Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hadn't Heard That Bit

Another of John McCain's campaign ads criticises Obama for skipping a visit with wounded troops, ostensibly because the candidate wouldn't be allowed to bring cameras along. (By the way, that's not true. As always, the truth is much more complicated than can be put into a 30-second campaign ad. See for details.)

So McCain ran an advertisement objurgating Obama for not having visited the wounded troops in Germany.

But you know what's really funny? McCain also made a second advertisement objurgating Obama for having visited the wounded troops in Germany ready to air... just in case.

BusinessWeek has the goods:
What the McCain campaign doesn’t want people to know, according to one GOP strategist I spoke with over the weekend, is that they had an ad script ready to go if Obama had visited the wounded troops saying that Obama was...wait for it...using wounded troops as campaign props. So, no matter which way Obama turned, McCain had an Obama bashing ad ready to launch. I guess that’s political hardball. But another word for it is the one word that most politicians are loathe to use about their opponents—a lie.
I really, honestly wanted to like John McCain and his campaign this year. Truthfully, he is a very moderate Republican, and is easily one of the most effective public servants that conservatism has. Unfortunately, the behavior of his campaign is making it very difficult to give the guy very much affection. He keeps putting out one misleading statement about his opponent after another.

One Of The Most Brilliant Writers Alive Today

I get half of my vocabulary words, and all of my snark skills from James Walcott.
I don't pretend to be a jargon-gargling semiotician. Nor do I pretend to be a dean of media studies, though I'd be happy to accept an honorary degree if there was a little "moolah" attached. But I have watched enough television during incarceration to have a few points to make about the McCain campaign's new anti-Obama "celebrity" ad.

1) Obama looks so cool, upbeat, and confident in the ad that his smiling, waving, striding presence provides a "lift" that doesn't simply contradict the admonitory tone of the voiceover text, but visually drowns it out through sheer pow of personality. It'd be like trying to warn teenagers in the fifties about the dangers of rock and roll, then showing concert footage of Elvis at his most charismatic — great way to create converts, guys!

2) Regardless of the racial-sexual subtext being purveyed, referencing Britney Spears and Paris Hilton seems a bit tired and dated, the older generation scolding the younger. Picking on Spears in a political ad seems like poor sportsmanship (she's hardly done the harm to the culture that Ann Coulter has), and in her wealth, privilege, and lathed blondness, Paris Hilton resembles a younger version of Cindy McCain — there's an almost daughterly resemblance, an enjoined twirl of ruling class DNA. So using her as an object of derision doesn't quite gel.

3) The closing profile shot of McCain, head tilted as if basking in the soft heavenly glow of Reagan above, is not only corner and kitschy but reduces the candidate to a postage stamp — this, after portraying Obama as a fully engaged energy packet.

4) America is a country based on celebrity, a country where nearly everybody wants to be a celebrity, an American Idol, and decrying the cult of celebrity is an empty exercise in moralizing. After JFK, Reagan, and Bill Clinton, the candidate as glamour figure is already wired into our collective psyches, and Fred Thompson's celebrity status didn't seem to trouble Republicans when he looked like a contender, until they realized his gravitas was indistinguishable from indigestion.

5) The real message of the McCain ad is that they're envious of Obama's elan vital, and are reduced to mocking what they covet, Envy makes a person look petty, and a petty, peevish John McCain will be indistinguishable from the Bob Dole of 1996 if he doesn't "big up."
(Post copied and pasted almost in its entirety. Sorry Mr. Wolcott, this devoted member of your claque can't bring himself to abridge your genius. All readers please click on the link above to show props to the master.)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Did Obama Publish Prayer On Purpose?

John Hinderaker at Powerline ponders the fact that the prayer that Barack Obama inserted into the Western Wall was removed from the wall and published — an apparently sacrilegious act that has caused quite a kerfuffle.

Based on the content of the prayer, he figures, Obama might have somehow arranged to have it removed and published: The prayer "seemed to touch all the right bases", in Hinderaker's words.

Here is what I think: Barack Obama is quite aware that anything he leaves lying around, no matter how off-limits it is supposed to be, no matter how trivial, is going to be picked up and examined by somebody. I'm willing to bet that everything he carries around in his pockets is some token to burnish his image or bolster his campaign, just in case something should fall out when he gets up out of a chair.

Barack Obama didn't arrange to have his Western Wall prayer published. He was just well-aware that it probably would be, and he played it safe: No requests for God to help him overcome his attraction to Katie Couric's shoe collection, or begging forgiveness for sacrificing a goat to Satan as oblation for winning his Senate seat.

