Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jungle Jil Cool Blog Recommendation

It Aint William... a blog by Willam (that's Will-uhm) Belli, Hollywood transsexual actress and better at finding humor in the mundane and annoying shit that life hands out (especially in a life as far removed from mundane as his) than any other person around.

A favorite quote (after losing a part at an audition to another tranny):
Upon arrival at my house, I ate a whole box of Lean Pockets. There's only two in there but still, that's a lot for me. Plus while the first one was cooking, I decided to see if I could gnaw into the frozen one.

I'm really happy for Kelly though. He/She's not even a frenemy. Just a normal friend. I knew I shoulda told casting about the Judging Amy incident in where Tyne Daly got mad after trying to finger Kelly. Oh well. CBS couldn't find her vagina. Up to NBC now.
The entire blog is great.

The Cagayan Cocktail, By Jungle Jil

Best part: It's actually cheaper per gallon than gasoline.
Worst part: Most ingredients only available in Philippines.

1. Four parts strawberry-flavored Lambanog (a coconut whiskey).
2. Two parts of triple sec (buy the cheap Orchid brand).
3. One part of sweet lime concentrate (the Island Mixers brand).
4. Two parts Cali pinapple soda.
5. Two parts orange juice.

Serve on the rocks. Tastes like bubble gum.

A Long Essay On How The Republican Party Lost Me

Ryan Sager in Reason Online writes an article about what the Republican party did to my political leanings:
Back in 2000, Texas Gov. George W. Bush's political savior, Karl Rove, was performing nothing short of an electoral resurrection, running around South Carolina calling Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) an unpatriotic, illegitimate-black-baby-fathering Manchurian Candidate.
I favored John McCain back in that election. It was my third presidential election since becoming politically savvy in 1992. I had followed the Republican campaign to impeach Clinton, and found it a rather tasteless and mean-spirited effort, but I didn't let it change my Republican leanings. But watching Carl Rove's slimy tricks against McCain in the primary was a real turn-off for me. Watching Republicans ignorantly fall for those tricks was the deal breaker. It was the first election I didn't vote Republican, and voted Libertarian instead: It was the first time I witnessed (with the help of the internet) the angry, strongly-Christian-yet-dishonest underbelly of the Republican party, and the portion of the party they represented. Of course that had always been there, but I never really paid attention.
Who could have guessed that eight years later, the senator from Arizona would be dedicating the remainder of his political life to finishing Karl Rove's good works on Earth?
I know. In this 2008 election, I favored Ron Paul as the Republican candidate (and I might even have voted for him over Obama), and put him ahead of John McCain because Paul's strict constitutionalism and stark conservatism is music to my ears. I never disliked John McCain until he actually won this nomination and let his moderate conservativism be overshadowed by campaign tactics that were originally used against him by Carl Rove. Bob Dole never did that, even when he knew he was sure to lose if he didn't.
And yet, as McCain runs around the country this fall, calling Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) an unpatriotic, socialistic terrorist-paller-around-with, it seems he's taken it upon himself to complete what should be called the Rove Realignment.

No, not the once-envisioned "rolling realignment," under which the Republican Party would add to its base of white Evangelical Protestants, bringing in Hispanics, culturally conservative African Americans, and economically vulnerable whites—those who supported Medicare Part D and opposed gay marriage in equal measure—to create a "permanent" Republican majority that would last at least a generation.
That "rolling realignment" could have happened at one point. Most people are conservative about the majority of things that get discussed in politics. Liberal domestic policies and government programs have never gained much traction with Americans. In my early years, when it came to politics, I was budget-focused. (I still am.) I always sided with the Republicans in fiscal matters. When it came to the Religious Right's occasional pushing of their pet issues and pulling of the Republican party strings, my favorite thing to say was, "You can't legislate morality." What I was saying was: The religious right will never get the Republican party to give up its conservative foundations. I'm sure that's what most people thought. Then the new milenium, and the new Republican party showed up.

Click here for the rest of the article.

McCain's working on the other realignment: The one where eight years of fiscal recklessness and cultural warfare alienates swing voters and withers the Republican Party until the very base of the conservative movement cracks in half—splitting a coalition that has endured since the Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964.
Yeah. I'll skip how the "conservative" party ran up the national debt into the trillions. Cultural warfare really was what it was all about for me originally: The religious right from 1996 to 2006 steered the Republicans right over a cliff with their dogma (for me, Terri Schiavo is the apotheosis of that time) but I jumped ship just before all that. The libertarian-style Republicans (holding on by a thread when the Contract With America brought them roaring back in 1994) lost control to the Religious Right probably because of Clinton's reelection. First, they went after Clinton (reasonable but tacky in a down-to-their-level kind of way). Then, they smeared the Pro-Choice McCain straight out of his election bid, and got George Bush into the White House. Then, after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, they learned to use fear as their primary political tool and use tests of faith and patriotism to smear their opponents instead of engaging them on the issues.

Who were the Republicans ever going to win over with those tactics? Not me... but it sure did "play well to the base" (those scum who perpetuated the "McCain's black baby" lie, and the retards who believed it). In the end, after all the Religious Right had done to the Republican party, McCain's nomination of Palin almost didn't seem surprising in a way. McCain could have nominated James Dobson and I wouldn't have been surprised.
That coalition between social conservatives and economic libertarians (who tend to be socially moderate to liberal), served the GOP well from 1964 to 2006. It gave the party eight years of Ronald Reagan and 12 years of a Republican Congress. But the Bush years have proven to be one long pulling apart. And, in a matter of days, we may just see the final snap.
Actually, it didn't serve the GOP well from 2000 to 2006. That was the problem: Libertarian-leaning Republicans generally didn't figure shit out in the 2000 elections (though some of us did). If they had, the Republican party wouldn't have had 8 years to paint itself into the ideological corner it finds itself in now. In the 2002 elections, people got suckered into making the "fear" vote... the save-us-from-the-terrorists vote.

