Sunday, November 30, 2008 Confirms Jil Is A Man

Or at least slightly more man than woman... which is good. Otherwise, it would be hard to explain to my mother.
So gets the (Mister) Jungle Jil seal of approval.

(Oh Stan honey, where have you been hiding your skirts?)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I Noticed That Too

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had watched some friends playing World of Warcraft for the first time, and I made some perfunctory "not really for me" decision... but it was a bit more than that. I couldn't figure out why I didn't find it all that engaging. (Hell: 20 years ago, upon seeing a game like this, I probably would have had a huge mental erection and wouldn't have been able to sleep for weeks.)

Here is a paragraph that sums up what I felt, but couldn't vocalize:
In fact, I struggled to maintain interest in the game. World of Warcraft is structured around quests, almost all of which conform to a small set of patterns: kill x number of enemies, retrieve such and such an item (which usually requires killing x amount of enemies to procure), go interact with such and such an object (which usually requires killing x amount of enemies to get to). The various enemies in the game are often recycled versions of the same things that one sees scattered throughout one's gradual ascent in level. Many parts of the game are beautiful, but beyond a certain level of superficial art, there is simply smoothness. There is no more detail to be absorbed in an area than is immediately obvious, generally speaking, quite unlike the real world, which yields depths upon depths the more one peers. The best experiences were with other players; interaction with them was, of course, complicated and unpredictable.
None of the play that I watched included interaction with other players, so the one part which the person who wrote this considered most worthwhile was the part I didn't see. (Truth be told though, I'm a lone gamer... playing with other people doesn't interest me.) But, it was the shallowness of the world... the lack of intimate details or hidden discoveries that created the deficiency. To me, the game seemed to consist of run-run-run, slash-slash-slash, grab-grab-grab, run-run-run.

Daily Report: Jungle Beauty

Above is Contestant #1.

Contestant #2, the winner.

Contestant #4.

Contestant #5, third place.

Contestant #6.

Contestant #10.

Contestant #11, second place.

Conestant #13.
Not a very good day of work. You would think that complaining about my recent work performance would be the impetus to make a change, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong.

I made spaghetti again for lunch, same as yesterday. I'm like that: I'm either all about the food, or I couldn't care less. If I don't want to make the effort, or can't think of anything in particular, I'll just eat any old thing. I'll do mustard sandwiches for dinner if nobody stops me.

Epril volunteered me as a judge in a beauty pageant last month. It was way up in the hills outside of Jasaan in a village called Natubo, and driving up there, I was thinking, "Way out here? It's going to be a bunch of village girls." However, when I got there, I was really surprised by the beauty of the contestants... all girls from the region.

So, when I was asked again to be a judge, I didn't hesitate. (The pageant organizer likes me for the 1000 pisos I contribute to the show, and the panache of having a foreigner as a judge.)

This one was a bit out of Jasaan as well... further down the coastal highway about 5 or 6 miles. A small fishing village called Jampason. The beauty pageant as per usual started late... at about 9:30. I chatted with the Mayor of Jasaan for a while... who married Epril and me. One of the other two judges was a city counselor, and the third was a local guy who did something with modeling... I can't remember. There was a loud DJ, with disco lights, and a stage.

Once again, the girls were very pretty, and it was a fun show. The first part was the girls wearing "fantasy costumes" which were just bikinis all decorated up with feathers and stuff. After that was a shorts competition, which was bikini tops and shorts. Then there was a bikini competition. Then after that, the girls came back out and did their "bikini grind", which was just a sexy dance. Then awards were given out to the top scorer in each category. Then 3 finalists were chosen, and the judges chose a winner.

It seemed that one of the 3 judges (not me) had a favorite though, and was determined to see her win. Contestant #2 never even ranked in the top 5 of my scoring (except for the bikini grind, where she was quite sexy). Either the other 2 judges both favored her by a bit (which I doubt), or one of the judges was favoring her by a large margin, giving all the other girls 4 and 5 out of 10, while giving her 10 out of 10. By my math, that is the only way it could have worked out.

Anyway, yes, number 2 won. Number 11, who won last month's competition that I judged in Natubo, was second. Number 5, whom I put as a tie to win with number 11 in my final score, was third.

We left Jasaan at midnight on the mark, and got back home at 12:43. That is the fastest I can make that trip without buying a faster motorcycle: I had an empty highway and my bike at its (embarassingly slow) top speed the entire way.

Below is the video of the "bikini grind" which, along with all photos, were taken by Epril. Turn your volume down before watching: The tiny microphone on the camera mated with the big speakers of the pageant sound system, create a god-awful din. Some of the photos aren't too good. I picked one photo of each contestant, and some contestants had only one photo to choose from.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Daily Report: As Scheduled

Standard morning of work. To accentuate my job woes, I've lost a bit of my enthusiasm for work as well. I'm not as motivated, to tell the truth. Well, it's not really surprising when your job starts to suck that you aren't as interested in doing it. From experience though, motivation ebbs and flows for me. Hopefully I'm on the upswing, or soon.

Epril and I had spaghetti for lunch. I finally found an "American flavored" spaghetti sauce: Hunt's. Filipinos like really sweet spaghetti sauce... like Spaghetti-O's. I'm glad I found Hunt's. My next option was to mix the sweet crap with some Mexican salsa to calm it down a bit. Don't know if it would have worked; now I don't have to find out.

We got to Spooks Friday night expatriate get-together a little earlier tonight in order to avoid the rain. It's really kind of weird, but rain here seems to be on a weekly schedule: Every Friday evening (but no other evening) at 6:00 it rains a bunch. Same with Sunday afternoons at 2:00.

The traffic on Friday nights in downtown Cagayan De Oro is really the worst in the world: 5 or 6 square miles of standstill gridlock so thick even bicycles and motorcycles can't move. First, they close off half the streets. Then they disallow all left turns. Then, the city sends these guys in green shirts out to stand in the middle of every downtown intersection to ensure that all remaining opportunities to move in any direction are rendered impossible.

After Spooks, Epril and I finally went to see Quantum of Solace... the new James Bond movie. Third time's the charm. It wasn't bad, but unfortunately the movie had to end with that stupid Hollywood cliché of the good guy duking it out with the bad guy in a building constructed entirely out of boom and toppling catwalks. This time instead of an abandoned factory, it was actually a hotel with a bomb in every room. And catwalks.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Daily Report: Thanksgiving With Family

Epril woke me up in her usual way: Tickling me and poking my face and playing annoying music (which has now been changed to The Chipmunks singing "Funkytown"). I worked through the morning.

For lunch, it was back out to Yureka Japanese restaurant again. This time I had California rolls, which weren't as gook as the sukizaki. Epril had the noodles again, and we shared some soup.

After that, we rode out to Jasaan for Thanksgiving. (I timed it this time at 58 minutes, door to door.) Aside from a couple of Thanksgiving signs around, The Philippines doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, but everybody knows what it is. We didn't do anything particularly special for the day. We just had chicken and rice, and sat around on the lane playing with babies.

