Friday, January 30, 2009

A New Balance In America and the Future It Shows


Based on a concatenation of every poll that Gallup did in 2008 (a total of 350,000 people), there are only 5 states left in America that can be considered "Republican", while 35 states can be considered "Democrat". (The reason why there is a difference between this map and the results from the presidential election is because this map shows "all people", not just likely voters or registered voters... which more accurately depict election results.)

You would imagine that this is the point in time when Republicans might assume a more conciliatory tone, recognize that the "kumbaya atmosphere" that America is experiencing is not an opportune moment to play spoiler on popular legislation, and perhaps (just perhaps) play the part of "concerned-and-sober-minded" minority instead of the "let's do whatever it takes to stop the liberals" gang of pissy thugs who have been voting near-unanimously against meaningless but sensible legislation, such as moving to digital TV (because it's suggested by the Democrats), or taking a dump on equal pay for women (because it's suggested by the Democrats). America just isn't in the mood for this.

It really does make you wonder just how dumb (or suicidal) the Congressional Republicans are. Nate Silver ponders:
It's not just the goose egg that the House Republicans laid on the Democratic stimulus package yesterday: Boehner's Boys have been equally uncooperative on other matters. Case in point: a bill yesterday to delay the transition to digital TV. This measure was approved unanimously by the Senate; every Senate Republican gave it the green light. But 155 out of 178 House Republicans voted against it, which resulted in the measure's defeat since a two-thirds majority would have been required for passage under the House's suspension of the rules.

Or, take the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a seemingly fairly popular/populist (if not inscrutable) piece of legislation on gender-based pay discrepancies. This was something that Barack Obama whacked John McCain on on the campaign trail, with McCain offering little rebuttal. In the Senate, five Republicans — out of 41 — voted with the Administration on Ledbetter, including all four Republican women. In the House, just three Republicans did — out of 178.

Boenher and Eric Cantor have obviously done an impressive job of rallying their troops — and Cantor, in particular, seems proud of his efforts. But what grander purpose does this strategy serve? The House Republicans are opposing popular legislation from a very popular President, and doing so in ways that stick a needle in the eye of the popular (if quixotic) concept of bipartisanship.

Thus the Republicans, arguably, are in something of a death spiral. The more conservative, partisan, and strident their message becomes, the more they alienate non-base Republicans. But the more they alienate non-base Republicans, the fewer of them are left to worry about appeasing. Thus, their message becomes continually more appealing to the base -- but more conservative, partisan, and strident to the rest of us. And the process loops back upon itself.
The first thought that comes to mind is that the Republicans are really hoping that Obama fails, and America slides into another Great Depression (an evil-but-far-too-plausible likelihood). They believe that they will then somehow have the right to stand up during the 2010 elections and say, "You should have listened to us." But that belief doesn't explain why they are being as baldly contrarian as they are now. It's petty, and I really believe it is destroying (or vastly delaying) the ability of actual conservatives, moderates, and libertarians to rise from the ashes of The Republicans' eventual funeral pyre and reassert themselves in American politics.

I am really starting to believe that we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Republican party on this earth, and that a new conservative party will rise to replace it at some point in the future... although the time of that birth will be largely determined by how messy these current Republicans make their own death throes, and so far — what with the shit-slinging that's going on — it's pretty messy.

The basis for this prediction of death is something you can witness for yourself. Ask any American about their political leanings. Nobody admits to being a Republican anymore; instead people say they are capital-C conservatives... or (especially among younger folks) they just claim to be Libertarian. (Conversely, nobody admits to being a liberal anymore; instead people say they are Democrats.) What you have there is the recipe for the fatal poison to a political party: When you reach the point where people will only identify themselves with the mindset of a political party, but not with the political party itself, that political party cannot long survive.

What you will see soon is coalition politics growing on the conservative side of the aisle in Congress, with many more conservatives moving up the ranks from local politics either as independents, or within small parties such as Constitution, Reform, and Libertarian. As those politicians make it from local to state and then to national prominence, more will follow, and soon they will outnumber Republicans even as they caucus together, and probably even cross-nominate single Presidential candidates. Eventually (within 25 years probably), one of these small political parties will become the new dominant "home" for conservatives (the Constitution Party would be my guess) leaving whatever destructive voices — conservative Christians especially — still remain from the current Republican party out in the cold, and the 2-party politics that America has practiced for most of its life will return once again.

(Of course, it's totally likely that those out-in-the-cold folks will batter down the door and finagle their way back inside and start the Conservative decay all over again... but that's a bit too far in the future for anybody to bother to look at.)

Daily Report: Good Service

Not a particularly good day of work.

My tax refund arrived today, which is cool. I've got some bills to pay.


Epril insisted her evening tonight
was going to end with a slice of
cake. The Mulberry Hotel has a great
selection, with slices costing just $2.
Can you tell I was excited about that?
Epril and I went out to Spooks for their Friday night expatriate get-together (just for a change). Then, we went out to dinner with Andy and Cynthia to Town Restaurant, and then to the Mulberry Hotel for dessert and a nightcap.

After living in Thailand for 4 years, it's such a pleasant change to go to a restaurant or bar and get competent service. People who have never been there envision Thailand as a place of impeccable Asian service by stunning, graceful, flower-becoiffed, silk-draped beauties. If you go to one of Thailand's 7-star hotels and spend $200 on dinner, you'll get that... otherwise, you go to a restaurant and are surprised when a "hold the tomatoes" order comes out right. You make note of the restaurants that have competent service, or declare a particular eatery one of your top choices because it allowed you to substitute french fries for mashed potatoes.

The Philippines is, on average quite a bit better.

Town Restaurant simply has fantastic service. Mulberry too. Spooks is getting there, though you still occasionally have to holler to get one of the waiters to come over to your table to order a drink. (Zax's service actually is worse than anything you'll ever find in Thailand. It runs the range, but at least they usually get your order right.)

Great example of what you never see in Thailand outside of The Oriental in Bangkok: I ordered the shrimp linguine tonight at Town. It was godawful: It was essentially linguine, lemon juice, and shrimp. I didn't say a word at first, but as I started taking bites, the look on my face obviously concerned the waitresses, and I could see out of the corner of my eye (as I started to look around for someone to complain to) that they had started gathering across the room to see if their initial impression of my unhappiness was accurate. Without me saying anything, our waitress started walking over to our table, a look of concern on her face.

"Could I see a menu please?" I asked. She came back with one, and I confirmed that nowhere on the description of my dish did it mention "lemon". I pointed this out to her. She immediately offered to take the dish back. (Such a thing would never happen in Thailand, as first a manager would have to be brought over, and then the restaurant owner would have to be phoned up, and the rule book would have to be consulted, et cetera, et cetera. Well... actually, the fact is that as soon as Thai people saw a look of complete dissatisfaction on my face, they would have all scattered like mice, and wouldn't have come back until I asked for the bill.) Anyway, since it was my fourth and last dish of the evening, I decided to eat my mistake. I was just happy to be recognized by staff as being dissatisfied.

We then went to Mulberry Hotel, where I ordered "one shot of Kahlua, one shot of milk, one shot of hot coffee, in a glass, no ice." I got exactly what I asked for, no problems. In Thailand, there is no system in place for somebody making up a drink. The Thai staff wouldn't know what to charge... assuming they understood the directions at all. Eventually (if not immediately), you'd just give up trying to make yourself understood, and order a shot of Kahlua, a glass of milk, and a cup of black coffee, paying the extra money, and mixing it yourself. Bonus show of class at the Mulberry that you'd never see in Thailand? When I got the bill, the charge was "one shot of Kahlua, 90 pisos". No charge milk and coffee mixers.