Whether or not the hopes, sentiments and deprecations he expressed in his prayer were genuine or politically motivated is of course another question. I'll just say that a person hoping to become President of the United States certainly has so many hopes, sentiments and deprecations that dovetail themselves quite nicely with the politics he is practicing that there would be no need to embellish them or come up with ones that are not genuine.

So, did Obama write that prayer knowing that people would read it? Absolutely. Did he arrange to have people read it. Nope. That simply took care of itself.

Israel Insider has on their front page the claim that
What initially seemed to be a journalistic scoop of dubious moral propriety now seems to be a case of an Israeli paper being played by the Barack Obama campaign. Maariv, the second most popular newspaper in Israel, was roundly criticized for publishing the note Obama left in the Kotel. But now a Maariv spokesperson says that publication of the note was pre-approved by the Obama campaign.
(As of this moment, the article that the lede links to seems to have been taken down.)

So, maybe Obama's campaign doesn't leave anything to chance like I assumed it would. That would be typical of modern political image management, albeit in this situation a bit tacky: When it was "My secret prayer is probably going to be published no matter what I do, so I'll be careful what I say," it was just common sense. If instead, it is "Let's make sure that my secret prayer gets published so people can get a look at my supposedly private conversation with God," it's a bit vainglorious. Breaking some Jewish canon in the process wasn't very smart either, though I'm not personally bothered by it; I can't imagine that that particular detail of this affair would be beneficial to political image management.

A Jungle Jil Public Service Announcement

Just remember folks, you shouldn't watch a single political advert on television this election year without immediately going to to verify whether or not what you just heard in that ad is actually true. is a subsidiary of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and their only job in life is to examine claims being made by political campaigns (either on the hustings or on TV) and figure out what the truth actually is, and inform you.

For the average voter who doesn't have time to familiarize themselves with the issues and do the fact-checking themselves, is the most powerful tool for finding out the truth on the internet.

Don't vote in ignorance; study and learn.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A New Search Engine

I was checking out the new search engine on the internet, Cuil (pronounced "cool"). Their claim is that they search many more internet pages than Google does. I tried it out, and the way they display information is better than google, but it isn't a better search engine for me.

Personally, my dream search engine answers questions. If I type something into a search engine, consider it a question: If I type "New York City", the first thing I should get (before 97 million web links) is a quick summary of what "New York City" is, where it is, and any other immediate pertinent information regarding it.

The second thing I should get (before 97 million web links) is a question in return: "What would you like to know about New York City?"

A search engine should help you to narrow your search, while expanding it at the same time: If I'm looking for a place to buy a car in New York City, the best search engine should automatically be able to figure out search terms that are geographic synonyms of New York City ("New York", "NYC", "The Big Apple"), geographically close to New York City ("New Jersey", "Long Island", "Westchester"), or geographic subsets of New York City ("Brooklyn", "Madison Avenue", "Greenwich Village", zip codes) and automatically include those into a search of places to buy cars in New York City (with or without telling the person doing the searching that that is part of the search). A smart search engine would also recognize that there are many types of cars, and would ask you what vehicle you prefer, or a price range, new or used, and would exclude many search results based on that, or prioritize your search results based on price, or based on similar makes or styles ("You want BMW, so perhaps Audi and Mercedes as well?"). It would exclude web pages talking about "driving in New York City" or "guides to car ownership in New York City", even if they mention actual dealers (although a smart search engine might ask you whether or not you want those results grouped as a separate category). In the end, after a few brief moments, you would be presented with a list of 15 or so German brand car dealers in the New York City area, addresses, telephone numbers, and links to their web pages.

To put it succinctly, the search engine of the future will be remarkable not for how much information it presents you with, but for how little... and how useful that information is to you.

Cuil doesn't do any of that. It's not a step forward in search technology in my opinion. At least Google does answer some questions. For the question, "What time is it in Tokyo?" Ask Google, you will get an actual answer followed by 91 million hits. Ask Cuil, you'll get no answer, but you will get 1.1 billion hits.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Youtube Censoring Videos In Philippines

I can't imagine why this would be the case — especially for a Justin Timberlake video — but I've noticed it on more than a couple of Youtube videos lately: Certain videos apparently are not allowed to be watched only if you are in the Philippines.

Well, there is an easy way to get around that:
Just copy the alphanumeric code from the video page URL (the one after the “=” sign) and paste it after this:

So this:

…becomes this:

The resulting video player fills your browser window, sans autoplay.

