Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Daily Report: Of Work And Planning

I'm still much to busy to write regularly in my blog.

I'll break the news now that about two-thirds of you already knew: Epril and I are getting married on September 27th... the 1-year anniversary of our first meeting in person. It's going to be quite a party actually. My family is flying in from America, and my friends from Thailand are coming over too. Of course, the new friends that I've made in Cagayan De Oro since moving here will be attending as well.

There is a bachelor party at Spooks on Thursday, September 25 that anybody can come to. There will be a bar-be-que at Twin Hearts pool resort for 100 people on Friday. On Saturday, the wedding is going to be held in Epril's village, with about 150 guests. I've hired all of the celebrity disc jockeys from Mindinao's most popular radio station to come to the park in the center of the barangay of Kimaya to put on a 5-hour party for the town. I'm expecting about 2,000 people for that... maybe more, maybe less. On Sunday, we have a family day out in the jungle at a spectacular water fall / swimming area.

The day after that, my parents, Epril's parents, and Epril and I are flying up to Manila to spend a day touring around the city, and then we are taking a day trip to Corregidor.

Anyway, I've been sitting at my desk from sunup to sundown working, trying to earn enough money to pay for everything that we've got planned. (Anybody know a good fireworks company in Cagayan De Oro?) Epril is of course going nuts... happy and excited and nervous and upset all at the same time. I'm pretty much just the money man now: I set up the general schedule and all of the events; Epril is working out the details.

OK. That's it. Time to get back to work. I'll be back to posting more regularly after the wedding.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quick Update

I figure if I don't put something up soon, my mother will start to worry. Unfortunately, I'm just far too busy with work to put up some serious blog posts with photos and stuff right now.

You might have heard of the MILF fighting in Lanao Del Norte and bombings in Illigan. It's a lot closer than any violence before to Cagayan De Oro — only 60 miles or so — but my home is still is a long way away in terms of places that the fighting might come to: Two hundred armed brigands wouldn't attempt a straightforward assault a city of half a million people (and Mindanao's largest army base), although staying away from bus stations and markets might not be a bad idea.

Well, if worse comes to worst, I'm a very easy fellow to move. I unplug the work computer, strap it and Epril to the back of the motorcycle, and in 4 or 5 minutes, off we go to mom and dad's house in Jasaan, and if things really go bad, then from there a quick drive to Camiguin Island and then a ferry to Bohol.

So anyway, that's just anodyne for my mother: Primarily to let her know that I've got a plan for the unthinkable-slash-impossible.

Other than that, like I said, I've been busy at work lately. I get about 3 or 4 hours a day away from work. Then it is back to bed. It's totally 100% life as usual here in Cagayan De Oro, both at home and around town, and nobody here thinks for a minute that that is going to change.

I'll try and write more later.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Daily Report: Quick Update

Sorry I haven't put any of my Thailand trip photos up yet. I spent all day Sunday recovering (slept 18 hours, I did), and then Monday was a full work day. Today, I've also a full work day ahead of me, and then a quick nap before getting back up and staying awake all night for some (Eastern Standard Time) all-day training on my company's new software.

Not much time for blogging other than this quick update I'm afraid. But, I will get the photos up eventually later this week.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Off To Thailand

Epril and I are off to Manila this morning. We'll be stopping by the American Embassy, and then hitting some of the tourist highlights. Tonight, Epril and I will be getting on a plane to Bangkok, and then will be spending Thursday (my birthday), Friday, and Saturday in Pattaya hanging out with all of my old friends. Maybe I'll blog a little while I'm in Thailand... no promises though.

The Truth Keeps Coming Out

Now there is a book coming out which documents how, via the CIA, before the Iraq war, the White House helped Saddam Hussein's intelligence chief (a man named Habbush) escape Iraq before the invasion, and then paid him $5 million to write a letter backdated to July of 2001 to Saddam Hussein documenting how chief 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta received his training in Iraq.

In case that hasn't sunk in: (There is a book coming out that claims) The White House paid a guy $5 million to create false evidence that showed Iraq was connected to the 9-11 attacks.

We can all bitch about what a lubricious bastard Bill Clinton was, but George "I'll restore honor and integrity to the White House" Bush and the evil group of people he surrounded himself with is simply on a whole different order of magnitude. This book (if true) is just one more fact brought to light which confirms it.

I have a feeling that history has only begun to reveal the true and hideous depravity that the Bush administration committed while in office. They took advantage of their country's trust, abused their power, damaged the nation, and caused more unnecessary death and destruction than any administration ever before.

