Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Govt Dipshits May Cost Cagayan 40,000 Jobs

Korean firm Hanjin Corp. was just about to break ground on a $2 billion shipbuilding facility and airport on the outskirts of Cagayan (about halfway to Epril's house) when they decided to scrap the whole thing.


Their answer was, to sum it up in my own words: "Your local government is a pain in our asses. Things we were promised were later denied. Things that you were supposed to take care of weren't done."

It boggles the mind. How willfully negligent does a government body have to be that it wouldn't provide one hundred percent of its attention and one thousand percent of its repsect to a $2 billion windfall for its own constituents?

President Arroyo has rushed down and is in town kissing some major Korean ass, trying to save this deal. Hopefully while here, she kicks some of the local politicos square in the nuts as hard as she can: This incident could screw the entire Philippines well and good; to quote one person high up in the discussions, "It would take years to rebuild a shattered image. A damaged credibility is one of the many potential ramifications that would materialize in case Hanjin pulls out its investment."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My New Nightmare

The night Epril and I were supposed to fly to the Philippines, moving from Thailand, we wound up staying in a hotel instead of getting on the plane: We got "bumped" off the flight. The 6 suitcases we had our entire lives packed into totalled 120 kilograms... and we needed to cough up 25,000 baht (cash only) to get them all on the airplane. While I had enough cash to pay for getting our bags to Manila, I would not have had enough cash (due to ATM limitations) to pay a similar fee for our flight from Manila to Cagayan 8 hours later. So, at the airline's offer of waiving the overweight luggage fee (and saving us 25,000 baht, plus throwing in 2 round trip air tickets), we elected to wait 24 hours for our the next flight.

For years, I've had this recurring dream about being in an airport and running incessantly to find a flight and missing it. Now, here I was in a situation where not only was I missing my flight, but (quite literally) I had no place else to go: For the period between when I left Pattaya and arrived in Cagayan, I had no home. All of my belongings were in suitcases. And... to top it all off, I was now being ferried off to an unknown hotel in an unknown part of Bangkok.

It didn't particularly bother me at the time mentally. I wasn't panicking or anything, and I obviously had a big wad of cash if something went really wrong. However, now when I sleep, a lot of my "not-so-nice" dreams center around that situation. It was my old nightmare of running around an airport (which I actually did, trying to gather up as much cash as I could) and missing my flight come true, with the added stressful twist of winding up in a strange place and not having anyplace else to go.

Well, I suppose that would give anybody good fodder for nightmares.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daily Report: Workin and Livin

Macahambus cave is about 200
feet from end to end, and this
is the only part (about 2 feet)
where there is a low ceiling.

The back end of the cave opens
up onto a platform overlooking
the Cagayan River 200 feet below.
I took a break from heavy-duty blogging this week, but there wasn't really much going on in my life to write about anyway. I didn't go out for the entire week until Friday for Spooks, and didn't even watch anything particularly interesting on TV... or at least nothing that springs to memory.

Susan did cook some good meals though, and we are all definitely eating well.

The rain has started falling almost daily, and there have even been a couple of pretty good storms. The river overflowed it's banks a little bit down in the valley, and moved into the lowest areas... places where the river obviously flows quite occasionally if not regularly, and no houses were in danger or anything like that.

This weekend, the family was down from Jasaan and we went to the Macahambus Cave (which was small but free) but took a pass on the "jungle canopy bridge" and zip line (which was 300 pisos per person for a 20-minute excursion.

Sunday night, Epril and I had Tom Fagan from St. Louis and his girlfriend, Marlyn, join the family for dinner, and I made my world-famous fettucini carbonara. There was also a lame attempt at making some garlic bread. After that, we watched Spielberg's "A.I." on DVD.

Friday, April 25, 2008

OK... Hillary Just Might Win

After Hillary's 9.2-point victory (after starting with a 20-point lead 4 weeks earlier) over Obama on Tuesday night, I have to concede that she just might win the Democratic primary and go on to be President of the United States. She has her work cut out for her, but it can be done:

  1. She needs to turn the current 3-point lead that she has in Indiana into a 35-point victory in the next 2 weeks. (She won her home state of Arkansas by about that much, where Obama didn't bother to campaign.)
  2. She has to turn the current 20-point deficit that she has in North Carolina into a 35-point victory in the next 2 weeks. (That's a 55-point swing, with no current reason for it to happen, but Obama may be revealed as the 20th hijacker.)
  3. She has to win all of the other 7 remaining primaries with 35-point victories as well. (Even Puerto Rico and Guam.)
  4. She has to win 67.5% of all the remaining superdelegates, and limit Obama to no more than 32.5%. (Over the past 2 months she has been averaging only 32.5% of the superdelegates, while Obama has been averaging 67.5%.)
  5. She has to get the superdelegates from Florida and Michigan included, and the votes from Florida and Michigan (where Obama wasn't even on the ballot) counted. (Even though the DNC and Florida and Michigan have all agreed that that probably isn't going to happen.)
And, she has to do all of this with a fraction of the amount of money Obama has to spend against her. So to all you Hillary fans out there: Keep your fingers crossed... this still can happen.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Filipino Doctors Making A Name For Themselves

An artist's rendition of the operating
room at Vicente Sotto Memorial
Medical Center in Cebu.
The big news in The Philippines today is that regarding an operating room team that let in several unauthorized hospital personnel to join in a bit of laughing and cavorting during a surgery in which the surgeon removed a foreign object from a gay man's rectum. Blasting patient privacy laws (are there any in The PI?) straight out of the water, the operation (and joke-making and O.R. horseplay) was filmed and put on YouTube.

Just to add insult to injury, the Catholic Church had to open it's mouth right at the time when some pious silence might have been a more... uh... Christian approach. Said Monsignor Achilles Dakay, spokesman of the archdiocese of Cebu:
"They are blaming the doctors for what they do but I think they should blame the guy for what he did."
Yes: The hospital staff jokes and horseplays around in the operating room, violates every medical ethic and legal standard and generally makes a mockery of the Filipino medical profession, and all the Catholic church can think about... the only thing they can focus on... the only thing that they want to pin the blame on... and the only thing they want people to remember... is the sodomite.

Jeez. I could go on a rant for hours about this.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Daily Report: Pool and Pollution

I was up nice and early today, started work at 7:00 a.m., and by noontime had put in what I considered a fair day of work. (I wish all days could go like that.)

The Gontinas Girls spending a day out
in the jungle swimming and eating.
Today, Epril and I drove out to Jasaan to go to the Twin Hearts Pool Resort with Epril's family. (I invited Don from St. Louis to join us as well, and he rode out in a hired car.) I chose to go on a Monday because on Sundays in the summertime (now, that is), the pool resorts of Jasaan are just packed with hundreds of people.

