Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jungle Jil Music Video: Evanescence

I'll be the first to admit that my days of knowing everything about popular music ended at about the same time that I packed my bags and drove out of the broadcast range of my old college radio station in 1994. With so much bad music to wade through these days to find the good stuff, I've essentially stopped trying... it's only luck that I find these bands at all.

So, please welcome me to the party (please don't tease me, as I seem to be the only person on the planet to have yet discovered this band) Evanescence (band site, wikipedia site).

I actually found out about this band as I was listening to one of my favorite bands, Lacuna Coil from Italy... a band which managed to rekindle my interest in heavy metal music. One of the comments mentioned Lacuna Coil and Evanescence being very similar. I immediately hopped over to see what if they were right.

Evanescence puts a great sounding, charismatic female out front to do vocals like Lacuna Coil. However, Evanescence adds some nice ballad work and piano as a focal instrument in the band (played by the lead singer), and isn't as gothic or moody as Lacuna Coil.

Anyway, their biggest hit so far is below: "Call Me When You're Sober". I would call it pretty indicative of how you'll find most of their music.

Daily Report: Another Movie

I took the girls out to see "Iron Man" last night. Excellent movie if I do say so.

My landlord... or the fairer half of my husband and wife landlord team... Annie, from Chicago, is in the country now, down in Davao, and will be here in Cagayan De Oro on Monday, bringing with her my new Playstation 3, several games, and a dozen Blue Ray movies. (If there was a place to register landlords for a Greatness Award, oh... you know I would.)

Evening falls over the Cagayan River
as seen from the balcony of my house.
(I find it hard to believe that the Sony Playstation 3 isn't the best-selling gaming console already. First off, you get a Blue Ray DVD player as part of the deal. (Why buy a standalone $500 Blue Ray player instead of $400 PS3 for that matter?) Add to that just two more things, Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy — two of the best video games ever, which you can't get on any other console — and I can't see why you'd go with XBox or Wii instead.)

Sunday I'll be out in Jasaan again for Emelyn's birthday party. (She's the girl who is marrying Michael Bird in July.)

Hillary's Final Gambit

Today, at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton's campaign will present the following twisted arguments:

(1) Michigan — despite having broken the rules, and despite the Clinton campaign having agreed with the premise of punishing the state before she lost the primary race and those delegates became necessary — should have all sins forgiven, all punishments lifted, and have all of its delegates seated at the convention.

(2) Barack Obama shouldn't receive any of Michigan's delegates because he "followed the spirit" of the rules, and took his name off the ballot. Hillary Clinton "followed the letter" of the rules and left her name on the ballot. Therefore, the Clinton campaign believes Barack Obama should receive no delegates because of "his mistake".

(3) Even though only 50% of the voters in Michigan voted for Hillary in this one-person race (with 40% voting "uncommitted"), Hillary doesn't want the DNC to consider the possibility that the other 50% of voters might have actually been voting against Hillary, and want Hillary to get all the delegates from Michigan... not just the 50% she actually won, but the 50% who did not vote for her.

It truly amazes me that there are still people in America who think that a person like this would make a good president... but there are. They have to use logic as equally twisted and double standards as equally brazen to support Hillary. (Click on that link: I've been having a blast laughing at those people for the better part of a week with their histrionics and polemics and double standards.)

I'm so glad that there is nothing Hillary Clinton can do at this point to take the nomination away from Barack Obama. Never before has a political campaign proven its candidate more unworthy of the office being seeked. I had no antipathy for Hillary Clinton when things started. In fact, I liked her just fine, and would have thought it perfectly reasonable for her to be selected as the Democratic candidate... but the past 3 months have changed my opinion drastically.

Barack Obama may be no more substantive than a shiny new paint job with which America will hopefully warm some hearts and open some minds around the world (and that is all I personally need him to be), and Hillary Clinton could very well have accomplished that as well. But: I do not think that the Hillary Clinton who campaigned against Barack Obama deserves to be President. This primary was tactically over on February 12th. The only reason this campaign has continued since then has been so that Hillary Clinton could teach us why she should never be President of the United States.

Florida and Michigan will both be seated with their delegate votes only counting half as much as everyone else's. Next time, folks: Don't break the rules.

And, as for those half-wit harridans screeching around outside the rules meeting about how they are going to make John McCain the next president, Matthew Yglesias sumes it up perfectly:
Meanwhile, people who are seriously drawn to Hillary Clinton's plans on health care, climate change but also think they might vote for John McCain in the fall rather than the candidate with plans that are very similar to Clinton's are being a bit confused. People who are seriously drawn to Clinton on feminist grounds but are considering staying home in the fall so McCain can replace John Paul Stevens with another justice in the mold of Alito or Roberts really need to think harder.
"A bit confused" and "really need to think harder" are terms far too compassionate. The phrasing of my advice for those ladies would have been much more peppery. I don't mind John McCain that much, but these women are obtuse enough to cut off their nose to spite their face, and I just cannot abide retards.