Peace 101

The government of the Philippines is going to add "peace education" to go along side of reading, riting, and rithmatic in public schools.

Frankly, from what I've seen, Filipinos have the peace thing down pretty darn well... at least compared to their knife-edge, face-saving, fight-in-a-minute, kill-without-warning Thai counterparts.

Now: A class that teaches the premise that corruption is wrong; that teaches that public officials shouldn't demand kickbacks for doing their jobs; that teaches that scams and cons and cheating and dishonesty are bad...

... that's a class that needs teaching in The Philippines.

By every single social, cultural, geographic, economic, and historical indicator, The Philippines should be the wealthiest nation in Southeast Asia... ahead of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand. The reason it isn't is quite simple: The corruption and avarice at the high end of society, and the poverty it perpetuates at the low end of society. (See here for the example of government corruption in Cagayan De Oro causing 40,000 jobs to be lost when they tried to mulct Hanjin Shipping.)

The Filipinos are a pretty peaceful bunch overall. I'm not against teaching a little "love thy neighbor" by any means. However, in my list of priorities, I would put "don't swindle your neighbor" higher up on the list of things to teach in The Philippines.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Daily Report: The Ladies Of My Life

I've noticed that Epril has a problem common among Filipinos: An inability to judge time. Yesterday, when she was on her way out to visit a family member in hospital, go out to eat lunch, and do some shopping, I asked, "It's 11 o'clock now. When will you be back?" She replied that she would be back at 1:00, which I knew was impossible, but held my tongue. At 1:00 I called her up; she was just leaving the hospital. She was quite surprised to learn of the time, and insisted (before her watch told her otherwise) that she still had a little while left. (By the way, this is a girl who owns 6 watches... for fashion purposes, obviously.)

Today, Epril asked to sit down in front of my computer "for 5 minutes"... not "5 minutes" as a figure of speech, but as a span of time. I actually set the stopwatch on my mobile phone for illustrative purposes and then walked away. When I came back and showed her that 5 minutes had gone past, the look on her face was priceless.

Maid Susan is forming her own secret camarilla of household staff here on Marigold Street. Maids from up and down the block are gathering at my house and speaking a strange cant and plotting who-knows-what between bites of fried pork fat and rice as WoWoWee plays on the home theater. (I've tried to weasel in on their gatherings, sitting down to watch The Philippine's most famous gameshow with them — claiming my concupiscent need to ogle Miss Liveraide in her green dress — but they perfunctorily change their talk to the subject of laundering and lechon every time I walk in the room.)

Little sister Ednil is no longer at the house. She stays back home in the jungle now. I keep asking Epril and Susan why she hates me so much... attempting hyperbole in an effort to figure out the truth; however there doesn't seem to be any particular reason to her departure other than just a typical 16-year-old's been-there/done-that ennui.

Quite A Bit Of A Fact #2

According to GMA News, out of 64,459 nursing school graduates who took the Filipino version of the R.N. test, only 27,765 passed it. Additional statistics state that only 1 out of every 10 Filipinos who enroll in nursing school actually graduate.

Therefore, in The Philippines, the ratio of people trying to be nurses and actually succeeding is around 20 to 1.

Unfortunately, this is more a function of the fact that the nursing schools in the Philippines are utter shit, and not the intelligence and motivation of Filipinos, and also shouldn't reflect poorly on those Filipino nurses who are trained well enough and have studied hard enough to have passed their certification tests.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Opportunity For Gratuitous Canada Teasing

In his interview with NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, which will air on NBC's Nightly News tonight, McCain questions whether Obama should have given a speech in Berlin before becoming president.

"I would rather speak at a rally or a political gathering any place outside of the country after I am president of the United States," McCain told O'Donnell. "But that's a judgment that Sen. Obama and the American people will make."

However, on June 20, McCain himself gave a speech in Canada — to the Economic Club of Canada — in which he applauded NAFTA's successes.
Well... It is Canada after all, which is really just part of America: You know how the grass and manicured shrubbery in some people's back yard ends at a certain point and beyond that is 40 or 50 feet of trees, weeds, brush, overgrowth, and the occasional compost heap and rusty swing-set... but how that area is still part of those people's property? That's kind of what Canada is to America.

Quite A Bit Of A Fact #1

As of 2006, 8.2 million Filipinos (25% of the country's workforce) are living and working overseas.