As it was, even on a Monday, the place was nominally full, with almost all of the little bamboo huts taken. As per usual, the karaoke machine was on full blast. The nice thing about Twin Hearts though is that there are tons of massive boulders strewn throughout the site, and all you have to do is find a hut that is a little distant from the disco-volume karaoke machine (which, coincidentally and fortunately, is usually the hut that the Filipinos think is the poorest location) and you can enjoy a relatively (emphasis on relatively) quiet afternoon.

The bamboo huts, cool water,
and jungle setting make the
Twin Hearts Pool Resort an
awesome place to spend an
After the pool, the family, myself and Epril, and Don went back to Epril's family's house and relaxed for a little while. Don and I took a walk around the village, followed as always by a throng of little giggling girls... future Cherry Blossom subscribers for sure.

After that, Don rode back to Cagayan in the taxi, and gave Susan and Ednil a ride, while I rode with Epril on the motorcycle. All 5 of us met up at Kinse Amigos for dinner.

When I got to Kinse Amigos, I felt just the tiniest bit light headed, and thought that I must be having a sugar crash or be really tired or something. We all ate some bar-be-que, and then I decided to go home and go straight to bed, thinking that I was coming down with a cold or something.

I climbed into bed at 8:00, and started coughing. I coughed until I finally fell asleep at midnight. I figured out what had happened when Epril cleaned off her face with her usual cotton-ball-alcohol and laughed when she saw all the soot on her face: I had spent 45 minutes driving to, and 45 minutes driving back from Jasaan in some of the most polluted air on the planet. When I arrived at Kinse Amigos, I must have been suffering from mild carbon monoxide poisoning.

It's really a shame because The Philippines is such a wonderful place to live, but if you are a person with respiratory problems, take this as fair warning: Bangkok and Pattaya are pure clean oxygen compared to Cagayan. I'm living up on my hill here for all except 6 or 8 hours each week, and somewhat distant from the pollution... but if you live down in that brown cloud (I can see it over the city from my house), it is the same as smoking a pack per day as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Daily Report: Enjoying The Little Things

I didn't do much today... just worked, napped, watched some movies.

The Korean international school
and Cagayan Convention Center
at the end of the valley, about
two kilometers from my house.
Epril and I went to Greenwich on Sunday... which is a fast-food restaurant fairly similar to KFC. It took 40 minutes to get our food. I don't know if it is only the Greenwich at SM, since that is the only branch of the restaurant I have eaten at, but every time we've been there, we've had to wait at least 15 minutes for our food.

We did a bit of shopping at SM Supermarket. I restocked my supply of pumpkin seeds, and discovered the Zest-O brand of discount soda: They make a really good root beer and cola for 75 cents per 1.5 liter bottle.

And that was the highlight of my day.

Book Review: State of Fear By Michael Crichton

I haven't written a book report or a movie review in a while, so I thought I would toss this out for you. I recently finished Michael Crichton's "State Of Fear" and thought I'd tell you what I thought of it.

First of all, you have to know that the book is divided into two parts, and thus there will be two separate reviews: Science fact and science fiction... the education and the entertainment. This first review is about the science fiction, the entertainment. The science fact... the detailed discussions of the inflated threat of global warming... is going to be put into a second review.

The fiction part of this book is simply a mess... with parts of it even laughably so. Michael Crichton had a good idea for a story ("eco-warriors" become "eco-terrorists", with plots to destroy the world), but it is oh-so-poorly thought out in its execution that it's hard to believe this is the same guy who wrote so many other great books.

"State of Fear" starts off in Paris, where a couple of assassins kill a college student. Why did they kill the college student? No particular reason... he showed them how a wave-making machine to study ocean movement worked. Mostly, it was just a cheap foreshadowing gimmick, to show you that these assassins kill people by holding them down and attaching some kind of aquatic critter (that they carry around in a water-filled baggie) to them until it bites and injects a deadly venom. (I suppose carrying around a syringe of the poison is too simple.)

From there, we bounce around on a whirlwind tour of the world, and are introduced to our protagonists: Evans, a laywer whose function in the book seems to be to serve mainly as witness to the fiction, and straw man to the non-fiction; Kenner, whose function in the book seems to be to move the other characters forward in the book without revealing too much about the plot until the right time, and acting as a living breathing PDF reader; Morton, a billionaire philantropist whose function in the book is to get out of the way early so that the rest of the characters have a private jet to fly around in, and cash to spare; and Sarah, Morton's secretary, to (obviously) play the love interest.

Other characters include Drake, the slimy director of an environmental organization; Sanjong, who is Robin to Kenner's Batman; Bradley, the literary avatar of Martin Sheen, whose job is to be dislikable so that he can suffer a pointless-but-cathartic death; and Jennifer, because the book apparently didn't have enough females in it initially.

The book starts off by foreshadowing four plots by eco-terrorists to wreak havoc and destruction, brought to light merely as mysterious locations on the planet: Antarctica, Arizona, the Bahamas, and the South Pacific... places to which (obviously) the crew of intrepid characters zips off to, fight the bad guys, stop the evil plot, and then proceed to the next stop. (However: Mr. Crichton apparently decided that four evil plots made the book too long, and at the last minute, had clear weather in the Bahamas cancel evil plot #3 entirely.)

The plots pretty much run their course, with the bad guys waiting long enough in between each plot for the good guys to fly back to Los Angeles, attend a couple of meetings, catch a shower, and wait for Kenner and Sanjong to refuel the jet. (Those two know where, when, how, and why the next evil plot will take place before anyone else... and won't tell anybody else where, when, how, and why until the private jet is lifting off from Los Angeles for the next part of the book).

The foreshadowing in this book is as subtle as a sledghammer. There has to be one of the most ridiculous deus-ex-machina moments in literary history as a NASA robot with a telephone saves the hapless Evans and his girlfriend from certain death in Antartica; an entirely predictable encounter with a lightening generator; a rather amusing turn of events where radios turn a lightning storm into a hail of photon torpedos; and then for the grand finale — with full knowledge that millions of lives at stake and the details of the threat they face — the characters (Batman and Robin, the lawyer, the actor, and the two bimbos) head off, unarmed, by themselves, to stave off TEOTWAKNI... the end of the world as we know it. The fact that crazy headhunters on a jungle island would play a part goes without saying... although surprisingly there was no volcano threatening to erupt. The slapped-in-the-middle, otherwise-pointless, one-off parking lot meeting with a crazy-like-a-fox professor, from whose speech this book gets its name, is like the afterthought of an afterthought.