(Ha. That's terribly funny... The folks at must be thinking the same thing I am about those women. I didn't realize at the time I wrote this, but their word of the day is harridan.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Next Big Thing In Home Television

The most recent great innovation in television has been TIVO... which is the love child of the VCR and the home computer, making the recording and storage of your favorite shows easier than ever before.

Introducing the DVR (Digital Video Recorder) with 4 cable cards. Just splice your cable into 4 parts, and you can now record 4 programs at one time.

It may seem extreme, until you realize that with 150 channels of programming to watch, the likelihood that there will be at least two things you want to record airing at the same time are very high... and the likelihood that somebody else in your house has a third (and even fourth) selection in mind is equally high as well... this seems like a really cool idea.

Besides, c'mon: Four cable connections is just so frickin cool.


Several of you readers poo-pooed my happy optimism that the piso might have finally bottomed out, even telling me to brace myself for 25-26 pisos to the dollar while I was predicting a turnaround. Even I warned myself that little turnarounds in the piso historically were followed by even further drops in the exchange rate, forcefully curbing my optimism in exchange for a bit of pragmatism.

But even Jil The Eternal Optimist couldn't have predicted these kinds of numbers: The piso has gone from 43 to 44 in just 9 days, after taking about a month to go from 42 to 43. That's a really big and positive jump of 2.5% in a week, 4.5% in 5 weeks, and 9% in 3 months.

Based on the numbers, this is a totally local phenomenon... possibly even limited to The Philippines itself. It may be all of the forex remittances from expatriate Filipinos are playing a part, with overseas Filipinos holding their cash in dollars instead of converting them to pisos, thus devaluing the piso. That would be one reasonable diagnosis considering what a large segment of the foreign currency exchange in The Philippines those remittances represent.

Well, whatever is causing this: Please! Keep it up! See you at 45.

(And, as always, further dire predictions of doom and gloom diametrical to what's actually going on are always welcome in the comments section.)

Explosion in Zamboanga

Zamboanga is the mountainous state out on the Sulu archipelago wherein live the 200 or so teenage (and younger) members of Abu Sayyaf... the "Muslim terrorists" who have been confabulated into the "grand terrorist threat of the Southern Philippines".

A couple of times per year, they manage to scrape together enough money from the recyclable value of the empty whiskey bottles lying around their camp in the mountains to put together one bomb. Then, they sneak down into town, set it off, hurt a bunch of innocent Filipinos, and then disappear into the hills for some more drunken partying. They aren't particularly successful, aside from scaring off tourists and giving the government a reason to keep the army well-trained... but that doesn't seem to dissuade them from staying up in the mountains on brandy benders, preaching to themselves about what good Muslims they are.

Anyway, Abu Sayaff has had their standard bit of underwhelming murder and mayhem today. The target seems to have been the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) office relatives of army members in Zamboanga. Naturally, only innocent Filipinos were injured.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Death of a Multicab

Here in the Philippines there are lots of little miniature vans from China used for deliveries and are particularly popular as "multicabs", which are basically hop-on-hop-off mini-jeepneys... kind of a Filipino version of the Thai baht bus.


Ever wondered what a multicab looks like in an crash test? As a passenger in the back cargo space, you will be quite comforted to know that the front 5 feet of the van make a really nice squishy-marshmallow-deflatable-pancake-splat thing, keeping you and yours harm-free.

Just don't show this video to the hapless schmucks who actually drive multicabs.

Monday Vinnie Blogging

(I know it's Tuesday. As Epril would say, I'm on Filipino time.)

Vinnie is negotiating with a stork on shipping costs for a baby sister.

A Jungle Jil Public Service Announcement

In case you didn't know it...

Koreans hate America.

No Duh: Illegal Immigrant Jobs Not Getting Done

With all of the illegal immigrants being chased off by crazy rednecks in pickup trucks driving along the border, American farmers are finding it a bit difficult to harvest some of their crops. Crop yields on "labor intensive" produce will be dropping significantly in coming years.

Jeez. Couldn't have seen that one coming.

Jungle Jil standing opinion #27: The government should leave the issue of illegal immigration alone. It's a broken and ridiculous system of cat-and-dog law breaking and law enforcement that currently works quite nicely for everyone involved, and will never be replaced by a system that works better. No walls, no waivers, no permits, no guest worker programs. And those rednecks should just put their asses in reverse, drive home, and go enjoy their asparagus.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Daily Reports: Get Over It

Still not much going on. Mike and Marissa Turner had their baby's Christening last Sunday at church, and a party afterwards. That's the only time I've been out of the house other than grocery shopping.