By 2004, a large portion of the libertarian-leaning Republicans had gotten a clue... but nobody wanted to vote for Kerry. I'm surprised that enough people were able to hold their nose and re-elect Bush, but there it was. Republicans gained congressional seats in 2004 only in the deep South... the heart of Religious Right territory, but lost elsewhere. That was the beginning.

In 2006 though, voter dissatisfaction with the Religious Right's control of the Republican party really showed up with a vengeance. Unfortunately, the Republican party's attitude was only half-hearted to making change... and the Religious Right's leash was not coming off.

In 2008, the Republicans (those who were still around after 8 years anyway) finally figured stuff out, and nominated McCain over at least two other candidates that the Religious Right would have preferred. Unfortunately, McCain ran up against a perfect storm with his campaign: Being a Republican following the most unpopular Republican President in American history, some of the worst economic conditions since The Great Depression, and the other team's game-changing barrier-breaking candidate. What did candidate McCain do? Something very stupid: He turned to the Religious Right and asked, "What do I do?" Hence, McCain's campaign to date.
The Cato Institute has done excellent work over the last few years tracking the shift in the libertarian vote—the roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of the American public that can be categorized as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.

Based on an analysis of the American National Election Studies, Cato found that between 2000 and 2004, there was a substantial flight of libertarians away from the Republican Party and toward the Democrats. While libertarians preferred Bush by a margin of 52 points over Al Gore in 2000, that margin shrank to 21 points in 2004, when many libertarians—disaffected by the Iraq war, massive GOP spending increases, and the campaign against gay marriage—switched to John Kerry.
Like I said, I'm just surprised it took Libertarians so long to jump ship.

I'm equally surprised that the Republicans didn't figure out that with their bloated budget and mean-spirited and often wacky religious/moral legislative efforts (remember Terri Schiavo?) that the only reason they were still able to call themselves "conservative" was because nobody else was interested in laying claim to the title.
Polling on libertarian voters is somewhat sparse during elections, but there are a couple of data points and some broad trends that can give us an idea of where things stand now. An early October Zogby Interactive poll found that self-identified libertarians (about 6 percent of the poll's sample) give McCain only 36 percent of their vote, lower than the 45 percent and 42 percent Zogby found them giving Bush in the last two elections. The libertarian voters claim to be defecting mainly to Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr and other third-party candidates, not to Obama. A Gallup poll conducted in September, which identified libertarian-minded voters with a series of ideological questions about the role of government in the economy and society (pegging them at around 23 percent of the electorate), found that only 43 percent of these voters plan pull the lever for McCain, slightly fewer than did for Bush in 2004. The Gallup poll also finds a significant uptick in libertarians planning to vote third-party, with 3.5 percent supporting Barr.
The reason that I'm supporting Obama (unlike other Libertarians who are voting third party) is the same reason I've given from the very beginning: Living overseas, I'm concerned a lot about people's opinion of America, and how it effects not just me, but the American economy and American security. I believe that no other Presidential candidate comes remotely close to what I believe is Obama's ability to make America the most admired and respected country on the planet by people around the world.
At the broader level, McCain's problems with the libertarian side of the conservative base are evident in how he's faring regionally. While the GOP can win the South without libertarian voters, as McCain is doing handily, it can't win the "leave-me-alone" Interior West without a healthy portion of them. And even before the economic crisis took over the national headlines in mid-September, the three up-for-grabs Mountain states—which by themselves, when added to the 2004 Kerry states, hold enough electoral votes to swing the election to Obama—looked grim for McCain. New Mexico (Bush by 1) has looked solid for Obama all year; Colorado (Bush by 5), likewise, has hardly deviated from an Obama lead in the RealClearPolitics average this election season. Only Nevada (Bush by 3) has seen the advantage teeter back and forth (it's now leaning Obama).
The fact is, it is getting to the point where Republicans who are both socially and fiscally conservative (instead of culturally liberal and fiscally conservative) are having an argument with themselves as to where they want to take their vote. The Republicans have not been fiscally conservative for years now, and what's worse is that Republicans have accomplished nothing socially conservative on the national level either... unless you count "Don't Ask Don't Tell" and several all-but-meaningless abortion laws.
Why would libertarians abandon McCain? After all, they believe in low taxes—and McCain is the one promising those. And if they're concerned about social issues, well, McCain's never shown much of a stomach for cultural warfare.
Well, there is also the war in Iraq. A lot of us don't like McCain's back-out-so-slowly-maybe-no-one-will-notice approach.
That is, of course, until now.

The real McCain, whoever that is or was, may still believe that major swathes of the Religious Right represent "agents of intolerance" in our politics. But he has decided to stake both his election and the Republican Party's future upon them—from the barely coded racial refrain of "Who is Barack Obama?," to the rallies with shouts of "terrorist" and "kill him," to the corrosive choice of pipeline-prayer Sarah Palin as his running mate and heir apparent.
Well, I wouldn't read racist stuff into that "Who is Barack Obama?" refrain... but I would read the same old "Is he faithful? Is he patriotic? Does he know any French or eat organically grown food or wear imported underwear?" fear-of-the-foreign line that the Religious Right has been using since 2002 into it.
Tax cuts or no tax cuts, a party that can be roused in time of deep crisis only by fear and tribalism—a party that a supposed moderate is now deeding to its most extreme elements—can scarcely serve as a safe home to liberty or the voters who cherish it.