Of course, what I've just described is more or less the minimum of what you would expect in America (or Europe)... even at the local Howard Johnsons. You might even be wondering why it's so notable. But like I said: Asia in general (or at least Thailand, where my experience rests) isn't like that. Even in The Philippines, you don't find what in America we would describe as "the bare minimum" service in most places, but at least The Philippines is the place where you will find it in places where you don't always expect it. And that's a good thing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quotacious

Are you smarter than some U.S. Congressmen? Take the test!

Okay: Imagine that Guantanamo prison has been closed and the terrorists are "coming to America." Now that you have that firmly in mind, I want you to picture what would happen to those terrorists then. Do you have any ideas? Do any of them involve the mastermind of 9-11 becoming a U.S. Citizen, moving into your neighborhood, and dating your sister? No? That's because you're an intelligent person, unlike...

"Let's just say that, that, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, is brought to the United States to be tried in a federal court in the United States, under a federal judge, and we know what some of those judges do, and on a technicality, such as, let's just say he wasn't read his Miranda rights. He is released into the streets of America. Walks over and steps up into a US embassy and applies for asylum for fear that he can't go back home cause he spilled the beans on al Qaeda. What happens then if another judge grants him asylum in the United States and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is on a path to citizenship."

— Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa)



(This is one of the guys some of you are trusting to make the right decisions on what is best to rescue the American economy? Think about that.)

Well, I for one welcome Congressman King's "KSM In KC Mo." scenario. The guy who masterminded the plan which killed thousands of Americans: Where do I want him? In the Colorado Supermax, where he'll only see sunlight for 30 minutes out of every day for the rest of his life, or living down the street from Joe-The-Flag-Waving-Plumber and his collection of hefty pipe wrenches? Hmm... tough choice.

Seriously: I thought that it was unchecked power and being a member of the dominant party in Washington that made Republicans say stupid things like this. I thought that being a full-blown everywhere-you-look minority would have brought them to the "joke is over" point of sobriety. It's been proven that Congressmen say stupid stuff, but it never occurred to me that somebody of the importance and stature of an American Congressman might actually believe the stupid things he is saying. It's distinctly possible that I was wrong. Congressmen do and say stupid things (see Congressman Massa below) all the time, but I have an... I had an unswerving belief that they either knew, or realized or recognized soon thereafter, the "oops factor" of what they had said or done.

Anyway, Jon Stewart has his standard high-quality bitch slap for the hysterics, as shown below.

A Belated Congratulations

I'm really surprised at myself. It's only now, almost 3 months after the fact, that I realized that I had totally forgotten about the election battle in New York's 29th Congressional District between Republican Randy Kuhl and Democrat Eric Massa.

I'm happy to say that Mr. Massa is now my Congressman.

I wanted Congressman Kuhl to lose for the same reasons I wanted most other Republicans in Congress to lose this past election: Because Congressman Kuhl voted for every bit of ill-advised, damaging, and obtrusive legislature that the Republican Congress/Executive concocted since being elected. From exchanging civil liberties for security, to bloated spending bills, to voting for America to preemptively attack a country, to rewriting The Geneva Conventions: There was nothing conservative about Republicans these past 10 years, and Randy Kuhl was a willing part of that. (See here for more writing on that subject.)

I don't know anything about Congressman Massa, other than what I've read on his wikipedia page and campaign website. For the time being, he is really only Congressman Not-Kuhl; he has yet to make his mark. But, for me, that's enough for now.

Good luck, Sir, and congratulations from one of your (absentee) constituents.
UPDATE:

Okay, I take back the "Not-Kuhl" line. First official thing My Congressdude did was drive a flex-fuel vehicle from Corning, New York to his swearing in ceremony in Washington. Unfortunately, he consumed quite a bit of unnecessary fuel in the attempt. (Apparently the hydrogen-fuel car only had enough range to get halfway to Washington, with no hydrogen refueling stations along the way. So Rep. Massa would hop into a twin, fully-fueled car hallway there and finish his journey, while the first car was towed back to Upstate New York.)

So, we'll award points:
  1. Add one point for trying to be "green" as your first official act.
  2. Add one point for being a junior congressman getting in the news and getting noticed while doing it.
  3. Minus five points for knowingly setting yourself up for failure as your first official act.
  4. Minus five points for getting in the news and getting mocked while failing at your first official act.
  5. Minus ten points for creating the exact stereotypical situation that people use to describe why Democrats are daffy as your first official act.
Okay, Rep. Massa. You and I won't talk about this anymore. We're going to pretend it didn't happen. We'll call this your "political mulligan" (even though this is the equivalent of your Titleist going through the clubhouse's huge bay window, and biffing the club president's wife right in the chops).
UPDATE II:

Okay... a little something in Massa's defence: I read a comment in this article that claimed that Rep. Massa announced at his presser that he would need 2 cars to get there, and pointed out that part of the purpose of the trip was to illustrate the need for more hydrogen infrastructure. Well, nice try, Mr. Congressman, but as you are probably learning (or if not, click on any one of the dozen examples above), the news story you want ain't always the news story you get.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daily Report: Personal Jesters & Personal Pandora

For the sake of full disclosure, I always write my daily reports first thing in the morning, the day after the fact, and then adjust the post time to the approximate time I went to bed the night before (or "11:59" p.m. on those rare occasions when I go to sleep after midnight).

I didn't do much today. I got up in the morning and fed my blog trolls. This blog has 2 trolls: One of them tells me I'm fat and have an ugly wife; the other tells me I'm poor, live off my mother, and have an ugly wife. Whenever I want some amusement, I put up a post saying I'm smart or happy, and usually within 3 or 4 hours, one or both of them writes something insulting. They are only amusing for their consistency and lack of variety... but sometimes it's the simple things in life that we enjoy the most.

I assume that one of them is a guy named Harris Black from Pattaya, who used to troll my old blog after I wouldn't be friends with him. Unfortunately, I can't tell which of my 2 trolls is Harris anymore because (1) Harris used to tell me I'm fat, but (2) he lives off his mother and it bothers him, so perhaps he thinks that (a) I must live off my mother and (b) if I did, it must bother me. So, like I said, it could be either one. Both of my trolls obviously adore Epril in the same way that little boys throw playground stones at girls they like.


Baby JM.

Baby AJ.
Epril went out to Jasaan today with Susan to deliver some Avon products. Susan does Avon in her spare time, and has a few customers. I think that Epril likes to go out to Jasaan primarily to see baby nephew A.J. and baby nephew J.M. and play with them. They are cute little fellows. After that, Epril and Susan did some shopping, and then brought a cheeseburger home to me for dinner.

Epril uses my work computer sometimes, and last night she came down as I was watching television and told me, "You have an e-mail from Franky." I asked her what it said. She told me. I said, "So you read my e-mail?" (Not that I care. Most e-mails I receive are either from work or are for both Epril and me.) "No!" Epril exclaimed defensively. "I just moved my mouse and it opened up and then there was an e-mail from Franky." "And then you read it." "Yes, but it wasn't my fault. It opened up by itself." (She's describing the mouse-over option of previewing one's e-mails on the My Yahoo! page that I have set up.) Epril is so funny sometimes... so inadvertently funny, which is what makes it the most entertaining. It's reason #4 that I married her: On a regular basis, accidentally, she makes me laugh... not chuckle or smile; but really, unexpectedly, and sometimes when I most need it... throw my head back and laugh. Sometimes it's the simple things in life that we enjoy the most.

The World's Highest Resolution Photo

Well, actually it's a amalgamation of 220 photos using a robotic "gigapan machine" to create a single photo of President Obama's inauguration that is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels, or 1,474 megapixels. (To give you an idea of how big that is, the average digital camera these days is 10 megapixels.)