This fellow, Christian Bautista, was
singing at SM Mall the other day. Due
to the quasi-orgasmic teeny-bopper
screaming that was nearly drowning
out his music, I have to assume that
he is pretty popular in The Philippines.
Turns out what was wrong with my bladder was just a bacterial infection. At first, I thought it might be a kidney stone, because of the location of the discomfort and the fact that it showed up after a course of amoxicillin that I took for a bit of food poisoning... but it was most certainly just C.diff. caused by the amoxicillin. ("Whiff of the diff" confirmed that. Look it up, if you want to know.)

The "Time To Burn Stuff Hour"
went a little over the top the
other day with this massive fire.
Well, the local landfill was
spared a few dozen cubic meters
of debris, so I suppose all that
smoke was worth it somehow.
I bought a wireless router for the house last weekend for $60. Now, Epril can use her Nokia's WiFi internet connection anywhere in the house, which makes her very happy. I was amazed at how easy it was to set up the router this time around. The first time in my life that I configured a modem/router, it was quite difficult. The second time, it was pretty easy. This time, I just put a disc in the drive, and a program loaded and configured everything automatically. I just plugged in some cables and power cords, and pushed the "OK" button on screen a dozen times.

I made nachos for lunch yesterday. I had to substitute for jalapeño peppers, but they were still delicious. Even Epril... who dislikes most every dish I cook... enjoyed them. The red peppers are now getting back at me for having eaten them. Fortunately, I've discovered Kremil, an antacid that tastes like Bazooka bubble gum.

Is Hillary Clinton Winning The Popular Vote?

There are 6 ways to count the popular vote in the Democratic Primary. In 4 of them, Hillary is behind. In 2 of them, Hillary is ahead.

Here are the facts:

(1) There are two kinds of state elections to select a nominee: A primary (where people walk into voting booths) and a caucus (where people stand around in a big room and shout). It's easy to know how many people voted in a primary by counting votes. It's not so easy to know how many people voted in a caucus... but a pretty fair estimate can be made. Obama won all of the caucus states (Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington) by a combined margin of 110,000 votes.

(2) Michigan votes can either be counted, or not counted at all, depending on your point of view. Since Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan, and Hillary received 100% of the 325,000 votes cast (which is more votes than Obama received in any of 35 different states), it's not really fair to count them.

(3) Florida votes can either be counted, or not counted at all either. In Florida, Hillary wasn't really supposed to campaign there, but she did anyway. Obama didn't. Hillary gained an additional 300,000 votes over Obama by doing this. It's hard to say how much she improved her "victory margin" in Florida by being the only candidate campaigning there, but it surely helped.

So, here is the math:
  1. If you just take primary votes (without Florida or Michigan), Obama leads by 458,000 votes.

  2. If you take primary and caucus votes (without FL and MI), Obama leads by 568,000.

  3. If you take away the caucus votes and add in Florida, Obama leads by 163,000.

  4. If you take add the caucus votes and add in Florida, Obama leads by 273,000.

  5. If you take away the caucus votes and add in Florida and Michigan, then Clinton leads by 164,000.

  6. If you add the caucus votes and add in Florida and Michigan, then Clinton leads by 54,000.
So, in summary, in the most accurate accounting available of every single American voter who has shown up for the Democratic primaries this year, yes: 50,000 more people have voted for Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama... but it is important to remember that 350,000 of the people who voted in Michigan were only allowed to vote for Hillary Clinton, and had no other choice. Therefore, any sensible and fair tally of votes cannot include Michigan... which is the only way of counting the votes in which Hillary comes out ahead. When you hear people who support Hillary claim that she is winning the popular vote, this unfair method of counting the votes is what they are referring to.

Is Hillary Clinton Winning The General Election?

In matchups in the general election for President against the Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, it is quite true that Hillary Clinton does better than Barack Obama. However, this lead that Hillary has is almost entirely due to an unfortunate side-effect of the Democratic National Committee's decision to expel Florida and Michigan from the primary process after they decided (with warning not to do so, and explanation of the consequences) to move their own primaries to the head of the line on the primary schedule.

Hillary made the calculated move (and I can't disagree with her... especially looking at the results) to "embrace" the Democratic voters of Florida and Michigan in their purgatorial situation. She made small (although possibly rule-bending/breaking) campaign overtures to the voters there, effectively saying, "I'm with you."

When the February 5th "Super Tuesday" primaries, and the February 12th primaries in particular went disastrously wrong for Hillary Clinton's campaign for the Presidential nomination, she went from "small overtures" to the people of Florida and Michigan over to a full-blown campaign to reverse the DNC's decision after the fact, and get the Florida and Michigan votes included... however incorrect and unfair (see post above) though the vote counts may be.