I'll stick this other news item in here as well. This blog is getting filled with political posts! Well: (a) It is election season, and (b) my life and location isn't as exciting and blogworthy as it was back in Thailand, so the balance will obviously skew.

Anyway, Time Magazine writes about Obama's claim (and McCain's scoffing thereof) that keeping your tires filled to the proper pressure and your car tuned is a nifty way to start saving gas right now:
The Bush Administration estimates that expanded offshore drilling could increase oil production by 200,000 bbl. per day by 2030. We use about 20 million bbl. per day, so that would meet about 1% of our demand two decades from now. Meanwhile, efficiency experts say that keeping tires inflated can improve gas mileage 3%, and regular maintenance can add another 4%. Many drivers already follow their advice, but if everyone did, we could immediately reduce demand several percentage points. In other words: Obama is right.

Why I Will Never Own A 1300 cc Motorcycle

Because I would (try to) do this too:

And yes... that was miles per hour. And yes... that was on one wheel.

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Obama Ad takes a look at Obama's new ad about McCain's "$2 million from Big Oil", and clears some things up.

I think it's a little too slick for Obama to have engaged in petty semantics back in March by saying "I don't take money from oil companies" (when he did get money from oil company employees) but then have a commercial that accuses John McCain of taking money from "Big Oil" (when John McCain's money comes from oil company employees as well). All the while Obama is still getting the same sort of money contributed to his campaign... just not as much.

I think the thing that I am finding surprising about this year's presidential campaigns in particular is how much time the campaigns of each candidate are spending saying, "Gasp!!! Look at what the other guy is doing! Look at what the other guy is!" when there is ample evidence of them doing something similar or being something similar themselves. Especially during the information age, when hypocrisy is instantly searchable and demonstrable, it really is an insult to the intelligence of the American people — or perhaps more accurately... it really is a reliance on the stupidity of the American people — for the pot to be calling the kettle black.

By the way, gasoline here in The Philippines is currently $5.50 per gallon. It was $1.59 per gallon when I arrived in Thailand 5 years ago. Anyway, my scooter gets about 60 miles to the gallon, so I'm not too bothered.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Something Scary To Ponder

Glenn Greenwald writes, I summarize:

1. One week after the September 11th attacks, Bruce E. Ivins, a top anthrax researcher at the U.S. Government's biological weapons research laboratories at Fort Detrick, Maryland, allegedly began mailing out envelopes filled with anthrax, along with notes saying things like "We have anthrax. You die now. Are you afraid? Death to America. Death to Israel. Allah is great."

2. In order to determine the source of the anthrax, federal investigators sent samples of the anthrax to (where else) Fort Detrick, Maryland, to determine where it came from.

3. According to the results received from that laboratory, as reported by ABC News — results which they said came at first from "three well-placed but separate sources," followed by "four well-placed and separate sources" — the anthrax had the chemical additive bentonite, which "is a trademark of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's biological weapons program" and "only one country, Iraq, has used bentonite to produce biological weapons."

4. Although 7 "well-placed" (i.e. part of the Fort Detrick chain of command) sources claimed that this was what the tests found, this later turned out to be completely false. No bentonite was ever found in the anthrax samples. Fort Detrick scientists not being able recognize their own anthrax is like a baker not being able to recognize his own bread.

5. Shortly after the anthrax attacks (and the immense news coverage reporting that the anthrax came from Saddam Hussein), the case for the war in Iraq was begun by President Bush.

I'll let Glenn sum it up:
Surely the question of who generated those false Iraq-anthrax reports is one of the most significant and explosive stories of the last decade. The motive to fabricate reports of bentonite and a link to Saddam is glaring. Those fabrications played some significant role — I'd argue a very major role — in propagandizing the American public to perceive of Saddam as a threat, and further, propagandized the public to believe that our country was sufficiently threatened by foreign elements that a whole series of radical policies that the neoconservatives both within and outside of the Bush administration wanted to pursue — including an attack an Iraq and a whole array of assaults on our basic constitutional framework — were justified and even necessary in order to survive.

ABC News already knows the answers to these questions. They know who concocted the false bentonite story and who passed it on to them with the specific intent of having them broadcast those false claims to the world, in order to link Saddam to the anthrax attacks and — as importantly — to conceal the real culprit(s) (apparently within the U.S. government) who were behind the attacks. And yet, unbelievably, they are keeping the story to themselves, refusing to disclose who did all of this. They're allegedly a news organization, in possession of one of the most significant news stories of the last decade, and they are concealing it from the public, even years later.