Two years ago, I wrote a book imploring the Republican Party not to follow its worst elements off a cliff—not to evolve, in short, into an insular party with little-to-no appeal outside of the rural, the southern, the Evangelical. As the McCain campaign flames out in a ball of Rovian disgrace, scorching the center in an attempt to fire up the base, it's difficult to reach any other conclusion than that the battle for the soul of the Republican Party has been lost.
I also cannot see the Religious Right giving control of the Republican party back to moderates. They have mixed their religious goals so thoroughly with their political goals (stopping abortion, stopping gay marriage, stopping Islam and saving Israel) that ceding any ground on those issues... compromising their politics... is tantamount to compromising their religious beliefs. People from the Religious Right tolerating the Republican party changing those planks in their platform to attract new Republicans is the same as people from the Religious Right tolerating their church changing the fundamentals of Christianity in order to attract new Christians.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Merrill Lynch Financial Analyst: What That Means

I saw in this blog post that the America Blog folks were getting kind of snarky and "serves you right" because the financial analysts at Merrill Lynch aren't too happy with the offer of a $25,000 bonus per year (times 7 years) if they will stay with the company when it is taken over by Bank of America.

I used to work for Merrill Lynch at their world headquarters in the World Financial Center as one of their overnight graphic artists. I used to know some of these financial analysts personally. These people started off life as the kids you remember from high school who spent every day from seventh grade onwards working on putting together the best college application that they could.

Then they went to a private college and came out at the very tip-top of their baccalaureate class with their degree in business... and they spent every summer doing prestigious and much-sought-after 12-hour day apprenticeships in Manhattan investment banks. It was mostly crap work, but it led to the right places.

Then, with luck, they made it into one of the ten or twelve MBA programs from which Merrill Lynch is willing to recruit junior level analysts from. There, they graduated in the upper third of their class... else they would have been relegated to one of the several dozen smaller investment banks in New York City.

After that, they came to work at Merrill Lynch. I met these financial analysts every night at 11:30 p.m. as they were dropping off their PowerPoint presentations at the graphics department for overnight edits, before catching a cab home. I also met those same people every morning at 7:00 as they came back to pick up the finished work. They were usually around on Saturdays as well for a few hours... six or seven maybe. They did take Sundays off though. When you did the math, they were making a hell of a lot less per hour than I was. No overtime.

So, four or five years out, these folks finally have their college loans paid off, and the bottom falls out of their company. These people had put in their time and were now ready to launch up to the half-million-dollar-bonus plus quarter-million-dollar-salary region (and only 60-hour work weeks, as a bonus) and now they are suddenly faced with an employer who is willing to toss them 7 years of $25,000 bonuses instead.

I'm not writing this as some kind of complaint that people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time somehow deserve better: Life tends to be like that sometimes, and it happens far more often to the poor and ill-prepared amongst us than the rich and well-equipped. But nevertheless, while there are a lot of people harrumphing at the several — or even many — executives of these companies who are getting away with millions and suffering no real consequences, there are a fair number of people at the bottom who shouldn't receive any share of the animosity that is being directed at those higher up who deserve it.

A bit of info in the comments section sort of discombobulates this post: The Americablog article was referring to Merrill's financial advisors, while I was commenting on Merrill's financial analysts. My defense: Drunk.

Now That's A Fire

Mega Ororama, one of Cagayan's older malls... a 5-story warehouse looking building... caught fire at about noontime today. We could see the massive column of smoke coming out of the place from 5 miles away at our house on the hill.

I just noticed that at nearly 10:00 at night, smoke is still pouring out of the place, illuminated by the ambient glow from Cagayan's city lights.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Keep On Keepin' On

No real surprising news on the piso actually... but:

One thing that has me stumped is why the dollar is gaining while the pound and yen have weakened severely in the past few weeks. My belief had always been that a global financial crisis would cause the second and third tier currencies to collapse as the big currency players moved toward more historically stable first tier currencies. That obviously hasn't been the case: The financial bailout seems to be a boon for the dollar, but two of the other big currencies have lost ground big time. The Thai Baht is unbelievably holding steady against the dollar; that's just simply "WTF?" territory.

Looks like I've got some studying to do to figure out what's causing these counterintuitive ups and downs. If you've got a helpful link, stick it in the comments section.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Jungle Jil Music Video

One of my favorite post-classical pieces: Ravel's Bolero from 1928. You would think that a 4-beat background repeated over and over, never changing, supporting a quirky, dystonic primary-secondary-call-answer theme repeated over and over, never developing, with only changes in the volume and combination of instruments to make the orchestra fuller and louder over a period of 15 minutes would be tedious. Instead it is a mesmerizing exercise in timbre and harmony that morphs a song that starts as a winsome frolic through a lonely forest into a thundering march down a boulevard to cheering crowds. It's the same notes, the same tune, the same pace, the same rhythm... but the difference in characterization makes it one of history's great pieces of music (with or without Bo Derek's help).

Part 1

Part 2

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What I Do

I never thought to put up a blog post that demonstrates what my job is actually like. So, click on this link to go to an MP3 file of a urology dictation (it's a dictation that I would place at exactly the 50-yard-line of the toughness scale), and click on this link to see the resulting report.

If you want to know what a tougher dictation would sound like, imagine the exact same report spoken at the exact same speed, but with a really thick Indian accent... or with a doctor who is only a fraction as awake as the doctor in this particular recording was... or both. It can drive you up the wall.

Of course, 50% of the jobs are easier than this one... so there is that.

Also, most doctors tend to say many of the same things over and over again, so once you know the parts that they repeat over and over again, you can put those bits and pieces into your text expander program (a program all transcriptionists use to help with typing speed) and just have them drop in ready-made when the doctor says them. (In an OP report like this, that would probably be... oh... a quarter or a third of the dictation.)

Wardrobe Malfunction

I was moderately amused about the fact that Sarah Palin is campaigning around the country with a $150,000 wardrobe given to her by the Republican party.