You can go to gigapan.com and browse the photo. (No, you don't have to download it all at once.) You can zoom in close enough to see Justice Clarence Thomas dozing off. You can see individual faces way out in the crowd. You can even see that YoYoMa uses a cheapo Canon digital camera. Amazing stuff, really.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Worst Ad Placement Ever

Okay... this one you WILL laugh at: You've got 2 minutes and 20 seconds of Battlestar Galactica followed by the worst possible commercial, given what went before.

Daily Report #1797 (And Lovin' It)

Up at the usual time. Started work at the usual time. Ate lunch at the usual time (Susan cooked pork with asparagus). Had the usual afternoon of work. Watched Discovery Travel and Living for a while before going to bed.

It's times like today where I remind myself that this boring and uneventful day — while relatively uncommon for me — is the day that most folks back in America anticipate for the majority of mornings that they get out of bed. Work, eat, TV, sleep. Hell: Every day I wake up halfway around the world surrounded by a different culture, a different language, and an altogether different way of living life, I remind myself... or at least I should remind myself... how lucky I am to be one of the tiny percentage of Americans who have the opportunity to live permanently in a foreign country... and more importantly (and luckily) in a foreign country of my own choosing (instead of Iraq or something).

So, at those times where I find my job a little bit too tedious, my finances a little too impecunious, my meals a little too humble, or my days a little too ordinary, I can remember that there are 300 million people back where I come from thinking the same thing about their lives... only much more often, and with much less hope that tomorrow will offer better opportunities for excitement and delight.

This is the 1,797th day in my life that nothing particularly interesting happened... and that's a better ratio than most people could ever hope to claim.

Life is good.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Daily Report: Birthdays and Bamboo


Happy Birthday Momma Nila.
It was my mother-in-law's birthday today, so it was out to the jungle for a nice lunch. I also spent some time chatting with Mike Bird. He bought his uncle and father-in-law a small fishing boat, and I was contemplating doing the same for Epril's father, but now it seems that the fishing isn't as good as originally hoped, and I'm going to shelve the idea for the time being and go to the second plan (which has always been the better plan), opening a bar-be-que chicken stand. (More on that at some later date.)


The view from my future office looking
west. The hazy line in the distance
is the ocean.

The rooftop tub, where Epril and
I will be enjoying hot baths once
we get a hot water heater put in.
Epril and I stopped by the house that we will be moving into and I took a pile of photographs to look at. We got the house at a reduced rent from what the landlord was asking, but in return they didn't have to put anything that we want into the house: We'll do that all ourselves. So a refrigerator, hot water heater, air conditioner, and a paint job will be on the agenda.

(I downloaded some "photo stitching" software, and tried it out on a panoramic grouping of photos I took from our new roof, as you can see below, it does okay.)
After dinner, Epril received a text message that one of The Philippines top bands, Bamboo, was putting on a free concert at Limketkai, so on the spur of the moment, we rode back into Cagayan De Oro to see it. The eponymous lead singer of the group, Mr. Bamboo, in a previous band had written one of the songs that Epril and I consider "our song", called 214. We were hoping that he would sing it, and he did... but it was a bit perfunctory and not very good compared to the original.


The concert was put on by Yamaha, and it was basically a 4-hour Yamaha commercial interspersed with bands, culminating with Bamboo. So, we had to wait a while for the music to come on. Right before Bamboo came on, Epril and I walked around the back to the bathrooms, and ran right into Mr. Bamboo who was on his way to the stage with the rest of the band. I personally had never seen the guy before and Epril was too doe-eyed to say anything, so he was there and gone before either of us had a chance to ask him for a quick photo. Oh well. Bamboo seems to make it to Cagayan at least twice per year... we'll get a photo next time.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

It Sounds Less Hypocritical If You Say It In Latin

"What is important is to know how to listen... without locking oneself into ideological visions with the arrogance of a person who, having the power, thinks they can decide on life and death."
Quote from a Senior Vatican Official on Obama's reversal of America's ban on funding of international agencies and charities who provide abortion as part of their services.

Hmm... an arrogant person who doesn't know how to listen, locked into ideological visions deciding on life and death? No one could ever say that about the Catholic Church.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Daily Report: Lunch At Big Rocks Diner


Big Rocks Diner has great hamburgers,
sausages, and fried chicken. That giant
glass of iced tea is only 20 pisos...
about 40 cents.
After priding myself yesterday on low my fat lunches of late, Epril and I went out today to Big Rocks Diner: A meal quite the opposite... but still delicious. Epril had the fried chicken, which she says is some of the best she has ever had, and I had the "English Sausage", which was a nice fat sausage with ham, cheddar cheese, and mushrooms on a bun. We also had some fried potato slices that were excellent. (Total price, 500 pisos.)

In the evening ("just for a change", as Stan would say), it was out to Spooks Friday night expatriate buffet. The usual crowd was there, and I chatted with them while Epril and the girls wandered out to the Friday night market.

After that, Epril and I stopped and purchased some bootleg movies for 45 pisos ($1) each. Then, we hit McDonalds for some take-home dinner. Then we went back and watched "Bangkok Dangerous" with Nicholas Cage. It was funny that as the movie progressed, I realized that it was a remake of a movie I had seen on TV in Thailand... but it dawned on me so slowly as I barely remembered having seen the original movie, and the changes were extensive enough (in the original, the hitman was deaf... not the girl) that I spent the whole movie having these little gasps of deja-vu, but never totally figuring out why.

Oh: Just a warning to those of you buying "DVDs" from the folks at the Divisoria, they are only VCDs... and not particularly high quality at that. No wonder they are only 45 pisos.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Daily Report: House Warming Party

Another uneventful day(time). We went to Yureka again for lunch. I haven't weighed myself, but I think that the combination of drinking nothing but diet root beer (I don't know why, but it is the best-tasting diet soda) and eating more low fat lunches (Japanese and the Turkish restaurant, plus home-cooked stuff as well) has taken some inches off around the middle. Not a bunch... but then I'm not even trying.

In the evening, it was out to Xavier Estates, where Dave and Rose Ferrell invited us to their newly-finished chateau overlooking the valley. (Epril and I completely forgot to snap any photos, even though we had the camera with us... but see here for pictures of when the place was under construction.)

A bunch of our friends were there as well: Ron and Eve, Andy and Cynthia, Harry and Bebs... plus several nice and interesting folks I had seen around before but never gotten to know.

There was a massive pile of food, and Dave made pitcher after pitcher of sangria. After dinner, the girls went to the lounge and sang karaoke, while the guys went out on the balcony overlooking the valley and talked politics and business. We all had a fantastic time. (Thanks Dave and Rose!)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Just To Be Different

After typing "365 days x 39½ years" down below, I checked how many days old I am. Interestingly, my 15,000th day on earth is coming up on September 1, 2010. That's a lot rarer point in time than any annual span of senescence or the standard culturally-based eras of life: If you make it to 80 years old, you'll only have 5... let's see... need a word... uh jeez... "pentamilimernial" (I just invented that, me) celebrations.

Maybe I'll have a big party on that day instead of August 7th of 2010... and no, there won't be a cake with 15,000 candles on it.

Quotacious

After John Stewart gave a side-by-side comparison of the many similarities between George Bush's "rhetoric" of the past 8 years, and Barack Obama's inaugural "message of hope", Jason Jones gave the following explanation why Obama was so awesome even though he said many of the same things as George Bush:

"Look... It's like cheese is delicious on Italian food but when you melt it on Chinese food, it's disgusting."


It'll be interesting to see if The Daily Show can keep going with this new president, when it was created for the express purpose of making fun of George Bush and friends. Good luck: I don't think Obama and his friends are going to be anywhere near as gormless or as comically frustrating as the Bush administration was.

Click here to view the video from The Daily Show.