They're not protecting "sources." The people who fed them the bentonite story aren't "sources." They're fabricators and liars who purposely used ABC News to disseminate to the American public an extremely consequential and damaging falsehood. But by protecting the wrongdoers, ABC News has made itself complicit in this fraud perpetrated on the public, rather than a news organization uncovering such frauds. That is why this is one of the most extreme journalistic scandals that exists, and it deserves a lot more debate and attention than it has received thus far.

The Most Unlikely Internet Celebrity

MRirian is a cute girl. So cute that she has become a YouTube superstar by simply putting up videos of herself staring at her webcam. You doubt? Her videos combined have over 30 million hits. To quote two of my favorite muppets: "How many hits did this video receive? Unfortunately not enough to kill it."

She's half American and half Japanese from Pennsylvania, but speaks enough Japanese (occasional cutesy sera-fuku phrases put at the beginning and end of her 30-second videos) to have made her a gargantuan celebrity in the world's oddest country.

Another Internet Celebrity... With Actual Talent

You can obviously guess what I spent this Sunday doing: Wandering aimlessly around YouTube.

Next up is Bo Burnham. A geeky kid sitting at a keyboard in his bedroom coming up with hysterically crude yet clever songs and raps. ("How'd I come to master all these things? Like a tampon thief, I had to pull some strings.")

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Daily Report: A Day On Agutayan Island

Last Sunday, Epril and I were joined by Mike and Emelyn Bird, and Mike and Marissa Turner (along with family) for a boat trip out to Agutayan Island. It was a pretty good trip although there were a few problems: As you can see in this first picture, there was a big storm off in the distance. Although it never did come close to the island, being on a treeless sand bar the size of a football field out in the middle of the ocean makes you acutely aware of the weather.
The second problem was that there was a roofed pavilion built up on stilts upon which we had planned to spend our time, but as you can see it had been destroyed recently by a storm (making the distant storm all the more ominous). Click here to see what the pavilion looked like before the storm.

So we had to settle for a makeshift shelter on the sand. With a stiff and constant breeze, it wasn't that steady a shelter... but we crouched inside and ate and drank in between swimming and snorkling. I had brought along all the ingredients for a big pile of Nachos Supreme as well as pineapple juice, rum, and coconut milk for piƱa coladas, Mike and Marissa brought along a cooler full of beer and Gatorade, and Bird and Emelyn brought the Filipino food.

Ah... problem number three: Here I am (in the red shirt) about to experience bad luck. I put my digital camera and mobile phone in my shirt pocket so that when I jumped out of the boat, they wouldn't get wet. Somehow, as I hopped down out of the boat, about 5 seconds after this photo was taken — with my hand actually over my shirt pocket holding the camera and phone — the camera squirted out of my grasp and landed in the water.

Photo of me pondering the power of Murphy's Law. That's the second digital camera I've gotten wet in as many years. Maybe I'll look into one of those waterproof ones now. It wasn't a particularly expensive camera (the first camera last year was, and I learned my lesson), but I loathe buying another camera yet again.

Anyway, Mike Turner had two cameras with him, including an underwater camera. We did some snorkeling... although not adventuring too far as none of us were real snorkel enthusiasts, and the reef on which Agutayan Island sits is about 1 kilometer long by 300 meters wide... too far for us to swim to get to the real exciting parts. But there were lots of starfish and colorful tropical fish and coral. Out at the reef's edge, there are incredible clam beds and a full-blown coral reef. Click here to see some photos of scuba diving on Agutayan Island.

The island is located about 5 kilometers off the coast of Mindanao, directly west of the town of Jasaan, about 45 minutes northeast of Cagayan De Oro. (Click here to see the island on Wikimapia. Only the white sandy part is above water.) You can hire a boat to take a dozen people out to the island and back for 800 pesos... $20. The boat (as you can see above) is a little small, but it's a wooden/bamboo combination, and it would require a trip through a wood chipper before it would sink.

Dimple and I enjoying the warm tropical water.

Epril (trying to avoid getting a tan) and Marissa Turner.

Anyway, in the late afternoon, it was back to the mainland, and then to Mike Bird's Bamboo Castle where we sat around and finished off the rest of the cooler's contents.

(Thanks for the pictures, Mike.)