I was interested — upon hearing that this book spends a lot of time explaining how the science of global warming has been exaggerated, by Mr. Crichton's presenting of real and documented facts — how the science would find its way into the science fiction... how Mr. Crichton would, while weaving his tale, stitch in enough science fact to be pursuave without detracting or distracting from the book.

He didn't: The book simply occasionally (most often while the characters are sitting in the jet) turns on a dime, puts the fiction on hold, and just starts gushing out statistics from environmental studies... usually in a most crude and direct fashion. To paraphrase:

Kenner: "Did you know... paragraph of text copied from science report?"

Straw man: "That's not true!"

Kenner: "Yes it is... paragraph of text copied from science report."

Straw man: "But I've been told environmental industry talking point."

Kenner: "Well, according to... some authority figure in his study from June of 1983 published on page 47 of Popular Ecology, yet another paragraph copied from a science report."

Straw man: "I feel so dumb."

Kenner: "Yes... Don't worry. You'll feel better. Have some wine."

As I said, the content of those paragraphs that Michael Crichton put into his books is another book review entirely... and requires considerably more thought. I'll try and get to them later. The science fact, at least, is interesting and thought provoking. That does not, however, hold true in any way for the science fiction book that it was put in.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Daily Report: Dark Age Road Trip

The power went out again at the house, and I immediately opted to take another ride around town, hopefully arriving back after the power was back on.

(It's funny: My original worry upon moving to Cagayan was making sure that I always had an internet connection to rely on. It has turned out that the internet connection is the most reliable service I have. It's the electricity that I need to worry about.)

Pueblo De Oro Golf Course is very
nice, but unless you speak Korean,
you won't find many people to meet.
We drove out first to the one of the local golf courses, Pueblo De Oro, about 2 miles from my house. I used to be a great golfer, and would love to start playing regularly again. I had been told before about Pueblo De Oro this fact: If you go to play there, you'll find you have the course largely to yourself, and anybody else you see will probably be Korean. (Korean businessmen find it is cheaper to fly to Mindanao for the weekend to play golf than stay in Korea and play.)

That certainly seemed to be the case. For a Saturday afternoon, the clubhouse only had about six people in it... all Korean. The parking lot had 20 or 30 cars in it, which meant that there were probably 10 or 15 groups out on the course playing at most. The course did look quite nice though... just don't try calling it a "Country Club" with the social interactions that suggests.

Epril standing on the Cagayan
River bed, with our house
above and behind her head.
After that, we drove down across the river to the other side of the valley and... after about 10 minutes of driving down the wrong side streets, Epril and I finally found the single road that leads to the peninsula of land next to the river right below our house on the hill above. The place is owned by a rock quarry company of some sort, and therefore only has one access point... although it always has people in there wandering around fishing, swimming, or tending free-roaming livestock.

After that, it was back home to find the electricity on, to do a little work and have dinner.

Aikido Master Versus Kickboxer

I miss my Aikido lessons. I need to get my schedule and workday better-organized so that I can start studying again.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Future Of Food May Be From A Vat Of Goo

Scientists are working on growing meat in test tubes.

Obviously, beef sirloin and drumsticks aren't going to come tumbling out of a test tube at any point in the future, but something akin to hamburger, hotdog, or chicken nuggets is definitely on the way.

Scientists are also considering other foodstuffs for replication in a laboratory (which I am assuming refers to grain, potato, and other starches and vegetables).

I would imagine that nobody is going to entirely be giving up their dead animal carcass in exchange for lab goo that may taste the same, even if it is only a fraction of the price, assuming one can afford the natural stuff. However, perhaps in 20 or 30 years we will be comfortable in the knowledge that our hotdogs were never actually pig nostrils in a prior iteration. Perhaps we won't care, who knows? If you can buy a 10-pound bag of hamburger for two dollars, will you care?

There are two undeniable major benefits to the world we live in though: One is that famine will become much less common, if not eliminated entirely. People in the world's poorest countries will have much less malnutrition and better-balanced diets. Drought and arable land will no longer be concerns. With well-fed populations comes better health and economic prosperity. The planet's ability to handle a larger population will be much improved.

Second: Creating food in a factory will free up vast portions of the world's farm lands for other uses, and reduce the pollution that goes with farming and livestock. The article says that livestock alone is responsible for 18% of the world's greenhouse gasses, while deforestation to make way for more land to be used in farming represents 20% of all the world's carbon emissions.

Anyway, it's a very exciting possibility, this potential of turning out thousands and thousands of tons of food from a factory for a fraction of the cost of growing and harvesting it naturally, and personally — as long as they taste the same — I'll still enjoy my chicken nuggets even if they never were actually chickens.

Daily Report: Friday Becoming Standardized

Epril has replaced my morning orange juice with pomelo juice. Pomelo juice tastes like grapefruit juice the same way frog tastes like chicken.

Work today was much better... and quicker.

Filipinos have this odd habit of saying "yes" by simply raising both their eyebrows without making a sound. I'm not the biggest practitioner of eye contact, so when I ask a question and am met with silence, it's a bit annoying. However, since I've learned that Filipinos are doing this, I've watched a little closer. I've even tried doing it myself with humorous results: It seems if you make the expression in earnest, instead of as a casual off-handed expression, it kind of illustrates to people who do it regularly that it is actually a bit silly.

Susan made spaghetti for lunch. I miss my old Prego spaghetti sauce with mushrooms, but the new, sweeter Heinz sauce is okay too in its own way.

Spooks Friday Night Family Expatriate
Buffet is a good place to socialize.
Beers are a dollar.
In the evening, it was out to Spooks Friday Night Family Buffet. Epril and I got there too late for food, which is fine. We go there to socialize, not eat. Pretty much all of the friends I've made in Cagayan were there (except my friend Tom, who seems to have disappeared) and I had a good time chatting. I also met a guy named Gary from Ireland, and a fellow named Mike from Minnesota.

It seems that I'm going to have to adjust my facial hair to mustache only, since that is the style in Cagayan. Actually, the only people on earth who wear mustaches as their only facial hair anymore are Americans and Germans. Everyone else either throws in some sort of beard, or shaves completely.

The Philippine Army has a base
at the Cagayan Airport, and they
do regular patrols of the area.
After Spooks, it was off to Racks where I shot pool. I was eventually joined by Don from St. Louis, and Mike and Marissa Turner. Epril was joined by Susan and Ednil who came down off the hill to have a wander around the night market. I gave Epril 500 pisos, and she bought herself 2 shirts and Susan a shirt as well... and still had 200 pisos left over. That's about $2.50 per shirt. Mike, Don, and I shot pool and drank beer while the girls shopped. We all were home by 11:00.