Then I thought about the "hockey mom" moniker she gives herself, and "the real America" she claims to be a part of, and the "elitist" labels she applies to others, and even the "pork buster" fiscal responsibility she claims to be a champion of, and decided that it is more than just an amusing little tidbit of news: It's wrong, it's politically stupid, it wrecks her "Jane Sixpack" image, and it is more than just a little hypocritical.

Oh hell: Now that I think about it, is there any candidate I would/should give a pass to for accepting something so extravagant and unnecessary, even without the specific hypocrisy applicable only to Governor Palin? No.

I don't blame Sarah Palin completely. The McCain campaign really is mostly to blame for being dumb enough to let something this exploitable happen. I also have to consider other share-the-blame possibilities: (1) Governor Palin might not have even been there on all those shopping sprees, or seen the bills. (2) She might have been told (i.e. lied to) by some McCain staffer that $150,000 is the standard cost for a campaign wardrobe. (3) She might have thought that the "we'll donate it all to charity after the campaign" bullshit was enough of an excuse to shut up any criticism.

(4) As a distant outside possibility (and the only thing that exculpates Governor Palin), it could be that while a big crowd of staffers and assistants was at the checkout counter with 50 or 60 not-that-expensive items on these shopping sprees, some person on the campaign was secretly buying himself or herself a diamond-crusted Cartier watch which tacked on an extra twenty or thirty grand to the final bill each time, and nobody thought to wonder why the tab was so high. Like I said: Doubtful, but I've gotta consider all the scenarios. I'm sure that numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 will all be worked out (and probably proven wrong) in the next few days.

Now, what might have happened is that the $50,000 that each of the three shopping trips cost included lots of peripheral costs such as travel, lodging, security, staff, tailors, porters, shipping, and things like that. Also, I've heard that some of the clothes were for Governor Palin's family as well. Whether or not those incidental expenses would be enough to make a $50,000 shopping tab seem reasonable, if this is indeed the case... well: The political damage has already been done really; it doesn't change the final tally of $150,000.

(Anyway, I will add that it I do find it amusing — and only amusing — that John McCain has spent over $5,000 on makeup for the campaign. Heheh. And yes, I'll chuckle (or shout, perhaps) at Obama's and Biden's ridiculous campaign expenses when they come out. Every campaign has always had at least a handful of them, and they are always embarrassing.)

According to this Washington Post Article, John McCain spends $8,700 per month on his makeup artist, and Sarah Palin spends $13,200 per month for her makeup artist. Deeaaaamm. I must have mis-read or mis-remembered that $5,000 figure up above.

Al Qaeda Endorsement

Al Qaeda endorses McCain. This is really hardly a surprise... and I wouldn't consider giving John McCain a hard time over it on a personal level: Of course he's no more a friend of terrorists than Obama or any other person with a conscience. However, it can be related to... and sheds light on... his campaign platform and politics.

Al Qaeda wants America to keep bombing terrorist hideouts (Afghani villages), and staying in Iraq, and that is basically what McCain wants America to do as well (at least more than Obama, certainly), so it is McCain whom Al Qaeda are supporting. Al Qaeda supports the war on terror because they believe that it is wearing down and weakening America more effectively than any individual or group of terrorist attacks ever could; Al Qaeda is quite happy because we've spent unimaginable amounts of money on a war against them... and it hasn't cost them a penny in return... and it has demonstrably hurt our economy in the process.

(The terrorists in the article also think that a terrorist attack right now would swing the election back to McCain... and, well, as far as evil plans go... I can't deny that that might work. Sad but true.)

For Al Qaeda, the war in Iraq struck a perfect plangent 3-note chord of (1) confirming everything the Islamists/terrorists had been preaching about America for years, (2) creating massive untold depths of anger and grief which the Islamists/terrorists could feed into and draw from, and (3) harming America's economic and military apparatus, it's political and cultural leadership, and it's domestic comfort and security. The resonance from that chord is slowly dying as Iraq is stabilized, but that doesn't mean that it can't be sounded again. (What do you think Al Qaeda would have to say about America attacking Iran?)

Like I said: It's hardly news that Al Qaeda digs things the way they are in the Middle East now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Bit Of Catharsis

I never liked her. Now, neither do you apparently.
That doesn't appear to be the case with McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin. Fifty-five percent of respondents say she's not qualified to serve as president if the need arises, up five points from the previous poll.

Now, Palin's qualifications to be president rank as voters' top concern about McCain's candidacy — ahead of continuing President Bush's policies, enacting economic policies that only benefit the rich and keeping too high of a troop presence in Iraq.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pretty Much Over gives Obama a 92.5% chance of winning. has 264 "strong Dem" electoral votes (i.e. Obama has a greater than 10% lead in polling) out of the 270 necessary to win, and predicts he will get 364 electoral votes total. (Looks like it will be the landslide I predicted.)

To use the 2008 political season's favorite catchphrase, it's "dead girl live boy" time.

I just noticed this: On October 18th in St. Louis, Obama drew a crowd of 100,000 people. On October 20th in St. Louis, McCain drew a crowd of 2,000 people. A little bit apples and oranges with it being a Saturday crowd versus a Monday crowd, but still: Ouch.

The First Black President

I was thinking about this last night. It is something that nobody has talked about yet during this campaign season, but I'll predict that you'll see covered in the opinion/news and on blogs more and more as we near the election:

I would say that there is a small-but-sizable portion of the United States population (perhaps as low as 1%... three million people... but likely higher) who will never accept Barack Obama as their president. They will be virulently — perhaps violently — opposed. Three million people.

(The fact that these people have been whipped into a blood-thirsty frenzy by their pretty, charismatic-Christian V.P. nominee, who has them convinced that Obama is an anti-Christian, baby-killing, Muslim terrorist is most certainly exacerbating an already dangerous situation.)