This of course made Hillary, by dint of her advocacy, the official candidate of all citizens of Florida and Michigan. (Even McCain isn't standing up for these people.) Barack Obama, as Hillary's direct competitor — and also perceived as a direct inhibitor to the people of Florida and Michigan having their votes counted — is perceived as "the bad guy" in all of this.

As you can see here versus here, currently both Obama and Clinton would beat McCain in the general election (this was not the case a week ago, when polls showed that Obama would have lost the election to McCain while Hillary would have won) but Hillary would win by a larger margin because she would win Florida, while Obama would lose it. It is hard to say whether the Florida pro-Hillary anti-Obama attitude will change once Hillary exits the election process, or whether Obama will overall improve his standing in the polls.

However, if the election were held today, based on the polls as they now stand, both Hillary and Obama would beat John McCain. When you hear Hillary and her supporters say that Hillary does better than Obama in the general election, this is what they mean. It's true, but it is not (currently) decisive to the outcome of the election.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Solar Powered Speed Boat

What'll they think of next? Wind-powered boats?

Of all the green technologies I'm excited about, solar power easily tops the list. Only a few short years ago, if you heard "solar-powered", you had visions of big gaudy panels the size of billiard tables plastered to the roof of a house, or you thought of the experimental cars working their way across Australia... weird wheeled contraptions that looked like shiny elongated armadillos.

However, solar power is really an infant technology. Every day, scientists are learning how to turn more (40%) and more (80%) of the sunlight that hits a photovoltaic cell into electricity. Prices of course will fall as they always tend to do, and I believe that the simplicity, adaptability, and sheer economic benefit of solar power will make it the primary source of electricity in the future.

Most importantly, as is always the most critical aspect with any new technology: Product innovators, company owners, and capitalists are finding ways to make solar power good-looking and appealing to consumers. Here we have this 30-foot solar-powered speed boat — which could theoretically travel around the world at a constant 30 knots without a drop of fuel — as a way to show consumers that solar power can be everything you need it to be. (Article)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Indiana Jones Movie Review

I can sum this movie up very simply:

Our whip-carrying adventurer needs help getting out of quicksand, but manages to survive a nuclear explosion by climbing inside a refrigerator.

This was my first visit to a movie theater since moving to the Philippines. For myself, Epril, Susan, and Ednil... 4 tickets... it cost $5. But, I spent $12 on snacks: A large soda was only 12 ounces, and a large popcorn was the size of a kid's bagged lunch. (I go through that much in just the opening scenes, ya know.)

Anyway, if you are all about the action: Great movie. If you are interested in a good story: Meh. If you are the detail-oriented type who thrives on consistency, plausibility, and the simple rules of physics: Run away, mate.

As for Indiana Jones / Harrison Ford himself though: Still one of the best movie characters / actors ever. Roger Ebert summed it up best: "He has one of those Robert Mitchum faces that doesn't age, it only frowns more."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Daily Report: Too Lazy For 1000 Words

It was Dimple's 8th birthday today. We bought her a cake and mom cooked enough spaghetti and pancit to feed the entire village. Dimple kept blowing out the candle after I took her picture, before we could sing happy birthday. She had never had a birthday cake before and didn't understand.

Epril hates her new helmet with a blazing hot passion. It messes up her hair. However, the driving conditions here in The Philippines are much worse than they were in Thailand. Therefore we've both graduated to full-face helmets. (I'm a dead man shortly after Epril sees this photo is online.)

One of my favorite things in the world to look at for my happiness are the faces of little kids... and Anna here wins top prize in the cute category. She has a sister, Apple, who is just as cute too. They follow me around all the time giggling... along with their dozen or so little friends.

This monkey lives near Epril's house, and had us all laughing. It's funny: After you live in Asia for a while, some of the things that you would have marveled at before... such as the animal life... you grow so accustomed to: The elephants that you see all the time in Thailand, or the monkeys here in The Philippines.

Mike and Emelyn's new house. It's made of wood, with split bamboo for the floors, woven bamboo walls, and coconut leaves for the roof. There is a small river off to the right where kids are always swimming around, and behind the house is Mike's very own rice paddy. He's got a little herb garden too.

Mike and Emelyn, the happy couple. They're getting married in July.

More cute girls from the village of Kimaya: Epril's cousins, Emelyn, Lerma and Mylene... all sisters.

There is an evening tradition in The Philippines called the "Time To Burn Stuff Hour". This photo was taken on a clear day at about 5:30 in the afternoon. The city of Cagayan De Oro (in the upper left of the photo) is almost hidden in the smoke. It's like this every evening.