Mike Bird (Epril's cousin Emelyn's husband from America, who lives around the corner to Epril's family) has purchased a small wood-fired pizza oven, and is going to set up a little pizza stand in Jasaan. ("Let's see what happens, if it doesn't work, I'll eat the pizzas myself" kind of thing.) I recommended he make little breakfast-muffin-sized pizzas for 10 pisos, rather than frisbee-sized pizzas for 80 pisos. He thought that was a good idea.

Epril and I headed back home at about 8:00.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Who Do We Blame For This Nonsense? Jefferson?

Hillary Clinton might be barred from being Secretary of State by the United States Constitution.

Simply, a member of Congress cannot move to an appointed government position if the salary of that appointed position has been raised during that Congressperson's current term in office.

In other words, after Senator Clinton was elected to the Senate, the salary of Secretary of State has gone up. Therefore, according to the Constitution (maybe... let our panties remain unbunched for now**) she can't take the job.

But seriously: Why is that? What kind of circumstance were the Founding Fathers envisioning that made them put that nifty speed bump in the Constitution? In modern times, almost every federal position has its salary adjusted more than once every 6 years, which makes it impossible for a United States Senator to be appointed to a cabinet position.

I don't care for Hillary much anymore, and I'm ambivalent about her heading up the State Department; but I don't think she should be disqualified from the position based on a Constitutional cantrip. It's a bad precedent too.

(** I figure all Hillary has to do is resign her Senate seat, and then she is no longer an active Senator, and can then take the job. It's just that this is such a no-shit solution, that it might be considered an implicit premise of the law.)

Daily Report: Moving Targets

It wasn't a very good morning of work. I don't know why. I just didn't work very hard, and work was kind of slow on top of that.

For lunch, Epril and I met up with the usual suspects (Andy and Cynthia, Chris and Rhea, and Harry and Bebs) for lunch at The Mulberry Hotel. (We were going to go to Town Restaurant, but the destination was changed at the last minute.) I had their "From Russia With Love" salad for 100 pisos ($2) which was basically a Waldorf Salad to which carrots, potatoes, and bits of cheese had also been added, and hotdog relish mixed into the mayonaise. It was outstanding... and quite large for the price.

The afternoon wasn't much better for work. Same excuse as in the morning. I've had some new accounts added to the list of work that I do, which basically cuts the number of times I will run out of work by about 90%. So, it seems that problem has been averted. I still don't have overtime though, which is the main killer to my financial happiness: I lost over $25,000 per year when I lost my overtime.

In the evening, Epril and I were going to go out to watch the new James Bond movie. (We missed it last Saturday when I used the internet to determine that the movie started at 8:30, when it actually started at 8:00.) So, tonight when we got to the theater, the movie wasn't playing at all. Instead they were previewing some other movie... just for one night.

Apparently God has determined that "Quantum of Solace" shall not be seen by my eyes or something.

Instead, Epril and I went back home and watched "Spiderman 3" on BluRay. (I bought the 3-movie set, that's why I own that clunker.)

More Trouble In Thailand

Anti-government protesters have shut down Bangkok airport and stranded thousands and probably shot this year's tourist season all to hell.


The fact is, these protestors are a minority viewpoint who are protesting against... as they have always been protesting against... the fairly, legally, and democratically elected government of Thailand.

If you are an American, and don't understand the situation, think of it this way: Imagine if Republicans were totally corrupt, but used their positions in government to spend loads of government money on programs that hugely benefitted farmers, blue collar workers, small town residents, and the poorest people in the nation, and because of that, Republicans always won elections with 70% of the vote.

Now, imagine if Democrats (primarily middle-to-upper-class residents of major cities) didn't like the fact that Republicans were enriching their private business interests through their government connections, and started protesting and occupying goverment buildings, shutting down airports, setting off bombs, and insisting that the President, Senate, and House of Representatives all step down.

Now (continuing on with our allegory) the annoying part is that the Democrats have already succeeded once in ousting the President and the Republican Party from government in 2006, and had the military take over governing for a while. They even got the Republican party banned, and the old Republican President has fled the country with a warrant out for his arrest. Then, new elections were held in 2007, and (what a surprise) the Republicans (but under a different name) won the election with 70% of the vote yet again. And now, once again, the Democrats are back in the government buildings, back in the airports, back with the bombs, making the same demands all over again.

Now you have an idea of what is going on in Thailand.

Financial Bailout Most Expensive Thing Ever

An interesting little blog post which compares inflation-adjusted amounts spent on various things in American history versus the current financial bailout.

The entire cost of fighting World War 2 was less than America is spending on saving America's business elite from their own stupidity and avarice.

Cagayan De Oro Brain Drain Killing Business

An interesting article.

It used to be thought that Cagayan De Oro would be an up-and-coming technology center in The Philippines. Instead, what has happened is that talented locals here are being wooed to larger and better-paying companies in Cebu and Manila. Local companies are finding themselves out of business as they spend a lot of time training new employees, only to have them poached as soon as they have enough experience. Having the Mindanao bugbear chasing off investors has been a huge problem as well.

This video talks about medical transcription in The Philippines and points out that it suffers from the same problem as Cagayan De Oro's call centers and other knowledge-intensive jobs: There aren't enough talented employees and too many positions waiting to be filled. Employees will jump ship at the first higher-paying job opportunity... of which there are many.

Also mentioned in the video was an idea that I had as well: The only way to make money at medical transcription in The Philippines is to open up a school to train transcriptionists.

To put it bluntly, here in The Philippines, either you can pay people to get trained by your company before they go off and find a high-paying job, or people can pay you to get trained by your company before they go off and find a high-paying job.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Something You Didn't Know You Wanted To Know

(1) Why is it called Ketchup?

According to two (one and two) sources, in the 1700's in Singapore, British people discovered a local fish sauce called "kichap" (from the Chinese words "fish brine"). These people then went back to England and tried to recreate this sauce using local ingredients, and came up with what would eventually be known as catsup... and then ketchup. (I didn't realize that ketchup has been around for 300 years!)

(2) What is the history of the hotdog?

Hotdogs have been around for a long time as frankfurters (from Frankfurt) weiners (from Vienna), and baloney (from Balogna). They are all basically sausages of highly-pureéd smoked beef and/or pork with very little spice. The first weiner sausage in a roll was introduced in Coney Island in 1870. The buns were invented around the turn of the century. However, they became known as hotdogs when a British fellow began making "dachshund sausages" and selling them at The Polo Grounds baseball stadium in New York City in the early 1900s. Apparently a New York Times reporter couldn't be bothered to find out how to spell "dachshund" and used the word "dog" instead.

(I couldn't find out when hotdogs started to be made out of the nasty leftover bits, or if some hotdogs still are. Probably best not to know, although the USDA explains a lot here.)

Daily Report: Midday Mall Crawl

I had the average morning of work. Susan was back today... as she has been for about 4 out of the 7 days I asked her to move back to Jasaan to give Epril and I some space. I'm not going to be a dick about it. She does go back home (eventually), and does chores while she is here. I think Epril wants some company too.

For lunch, Epril and I went out and paid bills. We added Discovery Science and Discovery Home & Life to our cable package for $1 per month... bringing the cable bill (with 3 boxes) to $11 per month for about 70 channels. (It's not digital though, and there is no interactive menu or even a preview channel to let you know what's on.) Also paid the cable DSL internet bill: $90 per month. I pay for the extra fast connection because, as with all things in Asia, paying the extra money always means less problems, less complaints. If you've ever heard people complain about the cable internet in Cagayan De Oro: I don't have their problems.