Just remember, these are people from whom came the crazies of the shootout at Ruby Ridge, the siege of Waco, the bombing in Oklahoma City, the murder and bombing of abortion providers, Stormfront and the Michigan Militia... and they have never faced a challenge to their core, deeply-held political, cultural, racial, and religious values on the scale and scope of what they are about to. It will literally drive some of them (perhaps as low as 1%... thirty thousand people... but likely higher) insane. Insane enough to believe that it is the beginning of the end of the world. Insane enough that they will make major changes to their lives because of the upcoming President Obama. Thirty thousand people. Angry. Insane. At minimum.

I predict that you will see thousands upon thousands of these people arming themselves and (most likely, hopefully) retreating up into the hinterlands to "escape from America" like they did at Ruby Ridge, or (less likely, and sadly) engaging in acts of domestic terrorism like we saw in the 1990s... and probably, tragically, racial violence as well. You can expect to see many more Christian doomsday cults arise in the next 2 to 3 years. (Now is the time to buy stock in firearms manufacturers and camping equipment and survival gear companies.)

I think that the United States has not yet had the discussion as to whether or not we can have a black president: A large portion of America — the portion who need to be convinced that it can and should happen — still believe Barack Obama will lose, and think that the discussion will not need to be held. After the election though, when these people realize what they are faced with, that's when the discussion about the end of the racial Sturm und Drang in America will begin... and I predict that it will not be pretty. (And as above, the anti-Christian, baby-killing, Muslim terrorist labels from Sarah Palin make it so much more likely to lead to violence.)

Like I said — especially after we've all seen the video of the very angry people who have been attending McCain/Palin rallies — this is something we'll all be talking about soon, and unavoidably experiencing shortly thereafter.

Daily Report: Not Frabjous, No Calloo, No Callay

Truly a jejune Monday. I woke up, walked 15 feet from my bed to my office. At lunch time, I walked 15 feet from my office to lunch. After lunch, I walked 15 feet back to my office. At bedtime, I walked from my office back to my bed.

Well, sometimes Monday's deserve to be treated that way.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Article on Airport Security

It is becoming common knowledge that airport security and passenger screening has never been effective at catching actual terrorists, has little chance of catching an actual terrorist, and probably will never catch an actual terrorist. The general consensus among security experts is that if a potential hijaker makes it to the airport without being detected by law enforcement beforehand — during the planning stages — then he never will be detected.

Read this fascinating article about a reporter who keeps trying to arouse the suspicions, and get arrested at airport security... and keeps failing.
As I stood in the bathroom, ripping up boarding passes, waiting for the social network of male bathroom users to report my suspicious behavior, I decided to make myself as nervous as possible. I would try to pass through security with no ID, a fake boarding pass, and an Osama bin Laden T-shirt under my coat. I splashed water on my face to mimic sweat, put on a coat (it was a summer day), hid my driver’s license, and approached security with a bogus boarding pass that Schnei­er had made for me. I told the document checker at security that I had lost my identification but was hoping I would still be able to make my flight. He said I’d have to speak to a supervisor. The supervisor arrived; he looked smart, unfortunately. I was starting to get genuinely nervous, which I hoped would generate incriminating micro-expressions. "I can’t find my driver’s license," I said. I showed him my fake boarding pass. "I need to get to Washington quickly," I added. He asked me if I had any other identification. I showed him a credit card with my name on it, a library card, and a health-insurance card. "Nothing else?" he asked.

"No," I said.

"You should really travel with a second picture ID, you know."

"Yes, sir," I said.

"All right, you can go," he said, pointing me to the X-ray line. "But let this be a lesson for you."

Daily Report: Sunday, It's The Un-Day

Another crap morning of work. Reading about how the election is going always takes up too much of my mornings these days.

Epril travelled out to Jasaan today. All her old friends from school were getting together at Twin Hearts Pool Resort to hang out. I wasn't too keen on going: I'd just be a twenty-third wheel, and a hindrance for Epril being able to focus all her attention on her friends. So I stayed home.

For lunch, AusAndy and Cynthia picked me up in their little microvan, and we went to our usual Sunday event: The weekly family-style roast beef dinner for expatriates held at the Kingston Lodge. It's always a great and relaxing afternoon with the usual crowd, and really creates a nice family atmosphere: Everybody sits around at the long table on the patio, with auto racing on the TV in the background while the husbands talk about sports, politics, and expat life, while the wives talk about food and babies and family, and the kids splash around in the pool and play ball on the grass. Then, everybody is served roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, potatoes and vegetables with gravy. Afterwards, with everybody stuffed, conversation is resumed. For some reason, at the same time every Sunday — just after lunch is finished — a light rain shower always passes through.

After lunch, AusAndy dropped me back home, and I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon playing "Civilization Revolution". For the first time, I won the game at the highest difficulty setting. I'm awaiting the local newspaper to call me for an interview. Any time now.

It was my intention in the evening to get some more work done, but the server for the new software was down. (What? You thought "new" meant "better"? Silly.) Instead, Epril (back from a good time in Jasaan), Maid Susan, Kid Sister Ednil, and myself bought Jollibee chicken, and watched an episode of Doctor Who. Then I spent an evening listening to music and playing a new video puzzle game for a while before going to bed.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Good Article, Great Predictions

A good editorial from the New York Times which says basically the same thing about ACORN that I said here, only 5 days later. (p.s. New York Times: I love that new highlight-and-click-to-see-the-definition-of-a-word feature you've put up. That's just made entirely of win.)

Also, since I'm having fun looking up my past predictions to see how they turned out, here's another bit of brilliance from three years ago when my blog was only a teeny little baby blog at 2 weeks old. (And it's also my first effort at teasing a clueless commenter (yes, I even had them back then). It was certainly a little over-zealous on my part though: Six consecutive comments by me to reply to one? Doh. Just a little perfervidity on my part perhaps?.)
Well now, as things stand [without Kerry as President], there is nobody to blame but Republicans, and boy is there going to be hell to pay in the 2006 elections... probably enough to flip the congress to the Democrats... and I would almost guarantee that in 2008, Democrats (or demoncrats, as the right-wingers like to call them) will be in charge of both houses of congress plus the White House.
Anyway, read the rest of the post, as it is equally filled with some pretty stunning presentement on my part.