Grammar Test

Here is a pretty quick 50-question grammar test. I managed to get 40 right. Take it and see how you do... and put your results in the comments.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Obama's Berlin To Be Mocked By McCain's Berlins

Do you remember how at the circus, after some incredible feat of gasp-inducing derring-do — like a tight-rope walker doing a back flip on a rope 80 feet up in the air — a clown will come out and do something silly, like lay a rope down on the ground, and then do a rolling somersalt along it, trying to pretend he is the tight-rope walker, for laughs?

While Barack Obama plays to a crowd of a million in the "big" Berlin, John McCain has some (probably) snarky advertising to be run in the 3 different towns in America named "Berlin".

Yeah. It's kind of like the clown thing... but not as funny.

Daily Report: Chained To Desk, Mind Elsewhere

It was a rainy day here in Cagayan De Oro, and I was in front of my computer from 7 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. But I did get a great amount of work done.

Epril and I are flying to Thailand for my birthday in August. I spent a good portion of the day sending e-mails and making arrangements for lunches, dinners, and of course lots of bar-hopping. Don't want to miss anybody during our visit.

It will be nice to see all our friends, party a bit, and stock up on all the things we can't find here in Cagayan.

Doh and Dagnabbit

It was about 2 weeks ago that I had my finger poised over the screen capture button, ready to catch the piso as it crossed up into 46 territory. Instead, right as the piso's exchange rate with the dollar climbed toward 45.95, it suddenly turned and ran screaming back down... down... down.

As best as I can determine, this turnaround was brought about by two things (though why, I could not say): The central bank of the Philippines warning of ongoing double-digit inflation rates for the remainder of 2008, and a 70 billion piso ($1.6B) bond offering coupled with an interest rate hike.

Of course, a bond issue is a temporary thing, and I'm not to sure what effect raising interest rates has on inflation (or — to be honest — what effect inflation has on exchange rates), but it doesn't sound like something that will pari passu strengthen the value of the piso against the dollar for any length of time.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama's Tour De Force (At McCain's Urging)

I understand that Senator Obama is having quite a grand time of things on his trip to Iraq. It has to be the ultimate demonstration of being politically bullet proof: John McCain essentially told Barack Obama, "You can't talk about Iraq until you've been there," and Obama not only took his oponent's advice (or seemed to, anyway), but managed to turn the whole thing into the biggest and most successful political publicity stunt and media circus of the 2008 campaign so far... and now all John McCain can do is to try and complain about how he's not getting his fair share of the media's attention. I do feel bad for the guy: He really is holding a candle up against the sun.

(Just to add to his providential flair and political apotheosis, Obama got instant juice with the troops over by going 1-for-1 from behind the 3-point line.)

From what I understand, Obama is next expected to draw a crowd of 1 million people in Germany. I'm not sure, but I imagine that 1 million people would be the largest crowd in history ever gathered simply (voluntarily) to hear a politician speak... and dude isn't even from the country.*

Seriously: It's like he is only pretending (as are we) that he isn't yet President.

In Manchester last night, there was just one reporter and one photographer waiting for McCain as his plane -- a white, blue and gold Boeing 737-400 emblazoned with his campaign slogan, "Reform, Prosperity, Peace" -- touched down on the Wiggins Airways tarmac. The Vietnam War veteran limped as he made his way down the metal stairway, a leather briefcase in one hand and a cell phone in the other, and walked straight into an awaiting Chevy Suburban.
* Update: Apparently Kennedy's Berlin speech drew more than 1 million.

Daily Report: High Def Day At Home

I had a long day of work today... but fruitful. I need more of those.

I broke out my "Civilization: Revolution" game today and was disappointed. I've played three previous iterations of the "Civilization" series on my PC, and this new version that was developed for the Playstation 3 is a very, very, thinned-down version in all aspects. Civilization is a game in which you build a civilization from the Stone Age all the way up to space exploration. The first thing that made the original game so fantastic was the incredibly detailed and in-depth way you could manage your civilization's growth. The second aspect was the immensity of the world in which your civilization was placed. Both of those things are gone: You are left almost no ability to micromanage your culture's progress, and the world in the Playstation 3 version is literally one-percent (or less) the size of the original. Sigh. I enjoyed building up nations with a hundred or more cities. Now, after 3 or 4 cities, you are bumping up against other cultures. Firaxis, the game maker, completely lost the point and plot of what made their game special.