The electricity bill broke 5,000 pisos ($100) for the first time. It's usually between 4,500 and 4,900. That's mostly because Susan and Ednil started using the air conditioning. Obviously that should go back down a bit.

After paying the bills, it was off for a wander around Gaisano Mall, and lunch at Jollibee. Jollibee isn't all that bad. They have a "burger steak plate" which is two bun-less burger patties and a scoop of rice covered with a brown mushroom gravy. They also have a very good chili dog. Then, after lunch, we got some shopping/exercise in.

In the afternoon, it was back to work. Then, in the evening, I enjoyed my new Discovery channels, and played video games for a while.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Future Of The Dollar Not So Bright

The man who has been more right about predicting the current state of the economy than anybody else, Peter Schiff, talks about the dollar:

His reasoning for the recent dollar rally:
"It's temporary. It's a result of this massive deleveraging. It's all these U.S. institutions that are having to sell everything they own to settle their margin debt, to pay their bills... When this dollar stops rallying, it's going to fall like a stone."

Daily Report: Jungle Sunday

I had a good morning of work. Then, Epril and I hopped on the Motorstar and cruised out to Jasaan for the afternoon.

Mike Bird, Epril's cousin's husband, is back in town for his every-6-week 2-week break from work. We spent the afternoon looking at houses for sale in and around Jasaan. There are quite a few. We saw one place out on the highway that looked to be about 1400 square feet (140 square meters) on about one-third of an acre (1500 square meters) with a small pond on it and old growth trees. Quite nice, except that it has been sitting empty for about a year and needs some work. That is selling for 1.2 million pisos, or about $24,000.

After that, Epril and I sat around with the family for a bit.

We went down to the fishing docks and had a wander. I got talking to one of the fishermen there, and started asking him about the financials of owning a fishing boat. This is the second such conversation I've had with a fisherman (the first being Epril's father, with 25 years experience), and this fellow told me the exact same thing as before: Fishing boats are quite profitable. If there is anybody reading this blog who knows anything about owning a fishing boat in The Philippines, let me know. I'm really looking for reasons why I should NOT buy Epril's father a fishing boat, and have yet to find any.

In the evening, we joined up with Ron from The Netherlands (his wife couldn't make it) for dinner at The Garden Café in Jasaan.

After that, it was back home to Cagayan De Oro where I played some video games before going to bed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Daily Report: Shopping

Today was simply a fine day.

I was up early, had a good morning of surfing and blogging. Then I had did a fair bit of work.

Please welcome photos back to
Jungle Jil Blog after a 4-month
absence. Our new camera's first
photo: Epril and the bright red
Christmas Tree at SM City Mall.
After that, it was out to SM Mall for lunch at Bibgys. Epril had the pork chop platter, and I had the cannelloni. Then, we went to the electronics store and bought a new camera. Just a bottom-end Sony this time for 8,000 pisos. Epril also bought some puzzle books at National Bookstore.

Then, I had a good afternoon of work.

Tonight, Epril and I were going to go see the new James Bond movie. We left to see the movie after checking the starting time on the website, but unfortunately by the time we got there, the movie had already started 20 minutes earlier.

So, instead we went grocery shopping. I had been told by Andy and Chris earlier that the ATM outside of Banco De Oro at SM mall would hand out up to 25,000 pisos at a pop, but that was not the case: It only gives out 10,000 pisos ($200) at a time, which is the standard for ATMs here. It looks like the best bet is still Citibank with its maximum of 15,000 pisos.

After shopping, it was back home where Epril and I ate munchies, drank Cagayan Punch, and watched "National Treasure 2" on BluRay.

By the way, my best friend Stan has been having a great time with his blog. He's really started blogging in earnest, with lots of photos. He and Jeff and the ladies have continued on with the Friday Night Dining Out tradition without me, and are always finding new and amazing restaurants in Pattaya. And, Stan is always out and about in Pattaya with his camera, taking photos. He doesn't blog about Pattaya news like I used to, but all and all it is fast becoming a great Pattaya blog. I highly recommend a visit.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Daily Report: Just The Two Of Us

I've sent Maid Susan and Kid Sister Ednil back home to Jasaan. It actually wasn't for financial reasons: I'm still having Susan stop by once a week to clean and do laundry and stuff for the same salary as before. Instead, I just wanted to be alone with Epril more. I wanted an emptier house. I didn't want to have to take people other than Epril into consideration when planning my day.

I've had a maid in the house for years now. I got one when I moved into that monstrous house in Pattaya. There, Maid Go had her own private apartments, and I really had the place to myself. Maid Go was simply too good to let go when I moved out of the big place and into the small place. In the small house, Go spent most of her spare time in her bedroom ironing, but it still was a little too crowded. Here in Cagayan De Oro, I have a house that is roughly the same size as the last small house in Pattaya, but now I had 2 maids, and they spent all of their spare time in the living room.

So, now it is just Epril and me. I'm much happier. Epril is better off with the change too. She is like me in that she enjoys puttering about, cleaning here, rearranging there, organinzing and straightening. She's taken to turning off the television and doing puzzle books instead of watching Wowowee with her sisters. And, of course, us newlyweds having the house to ourselves...

Epril and I went to the Japanese Restaurant on the hill for lunch. Then, after an evening at Spooks hanging out with the local expats, we actually went to dinner at another Japanese Restaurant in downtown that I didn't previously know about. (It was raining tonight, so we took a taxi down into town, and heard a radio advertisement for the restaurant on the way to Spooks, so made a last-minute decision to have dinner there.)

Unfortunately, when I got the bill, I noticed that the prices we were charged on all of the items we ate were 4 or 5 pisos higher than what was listed on the menu. Too bad: I was going to write nice things about them here; but now, fuck them and the 20 pisos they scammed me for. If you live in Cagayan De Oro and want Japanese food, don't eat at the Japanese restaurant near the Divisoria. Instead, go up on the hill to the new place (I'll put the name in later, when I remember to write it down).

After dinner, Epril and I walked to Quinze Amigos, and we hung out with the Turners. Mike Turner is having fun researching all of the different people with the name "Michael Turner". He started this project after discovering that there was a convicted felon named Michael Alan Turner (same middle name even) from the same town that he himself grew up in, and that Expat Mike here in Cagayan was accused of being Convict Mike when he was testifying in a court case here in town.

Anyway, there is a famous scientist, a cartoonist, two felons, a profesional football player, and two politicians who share Mike's name. (I joked with him that it must suck being the most boring "Mike Turner" of them all.) Read Michael's blog to find out about all the different Michael Turners out there.

After that, it was a taxi back home, and straight to bed. We were going to go with the Turners to play some pool, but by the time we got done chatting, it was 10:30 at night. Way past our bedtime these days.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I Think He's Starting To Get It

Everybody at the G20 summit is shaking hands with each other... but nobody will shake President Bush's hand. It's not even subtle. Can you imagine what it must be like when the cameras aren't around?