BONUS:

I almost missed this interview with Bishop Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal Bishop from New Hampshire, about the inauguration:

Stewart:
"It was so crowded today, there were so many people. You as a bishop are sort of doubly handicapped in that situation, only being able to move diagonally. How is that negotiating the crowds?"

Bishop Robinson:
"John, you have to understand, there's a queen on the board as well."

Daily Report #1796

Yes... today is the 1,796th day in my life where I did nothing notable. (Well, of course that number is open to debate. Some would argue the number is closer to 365 days x 39½ years.)

I was up at the average hour, spent the average amount of time before work doing the average stuff, did the average amount of work... oh: Out to Yureka Japanese Restaurant for lunch. Tamago soup... very good.

Epril went to Jasaan today. The entire family has come down with a bug of some sort and is shooting out of all nozzles. I'm not sure what Epril is going to do there... unless she's into that Catholic "I shall suffer thy fate withal" thing.

So I spent the afternoon napping (catching up from lost sleep last night), working (barely), eating (a decidedly bacheloristic menu of instant noodles), and playing video games.
Update:

Oh, I forgot: While Epril was on her way to Jasaan yesterday, I got a text message from her saying, "All the passenger of the jeepney been hold up by 3 guys." I of course freaked out and called her. No answer. I pretty much had a heart attack at this point. Then another message: "Don't call me for now. I'm fine."

What Epril meant to write (and probably could have had she taken the time to text a proper thought) was that all of the people of another jeepney that they rode past had been robbed... and even that turned out to be exceptionally wrong, and that it was just one lady who had her purse snatched. Epril's gonna get swatted for making me shit my pants.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Daily Report: The New (Yawn) Beginning

It was a pretty uneventful day today. Epril went out to a meeting with the other expatriates' wives. They are forming a charitable group, and Epril was elected treasurer.

In the evening, Epril brought home some chili dogs from Jollibee, and I read my book and watched a little bit of Discovery Channel.

At 12:30 a.m., struggling to stay awake (after a few glasses of Cagayan Cocktail), with Epril fast asleep next to me, despite her efforts to stay awake, I watched Barack Obama become the 44th President of The United States. History. His inaugural address started off strong but got kind of wonky towards the middle, and I don't remember how the speech....... zzzz

Monday, January 19, 2009

Some Etymology

Do you know the origin of the word Yankee? It's not 100% certain, as there are other theories, but is probably a combination of the ultra-common Dutch names "Jan" and "Kees". For reasons lost to history, the New York Dutch used this Tom-Dick-and-Harry-like moniker to apply disdainfully to the British colonists living in Connecticut.

A bit amusing and ironic that the original Yankees were, in fact, British.

Obama Lookalike On TV In Philippines

This came out about a month ago, but there wasn't video on YouTube until (apparently) just after I tried searching for it. It wasn't until now that I tried looking again.

Daily Report: Blue Skies... Almost


The river is back to within its confines.
At this place, during the flooding, the
rushing water carved out a deep and
narrow channel right next to the em-
bankment. It's now a popular swimming
hole, as you can see.
There was actually sunshine today... the first blue skies of 2009 here in Cagayan De Oro. It only lasted for about 30 minutes until clouds rolled in and covered it all up, but they were big poofy happy clouds instead of being filled with rain.

My tax refund was approved, accepted, and warmly embraced by the IRS today, right on schedule. Direct deposit is expected on January 30th (the IRS only pays on Fridays, remember), but February 6th is more likely since I've yet to have the "pay me please" portion of tax filing go as planned.

Susan is at the house. After I had sent her and Ednil home for want of more time alone with Epril — with a scheduled overnight once a week for Epril's cooking lessons — Susan has slowly wheedled it up to 4 days per week. (Don't think I haven't noticed, girl.) That's okay though. I still feel like Epril and I have enough time to ourselves, and Susan manages to leave the house or at least become invisible in the evenings. And the food is good.

Susan made chicken satay for lunch today... although different than what you find in Thailand: Chicken chunks in a thick peanut sauce over rice. For dinner, we splurged a bit: We bought a pizza from "Pizza & Buns" down in the Carmen area of Cagayan. A large pizza (about 18 inches) with everything on it was 310 pisos ($6.50). It wasn't particularly good... but when you consider that an equivalent pizza costs $19 at Yellow Cab Pizza, it tastes a little better. (We have to try Greenwich again. If I remember correctly, their pizza is a happy medium between price and taste.)

We've taken to watching the BBC Blu Ray "Galapagos" for a second time. Like I said before: Nature documentaries are really the only reason Blu Ray discs are at all necessary... very necessary.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Daily Report: Weekend Update

Saturday was a good day, if still rainy. For dinner, we went out to Kinse Amigos for bar-be-que chicken and pork. That place really is one of the cheapest and best places in town to get bar-be-que. We saw Mike and Marissa Turner there. We had a bit of a laugh because both myself and Epril, and Mike and Marissa were all wearing purple shirts.

We went to Zax (click here to see on Wikimapia, or on image to the right) at about 9:00 to listen to the music and watch the dancing. Unfortunately, the power to the sound system was out and the music didn't start until 10:30. Fortunately, that gave us time to chat: Dave and Rose Ferrell were there, Dave and Nilda Pebley were there, and Dr. Abe and his wife, and several of the Pebley's friends. We made a bit of a crowd. We had some fried calamari (one serving of which cost more than our entire pile of bar-be-que at Kinse Amigos).

We went home at about midnight.

On Sunday, it was out to Kingston Lodge ("just for a change," as Stan would say) and had lunch with all of the other expatriates. It was a nice crowd. Andy and Cynthia Gilbert were there. Harry Hopkins was there without Bebs, who was out in the village for the weekend. All of the usual British suspects were there. Dave and Rose Ferrell as well.

After lunch, I dropped Epril off at the jeepney stop, and she went out to Jasaan to visit with friends. It's another one of the reasons we're moving out to Jasaan: Epril wants to be able to see her friends more often than once every couple of months. We'll force ourselves to come back into Cagayan to see our friends here once we move, but it's always been a little bit more work to find time to get all the way out to Jasaan.

(Anacer, Nipzy, Epril and Princess Kim.)

All Of The Feelings We Have

I'm sure you agree: It's hard to put into words the feelings that this video of the incredible outcome of the crash landing of US Airways Flight 1549 evokes. I think "pride" covers it best for me. Pride in the pilot's skill, luck, and professionalism in the face of immense pressure; pride in the aircraft itself which landed and floated as if it was designed to do so; pride in the fast and talented response of nearby ferry operators; pride in an entire system — both established and impromptu — that came together flawlessly and worked seamlessly to deliver everybody home safe and sound from what normally is something entirely less fortunate.

I hesitate to make light of the situation, but any group of people (passengers included) who can make an airliner crash and rescue in freezing and flowing water look like a pre-planned emergency response practice where everybody walks away with nary a scratch... I'm simply left awestruck.

Have You Seen Little Britain?

Yes, yes, I know... If you're British: Stupid question.

Little Britain came out in 2003, written by and starring Matt Lucas and David Williams, who don some of the funniest and convincingly outlandish-yet-plausible costumes, bodies and personae ever created for television. There are no real punch lines in the little 1-minute sketches they create... just the inherent humor of the characters and their appearance and behaviors. And, if that doesn't work, there is the occasional gasp-inducing shock humor.

Anyway, below are just a quick sampling of some of the characters these two guys have created, and the tenor of the program.

First up is Bubbles, morbidly-obese ex-olympic gymnast, and her antagonist, the equally hefty Desiree.


Next, the expatriates' personal favorite, Mr. Dudley and his Thai mail-order girlfriend Ting Tong, who is terrifically ugly but manges to repeatedly "coax" the hapless Dudley into not kicking her out.