Epril played her game, "Resistance, Fall Of Man" for a while as well. She refuses to read the instructions, and dove right in. However, the game has more controller buttons to push than your average tractor trailer. Epril became disillusioned and gave up after a couple of hours... but still hasn't read the instructions. I'm sure she'll try again.

During lunch, we watched the animated movie "Cars" on Blue Ray. I had put off buying an animated movie on high-def, thinking that there would not be enough image detail on the screen to make having a high definition copy worthwhile. Boy was I wrong. The difference was astounding, and Cars is easily the most visually stunning high-def movie I've seen so far.

An Interesting Study In Minutiae

I'm not one to alter my meat-eating habits... but this article certainly does make me stop and think: If, every day at lunch, you eat a strictly "plant-based" meal (i.e. no meat-based products, which require in their production the creation of a lot of greenhouse gases), that little thing by itself is "40 percent as good as" driving a hybrid car. (Cheaper too.) If you have toast and jam for breakfast, and spaghetti with tomato sauce for lunch, you're doing better than half as well as a person who drives a Prius (and eats meat) while you drive a regular gas-burning car, all other things being equal.
Each time you have a plant-based lunch like a PB&J you'll reduce your carbon footprint by the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. For dinner you save 2.8 pounds and for breakfast 2.0 pounds of emissions.

Those 2.5 pounds of emissions at lunch are about forty percent of the greenhouse gas emissions you'd save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan.
For me, I work from home; when I drive, I drive a scooter. That, plus living on The Philippines infrastructure (as opposed to the energy-intensive American one) makes my carbon footprint incredibly small. So, I figure I can have my steak and eat it too.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Daily Report: New Games

I've been working quite a bit lately, but summer time means that work is running out more often and sooner than it used to. For lunch, Susan cooked pasta al fredo.

Epril in the process of getting killed for
the umpteenth time while she acclimates
herself to the 20-some-odd buttons
required to splatter the baddies in
Resistance, Fall of Man.
In the evening, my landlord Aldin arrived from Chicago, bringing with him two new games, three documentaries, and six movies for the Playstation 3. (I got "Civilization Revolution" for Playstation 3, because I go for the strategy games; Epril got "Resistance, Fall of Man" because she just likes to shoot aliens.)

For dinner, it was bar-be-que chicken and rice, while we watched the Blue Ray DVD "Discovery Atlas: China Revealed", which was really good. I really appreciate high-def TV more when watcing documentaries than I do with high-def movies.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Daily Report: Dinners And A Movie

Today, Epril and I were joined by neighbors Dave and Reynalda for lunch at Kingston Lodge's Sunday roast beef dinner. It's a good time, with lots of families to chat with, babies to coo upon, and kids running around. In between rain showers, the pool was a popular place to be.

In the evening, Dave and Reynalda had us over to look at their wedding album and have dinner with them. They served a spongy, stringy seaweed dish for dinner (among other dishes) called guso, which was surprisingly good: It was like pasta with a perfect springy texture.

After that, Dave and I took practically the entire neighborhood out to SM Shopping Mall to see the new Batman movie. It was fantastic, although I have to admit that I was so mesmerized by the pre-opening-night hype that I was totally convinced that I would have difficulty walking after the movie, because of the blown-away condition that my mind and senses would be in. Obviously that didn't happen... but it's still an undeniable fact: Heath Ledger's "Joker" is the best movie villain ever.

(Oh... I wrote a few more daily reports here in the blog down below if you've stopped by recently and hadn't noticed. Scroll down.)

An Old High School Acquaintance

I went to high school with this guy. Pretty cool: It seems his schtick is to dress up as an auto mechanic, hop onstage with twin backup singers eerily reminscent of our seventh-grade science teacher, Mr. Hubble, engage in some meretricious dancing and tawdry gestures, and do comically misognyistic, expletive-laden-but-earnestly-delivered covers of music originally sung by girls.

Here is his New York Times review.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Daily Report: Jungle Wedding

Today, Epril's cousin Emilyn married her long-time boyfriend, Mike Bird from Alaska, out in Jasaan at the Basamanggas Resort. It was a nice, albeit brief, civil ceremony presided over by a judge.

Mike and Emilyn getting married.
I had never seen a civil ceremony before, and thought that it would be the same "format" as a Christian wedding, with "Here Comes The Bride" and all that... just without the Bible, more or less. It wasn't. Instead, the bride and groom sat down at a table while the judge gave a speech. Then, Emilyn and Mike each gave vows (which was a supereragatory addition not required by law apparently) and then signed some papers. Then everybody bum-rushed the buffet table.