As much as I despise The President, I do feel sorry for The Man: I believe he came into office with good intentions, and of course the vast majority of his day-to-day decisions were correct, and I'm even willing to believe that many of the originally-right-but-turned-wrong decisions he made were at least in good faith. No, I can't forgive him for the knew-it-was-wrong-but-did-it-anyway decisions, but at the same time, look at this video: This is a man, I think, who is suddenly realizing that he has achieved the immortality that all men can only dream of... but this immortality will be as an object of loathing and ridicule.

CNN offers up a correction. Duly noted.

It's obvious what happened: Some CNN video clerk noticed the "no handshake" clip and gave it to his supervisor, who showed it to the director, who during a commercial break, previewed it for Rick Sanchez, who said, "Wow! Look at that! Let's get that on the air!" and then 30 seconds later during broadcast, you get clip #1.

This is a perfect example of the two ever-present fatal flaws of 24-hour news: One, that news makes it into a broadcast while necessary details are still being learned; and two, lacking those necessary details, 24-hour news anchors feel obliged to offer their opinions as a substitute. At least we live in a country where competing news outlets will fact check one another, or (as here, happily) even fact check themselves.

My apologies to President Bush for promoting an incomplete and misleading version of events on my blog. I do still stand by my commentary above, but it obviously no longer bears a relation to the video clip it accompanies.

Not Helping Matters

A deadly blast hits Bangkok.

CNN has a headline titled, "Thailand's Descent Into Chaos".

All coming right at the beginning of Thailand's already-deflated tourist high season. What a disaster for my friends who are business owners in Pattaya. If you guys are reading, you've got my best wishes. I hope you get through this okay.

Daily Report: I Love You Too Darling

A bit of an off day of work today. I spent 4 hours straight working, but only got 3 hours worth of work done... and I thought I was cranking it out.

We had a nice BBQ chicken lunch, and then I had an afternoon nap.

Epril bought a new lighter today to replace the one that exploded on me two days ago. It's the same lighter as the one that exploded, even the same color. She's obviously got it in for me.

Played some video games in the evening. Other than that, nothing much to today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Article On Upcoming US Economic Collapse

Ian Welsh at FDL explains the when-not-if circumstance that will bring about the end of the U.S. as we know it: When the Chinese people can afford to start buying their own products and become a consumer-driven society.
[T]he US needs massive inflows of money from nations like China and Japan in order to finance both the government and private consumption. China and Japan, and other countries, for that matter, have amassed holdings of US securities, cash and so on, in the many trillions, as a result. They have been willing to buy assets that they know they will probably not see a full real return on because the US buys their exports, and in China's case, is busily shipping American jobs to China, thus industrializing China.

The world needs the US because the US is the "consumer of last resort". It buys everyone else's stuff, issues a pile of securities and dollars in exchange, and exports industrialization to China in exchange for deindustrialization and cheap consumer goods at home, which kept down inflation for a very long time.

When China has a large internal market which has reached takeoff, it can sell mostly to itself, and will no longer need the US as much. Neither will any other country, since they can sell to China, with a much larger market. Sure, everyone'll be happy to sell to the US, but they won't need to. At that point, when the US has a financial crisis (and it will, unless things are cleaned up) China doesn't have to keep buying up treasuries or see its own economy crash out. It can say "no thanks". It can even start offloading all the crap securities it has. If it, or other countries do so, the US dollar crashes the floor.

At that point China has the US over a barrel.

Temple Made From Beer Bottles In Thailand


Daily Report: With Lunch Sandwiched In

Epril got me out of bed in the usual fashion. Now she's playing The Chipmunks singing "Funkytown" in my ear.

Work went okay in the morning... although with the low amount of work, I notice that more and more people are working late in the evening to scrape by. Even at midnight back in America, there were 10 or 15 people plugging away.

I've been talking to people I work with, and there are, of course, other transcription companies out there, and their compensation is equal to or better than the company I'm working for now. (However, I have seniority, maximum vacation, maximum annual bonus, and my 20% "stat" overnight bonus to offset that.) The plan is that if at the beginning of 2009 things haven't improved in terms of work running out (say... mid-February), I'll move to a different company. The only problem is that such a move will require at least a couple of weeks back in America. (At least I hope it is only a couple of weeks. Any more than that, and I will lose my $15,000 overseas tax credit for 2009.)

Epril and I had a lunch date with Andy and Cynthia, Chris and Rhea, and Harry and Bebs at Country Steakhouse. Epril and I had their hamburger for 170 pisos ($3.40) which was really quite good — definitely the best hamburger in Cagayan De Oro — although I'll have to remember to tell them to skip the mayonnaise next time.

In the afternoon, upon getting back from lunch, work was very low, and I had to go into accounts I'm not actually scheduled to work in to snag jobs.

I've been watching "Fearless Planet" by the Discovery Channel on BluRay. It's pretty good, but not as good as the stuff the BBC puts out. Still though: I wish all of this excellent educational programming were around when I was a kid... I'd have learned so much more. (The best we had back then was the occasional "Wild Kingdom" with that white-haired fellow, and "Cosmos" which I did soak up like a sponge.)

The piso finally crossed back over to 50 per dollar today. Hallelujah and keep going. The Thai baht is up to 35 to the dollar, which is not nearly as substantial an improvement. The PI has to be looking better and better for those of you partying in Thailand, I imagine: A beer at a bar here costs $1 or less, and a beer at a bar in Thailand costs $3 and up. (You mongering types know the mongering prices too. I assume that's probably better as well.) Actually, with the crime, the visa regulations, the quality of the girls on stage, and the general sense of antagonism coming from the locals in Pattaya, I'm surprised there are still mongers left in Pattaya at all. If only Angeles City had a beach, eh?

Well, in the interest of encouraging tourism, here are the prices of things in Cagayan de Oro:

Cost of a cheap hotel room: 800 P ($16 / 560 baht).
Cost of a good hotel room: 1,300 P ($26 / 910 baht).
Cost of a good hotel suite: 3,000 P ($60 / 2,100 baht).
Dinner & drinks for 2 at town's best rest.: 1,200 P ($24 / 840 baht).
Beer, happy hour, Spooks Gogo bar: 25 P (50 cents / 17.5 baht).
Beer, regular, Spooks Gogo bar: 50 P ($1 / 35 baht).
Beer, Pulse Disco: 40 P (80 cents / 28 baht).
Mixed drink, Pulse Disco: 80 P ($1.60 / 56 baht).
Taxi, 8 km trip: 100 P ($2 / 70 baht).
Jeepney, across town: 8 P (16 cents / 5.6 baht).
Jeepney, 30 miles out of town: 30 P (60 cents / 21 baht).
Rent: Studio apartment: 5K P/month ($100 / 3,500 baht).
Rent: House, 100 sq. m.: 10K P ($200 / 7,000 baht).
Rent: House, 150 sq. m.: 15K P ($300 / 10,500 baht).
Rent: House, 200 sq. m.: 20K to 30K P ($400-$600 / 14K-21K).
Movie, SM mall: 50 P ($1 / 35 baht).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Daily Report: Surprises, Some Even Pleasant

I was sitting at my desk today when the cigarette lighter sitting next to my wallet, about 18 inches from face, exploded. No reason for it. Just a very loud pop... slightly louder than a champagne bottle uncorking. (I checked: Made in China.) It broke into about 3 large pieces, and 6 or 8 smaller pieces... and a stink of butane. No flame. No cuts or anything, and I was holding my coffee mug up to my face when it went.