Daffyd Thomas, the only gay man in his little Welsh village. He's well-tolerated by folks and encouraged by barmaid Mafanwe... but he always pushes everyone's limits hoping to be victimized.


Carol, who spends her secretarial jobs halfway between catatonic and sardonic. She's made "Computer says no" a widely-recognizable catch phrase.


Vickie Pollard, a teenage yob who rattles off on confusing, indignant, semi-unintelligible tangents:


Finally, there is Lou, who fakes his inability to walk so that his friend Andy will wait on him hand and foot. His famous line is "Ya'ano" ("Yeah, I know.")


You can watch entire episodes here. Little Britain can also be seen regularly on HBO Comedy and BBC America.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Daily Report: Caritas


Epril admidst the donated goods.

Epril and her friends with the local
TV news anchorperson.

Epril and her friends with one of the
MOR deejays.

Epril and her friends with Governor
Moreno.
Epril joined up with some of the other expatriate's wives to go out to the ABS-BCN-MOR broadcast center to donate goods and help load up trucks and deliver needful things to Cagayan De Oro's recent flood victims. I wasn't there, as I stayed at home and worked (poorly).

Sadly, it seemed that there weren't many volunteers there, but in between heaving heavy boxes of canned goods up onto trucks, Epril got to chat with the local news anchor, several of her MOR deejay friends (who were at our wedding), and the governor of Misamis Oriental (who is a family friend).

In the evening, it was out to Spooks as per usual. Mike Mike had put out a bit of a "Friday at Spooks isn't popular anymore; maybe I'll close" e-mail this past week, so tonight there were more than a few people there to show their support.

After that, Epril and I went out to The Mulberry Hotel, where we enjoyed a selection of our favorite appetizers: The crab and potato croquettes (140 pisos/$3), the glazed cajun chicken wings (140 pisos/$3), and the sliced chorizo sausage (140 pisos/$3). They've changed the sauce on the chicken wings, so they are no longer the best chicken wings in town... just very good. The croquettes though are still enough reason to go.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The World's Best Looking Blog

The results of this year's Web Log Awards are in. My favorite blog by Andrew Sullivan won "Best Blog of 2008". Nice. (Sadly, Jungle Jil was not up for consideration this year. A cruel oversight by the nominating committee if there ever was one.)

Here's a fun one though: The newly-created Best Blog Design award. I love layout and page design and the intersection of function, simplicity, style, and information in one place. (That used to be my metier back in Manhattan.) This year's inaugural winner, OurWorld 2.0, is a fantastic example of gorgeous simplicity matched with fabulous style and superb functionality.
Update:

I figured I would critique the other contestants.

The second place winner, Inhabitat, in my opinion is a mess and not even a close contender. Learn these few pointers please: (1) Clutter sucks, (2) your color palette should have 3 maybe 4 colors in it, (3) make sure that your page is less than 1000 pixels wide, (4) big bold photos and small text in every blog post really de-emphasizes what has been written... if it isn't ignored altogether.

Third place was SnappedShot, which was okay if a bit simple. I certainly wouldn't consider it noteworthy for its design. Based on the finalists, dark gray seems to be de rigeur this year. Meh.

Fourth place was Babyology. Flashing gifs and menu selections with their own individual garish color choices? This was a nominee? Sheesh. Ugliest of all of them, bar none.

Fifth place went to Rin-Wendy. I actually like this: I didn't read it, but it's apparently a his-and-her blog. Rin gets the blue half and Wendy gets the pink half, and the "margin" stuff goes down the middle. Clever, and well done.

Sixth place is the Pink Yellow Media Blog. Those burnt-orange paint splotches are very high-school art class. More dark gray. Nothing special about this blog's design at all.

Seventh is The Old State. I give this blog credit on two different fronts: First off, it's quite daring in designing itself like the microfiche version of an 1870's newspaper, and second, they did it all within the confines of Blogger's standard layout template. It's not particularly good-looking to my eye, but it gets points for style.

Eighth place is Shots On The House. This should have done much better... but given that this is a "who can send the most readers to vote for me" contest, it doesn't really matter. There's some good functionality here, and a simple layout that still manages to get a lot of information up on the screen. However, the graphic design is weak and the washed-out brown and brick-red color combination was popular... oh... round about the time I started blogging (as you can tell).

Ninth place is Veerle's Blog. It should have been tenth: Dark gray with dark pink text... totally unreadable. Bright colored ads yank at your vision while you're reading. The main banner doesn't mix at all with the rest of the page. My blog looks better than this, and I'm not saying my blog looks good.

Last place is Home Design Find. This is quite a pretty blog really, with the various shades of aquamarine and complimentary greens and grays working very well together. Not much in the way of functionality, although I like the subtle mouseovers at the top.

Daily Report: Dinner At Friends

It wasn't really raining much today... just sort of wet all over. And cold. Still.

Epril went out and brought back some sushi from Yureka Japanese restaurant for lunch.


Dave makes his "tropical
salsa" (with pineapple).
Fantastic stuff.
In the evening, it was over to Neighbor Dave's for a bit of indoor (because it was cold) bar-be-que (cooked outside). There was grilled chicken breast and grilled pork steaks. Dave made Mai Tais and "tropical salsa". There was even flan for dessert (my favorite). It was a nice evening with friends. Dave Ferrel and Eve were there, and they brought along their friends, Mark and Beth from England. Doctor Abe was also there, just in from having spent the day doing cleft palate repair for Operation Smile. We met a nice dentist lady named Fritzy as well.


In the back, Mark, Dave, and Dave.
In front: Beth, Fritzy, Epril, Dr. Abe,
Susan, Faye, Nilda, and Rose.
Eventually, the guys wandered outside to the porch and talked about politics and business in The Philippines and drank Mai Tais, while the girls stayed inside and talked about life in England mostly (unfortunately for Epril, as she was the only girl in the room who had never been). But it was still a great evening for everybody, and we had a lot of fun and great food.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Maybe A Late Christmas Present? Birthday?


SlingBox allows you to send your
home's cable signal to anyplace on
earth by internet.

SlingCatcher gets the signal from
SlingBox, and will play it on any
television on earth.
Sling Media has been putting out their gadgets for 3 years now, but recently they have added some pretty nifty upgrades.

So, what is Sling Media? If you live overseas, this is pure gold: Watch TV from back home... the exact same TV — including the commercials from Joe's Fish Shack on Bridge Street, and the nightly local news roundup — on any television, computer monitor, or internet-equipped mobile phone, live as it's being broadcast, anywhere in the world.

What do you need? First, you need SlingBox, which goes in your (mother's) home back wherever it is you come from. If you purchase the entry-level SlingBox, you'll need to connect it to a cable box; however SlingBox Pro ($300) has a cable box built in, and can even receive HDTV. Plug Slingbox into the cable, then plug it into the internet. That's it. All set. No fees. No need to think about SlingBox ever again. (If you own a TIVO or DVR, you can control and program that through your SlingBox as well.)

Next, you need SlingCatcher ($300) which goes in your house out in the jungle. Plug one end into the internet, and another one into the back of your television, and that's it. All set: There is WELM's signal from Elmira, New York, broadcasting live to your house in The Philippines (at 640 x 480 resolution), as well as every other channel your (mother's) cable package in New York receives. SlingCatcher's remote control will send commands over the internet from The Philippines to the SlingBox in New York to change the channel.

For free, you can put the SlingMedia Player on any computer and watch the same broadcast on your laptop (one version open at a time though... can't have more than one signal per SlingBox) or Mobile phone ($30). Seriously though: How cool would you be walking through Bangkok Airport watching The Daily Show live on your Nokia?