Epril holding a nuclear bomb...
A clutch of nightshade...
A sarin nosegay...
A club to bonk me on the head.
There were the 3 or 4 traditional little wedding parlor games, including the tossing of the bouquet: Five or six single girls (including Epril) stood a few meters behind the bride waiting to catch the bouquet to see who would be the next girl betrothed. At the last second, Epril took three steps forward, Emelyn gently flipped the bouquet over her shoulder and it plopped right into Epril's hands after traveling a total aerial trajectory of about 2 feet. "It was rigged! It was fixed!" I shouted, as well-wishers clapped me on the shoulders.

Anyway, after the wedding was finished, it was back to Cagayan De Oro, and over to Ron's house for the evening, where a fellow from Oregon named Chris had brought a bunch of beautiful foodstuffs from America, including cheese mustard spread, pickles, salmon, and sausages... and also made a gorgeous rum punch with mango and pineapple juice. Ron has just about finished his nice cliff-side nipa hut behind his house looking out over the bay. A group of us sat out on the newly-laid floor and drank punch and watched the lights of the city below.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Daily Report: The Neighbors

I was talking on the phone up on the balcony with my friend Mike today when this white guy went walking by outside on the pathway whom I'd never seen before. I waved and he waved back, looking like he wanted to start a conversation but realizing I was already in one on the phone.

Afterwards, I asked Epril, "Who's the new white guy?" It turns out he is our neighbor Dave from three doors down the road, an investment banker from Sacramento who flies in with his family twice a year for a month at a time.

So we stopped by and visited with Dave and his wife, Reynalda, for a while.

Some of my Spooks buddies: Glen, Ron,
Mickey, Jackie Chan, Swiss Tony,
and Lance.
After that, it was out to Quinze Amigos where I chatted with Mike some more. Then it was out to Spooks where I met up with the usual suspects. After that, it was out to a KTV bar (I think that means "karoake, TV") called Laredos where we joined up with Dave and Reynalda and their family for drinks, food, singing, and playing pool.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Something You Didn't Know You Wanted To Know

...but are happy to know now that you know it:

What happens when a non-Newtonian fluid is exposed to low-frequency vibrations.

(To put it in layman's terms: What happens when corn starch and water is held over a stereo speaker.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boeing Getting Into Industrial Blimp Business

The Skyhook is a terrific looking aircraft with eight engines. Four of them are vertical rotors that can give some extra lift, allowing the airship to lift 40 tons. The other four engines are directional propellers to control the precise movement of the Skyhook.
I've thought about this before: Why not use lighter-than-air craft for overseas shipping? Just build a monstrous dirigible, with 1,000 times as much volume as what you see above (for a reasonable construction price compared to a PanaMax container ship, I'd wager). Then, fill the thing up with your shipment and set it aloft in the jet stream. When the airship gets near its destination, fire up the engines for the last little bit of traveling, and set it down on target. It would use a microscopic fraction of the fuel compared to shipping, (solar power at those altitudes is an obvious possibility), it can reach all inland areas of the planet that ships cannot get to (so no more costs related to ports, trains, et cetera), and with jet streams zipping along at 100 to 200 kilometers per hour, it would get your shipment across the majority of the distance much faster than any ship could (East Coast America to Europe in 40-50 hours).

The only two problems I can see is (1) that stuff going from America to Asia or Europe to America would have to go the opposite direction all the way around the world, as that is the direction of the jet stream, but (a) even with that distance, it's still faster than a ship, and (b) the extra distance requires no extra fuel; and (2) that most cargo doesn't hold up well at 30,000 feet and containers would need to be redesigned to be environment neutral.

I'm sure I've overlooked all sorts of other pesky details, and I'd love to hear them... but really: Even if there are pesky details, are they so difficult to overcome that they would totally outweigh the benefits of this idea?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Daily Report: Dinner and Dancing

Mike and Emelyn Bird came into town from the jungle tonight for a bit of oppidan divertissement. First, we had some cocktails at the house. (Epril had told me that Mike doesn't drink, so I had stocked the fridge with lots of non-alcoholic beverages, only to have Mike order up a vodka upon arrival... so it was Screwdrivers all around.)

Second, we were out to Sentro (one of Cagayan's second-best restaurants), where I had a crab and wasabi salad ($2.50) and a chicken caesar sandwich ($2.50), while everybody else had the iwas kiwali -- a local dish of deep-fried fat-laden pork.