Daily Report: Domestic Amusements

I got in a slow morning of work today. I've completely transitioned to the new software that my company is using, and I've slowed down a fair bit. That will pick back up though eventually. My main problem is that I'm only allowed to work 40 hours per week now, and I'd rather work 60.

For lunch today, Epril and I went to Bigby's. It was Epril's thought to have hamburgers, and I remember somebody telling me that Bigby's were the best in town, so that is where we went. Of course, when we got there, I had a hamburger and Epril had pork chops. The hamburger was good... but not award-winning.

After lunch, Epril and I did some shopping. We bought a new HDMI cable for the home theater, and two more wedding albums to put all of the extra photos in. Then it was back home where Epril filled the albums, while I tried (again unsuccessfully) to get the BluRay audio to output through the home theater system, instead of just the television speakers. (Sony technical support won't help me as I have a BluRay player from America and a TV and home theater from The Philippines. I'm totally at a loss.)

My Motorstar motorcycle is broken again. This time it is the ignition key; it won't turn, so the motorcycle can't be started. I have to call the shop on Monday to have them come pick the thing up again to be fixed. I've graciously come to accept the fact that I've been ripped off with this motorcycle. If it was more of an inconvenience than catching one of CDO's ultra-cheap cabs... if it were more expensive than $4 or $5 at a time to fix... if I wouldn't feel guilty selling the p.o.s. to somebody else... then I'd probably be pissed, but it's not going to accomplish anything anyway. So fuck it.

Tonight, Epril and I joined up with the local expats for our friend Bennie's birthday party at Zax. We had such a good time. Epril and I both miss Pattaya sometimes, mostly because CDO can be a little slow, and there are so many things to do in Pattaya. But, nights like tonight, hanging out with all our new friends and having an uproariously good time... laughing until our cheeks got cramps... we don't miss Pattaya that much at all — just our friends there, of course.

Friday, October 17, 2008

That's Quite An Interesting Thought

The folks over at, one of the best election tracking sites on the internet, made an interesting observation:

The likelihood (according to, my other top recommendation for election tracking) of the Democrats getting 59 Senate seats this year is currently at about 42%. If the Democrats wind up with 59 seats in the Senate, that is only one Senator short of a filibuster-proof majority — an almost unstoppable majority.

[In order to get from 59 to 60, after the election,] President Obama could appoint Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) or Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) to the cabinet, thus demonstrating his bipartisanship and also flipping a seat (the governors of both states are Democrats).
Interesting thought, eh? I wonder if either of those Senators would take that kind of offer, knowing what would happen?

I suppose first off, it is a question of knowing which "ranks higher" in American politics: A position like Treasury Secretary or that of being a senior Senator. Then second, if Treasury Secretary were higher, it would have to be so much more higher and powerful that either of those Senators could be convinced to throw their fellow Republican Senate minority entirely under the bus.

Well, there is currently a 30% chance that the Democrats will win 60 seats outright in this election. Then, the above-mentioned theoretical Obama cabinet appointments might not be necessary... except to finally get rid of Joe Lieberman.

Almost There

Actually, the Piso bounced up over 48 for the first time about 2 weeks ago, and then it dropped back down and yo-yo'ed inside of 47. Hopefully this most recent dash between the newly-moved goal posts sticks.

Next stop, 50.

And, since it's been a while, I'll make another prediction: I predict that within 6 months, the Piso will be 55 to the dollar, and within one year will be 60 to the dollar.

I was reading back through some comments and predictions I made in this post from 5½ months ago:
I would say that we've been in "pivotal financial times" for the last 6 years; the last 8-10 years if you want to be finicky... ever since the Asian Crash and Dot Com Bust. However, the housing crisis of the last 12-24 months is probably the biggest threat to global financial security currently, and that will probably have resolved itself (most likely for the worst) in the next 6-8 months. I have a feeling that we will know the lay of the land long before "2008-2009" is in the here and now.
Of course, one of you thought you were smarter than me:
funny isnt it how all Jils predictions seem to correlate with whats best for him.......

greater housing declines ( he doesnt own a house in US) and yet this also corresponds somehow to a stronger dollar and more spending power for him

i dont beliueve there will be any serious consequences for the world economy from the US housing decline.
Oh Lord, it's hard to be humble.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

That Other Song About A Night In Bangkok

I don't know how many of you have ever heard The Refreshments sing "Mekong", but if it doesn't make you miss Thailand, nothing will.

Well I came all the way from Taipei today.
Now Bangkok's pouring rain,
And I haven't seen my girl in 15,000 miles.
Well is it true it's always happy hour here?
And if it is, I'd like to stay a while.
Well as cliche as it may sound,
I'd like to raise another round.
And if your bottle's empty,
Help yourself to mine.
Thank you for your time.
And here's to life.

That ACORN Nonsense

The voter registration group ACORN has a problem: It hires unemployed people to go out and register voters. These people working for ACORN apparently get paid by the number of voters they register. Therefore these workers sometimes tend not to be too discriminatory when registering people to vote; oftentimes the registrations are useless, duplicates, or downright fraudulent. It's the same problem ACORN has faced during every election since its founding almost 40 years ago.

Anyway, this year, ACORN apparently has submitted approximately 30,000 fraudulent voter registrations. Hence, the folks on Fox News, Michelle Malkin, Pajamas Media, and all of the similar Republican blogs are up in arms about ACORN and this "massive voter fraud". I haven't been watching, but it's apparently the number one news story if you are the kind of person who watches Fox News. Evidently, the story even made it as far as the right-leaning Wall Street Journal today.