Nano Video

This video may not be much to look at, until you think about it: What you are looking at is a manmade machine... a remote control toy car, if you will... that is one-sixth the size of an amoeba, moving a microscopic ball around on a field.

Feel free to reference your favorite science-fiction "humanity dies by nanobot infestion" movie scenario in the comments section.

Fun related link.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


That's a 5.8% rise from 40.5 in 2½ months. I'm becoming optimistic that this may last. (The Thai Baht is turning around a bit too, having hit a low of 29.5, and recently getting as high as 32.5, but off a bit today.) Also, this is almost strictly a Southeast Asian currency decline... not a dollar recovery: Vis-à-vis the pound, euro, yen, and Chinese yuan the dollar has moved only slightly if at all.

As best as I can tell, only one primary Asian currency is currently losing ground against the dollar in a fashion similar to the secondary Asian currencies of the Baht and Piso (as well as the Malaysian Ringgit, the Vietnamese Dong, and the Indian Rupee), and that is the Korean Won.

So my guess is that whatever is going on with these certain secondary Asian currencies lately, it would be reasonable to guess that it is reflective of whatever is going on in Korea with their currency.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Jungle Jil Music Video

"Think Locally F**K Globally" from Gogol Bordello... a band of Ukranian Gypsies playing punk rock with a lead singer who is a cross between Jello Biafra and Borat.

Daily Report: Comfortable & Uncomfortable Living

Life has been rather uneventful here lately. I go to bed at about 11:00, wake up at about 8:00. I surf the internet for a few hours while I have my coffee (I've moved to instant now... but still a little dash of Bailey's Irish Cream) and eggs and bacon. I do a little work, then break for the afternoon and have a bit of lunch, then do a little more work, then break for dinner, and then I watch some television before climbing back into bed.

I think that the major difference between this life and the life I had in Pattaya is that in Pattaya, I had certain things scheduled during my week to look forward to... things that I wouldn't let work or laziness or other commitments interfere with. It provided a kind of structure to my week: Wednesday lunch with Stan, Friday night dinners, Aikido lessons with Geordan, Sunday at TQ2.

I don't have those things yet here in Cagayan. I've been to all of the expatriate happenings here and they are enjoyable, but they aren't yet the kind of things I would drop everything to go and participate in. I was enjoying playing billiards for a while, but lately that too seems like too much effort to go do, when sitting at home and watching a movie or reading a book is a second choice.

I think I'm developing a kidney stone. My mother had one when she was about my age. Right now, it's just a tiny little pressure down in my right lower abdomen, which has been there for about 2 days. I recognize it, because about 10% of all emergency room visits that I transcribe are people coming in with the same thing I feel... only a hundred times worse. Hopefully I have a month or two to visit a doctor and get a diagnosis, and ponder my options. Maybe it's nothing. That would be nice.

I'm also really excited: My Playstation 3 with its built-in Blue Ray disc player is on its way from America with 20 movies and 2 video games. Ever since I first saw an example of HDTV at Sony World in New York City back in 1996, I've been waiting for my own high-def system... 12 years. Now, I only have 17 more days before I'll be enjoying 1080 lines of resolution on a 60-inch screen. It's entirely possible that I could find my whole home theater experience so intense that I just plotz. Maid Susan can mop up.

In stark contrast to my modern technology fetish: It was out to Jasaan yesterday, where I met Michael Bird, an aviation mechanic from Alaska, who is marrying Epril's cousin, Emelyn. He's a really nice and genuine fellow. I don't know whether to say he is a hippie or a naturalist or a nativist, but as opposed to most foreigners who have come to live here, Bird (as he likes to be called) has bought a plot of land out behind Epril's house, built a bamboo hut with a stone slab for a hearth fire, and is going to harvest rice from his own personal paddy, and eat coconuts and bananas and jackfruit from the trees in his front yard for the rest of his days.

I'm beginning to realize that there is something in the water in Kimaya, the little "suburb" of Jasaan where Epril's family lives. It's what brings so may foreigners to this easy-to-miss village 45 minutes outside Cagayan De Oro. It causes the female birth rate to soar (note Epril and her 4 sisters and no brothers), and the birth rate of really pretty girls in particular to soar. In addition, everybody in the neighborhood is genuine, caring, and forthright; all the families are honest and hard-working.

There are a lot of interesting and
pretty birds flying around my house.
This is a flaming sunbird, although it's
coloring is a little odd and it took
myself and my bird-watching friend
a while to figure out what it was.
All of the foreign guys who come to The Philippines to find a nice lady, and instead wind up finding a nightmare: They never went looking in Kimaya. Just ask the 8 or 10 foreign guys who have already built big beachfront or mountainside houses in the area in which to shelter their beloved and her family, and the dozen or foreign guys who have taken girls from Kimaya back to Kano-land with them: Ask them what they think of Kimaya.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hint Hint GOP

I'm quite sure that Republican bigwigs tune into this blog on a regular basis, so I'd like to offer a little advice: You know how you Republicans are shitting yourselves because your entire platform, each and every plank, appears that it might be a losing argument to the average American voter in the upcoming election? You know how you are having high-level meetings in Washington to brainstorm a "new conservative approach" to America's problems that might regain the Republican brand a little credibility?