Finally, it was off to the local night club, Pulse, for a few beers. I think it was Emelyn's first time inside of a disco.

After that it was home. Mike and Emeyln are sleeping in the spare bedroom.

Doctor's Visit

I took myself and Epril's father to the doctor's today for a checkup. I decided to go to Dr. Edmilao, the cardiologist who is our next door neighbor, since family physicians don't really seem to exist here. He was quite booked, but made special Saturday office hours to accommodate us.

The last time I had been to a doctor was for a physical in Thailand, which cost about 2,000 pesos. This visit was a bit more expensive, didn't include as much diagnostic work, but was still substantially better: Dr. Edmilao spent nearly an hour each talking to myself and Epril's father. (And I know my doctors, and I know a good doctor's visit when I see one: This was a good, in-depth physical.) In Thailand, the hospital checked my hearing and vision and did a wider array of labs, but the doctor only spent about 10 minutes witih me.

Anyway, my uric acid was high due to the fact that I snack constantly on pumpkin seeds and pistacios, my hemoglobin and hematocrit are still abnormally high as they have always been, and I could stand to lose some weight. (Nice thing though is I haven't gained an ounce in the last three years.)

Total cost for a physical (labs, chest X-ray, EKG, urinalysis, and an hour of the doctor's time and clinical examination) was about 2,500 pesos... about $60.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Brought A Smile To My Face #3

Epril has a fine English vocabulary, but her pronunciation — especially of long and short "E" — isn't quite the best.

Thus it was a bit confusing when she told me that we should buy some new "bitch shits". She was trying to say "bed sheets".

Another Antigay Republican... Oh, You Know

This time it is Albama's Attorney General, Troy King, caught in bed with his personal assistant by his wife. (Hat tip C&L.) Like I've always said: It's not about the gay sex, it's about being antigay and having gay sex at the same time, and every couple of years (right around election time, it always seems) the most uptight family-values Republicans get caught with an assload of that which they tell everyone is most evil.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Brought A Smile To My Face #2

Brought A Smile To My Face

Hillary Clinton racked up $23 million in debt during her acrimonious attempt to snatch the Democratic nomination away from Barack Obama. All of that debt was created after it became statistically impossible for Hillary to win the nomination, but she carried on her campaign against Obama regardless.

Now... in essence... Hillary Clinton has demanded, in exchange for her support, that Barack Obama "pass the hat" among his own supporters to raise money for Hillary, so that she doesn't have to be personally responsible for the record-setting debt she created while campaigning against him.

Barack, being the nice guy (or chump, depending on your point of view) did what Hillary demanded, and when the hat returned back to Barack, how much was in it? Less than $100,000... and about $5,000 of that was from Barack and Michele Obama themselves. In the words of one Obama supporter: "Why would I help pay off debts that Hillary amassed simply to keep damaging Senator Obama?"

Now Hillary (and Bill, and the rest of her campaign) are whining and threatening to withhold their support for Barack Obama's campaign because he didn't raise enough money for Hillary.

Senator Obama has been doing pretty well without the Clintons' support so far, and even if the Clintons' support would be helpful, paying millions of dollars in extortion money to make the Clintons his friends doesn't seem to be a worthwhile campaign expenditure as far as I can see. Seriously, Barack: Tell them to fuck off.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tax Refund Creates Porn Industry Bonanza

Remember that tax rebate you got a month ago? You spent it on porn, didn't you? Yes you did.

George Bush wanted Americans to go out and buy something with his "here's-some-cash-so-you'll-stop-hating-me" scheme that they wouldn't have otherwise bought... and a surprising amount of them opted for some good ol' American smut. In fact, many porn sites had a 30% increase in membership in the days immediately after the porn money... er... tax money was sent out.

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "government-funded economic stimulation" doesn't it?

Luxury Home Construction In Cagayan De Oro

A friend of mine is building this house here in Cagayan De Oro.

It's really amazing how big a difference there is between what it costs to build a house in Cagayan De Oro and what people try to sell a house for here. Up until this point, I had only heard the selling cost of houses that had already been built, and been sadly surprised at the cost of real estate... but never heard the cost of actually building a luxury home.

This is a 300 square meter (3,000 square foot) home with 6 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms, 3 medium-sized living rooms, 2 kitchens, maids quarters, and a full master suite on the third floor, sitting on a 500 square meter (5,000 square foot) corner lot of the most expensive real estate in Cagayan De Oro: Cliff-side at Xavier Estates. When finished, this entirely custom house will have hot and cold water throughout, a cliff-side swimming pool, and full landscaping and decks.