Some points Fox News (et. al.) fails to mention:

One: The 30,000 registrations were out of a total of 1 million registrations submitted... about a 3% disqualification rate.

Two: ACORN checks each registration they get. However, by law ACORN must submit every registration they receive; they can't throw registrations away just because they might be (or are) fraudulent, although they do fire workers and have law enforcement charge those workers who are obviously "gaming the system". They submit the bad registrations to the registrar, but mark them as "questionable". The 30,000 fraudulent registrations this year were in part registrations that ACORN had marked as "questionable" before handing them in. Duplicate registrations, deceased voters, spelling errors, and incorrect addresses (a bit more difficult for ACORN to perfunctorily pick out) made up the rest. Fox News and company is basically accusing ACORN of committing a crime when ACORN was actually doing exactly what they were required by law to do.

Three: If some shifty ACORN workers convinced even a thousand people to register more than once to vote, that's one thing. (Is registering to vote twice even illegal?) However, shifty ACORN workers somehow convincing a thousand people to commit a felony by getting them to vote twice (with nothing in it for the people breaking the law) in the upcoming election is another thing altogether. Just because Mickey Mouse registers to vote doesn't mean that he's going to actually show up. Therefore: Even a ton of invalid voter registrations will almost certainly not lead to an ounce of "massive voter fraud."

Four: Why would ACORN voluntarily pay workers money for registrations that will almost certainly be rejected by the registrar, tarnish their image, and (as above, possibly) break the law? As above, unless those 30,000 disqualified voter registrations were expected to be used by 30,000 people (one of them in a mouse suit, apparently) to vote twice (and risk felony prosecution), it was a waste of money, and obviously only resulted in tons of bad publicity.

Five: Just so you know, this same argument about ACORN was brought up 4 years ago by Republicans (including Michelle Malkin) during the last election as well. The DOJ found no wrongdoing then, either.

Six: In addition, many of the individual accusations about ACORN that you are hearing on Fox News, which may seem credible, are actually made up. (ACORN "voter fraud" is even being reported in counties where ACORN wasn't even operating.) After 40 years in the business... after nearly a decade of being the #1 target for every Republican accusation of voter fraud... after registering millions of people to vote, why would ACORN risk their existence and their good work on hairball schemes that would at best (the above-mentioned election law and procedural hindrances notwithstanding) result in nothing more than a few thousand fraudulent votes?

Seven: Let's face facts. ACORN registers almost exclusively poor people to vote, primarily black people, mainly in cities. Who do you think one million poor, black, city people are going to vote for in this election? If you are a member of the Republican political machine facing a get-out-the-vote effort of such partisan magnitude, you wouldn't waste a second trying to do at least something about it... discredit it, slow it, hinder it... anything. Excluding the six previous bits of information, with this fact alone, you should have enough to suspect that this might be simply a page torn from the book of Dirty Election Tricks, and nothing more.

Eight: Since I take it upon myself to point out political hypocrisy when I see it, I'll add the following as a postscript parenthetical: (The Republicans are doing the "guilt-by-association" thing again, this time linking Obama to ACORN. Apparently he gave leadership seminars and did legal pro bono work and other dastardly things for the organization's branch in Chicago. So, just for the record, John McCain addressed an ACORN rally in 2006.)

So there it is: The ACORN nonsense that you've been hearing about, put in a little bit broader perspective. I hope it helps.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

More Wedding Photos Than You Can Stand


All of the wedding photos are a bit dark, but they did capture some great moments, and perfect images. I chose the best of about 350 and put them here.

Epril getting some final touches from her mother. Actually, the wedding planner brought in three makeup artists (all transgendered) to handle the wedding party's dressing, hair and makeup. They did a really good job.

My sister, Nancy, Dad and Mom, Neal and Jeanne. My family flew halfway around the world to attend this wedding. I only wish they would have stayed longer than 6 days.

The hillside chapel before the ceremony. It really was a gorgeous view. We rented a large chalet on the hill to the right above this location. It was a bit of a climb up all those stairs though. Off to the left is a great view of the ocean, and back past the front of the chapel is a gorgeous pavillion surrounded by tropical gardens where we had cocktails.

Epril's father, Eddie, and Groomsman Junrey. Epril's father isn't big on smiling for photos, but he really was proud and excited (and just a little nervous) about the day... but that's pretty much how it was for all of us.

Eric, Maid of Honor Susan, and Bob waiting for the ceremony to start. Eric and Bob (along with Stan) flew in from Thailand. My friend Joe was a last-minute cancelation due to a work visa snafu in Thailand. He was missed.

Cocktails served up on the hill before the wedding. There was shrimp, cheese sticks, tempura, as well as an open bar. (Unfortunately, no club soda water could be found for the wedding, so my many vodka-soda drinking guests were a bit let down.)

Best Man Stan, walking down the aisle. (Wedding parties walk in a different order in marriages in The Philippines.) I can't imagine anybody being more excited about being a Best Man than Stan was when I asked him. He took his role in the wedding very seriously, trying several times (at "sober moments" he called them... though decidedly not the case) before the wedding to confirm with me that I was certain I was doing the right thing in marrying Epril. "I have to ask as my duty as Best Man," he said.

Me walking down the aisle with my father and mother. Epril and I wanted to get married in a church originally, but the Catholic Church simply required too much paperwork and class attendance and confirmations and proof of this and that, and there were no Protestant churches within a reasonable distance of Jasaan.

Flower girls Doreen and little Way-Way. In Filipino weddings, they don't hesitate to send out an entire army of little flower girls in advance of the bride, instead of just one girl, like in America.

Ring Bearer Daniel.