For an upload speed (i.e. your mother's house), you should have at least 256 Kbps upload speed (going out of your house to the internet), with 512 Kbps seriously recommended. For a download speed... well, obviously at least as fast as the upload speed, as this is a live non-buffering feed. That means that basically there is no place to store the signal. If your (mom's) SlingBox back home is sending out 8 frames per second of television, and your jungle SlingCatcher is able to download only 2 frames per second, then 1 out of 4 of those frames are lost. However, apparently the machines do communicate, and the SlingBox will adjust to accommodate the SlingCatcher's speed. (I've noted that a website called MReplay.com claims to be able to record and store and allow you to download your SlingBox signal to your computer's hard drive. That's obviously another review for another time.)

Anyway, I'm moving out to Jasaan soon, and there is no cable television out there. This is definitely on my wish list.

Here are some links to reviews. Some of the reviews are of the previous generation of Sling Media gadgets, and some of the complaints (such as wireless router support) have been addressed, and some of the products (like SlingCatcher) did not yet exist. Nonetheless:

CNet review, March 2006.
If you can't live without your favorite shows, the Sling Media Slingbox is the best way to beam them to any broadband-connected PC or Windows Mobile device in the world.
Terry White, January 2008.
If you not only want to watch TV on your schedule, but also in the location of your choosing, then there is no better solution that Slingbox! For me it was a no brainer and it works as advertised. I would have gotten one of these a year ago if I had seen it in action. Sling Media, you need better marketing!
Lordpercy.com (UK), July 2006.
Overall the Slingbox is one hell of a gadget, it combines an in home remote sender with full DVR control and then layers on uber cool remote access enabling you to keep up without your favourite shows anywhere in the world. It works like a treat too, as long as you aren't expecting HD pictures a quarter screen Slingbox client will both keep you happy and impress all who see it.
Stuff.tv (UK), October 2006.
The beauty of the Slingbox is its simple operation. Anywhere you have broadband access, you can access your home telly. Picture and sound are surprisingly good, while the internal digital TV tuner is a real bonus. Easy PC, and soon to be easy Mac, too. Slingbox, we salute you.
VNUNet.com (UK), September 2006.
For a £180 one-off fee, Slingbox offers excellent value for money, especially considering how much Sony is charging for its LocationFree player and registration.

Daily Report: Weather. Still.

An uneventful day. It still drizzled and gusted and chilled all morning and afternoon. Finally in the evening the rain died down, but the wind picked up to some pretty forceful gusts. It's still cold: In the low 60s or high 50s, I would guess. (When you own no jacket... not even a wind breaker or a sweatshirt... that's cold.)

The river flooded again too this morning, but not as bad as last time. Still, those poor people down in the village were at least knee-deep in it again. (I was told by Neighbor Dave that this particular riverside village immediately below our house consists of a group of 50 or 60 families who gave up their former collection of properties to some business interest in exchange for a good price and a piece of this riverside location to relocate to. Oops.)

Epril bought Jollibee for lunch. I tried burgers today: I figured I'd go for the flagship burger, sight unseen. Mistake... unless you are a fan of mayonnaise, pineapple, bacon, and cheddar cheese. Well, the bacon and cheese stayed, the pineapple was picked off and made a nice desert. Unfortunately I was stuck with the mayonnaise. For the inexperienced, Jollibee menu selections should be limited to (1) chili dog, hold the cheese (my favorite), (2) the burger steaks with mushroom gravy and rice (surprisingly good), and (3) anything made out of chicken... although the spicy chicken is really quite spicy.

We had no dinner tonight. Our nights are like that sometimes... we just fend for ourselves. It sounds like a callous disregard of the togetherness that mealtime brings to a relationship, but it isn't. Instead, it gives Epril a chance to run out and buy food that I won't eat (like BBQ'd chicken intestines). That fosters happy tummies for all, which creates harmony in a house where disparate food preferences do sometimes lead to friction. (Anyway, I had leftover sweet and sour chicken.) Then, we watched another episode of Heroes on TV, and then went to bed.

What's On, You Ask?

The Philippines has a great culture. I'd even say its vibrant, if too modern. The performing arts are a big part of every Filipino's life. Dancing or singing: If you are Filipino, you do one of these on a daily basis... maybe both. (Watch Epril dance. She's like that every day. I'm not so mean as to put up a video of her singing, although she does that too.)

But anyway, when it comes to stagecraft — television specifically — oh it's brutal here. Filipinos of course love their television shows, but that does beg the cause/effect question of whether the programming is attuned to Filipino tastes, or whether Filipinos have just adjusted their tastes to fit what dreck they're offered. Well, I'll just point out that my entire collection of American television show DVD's have been smuggled out to the in-laws to be enjoyed over and over, and Epril lists Heroes as her favorite television program.

I figured I'd take a break and put up a list of your average bit of Filipino television fare. I'll call it a representative sample... or more accurately the stuff that I'm forced to watch:

Dyosa

Facial and skull prosthetics that look like they are made out of paper maché, special effects that look 30 years old, an actual ripoff of Saturday Night Live's goat boy, and a guy with his head superimposed on a snake so that he looks like a giant sperm. Bad acting? You betcha. Bad story line? Mystery to me, as yo no speako. Fortunately, bad prime-time soaps in The Philippines are only scheduled to last a little while, and then go away. Unfortunately they are replaced by others equally as bad or worse.

WoWoWee

Perhaps The Philippine's favorite show: One silly party game after another, 2 hours per day, every day, without change or variation. The show maintains a constant backdrop of some of The Philippines cutest girls dancing in skimpy outfits (at least), but in the forefront are audience members telling sad or funny stories, then crying, then singing (at worst), and then winning cash prizes and sponsored items. After a week of this show, you'll never want to hear "hip-hip hooray" again. Watching toothless old housemothers win 5,000 pisos and dance with glee is a redeeming factor though... And Miss Liveraide. Oh momma.

Deal Or No Deal

My favorite show by far. If you don't know the rules yet, read here. This is my favorite show because it is a consistently enjoyable demonstration of the Filipino peoples' complete lack of knowing "when to say when". I have yet to see a contestant walk away with more money than they were offered at some point during the game. Hell: I have yet to see a contestant walk away with an amount even remotely close to the highest amount they were offered at some point during the game. They have no capacity to "take the deal" when the possibility exists that they might win more... even if it (likely/certainly) means losing it all. Watching some guy go over a cliff and lose 200 grand while his family sits nearby egging him on is worth the 45 minutes of commercials per hour. This show was invented with schadenfreude in mind.

Pinoy Fear Factor

If you disliked The Eating Stupid Shit And Barfing Show in America, you'll dislike it here too.

Singing Bee

Otherwise known as "Name That Tune." I'm actually embarrassed to say that most of the contestants can name the American pop songs before I can. Unfortunately the contestants also get to sing on this show. Cover your ears. In The Philippines, people do graduate from singing karaoke at the village's bamboo-covered coin-op machine to belting it out on national television on a regular basis... hundreds of them per day in fact. Apparently only I realize that this is a sin.

I Love Betty La Fea

Ugly Betty, Filipino style. I've never seen the American version. Does your version also involve a mouth-breathing dingleberry whom you can plainly see is a pretty girl underneath some superficial couture and orthodontic mistakes, who never (even in dream sequences or something) gets to be pretty? What's the point? Hire an ugly person for the job for chrissakes. And how long is somebody supposed to wear braces anyway? Here in The Philippines, Betty has a twin brother, or a boyfriend on the show. He's a Filipino Urkel... but not funny.

Talk shows

Part one of the self-perpetuating, self-sustaining, self-congratulating, insular, Star Manufacturing Machine that is Filipino television. Singing is of course a major part. Interviews about love life and careers are a must as well. One question though: The guest always has to hold a microphone up to their gobs while the host gets to use the in-house sound boom. Whaddup? The talk shows are backed by a flotilla of endless gossip shows (about celebrities), and entertainment news shows (about celebrities).