Oh... by the way: I've got the best landlord in the world. Betcha didn't know that.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Daily Report: BBQ and Billiards

I'm so much slower at work now, it's just killing me. It took me 4 hours this morning to do what used to take me a little under 3 hours to do. I put in 6½ hours of typing today only to get where I would have been after 4½ hours of typing before. I'm not personally familiar with the concept of "working more for less" and it is bugging me.

Susan served leftovers again today for lunch.

In the evening, Epril and I went to Kinse Amigos, which is really the only place I am aware of in Cagayan that is a full-time expatriate hangout. (Shit... remind me to get a picture of the place sometime.) On the way, we got to see the rubble of "Over The Top", which used to be a once-per-week Wednesday morning expatriate hangout that was recently bull-dozed (and burned thereafter, by the look of it). That Wednesday morning get-together has been moved to the barge restaurant on the river by the way.

A jeepney makes its way into
Cagayan with a full load.
Epril and I had some of the nightly BBQ chicken and pork on offer at K.A., and I enjoyed a beer while Epril surfed the internet on their free WiFi connection on her telephone.

After visiting K.A., Epril and I went to Racks where I shot some pool. I really wish they would stop playing rap music there at high volume. Pool halls in New York used to be like libraries sometimes; peaceful places... and even when they turned on the music, it wasn't cranked up.

I see the Philippine Piso is creeping back up a little bit against the dollar. Not much so far, but it's been inching up 5 centavos at a time for the last couple of weeks... which almost constitutes a trend.

Oh: Note to my old neighbor in Pattaya, Mike C.: Drop me a line sometime. I seem to have lost your e-mail address.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Daily Report: Ride In The Country

A drive out the road by my
house leads to the golf course,
the airport, and then quite
quickly to the depths of
Mindanao's natural beauty.
I was just sitting down to work this morning when the power went out. It stayed out to the point where I got the impression that it wouldn't be coming back immediately, so I put Epril and Susan on the back of the motorcycle (leaving Ednil at home) and went for a ride out in the country. (The electricity came back as we were pulling out of the driveway, natch... but I kept driving, already committed to seeing some scenery.)

I drove out away from town along the road to my house, which also leads to the golf course and airport, about 3 and 4 kilometers from my house respectively. After passing the airport, civilization becomes much more sparse. The road drops down into the Cagayan River Valley, and the mountains close in on either side. The lush vegetation becomes much greener and thicker.

There is a cave, and some of the best white water rapids in the world are out along this road.

We drove out for about 15 kilometers, until the road wound back up into the hills and turned away from the river, and then came back, and I got to work.

Susan made rosemary chicken in balsamic marinade for lunch, and a pork and capsicum dish for dinner. She's really churning out some great meals.

Ednil's parents put the kibosh on Ednil going to study in Manila. That's too bad: Missing out on a free education at the best culinary school in the country. I'm not sure what else I can do for the girl: She wants to be a chef, but there aren't any schools for that in Cagayan. In America, there is only one obvious answer for those struggling to improve and not finding opportunity right outside their front door: Go someplace else. In The Philippines, for some people, there is one obvious answer to that same problem: Set your sights lower until opportunity is the same as what has always been right outside your front door.

Sometimes poverty explains itself.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just Thinkin...

This is Bob. This is Sally. A few years ago, Bob and Sally went looking for homes. Sally decided to save money by renting, planning to buy a home later. Bob decided to buy a great big house with a risky, adjustable rate mortgage. Bob and his bank bet housing prices would rise forever. They didn't. Now Bob's risky loan is coming due. Meanwhile... Sally is still saving, and still doesn't own a home. So what does Congress want to do? Tax Sally to bail out Bob (and his bank).

Daily Report: Lights In The Sky

I've had 4 bad days of work in a row, which sucks. I slept in, surfed the internet when I should have been working, and even took a nap.

Epril, Susan, and Ednil went out to the Mastery Skills Institute to try to find a culinary program for Endil to take. Unfortunately, while they did have one, it was only a 1-week program in cooking Filipino food, not a proper culinary vocational program like we were hoping for. I wouldn't mind sending Ednil up to a proper 1-year culinary arts program in Manila (she can stay with relatives) if her mother will let her go. The cost is $2,500 for the year or so, and all the chef instructors seem to be European.

Rainbow at sunset.
We had leftovers for dinner tonight. I watched an interesting Discovery Channel program on China's manned space program. The girls watched "Pinoy Big Brother" on the television upstairs, and clucked and chuckled the evening away.

After climbing into bed tonight, Epril and I noticed a little blinking light: The Philippines has fireflies. I haven't seen a firefly in decades.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Just Thinkin...

Cash needed to lower food prices enough so that every hungry person in the world has enough to eat: $500 million.

Cash needed to maintain the stalemate in Iraq for 30 hours: $500 million.

Daily Report: Dinner Guest

A different perspective: Here
is my house as seen from the
other side of the Cagayan River
Valley (arrow provided for
clarity). The big blue building
in back is SM Mall. It looks
close, but is actually a mile
I overslept a little bit, got in a poor morning of work, had a bite of lunch, and then had a poor afternoon of work.

Epril and I had Don from St. Louis (whom we ate with at Town on Saturday night) over to the house for dinner tonight. Susan and Ednil cooked the beef with snow peas in oyster sauce, stir-fried beef with green beans, and a sweet "Indonesian" chicken for dinner. I got to put my new candle holders to use.

We sat around until late chatting. I enjoy talking to Don, as we both have a lot of subjects in common about which we enjoy talking.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just Thinkin...

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them.And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not."

"And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

— Barack Obama, 2008

"You know, he [Bush] wants to divide us over race. I'm from the South. I understand this. This quota deal they're gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they've been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade. When their economic policies fail, when the country's coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them. They know if they can keep us looking at each other across a racial divide, if I can look at Bobby Rush and think, Bobby wants my job, my promotion, then neither of us can look at George Bush and say, 'What happened to everybody's job? What happened to everybody's income? What ... have ... you ... done ... to ... our ... country?'"

Bill Clinton, 1991

Daily Report: Rainy Sunday

I slept in again today. The morning after another night at Spooks, and I woke up with yet another throbbing headache. Last time I blamed it on the San Miguel Lite... but this time that wouldn't be a factor. It could very well be the flashing lights. That's a bit strange considering how much of my life has been spent in the night clubs of Bangkok, New York City, Houston, Montreal, Seattle, and Saõ Paulo.

Rainy Sunday in Cagayan; the walk
outside and the fog over the valley.
So today was essentially a day off. It started raining in the morning, and didn't stop until late afternoon. I sat around and watched the third round of the Masters Tournament on television... not live obviously. Parasat Cable Internet may be good, but their television signal isn't. When you stretch Augusta National across 60 inches of high-definition television screen, you can really see every flaw in the signal. I can't wait until I can get my digital cable box to see if that helps.