There is a new little Japanese restaurant opened up just outside the entrance to my housing estate. I've been watching the place under construction for the better part of a month, anticipating. The head chef and owner is actually from Japan. The place is tiny, with just four 2-person tables, and an open kitchen surrounded by a bar. Epril and I went there for lunch. We had a soup for 60 pisos ($1.20), a beef with sesame seeds over rice for 170 pisos ($3.40), and a very large portion of California rolls for 175 pisos ($3.50). If you live up on the hill, you definitely should stop by.

This past Sunday, we had a group of friends over to the house after our usual roast beef Sunday lunch at Kingston Lodge. Andy and Cynthia were there, Chris and Rhea, and Harry and Bebs. We mostly just sat around and watched a couple of movies... but it was nice to have some visitors for a change, instead of constantly going out.

Epril and I finally got the video of our wedding back. Unfortunately, the video editors burned the DVD as one entire 45-minute scene, so there aren't any 2 or 3 minute portions that I can yank out to put on YouTube. We're going to try to get the original video stock.

Monday, November 17, 2008

And One Step Back

Sadly, another one of my predictions might be coming to pass. Since Obama's election, gun sales are skyrocketing (although mostly through a combination of NRA-fueled fears regarding gun ownership restriction coupled with price discounts), as are racially-oriented crimes (so far, thankfully, almost all incidents without physical violence).

I can only hope that the grace and tolerance of Americans at large militates upon the sensibilities of those few who would harm others in racial antipathy. The nation's history notwithstanding, we all know... even those who would aggress their countrymen know... that America isn't about that.

Friday, November 14, 2008

But, Oh How They Hate It If It Happens To Them

Conservative Christians — after their boycott of Disney, Ford, McDonalds, and Walmart for providing financial support to gay-positive causes — are shocked (shocked I tell you!) that gay people are boycotting California businesses that gave financial support to the anti-gay-marriage amendment in California.

Daily Report: Dodging The Future

I've been studying and calculating and analyzing what effect all of the recent changes in my job has had on my workload and how much I earn. After two weeks on the speech recognition, I've calculated that it represents a 12% pay cut for me.

I work the night shift in America, and I've mentioned that I've run out of work a couple of times this week, but it is either right before I start work, which quickly remedies itself, or right at the end of work, when it doesn't really matter. Using speech recognition is faster than typing (albeit not so much faster as to offset the lower pay that goes with it), and thus more work is being done by each transcriptionist. There was a balance in workload before the S.R. came along: There was enough work to keep everybody busy... as busy as they wanted to be.

That balance is now off.

It's mostly during the daytime. Before going to bed last night — at about 11 a.m. on the East Coast — I checked the work flow, and at that particular instant in time, there were 40 transcriptionists in my little department and 110 jobs available. Normally, there would be 3 to 5 times that number of jobs.

I'm lucky that transcriptionists are mostly stay-at-home moms who want to get in 5 or 6 hours of work before the kids come home from school and in between housekeeping obligations. When 5:00 rolls around, most of them are done for the day. That is when I start working, and that is also about the same time that doctors start dictating their reports for the day. (Also, as I work overnight, all of the emergency room doctors are dictating their emergency reports, and give me a pretty steady flow of work.) I generally have enough work to last me through the night... and certainly much, much more than the each person during the day is currently receiving.

So it seems that lots of people at my company have very little work to do... and they are getting paid less now for what little work there is than ever before. It's an awful time to be a transcriptionist, and I'm just lucky to be on the night shift, and a very gung-ho worker, or I'd be in the same boat as the rest of the transcriptionists... only I'd be half a world away from any alternate job opportunity.

To further improve my situation, I've started volunteering to take on the most daunting dictations and the most difficult accounts: Accounts that transcriptionists with no experience, transcriptionists who live in India, or computers that are designed to replace transcriptionists will never be able to do. It's a little bit slower at first until you get a data file built up for each doctor, and you learn their own peculiar jargon and prosody, but eventually (a) I'll be back up to speed with those doctors, and (b) I'll have pretty solid job security for the next five to seven years at least.

My company constantly sends out Orwellian bromides about how important "we" are to "their" success, but as I see it, as soon as my company can find an additional 2,000 Indian transcriptionists to do that speech recognition work for one third the cost, that is where it will go.

Five years ago, my company used to say, "We'll never ship your jobs to India." Now they say, "You'll never lose your job to India." It's true: They never will lay any employee off. They'll just have thousands of employees who are making no money, who will simply quit. (Then, eventually... maybe in a year and a half... with a vastly reduced American workforce, a balance in "work to do" and "transcriptionists to do it" will be re-achieved, and things will settle down.)

Anyway, keeping myself up to my neck in work by improving my transcribing skills is the short-term plan... 6 months. The medium-term plan over the next 3 years is to create a supplemental income that will take some of the pressure off me due to the persistent decline my industry seems to be in. The long-term plan, looking up to 6 years out, is to increase the supplemental income, and slowly migrate my work skills to a more stable industry.

Anyway, as for the rest of my day, Epril and I went out to Spooks tonight to visit with our usual circle of friends. After that, we went over to Chris MacQueen's apartment for pizza.

Chris and Andy were playing "World of Warcraft" on their computers, which I had never seen before. As much as I like fantasy adventure games, I'm not sure it's quite my style. It's almost certainly not a game that someone who wants to spend 8 hours a day at work (and 4 hours a day with his wife) would want to get involved in.

After that, it was back home for a bit of TV before going to bed.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sometimes I Forget

I was missing Pattaya today, so I clicked on my Google news link to see what is going on in my old home:

Murders, suicides, accidents, shootings, stabbings, beatings, robberies, scams, fires, drownings, drugs, and drunks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Daily Report: Out For BBQ

Up early again (thanks Epril). I got to work a bit later than yesterday... mostly just wandering around aimlessly on the internet while I had my coffee.

For lunch, Susan made a nice chicken in sweet orange sauce. We've finished "Carrier", we've finished "Doctor Who" (4 seasons' worth), we've finished "Heroes". Now, we're on to the second season of "24" for our lunch break television.

After lunch, I edited a picture of Inday (see photo here or scroll down) in her Thai gown on a great photo-editing website that I found online called (Once again: If I was still a graphic artist in New York City... yadda yadda yadda.) As far as free online photo editing programs go, it's easily the best I've seen. It's far from perfect, and the lag time is pretty bad (though that may be this old computer and my internet connection), but as far as editing tools go, it offers just about anything an amateur would need to do quick touch-ups. I will say though that it has a bit of "sculpting with a chain saw" feel to it. It's hard to be nuanced and subtle in your edits.

I put in a short afternoon at work: Jobs ran out at about 4:00 a.m. back in America. I have a feeling I'm going to be seeing more of that. They've moved a suprising amount of doctors to the speech recognition software (even some ESL speakers). Although I find it slower to do the S.R. than to just type it out, I am in the top 1% of transcriptionists, speed-wise. Most of my slower coworkers are getting more done with the S.R. than they did before. The result will be less work for those of us who want it.