Might I suggest that instead you look at the one conservative Republican candidate who generated any level of excitement this year as a reference point for your new politics? The one guy who had ideas that people really went crazy over? You know: The guy who talked about getting the Republican party back to its conservative roots?

Yeah him.

If you folks want to know what the Republicans should be doing to win back the confidence and trust of American voters... ask Ron Paul. He may not be perfect, but his ideas are where the Republicans should be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

$45K To Go Off The Grid

Darrell Dickey spent a total of $45,000 to put solar panels on the roof of his garage, and buy an all-electric Toyota RAV4 EV. He took out a home improvement loan to pay for the solar panels... $70 per month, which replaced his $90 per month electric bill. Add to that his $100 monthly gasoline bill going to zero, and he saves a net $120 per month. When the loan is paid off in a couple of years, it will be close to $200 per month in his pocket.

It's always been obvious to me that the reason America (and the rest of the world) will "go green" is because of economics, and only secondarily out of a desire to save the environment. The amazing thing is — as this article proves — most people could make the change today, and wind up with more money than they started with.

I'm willing to make a friendly bet that within the next 5 years, 10% of all households in America (and Europe) will be running both solar power and electric (or hybrid) vehicles, just like the Dickey family... and within 10 years, that number will be up to 50% or higher.

So: How much do you spend on electricity and gasoline per month? With the knowledge that you could start saving all of that money as soon as tomorrow, how long is it going to be before you decide to make the change?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

American Racism Alive And Well

The Washington Post has a good article on how much racism people campaigning for Barack Obama are facing.

Meanwhile, West Virginia — one of the poorest, undereducated, and white states in America — is voting tonight. According to exit polls, 25% of people voting for Hillary Clinton admitted that "race was an important factor" in their vote: 25% apparently wouldn't vote for a black man.

And then we have the popular video making the rounds tonight, illustrating some genuine Appalachian ignorance, as a woman insists to the reporter that Obama is a Muslim... but he just won't admit it.

By the way: Hillary Clinton's expected landslide victory in West Virginia tonight could net her as many as 12 delegates, which is about equal to the number of superdelegates Barack Obama has gained over Hillary in the past week. Only 240 superdelegates remain from which Hillary needs to convince about 180 to vote for her over Barack.

In what is overlooked but ground-shaking news, a special election in the most conservative and white part of Mississippi has put a Democrat into a congressional seat that has been held by Republicans for a very long time (and after the Republican party sank huge cash into it, and even Vice President Cheney went down and stumped for his candidate). This is important because it marks a three-for-three record (first one in Illinois here, second one in Louisiana here) of Democrats taking congressional seats away from Republicans in what used to be heavily conservative districts. Basically to sum it up: If Republicans are losing traditionally Republican seats to Democrats in three out of three special elections, when the general election rolls around, and the not-so-conservative districts vote, the Republicans could get wiped clean off the map.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Monday Vinnie Blogging Rides Again

I used to have this weekly feature on my old blog. My sister would send cute pictures of her nephew, Vincent... one of the cutest babies on the planet... and then I would add the caption based on what I see in the picture. However, it has been many many months since my sister sent me photos of Vincent, and the "Monday Vinnie Blogging" feature had faded into memory.

Until now. My sister just sent me a whole new pile of photos, and I've got enough to last me for a while. So, without further adieu:
Mom and Dad have found that they don't need a babysitter. When they go out, they just glue some cymbals to the back of Vinnie's hands, and it keeps him occupied for hours on end.

Mother's Day Videos

Road Legal Airplane On The Way

You wanted to know where your flying car of the future was? Coming right up.

The Terrafugia Transition will go from road-ready to flight-ready in under 30 seconds, take off, fly you to your destination, land, and go straight from the runway to the highway without even putting it in park.

Construction of the prototype is currently underway, and production starts sometime in 2012. Prices should be under $150K.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Daily Report: Chained To The Throne

On Friday night, I went out to dinner at Laguna Café, which is one of Cagayan's fanciest Filipino restaurants. Nice enough place, and good price for two for dinner at 750 pisos (3 entries plus drinks).

Early Saturday morning, before sun-up, I started having a bit of stomach cramps. By mid-morning, I was in the bathroom every hour or so. Now it is Sunday morning, 24 hours later, and things are still working themselves out down below.