In the evening, Epril and I went to SM mall and bought dinner. The calzones from Yellow Cab pizza are an excellent deal: 165 pesos ($4) and they are really large and filled with stuff. I also bought some DVDs at the video store.

So, we sat down and had dinner, and Epril got to watch her first classic movie: Roman Holiday. She liked it, but not a whole bunch. It turns out that she didn't care for watching a black and white movie. I suppose for somebody who has never seen a black and white movie before, that's a reasonable criticism. After that, we watched the horror movie, "28 days", which of course Epril and Susan (and Ednil) were thrilled with... although they covered their eyes for a good portion of it.

Ednil, Epril's sister who just graduated from high school, has come to stay with us. She wants to be a chef, and I'm going to send her to culinary school. She'll be staying with Susan in the third bedroom while she goes to school, and will be my own personal chef when she isn't studying.

Just Thinkin...

How to tell you are the member of a fucked up religion:
An explosion in a southern Iranian mosque killed 11 people and wounded 191 after evening prayers Saturday, Iranian media reported.

While an initial report said a homemade bomb exploded, a local police commander said it appeared to be a case of negligent handling of live munitions inside the mosque.
Let me repeat that: "Live munitions inside the mosque."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Daily Report: Fruits Of My Labor

I got a little extra sleep and had a light morning of work.

For lunch, Epril and I went out to Candy's Café at the outdoor plaza in the Limketkai shopping plaza. It was a nice place, and the menu selection is really good, with pesto pastas, a nice selection of meat dishes, a crepe menu, burgers, pizzas, salads, et cetera. The food was pretty good, but nothing we ordered (broccoli soup, a ham and cheese crepe, beef stroganoff) was anything award-winning. The service was a bit slow, and I think the prices were a tad high. I would recommend it if you aren't allergic to spending a little money: Our lunch bill was 765 pisos plus tip.

My attempt at home decor.
After lunch, Epril and I went to Ororama for the afternoon, where I spent about 7,000 pisos on some shelves, kitchen and bar supplies, a bunch of glasses for when guests come over (wine glasses, martini glasses, beer glasses, and such), and a couple dozen glass vases and knick knacks to add a little decor and color to the living room. (Right now, without any decor or lived-in touches, the place has a "college-dorm common room" feel to it. All it needs is a Budweiser bikini girl Nascar poster and a desk with empty pizza boxes on it, and the effect would be complete. So, this is my first addition to making the house look occupied in a semi-permanent fashion. Wall hangings and plants and curtains and such are coming soon.

My favorite restaurant, "Town".
At 8:00 tonight, it was out to my favorite restaurant in Cagayan, "Town", which is almost directly above where we had lunch today at Candy's Café. We were joined by Mike and Marissa Turner, and their friend from St. Louis, Don, who is in town checking the place out and hoping to meet somebody special. (Single ladies in the house say "hell-yeah".)

Mike and Don, two internet gurus
finding paradise in Cagayan.
We drank pitchers of The World's Best Piña Coladas until the restaurant ran out of rum. We had garlic mushrooms (90 pisos), a Waldorf salad (120 pesos), some grilled beef (120 pisos), osso buco (340 pisos), teriaki chicken (180 pisos), a pumpkin bisque (90 pisos), and to top it all off, a slice of carrot cake (which neither Epril nor Marissa had ever tasted before). Total bill for 5 people was 2,900 pisos plus tip.

After that, the 5 of us went to Pulse for a little while and listened to the band play. The girls danced a little, and we had a few beers. Then, at about midnight, it was home to bed.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Daily Report: Nice Weather

One thing about the Cagayan that is nicer than Pattaya is the weather: It's about the same temperature, but here there are actual blue skies. For some reason, Pattaya is the world capital of haziness; the white sky... or at least the so-light-blue-as-to-be-white sky. Almost every day so far here in Cagayan, there has been some blue sky to enjoy. In Pattaya, I would say that there were only 60 or 80 days per year with even a fraction of the sky above being cloudless and showing some true blue... and only 20 or 30 days per year with greater-than-50-percent clear sky.

I got my first "full" electric bill today. Including the Jumbotron and air conditioning run on high all night in one bedroom, the cost was 4,000 pisos ($100, 3,200 baht). Some people had warned me to expect very high electrical bills... but I don't think that is too bad. It's approximately the same as Thailand, if I were to guess.

I had a fair morning of work, and then for lunch, Susan made pork chops covered in a very tasty wine sauce that reminded me a bit of plum sauce. We watched the end of the first season of "24". I had seen it already and knew how it ended, but the girls were kind of gobsmacked. I think it sort of put a damper on their afternoon.

In the evening, Epril and I went out to Citibank to get some cash. (It's the only ATM in town that gives out 30,000 pisos at a time.) I went to the Sony Center in Limketkai to see if they sold this: A home computer that primarily functions as part of your television, with a Blu-Ray player built in. Unfortunately, as with several Sony products here in The Philippines, this one was exorbitantly overpriced, especially since the one being sold in The Philippines isn't as good as the one on the internet. (The Sony MSRP price of the internet model is 65,000 pisos; the Sony Philippines price of the older-generation version is 100,000 pesos... an $800 difference.) I really don't know why they do that, especially when they are selling the same stuff in Thailand for the "right" price.

As the sun sets over the
Cagayan River Valley, smoke
from food cooked over open
flames wafts over the trees.
From there, we went over to Spooks for their Friday night expatriate family buffet. I met a nice guy named Kevin who was opening up an internet café in the town of Villa Nueva, close to Epril's town of Jasaan. My friend Ross became my hero by picking up for me on his trip to Cebu a bottle of Drambuie (price was 1,300 pesos... slightly less than Thailand) and gave it to me during dinner.

After that, I went over to Racks for 2½ hours and shot pool while Epril, Susan (who came down into town after dinner), and a new friend of Epril's, name Marifel (who is internet-dating a Norwegian guy chat-buddy of Epril's) went out and did some shopping. With only about 10 hours of practice under my belt, my pool game is already about 50% back to where it used to be, which is surprising. I thought it would take a lot longer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Daily Report: Thoughts On Pool

I didn't do anything on Tuesday or Wednesday of any interest: Just worked, and watched some TV. Susan has been working her way through the cookbooks we bought though. For lunch on Tuesday, we had stir fried beef with snow peas. For lunch on Wednesday, there was beef and asparagus in oyster sauce. We had pork chops for dinner. I'm eating better at home than I have in decades.

Today, I got in a good day of work... but with my two favorite work accounts gone as of April 1st, my speed has gone down quite a bit... by about 20%. I'm working more hours now to offset it, but the days of phenomenal paychecks are gone... for the time being.