Well, at least until people start quitting. Hopefully that isn't too far away.

Epril and I went out for BBQ at Quinze Amigos tonight. One of those typical almost-a-shack type affairs with plastic chairs and tables, open air dining, a couple of macacas in cages, big ornery fish in a tank, and a coca-cola refrigerator filled with San Miguel beer for 40 cents per bottle.

Epril and I selected a couple of chicken leg/thighs on a stick, and 6 skewers of pork, which the fellow behind the grill proceeded to cook for us, brushing it all with a fine BBQ sauce. We had 2 beers, 1 coke, 2 quarter chickens, 6 pork skewers, and 2 plates of rice. Total price $3.70.

After that, when I got back home, I noticed that some more work had become available while I was out, so I sat down and put in another 45 minutes before going to bed. (It's possible there won't be anything to do when I wake up in the morning, so I figured I might as well get some down now just in case.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Thought On That Mormon / Prop 8 Thing

I have to admit, Mormons aren't the reason Proposition 8 passed in California. It's 52% of Calfornians who are the reason. I can countenance a little low-brow tit-for-tat, goose/gander action (like my idea from the other day) against Mormons... but the way that the anti-Prop-8 protestors are targeting the Mormon Church with menacing temple-front demonstrations, chest-thumping objurgations of the "this-is-all-your-fault" variety, and scheming punitory legal action against the Mormon church for doing what was well within their rights to do is not very productive.

Dale Carpenter says it best:
Here's my advice to righteously furious gay-marriage supporters: Stop the focus on the Mormon Church. Stop it now. We just lost a ballot fight in which we were falsely but effectively portrayed as attacking religion. So now some of us attack a religion? People were warned that churches would lose their tax-exempt status, which was untrue. So now we have (frivolous) calls for the Mormon Church to lose its tax-exempt status? It's rather selective indignation, anyway, since lots of demographic groups gave us Prop 8 in different ways — some with money and others with votes. I understand the frustration, but this particular expression of it is wrong and counter-productive.
Hat tip Sullivan.

Interesting Article

It is amazing how little Americans understand the middle east, the area of the world in which we are so heavily invested with our finances, manpower, and political capital.

Take this article, for instance. The Shi'ite/Sunni acrimony and animosity has popped up in the new leadership in Pakistan, and now Iran and Saudi Arabia are pulling strings there.

Daily Report: Through The Hours

I've been getting up early once again, with Epril's help. I've never met someone as bubbly and energetic in the morning as my wife. She pokes my nose and pulls my mustache and pries my eyelids open, giggling and laughing the whole time, until I finally get out of bed. She sets the alarm on her Nokia to blast really annoying music as an additional aid, and holds it to my ear. Her current otalgic choice is that rakish roundelay, Macarena. (Last month was Eye of the Tiger.)

I had a fair morning of work. I put in the requisite number of hours, but spent most of my time with my attention divided. Days are like that sometime: I can work, but just don't have the discipline to give it my full attention; the desire to make quick visits to Internet Explorer to read about something frivolous, or write a personal e-mail is too great.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Epril, Susan and Ednil watched silly Filipino game shows and laughed. Combined, they have the most annoying laugh: It's similar to the sound of a newspaper wiping Windex off the living room window. Squeak! Squeak! Sqweeeeek! Swk-swk-swk-swk! Squeak!

In the evening, Epril and I watched "The Baby Human" on The Discovery Channel. I really can't think of any behavioral science that I find more fascinating than studying infants and toddlers. The clinical studies that these scientists do, and the empirical findings that they make, and how much they have learned about what babies think, learn, understand, and process just impresses me immensely.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Fun Idea

Based on this idea from somebody at Daily Kos: I figure that since the Mormons came to California and used their money and efforts to pass Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in the state, gay people should use their money and efforts to pass a Constitutional Amendment in Utah banning divorce.

Think about it: Get the Mormons to put their vote where their mouths are in order to enact a constitutional amendment about the sanctity marriage... but this time, make sure it actually effects Mormons personally.

Of course, if Mormons decide to vote against a Constitutional Amendment banning divorce in Utah, they'd be huge hypocrites, as they work to strengthen marriage in ways that only requires changes from other people, in other states, but not being willing to strengthen their own marriages in their home state.

I love the Catch. I love the 22. Oh: And no joke, I'd give such an Amendment a 50-50 chance of passing.

Daily Report: Away From My Desk

I worked 90 minutes this morning. I figured it was actually a perfect representation of what the future of my job will look like, based on the proportion of different types of work I got (speech rec. with good and fair authors, plus regular transcription). At the end, it looks like there will be a slight reduction in pay — about 10% to 15% — using speech recognition. (The 99% of transcriptionists who were slower typists than me will see either no change or an increase in their pay... so it's not a scam or anything. It's just a leveling of the playing field whereas before I had a big advantage in earning ability.)

At noontime, Epril and I went and joined all the other filipatriate couples (that's my new invented word for couples consisting of a Filipina and expatriate, jot it down somewhere) at Kingston Lodge for their weekly roast beef dinner. We sat with Andy and Layla, Nelson and Shiela, and Chris and Rhea. Epril decided to take a break from roast beef this week and instead ordered pancit. She paid the price when her lunch finally arrived after everyone else was finished with theirs.

After that, Epril went out shopping at Gaisano Mall while I stayed at home.

There is a new alcoholic beverage being sold in stores that is a strawberry-margarita-flavored drink. It tastes vaguely similar to the Thai wine cooler "Spy Pink" actually. It tastes quite a bit like a strawberry margarita, but not quite. I sat around with my blender and tried to mix the drink in with tequila, triple sec, and lime juice to see if I could come up with a proper-tasting strawberry margarita, but couldn't coax enough strawberry flavor out. (I also tried using the strawberry lambanog instead of tequila, and that worked a little bit better.) I might try to use it accentuate the flavor of the bitter little strawberries that they sell here in The Philippines. Bob McCrea and I are dedicated to making good strawberry margaritas here... while lacking all of the fundamental ingredients except tequila.

I got to the very end of my Ratchet & Clank game and found that I didn't have enough bolts to upgrade my weapons to beat the evil emperor... so I'm stuck. Instead of going back and getting more bolts, I'm moving on to Final Fantasy VII (PlayStation 2).

Saturday, November 8, 2008

An Engineering Game

"Assembler". It's pretty straightforward until you get to the 16th level (level 3 pictured above)... then it turns into an engineering brain twister. I made it through all 18 levels. (Finished the 18th level in just under 300 seconds... see if you can beat it.)


"At the end of the evening, the electoral vote count was 349 for Obama, 148 for McCain. Or, as Fox News says, too close to call."

"How about Sarah Palin, ladies and gentlemen. Right now on her way back to Alaska. And I'm thinking oh, I wouldn't want to be a moose now."

David Letterman

Friday, November 7, 2008

Daily Report: Little Changes

I had a great day of work today. I got up early and worked for 7 hours straight before calling it a day at 3:00. Why can't all days go this well at work?

My mother sent me the PBS documentary "Carrier", about a WestPac cruise aboard the USS Nimitz... the ship I spent 2 years on when I was fresh out of high school. The girls and I have been enjoying it. I've only recognized a few places: Most of the film is spent on the 03 Level and higher, while I spent most of my time on 2nd deck and lower (storekeeper, I was... down in the hold). The major difference now is that women are members of the crew, which is quite cool.