Birthday specials

Part two of the self-perpetuating blah blah blah: Find some beloved old television star and give them a 2-hour televised birthday party with a live audience. Then send out all of this year's batch of actors and actresses who are not yet famous — or are not yet famous enough — to sing odes to the birthday OAP. It's like a Dean Martin celebrity roast with all of those unknown-then / forgotten-now 1970's comedians, except its not funny... well, except in those ironic ways that celebrity singing shows tend to be. Imagine the cast of House putting on a (serious) 2-hour musical ode to Carol Channing... and you can instantly see the underlying mirth it will provoke. (If there aren't any old people having a birthday in The Philippines this week, holding a 2-hour special in honor of new albums or new movies is an acceptable alternative.)

Commercials

By far, you will spend more time watching commercials in The Philippines than any other thing on television. The agony of this does not become apparent until you realize that there are only 20 commercials playing in the country at any given time. The agony still doesn't impress itself upon you until you realize that each commercial break has 20 commercials in it. But then they get back to the show... and Goat Boy is there... and you realize that you really would rather watch that commercial for the liver-cleansing miracle pill, or the laundry detergent that makes clothes a fantastic Photoshopped white, or the conditioner that allows your hair to do karate. Anything but Goat Boy.

(All images in this article, like the shows that they come from, are courtesy of (or the fault of, depending on your point of view) ABS-CBN television in The Philippines.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oooh! Me! Me! Pick me!

Epril and I are going to put together an application and give it our best shot.
Australia's Queensland Tourist Board is using the strained world economy as part of a new campaign giving job-seekers the opportunity to live six months rent-free on Hamilton Island in the Great Barrier Reef and make $150,000! In addition to basking in the sun all day, the job requires that the "island caretaker" keep a blog of their stay.
Hmm... coming up with endless-but-interesting blog posts about life at a tropical beach resort. I think I know somebody who could do that.

Daily Report: Dismal, Dank, Damp, and Dark

It's still cold. It's still raining. It's still windy. My cold seems to have ended and work this morning was pretty good.

Epril and Susan made fried chicken and chicken soup for lunch. The soup acted somehow as an agonist for the weather in my bones: I guess my mind equates "chicken soup" with "cold winter day", and my body just ran with it. Either that, or it was the coda of my cold sending its final chills down my spine.

At about 7:00 tonight, the power went out. We lit about 30 tealights and Epril used her Nokia to play some music. We ate snack food, drank soda, and watched through the windows the dark leaves of the palm trees flap back and forth in the wind, silhouetted against this awful tenebrous sky we've been huddling under and cursing at for 10 days now.

We spent some time out on the upstairs balcony despite the cold. Up there somewhere is a full moon, giving the sky just a bit of all-over glow in the dark... enough to tell ground from air in the distance. We watched car lights across the darkened valley sending out cones of light, illuminating the raindrops in the sky, like searching spotlights off in the distance flashing in and flashing out. It gave me a bit of a lonely sensation, seeing that there were people out there in the distance, stuck in the dark like us, far away. Epril and I huddled under a blanket on the balcony to keep warm in the water-soaked breeze. We stayed out and let the mist chill us, and used the cold as a reason to cuddle for warmth. I guess somewhere, the moon was chiseling our silver lining out on one of these clouds.

We finally gave in to the darkness at about 9:30, blew out the candles, and curled up in bed, going to sleep listening to the never-ending click click click of rain drops and the rising and sighing of the wind blowing the palm trees around outside our window.

Christ Almighty, I envy a Brit for his weather right about now; please make it stop.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Daily Report: Sick Day

We slept out in the jungle until 9:00 this morning. After a rough night of cold-related awakenings — in which I monitored the on-and-off rain throughout the night with a bit of nervousness, being mere meters away from an ever-swelling river... albeit a small one — I needed every bit of sleep I could muster.

Fortunately, when time came for the ride back to Cagayan De Oro, the rain had stopped, and we had a nice ride, even if we had to stop a couple of times to clean the inside of my sneeze-covered helmet visor. We stopped at the barbershop and I got my hair cut. Cost: 75 cents.

After that it was back home, where I hoped to get to work. However, there was only non-essential and undesirable work to be done, so I decided to skip the morning and blogged instead. Then we had a lunch (cooked by Susan, who came over) of pancit... Filipino lo mein.

In the afternoon, I made yet another attempt to sit down to work, but this time I just couldn't bring myself to get to work. I was just sick and tired on every level. So, I went to bed and curled up under the covers and went to sleep.

At sunset, Neighbor Dave stopped by with a bottle of wine and I offered up my not-very-good Christmas cheese ball and saltines to the occasion, and we sat in the living room and talked business for a while. Then, Dave's wife, Nilda, came over, and Epril and I showed them our wedding video.

After that, Dave and Nilda went home, and I made an early night of it.

Aside from our ride home, it rained/drizzled pretty much all day today as well. This rain, I've heard, is record setting, with over 30 inches having come down in the past week.

Favor For A Friend

My friend Geoff is selling his house in Pattaya. Here's a little bit about it. I've been in the house many times, and I think that his asking price of 1.7 million baht is pretty reasonable.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Here's A Good Idea, If You Didn't Know Already

BirthdayAlarm.com, a website in which you get all of your friends and relatives to put in their birthdays, and then the site e-mails you a reminder when somebody's birthday is coming up.

Whether or not you'll be put on a mailing list or something is as yet unknown.

Daily Report: Looking Forward

It was raining when Epril and I woke up this morning. We had planned to go to Jasaan but didn't want to go on our motorcycle in the rain. Instead, we had lunch with our neighbors Dave and Nilda Pebley.

After lunch, the rain stopped and Epril requested we again go to Jasaan, which we did.

Unfortunately, halfway to Jasaan, the rain caught us out on the highway, and we had to put on our big rain ponchos and we made the rest of the trip in a soaking, cold downpour. That rain proceeded to fall for the rest of the day.

While at Jasaan, I hung around with Mike Bird, and we talked about our plans to go into business together. We've got four different business ideas, and have pretty much settled on where and when to start. Hopefully things work out.

Epril and I are moving next month. Sad to say, we can no longer afford our hill-top castle. If anybody is interested in renting our old place, leave a comment: We can't give high-enough praise to our soon-to-be-ex landlords, Aldin and Annie. Obviously you know the house well enough from this blog. It's a great place to live.


Our future home in Jasaan.

The rooftop patio with nice views.
So looking towards the future, Epril and I are moving out to Jasaan. We've found a lovely 2-bedroom, 3-story house at the highest point in the center of town (just down the street from the local grade school and around the corner from the hospital) renting for $210 per month.

On the first floor, there are 2 garages, a bit of a yard, a nice front porch, a fairly large semi-furnished living room, a bathroom, and an (unfortunately) empty kitchen.

On the second floor is a very big semi-furnished master bedroom with separate dressing room, balcony, and bathroom. There is also a second bedroom with it's own bathroom and balcony, and an outdoor kitchen in a private open area above one of the garages.

On the third floor is a rooftop patio with a view of the ocean, a bathroom, a nice little windowed observatory that will be my office, and the piece de resistance: a big two-person bathtub with views out over the town.

The place needs a little work and setting up, and we need to buy some more furniture, put in an air conditioner, water heater, internet (although there already is a working phone line), and alarm system, so Epril will be heading out there in early February to get settled in while I'll be staying here on the hill until the end of February to work.

Anyway, back to our day in the jungle: We had chicken and rice for dinner as per usual, and then joined Mike, Emilyn, and the rest of the neighborhood over at Mike's to watch Wall-E (the DVD which Epril and I brought).