This evening, Epril and I went down to the local pool hall where I got in about 2 hours of practice. (Epril mostly sat and watched TV and sent text messages to her friends on her phone.) I'm getting better... although my back still complains a lot about bending over the table so much.

Pool champion Efren Reyes
is The Philippines' most
admired and famous athlete,
and is one of the most famous
Filipinos in the world.
When I moved to the Philippines, I expected to find every pool hall filled with some seriously excellent local pool players. After all, the Philippines' most internationally-famous people are billiard champions, and during the 1990's, this country was the world's epicenter of pool-playing excellence (only to be challenged by Taiwan in the last 10 years).

However, there aren't any A-level pool players that I've seen so far in Cagayan unless there is a pool hall that I don't know about: A-level pool players live in pool halls, just like A-level body builders live in gyms. So, since I don't see any A-level pool players in the pool hall I go to (and this pool hall seems to be the best out of three pool halls in town), I think it is safe to assume that there aren't any pros or semi-pros in town.

In fact, based on what level of pool playing I have seen on the tables around me, it's most probable that as soon as a Filipino decides to dedicate his life to the sport of billiards, the first thing he does — even before buying a cue — is to buy a ticket to Manila. It makes sense: You won't find your game or any action in the provinces.

The village below my house.
Well, I'm too old to harbor any hopes of even getting back to the high B-level that I was previously, let alone running off to weekend tournaments. I certainly won't be playing for money either: The money I consider worth playing for, most Filipino kids would consider worth killing for; no need to get into no-win gambling situations around here.

Nope: Now, I'm just a hobbyist. I just want to enjoy myself and enjoy being good at a pass-time that I can hopefully participate in well into old age.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


DPolitico sums up Hillary's campaign against Obama perfectly.
In a move that's sure to be seen as controversial, Hillary has contacted the NCAA Board of Directors to argue that Memphis is actually better qualified to be National Champion.

Ms. Clinton stated that Memphis, while losing the game, had actually shown more ability to act like a National Champion on Day One. She argued that Memphis had passed every test during the game, including scoring more points than Kansas for 38 minutes. For 38 minutes they had shown the experience necessary to be National Champion. "Just because some team comes along in the last minute and scores more points than the other guy doesn't mean they're necessarily able to be National Champion on Day One."

The Nicest Prank Ever

Several hundred people, working with NBC Sports, pull a prank on some unsuspecting kids (and their coaches and parents) playing a small-town little league game by showing up with all the fixins' of a major league baseball game.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Learning In The (Dis)Information Age

It's a hobby of mine, in the information age: Whenever I learn something that I didn't know before, I always go and read more about it. The reason for this is that so many of the "facts" you get in this day and age are false or misleading.

Two of my relatives don't include me in their daily e-mails anymore after the fifth or sixth time I e-mailed them back telling them, "no, Boeing isn't making a passenger version of the B2 bomber, that photo is a fake," or "no, the Koran doesn't have a prescient passage in it regarding America taking revenge for the attacks of 9-11," or "no, Andy Rooney didn't write that racist screed about immigrants", or "no, that bouncing ball music machine isn't made out of tractor parts by the Univeristy of Iowa Engineering Department", or "no, sperm donor clinics in China don't look like still shots from Japanese naughty-nurse porno movies".

The list goes on... endlessly.

I made a mistake like that once on my other blog when I posted that you can hold your car alarm dongle up to your telephone at home and unlock your car door via cell phone... an e-mail that I fell for. I was exceptionally embarassed by having been duped, but admitted I was wrong and have made really sure that I don't become a chump like that anymore.

What amazes me most is that so many other people don't really care that they are spreading disinformation. They keep doing it. It is almost as if they don't mind being the chump. It doesn't bother them. They don't check for themselves to see whether what they are sending (i.e, what they are claiming they themselves believe, and are telling other people to believe) is true. Due to the fact that I don't receive those "9-11 conspiracy" e-mails and "Clinton coverup" e-mails anymore (knowing that their e-mails are subject to my fact-checking), I can conclude that the only thing some people seem to care about is not knowing what the truth really is.

The point is that the Information Age only means that we have a lot more information... not that all of it is true. It means that with each additional piece of information we look for and receive, there are that many more chances of being lied to. Some people carry on blissfully in these times, putting as much trust in crackpot internet sites or e-mails titled "FW: You're Not Going To Believe This!!!" as they do in network news reporting, science books, or even their own eyes or common sense.

Other people, like me, try to figure out the truth: It's a tough job that annoys a lot of people... and it gets me tossed off more unsolicited-e-mail lists than I care to remember... but somebody has to stop the ignorance.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go work on enlarging my penis.

My mother, having read this post, and feeling sorry that nobody sends me e-mails anymore, sent me a "see, I still love you" e-mail filled with amusing facts. These amusing facts.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Daily Report: Cocks On TV

It was a good day of work, but I didn't do much else. Spaghetti for lunch, fried chicken for dinner... the old fall-back meals.

Cock fighting is a televised sport
in The Philippines.
I was flipping through my 85 channels of cable television tonight, and on channel 67, I came across Filipino cock fighting... televised cock fighting with an arena, crowd, announcers... all of it. A graphic of two chickens came up on the screen, like two prize fighters, along with some basic info about them... age, name, owner. Then, straight to the ring — which oddly enough was set up with lines like a hockey rink, as if there might be fouls in this game (pun intended). Two people brought two chickens together in the center circle for a how-do-you-do peck, then walked to opposite ends and let the chickens loose.

The two chickens immediately attacked one another and that lasted for about 15 seconds. Then one chicken started thrashing about obviously hurt, and the other chicken seemed to lose interest. A referee came over, picked up both chickens, brought the two chickens close together for another how-do-you-do peck, and they started fighting again for another 5 seconds, until the same chicken went still, and the other chicken seemed to lose interest. The referee repeated the action again, but this time neither chicken seemed to care much about fighting: One because he apparently was dead or unconscious, the other because he didn't feel like pecking a dead thing probably.

Anyway, I spent 30 seconds of my life watching a chicken die purely for my entertainment. Once is enough.

I have to say that the Parasat Cable Internet is turning out to be most excellent. The cable internet has not gone down once in the entire month I have had it, and I know when the internet goes down, because the secure connection that I make with my company gets disconnected, and that hasn't happened in a month.