Epril walking down from the Chalet overlooking the ocean which we rented for the wedding. (No, I don't know why there are bubbles either. I left out pictures of the smoke machine that went off when Epril walked into the chapel. All I could think of as Epril came out of that cloud of smoke was the way professional wrestlers and football teams burst into an arena through a fog bank to screaming cheers and ear-splitting music... not an entrance I would associate with a solemn and weighty moment... but eh, it didn't really bother me. Besides, Epril was beautiful and a sight to behold, smoke or no smoke.

Here comes the Bride.

The beginning of the ceremony.

Mayor Jardin of Jasaan officiated and gave a speech, while Pastor Lagos offered a prayer and gave quite a nice sermon. (Pastor Lagos wasn't authorized to perform marriages however.) Right during the minute or two that Epril and I were giving our wedding vows, there was a light rain shower... barely a misting. It finished right as we were declared married. It's considered good luck in The Philippines to have a rain shower like this on your wedding day. To have such a shower start right as we started giving our vows, and have it finish right after "I now pronounce you man and wife" must be spectacularly good luck.

Happily married.

Still happily married.

Epril and I, and my Dad and Mom.

The wedding party: (Left to right) Epril's younger sister Ednil, Epril's best friend Marifel, Epril's older sister and Maid of Honor Susan. Epril and me (obviously). Best Man Stan from Thailand, Epril's cousin Junrey, and my friend Mike from The Philippines. Yes... 4 flower girls in total.

Epril and I with the Gontinas family: Ednil, Susan, my Father-in-Law, my Mother-in-Law, younger sister Inday, and then down in front, little sister Dimple, and Susan's daughter, Doreen.

Epril and I with some of our guests. For certain readers (and you'll know who you are), note the fellow in the blue shirt, third from the right: That's Nathan Atienza.

Still happily married, 15 minutes on...

Down the hill to the reception, where we cut our cake(s), had a champagne toast, and ate lots of food.

Then dancing. We hired a local nightclub band which Epril and I adore called The Sunriser Band. They play oldies like it's nobody's business. The most notable part is that their lead singer is a flaming gay boy with makeup and all... but he belts out The Platters, Elvis, and Tom Jones better than those guys could ever do it themselves, and knows how to play to a crowd and entertain better than any front-man I've ever seen.

Epril dancing with Best Man Stan. No... she didn't leave me for him. We're still happily married.

Epril throwing the bouquet, older sister Susan catching it. (That's Stan's girlfriend Diana off to the left side with her hands as far away from a catching effort as possible. I think Stan warned her not to try: He gets excited over any marriage as long as it's not his own.)

In The Philippines, male guests limbo under a ribbon with Epril's garter on it. The first man to touch the garter loses (or wins, depending on your point of view). Epril and I made sure to hold the ribbon nice and high for all the male guests until it was Eric's turn. It was my idea to drop the garter on him, but you can see from the look on Eric's face whom he thought was to blame.

Eric putting the garter on bouquet-catcher, Susan. Eric is extra-shy, but was a great sport and managed to get through the activity.

Epril and I and our parents.

Still happily married.

Then, we danced the rest of the night away.

After the reception, it was off to the nearby village square where Epril and I had hired Daddy Aldrin and Baby Jelly of the local M.O.R. radio station to come and set up a disco. We had a big fireworks display before the party started. We had a fence put up around the entire party site, and then had a separate area fenced off for the wedding guests with chairs, tables, and an open bar. The disco brought out at least 700 people (probably closer to 1,000 with all of the people outside of the fence included), and went on until 2:00 a.m. Epril and I had a dance up on stage in front of the huge crowd, and the disco overall was a huge success, and the security we hired did a good job of making sure there were no problems.

After the disco, of course, it was back to the resort hotel where all of the rooms were filled by the wedding guests from out of town.

All in all, Epril and I couldn't have imagined a better wedding day... and we've been reminding ourselves of that fact pretty much every day since. All of the guests, with some coming from so far away; the picture-perfect wedding ceremony (quite a worry there for a while that it would be far too brief and simple and secular an event); the cocktails and dinner and dancing and wedding games that went off without a hitch; and the fireworks and massive village party after all the rest to top it off.

I hope you enjoy the photos. The memories will last Epril and I a lifetime. Thank you to all who attended, and thank you for all of your well-wishes.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Extra Funny

I told you this site was one of the funniest on they internet. Keep visiting.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Best Article You'll Read This Year

Go read Rolling Stone's article on John McCain. It's the most talked about thing on the internet right now.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

JJ Music Club

I love classical guitar, and one of the best classical guitar pieces ever is Leyenda by Isaac Albéniz. Actually (and I didn't know this) it was originally written for piano. I used to play this piece on the piano, thinking it was adapted from the guitar solo, but it was actually the other way around.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Fun Article

Just a little history lesson on presidential campaigns in order to show you that — contrary to what you might be inclined to believe — if anything, presidential politics is much more clean and civil now than at many (many) points in American history.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Wedding Links

Stan has lots of photos of our wedding up on his blog. (Thanks for letting me steal the above photo, Stan.) Epril and I are still waiting for the official wedding photos. In the meantime, you can read/view Stan's posts here:

The trip out and meeting Jil's US family
The Dynasty hotel and meeting Epril's family at Jil's house
Our last night in Cagayan De Oro
We arrive at Basamangas falls
The Big Day!
The reception
The Disco

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Daily Report: Home At Last

Okay kids. The E-wife (that would be Epril) and I are finally back home, ready to enjoy the beginnings of our domestic bliss. However, we've been going for a week solid with festivities and entertaining. Both of us are dead on our feet to tell the truth.

However, we've saved the next four days off from work to regroup and revitalize (and open presents), so hopefully (assuming the photos start flowing in from all sources, hint hint) we'll be putting up blog entries of our wedding soon.

Hold tight and check back! Now, we're going to sleep.