Cost to build fully furnished is 100,000 pounds, $200,000 dollars, or about 9 million pesos. The land cost 2.7 million, the landscaping and pool cost 0.8 million, the furnishings cost 1 million, and the house itself cost 4.5 million... 15,000 pesos per square meter (about $33 per square foot).

I've seen similar houses in Cagayan, not as large, not as pretty, on half the land, selling for the same price. I cannot imagine why anybody would buy a house already built here in Cagyan De Oro when you can build exactly what you want for so much less.

Friday, July 4, 2008


"According to the Washington Post, Barack Obama and actress Scarlett Johansson are email buddies. Apparently they email each other back and forth. So, you've got a 23-year-old gorgeous, blonde actress emailing a married presidential candidate. Well, what could go wrong there? Not to be outdone today, John McCain admitted he had been exchanging flirty emails with Angela Lansbury."

Jay Leno

Daily Report: A Full Afternoon

Only a fair morning of work today.

Town Restaurant in Cagayan De Oro
is the best fine dining in town,
and very inexpensive.
After noon, Epril and I went out for the day. First, it was off to Town, my favorite restaurant, for lunch. We went crazy: We had one soup and two appetizers, Epril had the sirloin while I had lasagna, and we drank smoothies.

After that, I got my first ticket from the traffic police (the "RTA" they are called here, "Road and Transportation Authority). Regular police apparently don't do traffic enforcement. I made an illegal left turn. After getting the ticket, I noticed that at pretty much every intersection in Cagayan, there is admidst all the bricabrac signage and birds nest of wires, a faded little "no left turn" sign. Well, they were nice about it. A kano getting a ticket drew quite a crowd of locals, and by the time the event was over, the green-shirted traffic cops and myself had drawn a crowd of 20 or more. (No, I didn't offer a bribe to the traffic cops... and they didn't ask. I haven't lived here long enough to try that out.)

I renewed my visa today. As always, such an expedient and pleasant experience. Franky asked in the comments section below what parts of living in The Philippines are cheaper than Pattaya. Aside from housing and the cost of drinks at bars, the cost of keeping my visa current is about one tenth what it was in Thailand... one twentieth when you factor in the opportunity cost of lost work.

From there, it was off to pay the rent and a few bills.

Then, we tried to go pay the traffic ticket. Surprisingly, the place where you pay traffic tickets is 3 miles out to the edge of town in the harbor area, in this nearly-abandoned "City Engineer" compound, up some stairs, and into this forgotten-looking office where some guys were sitting around a table filling out reports. Unfortunately, the cashier had already left for the day, so the ticket has to wait until Monday to be paid.

Next, Epril and I went to Spooks for their weekly Friday expatriate get-together. I chatted with all the guys and had a few beers ($1 per bottle).

Epril sitting on our balcony.
Then it was home. I was going to take the girls out tonight to see a movie, but Susan had her boyfriend Ricky over (he's a nice police officer that lives up the street) and they seemed to be enjoying some TV, and I figured that since the next movie didn't start until 9:00, we'd just skip it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

My President Can Beat Up Your President

I've always thought how wickedly cool it would be if, while "negotiating" with some of the world's largest douchebags, the President of the United States just reached over and corked somebody right in the mouth... somebody who deserved it, naturally. I suppose it's just as well that Obama will most likely be the next American President, because as much as I would enjoy it, it's probably not a good thing to have a repeat of this.
"McCain was down at the end of the table and we were talking to the head of the guerrilla group here at this end of the table, and I don't know what attracted my attention," Cochran said. "But I saw some kind of quick movement at the bottom of the table and I looked down there and John had reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt collar and had snatched him up like he was throwing him up out of the chair to tell him what he thought about him or whatever. I don't know what he was telling him but I thought, good grief everybody around here has got guns and we were there on a diplomatic mission. I don't know what had happened to provoke John, but he obviously got mad at the guy and he just reached over there and snatched him."
Awesome... at least in the theoretical, Hollywood, no-consequences version of life. Just awesome.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Well, it took 3 short months for the Piso to go from 40 to the dollar to 45. That's really great news for anybody in The Philippines who gets their money from America. I said here that it would be overly-optimistic to expect the Piso to hit 50 before the end of the year... but that it might hit 45 with a little luck. Heh: It's so nice to be wrong in this case. I've gotten a 10% raise in my salary since moving to the Philippines, and I am quite happy. Now I just hope it lasts.