Some people going down the river
on bamboo rafts.
The complaints I have are (1) during periods of high traffic, the speed I get is much slower than what I'm paying for... but that's only about 2 hours per day in the mid-afternoon, and that happens with any high speed internet connection, and (2) the connection has a tendency to "park" itself, which means that if you haven't sent or received data over the internet for 5 or 10 minutes, when you start sending/receiving again, it takes 10 or 20 seconds for the internet to "wake up". Also, I'm paying 4,500 pisos ($110) per month for the connection, which is expensive... but, if you've heard how much people complain about Parasat internet who are paying only 900 pisos per month, you would know why I took the plunge and signed up for the extra service/speed package.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Daily Report: Jungle Swimming

On Sunday, after a fair morning of work, Epril and I climbed onto the Motorstar Panther 150 and headed out to the swimming resorts of Jasaan. It was our first long trip on the motorcycle since our failed attempt at driving to Jasaan 3 weeks ago. This time, however, we made it without a problem. (I will say that I have a sinking suspision that the top speed of this bike isn't governed like it was on my PGO Tiger in Thailand... I think that this bike really does top out at an embarrassing 80 kph.)

Well... Epril and I still looked cool driving there, if nothing else.

The pool at Basamanggas Resort.

Inday and Doreen splashing around.
We went to Epril's family's house and picked everyone up and drove them out (2 passengers at a time on the back of the bike) the 1 kilometer into the jungle to the Rock Springs Resort. Unfortunately, after we got there, we discovered that the place was jam-packed with 400 people, and there were no bungalows left to sit at. From there, we decided to go about 300 meters across the small valley to the Kahulugan Springs Resort, only to find that that was even more packed with even more people. (If you own a bit of jungle in the Philippines with a stream running through it, you apparently can make quite a bit of money by building a bunch of cement collection pools, and letting people swim around in them.)

So, instead, we gathered everybody up on the motorcycle and drove to the third pool resort in this otherwise-tiny village, Basamanggas Resort. That place only had 200-or-so people swimming, so we were able to find a place to sit down and order some cokes and food and had an enjoyable afternoon splashing around. (There are fourth and fifth resorts as well... but more than 1 kilometer distant.)

At about 4:00, Epril and I climbed back on the motorcycle and made our way back to Cagayan. From Epril's parents front door to our front door on the far side of Cagayan was 45 minutes exactly.

We stopped by the Chinese restaurant in SM Mall, called Chow King, and bought dinner. I bought some pork dumplings, fried rice, and egg rolls, which were pretty good... but not too much like American Chinese fast food, which I have yet to find in Asia.

If any of you feel like going out to the pool resorts in Jasaan, it would be laughable for me to try to write directions. Instead, click here for a wikimapia satellite view of the places, and you can find your way there that way. (I'm sure if you hop in a jeepney heading out of Cagayan toward Jasaan, just ask the Jeepney driver to drop you off at the proper place on the highway, as they all know where the place is, and then there are lots of motorcycle taxis and other ways to make it the last 2 kilometers out to the resorts. A taxi from Ororama will cost you about 300 pisos one way.)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Daily Report: Zax Restobar Expatriate Night

My morning of work once again was a bit paltry.

A 1200 cc BMW touring bike.
For lunch, I joined Mike and Marissa Turner out at the Limketkai mall where there was a motorcycle show going on. First, Epril and I went to see the show bikes on display inside the mall, which were all (except for a 350 c.i. V8 Chevy-powered cruiser) generally pretty but unremarkable. They were mostly new, mostly all stock motorcycles. It seemed their only amazing attribute was that they cost more than the average Filipino house.

After visiting the motorcycle show, Epril and I joined Mike and Marissa for lunch at Ramen Tei, the second (of two) sushi restaurants in Cagayan that I have been to. It seems that every time I go out for sushi, it gets more expensive. My first visit to Fuji so long ago only set me back about 200 pisos per person. Now, it's up to 600 pisos per person. Well, I've been told that that is still a fraction of what you would pay in America for sushi.

After lunch, Epril and I stopped by the outdoor part of the motorcycle show to find that we couldn't go inside (apparently "card holders only") and the outside fence was packed 8 deep with gawkers watching (I'm guessing) people do fancy stuff with their motorcycles. Epril and I went home instead of trying to watch.

My afternoon of work went better.

Tonight, it was out to Zax, a "restobar" cabaret in downtown, across from (and down one of the sidestreets off of) Velez Street, across from the provincial government buildings. On the first Saturday of every month, local expatriates go there for an evening of oldies music.

Zax is a bit underwhelming. It looks like a cut-rate Chinese restaurant, with a mixture of chintz and neglect that gives the place a very cheap look. If you drink: stick to beer, as mixed drinks will set you back 120 to 140 pisos, which are the most expensive drinks on the island of Mindanao (although I must say that they do make a good Cosmopolitan). The food that they serve is good though, but a bit pricey as well. The stereo system is equalized to the most interesting (in a bad way) setting of "twang plus rumble".

Oh: Mike Turner wrote in his blog about Zax and the "very fine Filipinas" that attend Zax to try and lasso their own expatriate guy. Either Mike has a particular fetish for tubby menopausal Filipina ladies, or I was there on the night when all of the cuties decided to stay home. Don't know, don't wanna know... got my own cutie already and don't need another.

The first band to come on wasn't bad, but wasn't great either. The two ladies and one male singer did some fun dance steps, and their music choices were enjoyable, and I didn't mind listening to them... but wouldn't nominate them for graduation to a higher-tier venue than Zax.

Mystica waves to her fans at
Zax Restobar in Cagayan De Oro.
The second band to come on... well, that is when the evening started. The Cagayan Culture Club (not their real name) came on stage: A gender-bending fellow and two ladies wearing all white. The transsexual named "Mystica" (or Miss Tika... I'm not sure) minced his way around stage introducing himself and his friends and doing little gay "hello darling" waves to his friends in the crowd. Then, he launched into a jaw dropping, fall-out-of-your-seat perfect rendition of "The Great Pretender" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" and other doo-whop hits from the 1950's, all in perfect 4-part harmony (with the addition of the voice of the keyboardist to the 2 alto ladies in the band). With his dyed-blond, close-cropped hair, I'm going to call Mystica the "Filipino Raven-O."

So, anyway with all of its negatives, I can recommend Zax for this one reason.

Epril and I headed home at 11:00, which was a bit early, but Epril was tired and the smoke really was getting in her eyes.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Daily Report: Routine Process Of Fun

I didn't have a particularly good day of work for the second day in a row. I got a bit of a late start to work, and then quit a bit early for lunch. Susan tried another recipe out of the cookbooks that we bought, a chicken casserole in a herb and pepper tomato sauce, which I didn't like very much: Too many vegetables that I didn't care for (zucchini and peppers). It's okay though: I appreciate the attempt first and foremost, and really don't care much about taste of the food as long as it is generally edible... which this was.

