you would call frugal at all. I’m just getting jazzed about doing the same or better for a lot less money; BUT, importantly, not going out of my way to do so…like the little old lady who drives or busses it across town because of a 10 cent coupon. I’m not really much of a bargain hunter. It’s more like I want to pay attention and just quickly find the best deal I can in the circumstances and will spend a bit of extra effort for the fun of it. But I have to be able to get a kick out of it.

…Means of transportation was also varied. Speedboat ferry the first two legs, shared-ride minivan the third, and a standard ferry the fourth and last. Rassada pier is where the speedboat ferry departed from for leg #1 and the standard ferry docked upon my return. The motorbike is about 35-40 minutes each way and they have a covered parking. That was a bit expensive. 100 baht per day and they nicked me for 8 full days, even though I was only about 6 hours into day #8. $22.50. Ouch.

So in the end, I liked Ao Nang only marginally better the second time than the first, when everything was closed, mostly. This time, everything’s open but it’s completely tourist driven. I live in the opposite sort of place where it’s expat driven and most tourists are those who come often but don’t live here. It makes for a very different vibe. If I want the tourist vibe for a night or weekend, I can just ride up to Patong beach, as I did recently.

What’s spectacular about the whole area, including Krabi and Phang-Nga is the geology. Here’s a very short primer and 1 1/2 min video.

The Geology of Phang Nga Bay – Phang Nga Bay is part of what was once a huge coral reef that covered much of what is now Southeast Asia. The islands of Phang Nga Bay were formed by the movements of massive slabs of earth called “plates”. These plates, however, were underwater. They were part of the coral reef. They were lifted out of the seas by the movement of the plates.

The Enormous Karst of Khao Sok National Park – Khao Sok National Park offers the highest karst topography in Thailand. The tallest karst mountain is 960 meters!

https://www.paddleasia.com/karst-topography.htm

Here’s a mini selection of photos I snapped.

Youngun “Party Town” Thailand

— In a rational world, brats get sent to bed without any dinner

As I’ve been recounting in my recent Newsletter issues, I’ve been doing some no-reservations travel where one just sorta spontaneously heads off in one direction and goes with the flow along that path. I didn’t plan to go to Koh Phi Phi again, but that’s where I ended up for a night before continuing on to Koh Lanta, refreshingly devoid of the young set. Lanta is a place for older, mature-of-mind-and-attitude expats, to partake in its peace and tranquility—which it delivers handily.

Instead of hopping the ferry back home to Phuket, I opted to grab a 3-hr minivan transport to Ao Nang for a couple of nights—at the heart of geologically-astounding Krabi province and its Phang Nga bay. You have to see it to believe it.

Just a small taste of it

This is what no-reservations travel is all about…no-commitment trekking at your whim and leisure. You wanna stay an extra day or two? Can do. Had enough, and you wish to move on right now? Can do. Wanna switch your next destination to someplace else? Can do. Wanna go there by a different route or change the means of your transport? Can do.

I’ve been travelling like this for 38 years all over the place and have yet to end up hunkering down in a sidewalk alcove for shelter and sleep. I’d never want to do travel any other way, preferably.

…But you have to live a rather fearless life as prerequisite—or you’ll fret yourself silly—and the planet doesn’t produce many of those types, anymore.

Better safe than sorry!

Ao Nang, like Phi Phi, is a popular destination for the young set—backpackers, students, dreadlocks, elephant pants, vegans, etc.

Plus: NO SEX!!!

…I also did a video adjunct to the post from a most beautiful location. It’s not nice, I say so, and I rag on basic loss of fun and humanity and zest for life.

Access the rest of the post here.

Covidless Excess Mortality

Since the very early days of what turned out to be The Great Covidiocy, something kicked in where over some foregone years of writing primarily about health and dietary issues, that experience taught me to be skeptical of studies in general, and to always think of all-cause mortality whenever a pet cause of mortality was in play. So for example, cholesterol studies tend to look at cardiovascular disease deaths, touting any improvement as supporting whatever intervention, drug or dietary. But often enough, all-cause mortality differences aren’t significant, and they can be worse. …As many or more people died in total, just fewer of them from CVD. Nothing burger.

Covid was a pet cause of death. Loved by one and all.

I got the sense that lots of people—probably those being paid to sit on their asses at home (like Twitter employees but I digress)—eagerly opened the various sites and apps daily in anticipation of greater and greater numbers of deaths logged as covid deaths. Where in many instances as the “pandemic” progressed and some jurisdictions did away with various masking, distancing, and lockdown measures these same people wringing their hands in anxiety that it’ll all be over soon and they’ll have to go back to work, seemed to reassure themselves: “JUST WAIT TWO WEEKS!!!”

As for myself, I was always on the prowl for excess mortality. In other words, we’re looking at all cause, but at a rate that sticks out like a sore thumb compared to, say, the average for a certain period of the year over the last 5 years (the basic standard they use).

Amongst my total of 99 Covid posts, I wrote about these about excess mortality:

  1. Covid-19: You’re Not Entitled to Your Own All-Cause Mortality
  2. The Covid-19 All-Cause Mortality Spin Cycle
  3. Total Mortality: Ask Undertakers
  4. Total Mortality: Obituaries, Medical Sales and Profits
  5. A Fresh Look At All Cause Mortality Lately

A more recent post delves pretty deep into it: I Was Unequivocally Right About Every Single Thing (masks, lockdowns, jabs, etc.) The Whole Time. It’s true. I was.

Here’s the big-ass rub (not big ass-rub):

We now have clear and unmistakable excess death all over the place and barely a day goes by when some well-known personality doesn’t keel over dead, or close. The spin cycles on all this sudden adult death syndrome, so-called—even from institutions—while laughable, is a sure and stark telltale of how irredeemable this New Social Order Automatic Lying thingy is. The only unknown is how many die because of it. The early and sudden death directly and unequivocally caused by the massive global medical experiment is actually a sure sign that nature itself still works perfectly and that ultimate natural justice is still paramount.

…And it’s not like we don’t have the means of understanding it. It’s been called things like God’s Judgment for thousands of years for a good reason. You can take it literally, or metaphorically as do I, but either way, there’s precedent for actually celebrating such cleansing. Being transparent, I certainly do celebrate it on a certain level—though I wish it hadn’t come to this. But it did, here we are, and I’m not going to ever cry about it. Ever. No matter what. No matter who.

Google around a bit. Then check this out.

OK, I’m getting long so I’m going to hold my Hit & Run and Pet Peeve of the Week sections for next time.

Have a great Thanksgiving celebration, Black Friday sales, long holiday weekend, etc.

And take advantage of my BF to end -of-year SALE!!! to either get on board, or upgrade.

Back on Sunday with another fantastic issue.

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Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2022, contains over 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

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