My neighbor, Frenchman Serge
has completed this building
next to his house just recently.
I'm not sure whether it is a
greenhouse or an aviary. Hope
he paints that roof though.
Work went a little better this week... until yesterday, that is. Bleh. Had that nice ham sandwich for lunch, and just pumpkin seeds for dinner.

Today, Epril is leaving to go back to Jasaan. It's mother's day here in The Philippines. (Mom: If you're reading, which I'm sure you are, Happy Mother's Day to you... assuming you still claim me as one of your own.)

My plan is to spend the day working here at home, both at my job and my intestines.

Daily Report: A Ham Sandwich

I've been jonesing so bad for a sandwich.

A sandwich here in Cagayan can be described thusly: Take two rather thick slices of sweetened white bread. Toast lightly. On the inside of those slices, spread on two thick layers of sweet mayonnaise. Then, place one thin slice of ham, one leaf of lettuce, and two slices of cherry tomato, and a rather generous helping of raw onions. Cut in half, secure with toothpicks, and serve.

I'll admit I got a little too enthusiastic
with the ham. Couldn't help myself.
So after asking everybody I knew, today I bought french bread from Bigbey's, a full kilogram of "farmer's ham" (not too bad, really) from Prime Slice and Deli, and some dijon mustard from SM market, and made myself a nice, thick ham sandwich. (I didn't locate swiss cheese yet... next time.)

Good thing I found all of the ingredients to make a ham sandwich... or I might have had to give up on The Philippines entirely. Heh

If I had the money, I have no doubt that opening up a fast food franchise here in Cagayan like Subway (or, better yet: Burger King) would be a huge success. McDonald's and Jollibee (both crap, comparatively) do immensely well here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Myanmar Question

I was just sitting here reading about how the military dictatorship in Myanmar is making relief efforts for the millions of people within its borders affected by the recent hurricane so impossible that even the ever-so-accommodating United Nations has given up trying to save these poor people for the moment.

So I was thinking: Isn't it about time that we, as a planet... mankind... in the form of the United Nations, enact a policy — especially in an instance as cut-and-dry as this, where a government has so clearly and manifestly neglected it's foremost humanitarian obligations — that enables the United Nations to declare a sovereign government to be in breach of its duty, and give itself the ability to act without that government's permission, with force if need be, on behalf of... and to save the lives of... those people whom that government prima facie is killing?

Supermajority vote or whatever process you want: Shouldn't we be arriving at a point in our civilization where behavior as blatantly inhumane as this can be called to face some kind of extraterritorial edict and be subject to compliance with international standards of humanity?

Feel free to throw out your dystopian warnings or slippery slope admonishments in the comments section... or your NWO endorsements if you are inclined to side with me on this one.

Time magazine writes an article wondering the same thing.
The liberal New York Times doesn't think it's a bad idea.
The New Yorker backs them up.
The conservative Town Hall finds itself agreeing as well.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Daily Report: SM Disadvantage

I went out to lunch at the Turkish restaurant, Tourquoise, at SM today with Epril. After that, we did some food shopping at SM Grocery Store.

The SM chain of stores have what is called the "SM Advantage Card", which is a card that is swiped every time you make a purchase... earning you discount pisos. Pretty much every store at SM Mall participates: SM Department Store, SM Grocery, Ace Hardware, My Home furniture store... and on and on.

The SM Advantage Card has to be the biggest waste of time I've ever seen: It takes about 5 seconds to swipe that card at every purchase... and those few seconds are a waste of time when multiplied by the 100-or-so times I've had the card swiped.

When you consider that every appliance and plate and cup in my kitchen comes from SM, every piece of furniture, gifts for the family, and pretty much every bit of food we have eaten at home over the past few months all comes from SM... about $2,500 worth of money spent by my estimate... what do you think our "reward" would be? I checked our balance. It was $6. That is, for every $400 you spend, you get $1 back.

Well, the card does have Epril's name embossed on it, and it's apparently the first time she's ever had anything that represents some kind of tacit financial agreement with a business in her own name. She enjoys looking at the card. She giggles, and says, "that's my name," to the cashier when she hands over the card. I suppose that makes it worth it in a way.

Epril had her friend Kim over visiting yesterday, and Susan cooked a very nice pork in a sweet "Mongolian" sauce. Other than that, nothing too much going on.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

That's Gotta Sting

OK, get this: Rush Limbaugh is this conservative/Republican radio talk show host in America. For the last month or so, he has been promoting his own little goofy scheme called "Operation Chaos". His plan is — basically, since the Republican primary has already been decided for John McCain — to encourage his Republican listeners to go and vote in the Democratic primaries for Hillary Clinton.