The only problem I have with women on board ship is that their presence seems to have destroyed the 400-year-old tradition of becoming a shellback. When I crossed the equator for the first time (along with about 5,000 out of the 6,000 crew) in December of 1988, it was a pretty harsh 6 hours: We spent the entire time on our hands and knees, crawling on lacerating non-skid decking; getting spanked with lengths of salt-water-hardened thick fire hose the entire way; then getting our faces mashed into the biggest, hairiest, greased-up beer belly on the ship; and then crawling through a 30-foot tube of rotten food before graduating to the status of shellback. When I was finished, I felt like I had really accomplished something. The things I had to do in and of themselves were a bit pointless and definitely painful and gross, but it added up to an experience I'll never forget, and a title (Shellback) that carries a bit of weight among Navy people... or at least it used to.

Now, apparently, the only thing that wogs (the pre-shellback crew) have done to them is getting sprayed lightly with a firehose (not even on full blast), told to do calesthenics, and be shouted at. No hitting, no crawling, no nasty belly face mash, no rotten food. Oh: And the raunchy and hillarious drag show to choose Amphritrite the night prior has been replaced by some dorky talent show. I think they should call people who go through this new version of equator crossing "Cruise Ship Shellbacks" or at least "21st Century Shellbacks" to connote the differences in experience that they had compared to their predecessors.

For all you military folks out there who aren't Shellbacks, think of it this way: Imagine if boot camp was suddenly turned into summer camp because girls were in it. You might approve of the fact that endless marching and exhausting hours, the tedious uniform folding, the pointless rifle salutes, the draining calesthenics and the heavy-handed discipline are gone... but part of you realizes that the boot camp experience gave you a sense of accomplishment, a bit of pride, and an appreciation of military tradition.

Anyway moving on. It was pouring rain tonight. (Height of dry season? It's raining constantly now.) That put a stopper in going out. Instead, I sat home and played Ratchet & Clank on PlayStation.

I also figured out a way to butch up my Cagayan Cocktail a bit, in a bid to acknolwedge a fair sentiment from a commenter:

1. Four parts strawberry Lambanog. (Or 4 parts vodka and a splash of grenadine if you want.)
2. Two parts of triple sec.
3. One part Rose's lime juice.
4. Four parts beer.
5. Two parts orange juice.

Epril went out to Jasaan today. Little sister Inday was in a school pageant today and was assigned to dress up like somebody from Thailand. (I wonder why?) Epril and I supplied Inday with a formal gown from Thailand. I haven't seen the pictures yet, but they should be nice. As you can see, she looked quite nice, and made quite an impression.

Also, a belated thank you to those of you reading who helped get this dress to Inday.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hey. Who You Callin' Energetic?

The Onion is fast becoming the best political satire in America.

"For the past year and a half, thousands of Obama's most obsessive supporters have devoted their every waking moment to the Obama campaign. Last night they were celebrating his victory, but today they woke up to the cold realization that they have nothing to fill their pathetically empty lives.

I think a lot of people just hope these people will die, but worst case scenario is that someone with evil intent seizes control of them. They've proven their minds can be taken over with empty rhetoric. So if someone were to come up with a catch phrase as simple and vague as "Yes We Can", they would have an entire army of extremely energetic, insufferably annoying, mindless pawns at their command."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Acrimony With A Dash Of Hypocrisy Sure Is Tasty

Republican columnist Bob Novak in 2004: Bush's 3.5 million vote victory over Kerry was a "mandate". (Remember that term bouncing around? It was Novak who started it.)

Republican columnist Bob Novak in 2008: Obama's 7.5 million vote victory over McCain is not a "mandate". (And yes, he even used the word "mandate".)

Ah... the election may be over, but unfortunately hypocrisy never dies. My mission continues.

Thanks to Think Progress for giving me something to write about on a slow work morning.

For All Of You Poll Doubters Out There I told you that was the place to go. I told you they were good... but their final entry on the beginning of election day is uncanny:
Our model projects that Obama will win all states won by John Kerry in 2004, in addition to Iowa, New Mexico, Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Florida and North Carolina, while narrowly losing Missouri and Indiana. These states total 353 electoral votes. Our official projection, which looks at these outcomes probabilistically — for instance, assigns North Carolina's 15 electoral votes to Obama 59 percent of the time — comes up with an incrementally more conservative projection of 348.6 electoral votes.

We also project Obama to win the popular vote by 6.1 points; his lead is slightly larger than that in the polls now, but our model accounts for the fact that candidates with large leads in the polls typically underperform their numbers by a small margin on Election Day.
Final real world tally? Obama with 349 electoral votes, and a margin of 6.1 points. Bam.

One Last Kick When She's Down

(Not that she doesn't have it coming:)
NEWSWEEK has also learned that Palin's shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy. One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family—clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill. Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent "tens of thousands" more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as "Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast," and said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books.
Don't expect Sarah Palin's star to rise too high or burn too brightly after this election. That lady was belle ideal for everything that was wrong with the Republican Party in recent history. Don't count on Republicans of any stripe to be turning to her any time soon for answers.

Yes, she'll probably get elected to the US Senate when Stevens gets shown the door (Alaska elected her once, they'll probably do it again), but she's lost her new-car smell, and the Republican Party higher-ups (as well as fellow Senators) aren't going to be giving her any more chances to "go rogue" and fuck up the program. And don't think for a minute that the you betchas and winks are going to help her in the back rooms of Congress, on the Senate Floor, or in Washington social circles.

The Anchorage Daily News is even less optimistic about Sarah Palin's future than I am.

Fox News tells us that McCain campaign staffers... boy do they have some stories to tell about Sarah Palin now that the election is over.

Work Update

God, it's been a fucked up month.

At the same time Epril and I were getting married, my company was switching everybody over to new software. When I got back from my vacation, my entire work world was turned upside down: Old accounts were gone, new and unfamiliar (and dreadfully slow) accounts put in their place. The new software was... well... new, and slower (and a month down the road, it still is a bit slower, mostly due to a time-consuming quality scan that it runs every time you submit finished work product back to the company's servers).

My company told me 'no more overtime' until further notice. (I kind of brought that one on myself, putting in 70-hour weeks before the wedding, and getting crazy paid.)

Then, last week I woke up to find all of the easiest dictations had been switched to voice recognition. So I went all last week listening to nothing but Indian, Russian, and Chineese accents. (Now, I've finally got them down well, and I'm back roughly to my old speed.)

On Monday, I attended online training to do the V.R. jobs, and now those are flowing in hot and heavy, and represent about 66% of my workload. The pay rate is two-thirds that of regular work. The V.R. is a work in progress: You open up a dictation with the text already there, listen to the voice file, and fix the errors that the V.R. software has made. The software is suprisingly accurate, as it goes back and looks at your corrections after you submit the job, and updates a file for each doctor. It even learns to start putting in formatting and punctuation that the doctor doesn't even dictate.