All day long, I had felt a cold coming on, and during the course of the movie, it pretty much showed up in full force. When the movie finished, I was ready for sleep, and Epril and I bedded down in the spare bedroom at Epril's father's nephew's house (the house between Epril's parents' house and Mike Bird's house), where I proceeded to cough, sneeze, and ache through an endless rainy night.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Daily Report: Lunch Party

We didn't do much today, but we had Mike and Emilyn Bird — along with Emilyn's aunts, Mylene and Ardelyn — over for lunch. Mike and I sat up on the balcony enjoying vodka tonics while the girls watched TV and cooked in the kitchen. Epril made her most-awesome sweet and sour chicken.

Since one of you asked for the recipe to this earlier, here it is:

(1) Take a pound of chicken breast, cut into McNugget-sized chunks, and boil until the chicken is cooked.
(2) In a bowl, put 4 eggs and a cup of plain white flour, and mix.
(3) Take the chicken out of the boiling water and dip into the egg/flour mix until all the chicken is coated, and then fry until crispy and brown.
(4) In a separate large sauce pan, mix 1-1/4 cup of ketchup, 5 tablespoons of vinegar, 5 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of corn starch dissolved in 1 cup of water, and the juice from half a can of pineapple chunks, and bring to simmering in a large sauce pan.
(5) Once the sauce has thickened, add in the chicken, half a can of pineapple chunks, and bits of red pepper, and mix together.
(6) Serve over rice.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Daily Report: The Mysterious Faces I See

Epril and I went out to the Turkish restaurant at SM today for lunch. We hadn't been there in a while. I had a wonderful fried rice with nuts and raisins, some chicken wrap (skip the sauce if you try it), and a bit of potato salad.

In the evening we went out to Spooks to hang out with friends and have a few beers. Then, a quick stop at McDonalds, and then home to watch Wall-E on DVD, which we purchased earlier in the day after lunch.

During the day today, I saw at SM shopping mall eight different foreigners whom I had never seen before. While at McDonald's, I saw another two, and on the way home yet another. That's 11, if you weren't keeping count... about the same number as was hanging out at Spooks tonight. Two of the foreigners I saw in SM were walking together, the rest were by themselves, or with Filipina ladies. Take note that this isn't particularly different than an average day here, even though this can still be called "the holidays".

This is one of the strangest aspects of the expatriate population in Cagayan De Oro: A very large majority of expatriates here don't socialize. It's weird because they have something very much in common with any foreigner here: They've flown halfway around the world to a very small, very secluded place, with very different experiences, and they've done it primarily by themselves... not as part of a package tour. What's more, if they are here, they are probably visiting for at least weeks at a time... and they are probably the only foreigner in their house. To not spend any of their time here getting to know other people in similar circumstances... to not share this major aspect of their life with others who are experiencing the same thing... to simply not be interested in getting out of the house and finding what other expatriates do, think, or know... it's actually a bit more than strange, it's kind of sad.

I've heard it estimated at the immigration office that there are 200 expatriates here in Cagayan De Oro at any given time. My most-social-of-them-all circle of friends numbers about 20, with another 20 who float in and out every couple of weeks, and another 10 or so who are seasonal. That leaves 75% of all foreigners in town whom I don't know or at least don't recognize. Probably one third of those are non-English-speaking, so they can be excused for not coming and hanging out at the thrice-weekly chin-wags. That leaves half — 100 or so — expatriates who never ever get to know the other expatriates in town. (Or at least face to face; perhaps they spend all their time sitting in their houses, sending messages to the Yahoo groups. That in itself is a bit strange in a Joseph Merrick kind of way.)

If you're one of those 100 people here in Cagayan who doesn't get out of the house and visit with the other expatriates, and you're reading, I don't know what your reasoning is. I certainly hope it's not arrogance, laziness, or some antisocial mental disorder. Well, I hope to meet you people some day.


Just as an afterthought, maybe I'll start going up to those guys I see at the mall and invite them out to the weekly get-togethers. Maybe all of us who do go out should start carrying around a couple of business cards from Spooks (Friday night), Kingston Lodge (Sunday afternoon), and Phileas Fogg's (Wednesday morning) to hand out. Maybe the reason why some of these people never show up is because nobody ever invites them.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Writing That Makes You Want To Duck

Brian Lambert of YouAreDumb.net, is a spectacular master of the art of snark. He uses an amusingly straightforward, profanity-laced, imagery-laden style that hits so hard and so fast that you instinctively feel that debating the punctilios of what he says is pointless. Today is a perfect example, discussing the Norm Coleman / Al Franken election thingy in Minnesota:
This is why I don't actually have a huge problem with Toothy McBoughthisdentistaboat's latest court challenge. Sure, it's completely hypocritical, given that Norm was almost exactly as many votes ahead when he demanded that Franken ditch the recount for the good of the state. But we all knew it was hypocritical when he said it, just like we knew the sky was blue. If Norm has a case, the court will hear it. And if, as is likely, Norm doesn't have a case, we'll all get to laugh at him. I like Al, but he's got six years to be a Senator. There's no rush.

And at the end of it all, when Norm's court challenges fail, Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and right-wing nutjobs will say for the next six years that he stole the election. There's no way to stop them. So the best thing to do is to brag about it. Yes, we stole it. We stole it out from under your fucking noses, in front of live webcams, with the help of Republican judges, over the course of a two-month public process.

We stole it, and it was a fucking Oceans Eleven caper, requiring the Democratic party to have cunning, discipline, unity, and a willingness to do anything to come out ahead of the GOP. It was brilliantly executed, and there's not a damn thing any of you troglodytes can do about it. So there. Never mind that the mythical Democratic Party that could have pulled this off hasn't existed for decades, assuming it ever existed in the first place. These people think cutting taxes raises revenue. They'll believe ANYTHING.

So rub it in their thick, slack-jawed, drooling faces. Let them have a bit of fear in their hearts that Democrats are ruthless, amoral political manipulators. We could use the boost in our reputation after the Roland Burris clusterfuck of the past week. Machiavellian we ain't.
And/but yes, Wolcott is still my favorite.

Daily Report: The Earliest Bird, But Still No Worm

I got my taxes done today. Intuit's online TurboTax is fabulous. It remembered everything from last year, and had about 90% of my federal and state returns finished before I even logged in. It took 10 minutes... mostly of waiting for pages to load so I could click "no change".

I actually was trying to be the first person to file his tax return in America. When my final 2008 pay totals were posted at the company's online employee resource site just before Christmas, I went straight to TurboTax and filled out all the forms. However, when I tried to send the stuff in, the program said my return couldn't be dated before January first. It asked me if I wanted to change the date of the return manually, but I figured that somebody at the IRS holding a tax return on December 27 that was dated January 1 might consider that lying on one's tax return, I took a pass and put everything on hold.

But on the morning of New Year's Day, I was back on TurboTax hitting the send button again. This time it said, "Sorry, we're not open for business until January 7th." I hit the send button again on January 7th. "Sorry, we're not open for business until 9:00 tonight."

Finally, at 1:00 a.m. on January 8th (yes, I was able to muster up at least that much patience... 4 hours), I hit the send button for a final time. "Thanks for submitting, but the IRS doesn't start processing tax forms until January 16th, and it takes 2 days to do that... but 8 to 14 days after that you'll have your refund."

So, for all of you who have never tried: Currently, the earliest one could conceivably receive their U.S. tax refund would be January 24th, but more likely around January 28th to February 1st.

And that's if there are no problems: Last year, my tax return was rejected because the electronic signature (a numerical value equal to one's bottom-line income from the prior year) cannot be "0"... which, with the overseas tax credit, mine was... and is again. We'll see what happens this year; I'm not optimistic, but at least I'll know if there's a problem nice and early.