Inday dressed up for her
school dance routine.
After lunch, Epril and I rode down into town (and Susan took a jeepney) to meet up with Epril's mother and her younger sister, Inday. They had come to the Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Complex in the center of town for a state-wide field day with about 30 or 40 schools participating. Inday and her school class were going to be participating in a pep rally / cheer leading / dance routine.

The annual Northern Mindanao Regional
Field Day at The Don Gregorio Pelaez
Sports Complex in Cagayan De Oro.

Jasaan National High School's dance
routine. (I wasn't there, but was
assured that they weren't dancing to
Epril had originally just told me, "We're going to see Inday dance with her school," and I thought it would be 10 or 12 girls doing some number, and perhaps a few other troupes as well... for some educational function of some sort. Instead, it was (yet another) class of 375 students all dressed in matching uniforms, doing dance numbers in a competition against several other massive groups of kids. There was also a basketball tournament and volleyball tournament that I could immediately see. (I didn't wander.) Most importantly, instead of one hour of my afternoon dedicated to supporting Inday at some little school rally, I was told that I could be facing the loss of half a day of work waiting for this all to end.

Thus, I left my camera with Epril and went home by myself to get back to work.

I did another 2 hours of work in the afternoon, and then went out with Epril to Spooks for their weekly expatriate get together at about 6:00. I met up with Montana Mike and a new friend, Bundaberg John from Australia, a former dart champion. Mike Turner was also there with his wife Marissa.

After a couple of hours at Spooks (just before the nekkid girls were going to get up on stage, of course) I headed over to Racks with Epril and met up with my new friend Oscar to shoot some pool. Susan came down from the house and she and Epril went out to the weekly "night café" in the Divisoria (the plaza at the center of town).

Oscar and I shot pool for about 2 hours, and then Epril and I went home... but not without a stop at McDonald's first.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Daily Report #1799

A street in the development where I
live, Camella Homes. It's not nearly as
nice as the housing estates in Pattaya,
but that is because there is no market
for 6, 10, or 20-million piso homes here.
Land prices in a place like this are high
also, at 3,500 to 5,000 pisos per square
meter (about $8.75 to $12.50 per square
foot), which I think is too much for the
quality of the developments here.
I didn't accomplish a whole lot today. Epril and I had entertained the notion of running out to Jasaan to go swimming in the jungle pool resorts they have out there, but almost as if on cue, the rain started drizzling, and the temperature dropped, and all thoughts of sunshine and splashing around in refreshing mountain water disappeared.

I had a bit of fried chicken for lunch, an afternoon nap, and some pork adobo for dinner. A bit of "24" on the TV, and then off to bed.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Daily Report: Friendly Visits

I didn't have a very good day of work today. Susan and Epril left for a funeral in Jasaan at about 8:00, and I worked an hour in the morning before I got really drowsy and took a nap for an hour. After that, I went out to the Wednesday Morning expatriate drinking party at a little hole-in-the-wall called "Over The Top" down in the center of town.

It's not the kind of place I would go to every week, primarily because I'm too busy with work to put away a 6-pack at 10:00 in the morning, but perhaps I'll be able to swing a once-a-month visit.

Today there were about a dozen expatriates hanging around drinking. (I stuck with Coke.) The entire gala event was presided over by Staff Sergeant Mike, who seems to be the Alpha Male of the expatriates in Cagayan, partly because of seniority, and mostly because nobody else wants the job. He uses the Wednesday OTT drinking party to raise money for orphans, the funds of which he then gets local charities (like Rotary) to match or double, and in return gives them all the credit for the projects that the money pays for.

SM City Mall in Cagayan is right
outside the entrance of the housing
development I live in.
After having a soda at "Over The Top", I went to see Montana Mike at the row house he rented down in the valley. (I can see the general area where his place is from my house on top of the hill, but it's all trees in that area and I can't see his place exactly.) His girlfriend just arrived back last night from the far side of Mindanao with her little niece in tow, whom she and Mike are hoping to adopt. What a cute little girl she is.

The Demon Train of SM City
Mall, owned and operated by
Satan. It drives unwary kids
around the mall while
delivering their souls straight
to hell.
I chatted with Mike about business opportunities here. There really are a hundred ways to make money here in Cagayan, as compared to Pattaya, because there is comparatively no capital invested here, and there is little or no competition. If you have money to invest, or a business you want to start, Cagayan is probably one of the best places in The Philippines to come to.

I went back home after visiting with Mike and put in another hour of work before Epril and Susan got back from Jasaan. Then, Epril and I went shopping at SM, where I found they were selling cream soda, which I haven't had in 20 years or so, so I bought a case. They also had Dr. Pepper, so I bought a case of that too.

Epril, Susan and I watched another 2 episodes of season 1 of "24" on television before going to bed.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Daily Report: Practice

I was up at 6 a.m. as per usual. (Heh: It's weird, 6 a.m. being "usual"... I have never ever been a morning person before; only over the last 4 or 5 years since moving to Asia.) Had my standard breakfast of 1 strip of bacon and 1 scrambled egg delivered to my desk by Dimple and Doreen.

At mid-morning, Epril's family all went home, leaving once again just myself, Epril, and Susan. I had a good morning of work. Epril and Susan did some shopping at SM. It looks like the next Great Hunt For Something will be for martini olives, since they could not be found at SM Supermarket.

For lunch, Susan cooked spaghetti. I asked for ground beef and onions in the spaghetti sauce, which Susan obligingly did, but she still couldn't resist throwing in sliced hot dogs as well. We watched another episode of "24" while we ate.

Epril in bed. All I could see was her
foot tapping in time to the music video
on TV. All I could hear was her
singing... very much out of tune.
In the afternoon, I got more work done while Epril napped and Susan ironed and mended my trousers. (When I was young, I spent every spare penny I had on fashionable clothes. Now, I haven't bought new clothes in over 3 years (other than a suit last summer), and my wardrobe is literally in tatters. Well... I do work from home, and have no formal social functions to attend, so it's not surprising.)

A mountainside village on the far
side of the valley.
In the evening, Epril and I went out to Quinze Amigos for bar-be-que, and chatted with Mike for a while. He's been a little stressed out recently: His wife gave birth to his first son a couple of months ago, and it made him stop and think about life. I'm equally looking forward to and dreading that kind of self-analysis when I have children of my own.

After bar-be-que, I went with Epril to Racks and I put in an hour of billiard practice while Epril watched TV at the bar. I'm not sure which is going to take longer to get in shape: My game or my back. Well, either one is 4 or 5 months away from being back to acceptable condition.

We were home by 9:00, and in bed shortly after. Epril has to wake up early tomorrow, as she and Susan have a funeral to attend in Jasaan.