That's the set up, here is the punch line:

Indiana held its' presidential primary today. In exit polls, approximately 7% of people voting in the Democratic primaries said that, after voting for Hillary Clinton today, they were going to vote for John McCain in the general election. Hillary Clinton's margin of victory in Indiana is less then 7%.

Now, who in their right mind would vote for the Democrat Hillary Clinton in the primary, but would vote for the Republican John McCain in the general election?


In other words, a major reason... perhaps the only reason... why Hillary won today was because Rush Limbaugh and Republicans were playing a mass prank.

Epril Dancing

Apparently when you grow up in the jungle in The Philippines, you have two ways to pass your time: You either learn how to sing, or you learn how to dance. Epril comes from a family of people who like to dance.

Here is Epril practicing her moves. I was holding the video camera over the balcony way up in the corner, so that she couldn't see it.

Daily Report: Still Here

Sorry about not writing much lately. My priorities got out of whack, and I was focusing on work instead of where my attenion should be: Here at Jungle Jil.

I've taken a new approach to work... working in a way I told myself I would try to avoid: I used to say, "This is my work day, let's hope I reach my goals today." (This way, I always had my away-from-work time to keep my life in balance.) Now, I'm saying, "These are my goals, I'm not quitting until they are met."

Susan is still cooking fantastic food. She's got a notebook, where she transcribes all of her recipes into her own format that she is comfortable with. (She'll make a good wife for somebody. Drop a comment if that may be you.)

I haven't been doing too much lately. Last Friday night, Epril and I and Don from St. Louis rode out to Jasaan to watch a beauty pageant there, but it got rained out. On Saturday night, Epril and I joined Mike and Marissa Turner at Zax for drinks and to listen to some music, but it was so loud that we left sooner than we would have liked. (We wound up going to a disco called Mojo... which, believe it or not, was actually quieter than Zax.)

Considering how lush and tropical The
Philippines are, they certainly do have
small fruit. The strawberries are the
size of marbles, the limes are the size
of grapes, and these bananas are just
Stayed home all day Sunday, stayed home all day Monday. I bought two DVDs for the girls: Ace Ventura parts 1 and 2. I discovered just how weak Epril's stomach actually is: During Ace Ventura part 2, there is an amusing scene where people are spitting in each other's faces; when Epril saw this, she had to run retching to the bathroom.

Anyway, I also bought four Shakespeare plays on DVD for us to watch at some point as well. The girls have a bit of an interest in seeing them. I also bought A Streetcar Named Desire to watch as well.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Philippine Piso May Have Peaked

Over the past 2 years, the Philippine currency, the Piso, has been strengthening against the weak U.S. dollar, as have pretty much all currencies in the world. The Piso had historically been at around 55 to the dollar, but in a short period of time, it had strengthened to almost 40 to the dollar... a more-than-25-percent gain. That doesn't mean much to the average American or Filipino citizen, but for American and Filipino citizens earning money in dollars, but living on Pisos (like myself), this has meant a 25-percent reduction in income: For every $1,000 I earn, I am only receiving $750 worth of pisos (based on the prior price); $250 of every $1,000 is simply gone.

Anyway, over the past month, the Piso has been experiencing a bit of a turnaround. It hit a low of about 40.2 to the dollar, had a quick rebound, and then has started creeping slowly (but very steadily) back upwards into less-strong territory, and now is hovering at 42.3 to the dollar.

However, at this point in time, it is really too early to declare an end to the strong Piso, and breathe a sigh of relief that the worst is finally over: Historically, over the past 5 years, major advances in the value of the Piso tend to occur after a brief climb similar to what is being seen now.

Additionally, not all Asian currencies are relfecting this rebound: The Thai Baht, Malaysian Ringgit, Indonesian Rupiah, and Chinese Yuan are all holding steady value (or advancing) against the dollar, while the Japanese Yen, Korean Won, Vietnamese Dong, and Indian Rupee are reflecting a small bounce similar to the Piso's. With the major Asian currencies evenly split on whether the dollar has been strengthening or not over the past 30 to 50 days, that makes the certainty of a full-blown turnaround even more vague.

Somebody the other day at lunch said that he had heard that we could expect the Piso to reach 50 to the dollar by the end of this year. I think that is definitely overly optimistic. But, I would make this prediction: If the Piso manages to cross back over the 45-Piso-per-dollar mark, it would probably be safe to breathe a sigh of relief that we won't be seeing a Piso valued below 40 to the dollar anytime soon.

Whether the Piso will weaken further upward from that 45 barrier, hold or start to advance again really is anybody's guess. My guess would be that with the Olympics coming up in August, the American elections in November, the nations coming together to address the food crisis, and the beginning of the end of the Iraq occupation, it is a time of optimism and positive emotions in the world, and that should benefit the dollar.