The unfortunate part is that, in the same way that paving over a road with 100 potholes is faster than filling each pothole, typing a report from scratch is faster than fixing bunches of errors. So, for the time being, pay has gone down. However, as the software learns more, the number of mistakes will go down, and the speed should increase to... oh... about 50% faster than what I could have typed, which is precisely a wash in terms of money earned. (Since I type at 120 words per minute, I have to be listening at 180 words per minute — and be editing at the same time — to break even.)

Anyway, after a topsy-turvy month at work, coupled with my attention being focused on the election... I can finally feel my world stop spinning too quickly. It sure feels good to have things returning to a more "certain" and "regular" stance.

Jeebus. I just logged on to work and all of the accounts are empty. That's rare. Well, it's early: The flow of my day is (1) start working at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, and spend 3 or 4 hours doing work left over from day shift, and (2) start working again at 2:00 a.m. Eastern, and spend 3 or 4 hours doing stuff from earlier that wasn't finished, as well as all of the reports that doctors dictate while at home in the evening, or at midnight after getting off the swing shift (always a pile). Occasionally (as will be the case today, to make up for having nothing this morning), there is (3) go back to work at 6:00 a.m. Eastern (after dinner for me) and put in another 2 hours of work doing whatever is available.

Epril woke up and just came in and asked me to massage her butt. She was playing badminton yesterday, and now she is sore. Well, now at least I have something to spend my morning on. Heheh.

Oops. Turns out that voice recognition jobs don't appear in the same "work available" list as the regular jobs. There was a fine amount of for me to do that I missed. So, I could have had work, but Epril's butt is better.


This is precisely what I had hoped to hear, phrased even better than I could have imagined it. (Via Sullivan)

"Today, reality in America has superseded fantasy. ... Americans have struck a deadly blow to racism all over the world. Americans have regained themselves and have regained the American dream. The picture of the U.S. that was disfigured by the Republicans in the past eight years fell from the wall today. The picture of the America we had in our minds has taken its place."

— Dawood al-Shirian, deputy head of
Al-Arabiya TV and one of Saudi Arabia's
most prominent columnists.

Farce, Thy Name Is Onion

Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job.

Daily Report: A New Era Dawns With A Yawn

I spent the morning watching election returns. It was kind of cool: I did split screen and used the Playstation 3 to browse the internet while I watched Fox News (forgive me: they were the only channel broadcasting House results) for the coverage.

All in all, the results were quite underwhelming: The Presidential race was never in doubt, but the Democrats underperformed by a fair margin on the downticket races. Moreover, the passage of Proposition 8 in California (taking away gay people's marriage rights... passed primarily with the help of black people... oh the hypocrisy), along with similarly mean-spirited measures passing in Arkansas and Florida, was a black eye on what was otherwise a grand and historic night.

Obama is America's new President. I remember watching him speak at the 2004 Democratic Convention and thinking to myself with certainty that he would be America's first black president... someday. Who would have imagined then that someday would come so soon?

I finally got to work at about 4:00 in the afternoon.

At 7:00, Epril and I had a dinner date at Ron and Eve Van Orden's house. Epril wore her pretty white and pink dress. For dinner, there was grilled chicken breast, with (joy!) baked potatoes with sour cream, chives, and Bac-O's... a treat half a world away from Idaho (although Bac-O's could be Chinese cardboard soaked in melamine... not sure). The wine flowed, and the conversation was great.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Final Election Prediction

I predict that Obama (or McCain) won't be declared the winner of Tuesday's election until Wednesday morning... and I don't mean after midnight... I mean breakfast time. The networks won't declare a winner until then.

The way I see it, so many people are going to be voting, it's going to clog the system. Everywhere. The majority of states will probably have to extend the polling schedule in at least a couple of districts by several hours (maybe even as late as midnight in some areas; if there is a 6-hour line when polls close at 7 p.m., there you go). If closing times are extended in New York or Texas or California until late night, that's one thing: everybody knows who is going to win those states. However, without results from Florida, Virginia, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, and half a dozen others, nobody will be able to figure anything out for certain.

Then, of course, all of those states will still have poll workers tabulating through the night, and there will be enough problems to delay releasing results until the rest of America is waking up on Wednesday.

Well, happily I was wrong. I'll never grumble about having one of my pessimistic predictions fail to come true. I haven't heard any complaints about voting yet, or any polling snafus. Other than the obvious news tonight, if I find out that this election went off without a hitch; that everyone who wanted to vote was allowed to vote, and within the scheduled time frame — compared to what America had been through on several previous elections — it would be the best news.

Uh-oh. Minutes after Update 1, it looks like the distant rumble of trouble can be heard coming out of Georgia. FiveThirtyEight says the early word is that somebody might have forgotten to add in the early voting results... a million votes which were heavily Democrat. Not too much news for Obama — although a Georgia win would be nice — but Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss (currently winning at 50.1%) just shat himself.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

You Suck At Photoshop

I'm sure if I was still a fancy-schmancy Manhattan graphic artist, I would have heard of this guy a long time ago. But I'm not, so I haven't.

Donnie teaches Photoshop in an online course titled "You Suck At Photoshop": Every week, he puts together little 5-minute lessons, with each one showing a different cool feature of the world's top image-editing software. It's very informative, but that's only part of it. The fun part is that each lesson is also an angst-ridden episode of Donnie's depression, desperation, fury, and impending psychosis over his wife having left him for another man.

Just watch.

A Blog Post About Daylight Saving Time

Epril and I were at a party last night and one obvious topic of discussion was Daylight Saving Time, which happened last night.

I realized I knew virtually no facts about daylight savings time. So, after reading up today about DST on wikipedia, I have the following tidbits of information to share:

(1) Benjamin Franklin did not propose or invent DST. He just recommended people get up at sunrise. However, one of his reasonings — to save candles — was the eventual "official" reasoning behind DST: To use less electricity by turning on lights later.

(2) Holy $h1t... A guy at the party was right: DST was the brainchild of a British fellow, William Willett, who in 1905 proposed the idea because (among other reasons) he wanted more daylight to play golf during the summer time.

(3) DST was first used by Germany in World War One in 1916. Britain and her allies came next, followed by Russia, and then finally The United States in 1918. (Not after World War Two, as another person at the party suggested.)

(4) DST is not around in winter because there isn't enough sunlight to make it saving it worthwhile, and they also didn't want kids walking to school in the dark. (That was the one bit of information I knew... but I thought that that was the main reason for DST.)

(5) Other pro-considerations for DST: Economic benefit to stores from extra daylight, fewer road accidents, better health due to more time spent outside in the evening.

(6) Other anti-considerations for DST: The obvious confusion, and the fact that there is no actual major energy benefit from DST anymore.

(7) And yes, it is true: Arizona does not observe daylight saving time.

Personally, I wish they would forget about daylight saving time, and just take the standard day and shift it permanently forward by 2 hours: That way, in New York state where I grew up, New Year's Day sunrise would be at 9:45 a.m. and sunset at 6:45 p.m., and a July 4th sunrise would be at 7:00 a.m. and sunset of 11:00 p.m. Here in the Philippines, where summer days are only one hour longer than winter days, the sun would come up at an average time of 7:45 a.m. and would set at an average time of 7:45 p.m. That's not as cool as having an 11:00 p.m. sunset, but it's a hell of a lot better than always having the sun go down before 6:00 every evening.